Carlyle Channing Davis.

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

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a high state of excitement. Don Antonio ex-
cused himself from the circle and stepped out
to converse with the chiefs. They were talk-
ing with great animation, and to my amazement
I observed that Mrs. Jackson was following
the conversation with the closest attention, al-
though she could understand not a word of
what was being said. I noticed her lips mov-
ing in unison with the voices of the chiefs,
although she made no audible sound. She
seemed to be repeating what they said, or
endeavoring to comprehend its meaning. It
was perfectly obvious that they were deeply in
earnest, and finally, as if she could stand it
no longer, Mrs. Jackson addressed Don An-
tonio and asked if she might not talk with the
Indians. The request was of course promptly
granted. I acted as interpreter, and soon Mrs.
Jackson was in full possession of the reason for
their visit.

White men had secured possession of the
water rights to their land, and it was to them
no better than a desert. Mrs. Jackson compre-
hended the whole story, and secured the
consent of the Indians to visit their settle-
ments, Don Antonio assuring them that she
was their friend and would work in their



She had secured the services of Mr. Abbot
Kinney, and obtained his appointment as a
co-commissioner soon after, and the details
of the now celebrated official journey through
the country of the Southern California Mission
Indians were arranged at our home.

The party consisted of Mrs. Jackson, Mr.
Abbot Kinney, the late Mr. Henry Sandham,
the " Century's " artist, and Mr. N. H. Mitchell,
the proprietor of a livery stable and hotel at
Anaheim, whose two-seated carriage was used
for a part of the journey, he acting as driver.
This carriage was soon abandoned, however,
not being suited to all purposes of the trip, and
most of it was made on horseback, or rather
mule-back, as the sure-footed little burros of
the Indians were more suited to the condition
of the trails over the mountains. Indeed, I
later was advised that the party visited some
places high up on the mountain sides, or on the
borders of the desert, where it was possible
only to go afoot. On one occasion, contem-
plating a hazardous journey into the mountains,
I remonstrated with Mrs. Jackson and at-
tempted to dissuade her from the trip. Her
answer was, "I must see those poor Indians,
and I'll go if I die."

At this time, before the journey was under-



taken, Mrs. Jackson was a guest at Mrs. Kim-
ball's boarding house on New High Street,
then about the best place of entertainment in
Los Angeles. Mr. Kinney and Mr. Sandham,
pending completion of the arrangements, were
guests at our home.

Don Antonio was a veritable encyclopedia,
and was able to recall, with the slightest effort,
every important event since his boyhood. His
knowledge covered the whole period of Spanish,
Mexican and American rule, from the time of
his arrival in California until his death. His
information regarding the Indians was particu-
larly full and accurate; hence he was of invalu-
able assistance to Mrs. Jackson in all her work.
But his knowledge of the English language
was limited, and the work of interpreting fell
largely upon me.

Mrs. Jackson made many notes regarding the
story of " Ramona " at our home. She dis-
cussed the intended book with us on many
occasions, and told us she would name it " Ra-
mona." She would gladly have located the
scene of " Ramona " at our hacienda, and
doubtless would have done so but for the sug-
gestion made by Don Antonio himself, and
insisted upon by him, that Camulos was the

more fitting place. We both assured her that



the Camulos Rancho was one of the few re-
maining of the old Spanish homesteads where
the original life of a California hacienda still
existed. It was about the only place yet ex-
isting where the original California hacienda
could still be studied in all its poetry and
importance. We told her of the patrician char-
acter of Camulos. Here, we told her, might
still be studied the pressing of the Mission
olive in the old morteros, the gathering of the
vintage in Hispano-Indian fashion, the making
of Spanish wine, the Spanish sheep-shearing,
under an Indian capitan\ here were still the
picturesque retainers; here were distinguished
family traditions all the elements, in fact,
upon which the book might grow with historic

Notwithstanding all these facts, the author
might easily and with perfect fidelity to truth
and tradition, have located the scenes at the
Coronel hacienda. But there was another fact,
another barrier, and a well-nigh insurmountable
one: the excessive modesty of Don Antonio
himself. So marked a characteristic of him
was this that, notwithstanding all he had done
for Los Angeles, notwithstanding the fact that
he had labored for thirty years to clear the
title to Elysian Park, that it might become the



property of the city in fee simple, without a
shade or shadow, he steadily declined even the
small honor, so often sought to be conferred
upon him, of having a street named for him.

