CHAPTER XIV: DOñA MARIANA DE CORONEL


Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER XIII: THE ORIGINALS OF THE CHARACTERS OF RAMONA Next: CHAPTER XV: CONTRIBUTED BY DOñA MARIANA DE CORONEL


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DOñA MARIANA DE CORONEL--THE CORONEL COLLECTION--BISHOP AMAT--SAINT VIBIANA'S CATHEDRAL--DON ANTONIO AND GENERAL KEARNEY--LETTERS OF MRS. JACKSON TO THE CORONELS

In 1900 Doña Mariana de Coronel, the intimate friend of Mrs. Jackson, bade farewell to Los Angeles, intending to spend her declining years in Old Mexico, which, in the days of peace and prosperity and contentment, she often had visited with Don Antonio, her husband.

As a maiden she had spent many happy years in the old pueblo that clustered about the Los Angeles Plaza, knowing everybody, known to all, beloved by everybody. Years of unalloyed bliss followed as the mistress of El Recreo, the ideal Spanish abode that Don Antonio had builded amidst the orange trees in the broad grant made by the Mexican Government to his father and descended to him, not far from the sloping banks of the Los Angeles River, and what now would be near the corner of Seventh Street and Central Avenue; although it is


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doubtful if even Doña Mariana herself could indicate the precise location of the historical hacienda, so confusing are the lines of what has by common consent come to be called ‘‘civilization.’’

Judge  of , sitting, and ,  of , standing, and the building where the preliminary trial of the latter for the murder of  was held.   .

JUDGE TRIPP, JUSTICE OF THE PEACE,

Part of the  Collection, , .

STATUARY WORK OF SEñORA DE CORONEL

Mixed must have been the memories that crowded in upon Doña Mariana as she withdrew from the scenes of her childhood and set her face to the southward. It had been her purpose to locate at or near Guadalajara, and there duplicate the hacienda that, as her hospitable home for so many years, had come to be so prominent a landmark in Los Angeles, a home that had sheltered every prominent person of every nationality who had visited the pueblo during Spanish, Mexican and American occupation.

Were this a history, which it is not intended to be, many chapters would need to be devoted to accounts of what Doña Mariana and her distinguished husband had done for Los Angeles. It must suffice to make reference to one of the latest generous acts of Doña Mariana, the gift to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce of the wonderful Coronel Collection, comprehending relics and curios she and her husband had been fifty years in assembling, and which constitute the chief attraction of the


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Chamber of Commerce. Days and weeks could be profitably spent in examining this collection, the ensemble in itself constituting a very comprehensive history of the State of California, from the days of Junipero Serra down to the present era, and including articles associated with Helen Hunt Jackson and Ramona.

Interest in the collection is greatly enhanced by the knowledge of the fact that many of the more interesting articles were the product of the genius and skill of Don Antonio and Doña Mariana themselves. Conspicuous among the latter are the figures of a Spanish woman and man, mounted upon gorgeously caparisoned steeds for which the State was at the time famous, both figures attired in full Spanish costumes, faithful to history, with not an item omitted. Near by is a miniature of San Luis Rey Mission building, walls and grounds, as seen before the days of secularization.

There are sketches in black and white and in oil, all of rare merit, and parchments of priceless value. Conspicuous among the curios is the little mahogany table, ordered made by Don Antonio for the special convenience and comfort of Helen Hunt Jackson in her literary work, after the unfortunate mishap that crippled


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her for life and made it difficult for her to write except in a reclining position.

In this collection is the first cannon brought to California, of which Mrs. Jackson thus wrote in Glimpses of California and the Missions: ‘‘The place of honor in the room is given, as well it might be, to a small cannon, the first cannon brought into California. It was made in 1717, and was brought by Father Junipero Serra to San Diego in 1769. Afterward it was given to the San Gabriel Mission; but it still bears its old name, 'San Diego.' It is an odd little arm, only about two feet long, and requiring but six ounces of powder. Its swivel is made with a rest to set firm in the ground. It has taken many long journeys on the backs of mules, having been in great requisition in the early Mission days for the firing of salutes at festivals and feasts.’’

