Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Forgotten Beaudry Brother

Victor Beaudry (date unknown)
We know that the Beaudry family had five sons, who all made fortunes. Three remained in Canada (one of them becoming Mayor of Montreal), but two settled in Los Angeles and became U.S. citizens.

We've covered Prudent Beaudry. But Victor, the youngest of the eight Beaudry siblings, is completely forgotten today.

Like his older brothers before him, Victor was born in Quebec in 1829 and educated in the best schools Montreal and New York had to offer. And like the rest of his brothers, he had a head for business and spoke fluent English. Since he arrived rather late in his parents' lives, Victor faced a challenge his brothers did not: he was only three years old when their father died.

In the late 1840s (sources disagree on whether it was before or after the Gold Rush began), Victor (now in his late teens) moved to San Francisco and established a successful shipping and commission business. Prudent, who was thirteen years older than Victor, later joined him, and the brothers then got into the ice business.

By 1850*, Victor was living in Los Angeles. He got back into the ice business with Damien Marchesseault, harvesting ice in the San Bernardino mountains and shipping it via mule train to Los Angeles. From the port of San Pedro, some of their ice was shipped to saloons in the faraway, but no less thirsty, city of San Francisco. Their ice house is long gone, but the area is still called Ice House Canyon. Victor also did some mining in the San Gabriel Valley and co-founded the Santa Anita Mining Company with Marchesseault in 1858. From 1855 to 1861, Victor managed Prudent's many business interests, at one point remodeling the aging Beaudry Block into Southern California's finest commercial building. He became a U.S. citizen in 1858 (beating older brother Prudent to citizenship by five years).

Three years later, Victor received a contract to supply the Army of the Potomac and joined the First Regiment of Infantry in the United States Army, fighting for the Union cause. He remained in the Army until the bitter end of the Civil War, suffering health problems for much of his life as a result of his wartime experiences.

After the war, several of Victor's good friends from the Army were stationed at Camp Independence in Inyo County, and suggested he open a store there. This was a natural enough task for Victor, since he came from a family of successful merchants.

Victor soon acquired an interest in the Cerro Gordo silver mines, partnering with Mortimer Belshaw. Due to the mines' prodigious output (An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County puts the figure at 5,000,000 pounds of bullion per year), 400 mules were needed to haul the bullion 200 miles to San Pedro, where it would be sent via ship to San Francisco. Remi Nadeau (who had started his empire by borrowing $600 from Prudent to buy a freight wagon and mules) formed the Cerro Gordo Freighting Company with Victor and Belshaw. Years later, when Nadeau liquidated most of his freighting company's equipment, it was largely purchased by the Oro Grande Mining Company - which just so happened to be partially owned by the Beaudry brothers. But we'll get into the details when we get to Remi Nadeau.

Because the Cerro Gordo mines stimulated so much business in the area (and on the route to LA), the Los Angeles & Independence Railroad was built. Before too long, the Southern Pacific Railroad also branched out to the Mojave Desert.

Victor returned to Montreal in 1872. The following year, he married the Sheriff of Montreal's daughter, Mary Angelena Le Blanc. Before long, the couple had five children (Victor, Oscar, Abel, Alva, and Mathilda). Victor returned to Los Angeles with his wife and children in 1881, building a house at 405 Temple Street (near Montreal Street, which was later renamed Hill Street) and working with Prudent in real estate development. You know this story. Angelino Heights, Temple Street Cable Railway, half of modern-day downtown...I won't rehash it here. Victor's name appeared in the real estate section of local newspapers almost as often as Prudent's (mostly regarding properties in the Angelino Heights and Beaudry Water Works tracts). The April 8, 1883 Los Angeles Daily Herald even lists Victor as the seller of Beaudry Park to the Los Angeles Infirmary (aka St. Vincent's Hospital).

Over the years, city directories and voter rolls simply listed Victor's occupation as "capitalist".

The Beaudrys returned to Montreal in 1886. Victor had experienced health issues since his stint in the Army, and by this time was suffering from inflammatory rheumatism. He passed away in Montreal on March 7, 1888. Prudent was notified by telegram that evening, and Victor's obituary appeared in the following morning's Los Angeles Herald.

For a few years after his death, Prudent and F.W. Wood, executors of Victor's estate, slowly liquidated Victor's impressive real estate holdings. (In November 1888, they were sued over an alleged one-fourth interest in the Old Cemetery tract Victor held. One of the plaintiffs was George S. Patton Sr. - General Patton's father.) Prudent is well known to local historians as a prodigious developer and real estate agent, but Victor's real estate interests were nothing to sneeze at.

The house on Temple Street is long gone. Today, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels takes up most of the block. The former site of Victor's house is very close to the Cathedral's gift shop.

When Victor is remembered at all, he is remembered as Prudent's brother. While partnering with Prudent made him even wealthier, Victor accomplished quite a lot on his own and with different business partners. He should be remembered for his own merits, not merely for being the baby brother of two mayors.

*One source says Victor spent a few years in Nicaragua for business purposes. It does sound like something a Beaudry would do - however, I can't find a proper source citation, and the older sources say 1850. In the absence of proof, I'll leave 1850 as the date.

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