CHAPTER IV: THE REAL RAMONA AND OTHER CHARACTERS
Various considerations, now no longer potent, have prompted the suppression of the real facts regarding the story of Ramona and the principal characters in it, and there have been circulated innumerable fictions.
Most absurd of the stories with which tourists are regaled is the one that credits the author with having been bribed to write it by interested parties for political effect, and that the $10,000 thus earned were used in setting up her husband in business. An equally absurd yarn that has found believers of a certain class, credited the authorship of the story to an unfrocked priest, whose nearly completed manuscript was appropriated by Helen Hunt Jackson. A brochure that originated in Los Angeles, and which has reached a large sale, contains a halftone from a photograph of an Indian woman
For the Señora Moreno of the story there was doubtless a hint in the equally strong, but infinitely more lovely, real character who was until 1905 the queen of Camulos ranch--Doña Ysabel del Valle, for many years a widow. The property descended to her husband from his father, to whom it was granted before American occupation, for meritorious service in the Mexican army.
Ex-State Senator Reginald F. del Valle, the eldest son of the widowed mistress of Camulos ranch, may have suggested to the novelist the Felipe of the story. He has long been an honored citizen of Los Angeles, a prominent member of the local bar, and influential in the councils of the Democratic organization in California.
CARRIAGE USED BY HELEN HUNT JACKSON
Blanca is the one human document who may in truth be regarded as the Ramona of the story. She is of the purest Spanish blood, both father and mother having been born in Castile; and at sixty is still a woman of exceptional beauty. Her grandfather, Captain Yndart, was a seafaring man, more or less familiar with all the navigable waters of the globe. In his world wanderings, covering a period of forty years, he accumulated a chest of treasures of surpassing beauty and worth; and these are the ‘‘Ramona jewels.’’ For years they were held in trust by Señora del Valle for Blanca Yndart, when she
A daughter of Captain Yndart, who subsequently married a cousin of the same name, was living at Santa Barbara when the old sea captain paid his last visit to the Pacific coast. Having a presentiment that he would not survive another voyage, he left the chest of treasures with his daughter, with instructions as to their disposition at his death. They were to be divided between his two grandchildren, Blanca and Pancho Yndart, the latter a cousin of the former. Blanca's mother was delicate, and realizing that she would not live to see her daughter married, she provided that, at her death, Blanca should be taken into the del Valle family at Camulos; Doña Ysabel del Valle being her nearest and dearest friend.
Mrs. Yndart, unwilling to trust others with the jewels, herself took them to the ranch, and it is said that not even her own husband knew of their existence. This was before the era of railroads at Santa Barbara, and the route chosen along the beach was safe enough when the tide was out, but a miscalculation was made, and in rounding a promontory between Ventura and the Malibu ranch, in water reaching almost to the seat of the vehicle, Mrs. Yndart and the treasures narrowly escaped being washed into the sea.
Upon the death of her mother Blanca went to Camulos and remained there for nine years, wholly unconscious of the existence of the jewels, or that such a rich marriage dot awaited her. This was strictly in accord with the wishes of her mother, which were sacredly respected by Señora del Valle. For thirteen years, and until Blanca's wedding, the jewels remained in a stout chest beneath the bed of the Señora, unseen by others.
Helen Hunt Jackson never saw Blanca or the jewels, but received the story from the lips of Doña Mariana de Coronel. The little Indian girl, Guadalupe, ward of Señora del Valle, was at Camulos when Mrs. Jackson visited there. She learned from members of the household of
Notwithstanding their lineage and the traditions connecting them with Mexican rule, the del Valles have never, since American occupation, been wanting in loyalty to the United States Government. There have been numerous occasions for the visit of regular army officers to various points in Southern California, and in passing up and down the coast it was the good fortune of many of them to enjoy the hospitality of Camulos ranch. They were always sure of a cordial welcome there, especially at the hands of the elder del Valle, who, in his declining years, took special delight in recounting with those military gentlemen the thrilling events that had transpired in this borderland.
Upon the occasion of a visit of Captain Ridley, of the 4th U. S. Cavalry, to the ranch, he was struck by the singular beauty of the little Indian girl, whom he saw flitting in and out of the court. Turning to a companion, a citizen of Los Angeles who had accompanied him
HOME OF RAMONA
THE WILLOWS AT CAMULOS
An interview with Doña Ysabel del Valle was immediately sought, followed by a talk with the girl and a brief explanation; and when the officer left Camulos he took with him to his post, in Arizona, the child who bore such a striking family resemblance. She was his daughter! The child had known no mother save the kind Señora del Valle, and the parting with her was of course painful. Her own mother, an Indian woman, had been lost sight of in the wanderings of her tribe.
