The Memoirs of
Federico José María Ronstadt
Transcription of the Original Text
from the manuscript in the Ronstadt Family archives
at Special Collections, The University of Arizona Library
The work in the shop was not as steady after Mr. Dalton left and when Mr. Vasquez had to go out we had more time for playing. Frank O'Neil, the horseshoer, furnished the reason for sports. He loved to start contests of all kinds with us, wrestling, jumping, lifting weights and sparring without boxing gloves and using the fingers only for face slapping. One time we used red paint on the fingers to be sure that the hits would be marked. Frank O'Neil's face was all spotted with red paint. As a rule, he would lose most of the contests. He made a bet with us that the "Star Spangled Banner" was more melodic music than the Mexican National Hymn. I was to whistle the Mexican Hymn and he was to whistle the "Star Spangled Banner". The rest of the shop boys were to be the judges. I whistled my hymn and, before starting the Star Spangled Banner, Frank decided that he could not whistle as well as I and asked me to whistle his piece. I started it terribly out of tune to burlesque the music. Frank was so enraged when he realized my trick that he could not talk. He grabbed a wagon spoke and started for me. I jumped out of his way and ran. The judges were all laughing, and when O'Neil found that he could not reach me after running after me around the shop yard until he got out of wind, he threw the spoke at me and sat down to cuss. We all had a good laugh and paid no attention to his raging.
Frank O'Neil had a fine setter dog that could do tricks and he loved to show him off. He would give the dog a dollar to hold in his mouth and dare any of us to take it away from him. One day he did not have a silver coin and used a $5.00 gold coin for the trick. The dog took the $5.00 piece, looked at Frank as if asking for instructions and swallowed the gold. Frank lost his head, gave the poor dog a whipping and chained him to a wagon out in the shop yard. Every time that any of us boys would go out to the yard Frank would drop his horse shoeing and run out to see if the dog had expelled the $5.00. We had no end of fun with him while the dog kept the gold in his stomach. He finally recovered it by giving the dog an emetic.
Another time we all walked to Warner's Lake in the evening for a swim. Warner's Lake was about 40 acres of water at the south foot of A Mountain (Sentinel Peak). Frank O'Neil and his dog came along with us. We all got into the water excepting O'Neil. He got into a small canoe with the dog and said he would paddle around the lake while we swam. It was quite dark, and when we were all out and ready to dress, O'Neil was no where to be seen. We called him, shouting as loud as we could and would get no answer. Fearing that something could have happened to him we swam toward the middle of the lake, and there was Frank lying face down on the canoe full of water without any clothes and the dog was trying to climb over his back. We pulled him out and when we lighted some matches we found that the dog had scratched his face and his body severely in several places.
He had taken his clothes off while in the water, thinking that he could hang on to the canoe as he could not swim, and while he attempted to do this with the dog jumping around, the canoe capsized and all his clothes, his hat and his shoes went to the bottom of the lake. He tried to climb on the canoe and finally succeeded in turning it over, but it was full of water. We had a good laugh at him while trying to outfit him with an undershirt and a pair of underdrawers from one of the boys. They were several sizes too small for him. He had to walk barefooted into town with us. He told us that he had quite a lot of money in his trousers. Manuel Zuniga and I went to the lake the following Sunday to dive for the trousers. We found them, but there was only $1.75 in silver in the pockets. We also found his pocket knife and keys. We gave him back the trousers, the keys and the knife, and Manuel and I divided the dollar and seventy five cents.
Before Warner's Lake was destroyed by Santa Cruz River floods I made a flat bottom skiff of redwood boards. I used oakum in the seams and painted the entire outside with a mixture of pitch and tallow, as I had seen the boat makers do at La Paz. Manuel Zuniga and I carried this little boat on our heads from the shop to the lake. It was not an easy job. I thought it would hold us both, but when we launched it and got into it it nearly swamped. We could only use it one of us at a time. I made a pair of oars and also forged a pair of oar locks. I had a lot of fun with it until one Sunday afternoon when I was rowing in the lake I got careless and turned over. I had my best Sunday clothes and ruined them while I climbed over the boat's bottom. I had put too much tallow in the pitch and it had never dried. Warner's Lake was the popular place for the boys and girls of the town to gather on Sundays, so I had a good audience when I climbed out of the water with my Sunday suit all wet and full of black pitch. I never used the boat again. Many years after the dam collapsed and the lake was dried up, my little boat used to lie by the side of the road around the A Mountain.
