Carlyle Channing Davis.

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

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world of letters, for a squat Indian, with
straight, coarse black hair, thick lips and high
cheek bones, capable of sitting all day in a
bamboo wickiup and contenting herself with
the weaving of baskets, however beautiful in
themselves or symbolic in their conception.
At all events, he suggested that a little reflec-
tion would have saved these unfortunate in-
vestors much of their sentiment and some of
their money.

Inasmuch as the time of the story, by com-
parison of records and incidents, must have been
between 1840 and 1880, the life of the " real "
Ramona could hardly have been extended,
even by the liberal use of Aunt Ri's herb decoc-
tions, down to the twentieth century. And
again, if the " real " Ramona were indeed an
Indian, and had given her undivided time and
talents to the creation of baskets, it would
not have been possible, within the space of one
short life, to produce the large number that



have been purchased for the decoration of the
homes of Ramona-lovers all over the country,
and that yet comprise so large a proportion of
the stock of curio stores all over Ramonaland,
from Monterey to San Diego.

The writer came to California with the prin-
cipal facts regarding the inspiration, progress
and completion of the romance thoroughly
grounded in his mind. Mrs. Jackson had in
substance told him that the Coronels had in-
spired the story, had aided immensely in the
task of gathering material for it, and finally
had insisted that she should visit Camulos
ranch to secure the necessary local color.
Neither Guajome, which she had several times
visited, nor any other Southern California ranch
was referred to by her in connection with the
plot then in her mind for the romance of
" Ramona."

Dona Mariana de Coronel confirmed the
conviction already entertained regarding the
chief incidents, and urged a personal visit to
Camulos as almost essential to a correct under-
standing of all the incidents of the plot.

This latter suggestion was acted upon with-
out unnecessary loss of time. So often had
the hospitality of the del Valle household
been imposed upon by curiosity-seekers and



relic-hunters that a favorable introduction was
a thing to be prized. This the writer pro-
cured through the long acquaintance and close
intimacy of his wife with the family of Senator
del Valle of Los Angeles, and a most delight-
ful day was spent within the classic precincts
of the real home of the only Ramona that ever
existed, the character idealized from the per-
sons of Blanca Yndart and Guadalupe, the
little Indian ward of Dona Ysabel del Valle,
as heretofore stated.

The writer's wife, some time previously, had
spent an entire week as a guest at the ranch,
during which she had opportunity to thor-
oughly familiarize herself with animate and in-
animate features of the place. Members of the
del Valle family had pointed out the original
boundaries of the ranch, exactly correspond-
ing with Mrs. Jackson's description. It had
indeed extended " forty miles westward to the
sea, forty miles eastward into the San Fer-
nando Mountains, and an equal distance along
the coast line."

But Governor Pio Pico's grants had been
largely disallowed by the American authori-
ties, when they took over the country, and the
limitations of the princely ranch had been
greatly circumscribed. The crosses were yet



upon the hillsides to the north and the south
of the ranch house, that the heretics might
still know, " when they go by, that they are
on the estate of a good Catholic."

The "aroma of it all lingered there still."
It had not been an unusual thing, during Sefior
del Valle's day, for as many as fifty people to
be seated in the spacious dining-room at one
time. The working force of the ranch was
perhaps never quite so large, but the occasion
was rare when a dozen or more guests were
not being entertained.

It was a custom at Camulos, as at many
another Spanish home in the Mission days, to
place a basket of silver money in the room
of the passing guest, stranger though he
be, that he might replenish the financial needs
of his journey.

The resources of the ranch were large and
varied, and settlements for wool and fruit and
other foodstuffs came in large amounts. These
were almost invariably made in coin, and it
was the custom of the Sefior del Valle to keep
all of the funds in a large trunk or box, that
was never locked against any member of the
family, nor was any account ever kept of the
withdrawals made from time to time.