But it is true, it is history and it would
not be history if it were not true that the
inspiration of " Ramona " was Don Franco An-
tonio de Coronel, my husband, under whose
expansive roof it sprouted and grew, and there
it was christened with the name by which it
soon came to be known and ever will be known,
" Ramona."

After Mrs. Jackson's return to California in
1884, the story of " Ramona " having been pub-
lished, she did much writing at our home.
She had broken her leg before leaving Colorado
Springs by falling down the stairway in her
home, and she had to write in a reclining posi-
tion. Don Antonio, my husband, had a little
table made especially for her use, Mrs. Jack-
son specifying its height, and requesting the
placing of two shelves in it upon which she
could lay her finished sheets or notes. Much
of her writing during her stay in Los Angeles
in 1884-85, was done on this table, which is
now a part of the Coronel Collection in the
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Mrs. Jackson selected the Camulos Rancho




as the home of Ramona. This I know, not
only because of general conversations with her,
but she positively declared to me that it was
Camulos Rancho which she sought to describe
in the story of " Ramona," and that that rancho
was the home of Ramona.

In the latter part of 1884 Mrs. Jackson
returned to Los Angeles. " Ramona " had not
been issued from the press at the time of her
departure from the East. I went with her to
the postoffice one day, when a package was
delivered to her there. She opened it, and
there was a copy of " Ramona," the first she
had seen. She at once said to me: " Mariana,
here is the first copy of my book, and I give it
to you." Taking a pencil she wrote on the fly-
leaf, "With compliments of the author," and
then handed it to me. I have the same book

I have also the first copy of the book con-
taining the Spanish translation of " Ramona,"
which was sent me by the translator.

Naturally I am proud of the fact that Mrs.
Jackson wished to make our home the home of
Ramona; but greater honor have I always had,
and greater comfort will I ever enjoy, in the
fact that the gifted author, beloved of two
continents, enshrined in the hearts of the peo-



pic of the whole world, regarded me as her
best friend.

Her name and her work are immortalized.
Nothing I can say will add to her fame.

Los Angeles, July, 1913-




IT was Camulos ranch to which Helen Hunt
Jackson was directed by Don Antonio de
Coronel and his cultured wife.

To this ranch Mrs. Jackson journeyed. It
was the estate of Don Ygnacio del Valle, and
his widow, Dona Ysabel del Valle, was its
owner and mistress.

Sefiora del Valle gave much of her life
to humanitarian work, and being absent upon
an errand of mercy upon the occasion of Mrs.
Jackson's visit, did not see her; but her re-
ligious ardor and fidelity, so correctly portrayed
in the character of Sefiora Moreno, was sub-
sequently related to the author of " Ramona "
by the Coronels.

That Camulos ranch was selected and in-
tended as the home of Ramona is not to be
questioned. Mrs. Jackson herself so declared,
especially to the Coronels and to one of the
authors of this volume, and the description in
the story of the ranch and its appurtenances
and surroundings positively identify it.



Mrs. Jackson was not disappointed. Chapter
II of " Ramona " opens with this general state-
ment of the ranch: "The Seftora Moreno's
house was one of the best specimens to be
found in California of the representative house
of the half-barbaric, half-elegant, wholly-gen-
erous and free-handed life led there by Mexican
men and women of degree in the early part
of this century, under the rule of the Spanish
and Mexican viceroys. ... It was a pic-
turesque life, with more of sentiment and
gaiety in it; more also that was truly dra-
matic; more romance than will ever be seen
again on those sunny shores. The aroma of it
all lingers there still; industries and inventions
have not yet slain it; it will last out its cen-

A visit to Camulos ranch on July 2, 1913,
enables me to revoke the declaration that " the
aroma of it all lingers there still." "The
Senora Moreno's house " is there just as Mrs.
Jackson saw and described it. There are the
same white walls, the wide court verandas,
" and a still broader one across the entire front,
which looked to the south." There is the
dining-room, " on the opposite side of the court-
yard from the kitchen," and the same stairs
leading from a higher to a lower part of the



(i) Under these trees were the washing stones where Ales-
sandrp first saw Ramona. (2) South veranda of Camulos
dwelling, as it appeared in 1913.