Before the dam that formed Warner's Lake was washed away by tremendous floods of the Santa Cruz, there was no channel in the valley west of Tucson. The water was checked, first at Silver Lake and next at Warner's Lake. Below Warner's Lake there was a short channel through the Carrillo farm and from there the water was taken out in irrigation ditches. In flood times the water would spread over what is now Menlo Park, and the part that is occupied by the E.P. and S.W. tracks north of Congress Street was covered with stagnant water for months after a flood. The present channel of the Santa Cruz running west of town was cut by the floods that took the lake dam about 1890 or 1891.
Silver Lake was a beautiful body of clear water about a quarter mile wide and a half mile long. It was started by Jimmy Lee to operate a flour mill by water power. Some years later Silver Lake was acquired by Maish and Driscoll. A two story frame building was built on the west bank of the lake in 1883. Here they had a boat house, a number of row boats to rent, fishing poles and tackle, also a bar and restaurant and a dance hall. It was quite a resort. I used to walk the four or five miles from town to Silver Lake once in a while on Sundays and expend my 50 cents for an hour on a row boat. Later when I started to get pay for my work, Rufino Velez and I would hire a buggy from the livery stables and go to Silver Lake for a swim. Rufino was a very good swimmer. One day we cut a watermelon from a melon patch near the lake. The Chinese owner saw us and turned his dog loose on us. I never forget Rufino's figure running for dear life with the watermelon and jumping in the lake with it yelling and laughing at the top of his lungs.
Manuel Zuniga and I also made a velocipede on Sundays. The wheels were made of wood, the tall one like a buggy wheel. The frame and pedals were made of iron. I would try to ride it, and something about it would break. After remodeling it two or three times, the tall wheel went to pieces during a try out and we abandoned it. We would also make iron benches for Tia Chona's garden and ornamented bookshelves and corner tables for bric a brac. All these things had to be made on Sundays or during the noon hour.
Tia Chona treated me like her own son, and I learned to love her. There was nothing I would not do for her. She would tell me about her early life in Altar. Her father had studied for the priesthood, knew something about medicine, and finally decided to marry and learn the trade of jeweler and goldsmith. He knew an Indian who would come to town from time to time with gold nuggets and pieces of quartz encrusted with streaks of pure gold. He liked Mr. Suastegui and offered to take him to the place where the gold was. They started out on horseback, and when the Indian showed him the hill from where he got the gold, a few miles away, they were surprised by a band of Papago Indians and a volley of arrows. The Indian friend was killed, and Mr. Suastegui's life was saved by one of the Papagos who recognized him as a man who had befriended and cured him at one time. This same Indian took him back to Altar. Mr. Suastegui had several arrow wounds from which he never recovered entirely. He described, as well as he could remember, the location where the Indians had attacked him and the hill where the gold was supposed to be. Some of his relatives tried to find the place and others have looked for it in the vicinity of Quitobac, but so far no one has found the gold.
Tia Chona would also tell me about her trip from Altar to Los Angeles in a covered wagon with her two small daughters and son Adolfo Vasquez, Jesusita, who became Mrs. Dalton, and Josefita, who was never married; their arrival at Los Angeles when Los Angeles was a small town populated principally by Spanish pioneer families; how she became acquainted with Mrs. Henry Dalton and her friends.
About the last year of my apprenticeship, I was called home when one of my little brothers died from diphtheria and another one, the youngest, was scalded by a pitcher of boiling milk that he pulled down over his body from a table in the kitchen. His name was Armando, the baby of the family, about three years old. He only lived a few days. The other boy, Rodolfo, was 5 years old and my father's pet. His death nearly killed my father. When I arrived home, I saw the picture of grief was terrible. My brother Joe, who was about seven years old, was still in bed after a bad case of diphtheria. My father's health was poor and his spirit badly broken up.
