Carlyle Channing Davis.

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

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suffer acutely or to mourn without surcease.

In older times saints were made of such ma-
terial; and were we living in the fourteenth
rather than the twentieth century we certainly
would have a Saint Ysabel.

So true, so sincere, so devout, so constant,
was her devotion to the Church of Rome, that
when she died Bishop Conaty of Los Angeles
took it upon himself to make all the arrange-
ments for the funeral, saying to the family,
"she belongs to us, not to you, and the
Church claims all the privileges of caring for
its own."

From "The Tidings," the authorized organ
of the Catholic Church of the Los Angeles
diocese, we take the following concerning
Sefiora del Valle and her funeral:

" Sefiora del Valle was the daughter of Don
Cerval Varela and Dona Ascencion Avila.
Don Varela took an active part in the war
with the United States and led an attack
against the Americans at Rancho del Chino.
He was the possessor of large tracts of land on

which is now Boyle Heights and was owner of



the site where the Catholic orphanage now

" Sefiorita del Varela married Don Ygnacio
del Valle, a man prominent in the history of
California, and who controlled many of the
large ranches in the San Fernando Valley.
The ceremony was performed at the Church
of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, De-
cember 14, 1851.

"As the funeral cortege passed the orphan
asylum on Boyle Heights three hundred or
more of the children of that institution, dressed
in white, stood in line by the roadside and
recited aloud the prayers for the dead.

" To the few mourners who had lived in the
early days and whose minds were treasured
with the memories of Senora del Valle's youth,
who had witnessed the trend of her young life
as it molded itself into the woman and she
became known as an exemplar among a people
where the reign of honor and hospitality seemed
to reach no bounds, the spectacle of these
motherless children appealed most strikingly,
and the days of the old Camulos were again re-
called; days when great herds of stock wan-
dered over the hills and valleys of the famous
rancho, and the orchards hung heavy with the
products of the fruitful seasons.


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" Life was much the same at Camulos as on
the other great ranches, and as the travel-worn
stranger passed on his journey, by horse or
afoot, he stopped for a while at the household
where a welcome was never wanting.

" The mistress of the rancho attended per-
sonally to the details of the home-life, and from
the break of dawn when the chapel bells called
all to the morning devotion, she watched over
her family and the servants of the household
with a firmness and gentleness of manner which
won a love and respect that time has never

"Instances of Sefiora del Valle's charity are
innumerable, and race or creed did not enter
into her thoughts when, whatever the hour of
need, she was called upon to care for the poor
or distressed.

" She had been removed to Los Angeles sev-
eral years before her death, where she made
her home with her daughter, Mrs. Josefa For-
ster, at whose residence she died. In her last
moments she begged to be taken to Camulos
that she might die amid scenes which were
the dearest to her on earth, where her children
had been raised and where her husband was
lying under the altar of the little chapel."

" The Tidings " is mistaken as to the burial



place of the husband of Senora del Valle. He
was buried in the family graveyard at Camulos,
but his remains were afterward removed and
reinterred in the Catholic Cemetery at Los

At the close of the funeral exercises after
the absolution, Rt. Rev. Bishop Conaty said:

" While it is contrary to the established rules
of the parish to deliver a eulogy over the dead,
I feel that this occasion is one which will allow
the rule to be set aside out of respect for the
memory of the services rendered religion by
the good woman whose death is universally

" She represented a type of womanhood, the
glory of the Church, as well as of the com-
munity in which it is found. She was a woman
whose life was dominated by the spirit of abso-
lute and simple faith, which led her through a
long life to untold deeds of kindness and charity.
Her faith was something more than profession;
it expressed itself in the everyday act of re-
ligion and charity.

" Her home was the center of her affections,
and the love of husband and children caught
its glow from the love of God, which char-
acterized her entire life. The ranch home at
Camulos was the home of hospitality and the



Made of the first gold found in California. (Permission of Miss
Annie B. Picker, Pasadena.)


center of the religious life of all who came in
contact with it. Her love of faith led her to
a love for the altar and the priesthood, and the
first gift of her olive harvest was in the oil
needed for the Holy Thursday consecration in
the Diocesan Cathedral.

" As a young woman, wife and mother, the
Sefiora of Camulos was a model of Christian
womanhood, and she leaves the sweetest mem-
ories of all that stands for goodness of life in
Christian virtue. This type of woman is the
outcome of faith in the Church which she
loved. It is needed in our civilization to teach
us the beauty of home-life in which the service
of God is the source and spirit of God, the in-
spiration. Such women are the bulwarks of
our civilization and the pride of our humanity."

To the smallest detail Sefiora del Valle was
buried as a church dignitary would have been,
and when asked for the expense bill by a fam-
ily well able and more than willing to pay, the
members of it were denied the privilege of par-
ticipating even in that.

After Don Ygnacio del Valle passed away,
and until her own death, Sefiora del Valle was
never seen with uncovered head. The nature of
her husband's illness had been such that he could
not lie down with comfort, and he died while


sitting in a chair. His devoted wife sat close
to and directly in front of him, and when the
final moment came and the last flickering spark
of life went out, his head gently dropped upon
that of his wife, their foreheads meeting. The
Senora wore at the time a light mantilla, a cus-
tom of Spanish ladies. Her husband's life had
gone out while his head rested upon it, and
thereafter this covering was never removed,
day or night, save upon a few occasions when
it became necessary to replace it temporarily
with a bonnet. This circumstance accentuates
the Sefiora's unyielding devotion to whatever
she regarded as a sacred duty.




IT may be correctly asserted that nearly
every character of " Ramona " had its
original, either in whole or in part. Mr.
Abbot Kinney was a co-commissioner with
Mrs. Jackson in an official investigation into
the condition of the Mission Indians of South-
ern California. Referring to their joint re-
port to the Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Kin-
ney says : " It was made by Mrs. Jackson and
myself, and it was in the investigations that
led to the making of it that the book ' Ra-
mona ' was born. We actually saw some of
the incidents described; many of the facts were
developed by the witnesses, all of whom we
examined under oath. We met with many of
the characters whose pictures were afterwards
drawn with startling fidelity by Mrs. Jackson
in the pages of her book."

Mr. Henry Sandham, the " Century's "
artist, who accompanied Mrs. Jackson on her
journeys through Southern California, wrote


thus: "As for the characters themselves, I
have now in my possession sketches and
studies made from life at the time of meeting
the originals, meetings that were often as much
fraught with meaning for me as they were for
Mrs. Jackson."

In other chapters of this volume it is stated
that the character of Sefiora Moreno was
suggested to Mrs. Jackson in part by Dona
Ysabel del Valle, widowed mistress of Camulos
ranch; that Ramona was a blending of two
members of the del Valle family, Blanca
Yndart, a Spanish girl, now Mrs. James Ma-
guire, residing with her daughter at Los An-
geles, and Guadalupe, a Mission Indian girl,
given to Sefiora del Valle when a child by a
Piru chief; and that in Felipe was the por-
trayal of the eldest son of the mistress of
Camulos ranch, Don Reginald Francisco del
Valle. , Guadalupe is married and now resides
in Arizona.


It has been a vain search to identify any
living person as Alessandro. Sheep-shearing
bands in Southern California were numerous
at the time laid for the story, and each had its



In the Coronel Collection at the Los An-
geles Chamber of Commerce is a photograph
of Rojerio Rocha, choir leader at San Fer-
nando Mission and a violin player, whose lands
were shamefully appropriated by white men,
one of whom is now a well-to-do and promi-
nent resident of Los Angeles. This Indian
singer and violinist was well known to the
Coronels, and they told Mrs. Jackson of him in
detail. He has been declared by many to have
suggested the character of Alessandro.

Like Alessandro, Rojerio was a violin player
and a singer. He played from notes and had
a fine voice, the finest in the old Mission choir.
The old people about the Mission even now
tell of the wonderful playing of the violin by

He was also an expert blacksmith and silver-
smith, and performed both services at the Mis-
sion for many years. He formed much of the
beaten gold and silver plate used by the Mis-
sion fathers, and it was his skill that fashioned
the elaborately silver-ornamented bridles used
by the wealthy senores of the Mission days.

