DOWNEY – A remembrance of Indian Joe from the Easter Bangle Morrison Book:
The writer’s first remembrance of Indian Joe was about 1880 when he lived in a tule hut in the jungle northwest of Gallatin school, near the present home of Tim Downen (about Downey and Gallatin School House Road).
As I remember, some mischievous boys set fire to his hut. He made a camp of boards and tin cans on the south side of the Southern Pacific tracks west of College Avenue in Downey. The wagon road at that time was located on the north side of the railroad.
He helped himself to fruit, nuts, eggs and such things as he needed, wherever he found them, feeling that this was right, and he kept two hunting dogs for retrieving. When he knew a neighbor was butchering, he often went to the home and was given meat.
He was peaceful, molesting no one, and often giving emergency aid in time of sickness by his knowledge of herbs and medicines. During the 80’s, he often passed my home, but he always carried a small bundle, presumably of food, tied in a red bandanna handkerchief; another he wore around his head in such a manner as to cover one eye. How he lost this eye was a secret he never divulged.
The following has been related by James A. Bangle: “One hot summer day, I was seated under an immense walnut tree at our home when Indian Joe came along. He seemed so feeble and weary that I invited him to share the melon I was about to cut.
I asked him where he was born.
“San Gabriel,” he said. “When, I do not know. Maybe 125 or 135 years ago.”
While he rested I sought to learn something further of his past life. He was reluctant at first, but I reasoned with him. He had lived long, I told him, and would like to know more, perhaps put in a book which white people call history.
“White man think me not know,” he replied.
“Wise white men know there are wise indians also,” I said. Were you ever married, Joe?
Did you ever have a girl you wanted for a wife?
“Yes, when I was a young man I loved a girl, but the priest at San Gabriel would not let me see her because I would not join his church.”
When the community grew too close to Indian Joe’s camp, he moved near the beet dump west of Church Street. When game became scarce, he worked around the slaughter house for butchered meat.
On Sunday morning, Nov. 24, 1896, while the community was summoned by the village church bells for a day of religious worship, the golden bells rang for Old Joe to go to the Happy Hunting Grounds. The generation that had known him for nearly a quarter of a century buried him in a suitable casket at the northwest corner of Downey Cemetery.
One of the pallbearers was Judge I.N. Cochran. Harvey Gray, a painter, installed a market with this epitaph: “Indian Joe of the Kaweah Tribe -- a good Indian while he lived. November 24, 1896 -- a resident of Downey for 22 years.”
NEWSPAPERS: One question we are often asked is, “How many newspapers has the city of Downey had?”
The first newspaper, the Los Nietos Valley Courier, was established by Alonza Waits on March 13, 1875. Most of the publishing of this first paper was done in one of the rooms in the Central Hotel. Although many efforts to save it were made, the paper was discontinued in 1881.
The Downey Outlook was first published in the late 1870’s, but like the Los Nietos Courier, the Outlook was also discontinued.
In 1885, James Rives published the Downey Review, but two years later it was sold and moved to the new town of Whittier to become its first newspaper, renamed The Graphic.
In July 1888, the Democratic Committee asked C.H. Eberly to come to Downey to start a Democratic paper, which he did, calling it the Downey Champion. On Aug. 27, 1898, M.M. Purcell and Jessie McCoy established the Downey Mirror. The Downey Dispatch came out in the spring of 1902, but was discontinued in November of 1907.
In 1910, H. Hull established the Downey News, which combined with the Champion in September of 1914. The Champion changed hands several times. It is now known as the Southeast News, which was delivered free to residents of the Downey area.
The Los Angeles Times started about the same time as the Champion during the 1880’s/. People in Downey at that time could subscribe to the Times.
Another Downey paper -- the Downey LiveWire -- was established Feb. 28, 1924, by Knowles C. and Fanny E. Weiss. In July 1954, Mr. and Mrs. Weiss started their second paid subscription newspaper, The Leader. Their subscribers could receive news twice a week.
The Downey LiveWire also maintained a commercial printing department which served all of this area.
Today, Downey residents can have other papers of the metropolitan area delivered to their homes, such as the the Los Angeles Times and Long Beach Press-Telegram, and previously the Huntington Park Daily Signal and Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
Information about Downey’s early newspapers came from a resource book entitled “Downey - Our Community - Past and Present 1965-1966.”
Bobbi Bruce is a docent with the Downey Historical Society.