The Old Mill, Part 2: John Windell Wood in 1917.

Here’s some more on the history of the mill by John Windell Wood from Pasadena, California, Historical and Personal: Do bear in mind that it was 1917, a much more racist time, and his tone reflects that.


Remember, when Helen Hunt Jackson wrote Ramona in 1884, the Mission Indians in California were being literally decimated. For example, in 1852, there were an estimated fifteen thousand Mission Indians in Southern California, but 30 years later, they numbered less than four thousand.


The fact that we have any missions left in California is down to the preservation efforts of the Native Sons of the Golden West, but they started out as a “nativist”

organization that began as an “order embracing only the sons of those sturdy pioneers who arrived on this coast prior to the admission of California as a state.” (New York Times, July 11, 1884). In other words, California for white people. Still, the Native Sons have changed, America has changed, and we have a lot to thank these early racists for – they saved a slice of history that was disappearing in the name of “progress.”  So cut John Windell Wood some slack, he meant well, and it is unwise to “clean up” the past to reflect today’s standards.


El Molino and Some Other Interesting Objects


When the Indiana Colony was established, there were several objects of interest in the vicinity which held more than common interest to the colonists. The first of these was of course, the Garfias Adobe, or as much of it as yet remained, the mission, and the Old Mill.


Before the building of the old mill, the Indians and the Spanish people about San Gabriel ground their grain or the nuts they used for food in metates (mortars.) Many of these metates and their accompanying pestles have been found about the sites of Indian villages and are sometimes yet to be found. But with the advent of Fray Zalvidea at the mission business, energy was instituted there for the worthy friar in making lazy Indians labor as well as eat, and began a course of training that was different in many respects from [their] indolent past.


It is said by historians of the period, that when Fray Zalvidea couldn’t overcome the aboriginal's reluctance to work and be baptized, too pretty vigorous efforts were followed to improve him. In fact, posses of troopers were sent into the hills to fetch the recalcitrants to book.  This may explain the lengthy roster of acolytes that cheered the laboring friars. [this refers to the practice of sending soldiers out to round up Indians who were not enslaved to the missions. Due to the high death rate, it was hard to keep enough workers going.]


It was Fray Zalvidea who built the Old Mill by Wilson's Lake [in Lacy Park] and which for many years was an object of romantic interest. This mill was built in 1810-11 under the supervision of one Claudio Lopez, who stood grimly over the reluctant aboriginal while he toiled at his unaccustomed labor.


It was built of stone with a tile roof, the walls being from three to four feet in thickness. The water for driving the grinding wheels was brought from a little stream called Mill Creek rising in Los Robles Canyon, and which, after performing its services at the mill, ran into the depression that formed a lake, in later years known as “Wilson's Lake.” This lake was enlarged by building a dam across its lower side and thus became valuable because this stored water, was used to run a sawmill, a tannery and for other useful purposes under the able direction of Father Zalvidea.


The father was fast establishing a system of business enterprises about the mission in which the neophytes were compelled to perform their part. These little industries supplied the country thereabout, and even to greater distance, with meal-tanned skins and sawed timber becoming a source of revenue to the mission. So if we feel inclined to criticize the severity of Fray Zalvidea, we nevertheless must concede him to be a man of business capacity perhaps quite suited to the people whom he had pressed into his service.


But the original mill was superseded by another built in 1821-22 by one Joseph Chapman for the mission; an adventurous buccaneer or pirate, who by good luck was captured by Spanish Californians and somehow acquired their friendship. He eventually married the daughter of a large land owner, became a substantial citizen and landed proprietor himself – a romance of itself.


The new mill being located just opposite the mission, did the work needed and the old one was abandoned. In 1859, Col E.J.C. Kewen purchased a tract of land, including the original mill, and converted the mill into a dwelling where he lived with his family for many years.


Colonel Kewen became widely known as a democratic politician and as an orator. He was elected Attorney General of the state. A son, Perry Kewen, now resides at South Pasadena and is fond of relating how he once hunted wildcats and foxes where Pasadena's business now centers.


The original Old Mill passed into the hands of Col E.L. Mayberry who built a fine residence near it and lived there for many years. This property is now part of the Oak Knoll tract and the site of some fine villas. The mill itself is now the clubhouse attached to the Huntington Hotel and a golf club headquarters.


One of the millstones used in grinding was secured by Mrs. Jeanne Carr and is at present used as a doorstep at her late home on Kensington Drive. When Mrs. Carr built her home at Carmelita, long since removed, she procured some of the original tiles from the mission at San Gabriel and utilized them in constructing a fireplace in that home. The hearth was thus formed.


The second mill herein mentioned [is] long destroyed [with only a] trace remaining… Thus passeth the romance of the once famous Old Mill. Perhaps a modern romance may some time hallow it the romance of golf sticks [in 1917, the mill was used as a golf course clubhouse] and the effete business man endeavoring to rehabilitate a battered constitution and the girl.”



~ by ravenjake on July 6, 2009.

One Response to “The Old Mill, Part 2: John Windell Wood in 1917.”

  1. Interesting post. How is the west! I miss it.

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