He was thinking of resigning his position with the Railroad Co. on account of his failing health. My visit with him for a few days made him feel better. We had a farm at Altar rented for a nominal amount, and my father thought that perhaps I could find someone to buy it if I would go to Altar and see how the place was and offer it to some of the people we knew there able to pay for it. It was decided that I should go. My father sent brother Dick to a friend of his, a Mr. Loaiza, who had a good saddle horse not being used, to tell him that he would like to borrow the horse for a trip I was to make to Altar two days later. Dick took the message (verbally), but instead of delivering it as it was given to him, he borrowed the horse and saddle to have a ride himself, took it back and put it in the stable at night and thought that the horse would be there when he would call again to get it for my trip. The evening before I was to start, my father told Dick to go and get the horse so I could have it in our own stable for my early morning start. When Dick called for the horse, Mr. Loaiza had sent it to his ranch. As Dick had used the horse himself for a good ride and returned it to Mr. Loaiza's stable he understood that my father had used the horse and did not need it any more. Dick had failed to deliver the right message.
When my father scolded him, Dick said that he could get another horse from a friend and sure enough when I went to our stable to saddle the horse at 4 A.M. for an early start I found it was a mare with a two months old colt. I saddled the mare anyway and started out with the colt following but found it was next to impossible to make the colt follow. At San Lorenzo, a few miles out of Magdalena, I hired a horse from a farmer and left the mare and colt for him to return to its owner. I made the trip from Magdalena to Altar, 75 leagues, in one day. The horse was good. I was young, 16 years, and not very heavy and galloped most of the way.
I had no luck in selling the farm. No buyers for it. After four days I started back to Magdalena. This time I took it easy and stopped at Ocuca for the night. The Ocuca Ranch is noted for its beautiful forests of heavy mesquite trees and some wonderful valleys which at that time, the month of August, were covered with green grass two feet high. It had rained hard in the afternoon going from Altar to Ocuca and all the country looked grand. This was my third trip through the Ocuca, and I enjoyed it immensely, riding at the sunrise when cattle and horses were frolicking over the green plains. Five years before I had come through the same road with Antonio Redondo who was married to my half sister, Maggie. Antonio drove a fine team of grays, one of them quite green to his four passenger road wagon, from Altar to Imuris. Antonio was suffering from partial paralysis and I went with him to help him. He had to take a glass of egg nog after bathing in the mineral hot springs near Imuris every day, and it was my job to prepare it for him.
We had stopped two days at El Ocuca ranch and this gave me a chance to see the ordenas, about 100 milk cows for making quesadillas and cheese, also the branding of the young colts, and the bonfires around which the vaqueros gathered at night to sing and tell yarns. The Ocuca was the home of the original Redondo from Spain and had been a hotbed for the Apache Indians for many years.
On the way to Magdalena our young horse caught the line under the tail and started to run. I jumped out of the wagon and ran in front of the team to stop them as they were going in a circle while Antonio could only pull on the free line of the other horse. He shouted to me to get out of the horses' way, fearing that they would run over me, but before I knew it I was hanging onto the bridle of the new horse and the team had stopped.
We stayed several days at Imuris. While Antonio would bathe in the hot spring, I would prepare an egg nog with two eggs and a good portion of brandy for him to take as soon as he would come out of the water. That was our routine every day excepting one day when Don Francisco Quiroga invited us to his ranch a few miles from Imuris. He was the brother of my father's first wife, Dona Chonita Quiroga. My two half sisters, Maggie and Chonita, had taught me to call an oil painting of their mother which hung in our home, Mama Chonita. The Quirogas were not related to my own mother but treated her and us children as their own relatives. We had been stopping at Imuris in the home of my half brother, Henry. Tio Francisco Quiroga had riden a fine saddle horse when he came over to invite us to visit his hacienda; and in order to ride with Antonio and Henry in the spring wagon I was given his saddle horse to ride along with them. I had to gallop to keep up with the horses pulling the road wagon, and before I realized it my horse was heated and started on a run through the forest. I could not hold him, so I had to dodge trees and brush until the horse started to lose his wind and respond to my pull on the bridle.
The day we were hitching the horses to return to Altar the new horse balked while the neck yoke straps were being fastened, causing the end of the pole to drag on the ground. It did not take long for the wagon to upset. The pole sweep was broken, and all the top standards also broke off. The local blacksmith took over a week to hammer old tires by hand to make patching plates to fasten the top standards in place. He had to cut green ash branches to bend a sweep for the pole. Two or three were spoiled before he could make one. To me all these operations were very entertaining. On our return trip we stopped another two days at El Ocuca. I had my fill once more of delicious warm milk and foam right out of the cows. I also tried to rope a small colt in the corrals. In fact I did rope it, but I got a good fall and lost the rope. One of the vaqueros had to recover it. I learned that a horse colt a few months old takes a grown man who knows how to hold it, and I did not try any more colt- roping at that time.
