Carlyle Channing Davis.

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

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him in any other of his favorite haunts, I
entered the church, where I found him kneel-
ing before the altar praying. He looked up as
I entered, and with his usual lovable smile,
said : * I will be with you in a few minutes, my
son.' Shortly he arose to his feet, threw his
arm around my neck, and leaning on my
shoulder (he was then well past seventy years
of age) he asked as we passed down the cor-
ridor, ' What can I do to help you? ' In this
question lay the keynote of his whole life.
At another time, as we walked through the
garden, he stooped, and putting his hand under
one of the gorgeous California poppies, re-
marked, as he turned its face up to me, ' Is not
our little brother beautiful? ' ... In my studio
I have the venerable Father's complete costume,
given me at the time I was making the * Ra-
mona' sketches; it includes the cassock, cowl,
sandals and hempen girdle with its symbolical



five knots. The sandals are well worn and the
cowl bleached and faded by the sun marks
of the endless round of toils and duties so
faithfully described by Mrs. Jackson."

The omission by Mr. Sandham of the true
name of the original of Father Salvierderra left
the identity of that person in doubt. But the
authors labored unceasingly to identify the
original and with success.

The fact that the original was one of the
Fathers at Old Mission, Santa Barbara, did
not give certainty to the labor of discovery;
for there have been, as there now are, many
saintly characters within the confines of that
Mission whose devout and unselfish lives have
been a part of the work and history of the
Catholic Church in Southern California.

Father Joseph J. O'Keefe, of Old Mission,
Santa Barbara, was suggested to the authors
as the original of Father Salvierderra. This
thought gave a lead to the real Father Sal-
vierderra of " Ramona." He was not Father
O'Keefe, but he died in the arms of this noble
and venerable Franciscan, who yet lives, and,
though feeble, is still in active service at St.
Francis' Orphanage, Watsonville, California.

We may positively and correctly assert that
the original of Father Salvierderra was Fr.







Father Francisco de Jesus Sanchez, O. S. F., Old Mission
Santa Barbara, the original of Father Salvierderra of " Ramona."
" His benevolent face is well known throughout the country.
* * * He gives away garment after garment, leaving himself
without protection against cold. * * * He often kneels from
midnight to dawn on the stone floor of the church, praying
and chanting psalms." (Mrs. Jackson in "Glimpses of Cali-
fornia and the Missions")


Francisco de Jesus Sanchez, O.F.M., of the
Santa Barbara Mission. The records and
traditions of this Mission, and evidence from
other sources, establish this fact.

The Rev. Father Conradine Wallbraun, of
the Old Mission, Santa Barbara, answering a
letter the authors wrote to the Rev. Father
Guardian of that Mission concerning the origi-
nal of Father Salvierderra, says in part: "The
Rev. Fr. Guardian of our Mission has author-
ized me to give you the desired information
about the noble character, Rev. Father Sal-
vierderra, in ' Ramona.' The hero is Rev. Fr.
Francisco Sanchez, O.F.M., who died here in
the Old Mission in 1884, at the side of Rev.
Fr. J. O'Keefe, O.F.M., who is still living at
our establishment in Watsonville, California,
St. Francis' Orphanage. The Rev. Fr.
O'Keefe, O.F.M., was then not well past
seventy, since he was born in 1843. The death
of Fr. Francisco Sanchez is well described by
Mrs. Helen Hunt Jackson. Fr. O'Keefe, in
whose arms the saintly Father expired, can
testify to it."

At the request of the authors Father O'Keefe
has written of Father Francisco Sanchez and
his death expressly for this volume, and the
article is here given in full:



44 Many are the incidents that could be re-
lated about the Reverend Father de Jesus
Sanchez, O.F.M., regarding his great mission-
ary zeal and unbounded charity to all, his self-
denial and patience in suffering. I am sorry
I am so disabled, owing to the condition of
my sight, which is very poor, leaving me un-
able to write much, and having no one who
could spare the time to write at my dictation,
I must be content to write what I can at pres-
ent, and that is little.

"I became acquainted with the Reverend
Father Sanchez in July, 1860. He was then
Master of Novices at the Old Mission at Santa
Barbara. He was very much sought after by
pastors throughout the State to preach and
give mission to the Mexican and Spanish peo-
ple, and also to the Indians. So he was well
known by all the ranch owners from Sacra-
mento to San Diego, and nearly all the Spanish
and Mexican people in the State knew him.

