It was a cool Sunday at Conrad's. I sat in a booth, sipping coffee while I perused ancient news clippings.
The Anonymous Source deserves full credit for uncovering the hitherto lost history of La Cañada's favorite son, young Lemuel Veilex. Many of you have asked if the Anonymous Source is a real person. She is, but until she gives permission, her identity remains confidential.
In 1893, young Lemuel was arrested for burning down the La Cañada schoolhouse. At the time of his arrest, Lemuel was 14 years old. Despite his age, he was brought to trial on adult felony arson charges.
On June 23, 1893, Lemuel celebrated his 15th birthday. Two weeks later, the case went to trial.
Lemuel Veilex made a big mistake. He ignored his Constitutional right to remain silent. Lemuel boasted about the schoolhouse arson to a self-styled amateur detective named O. M. Clement.
Young Clement had gone undercover in La Cañada's cornfields to solve the schoolhouse arson case and claim the $600 cash reward.
The reward depended on a conviction. If Veilex walked, O. M. Clement would be out of luck. The case of People v. Veilex would be a high stakes trial.
From the Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1893:
Lemuel Veilex, a slender-formed boy of about 14 years of age occupied the defendant's seat in Judge Smith's court yesterday.
I continued reading:
The theory is that in defense it will be set up that young Lemuel was led on by his detective friend to tell some sort of tale that would compare favorably with those told him in point of daring, and merely said that he had burned the schoolhouse for the fun of the thing.
Say what? Was Lemuel's confession a big joke? Empty words to impress Clement? I turned to the next clipping.
From the Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1893:
David Veilex, a twin brother of the accused, swore that on the night of March 16, he came home early in the evening and found Lemuel sitting at a table, reading. Both boys staid in the house until they heard the alarm bell ring, when they rushed out and found that the schoolhouse was on fire.
Twin brothers and an alibi?
Defense attorney Will Gould then called several witnesses to testify to Lemuel's good character. The theory was that Lemuel might lie in his confession, but he would never lie on the witness stand...
The aged father and mother of the accused sat quietly throughout the course of the trial near their son, anxiously watching the proceedings. The mother remained calm and subdued during the taking of testimony, except when the statements of those on the stand were particularly harsh, and then a pained look would cross her wrinkled face as she glanced in the direction of her fifteen-year-old boy , who was accused of so serious a crime.
Finally, the coup de gras, Lemuel Veilex took the stand.
To be continued...
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a local resident and history buff. She invites you to see the video of the week at anitabrenner.com.