Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Open Letter to the Los Angeles Times

Dear Editors:

I am posting this publicly because whenever I contact publications privately regarding factual inaccuracies, they ignore me and never correct anything.* 

I’m honestly not trying to put LA’s paper of record on blast (for the record, I am a subscriber myself and read the Times every single day). I just want greater awareness of the facts.

I am writing to ask that the Times please issue two corrections to an article published on May 3rd, regarding the origin of some local place names.**

I am not in any way faulting the writer of the piece; her work is excellent and I enjoy reading it each week. However, two errors still somehow made it to print. 

Mary Agnes Christina Mesmer Griffith was not, and could not have been, a Verdugo descendant. Her parents Louis Mesmer Sr. and Katherine Forst Mesmer were both immigrants from Alsace, France.

There is no record of the Mesmer family having any ties to Jose Maria Verdugo’s native Mexico. There is no record of the Verdugo family having any ties to eastern France or western Germany (Alsace changed hands while the Mesmers were alive). I have spent considerable time exploring and there is no real indication that the Mesmers could possibly be related to the Verdugos.

Additionally, while the Mesmers were indeed land barons, they did not inherit their properties from the Verdugos. The Mesmers were very successful entrepreneurs who invested their earnings in land. 

Mrs. Griffith did inherit a significant amount of real estate, but it had belonged to Andre Briswalter, a friend of her father’s. Briswalter was also from Alsace.

As to the second correction, Mrs. Griffith was not blinded in one eye. The bullet destroyed her eye and what was left of it had to be removed. The veil she wore for the rest of her life also hid scarring from gunpowder burns (Griffith shot her from approximately two feet away).

Again, I am not faulting the writer of the piece. I happen to know that someone else is entirely to blame for spreading the myth of the Alsatian-born Mesmers somehow being descendants of an early Californio family.

Mary Agnes Christina Mesmer Griffith went through quite enough when she was alive and has mostly been forgotten. I believe we owe it to her to be as accurate as possible when mentioning her life.



*Sole exception thus far: the good people at Mental Floss, who promptly corrected an inaccuracy regarding the number of generations between Louis XIV and Louis XVI.

** May 10, 2022 - one week since the errors ran and no correction has been made. This is why I post the facts!

1 comment:

    Bravo pour cette lettre ouverte au LA TIMES. L'erreur était grossière.
    Justement, j'habite en Alsace et je suis de la famille MESMER .( mon centre d'intérêt à LOS ANGELES tout comme la famille DOCKWEILER (SUGG) et RUELLAN.
    Merci pour cette mise au point
    Antoine MERKEL
    SURBOURG (lieu de naissance de OUIS MESMER)