I can never forget the religious celebrations that Father Suastegui and the good people of Altar used to have in those days. Around Christmas time they would have a pageant to show some of the historical events before the coming of the Saviour: A young girl representing Mary, a young girl dressed as an angel announcing to Mary the conception of the Christ Child, then the trek of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, the Nativity, the coming of the three wise kings following the star of Bethlehem. The star looked real, traveling along a wire. All these, to me, very beautiful and impressive tableaux remain fresh in my memory.
During Holy Week they also had tableaux and a pageant showing the way of the Cross. In the court yard of the church there would be a forest of olives where the Christ would be arrested by the soldiers of Pilatus; while all this was going on, no church bells would be heard. The calls were made by matracas (a board with two iron rings that boys would carry along the streets of the town, shaking them and making a noise like drumming on a board with metal paddles). This pageant would end on Saturday at the resurrection when all the bells would resume their pealing. The church choir would sing Gloria in Excelsis and the children would empty baskets of flowers into the air. The Judas would be burned in effigy, and the whole town would rejoice.
Some of the pagan half-Indian religious pageants held by the Yaqui Indians about this time are no doubt a crude imitation of what the Spanish people did in Mexico in early times. [see note 1]
I knew that my father was not going to be able to work for long and felt that it would be up to me to take care of him, my mother and sister, and my two young brothers. I returned to Tucson and my job of $8.00 per week and my board and room. I would manage to send my mother $20.00 every month from that as my personal expenses were very small. The fifth year when I was getting $12.00 per week and board and room I would send my mother $30.00 per month.
During these years of 1886 and 1887 my position at Tia Chona's home had changed. While I was a boy of 18 and 19 years I was treated like a man and with a great kindness and consideration. Mr. Dalton and his family had moved to a farm house that he had leased, near the A Mountain, from Don Leopoldo Carrillo. Part of this home still stands across the road from the ruins of the old adobe mission (the visita of San Agustin del Tucson). [see note 2] I used to walk out to this place frequently in the evenings to see Mrs. Dalton and the children, all of whom I loved dearly. My wife Lupe was then a little girl of 1-1/2 years. On Sunday morning I would go early and help Mrs. Dalton come into town to church, and many times I carried Lupita in my arms all the way.
The unmarried daughter of Tia Chona, Josefita, called Via by the Dalton children, was taking piano lessons all the time and making some progress. I was called regularly to help her to read her music and practice flute and piano music. She was entirely a different type from her sister, Mrs. Dalton, both in looks and disposition. Mrs. Dalton was beautiful and sweet while Josefita was short, inclined to be stout, rather determined in manner and at times of violent temper. However, she had been very carefully trained by her mother. In Tia Chona's traditional Spanish custom, her daughters had never been permitted to go any place without a chaperone or to meet young men, go to dances or parties unless their mother would take them. Josefita had never attended a dance or met any young men.
Tia Chona, poor soul, in her motherly affection for me encouraged my association with her daughter. I was asked to take her to the theatre and to drive her out in the evenings and Sundays as often as Tio Adolfo's buggy and horse were available. She showed me more regard than she had ever had for any one, and it was perhaps the natural thing for me to develop an affection for her, particularly as I had no time or opportunity to see or associate with other girls. She was a good girl with all her difficult disposition and could have made a good wife to a man fifteen years older than I was. I was eighteen and she was about twenty nine.
It was a great mistake of my Tia Chona to have ever entertained the idea that I might become her son-in-law, and when I realized it, my situation became extremely difficult. I never dreamed of getting married for many years. I knew that I would have all I could do to support my parents and brothers, and when the possibility of my friendship for Josefita was first suggested to me as being more serious than I had ever considered it, I felt as if my world was coming to its end. I did not have the courage to oppose the well expressed wishes of Tia Chona and Josefita that I should think seriously of getting married. In that I made a great mistake. I should have not only said as I did say that I did not feel I had a right to marry at my age, without any funds and with my own parents and small brothers and sister depending on me for their support, but that I had no idea of sacrificing my entire life to show my gratitude to Tia Chona for her care and kindness to me while I was learning my trade.
