Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto
By Linda de Vries, Singer and Chair of the Board
Love classical choral music? Think Chorale Bel Canto.
On December 7th think the City of Whittier, where Chorale Bel Canto is singing Christmas with Chorale Bel Canto.
“Destination . . . Chorale Bel Canto” posts several times in advance of each of our concerts, offering you ideas for a different day trip to the city in which we’re singing, with a Chorale Bel Canto concert at the center of your experience. These trips appeal to a wide variety of interests and share fascinating, sometimes intricate, connections between the city and the music. This time it’s
Early San Gabriel Valley HistoryChorale Bel Canto sings for the enjoyment and education of a number of different communities in the San Gabriel Valley. Today’s suggested visit focuses on the Workman, Temple, and Rowland families, who lent their names to Workman Mill Road and the cities of Temple City and Rowland Heights. Their property became the City of La Puente, and their offspring gave their names to numerous other southern California towns. Let’s look briefly at this history before describing your day. John A. or “Juan” Rowland was born in either Pennsylvania or Maryland around 1790. Early in the 19th century his family moved to Ohio, and in 1823 he migrated to New Mexico by way of the Santa Fe Trail, residing in San Fernando de Taos. He gained Mexican citizenship in 1825 and soon after married María Encarnación Martínez.
William (“Don Julian”) Workman was born about ten years after Rowland, in Cumbria, England. He followed his elder brother David to Philadelphia in 1822 and in 1825 made his way, as had Rowland before him, to Taos. Workman entered into a ten-year common-law marriage with Maria Nicolasa Urioste de Valencia, a Taos Native American, and formally wed her here in California at Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in 1844.
Rowland and Workman formed a partnership in Taos, working as fur trappers, grist mill operators, and manufacturers of “Taos Lightning,” a whiskey popular with other trappers. The two became embroiled in political conflicts between Mexico and the United States and were at one point arrested for smuggling, which “encouraged” them to travel to California along the Old Spanish Trail in 1841.
Even though they couldn’t use wagons on the trail, and not all of them were Americans, the Workman-Rowland Party has long been considered the first wagon train of Americans to travel overland to Los Angeles.
Rowland obtained a Mexican land grant to Rancho La Puente in 1842. Workman built an adobe on the land while Rowland returned to New Mexico to bring his family west. Within a year he, too, had built his own adobe.
Again at the center of political activity, the two fought in the Mexican-American War. At the Battle of Cahuenga Pass, they assisted Pio Pico in becoming the first Californio (native-born Californian) to assume the office of Governor of Alta California. Workman was one of three who brought out the flag of truce. In 1845 Governor Pio Pico added Workman’s name to the land grant, enlarging it to almost 50,000 acres.
The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 proved to be a windfall for the partners, who forsook their hide and tallow trade to raise cattle to supply beef to the miners. They later expanded their holdings by establishing wine vineyards and apple, fig, peach, pear, and pomegranate orchards. Rowland had built the first grist mill in the Los Angeles area in 1847, but Workman also built a mill, remembered today in Workman Mill Road. During the US Civil War they supported the Union by supplying horses to the federal government.
Their cattle industry declined with the slowing of the Gold Rush, the importation of better cattle breeds from Texas, and floods and droughts in the early 1860s. They were able, however, to move their livestock to the Mojave Desert and retain strong herds into the 1870s. Rowland retained most of his La Puene holdings until his death in 1873.
John and Encarnación Rowland had ten children, and three of their sons married into families whose names and land holdings became the sources of other Southern California cities—Yorba Linda, Chino, Santa Ana. One son became president of the Puente Oil Company as well as Sheriff of Los Angeles. When Encarnación died in 1851, John married Charlotte M. Gray. Their daughter’s husband married General Charles Forman, who established Toluca Lake. Today, heirs of Rowland still own over a hundred acres in the City of Industry and Rowland Heights. Workman’s daughter Antonia Margarita married the transplanted New Englander F.P.F (Francis Pliny Fisk) Temple in 1845, the first marriage in Los Angeles in which both persons had Anglo surnames. By 1879 Workman and Temple had joined in real estate subdivisions that became Alhambra, San Marino, and Redondo Beach. The two also engaged in oil speculation and railroads—always, always oil. They formed the second bank in Los Angeles, Temple and Company, with Isias W. Hellman, who later founded the Farmers and Merchants Bank with John G. Downey. The Workman and Temple bank was poorly managed and fell on hard times in the 1875 economic collapse caused by silver speculation. Ultimately unable to meet the terms of a loan granted them by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, the bank closed and Workman took his own life at his home on May 17, 1876. His granddaughter, Josephine Workman, became silent movie actress Mona Darkfeather, who played American Indian women—a casting we would certainly not see today! Temple suffered a series of strokes soon after the closure of the bank, one of which finally felled him. The Temples had eleven children, the tenth of whom, Walter P. Temple (1869-1938), brought resurgence to the family fortunes through oil, real estate, and construction. Walter married Laurenza Gonzalez and purchased 400 acres about four miles east of San Gabriel, land that had originally been part of Lucky Baldwin’s Rancho Santa Anita. His subdivision of this purchase, where moderate-income families could afford to own their own homes, officially became Temple City in 1936. Echoing a familiar theme in the area, Walter was also influential in the development of the oilfields of Montebello. .........................
