Myer J. and Harris Newmark
From a Daguerreotype

George Carson

John G. Nichols

David W. Alexander

Thomas E. Rowan

Matthew Keller

Samuel Meyer

Business conditions in the fifties were necessarily very different from what they are to-day. There was no bank in Los Angeles for some years, although Downey and one or two others may have had some kind of a safe. People generally hoarded their cash in deep, narrow buckskin bags, hiding it behind merchandise on the shelves until the departure of a steamer for San Francisco, or turning it into such vouchers as were negotiable and could be obtained here. John Temple, who had a ranch or two in the North (from which he sent cattle to his agent in San Francisco), generally had a large reserve of cash to his credit with butchers or bankers in the Northern city, and he was thus able to issue drafts against his balances there; being glad enough to make the exchange, free of cost. When, however, Temple had exhausted his cash, the would-be remitter was compelled to send the coin itself by express. He would then take the specie to the company's agent; and the latter, in his presence, would do it up in a sealed package and charge one dollar a hundred for safe transmission. No wonder, therefore, that people found expressing coin somewhat expensive, and were more partial to the other method.

In the beginning of the fifties, too, silver was irregular in supply. Nevada's treasures still lay undiscovered within the bowels of the earth, and much foreign coin was in use here, leading the shrewdest operators to import silver money from France, Spain, Mexico and other countries. The size of coins, rather than their intrinsic value, was then the standard. For example, a five-franc piece, a Mexican dollar or a coin of similar size from any other country passed for a dollar here; while a Mexican twenty-five-cent piece, worth but fourteen cents, was accepted for an American quarter, so that these importers did a "land-office" business. Half-dollars and their equivalents were very scarce; and these coins being in great demand among gamblers, it often happened that they would absorb the supply. This forced such a premium that eighteen dollars in silver would commonly bring twenty dollars in gold.

Most of the output of the mines of Southern California—then rated as the best dust—went to San Francisco assayers, who minted it into octagonal and round pieces known as slugs. Among those issuing privately-stamped coins were J. S. Ormsby (whose mark, J. S. O., became familiar) and Augustus Humbert, both of whom circulated eight-cornered ingots; and Wass Molitor & Co., whose slugs were always round. Pieces of the value of from one to twenty-five dollars, and even miniature coins for fractional parts of a dollar, were also minted; while F. D. Kohler, the State Assayer, made an oblong ingot worth about fifty dollars. Some of the other important assaying concerns were Moffatt & Co., Kellogg & Co. and Templeton Reid. Baldwin & Co. was another firm which issued coins of smaller denomination; and to this firm belonged David Colbert Broderick, who was killed by Terry.

Usurers were here from the beginning, and their tax was often ruinously exorbitant. So much did they charge for money, in fact, that from two to twelve and a half per cent. a week was paid; this brought about the loss of many early estates. I recollect, for example, that the owner of several thousand acres of land borrowed two hundred dollars, at an interest charge of twelve and a half per cent. for each week, from a resident of Los Angeles whose family is still prominent in California; and that when principal and interest amounted to twenty-two thousand dollars, the lender foreclosed and thus ingloriously came into possession of a magnificent property.

For at least twenty years after I arrived in Los Angeles, the credit system was so irregular as to be no system at all. Land and other values were exceedingly low, there was not much ready money, and while the credit of a large rancher was small compared with what his rating would be today because of the tremendous advances in land and stock, much longer time was then given on running accounts than would be allowed now. Bills were generally settled after the harvest. The wine-grower would pay his score when the grape crop was sold; and the cattleman would liquidate what he could when he sold his cattle. In other words, there was no credit foundation whatever; indeed, I have known accounts to be carried through three and four dry seasons.

It is true, also, that many a fine property was lost through the mania of the Californian for gambling, and it might be just as well to add that the loose credit system ruined many. I believe, in fact, it is generally recognized in certain lines of business that the too flexible local fiscal practice of to-day is the descendant of the careless methods of the past.

My early experiences as a merchant afforded me a good opportunity to observe the character and peculiarities of the people with whom I had to deal. In those days a disposition to steal was a common weakness on the part of many, especially Indians, and merchants generally suffered so much from the evil that a sharp lookout had to be kept. On one occasion, I saw a native woman deftly abstract a pair of shoes and cleverly secrete them on her person; and at the conclusion of her purchases, as she was about to leave the store, I stepped up to her, and with a "¡Dispense me Vd.!" quietly recovered the zapatos. The woman smiled, each of us bowed, the pilfering patron departed, and nothing further was ever said of the affair.

This proneness to steal was frequently utilized by early and astute traders, who kept on hand a stock of very cheap but gaudy jewelry which was placed on the counter within easy reach—a device which prevented the filching of more valuable articles, while it attracted, at the same time, this class of customers; and as soon as the esteemed customers ceased to buy, the trays of tempting trinkets were removed.

