Monday, August 31, 2015

Jack Jue's Lost Childhood Photo Album 1940-1941

Recently I found a wonderful photo album that my late father Jack Jue put together as a 12 and 13 year old boy on the Van Nuys Ranch in 1940 and 1941. Many of the photos have his writing on the back .  His sister Joan is 10 and 11 at the time.  There are also I think some pictures from the late 1930s as well. My Dad and his sister Joan were very close throughout their life. The closeness was accentuated by their mother's Rose death early in their childhood.  There are a few photos in the back of the album from later years but most are from the 1940 to 1941 era.

My Dad's captions are in quotes when they are available.
"Myself,  on Thunder, my horse , at Van Nuys Ranch , 1941"

This is  my father's sister Joan on her horse,.

"Joan at Walker Ranch, 1940"

"Jack Jue myself at Van Nuys ranch on the old Cletrac 1941"

(note: "Cletrac" was a brand name of the Cleveland tractor company. Here is a history of the company. The old tractors are now in museums and antique collections. This may be a model W)

"Me on Clectrac 1941"

San Tong (Jack's father)

Corrine ( Jack's Aunt), Leong Shee (Jack's grandmother), Jack and Joan on a trip to Catalina in the late 1930s.
San Tong and Joan onboard the ship to Catalina
"Jack and Joan at Expo"
"Jack Jue , Donald Zinmerly"

"Joan and Lloyd at Van Nuys, 1940"

"Joan , Lloyd Ballard on Besty at Van Nuys , 1940"

"Joan at Van Nuys, 1940"

"My grandmother at Van Nuys Ranch , 1941"

"Joan Jue at Van Nuys, ps first picture of flash camera, 1941"

"Joan Jue, my sister, 1941"
"Joan, June 1942 , Van Nuys"

"Jack Jue, Van Nuys, June 1942"
"Loone at Van Nuys Ranch 1941"

(Loon's story is here.)

"Frank the Dog , April 1942 Van Nuys

My Dad had  a new brother and new sisters after his father remarrried  and he took their pictures.

"Joan with Jane and Guy at Van Nuys, 1941"
Actually Jack's sister is Soo-Jan but he calls her Jane in the caption

Here are some other undated pictures in my Dad's album.
A later picture of his sister Soo-Jan and brother Guy

My Dad's sister Pingeleen.

"January 1947, Guy"

A photo also in 1947 of Guy, Soo Jan and Pingeleen during construction of the big new Van Nuys Ranch house.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jue Luggage at the Chinese American Museum-Los Angeles

Recently my grandson, Jackson, toured the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles with his kindergarten class. He discovered that luggage in the museum in a permanent  exhibit titled "Challenging Exclusion" had his name on them !

The luggage belonged to Yee Lai Ping who was my grandfather San Tong's second wife and the mother of my Aunties Soo- Jan , Pingeleen, and Soo-Yin and my uncle Guy. The luggage as well as other family items were donated to the museum by our family with the donation arranged by my Auntie Pingeleen who curated exhibits at the museum.

The luggage aptly symbolizes how many families including our own challenged Exclusion era laws to make long trans pacific journeys to and from China to create family units and to reunite families separated by great distances and discriminatory laws. My great grandfather Jue Joe immigrated to the United States in 1874 before Chinese Exclusion laws were enacted. After successfully making his fortune in America he returned to China in 1902 , never intending to return . He married and had two sons, one of whom was San Tong, my grandfather. Jue Joe left his farming operation in the United States in the hands of his brother Jue Shee who was supposed to continue to send proceeds from the business back to Jue Joe in China.  Unfortunately, Jue Shee sold the entire business, took the proceeds and left for parts unknown which forced Jue Joe to return to America to try to remake his fortune. Jue Joe left his family in China and despite immigration laws that should have prevented his return to America, he returned to America with the help of "friends in high places " although classified as a laborer and one of the excluded classes at the time.

There was a loophole in the Exclusion laws that allowed merchants to bring their families from China and Jue Joe who was a farmer and not a merchant established his merchant status by buying into a friend's produce business and was thus successful in 1918 bringing his wife and two sons to America as dependents of a merchant, including my grandfather, San Tong.  After the untimely death of my grandfather's first wife Rose who was born in America, my grandfather San Tong was able to return to China to marry again in an arranged marriage because of his merchant status ( by that time Jue Joe had his own produce outlet at the Central market in Los Angeles, and my grandfather as co owner of that business was able to establish his merchant status ) . Accompanied by his mother who was also able to travel back and forth to China as the wife of Jue Joe, a merchant, my grandfather married Yee Lai Ping and brought her back to America. Yee Lai Ping was also able to skirt the exclusion era laws with her new status as being the wife of a merchant. Ultimately the discriminatory anti Chinese exclusion laws were repealed in 1943 during the Second World War when China was a US ally.

There is a rather poignant footnote to the luggage. It was intended to be used on a trip back to China  in the 1950's by Yee Lai Ping when she was going to return to China with her daughters Soo-Yin and Pingeleen to visit her mother.  Unfortunately, her mother died before the trip was planned and the trip was never undertaken. Many years later, long after Yee Lai Ping's death, my Aunties Soo-Yin and Pingy did make the trip back to our ancestral village and met with relatives at the house that Jue Joe built long ago. They made a video of that trip which is included in this blog.