Rojerio married and continued to live at the
Mission until the padres were driven from it.
Then General Pico gave him a small tract of
fertile land three miles to the east of the Mis-



sion, near Pacoima Creek. But the white men
were driving the Indians from their posses-
sions, and one day Rojerio and his family, with
all their belongings, were forced into a wagon,
and taken away and dumped on the San Fer-
nando county road. That night it rained, and
the outcasts were without shelter or food.
Rojerio's wife was then quite sickly, and be-
cause of the exposure she died in the road
where they had been put.

Rojerio never forgot the awful wrong. He
had deep disdain for Americans and their honor.
He knew of the location of the mine which
furnished the Mission padres the gold which
made the San Fernando Mission famous for
its gold plate. A short time before his death
Rojerio showed to an Indian friend a large
nugget of almost pure gold, saying that he
would tell him of the location of the mine, if
a deed were so drawn that no American could
ever get possession of it.

When in 1846 the San Fernando Mission
padres anticipated and feared an attack by the
Americans they hurried away all the gold
plate in the Mission and secretly buried it. In
late years Rojerio was credited with being the
only living person who knew where the valu-
able treasure was hidden, and he declared that



Choir leader and violin player at San Fernando Mission, whose

attainments Mrs. Jackson used in creating


the character of


he was one of the persons who carried the plate
from the Mission and buried it; yet he so hated
the Americans because of the wrong done him
by white men, that he persistently refused to
disclose the place where the golden treasure
was secreted.

A few weeks before his death he took from
an old chest in his home a part of a sheep's
hide, tanned on the inside, on which were
tracings, arrows and crosses and other char-
kcters. This skin he gave to an old Indian
companion, with the statement that the trac-
ings and marks on it had been made by the
Mission padres, and showed the location of the
lost Mission plate, said to be of the value of
not less than one million dollars.

Later this sheepskin was delivered by the
Indian friend of Rojerio's, after the latter's
death, to some white men, for a price paid and
a promise to give a good share of the gold
plate, if found. One of these men was a client
of the writer, and the latter undertook, with
others, the translation and deciphering of this
chart. All agreed that the drawing led from
the Mission buildings eastward to Pacoima
canon, thence up the creek from the base line
of the mountains one mile. A marking on the
skin which we interpreted to indicate a certain


sycamore tree proved accurate. The tree stood
on the south side of the canon at the edge
of the creek's bank. Directly across from this
tree was a flat rock imbedded in the side of
the canon, which was another of the points
indicated by the marks on the skin.

Distances were minutely measured. Every
effort to locate the spot where the golden
treasure lay was made with scientific accurate-
ness. All agreed as to the place where dig-
ging should begin. The utmost secrecy was
attempted. The work of uncovering the
hunted gold began. Watchers were stationed
up and down the canon.

The first work was in sinking a shaft to a
depth of twenty feet, as indicated by the sheep-
skin chart. Then a drift was cut to the west,
as indicated by the drawings on the skin.
Day after day, and often at night, the work

Two strangers appeared on the scene, de-
claring that they knew the men there were
hunting for the buried plate belonging to the
San Fernando Mission, and if the gold were
found the Church would claim it. The lawyers
advised continuing the work, and if the treas-
ure should be found then to meet the demand
of the Church, if any.



When what the expert ground men declared
to have been an old tunnel was encountered
in running the drift from the bottom of the
twenty-foot shaft, there was great consterna-
tion and hope. All were enthused. Night
shifts were put on. They dug and dug on, but
in vain.

Hope died, and the attempt to find the golden
plate with the aid of Rojerio's sheepskin was

This identical sheepskin is in the possession
of one of the authors.

Seiiora de Coronel relates and vouches for the
correctness of the following story of Rojerio,
which he told her and her husband with tears
and sobs. He went to them as the refuge
and helper of the troubled Indian.

Pacoima Creek, which empties into San Fer-
nando valley near the town of that name, was
swollen and filled with a torrent of water.
The white men, who had taken his land
and resented his remonstrance, tied Rojerio's
hands behind him, fastened a rope around his
waist, securing the other end to a rock, then
threw him into the creek, and left him to what
seemed certain death.

