by Major Horace Bell
Daily gunfights, daily murders, frequent public hangings. Welcome to Los Angeles, California in the 1850’s. This amazing first person account of adventures, revolution, history and tales, REMINISCENCES OF A RANGER was written by Major Horace Bell, who was there when it happened and wrote this eyewitness account of Los Angeles’ violent transition from a Mexican Pueblo to an American City.
You’ll learn the beginnings and of political scheming and corruption. Bell was witness to the election of the first US Senators and Congressmen from California and saw the original corrupt practices of running for office.
You’ll hear how:
- Los Angeles became the Murder Capital of the United States
- A political schemer changed a presidential vote by lying to a parish priest.
- A bunch of foot soldiers, with nothing to do, invented California’s Bear flag.
- An old Spanish Soldier with a 30 year old memory of Spain caused Los Angeles to become a pueblo.
- Men bought liquor on Sunday during mass at old Mission San Gabriel.
- The discovery of gold in the North changed Southern California economy.
- A jury of white gamblers voted to hang poor Mexicans.
- Dozens of Chinese were massacred as a result of misunderstanding.
- The old Spanish California life was shattered by lawyers, taxes and drought.
- Americans tried to make money bringing democracy to Nicaragua.
- Scalping really meant scalping.
- Mission squirrels only appeared at funerals.
- A smart sea captain saved the passengers of a doomed ship.
- Spanish California became part of the Gringo nation.
REMINISCENCES OF A RANGER describes Southern California in a time of rapid clashes of culture. Los Angeles was established as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles September 4, 1781, upsetting the long established Native American culture by imposing Spanish culture and religion. Only forty years later, Mexico declared independence from Spain and began its own Mexican culture. Another twenty-eight years later, Southern California became a part of the United States. Three years later Horace Bell arrived to witness a western migration, filling Los Angeles with Easterners and Europeans, changing much of society and the culture of Southern California.
By 1881, only 100 years after Los Angeles was founded by Spain, the entire culture and structure of the city had changed from Native American to a mostly English speaking Eastern American culture. Horace Bell witnessed it all.
Like Los Angeles, Horace Bell changed over the years. He arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 22, 6 foot 2 inches tall, full of adventure and energy. Bell had originally come to Northern California seeking gold, supported by $500.00 given him by his father back in Indiana. Out of luck and disappointed, he visited his socially connected uncle, Alexander Bell in Los Angeles. There, Horace Bell unexpectedly found himself in a wild, crime ridden pueblo, where in one year there were forty four murders…the highest murder rate in the nation at that time.
To combat crime, the Los Angeles Rangers were formed, and, since his Uncle was a member of Los Angeles Society, Horace Bell was appointed a founding member.
Horace Bell’s book, “REMINISCENCES OF A RANGER,” Early Times in Southern California, was self published in 1881. It is said to be the first book printed and bound in Los Angeles. In fact, there was not enough type at the printers to set the entire book at one time, so the first half was set, printed and then the second half followed. Finally the two halves were combined and the entire book bound. Bell attempted to sell copies himself, once bringing 200 copies to a Los Angeles bookstore and complaining that the bookseller did not charge enough for them.
Around 1910, the public rediscovered the book. New railroad lines brought large numbers of people into Los Angeles, evolving the city into a large and important place. Chronicles of its early history and culture became valuable and “REMINISCENCES OF A RANGER” was ready to tell its fascinating and uninhibited story.
Although it contains some language that would not be appropriate or acceptable today, “REMINISCENCES OF A RANGER” is considered by many as one of the most accurate, albeit flamboyant and irreverent, books of the early history of Los Angeles and California. It is a true story of how Los Angeles became Los Angeles and how California became California.
Read by Andre Stojka
Andre Stojka, known for his rich characterizations and his creative interpretation of the written word, has been a major voice over actor for over 30 years. Some of his best known voices are the Owl in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh movies and videos, the voice of Ernie Keebler, the Keebler Cookie Elf, the King in Disney’s Cinderella videos and Starlight in the Rainbow Bright television series.