Lemuel Carpenter (c. 1808 in Kentucky – November 5, 1859 in California) was one of the first Anglo-American settlers of what is now the Los Angeles, California metropolitan area.

Lemuel Carpenter
Bornc. 1808
Kentucky, U.S.
Died5 November 1859
OccupationEntrepreneur, rancher
Known forEarly California pioneer
Parent(s)Jonathan and Nancy (née Shouse) Carpenter

Early lifeEdit

Lemuel Carpenter was born c. 1808 in Kentucky. He migrated to Missouri about 1828, where he served in Searcy's Company of Missouri Militia in 1829.[1]

Southern California PioneerEdit

Carpenter was in southern California by January 1833, arriving in the company of trappers Cyrus Alexander, William Chard, Joseph Paulding, and Albert Toomes.[2][3][4][5] Early California settler John Bidwell includes him in this recollection of people he knew in the Pueblo de Los Ángeles: "Los Angeles I first saw in March, 1845. It then had probably two hundred and fifty people, of whom I recall Don Abel Stearns, John Temple (Jonathan Temple), Captain Alexander Bell, William Wolfskill, Lemuel Carpenter, David W. Alexander; also of Mexicans, Pío Pico (governor), Don Juan Bandini, and others".[6]

Dating from the era of the Pueblo de Los Ángeles, The Plaza and "Old Plaza Church" (Mission Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles) in 1869.

Carpenter started a soap manufacturing business ("jabonería") at Chokishgna, a Tongva-Gabrieleño village[7][8] on the San Gabriel River in present-day El Monte that profited sufficiently for him to purchase Rancho Santa Gertrudes, which included the Tongva village Nacaugna, now Downey, California, southeast of what is now downtown Los Angeles.[9]

He was among the first of the Americans to plant a vineyard for the making of wine.[10]

His original settlement was known as "Carpenter's Farm" from 1837 until it was destroyed by a flood in 1867.[11] He was active in revolutionary activities, sided with the Americans in the Mexican War,[4] tried gold mining, and in general prospered in his new home. A popular travel guide notes: "Rancho Santa Gertrudes…was sold to Lemuel Carpenter, a Kentuckian, who married the beautiful María de los Angeles Domínguez. ... The Carpenters [were] happy and prosperous under Mexican rule".[9][12]

Rancho Santa Gertrudes was owned by Lemuel Carpenter until 1859.[12] In 1859 the rancho was sold at sheriff's auction to John G. Downey and James P. McFarland. "Samuel", actually "Lemuel" but misspelled by the recorder, Carpenter was recorded as the legal possessor as late as 1862.[13]


Lemuel's father is believed to be Jonathan Carpenter (c. 1785 Virginia-c. 1853 Missouri) and grandson of Matthew Carpenter (c. 1761 Virginia-c. 1798 Virginia).[14]

In the 1850 census,[15] Lemuel Carpenter is listed as age 42, with a real estate value of $8,000 dollars, a farmer. His wife, Maria, is listed as age 22 — she was his second wife. His children, all born in California, are listed as:

  • Susana Carpenter, age 11.
  • José Antonio Carpenter, age 9 (born November 20, 1837; descendants still live in Los Angeles[16])
  • Refugio Carpenter, age 6.
  • Francisco Carpenter, age 3.

Misfortune and DeathEdit

Carpenter's prosperity took a precipitous downturn when a $5,000 loan from John G. Downey taken out in 1852 ballooned into a $104,000 debt by 1859.[3][17] Unable to repay the debt, he eventually killed himself.[18]

The diary of Lemuel Carpenter's daughter Mary Refugio Carpenter includes this entry written on January 2, 1861: "I have been thinking so much of my father tonight. It made me weep."[19]

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ Virgil D. White: Index to Volunteer Soldiers in Indian Wars and Disturbances, 1815-1858, Volume I, A-K, National Historical Publishing Co., Waynesboro, Tenn., 1994, p. 217.
  2. ^ David J. Weber: The Taos Trappers: The Fur Trade in the Far Southwest, 1540-1846, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Okla., 1971, p. 152.
  3. ^ a b Iris Higbie Wilson: "Lemuel Carpenter" in The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., The Arthur H. Clark Co., Glendale, Calif., 1972, pp. 33-40.
  4. ^ a b Hubert Howe Bancroft: California Pioneer Register and Index 1542-1848, Regional Publishing Co., Baltimore, Md., 1964, p. 82.
  5. ^ Charles Russell Quinn: History of Downey, The Life Story of a Pioneer Community, and of the Man who Founded it – California Governor John Gately Downey – From Covered Wagon to the Space Shuttle, Elena Quinn, Downey, Calif., 1973, pp. 12, 20-22, 32, 104-105, et al.
  6. ^ John Bidwell: "First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900," Library of Congress Historical Collections, "American Memory": John Bidwell (Pioneer of '41): Life in California Before the Gold Discovery, from the collection "California As I Saw It."
  7. ^ Verne Dyson: "The Old Ranchos That are Buried in Los Angeles" in The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, issue of December 18, 1927, pp. 12-13, 23 (23), https://www.newspapers.com/image/?spot=25458857, last accessed 2 February 2019.
  8. ^ U.S. Department of the Interior: "Feature Detail Report for: Chokisgna (historical)," Geographic Names Information System, citing: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. Bulletin 30 - Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, edited by Frederick Webb Hodge, Part 1, published in 1907, Part 2, published in 1910, https://geonames.usgs.gov/apex/f?p=gnispq:3:0::NO::P3_FID:1732516, last accessed 2 Feb 2019.
  9. ^ a b Mildred Brooke Hoover, Hero Eugene Rensch, and Ethel Grace Rensch; revised by William N. Abeloe: Historic Spots in California, Third Edition, Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif., 1966, pp. 153, 163; 20, 56, 401.
  10. ^ Thomas Pinney: A History of Wine in America, From the Beginnings to Prohibition, University of California Press, Berkeley, Cal., 1989, p. 245.
  11. ^ Susanna Bryant Dakin: A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles, University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif., 1939, p. 220.
  12. ^ a b Terry Carpenter: "Lemuel CARPENTER, Anglo L.A. Pioneer", http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CALOSANG/2001-04/0986744501, 8 Apr 2001.
  13. ^ Plat of the Rancho Santa Gertrudes, showing "Samuel" Carpenter as the confirmee; "Samuel" was "Lemuel" mistranscribed by the recorder.
  14. ^ Lineage for #17908, Carpenter Cousins Y-DNA Project – see Table 1, Group 8, 17908.
  15. ^ 1850 US Census of Los Angeles county, California. Reel No: M432-35 Sheet No: 27B, February 8th, 1851 by J. R. Evertsen, Asst. Marshal. Cited from http://www.rootsweb.com/~cenfiles/ca/losangeles/1850/pg0023a.txt
  16. ^ Carpenters' Encyclopedia of Carpenters, record number 139492.
  17. ^ Dan L. Thrapp: Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, The Arthur H. Clarke Co., Spokane Wash., 1990, p. 228.
  18. ^ Lanier Bartlett, ed.: On The Old West Coast; Being Further Reminiscences of A Ranger, Major Horace Bell, William Morrow & Co., New York, printed in the USA by Quinn & Boden Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., 1930; from the collection "California as I Saw It": First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849–1900, Library of Congress Historical Collections (American Memory).
  19. ^ John Adams: "Loss of father cast shadow over her diary" in The Downey [Calif.] Eagle issue of December 5, 1997, on file with the Downey Historical Society, Downey, Calif.