From my Auntie Pingy:
"Thank you for your interests in the CAM permanent exhibit. Since I had curated the antique sections of the exhibits, the luggage that Jackson saw belonged to my Mother. I had donated the set after It was included in the "Immigrant Journey" portion of the temporary exhibit I curated from "Hearth to Heaven". I choose the luggage although I exercised some artistic license on those pieces because the "Jue" was very recognizable!! How wonderful Jackson saw his name and brought new life to the past, that after all, is what the museum experience is all about.. connection."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Jue Joe Ranch Exhibition- Chinese American Museum 1999

In 1999 my Auntie Pingeleen curated an exhibit at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles that featured pictures and farm implements and household items from the Jue Joe Ranch as well as contributions from other Chinese American families that highlighted the Chinese American farming experience in the Los Angeles Area. Thanks to my Auntie Estelle for providing the following pictures.

Overview of the Museum Exhibit 

Here are some photos  of Chinese American farming life. The central  picture is an aerial view of the Jue Joe Ranch. Above that is a picture of the Pierce Arrow Touring Car that belonged to Jue Joe and has been discussed in a previous post.  In the foreground is an iron pitchfork that figured in a unfortunate incident that involved my father Jack and his sister Joan  and my grandfather San Tong (Ah Gung to me and BABA or Chinese for Dad to my father and his sister ) . Let me have my Auntie Soo-Yin tell the story :
Photo #1.  Iron Pitchfork (in foreground):  This is the pitchfork that Jack used as he tossed hay for the horses and as Joan jumped around on the haystack playing.  Suddenly, the prongs poked Joan in her foot by accident and left a gaping hole the size of a "quarter" by her toe.  Oh, boy, was Jack scared!  He begged Joan, "...DON'T TELL BABA!!!"  (Meaning Ah Gung.)  And according to Joan, "...Jack was REAL NICE to me the whole rest of the day...." 

Here are some pictures of various farm implements from the Jue Joe ranch . Notice the asparagus shoots coming up from soil ! One unusual farm implement is the custom asparagus machete  between the saw and the hammer on the wall that was designed by my grandfather, San Tong Jue .  Let me have my Auntie Soo-Yin tells us about it :

Photo #3.  Asparagus Machete (on wall between hammer and saw):  Ah Gung invented this tool because the "standard machete" (on wall between hand-hoe and saw), which field workers generally used to cut thick stalks like corn and sugar cane, often damaged the lower half of asparagus shoots as they were being harvested.  The asparagus shoots were delicate because they had to be harvested when young, and they had to be cut at just the right angle.  So Ah Gung designed this V-shaped, two-prong blade that proved to be a very precise cutting tool, it was more efficient than the standard, and this allowed his field workers to be more selective in cutting the right shoots.   

In the photo below my cousin Michael and his wife , Noelle, are studying various items from the Joe Joe Ranch . On the wall with the Chinese writing is the deed to Jue Joe's land in China that has been discussed in a previous post in this blog. Let me have my Auntie Soo-Yin tell us about some of the other items on display .  The lowest picture on the wall labeled "Produce"  is a picture of my Uncle Guy, Michael's father,  selling produce at "Spring Farm" as a teenager.  I have discussed "Spring Farm " in another post in this blog .

 I think Guy was about 15- to-16-years old in this photo.  I recall that Guy and Soo-Jan were still in high school.  Soo-Jan must have been about 16- to-17-years old because I remember her working at the check-out counter at Spring Farm sometimes.  She was learning how to pack groceries correctly in a bag...heavy stuff on bottom, delicate stuff like egg cartons on top...Richard Sr. was teaching her. 

I recognize Michael's "diaper table."  We had a utility table just like this one that sat next to a big wok in our kitchen.  Both the big wok and top of the utility table were nickel-plated metal.  Due to the table's age and condition in the photo I would guess that it is probably from the Ranch.  But I could be wrong, Estelle, if you had one too.  I recall that my Mom liked to prepare our baby food on that little table, which is why I remember it, and I guess this was the table's good "dress rehearsal" for Michael's diaper changing, LOL! 

Also, I see Ah Gung's bookcase and bookshelf that he'd made in "Woodshop" at Van Nuys High School.  Next to Michael's diaper table I see what looks like Ah Gung's bookcase that had glass window panes on its door.  But one or two of the glass window panes were broken when we found it in the barn, and so the door was removed and the bookcase sat in a corner of our family room on the Ranch.  The bookshelf to the right of the bookcase was made in the same semester, I believe.

In this last picture there is the Jue family photo that headlines this blog and various household items  and another photo that were contributed by other Chinese American families to give an idea of household items in a Chinese American ranch home .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Official Deeds to Jue Joe's Main Property in China

In a previous post we shared some deeds that my great grandmother Leong Shee brought with her from China in 1918 which my late Auntie Joan had given to my son Robert.  My Auntie Estelle was kind enough to share an additional two deeds that were also brought by Leong Shee from China. The writing in these deeds has never before been translated by our family. Nick, my nephew, was kind enough to have his business associate Franc in China translate these deeds and my Auntie Soo Yin was able to provide some context and commentary.  These documents are a doorway to better understanding our family's history in China.
Here are the two  documents ( click to enlarge and inspect )  :

Here is Franc's translation and some of his commentary of the events in China at the time the documents were created. (Note: In this contract Zhao Xinyan is the seller. Zhao Weiyue  is Jue Joe's "Ming" name used in official documents . More on names below.)

