Posts Tagged With: Lopez family

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

The Porter Land and Water Association

Porter Land and Water pamphlet

Cover of a circa 1889 promotional pamphlet for the Porter Land and Water Company, from the collection of the Lopez Adobe.

Another great recent find in the Lopez Adobe collection was an original circa 1889 pamphlet for the Porter Land and Water Company, which subdivided a 20,000-acre section of the former Rancho ex-Mission San Fernando that was formerly the ranch of George K. Porter.

In 1874, Robert Maclay created the townsite of San Fernando during the Los Angeles region’s first boom period, which began in the late 1860s and brought thousands of new residents to the area.  Other towns that sprung up during this period included Pasadena, Pomona, and Artesia, but, by 1876, the boom went bust and most of these communities stagnated for a decade.

But, with the arrival of a direct transcontinental railroad, the Santa Fe line, from the east in 1885, a new boom arose and this one was far larger than its predecessor.  As new arrivals poured in, more land was subdivided and placed on sale for steeply-rising prices.  George K. Porter jumped at the opportunity and launched the Porter Land and Water Company, capitalized at over $500,000.

 

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San Francisco Chronicle, 3 June 1887.

He took almost all of the stock, with a few partners investing $1,000 each for a single share.  These included Jesse Yarnell, a newpaper publisher; Dan McFarland, who invested heavily in the Boom of the 1880s; Lehman T. Garnsey, a new arrival in the area and an investor in what became Burbank; Edward A. Forrester,  a real estate developer and future county supervisor; and John B. Baskin, who became the sales agent for the new firm.

Baskin immediately began an aggressive marketing and promotional campaign for the subdivision of San Fernando-area land, doing so in a hyper-competitive environment in which almost every new project featured the finest soil, the balmiest climate, ample water and amenties galore.

One of the frequently-mentioned elements of the company’s holdings was the fact that the remains of Mission San Fernando were surrounded by the tract and the usual comparisons were made between the “days of old” represented by the crumbling walls of the mission and the progress represented in the Boom of the 1880s.

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Los Angeles Herald, 3 July 1887.

The first advertisements were published in local newspapers on 3 July and sales commenced two days later, including town lots as well as parcels ranging from 10 to 640 acres.  Baskin hired William Hammond Hall, California State Engineer and an expert on water, to develop a comprehensive irrigation plan for water derived from local creeks (such as Pacoima) and springs.  Hall also offered his opinion that Porter Land and Water controlled “really first-rate valley lands for cultivation, with soils not to be surpassed for fertility” as well as “in a neighborhood  whose climate is well-adapted to the best class of agricultural, horticultural and vineyard productions usual in this country.”

On 22 July, it was announced that the firm bought a lot in San Fernando from Martin Murnane for a hotel–this became the 70-room Porter Hotel, though it was originally the San Fernando Mission Hotel.  Two days later, Baskin published a “card” in the Los Angeles Herald with a statement from long-time local residents attesting to the fact that “the oranges produced on said ranch are as fine as any we have seen in the State, and we further swear that scale bugs do not, and never have existed on any trees on the ranch.”

The signatories included Porter’s ranching partner, Henry C. Hubbard; Benigno Pico, who was married to Edward Forrester’s sister in a rare inter-ethnic marriage of the time; Southern Pacific station agent, W.H. Griswold; John T. Wilson; and Wilson’s father-in-law, Gerónimo López.  Lopez’s 25 years of residency in the area (meaning his arrival was in 1861 or 1862) was by far the longest of the eight signatories, who swore their statement before San Fernando’s justice of the peace, T.S. Smith.

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Los Angeles Herald, 12 October 1887

In late August, the biggest sale registered by Porter Land and Water was 1,500 acres in the center of the tract to Theodore Wisendanger, a native of Switzerland, who came to Los Angeles in 1884, just before the boom erupted, for some $250,000.  Wisendanger, upon his arrival in the area, taught briefly at a little new and unknown Methodist college called U.S.C. and then dove headlong into real estate, developing some 3,000 acres and building hundreds of houses.  He also was a pioneer in building apartments, amassing a portfolio of some forty buildings, though he died poor and almost forgotten in 1919.

