Volume 1, Issue 1, October, 1969
OF MARCUS KATZ
San Bernardino Pioneer
with an Introduction by Norton B. Stern
MARCUS KATZ (1820-1899),
pioneer merchant of San Bernardino, Wells Fargo agent, county treasurer, notary
public, United States commissary agent, political activist, real estate
speculator, Jewish community leader, Mason, and much else, was a fascinating
figure. Born in a small obscure town in Germany, he found his first place in
this country in Baltimore in 1845. A few years later, hearing the exciting news
of the gold rush, he departed for California. Arriving in September, 1850, he
spent a year and one-half in the San Francisco area. There is a family tradition
that during this period, he worked for a time for the United States Government
in the Treasury Department at Monterey.1
In the spring of 1852 he went
to Los Angeles and engaged in business with one Henry Bauman, the firm being
known as Bauman and Katz.2 The success enjoyed by the partners during
the six months they were in business enabled Katz to open his pioneering store
in San Bernardino. Bauman had previously been a partner of Solomon Lazard.3
From the Mormons of San
Bernardino, Katz obtained permission 4 to open a general merchandise
store in the town, which was fortified by a stockade, in the fall of 1852. He
thus became the first merchant of San Bernardino.5 The following year
he left for San Diego. There, on August 24, 1853, he married Leah Jacobs in what
may have been the first Jewish marriage solemnized in Southern California. The
officiant was Chaim Leib Cohen, 6 a layman, since there were no
rabbis in California at that time. Many prominent Californians attended the
wedding, among whom was John Downey, later to become governor of the state.7
Unable to establish himself in
San Diego, 8 Katz returned to San Bernardino in 1857 where he opened
the first book and stationery - store in town. The next year he was appointed as
treasurer of the County of San Bernardino and was subsequently elected to this
office three times, serving until 1865.
In 18581 Well Fargo and Company
appointed him their San Bernardino express agent, a position he held until 1874.
This indicates the high esteem with which he was held by his fellowtownsmen,
since only those with the finest personal reputation were engaged as express
agents. They handled almost all parcels of value which were sent or received by
the residents of the area. Considerable mining was carried on nearby during
Katz' tenure as an express agent and he shipped out over $3001000 worth of gold
from these operations. 9 After serving Wells Fargo for sixteen years,
Marcus Katz discontinued his management of the agency. The principal businessmen
and city and county officials presented him with a testimonial letter, dated
September 5, 1874, which read as follows:
M. Katz, Esq.,
Your fellow citizens,
many of whom cherish pleasant recollections of business associations for
the past ten or fifteen years, learn with deep regret of the
discontinuance of your agency of the Express Company, for whom you have
acted for the past sixteen years. In severing our business connection,
it is due to your fidelity to the trust held by you in the past, as well
as to your constant and earnest efforts to advance the interests of the
Company, and build up the business of the community in which you live,
that we bear our individual testimony of your worth as an enterprising,
energetic, and faithful businessman. One to whom the active community
owe much for your public spirit, and constant and successful efforts in
our behalf, and also to tender our heartfelt and grateful solicitude for
your future success in any and all business enterprises in which you
may engage. With the kindest wishes for your health and happiness, we
are, truly your f riends.10
This letter was signed by
William A. Conn, I. R. Brunn, Sydney P. Waite, County Clerk, Hardin Yager,
County Treasurer, A. J. Curry, County Sheriff, J. A. Kelting, City Recorder, N.
Noble, ex-Sheriff, William McDonald, John Andreson, E. A. Nisbet, A. Wolff, L.
Caro, I. H. Levy, F. C. Suhr, Lewis Jacobs, George A. Reich, Louis Ancker, J. C.
Peacock, P. M. Charles F. Roe, M. Byrne, A. P. Parks, John M. Foy, Henry M.
Willis, County Judge, C. N. Emich, John M. Biays, M. Rittler, John W.
Satterwhite, J. W. Montgomery, Bowland and Craig, Meyerstein and Company, and B.
In addition to his other
activities Katz served as a notary public from 1857 to 18691 a pursuit which
undoubtedly fitted in with his proprietorship of a stationery store. One of his
copy books still extant shows the sort of legal documents he drew up and
notarized. His command of the technicalities of legal terminology was
remarkable, when it is considered that English was not his native language.
In 18611 Katz applied to the
city officials for a piece of land for a Jewish cemetery. The grant deed for
this land was signed by William A. Cowen, Benjamin Barton, James A. Waters, and
George L. Tucker, and dated May 20, 1861.11 On November 4, 1861
Marcus Katz presented this grant deed to the Paradise Lodge No. 237, B'nai
B'rith. 12 In 1933, the lodge turned over the cemetery, known as the
Home of Eternity, to Congregation Emanu El of San Bernardino, 13 in
whose care it has remained to the present. It is the oldest Jewish cemetery,
still in its original location, in Southern California.