Shyness of the truth was another characteristic of many a native that often had to be reckoned with by merchants wishing to accommodate, as far as possible, while avoiding loss. One day in 1854, a middle-aged Indian related to me that his mother (who was living half a block north on Main Street, and was between eighty and ninety years of age) had suddenly died, and that he would like some candles, for which he was unable to pay, to place around the bed holding the remains of the departed. I could not refuse this filial request, and straightway gave him the wax tapers which were to be used for so holy a purpose. The following day, however, I met the old woman on the street and she was as lively a corpse as one might ever expect to see; leaving me to conclude that she was lighted to her room, the previous night, by one of the very candles supposed to be then lighting her to eternity.

The fact that I used to order straw hats which came telescoped in dozens and were of the same pattern (in the crown of one of which, at the top, I found one morning a litter of kittens tenderly deposited there by the store cat), recalls an amusing incident showing the modesty of the times, at least in the style of ladies' bonnets. S. Lazard & Company once made an importation of Leghorn hats which, when they arrived, were found to be all trimmed alike—a bit of ribbon and a little bunch of artificial flowers in front being their only ornamentation! Practically, all the fair damsels and matrons of the town were limited, for the season, to this supply—a fact that was patent enough, a few days later, at a picnic held at Sainsevain's favorite vineyard and well patronized by the feminine leaders in our little world.

But to return to one or two pioneers. David Workman died soon after he came here, in 1854, with his wife whose maiden name was Nancy Hook. He was a brother of William Workman and followed him to Los Angeles, bringing his three sons, Thomas H.—killed in the explosion of the Ada Hancock—Elijah H. and William H., who was for a while a printer and later in partnership with his brother in the saddlery business. Elijah once owned a tract of land stretching from what is now Main to Hill streets and around Twelfth. Workman Street is named after this family.

Henry Mellus, brother of Francis Mellus, to whom I elsewhere more fully refer, who had returned to New England, was among us again in 1854. Whether this was the occasion of Mellus's unfortunate investment, or not, I cannot say; but on one of his trips to the East, he lost a quarter of a million through an unlucky investment in iron.

Jean B. Trudell (a nephew of Damien Marchessault and a cousin of P. Beaudry), for a short time in partnership with S. Lazard, was an old-timer who married Anita, the widow of Henry Mellus; and through this union a large family resulted. He conducted salt works, from which he supplied the town with all grades of cheap salt; and he stood well in the community. Mrs. Trudell took care of her aunt, Mrs. Bell, during her later years.

With the growth of our little town, newspapers increased, even though they did not exactly prosper. On the 20th of July, 1854, C. N. Richards & Company started the Southern Californian, a name no doubt suggested by that of the San Francisco journal, with William Butts as editor; and on November 2d, Colonel John O. Wheeler joined Butts and bought out Richards & Company. Their paper was printed in one of Dalton's corrugated iron houses. The Southern Californian was a four-page weekly, on one side of which news, editorials and advertisements, often mere translations of matter in the other columns, were published in Spanish. One result of the appearance of this paper was that Waite & Company, a month or so later, reduced the subscription price of the Star—their new rate being nine dollars a year, or six dollars in advance.

In 1853, a number of Spanish-American restaurant keepers plied their vocation, so that Mexican and Spanish cooking were always obtainable. Then came the cafetería, but the term was used with a different significance from that now in vogue. It was rather a place for drinking than for eating, and in this respect the name had little of the meaning current in parts of Mexico to-day, where a cafetería is a small restaurant serving ordinary alcoholic drinks and plain meals. Nor was the institution the same as that familiarly known in Pacific Coast towns, and particularly in Los Angeles—one of the first American cities to experiment with this departure; where a considerable variety of food (mostly cooked and warm) is displayed to view, and the prospective diner, having secured his tray and napkin, knife, fork and spoons, indicates his choice as he passes by the steam-heated tables and is helped to whatever he selects, and then carries both service and viands to a small table.

The native population followed their own cuisine, and the visitor to Spanish-American homes naturally partook of native food. All the Mexican dishes that are common now, such as tamales, enchiladas and frijoles, were favorite dishes then. There were many saloons in Sonora Town and elsewhere, and mescal and aguardiente, popular drinks with the Mexicans, were also indulged in by the first white settlers. Although there were imported wines, the wine-drinkers generally patronized the local product. This was a very cheap article, costing about fifteen cents a gallon, and was usually supplied with meals, without extra charge. Tamales in particular were very popular with the Californians, but it took some time for the incoming epicure to appreciate all that was claimed for them and other masterpieces of Mexican cooking.

