Carlyle Channing Davis.

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

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be expected; but interest in her work, and in
the enthusiasm displayed in it, was simply im-
pelling. She wouldn't let us talk about any-
thing else. Her relation of experiences among
the Mission Indians of California was of thrill-
ing interest, albeit comprehension of the import
of it all was not easy.

Of far greater concern to me was the an-
nounced purpose of Mrs. Jackson to tell the
story in the form of a romance. This was in
1883, after her return from California. That at



once appealed to my imagination, and I readily
recalled the outline she gave of it when, a few
years later, I came to Southern California and
became acquainted with a number of its real

My wife had for more than a year been a
member of the household of the eldest son of
the mistress of Camulos ranch Ramona's home
Ex-State Senator R. F. del Valle, and well
knew his mother, Dona Ysabel del Valle, his
sister, Mrs. Josefa Forster, and two brothers,
Ignacio and Ulpiano. She had, indeed, been
present at the birth of Lucretia Louise del
Valle, at this writing just returned with her dis-
tinguished father, Senator del Valle, from a
mission of peace to the warring factions in Old
Mexico, sent as the special representative of
the Secretary of State, W. J. Bryan. She not
only knew these personages most intimately,
but had spent varying periods at Camulos ranch,
and every scene there recalling Ramona and
Alessandro was familiar to her. Dona Mariana
de Coronel, the intimate friend of Mrs. Jack-
son, also was an old acquaintance. Hence my
interest in " Ramona " became especially en-

Unfortunately, I did not at the time share in
Mrs. Jackson's sympathy for the Indian to any



great extent, nor did I possess the clarity of
vision essential to a correct understanding of
the Indian question, as it presented itself to her.
As stated in the body of this volume, Mrs. Jack-
son enjoyed something of a monopoly of her
views, and was quite without a genuine sym-
pathizer with her work in the entire State of
Colorado. My ignorance of the real merits of
the controversy was neither greater nor less
than that entertained by the average citizen.
Mrs. Jackson might turn on ever so many side-
lights, yet the feeling in Colorado at the time
was almost universal that the only good Indian
was the dead Indian.

We had not read to full purpose " A Century
of Dishonor"; we looked upon Ramona and
Alessandro and Father Salvierderra as beauti-
ful characters, but we didn't look toward Temec-
ula. We only thought of the Arapahoes and
Cheyennes stealing upon Denver in the silence
of night, with murderous intent. We looked
away from Pechanga. We harped upon Father
Meeker; but we never permitted ourselves to
dwell upon the atrocious outrages committed
and being committed by the white man
on the Indians all over the San Jacinto
Mountains! Ignorance and cowardice and
hate had made savages of the whites, and


left Helen Hunt Jackson to fight the battle

She died at San Francisco, August 12, 1885,
in her fifty-fourth year.

Well may we marvel at her courage, her
patience, her perseverance and her unyielding
zeal. Well may we, with Susan Coolidge,
wonder :

" What was she most like? Was she like the

Fresh always and untired, intent to find

New fields to penetrate, new heights to gain;
Scattering all mists with sudden, radiant wing;
Stirring the languid pulses; quickening

The apathetic mood, the weary brain?

Or was she like the sun, whose gift of cheer
Endureth for all seasons of the year,

Alike in winter's cold or summer's heat?
Or like the sea, which brings its gifts from far,
And still, wherever want and straitness are,

Lays down a sudden largess at their feet?

Or was she like a wood, where light and shade,
And sound and silence, mingle unafraid;

Where mosses cluster, and, in coverts dark,
Shy blossoms court the brief and wandering air,


Mysteriously sweet; and here and there
A firefly flashes like a sudden spark?

Or like a willful brook, which laughs and leaps
All unexpectedly, and never keeps

The course predicted, as it seaward flows?
Or like a stream-fed river, brimming high?
Or like a fruit, where those who love descry

A pungent charm no other flavor knows?

I cannot find her type; in her were blent
Each varied and each fortunate element

Which could combine, with something all

her own

Sadness and mirthfulness, a chorded strain,
The tender heart, the keen and searching brain,

The social zest, the power to live alone.

Comrade of comrades giving man the slip
To seek in Nature truest comradeship,

Tenacity and impulse ruled her fate,
This grasping firmly what that flashed to feel
The velvet scabbard and the sword of steel,

The gift to strongly love, to frankly hate!

Patience as strong as was her hopefulness;
A joy in living which grew never less

As years went on and age grew gravely nigh;



Visions which pierced the veiling mists of pain,
And saw beyond the mortal shadows plain
The eternal day dawn broadening in the sky;

The love of Doing, and the scorn of Done;
The playful fancy, which, like glinting sun,
No chill could daunt, no loneliness could


Upon her ardent pulse Death's dullness lies;
Closed the brave lips, the merry, questioning

She was herself. There is not such another."














THE devotion, vigor and perseverance with
which Helen Hunt Jackson pursued her
chief mission in life scarcely have a paral-
lel. Her literary labor and fame culminated
in the historical romance of " Ramona," the in-
fluence of which has been second to the produc-
tion of but one other American purpose writer.
The inspiration of " Uncle Tom's Cabin " and of
" Ramona " was identical the wrongs inflicted
by a superior upon an inferior race. The chief
aim of each was ultimately achieved; the one
through immeasurable sacrifices of blood and
treasure, the other through the peaceful evolu-
tion of public sentiment, leading up to a revolt
of the national conscience, and compelling a
reversal of public policies.
i It is not an extravagant claim that the hu-
manitarian impulse now giving direction to the
conduct of Indian affairs by the Government
had its genesis largely in the romantic novel
" Ramona." The influence of the woman and
her work was not only immediate but lasting.



It has come down to this day and hour. The
tragedy of Temecula will never be repeated.
The era of evictions has forever passed. The
Mission Indians will not again be driven from
their homes at the point of the bayonet. Helen
Hunt Jackson's posthumous influence will con-
tinue to shield them.

On her death-bed Mrs. Jackson said: "I did
not write ' Ramona ' ; it was written through
me. My life-blood went into it all I had
thought, felt and suffered for five years on
the Indian question."

Colorado, the home of the author of " Ra-
mona," was long the border land. Its earlier
citizens suffered greatly at the hands of the
Indians. Many now living remember when
even the capital of the State was menaced
by roving bands of murderous Arapahoes and
Cheyennes. The Meeker massacre is still fresh
in the minds of its people. The treachery of
the Utes may never be forgotten. But the
prejudices of two generations, there and else-
where, should give way to the fact that the
Mission Indians of California belong to a differ-
ent category: that they are peaceful, industrious
and frugal; that they worship the white man's
God, and endeavor, with a meager equipment,
to raise themselves to his plane of civilization.



Intimate friend of Helen Hunt Jackson, and who, with his
wife, gave Mrs. Jackson the material from which was written
the story of " Ramona." " He is sixty-five years of age, but he
is young; the best waltzer in Los Angeles * * *; his eye keen,
his blood fiery quick; his memory like a burning-glass." (Mrs.
Jackson in " Glimpses of California and the Afissions")

Wife of Don Antonio dc CoroncI, the intimate friend of Mrs.


Some of them loved their homes so well that
they suffered death within them in stoic prefer-
ence to going out into the world in search of
others. Not a few so died as martyrs to
boasted American civilization!

It was Helen Hunt Jackson's purpose to tell
the whole pitiful story. It was her desire to
paint it in its true colors in an appendix to her
" A Century of Dishonor," but she was per-
suaded that it was the better plan to clothe it
first in the presumably more attractive garb of
romance, and then to follow with other works
of a more historical character after the ear of
the public should be secured. This was the sage
advice of Don Antonio Francisco de Coronel
and his wife Dona Mariana, living at Los
Angeles ; although these staunch friends did not
begin to realize the enormous sale which the
initial story was destined to reach, the far-
reaching influence it was to exert.

In November, 1883, after her return from
California to Colorado Springs, Mrs. Jackson
wrote to her dear friends, Sefior and Sefiora de
Coronel: " I am going to write a novel, in which
will be set forth some Indian experiences to
move people's hearts. People will read a novel
when they will not read serious books."

Nor does popular interest seem to decrease



with the lapse of time. The public library of
Los Angeles now owns one hundred and five
volumes of " Ramona," yet one can secure a
copy only by means of a reservation and a
long wait. It would seem that at least nine of
every ten tourists read the story. Thousands
of them visit the San Diego, the San Luis Rey,
and the Santa Barbara Missions every season,
confessedly because of the association with
them of Ramona and Alessandro; and all esteem
it a privilege to catch a glimpse of Camulos,
as the trains of the Southern Pacific Railroad
pass through the hallowed spot.

In the Coronel Collection at the Chamber of
Commerce in Los Angeles is a portrait of Helen
Hunt Jackson in oil, about 7 by 12, by Alex-
ander F. Harmer; and beneath it is the little
mahogany table on which Mrs. Jackson did
much of her magazine work while in California.
This table was made especially to her order,
that she might write while in a reclining posi-
tion, and under the personal supervision of Don
Antonio de Coronel.

But the world, outside of Southern California,
knows little of the Coronels, the relation of
the author of " Ramona " to them, or the rea-
son for displaying the portrait and the table
with this particular collection of curios. Few



indeed know that nearly all of the characters
in the story were living persons idealized, that
some of them are living to-day, or that the
famous jewels, most unlikely incident of the
plot, are still in the possession of the woman
who most likely suggested to Mrs. Jackson the
character of Ramona.

These facts and incidents constitute most in-
teresting sidelights. The truth will be found
to be, as so often it is, stranger than fiction.
It is here first given, only once removed from
the lips of the living actors.




THE inception and development of " Ra-
mona " is in itself a story of more than
ordinary interest. It was the product of
a peculiar and fortunate combination of cir-
cumstances and events, a happy mingling of
realism and romance, the timely meeting of
design with chance.

Helen Hunt Jackson came to Southern Cali-
fornia in 1 88 1, with a purpose not too well
defined. She had been commissioned by the
Century Company "to write something about
the Mission Indians." It would have been an
easy matter for her, and without leaving com-
fortable apartments in a hotel, to have prepared
an interesting series of articles on the prolific
theme, and her publishers would doubtless have
been satisfied; but she was directed to higher
and greater achievements by influences not
reckoned with by her or those whom she repre-
sented. The inspiration may have been heaven-
sent, but the instrumentalities that proved most
potent were human, tangible, real.


The conditions were ripe for her mission;
indeed, they were waiting for her. To the
task of harvesting the matured fruit she
brought a rare equipment. If events and cir-
cumstances were favorable, a less earnest, a
less receptive, a less impressionable person
might easily have failed to recognize their sig-

She brought a letter to Bishop Francisco
Mora of the Los Angeles diocese. He gave her
a cordial welcome and pointed the way. Don
Antonio Francisco de Coronel, he assured her,
was the traditional friend of the Indian in
these parts, and to him and his noble wife
she was sent with a suitable letter of intro-

The Coronel rancho consisted of seventy-five
acres of fruitful land lying in the valley of the
Los Angeles River, on the southern outskirts
of the city, and was covered with a noble
growth of citrus and deciduous fruit trees. In
the center of the tract was the hacienda, for
decades a conspicuous landmark. It was a
typical Spanish adobe house, with projecting
tile roof and broad verandas opening upon
the proverbial " court." It contained thirteen
large rooms, more than sufficient for the needs
of its two occupants, the old Don and his young



wife; but Spanish hospitality took into account
the necessity of providing accommodations for
all comers, and it is not likely the hacienda was
ever found to be too large.

The rancho was a gift to the Don's father
from the Mexican government, in considera-
tion of distinguished services in the field, the
grant dating back to the early 30*3. It de-
scended to Don Antonio, who came upon the
stage of action in time to be of service in
opposing American aggression. He, indeed,
had been singled out for the distinction of
conveying to the Mexican capital the flags
captured in various engagements with the in-
vaders, nearly losing his life in carrying out
his mission.

The rancho was still intact upon the occa-
sion of Helen Hunt Jackson's first visit, 1881,
but the subsequent growth of Los Angeles has
completely obliterated all of the ancient bound-
ary lines. Railroads cross and recross it,
streets have been cut through, monster depots
and factories built, residences erected and the
once pastoral quiet of the locality has forever
departed. The famous adobe dwelling itself,
still retaining its original proportions, but fast
going to decay, stands within the inclosure of
a mammoth cracker factory near the corner of



Central Avenue and Seventh Street, and is now
used for storing merchandise.

On her first visit to the historic hacienda
amidst the orange trees, Mrs. Jackson met a
cordial reception at the hands of Don Antonio
and Dona Mariana, not because of her dis-
tinction or her worth, but because she bore a
letter from the Bishop. They had never before
heard the name of their guest. They had not
been blessed with offspring, and had never read
her "Bits of Talk" for young folks. They
had felt the omnipotence of perfect, patient love,
but not from reading her story of "Zeph."
They knew, for it had come home to them as
to few others, about " A Century of Dishonor,"
though they had never seen the book. They
had been fighting the battles of the Indians for
many years, in the most practical and helpful
way, without the aid of allies beyond the moun-
tains, without knowledge of the devoted work
being done in other portions of the vineyard
by the Helen Hunts and their colleagues else-

In the old and happy days of Church domina-
tion and priestly rule there had been no "In-
dian question." That came only after Ameri-
can " civilization " took from the red men their
lands and gave them nothing in return. It


ministered neither to their spiritual, intellec-
tual nor physical needs. It neither helped
them nor permitted them to help themselves.
It simply abandoned them to their fate. In
struggling with this they ever counted upon the
sympathy, the advice and the material aid of
Don Antonio and his tender-hearted wife,

The situation had reached a critical stage
when Helen Hunt Jackson appeared on the
scene. The statement of her mission and the
proffer of her assistance at once won the hearts
of Don Antonio and Dona Mariana. The mu-
tual confidence early established soon developed
into friendship and ripened into love; and the
last meeting of the trio was quite as pathetic
as was the first. Dona Mariana was very ill,
and believed she was on her death-bed. Helen
Hunt Jackson had responded to a summons,
and the speedy rally of the patient was doubt-
less largely due to her visit. " You are going
to get well, Mariana," said Mrs. Jackson.
" You will survive me. I feel that you will
live to complete my work." Only a few weeks
later Helen Hunt Jackson was among the blest.

A touching tribute to the affection between
Mrs. Jackson and Sefior de Coronel is her own
statement in a letter from her at San Fran-


To whom Helen Hunt Jackson brought a letter of introduction
and who introduced her to the Coronels.


Mexican woman, flitting about among the
plants, or sporting with a superb Saint Bernard
dog. Her clear olive skin, soft brown eyes,
delicate sensitive nostrils, and broad smiling
mouth, are all of the Spanish Madonna type;
and when her low brow is bound, as is often her
wont, by turban folds of soft brown or green
gauze, her face becomes a picture indeed. She
is the young wife of a gray-headed Mexican
senor, of whom by his own gracious permis-
sion I shall speak by his familiar name, Don

" Whoever has the fortune to pass as a friend
across the threshold of this house finds himself
transported, as by a miracle, into the life of
a half-century ago. The rooms are ornamented
with fans, shells, feather and wax flowers, pic-
tures, saints' images, old laces, and stuffs, in the
quaint gay Mexican fashion. On the day when
I first saw them, they were brilliant with bloom.
In every one of the deep window-seats stood a
cone of bright flowers, its base made by large
white datura blossoms, their creamy whorls all
turned outward, making a superb decoration.
I went for but a few moments' call. I stayed
three hours, and left carrying with me be-
wildering treasures of pictures of the olden




AT her initial interview with the Coronels
little more was accomplished than the
establishment of confidence. A second
conference was arranged for the following
week. It happened to be Christmas day, 1881,
a circumstance that appealed to Helen Hunt
Jackson only after her arrival at the hacienda,
so absorbed was she in other thoughts. Don
Antonio, Dona Mariana and their guest were
seated upon the broad veranda, the latter in-
tent upon the details of her hosts' relation of
Indian history and Indian wrongs, when the
conversation was interrupted by the appearance
in the yard of five mounted men, evidently in
great mental perturbation.

"More trouble," quietly suggested the Don,
accustomed to such visitations. " But it must
be unusually serious, for these are all chiefs of
their tribes, and their ponies indicate that they
have been ridden a long distance and very fast.



Excuse me for a moment while I try to discover
what it means."

The interview between the Don and the In-
dians was very animated, all talking at once.
Mrs. Jackson soon became as excited as were
the Indians. She could not understand their
language, it being a mixture of Spanish with
the tribal dialect; but their voices and manner
indicated the deepest distress, and it was not
difficult to perceive the import of their mission.
It soon developed that the water rights to their
lands, without which they were valueless, had
been sold to a syndicate of white men; and
these chiefs had come, as so often before, for
counsel from Sefior and Sefiora de Coronel.

On three distinct occasions had the life of
Don Antonio been saved by the timely interces-
sion of Mission Indians. The bond between
them was indissoluble. The Don was their
" padre," and Dona Mariana was in their sight
little less than a saint.

Mrs. Jackson begged the privilege of talk-
ing with the chiefs, and, with the help of her
friends in interpreting, she was soon established
in their confidence. The inspiration at that
moment seized her of visiting their villages,
and the foundation was laid for securing, as she
might in no other way, the fullest confirmation



" The white linen altar cloth, the cloth which the Senora
Moreno had with her own hands made into one solid front
of beautiful lace of the Mexican fashion * * * lay torn."
" Kamona."


of all that had been told her prior to their visit.
This was most pleasing to Don Antonio and
Dona Mariana, and the incident was regarded
as fortunate; for Helen Hunt Jackson was as-
sured of a welcome in the Indian settlements
such as otherwise might not have been ac-
corded her, and of knowledge that could be
acquired by no other means.

The details of the journey were soon ar-
ranged. It included a long and wearisome ride
over the mountains to the Indian settlements,
with a side trip of observation to Camulos
ranch, which the Coronels desired her to visit,
that she might get a better idea of a typical
Spanish abode, and because its occupants were
not only zealous children of the Church, but
traditional friends of the Indians as well. The
Coronels assured Mrs. Jackson that Camulos
ranch was one of the few remaining of the old
Spanish homesteads where the original of a
California hacienda still existed.

The " Century's " artist, the late Mr. Henry
Sandham, and Mr. Abbot Kinney accompanied
her on this journey. The owner and driver of
the carriage in which they first rode was Mr.
N. H. Mitchell, then conducting a livery stable
at Anaheim, California, and now residing in
Los Angeles.



It is not the purpose to follow Mrs. Jackson
in her wanderings over the San Jacinto moun-
tains. The details have been recorded in re-
ports to the Government, published as an ap-
pendix to the second edition of " A Century of
Dishonor." It is enough here to say that the
name of Helen Hunt Jackson is to this day
revered in the abode of every Mission In-
dian, and that, were it in the power of
these grateful people, it would long ago
have been placed in the Church calendar of

Judged by the accuracy of her description of
Camulos, it is likely the pictures she drew of
Indian life were faithful and conscientious.
She was at the ranch but a few hours, a cir-
cumstance which makes her portrayal of it all
the more remarkable. In the short time she
not only observed every detail of situation and
environment, but while there evolved the chief
incidents of the story.

" It was sheep-shearing time in Southern Cali-
fornia." The Indians from over the mountains
were there. All of the preparations described
in the opening chapters of " Ramona " had been
made. Father Salvierderra had come down
from the Santa Barbara Mission. The matin
songs had echoed through the court. Mass had



been said in the little chapel in the orange
grove. The altar cloth, made originally from
Dona Ysabel del Valle's wedding gown, was
spotless in its whiteness; but to the discerning
eye disclosed a patch; for Helen Hunt Jack-
son saw it, and every visitor there since has
seen it, although it is probable that on that par-
ticular day its existence was unknown even
to Sefiora del Valle, the widowed mistress of
Camulos. That dear, sweet soul, had been oc-
cupied with manifold household duties, and
may not have been as observant of the smaller

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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 2 of 14)