by Paul R. Spitzzeri
This concluding fifth part of a post covering some of the “Makers of Los Angeles” featured by Charles F. Lummis and Charles Amadon Moody in the April 1909 issue of their magazine, Out West, begins with the biography of Henry W. O’Melveny (1859-1941), founder in 1885 of a law firm that still exists as O’Melveny and Myers. He was born at Central City, Illinois, a hamlet that belies its name as it is in the southern portion of the state directly east of St. Louis, to Harvey K.S. O’Melveny and Anna Wilhelmina Rose.
Harvey O’Melveny, commonly known as “H.K.S.” as Francis Pliny Fisk Temple was “F.P.F.,” was involved in law and politics in Illinois before the family migrated to Los Angeles in late 1869. Anna Rose O’Melveny was the sister of the prominent agriculturist Leonard J. Rose of Sunny Slope Ranch and namesake of the San Gabriel Valley city of Rosemead and it appears this is what brought the O’Melveny clan to this region as greater Los Angeles was beginning its first significant and sustained period of growth, which lasted through the middle 1870s.
Harvey was a member of the city council and Superior Court judge from 1872 to 1876 and Henry was among the seven students of Los Angeles High School’s first graduating class in 1875 and followed that with study at the University of California in Berkeley, where he graduated in four years. In 1881, he joined his father as a member of the legal profession by being admitted to the bar and also served as deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County under future U.S. Senator Stephen M. White before launching his firm with the noted lawyer, Jackson A. Graves.
In addition to his law practice, O’Melveny was an officer and general counsel for the Los Angeles Trust Company, director of two banks including the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank, as well as many other companies, while his public service through 1909 included serving on the board of the Angel City’s library and chairing the Civil Service Commission when it was formed in 1903. As were many of the subjects among the “Makers of Los Angeles,” O’Melveny was a member of Lummis’ Southwest Society, which oversaw the formation of the Southwest Museum, which opened in 1914.
William H. Perry (1832-1906) was among the few deceased persons listed in the roster, and hailed from Newark, Ohio, being apprenticed to a cabinet-maker. At 21, he headed to California over the plains and landed in Los Angeles early in 1854, soon opening the first furniture store in the town. He made all his own inventory, but followed this by importing goods and was a partner for a quarter century with Wallace Woodworth under the name Perry & Woodworth.
Beyond this, Perry was one of the founders in 1865 of the Los Angeles Gas Company, the first in the city and managed it until the enterprise was sold five years later. In 1873, during the peak of the boom mentioned above, he established the W.H. Perry Lumber and Mill Company and formed three other lumber firms in succeeding years. In 1879, he became president and manager of the private Los Angeles City Water Company and retained those positions for 25 years, with William Mulholland, featured in part four, as a valued employee.
Married to Elizabeth Dalton, whose father George was a prominent figure in Los Angeles and whose uncle was the noted San Gabriel Valley rancher Henry, Perry built for his family, which included a son and two daughters, a house in Boyle Heights (founded by William H. Workman, Isaias W. Hellman and John Lazzarovich) that is now at the Heritage Square Museum in Lincoln Heights. A daughter of William and Elizabeth Perry, Mamie, became a well-known operatic singer and a descendant through her was the prominent actor Robert Stack. None of this latter information concerning the house and the Perry descendants is, of course, in the bio.
Abram E. Pomeroy has been featured in this blog previously as a founder, with Charles Stimson, of the town of Puente. The bio largely covers what was discussed in the prior post, but the “Makers” article does have the portrait of Pomeroy shown here. Next on our list is Francis M. Pottenger (1869-1967), another Buckeye State native, being from the Cincinnati area. After completing his primary education, he went to Otterbein University (incidentally, an area of what is now the unincorporated community of Rowland Heights, near the Homestead, was long known as Otterbein) and graduated from the preparatory section and then earned a degree in 1892.
Pottenger then studied medicine at the Medical College of Ohio and Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery and received his M.D. in 1894. his was followed by further study in Europe and New York City at intervals for the next fifteen years. After operating a general practice in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood for a brief time, he and his wife moved to Monrovia in 1895, where he practiced for most of the next eight years. At the dawn of the 2oth century, Pottenger became the first doctor on the west coast to specialize in lung and throat diseases and this led him to open his namesake Sanatorium at the end of 1903.
Pottenger ran his well-known facility for over a half-century, closing it upon his retirement in his mid-80s in 1955. The property became a Carmelite convent and retreat for two decades and the site is now a residential area. A renowned expert on tuberculosis and other lung diseases and a member of many professional associations and author of papers and a book on the subject of TB, he was also a trustee of the City of Monrovia and director of bank there. Finally, he was a member of the Southwest Society. His namesake son was a noted, but controversial, doctor and nutritionist and his grandson, the third in the line and who died at the beginning of this year, was a long-time University of Hawai’i professor known for his science curriculum expertise.
Frederick H. Rindge (1857-1905) was provided a lengthier bio than most of the “Makers.” He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and attended Harvard, but left before graduation because of poor health (likely the type Pottenger would later treat), though he was eventually given his degree. After a stay in California in 1870 to recuperate, Rindge returned to Massachusetts to help operate his father’s business interests in banking, shipping and textiles, and there was a second attempt at health-seeking in the Golden State a decade later.
Wealthy beyond the levels of any of the “Makers” profiled in the magazine, Rindge moved to Los Angeles in 1887 during the great Boom of the Eighties and purchased the Malibu ranch and additional properties to create a substantial estate along the coast. In addition to a ranch house there, he had a seaside place at Santa Monica and a town house at Los Angeles and he ran a life insurance company. He was also president of the land and water company of former state senator Charles Maclay at and around San Fernando in the valley of that name and was involved in many other business enterprises, including the vice-presidency of Union Oil, being a director of Southern California Edison.
Rindge, too, was part of Lummis’ circle in archaeological interests, but, after his death at just 48, much of his substantial estate was lost through legal battles with the likes of the mighty Southern Pacific Railroad, which wanted to build a streetcar line up the coast, and the State of California, which sought to extend Pacific Coast Highway though the Malibu domain. The court battles left Rindge’s widow with just $750 when she died, though their daughter Rhoda and her husband Merritt Adamson established the Adohr (Rhoda’s name in reverse) Dairy and built the Adamson House along the coast on the ranch. It is a stunning Spanish Colonial Revival house that, because of the Malibu Potteries that operated on the ranch, is filled with amazing decorative tile that even bests the Temple family’s La Casa Nueva on that score.
Willoughby Rodman and his spouse Arabella Page Rodman were featured together. He hailed from New Castle, Kentucky, northeast of Louisville and, after finishing his early schooling in his home state, attended the University of Rochester in New York before returning to earn his law degree at the University of Kentucky. In 1882, he was admitted to the bat there and practiced for five years. While Los Angeles was amidst the Boom of the Eighties, he and Arabella migrated from Kentucky and settled in the Angel City in fall 1887.
Willoughby hung his shingle and was a sole practitioner for eight years, had partners during the last several years of the 19th century and then reverted to practicing solo after 1900. A director of the public library, he became widely known for his writing on the legal field, especially his newly published (that is, in 1909) work History of Bench and Bar of Southern California, which was the first substantial long-form history of its kind for the region.
As for Arabella, she made her mark in Los Angeles for her work with the city’s public schools, including the raising of money for acquiring art works for study and which led to the formation of the Out-Door Art League of the American Civic Association. She was also president of the Los Angeles Civic Association in 1904 and remained vice-president until the publication of “Makers,” while she was also district and state civics chair for the federated women’s clubs of California.
Another of her achievements was coordinating the commemoration of Arbor Day as part of her work with city civic organization; the formation of a city forester to oversee tree management Los Angeles streets; the decoration of classrooms and school campuses, including playgrounds, for which she specifically presided over a commission for the purpose; the formation of a housing commission; the appointment of a landscape architect to coordinate beautification in the Angel City; and the creation of a billboard inspector for the City.