Many young men will play along with a girl and become engaged to her against their will. They know that they do not love her, that she has nothing to make them happy, and still follow the line of least resistance until they consider themselves duty bound to make her a wife, and in nine cases out of ten wreck not only their own happiness for life, but also the happiness of the poor girl and many times the lives of their children. I believe that the honorable and square thing to do is to break an engagement, even at the last minute in Church before the actual wedding, when there is no real love and satisfaction that the marriage is going to be a happy one. My foolish involuntary engagement to Josefita was finally ended one day after I had to bring my parents to Tucson and provide a place for them to live when my father's health broke down completely. I had moved from Tia Chona's home to a house I had rented for my parents. Neither Tia Chona nor Josefita could say anything about that, but I knew they did not like it. One day, Josefita had a case of temper because, as she said, she suspected that I was half hearted and indifferent. She could not control her anger when I said nothing and started to leave the room. This gave me my opportunity. I left and felt as if a mountain had been taken from my back. I felt very sorry for Tia Chona and for realizing that I would lose the love and motherly affection which she had given me for all the years that I had lived in her home. I was also deeply concerned about what Mrs. Dalton would think of me.
Tia Chona waited for me at the morning hour when she knew I would pass by her house on my way to work to tell me how sorry she was for her daughter's outburst of temper and begged me not to stay away from her house on account of it. She told me that as far as she was concerned it had all been a mistake and to forget it. I was touched very deeply for this as I loved Tia Chona almost as if she had been my own mother. I knew how proud she was and what it was costing her to talk to me in that way, but I also knew that I could never go back to her house. The first time I saw Mr. Dalton, I spoke to him about this matter, hoping that he would not blame me much. He did not hesitate to tell me that he was glad for my sake and that he and his wife, Mrs. Dalton, whom I also loved dearly, had never approved of it. This was a great relief for me. I called on Mrs. Dalton and she was as gracious to me as ever, but as her sister and Tia Chona were always near her I knew that Mrs. Dalton was embarrassed and I did not see her again for several years.
My limited musical training gave me opportunities to meet people of consequence that otherwise I would not have known at that time. I was invited to join a band, a group of railroad shop men, which had been organized by Master Mechanic Bonner. Mr. Bonner played the trombone, and while he could play very little, he loved it. I became well acquainted with him when he expressed a desire to get a few old melodies like "Swanee River," "Old Black Joe," and others written in easy key for trombone, and I got some music paper and wrote several for him. He was very much pleased and told me that if I ever wanted to work in a railroad shop to come to him and he would give me a place. He also made me a present of a gold pen. Sometime after that I decided to ask Mr. Bonner for a job in the locomotive blacksmith shop. He told me to come to work as soon as I was ready. I told Tio Vasquez why I had thought it best to leave him. He agreed with me that I was right. He had been unable to pay my wages for several weeks, and after I cleaned up some unfinished work, I reported to the foreman of the Railroad Shop. This man's name was Charles Miller. He was a splendid mechanic, and it was a great experience for me to work under him, At that time, all the iron work on locomotives was forged by hand. The blacksmith shop had four forges. Charles Miller's forge did all the heavy work, welding connecting rods when they came in broken, forging piston links, reversing links and welding fractures in locomotive frames, difficult jobs, all of them requiring skill and accuracy. We had a steam hammer, heavy cranes and a great number of heavy tongs, swedges, and stamps for all kinds of work. One day a helper named Palmer swung his twelve pound sledge out of line hitting my own hammer on the upper stroke. It hit me a glancing blow on the side of the head, cutting a long gash. A half inch closer would have cracked my skull.
The few months I worked at locomotive blacksmithing gave me many ideas for handling forgings many times larger and heavier than anything I had ever seen in the carriage shop.
