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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.