Joseph Scott (1867-1958) has also been featured on this blog, including a two-part post by Workman family researcher and biographer John Sharpe of Clifton, England, where William Workman grew up. Scott, a native of nearby Penrith, settled in Los Angeles in 1903 after several years in New York City, and became a well-known lawyer, civic leader, renowned orator and so much else that he became known as “Mr. Los Angeles.” You can learn more in John’s two-part post, but it is also worth noting that Scott was vice-president under Lummis of the Southwest Museum project.
One of the few female “Makers” was probably the most prominent woman of the period in Los Angeles. Caroline M. Severance (1820-1914) was born in Canandaigua, New York, southeast of Rochester and was educated at nearby Geneva, where she was valedictorian of her female seminary class. After marrying banker Theodoric Severance, the couple moved to Cleveland and she bore five children there and in Boston, where the family resided for twenty years. In 1875, the Severances migrated to Los Angeles and Caroline, who was involved in woman suffrage and the formation of the New England Woman’s Club, said to be the first in the country, was already widely known before the move west.
In 1878, Severance launched the Woman’s Club of Los Angeles and served as its president and, after it folded, formed the Friday Morning Club, which became a dominant entity in the Angel City for decades and of which she was a long-time chief executive and then “President Emeritus.” The same year she established the first local woman’s club, Severance, who identified as a Fabian Socialist, opened the Los Angeles Free Kindergarten Association, which counted the renowned writer and educator Kate Douglas Wiggin, who lived with the Severances, as an alumna. Also, in 1878, she helped for the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles and there was also a group of “advanced thinkers” who formed the Severance Club in her honor.
Charles Silent (1842-1918) has previously been profiled in this blog, so interested readers can check out that post, but Silent, a native of Baden, Germany who resided in the San Jose area and in Tucson, Arizona, in which territory he was a supreme court justice, before settling in Los Angeles in 1885, was singled out in “Makers” for his work with Herman W. Frank, also one of the “Makers” discussed in an earlier part of this post, in assisting unemployed men in finding work at Elysian Park, as well as for his “money and personal attention to assistance and relief of the Mexican laboring class in an about Los Angeles.”
In 1909, William D. Stephens (1859-1941) was well-known for having served 11 days in March 1909 as acting mayor of Los Angeles following the resignation of scandal-ridden Arthur C. Harper. Hailing from Eaton, Ohio, north of Cincinnati and west of Dayton, Stephens studied law and civil engineering and worked in railroad construction in his home state, as well as in Iowa and Louisiana, where he ran the New Orleans & Gulf line. In 1887, again, during the boom, he migrated to Los Angeles and, after a brief period as an engineer, went to work for M.A. Newmark and Company, mentioned in the last part of this post. In 1902, he and a partner opened their own grocery business and he remained involved until the start of 1909.
Stephens’ public service included serving as president of the chamber of commerce, a member of the city’s board of education, and a major with state National Guard. He was currently vice-president of the American National Bank and director of a second bank, while also involved in the Southwest Society and Archaeological Institute of America with Lummis. He went on, however, to be a member of the House of Representatives from 1911-1916, Lieutenant Governor in 1916-1917 and Governor from 1917 to 1923, after Hiram Johnson resigned to take a seat in the United States Senate. Though he sought a second full term in the 1922 campaign, Stephens lost the Republican primary and returned to private practice until he retired.
Attorney Marshall Stimson (1876-1951) was one of the youngest of the “Makers” but rose very rapidly among the ranks in Los Angeles after his arrival from Boston (he hailed, like Rindge, from Cambridge) in 1903. He’d actually come to the Angel City with his parents in fall 1887 during the great boom and graduated from Los Angeles High before he went back to Cambridge to attend Harvard, from the law school of which he matriculated in 1901. His two years of practicing law in Boston were followed by a return to the Angel City, where he engaged in real estate work until he turned again to the law in 1905.
Stimson quickly became a fixture in local politics, including Progressive-minded reform with such organizations, mentioned in this post earlier with figures like Meyer Lissner, as the Non-Partisan Committee and the Lincoln-Roosevelt League, along with being a board member of the City Club and executive committee member of the Municipal League. He was also currently a director of the powerful Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and, in 1912, went on to help establish the Progressive Party which put ex-President Theodore Roosevelt as its third-party candidate in that year’s presidential election.
