by Paul R. Spitzzeri
The most concerted effort made on a private claim to Alcatraz Island was made in the first years of the 20th century by a second generation of interested parties. With William Workman, F.P.F. Temple, John C. Frémont and John Downey all dead by the end of the previous century, the newest claimants were, firstly, John H. Temple and William W. Jenkins, who first got involved in 1880 when Temple’s mother, Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple, widow of F.P.F. Temple, sold her interest in the island to the two of them.
Then, there was a new actor in the drama: Angelo Konstantine Moropoulos, born in New York to Greek parents and who came to Los Angeles in the early 1890s where he became a wholesale fruit dealer and horse breeder and racing enthusiast. It is not know how Maropoulos got into the Alcatraz tangle, though it seems to have been through Jenkins.
Additionally, the two men, in June 1902, contracted with Los Angeles attorney Edmund Burke so that he could “institute . . . proceedings to assert and establish their rights to a certain island named Alcatraz or Bird Island . . .” The agreement, however, also noted that “there are at this time supposed to be some outstanding interests not yet acquired by either or both of the undersigned.” If and when Jenkins and Moropoulos were to pick up these interests, they would do so “for the joint benefit of each, share and share alike.”
Presumably, these other interests were those of John Downey Harvey, nephew and heir of ex-governor John G. Downey, and John H. Temple. As noted in the last part, Jenkins wrote Harvey in 1899 about the matter, though there is no known response.
The same day, 5 June, Jenkins and Moropoulos “agree to pay to Edmund Burke one-third (1/3) each of their interests in the amount that may be recovered” from a claim on the island. Such payment was to be “for all professional services and expenses that may be performed or expended” by the attorney. The agreement was for two years’ duration.
A third document from that date was that Moropoulos gave Burke the
paper grant or deed of Alcatraz Island, California, signed by Pio Pico, Governor of Alta California, to William Workman, dated June 8th 1846 and map of said Island & surroundings made by M. Money, which paper has been delivered to me as the base of title in proceedings to be instituted for the recovery of said Island.
The name “Money” (pronounced Mo-NAY) with respect to a map drawn of the island may refer to William Money (1807-1881), a native of Scotland who migrated to New York in his late teens and then wound up in Mexico. He married Isabella Rada and wound up in Los Angeles about 1840, where he quickly developed a reputation as a true eccentric, promoting himself as a doctor, philosopher, carpenter and architect of octagonal adobe buildings (the Homestead has an original photo in its collection of the ruins of Money’s San Gabriel home of this shape), and other, diverse interests. He also drew a map of Rancho Palos Verdes for the Sepulveda family for their land grant application, so the reference in the 1902 document is pretty compelling about Money’s authorship of the Alcatraz map.
Incidentally, when Money went to Washington to pursue a claim over property lost during the American invasion and seizure of California a decade before, Isabella left him for Pedro Abarta, a French Basque teamster in Los Angeles. She and Abarta had a large family, including Lastenia, whose remarkable story involving her killing of Francisco “Chico” Forster in 1881 was recently the subject of a multi-part post on this blog.
On 10 June 1902, Jenkins transferred to Burke through his personal attorney, Theodore Martin of Los Angeles, more documents, including deeds from F.P.F. Temple to John G. Downey; from Downey to Jenkins; from Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple to Jenkins (and almost certainly John H. Temple, though this was not mentioned); and “divers letters written by John C. Frémont and others.”
Obviously, these documents, like the grant and map handed over five days prior, were to be used in claim proceedings, and Burke promised “to keep said papers in safe custody and not to permit the same to part from my possession, but return the same to said Jenkins if said proceedings be not terminated within two years from date.”
It took just a few weeks more for the whole arrangement between Burke, Jenkins, and Moropoulos to sour. On 1 July, Burke wrote Maropoulos from a Washington, D.C. hotel, writing “your wire demanding five hundred dollars etc. was presented to me today and I refused to accept or to pay for it. I am tired both of you and the entire proceeding and will drop it and you with pleasure.”
Telling Moropoulos that he was soon returning to Los Angeles, Burke added “your papers will be turned over to you” and the lawyer concluded by warning “I want you to keep away from my office & myself.” It is not stated or known why Moropoulos was asking Burke for money, but the attorney then wrote Jenkins a few weeks later from his Los Angeles office, stating:
Marrupolous [sic] is all together malodorous for me and I have decided to return the Grant papers etc to him and I have notified him of such intention coupled with the directive that he be at this office tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock. I deem him unsafe and unreliable and therefore do not desire him as a client. You had better be here tomorrow at the hour names & secure a return of your deed.
Yet, on 18 August, Burke wrote again to Jenkins, advising that he “take immediate steps to come to some arrangement with the Temple heirs, Downey and the rest of the claimants.” Perhaps Jenkins worked something out with Burke, while keeping Moropoulos at arm’s length from the attorney.
In any case, Burke continued by noting that
Instead of two Temples you will find Eight or ten (8 or 10) brothers and sisters of John Temple. I also think the contemplated proceedings should be in the name of one of the Temples. It will look better . . . I don’t know about the intentions of the Greek [who apparently had another attorney in mind to represent him] . . . I will limit my effort to the Washington End of the venture leaving to you and Mr. Martin all local and other interests. I further suggest that you that you make exhaustive search for the deed from William Workman to his daughter or to his son-in-law.
Burke advised that the chain of title needed to be very clear if the claim was to succeed and then advised Jenkins that “Mr. Artichoke Kaporesoleen Maropolous be entirely (if possible) eliminated from the proceedings.” The attorney advised immediate action to get the claim to Congress, but it would be to no avail if Moropoulos was still involved.
On 2 September, the lawyer followed up with Jenkins before he made a trip to Washington, D.C., reiterating that “your first arrangement should be with Marapolopous [sic], then the Temples then Downey,” as well as determining what interest Theodore Martin had that “may be definitely settled.” As for Burke, he offered “to attend to my portion of the work now and if a long delay ensues I may get out of the humor.”
John H. Temple and his wife Anita then followed, in mid-October, by deeding a 1/4 share of their interest to Burke for any successful claim within the next twenty-one months, or to the end of 1904, but increased that amount to a third two weeks later. On 20 October, two days after this deed, Temple wrote Martin and expressed his satisfaction in Jenkins’ attorney and his dealings with the Alcatraz situation.
Notably, Martin told Temple that Jenkins had not been fair in his dealings and Temple wrote that he and his wife were unimpressed with an undefined proposition by Jenkins, so Temple offered “a 1/4 [share] the same as Mr. Burke” to Martin. He added, “I do not want to get complicated with Mr. Jenkins in transferring any papers.”
Yet, on 1 November, the same day Burke was given a one-third interest in the Temples’ portion of Alcatraz, they executed a deed with Jenkins’ wife, Olive, giving her a 1/3 interest in their share of the island, so something was obviously worked out after the letter to Martin was written. The same day, John Temple transferred 5/6 of his interest in Alcatraz to Anita. These actions were administrated by Theodore Martin for reasons that are not known, unless it was to place any real or expected assets in the hands of the Temple and Jenkins wives in case financial problems were to ensure with their husbands.
At the end of that month, Burke was back in Washington and told Jenkins he was ready to start on a claim there before returning to Los Angeles, but mentioned the possibility of John D. Harvey reaching an agreement on his involvement. In the meantime, he advised Jenkins to “attend to Mrs. Temple and the Greek.”
On 11 December, another missive was sent from the nation’s capital with Burke reporting that he received an agreement from Harvey that was good through 5 June 1904. He then made reference to the interests of Martin and “Widow Temple” to be acquired. The latter and the reference to “Mrs. Temple” was likely with Nettie Temple, whose husband was Thomas, the elder brother of John H. Temple and eldest child of F.P.F. Temple and Antonia Margarita Workman. Burke also informed Jenkins that “I brought the grant and all papers, except those you have, here & placed same in [a] safety vault.”
This latter statement became a crucial point to what transpired later as the situation with Burke turned ugly. So, check back tomorrow for the next part of the story!