The future historian, let us hope, will do at least partial justice to the far-sighted wisdom and the broad generosity of Don Antonio and Doña Mariana in patiently assembling this unique collection, from all quarters of the globe, and at such sacrifice as no one ever will know, and presenting it as a free gift to Los Angeles, when a king's ransom would have been paid for it, had she been content with its removal hence.


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Appearances are deceptive. Things are not always what they seem. Guadalajara may have been as beautiful as Doña Mariana in her mind's eye had pictured it. But travel farther into the interior satisfied her that other places, and for a variety of reasons, were more desirable as a place of ultimate residence, and when the City of Oaxaca was reached Guadalajara lost the opportunity of securing a rare acquisition.

Although remote from the capital and from centers of so-called civilization, easily one hundred and fifty miles from railway connections, Oaxaca, in the judgment of Doña Mariana, is the garden spot of the earth, to which she will joyfully return when the strife in the Republic shall have ceased.

Señora Coronel came north in August of 1912, and has been dividing her time between relatives in Los Angeles and its environs.

The land holdings of Doña Mariana in the State of Oaxaca are not measured by varas or by acres. Their hacienda is so many leagues in one direction by so many leagues in another. Poor indeed would be the landlord the limits of whose hacienda could be measured by the eye. ‘‘Oh, we know nothing about acres,’’ said Doña Mariana. ‘‘If a man has land for sale it is so much for 'the piece,' and


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'the piece' may contain five, ten, or twenty thousand acres, as you measure land up here. The vendor is quite indifferent; he doesn't seem to care a rap whether you buy or not, unless he happens to take a fancy to the would-be purchaser. In that event the price cuts little figure; it is usually quite normal, and coupled with the condition that the buyer build near to him, his companionship appearing to be more valued than his dollars. It is a life of ease and of contentment. Human labor there is so cheap that one becomes accustomed to constant and perfect service. Where help can be obtained in abundance for ten cents a day there is not much occasion for one to exert himself physically. The peon in Mexico, like the black man in the South in ante-bellum days, is ever at hand to brush off the flies.’’

 (Mrs.  in .)

DON ANTONIO DE CORONEL AND HIS WIFE, MARIANA. (Permission of Miss Annie B. Picher, Pasadena.)

Don  and the first cannon in , brought by Father  in .

THE FIRST CANNON BROUGHT INTO CALIFORNIA

What is fairer than a day in June--in Southern California! On the expansive porch of El Retrio, Covina suburban villa of Mr. C. D. Griffiths, were that gentleman and his wife, a niece of Señora de Coronel, and grandniece Eileen; Mrs. Ellen Pollard, a sister of Señora de Coronel; Mrs. Earle, another sister, her husband and three children.

And there were Ramona and Alessandro. No, on reflection, it must be admitted those


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characters were not present, though it always seems as if they are when Doña Mariana is about.

Mrs. Jackson usually kept standing on her desk an unframed photograph after Dante Rossetti--two heads, a man's and a woman's, set in a nimbus of clouds, with a strange and beautiful regard and meaning in their eyes. They were exactly her idea of what Ramona and Alessandro looked like. The characters of the novel, she thought, came nearer to materialization in this photograph than in any other way.

And so with Doña Mariana. It is difficult to disassociate her from the characters she helped so much to create.

It was distinctly a home scene. Mrs. Griffiths had sent the writer this note: ‘‘My aunt wishes me to ask you and your wife to visit her here at Covina this coming Sunday. If you will let us know on what car to expect you, Mr. Griffiths will meet you at Citrus Avenue. If convenient to you, we would like to have you come and spend the day with my aunt.’’

It was most convenient and we spent a day the memories of which will only fade with loss of consciousness.


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‘‘How did it happen that you and the Don did not accompany Mrs. Jackson on her journey to the Indian villages?’’ she was asked. ‘‘It had been so arranged,’’ she answered, ‘‘but I became too ill to go, and my husband did not feel like leaving me alone for so long a period.’’

