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Jonathan Temple

Jonathan Temple
Born August 14, 1796
Reading, Massachusetts
Died May 31, 1866
San Francisco, California
Spouse(s) Rafaela Cota

Jonathan Temple (August 14, 1796 – May 31, 1866) came to Los Angeles in 1828 and became a large landowner, cattle rancher and one of the area's wealthiest citizens.[1]


Jonathan (also known as Don Juan) Temple was born in Reading, Massachusetts, to Jonathan Temple and Lucinda Pratt. From at least 1823, Temple lived as a mechant in Hawaii then, in 1827, migrated to San Diego in Alta California, where he was baptized a Roman Catholic. The following year, Temple moved to the Pueblo de Los Angeles, where he opened the pueblo'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 at his Los Angeles pueblo home, the first vigilance committee to form in California. 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

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 Los Angeles County.

During the 1840s, Temple was active in ship-bound trade throughout the coasts of California and 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 a revolution toppling Mexico's government, 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

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


  • Paul R. Spitzzeri, "The Workman and Temple Families of Southern California, 1830-1930," (Dallas: Seligson Publishing Company,) 2008.

External links

A library card may be required to access these links.

  • Newspaper profile of Don Juan Temple, 1930
  • Newspaper profile of The Old Ranchos

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