Carlyle Channing Davis.

The true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose online

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much occasion for one to exert himself physic-
ally. The peon in Mexico, like the black man
in the South in ante-bellum days, is ever at
hand to brush off the flies."

What is fairer than a day in June in
Southern California! On the expansive porch
of " El Retrio," Covina suburban villa of Mr.
C. D. Griffiths, were that gentleman and his
wife, a niece of Sefiora de Coronel, and grand-
niece Eileen; Mrs. Ellen Pollard, a sister of
Sefiora de Coronel; Mrs. Earle, another sister,
her husband and three children.

And there were Ramona and Alessandro.
No, on reflection, it must be admitted those



characters were not present, though it al-
ways seems as if they are when Dona Mariana
is about.

Mrs. Jackson usually kept standing on her
desk an unframed photograph after Dante
Rossetti two heads, a man's and a woman's,
set in a nimbus of clouds, with a strange and
beautiful regard and meaning in their eyes.
They were exactly her idea of what Ramona
and Alessandro looked like. The characters of
the novel, she thought, came nearer to material-
ization in this photograph than in any other

And so with Dona Mariana. It is difficult
to disassociate her from the characters she
helped so much to create.

It was distinctly a home scene. Mrs. Grif-
fiths had sent the writer this note: "My aunt
wishes me to ask you and your wife to visit
her here at Covina this coming Sunday. If
you will let us know on what car to expect
you, Mr. Griffiths will meet you at Citrus Ave-
nue. If convenient to you, we would like to
have you come and spend the day with my

It was most convenient and we spent a day.
the memories of which will only fade with loss
of consciousness.



" How did it happen that you and the Don
did not accompany Mrs. Jackson on her jour-
ney to the Indian villages? " she was asked.
" It had been so arranged," she answered,
"but I became too ill to go, and my husband
did not feel like leaving me alone for so long
a period."

Senora de Coronel told many interesting
stories during the day. The one concerning
Bishop Thaddeus Amat and Saint Vibiana's
Cathedral in Los Angeles being of special in-
terest, is here retold:

"It will sound more like a romance than
reality," said Dona Mariana. " Bishop Thad-
deus Amat was the parish priest in Los Angeles
when Father Mora was Bishop of Los Angeles
and Monterey. He was a good man, oh, one
of the noblest of God's creatures. The spiritual
welfare of his flock, the material as well as the
spiritual welfare of the Indians he thought of
naught else. It was he who built Saint Vibi-
ana's Cathedral at the corner of Second and
Main streets. The building of that cathedral
had been the ambition of his life. It is an
interesting and a pathetic story. I am told it
is the purpose soon to build another and a
larger cathedral elsewhere. I suppose it will be
done before long, that ground having become



so valuable for business purposes; but it will
be a great pity to tear it down. I shall hope
never to see it done.

" Bishop Amat was a poor peasant in Italy,
a sheepherder. When quite young he told his
parents he had had a dream, a dream that he
was a priest and had built a great cathedral
to a Saint. Soon after he had the same dream,
and when it was repeated the third time, his
mother, thinking it a very strange circum-
stance, told the story to her parish priest.
That worthy was much affected by the rela-
tion, and asked that the child be brought to
him. He was found to be unusually intelli-
gent, and especially informed regarding re-
ligious matters. He had improved his time
while attending his sheep in reading church
history, and was indeed so precocious that the
priest declared he must be given greater oppor-
tunities for storing his mind with knowledge.
He was sent to Rome and studied for the priest-
hood, and in time was ordained and sent to
America. Not long after his arrival in this
country he was assigned to the Los Angeles

" While serving as the parish priest here,
when Bishop Mora was in charge of the dio-
cese, Bishop Amat had occasion to visit Rome.


* in



n co







While there he went to the catacombs, and
there witnessed the opening of the casket con-
taining the remains of Saint Vibiana. She was
a child Saint, you know, and the casket was
small, bound about with brass hoops. Ex-
posed to view the features for the moment
were seen to be precisely as in life, her childish
beauty in no way changed, but exposure to the
air had the inevitable and almost immediate
effect everything disappeared but the bare

"Bishop Amat was much affected by what
he had seen. He begged that the skeleton of
Vibiana be given to him, promising that if it
were placed in his charge he would bring it
to America and build a great cathedral, which
would be named for the Saint and dedicated
to her memory.