Señora de Coronel told many interesting stories during the day. The one concerning Bishop Thaddeus Amat and Saint Vibiana's Cathedral in Los Angeles being of special interest, is here retold:

‘‘It will sound more like a romance than reality,’’ said Doña Mariana. "Bishop Thaddeus Amat was the parish priest in Los Angeles when Father Mora was Bishop of Los Angeles and Monterey. He was a good man, oh, one of the noblest of God's creatures. The spiritual welfare of his flock, the material as well as the spiritual welfare of the Indians--he thought of naught else. It was he who built Saint Vibiana's Cathedral at the corner of Second and Main streets. The building of that cathedral had been the ambition of his life. It is an interesting and a pathetic story. I am told it is the purpose soon to build another and a larger cathedral elsewhere. I suppose it will be done before long, that ground having become


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so valuable for business purposes; but it will be a great pity to tear it down. I shall hope never to see it done.

‘‘

Bishop Amat was a poor peasant in Italy, a sheepherder. When quite young he told his parents he had had a dream, a dream that he was a priest and had built a great cathedral to a Saint. Soon after he had the same dream, and when it was repeated the third time, his mother, thinking it a very strange circumstance, told the story to her parish priest. That worthy was much affected by the relation, and asked that the child be brought to him. He was found to be unusually intelligent, and especially informed regarding religious matters. He had improved his time while attending his sheep in reading church history, and was indeed so precocious that the priest declared he must be given greater opportunities for storing his mind with knowledge. He was sent to Rome and studied for the priesthood, and in time was ordained and sent to America. Not long after his arrival in this country he was assigned to the Los Angeles diocese.

"While serving as the parish priest here, when Bishop Mora was in charge of the diocese, Bishop Amat had occasion to visit Rome.


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While there he went to the catacombs, and there witnessed the opening of the casket containing the remains of Saint Vibiana. She was a child Saint, you know, and the casket was small, bound about with brass hoops. Exposed to view the features for the moment were seen to be precisely as in life, her childish beauty in no way changed, but exposure to the air had the inevitable and almost immediate effect--everything disappeared but the bare skeleton.

Made by Señor and Señora , being a part of the  Collection, , .

MODEL OF SAN LUIS REY MISSION

FRONT VIEW OF ST. VIBIANA'S CATHEDRAL, LOS ANGELES

"Bishop Amat was much affected by what he had seen. He begged that the skeleton of Vibiana be given to him, promising that if it were placed in his charge he would bring it to America and build a great cathedral, which would be named for the Saint and dedicated to her memory.

"Returning here he at once began the work. Large contributions were offered to him, but all these were refused. He wanted the church built with the offerings of the common people. And so it came about. The money poured in from all quarters, and soon he had enough in the treasury to warrant the building of the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana.

"In the upper part of the altar is a crypt in which are deposited the remains of the Saint, in


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the little brass-bound casket in which they were brought from Rome. Under the altar are the remains of Bishop Amat.

"Would it not seem sacrilege ever to remove them? When the church was dedicated Bishop Amat told the congregation that he had a story rather than a sermon to deliver, and recited the facts substantially as here given.

"After this great work was achieved Bishop Amat undertook another worthy enterprise, in the north. In the charming valley in which is situated the Carmelo Mission he secured a considerable tract of land which he intended to use as a school for Indian boys, to teach them agriculture. But before his arrangements for this were completed the sale of the land was negotiated to a syndicate of white men. Bishop Amat of course objected, and the Indians protested. The chiefs of all the Indian villages were asked to sign a certain paper. Before signing they brought it to me, and I advised them not to sign it, or any other paper without first submitting it to Don Antonio. The paper was a quit-claim to the water rights to all their lands. Had they signed the instrument their lands would have become worthless. It would have left them without a drop of water for irrigating purposes.


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"Bishop Amat died in prayer. An attendant, thinking it time he should retire, gently and hesitatingly approached the old man, as, upon his prayer rug in front of the altar at the Church of Saint Vibiana, he was supposed to be counting his beads and repeating his invocations. Passing the altar, some time thereafter, he found the devoted old man still in the posture of heavenly supplication. Aged and feeble, weak and emaciated, the attendant felt the duty doubly incumbent upon him of withdrawing him hence to his chamber, for rest he so much needed. This time he was a trifle more insistent, but his solicitude was quite needless; Bishop Amat was rigid in death!

