From the Mountains to the Sea - A History of Los Angeles - John Steven McGroarty - ebook

From the Mountains to the Sea - A History of Los Angeles ebook

John Steven McGroarty



What the author of this book has to tell is the true story of a great City that was founded "by order of the King," in the old days when the Western World was new. It is the story of a City that, for a century of time after its birth, showed few signs of promise, but which has now come to be the Greatest City of Western America and the metropolis of California— the "Land o' Heart's Desire." The history of any city that can be named almost, is a story of its fortune that came from location or other accident to make it great. But Los Angeles is a City that was made great by the people, who one day found it sleeping in the sun, oblivious to its destiny. They were, for the most part, people who came from far regions of America, seeking a more agreeable climate than that to which they had been accustomed. This is the truth of the matter.

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From the Mountains to the Sea

A History of Los Angeles



From the Mountains to the Sea, J. McGroarty

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9


Cover Design: „Downtown Los Angeles from Zeppelin Eureka (4361871102)“ by Dave Proffer - Downtown Los Angeles from Zeppelin EurekaUploaded by russavia. Licenced under CC BY 2.0 at Wikimedia Commons -


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Chapter I. As It Was In The Beginning.2

Chapter Ii. The Mother Of Los Angeles.9

Chapter Iii. The Founding Of The Pueblo.18

Chapter Iv. The First Uncertain Steps.25

Chapter V. Life In Old Los Angeles.34

Chapter Vi. Old Timers And Old Times.44

Chapter Vii. Kaleidoscope Of The Years.64

Chapter Viii.  From The Spaniard To The American.91

Chapter Ix. When Uncle Sam Stepped In.100

Chapter X.  Pioneers Of Trade And Commerce.117

Chapter Xi. The Port O'ships.130

Chapter Xii. The Aqueduct.143

Chapter Xiii The Glory Of The Schools.151

Chapter Xiv. The Medicine Men.170

Chapter Xv. Religion And The Churches.191

Chapter Xvi The Law And The Courts.212

Chapter Xvii. The City's Breathing Spots.245

Chapter Xviii. Music And Art.249

Chapter Xix. A Great Organization.257

Chapter Xx Modern Los Angeles.265


It seems that, as a general custom, centuries old, a book must have what is known as a "Preface." In former times, when a book was nothing if not ponderous, the Preface was a thing to daunt the reader at the very start; it was so big and so heavy, and it had such a serious countenance.

For my part, I could never quite see the use of a Preface at all. If a man is to tell a story — and every book, especially a narrative of history, is a story — why not begin at once with it, without any "hems" or "haws," as the saying is?

Still, there are times and instances when a Preface may well serve a good purpose; and it may be that this story of the "Wonder City of Los Angeles is a case in point. Anyway, the publishers, eager and anxious that nothing should be left undone, have a serious conviction that there should be a Preface to this book, no matter what argument there might be as to any other.

So, we must have a Preface to the Book of the Wonder City. But it will be a short Preface; it will be brief and with as little waste of words and time as possible, because no matter into whose hands whatever this book falls, he will be keen to get at it, and with as few by-paths as possible to travel.

And what I have to say, therefore, prefatory to the book, is that it is the true story of a great City that was founded "by order of the King," in the old days when the Western World was new. It is the story of a City that, for a century of time after its birth, showed few signs of promise, but which has now come to be the Greatest City of Western America and the metropolis of California— the "Land o' Heart's Desire."

The history of any city that can be named almost, is a story of its fortune that came from location or other accident to make it great. But Los Angeles is a City that was made great by the people, who one day found it sleeping in the sun, oblivious to its destiny. They were, for the most part, people who came from far regions of America, seeking a more agreeable climate than that to which they had been accustomed. This is the truth of the matter.

They were a vigorous and an ambitious people, notwithstanding their desire for friendlier skies and more sunshine. And they took hold of Los Angeles, and they put life into it. All that they did constitutes one of the most thrilling chronicles in human history. And the record of it is set forth in the pages of this book.

This, I would think, is enough to say by way of a Preface. The rest that is to be told awaits you here, at the turn of you hand. It is a good book, because it tells a good story that Time composed. And Time is the best author of books.

John S. McGroarty. Los Angeles, California, Dec. 15, 1920.


It would seem that Los Angeles has been a habitation of man as long as any other place on the earth has been a dwelling place for human beings. After the envelope of water in which the earth was originally enclosed had evaporated and dry land appeared, and the animal kingdom came into existence, it seems as likely as not that man appeared in the place where Los Angeles is now quite as early as he appeared anywhere else.

This, of course, is mere theory, but as far as that is concerned, all the rest of it is nothing more than theory.

Remains of prehistoric beasts like the saber-toothed tiger have been found in the asphaltum beds of Los Angeles showing inclusively the existence of life here at a time that must have been contemporaneous with life in other parts of the world at the dawn of the world.

We have, however, no record of human existence here until the first white men came to California and that was a long time ago, too, as far as history is reckoned in America. It was only fifty years after the discovery of America by Columbus that California was discovered. This was in the year 1542, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese sailor, voyaging in Spanish ships and under the flag of Spain, sailed up from Natividad in Old Mexico and steered the prows of his daring little fleet of galleons into the harbor of San Diego.

And since now Los Angeles has come to be in many ways the first city of California — being certainly the first city as far as population is concerned — and since California, although one of the states of the Union only, is at the same time a distinct and separate country of itself, made so by the fact that it has a distinct entity geographically, climatically and in a thousand other ways, it is essential in telling the story of Los Angeles to begin by telling briefly the greater story of California itself. For it helps to make a story not only easier to understand, but vastly more interesting, if we shall begin at the beginning as every good story must do.

Now, when Cabrillo and the first white men found California, nearly 500 years ago — and that's a long, long time — they found the country inhabited by a native race of Indians who had villages of their own up and down the coast and far back in the mountains, and where they lived in separate clans and families. The Spaniards called these villages " rancherias. "

The whole race may be regarded as having been like one tribe because they were exactly alike everywhere in appearance and in their mode of living. But there was one very strange thing about them, and this was that when separated at distances of sometimes not more than twenty miles apart, they spoke an entirely different language, the one from the other. For instance, the natives at San Diego were not able to converse in words with the Indians at San Juan Capistrano, nor were the Indians at San Juan Capistrano able to converse with the Indians of San Gabriel. And so it went throughout all California from one end of it to the other. There were Indians on Santa Catalina and other islands off the coast, but when brought to the mainland they did not understand one word that other Indians spoke. It has been stated on authority that more than two-thirds of all the Indian languages spoken within the present borders of the United States were found in California.

The California Indian differed in many other ways from the other Indians of America. The admiration universally accorded the great Algonquin family on the Atlantic seaboard and to the great war-like tribes of the western plains, does not seem to have had serious application here. The California Indian was not much of a man to admire. He was lazy, stupid and exceedingly careless of his morals. He did not take trouble to build for himself any kind of shelter worthy of the name of a house, and, consequently, he was a man who had no conception of the meaning of home. He toiled not, neither did he spin. He was without modesty, he had no traditions; neither knowing nor caring from whence he had come nor whither he might drift.

But perhaps we can consistently make excuses for him. Why should he go to the wholly unnecessary trouble to work when everything that he needed had been furnished to his hand by Nature's bounty? His country teemed with wild game and with wild fruits and honey. If he were hungry he had but to reach out his hand for endless food of almost every description that was everywhere around him. And why should he take also the unnecessary trouble to clothe himself when there were always places where the sun shone warm and he could be comfortable without clothing! In other words, California was an Indian paradise as it is now a paradise on earth for the white man.

Cabrillo, the Discoverer, was the first white man to visit Los Angeles. After he had spent a happy six days in San Diego and was loath to leave it as everybody is, even to this day, he felt, evidently, that he must be on his way to do the work that was cut out for him, and so he sailed into the harbor of San Pedro, which is now a part of the City of Los Angeles. This was on the 28th day of September in the year of our Lord, almost exactly 377 years before the day that these words were written for this book.

It is fascinating to know what impression the harbor of Los Angeles made on the first white man who ever saw it, if we are to depend on the historic records, and in order to know what that impression was, we can do nothing better than to turn back to the Log Book of old Juan Rodriguez and read what was there written at the time. This is what it says:

"The Thursday following they proceeded about six leagues, [This was after they had left San Diego] by a coast running northwest and discovered a port enclosed and very good, to which they gave the name of San Miguel. [This was the Bay of San Pedro.] It is in 34 1/3 degrees, and after anchoring in it they went on shore. It had people, three of whom remained and all others fled. To these they gave some presents, and they said by signs that in the interior had passed people like the Spaniards. They manifested much fear.

"This same day at night they went on shore from the ships to fish with a net; and it appears that there were here some Indians, and they began to discharge arrows and wounded three men.

" The next day in the morning they entered further within the port, which is large, with a boat and brought out two boys who understood nothing but signs; and they gave them both shirts and immediately sent them away.

"And in the following day in the morning there came to the ship three large Indians; and by signs they said that there were travelling in the interior, men like us, with beards, and clothed and armed like those of the ships, and they made signs that they carried cross bows and swords, and made gestures with the right arm as if they were throwing lances, and went running in a posture as if riding on horseback, and made signs that they killed many of the native Indians and that for this they were afraid. This people are well-disposed and advanced; they go covered with the skins of animals. Being in this boat there passed a very great tempest; but on account of the port's being good they suffered nothing. It was a violent storm from the southwest. This is the first storm which they have experienced. They were in this port until the following Tuesday.

" The following Tuesday on the third day of the month of October, they departed from this port of San Miguel; and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, they proceeded on their course about eighteen leagues, fifty-four miles along the coast, on which they saw many valleys, and level ground and many large smokes, and, in the interior, Sierras. They were at dusk near some islands which are about seven leagues from the main land; and because the wind was becalmed they could not reach them this night,

" Saturday, the seventh day of the month of October, they arrived at the island at day break which they named San Salvador [San Clemente], La Vittoria [Santa Catalina]; and they anchored off one of them and they went with the boat on shore to see if there were people there; and as the boat came near, there issued a great quantity of Indians from among the bushes and grass, yelling and dancing and making signs that they should come ashore. And they saw that the women were running away; and from the boats they made signs that they should have no fear; and immediately they assumed confidence and laid on the ground their bows and arrows, and they launched a canoe in the water which held eight or ten Indians and they came to the ships. They gave them beads and little presents, with which they were delighted and they presently went away. The Spaniards afterwards went ashore and were very secure, they and the Indian women and all, where an old Indian made signs to them that on the main land, men were journeying clothed and with beards like the Spaniards. They were in this island only until noon.

"The following Sunday on the eighth of the said month, they came near the main land in a great bay which they named La Bahia de Los Fumos [Santa Monica Bay] on account of the numerous smokes which they saw upon it, where they held intercourse with some Indians whom they took in a canoe, who made signs that towards the north there were Spaniards like them. This bay is in 35 degrees; and it is a good port; and the country is good with many valleys and plains and trees. "

There is one thing more than another, perhaps, that will strike the reader of Cabrillo 's Log in these centuries so long after it was written, and that is to wonder who these white men could have been that were here before Cabrillo. The most popular theory is that the Indians in the interior of the country, probably as far inland as Arizona and New Mexico, and who saw Coronado and his expedition in that part of the world two years before Cabrillo 's discovery of California, passed the word along across the Colorado and over the mountains and the deserts to the Indians here on the coast, that they had seen white men.

There isn't the slightest probability, however, that the Indians here ever themselves saw white men until they saw the people of Cabrillo 's daring enterprise. And following the theory up, it is easy to suppose that word would have come over vast distances among the Indian tribes concerning the appearance of Coronado and his men in the interior. It is true that there were no newspapers in those days and no telegraph lines, not to speak of the wireless telegraph, there were no airplanes or telephones or any other modern vehicle for the swift and even instantaneous conveyance of news, but it is astonishing how rapidly news traveled in those times, just the same, among the Indian peoples.

The same is true among them to this day. Let a man appear for any special reason among the Indians of Soboba, and the next day, or in two or three days at most, his presence will become known in some magic way among all the Indian peoples of the reservations of Southern California. Even will it be known among the lonely huts of Laguna in the far silences of the Cuyamacas.

And certainly this wonderful old swash-buckling explorer Francisco Vasquez Coronado must have made a vivid impression on the primitive mind of the territory that he covered. When he set out from Old Mexico in 1540, he had with him 200 mounted lancers in armor and 1,000 mounted horsemen in all, which was a very respectable force to be assembled under similar circumstances in any age of the world. The commander himself and his officers and their mounts were gorgeous with gay trappings. They had golden swords and silken banners; their advance was heralded with a blare of trumpets.

It was to find the famous fabled seven golden cities of Cibola that Coronado and his men had set out from Mexico. It seems assured that they traveled as far north as the center of our present State of Kansas, and that they came over into New Mexico, where they found that the much-vaunted seven cities of gold were nothing more than the pueblos of the Zunis, and after all they found their quest to be a failure. There is no doubt that the country was considerably stirred up by this wonderful pageant that passed through it, and was not long until every aborigine within a radius of 1,000 miles and more had been told the news of it.

All this record of history and recital of tradition is here recalled only for what it may be worth, and mainly for the reason to fix in the reader's mind the established fact that the real discoverer of California was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and that to him and to him alone the credit belongs.

Another thing that impresses one in reading Cabrillo 's Log, is that he mentions the fact that here were many trees in this part of the world in the early times. Southern California is so invariably referred to by writers as a "treeless land" that the impression has gone abroad that it was always a treeless land. But we see from the absolutely reliable report of Cabrillo that it was a land of many trees, indeed, when the white men first saw it. It is difficult to imagine that the country around San Pedro and Point Loma at San Diego were once covered with dense forests, but such is undoubtedly the fact, and the task before the people of Southern California now is to restore these forests, especially on the mountain slopes. For, if they shall fail to do this, all that they have built through a century past — their cities and towns, their farms, their orchards — are at the mercy of flood and storm that may some day bury them as deep under the mud and sands of oblivion as Babylon was buried.

The one last thing concerning Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo that fascinates the mind now is that it seems to have been ordained by Providence that he should never leave the bright new land which he was the first of all the civilized men of the earth to see. When doubling back from Cape Mendocino to which he had sailed, in order that he might seek again the shelter of the Santa Barbara channel, the great admiral fell sick of a fever and died. His sailors buried him on the sunny little isle of San Miguel, where still he sleeps reckless of wind and wave and tide — the immortal Portuguese who was first to find the land of heart's desire.

Cabrillo's expedition continued north again after his death, probably sailing as far as the present southern line of Oregon. But it then returned to Old Mexico without having achieved anything more than to have proclaimed to the world the actual existence of the long-dreamed of and storied land of endless summers. But this was surely achievement enough. Sixty years passed before white men came again to California, and again they came merely to explore the coast and to return, and it was not until 227 years after the discovery had passed that any attempt was made to settle and to colonize the country.

And it was 239 years after the discovery of California that Los Angeles, now one of the wonder cities of the world, was founded.

This brings us to another story — one of the greatest of all the stories ever told — the story of how the white man's religion and civilization were brought to a heathen land and there rooted never to wither or die. It is a story which enfolds in its wondrous glamour Los Angeles and all the country that lies on either side of it between the mountains and the sea.

The fateful year of 1769 must remain forever immortal in the annals of California. It was the year in which California began, when civilization was planted upon its shores, when the cross of Christianity, symbol of the Religion of Redemption, was reared in its sunny valleys and upon its shining mountaintops. And it is also then that we first hear of the renowned and venerable Fray Junipero Serra, the great Franciscan who laid the corner stones of our commonwealth and by whose hands was erected the fabric of our Empire of the Sun. There can never be anything written or anything said that has to do with California and it glamorous history without the inclusion of the name of this most remarkable and wonderful man.