" She caused to be set up upon every one of the soft rounded
hills * * * a large wooden cross, * * * that the heretics may
know, when they go by, that they are on the estate of a good
Catholic." " Ramona. (2) To the left the plank fence on
which Margarita hung the altar cloth, and from which it was
blown and then torn; the bells, cross and famous little chapel,
Camulos, as they appeared 1913.


south veranda, where Alessandro sat and played
his violin to the stricken Felipe. Father Sal-
vierderra's room, at the southeast corner of
the house, and the barred window through
which Ramona " saw Alessandro pacing up and
down the walk " in the moonlight and by which
she sat, peering sadly and wistfully into the
night, made a prisoner by the angered Seriora
Moreno when discovered by her in the arms
of Alessandro in the willows these are there,
just as Mrs. Jackson saw and described them.

On the hills to the north and south are the
identical crosses described in the story of " Ra-
mona," erected by Senora Moreno "that the
heretics may know, when they go by, that they
are on the estate of a good Catholic, and that
the faithful may be reminded to pray." There
they still stand, " summer and winter, rain and
shine, the silent, solemn, outstretched arms"
the Blessed Cross, the sudden sight of which
has wrought miracles of conversion on the most
hardened. " Certain it is that many a good
Catholic halted and crossed himself when he
first beheld them in the lonely places, stand-
ing out in sudden relief against the blue sky."

The identical little chapel, "dearer to the
Senora than her house," with its white sides,
in a setting of orange trees, is still there. Its.



altar is yet " surrounded by a really imposing
row of holy and apostolic figures/' Its chests
yet contain the most costly and elaborate vest-
ments, some so heavily braided with gold as
almost to be able to stand alone.

This chapel is a part of the history of the
Catholic Church in California. Services are
held within its historic and sacred portals as
of old. Priests, many of them high dignitaries
of the Church, visit it, that they may be able
to say they officiated at its altar. Some bring
their own vestments, not knowing what the
chests of the chapel contain, and are astonished
when shown the beautiful, gold-braided robes
long kept and used in this miniature house of
worship. Certain religious privileges have been
granted to this little chapel which give to it a
special character.

The chapel is only a frail frame building, the
interior being twenty feet long and fourteen
feet wide. Connected with the front is a roofed
arcade, sides open and floored, thirty feet long
and fourteen feet wide. In this arched addition
are long benches running along the sides, for
those who cannot find room within.

The torn altar cloth is still in existence and
use, though not the only one that adorns the
altar from time to time. This particular piece



was made from Senora del Valle's wedding
gown. It is the subject of one of the most
interesting and eventful climaxes of the story.
The fence on which Margarita hung this altar
adornment to dry after washing it, preparatory
to the coming of Father Salvierderra, is still
intact. It divides the yard from the artichoke
patch, into which the cloth was blown and
then dragged and torn by Capitan, Juan Canito's
favorite collie.

There is the same wide, straight walk, shaded
by a trellis, that leads down to the brook and
the willow trees, where were " the broad flat
stone washboards, on which was done all the
family washing." But the brook is now to the
north, nearer the house. The trellis is not now
" so knotted and twisted with grapevines that
little " of the woodwork is to be seen, but
grapevines are vigorously climbing over it.

The big gnarled willow tree, under which
were the flat stone washboards, and in the even-
ing shadows of which Alessandro first beheld
Ramona, is still at the foot of the arbor. The
pomegranate trees yet mark the border of the
orange grove in front of the house.

" The little graveyard on the hillside," where
the Senora Moreno was "laid by the side of
her husband and her children," with its picket


fence and wooden crosses, still bears its awful
silence in the shadow of a single pepper tree.

The gray stone bowls, " hollowed and pol-
ished, shining inside and out," "made by the
Indians, nobody knew how many ages ago,
. . . with only stones for tools," which were
used as flower pots, now adorn the rim of the
cement fountain which is in the orange trees
near the chapel.

