The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1972, Volume 18, Number 3
James E Moss, Editor

Book Review

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

Catholic Footprints in California. By Reverend Francis J. Weber. Newhall, Ca: Hogarth Press, 1970. Index. Maps. 235 pages. $10.00.

Reviewed by Dr. Theodore E. Treutlein, Professor of History, San Francisco State College. He is the author of several books including Pfefferkorn’s Description of the Province of Sonora (1949), Missionary In Sonora: The Travel Reports of Joseph Och, S.J., 1755-1767 (1965), and San Francisco Bay: Discovery and Colonization, 1769-1776 (1968), as well as numerous articles on California and Mexico in the Pacific Historical Review, California Historical Society Quarterly, and Mid-America. Dr. Treutlein received emeritus status in June, 1972, and will be teaching in Guadalajara during the summer of 1972. He is currently working on a book length study of early California Indian-Spanish relations.

At first glance this book appears to be merely a series of vignettes about Catholic activity in California, perhaps mainly in the Los Angeles area. However, a careful reading of the one hundred and twenty-five short essays (they are numbered in the table of contents) reveals a well-rounded selection of historical materials organized conveniently under six headings; namely, the Mission Era, Prelates, Catholic Laity, Organizations and Institutions, Priests and Nuns, and The Pastoral Scene. In his brief introduction the author contends that in presenting these essays as history he is using a somewhat unorthodox method, but he believes that this form of presentation is “a mode of expression comprehensible to man in his contemporary culture, in his contemporary attitude towards life and his contemporary ways of thinking.”

The reviewer believes that though the book appears to be directed toward the Catholic community any reader, no matter what his sectarian identification, can derive historical information from the reading of these essays.

But suppose that the reader is one who in his “contemporary way of thinking” enjoys being able to check on sources? Then in this book he will find disappointment. The author has indexed his work but has refrained from using footnotes so that no convenient way can be found to trace the sources of the numerous quotations used in the work. For example, one reads: “. . . his [Governor Luis Antonio Argüello] achievement can be rated second to none, and his regime is the one great bright spot in the turbulent history of California under Mexico.” (p. 59). This is an opinion with which one can agree or disagree but it would be useful to know who made this dogmatic generalization about Don Luis. The matter of no reference to sources becomes rather serious if one wishes to check the accuracy of factual matters. One example will be provided.

In writing about the name of the City of Los Angeles the author asserts flatly: “Los Angeles is a shortened version of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, the City of Our Lady of the Angels. Though the term La Reina (the Queen) frequently appears in the city’s title, it is a spurious insertion, not etymologically justified.” (p. 203).

Now it so happens that when the Commandant General of the Provincias Internas, Teodoro de Croix, wrote to Joseph de Gálvez about the establishment of a new town on the Río Porciúncula, he specifically spoke of “un Pueblo con el título de la Reyna de los Angeles” (see Chapman, Catalogue, AGI, Aud. de Guad., item No. 4508; as well as items 4095, 4518, and 4711, all available in microfilm in The Bancroft Library). In the contemporary documents the expression Nuestra Señora de los Angeles is used by Neve in his instructions to Fages, 7 September 1782. Edwin A. Beilharz, Felipe de Neve. First Governor of California (California Historical Society, 1971), p. 165. But ibid., p .108, agrees that the pueblo’s name was given as La Reina de los Angeles. Etymology really has nothing to do with this question.

Man in his contemporary culture, this reviewer thinks, should still cite sources in appropriate footnotes.