’’

On the slab which enclosed the crypt in which the body of Vibiana was found were these Latin words: Animas innocenti atque pudicae Vibiana in pace depositae pridie Kalendas Septembris; the translation of which is, ‘‘To the innocent and chaste soul of Vibiana, whose remains were deposited in peace on the day before the Calends of September.’’

On the exterior of St. Vibiana's Cathedral are these letters, ‘‘D.O.M.,’’ being the abbreviations for Deo Optimo Maximo, which means, ‘‘To God the Greatest and Best.’’ Also the sentence, ‘‘Dicata A.D. 1876,’’ signifying the date when


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the Cathedral was dedicated, and the words, Sub Invocatione Sanctae Vibianae Virginis et Martyris, the translation of which is, ‘‘Under the Invocation of Saint Vibiana, Virgin and Martyr.’’

‘‘Don Antonio,’’ said Doña Mariana, "was loyal to the Church, but he ever was friendly with the Indians. He had good reason for being true to them, for upon more than one occasion they had saved his life.

‘‘

Don Antonio de Coronel was one of the liberal contributors to the erection of Saint Vibiana's Cathedral, and materially aided in its construction and establishment. A special part of his donation was a number of thousands of the brick which went into the building. He was buried from this Cathedral.

‘‘No,’’ said Señora de Coronel, "it is not as you suppose. I am no longer attached to Los Angeles. It is not as it used to be. I am anxious to return to Mexico, where conditions are much as they were here fifty years ago. But I fear it will be a long time before normal conditions are restored. Porfirio Diaz is a much abused and a much misunderstood man. He best knew how to rule Mexico. He knew every renegade in the country, and how to handle the warring factions. I fear it will be a long time


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before peace is restored. Few know the real cause of the factional division of the country. Nearly all the women in Mexico are true to the Church, while most of the men are Masons; hence the irrepressible conflict. I am glad Senator del Valle has been sent down there to harmonize the factions. He may not succeed; but he is more likely to do so than any American ambassador.

In the niche, in the upper part, is the casket containing the remains of St. . Under the altar are the remains of Bishop , builder of the Cathedral.

THE ALTAR, ST. VIBIANA'S CATHEDRAL, LOS ANGELES

INTERIOR OF ST. VIBIANA'S CATHEDRAL, LOS ANGELES

"No, I do not believe the Coronel Collection will be removed from the Chamber of Commerce. That seems to be the best place for it, the place where the larger number of people can conveniently see it. There was but a single condition of its gift to the city: that no item in the collection should ever be disposed of by sale, gift or otherwise. It must always be kept intact, just as it was when I turned it over to the city.

"I never met Mr. Jackson. It never seemed convenient for me to visit Mrs. Jackson at her Colorado home, although frequently beseeched to do so. I knew of her wish to be buried upon the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain. There were few things about Mrs. Jackson I did not know, for we were like sisters. When the site of her grave came to be a public picnic ground, and Mr. Jackson began to feel the necessity


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of removing her remains, he wrote me, asking if his wife had ever expressed a willingness to be buried elsewhere. I knew the reason for her peculiar request, and wrote to him about it, leaving him to draw his own inferences and act upon his own judgment. It was due wholly to the neglect and desecration of the grave of Junipero Serra that Mrs. Jackson decided upon a burial spot upon the mountain she loved so much. She never dreamed it would become a public resort. I was glad when I learned that she rested peacefully at Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs.

’’

Señora de Coronel has permitted the authors to read the numerous letters written by Mrs. Jackson to her and Don Antonio, her husband, and to publish the following, selected for the purpose. It will aid to understand the letters to here again state that Ramona was written in New York during the winter of 1883-84, and Mrs. Jackson returned to California in the latter part of 1884, went to San Francisco in April, 1885, and there died August 12th of that year.


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Santa Barbara, Cal.,

January 30, 1882.

My Dear Friends, Mr. and Mrs. Coronel:

. . . I have now been one week in Santa Barbara, and am still homesick for Los Angeles. I have not as yet seen anything so fine as the San Gabriel Valley, and San Bernardino Mountains with the snows on the tops, and I have not found any one to tell me the things of the olden time so eloquently as you did.

I have seen Father Sanchez, Father O'Keefe and Father Francis, at the Mission, and have obtained from their library some books of interest. From the west window of my room I look out on the Mission buildings. The sun rests on them from sunrise to sunset, and they seem to me to say more than any human voice on record can convey. You will perhaps have heard 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.

