Historical Society of Southern California.

Annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and Pioneer register, Los Angeles online

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3 1833 01744 5583


Organized November 1, 1883 Incorporated February 13, 1891




Historical Society


Southern California


Los Angeles


Published by the Society.


Geo. Rice & Sons.

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Organized November 1, 1883 Incorporated February 13, 1891



OF THE A742200

Historical Society


Southern California



Los Angeles


Published by the Society.


Geo. Rice & Sons,


Officers of the Historical Society, 1 900-1901 4

Stores of Los Angeles in 1850 Laura Evcrtsen King 5

Some Aboriginal Alphabets (Part i) /. D. Moody 9

To California via Panama in the Early '60s. . . ./. M. Guinn 13

Olden Time Holiday Festivities Wm. H. Workman 22

Mexican Governors of California H. D. Barrozm 25

Fifty Years of California Politics Walter R. Bacon 31

Side Lights on Old Los Angeles Mary E. Mooncy 43

Los Angeles Postmasters (1850 to 1900) H. D. Barrows 49

Some Aboriginal Alphabets (Part II) /. D. Moody 56

Historic Seaports of Los Angeles /. M. Guinn 60

La Estrella — Pioneer Newspaper of Los Angeles . .J. M. Guinn 70

Don Antonio F. Coronel H. D. Barrows 78

Secertary's Report 83

Report of the Publication Committee 84

Treasurer's Report 84

Curator's Report 85


Officers and Committees of the Society of Pioneers of Los An-
geles County, 1900-1901 86

In Memoriam 87

Constitution and By-Laws 88

Stephen C. Foster 91

Francisco Sabichi 91

Robert Miller Town 92

Fred W. Wood 93

Joseph Bayer . . 94

Augustus Ulyard 94

Rev. A. M. Hough 95

Henry F. Fleishman 96

Frank Lecouvreur 96

Roll of Members Admitted since January, 1900 99

Daniel Scheick 96

Andrew Glassell 98



Walter R. Bacon President

J. D. Moody First Vice-President

Mrs. M. Burton Williamson , Second Vice-President

Edwin Baxter Treasurer

J. M. GuiNN Secretary and Curator


Walter R. Bacon, H. D. Barrows,

A. C. Vroman, Edwin Baxter,

J. M. GuiNN, J. D. Moody,

Mrs. M. Burton Williamson.



Walter R. Bacon President

A. C, Vroman First Vice-President

Mrs. M. Burton Williamson Second Vice-President

Edwin Baxter Treasurer;

J. M. GuiNN Secretary and Curator]

. Walter R. Bacon, J D. Moody,

H. D. Barrows, Edwin Baxter,

J. M. GuiNN, A. C. Vroman,

Mrs. M. Burton Williamson.

Historical Society


Southern California




(Read before the Pioneers, December, 1900.)

If a person walking down Broadway or Spring street, at the
present day, could turn "Time backward in his flight" fifty years,
how strange the contrast would seem. Where now stand blocks
of stately buildings, whose windows are aglow with all the beauties
of modern art, instead there would be two or three streets whose
business centered in a few "tiendas," or stores, decorated with
strings of "chilis" or jerked beef. The one window of each "tienda"
was barred with iron; the "tiendero" sitting in the doorway to pro-
tect his wares, or to watch for customers. Where red and yellow
brick buildings hold their heads proudly to the heavens now, fifty
years ago the soft hills slid down to the back doors of the adobe
dwelling and offered their wealth of flowers and wild herbs to the
botanist. Sidewalks were unknown, pedestrians marched single
file in the middle of the street, in winter to enjoy the sunshine,
in summer to escape the trickling tears of "brea" which, dropping
from the roofs, branded their linen or clogged their footsteps. Now
where the policeman "wends his weary way," the "vaquero," with
his lively "cuidado" (lookout) lassoed his wild steer, and dragging
him to the "mantanza" at the rear of his dwelling, offered him
on the altar of hospitality.

