Catarina Lopez

The Pioneer Society of San Fernando

In April 1913, just shy of forty years since San Fernando’s founding, a group of citizens in the recently incorporated city (1911) gathered to create The Pioneer Society of San Fernando.

A scrapbook in the Lopez Adobe collection contains the handwritten constitution and meeting minutes for the organization, which seems to have existed in the 1930s, but only met infrequently, if the book is the only record of its meetings.

SF Pioneer Society Constitution 1

As was the case with so many of these historical societies that sprung up with increasing frequency in the United States, especially after the American centennial was celebrated in 1876, the object of the Pioneer Society was typical:

to cement the bonds of friendship among the older and former residents of this Valley, to enable them to renew acquaintanceship and to promote that fraternal spirit which should permeate those who have long resided in the same community.

Unlike other similar organizations, however, there was no mention of specific activities or projects, such as saving or marking historic landmarks (although the town was less than four decades old), having regular meetings, publishing historical material, presenting lectures, or having events.

Perhaps this is why the existing record of meetings is spotty!

SF Pioneer Society 1st Mtg Minutes 26Apr13

Among the surnames of those mentioned in the early days of the society were Hubbard, Jenifer, Wright, Maclay, Van Winkle, Webster, and Barclay–all representatives of early families of prominent merchants, farmers and others in town.

Quite a few early members came from the large López family, especially the many daughters of Gerónimo and Catarina.  These include their son-in-law, John T. Wilson, who married Grace López and who was chairperson of the first annual meeting of the society, held at his home on what, funnily enough, was dated as “Sept. 31, 1913.”  Also included were Catarina Millen and her husband William; Ramona Shaug and her husband Charles; Erlinda Alexander and her husband Joseph; and J.C. Villegas, a grandson through the Lopez’s daughter María.

There was a meeting on 30 October 1913 with little business of note conducted and then not again until the end of September 1914, which was equally uneventful.   A gathering of 10 October 1914, though, did feature the election of Catarina López as honorary president of the society and her son-in-law Wilson as 1st vice-president.  Again, though, the agenda was on the light side.

SF Pioneer Society Annual Mtg 31Sep13

The first evidence of an event held by the organization came at the May 1915 meeting, at which a picnic to be held at “Griffith’s park” on 12 June was discussed and committees appointed for “conveyances”, food and refreshments, and a “programme” of toasts and speakers, among other elements.

At the end of September 1916, the next gathering was held, at which the honorary president, presumably Catarina López, was retained, as were the officers.  There was some vague business about tin cups, with no explanation of what they were for, but a “cooperative dinner” was scheduled for late October.

SFPS 10Oct14

Then, it was a few years before any new activity arose, when a meeting of 17 April 1920  was held to arrange for the annual picnic, with committees formed and members appointed, and the date, a holiday preferred, to be selected subsequently.

The organization, as noted above, continued into the 1930s, but with not much happening.  There was a list compiled, sometime in 1930, of society members with names and, in many cases, the date when persons settled in town.  Among the early residents listed were:

Mary Proctor, 1870

John T. Wilson, April 1871

J.C. Maclay, April 1874

C.J. Shaug, July 1874

H.C. Hubbard, March 1875

F.M. Wright, September 1875

SFPS signatures 3Aug30

Of course, Gerónimo and Catarina López were on the list (noted as deceased, having passed away in 1921 and 1918, respectively), but no date of their arrival was given.  The newly married couple did settle at Mission San Fernando, though, in the early 1850s and later established Lopez Station, where today’s Van Norman Reservoir is located.

One of the later pages of the book is dated 3 August 1930 and contains several dozen signatures, perhaps those attending a society picnic.  Names include the Lopez-affiliated John and Grace Wilson; Luisa López McAlohan, who extensively remodeled the López Adobe in the mid-1920s; Catarina (Kate) and William Millen, whose wife Catarina must’ve been there, as she was the last López to live in the adobe up until 1961; Ramona Shaug; and the Brookses, descended through the Villegas line; as well as such surnames as Maclay, Hubbard, Fraisher, Webster, Wright, Van Winkle, Folger and more.