"File 1
Because of lack of food,the seller Zhao Xinyuan discussed with his family members and decide to sell his father's farmland,the farmland was named "old orchard garden",the area is 9 fen(equals 600 square meters), selling price is 45 tael(silver currency).Zhao Xinyuan's relatives do not want to buy the farmland,middleman Zhao Hongqiu introduced buyer Zhao Weiyue to him. Zhao Xingyuan and Zhao Weiyue discussed and agreed with the price 45 tael,they signed the contract, Zhao Weiyue paid full money that day, and Zhao Xingyuan gave Zhao Weiyue the farmland the same day. Zhao Xingyuan promise the farm land was his father's property, Zhao Xingyuan is responsible for this. Seller Zhao Xingyuan and buyer Zhao Weiyue signed the contract to prove the deal.

The finger printing is Zhao Xingyuan's grandma Chen's, to prove they received Zhao Weiyue's money. Date is Lunar January the 25th,1911.

File 2
It is the same as File 1, but it is a formal one with government stamp.

The taxable amount on the formal contract is 62.5 tael, and Zhao Weiyue paid 3.75 tael to the new government as tax. Date on File 2 is 1913.

The below information is not on the documents, I just gave you the information for your reference:
The Qing Dynasty demised in February 1912, and the Republic of China established in 1912 after The Revolution Of 1911.
I guess the contract need official approval from the new government, to approve the owner is Zhao Weiyue, so file 2 was needed."

Let's now discuss some family context to understand these deeds.  Jue Joe returned to China in 1902 and in an arranged marriage married Leong Shee. He purchased a house and in that house his first son San You was born. Later he purchased farm land and built a large two story house to which the family moved and in which my grandfather San Tong was born.

 Upon returning to China from America Jue Joe had turned over his farming business to his brother Jue Shee who remained in America. Their arrangement was that Jue Shee would send regular proceeds from the profits of the business back to Jue Joe in China.  In 1906 , however, having discovered that his brother unbeknownst to him had sold the farming business and left to parts unknown  with the proceeds , Jue Joe has decided to return by himself to the United States to remake his fortune. 

 Leong Shee never hears from Jue Joe again for nine long years and it is twelve years before she is able to reunite with him in America with her boys. She has heard of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and presumes that Jue Joe may have died. She must raise her two sons herself, support her family and maintain title to Jue Joe's property in China. In 1911, with dramatic changes sweeping through China , Leong Shee realizes that she needs to draw up a new contract retelling an older contract between Jue Joe and the seller to insure that title is clear. Land ownership laws  during the Qing dynasty strongly favored retention of family lands along patriarchial lines and if land was sold by a family member to a non family member, the owner could reserve the "right of redemption" and buy back the property at will at the original asking price !

I think  that Leong Shee with all the turmoil happening in the country was trying to insure her property rights  and had this document drawn up  so that no  family members of the original seller could contest her right to remain on the property or buy the land out from under her .. by having the head of the family " grandma chen" affix her fingerprint in 1911 to a retelling of the original contract  done previously she  was insuring her right to title in perpetuity into the future... I bet the original contract is in the other papers that the family has . After the Chinese revolution in 1911 and the installation of the new Republic of China , she was careful to have the deed officialy recognized and stamped by the new government and pays tax.   I am very impressed with Leong Shee , she was one hell of a strong woman , in all respects.

A note on the name Zhao Weiyue . This is the english version of the mandarin pronunciation of Jue Joe's "Ming" or ceremonial name that is used on official documents.  In Cantonese the same characters are pronounced Jue Wei Ngok. This is also the Chinese name of my first born son Robert. My grandfather San Tong chose the Chinese name Wei Ngok (Wei Yue) for his first great grandson ,my son Robert, which was also the "Ming" name of his father.  Wei has the connotation of "great and powerful" and " yue" refers to  "a  mountain peak". The character "Yue" is also the surname of a famous general of the Southern Song Dynasty Yue Fei. , and another meaning of this name could be to refer to that general  ie " the Great and powerful Yue " .

Each person had a 名 ming² [ming²], or official name. Apparently a person had only one ming at a time, but he or she probably had several ming throughout his or her lifetime. A person might even have a posthumous ming. Ming are composed of one or two syllables. Disyllabic ming could constitute a single word or a two word phrase. In the case of phrases, one word might modify the other (for example, names meaning Flying Swallow or Gold Lotus), one word might reinforce or duplicate the other (for example, Hsiao³ Hsiao³ [Xiao³ Xiao³] where the character translates as small, and Shu4 Cheng¹ [Shu4 Zheng¹] where both characters translate as virtuous, pure), or the two words might express two separate characteristics (for example, a name meaning Graceful and Beautiful). In a few cases, a person had a two-word ming that, in the West, seems like a nickname or sobriquet (for example, the ming Hsiao³ Wan² [Xiao³ Wan²], meaning Young Wan, apparently given because the bearer’s older sister’s ming was Wan² Wan² [Wan² Wan²]). As previously described, a ming is an official name. It typically would be used on official documents and in official proclamations. However, in many periods of Chinese history, it was impolite to use a noble or important person’s ming when speaking to him or her.[2,3] At other times, the acceptability of using a person’s ming depended on the relative status of the speaker and the person to whom he or she was speaking. For example, in such eras it was usually acceptable for a father to use his son's ming, a husband to use his wife's ming, or an employer to use an employee's ming; but the reverse would not be acceptable. However, a traditional difference in status might not be sufficient. For example, although his role as husband gave him more status than his wife, the emperor's son-in-law probably would not use his wife's ming when speaking to her where others could hear."

