24 July 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Francisca Willams and Robert Carlisle

Isaac Williams' third and final child by his wife, Maria de Jesús Lugo, was Francisca, born in 1841.  The child was only about a year old when her mother died in childbirth.  Though her father did not remarry, he did father several children by three other women before his death fifteen years later.  As noted in an earlier post, elder daughter Merced married John Rains just days after Isaac Williams died.  Perhaps foreshadowing a major rivalry, Francisca soon found a husband, Robert S. Carlisle, born in 1830 in Kentucky.  Nothing is known about Carlisle, except that he lived in San Jose before migrating south and finding employment for Isaac Williams in 1856.  His whirlwind courtship of the fifteen-year old Francisca concluded with their nuptials in May 1857.

While John and Merced Rains claimed control of the ranch, Carlisle appears to have managed significant parts of his wife's holdings.  Though there is no direct substantiating evidence, it seems that brother-in-law and/or sisterly rivalry led John Rains to sell out his wife's share of Chino to Carlisle to buy the Rancho Cucamonga.  As mentioned in the Rains post, John Rains was murdered in 1862, with the crime never being solved.  Some pointed to Carlisle as involved in some way, perhaps in hiring the killers.

Meantime, in the 1860 census, Robert Carlisle, listed as age 31, was a rancher with a self-assessment of $30,000 real estate and $25,000 in personal property, a handsome (and certainly under reported) estate.  Francisca was shown as 20 yeas of age, with two daughters, two-year old Mary and nine-month old Laura.  There were also Francisca's step-siblings, Feliciano and Francisca Apis, shown as ten and twelve years of age.  The ranch overseer at Chino was Jose Sotelo and there were at least seven Indian laborers listed.

Carlisle, like Rains, was a tempestuous Southerner, with a pride, sense of chivalry, and ability to make boon companions and bitter enemies in equal measure.  For example, while Carlisle secured election to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 1862 and served a two-year term, he also incurred the enmity of another Southern family, the Kings of El Monte.  It was said that Carlisle accused Los Angeles County Under Sheriff, Andrew J. King (later a state senator and newspaper publisher) of bungling the investigation of Rains' murder and in interfering with Carlisle's handling of the Rains estate as executor.

In July 1865, the Carlisle-King feud erupted into an epic gun battle, the likes of which was rarely seen in Los Angeles, which had more than its share of gun violence in that period.  First, Carlisle confronted Andrew King on the streets of town and the fracas led to blows.  When Carlisle decamped to the saloon of the Bella Union Hotel, co-owned by John Rains at this death and in years past, King's brothers, Frank and Houston, burst in and confronted him.  In a matter of seconds, bullets rang out and, when the smoke cleared, Carlisle was mortally wounded and was placed writhing in agony, upon a table in the establishment, where he soon expired.  Frank King also died from his wounds, while Houston King was badly wounded but survived.  A few innocent bystanders also took bullets, but none very seriously.

Francisca Williams Carlisle was twenty-four years old and had two daughters and two sons (seven-year old Mary, six-year old Laura, two-year old William, and a year-old Eugene.)  She was left as sole proprietress to a 35,000-acre estate of great value and the southern California area, ravaged by a poor economy and a severe drought, was, however, ready for its first land boom. 

Fortunately, Francisca found an able ranch manager in Joseph Bridger, who was born in Missouri in 1830, came to California with his father in the 1840s, served in the American army during the conquest and was San Bernardino County Sheriff from 1857 to 1859 (succeeding one-time Chino Rancho overseer Robert Clift), in 1864, married Francisca's half-sister, Victoria, whose mother was one of the Apis cousins (Temecula Indians) with whom Isaac Williams fathered children.  Bridger, whose adobe house was on the grounds of today's Los Serranos Country Club in Chino Hills, a couple of miles south of the main ranch adobe, ran the Chino ranch for fifteen years, until his death in 1880. 

Joseph and Victoria Bridger had eight children, one of whom, Andrew, along with Francisca and Robert Carlisle's two surviving children, daughters Mary and Laura, issued a 1938 statement identifying the location of the Chino Rancho adobe, built by Antonio María Lugo and occupied by Isaac Williams and, presumably, Merced and John Rains and Francisca and Robert Carlisle, as "upon the site of the former main building (pink house, as its color designated) at what is now known as the George Junior Republic dairy—an adobe, the headquarters of Mr. H. J. Stewart, 1874—since then destroyed, we understand, by fire and demolition."  Joseph and Victoria Bridger and some of their children are buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in East Los Angeles.  Of note, the other Francisca Williams, fathered by Isaac out of wedlock, later married James Ramoni, a contractor and builder, and lived in Hollister in northern California.

In the meantime, between 1865 and 1870, Francisca remarried.  Her second husband was Scotland native Frederick A. MacDougal, a physician, Los Angeles police chief and, from 1876 to 1878, mayor of the city.  In the 1870 census, the McDougals were counted on 28 July.  Frederick was fifty-five years old, Francisca twenty-nine.  Her four Carlisle children, Mary, Laura,William and Eugene were considered a separate household along with McDougal's children from a previous marriage, Frederick, Jr., age 10, and Dora and born about 1866.  Notably, Francisca's step-siblings, Francisca, age 17,  Refugia, 16, and Concepción, 22 lived nearby.  Also notable is the value of the estates of some of the Williams heirs.  While McDougal was well-off on his own, with $25,000 in self-reported real estate and $3,000 in personal effects, Francisca had $50,000 and $20,000, respectively.  Moreover, her four children each had $15,000 and $3,000, respectively, so that the Chino Rancho (assuming this comprised the entirely of their fortunes) had a self-reported value of $110,000 with $32,000 in personal property for the five persons.  Interestingly, the three out-of-wedlock daughters of Isaac Williams had no property values reported..  Also, a few households away was Isaac Williams' nephew, Wallace Woodworth (son of Isaac's sister, Samantha).