SFPS member list ca 1930 2

The organization eventually died off, as so many do, but a later group, the Friends of the López Adobe, emerged a few decades later, in the 1960s, to save the historic structure and which is still around today, keeping up the spirit of its predecessor.

 

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Categories: Catarina Lopez, Catarina Lopez de Millen, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Louisa Lopez de McAlohan, Pioneer Society of San Fernando, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, San Fernando founders, San Fernando History, San Fernando people | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

López Adobe Reopening a Big Success!

A line of eager visitors awaits entry of the López Adobe on its grand reopening, 22 March 2015.

A line of eager visitors awaits entry of the López Adobe on its grand reopening, 22 March 2015.

This afternoon’s official reopening of the López Adobe, held in gorgeous conditions that day after the start of Spring, attracted hundreds of visitors enjoying music and dancing, native Indian demonstrations, food and, of course, the first significant public access to the historic 1880s adobe in eight years.

Guests learn native Tataviam dances as part of the day's festivities.

Guests learn native Tataviam dances as part of the day’s festivities.

Carefully coordinated by the City of San Fernando’s Parks and Recreation Department, the event began with a welcome by city officials, including three members of the city council, the city’s planning director, the parks department manager and its supervisor in charge of the adobe.

Another view of expectant visitors to the adobe.

Another view of expectant visitors to the adobe.

Demonstrations by the Tataviam tribe of native peoples and performances by mariachi groups and dancers, the latter sponsored by the John Anson Ford Theatre Foundation, continued throughout the afternoon.

López family descendants, including two docents and visitors from Santa Barbara, share stories in a second-floor room of the adobe.

López family descendants, including two docents and visitors from Santa Barbara, share stories in a second-floor room of the adobe.

López descendant and author, Catherine López Kurland, signed copies of her book on “Hotel Mariachi,” a historic 1880s structure built by her ancestors George Cummings and Sacramento López in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Members of the Tataviam Band of Mission Indians educate and entertain guests.

Members of the Tataviam Band of Mission Indians educate and entertain guests.

Self-guided tours of the adobe, featuring several dedicated volunteers from the San Fernando community, were available and the official count totaled 365 adults, but with children and others the estimated number of visitors was almost certainly pushing 500 people.

Docent and local historian Richard Arroyo shares history of the López family, adobe and the area with visitors.

Docent and local historian Richard Arroyo shares history of the López family, adobe and the area with visitors.

This is a remarkable turnout and a prime indicator of the success of event, as well as a testament to the hard work and planning of the city’s parks and recreation department as they invested a huge amount of time in making this event a reality and a shining success.

Another exciting component of the reopening was the presence of a number of López descendants from Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Palmdale and Ms. Kurland, who came in from New Mexico, as well as locally.

Dancers in beautiful costumes display their amazing technique before an appreciative crowd.

Dancers in beautiful costumes display their amazing technique before an appreciative crowd.

With two of the docents in the house being direct descendants of its long-time owners, Gerónimo and Catalina López, having these relatives, many of which were meeting for the first time, excitedly share their connections and stories, was a major part of the day’s festivities.

For those who could not attend today’s reopening, the López Adobe will be open the fourth Sunday of each month from Noon to 4 p.m., staffed by a loyal cadre of docents.  So, come down and visit on the next open date, which is Sunday, 26 April!

One of the more notable features of the adobe is a computer station allowing visitors with limited mobility to see the second-floor rooms from a first-floor location.

One of the more notable features of the adobe is a computer station allowing visitors with limited mobility to see the second-floor rooms from a first-floor location.

Many thanks for all who planned, executed, participated, performed, demonstrated, visited and toured at today’s grand reopening of the López Adobe.  May the historic house continue to be an important fixture in the City of San Fernando and the region for many, many years to come!

Finally!  A big thanks to the City of San Fernando, the funders, architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, supporters, volunteers, López family members and others who made the reopening a reality!

Finally! A big thanks to the City of San Fernando, the funders, architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, supporters, volunteers, López family members and others who made the reopening a reality!

Categories: Architecture, Catarina Lopez, Geronimo Lopez | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The José Jesús López Interviews by Frank Latta, Part Six

In the extensive discussions with the eldest child of Geronimo and Catarina López conducted by the author of Saga of Rancho El Tejón, the final excerpts presented here deal with José Jesús López (also known as J.J.) as he goes to school, takes on early work, and then makes the move to Kern County where he was the foreman of the famed Tejon Ranch for several decades.

After discussing how his father went to the Sierra Nevada mines during the great Gold Rush of 1848, after delivering cattle at what became the town of Sonora in Tuolumne County for Henry Dalton, a Los Angeles merchant and later owner of Rancho Azusa in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, and then married Catarina, J. J. turned his attention to his schooling, principally the Escuela Normal de Los Angeles, which he attended from 1863 to 1865 and which was run by a Chileno and two Spaniards.  Whereas many children went to church-run or public schools, this was a private school which “taught us French, Spanish, English, Italian, mathematics, and bookkeeping.”  Moreover, J.J. noted, “our parents paid three hundred dollars a year for our board, lodging, and instruction.”  This was not an insignificant sum, especially as Los Angeles, battered already by the decline of the Gold Rush, a national depression erupting in 1857, and a deluge of flooding in the winter of 1861-62, then underwent a two-year drought during those years when J.J. attended the Escuela Normal.

J.J. stated that the school was not far northwest of the old Plaza in a building that had been the home of Bernardo Yorba, who was the owner of Rancho Cajon de Santa Ana, in today’s northeastern Orange County.  The L-shaped adobe mansion had a substantial patio and courtyard and “about twenty of us roomed and boarded at the school,” while some 150 were day students.  López recalled that “I had a small room alone at one end of the house, in the southwest corner, next to the dining room and kitchen.”  After a year-and-a-half, J.J. stopped attending and the school, which did not receive a renewal of its license by county educational officials, closed not long after.

The reason he left, however, was “my health was not good [so] that my father took me out the Escuela Normal and put me in the country to live in a tent.  Old Doctor John Griffin [John S. Griffin came to Los Angeles as a physician with the invading American forces in 1846 and became a prominent doctor and landowner in the city] ordered this.  I was subject to bronchitis, and it was thought that I would develop tuberculosis.”  He continued that, “I went home and lived in a tent for awhile and then entered the store of John Lazzarovich in Los Angeles.  I worked there for year,” this store being at the corner of Main and Requena streets and the period being 1867-68, when he was fifteen and sixteen years old.  He noted that his first cousin was Lazzarovich’s wife, María Juana López, whose father Francisco was one of the López family who’d settled in the Paredon Blanco area on the bluffs east of the Los Angeles River.

At the time J.J. worked for Lazzarovich, however, the latter was married to his first wife and Juana was the spouse of William C. Warren, who was the Los Angeles city marshal until he had a conflict over a reward with one of his deputies, Joseph Dye, and was killed in a shootout with Dye in 1870.  Two years later, Lazzarovich and Juana Warren were married.  Through that relationship, Lazzarovich became, in 1874, one of the three founders, with William H. Workman and Isaias W. Hellman, of the new subdivision of Boyle Heights.

J.J. had not been working long in the store, however, before Griffin confronted Geronimo López and informed them that, “Already I have saved that boy once for you, and now you are going to lose him after all unless you take him out of that store .  He will not live to be twenty five years of age unless he stays in the open.  He has weak lungs.  Put him out with sheep in the sunshine and fresh air.”  Consequently, J. J. continued, “My father took me out of the store and put me to sleep in a tent in a sheep pasture,” this being southwest of the López Station home that family occupied before they moved to the López Adobe.  J.J. observed that there was, in addition to the strong adobe house there, a barn, feedyard, telegraph office, school, guest lodging, a dining hall and a barn at López Station.

