The introduction to the Pasadena edition of Ramona was originally published as a free-standing book; see main page. All page-and-volume references were printed as shown. They have been linked to the cited passage in the present ebook, in case you want to check up on Vroman.
The story of Ramona has become so well known on this continent that few who visit this land of sunshine and flowers but take an interest in the location of the story and the points and incidents that Mrs. Jackson has so vividly pictured. As is generally understood, every incident in the story has fact for its foundation, even down to the minutest detail of the home of the Morenos. Yet we frequently hear the old adobe house at Old Town, San Diego, called “Ramona’s Home,” while Guajome Rancho, about four miles east of San Luis Rey Mission, is called the same; then the Camulos Rancho on the Southern Pacific line to Santa Barbara, sixty miles northwest of Los Angeles, is also pointed out, until the casual visitor to the coast becomes bewildered in the numerous “homes,” and interest therein is lessened.
To unravel somewhat the tangle is the aim of this article, and if possible work out the genesis of the story in such a manner as seems necessary for the better understanding of the book. With this thought the writer has made a careful search for any information on the subject obtainable.
If it shall have helped any interested in explaining some of the apparent inconsistencies as to the location of the places, etc., its object will have been accomplished.
One need only go to any of the works of Helen Hunt Jackson (“H. H.” as she is best known) to find the deep vi and sincere sympathy she always gave to that greatly wronged and little understood race, the American Indian. She had for years used the press to aid and secure a more fair treatment for them by the United States government.
Her “A Century of Dishonor” should have had as strong an influence on the people of this land as did “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Possibly had “A Century of Dishonor” been flavored with a little of the romance necessary for popular reading it would have become better known. The work is a plain, cold statement of facts, with copies of the evidence to bear her out, of this government’s failure to keep its promises to the Indians, from early times up to the date of its publication in 1880.
Had it not been for this work, or had it taken a more popular hold upon the American people, we might never have had “Ramona” from her pen.
“Ramona” was written with as high an aim and with as deliberate a purpose as Mrs. Stowe’s masterpiece. To bring the treatment of our Indians to the people in such a manner that they would stop and consider the unjust and selfish laws enacted by Congress, was Mrs. Jackson’s whole desire and prayer. That she succeeded in this is shown by the thousands of copies of the work that have been sold, and the demand continues as strong as ever.
In “A Century of Dishonor,” especially in the appendices, pages 458 to 514, you will find many incidents that later she wove into the story of Ramona.
In 1883 Mrs. Jackson, with the Hon. Abbott Kinney of Los Angeles, was authorized by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to “Investigate and report on the condition and needs of the Mission Indians of California.” This report was filed in July, 1883, and can be found in the Bureau Reports and also in appendix pages 458-514 of “A Century of Dishonor” published by Little, Brown, & Co., Boston.vii
During their investigation and travel among the Mission Indians in Southern California, Mrs. Jackson became so deeply interested, and her sensitive nature so wrought upon at the gross injustice of the laws and their application by the officers of the government, that she again felt it her duty to try and awaken public sympathy in their behalf.
Knowing only too well the fate of Bureau Reports, she decided that the only way was to weave into romance incidents that had, to her personal knowledge, occurred, and yet in such a manner that the public would read it and give it thought; while possibly not all the good resulted that Mrs. Jackson hoped for, yet there is no question but what it was the means of bettering some of our Indian legislation.
Having filed her report with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, she returned to California and went to the Guajome Ranch about four miles east of San Luis Rey Mission and nine miles from Oceanside, a station on the San Diego line of the Santa Fé, seventy miles south of Los Angeles.
Here, twenty-five years ago, was the most typical of all old California homes, and it is so today, though much of the beauty of the place has gone the way of nearly all of the Spanish homes, through neglect and decline of estates.
It was here that Mrs. Jackson wished to locate the story, and the home of her heroine. Reaching the ranch she was welcomed by the owner, the late Señora Ysador Coutts, and by the Señora aided in many ways with bits of information about the people, the country, and incidents that were in addition to much already gathered during her previous researches, to be woven so cleverly into a perfect whole.
A good old soul, who for years managed a small boarding-house at San Jacinto, gave us “Aunt Ri.”
At Temecula, a little store kept by a man named Wolfe, where Mrs. Jackson had frequently stopped to talk with the viii Indians coming to the store to trade, answered her purpose, and gave us the Hartsel store where Alessandro sold his violin.