Speaking of the Chamber of Commerce, Frank Wiggins (1849-1924), its omnipresent secretary, was a key figure in the growth of the influential and powerful body. He was a native of Richmond, Indiana, very close to Stephens’ birthplace, and was educated in Quaker schools. He worked in his father’s saddlery until his health collapsed and, as we’ve seen several times in this post, he came to Los Aneles in 1886 “where the climate soon restored his strength and vigor.” In February 1889, he became head of exhibits for the Chamber and, a half-dozen years later, took on the new position of superintendent, which he held until Charles D. Willard (see below) resigned as secretary and Wiggins took that additional role.
Wiggins was involved in such projects as a citrus exhibit at a Chicago expo in 1891; the Southern California display at the World’s Fair at the Windy City two years later—a key event in promoting greater Los Angeles; exhibits on the region at Atlanta (1894), Omaha (1896), and Buffalo (1901—this is where President William McKinley was assassinated); being state commissioner at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 (where incidentally, a great many new foods were introduced); and organizing more exhibits at fairs in Atlantic City (1905—this a “permanent” one) and for the 300th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia (1907), while he was to represent the governor at the Alaskan-Yukon expo at Seattle later in 1909. After his death, the Frank Wiggins Trade School, now Los Angeles Trade Technical College, was opened and named in his honor.
Willard (1866-1914) was another booster (like his successor Wiggins) and reformer (as with so many of the “Makers”) who made his name in many ways in late 19th and early 20th centuries Los Angeles. Born in Bloomington, Illinois and educated first in Chicago, he was a graduate from the University of Michigan and became a journalist, initially in the Windy City and then, after his arrival in 1888 (yet another boom-time migrant) in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Express, Los Angeles Herald and the Los Angeles Times. In 1894, he was among the editors of the Land of Sunshine, which soon was operated by Lummis and which became Out West in 1901.
In addition to his work with the Chamber of Commerce, Willard was a leader of the Free Harbor League, which successfully obtained federal funding for the harbor at San Pedro/Wilmington instead of the Southern Pacific’s attempts to secure the support for its wharf at Santa Monica, while he managed one of the La Fiesta de Los Angeles spring fairs along with several citrus exhibitions. As a reformer, Willard worked with Fred Alles and Henry O’Melveny, both among the “Makers,” along with others in the non-partisan movement for local elections as well as the League for Better City Government and the Municipal League, of which he was secretary from 1902-1908, resigning due to poor health.
Lastly, there is John D. Works (1847-1928), who was born in Ohio County, Indiana, which borders the river of that name and Kentucky and has just 6,000 residents today. Works interrupted his education to, at age 16, enlist with the Union Army during the Civil War. At the end of the conflict, he joined his uncle Alexander Downey (that surname was Works’ middle name and he was of no relation to former California governor and Los Angeles capitalist, John G. Downey) in the study of the law. For fifteen years he was partner with his father in a law firm in his home state and served in the state legislature for a term.
Again, it was poor health that led to a removal to California, with Works settling in San Diego in 1883 and hanging his shingle, including with a son, Lewis, there for a dozen years, while also serving as a Superior Court judge and, for three years, on the state Supreme Court. In 1896, Works and his family migrated to Los Angeles and he was a partner with Bradner W. Lee and his son and then with Lewis. He was well-known for his legal writing, including on the thorny issue of water rights, and general writing for magazines and was president of four manufacturing and mining companies, as well.
His political activity was only briefly mentioned with respect to his service with the Municipal League, but, at the end of 1909, Works, who was a Progressive Republican, was elected to the Los Angeles City Council and selected as its president, but he resigned after just a few months. Later in 1910, though, he was elected to the United States Senate and served one term and, after deciding not to seek re-election and retiring, wrote books on human social issues and judicial reform.
While it is obvious that the roster of the “Makers of Los Angeles” as compiled by Lummis and Moody is heavily weighted towards Progressives, reformers and those affiliated with Lummis’ interests, not to mention white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs), though there are a few Jews, some women and two Latinos, there is still value in knowing about those profiled, including the many not included in this post. A future post will come back to this publication to look at Lummis’ distinctive prose in his “The Making of Los Angeles” essay, so be on the lookout for that.