With his new profession of managing sheep being the direct result of his health, J.J. decided to pursue a new avenue for his avocation.  He told Latta that, in 1870 when he was eighteen years old, “I started out with a small band of sheep, and had quite a good start at the business when I came to Kern County in 1873.”  He moved north because “there was free feed and open range here and the climate was suitable to my weak lungs . . . I soon became strong and have lived to be eighty-six years of age [this statement, then came in 1938, just before his death the following year] after an extremely active life.”  He also was encouraged to make the move north by Danorio Avila, who lived a mile north of what is now Compton, but ran horses in Kern County.  Avila stopped at López Station on his way north, but his pitch to J.J. was made while the young man worked at the Lazzarovitch store which Avila patronized.

J.J. and his relative, Rafael López, made an exploratory trip in 1872 to Kern County and investigated the possibilities for raising sheep there and then the two visited Francisco “Chico” López, whose daughter Juana was John Lazzarovitch’s wife, at his ranch near Elizabeth Lake (then called López Lake) north of Castaic and were given shares with him for 2,000 sheep that they were allowed to pasture in their new holdings.  Returning to San Fernando to his parents’ place, J.J. announced his intention to move north which was accomplished in the fall of 1873.  As to Chico López, he sold his interests at Elizabeth Lake to Miguel Leonis (of the family whose adobe at Encino still stands) in 1879 and returned to Boyle Heights where he died in 1900.

José Jesús López at the far left, with General Moses Sherman, a part-owner of Rancho El Tejón and developer of what became West Hollywood and sections of the San Fernando Valley including Sherman Oaks, with Sherman's guests, ca. 1920.

José Jesús López at the far left, with General Moses Sherman, a part-owner of Rancho El Tejón and developer of what became West Hollywood and sections of the San Fernando Valley including Sherman Oaks, with Sherman’s guests, ca. 1920.

Notably, when J.J. arrived at the Rancho San Emigdio west of Tejon and today’s Interstate 5, one of the first people he met was Alexis Godey, who owned part of that rancho and had been in Kern County for some years.  Godey said to J.J., “So you are a son of Don Jerónimo López.  I knew him well when I was with Frémont, and in 1849 he ran horses on my ranch in the Cuyama Valley.  I consider him one of my closest friends.”  Indeed, when Frémont signed the Treaty of Caheunga in 1847 with Andrés Pico, Godey first met Geronimo there.  After staying at San Emigdio for a few months, J.J. moved to another property, in the flat lands just beyond the mountains at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, where he ran his sheep for about a year before selling most of the animals to General Edward Beale, owner of Rancho El Tejón, and became his manager.

Another item to note from the interviews is that J.J. indicated that Geronimo did a great deal of freighting by cart from the port at San Pedro to the San Joaquin Valley with his future father-in-law Pedro López from the 1845 through 1863. when competition from Remi Nadeau and Phineas Banning forced him to end his involvement in the business and the López carts became firewood!  Far before that, however, Claudio López, J.J.’s great-grandfather, had created the route north from Cahuenga Pass as early as 1780.  J.J. also related to Latta how Geronimo operated lime kilns near Tujunga, where there is today a López Canyon.

J.J. related that Pedro wanted to modernize their transport and bought ten American wagons to supplant the Mexican-era carretas that they had used and gave half the wagons to Geronimo.  The latter, however, was not keen to use them as intended and refashioned them by cutting them in half and essentially making them into ten carretas.  Moreover, Geronimo gave information to J.J. about how the road from San Pedro passed through Los Angeles and into Cahuenga Pass, where it then forked along the route developed, as noted above, by Claudio López.  The west road went toward Ventura, while the other went northeast to Mission San Fernando and then through López Station before moving northward.  Chico López had his ranch at Elizabeth Lake along another branch of this road.

J.J. noted that his funding for his start in Kern County came about because, “it was my mother who arranged all of this.  She was a better manager of finances than my father.  He was too generous and never billed anyone for anything [at López Station].”  Specifically, she arranged for her son to collect long overdue money for a stage line that used López Station as a stop and then gave the money to J.J.  Gratefully, he noted that “You see, I am much like my mother.”