One Sunday while talking to Filiberto Aguirre, a friend of Tio Vasquez, I learned that Tio Vasquez was looking for someone to whom he could sell or lease the shop. Aguirre told me that since I was acquainted with the work, having operated the carriage shop myself for Tio Vasquez for several months, I should take advantage of the opportunity and take the shop myself. At first I thought his suggestion that I would attempt to lease the shop and go into business for myself was preposterous, having neither capital nor experience in business, but the more I thought about it the less impossible it seemed. Tio Vasquez owed me some $50 or $60. I had $150 coming to me in back salary from the Railroad Co. I only owed Tia Chona $30 for board, and since Tio Vasquez had but remnants of material, a few bolts and malleables, I figured that I had enough to purchase these odds and ends from him if he would lease me the shop and tools for a reasonable amount, payable monthly.
When I spoke to him about this he was greatly surprised, but after a few moments he said: "Well, I don't see why you could not run this shop for yourself, since you ran it for me for several months when I was away."
The deal was made and I took my resignation to Charles Miller and Mr. Bonner. They were glad to know I was to start in business for myself and wished me good luck. I took over the old shop where I had learned my trade and worked hard for five years. I was not quite 20 years old. It was the first of November 1887. The first month I did over $300 of repair work and I felt very much encouraged.
I wrote to my father and asked him to come to Tucson with the family -- that I had my own business and felt confident that I could take care of them.
I rented a house from Luke Radulovich, back of where the Heidel Hotel is now. I bought a few chairs, a stove and kitchen utensils, some china, knives and forks, made some tables and cupboards, also some canvas cots, and bought a supply of groceries -- flour, lard, coffee, rice, sugar, tea, bacon, beans, macaroni, potatoes, salt, pepper, and some honey, and a few canned goods. When my father and mother came (in 1886) with Dick about 14, Emilia about 12, and Pepe about 7, I had a home where we could all camp and about a month's supply of food. Tia Chona helped me to get the house ready and it was a great day for all of us when the family arrived and we were all together once more. Emilia and Pepe went to school after a few weeks but Dick was assigned to work with me in the shop. He proved very difficult for me to manage and I decided, after consulting with my parents, that it would be better for Dick to learn the machinist trade if I would place him in the railroad shops with Mr. Bonner's help. Dick had learned to play piano and flute. I had introduced him to the members of the railroad band and he had joined, playing the piccolo. Mr. Bonner knew him and gave him a place as soon as I asked him for it.
Dick could not talk a word of English, but my father and I coached him to learn a few necessary expressions. I gave him a list of the shop tools with the names in English and Spanish, and it did not take him long to learn. In place of going to the machine shop he was placed in the boiler shop. He learned the boilermaker's trade and was paid $2.50 per day from the first day while he was an apprentice.
I needed a woodworker in the carriage shop and wrote to Ildefonso Corrales, who had gone to Guaymas, offering him a bench in the shop. Corrales had worked with me for Tio Vasquez, and I knew him to be an excellent woodworker and wheelwright. He had known my father when he (my father) was Prefecto in Guaymas and bought water from his burros. He also had known my half brother Henry and had always shown great regard for me. When he received my letter, he answered right away saying that he would come at once. He had no money, and since I could not advance him any for living expenses, I fixed up an old stock room in back of the shop that had a fireplace. I got some cooking utensils and a bed for him and cooked his first supper. I made some steaks with gravy, fried potatoes, and coffee for him. We both enjoyed the supper. He had a place to live while he could earn some money.
Corrales and I had been good friends. He was much older than I. He had lived an exciting life in Sonora before coming to Arizona. He had been in several gun fights and had his body all scarred with bullet marks. His father had been a water dealer in Guaymas where he supplied the city with water by leather bags carried by burros. They called these bags botas. Each bota held about ten gallons of water. They hung on both sides of the burro, the bottom one high enough from the ground to stand a bucket under the valve. The valves were the ends of cows horns stopping a hole about one inch in diameter in the bottom of the bota. The end of the horn, about six inches in length, with the large end up would stick point down into the hole in the leather. The pressure of the water would push it tightly in place. To draw the water the bucket would be set under the end of the horn and the horn would be pushed upwards enough to let the water leak into the bucket. When the bucket would fill, the horn would be allowed to fall back into place closing the hole.