The collection of personal
papers and copies of speeches made by Katz and preserved by his descendants,
14 show him to have been a highly articulate person. He was deeply
interested in Jewish life and concerns of all kinds. A substantial polemic in
his handwriting has been preserved, which may have been a speech to his B'nai
B'rith or Masonic lodge, on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. In it, he points
out that the truly bloodthirsty men of history were not the Jews, as implied by
Shakespeare, but the Crusaders and the officials of the Inquisition. He said,
"... the crimson record of the early Christians, compiled by historians of all
ages ... show the gigantic contrast between an imaginary pound of flesh and the
realistic inhuman and wholesale butchery ... for the cause of Christianity."
Katz became a member of Unity
Lodge No. 130, Free and Accepted Masons, when it was founded in 1858 15
and later of Phoenix Lodge No. 178, of San Bernardino, founded after Unity Lodge
had had its charter suspended in 1863. He maintained a steady interest and
activity in the Masonic movement. One of the speeches to his lodge has been
preserved, in which he strongly defended the right of a group of fellow Masons
to submit a petition of protest against an officer of the lodge who had rented
out part of the Masonic-owned building to a friend at a sub-standard rental
without having given the membership a chance to review the transaction.
In the 1880's, Katz was an
active member of a literary society named the "Kit Cat Club." They gathered
periodically to listen to essays written by individual members, then proceeded
to discuss and analyze the quality of the literary efforts.
Women's rights were a favorite
theme for Marcus Katz. He was against all restrictions placed upon women's
handling of property vis-a-vis their husbands. At the same time he was against
female sufferage. He said in one speech that for women to have the vote "would
lead her entirely out of her legitimate and natural sphere and to assume new
functions, distasteful to her dignity and offensive to her good judgment."
Summing up, he stated: "We fail to see that woman's social condition can be
elevated through the medium of the ballot box."
Katz was a Northern sympathizer
during the Civil War period. He attended the Union mass meeting in San
Bernardino, held on May 25, 1861, at which a Union Club was, organized. 16
On August 1, 1861, thirty-one county officials and local businessmen, most
of the latter being Jewish, sent a letter to Major James H. Carleton, United
States Army, at Los Angeles.17 The main body of the letter to the
commander of the United States troops for the region, suggested that
We have heard within the
last few hours from, as we believe a reliable source, that a band of some
40 or 50 desperadoes are now dispersed throughout the coast range of hills
south of this place, and intending to make a sudden foray upon the merchants
of San Bernardino, and after securing their plunder make good their escape
across the Colorado on their way to the Confederate States of the South. We
therefore hasten to make this information known to you and ask that you will
in this emergency forthwith give us the protection of a company of U.S.
Marcus Katz was a signer of
this letter as was his father-in-law, Mark Jacobs. Carleton, in his response,
suggested that the San Bernardino officials exercise due vigilance and raise a
posse from among the citizenry to defend the town. 18
Katz was a strong believer in
religious freedom and he stated in one address, that "Under our Constitution,
the free exercise of religious beliefs must be extended to the Mormon polygamist
as well as to the Catholic celibate." He was contemptuous of the fundamentalism
so common during his time and advocated that "... our local ministers of limited
knowledge listen to the results gained from the physical sciences, the fruit of
Marcus Katz and his son Maurice
were charter members of the San Bernardino B'nai B'rith lodge, known as Paradise
Lodge No. 237, established April 28, 1875. 19 Katz is credited with
being a prime mover in the organization of the group. 20 He was
president of the lodge in its second and third years, 1876 and 18771 and in its
eighth year, 1882. Maurice D. Katz was an early secretary, serving two years,
and he was the president of the lodge in 1906. 21
Local politics were a life-long
interest of Marcus Katz. His memoirs yield plentiful evidence of his early
personal involvement in the issues of the day. Later he was credited with being
the one most influential in retaining the county seat at San Bernardino. 22
In the 1870's, the Southern Pacific Railroad offered to lay its tracks through
San Bernardino and locate a station there if the local citizens were to
subsidize the railroad to the tune of $100,000. The meeting held to consider the
proposal was dominated by Katz, who was strongly against the railroad's offer.
His sentiments prevailed and the citizens voted against the railroad. 23
The history of San Bernardino
and vicinity was of concern and interest to him. He was a member and for a time
an officer of the San Bernardino County Pioneer Society, the local historical
organization. His memoirs testify to his keen appreciation of the story of the
early days of the locality. Perhaps this was the reason that he was interviewed
by one of the men sent out by the historian Hubert H. Bancroft, on January 16,
During the 1870's and 1880's,
Katz was engaged in the real estate business and with land speculation. He
bought and sold considerable property in San Bernardino and in outlying areas,
one of which is now Highland. 24 In 1892, when illness incapacitated
him, his eldest son, Maurice D. Katz, moved back to San Bernardino from Los
Angeles to care for the property. Financial considerations at that time
necessitated the sale of much of the property in order to save the downtown
holdings. 25 The chief part of this which was retained and is still
owned by the family is the property at the northeast corner of Third and E
Streets in downtown San Bernardino. A four-story structure on part of this land
is known as the Katz Building.
