Background Information and Sources

Chapter One

The Great Drought of 1863 and 1864 in California caused the mass starvation of livestock.

The following three articles give good insights on how catastrophic it was.



Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles (1890)

Vol. 1, No. 5 (1890), pp. 33-39 (7 pages)

Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Historical Society of Southern California


The Great Drought : Fickle Weather in 1860s Led to Breakdown of Cattle Industry

by Richard Crawford

Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1991


Been there: The California Great Drought of 1862-65

The current California drought has had many predecessors, none worse than the Great Drought of 1862-65.

By W C Casey, Neighbor

Jan 30, 2014 4:42 pm ET; website:


By 1871 Rancho de Esperanza had been reduced to the western half of the valley east of the Arroyo Burro canyon. The beautiful little canyon with its access to a sandy beach along the Pacific Ocean…

The fictional Rancho de Esperanza plays off the name of the famous Hope Ranch neighborhood of Santa Barbara.,_California

Rancho de Esperanza is fictitious, but the Arroyo Burro Canyon does exist as the Arroyo Burro Beach which Santa Barbara locals like to call, Hendry’s Beach because William N. Hendry owned a farm in the area that included the lovely beach and estero.


“The fastest horse in all of Santa Barbara. And Cherub followed him.”

“Of course, he did. That dog would follow my son to the very gates of Hell.”

Cherub is a Spanish Mastiff, a breed reputed to be gentle giants of great loyalty.

Spanish Mastiffs were brought to California by the first explorers and settlers. The dog in the Book of Tobit was certainly not a mastiff, and the breed of the dog in the Bible is not known due to a lack of description in the text. Ancient people in the near east, around the time of the writing of the Book of Tobit, did keep dogs as guards for their herds and flocks. However, some claim that the ancient Jews despised dogs and would never keep them as pets, but the mention of Tobias’ dog following him argues to the contrary.


 “Hey, Tobias!” yelled a young man coming out of a dry goods store. “You going down to see the work on the wharf?”

“In a bit. I got some errands to do. I would like to take a gander.”

“Ain’t it something? Next year they’ll be docking the San Pedro and San Fran steamers there.”

Before Stearns Wharf was built, coastal steamers – carrying nearly all of the west coast’s freight and passengers – anchored offshore and used small boats to transfer goods and people to and from the shore.


“It’s a glorious day, that’s for sure.” Tobias climbed down from Tigre and, with his hand stretched out ready for a handshake, came over to the stranger. “My name is Tobias.”

The stranger firmly shook his hand. “I’m Father Raphael, but call me Rafe.”

As the stranger initially stated, he is a Franciscan Friar, and because he is also ordained to the ministerial priesthood, his proper title of address used by layman is, Father.


“Great Cesar’s ghost. Then should I be addressing him as Emperor Claude?”

“If you’re brave enough to offend a proud little donkey.”

“Claudius it is then. So, tell me about this Emperor Claudius.”

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ took place during the reign of the Roman emperor, Tiberius (14 AD to 37 AD). It is fairly certain that he, nor the later Roman emperor, Claudius, knew anything about our Lord, Jesus Christ or Christians. The author named the donkey after Claudius because he became the author’s favorite Roman emperor after watching the BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’ historical novel, I, Claudius.


“Yesterday evening a wandering Indian, a Chumash most likely, died by the side of the road to town. Father wants to bury him here.”

The Chumash people are the original inhabitants of the Santa Barbara area. Here is a short video lecture on their history.


“Now, now, now, mi amore. It’s been years since highwaymen plagued the road to Los Angeles.”

“Just this week Mrs. Brooke told me a tinker told her he’d seen Jack Powers and his gang of highwaymen.”

“Mother,” said Tobias, “those are tall tales. Jack Powers has been dead for many years.”

John A. (Jack) Powers in his lifetime (1827 to 1860) earned his daily bread in a few and varied ways, but earned his place in California history as a bad man. Wikipedia gives as good a bio as any other source.


Chapter Two, San Gabriel


January 7th, in the winter of 1871, two months before Sarah lamented in her room, praying to God to end her life, she was to marry a young man from a neighboring farm in the San Gabriel Valley. The Mission San Gabriel Archángel, surrounded by a little town, farm fields, and fruit orchards, rested peacefully in the San Gabriel Valley and about a day’s ride from the city of angels.

The Mission San Gabriel Archángel was the fourth Californian mission (1771). Its surrounding town predates the birth of Los Angeles at which no mission was ever founded. Here is a map of the area as it existed in 1893 (the viewer needs to mentally delete the railroad tracks and train shown):,0.197,1.277,0.456,0


“To Sarah,” they all said. The coolness of that southern California winter’s late afternoon felt tolerable enough; the brandy helped and at least a hot Santa Ana wind wasn’t blowing. For moments they remained as silent and still as the lizards had been in the midday sun.

Here are links to two short videos explaining southern California’s Santa Ana winds:


“Demonios!” said Flaco who then made the sign of the cross. “My people got a magic woman who could tell you what that dream means and how to protect yourself, because you’ve been dreaming some bad stuff.”

Flaco (Spanish for skinny) is descended from the San Gabriel Valley original inhabitants, the Tongva people. Some or many of the Tongva who practiced the healing arts and theology were women, the most famous being, Toypurina:

Alfredo calls Flaco’s advice, “…loco Indian stuff…” which of course he would, being a Spanish Catholic young man of nineteenth century California. As it turns out, Flaco was right; Henry would’ve benefited from spiritual help.


Jean-Paul Marat, the tavern owner of Maison d’Arrêt – commonly called Frenchie’s – and the five men already there, looked at the young men. Alfredo’s father, Don Antonio Corinto, stood at the bar and had been talking to Jean-Paul. Some of the men smiled knowing perfectly well the reason for young Henry’s drunkenness.

Frenchie, Jean-Paul Marat, has the same name as the historical French revolutionary:

Maison d’Arret, word for word, translated means, house of arrest. In France and Belgium, it refers to a type of jail used to house prisoners awaiting trial, pretty much like purgatory is for souls awaiting God’s judgement.


a CSA captain in the war

CSA stands for Confederate States Army, and “the war” is the American Civil War.


He nodded his head, turned away, and returned with his rifle, a Whitworth single shot.

Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the whole novel before reading this page: This British made rifle, used by the CSA, was regarded as a highly accurate weapon for long range shooting – a sniper’s weapon.


Don Corinto and his son rode to Los Angeles and to the saloons on the Calle de los Negroes and to the Chinese houses of prostitution.

This street, mentioned once before and a few other times later on in the story, does not get its name from African-Americans, at least not in the sense of the black people who lived in the United States and Canada. The Spanish use of the word, negroes, referred to any person with non-European blood in their heritage; African, native American, or any mix of the two. These peoples migrated along with the Spanish heritage explorers and settlers, and occupied the lower rungs of society. Once independent of the Spanish ruling class they made their homes on this one street in Los Angeles (not sure if it were de jure or de facto segregation). By 1871, Chinese immigrants had settled on the street and become the majority inhabitants.


Chapter Three, Santa Barbara


They followed a road leading inland and toward the mountain ridge that towered over the valley containing Santa Barbara. To the east, at the foot of the hills before the mountains, they could see the towers of the old mission. Coming from there El Camino Real descended to the little town where it became State Street.

The following quotation is from this website:

“As I noted, this is a ‘legend’. The KCET piece on El Camino Real notes that message implied by the formal ‘El Camino Real’ (i.e., that the route is exactly the same one that the missionaries used) is largely a myth imagined by regional boosters and early automotive tourists. The route of the actual El Camino Real that helped link the presidios (military forts), pueblos (civilian towns), and religious missions was not fixed; the actual path changed over time as weather, mode of travel, and even the tides dictated. Furthermore, while the road provided local transportation links between colonial settlements, the primitive highway was eclipsed in importance by a water route between Southern and Northern California. Further, although local segments of El Camino Real were still heavily used, the route as a whole had faded into obscurity.”


