REID, Hugo

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Artist's rendition of Hugo Reid at Rancho Santa Anita
Reid adobe.png

REID, Hugo (1811-1853), born in Scotland, was an early resident of Los Angeles County, who became a naturalized citizen of Mexico and married a local Gabrieleña. Reid wrote a series of newspaper letters published in the Los Angeles Star that described the culture, language, and modern circumstances of the local Tongva (Gabrieleño) people, and criticizing their treatment by Franciscan missionaries who administered the Spanish missions in California.

Born to Charles Reid and Essex Milliken, at Cardross, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, on 18 April 1811,[2] Reid established a trading house in Hermosillo, Mexico in the late-1820s with a business partner, William Keith, and first visited Los Angeles, then a part of Mexican Alta California, in 1832. He married a Gabrieleña woman (a Mission San Gabriel convert renamed Victoria) and adopted her children, María and Felipe.

Reid and his wife were granted the 13,319-acre (53.90 km2) Rancho Santa Anita following secularization of Mission San Gabriel ranch lands, and built an adobe house there in 1839. The grant was confirmed by Alta California Governor Pio Pico in 1845. A restored adobe, known as the "Hugo Reid Adobe", was in fact built on a different nearby site by a later owner. Both Reid's original site and the current adobe are located at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, part of the former estate of Lucky Baldwin, in what is now the town of Arcadia. Reid was nicknamed the Scotch Paisano during his days as a Scottish settler in Mexican Southern California.

Reid wrote a series of 22 letters which were published in the Los Angeles Star during 1852, and which provide an important ethnographic picture of the little–known Gabrieliño and were republished in book form several times. He died in Los Angeles on December 12, 1852. His funeral was held at the old Our Lady Queen of Angels church, on Main Street in Los Angeles, and was buried in the adjacent cemetery. His body was later moved to the Campo Santo (cemetery) on North Broadway (now the site of Cathedral High School), and then disinterred again and placed in the new Calvary Cemetery in the East Los Angeles section of the city. [Wikipedia]



In the News~

July 24, 1852 [Los Angeles Star]: “Los Angeles County Indians. [Letter No. XXII.] Finis. Having given a sketch of the Angeles County Indians from the time they were the free, natal possessors of the soil, living contented in a state of nature, until these civilized times of squatting and legislative oppression, in which not only they, but those bearing their blood in a fourth degree, are included, to the shame of this our country, and disgrace of the framers of such laws, I shall now conclude them, with a very short review of how far their ancient manners and customs remain in force among the handful left of a once happy people. Their former lodges are not now in existence, and most of the Indians remaining in the county are from other parts —from Santa Ynez to San Diego. A few are to be found at San Fernando, San Gabriel and the Angeles. Those in service on ranchos are a mere handful. You will find at present more of them in the county of Monterey than in this, excluding the three places names above. Death has been very busy among them for years past, and very few more are wanting to extinguish this lamp that God lighted! The Indians from the northwest coast killed great numbers years ago on the Islands. Those of San Clemente, the remains of which some eighteen years since [1834] were collected in caves on the Island, showed the whole of them to have been possessed of double teeth all round, both in the upper and under jaw. I have previously mentioned that their language has deteriorated much since the conquest. Numerous causes affect all languages, and one of the many which did so to theirs, was the want of their former Councils held so frequently, in which their wise men spoke with eloquence suited to the occasion, using more dignity and expression, which naturally elevated the minds of all, and gave a tinge of better utterance even in ordinary conversation. They have, at present, two religions—one of custom, and another of faith. Naturally fond of novelty, the Catholic one serves as a great treat—the forms and ceremonies an inexhaustible source of amusement. They don't quarrel with their neighbor's mode of worship, but consider their own the best. The life and death of our Savior is only, in their opinion, a distorted version of their own life. Hell, as taught them, has no terrors. It is for whites, not Indians, or else their father would have known it. The Devil, however, has become a great personage in their sight; he is called Zizu, and makes his appearance on all occasions...”


July 23, 1859 [Los Angeles Star]: “The California Indians. In a series of twenty-four letters, on the Indians of Los Angeles county, written by the late Hugo Reid, (who died January, 1853) for the Los Angeles Star, which have now become extremely scarce, and considered by American and European ethnologists of great value, the highly curious fact is stated that about from the year 1818 to the year 1834, Santa Catalina, San Clemente and the other islands of the Santa Barbara channel, were often invaded by Indians of the northwest coast, (what northwest coast?) who came down and killed great numbers of those on the islands. The remains of those of San Clemente, which were collected in caves on the Island about 1833, showed in their heads, “the whole of them to have been possessed of double teeth all round, both in the upper and lower jaw!” As Reid was an educated man, who had resided in California over twenty years prior to his death, and moreover was a person of great honesty and worth, such a statement would not have been made without his having good foundation for the story. What a scientific treat to some of our San Francisco medicos would be the possession of half dozen of these Indian skulls of San Clemente...”


July 30, 1859 [Los Angeles Star]: “San Clemente Indians.—A curious and interesting article regarding this singular tribe of Indians, was published in our last issue. It was from the pen of a gentleman who has done a great deal to make familiar the resources and natural history of our state. From him we learn the double toothed heads of the San Clemente Indians, were said to have been collected by Padre Zalvadea, about 1826, and buried at the Mission cemetery of San Gabriel, or at San Juan Capistrano. Good specimens of these curious skulls, with the teeth and jaws, would bring a high price, as were are informed, among the scientific men of the Atlantic cities and Europe, and would also bring remunerative prices in San Francisco.”


January 11, 1861 [California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences]: (Continued from the Farmer of Dec. 28, 1860.) “IV.—D. Indians of Los Angeles County—No 1. 69. Lodges, Languages, etc. The following account of the Los Angeles Indians, by our deceased friend Hugo Reid, was published in the Los Angeles Star; in a series of twenty-two numbers, from February to 24 July 1852. Being the only account of the Indians of that county of any value, and now entirely out of print, we republish them in the Indianology, to give the inquirer one of the most excellent and reliable papers written on the California Indianada by one who resided in the country, twenty years before his death, in 1853. This history of Reid's is accounted of great value among the Ethnologists of Europe and America, who have repeatedly sent to this country for it without avail, as no complete copies of it are now to be had in the State. Lodges.—Before the Indians belonging to the greater part of this county were known to the Whites, they comprised as it were one great Family under Chiefs. They spoke nearly the same language, with the exception of a few words; and were more to be distinguished by a local intonation of the voice than anything else...The following are the principle Lodges or Rancherias, with their corresponding local names: Yang-na, Los Angeles; ... Pineug-na, Santa Catalina Island;,,,Kinkipar, San Clemente Island... There were a great many more villages than the above, probably some forty; but these are a fair sample of their names...”