Francisco Pliny Fisk Temple left Reading, Massachusetts for Los Angeles, California to join his half brother Jonathan Temple who he had never met. When reaching Santa Fe, New Mexico, Francisco joined up with William Workman and John Rowland, becoming the first immigrant caravan to cross the Santa Fe Trail trade route to Los Angeles. Jonathan–26 years older than Francisco–established himself as a merchant at the Pueblo de Los Angeles and hired Francisco as a clerk in his store.
Francisco married Antonia Margarita Workman, daughter of William Workman who became a wealthy cattle rancher and owner of Rancho La Merced.
Workman gave Francisco an undivided half-interest in the 2,363-acre ranch, near the site of the original San Gabriel mission (Now known as the Workman Temple Family Homestead Museum). Francisco established his home and had 11 children, the tenth being Walter P. Temple (born in 1869), and future founder of Temple City.
Workman and Francisco established a bank, but closed in 1875 after the “Long Depression” struck California. In an attempt to save the bank, Francisco and Workman borrowed money from E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin and used their rancho land as collateral. Unsuccessful, Francisco was forced to forfeit his land.
Walter Temple married Laurenza Gonzalez, and had four children. With help from his friend Milton Kauffman, the Temple’s moved to a 60-acre estate in Montebello Hills, land that originally belonged to his father.
Walter’s nine-year-old son Thomas discovered oil was on his family’s property in Montebello Hills.
Walter leased his land to the Standard Oil Company of California, enabling the now wealthy Temple’s to repurchase 75 acres of his family’s original land at Rancho La Merced.
The Temple’s broke ground on La Casa Nueva, or “the new house.” This 12,400 square-foot Spanish Colonial Revival mansion is now open to the public at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum.
Walter purchased approximately 300 acres of land east of Alhambra, originally part of Lucky Baldwin’s Rancho Santa Anita. Here he established the original town of Temple as a memorial to his pioneering family who was associated with development of the Southwest. Walter founded the Temple Townsite Company and issued bonds for street paving and electrification. He named the streets after friends and family: Workman, Kauffman, Rowland, Temple and Agnes. During the same year, Walter announced plans for a new Pacific Electric “Red Car” passenger and freight station in the town of Temple.
The Red Car station opened at the corner of Las Tunas Drive and Kauffman Avenue, providing rail access for mail and passengers between Los Angeles and the town of Temple. The Temple City Chamber of Commerce was also founded to promote local business interests.
The Women’s Club of Temple City was founded to develop civic and social interests of the community.
The community officially adopted the new name of “Temple City” to disassociate with similar sounding places like Templeton, AZ.
Car ownership was increasing, leading to the abandonment of rail service, and ultimately the removal of “Red Car” tracks in 1943.
The Women’s Club held a contest to select an official flower and slogan for Temple City. The winning entry was “Temple City, Home of the Camellias”, submitted by Mrs. Ralph Saunders.
Celebrating the city’s new slogan, eight-month old Sharon Ray Pearson was crowned the first camellia “Queen” and rode in an open car down Las Tunas Drive as Camp Fire Girls gifted camellia blossoms to spectators. This simple celebration snowballed to become the nationally recognized Camellia Festival, held every February.
The first Camellia Festival was held, with 150 members of local youth groups parading down Las Tunas Drive. Since then, the Camellia Festival’s purpose is to recognize young citizens for their active involvement in the community.
To support local youth groups, the Chamber of Commerce selected a royal court of first graders to lead the Camellia Festival parade–a tradition still practiced today.
Without formal incorporation of Temple City, the Chamber of Commerce was providing services normally provided by a local government; and was also facing an inevitable increase in county taxes without an increase in services. Over the next thirteen years, the Chamber of Commerce held several public meetings to consider the incorporation of Temple City so they could once again focus on the business interests of the community.
On April 26, 1960 voters formally approved incorporation as the “City of Temple City,” which at the time had a population of 31,838.