Los Angeles Colony History
The history of the Los Angeles Colony is a culmination of a progression of events that had it’s beginning in the California Gold Rush of 1849. This history is to a large extent chronicled by its leading founder and first historian of the California Society of Mayflower Descendents Herbert Folger who is descended from Mayflower pilgrim Degory Priest. The Folgers of Nantucket Massachusetts date back to the early 1600’s, and by the time of the Gold Rush many of them came to mine for gold in California, including Herbert’s father, and a cousin who ended up starting the Folgers Coffee Company. Another cousin was Henry Clay Folger who founded the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and was president of Standard Oil of New York that later became Mobil Oil. Herbert is best known for having played a key role in starting The Five Generations Project of the General Society of Mayflower Descendents. These are a series of silver books on each of the pilgrims written by prominent genealogists with detailed source documentation that is still being added too as more research prove family lines.
“The concept of this genealogical project was first formally conceived by George E. Bowman in Boston and Herbert Folger in San Francisco in the early 1900s. The format was an expanded version of the Alden Memorial published in 1867. With full approval at the annual meeting of the General Board of the Mayflower Society on September 19, 1959 the project was officially started. Each volume uses evidence from primary sources to document the descendants of one or more Mayflower passengers. Copies of these books can be found in many libraries across the nation. In this website is a book authored by Herbert Folger that points out the links between many California Gold Rush miners and Mayflower Pilgrims. On a personal note my Smith cousins drove a herd of cattle across the country, over the Sierra Mountains, and settled in the San Joaquin Valley to supply the Gold Rush miners with beef. Later during the drought of 1859 they drove their herd back over the Sierras and founded Smith Valley Nevada.
When the California Charter of Mayflower Descendents was officially granted in 1907 by the General Society at a meeting in New York, it was Herbert who made the general announcement. He later chaired the first official meeting in California where a constitution was adopted. Dr Charles Mills Gayley was elected the first state Governor, and Herbert became the first Historian. Their Captain was a Mr. Miles Standish, and the Treasurer was Mr. Harold Edward Smith.
At this point it should be noted that Los Angeles had recognized and celebrated its Mayflower heritage long before it became a member of the state society when it was formed. In fact every year even before California statehood there has been the celebration of the pilgrims on Thanksgiving and a history of their voyage taught in schools. The Los Angeles Times has many articles about the Pilgrims going back to the beginning of the paper. In one article dated Dec 17, 1901 a banquet was held to celebrate the Anniversary of the Mayflower’s Arrival. Nearly 400 people attended surrounded by flower arrangements and commemorative pictures. The speaker was the President of Pomona College Dr. George A. Gates, and his theme was “The Pilgrim Spirit in the West.” In the final two paragraphs he said.
“The great principle that we have from the Pilgrims is that unity may, or rather must, come through liberty. It is a great though inevitable step from liberty in the individual to unity in society and the state. The Mayflower compact bound the Pilgrims together, and held them in that bond, which was not oppressive, though, but true liberty, for by it they expressed their highest ideas of right, which produced social and political unity.
The Pilgrim spirit has been strong in the West, and especially so in Southern California; it has reared our churches; it has built, endowed and equipped our institutions of learning, and will go on with its good work.”
One other event stands out amongst the many pre-colony Pilgrim celebrations, and historical events, and that is the first motion picture (silent movie) ever made of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. The premiere of the Charles Ray’s production “The Courtship of Myles Standish” took place in 1923 at Grauman’s Million Dollar Theater (The Egyptian) and was released nationally. The film is based upon a a classic (fictional) poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). It tells of “the terrific struggle with the stormy Atlantic during which the ancient sailing craft wallows in the trough of the sea, is swept by storms and battered by waves. The joy of sighting the shores of America, and the sickness and sorrow of the first months on foreign land, snow covered and icebound.” Then the fruits of new progress followed by the first Thanksgiving dinner. Mr. Ray built a full size replica of the Mayflower on a Hollywood lot which is now KCET studio’s. The film did not live up to the great expectation it recieved during production, and Ray lost his personal fortune as a result. The film is now lost with no known copies in existence. Note: I am looking for a copy of the film or posters. FS
Charles Ray as John Alden of the Mayflower
During the production a day was set aside for a luncheon that was held by the Optimist’s Club who invited as guests members of The United States District Court, Superior Court Judges, and Mayor Cryer for a total of more than 400 attending. The “luncheon was served on a large stage where the scene builders had constructed a complete reproduction of the settlement of the pilgrims on the Plymouth shore.” Afterwards they toured the Mayflower which was considered “the most expensive set of its dimensions ever built.”
In 1927 (A few years after Ray’s film was released) the Los Angeles Colony was formed. Herbert Folger had long seen a problem with the practicality of having meetings in San Francisco where Southern Californians would have to travel 500 miles in order to attend. Through his efforts, and a number Southern California residents (members), the first meeting was held at the home of Mr. Orra Eugene Monnette. At that meeting Mr Arthur Cooke Davis was elected the first Regent of the Los Angeles Colony. In later years the title Regent was changed to Governor. Mr Davis and Mr. Monnette were also elected to the state board where Carl Clifton Curtis of Pasadena was already a member. Mr. Monnette would later become the second regent of the Los Angeles Colony, he is best known as the founder of the Bank of America. Mr Monnette was also
“Appointed in 1913 to the Los Angeles Municipal Annexation Commission; Los Angeles City Planning Commission in 1920 and was made a member of the Board of Freeholders which framed Los Angeles’ city charter between 1923-1924. In 1914, Monnette was appointed to the Los Angeles Public Library Board, and reappointed every five years until his death in 1936. Monnette was elected to President of the Library Board in 1916, and retained that office until his death.” Wikipedia
It was largely through Mr. Monnette’s efforts (through bond packages) that the Los Angeles Central Public Library was built, and then the 48 branches. It is also interesting to note that the opening ceremonies for the Central Library was in the same year as the founding of our colony. Directly next door to the Library and also opening in 1927 was the Mayflower Hotel now known as the Hilton Checkers. In the hotel was the Mayflower Tavern Coffee Shop, and Ye Bull Pen Inn which was originally located a block away when the owner, a Mr. Charles F. DeLong decided to build the hotel and move his restaurant within. It is unknown if the construction of the hotel (which occurred during prohibition) is somehow related to local Pilgrim descendents beyond the fact that the theme for Ye Bull Pen Inn was English 1600’s, and of course using the Mayflower name for the Hotel and Coffee Shop. Records indicate that the lobby of the Hotel had Murals of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth painted on the walls.
In summation the Los Angeles Colony of the Mayflower Society of Descendents has a proud heritage, based upon a long standing recognition, and celebration of the voyage of the Mayflower. President John Quincy Adams (Descended from John Alden, and a cousin of mine) has called the Mayflower Compact "the first example in modern times of a social compact or system of government instituted by voluntary agreement conformable to the laws of nature, by men of equal rights and about to establish their community in a new country." Thus in the spirit of these commemorative words we remember the pilgrims, and continue their tradition.
Governor Franklin Smith
The 33rd Governor of the Los Angeles Colony of Mayflower Descendents in the state of California