The most interesting part of my journey was San Fernando. There I could spend a whole day, and I must tell you of a mistake


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I made; perhaps if you see Mr. Pico you can rectify it for me. He said to me, when he was showing me some of the relics they have, ‘‘Now, if you like, you can take some one of these things.’’ Of course I desired very much to have some of them; but I replied, merely out of the wish not to seem greedy or ungrateful, ‘‘Oh, you are too kind to think of such a thing. I am afraid you ought not to give away any of them. Do you not rather prefer to keep them for the Church?’’ And then he did not again offer them to me, and I was all the rest of the time waiting and hoping that he would; but I came away without having the opportunity again to take anything. I suppose you will think I was very stupid. Indeed, I think so myself; but it is partly that I do not understand the customs of the Spanish people in regard to such things.

If it should happen that you see any of the family, you can tell them of my regret for having made such a mistake, and that I would be very glad to have anything they would like to part with. One of the old candlesticks I would very much like to have, or one of the old books of St. Augustine I had in my own mind decided that I would choose.

I also wanted very much to have a piece


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of one of the old olive trees if I could have found one that had blown down--a straight section of the trunk sawed across, about six inches thick, to make a round block, polished to set my stone bowl on. The driver promised to take two of the old palm leaves to you to keep. I thought you would like one; the wind had strewed the ground with them. But I think it rained so hard the days he went back he did not stop to look for palm leaves.

FATHER JOAQUIN IN PULPIT AT SAN GABRIEL MISSION, WEARING VESTMENTS OF FATHER JUNIPERO SERRA

SAN FERNANDO MISSION

When I come again with the artist we will go to San Fernando. It is one of the places I desire to see twice.

I send you also by to-day's mail a copy of my little volume of poems. I thought that you would like that volume better than any other I have written. In a little more than four months I hope to see you again.

Truly yours, and with many thanks for all your kindness,

Helen Jackson.

San Francisco, 1600 Taylor St.,

June 27, 1885.

My Dear Friends:

I am glad to see the accounts in the papers you have sent me of some farther movements in relation to the Mission Indians, and I have


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been much cheered by an interview with Prof. Painter.

If he really undertakes to get something done for those Indians, he will be worth more than all the Senators and Congressmen put together.

I hope he will return to Southern California and visit the rest of the villages. He is thinking of it.

Have you yet been up the Verdugo cañon to get those two baskets I ordered from the old Indian woman there? I fear she will think me a ‘‘lying white,’’ if she does not get the money before long.

I am sorry to tell you I am still in bed: the malarial symptoms seem to be over, but it has left me in a state of nervous prostration which nothing touches. I can eat literally nothing, and of course am very weak; it has been a trying experience and I fear I have months more of it yet to come.

It is a year to-morrow since I broke my leg! My unlucky year.

I have been asked by one of the eastern magazines (a children's magazine) to write a poem, narrating some incident or legend in California life--if possible something to do with the Indians. I do not know anything which


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seems to me to be adapted to tell in a ballad; and I have wondered if in Mr. Coronel's storehouse of memories he could not think of some old stories which would be suitable for the purpose. If he can and you would write them down for me I would be greatly obliged to you. I hope you are all well.

Always faithfully your friend,

Helen Jackson.

P. S. When you get those baskets I would like to have them sent by express. There is no doubt that I shall have to lie here for many weeks yet, and I shall enjoy having them. Send with them, also, the flat one I gave to you to keep. I'd like that to keep work in on my bed.

The following is the last letter written by Mrs. Jackson to the Coronels, and preceded her death just six days:

San Francisco, Calif.

1600 Taylor St.,

Aug. 6, 1885.

Dear Mr. Coronel:

When the baskets are done send them by express to this address: Mrs. Merritt Trimble, 59 E. 25th St., New York.


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Send all the baskets you have.

I am failing now fast. I think I cannot live a great while.

In your letter to Mrs. Trimble tell her about the stone bowls and pestles, and ask her if she wants those too. She will write and tell you.

Goodby. With very much love to your wife and you always,

Helen Jackson.

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