1853 - Los Angeles Gangs

1853 - Los Angeles Gangs

by Steve W. Knight

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The author goes into a time period not covered by book or film. 1853 - was eight years before the Civil War; after which was the Western Era. The book and movie "Zorro" was a light-hearted period piece set around 1835 when the Mexican Government ruled Los Angeles. The L.A. pueblo is interesting for with only 1,600 citizens they still averaged a murder a day in just…  See more details below


The author goes into a time period not covered by book or film. 1853 - was eight years before the Civil War; after which was the Western Era. The book and movie "Zorro" was a light-hearted period piece set around 1835 when the Mexican Government ruled Los Angeles. The L.A. pueblo is interesting for with only 1,600 citizens they still averaged a murder a day in just downtown. The author captures the colorful pueblo and gives you a REAL ride back in time. If you are interested in hidden Los Angeles History you will never forget this book.

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8.90(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.29(d)

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The salt sea spray hit Horace's face. Heading toward Los Angeles, he already missed the rangers but not the cold mountains. With his pouch full of gold, he looked every inch the gallant cowboy trying out a new life.

The Seabird, a fifty-foot steamship, traveled up and down the Pacific Coast. Horace easily made friends on board. Naturally gregarious, without hesitation he assisted Captain Salisbury Haley doing ship chores on the five-day trip down the coast. His friendship with Captain Haley grew by sharing stories and learning about the captain's brother, one of the other four steamer ship's captains. A big stubby fellow with a red face, Captain Haley was full of the gab. He mentioned that it might take a day longer because he wanted to drink "a little" at San Luis Obispo. Horace stopped himself from saying anything. That was a first.

He attentively listened to the passengers talk to one another, having been taught by his mother that listening to others was a wonderful way to learn. His big mouth got him into problems. Being honest simply pissed people off. Nineteen other passengers were on board. Horace made friends with Don Benjamin "Benito" Wilson, the Los Angeles mayor. The mayor seemed to like him. Horace listened as the mayor talked to another man. Wilson mentioned that the rangers in Los Angeles were a cohesive group that fought the criminal element. Horace couldn't understand why he didn't open his big mouth and ask questions. Caution was better than rushing in. He didn't need to screw up his new home.

Passenger Alexander Nelson, with his two Hardy Boys, was talkative. Nelson brought a thoroughbred horse and planned to enter it into a race with Sepulveda's famous big black horse once they reached the Los Angeles Pueblo. Stakes were in the thousands. Seeing the well-groomed, shiny red horse made Horace miss Pal. He became melancholy. He would never sell another horse, ever. Once in the Pueblo de Los Angeles, he would find another Pal.

Horace learned from the mayor about pueblo life. Even the mayor as an American picked up quickly on the pastoral Spanish lifestyle. The culture combined a simple elegance with honor, goodwill, hospitality, and honesty. The mayor had married a Dona, thereby giving him land and title. Now he was a Don, owning a rancho and a pueblo general store. He told Horace the Americans loved the Spanish dances, games, and food. The Spanish possessed a playful heritage against the serious American work ethic. "Horace, my son, the whole damn town is going semi-gringo. It's a hell of a mixture," Don Wilson said.

The travel invigorated Horace, and he watched another steamboat going north. Captain Haley said the ships made up their own schedules. These so-called schedules depended upon where the captains wanted to spend their drinking and gambling nights. Horace also learned many a man fell overboard with fifty pounds of gold, never to be seen again. "The gold took 'em to Davy Jones' locker, ha, ha," Haley chuckled, his barnacled face all cracked. His face showed his darker side; he was glad gold greed got them and not him. Captain Haley wouldn't mind the gold, but he didn't like the drowning.

Poor seamanship or hitting a sandbar sank many a ship. The captain said one went down blowing a newfangled boiler. There were many hazards between San Francisco and the Panama overcrossing. Horace knew the California roads were mere dirt trails. These steamer ships had replaced sailing ships. Horace pondered what would replace the steamers.

Horace and Captain Haley had several things in common, one of which was an interest in law. Captain Haley studied law when he was sober, and on this particular day he was four days sober on their way into the L.A.-San Pedro Harbor. Haley and Horace passed time debating the difference in real estate law between California's community property law and Indiana's title state law.

On the way into San Pedro, a balmy south blowing wind made the day around ninety degrees. Horace found the semi-arid desert climate quite different. Haley put in his anchor and started loading his passengers into the harbor dinghy, an oversized rowboat. The rowboat took ten passengers at a time to the makeshift pier. Wilson pointed out Dead Man's Island where the Los Angelenos had buried the dead Americans in the recent Mexican-American War.

Horace's head still rocked when his legs hit dry land. He wanted to kiss the ground. He now changed his mind regarding sea travel -- the fish could have it, salt spray and all. He remembered an old saying, "After three days in the open air, fish started to really stink."

Once ashore and off the dinghy, all twenty passengers faced a stressful trip by two open-air stages for service into the pueblo. These stages were old army ambulances, hard, flat, and providing no coverings. The backs where the passengers sat were plain, flat boards with ropes to hold onto to keep from being thrown out during the ride. Splinters jutted out from the seats. Attached to each stage, a vicious herd of mules snarled at the passengers. The two drivers looked as though they'd drunk half the ocean. Using every imaginable expletive, both held whiskey quarts and watched who'd be the fastest to guzzle it down. One driver kept pulling up his sailor cap after each swallow. He belched and chided, "You'll not win today, you landlubber son of a bitch!"

The other driver yelled, "Damn you to hell, swaby! Eat my dust!"

Three sweaty Mexicans guided each stage, one at the front and two at the sides. Each front Mexican had a rope on the two lead nasty mules, while the side Mexicans held whips to keep the mules on the twenty-two-mile-plus bumpy race course to the Bella Union Hotel.

"Git aboard, ladies and gents," hollered the stage owner, who introduced himself as Phineas Banning.

A man rode up and saluted Don Benjamin "Benito" Wilson. He wore a badge. "Mayor Don Wilson, caught ourselves four Mexican cutthroats for General Joshua Bean's murder! We'll have our confessions soon. The Vigilance Committee -- they're drillin' 'em night and day. Need your help as soon as you git in." The man turned around and galloped back toward the Pueblo de Los Angeles.

Banning placed on each stage three black bottles containing what he called "refreshment," saying, "Gentlemen, there's no water between here and the pueblo. It gets real hot on the way in."

Horace grabbed the bottle, took a whiff, and said, "Phew! Smells like rotgut, salt water, and homemade whiskey!"

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What People are saying about this

Max Hurlbut
1853 - is told with humor and enthusiasm. Little-known but authentic L.A. history in novel format. You've captured the heart of early Los Angeles pueblo! Great entertainment!

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