Jonathan Temple

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Jonathan Temple
BornAugust 14, 1796
DiedMay 31, 1866
Spouse(s)Rafaela Cota

Jonathan Temple, or Don Juan Temple (August 14, 1796 – May 31, 1866) came to Mexican California in 1828 and became a large California rancho landowner, cattle rancher, and one of the region's wealthiest citizens.[1]


Jonathan Temple was born in Reading, Massachusetts, to Jonathan Temple (Sr.) and Lucinda Pratt. From at least 1823, Temple was a merchant living in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1827 he migrated to the Pueblo de San Diego in Mexican Alta California, where he was baptized a Roman Catholic. In 1828 Temple moved north to the Pueblo de Los Ángeles, where he opened the settlement's first store, a business he operated for almost thirty years. His younger brother. Francisco P. Temple. joined him there later.

Jonathan Temple married Rafaela Cota (1812–1887) in 1830, and they had one daughter, Francisca Temple (1831–1893).[2] In 1836, Temple hosted the first vigilance committee to form in California at his Los Ángeles residence. The committee later executed two lovers accused of the murder of the woman's husband, thereby committing the first lynching in California.

Rancho Los Cerritos[edit]

In 1843, he purchased Rancho Los Cerritos from his wife's relatives, the Cota family. His 1844 adobe survives as part of the Los Cerritos Ranch House National Historic Landmark site. Both Temple and his ranch house played roles in the Mexican-American War. Temple created a thriving cattle ranch and prospered, becoming after Abel Stearns, the wealthiest man in post-statehood Los Angeles County.

During the 1840s, Temple was active in ship-bound trade throughout the coasts of Alta California and central Mexico, and owned extensive lands between Acapulco and Mazatlán. In 1856, by providing, through his son-in-law, Gregorio de Ajuria (1819–1861), the funds to finance the Plan of Ayutla removing Antonio López de Santa Anna as Mexico's president/dictator, he became the lessor of the Mexican national mint, a concession held by him and his daughter until 1893, when the mint was nationalized by Porfirio Díaz.


Temple was also one of Los Angeles’ first developers, constructing such landmarks as the original Temple Block and the Market House, which later served as city and county administrative headquarters, contained the county courthouse, and featured the first true theater in southern California. He also served as the first alcalde (or mayor) of Los Angeles after capture of the pueblo by the United States during the Mexican-American War and served on the first American-period common (city) council. In 1849, after Los Angeles was ordered by California's military governor to conduct a survey, but couldn't pay for the work, Temple paid for the Ord Survey out of his own funds, and then was repaid by the sale of lots created in the survey. Temple Street (Los Angeles) was developed by him as a modest one-block dirt lane in the 1850s.

The ill-fated timing of his construction projects in late 1850s Los Angeles, which was in an economic downturn, was exacerbated by a flood in 1861-62 and drought from 1862-65 that almost destroyed the cattle industry, then the backbone of the local economy.

San Francisco[edit]

Temple moved to San Francisco. Jonathan Temple lived his last years in San Francisco where he died in 1866, two months after selling Rancho Los Cerritos to Flint, Bixby & Co for $20,000, or less than a dollar an acre, during a prolonged depressed real estate market.

Rafaela Cota de Temple moved to Paris to join her widowed daughter (Gregorio de Ajuria having died insane in Paris in 1861), and died there in the 1887.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James Miller Guinn "A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs", Vol. II, 1915
  2. ^ Jonathan Temple ancestry
  • Paul R. Spitzzeri, "The Workman and Temple Families of Southern California, 1830-1930," (Dallas: Seligson Publishing Company,) 2008.

External links[edit]

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