When the writer was there the pay-roll



probably did not include more than a quarter
of a hundred. But even from this diminished
number in the household it would not have
been difficult for the observer to select almost
every character of the romance from those
gathered in the patio and on the south veranda
of the typical old Spanish hacienda. Neither
Blanca Yndart, Guadalupe nor Senator del
Valle was there. But there was Senora del
Valle, still the uncrowned queen of the realm;
half-breeds of almost noble bearing, who easily
might represent Alessandro; and other per-
sonages who, without violent wrenching of
the imagination, might be taken for Juan
Canito, the chief herder, for Marda, the cook,
Anita and Maria, the forty-year-old twins,
" born on the place," and their two daughters,
Rosa and Anita the Little, for Jose, and all the
other characters of the story. There was
present more than one representative of old
Juanita, oldest of the household, "silly, and
good only to shell beans"; for to the day of
her death Sefiora del Valle maintained a goodly
little army of pensioned retainers, none of
whom could she think of turning away.

It has long been the custom to hold an an-
nual fiesta at Camulos ranch, a gathering of
the del Valle family and friends. A guest at



one of these annual gatherings wrote a de-
scription of it, published in " California of
the South," which is here submitted:

" The annual fiesta is a gathering of the del
Valle family and a few invited guests that takes
place in July, and lasts four days. The train
from Los Angeles arrived about noon of the
first day with twenty-five of the family and
friends. Sefiora del Valle stood at the en-
trance to the garden and welcomed each guest.
The visitors were quickly conducted to their
rooms, where water, comb and brush soon re-
moved all trace of the midsummer car-ride.
Dinner was then announced, and Senator Regi-
nald F. del Valle, a prominent Los Angeles
attorney, sat at the head of the table, which
was under a shady arbor in the garden but a
few steps from the chapel. Two barbecued
pigs, done to perfection, formed the principal
meat of this meal, but there were olives, cooked
and pickled, various Spanish dishes, contain-
ing almost invariably chiles (red peppers)
and olives, delicious dessert, claret and white
wine ad libitum, and the regulation black cof-
fee. Surrounding the table were members
of numerous distinguished Spanish-American
families. The two features that attracted the
particular attention of an American were the



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gallantry of the men and the beauty and vi-
vacity of the ladies.

" The afternoon was spent by the guests
hunting, riding, singing, reading, talking and
mountain-climbing, just as each one chose.
In this way of entertaining, and yet giving
each visitor perfect freedom to do just as he
pleased, the hostess and her daughters dis-
played rare tact. Watermelons and fruits of
various kinds were always at hand.

" At 7 P.M. another bountiful meal was
served in the arbor, which was brilliantly
lighted by lanterns fastened between the in-
numerable clusters of purple grapes that hung
overhead. This time two roasted kids were
served and delicious they were. After an
hour's walk, all gathered in the spacious par-
lor, and, with music on the piano, the organ
and the guitar, and vocal solos and choruses,
time quickly sped. Fireworks in the garden
closed the entertainment for the first day.
. " The next morning all were out bright and
happy, and at breakfast, where everything
was served with the usual profusion, the
American would notice that olives were again
eaten by all, which leads to a reflection in re-
gard to the value of this ancient food.

"After breakfast an hour was spent by the



good hostess and her Catholic guests in the

"A fat young steer was then lassoed by a
vaquero, the aorta was dexterously severed
with a knife, and then began some dissecting
that would have surprised the most skillful
anatomist. The skin was quickly and neatly
taken off and spread out to protect the beef
from the earth; the muscles were then, layer
after layer, deftly removed, and in an incredibly
short time this Mexican butcher had the meat
ready for the fire.

_ ,"A fire in a pit near by had been heating
stones, which were now red-hot. Iron rods
were laid across the pit, and the whole beef
put on to roast for dinner.

"The noon train from Los Angeles added
materially to the number of guests, and
seventy-five as happy people as ever lived sat
around the heavily-laden table under the grape-
vines. What a delicious meal that was! The
eating was happily interspersed with laughter,
conversation and brilliant repartee.

