Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Brenner’s view:
The burning of a local school — in 1893

It was a rainy Sunday morning at Conrad’s. Across Foothill, church services were still in session. The hostess seated me at a booth.

“I wonder how the sermon’s going?” I asked, as she filled my cup with a dark substance.

“Sugar?” she replied.

“Please,” I answered in my most conciliatory tone.

Just then, the building rumbled, as if assaulted by a small trembler.

All of a sudden, there she was, resplendent in black leathers, red curls escaping from a slate gray half helmet.

It was the Anonymous Source, an attractive lady in her early 40s, who forages out choice bits of local history for willing columnists.

She frowned at my coffee, dropped the file on the table, and vanished.

“Did you see that?” I asked the waitress?


Noise drifted in from the parking lot. I heard the low continuous roar of a vintage Vincent motorcycle, followed by sirens. The sounds vanished in the distance.

“They’ll never catch her,” I said, to no one in particular.

I opened the file. The first headline grabbed my attention: “How the La Canyada Schoolhouse Was Burned.”

The article was from our flagship, the Los Angeles Times, dated May 26, 1893.

“Lemuel Veilex tried hard to be a bold, bad boy, but his first escapade had brought him up with a sharp turn. On the night of March 16, the schoolhouse at La Cañada was burned down ”

Young Lemuel, born June 23, 1878, was only 14 years old when he was brought to trial as an adult, charged with arson.

According to the reporter, a 19-year-old amateur detective named O.M. Clement heard that the schoolhouse had burned in La Cañada and that a $500 reward for information leading to a conviction had been offered by the Firemans Fund Insurance Company of San Francisco.

Armed with this information, Mr. Clement arrived in La Cañada. His plan was to ingratiate himself with the young men of the town, ferret out information and solve the crime.

Clement’s first stop was Homewood, where he met with Dr. Jacob Lanterman.

Jacob Lanterman was a community leader and dentist. He is better known as the father of Roy Lanterman, who would grow up to be an infamous local coroner.

But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jacob Lanterman offered Clement a job. Clement had other plans. He told Lanterman that he had signed on as a hand at a ranch owned by Will D. Gould, an attorney.

The ranch was called Highland Park and it was further north, located near what is now Angeles Crest Highway above the Gould bridge.

Dr. Lanterman warned Clement that the ranch was an unsavory environment, but this suited Clement, who planned to work at the unsavory ranch and to befriend the unsavory boys and young men of the community.

Eventually, O.M. Clement solved the crime.

Or so he thought.

To be continued...

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