Los Angeles newspaper publisher Benjamin C. Truman published his travelogue, Semi-Tropical California, in 1874 and gave a long description of his visit to the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino and called it "a magnificent estate."  Noting the management of Bridger, Truman wrote that "it was from his hospitable residence that I sallied out on several tours which I made through its broad acres."  He stated that 7,000 acres were "meadow lands," 10,000 acres rolling hills, 8,000 acres of "mesa," or flat table lands, and 10,000 acres planted to wheat and other grains.  He mentioned Scotch-born H. J. Stewart as leasing half the ranch [recall his being mentioned in the 1938 statement by the Williams heirs above] and stocking 10,000 sheep upon it, with an increase in 1874 alone of 4,000 head.  Another lessee, "Martine Echapar," which appears to be a misspelled Basque name, had 6,000 sheep, as well.  Bridger was said to have 1,000 cattle and 220 horses and mules under his care. 

Truman went on to state that Chino was "universally regarded as one of the most valuable and uniformly fertile bodies of land in the country [meaning southern California]."  Moreover, he took care to note that "it has many distinguishing features, chiefly among which are its springs.  These Chino springs are immense bodies of water welling up from subterranean sources, one of them at least fifty yards in circumference, and discharging day and night, the whole year round."  One of these even had, according to the writer, enough fish for a good day's fishing so that Bridger's cook made a nice soup with Madeira wine, lemon, and hard boiled eggs!  Truman further observed that "there are six of these springs on the ranch."

This blogger can testify that, when living for seven years at the "Los Serranos Ranch" subdivision just a few hundred yards from the old Bridger property, just south of the Los Serranos Country Club, a hole that formerly housed a plant became, after the first few months of living at my new house in 1997, a continual supply of spring water.  Because the tract was built on a down slope from the Chino Hills to the south, there was undoubtedly a subterranean channel of water that came through my yard and from which, until I moved in 2004, constantly supplied as much water as I could scoop out.  Later, I noticed that almost the entire yard was cemented over.

Returning to Truman, he marveled at the "surpassing productiveness" of the meadows, filled with nutritious burr, sweet clover and other grasses to feed the animals, as well as the fertile grain lands to the north and west, in the 1843 addition obtained by Isaac Williams.  As for "the old homestead, no occupied by Mr. Stewart." that is, the Lugo/Williams adobe on today's Boys' Republic, "walnuts and fruit of several varieties are flourishing" and Stewart's "thrifty orchard" included vineyards and shade trees.  Moreover, "attached to the same estate are several productive asphaltum springs, which in time must necessarily become very valuable," though oil was never found in appreciable quantities.  Finally, Truman concluded by noting that Bridger had built his own school house and hired a new teacher for a new school district--precursor, perhaps, to the modern Chino Valley Unified School District?

Frederick McDougal, age 63, died while serving as Los Angeles' mayor in 1878.  Two years later, in the 1880 federal census, Francisca resided on San Pedro Street, south of downtown Los Angeles, next to her married daughter Laura Brodrick, whose husband William was an insurance broker.  Her stepson, Frederick McDougal, Jr., was 19 and a grocery clerk.  Stepdaughter Dora McDougal was 14 and still in school.  There were three children born to Frederick and Francisca: Robert S. [named for Francisca's first husband], 10, George S., 7, and Lucy, 1.  The three Carlisle children in the household were Mary, 21, William, 17, and Eugene, 15.  There was also a Swiss gardener and Chinese cook.

Within a year, Francisca would sell the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino to Richard Gird, whose tenure was marked by some significant successes and notable failures.  As for Francisca, she married a third time, to a much younger man named Edward Jesurun, born about 1862 in Curacao, an island in the Netherlands Antilles off the coast of Venezuela, where he was the son of the American consul.  Jesurun lived in Los Angeles during the 1880s, though it is not known when he married Francisca, and he worked with the Citizens' Transfer Company and Gurney Cab Service in the city. 

Later, he was involved in real estate, but seemed to have alienated his wife's affections when he failed to repay a $22,000 loan from her, presumably for a realty deal.  Indeed, in 1910, Francisca resided alone with a Chinese servant, in a home on Washington Boulevard, in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.  Curiously, she had a near neighbor, Charles W. Price, who was an investor in the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, which she had sold 30 years before!  Yet, in 1920, Francisca and Edward Jesurun were back together, residing in Palo Alto, south of San Francisco, where he was secretary of a land company and she was a hearty 78 years old.  Six years later, on 19 April 1926, Francisca Williams Carlisle McDougal Jesurun, who lived a life undoubtedly filled with many highs and lows, died in Palo Alto at about age 84 or 85.  Her widow, died at about age 70, six years afterwards, in 1932.

The photos of Robert S. Carlisle and Joseph Bridger are from Edwin Rhodes' The Break of Day in Chino, published by Rhodes in 1952.

21 July 2010

District 8 Does Great (Again)!

I've only had to make contact with the District 8 office of CalTrans five or six times--for trash pickup, consultation on a tree next to my fence, questions on speed limit policy, and a couple of requests for graffiti removal.  Each time, I've received courteous service and prompt responses.

The latest was a Sunday online maintenance service request for graffiti on the Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon and, by Tuesday, the work was done.  I received two automated e-mails to let me know the order had been placed for service and that the job ticket was closed once the work was done.  I couldn't imagine faster, more efficient service than that.

All too often, government workers are used as easy targets for rhetorical posturing and politicized pandering.  Sure, in any enormous organization, there are going to be bureaucratic problems, unethnical and illegal behavior, laziness and a disregard for the customer, even at CalTrans, covering thousands of miles of state roadways serving millions and millions of people. 

When it comes to District 8, though, so far there is nothing but positive news to report.  Keep up the good work, folks!

20 July 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Merced Williams and John Rains

With the September1856 death of fifteen-year owner Isaac "Don Julian" Williams, the Rancho Santa del Chino passed to his two daughters, María Merced and Francisca.  The older, Merced, was born in 1838 and married John Rains just three days before Issac Williams died. 

Rains' background is sketchy, at best.  He was said to have been born in Alabama in the late 1820s, but where and to whom is not known.  The first documentation of him is his enlistment in a U. S. Army regiment known as the Texas Rangers in November 1848, just after the conclusion of the Mexican-American War.  This was a regiment that was less known for its honorable conduct than for its atrocities against civilians and soldiers in Mexico during the war, although Rains was not in the regiment during that period.