"After the dessert had been enjoyed toasts
were in order, and following those to the del
Valle family, and Southern California, a gray-
headed Mexican gentleman, after delivering
a fervid, eloquent eulogy upon, proposed a



toast to the memory of Helen Hunt Jackson,
which was drank standing. How true the
statement: 'Mrs. Jackson is dead, but her
work still lives in the hearts of the people of
Southern California/ "

The Ramona jewels were not exhibited, nor
yet referred to, upon this visit of the writer.
There was no occasion for it. They had all
been given to Blanca Yndart, upon the occa-
sion of her marriage to James Maguire, about
1878. Blanca had removed them, with other
belongings, to her home at Newhall, a town
midway between Los Angeles and Camulos.

The nomenclature, " Ramona jewels," is mis-
leading, since the property, in addition to
jewels, included a large trunk filled to reple-
tion with dress skirts, waists, shawls, bolts of
silk and of satin, and female lingerie generally.
Most if not all of these were rich and costly,
some of them very old, and all highly

It is an habitual practice of the old Span-
ish families to retain clothing for years, and
in the attic of the ranch house at Camulos
there were not less than thirty trunks filled
with clothing that had been accumulating for
generations. Often skirts were made over for
the children, but the waists, on account of



changing fashions and perhaps for other rea-
sons, could not be so utilized, and in these
trunks were samples of the fashions of numer-
ous decades.

The jewel case in the "secret closet" back
of the statue of Saint Catherine, to which
Sefiora Moreno is made to point in her dying
conversation with Felipe, is the purest myth.
There never was such a secret closet in the
wall at Camulos, and Mrs. Jackson used it
simply to heighten the reader's interest and
add to the tensity of the situation.

The Ramona jewels, until removed by
Blanca Yndart, remained in a large trunk under
the bed in Sefiora del Valle's chamber. They
remained there many years, and there may
have been many reasons for so keeping them
segregated from the other trunks and boxes.
None was volunteered and no explanation in-
vited. Sight of the trunk itself was of more
than ordinary interest to the writer. The
jewels, as well as some of the rich fabrics, had
been seen before. Mrs. Maguire had caused
some of the former to be put in more modern
settings, and much of the silks and satins had*
been worked up into garments for herself and

The significant fact about the Ramona jewels



is that they correspond almost exactly with the
description given of them in " Ramona."

Title to Camulos ranch now vests in the
"del Valle Estate," incorporated, and doubt-
less always will remain an asset of the younger
members. At this writing its affairs are being
managed by a son, Ulpiano del Valle, the
mother having died March 28, 1905.




TO define a gentleman one might go far
afield without disclosing a more pro-
nounced exemplar than is Hon. Regi-
nald F. del Valle, eldest son of Don Ygnacio
and Sefiora del Valle, who of all the human
documents yet living is most readily identi-
fied as the person Mrs. Jackson had in mind
in the idealization of the character of Felipe
in the romance. Attire him in Spanish garb,
as the artist Henry Sandham has properly
done, and the portraits are not wholly unlike.
Senator del Valle left Camulos ranch early
in life to prepare himself for the practice of
law, a profession he has graced for a quarter
of a century in Los Angeles. Without undue
self-seeking upon his part he has during that
period been honored with many positions of
distinction and trust. He always has been a
consistent and active member of the Demo-



cratic party, ever prominent in its councils,
and not infrequently called upon to preside
over its state conventions. Once he was a
candidate for Lieutenant-Governor of Califor-
nia, at another time he served a term with
great credit in the State Senate, securing for
Los Angeles the State Normal school, and
again was a delegate to the national conven-
tion of his party. At this time he is serving
the City of Los Angeles in the honorary posi-
tion of a member of the Municipal Water
Board, a most important post during the period
of bringing the Owens River to the city's gate.
It was understood that, in the event of the elec-
tion of Mr. Bryan, in 1896, Senator del Valle
was to have the post of Ambassador to Mexico.
It is an interesting circumstance, in this con-
nection, that the romance of Mrs. Jackson
closes with the arrival and settlement of Felipe
and his beautiful bride in the Mexican capital.
Of this the author says : " The story of the ro-
mance of their lives, being widely rumored,
greatly enhanced the interest with which they
were welcomed. The beautiful young Sefiora
Moreno was the theme of the city; and Felipe's
bosom thrilled with pride to see the gentle
dignity of demeanor by which she was dis-
tinguished in all assemblages."