At that early hour, only a handful of horses were tethered outside of stores and few people walked the wooden sidewalks.

Here’s a photo of Santa Barbara’s State Street as it existed in 1875:


Well before reaching the beach they turned the horses again to the east to avoid an estero.

Now the Andree Clark Bird Refuge:


When they’d ridden ten miles south of Santa Barbara, they began riding on a long sandy beach. The land behind the beach was mostly flat, interrupted every so often by stream beds and esteros. By and by they could see a few buildings including a schoolhouse.

The text refers to Carpinteria. For a photo of the schoolhouse, visit Jack’s Bistro in that small and pretty coastal town.


“The ocean waves look a mite bigger down there,” said Tobias, “and kind of pretty they way they break so organized like.”

“That is caused by the swell wrapping around this point of land.”

The text is describing Rincon Point, a surfers’ well-known point break.


“I’ve heard folks talk about the stagecoaches taking the coastal route to San Buenaventura, sometimes going along on the sand; and sometimes having to actually go splashing along in the ocean with waves hitting the side and the passengers getting all wet.”

Four wheeled vehicles had to wait until 1912 before a higher than high tide coastal road was constructed. Sections of it were wood planked, like a wharf, and that caused as many mis-adventures as once did rogue waves.


they could look down to see the San Buenaventura River and beyond, and to the east a little, the mission with a small town surrounding it.

Currently the small city is called by everyone, tourists and locals alike, Ventura. Officially, its name is The City of San Buenaventura using the same name as its mission.


Point Hueneme. They paused at that point of land south of which the mountains began their attempt to fall into the ocean. Though no town existed at the point, a construction camp swarmed with workmen beginning construction of a wharf.

The wharf was finished in 1872. Decades before it became a state known for its clogged highways, Californians looked to the sea for transportation needs.


That’s Point Dume.” Father Raphael pointed to it. “We’ll travel in an easterly direction across the point and that will take us to a cove with no waves. Calm water would be best for your swimming lesson.

The cove, currently known as Paradise Cove Beach, is in Malibu. And while it seldom receives waves higher than one’s ankles, the water, especially in the early spring, is just a bit cold for present day ocean swimmers.


The sun of the spring afternoon provided enough warmth for the two men to comfortably ride to the outlet of the creek, a brackish water lagoon.

This is Malibu Creek which flows into Malibu lagoon located just south of Malibu Point near to where once stood the Chumash settlement of Humaliwo.


If it is a person with no material or rational motive for killing, then we would have to judge that stonehearted person as a victim of moral sickness, a form of human insanity...

Before psychopathy entered medical textbooks, some nineteenth century physicians used the term, moral sickness.


He’s an outlaw?”

“Tiburcio Vasquez.”

One of the more interesting outlaws of nineteenth century California, Tiburcio Vasquez is not only remembered in history books, but also in place names and in fiction. Wikipedia is a good starting point for learning about his life, but Google his name and one will find a fair amount of references – and opinions – concerning him.


Chapter Five

Is that Los Angeles? It doesn’t look all that much bigger than Santa Barbara, maybe almost twice as big in a spread-out sort of way.  How many people do you figure live there?”

About six thousand is what I’ve been told,” replied the friar.

According to the following source, Los Angeles city’s population in 1870 was 5,728, and the total for the county was 15,309.

The author’s source citation for Santa Barbara’s population,

probably obtained its information (2,790) from the 1870 U.S. census. So, this is probably the total for all of Santa Barbara County (which at the time included what is now Ventura County – split off in 1872) and not the city.

According to this Rand McNally map, published in1883,,0.804,0.848,0.288,0

(listing populations by county) that by the time of the 1880 census, the population of Santa Barbara County had grown to 9,522. Ventura County’s population is stated as being 5,073; and Los Angeles County’s is given as 33,378.