The tortilla was another favorite, being a generous-sized maize cake, round and rather thin, in the early preparation of which the grain was softened, cleaned and parboiled, after which it was rolled and crushed between two pieces of flat stone. Deft hands then worked the product into a pancake, which was placed, sometimes on a piece of stoneware, sometimes on a plate of iron, and baked, first on one side and then on the other. A part of the trick in tortilla-baking consisted in its delicate toasting; and when just the right degree of parching had been reached, the crisp, tasty tortilla was ready to maintain its position even against more pretentious members of the pancake family.

Pan de huevos, or bread of eggs, was peddled around town on little trays by Mexican women and, when well-prepared, was very palatable. Panocha, a dark Mexican sugar made into cakes, was also vended by native women. Pinole was brought in by Indians; and as far as I can remember, it could not have had a very exact meaning, since I have heard the term applied both to ground pinenuts and ground corn, and it may also have been used to mean other food prepared in the same manner. Be this as it may, the value to the Indian came from the fact that, when mixed with water, pinole proved a cheap, but nutritious article of diet.

I have told of the old-fashioned, comfortable adobes, broad and liberal, whose halls, rooms, verandas and patios bespoke at least comfort if not elaborateness. Among the old California families dwelling within these houses, there was much visiting and entertainment, and I often partook of this proverbial and princely hospitality. There was also much merry-making, the firing of crackers, bell-ringing and dancing the fandango, jota and cachucha marking their jolly and whole-souled fiestas. Only for the first few years after I came was the real fandango—so popular when Dana visited Los Angeles and first saw Don Juan Bandini execute the dance—witnessed here; little by little it went out of fashion, perhaps in part because of the skill required for its performance. Balls and hops, however, for a long time were carelessly called by that name. When the fandango really was in vogue, Bandini, António Coronel, Andrés Pico, the Lugos and other native Californians were among its most noted exponents; they often hired a hall, gave a fandango in which they did not hesitate to take the leading parts, and turned the whole proceeds over to some church or charity. On such occasions not merely the plain people (always so responsive to music and its accompanying pleasures) were the fandangueros, but the flower of our local society turned out en masse, adding to the affair a high degree of éclat. There was no end, too, of good things to eat and drink, which people managed somehow to pass around; and the enjoyment was not lessened by the fact that every such dance hall was crowded to the walls, and that the atmosphere, relieved by but a narrow door and window or two, was literally thick with both dust and smoke.

Still living are some who have memories of these old fandango days and the journeys taken from suburb to town in order to participate in them. Doña Petra Pilar Lanfranco used to tell me how, as a young girl, she came up from the old Palos Verdes ranch house in a carreta and was always chaperoned by a lady relative. On such occasions, the carreta would be provided with mattresses, pillows and covers, while at the end, well strapped, was the trunk containing the finery to be worn at the ball. To reach town even from a point that would now be regarded as near, a start was generally made by four o'clock in the morning; and it often took until late the same evening to arrive at the Bella Union, where final preparations were made.

One of the pleasant features of a fandango or hop was the use of cascarones, or egg-shells, filled with one thing or another, agreeable when scattered, and for the time being sealed up. These shells were generally painted; and most often they contained many-colored pieces of paper, or the tinsel, oropel, cut up very fine. Not infrequently the shell of the egg was filled with perfume; and in the days when Californians were flush, gold leaf or even gold dust was sometimes thus inclosed, with a wafer, and kept for the casamiento, when it would be showered upon the fortunate bride. The greatest compliment that a gentleman could pay a lady was to break one of these cascarones over her head, and often the compliment would be returned; the floor, at the termination of such festivities, being literally covered with the bits of paper and egg-shell. When the fandango was on in all its mad delight, a gentleman would approach a lady to salute her, upon which she would bow her head slightly and permit him, while he gently squeezed the egg-shell, to let its contents fall gracefully over her head, neck and shoulders; and very often she would cleverly choose the right moment—perhaps when he was not looking—to politely reciprocate the courtesy, under which circumstances he was in duty bound to detect, if he could, among the smiling, blushing ladies, the one who had ventured so agreeably to offend. Such was the courtliness, in fact, among the native population that even at fandangos, in which the public participated and the compliment of the cascarón was almost universally observed, there was seldom a violation of regard for another's feelings. When such rowdyism did occur, however (prompted perhaps by jealousy), and bad eggs or that which was even less aromatic, were substituted, serious trouble ensued; and one or two fatalities are on record as growing out of such senseless acts. Speaking of fandangos, it may be added that in January, 1861, the Common Council of Los Angeles passed an ordinance requiring the payment in advance of ten dollars for a one-night license to hold any public dance within the city limits.

The pueblo was so small in the fifties, and the number of white people so limited that, whenever a newcomer arrived, it caused considerable general excitement; and when it infrequently happened that persons of note came for even a single night, a deputation of prominent citizens made their short stay both noisy with cannonading and tiresome with spread-eagle oratory.

A very important individual in early days was Peter Biggs, or Nigger Pete, a pioneer barber who came here in 1852, having previously been sold as a slave to an officer at Fort Leavenworth and freed, in California, at the close of the Mexican War. He was a black-haired, good-natured man, then about forty years of age, and had a shop on Main Street, near the Bella Union. He was, indeed, the only barber in town who catered to Americans, and while by no means of the highest tonsorial capacity, was sufficiently appreciative of his monopoly to charge fifty cents for shaving and seventy-five cents for hair-cutting. When, however, a Frenchman named Felix Signoret (whose daughter married Ed. McGinnis, the high-toned saloon keeper) appeared, some years later—a barber by trade, of whom we shall hear more later—it was not long before Pete was seriously embarrassed, being compelled, first to reduce his prices and then to look for more humble work. In the early sixties, Pete was advertising as follows:

Opposite Mellus' Store on Main Street.
To Keep Pace with the Times
Shaving 12½c.
Hair-cutting 25c.
Shampooning 25c.

Peter Biggs will always be on hand and ready to attend to all business in his line, such as cleaning and polishing the "understanding" together with an Intelligence Office and City Express. Also washing and ironing done with all neatness and despatch, at reasonable rates.

Recalling Biggs and his barber shop, I may say that, in fitting up his place, he made little or no pretension. He had an old-fashioned, high-backed chair, but otherwise operated much as barbers do to-day. People sat around waiting their turn; and as Biggs called "Next!" he sprinkled the last victim with Florida water, applying to the hair at the same time his Bear Oil (sure to leave its mark on walls and pillows), after which, with a soiled towel he put on the finishing touch—for one towel in those days served many customers. But few patrons had their private cups. Biggs served only men and boys, as ladies dressed their own hair. To some extent, Biggs was a maker or, at least, a purveyor of wigs.

Besides Peter Biggs, a number of colored people lived in Los Angeles at an early date—five of whom belonged to the Mexican Veterans—Bob Owens and his wife being among the most prominent. Owens—who came here from Texas in December, 1853—was known to his friends as Uncle Bob, while Mrs. Owens was called Aunt Winnie. The former at first did all kinds of odd jobs, later profiting through dealings with the Government; while his good wife washed clothes, in which capacity she worked from time to time for my family. They lived in San Pedro Street, and invested their savings in a lot extending from Spring to Fort streets, between Third and Fourth. Owens died in 1865. Their heirs are wealthy as a result of this investment; in fact, I should not be surprised if they are among the most prosperous negroes in America.

Another colored man of the sixties was named Berry, though he was popularly known as Uncle George. He was indeed a local character, a kind of popinjay; and when not busy with janitor or other all-around scrubwork, sported among the negroes as an ultra-fashionable.

Elsewhere I have spoken of the versatility of Dr. William B. Osburn, who showed no little commendable enterprise. In October, 1854, he shipped to an agricultural convention in Albany, New York, the first Los Angeles grapes ever sent to the East; and the next year he imported roses, shrubbery and fruit trees from Rochester.

On October 13th, 1854, a good-for-nothing gambler, Dave Brown—who had planned to rob John Temple on one of his business trips, but was thwarted because Temple changed his route—murdered a companion, Pinckney Clifford, in a livery stable at what was later to become the corner of Main and Court streets; and next day the lawless act created such general indignation that vengeance on Brown would undoubtedly then and there have been wreaked had not Stephen C. Foster, who was Mayor, met the crowd of citizens and persuaded them quietly to disperse. In order to mollify the would-be Vigilantes, Foster promised that, if the case miscarried in the courts and Brown was not given his due, he would resign his office and would himself lead those who favored taking the law into their own hands; and as Foster had been a Lieutenant in the Rangers under Dr. Hope, showing himself to be a man of nerve, the crowd had confidence in him and went its way.

On November 30th, Brown was tried in the District Court, and Judge Benjamin Hayes sentenced him to hang on January 12th, 1855—the same date on which Felipe Alvitre, a half-breed Indian, was to pay the penalty for killing James Ellington at El Monte. Brown's counsel were J. R. Scott, Cameron E. Thom and J. A. Watson; and these attorneys worked so hard and so effectively for their client that on January 10th, or two days before the date set for the execution, Judge Murray of the Supreme Court granted Brown a stay, although apparently no relief was provided for Alvitre. The latter was hanged in the calaboose or jail yard, in the presence of a vast number of people, at the time appointed. Alvitre having been strung up by Sheriff Barton and his assistants, the rope broke, letting the wretch fall to the ground, more dead than alive. This bungling so infuriated the crowd that cries of "Arriba! Arriba!" (Up with him! up with him!) rent the air. The executioners sprang forward, lifted the body, knotted the rope together and once more drew aloft the writhing form. Then the gallows was dismantled and the guards dismissed.

The news that one execution had taken place, while the Court, in the other case, had interfered, was speedily known by the crowds in the streets and proved too much for the patience of the populace; and only a leader or two were required to focus the indignation of the masses. That leader appeared in Foster who, true to his word, resigned from the office of Mayor and put himself at the head of the mob. Appeals, evoking loud applause, were made by one speaker after another, each in turn being lifted to the top of a barrel; and then the crowd began to surge toward the jail. Poles and crowbars were brought, and a blacksmith called for; and the prison doors, which had been locked, bolted and barred, were broken in, very soon convincing the Sheriff and his assistants—if any such conviction were needed—that it was useless to resist. In a few minutes, Brown was reached, dragged out and across Spring Street, and there hanged to the crossbeam of a corral gateway opposite the old jail, the noose being drawn tight while he was still attempting to address the crowd.

When Brown was about to be disposed of, he was asked if he had anything to say; to which he replied that he had no objection to paying the penalty of his crime, but that he did take exception to a "lot of Greasers" shuffling him off! Brown referred to the fact that Mexicans especially were conspicuous among those who had hold of the rope; and his coarsely-expressed objection striking a humorous vein among the auditors, the order was given to indulge his fancy and accommodate him—whereupon, Americans strung him up! One of those who had previously volunteered to act as hangman for Brown was Juan Gonzales; but within four months, that is, in May, 1855, Gonzales himself was sent to the penitentiary by Judge Myron Norton, convicted of horse-stealing.

A rather amusing feature of this hanging was the manner in which the report of it was served up to the public. The lynching-bee seemed likely to come off about three o'clock in the afternoon, while the steamer for San Francisco was to leave at ten o'clock on the same morning; so that the schedules did not agree. A closer connection was undoubtedly possible—at least so thought Billy Workman, then a typo on the Southern Californian, who planned to print a full account of the execution in time to reach the steamer. So Billy sat down and wrote out every detail, even to the confession of the murderer on the improvised gallows; and several hours before the tragic event actually took place, the wet news-sheet was aboard the vessel and on its way north. A few surplus copies gave the lynchers the unique opportunity, while watching the stringing-up, of comparing the written story with the affair as it actually occurred.

While upon the subject of lynching, I wish to observe that I have witnessed many such distressing affairs in Los Angeles; and that, though the penalty of hanging was sometimes too severe for the crime (and I have always deplored, as much as any of us ever did, the administration of mob-justice) yet the safety of the better classes in those troublous times often demanded quick and determined action, and stern necessity knew no law. And what is more, others besides myself who have also repeatedly faced dangers no longer common, agree with me in declaring, after half a century of observation and reflection, that milder courses than those of the vigilance committees of our young community could hardly have been followed with wisdom and safety.

Wood was the only regular fuel for many years, and people were accustomed to buy it in quantities and to pile it carefully in their yards. When it was more or less of a drug on the market, I paid as little as three dollars and a half a cord; in winter I had to pay more, but the price was never high. No tree was spared, and I have known magnificent oaks to be wantonly felled and used for fuel. Valuable timber was often destroyed by squatters guilty of a form of trespassing that gave much trouble, as I can testify from my own experience.

Henry Dwight Barrows, who had been educated as a Yankee schoolmaster, arrived in Los Angeles in December, 1854, as private tutor to William Wolfskill. Other parts of Barrows's career were common to many pioneers: he was in business for a while in New York, caught the gold-fever, gave up everything to make the journey across the Isthmus of Panamá, on which trip he was herded as one of seventeen hundred passengers on a rickety Coast vessel; and finally, after some unsuccessful experiences as a miner in Northern California, he made his way to the Southland to accept the proffered tutorship, hoping to be cured of the malarial fever which he had contracted during his adventures. Barrows taught here three years, returned East by steamer for a brief trip in 1857, and in 1859-60 tried his hand at cultivating grapes, in a vineyard owned by Prudent Beaudry. On November 14th, 1860, Barrows was married to Wolfskill's daughter, Señorita Juana; and later he was County School Superintendent. In 1861, President Lincoln appointed Barrows United States Marshal, the duties of which office he performed for four years. In 1864, having lost his wife he married the widow (formerly Miss Alice Woodworth) of Thomas Workman. The same year he formed a partnership with J. D. Hicks, under the firm name of J. D. Hicks & Company, and sold tin and hardware for twelve or fifteen years. In 1868, bereaved of his second wife, Barrows married Miss Bessie Ann Greene, a native of New York. That year, too, he was joined by his brother, James Arnold Barrows,[12] who came by way of Panamá and bought thirty-five acres of land afterward obtained by the University of Southern California. About 1874, Barrows was manufacturing pipe. For years he dwelt with his daughter, Mrs. R. G. Weyse, contributing now and then to the activities of the Historical Society, and taking a keen interest[13] in Los Angeles affairs.