Mr. Henry Dalton, my wife's grandfather, was an Englishman who accumulated a lot of valuable lands before California became a part of the United States, and at the time that Tia Chona knew him and his family they lived at Azusa where they had a wonderful hacienda. The holdings of the hacienda, including many of the towns in the foothills district, Glendora, and the Santa Anita ranch which later belonged to Lucky Baldwin, were all the property of Mr. Henry Dalton. His wife, Dona Guadalupe Zamorano, belonged to one of the oldest pioneers that came from Spain. Her ancestors were Arguellos and Zamoranos. [see note 3] They had titles and certificates from the King and played leading parts in the early life of California. Henry Dalton III had a parchment book containing the origin of these people, a great curiosity, engraved by hand and with the original seals and rubrics (signatures) of the King of Spain and the men who ruled at that time.
On account of Tia Chona's description of Los Angeles, Azusa, and the country and the people that she and her children had known, I dreamed of coming some day to this wonderful land. [The dream] was revived by letters from my friend and roommate Henry Dalton who had returned to Los Angeles after working in Tucson for a year. Henry was a brother of Mr. W.A. Dalton. He was about ten years older than I. He was not a mechanic, but quite handy with tools. He and the Dalton family had painted to me a glowing picture of California, and Henry's letter influenced me to try it.
[Thus] in 1888 I decided to go to California and establish myself in Los Angeles in the carriage-making business, believing that Los Angeles would be a much better field to improve in my trade. I sold my shop lease and what material I had on hand, gave my mother enough money to run the house for sixty days, and with $49.00 in my pocket I undertook the trip. I bought a scalper's ticket and took the train. At Colton, California, Henry Dalton met me and made me stay over to go with him the following morning in the baggage car. He was baggage master in a local S.P. train from Colton to Los Angeles.
It was the first week in May and the country was enchanting to me. I had letters from several friends of Mr. Dalton and had no difficulty in getting a room at a house that was owned by Dona Eloisa Sepulveda. The rent was $2.50 per week. This house is still standing, a two-story frame on lower Main Street almost across the street from the old Mission church at the plaza. [see note 4]
I started to look for a job in the carriage shops, and while I was promised the first opening in two of the leading shops, I had to wait. Los Angeles then had a population of about 40,000 people. 10th Street was the edge of the city, and the heart of the retail business was on Main St. between the Pico House and the Baker block where Spring Street started. The cable car line was being built on Spring Street. All the street cars then were drawn by horses. An electric line was being built on Second Street as an experiment. The Bradbury block was the first five-story building, and it was shown as a wonderful architectural marvel. The public library was then located on Main St. where the present City Hall is now. I would rest my legs in the reading room almost every day after making the rounds of the shops. Since my capital was so limited I had to live with a 15 cent breakfast and a 25 cent dinner.
I took one trip to Santa Monica on the steam railroad and another trip to San Pedro. My old music teacher was living in San Pedro and I invested 45 cents for a round trip ticket on a Sunday excursion. About half way the brakeman shouted that half the train would go to San Pedro and the other half to Long Beach. I misunderstood and took the wrong car. I had to pay the conductor 20 cents more to go to Long Beach. When I got off I could see the ships in San Pedro. The only building in Long Beach was a livery stable with a hot dog stand. The man running it wanted $5.00 to drive me to San Pedro. Of course, it was impossible.
I started to walk the five miles, and when I ran into the estuary or river I took off all my clothes and carried them in a bundle on my head, but before I made half of the stream, the water came to my neck and I had to go back. About 4:00 P.M. a farm wagon came along the beach. I asked the two men driving it if they were going to San Pedro. They said, no, we are only riding along while the tide is low and will go across the river. They said I could ride with them. Crossing the river the water came over the bottom of the wagon box. I sat on the edge of one side and put my feet on the other side of the box to avoid getting wet. When the wagon stopped I got down on the west side of the bay. Two boys going by in a row boat took me across for fifty cents. When I landed on the other side, the train conductor was shouting all aboard and I barely had time to get on when the last excursion train was moving. My return ticket was good, but I saw neither San Pedro nor my old music teacher, Don Lazaro Valencia.
Henry Dalton invited me to visit his mother at their Azusa home. I found it a most interesting place. Henry's mother, Mrs. Dalton (Dona Guadalupe), had been a widow for four years. Mr. Dalton had lost practically all his lands and fortune through years of litigation with squatters who had questioned the Spanish titles to his lands, and also through unfortunate deals in business. At one time Mr. Henry Dalton had loaned a half million pesos to the Mexican government. He would never change his English citizenship and perhaps this had something to do with his difficulties in proving the validity of his land titles. Mrs. Dalton was still vigorous when I knew her. She was a very interesting and remarkable lady. Three of her sons, Henry, Valentin, and Joseph were living with her at the old Azusa homestead. [There were] also Valentin's wife, and the orphaned children of the oldest daughter, Louisa [Luisa], and her husband, Louis [Luis] Wolfskill. [see note 5] The little girl, Isabel, was about 4 years, Julian about 5, and Herbert about 7, all beautiful children. I had my flute with me and played for them simple tunes that they enjoyed. Mrs. Dalton would ask me to play some of the waltzes and polkas that she knew and that I could remember. My visit of a week at Azusa was a delight.
In Los Angeles I also met and had dinner one evening with Mrs. Cardwell, "Soyla" Dalton. Her husband, William Cardwell, was secretary of Senator Stephen White, a smart man but of peculiar ways, always faking and having fun teasing everybody. At Mr. Cardwell's home I met a sister of Dona Guadalupe Dalton, Mrs. Eulalia Estudillo, and her young daughter, a rather pretty girl. There was a troupe of Zarzuela artists in Los Angeles at the time that I had known in Tucson and had enjoyed there a season of Zarzuelas (comic operas) -- "La Mascota", "Oliveta", "La Gallino Ciega", "Las Campanas de Carreon" (Chimes of Normandy), and others. The impresarios were Spaniards Villasenor y Urena. Urena was the pianist and director. Mercedes Villasenor was the leading soprano, a very charming girl and enchanting Betina in The Mascot. They had a very fine musician with them. His name was Aranda. He had made a great success as a baritone soloist.
The first thing that happened to me was to meet the maestro at the home of the Santa Cruz family for whom I had letters of introduction. He told me of their bad luck in not being able to find theatres where they could play. Next I met Aranda, and he stuck to me like a leech. When I went to Azusa I left him, and when I returned they must have left because I did not hear about them any more.
An old friend of our family, Don Chano Ramirez, came to me one day and told me that my father was very low and wanted me to come back to Tucson. My dream had been to get a job in Los Angeles and then bring my father and mother and all the family here, but since I was having no luck in finding work at my trade, I was afraid that I would get into trouble to live here myself and help my mother in Tucson. A letter came saying that the man to whom I had sold my shop lease had discovered that he was not equal to the demands of the trade and was anxious to sell out at some loss. I decided that I should go back and wrote to my chum, Rufino Velez, to buy the shop back for me. I had paid my way from Tucson to Los Angeles and lived there for a month without adding anything to my $49.00. I had $12.00 left. Henry Dalton got a pass for me from Los Angeles to Yuma, and from Yuma to Tucson I bought a ticket for $12.85 after borrowing $1.00 from a man that I knew. When I arrived home in Tucson, I found that my mother had only a $5.00 gold coin. Brother Dick had been paid $150.00 for two months R.R. wages but had used it all himself to buy clothes, shoes, etc.
I had left a few accounts due me for collection with my friend Rufino Velez, and fortunately he had collected some of them. I started to work right away in the old shop where they had several jobs waiting for me.
Notes (click on the note number to return to the text):note 1 A more up-to-date interpretation, and by far the best account of the Yaqui Easter ceremonies, is to be found in Muriel Thayer Painter, With Good Heart: Yaqui beliefs and ceremonies in Pascua Village (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1986).
note 2 See Jack S. Williams, "San Augustin [sic] del Tucson: a vanished mission community of the Pimeria Alta," The Smoke Signal, nos. 47-48 (Spring-Fall, 1986), pages 113-128 (Tucson: Tucson Corral of the Westerners).
note 3 See Dakin, A Scotch Paisano, pages 119, 147, 300; Hart, A Companion to California, rev. ed., page 576; and above.
note 4 Not actually a mission, this was the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciúncula.
note 5 Luis Maria Wolfskill was the youngest son of William Wolfskill. He died in 1884 at the age of 36. He and Luisa had seven children: Alice, Frank, Herbert, Isabel, Julian, William, and one who died in infancy. See Iris. H. Wilson, William Wolfskill, 1798-1866 (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1965), page 113.
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Last updated 13 August 1997