The Porter Land and Water Company even tried to sell stock on the new Los Angeles Stock Exchange, offering initially for the $1,000 per share price assigned in the company’s formation.  As the boom moved into 1888, the offered value rose to nearly $1,200, though it is unknown how many investors joined in.  The company did add two directors, enlarging its number to seven, that year.

As 1888 dawned, the company was offering its land for $50 an acre, with a 40-acre lot being the most commonly marketed and sold plot.  An upfront cash payment of 1/3 was expected, with the remainder due either in one or two years at 6% interest.  In February, it was announced that a little under 500 acres of the property was being planted to oranges to demonstrate the fertility of the soil, the absence of pests, and the abundance of water that would make cirtus raising a profitable endeavor on the firm’s lands.

Los_Angeles_Herald_Fri__Mar_23__1888_

Los Angeles Herald, 23 March 1888.

Besides 58,000 orange trees, as claimed in a March advertisement, figs and olives were represented as flourishing on the Porter property.  In later years, the olive groves and production facilities at Sylmar would become widely-known.  In the ad, Baskin enlisted Eduard Germain, one of Los Angeles’ biggest fruit dealers, quoted as saying that the fruits of the company’s tract were “the prettiest and cleanest in the county” and that “this ranch is the coming fruit section of the county.”

On 6 April 1888, Porter Land and Water offered a “grand excursion” from Los Angeles to the tract with the subsidized train ride, tour and lunch only costing 75 cents.  The recently planted orange grove was touted as the largest in the world.  The Herald‘s coverage included the wording of a statement that many of the excursionists signed about the “excellent manner in which we were treated” as well as “the fine appearance of the country and the extensive improvements being made” which “prove that the land of the Company has not been praised near what it deserves.”

Porter Land and Water map 2

The fold-out map of Porter Land and Water Company holdings from the 1889 pamphlet.

As the year wound towards a close, the boom began to fade and problems ensued within Porter Land and Water.  On the latter point, a bookkeeper, Thomas Gaskins, forged some company checks payable to himself and skipped town, leaving his teenaged wife and infant son behind.  He was captured in San Francisco and brought back to Los Angeles for criminal proceedings, though the outcome was not located.

Early in 1889, John B. Baskin was taken to court by the company.  Baskin, it was noted was paid $100 per month and given a 6% commission on all sales as part of his work as agent, but Porter Land and Water charged that Baskin engineered “pretended” sales and collected his commission on others that were never fully realized or perfected.  The company alleged that Baskin, who received some $15,000 in salary and fees in ten months (a very large sum), also had promissory notes against the firm for other work, charged the firm $2,000 to a personal account, and had property put in the name of his wife and then transferred to him.  The total of alleged false fees and other income was some $6,000.  The firm demanded that Baskin only receive the total of his salary and commission on actual, realized and perfected sales.  While the matter did proceed in court, no outcome was located, though it may be that there was an out-of-court settlement.

By 1889, the firm had a new agent, J.C. Byram, whose name appears on the pamphlet pictured here.  Byram, however, could do little to turn around sales, when the boom was bust, and the national and local economies were heading towards a depression, which broke out in 1893.  Additionally, much of the 1890s found the region in a severe drought.

1898 Herald article

Los Angeles Herald, 23 June 1898.

An 1898 Herald article on another company lawsuit, this one against Porter, his company, and officers and directors in Porter Land and Water, was headlined “Relic of Boom Days.”  It was just a decade removed, but the glory days of the boom were already worthy of “relics” by the late Nineties.

The suit was brought by 26 “small stockholders” in the firm and they alleged that as “the years rolled by and the land did not sell,” Porter and associated borrowed $100,000 from a bank on the company’s credit, with Porter being paid some $45,650 out of the borrowed money for 734 acres that he transferred to the company.  The plaintiffs argued that the 734 acres had to be sold before Porter was paid.  The 26 stockholders won their case at the local Superior Court, but the judgment was reversed on appeal by the state Supreme Court.  The affair shows the low state of the company as the 1890s ended.