Here is some additional commentary on these deeds by my Auntie Soo-Yin:

 "Hi Family,
Nick:  Thank you for having Franc translate Auntie Estelle's 2-part deed.  This translation is a treasure for our family!!!  I am sure that this deed refers to Jue Joe's 2nd home, which Auntie Pingy and I visited in 1987.  Moreover, the 600 meters of land converts to 6458.35 square feet, and this is the approximate size of the family compound that we saw in 1987 and that Auntie Pingy had video-taped.  The transitional period between the collapse of the Ching Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic/Nationalist era is a fascinating one, as exemplified by Leong Shee's frantic efforts to ensure that title to Jue Joe's Chinese land remained in the family. 
JR:  I agree with you that this deed, dated January 25, 1911, is a retelling of Jue Joe's earlier contract of sale.  Franc's English translation says, "...Zhao Weiyue paid full money that day.  And Zhao Xingyuan gave the farmland the same day...."  To me the use of "that day" refers to an earlier time period, as opposed to the use of "this day."  Also, in clearing title during China's chaotic political situation, Leong Shee would know that she needed to remove "right of redemption" from the seller and his family, and would know that she needed to have the most senior member, the Grandma, affix her consent to it and to stand as witness to the conditions of the original sales agreement.  Leong Shee, along with so many other families in China, feared the loss of their lands in the political and economic turmoil of the times.  She was wise to reconfirm legal title with the new Republic. 
Interesting that the 2nd part of the deed with the new government's red stamp, dated 1913, indicates a bit of tax gouging by the new Republic.  The tax was raised to "...62.5 taels (of silver)...."  This was a lot of money!!!  But Leong Shee negotiated to pay 3.75 taels of silver.  She was a skilled businesswoman.   
In fact, Ah Gung always said that Leong Shee "...was an impressive businesswoman in China...."  He told us that his mother had added 32 acres to Jue Joe's original land, and in 1987, Auntie Pingy and I saw for ourselves the 32 acres that Leong Shee had added.  The family's land in China is quite large. 
Leong Shee was the only girl in her family, and she was the youngest among 5 older brothers.  Her father died young from diabetes.  After Jue Joe left for America, in 1906, the brothers taught Leong Shee how to run the farm and how to conduct business transactions.  Ah Gung said that he remembered his maternal grandmother taking care of his brother Sam and himself, while his uncles and Leong Shee went out to the fields to work.  In short time, Leong Shee became very proficient on her own.  She acquired so much land that she rented portions to share-croppers who paid her in rice yields, instead of cash.  Ah Gung remembered jumping into the mounds of rice in a shed--almost floor to ceiling--and nearly being buried alive!  At market Leong Shee resold this rice at a high price because the quality was very good.  She was a skilled negotiator!  The family in China never starved because Leong Shee was the breadwinner in absence of Jue Joe.   
Having been such a successful businesswoman in China, you can imagine the shock that Leong Shee must have felt in arriving on the Chatsworth territory and in being relegated to KP duty cooking and scrubbing for 20 cowhands, the rain pelting her cheeks.  Leong Shee couldn't speak English.  She felt isolated.  And she cried for the first 2 years begging Jue Joe to send her back to China.  Frontier life was adventurous for rugged men with big dreams, but it didn't give much comfort or compassion to pioneer women. 
I'm sure you will find more deeds in Robert's stash.  There should be deeds to land that Leong Shee purchased on her own, too, as part of her 32-acre additions.  Ah Gung said that she brought lots of deeds with her to America.  I am sure that the 310 taels of silver that Weiyue paid for a home in 1903 is the house that Sam was born in.  And the gravesite purchased in 1902 was for the reburial of Jue Joe's father, Lerng Kao. 
Robert's name:  An adult male can have several different names besides a married name, as indicated in JR's article.  It depends a lot on the relationship between one person speaking to another.  In this case, I think Weiyue is probably one of Jue Joe's names.  Remember that he built his own family shrine in Canton City (today's Guangzhou) and named it "Wei Kao Ngok Hong."  It was in honor of his father and in honor of all the generations to come.  It was a great honor that the elders in Sum Gong Village had bestowed on Jue Joe:  They allowed him to start his own family shrine that records his lineage and all property transactions.  Most everyone was recorded in the clan lineage, unless you distinguished yourself by becoming very successful.  Leong Shee seems to have used "Weiyue" in her business transactions because a Chinese woman uses her husband's name in formal transactions, not her own name.  So Ah Gung may have named Robert "Wei Ngok" (Weiyue) to celebrate the powerful continuity of generations...his great grandson! "

Here are some pictures of our family.

My great grandmother Leong Shee in her later years when I knew her . 

 I  am happy to have known her growing up. She was to me always the loving kindly great grandmother. I am very happy to learn of her early life when she was a fierce "woman warrior " ensuring the survival of her family and her two sons all on her own in a time of great upheaval.

Here is a picture of my late grandfather San Tong, my late father Jack Sr. , and my son Robert.