At any rate, in 1849 he made the trip to California and found employment over the next couple of years driving sheep to the new American territory from New Mexico and the Mexican state of Sonora. He then settled in Los Angeles where he ran an unsuccessful campaign, at age twenty-two or so, for Los Angeles County sheriff in 1851 and the same year entered into a partnership to run the Bella Union Hotel, the major hotel in the small town for years and one which figured prominently in the story of Rains' brother-in-law, Robert Carlisle, subject of an upcoming post.  A few years later, however, Rains was back to transporting sheep from Mexico and Texas to southern California and, in October 1854, he signed a contract to watch the sheep of Isaac Williams at the latter's ranch holdings at Temecula.

To early chronicler Horace Bell, whose dramatic tales were not always particularly accurate, "John Raines [sic] was an untamed mustang, full of mischief, and up to all kinds of deviltry."  It has been amply stated that Rains, a Southerner to the core, was passionate, quick to anger, and proud, which made him a fair number of enemies in his dozen or so years in Los Angeles.  Still, he quickly endeared himself as a trusted confidante of Williams, who secured for Rains a position of Indian sub-agent, a federal post, at Temecula.  After Williams' death, Stephen C. Foster, former Los Angeles mayor and a state senator, as well as an in-law married to a Lugo, became executor of the estate and hired Rains as superintendent of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, but when the estate was settled Rains was essentially a half-owner through his wife, Merced.

Notably, the inventory of the estate upon settlement in Fall 1858 revealed that the ranch was appraised at a value of a little over $120,000, including land, cattle and other animals, farming equipment, furniture and other property.  There were about 5,000 head of cattle, another 5,000 of sheep, and 400 horses, worth about $86,000.  With Williams' debts amounting to about $60,000, Foster, the executor, sold of property valued at just under $80,000.  He also was careful to note his approval of the marriages of Merced and Francisca to Rains and Carlisle and described the two men as "of ample means in their own right and of sober and industrioushabits, and of good business ability, and fully competent to manage the estates of their respective wives."  As to the minor children of Williams, Rains had the care of Victoria, Concepción, Feliciano and Refugia, all the offspring of Maria Antonia Apis, a Temecula Indian.  Another Apis, Maria Jesus, bore Williams a daughter also named Francisca, and Carlisle had charge over her.  Manuelita, daughter of Maria Jesus Villanueva was raised by her mother in Los Angeles.  John Rains, hwoever, was appointed trustee of these minors while they remained under the age of eighteen.  It is also worth relating that, because of damage done by American soldiers on the rancho during the Mexican-American War, Williams sought over $130,000 in damages from the government, a claim that was rejected according to the estate settlement.

Within months of Isaac Williams' death and Rains' assumption of ranch management, Robert S. Carlisle, a native of Kentucky and recently residing in San Jose, came to southern California.  There must have been a lightning fast courtship, because on 13 May 1857 Carlisle married Francisca Williams.  Almost immediately a rivalry developed between the brothers-in-law about the running of the Chino rancho.

Meantime, Rains moved to acquire more property, including, in 1858, a deal brokered by his attorney, Jonathan R. Scott of Los Angeles, to sell his wife's share of Chino and acquire the 13,000-acre Rancho Cucamonga to the northeast, from which deal Scott would take an ownership stake and invest in expanding the ranch's vineyards.  First granted in the 1830s to Tiburcio Tapia, Cucamonga passed to his daughter, Merced and her husband, French native Leon Prudhomme.  With ample water from the mountains above the rancho and located on the main road east through Cajon Pass to and from Los Angeles, Cucamonga seemed to have more potential for profit than Chino.  In July, the Prudhommes made the deal with Rains for $8,500 after Rains sold the Chino interest for $25,000 to Robert Carlisle.

Just four years later, Rains, experiencing financial trouble due to more land purchases, the construction of a fine home at Cucamonga and the debilitating effects of a depressed economy soon to be compounded by drought after a recent flood, left his rancho for Los Angeles.  While riding in broad daylight along the largely empty main road to town, he was attacked and brutally murdered, his body left in the open for animal scavengers.  The crime was never solved, though many felt Carlisle was involved, while others looked to prominent Californio Ramon Carrillo, who had business dealings with Rains.  In fact, Carlisle claimed that Carrillo paid for Rains' death because of problems between them in business, but the same could well have been said for Carlisle.  Carrillo, exonerated by authorities in Rains' death and who was a close confidant to Merced, was murdered in 1864 and Carlisle was killed the following year in a notorious shootout to be detailed in a coming post.  Merced, in 1864, married Jose Clemente Carrillo, who appears to have been a relative (though to what degree is not known) of Ramon Carrillo.  They had a few children and he appears to have abandoned his wife and family in the 1870s.  In the early 1880s, Merced was married to a man named Fernandez, was again widowed, and lived for twenty years at the ranch of her daughter, Fannie Rains and her husband, Henry T. Gage, a governor of California in the 1890s.  Merced died at the Gage Ranch in present Bell Gardens on the old Lugo ranch, San Antonio, in 1907, at the age of 68.

Most of the information for this post, including the photos of María Merced Williams de Rains and John Rains, came from Rancho Cucamonga and Doña Merced by Esther Boulton Black and published by San Bernardino Couunty Museum Association in 1975.

18 July 2010

More on the Return of Artistic Expression in the Face of Social Injustice

Perhaps emboldened (if bold can describe sneaking around late at night ruining public or private property) by the reappearance of graffiti on the historic La Vida Mineral Springs water tank and other locales in Brea, a rash of similar artistic expression in the face of social injustice has occurred in several other places in Carbon Canyon, inclding about a half-dozen CalTrans signs and a couple of utility boxes. 

The marring is largely between Carriage Hills Lane and past the Summit Ranch development down near Chino Hills Parkway and is mostly on the eastbound side, though a couple of examples on the lower S-curve that were the first to appear, are westbound.

Fortunately, CalTrans District 8 has been very good at responding to service orders and a maintenance request for this latest decoration of our Canyon has been submitted.  Addendum, 20 July: indeed, I've received an e-mail response today that there will be repair work scheduled, so chalk up another hosanna for District 8 and good customer service!

For those who would like to have a link to the page at the CalTrans web site that deals wth these requests, here it is:


17 July 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Isaac Williams

Isaac Williams, associated with the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino for fifteen years, was born at Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania, near Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, on 13 September 1799.  Although there were several Williams families in the area, most from Connecticut, it does not appear that any firm determination has been made about Isaac's background, nor is much of anything known about him until he made his way to New Mexico, by mid-1826. 

By then, Williams was already into his thirties, but it can only be assumed that he followed typical migration patterns in what was then the "Old Northwest" of the United States, in which immigrants moved from Pennsylvania into Ohio.  From there, many followed the Ohio River as it moved southwest for nearly 1,000 miles, with Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois on its north bank and West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee on its south, until it empties into the great Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois.  To the north was the metropolis of the future American Midwest, St. Louis, and it is easy to imagine Isaac Williams winding up in that city before moving westward following the Missouri River to Franklin in Boone County at the center of what, in 1820, became part of the American union. 

The following year, trader William Becknell, noting that the newly independent republic of Mexico was open to trade and settlement by Americans and others in its remote northern departments (territories), developed a trail from Franklin to Santa Fé, New Mexico, which, naturally, became the great Santa Fé Trail (sorry, El Monte, your city motto and its claim of your burg being the end of the Santa Fé Trail is equivalent to people wondering who is buried in Grant's Tomb!)  Over the next decades, a number of future Los Angeles-area residents and contemporaries of Williams followed similar migration patterns through Franklin, to Mexico and on to California, including William Wolfskill (1798-1866), John Rowland (ca. 1797-1873), and William Workman (1799-1876), all of whom became near neighbors in the Los Angeles region. 

The earliest documentation obtained so far about Williams' tenure in New Mexico was that he received a license to trap beaver from the governor on 31 August 1826, along with John Rowland, Michael Robidoux (whose brother Louis later settled near Riverside), and Ewing Young.  Williams appears to have remained as a trapper until the fall of 1831 when he joined a party of some thirty-seven men, headed by Ewing Young, which headed to California. 

Upon arrival in early 1832, Williams settled in Los Angeles and worked as laborer while living in an adobe house he built on the east side of Main Street near today's Temple Street.  About 1834, he entered a trading partnership with Jacob P. Leese, an acquaintance of some time who was born fifty miles away in Pennsylvania from Williams.  The association seemed to have lasted about two years with Leese moving to San Francisco where he became a prominent resident.  The first Mexican-era census of the Los Angeles district, taken in 1836, shows "E. Isaac Williams", age 38, working as a comerciante or merchant and living next to a small group of extranjeros, or foreigners from America or Europe, numbering about fifteen or so.  A potential clue to Williams' otherwise little-known origins from Pennsylvania may come from that letter "E" at the front of his name.  Could this have been Ezekiel, the name of a Williams from the same area of Pennsylvania that one online genealogist has speculated was the father of Isaac?

Another interesting tidbit about Williams comes courtesy of chronicler Hubert Howe Bancroft, who noted in the 1880s that Williams "aided in '35 in removing the Indians from San Nicolás Island," this being one of the Channel Islands and the removal, one of many catastrophic events in native history, was well-known at the time and for years afterward.  Bancroft mentioned another notable fact about Williams:  he was a member of the first vigilance committee formed in California.  In 1836, a group of Californios, Mexicans, Americans and Europeans gathered at the home of merchant Jonathan Temple and decided to take the law into its hands to lynch adulterers who killed the woman's husband.  Bancroft also offered the interesting fact that Williams proposed in 1846 to build a fort at Cajon Pass, presumably to protect ranches like his own and that of his brothers-in-law at San Bernardino from Indian attack, though this was never fulfilled.  Finally, Bancroft noted that, after Williams moved from Los Angeles to Chino, "his house in town was sold to the city government," meaning that the adobe home he had constructed in 1834 became a "city hall" of sorts.  According to Bancroft, "Col. Williams [colonel because of his involvement in the American invasion] was one of the typical rancheros of southern Cal., enterprising, hospitable, and generally of good repute," though one has to wonder about the qualifying term "generally"!

In 1839, Williams married Maria de Jesús Lugo, daughter of Antonio María Lugo, becoming a Roman Catholic by baptism shortly before.  His baptismal name, Julián, became a common first name for a man, often known as Don Julián Williams.  After bearing him three children, Antonio María, Maria Merced, and Francisca, Maria de Jesús died in childbirth in 1842. 

Within two years, Antonio María Lugo acquired the land grant for Rancho Santa Ana del Chino and asked Williams to move out to the ranch, granting him an interest in the property.  In 1843, Williams petitioned for a "Addition to Rancho Santa Ana del Chino," consisting of some 13,000 acres on the north and west of the original grant.  Eventually, Williams secured full ownership of the entire Chino Rancho, comprising some 36,000 acres.  He lived in an adobe house built by his father-in-law on what is now Boys' Republic school and treatment community in Chino Hills.  The second Mexican census, enumerated in 1844, shows Julián Williams, age 44, at "Santa Ana del Chino" with his children, six-year old Antonio María, Merced at age 4, and Francisca at age 3.  There were fourteen other persons residing at Chino, including a few Mexicans or Californios, six Americans, and four persons with the last name "Aris," almost certainly what should have been "Apis."  See more below for the connection.

Williams was memorable enough as a businessman, rancher and hospitable ranchero to merit a significant mention in the autobiography of William Heath Davis of San Francisco, Seventy-Five Years in California.  Davis visited Williams at Chino in June 1847 to receive payment for goods sold by the former to the latter exactly a year prior and said of him that "Isaac Williams was one of the best types of the early settlers who came from east of the Rocky Mountains to settle here."  Williams was physically imposing:  "he was a man who stood at least six feet in height, of large frame, muscular and without much flesh [fat?].  He was of commanding appearance, with a pleasant countenance.  I do not think he had an enemy in Los Angeles County or in southern California."

Davis' visit came on a hot day, with the temperature reading 100 degrees in the shade and was treated to a amply-supplied dinner with more than twenty persons at the table.  To Davis, Williams was every bit as generous as the Californio ranchers who treated guests with great attention and courtesy.  It also turned out that Davis came to Chino during a matanza, a roundup of animals for slaughter, in this case about two thousand head, a huge amount.  Davis described the boiling of fat or tallow, which product was exported for the manufacture of soap and candles.  Indeed, Williams informed Davis of his intention to start wagons for the rude port of San Pedro withina couple of days and expected to have several thousands of dollars of hides and tallow for Davis' ship there.  The merchant estimated that the annual income enjoyed by the Chino ranchero was $30,000, a princely sum for the day.  Notably, according to Davis, Williams "gave as one reason of his coming here that he wanted to see the setting sun in the furthest West."

It was at this house, in late September 1846, that the well-known "Battle of Chino" occurred during the Mexican-American War.  In the aftermath of the American invasion of the Mexican department of Alta California, a cadre of Americans and Europeans gathered at the Williams home for safety.  These included many persons known to Williams in New Mexico as well as California, including John Rowland, Benjamin D. Wilson, Pauline (yes, Pauline) Weaver, Michael White, David W. Alexander and others.  A force of Californios (native Spanish-speaking Californians) was sent out to force these men to surrender themselves and surrounded the structure.  Finding the inhabitants to be unwilling to yield, the Californios set fire to the roof of the structure, at which Williams, noting that his Lugo brothers-in-law were in service with the Californios, appealed to them for surrender.  

Indeed, one of these brothers-in-law, José del Carmen, gave a 1877 interview to Hubert Howe Bancroft.  In his description, Jose del Carmen Lugo noted that one of the Californios with him in the siege of the Chino adobe was Ramon Carrillo, later to figure prominently in the drama surrounding the death of John Rains, husband of Williams' daughter, Merced.  After a member of his force was killed by the Americans holed up in the house, Lugo ordered the building set afire.  Shortly after the flames rose, Lugo saw his nephew and nieces, the children of his deceased sister, crying out to him and he secured their removal from the house and they were placed in Carrillo's custody.  A short time later, the trapped Americans and Europeans surrendered and Lugo ordered them marched to Los Angeles.  On the way, they stopped at Rancho La Puente and the home of William Workman.  Nearby lived Workman's friend and ranch co-owner Rowland, who was one of the prisoners, as well as a nephew of Rowland, Joseph Perdue.  From La Puente, the force marched to Los Angeles, specifically the Paredon Blanco settlement just east of town in what is now Boyle Heights.   There, the prisoners were turned over to Ignacio Palomares, co-owner of Rancho San José (now the Pomona area) with Ricardo Vejar, who was in the besieging Californio force at Chino.  According to Jose del Carmen, his father, Antonio Maria, arranged for the release of the prisoners within a few months after securing a promise that none of them would be involved in the fighting between Californio and American forces.  Jose del Carmen served as alcalde [mayor] of Los Angeles in 1849 and also served part of the same year as Justice of the Peace.

To some, notably Wilson, Williams' act was treachery and Wilson stated that it was the intercession of William Workman and Ygnacio Palomares that led to their freedom.  Williams later filed a claim with the American government that he was owed $133,000 for animals, supplies and other items taken by soldiers in the invasion, but this claim was disallowed.

In the postwar years, Williams became widely-known for providing lodging, food and supplies to immigrants coming into the Los Angeles region and, more broadly, California from the "southern route" that brought migrants from Fort Yuma through San Diego and up through the interior highway by modern Escondido, Temecula, Lake Elsinore and through the Chino Rancho.  Indeed, in 1850, the New York Herald newspaper featured a letter from a recipient of Williams' hospitality.  Others, including Benjamin Hayes, a future attorney, judge and chronicler of early Los Angeles, benefitted from the largess of Williams and wrote about it.  A guest book kept at the Williams adobe survives and is part of the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino with a list of 667 persons who signed the book appearing in the 1951 compilation of Chino history, The Break of Day in Chino, amassed by Edwin Rhodes.  Yet, when a resolution was put forward in the California legislature in 1851 commending a few men for providing assistance to migrants, Williams' name was stricken from the document before passage.  Benjamin Wilson, a Los Angeles mayor and state senator, was said to have harbored a grudge against Williams since the surrender at Chino and to have led the effort to remove his name from the resolution. 

According to Bancroft, Williams advertised in 1847 in California's first newspaper, the Californian, published in San Francisco, for men to build an adobe fence around his Chino rancho.  While some men did set to work making the wall, the discovery of gold in northern California the following winter meant that "the men all ran away to the mines in '48 just before the work was completed."

In 1851, some of the visitors entertained by Williams were offered an exceptional opportunity to buy the rancho, though it is not recorded why Don Julián wanted to sell the Chino Rancho and what he intended to do afterward.  Then, Williams changed his mind and rescinded the offer, leaving his guests to find another place to purchase and establish a town for their brethren in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Their backup plan was to buy, from Williams' in-laws, the Lugos, the Rancho San Bernardino, where the town of that name was established as a Mormon colony.  In 1852, a movement to carve a large new county out of the massive Los Angeles County was successful and among the board of commissioners to develop the project was Isaac Williams, whose rancho occupied the southwestern corner of the new San Bernardino County, today still the largest county in size in the United States. 

On 13 February 1851, census taker John Evertsen arrived at Chino to conduct the 1850 federal census [it was done late because California was not admitted to the Union until the previous September.]  Evertsen enumerated Williams as a 51-year old grazier [cattle rancher] with a property value $10,000.  His daughter Merced was 12, Francisca was 10 [the son Antonio Maria having died sometime between then and 1844], and another daughter, also Francisca, born to another woman, was 5.  There were eleven other men, all laborers, including ranch overseer Robert Clift, a 30-year old Englishman, except for a physician, George Sturges.  One laborer, Santiago Cruz, had been in Williams' employ in the 1844 census.  Clift, a Mormon, later served as the first San Bernardino County Sheriff, occupying the office from 1853 to 1857, when he was succeeded by Williams' future son-in-law, Joseph Bridger, who was Sheriff from 1857 to 1859, married Williams' daughter Victoria in 1864, and was ranch manager of Chino from 1865 until his death in 1880.

Sometime in the 1850s, Williams's sister, Samantha and her husband John D. Woodworth migrated to Los Angeles County from the Midwest (Samantha was born in Ohio about 1810-1812, so it appears that Isaac spent at least part of his childhood there, as his still-to-be-determined parents moved west from Pennsylvania.)  Isaac employed his nephew, Wallace Woodworth, to be ranch foreman in about 1853.  Woodworth later went on to marry a Lugo and founded a prominent lumber business with William Perry that lasted until Woodworth's death in the early 1880s.  A son built a home in Bell Gardens, on former Lugo land on the Rancho San Antonio, in 1924 that is now a city landmark.

A beneficiary of the great demand for fresh beef in Gold Rush California that made so many southern California rancheros wealthy, Williams enjoyed the boon during the first half of the 1850s.  Just as the Gold Rush was tapering off and imported Texas longhorns, a far superior breed of animal to the local type, were capturing the beef trade, Williams died, passing away on 13 September 1856, just days before his 57th birthday.  One of the stranger aspects of early southern California civil law was the fact that, having lost his wife Maria de Jesús Lugo in 1842 while she gave was giving birth to the fourth child, Williams engaged in relationships with two cousins, aged 13 and 14 (Williams was 47) connected with famed Indian chief, Pablo Apis, of Temecula and fathered children with both!  Williams also had a daughter, Manuela, with a California woman and this daughter married William R. Rowland, of the Rancho La Puente, who later was a two-term sheriff of Los Angeles County and a wealthy oil magnate through his Puente Oil Company. 

It appears that Williams found many laborers for the Chino Rancho from among the Indians who claimed Apis as their chief and this "special relationship" was continued by John Rains, Williams' son-in-law through marriage to Merced, until Rains' murder in 1862.  When his two surviving children by Maria de Jesús Lugo, Francisca and Merced claimed the lion's share of the significant Williams estate, a challenge to probate ensued that revealed publicly that Williams had several illegitimate half-Indian children.  The battle was an unusual and contentious one, but the daughters by the Lugo marriage prevailed.  The probate in dealing with the Williams estate was easily the most complicated of the era locally, because of the various children and the effort by the legitimate daughters to keep his estate in their hands.

The photo of Williams comes from Edwin Rhodes' The Break of Day in Chino, published by Rhodes in 1951.  Other information on Williams comes from Hubert Howe Bancroft, Pioneer Register and Index and William Heath Davis, Seventy-Five Years in California.  There is an interesting description of the Chino Ranch from a March 1850 issue of the New York Herald, written the previous December by a correspondent only giving his initials.  It also lauded Williams for his great hospitality to travelers.

13 July 2010

A Carbon Canyon Apiary?

Some weeks ago, a pile of pallets and other debris popped up next to the historic La Vida Mineral Springs property on the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.  While it seemed that this was merely a dumping ground for someone's discards, it appears to be something quite unusual.

The minutes of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council's 2 June 2010 meeting had a brief little report from the liaison of the City of Brea Fire Department that "a bee keeper has moved a number of his hives into the Carbon Canyon area, in proximity to the old La Vida property."  Well, it could only be that these pallets and barrels and other items are the apiary at which these bees are raised.

It turns out that the Orange County Register ran a little feature in its 12 May edition about two members of the Beekepers Association of Orange County, Lewis West and Angel Powers, who rescue bees that are not wanted at homes and businesses and reestablish colonies elsewhere to preserve the hives and extract the honey for sale through Powers' Angel's Honey Bee Farms business at the Anaheim Farmers' Market.  As reported in the Register, a colony (ironic, ain't it, that Anaheim was a "colony" of German vineyardists when it was founded way back in 1857?) of some 35,000 bees were taken from Delco Field, a baseball field in Anaheim, to "a rural, wooded area of county property just north of Brea."  Obviously, Carbon Canyon is actually east and the area is in Brea, but this would seem to be one and the same place.

These days, most of us seem to believe the bees are mere pests, to be sprayed and destroyed as a nuisance.  Or, worse, there have been those unfounded fears of a massive invasion of those dastardly deadly "killer bees"--remember the 1970s when we were all told that an unholy swarm of these death-dealing little critters was making its way to the good 'ol USA from South America?

The truth is that some 45% of all food is given life due to the pollinating instincts of these industrious little creatures (have you ever seen the symbol on the signs of Utah state highways?  A bee hive, the chosen symbol of Mormon prophet Brigham Young!)  Without them, we'd be in a bad way when it comes to the bounty we enjoy.

Yet, there is a serious problem these days with what has been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or Honey Bee Depopulation Syndrome (HDBS), in which huge numbers of bee colonies suddenly collapse and die.  In North America, the phenomenon has been markedly noticeable since about 2006.  To date, no main causes have been identified, though everything from mites, diseases, genetically-modified food crops with pest controll attributes, and even cell phone radiation have been cited as possible contributors.

At any rate, this is another interesing aspect to the Carbon Canyon story and maybe more will come out of this in the future.

08 July 2010

Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council Meeting Recap

Last night was the regular monthly meeting (each first Wednesday) of the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council, held at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center.  A lot of important information came out of the gathering, so a little digest seemed in order.

First, the second Wildfire Awareness Fair, held at Western Hills Park on the Chino Hills side of the Canyon on 12 June, drew a little under 200 persons, about sixty fewer than in 2009.  Several factors could have accounted for the lower turnout, including anomaly, but it was pointed out that the first fair was six months (and, therefore, still fresh in people's minds) after the devastation wrought by the Freeway Complex Fire.  There were good speakers, excellent displays and demonstrations, and other notable components.  Although there was some talk of making the event biannual (that is, every two years) because of concern for the lower attendance, others felt that the fair was worthwhile to do annually and that momentum with sponsors, vendors and canyon residents might be lost if 2011 was "dark."  One suggestion was to hold the event in Olinda Village next year and tap into more residents on the OC side of the Canyon, with Olinda School being mentioned as a prospect.

