Monthly Archives: January 2013

Find of the Week: Lopez Family China Hutch

This 1949 photograph of a San Fernando civic organizaiton event at the López Adobe shows two daughters of Gerónimo and Catarina López, Ramona Shaug (seated at the far right) and Catarina Millen (seated at the middle and who lived in the house from 1935 to 1961) with some guests in the Adobe's dining room.  At the back left is a china cabinet that is still in the Adobe collection and which will be displayed when the historic house reopens this year.

This 1949 photograph of a San Fernando civic organizaiton event at the López Adobe shows two daughters of Gerónimo and Catarina López, Ramona Shaug (seated at the far right) and Catarina Millen (seated at the middle and who lived in the house from 1935 to 1961) with some guests in the Adobe’s dining room. At the back left is a china cabinet that is still in the Adobe collection and which will be displayed when the historic house reopens this year.

One of the fun aspects of the Lopez Adobe project has been discovering those few items in the collection of furnishings and artifacts that belonged to the family and were in the house in earlier eras. When reviewing for the project some photographs of the house, it was noticed that one of them showed a piece of furniture that is still in the collection.

The photo was dated 1949 and showed two of the surviving children of Gerónimo and Catarina López, Ramona Lopez de Shaug and Catarina Lopez de Millen, dressed in early California costume with some other San Fernando women and sitting at a dining room table set for tea as part of a civic organization event. In the background is a china cabinet that, it so happens, remains with the Adobe today.

On its own, the cabinet doesn’t appear to have a great deal of inherent interest. It is not a high-end piece of furniture, does not have a manufacturer’s label on it, and lacks a compelling story to relate, other than its rather routine function storing and displaying china, glass and other pieces by its owner. If anything, it is one of other furniture and furnishing items that show a middle-class status for those who possessed it and can be looked at that way in context with other pieces in the same room and others in the building. It is true that the Lopez family were not particularly wealthy and would likely best be considered middle class for their time, although their long history in the Los Angeles region generally and the San Fernando area specifically is where the main interest lies.

However, while it is not known how old this piece of furniture is or whether it was brought to the house by one of the daughters, perhaps Kate Millen, who lived in the house from 1935 and 1961, as opposed to being there when Gerónimo and Catarina resided there, it is still great to have something linked to the family and its occupancy of the house. To show the 1949 photo in the dining room and have the cabinet in the same location it occupied more than six decades ago (and, presumably, for much longer before that) is a way to engage the visitor in discussing the Adobe as a not just a museum, but as a family home for over some 80 years. That may be where its place as part of a broader story is best viewed.

Categories: Catarina Lopez de Millen, Find of the Week, Lopez Adobe, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gerónimo and Catarina López and the 1836 and 1844 Censuses


This is a detail from pages 27 and 28 of the 1836 census of Los Angeles, as reproduced in the Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly in December 1936. The household is that of María Luisa Cota de Lopez and includes her grandson Gerónimo, listed at the bottom as 6 years of age. Click on the photo to see a larger view in a separate window.

While Gerónimo López was born to Esteban López and María Jacinta del Sacramenta Valdez, her death in 1830 and Esteban’s remarriage to Petra Varelas (also a widower, whose first husband Rafael Rubio was from a family that owned land near Esteban in what later became Boyle Heights) brought what appear to be substantial changes to Gerónimo’s upbringing.

When Los Angeles district officials conducted a census in 1836, Esteban, age 45, was living with 33-year old Peta and her three sons with Rubio and two sons with Esteban–these being Leandro, age 6, and Pablo, age 3, on their future Boyle Heights property. As for Gerónimo, he was in a different household—that of his grandmother Maria Luisa Cota (grandather Claudio Lopez having died a few years prior in 1833.) Luisa Cota, shown as being age 55, resided with her son Tiburcio and his wife Maria de Los Angeles Guillen (whose mother, Eulalia Pérez was the noted llavalera or keeper of the keys at Mission San Gabriel, where Claudio López had been foreman or mayordomo) and four children, another son José María and his wife Concepción Rayales and two children, and 6-year old Gerónimo.

Eight years later, just a few years prior to the Mexican-American War and the conquest of Alta California by invading U. S. military forces, a census was conducted. The 1844 enumeration showed Esteban López and Petra Varelas living with their two sons and two of her Rubio sons. Meanwhile, Luisa Cota, listed as age 67, was living with José María, Concepción and their five children and with Gerónimo, whose age, however, was listed as 12, when he was actually near 15 (ages especially could vary widely on almost any census!)

It is quite clear, then, that Gerónimo López, only a very small child when his mother died and his father remarried, was sent to or taken in by his grandmather Luisa Cota to be raised with her and lived with her for at least eight years and almost certainly longer. As has been noted in an earlier post in this blog, Gerónimo became a messenger to General Andrés Pico during the Mexican-American War when he was starting to emerge into manhood and may have already then left his grandmother’s household to make his way in the world.

In 1851, not long before his father’s death the following year, Gerónimo married his second cousin, Catarina López. Curiously, she could not be located on either the 1836 or 1844 censuses (when she would have been about five and thirteen years of age.)

But, from these two censuses, there are notable members of the families of both Gerónimo and Catarina to mention. Gerónimo’s sister, Concepción, for example, married Ignacio Palomares, who, along with his friend Ricardo Vejar, ran cattle on the Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas (or what became the Beverly Hills area) before obtaining a land grant in 1837 at Rancho San José, in today’s Pomona area. Ricardo Vejar’s uncle, Salvador, incidentally, was married to Josefa López, who was the first cousin to Gerónimo’s father Esteban.

Gerónimo’s brother, José Antonio, was, in 1844, a merchant who lived next door to Americans Samuel Pretice, Jonathan Temple and Temple’s brother Pliny. Jonathan Temple, an arrival of 1828 in Los Angeles, opened the pueblo’s first general store and his younger half-brother, Pliny, became a prominent merchant and banker in subsequent decades. Jonathan Temple’s earlier partner in the store was George Rice, like Temple a native of Massachusetts. Rice married Gerónimo’s sister Catarina and the two moved back to Massachusetts where Catarina died in 1851.

Gerónimo’s brother, Francisco, married Rosario Almenares and they had a daughter, Juana, who was married to Los Angeles City Marshal William C. Warren. He was notorious for being killed by his own deputy constable in 1870 in a daylight gun battle in a Los Angeles street over a reward the two claimed. She then married John Lazzaravich, a Croatian native and merchant who was a founder of Boyle Heights, where the López family had property since the 1830s. Another daughter of Francisco, Sacramenta, married George Cummings, whose 1880s business building in Boyle Heights has just been restored as a hotel for mariachi musicians.

A sister of Gerónimo, Josefa, married Cassiano Carrion and the two settled in what became Boyle Heights, although later their son Saturnino built an adobe house that still stands in San Dimas and is known as the Carrion Adobe, and which is a private residence. The Carrions obtained their property from the Palomares family—they shared the Lopez connection through the sisters, Concepción and Josefa.

On Catarina’s side, a couple of other linkages are worth noting. One of Catarina’s aunts was María de Jesus López, who was married to Tomás Féliz. Through the Feliz family, important connections to land in the eastern San Gabriel Valley were made. In one case, the daughter of Maria de Jesus López and Tomás Féliz was Maria de los Angeles, later married to Charles Burrows. She was able to acquire property near the Mission San Fernando and very close to where Gerónimo and Catarina had their Lopez Station house and stage stop.

Maria de Jesus López de Feliz had a younger daughter, Jacoba, who became the last wife of Antonio del Valle, whose son Ygnacio became the proprietor of the famed Rancho Camulos in the Santa Clara River valley of Ventura County and the del Valle family also owned the Rancho San Francisco, in the present-day Santa Clarita and Piru area, granted to Antonio del Valle, who died in 1841. It is said that Antonio was estranged from his son Ygancio, but offered the land to him in a deathbed letter that was never delivered. Still, Ygnacio took possession of the rancho.

Shortly thereafter, on 9 March 1842, Francisco López, brother of María de Jesus López de Feliz, was riding in San Francisquito Canyon on the ranch and stopped to rest under an oak tree. According to one version of a story, Francisco fell asleep and had a dream about gold. Pulling some nearby wild onions, he noticed gold flakes on them. This constituted the first discovery of gold in California, six years before the much larger and more famous discovery of James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the first people to sell gold dust to the U. S. national mint at Philadelphia from Francisco López’s discovery was Pliny F. Temple, mentioned above, who worked with Gerónimo’s brother, José Antonio, at the Temple general store in Los Angeles. Another prominent Massachusetts merchant, Abel Stearns, also sold gold dust to the mint.

Finally, it has been noted that Catarina’s father, Pedro (1805-1859) was the administrator of the Mission San Fernando in the late Mexican period. As noted above, though, Pedro was not found in the 1836 and 1844 censuses. An upcoming post will trace Gerónimo and Catarina through American-era censuses.