About 1854 or 1855, I. M., Samuel and Herman (who must not be confused with H. W.) Hellman, arrived here, I. M. preceding his brothers by a short period. In time, I. M. Hellman, in San Francisco, married Miss Caroline Adler; and in 1862 her sister, Miss Adelaide, came south on a visit and married Samuel Hellman. One of the children of this union is Maurice S. Hellman, who, for many years associated with Joseph F. Sartori, has occupied an important position in banking and financial circles.

In 1854 or 1855, Bishop & Beale, a firm consisting of Samuel A. Bishop and E. F. Beale, became owners of an immense tract of Kern County land consisting of between two and three-hundred thousand acres. This vast territory was given to them in payment for the work which they had done in surveying the Butterfield Route, later incorporated in the stage road connecting San Francisco with St. Louis. Recently I read an account of Beale's having been an Indian Agent at the Reservation; but if he was, I have forgotten it. I remember Colonel James F. Vineyard, an Indian Agent and later Senator from Los Angeles; one of whose daughters was married, in 1862, to Congressman Charles De Long, of Nevada City, afterward United States Minister to Japan, and another daughter to Dr. Hayes, of Los Angeles.

Bishop, after a while, sold out his interest in the land and moved to San José, where he engaged in street-car operations. He was married near San Gabriel to Miss Frances Young, and I officiated as one of the groomsmen at the wedding. After Bishop disposed of his share, Colonel R. S. Baker became interested, but whether or not he bought Bishop's interest at once, is not clear in my memory. It is worth noting that Bakersfield, which was part of this great ranch, took its name from Colonel Baker. Some time later, Baker sold out to Beale and then came South and purchased the San Vicente Ranch. This rancho comprised the whole Santa Monica district and consisted of thirty thousand acres, which Baker stocked with sheep. On a part of this land, the Soldiers' Home now stands.

Hilliard P. Dorsey, another typical Western character, was Register of the Land Office and a leading Mason of early days. He lived in Los Angeles in 1853, and I met him on the Goliah in October of that year, on the way south, after a brief visit to San Francisco, and while I was bound for my new home. We saw each other frequently after my arrival here; and I was soon on good terms with him. When I embarked in business on my own account, therefore, I solicited Dorsey's patronage.

One day, Dorsey bought a suit of clothes from me on credit. A couple of months passed by, however, without any indication on his part that he intended to pay; and as the sum involved meant much to me at that time, I was on the lookout for my somewhat careless debtor. In due season, catching sight of him on the other side of the street, I approached, in genuine American fashion, and unceremoniously asked him to liquidate his account. I had not then heard of the notches in Friend Dorsey's pistol, and was so unconscious of danger that my temerity seemed to impress him. I believe, in fact, that he must have found the experience novel. However that may be, the next day he called and paid his bill.

In relating this circumstance to friends, I was enlightened as to Dorsey's peculiar propensities and convinced that youth and ignorance alone had saved me from disaster. In other words, he let me go, as it were, on probation. Dorsey himself was killed sometime later by his father-in-law, William Rubottom, who had come to El Monte with Ezekiel Rubottom, in 1852 or 1853. After quarreling with Rubottom, Dorsey, who was not a bad fellow, but of a fiery temper, had entered the yard with a knife in his hand; and Rubottom had threatened to shoot him if he came any nearer. The son-in-law continued to advance; and Rubottom shot him dead. M. J. Newmark, Rubottom's attorney, who had been summoned to El Monte for consultation as to Dorsey's treatment of Rubottom's daughter, was present at the fatal moment and witnessed the shooting affray.

Uncle Billy Rubottom, as he was familiarly called, came to Los Angeles County after losing heavily through the bursting of Yuba Dam and was one of the founders of Spadra. He named the settlement, laid out on a part of the San José rancho, after his home town, Spadra Bluffs in Arkansas, and opened a hotel which he made locally famous, during a decade and a half, for barbecues and similar events, giving personal attention (usually while in shirt-sleeves) to his many guests. In his declining years, Uncle Billy lived with Kewen H. Dorsey, his grandson, who was also prominent in masonic circles.