Elsewhere in the book, J.J. stated that the famed bandido, Tiburcio Vásquez, spent much time at López Station in the early 1870s as he marauded throughout the state.  He observed that the bandit used the alias of “Don Richardo Cantúa,” the surname being that of his mother, and remembered that he “was a very smooth talked.  He had a genteel and ingratiating way about him, and was a good looking man . . . But he would involve even his best friend, and was a rascal throughout.”  Interestingly, in 1874, after hearing from a Greek man named George Caralambo, renamed George Allen in Los Angeles and who had married a López cousin of J.J.’s, that Vásquez was staying at his ranch in present West Hollywood, J.J. claimed that he went and told officials in Los Angeles about this important information and, having informed his father of having done so, Geronimo exclaimed that he had done the same.  J.J. even told Latta he had been mistaken by officers for the bandit during the heated chase for Vásquez in the spring of 1874, and that his former employer John Lazzarovich convinced the lawmen that J.J. was not the wanted man.

Another significant tidbit from the J.J. López recollections came as he talked about witnessing with his sister and father the first arrival of the Butterfield Stage from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 1858, when Geronimo and Catarina still lived at El Paredon Blanco.  Being impressed with the achievement of the Butterfield line, Geronimo, according to his son, “was very enthusiastic about the enterprise of Los Americanos.  He thought they could do anything.  From that day on he was all for Los Americanos, and wanted all of his children to marry Americanos, and almost all of them did.”

The José Jesús López interviews with Latta are interesting and informative for a host of reasons, not least of which is what they tell of us of his parents, Geronimo and Catarina, the long-time owners of the López Adobe.  As the Adobe reopens soon to the public, the information provided by J.J. can be shared with visitors as they learn more about this remarkable family.

Categories: Boyle Heights, California History, Catarina Lopez, Claudio Lopez, El Paredón Blanco, Francisco Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Gold Rush, John Lazzarovich, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Lopez Station, Pedro Lopez, Rancho El Tejón, San Fernando History | 1 Comment

The José Jesús López Interviews by Frank Latta, Part Five

This is another in the series of posts on interviews conducted over a lengthy period by Frank Latta with José Jesús (J.J.) López, the oldest child of Lopez Adobe owners Geronimo and Catarina López.  These recollections were published in a 1976 book called Saga of Rancho El Tejón and have much information on the López family, as well as J.J.’s lengthy tenure as mayordomo, or foreman, at the famed Tejón ranch.

Among the many topics concerning his family that J. J. covered was that of his parents’ marriage.  He noted to Latta that “My mother used to tease my father about the manner in which they were married.”  Specifically, Catarina observed that “Thee were a number of girls in the family, and when their beaux would come to visit them, father used to object to them, saying that Luisa, or Catalina or someone else should have nothing to do with them as they had nothing with which to support a family.”  Here, Catarina was referring to her own children and Geronimo’s impatience with young suitors of his daughters who were not endowed enough financially to take on marriage.

Nonetheless, as the tale went on, “Mother would laugh and say, ‘Do you remember the little trunk you left with Aunt Paloma when you went to the mines, and it was supposed to have in it your entire fortune?  Do you remember what was in it?'”  Now, the reference to the mines is interesting because it obviously refers to sometime shortly after the momentous discovery of gold by James Marshall in January 1848, just nine days before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was drafted to formally end the Mexican-American War.  The massive influx of people from all over the world, first from the mining regions of northern Mexico and then by Chinese, Americans, Europeans and others, to a place that had virtually no government as the military was left understaffed in America’s new possession, more dramatically transformed California than the war itself.

José Jesús López, oldest child of Gerónimo and Catarina López, at the Rancho El Tejón, ca. 1920s.  From the book "Saga of Rancho El Tejón" by Frank Latta, 1976.

José Jesús López, oldest child of Gerónimo and Catarina López, at the Rancho El Tejón, ca. 1920s. From the book “Saga of Rancho El Tejón” by Frank Latta, 1976.