There is a well-established
family tradition that Marcus Katz raised sheep on the Lugo Ranch in his early
years in the area. 26 It was from the Lugo family that Rancho San
Bernardino was purchased by the Mormon founders, who had arrived in 1851. 27
Katz and his wife had five
children who lived to adulthood: Maurice Diego, born in 1854 in San Diego, who
married Miss Zara Harris in 1888; Grace, who married Adolph Horwitz; Victoria,
who never married; Glady, who married Robert Parsons; and Edmund, who married
Helen Lothrop. Of the four who married, two married Jewish partners and two did
At Katz' death on November 21
1899, one newspaper account noted that " He was a progressive citizen always,
and even in later years has thought of the future of the town, and has been
always the first to welcome strangers seeking homes here. 29 Another
account noted that Marcus Katz had ".... been one of the most influential men of
the city." 30 He was interred at the Home of Eternity Cemetery in
San Bernardino, on land which had been granted to him for a Jewish cemetery by
the city fathers over thirty-eight years before.
In 19041 Luther A. Ingersoll,
in his book INGERSOLL'S CENTURY ANNALS OF SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, 1769 TO 19041)
published a part of the Katz memoirs. These had been written in longhand in
parts of two business account books, now in the possession of Mrs. Joseph
Kustiner (nee Irma Katz, daughter of Maurice D. Katz). Ingersoll used part of
the material from one of the notebooks.. These memoirs have not been available
to researchers for some time, until quite recently. 31 Written in the
1890's, they are published here in full for the first time.
son of Marcus Katz, born in San Diego, California
in 1854. This photograph was taken in 1878.
I was born September 20, 1820,
in a small village, Bobenhausen, in Upper Hesse, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany. In
my childhood and youth I loved fun and harmless mischief. I never liked to go to
school and often played truant upon my teacher, for which I received a liberal
punishment. In those days the teacher's rod was frequently used which was
appreciated with a tender feeling by the pupils.
In later years I became more
active and industrious. I was ambitious to travel. In the year 1845 I left home
for America. I started from Bremen harbor in the three-masted ship Albert, Von
Dedsen, commanding. After a pleasant voyage of two months, we reached
Baltimore, Maryland. Through the influence of a former acquaintance, I obtained
a clerkship in the large drygoods house of G. Rosenstock.
When the gold excitement broke
out in California, I left Baltimore for the new field of adventure, embarking on
the steamer Georgia for Chagres. It was loaded with 1,200 passengers, fare
$50.00, with sleeping accommodations, provided you could find it. I was
fortunate to meet a young man who offered me one-half of his bunk, provided I
could sleep on the sharp edge of the bunk. He covered the wooden edge with our
wardrobes and we exchanged places nearly every hour during the night.
From Chagres, we sailed in a
native canoe to Gargunia, thence on foot to Panama. On our arrival at that
place, I made haste to secure passage to San Francisco. Being unable to secure
one for want of funds, since steamer tickets from Panama to San Francisco were
being sold at auction from $1,500.00 to $21000.001 I finally procured a passage
on a French bark for $200.00. At Panama we noticed from 200 to 300 Catholic
priests, barefooted and ragged, selling rosaries, crosses, and gambling on the
After four months sailing we
reached San Francisco in September, 1850. Passengers landed in small boats to
the shore. There was no wharflanding close to Montgomery Street. Most of the
buildings in that locality rested upon piles.
I remained in San Francisco
about 18 months. Engaged in several branches of business. Was unsuccessful
during my stay in San Francisco. I witnessed a number of executions by the
vigilantes, whose actions were prompt, decisive, and subject to no appeal.
I went to Los Angeles and
engaged in a drygoods business with one Henry Bauman. Did well. Shortly
afterwards, dissolved the partnership.
I went to San Bernardino in the
fall of 1852 and engaged in a general merchandise business. Did well. Enjoyed
the confidence of the entire community, then consisting of about 75 Mormon
families, direct from Salt Lake. Their leaders had purchased the Rancho from
Lugo for $77,500.00. This is now San Bernardino. I was asked to join the Mormon
church and marry five or six wives. I thought that would be nice, but upon
reflection I concluded that there would be five or six mothers-in-law, who would
secure no peace for me upon this earth or good-will among the wives. I objected
to so many mothers-in-law and so I declined with thanks.
I remained in San Bernardino
one year, leaving in 1853. I moved to San Diego and was married at that place
August 24 the same year to Miss L. G. Jacobs. Remained there until 1857, when I
returned to San Bernardino. Then I engaged in the book, stationery and newspaper
business, the first such store there.
On my return to San Bernardino,
matters had changed materially, socially as well as politically. An independent
party started in opposition to the Mormons, in which I became entangled. I
joined the independent party and was chosen candidate for county treasurer. The
entire independent party was defeated. In the evening previous to the election
the members of the independent party gave the Mormon candidates a musical
serenade. On the evening after the election the Mormons, the successful
candidates, returned the compliment. Three roaring groans were given in honor of
Marcus Katz, who mistook the roaring for a young earthquake. The sounds shook
and cracked the walls of a little brick building.
In 1858 the greatest portion of
the Mormon families returned to Salt Lake, by order of the leaders of their
church, in order to give battle to the United States troops.. The Mormons at
Salt Lake burned the United States law books, but became alarmed and secretly
replaced them, by the purchase of a new set. This consisted of three wood cases
in charge of Dr. Osburn via San Bernardino. Osburn was the assumed name of Dr.