Four shepherd dogs, the common ranch
breed, answered the call for dinner, and sug-
gested their illustrious forefather Capitan,
Juan Canito's favorite collie, which went away
in the stillness of that tragic night with Ra-
mona and Alessandro, when they eloped from
Camulos ranch and fled to Temecula. " The
dogs, the poultry, all loved the sight of Ra-

And there is yet to be seen the same public
road which the commissioners located in the
rear of the house, concerning which Seriora
Moreno exclaimed: "It is well. Let their
travel be where it belongs, behind our kitchen,
and no one have sight of the front doors of
our houses, except friends who have come to
visit us. ... Whenever she saw passing the
place wagons or carriages belonging to the
hated Americans, it gave her a distinct thrill



(i) The grape arbor, Camulos, leading to the washing stones,
as it appeared 1913. (2) The olive mill and tank, Camulos, 1913.


(i) Inner court, Camulos, as it appeared 1913. (2) The old
winery. Camulos, as it appeared 1913. " Every hand on the
place was hard at work, picking the grapes, treading them out
in tubs, and emptying the juice into stretched rawhides swung
from crossbeams." " Ramona"


of pleasure to think that the house turned
its back on them." This road is now the
main county thoroughfare through the Santa
Clara Valley, in which is located Camulos

The winery, where the finest of vintages were
pressed and the juice aged to a perfect nectar,
still stands, though now but a storehouse for
abandoned casks and ranch implements. And
there, under a cottonwood tree, is the same
mortero used in making olive oil in the days
long gone by.

Less than a hundred feet from the chapel,
and in line with the picket fence in its rear, is
an oak frame from which, at the time of Mrs.
Jackson's visit, hung three Mission bells. They
were brought from Spain, and had done long
service in one of the old Franciscan Missions
in California. These bells were swung in the
shape of a triangle. The top one was used to
call to meals, the largest to summon those on
the ranch to chapel, and the third to call the
children to school. The belfry frame, with two
of the bells, remains undisturbed, evidencing
the old days on this splendid hacienda. The
missing bell was taken away some time ago by
one of the daughters of Senora del Valle, Mrs.

Josefa Forster, and placed in the chapel erected



at her residence in Los Angeles, where it does
appropriate service to this day.

There is also still standing the large white
cross just within the picket fence near the

Although not of sufficient size at the time
of Mrs. Jackson's visit to attract attention, there
is now, to the west of the house about one
hundred feet, the largest English walnut tree
known. Its trunk measures six feet in di-
ameter, and its branches extend fifty-two feet
from the body of the tree in every direction.
Beneath its ample shade are a number of chairs
cut from the trunks of big orange trees, in
which one may comfortably recline on the
hottest day.

Only a few minor changes have taken place
since Mrs. Jackson's visit. The chief industry
is no longer the rearing of sheep. The sweep-
ing acres are in a high state of cultivation.
Fruit-pickers have superseded sheep-shearers.
Semi-tropical fruits and grain constitute the
principal crops.

The almond orchard has given way to
oranges. The sheep-shearing sheds and cor-
rals are no more. Large barns, stables and
pens have supplanted the old corrals and tule-
covered sheds.



"The second willow copse, which lay per-
haps a quarter of a mile west of the first/'
where Ramona met Alessandro on his return
from Temecula the night they stole away from
the Sefipra Moreno's, is gone, washed away
by a flood in the Santa Clara River; and the
garden of flowers in front of the house is now
a part of the orange grove " between the ve-
randa and the river meadows."

Camulos ranch is still owned by the del
Valle family. On the day of my visit there,
July 2, 1913, I was cordially received by Don
Ulpiano del Valle, one of the sons, who is in
active charge of the ranch and resides there.
Mr. Charles H. Cram and his wife, who was
Miss Ysabel del Valle, a daughter of Dona
Ysabel del Valle, were visiting the ranch on
that day.

Though I have many times passed through
Camulos on the train, I had never before
stopped there. Mr. Cram spent the day with
me, and was especially courteous and obviously
pleased in pointing out many features described
or named in " Ramona," explaining in detail
the changes wrought.

