Read All About It in the Los Angeles Express, 12 May 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

This latest entry in the “Read All About It” series of posts on historic greater Los Angeles newspapers in the Homestead’s collection looks at the 12 May 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Express, which debuted in 1871 and which was published by George Tiffany and Company. It was the rival of a pair of other English-language sheets, the Herald (of which F.P.F. Temple was part-owner at the time) and the Star, while there was a single Spanish-language paper, La Crónica, which Temple’s son, Thomas, ran before his death in 1892.

Generally, the front pages of these publications were devoted almost completely to advertisements, but this issue happens to have some local and state news. With the latter, it was observed that wine production in America was pegged at about 20 million gallons, with California generating a quarter of the amount at 5 million gallons and this valued at some $14 million. Los Angeles County was formerly the wine-making center of the Golden State but was supplanted by the counties of Napa and Sonoma, where a much-better quality of product could be manufactured.

Another interesting broader item of interest had to do with immigration to California, as reported by the San Francisco Bulletin, with it shown that for the first four months of 1874, there were just below 19,000 arrivals to the Golden State, with not too far under 7,000 by sea and just a tad over 12,000 overland. Compared to the same period in 1873 this was a slight increase, though there were almost 7,500 seagoing immigrants then, and about 10,600 overland. Also noted were those who left the state, with a slight increase for the 1874 period of about 100 persons and more doing so by land (5,800 compared to 5,545) than by sea (2,375 as opposed to 2,516).

At San Francisco, the state convention of the Episcopal Church included a recommendation of new divisions for dioceses, so that, instead of one for the entire state, there would be three. The central was to be based out of San Francisco, while a northern one was to be established from Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Sacramento and El Dorado counties to the Oregon border, and a southern diocese was to stretch from Monterey, Tulare and Inyo counties southward to the line with México.

In a report from Bakersfield, which was established several years prior, was incorporated the prior year and which became the Kern County seat in 1874, it was reported that “the well known and popular hotel, the Bella Union, at Havilah,” a mining boom town in the lower Sierra Nevada Mountains northeast of Bakersfield and which was the former county seat, “formerly conducted by Mr. A[ndrew] Denker,” was leased to two men who hoped “to fully sustain the old reputation of the establishment.” Denker, it was added, was running a hotel in Kernville, further north than Havilah, but, not stated was that he and Henry Hammel were long the proprietors of the Bella Union Hotel at Los Angeles, that hostelry being renamed the Clarendon in 1873 and in 1875 rechristened as the St. Charles.

Finally, a local front page feature concerned the idea that Los Angeles County might become a center for “opium culture” in California, it being observed by the Pacific Rural Press that “the best climate for the cultivation of the poppy for the production of opium is one in which the heat, without being excessive before the ripening of the plant, is tempered with a certain degree of moisture day and night.” To that statewide agricultural journal, “the valley of Los Angeles, while truly somi-tropical [sic] in many of its productions, has nevertheless a climate of peculiar softness, and never suffers from the extreme heat so common to the more interior valleys of he State.”

Because “there is a steady pouring in of moisture-laden winds from the ocean by day and night,” which would mitigate the hottest conditions and allow for some dew during summer nights, the Press averred that

believing the soil and climate of Los Angeles equal to any in the world for the production of opium, we believe the day is not far distant when that beautiful valley will be gaily dressed, by the hundreds of acres, with the bloom of the opium poppy.

It is worth observing that the state flower, the California poppy, is from the same family, but does not contain opium, though the state’s indigenous people used the plant for medicinal purposes and there has been some research on the plant’s properties for potential medical usage, as a March 2023 report from the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, which is quite technical, observes, especially in section 3. Notably, in the early 1940s, because of the outbreak of World War II, some California farmers began planting opium-laded poppies, leading Congress to pass a 1942 law limiting such activities unless a federal license, only for medical and scientific reasons, was secured.

In the editorial page, there is an essay titled “The Right Kind of Work,” which lauded the Los Angeles Common (City) Council for its recent efforts and observed that “the principle of giving credit to public officers when they do their duty should not be entirely ignored by the press” even as it was expected that politicians should perform at a generally accepted level of efficiency and dispatch. Still, the Express was ready “to lay down the pen of official reprobation” and pleased that it could “say pleasant things of a public body we have not been able heretofore to too ardently or uniformly admire.”