Rojerio was swiftly carried to the length
of the rope, and then into a sycamore tree, to



the branches of which he desperately clung for
a day and a night, when the water in the swol-
len stream subsided and he managed to free
his hands and escape.

Rojerio died in 1904 at an age supposed
to have been near one hundred years. He was
a giant in stature, and a Hercules in strength.
A century of years did not bend his form.
He was " as straight as an Indian " to the
time of his death.

The life of this Indian must have impressed
Mrs. Jackson, and his accomplishments and
sufferings doubtless suggested some of the fea-
tures and experiences of Alessandro. An In-
dian who could sing well and play the violin
entertainingly was a rarity. Rojerio is the
only one possessing such accomplishments of
whom the Coronels told Mrs. Jackson, and it
is a reasonable inference that the musical at-
tainments Mrs. Jackson gave to the Indian
Alessandro, the hero of her novel, were sug-
gested by the story of Rojerio.

Mrs. Jackson was particularly interested in
the sad experience of Pablo Assis, chief of the
Temecula Indians. After returning to Colo-
rado Springs she wrote to the Coronels of her
intention to write a novel, " in which," quot-
ing from the letter, "will be set forth some




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Indian experiences in a way to move people's
hearts. ... I would like an account, written
in as much detail as you remember, of the time
when you, dear Mr. Coronel, went to Temecula
and marked off the boundaries of the Indians'
lands there. How many Indians were living
there then? What crops had they? Had they
a chapel? Was Pablo Assis, their chief, alive?
I would like to know his whole history, life,
death, and all, minutely/'

Mrs. Jackson made her Alessandro the son
of Pablo Assis, the Temecula Indian chief, and
the sheep-shearers Temecula Indians. Pablo
Assis had a son, but his name, disposition and
attainments are unknown.

The experiences of Alessandro, as portrayed
by Mrs. Jackson, aside from the Ramona love
part, were real as to different Indians. There
were the Temecula ejectment, the wanderings
of members of that tribe and the killing of
Juan Diego, a crazy Indian, on a spur of
the San Jacinto Mountains, by Sam Temple,
for horse-stealing, just as related in the
story to have been the tragic death of Ales-

So far as can be discovered the character of
Alessandro must be taken as original with Mrs.
Jackson, created by her without reference to



any particular person, unless it was Rojerio


What has been already said as to the char-
acter of Ramona may be supplemented by as-
serting that she was not Ramona Diego, wife
of the Indian killed for horse stealing by Sam
Temple, and known as Ramona Lubo, or the
Cahuilla Ramona. This woman is squat, fat
and unattractive. She and her baskets have
been commercialized to a ridiculous extent.
Susceptible tourists travel far to see her, buy
the baskets she offers for sale and look upon
her as the real Ramona of Mrs. Jackson's
novel. Far from it.

The identity of names in this instance does
not prove identity of person. " Ramona " is a
common name among Indians and Mexicans.
It is the feminine of " Ramon," which means
the tops of branches cut for food for sheep in
snowy weather. The name is beautiful and
easily spoken.

In a previous chapter we have told of how
Mrs. Jackson was attracted by the name " Ra-
mona" when she first heard it, and of her

declaration to the Coronels that she would use



Wife of Juan Diego, killed by Jim Farrar of " Ramona," with
her star basket. She is an expert basket maker and hundreds of
baskets, many not made by her, have been sold as her product,
and under the erroneous statement that she is the " Real


the name as the title to her proposed novel.

Every woman Mrs. Jackson met or heard of
in California bearing the name " Ramona " is
supposed to be the real Ramona of her genius.
Mrs. Hartsel, of Temecula, who was Mrs. Ra-
mona Wolfe, is accordingly, by some, declared
to be the real Ramona; but she was not.

The care with which Mrs. Jackson selected
the names for her characters is evidenced by a
letter from her to Senor and Sefiora de Coronel
containing the following: "I am still at work
on my story (' Ramona ') It is more than
half done. I wish you would ask those Indian
women who made the lace for me what would
be, in their Pala or San Luis Rey dialect, the
words for Blue Eyes. I want to have a little
child called by that name in my story, if the
Indian name is not too harsh to the ear."

