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Annals of Early Sierra Madre

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Annals of Early Sierra Madre was first published in 1950: Google Books

First Businesses in Sierra Madre

First Businesses in Sierra Madre was written by Mrs. Stella Norris Dennison and C. W. Jones.

The Hamburger Department Store, located on North Spring Street about where the present City Hall is standing, was one notable example of Sierra Madre's contribution to early Los Angeles structures, being faced by cut slabs of said [huge granite] boulders. Another, according to Louis Newcomb, as the foundation of the old red sandstone court house in Los Angeles and the present retaining wall which originally surrounded the Court House and now supports the open park, after the razing of said Court House some few years ago. Dennison & Jones, p 84 - 85

A City Boy in Sierra Madre in the 1880's

A City Boy in Sierra Madre in the 1880's was written by John W Hart, eldest son of Professor John J Hart. John W Hart was a lawyer in the Department of the District Attorney in Los Angeles.

We boys soon spotted all the reservoirs. I have swum in all of them . . . Pierce's, a tiny one on Spalding's, but I think the favorite was the Learned reservoir because the house was not occupied. I remember on one occasion that as we dived and swam there we heard a rattlesnake sounding off in the bush and, as he seemed to get nearer and nearer, we searched him out and killed him. The rattler was in a no more complete state of nature than we were. Hart, p 97

To go on, in September or October of 1887, I entered the Los Angeles High School, which was then situated between Fifth and Sixth Streets, running from Spring Street to Fort Street (now Broadway), the site is now occupied by the Arcade Building. Within a few weeks my schooling was interrupted by a severe illness, pleurisy, and my fifteenth birthday was spent in bed. Hart, p 100

Provisions were obtained from Los Angeles (Pasadena was only a rural settlement) or, to a certain extent, from the Baldwin store, kept for the benefit of the laborers on the ranch. Did I say benefit of the laborers? Well, perhaps, but it was generally believed that those workers were always in debt to the store no matter how hard and long they had worked. Hart, p 102

Trips to Los Angeles were a hard day's work. If anyone was planning to make the trip, the fact became generally known and the neighbors needing something or other, cloth or provisisions, were likely to drop in and ask to have that something or other brought home. My opportunities were when I neeeded clothing or shoes, or a haricut. These rare trips were, of course, a great treat to me -- eating lunch in some restauant, and the life gnerally. We had some sage plants at home and I used to clip and dr the leaves and sell them in Los Angeles for a little spending money. It seemed to me that it tok about one hundred pounds of green leaves to make one of dried. Hart, p 102

I have mentioed the fact that there wer no pave streets inn Los Angeles. I might truthfully have said that there wer none outside Los Angeles. When trips were contemplated, neighbors debated as to whether the Mission Road or the other was freest from chuck holes and dust -- whether to go viia the Old Covered Bridge over the river, or not. Hart, p 102

I think it took over two hours to drive into Los Angeles, and considerably over that, before our old Ned walked, with a slow clippety-clop, up the Sierra Madre Avenue hill at the end of the day. Later we had a team of fine oung horses who did the trip without so much effort. Because of the dust, it was customary to have a feather duster hanging at the front doors, to dust the shoes of callers. Hart, p 103

By 1886 the Santa Fe, under the name of the San Gabriel Valley Railroad Company, had been partially built and a land boom was started. New arrivals had considerably increased the population and one subdivision after another was mapped and advertised. Free picnics, with a brass band from Los Angeles, were not uncommon, and the loud voice of the auctioneer was p 104 → 105 heard in the land. It was regarded as an obligation, a sort of local patriotism, to attend these sales and to buy one or more lots. In other words, the inhabitants engaged in the pleasant compliment of buying each other's lots. Little or no money changed hands. Contracts of sale were signed with perhaps a very small, if any, down payment. Many tales were told of how Sam bought lots from Bill for $300 each and resold them the same day for $500 each, etc., etc. Men who had shown every sign of poverty before the boom now walked the streets with heads up and chins out, wearing good clothes and talking proudly about plans for starting a bank or a trip to Europe. If any one ventured to point out that booms in other parts of the country had exploded and brought disaster, the answer was always ready that conditions here, as to climate and this and that, made the situation entirely different. Nevertheless, it blew up in 1887, and left many persons impoverished.

Notwithstanding the boom and its collapse, the place continued to grow. it was at firs advertised principally as a suitable place for persons with lung troubles. A large proportion of the early residents came to Sierra Madre because they were victims of tuberculosis. many who came early enough lived to a good age, but there were many ghostly victims in the last stages of the disease to be seen, not only on the streets of Sierra Madre, but in Los Angeles and on trains. Hart, p 104-105

Here is as appropriate place as any to say that most outdoor labor was performed by Chinese, who were paid about $1.00 per day. Several years after we came to Sierra Madre, the top wage for a white man was $1.50 per day, and it was not an eight-hour day either. Household servants were rare indeed. Some of the more affluent kept a Chinese cook, who also did other household work. Hart, p 107