About the time when I arrived, Assessor António F. Coronel reported an increase in the City and County assessment of over eight hundred and five thousand dollars, but the number of stores was really limited, and the amount of business involved was in proportion. The community was like a village; and such was the provincial character of the town that, instead of indicating the location of a store or office by a number, the advertiser more frequently used such a phrase as "opposite the Bella Union," "near the Express Office," or "vis-à-vis to Mr. Temple's." Nor was this of great importance: change of names and addresses were frequent in business establishments in those days—an indication, perhaps, of the restless spirit of the times.

Possibly because of this uncertainty as to headquarters, merchants were indifferent toward many advertising aids considered to-day rather essential. When I began business in Los Angeles, most of the storekeepers contented themselves with signs rudely lettered or painted on unbleached cloth, and nailed on the outside of the adobe walls of their shops. Later, their signs were on bleached cloth and secured in frames without glass. In 1865, we had a painted wooden sign; and still later, many establishments boasted of letters in gold on the glass doors and windows. So too, when I first came here, merchants wrote their own billheads and often did not take the trouble to do that; but within two or three years afterward, they began to have them printed.

People were also not as particular about keeping their places of business open all day. Proprietors would sometimes close their stores and go out for an hour or two for their meals, or to meet in a friendly game of billiards. During the monotonous days when but little business was being transacted, it was not uncommon for merchants to visit back and forth and to spend hours at a time in playing cards. To provide a substitute for a table, the window sill of the thick adobe was used, the visitor seating himself on a box or barrel on the outside, while the host within at the window would make himself equally comfortable. Without particularizing, it is safe to state that the majority of early traders indulged in such methods of killing time. During this period of miserably lighted thoroughfares, and before the arrival of many American families, those who did not play cards and billiards in the saloons met at night at each other's stores where, on an improvised table, they indulged in a little game of draw.

Artisans, too, were among the pioneers. William H. Perry, a carpenter by trade, came to Los Angeles on February 1st, 1853, bringing with him, and setting up here, the first stationary steam engine. In May, 1855, seeing an opportunity to expand, he persuaded Ira Gilchrist to form a partnership with him under the name of W. H. Perry & Company. A brief month later, however—so quickly did enterprises evolve in early Los Angeles—Perry gave up carpentering and joined James D. Brady in the furniture business. Their location was on Main Street between Arcadia and the Plaza. They continued together several years, until Wallace Woodworth—one of Tom Mott's horsemen who went out to avenge the death of Sheriff Barton—bought out Brady's interest, when the firm became Perry & Woodworth. They prospered and grew in importance, their speciality being inside cabinet-work; and on September 6th, 1861, they established a lumber yard in town, with the first regular saw- and planing-mills seen here. They then manufactured beehives, furniture and upholstery, and contracted for building and house-furnishing. In 1863, Stephen H., brother of Tom Mott, joined the firm. Perry & Woodworth were both active in politics, one being a Councilman, the other a Supervisor—the latter, a Democratic leader, going as a delegate to the convention that nominated General Winfield S. Hancock for the presidency. Their political affiliations indeed gave them an influence which, in the awarding of contracts, was sufficient to keep them supplied with large orders. Woodworth's demise occurred in 1883. Perry died on October 30th, 1906.

Nels Williamson, a native of Maine and a clever fellow, was another carpenter who was here when I arrived. He had come across the Plains from New Orleans in 1852 as one of a party of twenty. In the neighborhood of El Paso de Águila they were all ambushed by Indians, and eighteen members of the party were killed; Williamson, and Dick Johnson, afterward a resident of Los Angeles, being the two that escaped. On a visit to Kern County, Nels was shot by a hunter who mistook him for a bear; the result of which was that he was badly crippled for life. So long as he lived—and he approached ninety years—Nels, like many old-timers, was horribly profane.

Henri Penelon, a fresco-painter, was here in 1853, and was recognized as a decorator of some merit. When the old Plaza Church was renovated, he added some ornamental touches to it. At a later period, he was a photographer as well as a painter.

Among the blacksmiths then in Los Angeles was a well-known German, John Goller, who conducted his trade in his own shop, occupying about one hundred feet on Los Angeles Street where the Los Angeles Saddlery Company is now located. Goller was an emigrant who came by way of the Salt Lake route, and who, when he set up as the pioneer blacksmith and wagon-maker, was supplied by Louis Wilhart, who had a tannery on the west side of the river, with both tools and customers. When Goller arrived, ironworkers were scarce, and he was able to command pretty much his own prices. He charged sixteen dollars for shoeing a horse and used to laugh as he told how he received nearly five hundred dollars for his part in rigging up the awning in front of a neighboring house. When, in 1851, the Court of Sessions ordered the Sheriff to see that fifty lances were made for the volunteer Rangers, Goller secured the contract. Another commission which he filled was the making for the County of a three-inch branding-iron with the letters, L. A. There being little iron in stock, Goller bought up old wagon-tires cast away on the plains, and converted them into various utensils, including even horseshoes. As an early wagon-maker he had rather a discouraging experience, his first wagon remaining on his hands a good while: the natives looked upon it with inquisitive distrust and still clung to their heavy carretas. He had introduced, however, more modern methods, and gradually he established a good sale. Afterward he extended his field of operations, the late sixties finding him shipping wagons all over the State. His prosperity increased, and Mullaly, Porter & Ayers constructed for him one of the first brick buildings in Los Angeles. A few years later, Goller met with heavy financial reverses, losing practically all that he had.

I have stated that no care was given to either the streets or sidewalks, and a daily evidence of this was the confusion in the neighborhood of John's shop, which, together with his yard, was one of the sights of the little town because the blacksmith had strewn the footway, and even part of the road, with all kinds of piled-up material; to say nothing of a lot of horses invariably waiting there to be shod. The result was that passers-by were obliged to make a detour into the often muddy street to get around and past Goller's premises.

John Ward was an Angeleño who knew something of the transition from heavy to lighter vehicles. He was born in Virginia and took part in the Battle of New Orleans. In the thirties he went to Santa Fé, in one of the earliest prairie schooners to that point; thence he came to Los Angeles for a temporary stay, making the trip in the first carriage ever brought to the Coast from a Yankee workshop. In 1849, he returned for permanent residence; and here he died in 1859.

D. Anderson, whose daughter married Jerry Newell, a pioneer of 1856, was a carriage-maker, having previously been in partnership with a man named Burke in the making of pack-saddles. After a while, when Anderson had a shop on Main Street, he commenced making a vehicle somewhat lighter than a road wagon and less elaborate than a carriage. With materials generally purchased from me he covered the vehicle, making it look like a hearse. A newspaper clipping evidences Anderson's activity in the middle seventies—"a little shaky on his pins, but cordial as ever."

Carriages were very scarce in California at the time of my arrival, although there were a few, Don Abel Stearns possessing the only private vehicle in Los Angeles; and transportation was almost entirely by means of saddle-horses, or the native, capacious carretas. These consisted of a heavy platform, four or five by eight or ten feet in size, mounted on two large, solid wheels, sawed out of logs, and were exceedingly primitive in appearance, although the owners sometimes decorated them elaborately; while the wheels moved on coarse, wooden axles, affording the traveler more jounce than restful ride. The carretas served, indeed, for nearly all the carrying business that was done between the ranchos and Los Angeles; and when in operation, the squeaking could be heard at a great distance, owing especially to the fact that the air being undisturbed by factories or noisy traffic, quiet generally prevailed. So solid were these vehicles that, in early wars, they were used for barricades and the making of temporary corrals, and also for transporting cannon.

This sharp squeaking of the carreta, however, while penetrating and disagreeable in the extreme, served a purpose, after all, as the signal that a buyer was approaching town; for the vehicle was likely to have on board one or even two good-sized families of women and children, and the keenest expectation of our little business world was consequently aroused, bringing merchants and clerks to the front of their stores. A couple of oxen, by means of ropes attached to their horns, pulled the carretas, while the men accompanied their families on horseback; and as the roving oxen were inclined to leave the road, one of the riders (wielding a long, pointed stick) was kept busy moving from side to side, prodding the wandering animals and thus holding them to the highway. Following these carretas, there were always from twenty-five to fifty dogs, barking and howling as if mad.

Some of the carretas had awnings and other tasteful trimmings, and those who could afford it spent a great deal of money on saddles and bridles. Each caballero was supplied with a reata (sometimes locally misspelled riata) or leathern rope, one end of which was tied around the neck of the horse while the other—coiled and tied to the saddle when not in use—was held by the horseman when he went into a house or store; for hitching posts were unknown, with the natural result that there were many runaways. When necessary, the reata was lowered to the level of the ground, to accommodate passers-by. Riders were always provided with one or two pistols, to say nothing of the knife which was frequently a part of the armament; and I have seen even sabers suspended from the saddles.

As I have remarked, Don Abel Stearns owned the first carriage in town; it was a strong, but rather light and graceful vehicle, with a closed top, which he had imported from Boston in 1853, to please Doña Arcadia, it was said. However that may be, it was pronounced by Don Abel's neighbors the same dismal failure, considering the work it would be called upon to perform under California conditions, as these wiseacres later estimated the product of John Goller's carriage shop to be. Speaking of Goller, reminds me that John Schumacher gave him an order to build a spring wagon with a cover, in which he might take his family riding. It was only a one-horse affair, but probably because of the springs and the top which afforded protection from both the sun and the rain, it was looked upon as a curiosity.

It is interesting to note, in passing, that John H. Jones, who was brought from Boston as a coachman by Henry Mellus—while Mrs. Jones came as a seamstress for Mrs. Mellus—and who for years drove for Abel Stearns, left a very large estate when he died, including such properties as the northeast corner of Fifth and Spring streets, the northwest corner of Main and Fifth streets (where, for several years, he resided,) and other sites of great value; and it is my recollection that his wage as coachman was the sole basis of this huge accumulation. Stearns, as I mention elsewhere, suffered for years from financial troubles; and I have always understood that during that crisis Jones rendered his former employer assistance.

Mrs. Frémont, the General's wife, also owned one of the first carriages in California. It was built to order in the East and sent around the Horn; and was constructed so that it could be fitted up as a bed, thus enabling the distinguished lady and her daughter to camp wherever night might overtake them.

Shoemakers had a hard time establishing themselves in Los Angeles in the fifties. A German shoemaker—perhaps I should say a Schuhmachermeister!—was said to have come and gone by the beginning of 1852; and less than a year later, Andrew Lehman, a fellow-countryman of John Behn, arrived from Baden and began to solicit trade. So much, however, did the general stores control the sale of boots and shoes at that time, that Lehman used to say it was three years before he began to make more than his expenses. Two other shoemakers, Morris and Weber, came later. Slaney Brothers, in the late sixties, opened the first shoe store here.

In connection with shoemakers and their lack of patronage, I am reminded of the different foot gear worn by nearly every man and boy in the first quarter of a century after my arrival, and the way they were handled. Then shoes were seldom used, although clumsy brogans were occasionally in demand. Boots were almost exclusively worn by the male population, those designed for boys usually being tipped with copper at the toes. A dozen pair, of different sizes, came in a case, and often a careful search was required through several boxes to find just the size needed. At such times, the dealer would fish out one pair after another, tossing them carelessly onto the floor; and as each case contained odd sizes that had proven unsalable, the none too patient and sometimes irascible merchant had to handle and rehandle the slow-moving stock. Some of the boots were highly ornamented at the top, and made a fine exhibit when displayed (by means of strings passing through the boot straps) in front of the store. Boot-jacks, now as obsolete as the boots themselves, are also an institution of that past.

Well out in the country, where the Capitol Milling Company's plant now stands, and perhaps as successor to a still earlier mill built there by an Englishman, Joseph Chapman (who married into the Ortega family—since become famous through Émile C. Ortega who, in 1898, successfully began preserving California chilis),—was a small mill, run by water, known as the Eagle Mills. This was owned at different times by Abel Stearns, Francis Mellus and J. R. Scott, and conducted, from 1855 to 1868, by John Turner, who came here for that purpose, and whose son, William, with Fred Lambourn later managed the grocery store of Lambourn & Turner on Aliso Street. The miller made poor flour indeed; though probably it was quite equal to that produced by Henry Dalton at the Azusa, John Rowland at the Puente, Michael White at San Gabriel, and the Theodore brothers at their Old Mill in Los Angeles. The quantity of wheat raised in Southern California was exceedingly small, and whenever the raw material became exhausted, Turner's supply of flour gave out, and this indispensable commodity was then procured from San Francisco. Turner, who was a large-hearted man and helpful to his fellows, died in 1878. In the seventies, the mill was sold to J. D. Deming, and by him to J. Loew, who still controls the corporation, the activity of which has grown with the city.

Half a year before my coming to Los Angeles, or in April, 1853, nearly twenty-five thousand square miles had been lopped off from Los Angeles County, to create the County of San Bernardino; and yet in that short time the Mormons, who had established themselves there in 1851 as a colony on a tract of land purchased from Diego Sepúlveda and the three Lugos—José del Carmen, José María and Vicente—and consisting of about thirty-five thousand acres, had quite succeeded in their agricultural and other ventures. Copying somewhat the plan of Salt Lake City, they laid out a town a mile square, with right-angled blocks of eight acres and irrigating zanjas parallel with the streets. In a short time, they were raising corn, wheat (some of it commanding five dollars a bushel), barley and vegetables; and along their route of travel, by way of the Mormon metropolis, were coming to the Southland many substantial pioneers. From San Bernardino, Los Angeles drew her supply of butter, eggs and poultry; and as three days were ordinarily required for their transportation across what was then known as the desert, these products arrived in poor condition, particularly during the summer heat. The butter would melt, and the eggs would become stale. This disadvantage, however, was in part compensated for by the economical advantage of the industry and thrift of the Mormons, and their favorable situation in an open, fertile country; for they could afford to sell us their produce very reasonably—fifteen cents a dozen for eggs, and three dollars a dozen for chickens well satisfying them! San Bernardino also supplied all of our wants in the lumber line. A lumber yard was then a prospect—seven or eight years elapsing before the first yard and planing-mill were established; and this necessary building material was peddled around town by the Mormon teamsters who, after disposing of all they could in this manner, bartered the balance to storekeepers to be later put on sale somewhere near their stores.