The " little child " proved to be the first-born
of Alessandro and Ramona. It had blue eyes,
a natural repetition of the eyes of Ramona's
paternal Scotch ancestors. The child was
named " Eyes of the Sky," but the Indian word
is not given in the novel. It is related, how-
ever, that at the baptismal, "when Father
Gaspara took the little one in his arms, and
made the sign of the cross on her brow, he
pronounced with some difficulty the syllables



of the Indian name, which meant ' Blue Eyes,'
or Eyes of the Sky. 1 "

When asked concerning this incident Seiiora
de Coronel said: "I remember Mrs. Jackson's
letter asking for the Indian name for ' Blue
Eyes.' My husband answered it. He knew the
name and gave it to Mrs. Jackson. I cannot
now recall it. It is a peculiar name."

The selection of the names of two of the
helpers at Camulos ranch and Felipe, the eld-
est son of Senora Moreno, may be reasonably
conjectured. When at San Luis Key Mis-
sion Mrs. Jackson attended the funeral serv-
ices of an old Indian woman named Margarita,
whose life was told to Mrs. Jackson, and
greatly interested her. Margarita was a sis-
ter of Manuelito, a famous chief of several
bands of the San Luisenos. Mrs. Jackson went
ten miles from San Luis Rey Mission to the
home of this old woman, at Potrero, passing
the night there. The name Margarita she
gave to "the youngest and prettiest of the
maids" at Camulos.

Mrs. Jackson attended a sheep-shearing at
La Puente ranch, a part of the late " Lucky "
Baldwin's estate, and thus describes an incident
of the occasion : " As soon as the shearers per-
ceived that their pictures were being drawn by




the artist in our party, they were all agog; by
twos and threes they left their work and
crowded around the carriage, peering, com-
menting, asking to have their portraits taken,
quizzing those whose features they recognized.
All were ready to pose and stand, even in the
most difficult attitudes, as long as was required.
Those who had done so asked, like children,
if their names could not be put in the book;
so I wrote them all down : ' Juan Canero,
Juan Rivera, Felipe Ybara, Jose Jesus Lopez,
and Domingo Garcia.' "

Here is evidenced her knowledge of the name
Felipe. Juan Canero could have reasonably
suggested Juan Canito, the name of the head-
shepherd at Camulos.

Father Salvierderra

The noble character given to Father Salvier-
derra by Mrs. Jackson is not overdrawn.
There were many of the Franciscan Fathers
who lived the pure, sweet, unselfish life por-
trayed of this priest in " Ramona."

There was an original of Father Salvier-
derra. The statement of this fact by Mr.
Henry Sandham, the artist, should be con-
clusive. He bore a commission from the



" Century Magazine " to accompany Mrs. Jack-
son on her California travels. It is his work
that adorns Little, Brown & Company's edi-
tion of " Ramona," 1900. One of the paintings
from which the illustrations are taken is the
original of Father Salvierderra.

Mr. Sandham thus refers to his work with
Mrs. Jackson: "At the time of the California
sojourn I knew neither the name nor the exact
details of the proposed book; but I did know
that the general plan was a defense of the
Mission Indians, together with a plea for the
preservation of the Mission buildings, and so
on; the whole to be enveloped in the mystery
and poetry of romance. I had thus sufficient
knowledge of the spirit of the text to work
with keener zest upon the sketches for the
illustrations; sketches which, it may be of in-
terest to know, were always made on the spot,
with Mrs. Jackson close at hand, suggesting
emphasis to this object or prominence to that,
as it was to have special mention in the book.
... As for the characters themselves, I have
now in my possession sketches and studies
made from life at the time of my meeting the
originals a meeting that was often as much
fraught with meaning for me as it was for
Mrs. Jackson. ... As illustrative of the au-



thor's fidelity to truth in character drawing, I
shall mention but one of the many real char-
acters; namely, the original of Father Salvier-
derra. This character is positively startling
in its accurateness. I knew the original Father
well, and often sought his assistance and advice.
I remember I needed him once while at work in
the Santa Barbara Mission, and failing to find

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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 7 of 14)