As I have already related, I made fifteen hundred dollars in a few months, and in January, 1855, my brother advised me to form a partnership with men of maturer years. In this I acquiesced. He thereupon helped to organize the firm of Rich, Newmark & Company, consisting of Elias Laventhal (who reached here in 1854 and died on January 20th, 1902), Jacob Rich and myself. Rich was to be the San Francisco resident partner, while Laventhal and I undertook the management of the business in Los Angeles. We prospered from the beginning, deriving much benefit from our San Francisco representation which resulted in our building up something of a wholesale business.

In the early fifties, Los Angeles was the meeting-place of a Board of Land Commissioners appointed by the National Government to settle land-claims and to prepare the way for that granting of patents to owners of Southern California ranches which later awakened from time to time such interest here. This interest was largely due to the fact that the Mexican authorities, in numerous instances, had made the same grant to different persons, often confusing matters badly. Cameron E. Thom, then Deputy Land Agent, took testimony for the Commissioners. In 1855, this Board completed its labors. The members were Hiland Hall (later Governor of Vermont,) Harry I. Thornton and Thompson Campbell; and during the season they were here, these Land Commissioners formed no unimportant part of the Los Angeles legal world.

Thomas A. Delano, whose name is perpetuated in our local geography, was a sailor who came to Los Angeles on January 4th, 1855, after which, for fifteen or sixteen years, he engaged in freighting. He married Señorita Soledad, daughter of John C. Vejar, the well-known Spanish Californian.

Slowness and uncertainty of mail delivery in our first decades affected often vital interests, as is shown in the case of the half-breed Alvitre who, as I have said, was sentenced to be executed. One reason why the Vigilantes, headed by Mayor Foster, despatched Brown was the expectation that both he and Alvitre would get a stay from higher authority; and sure enough, a stay was granted Alvitre, but the document was delayed in transit until the murderer, on January 12th, 1855, had forfeited his life! Curiously enough, another Alvitre—an aged Californian named José Claudio—also of El Monte, but six years later atrociously murdered his aged wife; and on April 28th, 1861, he was hanged. The lynchers placed him on a horse under a tree, and then drove the animal away, leaving him suspended from a limb.

Washington's Birthday, in 1855, was made merrier by festivities conducted under the auspices of the City Guards, of which W. W. Twist—a grocer and commission merchant at Beaudry's Block, Aliso Street, and afterward in partnership with Casildo Aguilar—was Captain. The same organization gave its first anniversary ball in May. Twist was a Ranger, or member of the volunteer mounted police; and it was he who, in March, 1857, formed the first rifle company. In the early sixties, he was identified with the sheriff's office, after which, venturing into Mexico, he was killed.

Henry C. G. Schaeffer came to Los Angeles on March 16th, 1855, and opened the first gunsmith shop in a little adobe on the east side of Los Angeles Street near Commercial, which he soon surrounded with an attractive flower garden. A year after Schaeffer came, he was followed by another gunsmith, August Stoermer. Schaeffer continued, however, to sell and mend guns and to cultivate flowers; and twenty years later found him on Wilmington Street, near New Commercial, still encircled by one of the choicest collections of flowers in the city, and the first to have brought here the night-blooming cereus. With more than regret, therefore, I must record that, in the middle seventies, this warm-hearted friend of children, so deserving of the good will of everyone, committed suicide.

Gold was discovered at Havilah, Kern County, in 1854; and by the early spring of 1855 exaggerated accounts of the find had spread broadcast over the entire State. Yarn after yarn passed from mouth to mouth, one of the most extravagant of the reports being that a Mexican doctor and alchemist suddenly rode into Mariposa from the hills, where he had found a gulch paved with gold, his horse and himself being fairly covered with bags of nuggets. The rush by gold-seekers on their way from the North to Los Angeles (the Southern gateway to the fields) began in January, 1855, and continued a couple of years, every steamer being loaded far beyond the safety limit; and soon miles of the rough highways leading to the mines were covered with every conceivable form of vehicle and struggling animals, as well as with thousands of footsore prospectors, unable to command transportation at any price. For awhile, ten, twelve and even fifteen per cent. interest a month was offered for small amounts of money by those of the prospectors who needed assistance, a rate based on the calculation that a wide-awake digger would be sure of eight to ten dollars a day, and that with such returns one should certainly be satisfied. This time the excitement was a little too much for the Los Angeles editors to ignore; and in March the publisher of the Southern Californian, himself losing his balance, issued an "extra" with these startling announcements:


There are a thousand gulches rich with gold, and room for ten thousand miners! Miners average $50.00 a day. One man with his own hands took out $160.00 in a day. Five men in ten days took out $4,500.00.

The affair proved, however, a ridiculous failure; and William Marsh, an old Los Angeles settler and a very decent chap, who conducted a store at Havilah, was among those who suffered heavy loss. Although some low-grade ore was found, it was generally not in paying quantities. The dispersion of this adventurous mass of humanity brought to Los Angeles many undesirable people, among them gamblers and desperadoes, who flocked in the wake of the gold-diggers, making another increase in the rough element. Before long, four men were fatally shot and half a dozen wounded near the Plaza, one Sunday night.