Spain waited a long time indeed — more than two centuries and a quarter — to take full advantage of its wonderful possessions on the western shores of Northern America. But it is plain, for all that, that Spain never held lightly in its estimation California's worth. It is perhaps only because the throne of Castile and Leon was so tremendously engaged with the stupendous task of exploiting the new half of the earth that had fallen into its hands that it waited so long to colonize California, which, as we now know, was the brightest jewel in its crown. But, however it may be, the fact remains that it was not until full 227 years had passed that the Spanish king decided to add California to the civilized possessions of the world.

It is a long story if we were to tell all that led up to the expedition of 1769 which brought Fray Junipero Serra and his brown-robed Franciscan companions to the shores of the Bay of San Diego, where they arrived on the first day of July of that forever memorable year. Suffice it to say that the intent and purpose of this expedition was to accomplish at one stroke the Christianization of the native Indians and to colonize California as a Spanish province.

The plan that Spain had in mind was a three-fold plan, namely, that missions should be established in which the natives were to be instructed and trained in the Christian religion and taught to do a white man's work; second, that presidios or garrisons were to be established throughout the length of California in order not only that the missions might be under military protection but also that the country itself might be in a condition to repel probable foreign invasion, and third, that pueblos were to be founded in favorable places so that an urban population might be established to co-operate with the vast agricultural interests planned.

It was a wise and far-sighted plan in every way, and it was carried out to a great extent, especially as regarded the missions. The agricultural scheme also made wide progress.

The only feature of the three-fold plan that materialized unimportantly was the scheme of the pueblos. All told, only three of these pueblos were ever founded, as follows: one at Branciforte, which was founded where the present City of Santa Cruz stands. Not a trace of Branciforte remains. Another pueblo was founded and named San Jose in honor of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of California. It still exists and flourishes as the present beautiful and important city of San Jose in the white-blossomed valley of Santa Clara. The third and last of the pueblos — the one that at first was the least hopeful and that remained the longest the most squalid, the least promising of all — was our present great City of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was therefore a pre-ordained city. It is not a city that just happened. It was founded by order of the king with both military and religious pomp with the swinging of censors and the burning of incense and the stately music of the Te Deum.

And they named it in the music of Castilian speech "El Pueblo La Senora de la Reina Los Angeles. " It means the "City of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels."


It is to be reasonably supposed that in the same way and from the same desire that a man would like to know everything possible concerning his own mother, a city that had a mother would also wish to be informed concerning her. Well, the mother of Los Angeles was San Gabriel. And now, at the outset of the story of Los Angeles, let us see what there is to know about that romantic and ancient habitation from which Los Angeles sprang and came into being.

It is not improbable that before many years have passed Los Angeles will come to mean all the territory lying between the mountains and the sea on either side of the center of the city for many miles of distances. And this, of course, will bring old San Gabriel into the fold. So, in telling the story of San Gabriel, we are really telling a part — the first and in many ways the most important part — of the story of Los Angeles itself. And we are further justified by the fact that it is a tale that reads like fiction and is stranger than fiction, as the truth often is.

In order to ascertain how San Gabriel came to be, we must go back again to that great Franciscan enterprise of which Fray Junipero Serra was the soul, because this it was that set things going here at the start and that has left an influence upon the country that time has been futile to obliterate. Nor is it probable that time will ever be able to obliterate Fray Junipero's spirit. And this is well, for happy is that land which has a definite ideal.

When Father Serra left Mexico to establish the white man's Christianity and civilization in California, his instructions were to found and erect three mission establishments. The first was to be at San Diego, the second at Monterey, and the third at a place between to be called San Buena Ventura.

It is to be supposed, of course, that after these three missions were established, others would be built. Anyway, it turned out that way. Serra and the expedition with which he came, and which was under the command and direction of the great Don Gaspar de Portola, California's first governor and immortal as the discoverer of San Francisco Bay, the greatest of all the world's harbors, reached San Diego, as before mentioned, in July, 1769, and it was on the sixteenth day of that month in that year that the mission of San Diego was founded and the roof of the first white man's habitation on the western shores of America erected.

As soon as this had been done, Serra went to Monterey, and in the following year, 1770, he founded there the mission of San Carlos, which he made his headquarters and which remained as such during his lifetime. In the same year he founded at his own initiative the mission of San Antonio de Padua, seventy-five miles east of Monterey, where its exquisitely beautiful ruins are still to be seen by the traveler who has the wisdom to turn aside from the beaten tracks of traffic and travel.

The mission of San Bueno Ventura, which was to have been the third mission, had to wait a long time to come into existence. Fray Juniper o was by this time aflame with enthusiasm, and his restless energies blazed forth upon the entire length of California. He seemed to have had a desire to build missions as if by magic, and was impatient to bring the native Indians into the Christian fold and to teach their hands to know the glory and the joy of work. So he dispatched orders to San Diego to the mission fathers and the soldiers of the garrisons there to set out without further delay to found the fourth mission in that mighty chain which ultimately stretched 700 miles along the golden vistas of the King's Highway between San Diego and Sonoma.

The founding of a Franciscan mission in California was a notable event in those old days that are passed away now forever, and each foundation was distinguished, as it happens, by extraordinary incidents which come down to us now golden with the glamour of romance. And it may be said that of all the twenty-one missions which the Franciscans founded in California between 1769 and 1823, the events which attended the founding of San Gabriel are perhaps the most dramatic of any.

The fathers at San Diego who were assigned to found this first mission were Padres Benitos Cambon and Angel Somera. Fired with the same zeal that inspired their great leader, Junipero, these two brown-robed priests were eager for the new conquest which they were about to achieve, but it appears that they had a difficult time to get an expedition in shape. It was only after the most urgent pleadings that the military authorities consented to let them have ten soldiers as an escort. They were also able at last to get together the necessary supplies and pack animals and to bring with them a few of the Christianized Indians who had been brought up from Mexico.

It was upon August 6, 1771, that the expedition left San Diego, and after traveling forty-six leagues they came to the place that had been selected for the site of the new mission.

As we look backward now in imagination we can picture with what fascinated interest these wonderful pioneers must have made the journey from San Diego to the place which was to be known ever afterward as San Gabriel. They passed by the wonder of the sunset sea with its white shore of glory, through the live oak groves of the mountain passes, up and down the brown sunlit hills, across the shimmering waters of the Santa Margarita and other dimpled streams; camping at night under the canopy of the soft summer stars.

One night they camped on the banks of the Santa Ana, which Father Crespi, who had made the same journey with Portola two years before, had called the River of the Temblores, because of the earthquake shocks that they had experienced there. The Indians they met on the way were friendly and hospitable and were profuse in their invitations for the travelers to remain with them. But the expedition pushed forward until it at length arrived at the sought-for spot on a beautiful hill above a river, now in these modern times a wilderness of oil derricks.

It seemed that the conquest was to be a happy and a most peaceful one, but just as the padres and the other members of the expedition were congratulating themselves upon this belief, they were suddenly horrified to behold the approach of a great horde of savages armed with bows and arrows bearing down upon them with wild cries, bent upon no other purpose than to annihilate the strangers. Never was tragedy more imminent than at that moment. It was apparent that only the interception of the hand of Providence could save the missionaries and their companions. And it seems that Providence did intervene. At least, we may accept what happened as supernatural or else decline to accept any other event attributed in history or tradition to the intervention of the Divine Power.

And what happened was this: When the missionary fathers saw that great, wild, savage mob of bloodthirsty creatures bearing down upon them, they unfurled to the winds a banner on which was painted an image of Mary, the mother of Christ. The effect was magical, if not miraculous. The savages instantly halted and, gazing in awe upon the holy image, they threw down their bows and arrows, fell upon their knees, and in deepest contrition made signs to the padres that they desired to submit themselves to them.

And so, after all, the mission of San Gabriel was founded in peace and safety. The date was September 8, 1771. This original mission, it is well to state, was not erected on the site of the present mission of San Gabriel familiar now to us all and famous the world over. The original site was about two miles distant and was abandoned five years after its foundation for the present location on account of the disastrous floods of the river.

We have a vivid picture of the original foundation of the mission of San Gabriel from the pen of Fray Francisco Palou, the great first-source of all reliable information concerning the beginning of things in California.

Palou was the intimate friend and the beloved companion of Fray Junipero Serra, and when the grand old founder of our civilization gave up the ghost and was laid in his quiet grave beside Juan Crespi in beautiful Carmel, Palou for a time served as Serra's successor in the office of father president of the missions. He then retired to the mother house of the Franciscan order in Mexico, the college of San Fernando, and there devoted the remaining years of his useful life to writing not only the history of the Franciscan missionary enterprise in California, but also writing a life and biography of Father Junipero. Both of these works, the first commonly known as the "Xoticias" and the second as the "Vida," are not only invaluable as authentic records and chronicles, but are exquisite also as literary clashes.

And this is the account of the founding of the first mission of Gabriel the Arcangel as written by Francisco Palou:

"The Fathers who were going to establish the mission of San Gabriel arrived at the Kio de Los Temblores. they examined its banks, it did not suit them, they went onward to the valley of San Miguel and near the river of this name, not very far from its source, seemed to them more suitable for the mission, thus they determined to found it on a hill extending from said valley, at the foot of which ran good ditches of water with which they could irrigate the fine lands distant from the river about one half a league. The said ditches were wooded with cotton woods, willows and other trees and much bramble and innumerable wild vines. About a league from the said place there is a great wood of oaks with many ditches of running water.

"Appreciating all these points they commenced the foundation of the eighth day of September of the said year of 1771, day of the birth of our Lady, they were raising the holy cross, standard of our redemption, on a little bower which for the present served for a church that celebrated the first mass giving a beginning to this mission dedicated to the arcangel, San Gabriel."

The first few years of the existence of the new mission" of San Gabriel were filled with trials and difficulties. The fathers met with discouragements sufficient to have dismayed men of any other caliber. And it was all because of the disreputable Catalonian soldiers who had been assigned to act as the military guardians of the place. These soldiers were unspeakably immoral, and the outrages they committed against the Indian women were so frequent and of such a foul nature as to have aroused the bitterest hatred in the hearts of the natives.

The most notorious incident was the case of a soldier taking the wife of an Indian chief. "When the chief resented the indignity, the soldiers killed him, cut his head off, and stuck it on a pole in front of the mission gates. It was only by the exercise of almost miraculous power that the missionaries were able to keep the Indians in hand when this incident occurred. All through the history of the missions we find that the greatest obstacles which the fathers had to surmount was the immoral example of the Spanish soldiers.

And that the mission fathers succeeded despite all this is evidenced not alone by the fact that they finally brought the whole race of California Indians into the fold of the faith, but it is also well illustrated by many specific and eloquent instances. One of these instances concerns the great Fray Junipero himself.

It is related that one time he came up from San Juan Capistrano, when that mission was being built, to secure provisions and cattle for it from San Gabriel, which had then come to be a flourishing establishment. Only one soldier and one of the San Gabriel Indians accompanied Father Junipero.

On the way the three were attacked by a band of painted, hostile savages armed with bows and poisoned arrows. When the faithful San Gabriel Indian saw the danger and realized that Father Junipero would undoubtedly be killed if something were not quickly done in his defense, he cried out to the savages that a great company of soldiers was following and was near at hand, and that if they did not turn and flee at once the soldiers would kill them. The stratagem worked like a charm. But what it proves more than anything else is that the Indians, when Christianized, loved the padres and were devoted to them, and that they were also able to discriminate between the goodness of the missionary fathers and the wickedness of the soldiers.

After the first few difficult years, however, San Gabriel flourished amazingly and finally came to be quite the greatest of all the missions. Indeed it was called the "Queen of the Missions." Thousands and thousands of Indian neophytes were housed and taught within its great walls. It became famous for its grapes and wines, and it had an orange grove and beautiful gardens and great pastures for the almost countless herds and flocks of the field; and there came even a time when a ship was built there. They went back into the mountain canyon, cut down great trees, hewed them into planks and brought them to the mission where they framed the vessel, and they then carried it in pieces to the harbor of San Pedro and launched it there.

Los Angeles is a city built on a desert, and wherever there is an instance of this kind in history, we find, of course, that the great problem to contend with as population increased was a water supply both for domestic and irrigation purposes, and as we go back through the dusty pages of history, we discover that it was from San Gabriel, the mother of Los Angeles, that Los Angeles learned all that it has ever known down to this day concerning water supply. Even now, after a century and a half of time has passed away, the remains of the great aqueduct at San Gabriel are still to be seen, the ditches that were built with such sturdy masonry still refusing to crumble.

What wonderful men they were, these first Franciscan pioneers of California! They were engineers and craftsmen of the first order. They knew all the trades that civilized men of their time knew, and the work they taught the Indians to perform was of such an enduring character that the rain and sun of 150 years of neglect and decay have been futile to break it down. The strongest dynamite was necessary to break the old irrigation ditches and head-gates that still remain at San Gabriel.

There are a lot of things of which we boast as new in our modern California which are really old. And in this regard we might mention our manual arts schools and our normal schools. Every mission was a manual arts school — great industrial schools in which the natives were taught to be skilled in more than half a hundred trades. When we look upon the great manual training schools of modern Los Angeles, it is interesting to know that there was a manual training school in San Gabriel a century and a half ago. And when we regard with satisfaction, as we should, the great normal schools of the state, it will help us the more to admire those who went before us in the distant past, to know that they did also these same things and did them as well as we are doing them now and under incomparably more difficult circumstances. There was a normal school in the old times at San Gabriel mission to which were sent young Indian men from all the surrounding country to be trained as school teachers for their people.

Long before Los Angeles was dreamed of, San Gabriel was an important place. Besides, it was a happy place, filled with peace and plenty, joyous with the day's work and holy with the voice of prayer. On the great feast days, when the population gave itself over to recreation and enjoyment, the old plaza of San Gabriel, a great sunlit quadrangle now pitiably narrowed and shut in, was the scene of many notable celebrations.

In addition to the busy yet happy life that it led within itself in its own bright little world, San Gabriel was a hospice in the land. It was there that the travelers up and down the King's Highway stopped for shelter and for food. And there came to its great oaken doors also — the great doors that swung ever inward with welcome for whosoever might come — the caravans that toiled their way on the inland trails up from Sonora to the capital at Monterey. And in the days of the Argonauts, when the plains and the deserts were filled with gold-seekers on their way to sudden and unparalleled fortune, San Gabriel was the wayside inn that sheltered many a weary head. There never was a price to pay, and it did not matter who the man might he or what his creed or nation, he was welcome to shelter and food and rest at San Gabriel though he had not a penny in his pocket.

San Gabriel was also the half-way house in that empire which the Spanish king had flung from the heart of Mexico up across the hills and valleys to the Bay of San Francisco. In short, before ever a stake was driven in the chaparral where Los Angeles stands today, San Gabriel built its mile posts on the high-roads of civilization. Its bells, that still ring the music of the Angelus across the great green valley and up to the echoing hills, were ringing in their gray watch towers long before the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia rang its fateful message across the world.

For almost three-quarters of a century San Gabriel thrived and prospered. Then came the day of its doom. And the way of it was this:

When nearly fifty years of time had passed after the foundation of the first Franciscan mission at San Diego by Fray Junipero Serra, and when these great establishments had grown strong and rich through the labor of the Indians and the marvelous management of the padres, the politicians in civil life and the camp-followers of kings came to look with greedy eyes upon all this wealth which had been acquired solely for the betterment, the prosperity and happiness of the Indians.

As to the missionary fathers, the Franciscans, the mere material wealth of the missions had no appeal to them whatever. The Franciscan friar is wedded to poverty. He can own no more than the rough brown robe on his back and the sandals on his feet. So, when the missions were confiscated by the civil power, it was not the friars who were robbed, because how can you rob a man of something that he does not have? It was the Indians who were despoiled; and it is a bitter, black story.

In the year 1813 the Spanish Cortes promulgated a decree which set forth that the Indian missions in California be "secularized." This was a polite way of saying that they should be seized and confiscated.