It added that “the complete manner in which the Common Council,” which included William H. Workman, nephew of Homestead owners William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste and whose Second Ward, included what would, in spring 1875, become the new subdivision of Boyle Heights, “is tackling our street business would call from us, if we had the time, a gushing paean on the subject [of] Our City Fathers.” Moreover, the paper continued, “during their last two or three sessions they have shown a wide-awake and progressive spirit in relation to the improvement of our streets. Since they received legislative authority to go ahead in this important matter, they have carved out and placed in the way of carrying to successful completion a large amount of good work.”

Laudable as these efforts were, the Express suggested that the Council

take an intelligent step in the direction of effecting a building combination with the County Supervisors, and prevail upon them to practically inaugurate a plan to erect a splendid and spacious public edifice on the site of our present city and county adobes,—one that would give accommodation to all our city and county officers and a fit hall for our public library . . .

The buildings referred to included the Rocha Adobe on the west side of Spring Street, which was purchased by the city and county from Jonathan Temple a little more than two decades before, and which, with the combined jail in the rear yard, were still in use by both entities. This site later became the Phillips Block, erected by Pomona-area rancher Louis Phillips. The paper, however, added that “the present meat market building where the Courts sit could be sold for its appropriate purpose for enough to furnish one half the amount of money required for the grand improvement,” this referring to the Market House built by Temple in 1859 and then, when the faltering economy at that time limited its popularity for commercial purposes, leased for the courts to operate in.

Then, the piece observed, “the City could sell its useless plaza block on Sixth street,” this being what was then known as Sixth Street or Central Park, but which was underwhelming as such and later became Pershing Square, “for a round sum and could issue the Library bonds authorized by the last Legislature.” This done, the argument went on, “we would have so close upon the sum required that financially we would be fixed for the magnificent enterprise” and, it argued, “we could erect an edifice that would be an architectural monument commemorative of the munificence and good taste of our period.”

Such a structure “would be a pride to the entire section of our State, and would do more to mark the improving order of our civilization than any other memorial we could erect.” With this, the Express concluded that,

If our City Councilmen will hearken to our suggestion and proceed intelligently to carry it out, we shall embalm their praises in tropes of eulogy such as never adorned the memories of municipal Fathers in ancient or modern times.

Also of note on the editorial page was a piece titled “Los Angeles and Arizona” and which mentioned that Angel City merchant William M. Buffum was active in shipping a large amount of goods to Prescott in the territory of Arizona, but did so from San Francisco, which led the paper to hope there’d be a time “when our wholesale houses will be so extensive and their Eastern connections so direct” that it could supply the markets of California’s neighbor.

Horatio Marteen, a native of Jamaica, was one of the Black residents of 1870s Los Angeles who pursued a number of business interests, such as a restaurant and this ad for his being an agent for a clothes washing device.

Buffum, who was from Salem, Massachusetts, the home state of the Temples and who came at eighteen years of age to Gold Rush California in 1850 to join a brother in Stockton, following this nine years later by resettling in Los Angeles, though he was an agent of a wholesale mercantile house in San Francisco. With the official organization of Arizona territory a few years prior, Buffum established a store at Prescott and then moved there in 1873, later becoming associated with later powerful Los Angeles figures, Moses H. Sherman and his brother-in-law Eli P. Clark. When the latter two men established their street railway system in Los Angeles, Buffum returned to the Angel City as treasurer and worked in that position until his death in 1905.

In the Local Items column on the third page, “Billy” Buffum was briefly noted as leaving the city for Prescott, with the goods he’d acquired in San Francisco loaded on “a long train of teams” that was “wending its way towards Arizona.” Other news included the report that “crops in the neighborhood of Los Nietos look fine,” while newly dug artesian wells were producing plenty of water; that there was an election of officers for the Los Angeles Public Library, with one of the trustees being Thomas W. Temple; that horse races sponsored by the Southern District Agricultural Association at Agricultural (now Exposition) Park would be held at the end of the month; that the stockholders of the “Waldron street railroad,” proposed to be built to Washington Gardens at the southern limits of the city, met to plan for “the early laying of the rails for another railroad;” and that there was significant interest in the East Los Angeles subdivision, inaugurated in 1873 and which became today’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood, with its noted that “streets have been laid out, and water is carried through them in large pipes” to lots that “are cheap, [and] conveniently located.”

Also mentioned was that “a woman named Rafaela, who had been living with one Sued Morazovich, in Sonora, died Suddenly on Sunday morning” adding that neighbors reported that “the night before she received a beating from Morazovich, and soon after died.” The people involved were Rafaela Ledesma and her husband Lucas (Luca/Lucca) Marasovich, the latter a Croatian candy-maker and miner. The report added that Dr. Kenneth D. Wise went to the couple’s residence in Sonoratown, the large Latino area north of the Plaza, “and found that the woman was troubled with disease of the heart,” but who added “that the beating aggravated the disease and produced death.”