The little graveyard close by looks very much as it might have looked fifteen years ago—the night Ramona and Carmena awaited Alessandro’s return from the Hartsel store.
The killing of a poor half-crazed Indian, who had taken another man’s horse, was followed and killed under almost the identical circumstances as was Alessandro, by a certain Sam Temple, who, up to his death, some years ago, was pointed out as the “Jim Farrer” mentioned in Ramona, gave her one tragic incident.
The descriptions of the Indian villages Pachanga, Temecula, San Ysidro, Saboba, etc., were from her own observations. In this way she gathered up each piece of a life and worked them into a romance that has reality for its foundation in nearly every instance; even the old Señora and Ramona herself were founded on the lives, or incidents in the lives, of perhaps a dozen or more people woven into one.
Who that has talked with the Señora Coutts but has thought, “Is not this the Señora Moreno herself?” While the Señora Coutts might not have had such real sympathy for the Indian as the Señora Moreno (and indeed she was rather the extreme in this), yet she was as noble in other ways. Herself a Bandini, belonging to one of the oldest and most highly respected families of the Californias, well might she resent the influx of scheming American settlers with advanced ideas of civilization; well might she in late years long for the “old days” when there was less need of cunningly devised laws that no honest man pretended to understand.
Haughty and proud, years after the story of Ramona ix was written, she had many characteristics that we see in the Señora Moreno.
Returning to Guajome one day, from the Indian villages close by, and in conversation with the Señora, Mrs. Jackson said that she had the material for her story in view, but needed a romance to make it readable; that people would not read plain, cold truths; they must be made attractive as well. “Did the Señora not have something in mind that would give a realistic touch to the story, some elopement in the neighborhood, or romance that might be worked in the story?” . . . Just what the trouble was or how it happened, will probably never be known, but at last their conversation turned from friendliness to a coldness on the part of the Señora, and ended in Mrs. Jackson being forbidden the use of the ranch, and it is understood she left Guajome under the ban of the Señora’s displeasure.
Almost heartbroken, she returned to Los Angeles to the home of her old friend Don Antonio Coronel (whose death a few years ago took from our midst one of the most prominent and worthy characters of the early California days). To Don Antonio she opened her heart, full of trouble, saying she could not write the story unless she described the Guajome Ranch, for here was all that she must picture in words, the most beautiful of all California homes; and she was forbidden the use of it as the home of her heroine; where else could she find such another?
Don Antonio, who had always been much interested in Mrs. Jackson, and had aided her many times before in her literary work and research, could not let the matter end thus; and he bethought him of the Camulos Ranch. With his face beaming with pleasure he said, “Let not the Señora be dismayed. I will take her to another ranch almost identical with the Guajome. Tomorrow we will go, and the Señora will see for herself the Camulos.”x
Arriving at the Camulos Ranch they found the family absent, the servants only being about the house; in haste to return to Los Angeles, they spent but two hours on the ranch, and never before or afterward did Mrs. Jackson see Camulos Ranch, made famous on two continents by the pen of this gifted writer as the “Home of Ramona.”
That Mrs. Jackson could in two short hours impress on her memory that which she later pictured so accurately, describing the entire surroundings so minutely, is marvelous, and illustrative of her great descriptive power. She had her story ready for the setting, and this she found in this beautiful old Spanish home, in one of California’s most beautiful (the Santa Clara) valleys, The Camulos Ranch.
So accurately has Camulos been described that in but one instance can we locate any great discrepancy. On page 27 (Vol. I) she says, “The two westernmost rooms had been added on, and made four steps higher than the others.” . . . There are eight steps on the south veranda (Plate IV), and five on the north side (Plate VIII), evidently a confusion in this instance.
One might question if Guajome was not in mind when describing the sheep sheds (Page 95, Vol. I); there is nothing of the kind at Camulos at the present time that answers the description so well as the old sheds at Guajome (Plate XXII). Likewise the washing place. At neither place is there anything at the present time that answers the description on page 29 (Vol. I). At Guajome the watering place (Plate XXI) is pointed out, and, as a convenience to satisfy imaginative minds, is called the “Washing Place.” It is in reality a small reservoir or lake, about three hundred feet in circumference, but about ten rods beyond the lake can still be traced the water ditches where the washing place was. It must have been very similar to the description, although now it is so overgrown with rushes and xi willows it can scarcely be traced. “The Willows” at Camulos hardly answer the description so well, yet years would change them also. But there can scarcely be a question as to the house. Among the illustrations will be found several of Guajome as well as Camulos. One can readily see the general similarity of the two places—“The Inner Courts” (Plates VI and XX) and of the south verandas, except as to the raised platforms or loggia (Plates IV and XIX).
At Guajome the inner court is all surrounded; a quadrangle and verandas on the four sides, not as on page 26, (Vol. I) “with a wide veranda on the three sides of the inner court.”
The little chapel at either place might answer the description, except that at Camulos it stands in the garden directly in front of the south veranda, while at Guajome it stood on the east side of the house (but now, entirely gone) and the surroundings do not in any manner coincide with the descriptions.
The servants’ quarters, the window of old Marda, the cook, the white crosses on the hills, as seen today, all are at Camulos.
We meet with little inconsistencies in reading “Ramona”; for instance, it was always the Saints and Mission belongings from San Luis Rey Mission the Señora was caring for: “. . . a carved bench, also of oak, which had been brought to the Señora for safe keeping by the faithful old sacristan of San Luis Rey.” (Page 30, Vol. I) Why San Luis Rey, more than one hundred miles away, with Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Fernando, and San Gabriel, all less than half the distance and all going the same road to ruin? Evidently Guajome, which is but five miles from San Luis Rey, was still remembered; or possibly portions of the story were already written.xii
Again, on page 123 (Vol. I), Alessandro sends the messenger all the way to Temecula, one hundred and thirty miles or more, and back the same night, for his violin. From Guajome it is but twenty miles to Temecula, a journey easily made in that length of time.
After Alessandro and Ramona leave the ranch, there is nothing more descriptive of the Home place, and the description of the route traversed is identical with the country between Guajome and San Diego by way of the Temecula Cañon; they make the journey in three nights, hiding in the cañon during the day time. If we take Camulos as the starting place, this would give upward of two hundred miles, but from Guajome about fifty. These and like instances are explained on the theory that the story was planned to be located at the Guajome Ranch, and possibly portions of the book were already written when the difference arose which necessitated the use of another place for the home of the heroine. There was no need of remodeling the other portions of the work; they answered just as well for the purpose, but it brought some confusion to the readers of the story to make the descriptions fit in smoothly.
Reaching Old Town they found the chapel lighted (Page 88, Vol. II); the ceremony is performed in the chapel, and they then go to the father’s house and he enters their names in the book of marriage records, “kept in Father Gaspara’s own rooms.” . . . (Page 90, Vol. II)
Thus the old adobe house at Old Town is the Father Gaspara’s house, and not, as some call it, a “Ramona Home.”
It was a delightful time that a small party spent at Camulos one August day now eighteen years ago, but the dear old Camulos has changed but little in all these years. From Los Angeles on the Santa Barbara line of the Southern xiii Pacific railway, to the little station of Camulos, is sixty miles, a two hours’ ride through the beautiful San Fernando, and over the Newhall Pass and Tunnel, and into the still more beautiful Santa Clara Valley. It is but a stone’s throw from the station to the ranch house so hidden in a mass of orange, almond trees and shrubbery that you do not see the building until close upon it. Passing the servants’ quarters we think of the Señora’s “unspeakable satisfaction, when the commissioners, laying out a road down the valley, ran it at the back of her house, instead of past the front.” . . . “It is well,” she said. “Let their travel be where it belongs, behind our kitchens.” . . . (Page 24, Vol. I)
Back high on the hill, across the railroad track, stands the cross . . . “that the heretics may know, when they go by, that they are on the estate of a good Catholic,” she said. (Page 25, Vol. I)
A few steps past the end of the servants’ quarters, and we are at the inner court. How true the description! “The house was of adobe, low, with a wide veranda on the three sides of the inner court.” . . . (Page 26, Vol. I) There it is, the servants’ quarters making the third side of the court, with flowers everywhere, and hedges at the fourth or eastern side of the court, virtually making a quadrangle.
Yet a little farther, past the hedges and the eastern end of the main building, after turning to the left, we are directly at the south veranda, “a delightsome place, . . . eighty feet long, at least. . . . Here the Señora kept her flowers; . . . great red water-jars, hand-made by the Indians of San Luis Obispo Mission (Page 27, Vol. I), . . . some coming from the ground, and twining around the pillars of the veranda; some growing in great bowls. . . . These bowls were of gray stone, hollowed and polished, shining smooth inside and out.” Ah! there they are, sitting around the fountain’s wall, four of them, and beauties they xiv are; nothing so fine as these old bowls could be passed by, in even her two short hours, without notice. “They also had been made by the Indians, nobody knew how many ages ago, scooped and polished by the patient creatures, with only stones for tools.” (Page 28, Vol. I.)
We turn again to the veranda. Could anything be better described? The raised platform or loggia, made four (eight it should read) steps higher than the others, leading to the Señora’s room, then Felipe’s and Ramona’s at the foot of the steps; and at the southeast corner, the father’s room; we almost expect to see the good old father throw open the shutters and break the stillness with his sunrise hymn:
“O Beautiful Queen, Princess of Heaven!” (Page 86, Vol. I.)
We have not yet taken the time to make our presence known to the household, so interested in the surroundings have we been. We step on the veranda; how real it all is—almost the stillness, the solemness of a shrine it seems as we gently tap on the open door. The sound has scarcely died away ere our summons is answered. We present our letter from the son in Los Angeles to the mother and sister, requesting their hospitality to his good friend, Mr. L. and his party. We are welcomed in words that assure us that the son and brother’s request is all that is needed to give us the freedom of the ranch. Even the father’s own room at the southeast corner of the veranda is designated as ours, and here we once more feel the air of a sainted place, for was not this the very window with the bolted shutters that the father would open at break of day; this the very table where he sat?
But we cannot remain indoors, so anxious are we to see. As we step out on the veranda one of the household proffers her services as guide. The garden: “Between the veranda xv and the river meadows, out on which it looked, all was garden, orange grove, and almond orchard; . . . Nothing was to be seen but verdure or bloom or fruit, at whatever time of year you sat on the Señora’s south veranda” (Pages 28 and 29, Vol. I); in the center of the garden the fine old fountain, with the “bowls,” that were hung from the veranda roof by cords, filled with flowers.
Close by, the chapel, “dearer to the Señora than her house” (Page 31, Vol. I); just back of the chapel, the bells brought from Spain, and across the garden “A wide straight walk shaded by a trellis so knotted and twisted with grapevines that little was to be seen of the trellis wood work, led straight down . . . to a little brook in the shade of a dozen gnarled old willow-trees, were set the broad flat stone washboards on which was done all the family washing” (Page 29, Vol. I).
The little chapel attracts us once more on our return from the “willows.” We step inside, for the door has been unlocked that we may have free access to everything; for has not the beloved son’s letter vouched for us? No need to hide the family silver and keep the chapel door locked. So many people, they tell us, come unannounced and roam about without so much as a gracious acknowledgment of their presence on the premises; some are even so rude and contemptible as to slip a spoon from the table into their pocket when hospitality is shown them and they are asked to join the family at meal time.
We marvel at the patience of these good people when we are told that within nine months, by actual count, more than eight hundred meals were served to strangers, much against their desires; but hospitality must never find an ending in the old Spanish homes. No doubt it would be a great relief to them if some other place could take the honor of the “Home of Ramona.”xvi
What most hurts these good people is the insistence with which some of the thoughtless, or ignorant, almost demand to see Ramona and Felipe. “Which one of the servants is Margarita,” and “Is the Señora as cross as she used to be to Ramona?” Such ridiculous questions wound their sensitive feelings, and one marvels at their patience with the numbers who come and go. Many are a delight to meet, they say. Many have come away expressing themselves as charmed with their visit at Camulos and the friendship extended. But we must remember that we are on private, not public, property; that we owe it to the many yet to follow us that we do our part well.
Inside the little chapel, always fragrant with flowers, one must think of Mrs. Jackson’s pleasure to find such to inspire her descriptions—nothing could be more to her needs.
Crossing the south veranda and passing through a hallway the full width of the main building, some thirty feet, we come out on the inner court with its wide verandas. Close by the door is the old bench where Juan Can sat, “his head leaning back against the whitewashed wall, his long legs stretched out nearly across the whole width of the veranda. . . . He was the picture of placid content.” (Page 11, Vol. I) Across the court are the servants’ quarters, and we imagine old Marda’s copper saucepan shining through the open window still uplifted as she flung it “full of not over-clean water so deftly past Juan’s head, that not a drop touched him.” . . . And “at which bit of sleight-of-hand the whole court-yard, young and old, babies, cocks, hens, and turkeys, all set up a shout and a cackle.” . . . (Page 12, Vol. I) And we wonder if Mrs. Jackson did really see a similar performance somewhere, sometime. Everything else is there.
We visit the stables, stock sheds, the old olive mill, the orange and peach orchards, the vineyard, and at the tap xvii of the dinner bell we are graciously asked to join at the family table, and later sit and take much pleasure in the conversation with the family on the south veranda. They give us innumerable incidents of those who have visited the ranch: how Mrs. Jackson came during the absence of the family and remained but two hours, and how if they had known they might also have forbidden the use of the ranch, and yet with all the annoyance much pleasure has come with it.
We go to the music room, and the guitar and piano, songs and merry conversation drive time so fast that only too soon does the time for our leave-taking come, which is not over with until the train moves away. But it is not the hospitality alone that has given us such pleasure, but the knowing that we have spent a delightful day at The Home of Ramona.
Of Guajome what more can we say than
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these, It might have been.”
What Ramona would have been with Guajome Ranch as the home of the heroine we cannot say, though surely it would have had a setting worthy of its stateliness in its prosperous days, but it is fast going the way of all our landmarks; already in a neglected state, it will soon be left out of the list of possible homes of Ramona.
It is too bad to see it, but unless some “Landmarks Club” takes hold, it is doomed. Undoubtedly the finest specimen of the old Spanish times of California, it would be a reasonably good investment for the town of Oceanside or the State to own it and keep in repair for the attraction it would have for the thousands of tourists who come each year to Southern California. Let there be at least one of these old Spanish homes preserved for those who follow us. xviii We do not put the value upon them now that we will twenty, forty, or sixty years hence, but then it will be too late to save them.
The Guajome, the Los Cerritos, the Camulos, and the Delaguarre places should be cared for at the public expense, first for their historical value, and if not for this, then for financial reasons as an attraction to the traveling public.
A. C. Vroman
August 15, 1913
Page numbers are included for completeness. They refer to the two-volume Pasadena Edition, not the edition used for the present etext. Links lead to the appropriate chapter.
|I.||Interior of Chapel||3|
|III.||San Carlos Mission, Monterey||41|
|IV.||San Gabriel Church and Bells||60|
|V.||Torn Altar Cloth, Camulus||82|
|VI.||The Padre Cells, Mission San Luis Rey||102|
|VII.||Mission San Luis Rey, from the Graveyard||125|
|VIII.||Inner Court, Santa Barbara||147|
|XI.||“To be given to my adopted daughter”||212|
|XIII.||Our Lady Angels, Los Angeles||260|
|XIV.||Indian Lace. Drawn from a piece of lace made by Alessandro’s kinspeople||277|
|XV.||San Juan Bautista Mission||3|
|XVI.||General View of San Luis Rey Mission||27|
|XVII.||Entrance to Graveyard, Temecula||46|
|XIX.||San Diego Mission||95|
|XX.||Ramona’s Bedroom, San Pasquale||116|
|XXI.||San Luis Obispo Mountain from Site of Mission||145|
|XXII.||Sheep Corral and Hut||166|
|XXIII.||House of Indian Agency Doctor||197|
|XXIV.||San Jacinto Mountain||223|
|XXV.||San Juan Capistrano Mission, showing door to room where Felipe found Antonio||242|
such real sympathy for the Indian as the Señora Moreno
[ . . . assuming for the sake of discussion that “you can’t marry my daughter” counts as “real sympathy”]
at last their conversation turned from friendliness to a coldness on the part of the Señora
[Did the real-life Señora figure out that she was to be the model for the book’s villainess?]
With his face beaming with pleasure
[Vroman is making this up. He wasn’t there.]
to a little brook . . . in the shade
third . invisible
unless some “Landmarks Club” takes hold
[Funny he should say that . . .]
[List of illustrations]
on this page only, the name “Camulos” is spelled “Camulus”
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Introduction and Contents
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.