Read All About It: News from Los Angeles in The New York Daily Tribune, 10 September 1855

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Los Angeles might have been a small, frontier town 160 or so years ago, but when newspapers started being published there in spring 1851 and issues were delivered to the East Coast after long trips by sea and land, some of the news was republished.  One such example is from an issue in the Homestead’s collection of the 10 September 1855 edition of the New York Daily Tribune.

Founded in 1841, the year F.P.F. Temple and the Workman family migrated to Los Angeles from Massachusetts and New Mexico, respectively, the Tribune‘s first publisher was Horace Greeley, best known for his advice to “go west, young man,” a saying that was proverbial for western migration.  Greeley was also the losing Republican candidate (to incumbent Ulysses S. Grant) for president in 1872 just before his death.

The edition of the paper highlighted here includes a full column on news from greater Los Angeles.  A couple of news items from the Los Angeles Star concerned gold mining on the Kern River near modern Bakersfield in a region far south of the main fields that constituted the domain of the Gold Rush, which had effectively ended by this time.

A short piece talked about the fact that “the mines on the San Gabriel [River] continue to attract some attention,” adding that a substantial contingent of miners left the nearby mission “to try their luck in the diggings.”  The paper added that, during the summer, there were companies prospecting with some workers making “fair wages.”  To this day, gold miners can be found plying the east fork of the river searching for substantial flakes and nuggets.

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Cattle driving from the Los Angeles area to the gold fields was still being done as one piece from the Star noted that “not less than 5,000 head of stock have left this county.”  Among these were animals led by Daniel McFarland, a partner of John Downey, future governor of the state, and “Mr. Frank Temple started week before last [probably June] with 1,100 head.”  Presumably, F.P.F. Temple had his own animals as well as those of his father-in-law, William Workman, with him as he headed for the Tuolumne County area around Columbia (now a state historic park), Sonora, and Springfield (the latter being Temple’s home in the area.)

The other weekly English-language paper was the Southern Californian, launched the prior year, and it reported on the establishment of a salt works along the Pacific coast fifteen miles southwest of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles merchants Horace Allanson and William Johnson purchased over 200 acres of Rancho San Pedro from prominent Californio Manuel Dominguez (a signer of California’s first constitution in 1849) where natural salt pans existed and rudimentary works estalished in the 1830s and launched the Pacific Salt Works.

The report in the Southern Californian was that the firm “erected a noble building of upward of 160 feet in length by 60 in width [just short of 10,000 square feet]” with pumps leading from the lake where the natural salt was and conducting the material in the building where nearly four dozen kettles were arranged in two rows “fed from a main trunk or spout running above and between them.”  Furnaces under the kettles kept them heated constantly, while large bins at the ends of the structure provided drying and packing space.  Orders for 300 tons of salt were reported.

It was claimed the product yielded “is of the very best quality, perfectly clean, and ready for immediate table use.”  With housing for workers, an office, stables, and other elements, the works “presents a very imposing appearance.”  The adjacent beach afford a good landing most of the year, while a road was completed to Los Angeles for overland shipment.

The location was at the present border of Redondo Beach with its northern neighbor Hermosa Beach where an electric utility plans is today.  Allanson and Johnson’s enterprise went belly up in 1862 when economic conditions were worsening in the region and it was sold to Francis Mellus, who was a prominent Angeleno.  Pacific operated until 1881 when it was purchased by a rival company, Liverpool Salt Works, and closed.  The site is a state historic landmark and was marked in the mid-1950s.

Another interesting piece concerned the Mormon colony at San Bernardino, established in 1851 when land was purchased on Rancho San Bernardino from the Lugo family.  Originally part of Los Angeles County, the new town became the seat of San Bernardino County two years later.  The article stated that there were “present difficulties” so that the Mormons “are now devoting themselves to the task of raising means to pay for their land.”

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This meant selling land to gentiles and members of the church fanned out through California “to preach the faith” and alert potential buyers to the land made available.  It was stated that property available was excellent as to soil quality, weather, and “natural features.”  When it came to “the subject of Mormonism, no umbrage can be taken agains the settlers at San Bernardino as citizens and neighbors.”

In fact, the piece continued, the Mormons “pursue the even tenor of their ways, minding their own business, pursuing quietly their avocations.”  The fact that they did not drink, steal, riot, file lawsuits or commit murders and that they worked together to uplift their community meant they were “an example worthy of imitation.”   Moreover, San Bernardino was touted as a town “which will be an ornament to the country and a source of pride” to the Mormons, who, however, were recalled to Utah by Brigham Young in 1857, though some stayed in San Bernardino and elsewhere in the region.

Another development of note was the improvement of the rudimentary port of San Pedro, promoted as “one of the most safe and convenient ports along the coast.”  For most of the year, it was stated, it was as placid “as a mill-pond” and sheltered except for winter storms from the southeast.

