La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California
A better man to work for than him
By Anita Susan Brenner
It was a rainy Sunday morning at Conrad’s. Across Foothill, church services were just getting out. The Anonymous Source had come and gone, leaving behind a trail of mystery and motorcycle fumes. As the sirens receded in the distance, I pondered this: how did La Cañada abandon its local history, those true tales of lurid adventure, beguiling victims and scandal?
Thanks to the Anonymous Source, I had learned the history of young O.M. Clement, an amateur detective who went undercover among the teenagers of La Cañada in the spring of 1893.
Clement’s goal was to solve the mystery of the La Cañada School fire and thereby win the $500 reward posted by Firemans Fund of San Francisco, plus another $100 reward from the local school board.
To accomplish this, Clement took the dangerous job of ranch hand at a place up on Angeles Crest owned by Los Angeles attorney and local luminary, Will D. Gould, Esq.
Like they say, it’s always dangerous working for a lawyer. advertisement
Attorney Gould was a transplant from Vermont. Born there in 1845, he went on to graduate from Michigan University in 1871 and settled in Los Angeles to practice law at the age of 27, in 1872. One day streets would be named after him, but in 1893, Gould merely practiced law.
Clement moved in with Dr. Jacob Lanterman. He slept with the Lantermans (who offered their home as a boarding house) at night, but worked with the Goulds by day.
After hard physical work in Gould’s cornfields, Clement eventually gained the trust of a 14- year-old named Lemuel Veilex.
Every day, Lemuel would come over to where Clement was working in the cornfields. The two engaged in lengthy talks.
For example, Clement told Lemuel Veilex of his own crimes, and of his desire to rob banks and to “hunt Indians.” He spoke of hidden treasure and exotic adventures. He offered to let Lemuel join with him, but insisted that Veilex prove his worth by describing his own crimes. As a result, Lemuel Veilex spoke to Clement, in strictest confidence. He told Clement that he, Lemuel, had burned down the school.
That did the trick. Clement went to the police. A warrant was sworn out and, as a result of Clement’s efforts, 14-year-old Lemuel Veilex was arrested and brought to trial on adult felony arson charges.
Veilex’s father went looking for a lawyer. He hired the rancher and former employer of O.M. Clement, attorney Will D. Gould, to represent his son.
On May 26, 1893, the Los Angeles Times reported that “as it happened, Mr. Gould was counsel in the case for the defense” and that Clement had frequent occasion to refer to Gould in the course of his testimony, “creating not a little amusement in the courtroom. On cross-examination, Mr. Gould asked Clement what Dr. Lanterman had said to him at the time of their first meeting. Well, the witness replied with a smile, he said that I might find a better man to work for than you, and I had better engage myself with him.”
To be continued...
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and regular Valley Sun columnist. E-mail her at yahoo.com">anitasusan.brenner@ yahoo.com.