Now, this move of secularization would have been dishonest under any circumstances, but it was doubly so in view of the fact that it was not the Spanish Government or the Republic of Mexico that furnished one penny of the money through which the Franciscans were enabled to begin and carry on the work of the missions with such marvelous success. The money was contributed by private persons in Spain and Old Mexico, and the fund which was thus accumulated came to be known as the "Pious Fund" for the reason, it is to be supposed, that it was money contributed by pious individuals eager for the spread of the gospel and the glory of the church.

This fact, however, was airily and very brazenly ignored by the Spanish Cortes, and the decree declared that the Franciscan friars should be put out of the mission and their places taken by secular clergy, which is to say by priests who did not belong to either the Franciscan order or any of the other orders of the church. It was declared that the missions should be converted into parishes, and that it was time for the Indian to stand alone and to throw off the friars' gentle yoke.

The idea was a fearfully mistaken one, and any disinterested person would not have hesitated to say that its results would prove tragically disastrous. The Indian had not reached that stature where he could stand alone. It was true that he had learned to do a white man's work, that he could sing and say his prayers and play upon musical instruments, paint pictures and carve on wood and speak the Spanish tongue, and that he could read and write. But he was still a child, no more fit to stand alone than a child would be, and the events which ensued after secularization really took place amply proves the truth of these statements.

Happily, however, the decree of the Spanish Cortes in 1813 was never actually carried out, and San Gabriel and all the other missions up and down the sunny stretches of El Camino Real went on, happy and prosperous, oblivious to the impending doom.

Came then a time when Mexico threw off the yoke of Spain and took its place among the free republics of the world. California, that was always before a Spanish territory, then became a territory of Mexico. And the lazy, shiftless politicians of both Mexico and California, whose numbers were countless, seeing the great mission establishments with bursting granaries and countless herds and flocks, with orchards and vineyards, richer with every passing year, bethought themselves of this old decree of the Spanish Cortes, and immediately they took pains to have it actually carried into effect.

In the year 1830 the territorial deputation in California, which was a sort of a local legislature, adopted a plan of legislation through which, under cover of civil authority, the old scheme of 1813 could be realized with many additional advantages to the confiscators. Three years afterward, in 1833, the Mexican Congress passed an act putting the wheels of confiscation in actual motion. It was ordered that the Government should seize the missions. But, as though to make a show of justice, glittering assurances were given the church that it should be well cared for out of the spoils. It is needless to say that these promises were never kept. The typical Mexican politician was a shifty man who did not allow a promise made to haunt him or to keep him awake at night.

And so the dirty deed was done. The brown-robed priests that had come to the desolation of a wilderness, giving up their beautiful lives for the sake of God's most wretched creatures, and who, through infinite patience and sacrifice and toil had taught the Indian to labor and to pray and to make the desert blossom as the rose, were driven forth like dogs from the stately arches and the great rafters which they had reared. And the Indian, suddenly deprived of the padres' fatherly care, went back to the hills, dazed and helpless, to starve and to die.

The missions, one after the other, were auctioned off by their despoilers, each one for a song to whoever had the voice to sing, and among them was San Gabriel, queen of them all — the mother of Los Angeles. And so, with no one to do the work that was to be done, no hand at the plow, no herder for the flocks, no one to garner the grain or the fruit of the fig tree and the vine, a silence lonelier by far than death fell upon the gray mission tower and over all its far-flung walls and fields. The old joyous life that once was there, the music, the song and laughter, the ring of the anvil and whir of the loom, departed never to return.

But it was before the day of doom — and long before it — that San Gabriel became the mother of Los Angeles. On a sunny morning in the year 1781 the Gobernador came down from Monterey with a troop of cavalry to San Gabriel, and the next day he rode out with his horsemen and the neophytes and the padres and the pobladores. They marched three leagues eastward toward the sea and the setting sun. And they came to a place which is now the old plaza of Los Angeles, but where there was then not even the footprints of a man. And they reared a cross, fired volleys of musketry, sang the Te Deum and read to the multitude the proclamation of Carlos III, King of Aragon and Castile, Emperor of the Indies and Master of half the world, wherein it was decreed that there on that spot a city should be laid and that they should fashion its name in honor of the Mother of God.


Wherever a city in America or elsewhere can identify its founder, it never fails to do so with feeling of pride. We suppose the sentiment is the same that influences an individual to trace back his family history to an original ancestor. Los Angeles, of course, is no exception to this rule, and it enjoys the good fortune of knowing well who its founder was and what manner of man he was.

Taking him by and large he was a fairly good man, too, and in some ways he was also a great man. He had his faults, it is true, but all men, great or small, also have had their faults, and it is not to be expected that there will ever be a man without some weakness or other of character so long as human nature remains as it is and we are clothed in the weakness of flesh and blood.

The name of the founder of Los Angeles was Felipe de Neve, and he was the third governor of California. There have been a great many governors of California from the first one down to the present time, and it is with no small degree of satisfaction that we find Don Felipe de Neve holding his own among them in history as an executive of consequence and of parts. Wherefore, our city of wonder may look back to its flesh and blood ancestor with some smugness of content, and certainly with little or nothing of which to be ashamed.

The great seal of the City of Los Angeles — one of the most artistic and beautiful of all municipal seals — relates in its colorful heraldry that the city has passed, so far, under the dominion of four flags. It was first a city of a province of Spain; then a city of a territory of the Republic of Mexico; again, after a very brief but thrilling and immortal period, a city of the Republic of California, popularly known as the "Bear Flag Republic"; and it is now, as it shall doubtless remain until the end of all time, a city of the United States of America.