Brush clearance under a grant from FEMA has continued west of Oak Tree Downs, this dealing with the removal of dry plant materials in a wide swath around inhabited areas that border undeveloped land.  In a related matter, the final stage of billing for brush clearance on properties of non-compliant owners has been underway by the Chino Valley Independent Fire District.  There are sixty-seven such persons/entities in Carbon Canyon, of which about 70% received notices to destroy brush followed by district-ordered clearance and invoicing of said owners for the cost of removal.  About twenty parcels have been redone because of further growth.  Answering a question about the process, a district supervisor noted that 15 May is the official deadline for brush removal, but that there is a ten-day grace period, followed by the preparation for notices.  Essentially, then, 10 June becomes the last day before citations are issued.  It is important to note, though, that there is a movement to treat weeb abatement as a year-round matter, rather than focusing on late spring activity.  Finally, there will be tumbleweed abatement pursued the third week of August to deal with those notorious summer accumulations of dry wind-blown plant material.

Another important component of the brush removal/weed abatement program is grant funding made available to the Council for pick ups of removed plant material.  Limited so far to the Chino Hills side, but, hopefully, expanded at some point to Brea, the pick ups are ongoing through the end of July.

As for brush removal on the Brea side, a fire department representative noted that work in Olinda has been very successful for the most part, although attention needed to be paid to city-owned property at the top of Olinda Drive at the eastern end of the community.  Previously, this same rep noted the irony of the original 1960s planting of so many pine trees that actually have created a major fire hazard.  The city would like to remove those trees, but it will incur a great expense in removal and the replanting of trees friendlier to the fire-prone environment of the Canyon.

This representative also noted that, when California State Parks acquired former oil-lease property to the north of Olinda Village, it did so with the express agreement to maintain brush clearance and defensible space to protect the homes there.  With the current budget mess in Sacramento, however, there simply is no money for the Parks Department to conduct that work.  Discussion at the meeting, though, explored the possibility of bringing in work crews from one of the state prison facilities in Chino, provided that fundraising could come up with the basic costs of operating these crews.

A brief update was also given on the contentious matter of whether the City of Brea will close its fire department and contract with the Orange County Fire Authority.  The last council meeting rendered no decision, though plenty of discussion, and the next meeting is scheduled for 20 July.

The latest news on the removal of the notorious arundo donax, the choking bamboo plant that plagued the Brea side of the Canyon until the November 2008 fires provided one silver lining: the burning of the material to the ground so that spraying could be pursued without time-consuming cutting.  Several agencies have worked together on this project, which has brought about an initial spraying, the results of which are readily seen in the dying arundo along Carbon [Canyon] Creek.  Sometime this fall, this withering material will be cut and then a second spraying introduced after the upcoming rainy season and the sprouting of any new growth that survived the first round.  Meantime, a few areas in the Chino Hills side, particular near the old church across from the Sleepy Hollow Community Center area have been identified for future phases of treatment.

Another interesting project is the planned creation and installation of four signs warning drivers on Carbon Canyon Road of the fire dangers that exist in the Canyon.  The plan is to install these signs at intervals at both sides of the Canyon and these are color coded for easier visibility and to change the look, so people are likely to notice when the signs are switched out.

Finally, some time was spent discussing the increase in transiency found in the Canyon, particularly in the area just north of Carbon Canyon Road and east of Sleepy Hollow.  While the Hollow has long had  a few persons who have wandered about the neighborhood, often sleeping out on private property, there has, since the economic downturn, been a noticeable uptick in the homeless.  Not surprisingly, as covered recently in this blog, reports of theft have occurred, mainly breaking into unsecured cars.  A Chino Valley fire district board member reported that the City of Chino Hills has given assurances that, if formal complaints are filed with the police department, action will be taken.  So, we'll see what comes of this.  From the Fire Safe Council perspective, there is a real danger of fire here, from illegal tapping into electrical lines, illicit fires and other possibilities.  As was pointed out, the huge 1990 wildfire in the Canyon was started by a transient and it could easily, if unchecked, happen again.

One last word:  Chino Valley Independent Fire District Chief Paul Benson, a prime mover in the creation of the local Fire Safe Council and advocate for much improved planning for the Canyon, is retiring to his Montana ranch at the end of August.  Anyone who sees the chief in his remaining days on the job, should thank him profusely for all he has done to improve fire safety district wide and, especially, within Carbon Canyon.

The next meeting of the Council is Wednesday, 4 August at 7 p.m. at the Sleepy Hollow Community Center, 16801 Rosemary Lane in Sleepy Hollow.  These meetings are open to the public and anyone who lives in the Canyon should be at least aware of what is going on with the Council, much less attend meetings when possible.  The work the Council does, with the fairly recent collaboration with Brea included, is invaluable to anyone residing in Carbon Canyon.

07 July 2010

Carbon Canyon Historical Artifact #23

Here is another in a continuing series of cool, retro and, yes, kitschy, 1960s color postcards of La Vida Mineral Springs.  This baby shows the two mineral water-fed swimming pools at the eastern end of the resort, just east of the two-story motel. 

While a number mostly female bathers frolick in the pool, complete with a strange thimble-shaped fountain shooting water several feet in the air, two men coolly sit on aluminum frame, nylon strap lawn chairs (what else?), possibly wondering why they're not out playing golf.  In the distance is a second pool and a variety of small structures. 

To the right is a manicured green lawn with those totally cool striped umbrellas spread out for a little relaxation in the shade.  Note the canyon vista and the steep hills still carpeted with a fair amount of green, indicating that it was likely late spring when the photo was taken.  It is amazing to look at this well-cared for scene some forty to fifty years ago and then compare it to what is (or, more precisely, isn't) there today.

The unused card's caption on the reverse reads "Large mineral water pools and fountain at / LA VIDA MIENRAL SPRINGS / CARBON CANYON / BREA, CALIFORNIA."  The item was issued by Escondido's Amescolor Publishers. 

For a closer look at this great image, click on the photo.