" In 1872 he was assigned to reside in the
Orphanage, give missions and collect for the

" In 1882 he received several injuries. He
never said much about the injuries, but bore
them very patiently.

"Shortly after this he left the Orphanage



and returned to Santa Barbara, and there his
injuries were aggravated by his falling over a
large cut stone. A few days after he felt un-
able to go about much, and the doctor ordered
him to be quiet and remain in his room, where
he was nursed, receiving the best care and at-
tention possible.

" I visited him often every day, and my first
visit was always early every morning. The
last morning I saw him very early before I
went to the Church, and found him in very
good humor, and seemingly very lively; so I
told him I would return again as soon as I
was through in the Church.

" I came as I promised, and found him lying
on the bare floor, and seemingly in great pain.
I raised him into a sitting posture and held him
awaiting a chance to put him on the bed; but
while I held him, believing he would be rested
by my holding him, he gave a deep sigh and
expired in my arms.

"His death occurred in 1884.

August loth, 19x3.
Watsonville, California."

In "Ramona" the death of Father Salvier-
derra is thus described: "When Father Gas-



para was taking leave, Ramona said, with
quivering lips : ' Father, if there is anything
you know of Father Salvierderra's last hours,
I would be grateful to you for telling me.'

'"I heard very little,' replied the Father,
'except that he had been feeble for some
weeks; yet he would persist in spending most
of the night kneeling on the stone floor in the
Church, praying.'

" ' Yes,' interrupted Ramona ; ' that he al-
ways did.'

" ' And the last morning,' continued the Fa-
ther, 'the Brothers found him there, still
kneeling on the stone floor, but quite power-
less to move; and they lifted him, and carried
him to his room, and there they found, to their
horror, that he had no bed; he had lain on the
stones; and then they took him to the Su-
perior's own room, and laid him in the bed,
and he did not speak any more; and at noon
he died.' "

At the time of the death of Father Sanchez
Mrs. Jackson was in New York writing " Ra-
mona." The news of his death was communi-
cated to her there, and in time for the portrayal
of the dying of Father Salvierderra and the
relation of the sad occurrence to Ramona by

Father Gaspara of San Diego while on a visit













at San Pasquale, where Alessandro and Ra-
mona had established a home, in which they
made Father Gaspara their guest. He was the
same Father who had married this wandering
couple two years previous.

It was the custom of Father Sanchez to
spend much of each day kneeling in prayer
on the stone floor of the Church.

Mrs. Jackson evidently heard just sufficient
of the circumstances of the death of Father
Sanchez to suggest the conditions which she
described as attending the death of Father Sal-

Father Sanchez was in every respect the
noble and saintly priest as portrayed by Mrs.
Jackson in the character of Father Salvier-

In discovering and identifying the original
of Father Salvierderra of " Ramona," the au-
thors have been given valuable assistance by
Father Theodore Arentz, O.F.M., Superior of
Old Mission, Santa Barbara. We here submit
an interesting communication from him upon
the subject:

" I have glanced over the book ' Ramona '
of Mrs. Helen Hunt Jackson, and I must say
that, from what she writes about Father ' Sal-
vierderra/ from the mention she makes of one



other Father who was with him at Santa Bar-
bara, and of other conditions and circumstances,
it appears evident to me, that by Father Sal-
vierderra she can mean no one else but Rev.
Father Francisco Sanchez of the Mission
Santa Barbara.

" Father Francisco Sanchez was at the time
Mrs. Jackson was in Southern California
(1882-83) nearly 70 years of age, he having
been born in Leon, State of Guanajuato,
Mexico, in August, 1813. In February, 1837,
he received the habit of the Franciscan Order
in the Franciscan Colegio Apostolico de Gua-
dalupe, near Zacatecas, and in 1838 he was
ordained priest. In 1841 he came with Rt.
Rev. Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, first
bishop of both Californias, who was of the
same Colegio Apostolico de Guadalupe, to
California, arriving at San Diego on December
n, 1841, and at Santa Barbara on January
n, 1842.

" From then on he traveled as missionary
more than once over nearly all California,
visiting many places frequently, and being at
intervals stationed at different places, such
as at San Buenaventura, 1842-43, 1852-53; at
Santa Ines, 1844-50, as Vice-Rector of the
seminary at Pajaro Valley Orphanage, 1874-



79, being most of the time on collection trips
for the orphanage and giving at the same time
missions in the different places he visited.
The rest of the time he was stationed at Santa
Barbara, where he held the office of Master
of Novices, and from where he visited as mis-
sionary other places near and far, being invited
by people and priests.

" He was a very pious and zealous padre.
He died at the Old Mission, Santa Barbara, in
one of the lower rooms facing the front cor-
ridor, on April 17, 1884, at 7:45 A.M., in the
arms of Rev. Father Joseph O'Keefe, at the
age of 70 years and 8 months.

" At about the same time Mrs. Jackson fin-
ished her book ' Ramona ' in New York. Per-
haps she had heard of the severe illness, or
even death, of Father Francisco Sanchez at the
time she finished her book.

" The young Brazilian monk, Father Francis,
to whom, Mrs. Jackson says (Chap. XXV),
Father Salvierderra was greatly attached, must
have been Father Francisco Arbondin. He
came as a young man (student) from South
America, was received into the Franciscan
Order at Santa Barbara on April 26, 1876,
took the solemn vows May 6, 1880, and was
ordained priest that same year in the month



of July. In 1885 he went, with the permission
of his superiors, to Guatemala.

" The Santa Barbara Mission was, according
to Mrs. Jackson, the place where Father Sal-
vierderra made his home, and here it was
where Father Sanchez lived, especially after
1879, though while stationed at the Pajaro
Valley Orphanage he was frequently at Santa
Barbara, and from where he made his visits
to different places, rancherias, etc., to give the
people a chance to assist at Holy Mass, to hear
the word of God preached to them, to go to
confession, to receive holy communion, etc.
Here, at Santa Barbara, the people also came
to him.

"In her book Mrs. Jackson calls the Mis-
sion Santa Barbara promiscuously * Franciscan
Monastery' (Chap. IV), and 'College' (Chap.
XXV). The Mission at that time was not
a monastery in the proper sense; such it
became in 1885, when it was incorporated into
the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart
of Jesus, whose headquarters are at St. Louis,
Mo. Nor was it any longer a college in the
common sense, or an institution of learning
for young boys and men, as it had been from
1868 to 1876, when it was closed, because the
Fathers were too few and too old and the hir-



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ing of professors was too expensive to keep it
up; but it was a missionary college, i.e., a
colegio apostolico de propaganda fide, like the
colegios in Mexico, from which the mission-
aries had come to California; though, for cer-
tain reasons, on a very small scale. As such
it had been established in 1854, an d such it
remained until 1885.

" The community from 1880 to 1884 con-
sisted of the following solemnly professed
Fathers (priests) and Lay Brothers: Very Rev.
Jcse Maria Romo, O.F.M., Guardian Superior;
Rev. Joseph J. O'Keefe, O.F.M., Vicar; Rev.
Francisco Sanchez, O.F.M.; Rev. Jose Godiol,
O.F.M.; Rev. Bonaventura Fox, O.F.M.; Rev.
Francisco Arbondin, O.F.M.; Bro. Anthony
Gallagher, O.F.M.; Bro. Joseph Patrick O'Mal-
ley, O.F.M.; Bro. Dominie Reid, O.F.M.

" We have a good photograph here which
was taken in 1882 or 1883, and on which all
the above mentioned Fathers and Brothers, ex-
cept Father Jose Godiol, are represented.

" As to the name ' Salvierderra ' used by
Mrs. Jackson, I think, and I have also heard
the same opinion expressed by others, that she
took and changed it from ' Zalvidea,' the name
of a Franciscan missionary who came to Cali-
fornia in August, 1805, and was successively



stationed at San Fernando 1805-6, at San
Gabriel 1806-26, at San Juan Capistrano 1826-
42, and at San Luis Rey 1842-46, when and
where he died at an age of about 66 years,
and who was a model missionary, and consid-
ered and much talked of by the common people
as a saint; as also Bancroft remarks. Probably
Mrs. Jackson heard his name mentioned when
in California. Or she may have changed the
name from ' Salvatierra,' the great Jesuit mis-
sionary, or apostle of Lower California, from


" Santa Barbara, California,
September 4, 1913."

In " Glimpses of California and the Mis-
sions" Mrs. Jackson thus pictured Father
Sanchez and the Santa Barbara Mission:

"The Santa Barbara Mission is still in the
charge of Franciscans, the only one remaining
in their possession. It is now called a college
for apostolic missionary work, and there are
living within its walls eight members of the
order. One of them is very old, a friar of

the ancient regime; his benevolent face is



well known throughout the country, and there
are in many a town and remote hamlet men
and women who wait always for his coming
before they will make confession. He is like
Saint Francis's first followers: the obligations
of poverty and charity still hold to him the
literal fullness of the original bond. He gives
away garment after garment, leaving himself
without protection against cold; and the
brothers are forced to lock up and hide from
him all provisions, or he would leave the house
bare of food. He often kneels from midnight
to dawn on the stone floor of the church, pray-
ing and chanting psalms; and when a terrible
epidemic of smallpox broke out some years ago,
he labored day and night, nursing the worst
victims of it, shrouding them and burying them
with his own hands. , He is past eighty and
has not much longer to stay. He has outlived
many things beside his own prime; the day of
the sort of faith and work to which his spirit
is attuned has passed by forever.

"The Mission buildings stand on high
ground, three miles from the beach, west of
the town and above it, looking to the sea. In
the morning the sun's first rays flash full on
its front, and at evening they linger late on
its western wall. It is an inalienable benedic-



tion to the place. The longer one stays there
the more he is aware of the influence on his
soul, as well as of the importance in the land-
scape of the benign and stately edifice.

" On the corridor of the inner court hangs
a bell which is rung for the hours of the daily
offices and secular duties. It is also struck
whenever a friar dies, to announce that all is
over. It is the duty of the brother who has
watched the last breath of the dying one to go
immediately and strike this bell. Its sad note
has echoed many times through the corridors.
One of the brothers said last year: 'The first
time I rang that bell to announce a death, there
were fifteen of us left. Now there are only

" The sentence itself fell on my ear like the
note of a passing-bell. It seems a not unfit-
ting last word to this slight and fragmentary
sketch of the labors of the Franciscan Order
in California."

The authors have sought to discover the
origin of the name " Salvierderra." Some have
accepted Padre Jose Maria de Zalvidea, for
years one of the Fathers at San Gabriel Mis-
sion, as the original of Father Salvierderra,
but merely because of some similarity of names.
But not so. There is nothing in " Ramona "



that in any way identifies the San Gabriel Fa-
ther with Father Salvierderra of the story.

Mrs. Jackson did nothing in a light or in-
significant way. She wanted a fictitious name
for dear old Father Sanchez. She frequently
had Sefior and Sefiora de Coronel define and
translate Spanish words and expressions for her.
A superficial answer was not sufficient; she
wanted the derivation of words, and often the
conversation upon such a topic would lead to
a lesson in etymology.

Mrs. Jackson was an intense admirer of
Father Sanchez. He and Father Junipero
Serra were to her almost Christ-like. She ex-
tolled their virtues, recounted with tearful
sympathy their struggles and sufferings and
proclaimed their lives to have been divinely
perfect. She knew that the prototype of the
priestly character of her proposed novel was
teaching and giving salvation to his fellow-
beings. She sought a name bearing signifi-
cance. She had only to take the Spanish verbs
salvar,to save, and dar,to give, and create the
name she desired. Dropping the "r" from
salvar, and combining the root with the sub-
junctive imperfect of the irregular verb dar,
which is diera, produces Salvadiera, signifying
giving salvation.



It is true Mrs. Jackson did not follow the
correct Spanish spelling of the name. This
may have been intentional or an error. The
same comment may be made concerning the
name " Alessandro." As to it Mrs. Jackson
rejected the Spanish spelling, " Alejandro," and
adopted the Italian.

However this may be, we find in Father
Francisco de Jesus Sanchez, O.F.M., Master of
Novices at Old Mission, Santa Barbara, the
worthy original of Father Salvierderra of " Ra-


Angus Phail Ramona's Father

As further evidence of the assertion that
many of the characters of the Ramona romance
had their originals, is the assured fact that
Angus Phail, Ramona's father, was in reality
Hugo Reid, a well-known Scotchman of many
eccentricities, who lived for years at San

Angus Phail loved Ramona Gonzaga, sister
of Senora Moreno. His love was unrequited,
and this drove him to desperation. " He was
the owner of the richest line of ships which
traded along the coast at that time. The rich-
est stuffs, carvings, woods, pearls and jewels,




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which came into the country, came in his ships.
. . . The Sefiorita Ramona Gonzaga sailed
for Monterey the same day and hour her lover
sailed for San Bias. . . . This was to be his
last voyage. ... He comforted himself by
thinking that he would bring back for his
bride . . . treasures of all sorts."

Angus returned from this last voyage to find
his sefiorita married to an Ortegna. This mad-
dened him. "He sold all he possessed; ship
after ship sold for a song, and the proceeds
squandered in drinking or worse. . . . Finally
Angus disappeared, and after a time the news
came up from Los Angeles that he was there,
had gone out to San Gabriel Mission, and was
living with the Indians. Some years later came
the still more surprising news that he had
married a squaw."

Ramona, as related in the story, was the
child of this marriage. When a babe, Angus
Phail, her father, gave her to the object of his
early devotion, Ramona Gonzaga Ortegna, who
was childless.

Soon afterward Angus died, and to the
foster-mother of Ramona, Sefiora Ortegna,
came an Indian messenger from San Gabriel,
bearing a box and a letter, given him by Angus
the day before his death. " The box contained



jewels of value, of fashions a quarter of a cen-
tury old. They were the jewels which Angus
had bought for his bride." The note read:
"I send you all I have to leave my daughter.
I meant to bring them myself this year. I
wished to kiss your hands and hers once more.
But I am dying. Farewell."

Thus Mrs. Jackson laid the origin of the
Ramona jewels.

" After these jewels were in her possession,
Senora Ortegna rested not until she had per-
suaded Senora Moreno to journey to Monterey,
and put the box into her keeping as a sacred
trust. She also won from her a solemn prom-
ise that at her own death she would adopt
the little Ramona. . . . One hour after the
funeral . . . Senora Moreno, leading the little
four-year-old Ramona by the hand, left the
house, and early the next morning set sail for

Hugo Reid, whom we assert to be the origi-
nal of Angus Phail, passed a part of his early
life in Mexico, and there had an affair of the
heart that shaped his future. In 1834, when
twenty-three years old, he went to Los An-
geles and became a merchant. He married an
Indian woman at San Gabriel, Dona Victoria,
said to have possessed both good looks and


wealth. Of this marriage three children were
born, one of them, a daughter, famed for in-
telligence and beauty. Her name was Ignacia,
but she was commonly called " Nacha," or
"Nachita." The Coronels told Mrs. Jackson
the story of Hugo Reid, his marriage to
the Indian woman, and of Ignacia, and she
became so much interested in the facts
that she planned to write another story,
similar to that of " Ramona," and entitle it
" Nacha."

Hugo Reid at one time was a ship-captain.
He was the owner of the Esmeralda, burned
at San Pedro in 1842. He brought home from
ocean voyages many costly and beautiful
things diamonds, strings of pearls, silks and
shawls. He had been jilted in Mexico, and
left there with the avowal to marry someone
bearing the name of the woman to whom he
was a victim, Victoria; "even though she be
an Indian," he said.

He possessed fine literary tastes, and made
the Indians a special study, upon which sub-
ject he wrote extensively, his writings gaining
circulation in the East and attracting general
attention. There is now in the possession of
Miss Annie B. Picher, Pasadena, an extensive
manuscript of Hugo Reid upon the Mission In-



dians, of great interest, which has never been

A letter from Mrs. Jackson to Sefior and
Sefiora de Coronel, written at Boston, contains
this reference to the original of Angus Phail:
" The Hugo Reid letters I saw at the Bancroft
Library, though I did not find much in them
which I could use in my very limited space."

Thus is evidenced how Mrs. Jackson founded
her story of " Ramona " on living persons and
real facts. The Ramona jewels and silks did
exist, but they were not the gems and rich
fabrics of Hugo Reid. As heretofore related
in these pages, they were the identical treas-
ures of great beauty and value collected by
Captain U. Yndart, a sea-faring man, of Santa
Barbara, grandfather of Blanca Yndart, who,
with the jewels, at the death of her mother,
was given into the keeping of Dona Ysabel
del Valle, mistress of Camulos ranch. This

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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 8 of 14)