Southern California Vanguards, pg. 3

Part II: The Boom of the Eighties to the Roaring Twenties, 1876-1930

While this period was one of struggle for the William Workman/F. P. F. Temple branch of the family, the descendants of Workman's brother David, were in the ascendant in terms of economic, social, and political involvement in Los Angeles. Among these were a mayor and city treasurer; City Council president; and a prominent social worker and activist. Meanwhile, Walter P. Temple, son of F. P. F. and Margarita Temple and grandson of William and Nicolasa Workman, brought a resurgence of his family in regional affairs through oil, real estate and construction, and philanthropy in the 1920s. Ironically, he mirrored much of the activity and, unfortunately, the results of his forebears and misfortune befell the Temples by the Great Depression.

The years after the bank failure were difficult ones for the families of William Workman and F. P. F. Temple. Baldwin sold the family homes and small amounts of acreage to the families in 1880 and 1881, but financial problems continued. Even lands that were held by other family members and, therefore, excluded from the bank mortgage were difficult to keep.

William Workman’s son, Joseph, was given over 800 acres on La Puente by his father in 1870. In 1881, he leased the La Puente property and moved to Boyle Heights with his wife Josephine Belt (1851-1937) and their six children, living next to Joseph’s cousin, William Henry. In the early 1890s, however, Joseph mortgaged his lands, which were lost in foreclosure in 1895. An interesting sidelight to the Joseph Workman family is that daughter Josephine (1882-1977) was a popular silent film actress, using the stage name Princess Mona Darkfeather, in some seventy short and full-length films between 1909 and 1917.

After William Workman’s death, the Homestead, then reduced to seventy-five acres, was owned by his grandson, Francis W. Temple (1848-1888), who raised walnuts and practiced viticulture. After Francis’s death, his brother, John H. Temple (1856-1926), owned the Homestead but it was foreclosed upon by the turn of the century.

At La Merced, Antonia Margarita Temple nearly lost the family homestead through another loan with Baldwin. The fifty-acre parcel was saved, though, and passed on to her youngest sons, Walter (1869-1938) and Charles (1872-1918), after her death in 1892.

In contrast to the above difficulties, the last quarter of the nineteenth century was a period of ascendancy for the Los Angeles branch of the Workman family. Elijah Workman continued in the saddlery business until the 1880s, owned a prosperous farm, and served several terms on the City Council between 1866 and 1876 and on the Board of Education. He also was instrumental in the founding of Pershing Square and planted trees at the old Plaza that still survive. He lived a quiet retirement in Boyle Heights and died in 1906.

William Henry Workman, circa 1900William Henry Workman, ca. 1900. From the Los Angeles Public Library.

William Henry Workman became one of Los Angeles’s most prominent citizens. He served several terms on the City Council between 1872 and 1880, was a proxy delegate at the 1872 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, was mayor in 1887 and 1888, and served as city treasurer from 1901 to 1907. His mayoral term occurred during the years known as the “Boom of the Eighties” during which several parks, including today’s MacArthur Park, were established and a new city hall was built. During his term as treasurer, he assisted in the transfer of municipal water control from private to public ownership and initiated the financial dealings for the early stages of the monumental Los Angeles Aqueduct project. He also served on the city parks commission in the 1890s. Workman, who married Maria E. Boyle (1847-1933), inherited valuable and productive vineyards and orchards from her father, Andrew Boyle, and started a subdivision there in 1876 that was named Boyle Heights. He maintained a successful real estate office for many years, was president of the American Savings Bank, and continued to work until his death in February 1918.

Boyle Workman, circa 1919 

Boyle Workman, ca. 1919. From the Los Angeles Public Library.

William H. Workman’s prominence in business and public life was followed by several of his children, including sons Boyle (1868-1942) and William H. Jr. (1874-1951) and daughter, Mary Julia (1871-1964). Boyle Workman served as his father’s assistant during the mayoral and treasurer’s terms and was a member of the Public Service Commission from 1913 until 1917. Two years later, he was elected to the City Council and became its president, a post he held until 1927. In 1929, he made a run for the mayoral seat, losing in a close election. Boyle was also involved actively in business, including ownership of the Monarch Brick Company, the fire insurance firm of Garland and Workman, and the vice-presidency of the American Savings Bank. Boyle’s legacy was ensured by the 1935 publication of The City That Grew, a popular semi-autobiographical narrative of Los Angeles. William H. Jr. was the assistant superintendent of the Edison Electric Company in Los Angeles after the turn of the century, and later worked as an electrical engineer. He also was part-owner of the McGilvray-Workman Company, a real estate firm, and was with the Los Angeles Morris Plan Company during the 1920s, serving as its president.

Mary Julia Workman, circa 1920sMary Julia Workman, ca. 1920s. From the Los Angeles Public Library.

Mary Julia Workman, the only woman in the families to have a conspicuous public presence, began her career as a teacher in Los Angeles public schools. She was best known, however, as the founder of the Brownson House Settlement, an organization that assisted underprivileged families in Los Angeles. Her activities with the Roman Catholic Church were honored by Pope Pius X in 1925. In addition, she also entered the political sphere as president of the Public Service Commission from 1925 until 1928 and continued her activism in labor issues, politics, and other areas until her death at age ninety-three.


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