But two towns broke the monotony of a trip between Los Angeles and San Bernardino, and they were San Gabriel Mission and El Monte. I need not remind my readers that the former place, the oldest and quaintest settlement in the county, was founded by Father Junípero Serra and his associates in 1771, and that thence radiated all of their operations in this neighborhood; nor that, in spite of all the sacrifice and human effort, matters with this beautifully-situated Mission were in a precarious condition for several decades. It may be less known, however, that the Mission Fathers excelled in the cultivation of citrus fruits, and that their chief competitors, in 1853, were William Wolfskill and Louis Vignes, who were also raising seedling oranges of a very good quality. The population of San Gabriel was then principally Indian and Mexican, although there were a few whites dwelling some distance away. Among these, J. S. Mallard, afterward Justice of the Peace and father of the present City Assessor, Walter Mallard, carried on a small business; and Mrs. Laura Cecelia Evertsen—mother-in-law of an old pioneer, Andrew J. King, whose wife is the talented daughter, Mrs. Laura Evertsen King—also had a store there. Still another early storekeeper at the quaint settlement was Max Lazard, nephew of Solomon Lazard, who later went back to France. Another pioneer to settle near the San Gabriel River was Louis Phillips, a native of Germany who reached California in 1850, by way of Louisiana, and for a while did business in a little store on the Long Wharf at San Francisco. Then he came to Los Angeles, where he engaged in trade; in 1853, he bought land on which, for ten years or until he removed to Spadra (where Mrs. Phillips still survives him), he tilled the soil and raised stock. The previous year, Hugo Reid, of whom I often heard my neighbors speak in a complimentary way, had died at San Gabriel where he had lived and worked. Reid was a cultured Scotchman who, though born in the British Isles, had a part, as a member of the convention, in making the first Constitution for California. He married an Indian woman and, in his leisure hours, studied the Indians on the mainland and Catalina, contributing to the Los Angeles Star a series of articles on the aborigines still regarded as the valuable testimony of an eyewitness.

This Indian wife of the scholarly Reid reminds me of Nathan Tuch, who came here in 1853, having formerly lived in Cleveland where he lost his first wife. He was thoroughly honest, very quiet and genteel, and of an affectionate disposition. Coming to California and San Gabriel, he opened a little store; and there he soon married a full-blooded squaw. Notwithstanding, however, the difference in their stations and the fact that she was uneducated, Tuch always remained faithful to her, and treated her with every mark of respect. When I last visited Tuch and his shop, I saw there a home-made sign, reading about as follows:


When he died, his wife permitted his burial in the Jewish Cemetery.

Michael White was another pioneer, who divided his time between San Gabriel and the neighborhood that came to be known as San Bernardino, near which he had the rancho Muscupiabe. Although drifting hither as long ago as 1828, he died, in the late eighties, without farm, home or friends.

Cyrus Burdick was still another settler who, after leaving Iowa with his father and other relatives in December, 1853, stopped for a while at San Gabriel. Soon young Burdick went to Oregon; but, being dissatisfied, he returned to the Mission and engaged in farming. In 1855, he was elected Constable; a year later, he opened a store at San Gabriel, which he conducted for eight or nine years. Subsequently, the Burdicks lived in Los Angeles, at the corner of First and Fort streets on the site of the present Tajo Building. They also owned the northeast corner of Second and Spring streets. This property became the possession of Fred Eaton, through his marriage to Miss Helen L. Burdick.

Fielding W. Gibson came early in the fifties. He had bought at Sonora, Mexico, some five hundred and fifty head of cattle, but his vaqueros kept up such a regular system of side-tracking and thieving that, by the time he reached the San Gabriel Valley, he had only about one-seventh of his animals left. Fancying that neighborhood, he purchased two hundred and fifty acres of land from Henry Dalton and located west of El Monte, where he raised stock and broom corn.

El Monte—a name by some thought to refer to the adjacent mountains, but actually alluding to the dense willow forests then surrounding the hamlet—the oldest American settlement in the county, was inhabited by a party of mixed emigrants, largely Texans and including Ira W. Thompson who opened the first tavern there and was the Postmaster when its Post Office was officially designated Monte. Others were Dr. Obed Macy and his son Oscar, of whom I speak elsewhere, Samuel M. Heath and Charlotte Gray, who became John Rowland's second wife; the party having taken possession, in the summer of 1851, of the rich farming tract along the San Gabriel River some eleven or twelve miles east of Los Angeles. The summer before I came, forty or fifty more families arrived there, and among them were A. J. King, afterward a citizen of Los Angeles; Dr. T. A. Hayes, William and Ezekiel Rubottom, Samuel King—A. J. King's father—J. A. Johnson, Jacob Weil, A. Madox, A. J. Horn, Thomas A. Garey, who acquired quite a reputation as a horticulturist, and Jonathan Tibbets, spoken of in another chapter. While tilling the soil, these farmer folks made it their particular business to keep Whigs and, later, Republicans out of office; and slim were the chances of those parties in El Monte and vicinity, but correspondingly enthusiastic were the receptions given Democratic candidates and their followers visiting there. Another important function that engaged these worthy people was their part in the lynchings which were necessary in Los Angeles. As soon as they received the cue, the Monte boys galloped into town; and being by temperament and training, through frontier life, used to dealing with the rougher side of human nature, they were recognized disciplinarians. The fact is that such was the peculiar public spirit animating these early settlers that no one could live and prosper at the Monte who was not extremely virile and ready for any dare-devil emergency.

David Lewis, a Supervisor of 1855, crossed the continent to the San Gabriel Valley in 1851, marrying there, in the following year, a daughter of the innkeeper Ira Thompson, just referred to. Thompson was a typical Vermonter and a good, popular fellow, who long kept the Overland Stage station. Sometime in the late fifties, Lewis was a pioneer in the growing of hops. Jonathan Tibbets, who settled at El Monte the year that I came to Los Angeles, had so prospered by 1871 that he left for the mines in Mohave County, Arizona, to inaugurate a new enterprise, and took with him some twenty thousand pounds of cured pork and a large quantity of lard, which had been prepared at El Monte. Samuel M. Heath was another El Monte pioneer of 1851; he died in 1876, kindly remembered by many poor immigrants. H. L., J. S. and S. D. Thurman were farmers at El Monte, who came here in 1852. E. C. Parish, who arrived in 1854 and became a Supervisor, was also a ranchman there. Other El Monte folks, afterward favorably spoken of, were the Hoyts, who were identified with early local education.

Dr. Obed Macy, father of Mrs. Sam Foy, came to Los Angeles from the Island of Nantucket, where he was born, by way of Indiana, in which State he had practiced medicine, arriving in Southern California about 1850 and settling in El Monte. He moved to Los Angeles, a year later, and bought the Bella Union from Winston & Hodges; where were opened the Alameda Baths, on the site of the building later erected by his son Oscar. There Dr. Macy died on July 9th, 1857. Oscar, a printer on the Southern Californian, had set type in San Francisco, swung a miner's pick and afterward returned to El Monte where he took up a claim which, in time, he sold to Samuel King. Macy Street recalls this pioneer family.

The San Fernando and San Juan Capistrano missions, and Agua Caliente, were the only other settlements in Los Angeles County then; the former, famous by 1854 for its olives, passing into history both through the activity of the Mission Fathers and also the renowned set-to between Micheltorena and Castro when, after hours of cannonading and grotesque swinging of the would-be terrifying reata, the total of the dead was—a single mule! Then, or somewhat subsequently, General Andrés Pico began to occupy what was the most pretentious adobe in the State, formerly the abode of the padres—a building three hundred feet long, eighty feet wide and with walls four feet thick.

In 1853, there was but one newspaper in the city—a weekly known as La Estrella de los Angeles or The Los Angeles Star, printed half in Spanish, half in English. It was founded on May 17th, 1851, by John A. Lewis and John McElroy, who had their printing office in the lower room of a small wooden house on Los Angeles Street, near the corral of the Bella Union hotel. This firm later became Lewis, McElroy & Rand. There was then no telegraphic communication with the outside world, and the news ordinarily conveyed by the sheet was anything but important. Indeed, all such information was known, each week, by the handful of citizens in the little town long before the paper was published, and delays in getting mail from a distance—in one case the post from San Francisco to Los Angeles being under way no less than fifty-two days!—led to Lewis giving up the editorship in disgust. When a steamer arrived, some little news found its way into the paper; but even then matters of national and international moment became known in Los Angeles only after the lapse of a month or so. The admission of California to the Union in 1850, for example, was first reported on the Coast six weeks after Congress had voted in California's favor; while in 1852, the deaths of Clay and Webster were not known in the West until more than a month after they had occurred. This was a slight improvement, however, over the conditions in 1841 when (it used to be said) no one west of the Rockies knew of President Harrison's demise until over three months and a half after he was buried! Our first Los Angeles newspaper was really more of an advertising medium than anything else, and the printing outfit was decidedly primitive, though the printers may not have been as badly off as were the typos of the Californian. The latter, using type picked up in a Mexican cloister, found no W's among the Spanish letters and had to set double V's until more type was brought from the Cannibal or Sandwich Islands! Which reminds me of José de la Rosa, born in Los Angeles about 1790, and the first journeyman to set type in California, who died over one hundred years old. But if the Estrella made a poor showing as a newspaper, I have no doubt that, to add to the editor's misfortunes, the advertising rates were so low that his entire income was but small. In 1854, the Star and its imprenta, as it was then styled, were sold to a company organized by James S. Waite, who, a year later, was appointed Postmaster of the city. Speaking of the Star, I should add that one of its first printers was Charles Meyrs Jenkins, later City Zanjero, who had come to California, a mere stripling, with his stepfather, George Dalton, Sr.

The Post Office, too, at this time, was far from being an important institution. It was located in an adobe building on Los Angeles, between Commercial and Arcadia streets, and Dr. William B. Osburn, sometimes known as Osbourn—who came to California from New York in 1847, in Colonel Stevenson's regiment, and who had established a drug store, such as it was, in 1850—had just been appointed Postmaster. A man who in his time played many parts, Osburn had half a dozen other irons in the fire besides politics (including the interests of a floral nursery and an auction room), and as the Postmaster was generally away from his office, citizens desiring their mail would help themselves out of a soap box—subdivided like a pigeon house, each compartment being marked with a letter; and in this way the city's mail was distributed! Indifferent as Dr. Osburn was to the postmastership (which, of course, could not have paid enough to command anyone's exclusive services), he was rather a clever fellow and, somewhat naturally perhaps for a student of chemistry, is said to have made as early as August 9th, 1851, (and in connection with one Moses Searles, a pioneer house and sign painter) the first daguerreotype photographs produced in Los Angeles. For two years or more, Dr. Osburn remained Postmaster, resigning his office on November 1st, 1855. While he was a notary public, he had an office in Keller's Building on Los Angeles Street. J. H. Blond was another notary; he had an office opposite the Bella Union on Main Street. Osburn died in Los Angeles on July 31st, 1867.

No sooner had I arrived in San Francisco, than I became aware of the excitement incidental to the search for gold, and on reaching Los Angeles, I found symptoms of the same fever. That year, as a matter of fact, recorded the highest output of gold, something like sixty-five million dollars' worth being mined; and it was not many months before all was bustle in and about our little city, many people coming and going, and comparatively few wishing to settle, at least until they had first tried their luck with the pick and pan. Not even the discovery of gold in the San Feliciano Cañon, near Newhall, in the early forties—for I believe the claim is made that Southern Californians, while searching for wild onions, had the honor of digging out, in the despised "cow-counties," the first lump of the coveted metal—had set the natives so agog; so that while the rush to the mines claimed many who might otherwise have become permanent residents, it added but little to the prosperity of the town, and it is no wonder that, for a while, the local newspapers refused to give events the notice which they deserved. To be sure, certain merchants—among them dealers in tinware, hardware and groceries, and those who catered especially to miners, carrying such articles as gold-washers, canteens and camp-outfits—increased their trade; but many prospective gold-seekers, on their way to distant diggings, waited until they got nearer the scene of their adventures before buying tools and supplies, when they often exhausted their purses in paying the exorbitant prices which were asked. Barring the success of Francisco Garcia who used gangs of Indians and secured in the one year 1855 over sixty thousand dollars' worth of gold—one nugget being nearly two thousand dollars in value—the placer gold-mining carried on in the San Gabriel and San Francisquito cañons was on the whole unimportant, and what gold-dust was produced at these points came to Los Angeles without much profit to the toiling miners; so that it may be safely stated that cattle- and horse-raising, of which I shall speak in more detail, were Southern California's principal sources of income. As for the gold dust secured, San Francisco was the clearing-house for the Coast, and all of the dust ultimately found its way there until sometime later Sacramento developed and became a competitor. Coming, as I did, from a part of the world where gold dust was never seen, at least by the layman, this sudden introduction to sacks and bottles full of the fascinating yellow metal produced upon me, as the reader may imagine, another one of those strange impressions fixing so indelibly my first experiences in the new, raw and yet altogether romantic world.


At the time of my arrival, the Plaza, long the nucleus of the original settlement, was the center of life in the little community, and around it clustered the homes of many of those who were uppermost in the social scale, although some of the descendants of the finest Spanish families were living in other parts of the city. This was particularly so in the case of José Andrés Sepúlveda, who had a beautiful old adobe on some acreage that he owned northwest of Sonora Town, near the place where he constructed a stone reservoir to supply his house with water. Opposite the old Plaza Church dwelt a number of families of position and, for the most part, of wealth—in many cases the patrons of less fortunate or dependent ones, who lived nearby. The environment was not beautiful, a solitary pepper, somewhat north of the Plaza, being the only shade-tree there; yet the general character of the homes was somewhat aristocratic, the landscape not yet having been seriously disturbed by any utilitarian project such as that of the City Fathers who, by later granting a part of the old square for a prosaic water tank, created a greater rumpus than had the combative soldiers some years before. The Plaza was shaped much as it is at present, having been reduced considerably, but five or six years earlier, by the Mexican authorities: they had planned to improve its shape, but had finished their labors by contracting the object before them. There was no sign of a park; on the contrary, parts of the Plaza itself, which had suffered the same fate as the Plaza in San Francisco, were used as a dumping-ground for refuse. From time to time many church and other festivals were held at this square—a custom no doubt traceable to the Old World and to earlier centuries; but before any such affair could take place—requiring the erecting of booths and banks of vegetation in front of the neighboring houses—all rubbish had to be removed, even at the cost of several days' work.

Among the distinguished citizens of Los Angeles whose residences added to the social prestige of the neighborhood was Don Ygnácio Del Valle, father of R. F. Del Valle. Until 1861, he resided on the east side of the square, in a house between Calle de los Negros and Olvera Street, receiving there his intimate friends as well as those who wished to pay him their respects when he was Alcalde, Councilman and member of the State Legislature. In 1861, Del Valle moved to his ranch, Camulos. Ygnácio Coronel was another eminent burgher residing on the east side of the Plaza, while Cristóbal Aguilar's home faced the South.

Not far from Del Valle's—that is, back of the later site of the Pico House, between the future Sanchez Street and Calle de los Negros—lived Don Pio Pico, then and long after a striking figure, not merely on account of his fame as the last of the Mexican governors, but as well because of his physique and personality. I may add that as long as he lived, or at least until the tide of his fortune turned and he was forced to sell his most treasured personal effects, he invariably adorned himself with massive jewelry of much value; and as a further conceit, he frequently wore on his bosom Mexican decorations that had been bestowed upon him for past official services. Don Pio really preferred country life at the Ranchito, as his place was called; but official duties and, later, illness and the need of medical care, kept him in town for months at a time. He had three sisters, two of whom married in succession José António Carrillo, another resident at the Plaza and the then owner of the site of the future Pico House; while the third was the wife of Don Juan Forster, in whose comfortable home Don Pio found a retreat when distressing poverty overtook him in old age. Sanchez Street recalls still another don of the neighborhood, Vicente Sanchez, grandfather of Tomás A. Sanchez, who was domiciled in a two-story and rather elaborate dwelling near Carrillo, on the south side of the Plaza. Sanchez Hall stood there until the late seventies.

The Beau Brummel of Los Angeles in the early fifties was Don Vicente Lugo, whose wardrobe was made up exclusively of the fanciest patterns of Mexican type; his home, one of the few two-story houses in the pueblo, was close to Ygnácio Del Valle's. Lugo, a brother of Don José María, was one of the heavy taxpayers of his time; as late as 1860, he had herds of twenty-five hundred head of cattle, or half a thousand more than Pio and Andrés Pico together owned. María Ballestero, Lugo's mother-in-law, lived near him.

Don Agustin Olvera dwelt almost opposite Don Vicente Lugo's, on the north side of the Plaza, at the corner of the street perpetuating his name. Don Agustin arrived from Mexico, where he had been Juez de Paz, in 1834, or about the same time that Don Ygnácio Coronel came, and served as Captain in the campaign of Flores against Frémont, even negotiating peace with the Americans; then he joined Dr. Hope's volunteer police, and was finally chosen, at the first election in Los Angeles, Judge of the First Instance, becoming the presiding officer of the Court of Sessions. Five or six years later, he was School Commissioner. He had married Doña Concepción, one of not less than twenty-two children of Don Santiago Arguello, son of a governor of both Californias, and his residence was at the northeast end of the Plaza, in an adobe which is still standing. There, while fraternizing with the newly-arrived Americans, he used to tell how, in 1850, when the movement for the admission of California as a State was under way, he acted as secretary to a meeting called in this city to protest against the proposal, fearing lest the closer association with Northern California would lead to an undue burden of taxes upon the South. Olvera Street is often written by mistake, Olivera.