When the excitement about the gold-finds along the Kern River was at its height, Frank Lecouvreur arrived here, March 6th, on the steamship America, lured by reports then current in San Francisco. To save the fare of five dollars, he trudged for ten hours all the way from San Pedro, carrying on his shoulders forty pounds of baggage; but on putting up at the United States Hotel, then recently started, he was dissuaded by some experienced miners from venturing farther up the country. Soon after, he met a fellow-countryman from Königsberg, named Arnold, who induced him, on account of his needy condition, to take work in his saloon; but disliking his duties and the rather frequent demands upon his nervous system through being shot at, several times, by patrons not exactly satisfied with Lecouvreur's locomotion and his method of serving, the young German quit the job and went to work as a carriage-painter for John Goller. In October, Captain Henry Hancock, then County Surveyor, engaged Lecouvreur as flagman, at a salary of sixty dollars; which was increased twenty-five per cent. on the trip of the surveyors to the Mojave.

March 29th, 1855, witnessed the organization of the first Odd Fellows' lodge—No. 35—instituted here. General Ezra Drown was the leading spirit; and others associated with him were E. Wilson High, Alexander Crabb, L. C. Goodwin, William C. Ardinger, Morris L. Goodman and M. M. Davis.

During the fifties, the Bella Union passed under several successive managements. On July 22d, 1854, Dr. Macy sold it to W. G. Ross and a partner named Crockett. They were succeeded, on April 7th, 1855, by Robert S. Hereford. Ross was killed, some years afterward, by C. P. Duane in San Francisco.

In pursuit of business, in 1855, I made a number of trips to San Bernardino, some of which had their amusing incidents, and most of which afforded pleasure or an agreeable change. Meeting Sam Meyer on one of these occasions, just as I was mounted and ready to start, I invited him to accompany me; and as Sam assured me that he knew where to secure a horse, we started down the street together and soon passed a shop in which there was a Mexican customer holding on to a reata leading out through the door to his saddled nag. Sam walked in; and having a casual acquaintance with the man, asked him if he would lend him the animal for a while? People were generous in those days; and the good-hearted Mexican, thinking perhaps that Sam was "just going around the corner," carelessly answered, "Sí, Señor," and proceeded with his bartering. Sam, on the other hand, came out of the shop and led the horse away! After some days of minor adventures, when we lost our path near the Old Mission and had to put back to El Monte for the night, we arrived at San Bernardino; and on our return, after watering the horses, Sam found in his unhaltered steed such a veritable Tartar that, in sheer desperation, he was about to shoot the borrowed beast!

On another one of these trips I was entertained by Simon Jackson, a merchant of that town, who took me to a restaurant kept by a Captain Weiner. This, the best eating-place in town, was about ten feet square and had a mud floor. It was a miserably hot day—so hot, in fact, that I distinctly remember the place being filled with flies, and that the butter had run to oil. Nature had not intended Weiner to cater to sensitive stomachs, at least not on the day of which I speak, and to make matters worse, Weiner was then his own waiter. He was wallowing around in his bare feet, and was otherwise unkempt and unclean; and the whole scene is therefore indelibly impressed on my memory. When the slovenly Captain bawled out: "Which will you have—chops or steak?" Jackson straightened up, threw out his chest, and in evidence of the vigor of his appetite, just as vociferously answered: "I want a steak as big as a mule's foot!"

Living in San Bernardino was a customer of ours, a celebrity by the name of Lewis Jacobs. He had joined the Mormon Church and was a merchant of worth and consequence. Jacobs was an authority on all matters of finance connected with his town, and anyone wishing to know the condition of business men in that neighborhood had only to apply to him. Once when I was in San Bernardino, I asked him for information regarding a prospective patron who was rather a gay sort of individual; and this was Jacobs's characteristic reply: "A very fine fellow: he plays a little poker, and drinks a little whiskey!" Jacobs became a banker and in 1900 died on shipboard while returning from Europe, leaving a comfortable fortune and the more valuable asset of a good name.

In referring to Alexander & Mellus and their retirement from business, I have said that merchandise required by Southern Californians in the early days, and before the absorption of the Los Angeles market by San Francisco, was largely transported by sailing vessels from the East. When a ship arrived, it was an event worthy of special notice, and this was particularly the case when such sailing craft came less and less often into port. Sometimes the arrival of the vessel was heralded in advance; and when it was unloaded, the shrewd merchants used decidedly modern methods for the marketing of their wares. In 1855, for example, Johnson & Allanson advertised as follows: