Thomas Savage on Michael White, 1877

I realize that this is moving the horse around in back of the cart, but I’m so darned excited about these oral histories that my usual adventures in the desert just have to be put on hold for a bit. It’s also high time mi amigo, Miguel Blanco, got some good press so I’m workin’ on that too. The main thing here is that when Thomas Savage, who transcribed his interview (the “oral history”) word-for-word, just as he said it, met him, this was his impression.




THIS AGED MAN lives on his ranch San Isidro at some distance from the San Gabriel Mission. He has been ever since he settled in California known among the native Californians as Miguel Blanco, and, indeed, the certificate of his marriage existing in the archives of said mission, 22 November 1831, calls him Miguel Maria Blanco. He has a large family of children and grandchildren, and is now reduced to poverty, having to sell his ranch to pay off encumbrances thereon.


Mr. White is an Englishman, who believes that the Americans have treated him badly; he accuses Americans of having swindled him out of lands and robbed him of other property so that after having labored hard to secure a competency for himself and family, he finds himself in his old age, reduced to penury. All this misfortune he lays at the door of Americans, their authorities, and laws.


Apart of that, I found him genial and obliging, willing to impart what he knew. It is evident that he is a man who gave but little of his attention to politics, and would take no part in civil strife.*


Mrs. Florinda Plaisance, granddaughter of Michael White, described him as of medium height and weight, with blonde hair which he let grow long in later life. The frontispiece is based closely on a portrait secured by Mrs. Plaisance, a copy of which is in the Huntington Library.


The narrative appearing on the annexed pages I took down from his dictation at the house of his son-in-law, Mr. [Ygnacio] Alvarado at a short distance from this town of Pomona.


Mr. White is in very feeble health; his hand is extremely shaky, his memory seems to be quite fresh, and I am led to believe from the little I have seen of him, but much more from what others have said of his character, that he is a truthful man, a man who means always to speak the truth.


Pomona, December 16th, 1877.


—Thomas Savage


*Michael White as a resident of long standing was considered an authority on early history. For example, when, in 1864, B. D. Wilson and party found remains of cabins on Wilson's Peak, White was asked concerning their origin. In this case he knew nothing about them. [Reid, History of Pasadena, 395.]


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~ by ravenjake on December 30, 2009.

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