06 July 2010

Road Overkill

On northbound Peyton Drive approaching Chino Hills Parkway (State Route 142), there is a dedicated right turn lane, clearly striped and marked.  To assist drivers, who might not otherwise know what a "dedicated right turn lane" actually is, the City of Chino Hills installed, as they should, a sign reminding said navigators of said road, that "right lane must turn right ahead", or something to that effect.  At some point, though, some road warriors must have not gotten the message, so there are now two additional said signs--that's right, three consecutive signs just yards apart, one after the other, saying the same exact thing.

Now, on eastbound Carbon Canyon Road at the lower portion of the S-curve in Chino Hills, the same phenomenon has occurred in recent days.  Actually, several changes have been made to this winding section of state highway over the last few years.  A guardrail system was installed (and several panels already have been replaced because of drivers either scraping, or, more pointedly, plowing through, them), and reflectors placed.  Still, after the last major incident there, an early morning (5 a.m.) event, in which a car went straight through the guardrail and skidded down the slope below, it appears that CalTrans has stepped up its efforts to utilize signage as a deterrent.

Hence, the photograph above, which shows a new warning sign indicating that a curved section of road is imminent and that drivers are advised to go 20 mph through that curve.  Notice, however, that there already is one of these signs, which has been there for years, just a hop, skip and jump down the road, and, yet, was deemed insufficient in warning operators of vehicles of the impending change in direction and recommended adjustment in speed.  Additionally, bright silvery white reflectors have been added at intervals along the guardrail on the shoulder of the roadway, as another way to try and keep drivers on the road rather than taking unplanned detours onto the shoulder or down embankments.

Of course, for untold decades, Carbon Canyon Road has had a bright double yellow line down the center, very visible at night, as well as solid white lines on each side to demarcate the transition from roadway to shoulder.  A plethora of directional arrow signs have also existed for many years as additional guides to the seemingly near-impossible task for some of remaining on the road.

Alas, now the repetitive sign phenomenon appears to be the latest effort.  And, yet, what do signs really do beyond a certain expected outcome?   In other words, if CalTrans or city traffic engineers put one sign at a given place, warning of potential issues in navigating that stretch of roadway, and, still, some people are incapable of heeding the advice and following the otherwise well-marked path set out before them, does repetitive sign syndrome really help?

If persons are speeding, driving carelessly, operating a vehicle under chemical impairment, etc., do we really expect that additional signage of the exact same type will make all the difference and miraculously cause said drivers to suddenly alter their behavior?

Is it, instead, possible that repetitive sign syndrome is a mask for discontinuous enforcement syndrome?  That is, local officials don't really have either the interest, inclination, or, perhaps, human and monetary resources to invest in something that would actually have far more likely an impact in mitigating driving dangerous behavior:  that archaic, antiquated, so-twentieth-century, concept of "patrolling"?

Courtesy of The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition (1993--oops, that is the 20th-century, now isn't it?), p. 1002: 

"pa - trol (pe-trol') n. 1.  The act of moving about an area esp. by an authorized and trained person or group, for purposes of observation, inspection, or security."

As the ongoing series on this blog, "On the Skids in Carbon Canyon" has, it is humbly offered, amply demonstrated, there are regular occurrences of people leaving the roadway, presumably for several reasons, soem, maybe, innocent and truly accidental.  Amazingly, there hasn't been a fatality in quite some time, though property damage and injury continue to be part and parcel of said incidents.  Some spirited discussion has occurred already in said blog about the wisdom of wishing for more patrolling, on both the Brea and Chino Hills side.  Yet, CalTrans, at least, has had enough of a concern, at least on the San Bernardino County side (which has Measure I's sales tax revenue going for it), to make many additions to its package of protective materials in an effort to make the roadway safer.

The reality, though, is that the best deterrent is the presence of police authorities.  All the signage in the world will not adequately mitigate driving behavior.  If a person is drunk, or high, or just plain going too fast, they probably won't even be able to see or read the signs anyway.  And, because some local officials have actually said that "we can't be there 24/7" (the classic Rumsfeldian argument to rebut criticism in the early days of the Iraq war was the perfect analogue: "nobody's perfect"), isn't it possible that at least a regular, reoccuring, but not constant, patrolling at those times deemed most likely for unsafe driving (say, evenings and especially weekend evenings, as well as weekend days) could be considered? 

After all, when there was a flipped car here in Sleepy Hollow last fall at 10 p.m. on a weekend or when the drunken-slash-high young lad flew off the roadway across from my house back in January late on a weekend, there were several patrol cars on scene.  They had to have come from somewhere.  Couldn't one of them be asked to make the rounds in the Canyon on some of those evenings, just so folks might actually think that there are "patrols" made here from time to time (and not just for traffic scofflaws [scofflaws?!], but others who "scoff at the laws")?

Well, there it is, another long diatribe to flutter off into the ether (and maybe draw a cynical remark or two along the lines of "get over it, it's always been that way and always will be--stop your bellyaching.")  To compensate, let's talk a little history next time, eh?

05 July 2010

The Return of Artistic Expression in the Face of Social Injustice!

Well, whoever was kind enough to paint the historic La Vida Mineral Springs water tank after the last bout of graffiti (sorry, "street art") might want to break out the can of pink stuff again. 

In the last few days, the tank has again been defaced, as has a nearby k-rail, and even a street sign down the road at Olinda Village that, for some years, has been the sweetest little piece of graffiti you ever did see (the sign reading "Falling Rocks" had the words "in love" added in between the other two--awww!)

As was stated the last time this happened, not long after the November 2008 fire raced through the Canyon, it took the devastation of that blaze to even expose the long-hidden tank to view, just in time for it to be besmirched for the first time in who knows how long, perhaps ever.

It certainly hasn't helped that the property owner (who lives in Japan) or their representative has evidently been allowing someone to store stacks of used pallets and other items on the site near the tank.  One would think that, in a high fire zone, keeping lots of flammable material might be something of a problem.  Authorities don't seem, however, to be concerned, should they even know about it.

Just a couple of other ways in which the natural beauty of Carbon Canyon is being "enhanced."