Around Town: The mystery of Delos Arnold

As a community service, the Around Town column will occasionally supplement the Valley Sun 10-20-30 Years Ago feature with news from 19th century. For example, last week, we brought you news from 137 years ago. (“Neighborhood news from 1885,” June 13.)

Perhaps in response to the largesse of the Around Town column, LCHS Class of 2013 valedictorian Matt Jones, in one of the world’s greatest and most awesome commencement speeches ever, told the audience, “Let’s just appreciate the now.”

In that spirit, the Around Town column will move forward. We will move forward by five years, half a decade, one twentieth of a century from 1885.

Here is the news from La Cañada 128 years ago in 1890: On Aug. 13, 1890, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s sale number 12,228 was announced. “By order of the superior court of the County of Los Angeles, one Catharine Banbury obtained a judgment of foreclosure against Delos Arnold for the sum of $11,610.58.” The court ordered the sheriff to sell a big chunk of what turned out to be modern-day La Cañada in order to satisfy the judgment.

The real estate was described as, “All that portion of lot fourteen (14) of the Rancho La Canyada now owned by the said party of the first part, and bounded on the north by the public highway known as Michigan avenue, on the east by the lands of William Banning, on the south by line of said rancho and on the west by the land of Mary C. Ball, formerly Mary C. Williams, and containing forty-five and two-fifths acres of land....”

Look at your title report, fellow La Cañadans. Just about everything south of Foothill is part of the “lot fourteen” of the Rancho La Cañada. Encinas. Descanso Drive. Alta Canyada. Was your house part of the Delos Arnold foreclosure sale?

Who was Delos Arnold? Your sleuths at the Around Town column decided to track him down.

A man named Delos Arnold regularly registered to vote in 1888, 1890 and 1892 in Los Angeles County, but the census report for 1880 show that Delos Arnold was born around 1830 or 1831 in New York. By 1880, he and his wife Hannah were living in Marshall County, Iowa with a brood of children.

His occupation in Iowa was listed on the census as “senetor.”

Around Town turned to the seminal source, a reference called History of Marshall County (Iowa) of 1878. It has an entry for a man named Delos Arnold, who was born in Chenango Co., New York on July 21, 1830. He received a law degree from Albany State University in 1853 and arrived in Iowa a few months later. On “the day following his arrival in Marshall Co., he was appointed Prosecuting Attorney. He being the only attorney in the county at that time; he held that office four years.”

By 1860, Delos Arnold was forced to give up his practice due to his health, but his health problems did not stop his political career. “He was elected to the State Legislature in 1856, and again in 1869; was elected to the State Senate in 1874....”

Delos Arnold “was appointed by President Lincoln the first Assessor of Internal Revenue of the Sixth District, embracing about one-third of the area of the State, and held the office four years and was removed by Andrew Johnson; for political reasons....”

The legislative history concludes, “ Mr. Arnold had nothing when he came here, and few citizens of this State have been more successful. Married Miss Hannah R. Mercer Nov. 28, 1855, at Marietta she was of the Order of Friends, and was from Columbiana Co., Ohio. They have three children —Theresa, Delos, Jr., and Ralph; they have lost three children in infancy.”

Given all that, the mystery remains: Is Senator Delos Arnold a founding father of La Cañada? How did he acquire 45 2/5 acres of Lot 14 of Rancho La Cañada? How did he come to owe $11,610.58 to Catharine Banbury? Did he lose his land? Did he keep it? And where are his descendants?

To be continued....

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.¿

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