Kane, the brother of the noted Arctic explorer.
In 1858 I was appointed county
treasurer by the Board of Supervisors. In 1859, I was elected county treasurer,
re-elected in 1861, re-elected in 18631 defeated in 1865. The treasurer-elect,
Fancy Webb, resigned after four months service. The Board of Supervisors offered
to appoint me again, but I refused to accept the appointment.
I was appointed agent by
Phineas Banning, generally known as General Banning, forwarding and commission
merchant, for whom the citizens of Los Angeles may give thanks for their
prosperity of today. He laid the foundation at an early time when commerce was
in a chaotic state.
In 1858 I was appointed agent
for Wells Fargo and Company Express. I was politely dismissed in 1874+. My
successor, Mr. Blow, has been blowing ever since. Received a complimentary
testimonial of our leading citizens and a criticism against Wells Fargo by the
press, without serious injury to the company.
In 1859 I had charge of the
United States Commissary. Two companies of U. S. troops were stationed here.
When ordered forthwith to other stations, the commissary was placed in my charge
without a receipt or a scrap of paper. I could have carried off one-half of the
commissary if so inclined. I engaged H. O. Rolfe to guard the property at night;
paid him one dollar per night.
In 18571 I was appointed notary
public by Governor Johnson, in 1859 and 1861 by Governor John Downey, in 1863 by
Governor Leland Stanford, in 1868 by Governor Haight, in 1869 by acting Governor
James Carter, the Arizona Commissioner. While in the capacity of notary public,
a gentleman, now a capitalist and leading citizen of Los Angeles, came to my
office one day in the years of the 1860's. He said, "I want you to acknowledge a
I said, "Why this deed is made
in your favor. Where is the maker of the deed?"
He answered, "Oh, he is in New
York, has no time to come here."
"But I don't do that kind of
business," was my rejoinder.
"Could I make it an object
(sic) to you?" he said.
"You cannot," I replied. "I do
not sell my trust for a consideration."
If I remember correctly, it was
the Bear Valley property, which he subsequently sold to Lucky Baldwin.
In 1880, I urgently advocated
the propriety of holding a county fair, which was accomplished with a partial
success. That is to say, the agricultural and horticultural departments were a
complete success in every respect, financially, commercially and socially.
Owing, however, to an error committed by having a horse race connected with the
main fair, it proved to be not only a miserable failure, but a detriment to the
general interest of the fair. That department was an absolute fraud and
swindle. The committee were presented with bills for sham races. Not only were
funds of the other departments of the fair consumed in paying the fraudulent
bills, but the committee was sued, to make up the deficiency. This was the
first and last county fair to-date.
During the political campaign
of 1879, containing a plank for a new constitution of this state, which was
strongly opposed by the mechants' protective associations of San Francisco, the
various boards of trade, corporations, and money-lenders, who sent their selfish
and impious circulars of advice throughout the state and an army of paid orators
in order to defeat the proposition and to caution the voters against the
dangerous proposal of changing the old constitution for a new one. Their selfish
motive was easily detected and their costly plan of operation was defeated to
the satisfaction of a large majority of voters of this state. I wrote several
articles in favor of the new constitution, which were commented upon by Arthur
Kearny, editor of the San Bernardino Herald.
It is for the sake of
historical truth that I am prompted to recall the past, speak knowingly of the
present, and predict a new and brilliant future for San Bernardino, its vast
avenues of richness and its untold wealth, yet hidden in the bowels of the
earth. It is for the purpose of unveiling the beautiful and charming bride of
Southern California, the daughter of Saint Bernard, on whom nature has lavished
manifold blessings and delights. Courted and coquetted with morbid and delirious
jealousy by the wingless angels of the city of Los Angeles, who never lost
sight, nor missed an opportunity to cast a reflection upon San Bernardino or its
citizens, never ceased in their mad jealousy to manufacture odium and ridicule,
wherewith to hamper the "Mormon town," her surroundings and her worthy people,
notwithstanding the fact that the citizens of San Bernardino contributed
largely to the welfare of Los Angeles.
Again, a monstrous giant
appeared, ready to devour the prosperity of the citizens of San Bernardino and
enclose her valley with steel rails, but failed to do so. The Southern Pacific
Railroad with all its selfish desires and unwarranted attacks, failed to shake
or distort our prosperity. San Bernardino stood, it stands now and will stand
forever, proud and lofty, like a mountain oak, sheltered beneath its own
My first visit to the Lugo
Rancho, now San Bernardino, dates back as early as 1851, before the immigration
from Salt Lake set in. The Lugo Rancho, once a vast pasture of livestock,
consisted of mustang horses, horned cattle, sheep and goats, the property of the
Lugo estate, and the unclaimed stock, which consisted of Brown and Grizzly
bears, mountain lions, wild cats and foxes. I made camp upon the elevated ridge
about one and one-half miles southwest of the present city. The ridge and the
surrounding vicinity was occupied by thirty or forty Indian families, and called
by our old settlers, "The Rancheria," and is now known as the John Ralph place.
From this elevated point a large portion of the San Bernardino Valley is
visible. During my encampment I gazed in bewildered astonishment at the vastness
and scenic grandeur of nature's bounty. A majestic landscape of nature's design.