The circumstances under which this Indian girl, Guadalupe, came into the possession of Señora del Valle have been related to the authors by Senator R. F. del Valle and are these. Señora del Valle and others of her household were crossing the Santa Clara River, which runs through Camulos ranch; the Senator, then a mere youth, riding on a pony ahead of the others. He came upon a little Indian girl, almost naked, who was hiding in the bushes.
The sagacity of the advice of the Coronels to Helen Hunt Jackson to visit Camulos is thus shown to have been happily vindicated. When she undertook to write Ramona it was only necessary to gather the tangled threads of fact into her loom as warp, and, with the aid of her fancy as woof, to weave the beautiful and symmetrical narrative that has done so much to enrich and elevate American literature.
There was no Ramona, and there was no Alessandro, in the relation in which they are portrayed by Mrs. Jackson. And yet there was a strong suggestion of both the incidents and the persons in events transpiring at the time. It is an historical fact that in October, 1877, Juan Diego, a Cahuilla Indian, was shot and
An incident that had occurred on the boundaries of the Cahuilla Reservation, a few weeks before our arrival there, is of importance as illustrative of the need of some legal protection for the Indians in Southern California. A Cahuilla Indian named Juan Diego had built for himself a house and cultivated a small patch of ground on a high mountain ledge a few miles north of the village. Here he lived alone with wife and baby. He had for some years been what Indians called 'locoed'; at times crazy, never dangerous, but yet certainly insane for longer or shorter periods. His condition was known to the agent, who told us he feared he would be obliged to shut Juan up unless he got better. It was also well known throughout the neighboring country, as we found on repeated inquiry.
"From this sleep he was awakened by the barking of the dogs, and ran out of the house to see what it meant. The woman followed, and was the only witness of what then occurred. A white man named Temple, the owner of the horse which Juan had ridden home, rode up, and on seeing Juan poured out a volley of oaths, leveled his gun and shot him dead. After Juan had fallen on the ground, Temple rode near and fired three more shots into the body, one in the forehead, one in the cheek and one in the wrist; the woman looking on. He then took his horse, which was standing in front of the house, and rode away.
"The woman, with the baby on her back, ran to the Cahuilla village and told what had happened. This was in the night. At dawn the Indians went over to the place, brought the murdered man's body to the village and buried
INNER COURT, CAMULOS, AS IT APPEARED AT TIME OF MRS. JACKSON'S VISIT
THE KITCHEN AT CAMULOS,
"The murderer went to the nearest justice of the peace and gave himself up, saying he had in self-defense killed an Indian. He swore that the Indian ran toward him with a knife. A jury of twelve men was summoned, who visited the spot, listened to Temple's story, pronounced him guiltless, and the justice so decided. The woman's testimony was not taken. It would have been worthless if it had been, so far as influencing that jury's minds was concerned. Her statement was positive that Juan had no knife, nor weapon of any kind; that he sprang up from his sleep and ran out hastily to see what had happened, and was shot almost as soon as he had crossed the threshold of the door.
"The Agent in San Diego, on being informed by us of the facts in the case, reluctantly admitted that there would be no use whatever in bringing a white man to trial for the murder of an Indian under such circumstances, with only Indian testimony to convict him. This was corroborated, and the general animus of public feeling was vividly illustrated to us by a
"The fact that the Indian had left his own horse, a well known one, in the corral from which he had taken Temple's, that he had ridden the straight trail to his own door and left the horse in front of it, thus tracked and caught, as he would have been, weighed nothing in this young man's mind. He was finally forced to say, however: 'Well, I'll agree that Temple was to blame for firing into him after he was dead. That was mean, I'll allow.'’’
The slayer of Juan Diego was Sam Temple, the brutal Jim Farrar of Ramona. He continued to live at the foot of the mountain, more or less shunned by his neighbors because of the still popular belief that his victim was in the deplorable mental condition described by Helen Hunt Jackson, when, as Alessandro, he was found in possession of the white man's horse.
There was also current at the time a legend connecting one Ramon Corralez with a romantic elopement with a half-breed Indian girl named Lugarda Sandoval. The young couple in their flight are supposed to have experienced many of the painful episodes credited to Ramona and Alessandro in the night journeys over the mountains to San Diego.
At the same time Los Angeles was ringing with the sensational infatuation of a beautiful American girl of the city with a Saboba Indian, whom she met during an outing with her parents in the San Jacinto Mountains. They were not permitted to marry and did not elope; but it is likely the incident, in connection with the Corralez-Sandoval affair, furnished the inspiration for the Ramona-Alessandro romance.