Los Angeles County
JOHN MANUEL CARSON
CARSON, JOHN MANUEL, Capitalist, Los Angeles, California, was born in that city April 12, 1862, the son of George Carson and Dofia Victoria de Dominguez. He married Miss Kate Smythe in San Francisco, California, November 24, 1891, and to them there have been born four children, John Victor, George Earl, Valerie S. and Gladys G. Carson.
He is descended from a family whose history if so intertwined with that of California and Los Angeles that mention of it is here made necessary. The names of Carson and Dominguez are integral and important parts of the history of California, the latter dating back for a hundred years, the former from the days immediately following the Mexican War. A century ago what is now Los Angeles County, with the great city of Los Angeles as it heart, was divided into five great ranchos, owned by Spanish gentlemen whose acres spread for miles and whose flocks and herds, cared for by an army of servants, ranged into the thousands.
Of the five ranchos mentioned at this time, when California was like a transplanted bit of romantic old Spain, the great San Pedro or Dominguez Rancho was occupied under provision grant, by Don Juan Jose Dominguez. It comprised ten and a half leagues (approximately 50,000 acres), and from it have been cut various towns, and agricultural districts which rank with the richest sections of the West today.
Following the death of the original owner, it was granted on December 31, 1822, by the Spanish Governor, Pablo de Sola, to Sergeant Cristobal Dominguez, nephew and heir of Don Juan Jose. Three years later, upon the death of Cristobal, it descended to his son, Don Manuel Dominguez, then a brilliant young man of twenty-two years.
Cultured, splendidly educated and a man of extraordinary individuality and mental power, this man, the grandfather of Mr. Carson, played a conspicuous part in the affairs of California and Los Angeles during one of the most stirring and tragic periods of their history. He was in public life during the Spanish regime, the Mexican dominance and when the United States took over the territory of California. In 1828 he was elected and served as a member of the “Illustrious Ayuntamiento” of the City of Los Angeles, and the following year was chosen a delegate to nominate representatives to the Mexican Congress.
In 1832 Don Manuel Dominguez was made First Alcalde and Judge of the First Instance for the city of Los Angeles; in 1833-34 he served as Territorial Representative for Los Angeles County in the Mexican Congress, being called in the latter year to a conference at Monterey for the secularization of the missions. In 1839 he was elected Second Alcalde of the city of Los Angeles; in 1842, was again elected First Alcalde and Judge of the First Instance, and in May, 1843, Prefect for the second district of California. It was during this time that two military companies were formed for the defense of the county, he serving as Captain of one of them until the office was suppressed the following year.
In 1849 he represented Los Angeles County in the Constitutional Convention at Monterey, where was drawn the first Constitution of California. Three years later he was elected County Supervisor, and after a splendid record, retired to private life. He was importuned many times to accept other public honors, but consistently refused in order to devote himself to the management of his private affairs.
In 1855 the San Pedro Rancho was apportioned between Don Manuel, his brother and his two nephews, he buying an extra quarter in addition to his portion, so that one-half of the vast estate remained with him. Of the 25,000 acres which he retained a large part has since been sold. The townsite of Redondo Beach, also Terminal Island at San Pedro were once a part of this rancho.
Don Manuel was married in 1827 to Senorita Marie Engracia Cota, daughter of Don Guillermo Cota, Mexican Commissioner, and their union was blessed by ten children, of whom six daughters survived after the parents passed away. Don Manuel was called October 11, 1882, his death terminating a relationship which had existed for thirty-five years. Companions united in their aims and ambitions in life, Don Manuel and his wife were not long separated by death, her demise occurring a few months later, on March 16, 1883.
Following the death of the mother the estate was divided between the six daughters, Dona Victoria, mother of Mr. Carson, receiving more than 4,000 acres.
The old adobe house on Dominguez ranch, where Don Manuel made his home for fifty-five years, has always been kept in an excellent state of preservation. However, within recent years it has been put in perfect condition and stands as one of the picturesque landmarks of Southern California. It is the intention to preserve the house in its present good condition and hand it down from one generation of the family to another.
Don Manuel was highly respected as a man of unimpeachable integrity and honor, a gentleman of fine old Spanish-American type, and one whose memory is revered by his family and friends.