Categories: 1836 Los Angeles District Census, 1842 discovery of gold San Francisquito Canyon, 1844 Los Angeles District Census, Catarina Lopez, Claudio Lopez, Esteban Lopez, Francisco Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez History, Pedro Lopez, San Fernando History, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mission San Fernando and the López Family

This detail of the first published view of the Mission San Fernando is from an 1853 drawing that appeared in a report for planning of a transcontinental railroad (which was finally completed in 1869.)

This detail of the first published view of the Mission San Fernando is from an 1853 drawing that appeared in a report for planning of a transcontinental railroad (which was finally completed in 1869.)

Founded in 1797, the Mission San Fernando was the first major European settlement in the San Fernando Valley, though the emphasis should be on “European,” because the indigenous native peoples, now known as the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and based in the City of San Fernando, had, of course, lived in the Valley for many thousands of years prior. A direct connection between the López family and the mission came at the end of its existence, when, about 1834 (some sources say 1837 after succeeding Antonio del Valle in the position,) Pedro López, father of Catarina of the López Adobe, was appointed civil administrator of the mission. This came just as the process of secularization of the mission was underway.  This controversial process, initiated by the Mexican government led to either the complete closure of the mission church or its conversion to a parish church and the shuttering of the mission’s activities.  Its far-flung lands, covering virtually the entire valley, which were theoretically supposed to revert to Christianized and “civilized” natives, who were to be “retrained” as farmers and livestock raisers, was instead, made available for private ownership as ranchos.

It is not clear how long Pedro (1805-1859) remained the administrator at San Fernando and there is not too much information about his tenure there.  In the 1950s, however, W. W. Robinson, who wrote many articles and books on regional history, penned a piece in the Southern California Quarterly titled “The Rancho Story of San Fernando.”  In it, he noted that there were “several first-hand descriptions of life in the San Fernando Valley in the years that followed the Mission’s secularization in 1834.”  One of these is a reminiscence provided by Catarina López, as told to her grandson Theodore R. Wilson (Gerónimo and Catarina’s daughter Grace married John T. Wilson, a Southern Pacific Railroad employee who later managed the George K. Porter landholdings that included the San Fernando area.)

While Robinson promoted her statement as one that was “indicating that secularization was not as harsh at San Fernando as at some of the other missions and that it did not end the ancient glories,” he followed this by cautiously adding, “perhaps her story is a mixture of her own memories and of what had been told her as a child for she seems to be describing the life of an earlier period.”  Catarina was born in 1831 and so would have either been three or six years old when her father assumed his adminstrative duties and it seems highly unlikely that her recollections could have been as pronounced and knowledgeable as the details of her short statement indicate.  More likely, the version related hews closer to Robinson’s second (and contradictory to the first) statement and may have been far less of direct memory and much more of a second-hand retelling of what others told her.

Robinson then prefaced her statement with the offhand remark of “At any rate . . .” and provided her commentary, reproduced here:

She (Catalina) first saw the San Fernando Mission in all its glory, with beautiful orchards and gardens surrounding it, and the wide plains in front of it covered with cattle and sheep.  San Fernando was far famed for its immense riches, being accredited the most prosperous of all the missions.  At this time there were over a thousand Indians living at the Mission, besides several tribes living in the hills and mountains.  San Fernando was widely famous for its fiestas, which were many, but the greatest of the year was on May 30th, San Fernando or Saint Fernandino Day.  People from all Southern California gathered at San Fernando on this day to taste the first fruits of the year.  The day was begun by attending mass.  All attended, from the majordomo to the lowliest Indian.  Following the mass was a great feast or banquet.  The table was spread between two long rows of pomegranate trees in the orchard at the rear of the old church.  In the afternoon such sports as horse racing were enjoyed, but the main event was a bull fight held in the plaza in front of the old church.  In the evening, sons and dancing ended the gay fiesta.

While other missions were accounted as “the most prosperous of all,” with nearby San Gabriel, for example, acclaimed as “The Queen of the Missions,” this statement also stands out for its mention of attendance at the main San Fernando fiesta from the mission foreman to “the lowliest Indian,” though if persons from throughout the region came, couldn’t some of them have been “the lowliest Californio” or “the lowliest Mexican”?

Little information has survived, evidently,  that comes directly from Catarina López, so this “recollection,” whether an accurate remembrance of the Mission San Fernando, pre- or post-secularization, or not, is a rare example of something connected to her.  A footnote in the Robinson article attributed her comment from The Valley of San Fernando, a work published in 1924 by the valley chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Categories: California History, Catarina Lopez, Lopez History, Mission San Fernando, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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