Morning. Begin your day at The Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, 15415 East Don Julian Road, City of Industry, 626-968-8492, firstname.lastname@example.org. On this six-acre site you can explore the evolution of architectural history and domestic style during the century from 1830 to 1930. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. Guided tours of the historic houses, the only way to see the interiors, are offered Wednesday through Sunday every hour on the hour beginning at 1:00 p.m. Spanish language tours are offered on the second Sunday of every month at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. The museum is closed on holidays and special tour and festival weekends. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. There is ample parking, and most of the site is handicapped accessible. There is a museum store with vintage and special holiday gifts. There is no food service, but you can bring a lunch and eat in the picnic area or by the pond. Before your visit, you might want to view the introductory video on the museum website.
There is a special treat available to you today. You may enjoy Homemade at the Homestead, a “Holiday Gifting” food workshop, and the last in a series of three. Here you can “create gifts that capture the scents and tastes of the season.” You will need to call the museum to register, and class size is limited to 18, so it’s possible that it’s booked. This workshop, led by chef, historian, and educator Ernest Miller, costs $30 per adult and $25 for students over 12 and seniors. All materials are included in the cost. An adult must accompany students. The museum also hosts special events on December 8, 14, and 15. Visit their website for more information.
The Workman House
As wealth from oil exploration replaced wealth from farming and banking, Walter and Laura Temple were able, in 1917, to repurchase 75 acres of the family’s original ranch. Between 1922 and 1927 they built La Casa Nueva, “the new house,” a Spanish Colonial Revival mansion, initially designed by the architectural firm of Walker and Eisen and refined by Roy Seldon Price. Constructed mostly of adobe bricks handmade by a group of Guadalajara artisans led by Pablo Urzua, the contractor on the 26-room highly decorated mansion was Sylvester Cook of Whittier. Sadly, the Temple family lost the house in the early 1930s, and it became first a boys’ military school—Raenford (later Golden State), under the direction of Lawrence Lewis, then a holding of California Bank, and in 1940 a convalescent hospital, El Encanto, operated by Harry and Lois Brown, before it was purchased by the City of Industry in 1975.
La Casa Nueva
At the Homestead Museum you can also view El Campo Santo, one of the oldest private cemeteries in the area and the resting place of Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, whose adobe can be visited in nearby Pico Rivera. It also contains the remains of the Workman and Temple families, as well as the grave of John Rowland. The Workmans established El Campo Santo as a private cemetery in the early 1850s. In 1856 artist Henry Miller, touring California, sketched the design for a chapel. The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1857 and Bishop Thaddeus Amat of Los Angeles dedicated it to St. Nicholas, in honor of Workman’s wife Nicolasa. After the fall of the Workman fortunes, the cemetery was neglected and the brick chapel was destroyed by fire. Workman’s grandson Walter Temple purchased it in 1917 and began its restoration, building a mausoleum designed by the architectural firm of Garstang and Rea, into which he relocated the remains of his family and those of Pio Pico and his wife.
El Campo Santo
Lunch. Bring a lunch and picnic on the grounds of the museum, or visit one of the many nearby restaurants.
Afternoon. Complete your day at the Homestead by taking the 1:00 tour, which gives you plenty of time to wend your way to Whittier for the concert: 10005 S. Cole Road, East Whittier United Methodist Church.
4:00 p.m.—The Concert
This year Christmas With Chorale Bel Canto features Vivaldi’s Gloria as well as new arrangements of Christmas music by Edward Zeliff, a Southern California composer and arranger. Mr. Zeliff and members of his choir will also be in attendance in the audience. The concert will also include the popular feature of sing-along carols.
The demand for tickets for this concert has been significant, so we have added a second performance. You may celebrate with us at either 4:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Today’s schedule recommends that you opt for the afternoon performance, but at whatever time, we look forward to seeing you!