RANCHOS DE LOS SANTOS
The Story of Burbank
Written by the Publicity Department
Burbank Branch Security Trust & Savings Bank
Published by the Burbank Branch of the Security Trust & Savings Bank
And Dedicated to the Continuing Growth of Burbank, the Community
Scanned and converted into HTML by Wes Clark, August, 2010
POETS we know they were, who, with long, rhythmic, descriptive words which only the easy-going padres could have taken time to enunciate-gave hallowed names to the lovely California landscape. Part of Burbank they called Rancho San Rafael, another part, Rancho La Providencia.
That these names were wonderfully consistent then, who may doubt? But what of the present? Could these canny folk of the Spanish era have foreseen that, when their pastoral leagues had been cut up into factory sites throbbing with the machinery of the Anglo-Saxon, the Spirit of Tranquility would still persist; and that the bustling newcomers would have the marvelous good taste to set out these gentle slopes in drooping peppers, and beneath them build their homes in keeping with the poetry of it all? Indeed, is not this region still the Ranchos of the Saints?
Verily, these pioneer poets, long since gathered to their fathers, likewise must have been prophets!
RANCHOS DE LOS SANTOS
The Story of Burbank
JAMES MONROE, fifth President of the United States, was thinking more of the West Coast, California, and Russia perhaps when he proclaimed his famous Doctrine than he was of South America and European expansion there. This fact is almost lost sight of today.
During Thomas Jefferson's second administration Prince Rezanof, intrepid Russian explorer and colonizer, had visited California and sent back the following report to the Czar:
"If Russia would engage in an advantageous commerce with these parts and procure from them provisions for the supply of her northern settlements, the only means of doing it is by planting a colony of her own. In a country which is blessed with so mild a climate as California, where there is such a plenty of wood and water, with so many other means for the support of life and several excellent harbors, persons of enterprising spirits might, in a few years, establish a very flourishing colony."
Six years later an opportunity came for the Czar to act on Rezanofs suggestion. In March, 1811, when the United States was deep in its controversy with Great Britain that was to end in the War of 1812, Russia took possession of Bodega Bay, 30 miles north of San Francisco, and established on its shores, Fort Rossiya, or Fort Ross, as it is called today. Ivan Alexandrovich Kuskof was the commander and his first act was to rename Bodega Bay. He called it Rumiantzof Bay.
The colony was a success from the start and emboldened by the favorable prospects for further expansion, the Czar, late in 1822, issued a proclamation excluding all other nations from commerce and fishing in north Pacific Coast waters. The American President lost no time in answering the ruler of the Russians. In a message to Congress in 1823, he said: "The occasion has been judged proper for asserting as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent conditions which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power."
Thus was California saved to the American people. In 1825 Russia recognized the principle laid down by Monroe, agreed not to extend the influence of Fort Ross, and in 1839 sold the place with all its concessions and equipment to Captain John A. Sutter of Sacramento. By 1840 there was not a Russian left on the California Coast.
At the time the courageous Virginia President penned his historic message that remains to this day the keystone of American foreign policy, a baby boy was born up in New England who was to benefit by that action more than most of his fellows. Had Russia remained in California or had England extended her domain down the Coast and taken this section from Mexico as she had planned, David Burbank probably would have lived all his days among the New Hampshire hills where he first saw the light. Instead, however, we find him while still in his thirties giving up a good medical practice and joining in the great migration that was to take him to the opposite side of the American continent where lay a new destiny before him. He could not wait until Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, completed the survey for a railroad route before starting on the long, long journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He found his way as best he might on horseback and in covered wagons over the Indian infested trails marked by the goldseekers. He arrived in San Francisco in the middle fifties after a perilous trip and was again well established in his profession before the Civil War broke out. After the war he came to Los Angeles.
The pueblo of Los Angeles was a new experience even for one as accustomed to frontier life as was Dr. Burbank by this time. No place of the same size in all the Far West was still so predominately Spanish. The Castilian and Mexican tongues were heard more than English on the streets. Adobe houses still outnumbered those built of wood. Saloons with open gambling seemed to outnumber all other places of business combined. The town was "shot up" with great regularity. Every weekend furnished its quota of killings. The coroner made a fortune. There wasn't a foot of paving in town; there were no railroads in all Southern California and only semi-weekly mail service between Los Angeles and San Diego, the next largest place. There were no newspapers, the editor of the Star having moved to San Bernardino hoping for better support. The lone Protestant Church had great difficulty in retaining a minister, so slender was the attendance and interest. The lone public schoolhouse was located at Second and Spring Streets. A police force and fire department were minus quantities. Street sprinkling was done personally by the merchants standing in front of their places of business with a hose. Public conveyances were entirely lacking. There were no banks or loan offices; there were no men's or women's clubs, no temperance or other organizations except a Masonic and an Odd Fellows Lodge. There was no theatre, no music hall, although small wandering theatrical and minstrel companies occasionally put in an appearance and gave performances in a hall. Circuses came annually from Mexico and did a good business. Where the Alexandria Hotel now stands there was a stable, and across the street, the present site of the Security Trust & Savings Bank was a corral. A woodyard occupied the present site of the Angelus Hotel.
Dr. Burbank nevertheless found life in the pueblo attractive and interesting, despite primitive conditions and surroundings. There were no coteries or cliques. The Mexican, the European, the American, the Jew, the Catholic and the Protestant all met on terms of social equality. There was scarce a night without a ball or dancing party being held somewhere in the pueblo. The bonvivant could obtain many of the good things of life for almost nothing. A finely-fattened turkey hen of ten pounds could be procured for from 50 to 75 cents and chickens from 15 to 20 cents. Canvasbacks and Mallards ranged from $1.50 to $2.00 a dozen. Porterhouse steaks ranged from 7 to 10 cents a pound. Fish were caught and peddled by Chinamen who cleaned and sold them at not over 5 cents a pound.
