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Valley Briefing

Remembering Valley Matriarchs

It's Mother's Day--time to thank Mom for all she does and celebrate the unique bond between mother and child. Here is a tribute to some of the pioneer mothers who helped shape the San Fernando Valley.

May 12, 1996

Ann Willden Johnson: Chatsworth homesteader

On April 16, 1873, Ann Willden Johnson gave birth in her Chatsworth ranch house to the first white child born in the San Fernando Valley. Born in Sheffield, England, Johnson grew up in Salt Lake City. At 15, she married Neils Johnson. The couple came to California in 1867. The Johnsons lived in a two-room tent in Soledad Canyon, using one half for the family quarters and the other for a grocery store she helped run. In 1870, she and her husband settled in Chatsworth where they built a home. There, she held Sunday school and tutored her 10 children. She helped start the Chatsworth area's first school in 1880 and was clerk of the school board. She helped found a Christian congregation in the West Valley that met under the oak trees at her house until Pioneer Church was built in 1903. The structure is now located in Oakwood Memorial Church in Chatsworth. She died in 1920 at the age of 74.

Catalina Lopez: Adobe Hostess

As a young girl, Catalina Lopez grew up at the San Fernando Mission. As an adult, she lived at Lopez Station on the old Butterfield Stage line. In 1861, when cattle and wild mustard were familiar sights in the Valley, she and her husband, Geronimo, purchased 40 acres near the mission for $4 an acre and built a large adobe home there that became known as Lopez Station. On the direct route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the adobe was also the site of the Valley's first English-speaking school, a general store and the Valley's first post office, which was established in 1869. Lopez Station is no more; the historic Lopez home in San Fernando was a later residence of the couple. Lopez was noted as a gracious hostess and her love for gardening was shown in the fresh fruits and flowers that adorned her dining table. She was mother to nine girls and four boys. She died in 1918 at the age of 86.

Mary Logan Orcutt: Civic Leader

Philanthropist Mary Logan Orcutt was active in many nonprofit ventures and organized events that helped generate community spirit and identity. She successfully lobbied President Herbert Hoover to change the name of the Owensmouth post office to Canoga Park in 1931. The Pennsylvania native helped organize the Wild Flower Fiesta in 1932 and the Catalpa Festival and Parade in 1947 in honor of catalpa trees along Topanga Canyon Boulevard that are no longer standing. Perhaps her greatest gift to the community was Our Lady of Guadalupe Center on Hart Street. She and her husband, Union Oil executive William Warren Orcutt, donated the land and raised $10,000 to start construction of the center aimed at providing activities for Spanish-speaking youth. She was mother to a son, John, and a daughter, Gertrude. The Orcutt home, now the site of Orcutt Ranch Park, has been preserved by the city as a historic monument. She died in 1972 at the age of 99.

Addie Haas Mulholland: Educator, Volunteer

Raised in the hills of Calabasas, Addie Haas Mulholland began teaching in the fall of 1917 in the one-room, eight-grade schoolhouse she had attended as a child. Mulholland went on to teach at the new Chatsworth Grammar School, becoming principal in 1920. She met her husband--rancher Perry Mulholland, son of famed water engineer William Mulholland--while selling Liberty Bonds during World War I. In 1921, the couple made their home on the Mulholland ranch in Northridge, where they reared three children, Catherine, Richard and Patricia. She served as president of the Valley Council for the Girl Scouts during the 1930s, volunteered as a "Gray Lady" for the Home Service Corps of the American Red Cross during World War II, and served as president of the Canoga Park Women's Club. She died in 1980 at the age of 83.

Mary Rutledge Weddington: Pioneer Mother

A visit to a relative in the Valley was a turning point for Mary Rutledge Weddington. She and her husband, Wilson, decided to buy land in what is now North Hollywood and move from Iowa. Their home became the area's first post office, with her husband serving as postmaster beginning in 1893. The following year, the family purchased a general store and renamed it Weddington Bros. The daughter of a Civil War physician, Weddington helped her two sons, Guy and Fred, run the store that attracted customers from throughout the Valley looking for household goods and hay. She was active in the Lankershim Woman's Club. She died in 1909 at the age of 57.

Sources: "The Valley of San Fernando," by the Daughters of the American Revolution; "San Fernando Valley" by W.W. Robinson; San Fernando Valley Historical Society; Carolyn Riggs, Catherine Mulholland, Guy Weddington McCreary, and staff reports.

Researched by STEPHANIE STASSEL / Los Angeles Times

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