Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Today being Dia de los Muertos, this post highlights the April 1926 funeral of John Harrison Temple, owner of the Homestead from 1888 to 1899, and who was likely the first Workman and Temple family historian.
Temple was born in 1856 at the Rancho La Merced, which his grandfather William Workman, half-owner of Rancho La Puente, gave to John’s parents, Margarita Workman and F.P.F. Temple.
John grew up in the a L-shaped adobe house located in Whittier Narrows on the east side of the old San Gabriel River, now the Rio Hondo, though when he was 11 years old, severe flooding in the winter of 1867-68 led the river to shift to a new channel that wound up on the other side of the family’s home!
John’s education started at the private school established by his grandfather Workman in a room located in a wing off the adobe house at the Homestead. Later, John was sent back east to complete high school in his father’s hometown of Reading, Massachusetts. This was followed by the completion of a business course at the Bryant and Stratton school in Boston, which his father had also attended.
Just months before his completion of the program in Boston, the family bank of Temple and Workman in Los Angeles failed. Even when the collapse took place and even after his grandfather Workman committed suicide as a result of the disaster, John’s father insisted he remain in Massachusetts to finish his education before returning home.
The young man, who was just twenty, returned to find his situation entirely changed. Even though most of the Workman and Temple family’s landholdings had been put up as collateral for a loan to the bank by “Lucky” Baldwin, John’s mother, Margarita Workman, had her own separate property. A section of land on the Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo, just a little northeast from the Temple home at Whittier Narrows, was given to John.
He planted walnuts on the property and built a home. In 1886, after a decade at what became known as the John H. Temple Homestead, he married Anita Davoust, whose mother was from the Dominguez family and whose father was a French emigrant. The two began their large family of seven children at Potrero de Felipe Lugo, but, in August 1888, John’s older brother, Francis, owner of the Workman Homestead, died. That property was left to John and his brother William, but the latter was living away from the area and John bought out his interest.
John’s years at the Homestead brought several more children to the family, but they were also tough years. The old and once-thriving vineyard he inherited from Francis was infested by Pierce’s disease and wiped out. Whatever else John grew on the property was affected by several years of drought during the 1890s, which also was wracked by a national depression that broke out in 1893. He borrowed money from a bank to keep the ranch operating, but was unable to repay the loan and lost the Homestead to foreclosure in 1899.
John moved to Los Angeles with his family and remained there for nearly twenty years. Then, his younger brother, Walter, was the recipient of a remarkable stroke of fortune–oil was found on land he owned just a short distance from where the Temples had lived at the Whittier Narrows. In 1917, after Walter built a service station on the property, John was asked to manage it. The next year John moved back to the Workman Homestead, which he had lost almost two decades prior, when his brother asked him to be the on-site manager.
In his later years, John lived in Los Angeles and died at the age of 70 on 10 April 1926. His funeral was held at the El Campo Santo cemetery established by his grandfather Workman. John’s remains were entombed in a crypt of the mausoleum his brother Walter completed in 1921, on the site of a Gothic Revival chapel that had been there from the early 1860s to about 1903.
Walter’s eldest son, Thomas, an avid photographer, returned home from his final semester of studies at Santa Clara University to attend his uncle’s funeral and took a number of photographs documenting the services.
Some of these are shown here, including the carrying of the casket into the mausoleum, the departing of family members out, and mourners leaving the cemetery. They remain the only known photographs taken of a funeral service at El Campo Santo and are an apt set of documents for Día de los Muertos.