There were, in all, ten Spanish governors of California, beginning with Don Gaspar de Portola, who came in command of the expedition of 1769 that brought Fray Junipero and his brown-robed Franciscan companions to found the white man's civilization and Christianity on these sunset shores, and to colonize California for Spain. Among these Spanish governors there was none unworthy of attention and a lasting place in history, and there were at least three among them who stand out as extraordinary persons. And we think it is safe to say that Don Felipe de Neve, the founder of Los Angeles, was one of these three.

Felipe de Neve was, first of all and essentially, a soldier. But, as the case has sometimes been with other soldiers, he had also the making of a statesman in him had his career turned early to civil instead of military administrations. When he received his appointment as governor of California from the Spanish viceroy in Mexico, de Neve was a cavalry officer at Queretaro. He arrived at Monterey, the capital, in February, 1777, and found conditions in the province far from being satisfactory from any point of view whatever. The great trouble with everything had its source in the bad feeling which existed between the missionaries and the military authorities. Each was extremely jealous of prerogatives. Looking back at it now, however, in the calm and unprejudiced view of history, it seems clear enough that the friars were the ones who could most justly feel aggrieved. They were engaged in this superhuman task of lifting the native Indian out of heathen darkness into the light of Christianity and to teach him at the same time to abandon his ancient traditions of idleness and shiftlessness, and to bend his back to toil.

The missionaries in their stupendous trial needed and should have been accorded every possible help, assistance and sympathy from everybody around them. But, instead of receiving this sympathy and assistance from the military authorities and the soldiers of the garrisons, they received, instead, rebuffs at every turn that was made, and every conceivable and unwarranted obstacle that could be imagined was spitefully and even viciously thrown in their path. The friars complained unceasingly to the viceroy in Mexico, and even got word to the king himself in Spain of their difficulties, but it does not seem to have availed them much.

Now, when Felipe de Neve came to Monterey and found these to be the conditions, he did what seems to us to have been a move in the right direction, and one that only a man of right impulses and good heart would make, which was, namely, to at once make the most friendly advances to Fray Junipero, the father president of the missions. And we are glad to find that Fray Junipero met these advances in the spirit in which they were made, and that ever afterward while de Neve continued as governor of the province, he lived at peace with the friars except for two or three incidents that perhaps neither side could be blamed for.

We find, further, that during his term of office as governor of the province, Don Felipe composed and caused to be promulgated in the year 1779 a code of laws for California which stand today as the work of a real statesman. This code was called the " Reglamento, " and it made provision, among other things, for the manner in which California should be colonized; laying down laws for not only the establishment but also for the government of towns; outlining the procedure that should promote stock-raising and agriculture and the progress of the industries; and it also contained a very precise and exhaustive regulation for the various procedures and conduct of the troops occupying the province.

De Neve was governor of California during a period between October, 1774, and September, 1782. Upon his retirement from office the king bestowed a high decoration upon him and promoted him to be inspector general of all the military establishments of New Spain north of Sonora in Mexico, and including New Mexico, Texas and California. He made his headquarters at Chihuahua with the rank of general. He died in Chihuahua toward the end of the year 1784.

As far as Los Angeles is concerned, however, we take it that it will continue to regard its own foundation as the greatest achievement of the life of Don Felipe de Neve. And this brings us to that memorable and fateful event. We find that the governor was at the Mission San Gabriel, the mother of Los Angeles, in August, 1781, having journeyed from Monterey, the capital, with an escort of troopers and the necessary entourage. And it was while enjoying the hospitality of the padres at the mission that he formulated there in some now long lost room of that once vast establishment the way in which the new city was to be founded and the laws and rules by which it should be guided and governed. It is so intensely interesting to know the manner in which Don Felipe went about the great work he had in hand that we are sure we should make a somewhat exhaustive record of it here.

First of all, we find from the governor's instructions for the founding of Los Angeles (the paper bearing date of August 26, 1781, at San Gabriel), that after selecting a spot for a dam and a ditch by which the land was to be irrigated, the next step was to choose a site for the town, which was to be on high ground commanding a view of the farm lands, but, at the same time, some distance from the river; the houses to be exposed to the north and south winds.

It seems that Don Felipe was very much concerned about the winds at the place where the new city was to be. He evidently thought that the people might be distressed by them. But we know now, of course, that his fears were groundless. Los Angeles is remarkably free from wind storms, and it is only on a day now and then throughout the whole year that they are noticeable at all.

There was to be a plaza, which was afterwards duly laid out, its four corners to face the cardinal points of the compass, the streets running from each of the four sides of the square. Thus, said Don Felipe, "no street would be swept by the winds," always supposing that the winds would confine their action to the cardinal points, but I think the Los Angeles winds have not always been obedient in this respect.

Now we see that the plan that the governor had for the new city was a very good plan in that day. Indeed, it would be a very good plan today or in any day for a new town anywhere. The square, or plaza as the Spaniards called it, is a fine focus from which to survey a town. So, Felipe de Neve made a good beginning in surveying his new city by beginning with an open square.

Abutting on the square he laid out house lots, each one about 60 by 120 feet in size, and the number of these town lots was to be more than double the number of people who were to compose the first population. The eastern side of the plaza was set aside for public buildings. The first settlers were to draw lots, and did do so, for choice of the farming lands, which was fair enough, as everybody must admit.