In any case, J.J.’s story went on that “Mother’s parents had objected to father marrying her, and had told him that he would have to have at least five hundred dollars before he could establish a home.  Father was a very determined man, and he said that he would get the money.  He left the little trunk with a brother and sister-in-law.”  As if the fact that Gerónimo and Catarina were second cousins wasn’t confusing enough to follow the family genealogy, it turned out that Gerónomo’s brother was married to Catarina’s sister!  Catarina happened to be staying with then and, as J. J. related, “This was how she came to have access to the trunk.”  Moreover, Gerónimo told Catarina that “he had lots of money in the trunk and that if she wanted anything, to open the trunk and take whatever money she needed.”  Evidently, Gerónimo did this because “he thought she would not be so familiar as to look in the trunk.”  However, he misjudged his future wife who “had a lot of curiosity, and she did look.  What Catarina found was that, “except for a few old clothes, there was only one dollar in it.”

In any case, the tale went on, “Father went [on] horseback to the mines on the Stanislaus River [probably in the vicinity of Sonora and Columbia in the lower mines of Tuolumne County], and in three months washed out five hundred dollars in gold in the placeras.  He wrapped the gold in a handkerchief and tied it to the saddle horn and came home.”  With his goal established, “He bought a lot on the old Paredon Blanco, later called Boyle Heights [where the López family had lived since the 1830s], built his adobe house on it, and married my mother.”  The marriage took place in October 1851, so it would appear that Gerónimo’s adventures in Gold Rush mining took place the preceding summer.  José Jesús was born a year later in October 1852.

Categories: Boyle Heights, California History, Catarina Lopez, El Paredón Blanco, Geronimo Lopez, Gold Rush, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Rancho El Tejón, San Fernando History | Leave a comment

The José Jesús López Interviews by Frank Latta, Part Three

In his interviews with Geronimo and Catarina López’ oldest child, José Jesús (or J. J.), who was the long-time majordomo (foreman) at the famed Rancho El Tejón, author Frank Latta obtained a great deal of information about the López family and their history.  Continuing from the last post, J.J. talked about his childhood at Paredón Blanco, or White Bluffs, the area east of the river across from the pueblo of Los Angeles that was later known as Boyle Heights.

López informed Latta that, when he was born there in 1852, “Old Aliso street led from the Pueblo up to El Paredón Blanco.  We lived there until 1860, when my father established López Station.”  This was the adobe house and stage stop on the road north from Los Angeles, located where the Van Norman Reservoir is in today’s Granada Hills, northeast of the López Adobe.  J.J. also noted that, “My uncle, ‘Chico’ López, of what now is called Elizabeth Lake, owned most of El Paredón Blanco.  There were about six hundred acres in the property.”  Explaining how the area became the Boyle Heights neighborhood, J. J. stated that, “Chico allowed his son-in-law, John Lazzarovich, and Boyle [actually William H.] Workman to promote a subdivision.  Lazzarovich was given power of attorney to borrow money, and to develop into town lots the six hundred acres in the Chico López holding.  Lazzarovich borrowed the money, and in 1875 the Temple and Workman Bank failed and Chico lost all, the money he had borrowed and the land as well.”

There was actually more to the story than this.  Andrew Boyle, an Irish native, who had resided in Mexican-era Texas and San Francisco before coming to Los Angeles in 1858 bought property in El Paredón Blanco from Petra Varelas, the widow of J. J.’s grandfather Esteban López.  Boyle built a brick house on the tract, continued working with the López vineyard, and owned a shoe store in the pueblo before his death in 1871.  The land then went to his daughter Maria (pronounced Mariah) and her husband, William H. Workman, a saddler in Los Angeles.  In 1874, Workman, Lazzarovich and banker Isaias W. Hellman, created the Boyle Heights subdivision.  If Lazzarovich did, indeed, use his power-of-attorney for Chico López to borrow money from the Temple and Workman bank, co-owned by William H. Workman’s uncle William Workman of Rancho La Puente in the eastern San Gabriel Valley, to finance his contribution to the subdivision, then that institution’s demise in early 1876 would have created the conditions described by J. J.  Chico López then made his way to Elizabeth Lake, which is a sag pond at the west end of the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.  According to one source, Chico López began running cattle there in the 1840s and the body of water was called La Laguna de Chico López.

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The wedding portrait of José Jesús López and Mary Winter. She grew up on a ranch in the Tehachapi Mountains not far from the Rancho El Tejón where López was foreman for many years. From Frank Latta’s “Saga of Rancho El Tejón.”

Later, J. J. noted that, “In those days, 1852 to 1860, I was a boy living in the López home on El Paredón Blanco.  I can remember our home like it was yesterday.  By present-day standards of housing we lived very primitively.  But, understand, we were healthy and comfortable and we were happy.”  He also made reference to “dancing all day and all night in an old adobe home with a dirt floor when we kicked up so much dust we couldn’t see across the room.  Bad for the lungs maybe, but wonderful for memories.”  He continued that “The López family, as well as all of the early Angelenos, had very little furniture, say until about 1820s.”  He indicated wealthier families imported furniture from México, but that others had rough wood table, benches and chairs often with rawhide pieces and strips for seating.  In fact, he said, “I can remember my mother telling of getting in bad with an Indian rawhide worker because she took some rawhide strips he had prepared for use in making a reata (rope), and had another Indian use them to put rawhide bottoms in some chairs.”  He also observed that, “I have heard my father say that he was born in a rawhide bed.”

J.J. also talked in some detail about the “hide and tallow trade” that dominated the California economy through the Gold Rush of 1849 and afterward, but noted that there was much more used from cattle than just the hides for leather goods and the fat (tallow) rendered for use as candles and soap.  For example, he observed, “Grandfather, and father, too, dried all of the best meat and sold lots of it to the Boston traders,” most trading ships then coming from Massachusetts.  He stated that, “They also saved the horns, which the Indians knocked off last year’s skulls.  These were used to make lanthorns (lanterns), combs, shoehorns, buttons, and many other things.  Hundreds of bladders were saved for containers.  The Indians saved the bladders from deer.”  Cow’s tails became decorative ornamental tassels for harnesses on mule and horse teams.  He also recalled that Chinese camphor-wood chests were very popular and remembered that, in his extended family of some twenty persons, “the old wooden chests were given to the Indians, and our family was outfitted with more than a dozen camphor-wood chests from China.”  He also stated that his grandfather Esteban had a hide-covered chest made in China that showed his cattle brand on the portion of the hide that was on the lid.  Moreover, these chests were packed with items like silk for the manufacture of clothing items.

When the ships came to port at San Pedro, the captain would set up the cargo hold like a store and Los Angeles-area residents came to shop with hides (otherwise known as California banknotes or dollars) and 25-pound bags of tallow as the medium of exchange.  J. J. reported that “Grandfather [Esteban] would take his family in the carreta [ox-drawn cart]  to San Pedro, and the sailors with the boat from the ship would row them out to the ship.  After they had finished with their purchases, the boat would bring them back to San Pedro.”

As for living at El Paredón Blanco, J. J. distinctly recalled Indians sweeping constantly around the López home, because “the one bad feature of El Paredón Blanco was the wind, which swept unhindered across that height.”  He also recalled going down from his home to the Los Angeles River for washing day and being accompanied by his dog, Pancho.  Playing marbles with Santiago Argüello, from another old Californio family, J. J. lost track of his dog, when the city dogcatcher, thinking the pet was a stray, grabbed him with a reata and hit him on the head with a stick until he died.  Mournfully, young J. J. and Argüello buried the loyal animal in the sand banks of the river.

Next, J. J. López and his recollection of his father’s involvement at the end of the Mexican-American War in Los Angeles and the marriage of his parents.

Categories: Boyle Heights, California History, Catarina Lopez, El Paredón Blanco, Esteban Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, hide and tallow trade, John Lazzarovich, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Lopez Station, Petra Varelas, Rancho El Tejón, San Fernando History | Leave a comment

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