In the spring of 1913 affairs throughout the
Republic of Mexico were in such chaotic con-
dition, owing to the movements of various
revolutionary bodies, that the Administration
at Washington felt impelled to withhold recog-
nition of the provisional government repre-
sented by General Huerta until reliable assur-
ances could be given of its ability to maintain
a stable government and to give adequate pro-
tection to the lives and property of all classes
of people. That dependable information might
be obtained from the various opposing factions
in the republic, President Wilson determined
to send a personal representative into Mexico,
to report such facts as might be developed
directly to him, to the end that such action as
might finally be taken by the government of
the United States should be based upon indis-
putable facts, gathered by a person wholly dis-
interested. The mission was a peculiarly deli-
cate one, calling for the highest order of
intelligence, of tact and diplomacy. That the
distinction should fall upon Hon. Reginald
Francisco del Valle, of California, was not cal-
culated to surprise anyone, since his entire
fitness for the trust was and is universally

Senator del Valle, his wife and daughter



All are barred. " It had been a long, sad day for Ramona ;
and as she sat in her window * * * and looked at Alessandro
pacing up and down, she felt for the first time * * * that she
was glad he loved her." " Ramona,"


The eldest son of the mistress of Camulos ranch, the same rela-
tion as Felipe to Senora Moreno of " Ramona."


accompanying him, went to Mexico, and at
this writing he is in the City of Mexico, per-
forming the duty assigned him by the Presi-
dent of the United States.

This mission to the capital of Mexico calls
vividly to mind the consummation of the story
of " Ramona." Felipe and Ramona, with the
latter's infant daughter, went to Monterey,
where they boarded a vessel and sailed for
Mexico City, and were there married and lived.

The somewhat phenomenal presentation of
" The Mission Play," Mr. John S. McGroarty's
magnificent and educational creation, at old
San Gabriel, near Los Angeles, daily during
the spring and summer of 1913, and later in
San Francisco and other cities, has significance
in this connection from the circumstance that
the title role was assumed by Miss Lucretia
Louise del Valle, the only child of the Senator,
and the further fact that the old garret at
Camulos contributed very largely to the young
lady's strikingly beautiful native wardrobe,
deemed essential to the proper presentation of
the play.

In enacting the leading feminine role Miss
del Valle is appareled to represent the Spanish
dress style of 1847. The costly and elaborate

dress she wears in the character belonged to



her grandmother, Seiiora del Valle, and the
beautiful shawl that adorns her shoulders was
given to the grandmother by her grandfather
in 1852, when the latter was a member of the
California legislature. The coiffure worn by
her also belonged to the grandmother, and was
the style of dressing the hair in 1847.

Senator del Valle has related to the authors
the effect of " Ramona " on his mother's fam-
ily. They suffered in two ways, he said. The
public accepted his mother, Senora del Valle,
the widowed owner of Camulos ranch, as the
original of the character of Senora Moreno of
the romance, and to her were attributed all
the faults, imperfections and eccentricities of
Senora Moreno. Public prejudice and criti-
cism were harshly directed toward the noble
and saintly Senora del Valle, who was in life
the direct opposite of Senora Moreno in the
latter's hatred and cruelty of Ramona. The
authors especially refer the reader to the chap-
ter in this volume of which Senora del Valle is
the subject.

For several years subsequent to the publica-
tion of " Ramona," 1884, tourist excursions to
California were mainly those conducted by a
Boston firm, and were composed of New Eng-
land people. Camulos ranch, the home of Ra-



The widowed mistress of Camulos ranch, accepted as Senora
Moreno of " Ramona."


Daughter of Senator R. F. del Valle, and granddaughter of the
mistress of Camulos ranch, appareled as she appears in the lead-
ing feminine role of Mr. John S. McGroarty's magnificent pro-
duction, the Mission Play, San Gabriel, California, 1913. The
fan, coiffure, shawl and dress were owned by Senora del Valle,
the grandmother, and show the Spanish style of dress of 1847.


mona, was one of the California places of
greatest interest to them; and, by special ar-
rangement, the Southern Pacific train stopped
at the ranch for a sufficient time to permit the
tourists to visit the home of Ramona.

Senator del Valle yet grows indignant when
talking of the conduct of the New Englanders.
They were rude, he asserts, and wholly ill-
mannered. They picked the flowers and fruit,
swarmed over the yard and gardens, took valu-
able articles for souvenirs, and invaded the
dwelling uninvited; and, on one occasion, when
in the room described in the novel as having
been the sleeping apartment of Ramona, a
woman threw herself on the bed, exclaiming,
" Now I can say I have laid on Ramona's

Such unseemly and rough conduct resulted
in the ranch being closed to the Boston firm's
excursionists, Senator del Valle himself writing
the order to the firm, and declaiming against
the perpetration of " Boston manners," as he
put it, on Camulos ranch.

At this time parties are courteously and gra-
ciously permitted to enter the ranch at the old
dwelling; but they are expected to demean
themselves properly.




CAMULOS ranch has by universal acclaim
been accepted as the home of Ramona.
The evidence conclusively establishes
this fact. Naturally we turn there for the
originals of the principal characters of the

We have heretofore asserted that Blanca
Yndart and Guadalupe, the Indian girl, both
wards of Sefiora del Valle, the mistress of
Camulos, most likely suggested to Mrs. Jack-
son, in the blending of their lives, the charac-
ter of Ramona, and that Reginald F. del
Valle, the eldest son of the family, could truly
be taken as the original of Felipe.

What Mrs. Jackson did not see or hear of
the del Valle household when at Camulos was
detailed to her by the Coronels. The fact that
she did not meet Sefiora del Valle, because of
the latter's absence from home on a mission of
mercy elsewhere, weighed but little. Mrs.



Jackson let nothing escape her. She tena-
ciously and retentively sought full knowledge
of every person and thing that were incident to
her travels.

On meeting the Coronels after her visit to
Camulos ranch, Mrs. Jackson was gleeful and
enthusiastic over her trip there. She wanted
all possible information concerning Senora
del Valle, her deceased husband, Blanca Yn-
dart, Guadalupe, Reginald F. del Valle, the
eldest son, and other members of the house-
hold, and of the customs of the ranch.

The strong religious part of the personality
of Senora del Valle was pictured to Mrs. Jack-
son by the Coronels, who knew that devout
woman intimately; and it may be correctly
asserted that the religious devotion portrayed
in the character of Senora Moreno was sug-
gested by the saintly and religious life of
Senora del Valle.

But the harsh and unlovable disposition of
Senora Moreno her haughty, merciless and
cruel nature which crushed Ramona and drove
her out into the night with an Indian sheep-
shearer was never intended by Mrs. Jackson
to be attributed to Senora del Valle, whose dis-
position, charity, nobleness and sympathy were

the beautiful gems in her sweet character.



Mrs. Jackson desired it to be distinctly un-
derstood that she was not writing history in
giving to the world the story of " Ramona."
Nowhere in the novel does she specify Camulos
ranch by name. The character of Sefiora Mo-
reno was of her own creation, into whose life
were injected these features of Sefiora del Valle :
widowhood, the owner and mistress of an old
California hacienda, devoutness to the Catholic
Church, and having a son within the descrip-
tion of the magnanimous character of Felipe.

And it is because Mrs. Jackson drew from
Sefiora del Valle the good qualities given to
Senora Moreno of "Ramona," that makes the
former an important and interesting person-
age in the story of " Ramona." And it was
Sefiora del Valle who was the mistress of
Camulos ranch, who maintained the chapel
there, from whose dress the torn altar cloth
was made, who maintained the Mission bells,
whose hospitality was extended to all who
came upon her estate, and who "caused to be
set up upon every one of the soft rounded hills
which made the beautiful rolling sides of that
part of the valley, a large wooden cross, . . .
that the faithful may be reminded to pray."

Senora Ysabel del Valle was one of the
noblest women ever created, distinguished far



and wide for those characteristics that made
her life a distinct blessing to all with whom
she came in contact, and her death a loss from
which a wide community has not yet ceased to

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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 6 of 14)