Subsequently, Marasovich was indicted by the Grand Jury with manslaughter, but, when it came to his trial, the conviction was on a charge of assault and battery—the reasoning, apparently, was that the physical abuse aggravated the long-standing heart condition that Rafaela Marasovich had for many years. Judge Ygnacio Sepúlveda then sentenced the convicted man to a year in the county jail, but prominent attorney and future judge Volney E. Howard filed a petition with the governor for a pardon, which was granted. Lucas Marasovich moved to San Diego, but also lived in San Francisco, Alameda (south of Oakland) and Los Angeles over the remainder of the 19th century.

Another legal matter also appeared in the pages of the Express, this involving the criminal case against Bernard Newman for the shooting and wounding of John Peter “Pete” Gabriel, a deputy for Los Angeles County Sheriff William R. Rowland, son of Rancho La Puente co-owner John Rowland. The sheriff with Gabriel and others went out to the Rancho Potrero Grande, south of El Monte, and which was owned by Juan Matias Sánchez, William Workman and F.P.F. Temple, to execute writs of ejectment secured by the three owners against several squatters, including Newman, who’d long taken possession of parts of the ranch.

Newman, a native of Ireland who lived in New York before coming to Gold Rush California and then lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin before returning to California and settling at El Monte, was not the only of his family to encounter legal trouble in greater Los Angeles. In 1870, his brother Daniel, who lived adjacent to what became the University of Southern California a decade later, got into a dispute with a well digger at his place and shot and killed him. Convicted of manslaughter, Daniel was sent to San Quentin for a four-year term, but Bernard managed to successfully petition the governor for a pardon. Daniel, however, was in several legal scrapes, including with his wife and, after more conflict with his spouse, killed himself at his spread in May 1885.

As for Bernard, when Sheriff Rowland, Gabriel and others arrived at his Potrero Grande place in January 1874, Newman holed up in an adobe barn and, apparently aiming for Rowland, hit Gabriel below the shoulder causing a serious injury to his lung and near his spine, of which it was feared the deputy would not survive, though he did recover a long convalescence. In fact, Gabriel was with a posse selected by Sheriff Rowland that arrested the notorious bandit Tiburcio Vásquez in June 1874.

Newman was arrested and charged with assault with the intent to commit murder, and the Express had a lengthy summary in the editorial page of the issue. It noted that the two-day trial featured “spirit and professional earnestness” from the prosecution and the defense. The latter, Frank Ganahl and E.J.C. Kewen, claimed that the way the bullet traveled down through Gabriel’s body suggested that someone other than their client fired the shot, while it also argued that Rowland and his men “invaded his premises at an unseasonable hour” and did not announce themselves in a way to convince Gabriel that they were not trespassers.

In fact, Ganahl and Kewen were praised for “a very ingenious, elegant and skilful [sic] line of argument” and noted that the jury listened closely for 3 1/2 hours to “these two eloquent and ingenious pleaders. Volney Howard, the district attorney also gave “one of his solid forensic efforts” as he closed and the jury deliberated for an hour-and-a-half before returning a verdict of guilty. Judge Henry K.S. O’Melveny allowed Newman to go free on bail pending an appeal, while Gabriel also filed a civil lawsuit, apparently not successful, seeking $21,000 in damages from Newman.

It took almost two years, but Newman finally was retried for the Gabriel shooting and, in late April 1876, was acquitted, though news reports did not state what the reasoning of the jury was in finding him innocent of the charges. Gabriel, who accidently shot himself in the leg months before while at the United States Hotel before setting off on a mining expedition, moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he killed a man in self-defense, served several terms as Pinal County Sheriff, was nearly killed in an 1888 shootout with a former deputy, who died in the gun battle, and perished a decade later when he purportedly drank water tainted by arsenic used in his mine near Tucson.

As for Newman, he remained on his Potrero Grande property, which was lost by Sánchez, Workman and Temple after they mortgaged it to Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin to try and save the doomed Temple and Workman bank—the institution failing just a few months prior to his acquittal in 1876. He died in 1886, leaving behind a substantial estate, including several landholdings, and, in a strange twist, a 5-year old boy he’d adopted became his heir, though this was contested by other members of Newman’s family—an ironic outcome given his battles with Sánchez, Workman, and Temple in the squatting case.

Reading the pages of the Express and the other issues of its contemporaries from the first half of the 1870s is always interesting and instructive for understanding much of what went on in the region as it underwent its first major boom period and we’ll continue to offer more of these in the “Read All About It” series of posts on this blog.

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