Francisco O'Campo was another man of means whose home was on the east side of the Plaza. Although he was also a member of the new Ayuntamiento, inaugurated in 1849, and although he had occupied other offices, he was very improvident, like so many natives of the time, and died, in consequence, a poor man. In his later years, he used to sit on the curbstone near the Plaza, a character quite forlorn, utterly dejected in appearance, and despondently recalling the by-gone days of his prosperity.

Don Cristóbal Aguilar, several times in his career an Alcalde, several times a City Councilman beginning with the first organization of Los Angeles, and even twice or thrice Mayor, was another resident near the Plaza. His adobe on upper Main Street was fairly spacious; and partly, perhaps, for that reason, was used by the Sisters of Charity when they instituted the first hospital in Los Angeles.

A short distance from the Plaza, on Olvera Street, had long stood the home of Don José María Ábila, who was killed in battle in the early thirties. It was there that Commodore Stockton made his headquarters, and the story of how this was brought about is one of the entertaining incidents of this warlike period. The widow Ábila, who had scant love for the Americans, had fled with her daughters to the home of Don Luis[7] Vignes, but not before she placed a native boy on guard, cautioning him against opening either doors or windows. When the young custodian, however, heard the flourishes of Stockton's brass band, he could not resist the temptation to learn what the excitement meant; so he first poked his head out of a window, and finally made off to the Plaza. Some of Stockton's staff, passing by, and seeing the tasteful furniture within, were encouraged to investigate, with the result that they selected the widow Ábila's house for Stockton's abode. Another Ábila—Francisco—had an adobe at the present southeast corner of San Fernando and Alpine streets.

Francisca Gallardo, daughter of one of the Sepúlvedas, lived in the vicinity of the Plaza.

The only church in Los Angeles at this time was that of Nuestra Señora la Reyna de los Angeles, known as Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels, at the Plaza; and since but few changes were made for years in its exterior, I looked upon the edifice as the original adobe built here in the eighties of the preceding century. When I came to inquire into the matter, however, I was astonished to learn that the Church dated back no farther than the year 1822, although the first attempt at laying a corner-stone was made in 1815, probably somewhat to the east of the old Plaza and a year or two after rising waters frustrated the attempt to build a chapel near the river and the present Aliso Street. Those temporary foundations seem to have marked the spot where later the so-called Woman's Gun—once buried by Mexicans, and afterward dug up by women and used at the Battle of Dominguez Ranch—was long exposed to view, propped up on wooden blocks. The venerable building I then saw, in which all communicants for want of pews knelt on the floor or stood while worshiping, is still admired by those to whom age and sacred tradition, and the sacrifices of the early Spanish Fathers, make appeal. In the first years of my residence here, the bells of this honored old pile, ringing at six in the morning and at eight in the evening, served as a curfew to regulate the daily activities of the town.

Had Edgar Allan Poe lived in early Los Angeles, he might well have added to his poem one more stanza about these old church bells, whose sweet chimes, penetrating the peace and quiet of the sleepy village, not alone summoned the devout to early mass or announced the time of vespers, but as well called many a merchant to his day's labor and dismissed him to his home or the evening's rendezvous. That was a time of sentiment and romance, and the memory of it lingers pleasantly in contrast with the rush and bustle of to-day, when cold and chronometrical exactitude, instead of a careless but, in its time, sufficient measure of the hours, arranged the order of our comings and our goings.

Incidental to the ceremonial activity of the old Church on the Plaza, the Corpus Christi festival was one of the events of the year when not the least imposing feature was the opening procession around the Plaza. For all these occasions, the square was thoroughly cleaned, and notable families, such as the Del Valles, the Olveras, the Lugos and the Picos erected before their residences temporary altars, decorated with silks, satins, laces and even costly jewelry. The procession would start from the Church after the four o'clock service and proceed around the Plaza from altar to altar. There the boys and girls, carrying banners and flowers, and robed or dressed in white, paused for formal worship, the progress through the square, small as the Plaza was, thus taking a couple of hours. Each succeeding year the procession became more resplendent and inclusive, and I have a distinct recollection of a feature incidental to one of them when twelve men, with twelve great burning candles, represented the Apostles.

These midwinter festivities remind me that, on Christmas Eve, the young people here performed pastoral plays. It was the custom, much as it still is in Upper Bavaria, to call at the homes of various friends and acquaintances and, after giving little performances such as Los Pastores, to pass on to the next house. A number of the Apostles and other characters associated with the life of Jesus were portrayed, and the Devil, who scared half to death the little children of the hamlet, was never overlooked. The buñuelo, or native doughnut, also added its delight to these celebrations.

John Jones