When Dr. Burbank arrived he found the pueblo still talking about Joseph Lancaster Brent. Brent had left at the outbreak of the war for his native Virginia, fought valiantly throughout the four long years of the conflict and was the last Confederate general to surrender. Official war records show that he laid down his sword to General Canby at New Orleans on May 23, 1865, many weeks after Lee had surrendered to Grant, and Jefferson Davis had been thrown into irons. In fact some time after these historic events took place, Brent, together with Kirby Smith, had led a Confederate force which decisively defeated a Union force at Palmetto Ranch on the Brownsville Road out of Brazos.
General Brent had spent about a decade in Southern California prior to the war and had built up a fortune as an attorney. Directly following the admission of California to the Union, Congress felt the necessity of passing on the validity of the great Spanish and Mexican land grants and created a commission for that purpose. By the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the United States was bound to respect the property rights of the Californians, but many titles were of doubtful origin. Edwin M. Stanton was sent out to collect and arrange the archives of Spanish California. The hearings before the commission attracted some of the ablest legal talent in the United States. The fees were large, many attorneys frequently bargaining for half the lands, contingent on confirmation. General Brent was one of the most brilliant of these pioneer lawyers. He had come on a windjammer around the Horn from Baltimore in 1851, bringing with him the first law library in Southern California.
Brent was looked upon as a good politician as well as a good attorney. He was elected to the State Legislature shortly after his arrival. The Democratic Party was dominant in Southern California and he dominated the party from the start, nominating whomever he willed. He quickly mastered the Spanish language and became a great favorite with the native population. Newmark, in his "Sixty Years in Southern California," tells of seeing Brent leading Julio Verdugo and his 13 sons to the polls regularly every election day, each with the proper ballot in his hand. It was not an unusual sight to see Julio and some of his sons riding into Los Angeles from Burbank and Glendale, then known as Verdugo, but on election morning one standing on an Elysian hillside could be certain of counting 14 well-fed bronchos with a Verdugo astride each, clattering down the dusty riverbank road toward the pueblo to keep the Verdugan engagement with the trusted friend and attorney.
Brent was indeed an outstanding American of his day. Had he returned after the Civil War he might have become even more prominent in pioneer Southern California history. The last we read of him was the leading part he played as the Democratic National Committeeman from Louisiana in the nomination of Grover Cleveland for President. In Los Angeles he was a Vigilante and as such, was as greatly feared outside the courtroom as he was inside as an attorney. He made one trip to Washington while living here and brought back with him the first patent ever issued by the government on a Spanish grant. His return was a triumphal event in early history. The only criticism we read of him was of his action as president of the first Board of Education in locating the first school "so far out in the country." That was the school which Dr. Burbank found fifteen years later at Second and Spring Streets.
Possibly it was the soldier in both Brent and Verdugo that attracted these men one to the other from their first meeting. Julio Verdugo had come from a long line of soldiers noted for their bravery and daring. His father, Jose Maria, had served the King of Spain so valiantly as a member of the California military that in his old age he was rewarded with the first private land grant ever made in this state. Rancho San Rafael was not only the first grant but one of the largest ever made during the Spanish occupation. It contained eight leagues of land, stretching from the Arroyo Seco to Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando, including Glendale, Garvanza, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, York Valley, Casa Verdugo and much of Burbank.
Napoleon had not yet emerged from Corsica and Cornwallis had surrendered to Washington, but three years before Don Jose Maria Verdugo came into possession of this far-flung principality. He had petitioned for the land to Pedro Fages, first Spanish Governor of California, in the fall of 1784. The title was finally confirmed by the signature of Governor Wilgo de Boria, January 12, 1798.
The general understanding regarding the gift was that it should in no way injure the Mission San Gabriel, that the owner should raise and keep 2000 head of stock, should build a stone house, and should provide two fanegas of wheat or maize for the general good of the community. Don Jose Maria raised much stock, turned up a little of his vast earth with a wooden plow, threshed grain by forcing oxen to trample upon it, and winnowed it by tossing it up into the wind. He also raised some frijoles and doubtless red peppers, planted vines and made wine. Primitive farming was no easy task and the raising of a bushel of grain meant much real work.
Jose Maria Verdugo died April 3, 1831, and his body was borne for burial to his beloved Mission San Gabriel, which he had guarded many years. He willed his great rancho to two children, Julio, a son, and Catalina, a daughter, who owned it in common down to the time of the American conquest. When Congress created the Land Commission, Julio and Catalina presented their claim to Rancho San Rafael. This was in 1852. The claim was confirmed on September 11, 1855.
During Spanish and Mexican days it was customary to measure real estate with a rawhide reata. Endless labor fell to subsequent surveyors in checking up the vagaries of this unscientific method. The first description recorded of the San Rafael Rancho sometimes called "Zanza," mentioned it as being "four leagues from Los Angeles across the river." The United States patent issued February 3, 1871, was a trifle more definite, saying, "Commencing at the source of the Arroyo Hondo (Arroyo Seco) which Arroyo crosses the old road running from Mission San Gabriel to Monterey, at a distance of about one and one-half leagues from the Mission, said boundary line running from source of Arroyo downstream to mouth of the Los Angeles River, then upriver to a place where said river emerges from the Sierra to the mountain called Cahuenga; thence in a northerly direction from said mountain to the Cerrito Colorado, and from thence to the place of beginning." Not satisfied with this, several thousand words were used to further describe the meandering border line of this princely domain. Surveyor G. Howard Thompson did a good job for the government, much to the comfort of the tens of thousands of Americans who have since built their homes on the great rancho. His survey showed a total of 36,403.32 acres in the original grant.
Julio and Catalina made an equal division of the rancho between them in 1861, the brother taking the southern portion and the sister the northern. Both of them appear to have sold portions of their parts of the estate at different times. The boundaries of the tracts were never clearly defined, and this, added to the fact that both brother and sister contracted many unwise debts, led finally to the "Great Partition" by which the greater part of the land passed out of the possession of the Verdugos entirely.
During the life of Don Jose Maria and his children, the "Day of the Don" both reached its zenith and passed into history. Doubtless the great rancho saw its share of romance and glory. Sprawling in the path of travel between Missions San Gabriel and San Fernando along El Camino Real, it witnessed the coming and going of Fray Junipero Serra and his followers, of lighthearted, irresponsible and roystering soldiery, of fleet-footed, long-horned cattle pursued by dashing vaqueros, of heavily-laden, slow-moving pack trains following winding trails to the tinkling of silvery bells; of solid-wheeled bull-carts, squeaking and groaning as they were dragged over the rocks by sullen, leadenfooted beasts lashed by thongs to their galling yokes. It saw the primitive Spanish life at its flood-tide, its rounds of feasts and festivals, its sports and pastimes, its lovemaking, its quarrels, intrigues and rivalries. Up and down its length had fiercely charged the soldiers of bloodless revolutions; bandits had lurked in its arroyos; political plots had been hatched within its uncertain borders. The Treaty of Cahuenga, signed at its very edge, and marking the passage of rule from Latin to Anglo-Saxon, made it American property - in the soil of which thousands yet unborn might settle, take root and rear their rooftrees in tranquil security.
Some claim that it was under the large oak tree in front of the old Verdugo adobe in Verdugo Canyon that this famous treaty was signed by Generals Fremont and Andres Pico. According to Bancroft, however, it was here that Jesus Pico, who had been captured by Fremont in Salinas Valley, met his brother Andres and delivered the famous demand from Fremont. Following a midnight conference with General Flores at Adobe Flores on Rancho San Pasqual, General Pico advanced his men from their camp in Verdugo Canyon across the valley to Cahuenga Pass and laid down his arms.
In surrendering as he did in 1847, thereby closing the Mexican War in California, General Pico only completed a word-picture made in May of the previous year by his brother, Governor Pio Pico. Speaking before the Departmental Assembly which was favorably considering the proposal to annex California to England, the last Mexican Governor said, "We find ourselves threatened by hordes of Yankee immigrants who have already begun to flock into our country and whose progress we cannot arrest. Already have the wagons of that perfidious people scaled the almost inaccessible summits of the Sierra Nevadas, crossed the entire continent and penetrated the fruitful valley of the Sacramento. What that astonishing people will next undertake I cannot say, but on whatever enterprise they embark, they will be sure to be successful. Already the adventurous voyagers, spreading themselves far and wide over a country which seems to meet their taste, are cultivating farms, establishing vineyards, erecting mills, sawing up lumber and doing a thousand and one things which seem natural to them."
With the American government once in legal possession of the country, the American as an individual rapidly supplanted the native Californian as land owner. General Brent purchased a portion of Rancho San Rafael in 1855, a total of 671 acres along the river, known then and since as the Santa Eulalia Ranch. The purchase price was 4000 pesos. Two years later Julio and Catalina Verdugo traded a tract on the west side of the rancho, containing 4603 acres and comprising much of the present site of Burbank, to Jonathan R. Scott for the Rancho La Canada of 5745 acres. Rancho La Canada had been granted to Ygnacio Coronel by Governor Manuel Micheltorena in 1843. When Coronel presented his claim to the Land Commission and the case was carried to the District Court, he engaged Scott and Benjamin Hayes as his attorneys. They won the case for Coronel and after receiving official confirmation of his title, the noted Spaniard, whose son, Antonio, was the last of his race to act as mayor of Los Angeles, conveyed the entire ranch by deed under date of January 12, 1852 and $700 additional in money, to his attorneys in exchange for professional services during the suit.
Hayes sold his interest in Rancho La Canada to Scott on February 12, 1853, for $2500 and on the same day Scott gave a mortgage to Don Abel Stearns on the rancho for $600 with interest at 2 ½ per cent a month. The great tract included the present Flintridge, La Canada, Montrose, La Crescenta, Tujunga and Monte Vista.
The sale to Scott and Hayes was typical perhaps of a great many that followed all over Southern California and especially on Rancho San Rafael. Both Julio and Catalina, through the contraction of many debts, were forced to sell portions of their land from time to time to satisfy their creditors. Unfortunate deals kept them constantly in court. It was evident that the lawyers justified their exorbitant fees by the ruinous rates of interest they themselves were forced to pay on their own mortgages. Such were the accepted standards of business practice of that time.
Jonathan R. Scott, the first American to own land in the Rancho San Rafael portion of Burbank, was one of the most picturesque of the pioneer attorneys in Southern California. He was described as a physical and intellectual giant who in a plea to a jury was a "regular tornado." He had come by ox team from Missouri in '49, arriving during that interesting period following the close of the Mexican War when the people of Los Angeles were still governed by Mexican municipal laws administered by Mexican and American born officials. Scott became the first American justice of the peace and as such, administered the oath of office to the first city council on July 3, 1850. He was a most public-spirited citizen and was "ready for any useful purpose." In company with Abel Stearns he built the first brick flouring mill in 1855 and about two years before his death, which occurred in 1864, he planted extensive vineyards. When the county government was being organized he was a member of the Court of Sessions, the motive power that started the county machinery going. With the institution of the county he became a member of the original Superior Court, but more important still, perhaps, he presided over the "trials" which the Vigilantes conducted when they were clearing the country of bad characters by more direct and effective if less deliberate methods.
The members of the first Los Angeles City Council which Judge Scott swore in were Don Juan Temple, Manuel Reguena, Morris L. Goodman, Cristoval Aguilar, Julian Charvez, Alexander Bell and David W. Alexander. With the single exception of Goodman, who was a Jew, all had been citizens of Mexico by birth or naturalization. To Alexander and Bell goes the honor of being the first Americans ever to own land in any portion of Burbank. Directly south of Scott's portion of Rancho San Rafael was Rancho La Providencia, a Mexican land grant of some 4600 acres, which, when the Mexicans' enjoyment of independence from Spain was at its flood-tide, had been given to Commandante J. Castro, Luis Arenas and Vincente de la Ossa. Upon its broad acres was fought the historic battle of La Providencia that was to end in the death of a horse and a mule, but which, nevertheless, unsealed Governor Emmanuel Micheltorena and placed Pio Pico in his place. As can well be imagined, the battle was fought at long range.
Associated with Pico in the rebellion were Manuel Castro, Juan Bautista Alvarado and Benjamin D. (Don Benito) Wilson heading a company of 22 Yankees. As Henry K. Norton says, Micheltorena managed to gather a force of nearly four hundred men and started south to crush the rebels. But the rebels did not wait to be crushed. They immediately retreated. In the pursuit, the governor was careful not to come within a hundred miles of them until the rebels picked up courage and returned from Los Angeles to meet him. The two forces mustered about an equal number of men. They came within long cannon range of each other at Cahuenga, the scene of a previous civil conflict. The Mexicans had three cannons and the Californians two. Heavy cannonading from these batteries continued throughout the afternoon, but as both armies kept in close shelter under the banks of the Los Angeles River, little damage was done. A Mexican horse's head was shot off and a California mule was injured by the flying debris. During the night some flanking was attempted which brought the armies together again the next morning at La Providencia. For almost two hours the cannonading was again indulged in without visible result, when Micheltorena raised the white flag and proposed a capitulation. This was accepted by the rebels and the erstwhile governor was unceremoniously shipped out of the country. The real reason for his surrender was the desertion of a company of Yankees with him to the Yankees headed by Wilson on the other side.
To this day Burbank people dig up cannon balls from time to time in their gardens. One of them is pictured in this booklet. It was unearthed by Thomas Story, Burbank's first mayor.
La Providencia, battle-scarred rancho of divine appellation, was to come into the hands of Councilmen Bell and Alexander, of whom we have just spoken. The former was a Pennsylvanian who went to Mexico during the administration of James Monroe and for nineteen years engaged in trade there. In 1842 he came to Los Angeles via Guaymas and Mazatlan, became a prominent merchant and an equally prominent Vigilante. Alexander was an Irish trader from New Mexico who first ranched in the San Bernardino region and later engaged in business with Don Juan Temple in the Pueblo de Los Angeles. He strongly favored the Americans in the trouble of 1846 and was one of the prisoners taken at the Battle of Chino along with Captain B. D. Wilson. After the Mexican War he became Collector of Customs at San Pedro. When he and Bell acquired Rancho La Providencia there was difficulty with General Andres Pico in establishing the boundary between it and Pico's great principality, Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando. A commission composed of Colonel J. J. Warner, H. D. Barrows and Matthew Keller finally settled the matter to the satisfaction of all. La Providencia was acquired for 37 1/2 cents an acre. In selling to the Americans Vicente de la Ossa wrote: "The sum of $1500 which has been paid to my entire satisfaction is the first price and true value of aforesaid ranch. It is not worth more nor have I found anyone to give any more for same."
When the United States government finally issued a patent to Rancho La Providencia on December 22, 1871, it was in the name of Mr. Alexander. As a matter of fact, however, the great tract had, on March 20, 1867, been deeded by Alexander and Bell to Dr. David Burbank.
At about this same time events of importance were taking place on San Rafael, the great neighboring rancho. As has been stated, Julio and Catalina Verdugo, through the contraction of many debts, were forced to sell portions of their land from time to time to satisfy their creditors. Seemingly they were always in court because of some business indiscretion. The upshot of these conditions was the "Great Partition" of 1870, one of the most historic land cases in California. The case was brought by Andrew Glassell, Albert B. Chapman, Prudent Beaudry and O. W. Childs, complainants; against 36 defendants, chief of whom were Fernando Sepulveda, Mrs. Rafaella Verdugo Sepulveda, Francisco P. Ramirez, David Burbank, J. D. Hunter, George H. Howard, V. E. Howard, W. C. B. Richardson, S. H. Mott and Claus Hendrickson. Glassell and Chapman, distinguished members of the bar, conducted the case for their side. They claimed the defendants were either in possession as tenants in common, or else possessed land, the boundaries of which had never been accurately determined. The plea was that "all open and valid claims be determined and all void and invalid claims be dissolved and rejected and that a full and complete partition of the land be made according to the rights and interests of the parties entitled to same."
The court decreed that Rancho San Rafael and also Rancho La Canada, formerly owned by Scott, should be partitioned, and it appointed William Moore, Benjamin D. Eaton and A. W. Hutton as referees. Their findings, filed a year later, ordered that the ranchos be divided into 31 different parts among 28 persons. Benjamin Dreyfus of Anaheim was the largest single beneficiary with an award of 8000 acres in Eagle Rock and Tropico. He had paid 10 cents an acre for this land. Teodoro and Maria Catalina Verdugo were awarded more than 3300 acres between them. Mrs. Rafaella Verdugo Sepulveda received 909 acres. Many other members of the Verdugo family were not nearly so fortunate. O. W. Childs received 371 acres, C. E. Thom 724 acres, Prudent Beaudry 1702 acres. Glassell and Chapman were awarded the great Rancho La Canada of 5745 acres and more than 2000 acres in Garvanza, Highland Park and York Valley. Dr. Burbank was awarded the 4607 acres which he had previously purchased from Jonathan R. Scott.
The "Great Partition" with its confirmation of Scott's portion of Rancho San Rafael to Dr. Burbank and the latter's purchase of Rancho La Providencia from Bell and Alexander led the way to the wedding of these land grants of hallowed name, whose happy offspring was to be the City of Burbank. The two ranchos were united when Dr. Burbank sold his holdings to the Providencia Land, Water and Development Company in 1886. This company took the two tracts, surveyed and platted them as a single piece. Burbank came into being the following year. May 1, 1887, was the birthday. "Land and ocean, mountain and valley, sunshine and shade, offer here their choicest benefactions to prolong the lives of the feeble and enhance the enjoyment of the robust. In no place are these natural advantages more remarkably manifest than in the San Fernando Valley, in which are spread the broad acres of Providencia and on whose sightliest eminence stands the new townsite of Burbank." So declared the company in its advertising literature which drew people during that "boom time" year from all parts of Southern California. Before the year was out sales amounting to $475,000 were made "and this without a single free lunch, brass band or excursion and with but little advertising."
Speaking of the new town in September of that year, the Los Angeles Express said: "Sheep pastures and barley fields passing and orchards and vineyards being created from old ranchos - an example, Providencia, for years famous for the fertility of its soil. Burbank, the town being built in the midst of the new farming community, has been laid out in such a manner as to make it by and by an unusually pretty town. The streets and avenues are wide and all have been handsomely graded. All improvements being made would do credit to a city. The 25 or 30 residences which have been completed are models of beauty with all the conveniences of a city residence. There is no handsomer hotel on the Coast than Burbank Villa, to be opened the first of next month. Architecturally considered, it is a gem and its equipment is as faultless as the style of architecture. Everything done at Burbank has been done right. There is not a shabby building in town."
At another time the Express said, in describing a trip to the San Fernando Valley: "Looking ahead there lies the fertile valley with its fields of barley stubble and oases of bright green which cattle are seen cropping. Soon the team is pulled up at the veranda of a very neat building on whose roof appears the name Burbank and about the first thing heard is the ringing of a telephone inside, which has Los Angeles as its other terminal. When it is said that six months ago there was scarce the thought of a town building here, the visitor views with wonder what has been accomplished. The eye gathers in its sweep some thirty substantial dwellings, a fine store building with a stock of goods, a passenger station on the Southern Pacific line, the $30,000 hotel, a furniture factory, a horse-carline nearly completed to the foothills a mile and a half away and two immense reservoirs about a mile apart on the upper edge of the town, which is 300 feet higher on a perfect slope than the lower side.
"Since commencing operations last May the Providencia Land, Water and Development Company has expended some $90,000 in improvements and has yet more work to do. It is putting up a brick block in which a bank is to be located."
But alas and alack for poor Burbank and the Providencia Company. One more year of progress and the great land boom of the eighties was to break and leave the promising little town in the lurch. There on the gentle slope of the Ranchos of the Saints it was to sleep in the consoling California sunshine for nearly two decades before it awakened again to its destiny. Most of Southern California took that length of time to recover from the collapse that followed the feverish speculation of the middle and late eighties. Boulevard and foothill lots went for taxes. C. B. Fischer bought three lots at the corner of Olive Avenue and Kenneth Road for $80 and three lots at Olive Avenue and San Fernando Boulevard for $800. The Burbank Times suspended publication. Tramps enjoyed siestas in the furniture factory until it finally burned down. Five-room houses sold for $400 or were taken on foreclosure. Many of the men promoting the Providencia Company were ruined. Few of them lived to see the beautiful city of their dreams come true. They completed the brick block, but twenty years were to intervene before a bank would come to rent the vacant room. Their own room at Number 12 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, was finally vacated and the gold letters "Providencia Land, Water and Development Company," were scratched from the window. And with these letters went also the letters spelling the names of L. T. Garnsey, President; John E. Plater, Treasurer; T. W. T. Richards, Secretary, and J. McCudden, H. I. Macniel, David Burbank, W. H. Goucher, E. E. Hall, G. W. King and J. Downey Harvey, Directors - men who had caught the vision of the present lovely and prosperous city of Burbank, who had laid out a townsite that justified that vision but never enjoyed a reward for their labors.
Of the 20,000 people who now live in Burbank but a handful are aware of the long, hard fight to maintain throughout the "lean nineties" what had been established by the Providencia Company in the promising and prosperous eighties. More than half of them have come to California since 1920 and most of the other half have come since 1910. As comparative newcomers it is hard for them to realize, perhaps, that the existence of Southern California as an important part of the United States is dependent upon water storage and the development therefrom of hydroelectric power. If Californians had understood in the nineties, as they do now, the science of saving water, the collapse of the boom of the eighties would not have been such a calamity. But, added to the hegira of the people and money from California in 1889 and the national business depression that followed came seven years out of a decade in which the rainfall was much below normal. During five of those seven years less than ten inches fell a season. Even that amount of rainfall would have filled the reservoirs had there been any to fill. Unfortunately there were but very few. Times were very hard indeed.
The Providencia Company had subdivided all the country surrounding the townsite of Burbank into 10, 20, 30 and 40 -acre farms. A number of these were sold and only their great natural fertility enabled the ranchers to make a living out of them during the long dry period. Vineyards thrived and Burbank became famous for its fine wines and large wineries. Burbank lands produced crops of peaches, grapes, alfalfa, melons and vegetables when surrounding lands looked parched and uninviting. The reason for this was that Burbank lands were near or actually over the natural storage basin of the great San Fernando Valley. But the great unsold portions of Providencia reverted to the cattle and sheep land they had been when they were owned by Dr. Burbank. From the time of the "Great Partition" down to the early eighties when he rented his lands, Dr. Burbank had operated his 9000 acres of San Rafael and La Providencia Rancho land as a cattle ranch or sheep range. He was counted as one of the most successful sheep men in Southern California. Even as late as 1908 when Burbank had grown large enough again to support a newspaper, to attract a bank and to build a high school, great herds of sheep used to be driven down San Fernando Boulevard. The Burbank Review, in its issue of May 3rd of that year, speaks of the largest herd seen in some time passing through town. It was necessary for Ralph Church to shut all the doors and windows of his little pioneer bank, when he saw a herd approaching, to keep its dust from completely stopping business.
The dust problem on the principal thoroughfare was solved shortly after this, however, when San Fernando Boulevard was macadamized all the way into Los Angeles. That was the biggest step the town had taken since the boom.
But 1911 was destined to overshadow 1908 as an epochal year in the community's history. It marked two events of outstanding importance -- first, the completion of the Pacific Electric Railroad through from Los Angeles; second, the incorporation of Burbank as a city. The latter was yet a village of less than 1000 population when the "P. K" opened its Glendale line and required a bonus of $40,000 as a prerequisite to an extension of that line through to Burbank. The town was yet peopled quite largely with original settlers who had stuck by the place after the bursting of the boom in 1889. It was these loyal, sturdy folk, with the help of a few newcomers, who raised the necessary $40,000. The securing of pledges for that sum necessitated, among other sacrifices, an all-night's walk to Los Angeles by one pioneer and an all-day's ride to San Diego in one of the first automobiles in the Valley by another pioneer and the town banker, not to mention an all-night return trip over rough, unpaved highways within the same twenty-four hours.
As a result of these frantic though heroic efforts to secure cash subscriptions, the bonus was posted within the time limit set for its raising. But all this hard work was forgotten in the glory of the day that saw the consummation of the dreams of these public-spirited men. The sweet fruits of victory were finally tasted by them on September 6, 1911, for on that day the first car over the Pacific Electric tracks arrived in Burbank. To quote a special edition of the Review gotten out to celebrate the event: "On Wednesday the first electric car running on a regular passenger-carrying schedule left the P. E. station at Sixth and Main Streets, Los Angeles, for Burbank at 6:30 A. M. and the first car from Burbank to Los Angeles left at 6:20 A. M. the same day. Upon the arrival of this first car on its maiden trip, many citizens gave evidence of their great joy by ringing bells and discharging firearms. A big crowd of both men and women boarded the first car and rode to Glendale and there changed to the second car coming from Los Angeles and rode home again. Every face wore an expression of happiness and satisfaction."
Later in the month the whole populace celebrated again at a giant barbecue, where Governor Hiram Johnson, United States Senator John D. Works, and State Senator Lee C. Gates were the speakers. The slogan of the day was "We are now forty-five minutes from Broadway."
Burbank prepared in other ways to welcome the P. E. Realizing that the coming of the electric line would make it a city, it decided to be one in name at least before the arrival of the first car. The election for incorporation was held and carried on July 8, 1911. Those selected as the first Board of Trustees were F. A. Halburg, Thomas Story, Martin Pupka, J. T. Shelton and C. J. Forbes. J. A. Swall was chosen as city clerk; Ralph O. Church, city treasurer; T. F. Ogier, marshal, and Charles E. Salisbury, attorney. The trustees elected Story, mayor.
The new city government lost no time in getting into action. One of its first steps was to contract with the Brand pumping plant on Verdugo Avenue for power with which to light the homes and streets with electricity for the first time. The next was to name all the streets and number the houses. Uncle Sam was induced to give the town two mails a day instead of one. A new grammar school was built. Bonds were voted to buy the water plant. By 1916 a city hall had been built and a fire truck had been purchased. The high school was given additional equipment to care for its enrollment, which now totaled 100. By this time also, the population had passed the 1500 mark by a considerable margin, but Burbank's greatest growth was yet ahead.
The year 1917 was to take its place along with 1870, 1887, 1908 and 1911 as a year of great historical significance in the life of the new city. It marked the opening of an era of development so overshadowing in its importance as to make other periods of growth seem petty by comparison. It marked the advent of manufacturing as the outstanding industry of the community, and with it the passing of agriculture. The transition that was to follow in the next ten years was more gradual but yet as conclusive and final in its results as the transition of the remainder of the San Fernando Valley from wheat raising to fruit culture upon the delivery of water from the Owens Valley Aqueduct in 1913.
Today there are but few acres of all the land originally platted by the Providencia Land, Water and Development Company that are cultivated. Instead, they are subdivided either for homes or for factory sites under a carefully planned zoning system. And they are being used as such.
To the Moreland Motor Truck Company must go the honor of opening the new regime. It established its 25-acre plant in 1917 and was to be followed within the succeeding ten years by such outstanding manufacturers as the Andrew Jergens Company, Libby, McNeill & Libby Company, the Empire China Company, First National Pictures, Inc., and 23 others whose combined total of products numbers more than 60. Woodbury's Soap and Facial Preparations, First National Motion Pictures, Moreland Trucks, Sweet Brannies, California Fruit Candy, Libby Fruit and Vegetables, McKeon's Canned Products are nationally advertised products which bear the stamp "Made in Burbank." In addition, China tableware, handmade silverware, General hot water heaters, grape juice, motor oils, stucco products, sash and doors, sheet metal products, poultry and stock feed and poultry drinking fountains make up a list, the production of which means a real payroll foundation for Industrial Burbank.
Why have these concerns chosen Burbank from among all the attractive communities of Southern California as the seat of their operations?
First: For the same reason that its townsite was chosen in the first place by the Providencia Company - its ideal location. Situated on accessible high land at the junction of the main and coast lines of the Southern Pacific and at the southeasterly entrance to the great San Fernando Valley, Burbank, with its extensive switching facilities and its broad boulevard connections, offers to industry the shortest average cost distance to a nearby three-million-population market.
Second: The abundance, cheapness and softness of its water. Recognizing that Burbank water was especially adapted by its quality for steam engine use, the Southern Pacific Railway long ago chose it for its engines on both the coast and valley lines.
Third: The community's proximity to an unlimited supply of natural gas, crude oil and electrical power.
Fourth: Its offer of ideal living conditions within walking distance of the industrial zone. Here the manufacturer himself may enjoy the quietude of a perfect home atmosphere in an exclusive residential district and yet be within the sound range of his own factory whistle. Here the employee, through nearness to his work, can devote more time to his home and family. Burbank's living and working conditions have attracted a class of employees, 95 per cent of whom are white, 75 per cent married, 65 per cent male, 51 per cent skilled, and 49 per cent homeowners. One of the largest employers has increased his production 33 1/3 per cent with the same number of employees and yet had but a one per cent turnover after moving an established factory to Burbank. As the Alderman Industrial Survey states: "The keystone of Burbank's industrial peace and sustained attraction of the highest types of workers is conditions that afford mutual opportunities to both employers and employees. Burbank affords more and better homesites for the average worker nearer to its industrial zone and possesses more industrial sites situated along primary railway lines than are available at any residential-industrial suburb of equal distance from the center of the metropolitan population."
Dr. Burbank's dream of fertile farms surrounding a quiet, prosperous town seemed finally and fully consummated twenty years ago when great wagon loads of grain, peaches, melons, grapes, berries and poultry found their slow, comfortable way down San Fernando Boulevard to the Los Angeles market, making dust clouds the only traffic problem of the day. From then on for ten years the fruitful acres continued to furnish bountiful crops rather than sites for factories and new streets for home-builders. As late as the coming of the Pacific Electric there was but one two-story brick business structure in all the town and the runaway of a wagon loaded with cucumbers received considerable attention in the public press. Up to 1916, as stated before, there were but 100 attending high school and but 298 attending the two grammar schools. Now 424 pupils are studying in the fine new Burbank senior high school, 720 pupils in the junior high school and 1944 pupils in the six grammar schools. The educational system today represents an investment of $1,600,000 for buildings and grounds.
Even as late as four years ago there were not more than 20 miles of paved thoroughfares. Now there are 125 miles of them. In 1920 Burbank had 337 telephones, now it has 1996. In 1921 it had 952 water meters, now it has 3900. For seven years past building operations have never been less than a million dollars a year. During three of the seven they have exceeded two million dollars. Last year they came very close to three million dollars. During the outstanding development year of 1923, Burbank outranked all cities of the southwest of the same size as to the value of buildings per capita and outranked the larger cities of the northwest metropolitan area in the gain in building values and assessed values per capita. Six years ago assessed valuation was $3,125,000. Today it is in excess of $14,500,000. Postal receipts have increased 700 per cent since 1920. Population is now 687 per cent greater than in 1920. More Burbank subdivision lots were put on the market last year than in Los Angeles itself.
On the ranchos of the saints now stands a city larger than Annapolis, Emporia, Natchez, Helena, Plymouth, Norwood, Plattsburg, Oneida, Trinidad or Staunton. That same city is as large as St. Petersburg, Champaign, Batavia, Billings, Sherman, Astoria, Marshalltown, Portsmouth, Rutland, Lawrence, Jefferson City, Niles, Cheyenne, Chillicothe, Leavenworth or Amarillo. The growth of Burbank, in fact, has amazed and fascinated even Southern California.
So great has been the development of transportation facilities that now the center of the greatest city west of Chicago is but half an hour away. An hour away is the Pacific Ocean with its pleasant beaches and its great port of Los Angeles. In 20 minutes you are in the famed community of Hollywood, soon to be rivaled by Burbank itself with First National, the largest motion picture studio in the world, within its own borders. Within three minutes of the business center is the Sunset Canyon Country Club of 1300 acres situated in a lovely wooded dell and all within the Burbank city limits.
Someone said long ago that earnest, active industry is a living hymn of praise and a never-failing source of happiness. The author might well have had Burbank in mind when he penned the words, for here industry, whether looked upon as a personal attribute or as a process of production, rewards itself with the fairest fruits of progress. Too often one conjures up thoughts of grime and ugliness and of unhealthful tenements when told that a certain town is an industrial center. If these characteristics must accompany manufacturing then Burbank is not a typical manufacturing city. It is representative, however, of a new order of things which says that beauty and cleanliness and home-ownership are the handmaidens of industry. The very number and prosperity of Burbank's factories have in fact added to the natural beauty of her hillsides and her valley by making possible the erection thereon of homes of handsome and harmonious architecture. The bungalow of the employee and the mansion of the employer blend alike with the friendly grandeur of the landscape. On the gentle slopes of San Rafael and in the verdant vale of La Providencia today live twenty thousand people in happiness and contentment. Here on the clean, broad, paved, tree-shaded avenues stand their homes, their schools, their churches, their clubhouses, their places of amusement. Not even in the pastoral Verdugan days when these ranches were given their hallowed, saintly names that made them the veritable "Ranchos de Los Santos" could more peace prevail!
Within a week from the formal opening of its new banking room, for which this booklet, "Ranchos de Los Santos, the Story of Burbank," is given as a souvenir, the Burbank Security Bank will be nineteen years old. It was on April 1, 1908, that it opened for business on its present corner in a diminutive room barely large enough for two tellers' windows, a safe and a stove. That room likewise enjoyed a "formal opening" on that day. It was a happy though small affair, for like its lone bank, the community was not large.
Some idea of the size of Burbank of 19 years ago may be gathered from the absence of its name in the government census. Not many places have banks before they become incorporated cities, but Burbank was one of them. Only the fact that it had a bank gave it a place in any sort of a directory in those days.
As stated in the story which you have just read, one of the first improvements made by the Providencia Land, Water and Development Company in founding Burbank, was to build a brick business block with a room large enough to accommodate a bank. But the land boom of the eighties broke almost before the building was finished and left such havoc in its wake that Burbank had no need for, nor could it support, a bank for nearly 20 years. It took much courage and an abundance of confidence in the future to start a bank even in 1908. When the late H. A. Church and his son, Ralph O. Church, came that year and opened the Burbank State Bank in their own building, the town had less than 500 people in it and the principal source of community income was from dry farming. Sheep raising was yet engaged in to some extent and it was not an uncommon occurrence for herds of those animals to go through the business section of the town.
The very year the boom broke and, in fact, while Southern California was feeling the heaviest shock of the catastrophe, J. F. Sartori founded the Security Trust & Savings Bank in Los Angeles. He said it was a good time to start a bank. He wanted to build upon the foundation' of rock-bottom values. Subsequent events have proved his wisdom. Many of the Burbank farmers of those days banked with him. They did it on market days after they had driven their wagons of produce to the county seat. Now this Bank has come to them and to thousands of others who have built homes on their former farm lands. In fact, it came four years ago, and today in the new building of its Burbank Branch it offers one of the most commodious and attractive banking rooms in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
But many events were to take place before the union of Burbank's pioneer bank with the Security Bank. The Churches did not buy the full frontage on San Fernando Boulevard which the bank now occupies. They purchased 30 feet in 1908, paying a thousand dollars. The capital stock with which they started the Burbank State Bank was $25,000. Ralph Church constituted the entire personnel. When he went home for lunch the bank closed. At the end of the first day's business $30,000 had been deposited.
It was the sterling character of the ranchers who had continued tilling the soil despite the collapse of the boom which first attracted the Churches to Burbank, and the majority of the board of directors of the new bank was made up of these sturdy, substantial, successful agriculturists. Seven of the original members continue on the executive board, as it is known since the Security merger. The original officers were H. A. Church, President, A. O. Kendall, Vice President, Ralph O. Church, Cashier. The original additional directors were: J. T. Shelton, Orville Myers, E. A. Knapp, Martin Pupka and Charles B. Fischer. Later, about 1911, Thomas Story and J. H. Avery were added to the board. Mr. Story, who has lived here for 45 years, was elected Burbank's first mayor soon after his election to the bank directorate. Ralph Church was elected the first city treasurer and Mr. Fischer was appointed first postmaster. W. A. Blanchard, who later joined the board, was also elected a mayor of the city, as was J. D. Radcliff, the present incumbent in the mayoralty chair. It would be difficult to find a greater number of prominent and useful citizens on any bank directorate of the same size. Three members, Mr. Myers, Mr. Story and Mr. Fischer, lived in Burbank when it was not even a dream in Dr. Burbank's fertile mind.
By the close of 1908 the Bank's deposits had increased to $50,000. In 1909 they went up to $82,000, in 1910 to $112,000 and at the end of 1911 they stood at $146,000. Seeing that the Bank would soon outgrow its quarters, an additional 20 feet on San Fernando Boulevard was acquired at a cost of $1,200. Other lots on the Boulevard were then selling for $250, but the Bank officers believed the corner frontage worth the additional price. The future justified their judgment. The assessed valuation alone on the lot today is $9,000.
Before 1911 had passed, the bank building was remodeled and the floor space doubled by erecting an addition to the building on the newly acquired frontage. A second story was then built over all and the whole building finished in cream brick, presenting a very pleasing appearance. Upon completion of the work, the Burbank State Bank was dissolved, the First National Bank was incorporated with a capital of $25,000, and the Burbank Savings Bank was inaugurated with a capital of $25,000. The two institutions were housed under the same roof and were affiliated under the same management, the one as a commercial bank and the other as a savings bank exclusively.
The year 1911 was historic for the community as well as for the bank. It marked the coming of the Pacific Electric Railroad and the incorporation of Burbank as a city. The Bank's management took a leading part in the consummation of both projects, particularly the former, which required the raising of a $40,000 bonus. Ralph Church was elected a member of the Board of Education of the new city as well as its City Treasurer. He likewise was made Treasurer of the Masonic Lodge, which was' organized at about the same time and has since been re-elected to that position seventeen successive terms.
The next decade was to mark fine progress for the newly incorporated city with its new railroad, its new high school and its new bank building. The first government census that ever took notice of the town gave it a population of nearly 3,000. During the previous year, 1919, the deposits of the bank had crossed the half million dollar mark for the first time and in the very next two years they were to double that mark. Manufacturing had come and definitely fixed the future of the community. Here again the Bank's management helped, for as in the case of the Pacific Electric, a bonus had to be raised to bring the first factory here.
The growth of Burbank had reached such proportions by 1922 and 1923 as to amaze even Los Angeles itself. The Bank realized that a strictly local banking institution could no longer fully finance that growth. The result was its merger with the great Security Trust & Savings Bank on February 3, 1923, making available to Burbank at that time total banking resources of $176,000,000 and making available today in the large and beautiful new banking room just opened, resources in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.
The original management and the same board of directors continue to function in their new capacities as members of the Security organization, the only new face being that of James O. Bishop, assistant manager, who in a short time has thoroughly identified himself with the community and become as attached to the place as the oldest settler. Thus Burbank's pioneer bank, like its community, already has achieved a place in Southern California's development that is enviable.