The work of Phineas Banning, who arrived at the port a few years previously, and David W. Alexander, a close friend of F.P.F. Temple and William Workman, with their freighting business was highlighted.  The men had about 40 wagons drawn by teams of 10-12 mules, as well as several stagecoached for transporting passengers and freight to and from Los Angeles and other areas.

Others operating businesses dealing with the forwarding of goods include Augustus W. Timms of Timms Landing, and Matthew Lanfranco and a member of the prominent Sepulveda family.  Generally, the Southern Californian concluded, the trade at San Pedro “forms a true index of the trade and commerce of the country, and in its steady and constantly increasing trade, we are afforded the evidences of the growth and prosperity of this portion of the State.”

By the mid-1860s, however, several difficult years of drought, flood and economic depression hit the region and essentially left Banning as the dominant figure in the area, including his “New San Pedro,” renamed Wilmington, after his Delaware hometown.

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Another interesting piece was headed “General Matters at Los Angeles” and which noted that “affairs in our city and county are very much as usual,” with summer weather heating the area up, business a little better, and more money in circulation.  Compared to the spate of violence that rocked the region the previous year and led to a dramatic execution and lynching at the start of 1855, the situation was such that “take it all in all, matters and things glide on devoid of interest and unmarked of incident.”

Specifically, crops of grain and fruit from orchards were of a good yield and the region’s wine industry was mentioned as “destined to find a rich reward” due to the fact that “attention is now turned to this branch.”  It was expected that, in a short time, the region’s winemakers would dramatically increase their production and business.

Among the local vintners was William Workman, who was growing grapes in the 1840s and selling grapes “by the heap” in the mid-Fifties.  A decade later, he built wineries to produce his own vintages and kept at this work, supervised by grandson Francis W. Temple, until his death in 1876 after the collapse of his Temple and Workman bank and the loss of most of his land and fortune.  Francis Temple, however, took ownership of the Homestead, consisting of 75 acres, and succesfully continued wine making until his death in 1888.  A devastating disease wiped out the vineyard, however, very shortly afterward.

The area’s mills were “capable of turning out the very best of flour,” including the new mill of Henry Dalton at Rancho Azusa north of Rancho La Puente, where John Rowland’s mill, the oldest in the county, began in 1847.  The Homestead is fortunate to have in its collection the first of over 20 business ledgers kept by Dalton and spanning the years 1846-1856.  Also noted was a new mill in Los Angeles being built by lawyer and judge Jonathan R. Scott and Francis Mellus, mentioned above, and Abel Stearns (whose name was not included, however), later part of the Capitol Mill, opened in the early 1880s.

Mausoleum Dedication Ceremony 2002.89.48.3
A snapshot from the Homestead’s collection of attendees outside the mausoleum at El Campo Santo cemetery (the pillars to the entrance gate are at the left) in April 1921 where the remains of ex-governor Pío Pico and his wife, María Ignacia Alvarado were recently interred after being moved from the old Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Finally, there is an article titled “Mourning for Native Californians,” meaning the Spanish-speaking Californios, not the aboriginal Indians.  The piece reported that, on 6 August, “religious observances on the anniversary of the deaths of Doña Maria Ignacia Alvarado de Pico and Doña Concepcion Argüello de Olvera” were held, at which also took place “the consecration of the magnificent mausoleum erected by Don Pio Pico and Don Andres Pico.”  Ignacia Alvarado was the wife of Pío Pico, the last governor of Mexican-era California, and died in 1854, while Concepcion Argüello was married to Agustín Olvera, recently the County Judge, and died in 1853.

The piece continued with a description of the ceremonies: “the church [Plaza Church] was crowded while mass was said for the departed; the church was richly fitted up  and billiantly illuminated with wax candles.”  Then, it was reported

In the afternoon an imposing procession moved to the Catholic cemetery, where the body of Mrs. Pico was exhumed and replaced in the beautiful tomb erected by her surviving consort.  The services were very impressive, and we noticed many a silent tear dropped to the memory of one who in her lifetime was endeared to all who knew her.

The Pico tomb was a large one made of cast-iron and finely ornamented.  It stood in the old Calvary Cemetery at the base of the Elysian Hills from 1844 until the early 20th century though it closed when the new Calvary was opened in East Los Angeles in 1896.  On 11 September 1894, 39 years and a day after this edition of the Tribune, Pío Pico died and was interred in the tomb and he and his remained there through the deterioration and desecreation of the old cemetery.

In 1921, as Walter P. Temple, who gave the ex-governor shelter when he was evicted from his home (now a state park) near Whittier, completed his mausoleum in the Homestead’s El Campo Santo cemetery, he secured permission from the Pico family to have the remains of Doña Ignacia and Don Pío moved from the tomb at the old Calvary to the new mausoleum.  Fittingly, the Picos lie next to their compadres William and Nicolasa Workman and F.P.F. Temple and Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple.

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