Upon the occasion of his first visit to Camu-
los, Christmas time, twenty-five years previ-
ous, Mr. Cram said there were seventy-two



guests present. Of the hospitality of the ranch
Mrs. Jackson wrote: " Nobody ever knew ex-
actly how many women were in the kitchen,
or how many men in the fields. There were
always women cousins, or brothers' wives or
widows or daughters, who had come to stay,
or men cousins, or sisters' husbands or sons,
who were stopping on their way up or down
the valley. When it came to the pay-roll,
Sefior Felipe knew to whom he paid wages ; but
who were fed and lodged under his roof, that
was quite another thing. It could not enter
into the head of a Mexican gentleman to make
either count or account of that. It would be
a disgraceful, niggardly thought. ... In the
General's day it had been a free-handed boast
of his that never less than fifty persons, men,
women and children, were fed within his gates
each day; how many more, he did not care nor
know. . . . Hardly a day passed that the
Sefiora had not visitors. She was still a per-
son of note; her house the natural resting
place for all who journeyed through the valley."
I sat on the court veranda during the prepa-
ration of the noon meal, to which I was invited
with cultured and gracious insistence. The
feelings which obsessed me were indescribably
intense. I knew the name and life of every



character mentioned in the " Ramona " story,
and they lived again in the dreamy fancy that
possessed me. There were little ones, some
the grandchildren of Sefiora del Valle, playing
about the kitchen, replica of the scene witnessed
by Mrs. Jackson and which inspired the sen-
tence : " The troop of youngsters which still
swarmed around the kitchen quarters of Sefiora
Moreno's house, almost as numerous and inex-
plicable as in the grand old days of the Gen-
eral's time." I saw the servants carrying from
the kitchen to the dining-room, " on the opposite
side of the court-yard," dishes of steaming food;
and on entering the dining-room the generous
table recalled Mrs. Jackson's description of a
meal at Camulos ranch: " A great dish of spiced
beef and cabbage in the center of the table; a
tureen of thick soup, with forcemeat balls and
red peppers in it; two red earthen platters
heaped, one with boiled rice and onions, the
other with the delicious frijoles (beans) so
dear to all Mexican hearts; cut-glass dishes
filled with hot stewed pears, or preserved
quinces, or grape jelly."

I stood on every spot of Camulos ranch men-
tioned in " Ramona." I climbed the hill to the
north and reverently bowed before one of the
Senora's crosses, and, though a " heretic," real-



izcd that I "was on the estate of a good
Catholic." In fancy I saw Juan Canito, the
head shepherd, again in life, on " the sunny
veranda of the south side of the kitchen wing
of the house," sitting " on the low bench, his
head leaning back against the whitewashed
wall, his long legs stretched out nearly across
the whole width of the veranda, his pipe firmly
wedged in the extreme left corner of his mouth,
his hands in his pockets the picture of placid
content." Again there were the Indian sheep-
shearers, " forms, dusky black against the fiery
western sky, coming down the valley." Under
the identical willow tree described in the story
I could see Ramona, " her hair in disorder, her
sleeves pinned loosely on her shoulders, her
whole face aglow with the earnestness of her
task," bending "low over the stones, rinsing
the altar cloth up and down in the water,
anxiously scanning it, then plunging it in

And how thrilling it was to complete the
picture! "It was the band of Indian sheep-
shearers. They turned to the left, and went
toward the sheep sheds and booths. But there
was one of them that Ramona did not see. He
had been standing for some minutes concealed

behind a large willow tree a few rods from the




U> 3

3 W

c >d
o* >


(i) North side of kitchen and shepherd dogs. Camulos, 1913.
44 The dogs, the poultry, all loved the sight of Ramona." " Ra-
mona." (2) The public road behind Camulos dwelling, as it
appeared 1913. "Whenever she saw passing the place wagons
or carriages belonging to the hated Americans, it gave her a
distinct thrill of pleasure to think that the house turned its back
on them." " Ramona."


place where Ramona was kneeling. It was
Alessandro, son of Pablo Assis, captain of the
sheep-shearing band. Walking slowly along in
advance of his men, he had felt a light, as from
a mirror held in the sun, smite his eyes. It
was the red sunbeam on the glittering water
where Ramona knelt. In the same second he

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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 11 of 14)