Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
With the release of the inventory of the Temple and Workman bank taking place on the morning of 4 February 1876, each of the three daily newspapers in Los Angeles, the Express, the Herald, and the Star published nearly complete details based on what assignees Edward F. Spence and Daniel Freeman compiled in their over 80-page document.
The information provided included the bank’s assets and those of its owners, F.P.F. Temple and William Workman, individually, along with holders of certificates of deposit, cash depositors, those who had overdrafts, bills payable and bills receivable, and more.
With regards to who had invested in the bank, cash depositors numbered some 400 persons. John E. Hollenbeck, who’d just moved to Los Angeles from Central America, where he’d been a highly successful businessman for a quarter century, placed $20,000 in the bank upon his arrival in town. Hollenbeck, who went to invest heavily in Boyle Heights, downtown Los Angeles (where his Hollenbeck Block and Hotel were built), and on John Rowland’s share of Rancho La Puente in present West Covina and Covina, was only topped in dollar value of deposits by one other entity.
The City of Los Angeles, through its treaurer James J. Mellus, had a little over $23,000, the total of its savings, invested in Temple and Workman, lured to do so by promises of high interest earned by capital projects carried out by the bank’s owners and managers. The third largest depositor was John Jones, who had just under $14,000 invested.
Another major depositor was Arcadia Bandini de Stearns, wife of the late Abel Stearns, an early American resident of Los Angeles. Arcadia, who had nearly $7,000 in the bank, owned her husband’s adobe house, El Palacio, on which the Baker Block, built by her second husband, Robert M. Baker later stood. Baker, who bought some of William Workman’s portion of Rancho La Puente where Walnut is located today, was a developer of Santa Monica and erected there the Hotel Arcadia in honor of his wife.
There were also entities like the Home Mutual Insurance Company, Life Association of America, a lumber and water company based at the Rancho San Jacinto Viejo in what later was Riverside County and others with F.P.F. Temple as a treasurer or other officer. Many depositors were, naturally, local residents who collectively had about $190,000 placed with the institution.
Certificate of deposit holders were also primarily composed of local folks, with John Jones having a $25,000 CD. Four other men had certificates of over $10,000, while another eleven individuals had ones valued at over $5,000. One, Robert Turnbull, had recently obtained land in the Puente Hills adjoining the properties of Workman and Temple for which Turnbull Canyon was later named.
Among other CD holders was Thomas R. Bard, later a powerful figure in Ventura County as a founder of Union Oil Company and a senator for California in the first years of the 20th century. Domingo Bastanchury, a prominent sheep rancher in what became the Fullerton area of Orange County was also on the list. Then there was Nancy Workman, William Workman’s sister-in-law, who had a $2,000 CD with the institution.
With regard to those who owed money to the bank, there were several who had large mortgages, including the largest debtor in the category, F.P.F. Temple’s eldest child, Thomas, who also was a cashier in the bank. Two other bank employees, manager Henry S. Ledyard ($2,000) and cashier Arthur Bullock (and unidentified others at $8,000) owned the institution money based on mortgages.
Thomas A. Garey, a prominent nurseryman and a founder of the new town of Pomona, established in 1875, also had a mortgage at just under $10,000. Edward Bouton, a brigadier general for the Union Army in the Civil War, and an investor with Temple and Workman at Rancho San Jacinto Viejo in what became Riverside County, had two morgages totaling over $17,000.
F.P.F. Temple alone had a long list of sixteen mortgages totaling over $250,000, including about $175,000 to San Francisco capitalists and banks, $20,000 to Los Angeles merchant Harris Newmark, and $18,000 to the John Jones mentioned above.
In the listing of overdrafts, Ledyard and Thomas Temple were listed, as were entities connected to F.P.F. Temple, including the Alden Fruit Drying Works, which was on land F.P.F. owned; Temple’s Cerro Gordo Water and Mining Company, an enterprise in the mining regions of Inyo County that went belly up in spring 1875; the Lake Vineyard Land and Water Company, led by Benjamin D. Wilson with Temple as treasurer and which founded Alhambra; Temple’s Los Angeles Petroleum Refining Company, one of the early oil drilling firms in the county up in today’s Santa Clarita; and, most troubling, Temple’s successful 1875 election campaign for county treasurer.
The bills receivable section included over $54,000 owed by Ledyard, $27,000 owed by Thomas Temple and $28,000 by the bank’s assignee Daniel Freeman. Large amounts were owed by merchant Simon Levy and the firm of J.L. Ward and Company. Others on the list included General Bouton; former county sheriff James F. Burns; James J. Ayres and Joseph D. Lynch, who owned the Express; auctioneer W.H.J. Brooks; bank employee Bullock; Los Angeles mayor Prudent Beaudry; city treasurer James J. Mellus; Temple and Workman compadre Juan Matias Sanchez; and Lewis Wolfskill, who owned land with the bank’s owners.
Finally, the assets and liabilities of the bank were presented. With the former, William Workman’s inventory was valued at $733,000 and F.P.F. Temple’s at $712,000. Their joined real estate holdings added about $45,000. Bills receivable totaled just over $350,000 and mortgages and overdrafts constituted almost $300,000, but there was a serious question about how much of that could be collected. Cash, however, had dwindled to only a bit over $5,000.
Temple’s estate listing gives a good indication of how wide his involvement was in regional business, including ranches in the San Gabriel Valley and prime land and commercial buildings in downtown Los Angeles; investments in streetcar lines, real estate subdivision firms and mining; and more. Workman’s assets were more generally limited to the 18,000 acres of Rancho La Puente he kept (of the more than 24,000 he’d once had), some Cerro Gordo Water and Mining shares; and personal property, including winemaking equipment kept near his house. There was also some joint property in real estate.
While liabilities were listed at about half of the assets, including deposits and CDs totaling almost $500,000, Baldwin’s mortgage of $340,225 and Temple’s personal liabilities of over $180,000, and it looked like there would be a strong likelihood of repaying creditors, a couple of main points stood out.
First, Baldwin’s mortgage covered much of the $1.5 million combined personal property of Temple and Workman and the valuation of real estate, for example, was almost certainly exaggerated given the depressed state of the economy. Then, there were some $650,000 in overdrafts, mortgages and bills receivable that could post problems in collection.
The last matter would require the effort of the bank’s assignees (Spence and Freeman and then George E. Long) for years to do what they could through the force of law and persuasion to secure those funds. With the Baldwin mortgage, the San Francisco capitalist had plenty of money and time, so he allowed over three years to pass until he foreclosed on his loan. This allowed the interest to accumulate to the point that any chance of paying off the principal was impossible.
Still, creditors had an immediate issue, which was to convene a meeting the same day as the release of the inventory and weigh their options in the face of the unmitigated disaster that had taken place. Tomorrow’s post looks at the creditors’ meeting.