Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

About Helen Hunt Jackson's Visit to Rancho Camulos.
Also: Observations in Riverside and San Diego Counties Prompt Author to Report on Treatment of Mission Indians.

[Frontispiece. Click to enlarge.]

Pp. 170-171.

The approach to Helen Hunt Jackson's California period must be made with great wariness.[39] So many conflicting stories have gained circulation, so many confusions in dates have arisen that one is bewildered. Much of the misinformation is the result of failure to keep clear the distinction in dates of her three successive visits there — in the winter of 1881-1882, the spring of 1883, and the winter, spring, and summer of 1884-1885. There is a wealth of contradictory testimony as to where she went, with whom, and when. According to this testimony she was writing Ramona from the minute she set foot on California soil, dashing off a chapter in every remote corner in which she paused for rest or refreshment. Actually, she wrote not one word of it there. She did not even begin it until the winter of 1883-1884, when, established at the Berkeley Hotel in New York City, she wrote the first word on December 1st. A few honest and careful investigators have sought to get at the truth of her stay in California, George Wharton James, Margaret V. Allen, and Ruth Cronyn Carins among them, but their voices are drowned in the chorus of ballyhoo which greets every visitor to the region which the author of Ramona familiarized.

Pp. 173-196.

Part of her activity in Boston and New York [in the spring of 1881] had been directed toward acquiring letters of introduction to Roman Catholics in California.[44] She bore such a one to the Right Reverend Francis Mora, Bishop of Monterey and Los Angeles. He, in turn, gave her a note to Don Antonio Coronel and his young wife, who lived on the northwest corner of Seventh and Alameda Streets. Don Antonio, who had come to Los Angeles as a colonist during the Revolutionary days, had served the Mexican Government as state treasurer before the invasion by the Americans, whose appearance he, like his close friend Pio Pico,[45] bitterly resented. He had taken arms against the invaders but had come at last to accept philosophically the new scheme of things and to devote himself to collecting and preserving relics of the departed era. A lifelong friend of the Indians, he was probably as well fitted as any one in the entire region to supply Helen with the information she was seeking. Although he spoke little English, his wife in her "delicious" accent could serve as his interpreter and thereby supply endless details in respect to Spanish and Mexican laws affecting the Indians. Having served under Governor Micheltorena in 1844 as Inspector of Southern Missions, he was able, too, to give first-hand information on these. He and his wife were charmed by this warm-hearted, impulsive, sympathetic visitor. On her first meeting with them, she went for a few minutes' call and stayed three hours. This was succeeded by many an afternoon spent listening to Don Antonio's stories of the days of the Spanish and Mexican occupations, details of which went into her first Century article, under title of "Echoes in the City of the Angels." It was an alluring picture she drew of the one-hundred-year-old town — El Pueblo de Sehora la Reina de los Angeles, the City of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, with "its certain indefinable, delicious aroma from the old, ignorant, picturesque times." She traced its history, as she heard it in the Coronel version, from the days of its founding by "twelve devout Spanish soldiers"[46] (the name of one of whom, Moreno, was to serve her in Ramona),[47] through the turbulent period when Spanish viceroys, Mexican alcaldes and governors, and United States naval and military commanders followed in rapid succession, crowding upon each other's heels. For the first fifty years of Los Angeles history she believed that not a record remained — not even one of grants of lands, but from the rich storehouse of Don Antonio's memory and interviews with old-time residents, like the aged woman who claimed to be the granddaughter of the soldier Moreno, she pieced out a picture of the "bewilderingly un-American" city that so charmed and delighted her. The "Invocation to the Virgin" sung in Ramona as one of the songs before sunrise she first used here. She came across it in manuscript in Don Antonio's library and heard it translated by Dona Mariana in the "soft, Spanish-voiced broken English," as delightful to her ear as "the soft bastard Latin" of Italian to Byron's. She paid glowing tribute in her Century sketch to the Coronels and testified to her own good fortune in their gracious reception of her:[48]

... Nor, will any one ever know more of Los Angeles than its lovely outward semblances and mysterious suggestions, unless he have the good fortune to win past the barriers of the proud, sensitive, tender reserve, behind which is hid the life of the few remaining survivors of the old Spanish and Mexican régime.

Helen's association with the Coronels was unquestionably the happiest one she knew in California. Never once did her devotion to them, or theirs to her, waver in the smallest degree. As long as they lived Don Antonio and his wife revered and idealized the generous and lovable spirit of the woman who had toiled so unselfishly to undo a great wrong done an unfortunate race. Mrs. Jeanne Carr, commenting upon the friendship, testified that just as Thoreau once wrote that Lydia Emerson almost persuaded him to be a Christian, Helen rarely left the society of Don Antonio without being persuaded that she was becoming more and more a Catholic if not a Romanist.

Mrs. Carr has contributed her recollections of her own friendship with Helen in a series of undated, often illegible, and sometimes inaccurate memoranda to be found in the Huntington Library at San Marino, California. According to her testimony the friendship dated back to the 1855 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Providence, which Mrs. Carr attended with her husband, Professor Ezra Slocum Carr, then at the University of Wisconsin. This meeting, interestingly enough, was always memorable to Helen by reason of another friendship formed there — with the Bottas. The Pasadena estate of the Carrs, today Carmelita Park at Orange Grove and Pasadena Avenue, was in the eighties a cultural center. Helen has described the sacrifice, the toil, and the superb courage which went into the making of it in her Christian Union sketch "One Woman and Sunshine." Professor Carr had been summoned to Berkeley in 1869 to occupy the chair of physics and chemistry. He resigned six years later when chosen State Superintendent of Schools. The move to Pasadena followed in 1879 or 1880. Mrs. Carr was active in behalf of struggling authors. She had sponsored John Muir since his undergraduate days at Madison and was instrumental in placing his early pieces on the Sierras in the Overland Monthly.[49]

It is necessary to remember that the articles prepared by Helen for the Century and reissued in Glimpses of Three Coasts and Glimpses of California and the Missions did not appear in the order of their writing and that none of them was printed until May of 1883. Evidence is conclusive, however, that, for the most part, the material for them was gained during the winter and spring of 1881-1882.

The second and third pieces, "Outdoor Industries in Southern California" and "Father Junipero and His Work," were devoted respectively to ranch life in Southern California and to the labors of the Franciscans. For these the Coronels suggested that Helen visit the old ranches and the Missions. They declared that there remained but one Spanish homestead where the original life of a California rancho could still be studied in all of its charm and genuineness. This was the del Valle establishment at Camulos. This rancho, situated near the present Piru, on the Ventura highway, lay some sixty miles northwest of Los Angeles, at about half the distance between that city and Santa Barbara. Originally a part of the Rancho San Fernando, it was granted in 1839 to the del Valle family, who built in the early sixties [sic: 1853] a house in many respects identical with the one described as the Moreno home in Ramona. From the date of the publication of that novel until the estate was closed to the public, Camulos was visited annually by throngs of visitors all eager for the privilege of seeing it and making it familiar in newspaper and magazine reports to tens of thousands of readers. In 1924 the final two thousand of the original forty-eight thousand acres were sold. Today, shorn of much of its glory, the house stands a forlorn reminder of the glory of a departed era. Although it escaped complete destruction in the St. Francis Dam disaster of March 1928, it sacrificed many of its fertile acres. The little chapel, unable to withstand dry rot and termites, has had to be raised upon a new foundation. One of the famous mission bells remains, but it has been mutilated by an inept attempt to rivet a piece of rawhide across an ugly crack which runs almost its entire length.[50] Only a black eagle seedling walnut tree retains its magnificence. Planted in the seventies, it has achieved a truly imposing spread of one hundred twenty-five feet.

Equipped with as many facts as Don Antonio could supply from the combined resources of his recollections and his valuable antiquarian collection, Helen left Los Angeles for Santa Barbara late in January, making a stop of one day at the Mission San Fernando. Its gracious custodian, Don Antonio's good friend General Andres Pico,[51] famous throughout the region as the most lavish host in the old days of baronial splendor, received her so cordially that she resolved to return to it with the artist who was to arrive shortly to do her illustrations. At Camulos she was less privileged. "You will perhaps have heard," she wrote the Coronels, "that I was so unfortunate as not to find Mrs. del Valle at home; so I only rested two hours at her house and drove on to Santa Barbara that night. I saw some of the curious old relics, but the greater part of them were locked up, and Mrs. del Valle had the keys with her."[52]

Whether Helen ever returned to Camulos is a much-debated question. The preponderance of evidence is that she did not. The single reference to the rancho in her own letters has been given above. Against the testimony of various persons that Mrs. Carr and her son drove her there,[53] may be set Mrs. Carr's statement in the Carr memorabilia that Helen had a letter from Don Antonio to Señora del Valle and made the trip without consulting Mrs. Carr. The latter gives no hint of ever having accompanied her there. Mrs. Luisa Hutchison,[54] a sister of Señora Coronel, believes that Isabel del Valle received Helen in her mother's absence and exhibited for her benefit the choicest of the family relics. Helen herself testifies that most of the relics were locked up and unavailable. Daniel Cleveland,[55] in support of his thesis that Helen was prejudiced against the Americans in California as the result of too much dependence upon Spanish and Mexican sources, lists the Señora del Valle as one of her informants. His conclusion may well have come from Mrs. Carr, who was regarded as an authority on the genesis of Ramona after Helen's death and who has said that the Señora appealed to Helen as one born to command. That Helen was able to describe so vividly all the details of Camulos if she paid but one visit there is not remarkable. A single moment had always sufficed to provide her with concrete and sharply defined images, and she was ever able to recall minutest particulars which escaped others. It would be perfectly possible, too, for her to supplement her first impression with additional items added by people who knew the place well.

Helen reached Santa Barbara on the twenty-third of January. She never enjoyed Santa Barbara.[56] It was too much like any one of a dozen New England towns — stodgy, smug, correct, and uninteresting. Its much vaunted refinement failed to impress her. She missed the color and flavor of Los Angeles and found the Santa Barbara drives unendingly the same and devoid of charm. The one bit of local color she could commend was the Chinese New Year's celebration on February 17th. She formed a warm friendship, however, with the Elwood Coopers, whose estate, twelve miles west of the town, was laughingly referred to by its owners as a pocket ranch, consisting as it did of only two thousand acres. One other friendship may be assumed from a letter in the Manuscript Division of the New York Public Library, written by Miss Rebecca Ord, testifying to the help she had given Helen in her preparation of the Century article on the Missions.

Helen's calls at the Cooper ranch and at Camulos bring to mind at once her association with another, the Hacienda Guajome, the home of Major Cave J. Couts.[57] The exact date of her visit there and the circumstances attending it are obscured by another cloud of conflicting testimony. The legend persists that she originally intended to make Guajome the scene of Ramona, that she was a guest there on more than one occasion for days at a time, but that as a result of a quarrel with the young son of the house over his treatment of Indians employed on the ranch she left in a huff, and that she retaliated by using another rancho as the scene of her novel. For this purpose, so the story runs, the Coronels, moved to compassion by her great disappointment, suggested Camulos.

It cannot be too frequently reiterated that while Helen had in the back of her mind the purpose some day to write an Indian novel, she was at this time collecting data for her Century sketches and was not seeking material for her story, the plot for which did not occur to her until a year and a half later. Writing from Los Angeles to William Hayes Ward on April 10th, she summarized her itinerary: she had had a most interesting winter — a month there — one in Santa Barbara — then San Diego — Riverside — San Bernardino, and back again to Los Angeles, where she awaited the arrival of the artist who was to illustrate her articles.[58] There is no indication in this that she saw Guajome before she did Camulos. The logical place from which to reach the former would have been San Diego, and she did not go there until March 4th. The rancho is nearly a hundred miles south of Los Angeles and less than half that distance from San Diego. The hacienda, the name of which is said to mean "home of the frogs" in some unidentified Indian dialect, is one of the most picturesque in California history. It at one time formed a part of the lands of the Mission San Luis Rey. It was first granted to the two Indians Andres and Jose Manuel and sold by them in 1852 to Don Abel Stearns, who built the present house the same year. Like Camulos it may well have served for the Moreno home in Ramona,[59] and like Camulos, too, it reminds one forcibly that the era which produced it is past.

In the eighties it was the home of the Major Cave J. Couts, who as a young lieutenant in the First Dragoons had married in 1849 Ysidora, daughter of the Italian Peruvian Don Juan Bandini, familiar to readers of Two Years before the Mast, and his wife Dolores Estudillo. Legend has it that as a wedding gift to the young pair, the bride's sister, Maria Francisca Paula Arcadia Bandini Stearns, presented them with the estate. She could hardly have missed it from the vast holdings of herself and her husband. Private ownership in Southern California in the period was distinguished by few holders and large tracts, and Don Abel Stearns was one of the most striking illustrations of the fact. He owned tens of thousands of acres between San Pedro and San Bernardino now covered with towns. The site of much of the Long Beach of today was but a small part of his Alamitos ranch. A Massachusetts Yankee from Salem, he had adventured, a soldier of fortune, to Mexico and thence to California, and before his death in 1871 had made himself one of the richest men in the state. It is an interesting side light that, although the fact was unknown to both and they were unknown to each other, he and Helen were very remotely related, stemming, as they both did, from the doughty old Puritan Isaac Stearns of the seventeenth century.

The story of the Guajome disagreement was first given by George Wharton James on the authority of no less a person than Mr. Cave Couts, son of Major Couts, and the present eighty-year-old owner of Guajome. It has been repeated in practically all later accounts. In a personal interview granted in September 1936, Mr. Couts substantiated most of the details. Pleading a faulty memory and confessing a lack of sympathy for Helen's work, he submitted that to the best of his recollection she reached Guajome in the winter or early spring of 1882. She was a guest there for a period of three weeks, being accompanied by Mr. Abbot Kinney, who was to serve as a fellow Government appointee with her in 1883. Helen made herself something of a nuisance by her interference with ranch routine. She was constantly inciting the Indians to rebel against the work assigned them and to demand better food. In fact she aroused great antagonism and hostility among all the Spanish families by her attitude. Mr. Couts himself, on the occasion of the visit a young man in his twenties, was a semi-invalid by reason of a scythe-cut leg, which kept him more or less a cripple in his hammock. Thus he became a logical Felipe for Helen's novel and no harm done. But there was no excuse for her having used his mother as a model for Señora Moreno.

Another story, widely accepted in the San Diego region, is offered in explanation of Helen's unpopularity there. According to this, she once drove to a rancho from Temecula with Abbot Kinney when the family was away and was refused admittance by the major-domo. In retaliation for this snub, she wrote a scurrilous article about certain of the old families. Since this article, "A Night in Pala," did not appear until April 1883, it could not have been responsible for the hostility exhibited toward her on her first visit.[60] Helen's only reference to Major Couts occurs in a letter to Mr. Ephraim W. Morse,[61] November 3, 1883, when she wrote to ask him for information to be used in Ramona:

I am going to ask some help from you. I want an accurate account of two things that have happened in San Diego County. ... I think the legal records of both cases are in San Diego and if I am not mistaken Sheriff Hunsacher was engaged in both matters. I recollect some talk with him about them but not definitely...

The two ranchos, then, that she is said to have combined in her description of the Moreno home in Ramona Helen may have known less than any others. The two which she mentioned by name in her Century article as the ones visited are that of "Lucky" Baldwin in the San Gabriel Valley and that of Elwood Cooper near Santa Barbara, both American names. The "pocket ranch" of Cooper seemed adequately and fairly described when compared with that of Baldwin, which included a part of the lands of the San Gabriel Mission and was a principality in itself. Consisting of some eighty thousand acres, it was divided into four separate estates. At one of these Helen witnessed, and took careful notes of, the sheep shearing and appreciated for the first time in her life the simile of the prophet Isaiah, "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb." She attended a citrus fair in the Riverside Colony in March.[62] For many of her facts she searched faithfully through the Equalization Board Statistics and presented details on the production of citrus fruits, olives, walnuts, grapes, wine, honey, cattle, and sheep in the five counties "properly comprising South California."[63] They were those in which the wet season was the season in which it could rain, but might not; the dry season, that in which it could not rain but occasionally did. No wonder she made enemies!

Naturally Helen was collecting material on the Missions the while she was making her investigation of ranch life. She could easily reach San Gabriel from Los Angeles, and she had stopped for a day at San Fernando on her first trip to Santa Barbara. Father Sanchez, Father O'Keefe, and Father Francis at the Mission Santa Barbara received her graciously and loaned her books from the library. Their Mission, like that of San Gabriel, was, and still is, in an excellent state of preservation and had the added advantage of being the only one of the original twenty-one[64] established by the Franciscans still under the direction of that order.[65] Before she left the state in June, Helen visited every one of the Missions from San Diego to San Francisco and the Mission San Francisco Dolores as well. In her account she considered them in the chronological order of their founding, from the first in San Diego, July 16, 1769, to the final one, Santa Inez, September 7, 1804. Besides the library at Santa Barbara Mission she had access in May or June to that of H.H. Bancroft. To both of these she made acknowledgment. So careful and sympathetic an analysis did she give of the work done by Father Junipero Serra and his companions and followers that it was reprinted by Little, Brown and Company as late as 1902 for use in schools. The work has since its writing been freely drawn upon by many investigators of the establishment of the Missions in California. Helen began with the history of the thirteenth-century founding of the Franciscan order, passed to a brief account of the life and work of Serra and his friends Palou, Crespi, and Verger in Spain and Mexico, and then with tenderness and reverence for his efforts, sketched in sympathetic detail his hardships and sufferings in building the Missions along El Camino Real and baptizing the Indians, over one thousand of them with his own hand, in the name of the Holy Father at Rome. That so many of the fine old monuments that he had erected had been allowed to crumble into ruins she declared was a disgrace and a shame to both the Catholic Church and the State of California.[66]

