by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Yesterday’s “Reading Between the Lines” post examined the context around Los Angeles Mayor James R. Toberman’s 10 March 1874 letter to a resident of what became Orange County about land matters there and today’s installment of the “Read All About It” series of posts relating to historic greater Los Angeles newspapers includes more about real estate as the first boom in the region approached its peak, courtesy of the 11 March 1875 edition of the Los Angeles Herald.
The paper was operated by The Los Angeles City and County Printing and Publishing Company, among whose stockholders was F.P.F. Temple, and the issue’s discussion about real estate included an editorial page piece titled “Farms for All,” which began with the observation that
The great obstruction to the settling up and cultivation of the large tracts of rich lands of Southern California—the holding of large tracts by individuals who would neither cultivate nor sell—is being rapidly removed. A number of the tracts that have heretofore lain idle have within the past few months passed into the hands of farmers and will now be converted into profitable and beautiful homesteads.
The first part of the statement could well have been a criticism of the likes of William Workman, who’d maintained most of his half of Rancho La Puente, totaling nearly 25,000 acres, with the exception of a little more than 5,000 acres at the east of the ranch, in modern West Covina and Walnut, sold just a few years prior and the Workman Mill property, which he deeded to his daughter Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple at the southwest corner of La Puente.
Workman was actually using much of the roughly 18,000 or so acres he retained, including some 5,000 acres, more than a quarter, for farming wheat, barley and other field crops. A good portion of his section consisted of lands (this was true of the 5,000 acres he sold) in the Puente Hills not suitable to farming and which had largely been devoted to stock raising, including cattle and horses, especially prior to 1870. In recent years, a large amount of sheep were raised by son-in-law F.P.F. Temple and Andrew Kittilson, west of the Homestead, so how much of the Workman half of La Puente had “lain idle” is not known.
It was certainly true that, with the major decline in cattle ranching following the floods of 1861-1862 and the ensuing drought that lasted until 1865, after which was the beginning of the current boom, much more land, whether from the Spanish and Mexican-era ranchos or the public land rancheros formerly used for additional grazing, was becoming available for small farmers, who constituted many of the migrants who came to the area in recent years.
Mentioned as main drivers in the redevelopment of land were the Los Angeles and San Bernardino Land Company, which actually marketed the ranchos of Abel Stearns including much of which became Orange County; the Artesia project of the Los Angeles Immigration and Land Co-operative Association; the Centinela Land Company, headed by Temple, and its namesake tract southwest of Los Angeles; the Los Angeles City Homestead Association, whose president was Ozro W. Childs and whose treasurer was former governor John G. Downey and the land of which was on Washington near Figueroa, quite removed then from the rest of town; and the East Los Angeles subdivision ran by Downey, Dr. John S. Griffin and Hancock M. Johnston.
The Herald added that “beside the continued sales of Artesia and Centinela,” of which there were recent auctions, “we now have in the market and to be sold at auction, the rich lands of the [Rancho] Santa Gertrudes, consisting of 5,000 acres, comprising some of the best soil and most desirable land in this valley.” On the paper’s third page were large ads for all three, including the second auction at Artesia, to be held from 6-8 April, and for Santa Gertrudes, where “A Splendid Opportunity” was at hand with an auction from 19-21 April.
A short article on Artesia reported that “the first building erected in this promising village will be a $4,000 school-house” and it was added that with this landmark along “with a genial climate, with rich soil, with abundance of water, and with energetic, public spirited men as stockholders, Artesia must soon become one of the most attractive places in Southern California.” The founders soon moved to its next project, Pomona, where major streets bear the names of such officials as Garey, Town[e], Gordon, Thomas, McComas and Gibbs and the funding from which largely came from the Temple and Workman bank.
Elsewhere, it was noted that the Herald‘s press printed 5,000 copies of The New Italy, a monthly issued by the Artesia promoters, and another 5,000 were expected soon and it was asserted that “the paper, so far as it relates to information concerning Los Angeles valley, is one of the finest ever issued in this section.” It purported to answer the usual 1,001 questions posed “about our social, moral and political status, the cost of living, wages paid laborers, our natural advantages, the prices of land, etc.” and was adjudged to be “just the thing to advertise our city and county abroad, with the Chamber of Commerce lauded for having 5,000 copies made for it to distribute.
The latter involved some 2,000 acres of “Rich Bottom Lands” along the New San Gabriel and Old San Gabriel (Río Hondo) rivers, where it was averred that two crops a year could be harvested with alfalfa, barley, corn oats, and rye emphasized, along with “all kinds of fruits and vegetables.” The remaining 60% of the tract consisted of “first-class Mesa or Table lands,” with irrigation possible for much of it and where “Table, Wine and Raising Grapes of the best quality grow here to perfection.” Finally, citrus (lemon, lime and orange) and nuts (almonds and walnuts) were said to “flourish most luxuriantly and yield surprising profits,” with orange growers said to reap some $1,000 per acre each year.
The association developing the tract recently finished an irrigation ditch on the best of the table lands “and purchasers will have the right to water without charge,” an opportunity that “will not occur again.” Naturally, “the climate is unsurpassed” at Santa Gertrudes and “it revives the invalid and irresistably [sic] draws to open air occupation and enjoyment.” Situated about halfway between Los Angeles and Anaheim and within one or two miles of Downey and Norwalk, the tract benefited from having the Southern Pacific route from Florence (South Los Angeles) to Anaheim running through its southern section.
Speaking of the railroad, the paper heralded the fact that “in a little time we shall have a continuous rail stretching over one hundred miles from this city in the direction of Arizona” as the Southern Pacific had “graded nearly the entire distance between the present terminus of the track at Spadra,” now southwestern Pomona, “and San Bernardino.” It was expected that the work would soon get twenty miles of San Gorgonio Pass at White Water, near modern Palm Springs.
The report added that rail ties were stored at Spadra and the iron rails were on the way and expected imminently. It was hoped to have this section completed during the year and then for the segment extending to the Colorado River to be completed in 1876, though a new terminus was completed at Colton in 1875 and the road finished to Yuma at the end of September 1877. As for the connection to the north linking Los Angeles to the Southern Pacific’s line coming from the Bay Area and through the Central Valley, “work is progressing on the San Fernando Tunnel” and it was believed “the road will no doubt be completed and operated up to the two ends of the tunnel” before the latter was finished—this vital link was opened in September 1876.
Next, noted the Herald
The prospects of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad Company are now so flattering that we may regard the building of the road as almost assured. Near or quite three-fourths of the amount of stock required is already subscribed, and so great is the desire of the people that we shall have railroad communication with the mines of the interior, that we are confident the committee will be able to report the full complement of stock subscribed on or before the close of the present month.
The L.A. & I. was launched almost a year prior with Temple as president and Downey as its treasurer, though it took the purchase of a large portion of the company’s stock by United States Senator from Nevada, John P. Jones, to move the project to a feasible stage. Jones had both mining interests in the high desert of eastern California and a new seaside resort town called Santa Monica that led him to invest in the company, of which he became president while Temple moved to treasurer when Downey left the enterprise.
With these reports, the paper stated that “altogether the progress of railroad enterprises by which Los Angeles valley will be benefited is highly satisfactory” and with the promise of great advances made by the Southern Pacific and the L.A. & I., the Herald asserted that “we are on the even of a long and prosperous era.”
An indication of the rapid growth of the region was reflected in a short note in the “Local Brevities Column” in which it was recorded that the Great Register of voters had increased, since the last printing two years prior, by 1,400 names. It was expected, therefore, that the next release would “give us in the vicinity of 7,000 vote[r]s next Fall” and that the usual ratio of 1:5 meant that “this would make the population of our county about 35,000.” The official tally from the 1870 census was just over 15,300 (though the census is usually undercounted) and the 1880 figure was just under 33,400.
Other local news items included plans for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, with an accompanying ad by the Irish Benevolent Society declaring that it would be “the grandest ever given in Los Angeles” while an article reviewed the plans for a Noon procession, with Henry King as marshal, through downtown followed by an oration by the recent settler Stephen M. White, who went to be a United States senator and the so-called “Father of the Harbor” for his efforts in getting federal funding for the Wilmington/San Pedro port rather than for Santa Monica, which the Southern Pacific aggressively sought.
An evening ball was to take place at the Turn-Verein Hall, built by the German organization of that name on Spring Street, at which “the youth and beauty of the city will be attracted, as well as a few old maids and bachelors.” Funds raised from the day were to be “donated to the wives and children of Irish patriots who are incarcerated in English prisons” and it was expected that “there will be a fine turn out and a fine time generally.”
At Agricultural Park, south of the city and which is now known as Exposition Park, a horse race were held on an oval track that is where today’s rose garden is and it was said that attendance was good for the contest. There were three entrants for four heats and “it was thought by some that Budd Doble would rive one of the horses, but such was not the case.”
Doble (1843-1926) was a renowned jockey for most of the preceding decade, but was also well-known for marrying Clara, the daughter of Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, a horse breeder and capitalist, who cleared some $8 million in selling overpriced stock in Virginia City, Nevada silver mines, which caused the market in these securities to crater, leading to the economic crash of late August 1875.
Baldwin was shopping for local real estate at the time and would soon acquire Rancho Santa Anita, where, in Arcadia, the famous race track was first built by him and then a later version erected nearby and is with us today. Later in the 1875, seeing a prime opportunity to acquire tens of thousands of acres in the region, Baldwin loaned the ailing Temple and Workman bank nearly $350,000, but “on rather hard terms,” and, when the bank went belly up, the shrewd business figure foreclosed and took possession of a princely fortune in local real estate. a daughter of Clara and Budd Doble, Rosebud Mullender, later lived very close to the Homestead and was friendly with the Temple family when they owned the property in the 1920s.
A “Spanish Items” section of material translated for the paper from its contemporary, La Crónica, which was later owned by Thomas W. Temple, eldest child of F.P.F. Temple and Antonia Margarita Workman, included the fact that Eulogio F. de Celis, Jr., went back to being the editor-in-chief of that paper; that former governor Pío Pico was among the subscribers to assist the families of two men executed by the state at Sacramento; and that Joaquín López was said to have found a gold mine three weeks prior in San Francisquito Canyon, where another López, Francisco, discovered the precious mineral in 1842 (F.P.F. Temple sold gold dust from this mine at the national mine in Philadelphia during that period.)
Finally, education news included a report that the city’s Board of Education was to soon present a plan for five new school houses by raising up to $10,000, though the details were to come later. This was also the case with the results of the recent examination of prospective teachers. Dr. Joseph Kurtz, a leading physician in the Angel City, gave a lecture on the 2nd to students of the high school, which opened in 1873, on “the anatomy, physiology and hygiene of the ear” using diagram and models. A “Mrs. Truman,” likely the spouse of Los Angeles Star publisher Benjamin C. Truman, donated a case of shells to the high school for use in the study of conchology and it was hoped other public-spirited citizens would follow her lead with minerals, books, “natural curiosities,” and equipment.
Finally, there is an interesting chart for the month ending the 5th showing the attendance of the city’s schools. The high school had 49 students, of which about 70% were girls. For the remainder of the grammar and intermediate schools there was quite the reverse, with boys significantly outnumbering girls, such that of the 881 students, 56% were male. Among the seventeen schools, there was one “Colored School” which had 21 boys and 11 girls and, though the percentage of attendance was given as 78, which would have made it the lowest of all those listed, it turns out those numbers were reversed and the actual percentage was 87.5, above the Bath Street and nearly even with the Alameda Street campuses and not far below some of the others.
We’ll continue to spotlight early-to-mid 1870s Los Angeles newspapers as part of the “Read All About It” series with these helping us to better understand a key period for the region and the Workman and Temple family, so be on the lookout for these posts.