Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

John Lang Family Portrait

Lang, California (Soledad Canyon)

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Original portrait of John and Mary Lang and their five surviving children and future daughter-in-law, circa 1889. Silver albumen print, 8⅛x6 inches mounted on pressed-paper board (cabinet card stock), overall 10x8 inches. (Click image to see mounting.) It's larger than a cabinet card print; an outline on the back suggests the mounting board may have been repurposed from a cabinet card.

Thanks to a hand-written inscription on the back (see below), the names of the individuals are known, although we don't know who's who because they do not seem to be listed in order.

The photo is undated, but there are clues. If the inscription is correct, it is no later than October 1890, because son John Broderick Lang's (future) bride is identified as "Miss" Florence Parr. John Broderick and Elizabeth Florence married October 7, 1890.

As for an "earliest" date, John and Mary Lang's youngest child, Margaret, who appears here, was born in 1873. Nobody looks young enough for it to be much earlier than 1889.

Finally, in 1889, the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago published its "Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World" for Los Angeles County (aka "An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County, Calif.") and included a profile of John Lang. Although this photograph was not used in the book, perhaps the publication prompted the photo sitting.

(Note: Reynolds 1992, pg. 42, guesses the date as "about 1880," but we don't see a 7-year-old girl in this photograph.)

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According to the "Pen Pictures" profile, which was based on information provided by the subject, John Lang drifted to Northern California in 1854 and ended up running two hotels in Sacramento. He followed the gold and silver strikes to Virginia City, Nevada, in 1862, then came to Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley before purchasing his first 160 acres of land in Soledad Canyon in 1870.

BLM records show Lang homesteaded two side-by-side, 160-acre tracts of land (technically, one measured 166 and 38/100 acres) stretching from the present 14 Freeway exit at Soledad/Shadow Pines eastward along the Santa Clara River and including the future Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way (see map below). His first land patent was issued February 1, 1882, and his second on July 18, 1898. (Note that this is not when he filed for the homesteads; it is when he "proved them up" and the government got around to affirming them.)

In the early 1870s, the future railroad was a wagon road through Lang's property that carried Remi Nadeau's freighters between Los Angeles and the Cerro Gordo silver mines in Inyo County. Lang established a stagecoach stop for the freighters — the first "Lang Station." The silver that passed through the so-called "Lang" area brought wealth to Los Angeles and financed L.A.'s first multistory (2-story) buildings. Nadeau himself would eventually erect L.A.'s first 4-story building, the Nadeau Hotel.

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John Broderick Lang. Click to enlarge.

The Southern Pacific Railroad coming up from the south and the Central Pacific coming down from the north, the tracks came together on John Lang's home­stead in 1876, linking Los Angeles with the rest of the country by rail for the first time. In 1884, the Southern Pacific set up the more famous "Lang Station" there.

In that same year (1884), Lang built a 2-story hotel and lured wayfarers to mineral baths in the stinky "Sulphur Springs" on his property.

Lang expanded his holdings to 1,200 acres, according to the "Pen Pictures" profile. His children lived at home — at least until Lang sold the ranch in 1889 — and helped out with the farming and ranching operations, which included poultry and rows of fruit trees.

* * *

John and Mary Lang had six children. Their birthplaces are indicators of where the Langs lived at various times. Their second child, a daughter, Frances, was born in 1865 in Nevada and died as a teenager in 1880. Thus she does not appear in the family portrait.

The persons depicted are:

• John Patrick Lang, patriarch (seated). Born May 5, 1828, in Herkimer County, New York. Married in Sacramento to Mary E. Fletcher, May 3, 1862. Three sons, three daughters (two surviving). Died January 20, 1909, in Los Angeles County.

• Mary E. Fletcher, matriarch (seated). Born May 1838 in Ireland. Note: the "Pen Pictures" profile gives her maiden surname as "Floretta." Also, the inscription on the back of this photograph identifies her as "Lizzie," short for Elizabeth — likely her middle name. She died May 2, 1911, in Los Angeles.

• John Broderick Lang, eldest child, born June 15, 1863, in Carson City, Nevada. Married in Los Angeles to Elizabeth Florence Parr, October 7, 1890. Note: Published marriage notices (inset) identify him as "I.B. Lang." Died May 16, 1931, in Ventura.

• William Sylvester Lang, third child, born January 1867 in California. Apparently a lifelong bachelor. Moved to Long Beach around 1915 and died there, February 22, 1920.

• Mary C. (Mamie) Lang, fourth child, born June 1868 in California. Married in Peace Springs, Arizona, to Ralph Wilton Richmond, March 14, 1892. Died in Los Angeles, January 19, 1905.

• James Griffin Lang, fifth child, born July 1870 in California. Apparently a lifelong bachelor. Died in Los Angeles, April 16, 1927.

• Margaret (Maggie) Lang, sixth child, born May 1873 in California. Widowed; she had children in the 1890s in Montana, and a decade later, in 1909, she had (twin?) daughters in California. She was living in Long Beach in 1920.

• Elizabeth Florence Parr, (future) daughter-in-law. Born in Ontario, Canada, November 15, 1867. Married at her family home in Los Angeles to John Broderick Lang, October 7, 1890. Died August 10, 1931, in Simi Valley.


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The Lang homestead property along the Santa Clara River, 2x160 acres. Click map to enlarge.


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First land patent issued under the 1862 Homstead Act. Click image to enlarge.


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Second land patent issued under the 1862 Homstead Act. Click image to enlarge.


HS7530: Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection.
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