Tuesday, November 24, 2015

(An Early) Winter Ode to Spring...Street, Los Angeles, Cal.

Spring Street was named for Trinidad Serafina Ortega, a girl who just turned 17 when Ord and Hutton were situated in Ciudad de Los Angeles conducting the city's first American land survey.

Her nickname was "La Primavera," and the survey listed Calle Primavera or Spring Street.  Below is a portion of Henry Hancock's 1857 survey of the city's confirmed limits but shows Primavera misspelled:

Courtesy of the Seaver Center for Western History Research (GC1310-[0856])

Several historical references state that she was the Santa Barbara girlfriend of surveyor Lieutenant Edward O.C. Ord, but this blog posting disputes that observation.  The L.A. Times also linked her romantically to Benjamin Wilson ("Don Benito" born in 1811 from Tennessee and traveled with the Workman-Rowland Party to California in 1841).  Their paths probably crossed, but it seems unlikely that Wilson wooed the 17-year old; he was widowed in 1849 when his 21-year old wife Ramona Yorba died after a five-year marriage; he soon remarried to Margaret Hereford; one of their grandkids was George S. Patton (the military general).

Probably Trinidad was a beloved girl in the small town, and her nickname was a generally known term of endearment.

Spanish Lineage

Trinidad was the great-granddaughter of a Guanajuato, New Spain soldier Jose Francisco Ortega, who traveled to California with Franciscan priest Junipero Serra and Captain Gaspar Portola.  He was a pathfinder or scout who helped to establish the sites of missions in upper California, and he is known as the discoverer of today's San Francisco Bay.

Her heritage was linked more directly to other Californios.  Born in San Diego in the year 1830, her father Jose Joaquin Geronimo Ortega was a ranchero of SantaYsabel.  Trinidad's mother was Maria Casimira Pico, a younger sister of Pio Pico.  Trinidad was the youngest of six children.

In 1849, Trinidad may have been staying in her uncle's household instead of San Diego.  It is not known whether the dirt road was already referred to as La Primavera, or if Ord picked up this information from local townspeople while surveying and named the street accordingly.  This blogger once came across a reference stating that Ord was rooming in the Ortega house during the summer of 1849.  (Pio Pico's official residence was sold in May, 1849 to Benjamin Wilson.)

Pio Pico, the last governor of California under Mexican rule, with
his wife Maria Alvarado and their nieces Maria Anita Alvarado (far left)
and Trinidad Ortega (far right), in 1852
(GPF.0350 courtesy of the Seaver Center)
Trinidad Gets Married

Edward Ord had reported to Governor Bennet Riley (military governor of the California Territory in 1849) that the local women preferred the "newcomers" to the Mexican men.  Californio women had been entering intercultural unions with European men for many years by the time of Ord's observation.  Trinidad, though, did not.  She married into the De la Guerra family, a wealthy and powerful Spanish family of Santa Barbara.  Her husband, Miguel De la Guerra was the fifth son of thirteen children.  She bore him eight children before he died in 1878.

Trinidad De La Guerra about 1864
(P-157-2-78 Courtesy of the Seaver Center)
At a time when the world was much smaller, Trinidad and Ord later became related by marriage.  Ord's physician brother James Lycurgus Ord married in 1856 to Trinidad's widowed sister-in-law, Maria de las Angustias de la Guerra.

Marriage also provides a link between two historic streets (Spring and Olvera):  Trinidad's oldest sister Maria Refugio married Agustin Olvera - second marriages for both widowed Maria Refugio and Agustin.
Race, Politics, and Irony at Play with Trinidad's Brother-In-Law
Pablo De la Guerra, Trinidad's brother-in-law, was one of the signers of the California Constitution, as were a good number of Californios.  He even served a year as Acting Lieutenant Governor of California in 1861.  In 1869 he ran for the elected office of District Judge of the First Judicial District.  Opponents filed suit on the grounds of disqualification, arguing that De la Guerra was not a citizen.  The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of De la Guerra.
Glamour and Romance

20th century local society remembered Trinidad, who passed away in 1903.  Club ladies honored her through costumed reenactments.  In 1931, a pivotal year for Los Angeles, being the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city, the Times published this glamorous illustration: