Saturday, November 25, 2006

Roving to Monrovia

Nov. 24, 1907

The Times real estate section takes a look at what was then the distant suburb of Monrovia, 22 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The writer notes the increasing use of concrete and stone, explaining that the cost of lumber is forcing builders to use other materials. The writer also notes the broad, shaded verandas of three featured homes as well as the outlines of their roofs.

The story highlights the home of B.R. Davisson on East Orange Avenue, H.M. Slemmons (or Slemon) on North Myrtle Avenue and the home of John C. Rupp at Ivy and Greystone, built for $6,500 ($133,403.21 USD 2005).

Without exact addresses, it would be difficult for me to locate the Davisson and Slemmons homes, but I took a pleasant drive out to Monrovia recently to look for the Rupp house and was happy to find
that it is still standing and in beautiful condition. In fact, it was nice to discover that the neighborhood has quite a few well-maintained historic homes; a contrast to the condition of the houses I located in Pico Heights.

I had a brief chat with the homeowner who gave me a tour of the grounds. He said that Rupp, a financier, built the home for his wife, but that she decided it was too far from Los Angeles and wouldn’t live there. That’s apparently true, because Rupp put the home on the market in 1911.

Note that the ad for the home mentions a solar heater. I have no idea what this was and the homeowner didn't know anything about it. Obviously a subject for further research.

The homeowner also mentioned the Monrovia Old House Preservation Group, which has a website and offers a self-guided tour. I cannot vouch for these folks, but it does sound interesting and the area has some lovely old homes.

To get to the Rupp house, take the Foothill Freeway and get off at Santa Anita in Arcadia. Turn north and go to Foothill Boulevard and then turn right (east) and then left on Ivy. The home is at 269 N. Ivy. While you’re there, look at the large stone house on the northeast corner, built in 1894. I’ll post some pictures when I get the film developed (we’re old school around here).

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Slaughter of the Innocent

Nov. 23, 1907
South Pasadena

Warning: This is a grotesque, tragic story with graphic details.

Pasadena Detective Wallace H. Copping is investigating the murder of a young baby boy, whose half-eaten body was found in a pigpen on the Berry ranch in South Pasadena.

Authorities say the boy, weighing about 14 pounds and less than 10 days old (yes, quite a large baby by today's standards), was discovered by Mrs. J.H. Anderson, whose husband leases the ranch. Apparently Mr. Anderson picked up the baby’s body as he made the rounds of about 20 homes gathering garbage to feed his pigs.

After the garbage was dumped into the pigpen, Mrs. Anderson “was surprised at the uproar among the swine and investigated.”

“To her horror, she saw the nude body of a baby, with the legs eaten away above the knees and the right arm torn away.” The Times said: “Mrs. Anderson risked her life to rush in and rescue the body of the infant.” Further investigation showed that the baby boy had been struck in the head with a hatchet.

Police dug through the debris, gathering anything that would identify the source of the garbage, and accompanied Anderson as he retraced his route, making inquiries at each home. The body was put on display at a local mortuary, with police taking the names of the hundreds of people who came in an unsuccessful attempt to identify the boy.

Police theorized that the mother had entrusted the baby to the father, who killed the boy rather than find it a loving home. Given the sensational publicity, they hoped that she would recognize the baby’s description and contact authorities. But unfortunately, The Times has nothing further about this case.

Bonus fact: Wallace H. Copping, a Spanish War veteran, died in 1949, at the age of 75.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Love That Would Not Die

Nov. 22, 1907
Los Angeles

Weeping and heavily bandaged from where her drunk, enraged husband had shot her in the head, Ellen Larkin, 38, rose from her hospital bed, staggered to a nearby room and threw herself into the arms of her injured spouse. She covered him with kisses, vowing that she still loved him, and promised that he could come home as soon as he recovered from shooting himself and being nearly beaten to death with a baseball bat by their oldest son.

According to The Times, Jefferson B. Larkin, 45, a sometime teamster, horse player and “remittance man,” had returned to Los Angeles after spending four months in San Francisco while John, 16, the oldest of the Larkins’ four children, supported the family. As Larkin got thoroughly drunk, someone told him that his wife had been unfaithful, so he went to a pawnshop and bought a cheap revolver.

Larkin went in the backdoor of the home at 417 S. Colyton and found his wife in the kitchen with their four children: John, Isabelle, 10; Effie, 6; and Helen, 14 months. “He accused his wife of every vile thing he could lay his tongue to,” The Times said.

Larkin fired and missed, then shot his wife in the head as she leaped to grab the gun, with the bullet entering her scalp above the left ear and coming out the skin at the back of her head. Before he could fire again, John returned from taking his younger siblings to safety and struck his father in the head with a baseball bat with all his strength, then continued hitting him on the shoulders and in the chest.

Staggering to the door, Larkin walked to 7th Street, where he shot himself twice, then wandered to a rooming house, rented a room for $1 and called a doctor. He was expected to survive.

“I am not sorry that I hit him,” John said. “He intended to shoot mother again, but I hit him just in time to daze him. I hardly knew what I had done until after it was all over. I hope he don’t die now that mamma is not hurt.”

At the hospital, Larkin said: “I heard that she intended to get a divorce from me and I came to Los Angeles yesterday to settle matters. I decided to kill her and myself, too. I knew if I did this my mother and father who are in New York would take care of the children.”

Ellen left her husband’s hospital room after they vowed eternal love and affection, The Times said. Meanwhile, John went to the police station to swear out a complaint against his father. “I want to know when he leaves the hospital so that he won’t have a chance to get away from me,” he said. “I’ll put him where he belongs.”

There’s no further record of this case. However, The Times reported next year that a penniless youth named John Larkin had made the trip from Los Angeles to Patterson, N.J., to visit his grandparents. He started out riding on top of a passenger train, but was thrown off in San Bernardino, then snuck a ride on a train to Salt Lake City, where he earned dinner by washing dishes in a restaurant.

Arrested in Ogden, Utah, he served a 10-day sentence as water boy for the chain gang, caught an express train to Cheyenne, Wyo., worked his way to Chicago and then Cleveland. He finally snuck a ride on a train to New York, begged a ticket on the ferry and rode to Patterson on the trucks of the Erie Railroad’s dining car. He was 13.

Mark Twain defines “remittance man” in “Following the Equator.”

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Murderous Mother

Nov. 21, 1907
Los Angeles

The woman who threw her baby from an inbound train was arrested at her mother’s home at 12th Street and San Pedro after the girl's nurse contacted authorities, saying that she read about the incident in the newspaper and suspected the woman because she took the baby on a trip while leaving all the infant’s clothes at home.

Louise [or Louisa] Williams, who is in custody in San Bernardino, says the baby’s father “is a worthless mulatto, sometimes employed as a porter on the Salt Lake Overland trains,” according to The Times.

Despite initial reports that a passenger saw the infant thrown from the train and leaped off to rescue her, The Times says that the baby girl was found by a tramp who contacted Mr. Mattock, a nearby rancher. Mattock was afraid to move the injured baby without official permission, so left her there until he could contact police.

Mattock took the baby to his home, but she died of her injuries shortly after a doctor arrived.

On Feb. 19, 1908, Louise Williams pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Cramer B. Morris, her attorney, noted that Williams was only 17 and said she threw the baby off the train because “she was suddenly overwhelmed with the shame of meeting her mother and sisters at Los Angeles, who had not learned of her ruin.”

On March 2, 1908, Williams was sentenced to five years in San Quentin, despite testimony that she was mentally unstable. “After sentence was pronounced, women in the courtroom broke into heartbroken cries, but the girl smiled, apparently unaffected, The Times said.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Highwaymen Captured

Nov. 20, 1907
Los Angeles

Police battling the current crime wave say they have arrested two men who staged daring holdups on the Ascot Park and Eastlake streetcars, robbing the motormen and conductors as the cars reached the ends of their routes. These holdups had so infuriated local officials that Chief Kern armed bicycle officers with shotguns and ordered mounted policemen to resume patrolling the city.

In each case, robbers waited at the end of a streetcar route, when the trolley was empty except for the motorman and conductor, overpowered the men and robbed them. The bandits only took money or guns.

Officials say that S.A. Kursting and Frank O’Keefe immediately confessed to petty crimes and said they believed the men were trying to avoid more serious charges. Police say a copycat holdup of the Bimini Baths car was staged by the men’s friends to divert suspicion.

Despite the arrests, further holdups continued in San Bernardino and officials of the Los Angeles Railway are considering whether to formally issue firearms to conductors and motormen, some of whom are already carrying guns. A special squad is sweeping through the Los Angeles River bed and railroad yards, arresting hobos and vagrants.

In the meantime, city officials are wondering what to do with men who have been arrested since the jail is full. One suggestion is to build a stockade in the riverbed. The Times notes that many of the men are being herded together and sent out of town. I wonder if this is an instance of the old practice of “floating,” in which police dropped off criminals or other undesirables at the county line.

After reporting the initial arrests, The Times has no further word about Kursting or O’Keefe.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Crime Wave Sweeps L.A.

Nov. 19, 1907
Los Angeles

An influx of crooks, petty hoodlums and vagrants drawn by good weather and horse racing at Santa Anita are blamed for a siege of crime throughout the city. The jail is so crowded—300 being held in a building designed for 125—that 95 men arrested for intoxication between Saturday night and Monday morning were released because there was no room for them. Drunks who posed no danger were merely put on a streetcar for a ride home, The Times says.

Carl Chrisensen [Christensen?], who had just served two months for vagrancy, was among 35 men sentenced to the chain gang for being homeless. Officers said Christensen begged at the back doors of homes and wore fraternal pins of the Masons and Eagles to gain housewives’ sympathy. When arrested, he was found to be carrying burglary tools, and he was sentenced to six months’ hard labor.

Two black LAPD officers, Glenn and Stevens, said they arrested a pair of robbers while looking for hobos in the Southern Pacific railroad yards near 4th Street. The officers said that one man begged for money while the other man tried to get behind them. Officer Glenn whirled around and stuck his service pistol in the man’s stomach. When arrested, the man was found to be gripping a heavy revolver in his pocket.

Officers Glenn and Stevens also reported raiding a gambling operation at 1st Street and San Pedro, arresting “twenty-two bad Negroes, men and women,” according to The Times.

In other crime news, a woman is being sought after throwing her infant from the inbound California Limited around Rancho Cucamonga. A man on the train saw the baby land in mud and leaped off to rescue it.

Robbers broke into the Dake’s Lunch Room in the basement at 414½ S. Broadway, slid the safe into “a big ice chest” and blew it open with nitroglycerin, taking about $75 ($1,539.27 USD 2005) but ignoring several checks.

“The lunchroom is located on one of the busiest streets of the city and supposed to be protected by the police and by two or three agency officers who patrol the stores, yet the robbers worked with safety and had plenty of time,” The Times says.

Finally, Police Surgeon Joseph B. Tanner is recuperating after a brawl at the Receiving Hospital with Frank Scholtz, who was arrested for being insane. Because the mental ward is overcrowded, patients have to be placed with the general population of the hospital, The Times says.

As Tanner was hurrying to attend to an emergency, Scholtz grabbed him by the coat and began hitting him, smashing Tanner’s eyeglasses so that the broken shards cut his face. Tanner wrestled Scholtz to the floor and the men rolled over and over until Tanner got on top and beat and choked Scholtz into submission, The Times said. Police Surgeon Quint rushed to Tanner’s aid and handcuffed Scholtz, then treated Tanner’s wounds.

The Times is curiously silent on what treatment, if any, was administered to Scholtz.

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