Porter Land and Water map detail

Detail from the circa 1889 map from the Porter Land and Water Company pamphlet showing the townsite of San Fernando at right, the Mission San Fernando at the center, the location of the Andres Pico Adobe at lower center, and the Rinaldi orange grove towards the upper left.

Five years later, in 1903, Porter sold his firm and transferred remaining acreage in the San Fernando area to a new company, the San Fernando Mission Land Company, of which he was a minority owner, holding 10% of the stock.  Three years after that, in 1906, he died, without much of the property he owned and developed being sold, though it was not long afterward that a new rush of settlers came to the San Fernando Valley, which was the terminus, from 1913, of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Categories: California History, Citrus history, George K. Porter, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Mission San Fernando, Porter Hotel, Porter Land and Water Company, San Fernando founders, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Francisco López Gold Discovery Lecture

Yesterday at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, a very thorough and very interesting presentation was made on the Francisco López gold discovery by Alan Pollack, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

Pollack obviously spent considerable time trying to sort out fact from fiction and history from myth as he discussed early gold discoveries in California, those documented and asserted; the López family history and the very limited information known about Francisco; and then carefully covered several major sources of information about the discovery.

DSCN5887

The tunnel under Placerita Canyon Road leading to the alleged site of the López gold discovery has some murals, including this well-worn depiction of a broad swath of history from native Indians to gold miners to oil prospecting.

With respect to the first point, Pollack noted that, while the López discovery was the first major documented find, there was a very interesting document found that showed an 1838 deposit at the Philadelphia national mint of gold dust that was labeled as being from California.  He noted that there were accounts that claimed earlier instances of the location of gold.  Of course, who knows how many discoveries were made by the native Indians residing in what became California for thousands and thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans by 1770.

Pollack also discussed a bit of the López family genealogy to identify the Francisco was a cousin of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, the owners for decades of the López Adobe.  Their son, José Jesús, in a 1916 interview stated that Francisco was college-educated and studies mineralogy, so that this training was obviously essential in his find.  Francisco was also a part-owner of the massive Rancho San Francisco, encompassing today’s Santa Clarita Valley, which was the property of his sister and her husband, the del Valles.  Although Francisco would up being part-owner of other ranches, including Tujunga and Cahuenga, he seems to have died in some obscurity, as no record of his death or burial site have been found and he is missing from even the most basic of public records.

DSCN5884

This detail of another mural shows Francisco López (of whom there are no known images) triumphantly waving his gold-flecked wild onions under the Oak of the Golden Dream.  Conveniently, a piece of paper under the tree identifies the date “Marzo 1842.”

As to the main sources of information, Pollack shared an image of a New York newspaper article from October 1842 that briefly discussed the discovery.   He then spent some time going through later, more detailed sources, the earliest of these being a letter in 1867 by longtime Los Angeles merchant and land baron Abel Stearns and the last from 1930 surrounded the landmark status bestowed on the Placerita Canyon site said to have been the very spot on which López discovered the gold.

Stearns identified the find as from April 1842 and wrote that López and some ranch hands stopped in the canyon while searching for lost horses and, during a rest break, he dug up some wild onions on which were flakes of gold.  This set off a rush, mainly composed of hundreds of experienced gold miners coming up from the northern mining state of Sonora in Mexico proper.

DSCN5881

There it is–the alleged 500-year old Oak of the Golden Dream, where Francisco López is said to have found gold on 9 March 1842.

While Stearns noted that he sold gold dust to the mint in Philadelphia, there were others, too, that Pollack did not have time to discuss.  One was merchant Pliny F. Temple, who sent dust to a brother in Massachusetts to buy goods to send back to Mexican California–these are documented by surviving letters dating from 1842 to 1844.

A rather interesting tale from John Murray discussed a Mexican mineralogist who showed pebbles having gold  in them when he was visiting Santa Barbara and it was claimed that Francisco López was present when this took place, inspring his own search.  Murray, however, claimed that the gold discovery was actually in 1841, though not specified as to date.

DSCN5880

The tale of the Oak of the Golden Dream must be true because it is literally carved in stone (or brass set in stone) in this 1991 plaque by, curiously enough, the Santa Clarita Valley Association of Realtors.

James M. Guinn, an educator and historian of early Los Angeles and southern California, wrote a lengthy 1895 article in the San Francisco Call, analyzing the known accounts and declaring that there was no way to know the absolute truth of what happened with the discovery, though he did say it was likely early 1842 and that López was the discoverer.  Guinn also went on to state that while James Marshall, who found the gold in 1848 that launched the Gold Rush, received a small pension and a statue, López had been forgotten.

Interestingly, Isaac Given write a letter to Guinn, saying that he came to California from New Mexico at the end of 1841 with a group commonly known by two of its presumed leaders, Workman (the father-in-law of the above-mentioned Pliny Temple) and Rowland, and that he was shown gold dust from the discovery by Stearns.  Other accounts, including one by a man alleged to have been 115 years old, assigned dates of 1838 and 1840 for the find.

DSCN5877

Notably, the California state historic landmark plaque makes no mention of any dream, but rather matter-of-factly states that López found gold while gathering wild onions.  It does, however, declare that the find was six years before the Marshall discovery ushering in the Gold Rush.  Note the original registration was 1935, five years after the local dedication.  The plaque, however, dated from 1992 with the involvement of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and E Clampus Vitus.

Perhaps the most persistent of the chroniclers was Francisca López de Bilderrain, a relative of Francisco, who claimed that Catalina López, of the López Adobe, told her that she was present, as a young girl of 12 or 13, when the first anniversary of the find was observed in 1843.  Based on this, Bilderrain, Catalina’s daughter Ramona López de Shaug, and Charles Prudhomme, a local history enthusiast, ventured into Placerita Canyon, where the tree said to have been the site of the discovery was pointed out based on Catalina’s recollection.  Prudhomme wrote a 1922 article in the annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California based on this version.  Five years later, Catholic priest and church historian Father Zephyrin Englehardt reproduced Catalina’s account in a book he wrote.

Finally, there was a dedication of the purported discovery site on 9 March 1930, said to have been the 88th anniversary of López’s find.  For that event, a couple of men prominent in the creation of the landmark status came up with a new wrinkle in the story, grandiosely called “The Oak of the Golden Dream,” in which Francisco was not only taking a break from hunting the roaming horses, but fell into a slumber, during which he had a dream of finding gold.  Lo and behold, the gold was found.

DSCN5882

. . . and, it’s got its own logo, too!

An affidavit was secured from Bilderrain, stating that the information she received from Catalina López was true and that this was relayed to her at a 1914 family reunion.  Meantime, local ranch owner Frank Walker donated the site of the tree for the dedication, which featured two plaques and speeches that went to great lengths to play up the importance of the discovery and to assure it a place in California history less overshadowed by the great Gold Rush of six years later.  Pollack’s reading of some of the speeches brought a bit of laughter for its overwrought language!

Bilderrain added to the earnest attempt to redress the wrong perpertrated on Francisco López by writing another version that was submitted to the California State Library in July 1930, including the alleged exclamation of Francisco when he discovered the gold:  something along the lines of “Gold!  I have found it!  Gold!!”  She also claimed there were numerous celebrations in Los Angeles when the word reached the little village of the find, that an emissary was dispatched to Mexico City to alert the federal government, and other embellishments.

DSCN5878

Whether it’s the actual tree or not, long may it stand to commemorate an important event in local and state history!

 

In 1959, Placerita Canyon Nature Center was dedicated and a reenactment of the discovery was presented.  In later years, the long-vanished original plaques were replaced by new ones, including a designation of the site as a California state historic landmark and another by a local organization.  The tree, purportedly 500 years old, still stands just a few feet north of Placerita Canyon Road.

As Pollack noted in his excellent telling, however, the “true history” of the discovery is really unknown, from the actual date, to the real location, and details associated with the event.  He summed up by noting that the only person who could have told the story accurately was Francisco López, but he, evidently, left no version behind.  Not surprisingly, as with many notable historical events, the story has become more embellished and expanded over time, but the “Oak of the Golden Dream” has moved into legend and will almost certainly remain there.

Categories: 1842 discovery of gold San Francisquito Canyon, California History, Catalina Lopez, Francisca López de Bilderrain, Francisco Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Gold Rush, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Oak of the Golden Dream, Placerita Canyon, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, Rancho San Francisco, San Fernando History, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beale’s Cut and the Lopez Family

Today’s many thousands of commuters race (well, sometimes) up and down the Newhall Pass where Interstate 5 and State Route 14 intersect and almost all of them are probably unaware of one of the simple and primitive ancestors of their commuting routes.

Beale’s Cut was, for decades, the main access point to and from the San Fernando Valley up through “The Grapevine” and the Central Valley.  Though long abandoned as a transportation route and hidden from view, the cut, declared a California historic landmark in the early 1990s, sits on private property.

In the mid-1850s as the Gold Rush was beginning to peter out, efforts to improve transportation to and from Los Angeles to the north through what was called San Fernando, or Fremont, Pass included an 1854 contract between the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and William T.B. Sanford and George Carson to build a new road near the existing and difficult to navigate one.  Carson, who married into the Dominguez family and is memorialized by the South Bay city named for him, and Sanford evidently built the first version of the cut.

In late 1854, the Southern Californian newspaper, published in Los Angeles, stated that there was a cut in the mountain of thirty-feet depth for the new road.  Sanford’s brother-in-law, Phineas Banning, a new arrival in the Los Angeles area and who was building his freighting and transportation business, ran a stagecoach through the cut at that time.

But, travel through the cut required the use of a windlass, a device that employed pullies and ropes to lift animals, wagons and other material through difficult-to-navigate places like the pass.  Some sources indicate the windlass was built by Henry C. Wiley, who was the manager of the Mission San Fernando for a few years in the late 1850s and early 1860s, and for whom Wiley Canyon near the pass is named.  Harris Newmark, a Los Angeles merchant from 1853 onward, recalled the device in his 1913 memoir, but there is scant evidence about Wiley’s project.  Jacob Kuhrts, who penned a short memoir in the 1890s, recalled using the windlass, however, in 1857 when traveling to Los Angeles from San Francisco.

When the famed Butterfield Stage came through in 1858, it appears further work had been done to the cut and published accounts of that first trip by the stage gave some details about the difficulty of the passage, even with whatever work had been done to make travel easier.

Another effort to improve the cut came in 1861 when the California legislature issued a franchise to Andrés Pico, long-time owner of Mission San Fernando and surrounding lands, Assembly member James R. Vineyard (the idea of conflict of interest not being a problem in those days), and Charles H. Brinley to bring the cut down to 50 feet as well as provide for a 20-year franchise to collect tolls.

By the end of the year, however, an unprecedented storm system (the El Niño that we are anticipating this winter) struck California and wreaked havoc throughout the state and at the cut.  The 25 January 1862 edition of the Los Angeles Star reported that the road was washed out, as so many were.

In March, the same paper noted that military personnel from Fort Tejon were repairing the road and published a portion of the commanding officer’s report on the project.  Mention was made of the cut in the article.  It was not, evidently, until late May that the road was fully reopened again.

It was at this time that Edward F. Beale took over the Pico/Vineyard/Brinley franchise and actively initiated work to improve the road and the cut.  Beale, a native of Washington, D.C., came to California as a Navy midhsipman with the invading American forces during the Mexican-American War.  He traveled several times to and from California and the east and was said to have brought the first proof of gold back east in 1848.

Beale's Cut ca 1890s

This cabinet card photograph, probably dating to the 1890s, shows Beale’s Cut in what was then known as San Fernando, or Fremont, Pass and is now part of today’s Newhall Pass.  The cut survives, though partially filled in, on private property and is a state historic landmark.  The photo is from the Lopez Adobe Collection.

After he left the Navy in 1851, Beale stayed in California and became an advocate for a military installation in the Grapevine area, which led to the creation of Fort Tejon a few years later.  This proved to be of assistance to Beale’s work as a federal Indian agent, where he established a reservation in the area.

In 1857, Beale was appointed by President Fillmore to conduct a wagon-road survey from New Mexico to the Colorado River at the border of California and what became Arizona and his introduction of camels on that survey gave him his first notoriety.  Four years later, Abraham Lincoln appointed Beale the California surveyor-general.

During this period and continuing through the mid-1860s, Beale carefully assembled a massive landholding from several Mexican-era ranchos to develop what became the famed Tejon Ranch, which is largely intact today.  With his partner, Robert S. Baker, Beale expanded his real estate empire to include a large portion of Rancho La Puente in the eastern San Gabriel Valley and ocean-front property west of Los Angeles that the two first developed as Truxtun (named for Beale’s father-in-law), but later became Santa Monica.

After Beale assumed the franchise for the toll road, he utilized crews, said to have largely been composed of Chinese workers, to deepen the cut.  The 4 April 1863 issue of the Star noted that, while Beale’s efforts to date satisfed the terms of the state charter, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors wanted more improvements.  So, a deal was struck between the two parties for further work to the tune of some $17,000.

Still, the county, then mired in a horrible drought following the deluge of 1861-62 and in dire straits economically, pursued even more work at the cut, as reported by the Star at the end of 1863.  In return, Beale would receive a greater cut in the revenue from collected tolls.

Finally, the Star‘s edition of 5 March 1864 reported on the completion of the work at the cut and the acceptance of the project by the supervisors–it also listed the toll rates to be collected.

The franchise, however, only proved to be effective for about a decade or so.  By the mid-1870s, the coming of the Southern Pacific railroad from the Bay Area to Los Angeles heralded the end of Beale’s Cut as a viable transportation route.

Still, the cut remained in use and photographs from the early 1870s onward, including the one shown here from the Lopez Adobe collection and looking to be from the 1890s, document its appearance in its declining years. In 1902, the first automobile traversed the cut, but it wasn’t long before better roads, designed for the auto age, were being built.

As noted at the beginning of this post, Beale’s Cut is still in existence, though it has been partially filled in by such events as the Northridge earthquake of 1994, and on private property.  Its future, even with state historic landmark status, is still uncertain.

As to a Lopez family connection, this is documented through the reminiscences of J.J. Lopez, son of Gerónimo and Catalina, long-time owners of the Lopez Adobe, but whose Lopez Station stop on the road leading to the pass was situated where today’s Van Norman Reservoir is located.  Lopez worked at Tejon Ranch for Beale, who died in 1893, and following owners for many years and recalled:

Understand, the cut was made by hand labor with pick and shovel and the use of powder.  Even after the cut was made, it was a steep grade to climb with teams and loaded wagons.  My father used to keep two span of oxen and a driver there to help pull rigs and wagons and the stages over it . . . teamsters would telegraph my father when they would be at the cut, and he would have double yokes of oxen there to help them make the pull.

Sources primarily include SCVHistory.com, elsmerecanyon.com, the Bureau of Land Management’s Needles field office pamphlet on Beale at: http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/ca/pdf/pdfs/needles_pdfs/brochures.Par.79254.File.dat/Beale.pdf.

Categories: Andres Pico, Beale's Cut, Edward F. Beale, Geronimo Lopez, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Lopez Station, Mexican-American War, Mission San Fernando, Newhall Pass, Rancho El Tejón, San Fernando founders, San Fernando History, San Fernando Pass, San Fernando people, San Fernando Road | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 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

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