  " So Ah Gung may have named Robert "Wei Ngok"(Weiyue) to celebrate the powerful continuity of generations...his great grandson! -Auntie Soo Yin "

And here is my previous post about the trip that Auntie Soo-Yin and Auntie Pingy made back to the old homestead in China including video of the house that was built on the property referred to the deeds. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jue Joe Real Estate Transactions in Los Angeles 1896 to 1904

In a previous post  I have discussed the fact that Jue Joe told the family that during the late 1800s before he went back to China he was good friends with Otto Brant, co founder of Title Insurance and Trust Company and signed deeds for him and loaned him money. The unlikely relationship between my great grandfather , an illiterate Chinese immigrant  houseboy and potato farmer, with one of the most powerful early businessmen in Los Angeles during a time of rabid anti-chinese agitation has fascinated me.  I found some initial confirmation in a digital newspaper search that there was in fact a real estate transaction with Jew Joe's name on it during the time period in question and was interested in looking for more evidence of real estate transactions from the period and went down to the Los Angeles County recorder office in Norwalk, CA.  and looked at historic microfiche files.  I found some fascinating grant deeds dated 1896 through 1904 that confirm our family history of Jue Joe being involved in real estate transactions during this time and although none of the deeds have Otto Brant's name on them, his background involvement can certainly be inferred.
In earlier posts I have speculated that Jue Joe and Otto Brant met around 1894 after Jue Joe had arrived in the Los Angeles area after working in the Napa valley wineries as a field hand and the Southern Pacific railroad as a track layer.  He was employed in 1893 by the Neils Johnson family in Chatsworth as a houseboy. At the same time Otto Brant was cofounder of the Title insurance and Trust Company in Los Angeles.  The two become good friends, an unlikely pair to get together for sure !

A study of Otto Brant's life reveals that he always liked to the remain in the background in real estate deals. Although he was a major negotiator in land deals involving vast land holdings in the San Fernando Valley and the Imperial Valley for General Harrison Gray Otis , Harry Chandler, Moses Sherman and others , he was always quiet and in the background.  I speculate that in his friend Jue Joe he found the perfect man to trust to be a "straw man" in real estate deals where he himself could remain behind the scenes.  Let's begin a study of these transactions from 1896 to 1904 and see what we can learn. The County of Los Angeles stores historic grant deeds on microfiche . During this time original grant deeds were officially recorded by making a handwritten copy of the deed in a large book and the original deed given back to the grantee ( buyer).  These records can be searched by grantee(buyer's) name but not by grantor(seller). I was able to locate deeds in which Jue Joe was the buyer and later was able to use newspaper records to locate records of sales that Jue Joe made.  The original grant deeds are very hard to read as you can see from the scanned copies and I have typed out the relevant passages in this post to make the documents easier to read.

I suspect their first real estate transaction together was this one, December 8th 1896. It is the first transaction that I can find Jue Joe's name. I suspect that by this time Jue Joe has left work at the Johnsons and has started farming potatoes on forty acres of leased land in Chatsworth through Otto Brant's help in aiding him to secure a lease.  Interestingly, in this document his name is listed as Jue Joe which is how he spelled his name in later years , while in other transactions the name is spelled as Jew Joe.
Here is the original first page of the document .

Here is the detail with Jue Joe's name as the "party of the second part".

Here is a the text of the relevant portion of the deed:

 "This indenture made the eighth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety six between Lillian Holmes and Thomas W. Holmes her husband , the parties of the first part, and Jue Joe the party of the second part. Witnesseth: That the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar lawful money of the United States of America to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged do by these presents, grant , bargain and sell convey and confirm unto the said party of the second part and to his heirs and assign forever all that certain lot piece or parcel of land situated lying and being in the County of Los Angeles, State of California and bounded and particularly described as follows to wit: Farm lot number 50 of the Gardena Tract in the County of Los Angeles, State of California ....except for a strip of land 4 feet wide conveyed to the Redondo Railway Company for railroad right of way by deed......"

Wait a minute ! Jue Joe is buying land for one dollar is that true ??? Not exactly,  as I stated in a previous post, by convention grant deeds need to specify that there is a real estate transfer of title through the payment of "consideration" from the buyer to the seller. The actual amount entered into the deed can be a nominal amount and not reflect the actual sale price which is on the sale contract.  During this period of time I found many deeds which had nominal amounts of money entered  such as one dollar, five dollar or ten dollars and other deeds in which significant amounts of money were noted probably signifying the actual sale price so it can get a bit confusing.  I think the way of looking at these historic deeds is that if a nominal amount is entered in the deed the actual sales price is hidden and where a signficant amount of money is entered into the deed that probably does reflect the actual sales price.

"A deed must include a recital of consideration. In most instances, a recital of nominal consideration (for example, Ten Dollars) is sufficient. The actual consideration paid for the real property must be disclosed to local and /or state tax departments for tax purposes. Real property may be conveyed as a gift, in which case no actual monetary consideration is being exchanged for the real property. There are special circumstances in which the actual sales price must be inserted, as in the case of a deed in which the grantor is acting in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of the owner of the real property"

Ok what happens to this property?  Jue Joe holds onto his new property and on August 12, 1897 just five months after buying the property he sells it to J.A. Lakey for $4250

On September 15, 1897 just one month after making the sale on the Gardena farm lot, money in the bank, Jew Joe purchases 10 acres from E.J. Baldwin a big subdivider in Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo in present day El Monte, CA. for $1750.
 Here is picture of the deed.

 Here is a detail of the beginning of the deed.

 Here is the full text of the deed.

" I, E.J Baldwin of the County of Los Angeles, State of California for and in consideration of the sum of one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars , gold coin of the United States of America do hereby grant to Jew Joe of the County of Los Angeles, State of California, all that real property situated in the County of Los Angeles, State of California and described as follows : the northerly half of lot number two in block F of the Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo , that is to say that part of said lot number two extending ten chains from the center line of the road running between blocks E and F of said Rancho according to maps thereof recorded in Book 43 page 43 Miscellaneous records of the Los Angeles County reference here being made to said map and the record thereof for further description containing 10 acres.

The grant is made upon and is subject to the following conditions and party of the second part accepts this grant subject thereto, that is to say:
The party of the first part hereby reserves for his own use and benefit any water ditch or ditches now on said land, together with the right to convey water therein or to carry water through pipes in lieu of open ditches over and across said land and also reserves all water rising on said land with the right to take said waters in pipes or ditches and carry water wither in pipes or ditches over and across said land from and to other lands belonging to said party of the first part and said party will protect said land herein agreed to be conveyed from damage by reason of any new pipe or ditch line which may be constructed or used by said party of the first part.

Witness my hand this Fifteenth day of September 1897
E.J. Baldwin by R.H. Lloyd, his atty in fact., State of California, City and County of San Francisco

On this Twenty ninth day of September A.D One Thousand eight hundred and ninety seven before me, Holland Smith, a Notary Public in and for said City and County of San Francisco residing therein, duly commissioned and sworn, personally appeared R.H. Lloyd known to me to be the person whose name is subscribed to the annexed instrument, as the attorney in fact of E.J. Baldwin described therein, and the said R.H. Lloyd acknowledged that he subscribed the name of E.J. Baldwin thereto as principal and his own name as attorney in fact and as such attorney in fact executed the said instrument. In witness thereof, I have here unto set my hand and affixed my Official Seal at my office in the City and County of San Francisco the day and year last above written.
(Notary Seal)   Holland Smith, Notary Public in and for the City and County of San Francisco, State of California. "

Interestingly, probably realizing that title is clouded on this property, Jew Joe purchases the exact same property from H.A Church and Jennie A. Church on the exact same date !! The history of this subdivision as explained in a previous post is that it was a large Mexican Land Grant Rancho that was subdivided originally in 1887 by E.J. Baldwin and his partner. I presume that perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Church had bought the land and perhaps defaulted on payments and title reverted back to Mr.Baldwin or so Mr . Baldwin thought but perhaps the Churchs had never really released title legally and Jew Joe to clear title needed to buy the same property from the Churchs for a nominal fee. Here is the relevant text of the deed from Mr. and Mrs. Church to Jew Joe.

"This indenture made the fifteenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety seven between H.A Church and Jennie A. Church his wife of the County of Los Angeles, State of California, the parties of the first part, and Jew Joe of the same place, the party of the second part. Witnesseth:That the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of five dollars, gold coin of the United States of America to them in hand paid by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged , does by these present grant, bargain, and sell, convey and confirm unto said party of the second part and to his heirs and assigns forever all that certain lot,piece or parcel of land situated , lying and being in the Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo, County of Los Angeles, State of California, and bounded and described as follows to with: All right title and interest in and to the northerly half of Lot number two, block F of Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo, that is to say , that part of said lot number two extending ten chains from the center line of the road running between blocks E and F of said Rancho according to maps thereof recorded in Book 43 page 43 Miscellaneous records of the Los Angeles County."

All right, now what happens?   Jew Joe holds this property for four years and sells it to Sophronia A. Bliss.
Here is text of the relevant portion of the deed:

 "This Indenture, made the Thirty-first day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and one , between Jew Joe, an unmarried man of the County of Los Angles, State of California, the party of the first part and Sophronia A. Bliss, an unmarried woman of the same place, the party of the second part.
Witnesseth: that the said party of the first part, for and in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars in Gold Coin of the United States of America to him in hand paid by the said party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, does by these presents grant,  bargain, and sell, convey and confirm unto said party of the second part and to her heirs and assigns forever all that certain real property situated in the County of Los Angeles, State of California and particularly described as follows:
The northerly half of Lot 2 on Block F of the subdivision of the Rancho Portero de Felipe Lugo, as per maps recorded in Book 43 page 43 Miscellaneous records of said county that is to say , that part of said lot extending ten chains southerly from the center line of the road between blocks E and F of said subdivision.

We do not know the actual sales price from the deed as only a nominal amount of 10 dollars is entered for "consideration" in this deed. However we do note  in the next day's LA Herald of August 1, 1901 the following listing of a Sophronia A. Bliss entering into a mortgage with Columbia Sav. Bank for this and other properties , terms of 3 years , 9 per cent, $2800.00

The last property I found was a transaction in which Jew Joe is listed as the buyer of a property from Annie Gray for  $2500 dollars on February 29, 1904. The problem is that Jew Joe is now in China having left the United States in 1902 with no plans of returning.  I assume that this purchase is made in Jew Joe's behalf by the person for whom he granted power of attorney to proceed with real estate transactions for him in his name after he leaves the country.

Here is the relevant text of this deed:

"This Indenture made the Twenty ninth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and four between Annie Gray.  a widow of the City of Los Angeles County of Los Angeles, State of California  the party  of the first part and Jew Joe , of the same place , the party of the second part.,
Witnesseth that the said party of the first part and for and in consideration of the sum of twenty-five hundred ($2500.00) dollars in Gold  Coin of the United State of America to her in hand paid by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged , does by these presents grant,  bargain, and  sell, convey and confirm unto said party of the second part and to his heirs and assigns forever all that certain real property situated in the County of Los Angeles, State of California and particularly described as follows: The easterly forty feet of the westerly fifty feet of lot thirteen  of
Block B of West Los Angeles Tract in the City and County  of Los Angeles, State of California as per maps recorded in Book 3, Page 143 and in Book 29 ,  pages 19 and 20 , miscellaneous records of said County..."

So what does all this tell us?  Although Otto Brant is not named on any of these transactions it is crystal clear that Jue Joe is working for someone with a keen knowledge of real estate, the nature of real estate transactions, and the need for clear title . It also shows that whoever is behind the scenes must have extreme trust in Jue Joe as Jue Joe has significant funds transferred to him in his name and holds deeds to property in his name for years.

Years later in an article in the LA Times  John Steven McGroarty (1862-1944)  named poet laureate by the State of California legislature in 1933  and also a Los Angeles Times columnist wrote about Jue Joe "Slowly but surely he established himself in the confidence of the community. He came to be trusted. His mere word was the same as another man's bond."

And as  my Auntie Soo-Yin has said:
"San Tong had said that Jue Joe's name was used on many of Otto's deeds, but he did not say that Jue Joe had any direct involvement in negotiating the transactions. Otto handled all the details of land transactions, and it was a win-win situation for both Otto and Jue Joe. Otto Brant and Jue Joe were like equal friends, according to Ah Gung. I do know that Otto used to ask Jue Joe for loans in order to finance his real estate ventures and to be his "straw man" whenever needed, and Jue Joe was always glad to oblige. Also, Jue Joe told Ah Gung that everything he knew about American business he had learned from Otto; this good friend was Jue Joe's mentor. I can see why the two men got along so well, they were both modest men.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Jue Family Farming in Wasco, Kern County 1933

Sam Jue was the eldest son of Jue Joe and unfortunately died of leukemia in October of 1933. His illness was sudden and devastating and until the onset of his illness he was a young vigorous representative of Jue Joe's farming operations. In early 1933 he was in charge of a successful Jue family farming operation near Wasco in Kern County on 40 acres of land leased under his own name. At the same time Jue Joe was farming some 44 miles away in Porterville as well. At this time, at the peak of Jue Joe farming operations 750 acres were under cultivation in San Joaquin County, Kern County, Tulare County , the San Fernando Valley, and the Imperial valley. I recently discovered this article dated August 20th 1933 from the Los Angeles Times. Despite the Depression, Jue family farming operations were successful  and Sam Jue's farm was the "largest commercial project of its kind in Kern county" and offering "employment to many".  Sam Jue died on October 21,1933 only 2 months after this article was published. He was only 30 years old at the time of his death. This article is a poignant reminder of the promise of Sam Joe's young life and the tragedy of his untimely death.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Two Dreamers in the Desert- A Mojave Tale

"Crossing the Mojave , Joe came upon a rare creek. Leaning over that flow he caught sight of  a varmint's approach . " Howdy", bowled Otto F. Brant, and he honed for Joe an easy grin. "Will ya share that juice?" Joe dipped his Stetson in assent. After the sun began to drop the two men edged beneath a footbridge for the night. They saw the moon lift over the stars and it was a disk radically bright as found nowhere on earth except for strays crossing the soundless stage.  Otto F. Brant began to tell his life's story to Joe ...
Their talk dwindled as the sky fell purple and by midnight their tales began to intersect around the campfire's corona.... Otto F. Brant offered Joe insight on the desert canon, he spoke of what pioneers practiced in that place the padres revered as the "City of Angels"....."
From the "The Legend of Zhao-An Epic Fable based on  a True Story" , unpublished novel by Soo-Yin Jue.

My Auntie Soo Yin wrote to me recently about my post in which I discuss how Jue Joe and Otto Brant could have met in Los Angeles through the intercession of Brant's  houseboy Wong Joe :
"Nice job on your theory of how Jue Joe and Otto Brant met each other.  You gave excellent analysis about the individuals and set them against a historical backdrop of social, political, and economic issues influencing the time period.  Very conceivable,..... There is a question in my mind, however, as to why Ah Gung kept saying that Jue Joe and Otto Brant met in the Mojave and hoboed together to Los Angeles."

Yes... we keep coming back to the "Mojave question"  in our family oral history. My grandfather always told the story that Otto and Jue Joe met in the Mojave and they "hoboed" together to Los Angeles.  For years I have discounted that story as most patently a myth.  When Jue Joe arrived in the San Fernando Valley  he was employed as a houseboy on a Chatsworth homestead .  Otto Brant had just formed his title insurance company in Los Angeles. It was impossible for them to have met in the Mojave and hoboed together back to Los Angeles ..... or maybe not .  Let me tell you a little Mojave tale in which we weave together some facts and some speculation .

In early 1894 we know that Jue Joe made a railroad trip back to Sacramento California from Chatsworth  to get a new certificate of identity required under the new anti-Chinese legislation or face possible deportation.
He had thrown away his first certificate of identity which he had obtained while working in St. Helena and needed a new duplicate one with a picture ID. Since the Sacramento immigration office held the documentation of his original certificate he had to make the journey to Sacramento. At the time there was a branch rail line to Burbank which connected to the main Southern Pacific rail line which stretched across the Mojave desert through the town of Lancaster over the Tehachipi mountains and on to Sacramento.

At the same time in 1894. Otto Brant's new title insurance company business had weathered a very rocky  first year. A nationwide Depression hit the Los Angeles area hard in 1893 just as Otto's business was getting started.  According to his son, David, ... "they really had a hard time of it there.  Then the terrible depression came along , and they were just about to fold up ... when some subdivider came in and gave them a big job of writing policies for this subdivision ... "

Meanwhile the town of Lancaster in the Mojave desert, originally a refueling and watering stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad as it crossed the desert had been booming and was unfazed by the 1893 depression.

"The area in which the city of Lancaster is now located, which is now known as the Antelope Valley, was originally home to the Piute Indians. Lancaster's origins as a settlement start with the Southern Pacific Railroad, which is believed to first use the name 'Lancaster', where a station house, locomotive watering facilities and section gang housing were built when the railroad laid track through the town's future location. By September 1876 Southern Pacific had completed the main line through the Antelope Valley, linking San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The origin of Lancaster's name is unclear, attributed variously to the surname of a railroad station clerk, the moniker given by railroad officials, or the former Pennsylvania home (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) of unknown settlers. Train service brought passengers through the water-stop-turned-community, which, with the help of promotional literature, attracted new settlers. The person credited with formally developing the town is Moses Langley Wicks, who in 1884 bought property from the railroad for $2.50 per acre, mapped out a town with streets and lots, and by September was advertising 160-acre tracts of land for $6 an acre.

 The following year, the Lancaster News started publication, making it the first weekly newspaper in the Antelope Valley. By 1890, Lancaster was bustling and booming, and thanks to adequate rainfall, farmers planted and sold thousands of acres of wheat and barley. The early '90s were years of heavy rainfall and so were prosperous ones for the farmers. Mr. Ward shipped the first carload of alfalfa. As many as two hundred horses and mules could be seen lined up on Tenth Street feeding or waiting their turn to unload the harvests. 1893  - Seems to have been a banner year. Sixty thousand acres skirting the foothills were planted to wheat and barley. Some 730 carloads were brought to Lancaster to be shipped to Los Angeles.

 1894 - Opened a series of dry years. The cattle were the first to suffer and were driven north in such numbers that the stage road was trodden with dust. The town was devastated by the decade-long drought that began in 1894, killing businesses and driving cattle north, though fortunes improved somewhat in 1898 following the nearby discoveries of gold and borax, the latter to become a widespread industrial chemical and household cleaner.... "

 Early 1894 before the drought hit , when Jue Joe made his trip to Sacramento might also have been a good time for Otto F. Brant to scope out the Mojave around the burgeoning town of Lancaster for real estate opportunities as well as opportunities to expand his Title insurance business into the area. The rail line lead directly out from Los Angeles into Lancaster and the Mojave.   Now is it really possible for Otto and Jue Joe to have met out in the desert on the outskirts of that Lancaster boomtown? ... maybe ... some hints come from the character of both men's subsequent actions.

 Jue Joe was the first Chinese farmer in the San Fernando valley farming potatoes in that hardscrabble earth of the Chatsworth area rather then in areas closer to Los Angeles or better irrigated. He looked for opportunities where others had not already gone.

 Later in his career after Otto Brant had become successful... his son David remembers how he met Harry Chandler, of the LA Times and how Harry Chandler tried to get Otto to go with him to the Colorado River Desert to tour the land there and go in with him on investing..... Otto declines Harry's invitation and decides to do a little exploring on his own ... "So I asked Mr Chandler ... "How did you and my father get together?" Well, he said that father was doing such a terrific job developing Title Insurance and Trust company, and " I heard he was a strong man.. so I just went down to his office and introduced myself and told him my story and offered to take him down"... And he said , "your father said to me... 'I,ll go down and take a look at it , but I don't want you there throwing the bull at me. So I'll go down alone.'"...

 And Otto doesn't just make a little trip of it ! David Brant writes "Mother, of course, was very frightened at the prospect of father going away out there in that desert... So father told her that he would leave word in Yuma as to where he was going; and if they wired his party, they'd send Indian runners out onto the desert and locate him and bring him back. So I remember that very well. And we all prayed. Mother got us all down on our hands and knees praying for a safe return. He came back with a couple of ollas. They were big balls made by the Indians. Made out of clay, they were unglazed, they were porous. They would bury those where there was a showing of water in the sand, had a neck just big enough to get your hand in with a cover on that , and they would cover those up with sand . They had some way of locating them. I don't know what that was but had one of those dug up and brought it up. We had it in our library on Figueroa Street.... Another thing he brought back- somebody had castrated a bull , and had taken his scrotum , his pouch and filled it full of sand and one thing and another so it was up like this. And they'd put a red baby ribbon on the top and filled it with cigars. Father used to embarrass my mother holding this thing out offering everybody cigars. He and Mr Chandler were always full of fun and joking with each other, even though things were terribly serious always......"

 So could Jue Joe have been out in the Mojave around Lancaster on his way back from Sacramento just getting a feel for the land and seeing if it was a good place to build his dream of a farm of his own? ... and did he just happen to meet another dreamer in Otto Brant just poking about in the desert and getting a feel for it's possiblities.?.. yes just maybe ! And what about hoboing it back to Los Angeles ?. Southern Pacific railroads of the time often had three classes of rail cars on their line .. plush first class cars for the wealthy , second class for regular travelers , and "emigrant" cars with the cheapest fares which were often little more then converted boxcars with bench seats.... Jue Joe of course would have emigrant car tickets... and Otto, of course, being the kind of guy he was would have no qualms of joining his new found friend in the converted boxcar back to LA... two unlikely dreamers "ho boing" back to Los Angeles after meeting in the desert ........

David Brant's memories of his father can be found here.