Historical Society Museum
History of Temple City
After leading his friends to the beautiful San Gabriel Valley, Rowland and his friend Benito Wilson petitioned the Spanish government at Monterey for some of the San Gabriel Valley Mission lands. Rowland and Workman were granted the "La Puente" site of 48,000 acres, where they built ranchos and settled down. They paid a sum of gold and promised to care for the Indians already living on the land, in accordance with an agreement made with the San Gabriel Mission priests and the governor.
William Workman became acquainted with Pliny Fisk Temple, who married Workman's daughter. Pliny had been baptized in the Catholic faith at the San Gabriel Mission shortly prior to accepting the Christian name of Francisco P.F. Temple.
Temple was the son of Pliny Fisk Temple of Massachusetts. Pliny's eldest brother, Jonathan, or Don Juan as he became known in Alta, California, was the first merchant of the Pueblo de Los Angeles in an adobe building at the intersection of what is now Spring and Main Streets. They later built the first important buildings there, including a market, a theater, and a courthouse. In 1841, at the age of 17, Pliny Fisk Temple joined his brother at the Pueblo de Los Angeles.
That same year, the Workman-Rowland party arrived in Los Angeles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was then part of Old Mexico. The party was the first immigrant caravan to travel the trade route to Southern California. Trade caravans, which ran from Santa Fe to Los Angeles and back in the early 1830's were the only overland connection Los Angeles had with the East. The Workman-Rowland expedition brought rugs, blankets, and other native goods from Santa Fe. Workman and Rowland did not make the trip for commercial reasons, however, they intended to settle in the San Gabriel Valley with their families.
In 1850, "Templito," or "Little Temple" as Pliny had been nicknamed by the natives because of his five feet, four inch height, was granted the Las Merced Rancho 12 miles east of Los Angeles where he made his home. He planted a vineyard of 30,000 vines, 30 acres of fruit trees, and a beautiful garden. This was near the site of the original San Gabriel Mission founded by the Franciscan Fathers next to the rich bottom lands of the San Gabriel Rivers called "Rio de los Temblores", or "River of the Earthquakes."
During the years at La Merced, 11 children were born to Pliny and his wife; the 10th child was Walter P. Temple. In 1903, Walter Temple married Laurenza Gonsalez, a member of an early Spanish-California family, who, it has been said, was related to half the residents of San Gabriel. Some years later, Temple purchased 400 acres of land four miles east of San Gabriel which had been part of Lucky Baldwin's vast Rancho Santa Anita.
Envisioning a community where people of medium income could afford to live and own their homes, he divided the area into lots and laid out the park facing Las Tunas Drive. He named other streets after those close and dear to the family, such as Workman, Kauffman, Temple and Agnes. Bond issues initiated by Temple were responsible for street paving and electrification.
He also petitioned the Pacific Electric Railway Company to extend its Los Angeles to Alhambra line to a depot adjacent to Temple City Park. Residents and merchants attributed the steady growth of Temple City to the extensions of the railway to the community.
In 1936, the town officially was designated Temple City, but remained a City in name only until after the post-World War II population explosion and incorporation of the community on May 25, 1960.
The Historical Society of Temple City was established in June of 1987 with 161 charter members. The driving force behind this was Florine Thompson, Woman's Club of Temple City's historian. Through her efforts along with Woman's Club members, Shirley Norman, past president of Temple City Unified School District Board and Woman's Club parliamentarian, and Julie Estrada, a reporter for The Temple City Times newspaper, they were successful in advising the city council of plans to form an independent Society. The Society was approved by The City of Temple City as a separate organization. The Society is recognized by the IRS as a 501(C)(3) tax exempt public charity exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. All donations, bequests, devises, transfers or gifts are tax deductible. The Society became incorporated in November 2004.
The object of the Society, as a nonprofit organization, is to promote an interest in the history of Temple City and to encourage the preservation and the protection of historic landmarks in the community. To collect and to preserve material illustrating or demonstrating the history of the area and of the customs and habits of the people who have lived in the area.
All workers are dedicated volunteers. We do not have paid positions. We do not receive assistance from the city as some museums do. We depend on donations, sustaining memberships and we qualify for grants but at present have not been successful in finding a professional grant writer for our type of request. All monies received from whatever source can be used only for operating expenses of the Society and/or expenses directly related to the operation and maintenance of the museum, collection and preservation of historical materials and the upkeep of the property. From 1987 till 1999, items donated to the Society were stored in a building behind Florine Thompson's home and in a rented storage unit. We are still in the process of trying to accession items as no records have been located as to many of the donors. Not until July 1999 was the Society successful in securing a building for a museum through the kindness of the City's Parks and Recreation Department. The museum building was loaned with a 90 day notice to vacate by either party and was located at Live Oak Park in the former Multi-Purpose Building. In the beginning two docents, Caryl Bradley and Zelda Cleveland, worked at the museum on Wednesdays and Sundays. Both became ill in October of 2002 and could no longer work those many hours. Due to the lack of volunteers, the museum continued to be open on Sundays only by rotating board members and the few decent volunteers who came to the rescue.