In short, an Eveless Garden of Eden.
During the summer of the same
year the Mormon leaders, Lyman and Rich, purchased the ranch of the Lugo family
comprising eleven leagues of land. A few months later about seventy-five Mormon
families arrived from Salt Lake and located permanently at various points on
this vast area. They brought with them a large stock of choice American horses
and American work oxen which were readily sold at high figures to stock dealers
from the northern part of the state.
It was the intention of the
Mormon leaders to locate close to the foothills due north of the present city,
but owing to their late arrival and the urgent need of grass and water for their
stock, the spot whereon the city now stands was selected. It was also the plan
of the leaders of the Mormon church to purchase a waterfront on the bay of San
Diego, having in view a harbor of their own on the Pacific Coast, whereby their
converts from Europe and the United States could be landed. The project,
however, fell through. Another scheme, to locate and settle on every available
valley from the bay of San Diego through to Salt Lake likewise failed.
The titles applied to the first
settlement were "The Mormon Camp," "The Fort," and "El Campo des Mormonass."
"The Fort" was so named because the little settlement was enclosed with a
cottonwood picket fence eight feet high. This was a protection against the raids
of the Indians who were numerous and hostile towards the white population.
The County of San Bernardino
was formed by an act dividing the County of Los Angeles and making there from a
county to be called San Bernardino, approved April 26, 1853. The Court of
Record, August, 1853, shows that D. M. Thomas, County Judge, Captain Jefferson
Hunt, John Brown, Sr., and Colonel A. M. Jackson were appointed commissioners on
the part of San Bernardino County to ascertain and agree as to the amount due
Los Angeles County. The commission was duly organized with the addition of
Andrew Lytle as associate judge.
In 18551 Luis Rubidoux, Norman
Taylor, and William Cox constituted the Board of Supervisors; Ellis Ames,
district attorney; Robert Clift, sheriff ; R. R. Hopkins, the best of the lot,
county clerk; David Sealy, county treasurer; J. G. Sherwood, county surveyor,
Fred Perris, then a beardless boy, assistant surveyor; and D. Thomas, county
In the years of 1852 and 1853,
prosperity reigned supreme in the county. Farmers realized fancy prices for all
their livestock and large sums of money were received by them for their produce.
I bought up and loaded sixteen wagons with wheat and flour and forwarded the lot
to Childs and Hicks of Los Angeles. The flour was sold for $32,00 per barrel and
the wheat at $4.00 per bushel. There were in all about thirty men in this train
and at this writing only two men survive, Horace Clark and Abner Blackburn. The
eight-cornered fifty-dollar gold pieces called slugs were plentiful in
circulation. I began to be a little sluggish myself, but soon was relieved of
this sluggish feeling.
A small number of Mexican
families had settled on the banks of the Santa Ana River at a place called
Yarupa. The settlers raised grain and vegetables, a few horses and a few cattle
and stole a few more from their neighbor Lugo. This, however, was not considered
a criminal offense. On the contrary, the party who stole but a few cattle or
horses, was considered a very social neighbor. The party who stole a band of
horses or cattle was followed and lynched, if overtaken. He who got away
successfully with his prize felt entitled to a membership in the "four hundred."
There is still a slight modicum of the former custom yet in practice, which
accounts for the numerous "four hundred."
During the heavy rain of 1862,
the banks of the Santa Ana River at Yarupa were flooded. The current swept away
the best land, including vineyards, orchards, and buildings, and left a number
of families homeless and in destitute condition. William A. Conn was in the
Legislature at Sacramento at this time. When the news of the flood reached him,
he authorized me to issue flour to the needy in unlimited quantities. He also
instructed the manager of his flour mill to honor my orders for the same.
South of Yarupa, there lay a
vast desert, now the City of Riverside, then considered absolutely valueless. It
was scarcely able to support a flock of sheep during the winter. When the first
settlers located there and built beautiful homes and made general improvements,
our citizens and practical experienced farmers ridiculed the idea of locating on
a desert. The late Cornelius Jenson was offered lumber at a low rate but
remarked, "I can, in a short time, buy those fine buildings at Riverside, at the
price of old lumber."
He calculated that their
enterprise would prove a perfect failure. But brains, coin, and intellectual
labor converted the desert into a perfect forest of citrus fruit. Its citizens
are intelligent, active, enterprising, and industrious, with a slight modicum
of inherited meanness. There is nothing left of the desert but one narrow dry
spot which is to be seen in the prohibition ordinance, but which does not
Redlands is located more
picturesquely than Riverside. Once the hills and little valleys were covered
with squirrel-holes. Now Redlands is the youngest and most beautiful city in
Southern California. It is also a thriving city of about the same class of
citizens as in Riverside. They engage in the same vocation, namely the raising
of citrus fruit, principally oranges.
Highland outstrips the orange
growers of both Riverside and Redlands, in superior quality, in size and
sweetness. It realizes the highest rates in the market and can challenge the
world for the quality of its oranges.
San Bernardino raises alfalfa
and native American babies, but holds the key to developed and undeveloped
resources of great value.
In the year 1858 the Mormons
received orders from their leaders to return forthwith to Salt Lake, expecting
that they would have to fight the United States troops to prevent them entering
the city. The place selected by the Mormons as their battlefield was Echo
Canyon, a narrow pass between high and lofty mountains. Their calculations and
delusions were to roll rocks from either side of the mountains and destroy any
army that would undertake to pass through the canyon. The Mormons showed their
earnestness to battle with the government by burning the United States library
at Salt Lake. Later on, however, they became alarmed at the grossness of their
actions and determined to repair the loss by substituting a set of new books.
This was done and three wooden cases of new books in charge of Dr. Kane, brother
of Kane of Arctic fame, but under the assumed name of Dr. Osburn, were freighted
through to the point of destination.
All faithful members of the
church left San Bernardino in hot haste, selling their property at a sacrifice.
The bulk of the remaining property belonging to Lyman and Rich, was sold in a
lump to William A. Conn, Tucker and Allen, at a very low figure, Yucaipa Valley
included. After a short time, many of the Mormons returned to this place,
frightened at the sight of Uncle Sam's brass, buttons.
However, after the Mormons had
practically left the county, a new immigration set in, chiefly from Texas. Then
"The ball" commenced and "the band played on." Quarrels, fights, and general
disorder ensued with killing and shooting. On one occasion a pitched battle took
place on the corner of 4th and C Streets between two hostile factions,. These
were the Coopwood and Green factions. About twenty men were engaged in the
conflict. A sharp fusillade was witnessed, lasting about twenty minutes. One
David Coopwood was wounded, but subsequently recovered.
Green, the leader of his
faction and a desperado, later walked through the streets, gun on his shoulder
and revolver at his side, defying the officials as well as any citizen to touch
him. He denounced the Coopwood faction as a set of cowards, all except that
"little devil," saying which, he pointed at Taney De La Woodward. "That little
devil understands the business," he said. The Coopwood brothers returned to
Texas, the place from which they had come. Green also left the country. It is
needless to say that some of these newcomers were very excellent people, but
unfortunately they were greatly in the minority.
Politically, socially and
morally, the place was ruled chiefly by a set of corrupt politicians, gamblers
and desperados, with the sheriff as their main leader. The district attorney
was the deputy villain. He openly declared he would get even with the county. He
was successful in his commendable enterprise, but shortly afterwards left the
county of his own free will. He changed the election returns of V. J. Herring,
county clerk, in favor of James Greenwaite, who proved to be the most efficient
county clerk San Bernardino ever had. He drove the Board of Supervisors, three
in number, out of the courthouse at the point of a cocked pistol. The Board at a
glance understood the situation and allowed no grass to grow under their feet.
They rushed for the door and out onto the street.
In the hardest fought election
ever battled in this county, one faction consisted of the Piercy group. They
were sharp shrewd political tricksters. The Conn faction consisted of our
principal citizens, who made arrangements with the editor of the Herald, the
only newspaper in town, to print the tickets for the election. But the editor
during his office hours, was drunk, and in his leisure hours not sober. Since we
couldn't depend on him to do the work, we got him to give a friend and myself
permission to use his press. When the Piercy party found out that the press was
placed in our hands, the leaders of the Piercy faction asked us to lend them the
press, promising to return it in due time. I apprehended that they would not
and would play a trick on us. We sent to Los Angeles and had two thousand
tickets printed for the outside precincts. I realized my expectations. They kept
the printing press until the evening before the election.
We went to the editor to inform
him of the situation, but found him in bed, fully drunk. Having no key, we
kicked the press shop door open and found everything on the floor, topsy-turvy,
in order to prevent the printing of the tickets. But in their haste, they left a
handbill form in perfect order, which said, "Today is the day to vote for
Charles W. Piercy." We removed the name of C. W. Piercy and put in the name of
William A. Conn, then sent a messenger with the handbills to the Spanish
settlement to post them over those for Piercy. The Piercy men wondered how such
a gross mistake could have happened. They never found out who did the mischief.
On the day of the election, one
of the Piercy men, a desperado, challenged any man to bet on the election. I
foolishly offered to bet with him. No sooner did I say the word when he drew his
pistol, but I quickly dodged and bent when he fired. I was afraid he would soil
my new coat. I had no ill feeling against him, on account of his having missed
his intended aim. On the contrary, from the known fact that his intentions were
good, I accepted the situation cheerfully. He was held before the Grand Jury
without result. Grand Juries at that time were afraid to discharge their duties.
In 1861, another forgery was
committed during a campaign for legislative honors. William A. Conn and Charles
W. Piercy were again the candidates. Conn was duly elected as our
representative, but the Piercy interests were managed by a fellow named Skinker,
a derivation of "skunk." He belonged to the rough element. Skinker was one of
the election officers at Temescal precinct and he changed the pool list two
weeks after the election in favor of Piercy. This fraud placed Piercy in the
Legislature. Piercy had scarcely taken his seat when he challenged a member of
the Legislature to a duel. Showalter, the man challenged, accepted, and Piercy
was killed at the second shot. This, to a certain extent, broke up the combine.
Still, "the band played on."
Our public schools were in a
deplorable condition. A majority of the male teachers belonged to the element
above described. Our school superintendent, Robbins, was a good conscientious
worker for the cause of education. He was in constant fear of bodily harm at the
hands of the male teachers. Matters went from bad to worse. Finally Robbins made
his report to the state superintendent. The report was published and copies were
returned to San Bernardino. This created a tempest amongst the school teachers
and the matter of avenging themselves on Robbins for his expose was considered
and reconsidered. Finally, an indignation meeting was called by the aggrieved
teachers and Robbins was to be crucified. I felt deeply for him but was
powerless to render him any assistance.
However, I attended the
indignation meeting and there met a former school superintendent, gloriously
drunk. This gentleman, when in that condition, had the capacity to talk a weakly
constituted person to death. By some little contriving I managed to have him
act as chairman of the meeting. When seated upon the platform I realized that I
had gained my case. The chairman called the meeting to order with an emphatic
"Hic" and "Thanks for the hon- (hic) -or conferred upon me. Shall preside over
this dignified body (hic) with honor to myself and to the American nation (hic).
Shall allow no interrogations while I address, the meeting. Due respect must be
paid to the chair- (hic) man. Shall decide questions impartially (hic)." The
audience began to leave, one by one, in perfect disgust, and the name of
Superintendent Robbins was not mentioned at all. Thus ended the farce in one
act. I remained to the last in order to compliment the chairman upon his
successful oration and convincing argument, properly emphasized and punctuated
according to the movement of the irate spirit. I came to the conclusion that
intemperance was not a social evil. This former Superintendent of Public
Schools was also an expert farmer, but imbibed too much at the public bar. Once
he was committed to the lunatic asylum, but had sense enough to escape.
Of the social events of that
day, some were slightly unsocial. One of these events especially may be
mentioned. It was between the white and colored elites of the town. The latter,
while in the enjoyment of a gay festivity, dance and general amusement,
according to the dark code of etiquette and custom of African society, were
unceremoniously interrupted by the white sports, under the leadership of one
McFeely, who desired with his associates to participate in the enjoyment of the
evening. This intrusion was seriously objected to by the colored proprietor, who
gave grave offense to the uninvited visitors. McFeely, the leader, ordered a
general house cleaning and a solid thrashing for the proprietor and his guests,
which was accomplished in double-quick time. The proprietor was sorely grieved
to be ejected from his own premises and his guests grossly insulted.
The next day he swore to a
complaint before Judge Willson, Justice-of -the-Peace, against McFeely and his
associates. McFeely with his chums appeared on the day of the trial to plead his
own case. He addressed the court very politely, asking it to let him read the
complaint. The court readily complied with the request of the defendant. The
defendant then gave the complaint to the prosecuting witness and told him in
emphatic terms, holding at the same time a cocked pistol to his face, "You jaw
this complaint." The poor fellow turned as pale as nature would allow him, and
while his pearly teeth were in active motion to grind the complaint at the rate
of a running quartz mill, an additional demand was made of him. "You swallow the
mutilated complaint." The defendant steadily held his weapon in a bee-line
towards the face of the African.
It is needless to say that the
royal decree issued by the defendant was strictly carried out and absolutely
free of ambiguity. The court graced his official chair with sealed lips, ashen
pale face, and bristled hair which arose perpendicular on his head, but dared
not interrupt the proceedings of the trial. He watched his first opportunity to
adjourn the court, sine die. The peace officer, apprehending that similar
courtesies were awaiting him, hastily adjourned the court. This is the only
record known where the defendant overruled the court without argument. The court
made no charges for his legal services. Thus ended the celebrated case. The
society leader and successful pleader in Justice Court, McFeely, perished on the
Colorado Desert from the effects of excessive heat and whiskey. McFeely went to
the devil by the southern route.
The first band of music which
paraded the streets of San Bernardino on national occasions consisted of four
individuals of recognized musical ability. Mr. Highmore, who is no more, played
the flute. Mrs. Highmore, now aged and sick, played the drum, and though lame
and decrepit, kept pace on the march with the rest of the musicians. Joseph
Hancock, still in good humor, planing and sawing, played the fife. And John Van
Leuven whistled on two knuckles between his fingers.
This notable instrument is
still in good order and highly esteemed by the owner.
The Fourth of July of 185 7 was
celebrated by the Mormon and Independent parties separately, because of the
unfriendly feeling which existed between the two factions. Both parties made
great preparations in order to excel each other, especially in the number of
invited guests. Cordial invitations were sent by both parties to Cabezon, the
chief of the Coahuilla Indians and his tribe, to participate in the celebration.
The Independent party were successful and were honored with the distinguished
guests who did justice to their innate feeling, because they were "muy hambre"
The Independent party
celebrated the Fourth at the place now occupied by James Stewart. It was called
"Fort Benson." The Independent party made use of an adobe building for a
fortification., with men and arms stationed inside the building, anticipating
serious trouble. But nothing happened. About 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, the
news of the killing of young Perkins reached the Fort and proved to be true. It
appeared that Perkins, a Mormon, assailed a highly respectable citizen of our
town and a member of the Independent party. He quickly defended himself and
stopped his assailant, which proved fatal to the latter. The excitement was at
the highest pitch from the fact that Perkins was young and strong and the one he
assailed was feeble and weak. The latter was arrested, tried, and acquitted by a
jury of twelve citizens, chiefly Mormons. The verdict was justifiable homicide.
Had the verdict been, different, serious consequences would have ensued. The
trial was closely watched by the citizens of Los Angeles and El Monte. I was
familiar with the deceased. Once when walking with him in a field we saw an
Indian in the distance. Perkins remarked, "I shot an Indian once."
"What did you do it for?" I
"I wanted to see how he would
jump," was his reply.
The first newspaper issued in
San Bernardino was The Scorpion. Editors and proprietors were "Thom, Dick, and
Harry." Terms of subscription, one bale of hay, two dozen eggs, and a sack of
onions. The Bank of England was the only agent authorized to collect the
subscription fees. Scarcely had The Scorpion gained popularity and a long list
of subscribers, when an opposition paper, provoked by jealousy, started. It was
named The Illustrated Hog Eye, edited by "Harry, Dick, and Thom." Terms of
subscription, one cow and a calf. The only agent authorized for the collection
of the subscription fees was Rothschild. No small abuses were exchanged between
The Scorpion and The Illustrated Hog Eye. These journals were written instead of
printed, for the want of a printing press. The proprietors of both papers were
Henry Mugridge, Marcus Katz, and Griff Williams.
On one occasion The Scorpion
accused a gentleman of stealing a pair of mules. The Illustrated Hog Eye, taking
the part of the defense, denied all allegations of the charges against him. They
made out that he merely took the mules without the owner's consent and it could
not be construed as a theft. This man subsequently left San Bernardino and went
to Carson City, where he continued to follow his innocent vocation. He was hung
at the latter place and was removed from the scaffold a very much improved man.
His brother was an early sheriff of the county, a very honorable man and a fine
In the year 1874, the agitation
for a new courthouse and its location was red-hot and boiling over, on account
of limited space. Owing to the increase in the population, it became a
noticeable fact that the old courthouse was too small. I suggested to the Board
of Supervisors that sufficient ground might be obtained for the purpose by
opening a forty-foot alley, now known as Court Street. The suggestion was
favorably received by the Board. The work to secure the property desired, began
at once. I am also the author of the opening of Victoria Avenue.
1. Interview with Mrs. Joseph
Kustiner, June 9, 1968.
2. Warner, J. J., Hayes,
Benjamin, and Widney, J. P., AN HISTORICAL SKETCH of Los ANGELES COUNTY',
CALIFORNIA (Los Angeles, 1876, reprint edition, 1936), p. 104.
3. Los Angeles Star, November
8, 1851. This notice of the dissolution of the partnership of Lazard and Bauman
is the first commercial notice of a Jewish-owned firm in a Los Angeles
4. `Dictation of Marcus Katz,"
by Hubert H. Bancroft interviewer, January 16, 1888, Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley, p. 1.
5. San Bernardino Free Press,
November 3, 1899, p. 2.
6. Ketbubah, dated 20 Ab 5613.
7. San Bernardino Daily Sun,
May 5, 1919, p. 2.
8. "Dictation of Marcus Katz,"
op. cit., p. 1.
9. Ibid., p. 3
10. The Guardian, San
Bernardino, September 12, 1874, p. 2.
11. Mrs. David Hearsh, ed., THE
PiNxos (Jewish Chronicle): Commemorating Seventy-Five Years of Jewish Activities
in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, 1860-1935 (San Bernardino, 1935), p.
12. Ibid., p. 53.
13. Ibid., pp. 34-35.
14. Now in possession of Mrs.
Joseph Kustiner, San Bernardino, California.
15. Leon O. Whitsell, ONE
HUNDRED YEARS OF FREE MASONRY IN CALIFORNIA (1950), vol. IV, p. 1656.
16. Weekly Patriot, San
Bernardino, June 1, 1861, p. 2.
17. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A
Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
(Washington, D. C., 1897), Series I, Vol. L, Pt. 19 pp. 554-555.
18. Ibid., p. 555.
19. Mrs. David Hearsh, op.
cit., p. 47.
20. Ibid., p. 49.
21. Ibid., pp. 47-48.
22. The Daily Courier, San
Bernardino, December 9, 1890.
23. Interview with L. Burr
Belden, July 10, 1968.
24. "Dictation of Marcus Katz,"
op. cit., p. 2.
25. Mrs. Joseph Kustiner, op.
cit., p. 2.
26. Interview with Mrs. Joseph
Kustiner, December 31, 1967.
27. W. W. Robinson, The Story
of San Bernardino County, '(San Bernardino, 1966), p. 28.
28. Mrs. Joseph Kustiner,
December 31, 1967, op. cit.
29. Free Press, San Bernardino,
November 3, 1899, p. 2.
30. The Daily Times Index, San
Bernardino, November 3, 1899, p. 8.
31. Our appreciation is
extended to Mr. Leslie Harris, prominent civic and business figure of San
Bernardino and descendant of a pioneer Southern California Jewish family, who
introduced us to Mrs. Kustiner. The latter, who has had the memoirs in her
possession for a short time, was kind enough to allow us to copy and publish