“However, it’s bound to grow much larger now that they have the railroad carrying goods to and from the San Pedro port.

This rail line opened in 1869 and carried freight and passengers from Wilmington to Los Angeles.


“I understand a cathedral is being built,” said Father Raphael

“Just down the street, on Second and Main, I believe. They’ve already laid the cornerstone. Oh, speaking of which, before you leave town, you really ought to take the time to see Casa de Pico by the plaza. A magnificent building, three stories, stone of course, not wood or adobe. And the interior! I’m sure it beats all hollow anything they’ve got up in San Francisco.”

As mentioned earlier, Los Angeles was not a mission town. Its first Catholic church was La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles.

Presumably, Father Raphael attended evening vespers at this church.

The Cathedral St. Vibiana mentioned above was finished in 1876 and served as the cathedral for the Diocese of Monterrey-Los Angeles.

Here’s a link to the early history of the Catholic church in Los Angeles County:

Here’s a link to an 1869 photo of the Casa de Pico which also gives a good view of Los Angeles at that time:

And from the same website, a wonderful and informative collection of photos, drawings, and diagrams of early Los Angeles:


“Our marshal, Will Warren, had hired this fellow, Joe Dye, to police the bad area of town, it’s pretty much centered around a certain street down by the plaza, lots of gambling, drinking, and prostitution; much of it controlled by two Chinese gangs who also import Chinese gals for sale or service.”

Here’s two links to sources behind Mr. Gabael’s recounting of the historic incident:

The details regarding the crime supposedly committed by the unnamed Chinese woman differ. The source cited by the Wikipedia article is a book written by Harris Newmark, Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853 – 1913, and can be downloaded, gratis, at the website.


“…But even so, you’ll do yourself a favor by staying off Calle de los Negroes,” called out Mr. Gabael.

Mentioned earlier, the Calle de los Negroes in 1871 was a street of brothels, saloons, and gambling halls.

Much of that street’s business, legal and otherwise, was controlled by two Chinese Tongs. On October 24, 1871 a riot by European-Americans and Mexican-Americans against the Chinese inhabitants of the neighborhood resulted in the deaths of many Chinese men, some by hanging and some by gunshots.

Google “Chinese Massacre of 1871” and one will find more than a few articles (and one YouTube video) on the subject.


“Pleased to meet you. Not that it’s any business of mine, but were you thinking of going to the Mariposa for a bit of tickle-your-fancy with one of them Chinese gals?”

“No, not at all. It’s just everyone has warned me to stay from this street, and so I was just a bit curious about it.”

“It’s a great place for wickedness, alright. And you’re right to be cautious and all. But if you’ve a mind to, come on along with me. They all know Ol’ Jeb. You walk in with me and they’ll treat you right.”

Here are two articles briefly describing nineteenth century Chinese female immigrants forced into prostitution and slavery:


The girl smiled faintly and stepped over the log and closer to Claudius. She reached out a hand and petted the donkey’s muzzle. Then she turned to the friar, her eyes downcast, and whispered inaudibly, “Chun Loie.”

The friar’s pleasant but puzzled expression encouraged her to whisper slightly louder, “I am mui tsai. I go away Los Angeles.

The term mui tsai translates as “little sister” from Cantonese but refers to girls sold into servitude either as household slaves or prostitutes.

The historic Chun Loie, of the same name as the novel’s character, was nine years old when she was severely beaten by her mistress/owner on a San Francisco street corner. The woman was convicted of child cruelty and fined $25. Chun Loie went to live at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls, a Presbyterian mission in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Her story and that of the mission can be found here:


We’ll take her to the mission and request sanctuary. The pastor, The Reverend Father Solomon Leclercq, I am sure will grant her the safety of the chapel.”

Saint Solomon Leclercq lived in Paris during the French Revolution.

His death, other Catholics, and many other innocent people had been called for by the radical French revolutionary, Jean-Paul Marat, in what came to be called the September Massacres.


With the mission bell tower and mission now visible in the near distance, it didn’t take much longer for them to reach the outskirts of the little town. On San Gabriel’s main street, only one man noticed the strange newcomers approach and enter the mission grounds.


Chapter Seven

“…Still, I’m grateful to President Lincoln for at least restoring the mission grounds back to the church.”

The process started well before President Lincoln’s March 18th, 1865 signing of patents to restore land of two missions (San Gabriel not included) to the Catholic Church. In 1853, in response to the California Land Act of 1851 Archbishop Joseph Alemany applied for the return of all mission lands taken away by the Mexican secularization act of 1833.


Chapter Eight

I was born in Boston but I was raised in this San Gabriel Valley. Where were you born?”

“Far away, Guangdong. I came on a ship.”

Guangdong is the Chinese city and province Europeans knew as Canton. The majority of nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants to California came from the region.


Chapter Nine

Certainly not. Those are copies of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. It is revolutionary in its vision of a new order. Would you like a copy?

Karl Marx published his famous manifesto in 1848.


Like the American Revolution?” asked Tobias.

“No, it’s the French one that weighs upon his head,” said the friar.

“That was a true revolution. However, I was born years afterward, and most unfortunate, the European revolutions of ’48 never reached La Ville de Quebec…”


Leaning back in his chair, Ash seemed relaxed as he recounted, “You must have been to Europe. After the war, I went abroad. I did the grand tour same as those English swells. Most of my time I spent in Italy. While there I viewed much religious art. There are two depictions of the Virgin Mary that stand out in my memory. One, is a painting of the Annunciation by Botticelli. Saint Mary’s expression in that painting is demure and her face is pretty, yes. But much more than that, the painter captured a purity absolute in its divinity. He depicted a truly spotless soul. The face in that painting could’ve been of Sarah.

Sandro Botticelli painted three versions of The Annunciation. One of best known versions is the Castello Annunciation, seen here in this link:

Botticelli painted it for a monastery in Florence, Italy. It is now displayed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.


Chapter Ten

Nothing to cite.


Chapter Eleven

Neither, I had originally bet Porthos to win – I love that Dumas novel – but after you two returned with tired horses, I doubled my bet, even though the odds had shrunk.

Porthos is one of the three musketeers in the novel by Alexandre Dumas.


Chapter Twelve

In which case, he would need to be exorcised,” replied the priest. “However, I’m not convinced he is possessed by a demon. There should be other indications of demonic behavior, and I haven’t seen them. In any case, what is essential now, is to proceed with our assumption that Ash is the killer and he is a man obsessed with what he sees as lustful conduct or intent towards Sarah.”


Vade retro satana. Vade retro satana. Vade retro satana.”


Ash followed the friar. “He should’ve recognized the name Octavanius.”

Pope John XII, a man not ideally suited for the position.” By the firebox of the outdoor oven the friar picked up some kindling. Hot coals left over from dinner’s preparation soon had the kindling and some twigs burning. He faced Ash to say, “You are very well read on the history of the church.


Chapter Thirteen


More frequently used by travelers and especially the Butterfield stagecoaches was the road leading from Los Angeles through the San Fernando Valley and then onward to Santa Barbara or San Francisco.

The Water and Power Associates link provides photos of the then empty San Fernando Valley


The Mission San Fernando Rey de España no longer served the Lord and hadn’t since the year the Mexican governor of California, Pio Pico, sold off the property and made the mission buildings his headquarters which he called Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando.


The next day, early in the morning they reached the Saint Susanna Pass. The uphill to the crest had a steep section nicknamed, “The Devil’s Slide”, a name whose aptness they appreciated after watching a stagecoach descend.



Tobit read in the Santa Barbara newspaper of a terrible wreck on the rocks north of Point Conception.

This section of the California coast, looking like a bent elbow, is easy to spot on any map. It has seen the destruction of more than a few ships. The most famous incident being seven U.S. Navy destroyers running aground in 1923.

Wikipedia provides the skinny version of the disaster: