Sunday, November 15, 2009

J.F.T. Titley: Founder of Titleyville and Namesake of Titley Ave.

Organ music played in the background as I opened the attachment labeled, "Titleyville.pdf." A story from the May 3, 1908 Los Angeles Times appeared. The headline was gripping:

"WHOLE TOWN LOSES HARD EARNED HOMES: Poor People Discover They Have Been Paying Installments to A Man Who Doesn't Own Land - Poor Dupes Threaten His Life."

Whoa!! The music grew louder. Here were answers to the mystery of Titleyville and little Titley Ave.

Indeed, there was a Titleyville and its setting was one of beauty. "Titleyville is a town between Lamanda and Arcadia. It lies romantically under the bending bows of the trees and its cottages are covered with vines and roses."

And, indeed, the town was started by one J.F.T. Titley around 1900. Titley is described as an enterprising man who wanted to give poor people a chance to own their own homes. His "grand idea" was to build small homes in Titleyville, then sell them to people using installment contracts.

Understanding how Titley sold his real estate is key to appreciating the tragedy that ensued. Titley didn't sell homes the way we do today. Persons contracting with Titley agreed to pay him a monthly amount toward purchase of their home. Only when the buyer finished paying all the required installments, would Titley transfer title.

At least that is how it was supposed to work.

But, as is often the case with aspiring real estate moguls, Mr. Titley needed money. Using Titleyville as collateral, he obtained a loan from Pasadenan Susan Reeves. Titley got money for a new venture and Reeves took a mortgage on Titleyville.

The stage was set for tragedy to befall the hard working denizens of Titleyville. Though Titley continued collecting installments from his buyers, seems he neglected to pay Mrs. Reeves. Finally, in 1904, Reeves foreclosed.

Those who paid their installments to Titley were left with nothing for their hard earned money. They had a contract with Titley, but Reeves was the owner.

Though she had other options, Reeves allowed the people to stay in their homes. New installment contracts were made. Buyers had to go back to square one in paying for their homes.

Mr. Titley became persona non grata in his own town.

The good folks of Titleyville wanted the man's hide. Town leader, Mr. Estrada, said "It would not be safe for that man to ever be seen here again. I do not say that I would kill him, but others here feel so that I guess he would never leave here alive. I know that I would fix him so that he would have to spend a few months in the hospital."

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Many thanks go to Roberta Martinez, author of the wonderful new book, Latinos in Pasadena. and to Paul Secord for graciously sharing their research into Titleyville and Chihuahuita.
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Sure seems like J.F.T. Titley was a first rate scoundrel. But, we might be terribly mistaken if that is our final view of the man. More in my next post.

4 comments:

Bellis said...

They should keep the Titley name on the map to remind us of this history. Thanks for finding all this out for us.

Cafe Pasadena said...

MC, this is you in your element!

Petrea said...

Fascinating! Roberta M. is our own master authority.

Pascal Jim said...

Thursday May 27, 2010, Titley Street is no more, erased by the City of Pasadena with the opening of the Walnut Street and Kinneola Avenue Extension.