The Carson and Dominguez blood was united in 1857, when George Carson, member of an old eastern family and a veteran of the Mexican War, wooed and won Senorita Victoria. His parents were both natives of New York State, where he spent his boyhood, later moving to St. Charles, Illinois. He enlisted under Colonel Newberry and served until the close of the Mexican War, being mustered out of service at Santa Fe. After spending some time at the latter place and in old Mexico, as a trader, he finally located at Los Angeles in 1853. For many years he conducted a large hardware establishment on Commercial street, in Los Angeles, in partnership with a friend named Sanford, but sold out his interest in 1862 to take the management of San Pedro Rancho, in itself a vast business enterprise.
At first Mr. Carson devoted his attention mainly to sheep-raising, but later added to this a large stock of fine bred horses and cattle, and also went into agriculture on a large scale. He was active in this until his death in 1901, and was one of the largest stockraisers in the Southwest. He was also prominent in Masonry.
His widow, five daughters and five sons still live on the old place, which has been managed for many years by John Carson.
John Carson, who is regarded as one of the substantial business men in Los Angeles, received the early part of his education in the public schools of Los Angeles and later was an honor student at Santa Clara College.
Upon the completion of his studies he returned to Rancho San Pedro and became assistant to his father in the management of that vast estate. Later he operated a portion of it on his own account and upon the death of his father assumed complete charge of the property.
For nine years or more Mr. Carson operated that portion of the ranch belonging to his immediate family, but in 1910 the property of two of the heirs was amalgamated, and the Dominguez Estate Company organized for the purpose of handling it. Mr. Carson was chosen a Director of the company and General Manager of the property and under his supervision this property has been brought to an almost perfect state of development. There still remain of the original ranch about 17,500 acres, practically every acre of it now being under cultivation.
In addition to the Dominguez Estate Company, Mr. Carson also is the General Manager of the Dominguez Water Company, which furnishes the water necessary to the cultivation of the land, and keeps about four hundred head of cattle, he being the only one of the present generation to retain the traditional stock interests of the family.
“Dominguez Ranch,” as it is generally called today, has been the scene of many notable gatherings in years past and one of the fine hospitalities of its owners, originated by the father of Mr. Carson, was a great barbecue to which the friends of the family, to the number of several hundred were invited each year. These gatherings are recalled as the acme of entertainment, and, although they were discontinued for several years following the death of the elder Carson, his son has recently revived them and intends to make them a feature of the social life at the family place for the years to come.
Besides the operation of the family estate, Mr. Carson has other business interests to which he devotes a large part of his time. Among these are the Automatic Flagman Company and the Automatic Distributing Company. He holds the office of President in each of these corporations and is the active factor in their management. The first named company manufactures an automatic railway signal, which has been adopted by various railroads in the West, and which has proved one of the valuable safeguards introduced into railroad operation in recent years.
This device, operated by electricity, is made up of a circular metal danger signal which sways to and fro like a pendulum on the approach of a train, which a bell rings simultaneously, thus giving double warning to vehicles and pedestrians nearing railway crossings. At night another safeguard is added, a red light flashing in the center of the signal. Since its installation on railway lines of the West, the “Automatic Flagman” has operated with splendid success and is generally credited with having prevented many disasters.
The other company, the Automatic Distributing Company, serves an equally important purpose in business, its product being a distributing device whose chief asset is economy in the presentation to the public of newspapers, etc. It, like the “Automatic Flagman,” also has been generously adopted.
Although he is a man of great personal popularity and recognized for his unusual ability, Mr. Carson has remained out of politics. Had he so elected, he could probably have had any number of offices of public trust, but consistently refused all suggestions of this nature because of his aversion to appearing in the limelight. Also, he prefers to render his services to his State in the more practical way of developing the resources of her land. In this latter field he stands with the leaders of development in the Southwest. A great landowner himself, he has operated to the best advantage and his production of crops have added to the general prosperity of the State. He has also aided largely in the development of other projects. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, he has figured in numerous movements having for their object the general betterment of the city and the surrounding country.
Several years ago, when the Pacific Electric Railway Company built its splendid interurban line from Los Angeles to Long Beach, California, with its right of way lying through the former Dominguez property, it paid a tribute to the work of Mr. Carson and his father by naming one of its stations “Carson,” after the family.
Mr. Carson is a man of extraordinary amiability and counts his friends by the hundreds.
His fraternal affiliations are the Royal Arcanum, the Knights of the Maccabees, Foresters and the P. B. O. Elks.
Transcribed 6-20-09 Marilyn R. Pankey.
Source: Press Reference Library, Western Edition Notables of the West, Vol. I, Pages 301-302, International News Service, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta. 1913.
© 2009 Marilyn R. Pankey.