The crumbling ruins were all that now remained of the golden age of the friars — the thirty years succeeding Serra's death in 1784. To the nine missions established during his life, there had been shortly added ten more (twelve if one counts the two San Francisco Missions of Contra Costa). About these nineteen were gathered over twenty thousand Indians, learning and practicing the arts of civilization and engaging in the picturesque rites of a religion always wise in availing itself of beautiful agencies in color, form, and harmony. Everywhere a background of walled gardens with waving palms, running fountains, groves of olive trees, broad vineyards, and orchards of all manner of fruits, and above the picture, "the sunny, delicious, winterless California sky."[67] But the establishment of pueblos proper and presidial pueblos soon brought the civil Government into conflict with the Church. The Mexican Revolution followed in 1829, chaos and confusion in its wake. The Secularization Edict of 1834, "emancipating" the Indians and appropriating to the Government the bulk of the Church property, was the beginning of the end. Thousands of the Indians disappeared into the wilderness, lapsing into a state of semi-barbarism and complete degradation. The Franciscans in great numbers fled the country, and the fine old Mission structures crumbled into decay.

Richard Watson Gilder had left Helen free to choose the title of her last article, and, inevitably, she made her selection "The Present Condition of the Mission Indians in Southern California." Her magazine piece on the subject did not appear until August of 1883, by which time she had paid a second visit to California as a special agent of the Department of the Interior for the purpose of submitting to it a similar report with added recommendations as to a desirable course to be pursued in treatment of the Indians. Naturally enough, this second, or Government, report repeats much that is included in the first magazine sketch, but it is far more comprehensive and exhaustive. In 1883 she revisited most of the places she had seen the previous year and went to many more. She did not, for instance, get to the Cahuilla Indian village and school in 1882, although she wrote to the teacher there and included pertinent facts in regard to the colony in her Century report.

The San Diego Union for March 5, 1882, listed Mrs. W.S. Jackson among passengers of the day before aboard the S.S. Orizaba from Santa Barbara.[68] She had a double objective in San Diego. The region about the little town on the bay was the cradle of modern California. Father Junipero Serra's first Mission had been built there, and two others, Padre Peyri's San Luis Rey, and the greatest and most beautiful of all, San Juan Capistrano, were not far distant up the coast on El Camino Real. Inland some twenty-five miles was the Mission outpost or appanage of San Luis Rey — San Antonio de Pala. Moreover, in the surrounding hills and valleys were to be found large numbers of the remnants of the Indians once attached to these Missions. Following the Secularization Act, many of them had continued to live on farms they had been tilling, or had settled in new villages and put into practice the arts and crafts learned from the friars. If these farms and villages chanced to be upon grants made to Spanish and Mexican owners after the American occupation, the Indians were at first unmolested. The same was true, for a period of time, if they lived on Government land, that formerly belonging to Mission establishments and declared Government property by the United States Land Commission in 1856. But when white squatters began to seek homesteads on this land, and when the Spanish and Mexican owners wished to sell huge blocks of their grants, it was found that the Indians had no claim whatever to their homes. Ignorant of the law which had been passed requiring that they register and file upon their lands, they had continued living as they and their fathers had before them, only to find themselves, with no warning, suddenly dispossessed and evicted.

San Diego in 1882 was a thriving little town just coming into prominence as the terminus of the not-yet-completed transcontinental branch of the Santa Fe railroad. Helen made her headquarters at the Horton House, regarded by its manager, Mr. W.E. Hadley, as the finest hostelry in the region, boasting, as it did, sixty-eight rooms and two tin bath tubs. Two former clerks of the hotel, Mr. Charles C. Loomis of Los Angeles and Mr. J.M. Lathrop of San Diego, recall Helen's stay there. She did not get on too well with the manager because she interfered with his discipline of his child. She amazed the other guests by dressing for dinner and sometimes made what struck the staff as unreasonable demands in the interest of her own comfort. From the hotel she made her drives to the Missions, to the Indian villages, and to the canyons and beauty spots later reproduced with such exactitude in Ramona. Her favorite interpreter was Mrs. Mariette Gregory, clairvoyant and seeress, who had reached fastnesses to which Helen never penetrated and who supplied her with at least one detail for her report — the practice on the part of white squatters of taking Indian women by force.

A very important person now enters the account. He is Father A.D. Ubach, for sixteen years the priest in charge of the San Diego parish.[69] With him, by her own testimony, Helen drove "in the winter of 1882" to San Pasquale Valley.[70] She described him as a Catholic priest of San Diego, much beloved by the Indians. Later he was sketched at much greater length as Father Gaspara in Ramona. His fury of indignation over the fate of the Mission Indians and his unavailing efforts at bettering their condition through the medium of Washington officials and his own church in California enabled Helen to overlook the fact that he was not a Franciscan. She shows him no gentle saint but a militant and irascible soldier-type of priest, moved to articulate and denunciatory wrath by the evils heaped upon his charges in their shifting refuges, harried out of their homes and fleeing always to less accessible spots before the advancing hordes of land-hungry white settlers. All accounts of him bear out her impressions except that of Mr. Isaac Mylar, who recalls him in the days of his residence at the Mission San Juan Bautista as a kindly, patient soul, given to the hunting of ducks and snipe and to consuming quantities of buttermilk and doughnuts. Mr. J.M. Lathrop remembers that in San Diego he had forsworn buttermilk for a potent and exceedingly heady old Spanish wine. When he first came to San Diego October 8, 1866, he took up his residence in the abandoned Estudillo place in Old Town, the present tourist mecca and widely heralded "Ramona's Marriage Place." Father Ubach's repeated assertion that the marriage described in Ramona took place, not, of course, in this building but in the chapel at some distance from it, is unheeded. The fact that the author of Ramona corroborated his assertion makes no difference either. Before his death the priest gave an account of his acquaintance with Mrs. Jackson, to whom he said he told the story of a runaway couple who were married in his chapel. She suppressed the names of their families (a precaution she did not always take) in order to avoid unpleasant notoriety. This veiled allusion to a mysterious elopement bobs up again and again in various succeeding accounts, notably in those of George Wharton James and Margaret V. Allen. The persons involved were the beautiful high-born daughter of a proud old Spanish-American family and an Indian herder. In most variants the lovers were apprehended, brought back, and the Indian brutally flogged or dragged to death. The young woman was later happily married off to a worthy member of her own race and class and fulfilled her manifest destiny of providing him with numerous progeny. Mr. James, after unsuccessfully trying to run down the names of the principals in the tale, came to the conclusion that it was apocryphal, and it may be. Despite the abundance of testimony today as to the identity of the lovers, on the authority of the major-domo who witnessed the flogging, the unwillingness of the testators to be quoted tempts one to put the story down as just one more bit of folklore dealing with the lives of those of high degree, which in an earlier day would have crept into a ballad and have ended with the lady's stabbing herself or her lover or her irate father with a wee penknife.

In her visits to the Indians and talks with persons interested in them Helen heard of the Indian school at Saboba and went in April to visit it. The Saboba village, consisting of some one hundred fifty Indians of the Serrano tribe, was situated in the San Jacinto Valley at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Its fertile land, watered by a natural spring, was being farmed by members of the tribe who had lived there for over a hundred years. Three miles from the village, on Government land, was another watered canyon known as Indian Canyon, and in a third similar oasis lived Victoriano, the aged chief. Saboba's Government school, the first in California, numbered forty pupils, who were making remarkable progress under Miss Mary Sheriff, a Pennsylvania woman and formerly a teacher of the freedmen. Miss Sheriff's own account follows:[71]

In April 1882 she [Mrs. Jackson] came to visit the school and the village. It was my pleasure to entertain her at that time and also in 1883. Mrs. Jackson was then about forty-eight years old.[72] She was fair and blue-eyed with blonde hair turning gray, which she wore curled about a smooth brow. She was plump, but of neat form, weighing about one hundred fifty pounds, and was about five feet, three inches in height. She had beautiful hands, white, firm, shapely and well kept. Hands that could do things well. When she came to San Jacinto she wore a gray travelling dress, with gray bonnet to match, upon which was the head of a large gray owl. Indian name, tucatote. In our walks about the village, Mrs. Jackson tried to get acquainted with some of the little children but they would scurry out of sight as soon as we approached their homes, only deigning to peek around the corner when I called to them that the lady had dulce (candy) for them. I knew that there must be something out of the ordinary the matter when they refused to come for dulce, for they were exceedingly fond of sweets. The little ones were in the habit of giving me the Spanish diminutive for Mama: with them it is a term of endearment. As we passed along the street I heard them calling from their hiding places: "Mamacita! Mamacita! cita, cita, Mirala tucatote, un tucatote malas." (See the owl, the bad owl.) And then I knew what was the matter. The large owl is to the Indian a bird of ill omen. If it hovers over your head it brings a message of your own death, but if it flies toward you it tells of the death of one that is dear to you. One of the mothers told me that the children were greatly distressed; they were afraid the owl might fly over me. When I told Mrs. Jackson she said, tenderly, "It is too bad to frighten the poor little children. I will not wear it again."

Afterward these children, in their shy way, showed much affection for the "good lady," as they called her, and feasted upon her candy. One dainty little maiden named Margarita wanted to go home with her. And Mrs. Jackson would have taken her if she could have been at home more. She was a bright, pretty child with a charming voice, an orphan and dependent. Corove, three miles east of Saboba, was the home of Victoriano and his daughter Rosaria. We drove up the canyon one evening to see them. Rosaria came to the door and gave us a gracious welcome with an invitation to enter. Mrs. Jackson, who was charmed with her manners, said to me, "Where did she get her graceful bearing and courteous ways?" Rosaria asked me in Spanish, "What did she say?" I told her Mrs. Jackson wanted to know where she had learned to welcome strangers in such a beautiful manner. Rosaria looked at her father with an affectionate smile and replied, "From my father first: he lived with the Padres at San Gabriel when he was young. They treated him as a friend and brother, teaching him to read and write Spanish and the courteous ways of their own people." Then she said, the color deepening in her cheeks, "I lived for many years as a little girl and young woman with a Castillian family of gracious manners and great hospitality." I asked her no questions but afterwards told Mrs. Jackson her sad story. Rosaria had beautiful sheets and pillow cases on her bed that were embroidered in the old Spanish lace stitch. Mrs. Jackson wanted to buy them just as they were but Rosaria refused to sell them. At last I persuaded her to allow Mrs. Jackson to have the cases. On our way home Mrs. Jackson seemed so disappointed that I promised her I would try to get the sheet for her. I made a special trip up the canyon, and after a little persuasion, Rosaria told me that the needle work upon the sheet was done by her mother who had been dead for many years and she did not like to sell it, but when I told her that my friend was going to show it to the American people who did not know that the Saboba people were not wild Indians but could do just as beautiful things as we, she cheerfully yielded and told me I could send it.[73] ...

In one of our visits to Saboba Mrs. Jackson asked the Capitan and Alcalde to go with us to the little cemetery east of the village. The only thing that softened its austerity was a beautiful pepper tree in the center. There were about one hundred graves, forlorn and neglected, and it made one's heart ache to see so many tiny ones. The sight touched Mrs. Jackson's mother heart, and when the Capitan in answer to her questions told how the poor little things suffered during the rainy season for want of warm bedding and clothing and fires to keep them warm, tears were in Mrs. Jackson's eyes as she listened to the sad story of the little children.

As we passed down the Saboba street, Mrs. Jackson spoke of the picturesque adobe houses on the bluffs and said she would like to see the interior of one. So we climbed the winding foot path and knocked at the door of a neat house, near the edge of the bluff. A young and rather pretty Indian woman invited us to enter. Her baby was ill and she had it in just such a cradle, made of twigs woven together, as Mrs. Jackson afterwards described in Ramona. The mother said she feared the baby would die. Then with quivering lips she said: "We sent to San Bernardino for a doctor to come to the village to see if he could not cure my little one, but he refused to come. He told my husband to give the medicine he gave him and if she did not get better to bring her to San Bernardino, but she is too ill to bear the journey." Mrs. Jackson's blue eyes flashed fire as she questioned the woman to make sure the doctor understood how sick the child was when he refused to come. Mrs. Jackson shared my room and I knew she was not sleeping. I grew uneasy and asked if she were ill. "No," she said, "but when I close my eyes, I see that poor little suffering baby that might get well if the doctor had a heart."

I told Mrs. Jackson that the Saboba people were in danger of losing their lands. She was greatly distressed and we discussed various ways of helping them. Nothing seemed feasible. Before she left, I asked her if she thought it would do any good if one of the Indian boys wrote to Secretary Teller of the Indian Department. Mrs. Jackson said: "No, for he would never see it." I was greatly depressed after she left. It seemed there was no hope for the Saboba people.

The threatened danger to the Saboba Indians of the loss of their lands was a very real one. There were the precedents of the San Pasquale and the Temecula evictions. Helen had first heard of these from the indignant lips of Don Antonio Coronel and later from many persons in San Diego. She had listened especially to Father Ubach's fiery denunciation of an accursed system which would permit such atrocities in the name of justice. She had already been to San Pasquale with him and in all probability to Temecula as well. The San Pasquale Valley had, in 1870, been set apart by executive order of the Government as a reservation for Indians, but the land was pre-empted by whites, and in 1882 the Indians were all gone. After her Saboba visit Helen started out once more, visiting the last week in April the Temecula Valley,[74] Pala, Pauma, the Potrero, Rincon, and the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Indians who had formerly lived at Temecula had no title to their lands beyond the protecting clause in an old Mexican grant. But from time immemorial there had been San Luis Rey neophytes there. Under their chief, Pablo, and watched over by Padre Peyri, they had formed what they supposed was a permanent settlement. In 1869 an action was brought in the District Court of San Francisco to evict them.[75] In spite of the protests of the Catholic bishop to judges, a sheriff and his posse arrived, piled the Indians' belongings on wagons, and ordered them out. Some of them settled in a dreary little valley three miles away, known as Pachanga, later by an executive order set off as a reservation. All that remained in Temecula when Helen first visited it was their graveyard.

The Pala Valley was, like Temecula, an appanage of the Mission San Luis Rey, lying an easy day's journey of some twenty-five miles from it. As was the case of so many Indian settlements, its fertility was assured by the waters of a creek. Its, four chief settlements were Pala, Pauma, Apeche, and La Jolla. The Potrero, one of many, was, as its name signifies, a mountain meadow, reached by an almost impassable road beyond Rincon and Pauma from Pala. It was to Pala that the Warner's Ranch Indians were to be forcibly removed in another celebrated eviction after Helen's death.[76] At Pala she spent a night after making her way from San Juan Capistrano. Her account of the expedition was to appear in April of the following year, but is a faithful reproduction of her 1882 visit there. It may well account for much of the subsequent hostility to her in the region, for in it she excoriates the progenitor of an old San Diego County family, charging him in no mincing terms with dubious and unethical practices in his dealings with the Indians and picturing his "junketings" in the ruins of the Mission San Juan Capistrano.[77]

Wherever she went, Helen bought baskets and lace to be photographed for her magazine series. A young Canadian, Mr. Henry Sandham, an eleventh-hour substitution for Birch as illustrator, had arrived in April. Immediately he began sketches of Indian houses and the Indians themselves. He traveled about with Helen and made his studies while she stood at his elbow and offered suggestions. His pictures illustrated not only her Century and St. Nicholas articles but the Monterey and Pasadena editions of Ramona. For the latter he provided, as well, an introductory chapter of reminiscences.[78]

After her talk with Miss Sheriff Helen's chief concern was to avert from the Saboba Indians the fate which had befallen those at Temecula and San Pasquale. Miss Sheriff had explained to her the situation. In 1842 the Mexican Government had given to Señor Jose Antonio Estudillo a grant in the San Jacinto Valley of a number of leagues[79] of land. This was confirmed by a United States patent issued in 1880. Señor Estudillo, faithful to a promise to his Government, protected the rights of the Indians, but at his death, his numerous heirs began selling unlocated claims whenever they were in need of money. The San Jacinto Land Association bought a great many of these, and when its members wanted to place their purchases on the market they appealed to the court of San Diego County to order a new survey and division of the grant in order to locate their lands. There were individuals, as well, who had unlocated rights in the grant, bought from the Estudillo heirs. Matters were at this pass when Mrs. Jackson reached Saboba. Once away, she decided, upon reconsideration, that it might be a good thing to have Jesus, the grandson of old Victoriano, write such a letter as Miss Sheriff had suggested, and the sooner the better. She herself could enclose it in a letter to Secretary Teller of the Interior Department, with whom as a fellow resident of Colorado she had an acquaintance.[80] He replied at once that he would do all he could to prevent any further injustice to the Indians. Out of this correspondence grew her appointment as a Commissioner of Indian Affairs in July 1883, "to visit the Mission Indians of California and ascertain the location and conditions of the various bands."

By May 1, 1882, Helen was back in Los Angeles at the Kimball Mansion, a genteel boarding house which stood on New High Street at about the place where Arcadia Street would intersect if cut through. Among other guests it frequently numbered Mr. Abbot Kinney,[81] who made it his headquarters whenever he came into Los Angeles from his five-hundred-acre estate, Kinneyloa, near Sierra Madre.[82] Loa, the Hawaiian name for hill or mountain, he had selected after a residence in the Sandwich Islands, one of the many of his ports of call in a globe-trotting existence. Old-timers recall him as a vivid and forceful personality of striking appearance by reason of a heavy thatch and beard of sorrel-colored hair. Born in New Jersey in 1850, he claimed relationship with Holmes, Emerson, and General Harrison. During the course of a long life he was successively student of law and medicine, commission merchant, botanical expert, cigarette manufacturer (he is said to have laid the foundation for the Duke fortune), and real estate promoter.

He first landed in California in 1873 at San Diego from aboard a Pacific Mail liner. Unfavorably impressed, he left shortly but returned in 1880, this time by way of San Francisco, and made his way south to Los Angeles. According to his own testimony he and Mrs. Jackson had a mutual friend in Mrs. Carr of Pasadena, who one day drove Mrs. Jackson to Kinneyloa. Learning that Mr. Kinney spoke Spanish, Mrs. Jackson besought his aid as an interpreter in her visits to the Indians and the Mexican and Spanish families in the old ranch houses. He was, as he says, reasonably conversant with the land laws of California and their operations, and such knowledge was even more important in Mrs. Jackson's estimation than the ability to speak Spanish. Most of the incidents he remembers and records have to do with her 1883 visit, but their acquaintance began in 1882. By July of that year she was concluding her arrangements with the Interior Department, and she asked that Kinney be authorized to join her in the work, with expenses guaranteed. Her own expenses she rated at twelve hundred dollars, she to defray anything above that amount.[83]

In view of the claims that Abbot Kinney was with Helen when she sought admittance to various ranch homes in the vicinity of San Diego in 1882, it would be interesting to know whether she left that place before April 6th. She says very definitely to Ward when writing him from Los Angeles on April 10th that she had spent a month in San Diego. She reached the town March 4th. The San Diego Union on April 6th announced as among the passengers arriving aboard the S.S. Senator from San Francisco and wayside ports Mr. Abbot Kinney. No account of Helen's leaving San Diego is found in the newspapers. An undated letter sent by her to Mrs. Carr early in May gives proof that she knew him at that time:[84]

This is maddening — to have driven seven miles in this dust & found you away was bad enough: but to have you gone into Los Angeles adds insult to injury — We got back Sunday night after a most repaying ten days — San Luis Rey — Capistrano & three Indian villages — on Monday we came out to Mr. Kinney's to stay — on [sic] Thursday & go back to town — & on that day I will call & see you on my way into town — on Sunday night we go to Santa Barbara by boat — I am sorry I have seen Pasadena again — poor dust draggled — sand smitten cypresses — I can hardly believe my eyes — & I had been boasting to Mr. Sandham that it was a green bower from beginning to end:—

I don't know how you endure this dry heat and dust — it would drive me insane in a month: — every nerve I possess is on edge yesterday & today — a shower of rain could set me all right in an hour. To think there will be no drop of rain more sets me wild! — I look forward to our three weeks drive from Santa Barbara to Monterey with absolute terror. — Goodbye — I shall always feel defrauded to think of this last afternoon I had planned to spend with you—

The carriage trip from Santa Barbara to Monterey began on May 19th. Whether Henry Sandham or Abbot Kinney or both accompanied Helen one may not be sure.[85] The day the party left she received a telegram from Mr. Jackson to meet him — probably in San Francisco — from which they sailed for Oregon. The only account of her trip to Monterey which survives is an Independent article, "A Chance Afternoon in California," which describes the route from San Luis Obispo through Paso de Robles and on to Jolon (spelled throughout as Jolow).[86] The transition from the cool and bracing coastal region to the heat of the belt inland thirty or forty miles was extremely distasteful. Paso de Robles on a June day was as scorching a spot as one could hope to avoid north of the Equator. As a watering place it could be recommended rather for "mudding"; "sulpheretted" hydrogen everywhere: in mud, steam, and even the air one breathed. Jolon, six miles from the site of the old Mission San Antonio de Padua, was but a stage station.[87] A California Dick Swiveller in a dilapidated old inn, attracted by the Roman coin in the tie pin of one of the members of the party, proved an interesting collector of relics, displaying as his prize exhibit a letter in the hand of Junipero Serra.

In June, Mr. William S. Jackson and his wife sailed from San Francisco for Oregon.[88] ...

Author's Notes.

39. The material for her California period is drawn chiefly from Helen Jackson's own letters and printed pieces. These have been supplemented by testimony gained in personal interviews with Mr. S. M. Kempton, Mr. Cave Couts, Mrs. George Fuller, Mr. A. L. Carr, Mrs. Luisa Hutchison; by letters from Mrs. C. I. Thacker, Mrs. Ruth Cronyn Cairns, Mr. Harry Carr, Mrs. Charles Francis Saunders; by files of the Los Angeles papers: 1930-1938, files of the Critic: 1881-1885; by the Hemet, California, Pageant folder; by numerous histories of Los Angeles and California. See also Harris Newmark, Sixty Years in Southern California, 1926; Auguste Wey, "Sidelights on Ramona," Land of Sunshine: June, 1895; George Wharton James, Through Ramona's Country, 1909; Carlyle Channing Davis and William Alderson, The True Story of Ramona, 1914; Harold D. Carew, History of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley in California, 3 vols., 1930; Daniel Cleveland, "Indians of San Diego County — Their Wrongs," San Diego Union: November 14, 1926; Ruth Haisley Hampton, "El Pueblo in the Days of 'H.H.,'" Touring Topics: March 31; Ruth Cronyn Cairns, "As I Knew 'H.H.,'" Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine: October 11, 1931; Margaret V. Allen, Ramona's Homeland, 1914; Taylor, op. cit.; Morrow Mayo, Los Angeles, 1933.

44. Letter to Mr. W. H. Ward, October 31, 1881. In Hunt collection. Used by permission.

45. Governor Pio Pico, last of the Mexican governors.

46. Modern research has not entirely borne her out. Historians today have established that the founders of the city were an illiterate and heterogeneous lot of mixed races.

47. Doubtless she heard it here before she saw the name on a tombstone in the cemetery of the Mission San Luis Rey.

48. "Echoes from the City of the Angels," Glimpses of Three Coasts. Quoted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.

49. Possibly Helen's references to "Mrs. C " in her printed letters to Abbot Kinney are to Mrs. Carr. These letters appear in James, op. cit. The originals are not available. See also Charles Francis Saunders, The Story of Carmelita, 1928.

50. See also Marie Walsh, The Mission Bells of California, 1934; Zephyrian Engelhardt, Missions and Missionaries of California, 1920.

51. Brother of Governor Pio Pico.

52. January 30, 1882. See Davis and Alderson, The True Story of Ramona. Quoted by permission of the Dodge Publishing Company.

53. Personal interviews, September, 1936.

54. Personal interview, September, 1936.

55. See note 39.

56. For Santa Barbara see Lanier Bartlett and Virginia Stivers Bartlett, Los Angeles in 7 Days, 1932; Edward Roberts, Santa Barbara and around There, 1886. Helen's reaction to the town is given at length in letters to Sarah Woolsey in the Davenport collection.

57. See Hero Eugene Rensch and Ethel Rensch, Historic Spots in California: The Southern Counties, 1932; William E. Smythe, History of San Diego County, 2 vols., 1908; Horace Bell, Reminiscences of a Ranger, 1927; Cleveland, loc. cit.; Newmark, op. cit., James, op. cit., Allen, op. cit., Carew, op. cit., Davis and Alderson, op. cit.

58. Letter in Huntington Library. Quoted by permission.

59. Respects in which each of these two ranchos served as a model for the Moreno home in Ramona are summarized by James, op. cit.

60. See below pp. 191-192.

61. Letter in Junipero Serra Museum. Used by permission. Mr. E. W. Morse was a Massachusetts farmer and schoolteacher who reached San Diego in 1850 and became one of the town's leading citizens.

62. "Outdoor Industries in Southern California." It was quite possible for her to have driven to the Riverside Colony from San Diego. It is much more likely, however, that she confused the date of her visit, since sheep shearing in Southern California takes place in April or May, according to Mr. Begeler of the Union Stock Yards in Los Angeles.

63. The five counties in 1882 were San Diego, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura.

64. Helen gave the number as nineteen in her Century article, not including the two San Francisco Missions of Contra Costa: San Rafael Arcangel and San Francisco Solano.

65. The Franciscans were in control in Alta, the Dominicans in Baha California.

66. For a wholly opposed point of view see Mayo, op. cit.

67. In justice to the author it must be remembered that she was picturing the Missions before, not after, the Secularization Edict. For a portrait of the latter period see also A Century of Dishonor, pp. 462 seq.

68. She had been expected by an earlier boat, the Ancona. See the San Diego Union: March 1, 2, 1882. The Horton House registers at Junipero Serra Museum list her as registered at that Hotel, March 4th.

69. Letters and printed pieces by "H.H."; interviews with Mr. J. M. Lathrop, Mr. C. C. Loomis, Mr. John L. Kelly; Lewis J. Stellman, "The Man Who Inspired Ramona," Overland Monthly: September, 1907; Isaac Mylar, Early Days at the Mission San Juan Beautista, 1929; "Father Ubach Gives the Real Facts of Ramona's Marriage," San Diego Union: June 25, 1905; archives in the office of Archbishop Cantwell in Los Angeles.

70. "The Present Condition of the Mission Indians in Southern California." There is no agreement as to the name of the driver who took her about. J. M. Lathrop says he drove her when she went to meet Father Ubach and upon numerous other occasions. Some commentators say her driver was Ben Lyon; others, that he was a Mexican.

71. Ms. in possession of Mrs. C. I. Thacker. Quoted by permission.

72. She was nearing fifty-two. 7

3. See also A Century of Dishonor, p. 480, and "Mission Indians in California," Glimpses of Three Coasts, p. 94. A letter to Miss Sheriff, May 4, 1882, refers to the sheet. In Huntington Library.

74. Helen spoke of the Temecula Valley in the northeast corner of San Diego County. Such a location would have put it in the Colorado Desert, over in the Chocolate Mountains, inasmuch as San Diego County at that time ran to the Colorado River. She probably meant to say the northwest corner.

75. All papers and filings in the Temecula case were burned in the fire which followed the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906. Cleveland, loc. cit., points out that the plaintiffs in the case were Mexicans — not Americans — represented by Mexican attorneys, Murietta and Gonzales, and that Mrs. Jackson admitted that the American sheriff of San Diego County, Mr. N. Hunsacher (the Mr. Rothsacker of Ramona) was friendly to the Indians and loath to carry out orders. As a matter of fact, the author derived much material from Mr. E. W. Morse, as may be seen in her letters to him November 3, 1883, and his to her, January 22, 1884. She enlarged upon her Century sketch in "Temecula Exiles," Independent: November 29, 1883.

76. Joseph J. Hill, History of Warner's Ranch, 1927.

77. For an account similar to Helen's see Horace Bell, Reminiscences of a Ranger, 1927. Major Bell was editor for a period of the Porcupine, a Los Angeles paper.

78. See Juan del Rio, "The California Classic," Land of Sunshine: January, 1901, for estimate of Sandham sketches.

79. A league is about 4,438 acres. For further details of the case see "The Fate of Saboba," Independent: December 13, 1883.

80. The Senate "Agreement bill," sponsored by Carl Schurz in 1880, amended to the effect that no money should be paid to the Utes until they surrendered those members of their tribe that were implicated in the Meeker massacre, was opposed by Senator Teller and supported by Senator Hill, both of Colorado. Omaha Bee: March 31, April 7, 1880.

81. He is indirectly quoted by James, op. cit., which contains letters from "H.H." to him. See also his "Helen Hunt Jackson," Pasadena Valley Union: September 5, 1885.

82. This house, recently destroyed by fire, was located on the low spur of mountains at the head of Sierra Madre Villa Avenue.

83. Final and full instructions commissioning Kinney to assist her in the work were issued January 12, 1883. See James, op. cit.

84. In Huntington Library. Quoted by permission.

85. Most accounts say that Helen with Kinney visited all the Missions from San Diego to Monterey. Her 1883 visit did not take her north.

86. The coast line of the Southern Pacific was not completed until 1888.

87. Another inaccuracy occurs in this account, by means of which the author places San Luis Obispo in the San Luis Valley. It is actually in the Los Osos Valley.

88. Her two Oregon articles appeared in the Atlantic Monthly.


Edwin Carewe's 1928 Screen Adaptation


Camulos Visit,
SoCal Observations
(Odell 1939)


Portraits x2


Full Text


HHJ Gravesite 1912


I Knew Ramona, by Jose Jesus Lopez


Roberts Story 1886

Carter Story 1900/02


Antonio Coronel Bio, HSSC 1900


"Narrow Trail" by Wyeth 1939

Story: Ventura Museum 1998

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