"Returning here he at once began the
work. Large contributions were offered to
him, but all these were refused. He wanted
the church built with the offerings of the com-
mon people. And so it came about. The
money poured in from all quarters, and soon
he had enough in the treasury to warrant the
building of the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana.

" In the upper part of the altar is a crypt in
which are deposited the remains of the Saint, in



the little brass-bound casket in which they were
brought from Rome. Under the altar are the
remains of Bishop Amat.

" Would it not seem sacrilege ever to remove
them? When the church was dedicated Bishop
Amat told the congregation that he had a story
rather than a sermon to deliver, and recited
the facts substantially as here given.

" After this great work was achieved Bishop
Amat undertook another worthy enterprise, in
the north. In the charming valley in which is
situated the Carmelo Mission he secured a con-
siderable tract of land which he intended to
use as a school for Indian boys, to teach them
agriculture. But before his arrangements for
this were completed the sale of the land was
negotiated to a syndicate of white men. Bishop
Amat of course objected, and the Indians pro-
tested. The chiefs of all the Indian villages
were asked to sign a certain paper. Before
signing they brought it to me, and I advised
them not to sign it, or any other paper without
first submitting it to Don Antonio. The paper
was a quit-claim to the water rights to all
their lands. Had they signed the instrument
their lands would have become worthless. It
would have left them without a drop of water
for irrigating purposes.



" Bishop Amat died in prayer. An attendant,
thinking it time he should retire, gently and
hesitatingly approached the old man, as, upon
his prayer rug in front of the altar at the
Church of Saint Vibiana, he was supposed to
be counting his beads and repeating his invo-
cations. Passing the altar, some time there-
after, he found the devoted old man still in the
posture of heavenly supplication. Aged and
feeble, weak and emaciated, the attendant felt
the duty doubly incumbent upon him of with-
drawing him hence to his chamber, for rest
he so much needed. This time he was a trifle
more insistent, but his solicitude was quite
needless; Bishop Amat was rigid in death!"

On the slab which enclosed the crypt in
which the body of Vibiana was found were
these Latin words: "Animas innocenti atque
pudicae Vibiana in pace depositae pridie Kalen-
das Septembris" ; the translation of which is,
" To the innocent and chaste soul of Vibiana,
whose remains were deposited in peace on the
day before the Calends of September."

On the exterior of St. Vibiana's Cathedral are
these letters, " D.O.M.," being the abbreviations
for "Deo Optimo Maximo," which means, " To
God the Greatest and Best." Also the sentence,
" Dicata A.D. 1876," signifying the date when



the Cathedral was dedicated, and the words,
"Su6 Invocatione Sanctae Vibianae Virginis et
Martyris," the translation of which is, " Under
the Invocation of Saint Vibiana, Virgin and

" Don Antonio," said Dona Mariana, " was
loyal to the Church, but he ever was friendly
with the Indians. He had good reason for
being true to them, for upon more than one oc-
casion they had saved his life.

" Don Antonio de Coronel was one of the
liberal contributors to the erection of Saint
Vibiana's Cathedral, and materially aided in its
construction and establishment. A special part
of his donation was a number of thousands
of the brick which went into the building. He
was buried from this Cathedral.

" No," said Senora de Coronel, " it is not as
you suppose. I am no longer attached to Los
Angeles. It is not as it used to be. I am anx-
ious to return to Mexico, where conditions are
much as they were here fifty years ago. But I
fear it will be a long time before normal condi-
tions are restored. Porfirio Diaz is a much
abused and a much misunderstood man. He
best knew how to rule Mexico. He knew every
renegade in the country, and how to handle the

warring factions. I fear it will be a long time



In the niche, in the upper part, is the casket containing the
remains of St. Vibiana. Under the altar are the remains of
Bishop Thaddeus Amat, builder of the Cathedral.





before peace is restored. Few know the real
cause of the factional division of the country.
Nearly all the women in Mexico are true to
the Church, while most of the men are Masons;
hence the irrepressible conflict. I am glad
Senator del Valle has been sent down there
to harmonize the factions. He may not suc-
ceed; but he is more likely to do so than any
American ambassador.

" No, I do not believe the Coronel Collection
will be removed from the Chamber of Com-
merce. That seems to be the best place for
it, the place where the larger number of peo-
ple can conveniently see it. There was but a
single condition of its gift to the city: that no
item in the collection should ever be disposed
of by sale, gift or otherwise. It must always
be kept intact, just as it was when I turned
it over to the city.

" I never met Mr. Jackson. It never seemed
convenient for me to visit Mrs. Jackson at her
Colorado home, although frequently beseeched
to do so. I knew of her wish to be buried upon
the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain. There were
few things about Mrs. Jackson I did not know,
for we were like sisters. When the site of
her grave came to be a public picnic ground,
and Mr. Jackson began to feel the necessity



of removing her remains, he wrote me, asking
if his wife had ever expressed a willingness to
be buried elsewhere. I knew the reason for
her peculiar request, and wrote to him about
it, leaving him to draw his own inferences and
act upon his own judgment. It was due wholly
to the neglect and desecration of the grave of
Junipero Serra that Mrs. Jackson decided upon
a burial spot upon the mountain she loved so
much. She never dreamed it would become a
public resort. I was glad when I learned that
she rested peacefully at Evergreen Cemetery,
Colorado Springs."

Senora de Coronel has permitted the authors
to read the numerous letters written by Mrs.
Jackson to her and Don Antonio, her husband,
and to publish the following, selected for the
purpose. It will aid to understand the letters
to here again state that " Ramona " was written
in New York during the winter of 1883-84,
and Mrs. Jackson returned to California in the
latter part of 1884, went to San Francisco in
April, 1885, and there died August i2th of that



Santa Barbara, Cal.,

January 30, 1882.
My Dear Friends, Mr. and Mrs. Coronel:

... I have now been one week in Santa
Barbara, and am still homesick for Los An-
geles. I have not as yet seen anything so fine
as the San Gabriel Valley, and San Bernardino
Mountains with the snows on the tops, and I
have not found any one to tell me the things
of the olden time so eloquently as you did.

I have seen Father Sanchez, Father
O'Keefe and Father Francis, at the Mission,
and have obtained from their library some
books of interest. From the west window of
my room I look out on the Mission buildings.
The sun rests on them from sunrise to sunset,
and they seem to me to say more than any
human voice on record can convey. You will
perhaps have heard that I was so unfortunate
as not to find Mrs. del Valle at home, so I
only rested two hours at her house and drove
on to Santa Barbara that night. I saw some
of the curious old relics, but the greater part
of them were locked up, and Mrs. del Valle had
the keys with her.

The most interesting part of my journey
was San Fernando. There I could spend a
whole day, and I must tell you of a mistake



I made; perhaps if you see Mr. Pico you can
rectify it for me. He said to me, when he
was showing me some of the relics they have,
" Now, if you like, you can take some one of
these things." Of course I desired very much
to have some of them; but I replied, merely
out of the wish not to seem greedy or ungrate-
ful, " Oh, you are too kind to think of such a
thing. I am afraid you ought not to give away
any of them. Do you not rather prefer to keep
them for the Church? " And then he did not
again offer them to me, and I was all the rest
of the time waiting and hoping that he would;
but I came away without having the oppor-
tunity again to take anything. I suppose you
wil! think I was very stupid. Indeed, I think
so myself; but it is partly that I do not under-
stand the customs of the Spanish people in
regard to such things.

If it should happen that you see any of the
family, you can tell them of my regret for
having made such a mistake, and that I would
be very glad to have anything they would like
to part with. One of the old candlesticks I
would very much like to have, or one of the
old books of St. Augustine I had in my own
mind decided that I would choose.

I also wanted very much to have a piece












of one of the old olive trees if I could have
found one that had blown down a straight
section of the trunk sawed across, about six
inches thick, to make a round block, polished
to set my stone bowl on. The driver promised
to take two of the old palm leaves to you to
keep. I thought you would like one; the wind
had strewed the ground with them. But I
think it rained so hard the days he went back
he did not stop to look for palm leaves.

When I come again with the artist we will
go to San Fernandb. It is one of the places I
desire to see twice.

I send you also by to-day's mail a copy
of my little volume of poems. I thought that
you would like that volume better than any
other I have written. In a little more than
four months I hope to see you again.

Truly yours, and with many thanks for all
your kindness,

Helen Jackson.

San Francisco, 1600 Taylor St.,

June 27, 1885.
My Dear Friends:

I am glad to see the accounts in the papers
you have sent me of some farther movements
in relation to the Mission Indians, and I have



been much cheered by an interview with Prof.

If he really undertakes to get something
done for those Indians, he will be worth more
than all the Senators and Congressmen put to-

I hope he will return to Southern California
and visit the rest of the villages. He is think-
ing of it.

Have you yet been up the Verdugo canon
to get those two baskets I ordered from the
old Indian woman there? I fear she will think
me a " lying white," if she does not get the
money before long.

I am sorry to tell you I am still in bed: the
malarial symptoms seem to be over, but it
has left me in a state of nervous prostration
which nothing touches. I can eat literally noth-
ing, and of course am very weak; it has been a
trying experience and I fear I have months
more of it yet to come.

It is a year to-morrow since I broke my leg!
My unlucky year.

I have been asked by one of the eastern
magazines (a children's magazine) to write
a poem, narrating some incident or legend in
California life if possible something to do with
the Indians. I do not know anything which


seems to me to be adapted to tell in a ballad;
and I have wondered if in Mr. Coronel's store-
house of memories he could not think of some
old stories which would be suitable for the
purpose. If he can and you would write them
down for me I would be greatly obliged to
you. I hope you are all well.

Always faithfully your friend,

Helen Jackson.

P. S. When you get those baskets I would
like to have them sent by express. There is
no doubt that I shall have to lie here for many
weeks yet, and I shall enjoy having them.
Send with them, also, the flat one I gave to you
to keep. I'd like that to keep work in on my

The following is the last letter written by
Mrs. Jackson to the Coronels, and preceded her
death just six days:

San Francisco, Calif.

1600 Taylor St.,

Aug. 6, 1885.
Dear Mr. Coronel:

When the baskets are done send them by
express to this address: Mrs. Merritt Trimble,
59 E. 25th St., New York.



Send all the baskets you have.

I am failing now fast. I think I cannot live
a great while.

In your letter to Mrs. Trimble tell her about
the stone bowls and pestles, and ask her if she
wants those too. She will write and tell you.

Goodby. With very much love to your wife
and you always,

Helen Jackson.




"^ T*OU are going to get well, Mariana.

y You will survive me. I feel that you

will live to complete my work." Thus

said Mrs. Jackson to me but a few short weeks

before her death. Often she had talked in that

vein. She seemed ever to have a presentiment

that I would survive her.

One of her most coveted projects, after her
visit to the Indian settlements and her report
to the Government, was the institution at some
available place of a school for Indian women
and girls, where instruction could be given in
all of the useful arts, to the end that they
might in time become self-sustaining. Regard-
ing the details of this enterprise Mrs. Jackson
talked frequently with my husband, Don An-
tonio, and myself.

"I shall endeavor to secure an appropria-
tion from Congress for the necessary grounds,
and these shall be deeded directly to the In-
dians," said Mrs. Jackson. " For the buildings



I shall appeal to the people of the East for
donations, and I shall endeavor to have the
institution abundantly endowed. But you and
Don Antonio must, at whatever sacrifice, take
charge of the institution and make a success of
it. Congress has passed the act that you and
the Don and I have drafted, providing for the
granting of lands to the Indians in severalty;
but little good will come of it unless these poor
people are taught how to make a living for
themselves aside from the weaving of baskets.
Nobody but you and dear Don Antonio can
successfully carry out my ideas. I am count-
ing upon meeting with numerous obstacles in
getting the Indians to give up their tribal rela-
tions. To them it will be an immense prob-
lem, a complete change in their mode of life,
and we may not expect that all will adopt it
cheerfully. I am counting upon the influence
that you and Don Antonio can exert to recon-
cile them to the transformation. Indeed I
should entertain all sorts of fear and appre-
hension and doubt regarding the outcome, but
for the compelling influence which you and
your husband can exert. No one else I
have in mind can be intrusted with the

Mrs. Jackson gave much thought to the work-



ing out of the details at the California end of
the line. She counted largely upon the sup-
port, financial and otherwise, that Hon. Henry
M. Teller, then Secretary of the Interior, would
give to her noble and highly practical enter-
prise. Don Antonio and I sympathized thor-
oughly with her, and stood ready to lend hearty
assistance when required. But Mrs. Jackson's
early death forever sealed the fate of the edu-
cational undertaking.

Nearly thirty years have passed since Helen
Hunt Jackson put her arm lovingly about me
and declared her belief that I would survive
her, and that the completion of her life's work
would devolve upon me. To some persons
"Time's unpitying fingers" may begin "to
smooth out and obliterate the lines, once so
sharp and distinct, with which she engraved
herself on the consciousness of her contempo-
raries." To some persons even her memory
may have grown dim, as the impression of a
face long unseen fades, until no longer can be
recalled the exact look and smile. This is re-
garded as the inevitable law, each day bringing
its " little dust our soon choked hearts to fill."
But it has never been so with me. Never a day
or night but I feel her presence. Once, I well
remember, she said: " Mariana, if it be possible



in the next world to come to you in trouble or
grief or distress, you may count upon me doing
so." The promise has never been forgotten.
The suggestion has never once passed from
my memory.

Eight months ago, at the beginning of the
terrible fratricidal strife that has brought so
much misery to my country and its people, I
thought it best I should return to the United
States before it should become too hazardous
to undertake the journey. It involved a mule-
back trip of one hundred and fifty miles over
the mountains to the nearest railway station;
not a cheerful prospect for a woman of my
years to undertake. But I entered upon it
with the utmost confidence that Helen Hunt
Jackson would be with me every foot of the
way, protecting me from every possible danger.
As though in life, she seemed to place her hand
upon my shoulder and assure me that all would
be well.

I have never thought much about spiritual-
ism. I am not a spiritualist. And yet, oh,
so many times since, when trouble and grief
have been my lot, when clouds encircled my
pathway, when gloom surrounded and threat-
ened to engulf me, I have suddenly been
brought to a realization that Mrs. Jackson's



Intimate friend of Helen Hunt Jackson, photographed in 1913
especially for this volume. Senora de Coronel and her husband,
Don Antonio, really inspired " Ramona " and gave to its author
the principal facts of the story. She is holding the copy of
"Ramona given her by Mrs. Jackson.



Presented by the translator to Sefiora de Coroncl.


spirit was near, that she was shielding me,
that in her presence no harm could come.

My acquaintance and association with her
has constituted one of the fondest and sweet-
est recollections of my whole life. Our meet-
ing was singular. Had she come in any other
way than she did, her first visit, it is likely,
would have been her last. I had never heard
of her or her books. Like most Spanish people,
I shrank from publicity. Had she simply in-
troduced herself as a correspondent of the
" Century Magazine," it is likely I should have
taken little interest in what she had to say.
But she brought a letter from Bishop Mora to
Don Antonio and myself. In it the Bishop
asked us to give her all the information we
could regarding the Mission Indians. This we
proceeded to do, her interest in our relation of
the story of their treatment, so far as had
come within our observation and experience,
being singularly intense.

She made an engagement to come again the
following week, and it happened to be Christ-
mas day, 1 88 1. While she and Don Antonio
and myself were seated on the veranda, at the
old hacienda in the orange grove, Los Angeles,
five or six Indian chiefs rode into the court, in



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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 10 of 14)