Among the most prominent stores in the '50's were those of


Labat Bros., Foster & McDougal, afterward Foster & Wadhams,
of B. D. Wilson, Abel Stearns, S. Lazard's City of Paris, O. W.
Childs, Chas. Ducommon, J, G. Downey, Schumacher, Goller, Lew
Bow & Jayzinsky, etc. With the exception of O. W. Childs, Chas.
Ducommon, J. G. Downey, John Goller and Jayzinsky, all carried
general merchandise, which meant anything from a plow to a box
of sardines, or from, a needle to an anchor. Some merchants sold
sugar and silks, others brogans and barrels of flour. Goller's was
a wagon and carriage shop. O. W. Childs first sign read "tins to
mend." Jayzinsky's stock consisted principally of clocks, but as
the people of Southern California cared little for time, and only
recorded it like the Indians by the sun, he soon failed. Afterwards
he engaged in the hardware business with N. A. Potter, Jokes
were often played upon the storekeepers, to while away the time.
Thus one Christmas night, when the spirit of fun ran high, and
no policeman was on the scene, some young men, who felt them-
selves "sold" along with the articles purchased, effaced the first
syllable of Wadhams' name and substituted "old" in its place, mak-
ing it Oldhams, and thus avenging themselves. It was almost im-
possible to procure anything eatable from abroad that was not
not strong and lively enough to remove itself from one's presence
before cooking. It was not the fault of the vender, but of the dis-
tance and difficulty in transportation. Mr. Ducommon and Mr.
Downey arrived in Los Angeles together. Mr, Ducommon was a
watchmaker, and Mr. Downey, a druggist. Each had a small stock
in trade, which they packed in a "carreta" for transporation from
San Pedro to Los Angeles. On the journey the cart broke down,
and packing the most valuable of their possessions into carpet-
sacks, they walked the remaining distance. Mr. Ducommon soon
branched out in business, and his store became known as the most
reliable one in his line, keeping the best goods, although at enor-
mous prices. Neither Mr. Downey nor any other druggist could
have failed to make money in the early '50's, when common Epson
salts retailed at the rate of five dollars per pound, and everything
else was in proportion. One deliberated long before sending for
a doctor in those days — fortunately, the climate was such that his
services were not often needed. Perhaps the most interesting
window display in the city in the early '50's was that of Don Abel
Stearns', wherein common candy jars filled with gold, from the
finest dust to "chispas," or nuggets, could be seen from the street
adorning the shelves. As gold and silver coin were scarce, the
natives working the placer mines in the adjoining mountains made



their purchases with gold dust. Tied in a red silk handkerchief,
tucked into the waist-band of their trousers, would be their week's
earnings; this, poured carelessly into the scales and as carelessly
weighed, soon filled the jars. What dust remained was shaken
out of its folds, and the handerchief returned to its place. (No
wonder that the native became the victim of sharpers and money-
lenders; taking no thought of the morrow, he lived on, letting his
inheritance slip from> his grasp.)

The pioneer second hand store of Los Angeles was kept by a man
named Yarrow, or old "Cuarto Ojos" (four eyes), as the natives
called him, because of the large spectacles he wore, and the habit
he had of loking over them, giving him the appearance of having
"four eyes." Probably, however, this sobriquet attached to him
because his glasses had four lenses, two in front, and one on each
side. His store was on the corner of Requena and Los Angeles
streets, in the rear of where the United States Hotel now stands.
The store-room was a long, low adobe building with the usual store
front of that day — a door and a narrow window. This left the
back part of the long store almost in utter darkness, which probably
gave rise to the uncanny tradition that certain portions of reputed
wealth but strangers to the town had been enticed into this dark
interior to their undoing, and that like the fly in the spider's den
they "ne'er come out again." This idle tale was all owing to his
spectacles — for in the early 50s all men who' wore glasses were
under suspicion — the general opinion prevailing was that they were
worn to conceal one's motives and designs, which when hidden by
the masque of spectacles, were suspected to be murderers. In the
"tienda" of "Cuarto> Ojos" were heaped together all sorts and
conditions of things, very miuch as they are now in second hand
stores, but the articles differed widely in kind and quality from
those found in such stores today. Old "Cuarto Ojos" combined
pawn broking and money lending with his other business. In close
contact with the highly-colored shawls, rebosos, gold necklaces,
silver mounted frenos and heavily embroidered muchillas, hung
treacherous looking machetes, silver-mounted revolvers and all the
trappings and paraphrenalia of the robber and the gambler out
of luck, and forced there to stand and deliver as collateral for
loans from old "Cuarto Ojos."

Coming up Requena street and crossing Main to the southwest
corner of Main and Court streets, one arrived at the pioneer auc-
tion house of 1850. Here George F. Lamson persauded the visitors
to his store into buying wares that at the present day would find


their way to the rubbish heaps of the city. This story is told
of his sale of a decrepit bureau: "Ladies and gentlemen," — ladies
minus, and gentlemen scarce — said the genial auctioneer, "here is
the finest piece of mahogany ever brought across the plains or
around the Horn — four deep drawers and keys to all of them; don't
lose this bargain; it is one in a thousand!" It was knocked down
to a personal friend of the auctioneer for the modest sum of $24.00.
After the sale the purchaser ventured to ask for the keys. "Why,"
said Lamson, "when I put up that article I never expected you
would be fool enough to buy it. There are no keys, and more than
that, there is no need of keys, for there are no locks to it."

On Los Angeles street in the same location where it stands to-
day and kept by the same proprietor, Sam C. Foy, stood and still
stands the pioneer saddlery of Los Angeles. Of the pioneer mer-
chants of the '50's, Mr. Harris Newmark was the founder of a
house still in existence. If any youth of Los Angeles would see
for himself how honesty and strict attention to business commands
success, let him visit the establishment of Mr. Newmark and
his successors.

In the early '50's some merchants were accused of getting their
hands into their neighbors' pockets, or rather of charging exhorbi-
tant prices to the depletion of the contents of their neighbors'
purses. These same merchants never refused to go down into their
own pockets for sweet charity's sake. If a collection was to be
taken up for some charitable object, all that was necessary was
to make the round of the stores, and money was poured into the
hat without question of what was to be done with it. Now we
have the Associated Charties and all sorts of charitable institutions,
but for liberal and unquestioning giving, we take off our hats to
the "stores of 1850."




(Read before the Historical Society, May 3, 1900.)

The origin of alphabetical writing is lost in the mists of an-
tiquity. But this one fact is apparent : no matter how far back
we carry this study, the art of writing is found to be a develop-
ment. A pre-existent form can be logically supposed from which
every example yet known has grown. While in most cases, this
process has been a slow one, by patient study we can trace out
the steps one by one, until not only the relationship stands clearly
proven, but this slow process of evolutionary detail can be seen as
a whole. To this general rule there are among aboriginal people
some apparent exceptions, two of which we will study lonight, as a
step towards a solution of a third.

These examples are the alphabet of the Vei tribes of Western
Africa, and the alphabet of the Cherokee Indians of our own coun-
try. These alphabets instead of being a growth of centuries, and
the product of innumerable minds, suddenly sprang into existence;
each the product of one mind, and each in its place bridging the
chasm between intellectual chaos and order.

The Cherokee alj^habet was fully completed in 1826; that of the
Vei in 1834. The Cherokee alphabet is certainly known to have
been developed in one man's brain. Of the Vei alphabet, it is
known to have been largely the product of one mind, but in its
development assisted probably by a few contemporaries. In each
case the process of formation occupied but a few years, and, while
the work of one mind, it was the sight of v/ritten characters used
by foreigners that suggested the idea of an alphabet for them-

Africa is a great hive of humanity. In the earliest dawn
of history, in which we get only the faintest glimpses of these
human movements, we see the true blacks of Africa meeting, on
the sands of Egypt, the lighter colored Asiatic. There is a glimpse
of what is possibly a still earlier touch in that first great migration


from Central Europe, one wave of which reached the northern
shores of Africa. From these, probably, come all that diversity of
families and languages for which Africa is so famous. Here and
there, among these peoples, sometimes in fact in the very lowest
of them, are found evidences that the human soul, even in the black-
est skin, has been struggling to free itself fromi its environments,
and arise to that place of intelligence which is the inheritance of
the human race. But in every instance where these linguistic at-
tainments have been manifested, there is clearly seen the impress
of a more advanced people. Some families have reached a certain
stage, and then all further progress has stopped, as in the Hotten-
tots of the south. Others have inherited a capacity for improve-
ment, which, though languishing at times, has not entirely died
out, as in the Berbers of the north.

On the west coast of Africa there is found a tribe of natives,
the Vei, belonging to the great Mandingo family, who have sliown
a capacity for advancement not found in the surrounding tribes.
They came from the western part of that great fertile region of
Africa called the Soudan. These people are lighter in color and
finer in form' than those of other parts of Africa. Their intellect,
low as it is, has felt the impress of a higher intelligence, and shown
a capacity for development, by originating and using alphabetical
writing. Correspondence is carried on by means of it, and even
a history has been written in these characters. This alphabet is
said to have been evolved in 1834. There is some uncertainty
as to its origin. One statement is that a servant in an English
family, seeing the benefits of a written language, conceived the
idea of creating one for his people, the present Vei characters
being the result. There are some indications, however, tending to
show that it was a slower growth, and the work of more than
one individual. The initial impulse was probably caused by a sight
of Arab writing, and what it did for these masters of the Soudan.

A similar example is found among the Cherokee Indians of
our own country. I have here for your inspection two copies of an
old paper printed in these characters, in 1831, shortly after its in-

In the last century the Cherokee Indians occupied a good por-
ton of the Gulf States, what is now the State of Georgia being
their principal seat of residence. They were among the most ad-
vanced of the southern tribes. They had national traditions and
a folk lore carefully preserved by thei';r prophets, but centuries had
failed to develop a writing to perpetuate them. These tribes were


under the supervision of the general government, and white people
were not allowed, at this time, to enter their territory for pur-
poses of trade without first procuring a license. However, there
were not wanting contraband traders.

In 1768 one such, a German, George Gist or Guess, a peddler,
entered the Cherokee country with goods to trade for furs, and as
was the custom of these white traders, he took tO' himself an Indian
wife. She was the daughter of one of the principal chiefs. This
gave him a certain prestige among the Indians. In a little less than
a year he had converted all of his goods into furs, and, apparently
without the least remorse, left his Indian wife, never to return.
Shortly afterwards a child was born of this union. The deserted
wife remained true to her husband all her life. She educated her
boy according to the highest standard of Indian knowledge. She
lavished the love upon him that would have been given to the hus-
band had he remained. She called the the boy Se-quo-yah. He
inherited the cunning and taciturnity of the Indian and much of
the skill and mysticism of the German. He associated but little
with other Indian children, roamed the forest alone, or staid by
his mother. He early developed a remarkable mechanical genius,
and made dishes and implements for his mother. When he grew
up he became a silversmith, and later a blacksmith, and crowned it
all by learning to draw. He had noticed the trade marks on tools
sold by the peddlers, and understood their import. He got an Eng-
lish friend to write out his English name. He generally was known
by his father's name, George Guess. From' this writing he made
a steel die and stamped the silver articles which he made. Some
of these articles are heirlooms in Cherokee families today. His
Indian countrymen vc^ere proud of him.

Missionaries had gone into the coutnry and founded schools.
His mind began to move. "White man write on paper, why not
Indian?" He thought and worked. The Indian language had
sounds that could not be made by the English alphabet. From
this point he lost the strictly alphabetical idea and evolved a sylla-
bic alphabet of eighty-five characters. It has been pronounced by
some eminent authorities as one of the most complete in existence.
He got an English spelling book from one of the teachers, and
from it copied a part of his characters; the others he invented him-

Dr. D. G. Brinton, of the very highest authority on American
languages, says: "The deliberate analysis of a language back to
its phonetic elements, and the construction upon these of a series


of symbols, as was accomplished for the Cherokee by the half-breed
Se-quo-yah, has ever been the product of culture, not a process of
primitive evolution."

He showed his alphabet to the governor, who would not at first
believe that he had invented it. His daughter first learned it. No
roll of honor contains her name. He then taught it to his Indian
friends. They learned it readily and were proud of their achieve-
ment. It soon came into general use among them. At this time,
1826, a portion of the Cherokees had been transferred to their
new home beyond the Mississippi river. Filled with his ambitious
mission he journeyed thither to teach it to them. They learned it
readily and a correspondence was kept up between the two divisions
of the nation by means of the new characters. Books were printed,
and papers published in it. In a report to the Secretary of War,
in 1825, the Hon. T. L. McKenny says, about the Cherokee alpha-
bet : "It is composed of eighty-five characters, by which in a few
days the older Indians, who had despaired of deriving an education
by means of the schools * * * rn^y read and correspond."

Agent Butler, in his annual report for 1845, says : "The Chero-
kees who cannot speak English acquire their own alphabet in twen-
ty-four hours."

In this case as in the African, given a genius, a fertile brain, a
suggestion from a superior mind, and you have as a result — an




(Read before the Pioneers, March, 1898.)

The reminiscences of the pioneers of a country have a unique
historical value. While they may be largely made up of the per-
sonal adventures of the narrators, even then, they reflect, as no
formal history can, phases of the social life of early times; and
they have this distinctive feature, they present view^s of historical
events from the standpoint of actual observation,. The stories of
the Argonauts of '49 have an abiding interest for true Californians.
Even though we may know that these returned seekers after the
golden fleece are drawing on their imagination to color some of
their adventures, yet we listen to their oft-told tales with admiration
for their heroism and kindly toleration for their romancing.

I can recall the intense interest with which I, when a boy, lis-
tened to the stories of returned Californians. How I longed to
be a man that I might emulate their daring deeds, and see the great
world as they had seen it. When I reached man's estate, Califor-
nia had lost its attraction for me. So many of the Argonauts re-
turned without the golden fleece — returned fleeced of all they had
possessed — penniless and with so poor an opinion of the country,
that I gave up my long cherished desire; gave it up to renew it
again, but from different motives and under widely different cir-
cumstances. The beginning of the Civil war found me completing
j a college course in a western college. Five days after the fall of
Fort Sumter, one hundred of us students were enrolled and on our
way to suppress the Rebellion. After nearly three years of active
service, I returned to civil life, broken in health and all my plans
for life demoralized — the Rebellion had very nearly suppressed me.
And here allow me to digress briefly to make a few remarks
on the cost of war, not to the nation but to the individual. For the
past month war microbes have infested the atmosphere. The great
American people have been in a bellicose mood. How many of
those who talk so glibly of war have thought of what war may



mean to them — have counted the cost to the individual as well as
to the nation. The history of that student company well illustrates
the cost of war to the individual soldier. Of the one hundred
young men — their ages ranging from i8 to 25 — who marched forth
fromi the college halls on that April day in '61, four years later,
when the war closed, thirty-three were dead — killed in battle, died
of wounds,of disease or starved to death in southern prison pens.
More than one-half of the remainder returned home crippled by
wounds or broken by disease. Not one of those who did faithful
service to the country but what began the struggle for existence
after the close of the war handicapped for the remainder of his
days. But to return from this digressiort.

My physical delapidation precluded me from settling down to
any civil pursuit or of again entering the military service. A sea
voyage having been recommended as a remedial agent in restoring
my damaged constitution, my old desire to visit California returned
and was speedily acted upon. The overland railroad was then the
dream of enthusiasts, and its realization seemed to be distant, de-
cades in the future. The Indians on the "plains" were hostile, and
travel by the overland stage was extremely perilous. Nearly all
California travel then was by steamer. There were at that time
two lines of California steamships. One by the Panama and the other
by the Nicaragua route. The rates of fare were the same by the
different routes and were prohibitory to a person of small means — ■
first cabin, $350; second cabin, $225 to $250, and steerage $150.
Time, 26 to 30 days.

Arriving at New York, I repaired to the Nicaragua Steamship
Company's office, and was informed that owing to a revolution in
Central America the next steamer of that line would go by the
Panama route. I was still further discomfited to find every berth
in Uie cabins sold, and I had the alternative of going steerage or

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Online LibraryHistorical Society of Southern CaliforniaAnnual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and Pioneer register, Los Angeles → online text (page 1 of 21)