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The Mohr Brothers and Camp Angelus

Angelus Oaks has a far more fascinating history than previously thought if we take into account the lives and experiences of the people who gave it a place on a map.

As I have written at other times, the area was significant for the Indigenous people as a place to camp on their way higher into the mountains. It was called Tekamun by the Yuhaaviatam people for centuries before Europeans and Americans arrived. Ethnographer J.P. Harrington went into our mountains with Santos Manuel in 1918 and he wrote the following. “At Tekamun I interviewed the middle-aged man who is in charge of the place there. He said that his name was Sam Perry and that the name of the flat there is Glen Martin. Charlie Martin of San Bernardino is the owner. Charlie Martin owns a whole section here. There are several cabins and they had quite a large field of corn. The cabins are for rent and the place has evidently at times been quite a resort. Until recently the name was not Glen Martin but was Forest Home.”

Santos Manuel, age 90.

Courtesy San Diego History Center.

Harrington goes on to tell the story about travelers who mistook the Forest Home owned by Richard Jackson and Thomas Akers further down in Mill Creek Canyon for the one up there and had a good deal of trouble sorting it out. After that happened, a short time before Harrington arrived there, the name was changed to Glen Martin. Charlie Martin homesteaded 160 acres in township 1 north, range 1 west, San Bernardino Meridian in the northeast quarter of section 28, and James Cadd the southeast quarter, both in April of 1898. Over time, Martin acquired the entire section. When he died in 1927, the land passed to his son-in-law, Clifford Shay, but before that, they had already started selling off parcels and sold 320 acres to Arthur M. Gilman of Los Angeles. In 1924, Gilman intended to build a swanky $75,000 Normandy-style hotel with cottages. In the end, however, he never built the hotel and sub-divided lots for cottage homes.

Above: Ethnographer John Peabody Harrington, circa 1920.

Courtesy, California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections, Northeastern California Historical Photograph Collection.

Northeast of Glen Martin, the Mohr brothers, Edward and Adam, known as Bard, founded Camp Angelus. Over the years, many assumptions have been made about the naming of this place. For a time, some people believed that the name was taken from famous evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple. Others thought that the Roman Catholic angelus, or prayer of devotion, inspired the Mohr brothers spiritually and that was why it was given that name. The truth may actually be much more interesting.

Ed and Bard Mohr were born in Berks County, Pennsylvania near Reading. Their father, Henry C. Mohr was a prominent physician and their mother, Lydia, had nursing skills frequently put to use in the care of patients. Henry Mohr died in 1892. As a result, Ed and Bard inherited a fair sum of money, both from their father and their paternal grandmother. In 1902, It was announced in the Pottsville, Pennsylvania newspaper that 22-year-old Bard

Mohr was on a mission. Under the headline, “Pretzels for Far West,” they reported that, “For months past preparations have been made by Mr. Mohr for the crusade at the Golden Gate for the twisted dough product. He had been out in California for a year or more for the benefit of his health and then became possessed with the idea that Californians had but to taste the Berks [County] staple bakers’ product and they would capitulate to its seductive charms for the palate at once.” Bard left on November 24, 1902, with his mother Lydia in tow to become the pretzel man of California. Edward, who was then a tailor and newly married stayed. For reasons that aren’t apparent, Bard and his mother decided on Los Angeles after a brief period in San Francisco. He bought land and built a building for his pretzel factory at 504 Molino Street in downtown Los Angeles, opening his business in 1903. Ads for his “Steam Pretzels” in local directories demonstrate that he gave it a good go, at least until 1906. However, other events would swiftly overwhelm Bard, and his mother Lydia, who lived at a rooming house on Hill Street. At 5:12 in the morning on April 18, 1906, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake shattered San Francisco and was felt in Los Angeles. By the 25th, trainloads of refugees from the northern city were arriving in L.A. and the city was mobilized to help. Just blocks from where Bard and Lydia lived, the Agricultural Park [now Exposition Park] was turned into a refugee camp. The camp for the women was called – Camp Angelus. Lydia Mohr volunteered, nursing refugees injured in the quake and cooked while Bard supplied baked goods to the camp. Camp Angelus, during its time in service sheltered, fed and cared for more than 20,000 refugees. It also became the focus of some outrage when predatory madams tried to lure young women who had lost their families in the quake into the flesh trade. In any case, despite the scandals, the name Camp Angelus loomed large in the consciousness of Southern Californians and became synonymous with hospitality and refuge.

The site of Camp Angelus refugee center was the California State Agricultural Park in Los Angeles. It is now Exposition Park.

In 1910, a man named W.B. Dewey opened a resort camp on Forest Service lease land at the very summit of Mount Baldy and as an homage to the refugee camp named it Camp Angelus, though its name changed after 1913 when it burned down. During that same period, Bard Mohr tried mining in the mountains and became an assayer. Ed Mohr and his wife Rosa had joined Bard and mother in California shortly after the quake. . In 1917, the brothers acquired the lease for the Yorkshire Hotel at 710 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, which remarkably is still there. Then, in 1919, like Dewey, the Mohrs acquired a lease on Forest Service land and founded Camp Angelus In the San Bernardino Mountains, opening the Angelus Lodge in 1921. By 1930, the entire Mohr family lived in Camp Angelus and were very involved in their new community. For the rest of their lives, the Mohr brothers remained in the hospitality business in Los Angeles, Bard eventually running the Melrose Hotel on Grand Avenue and Ed running the Yorkshire Hotel. Ed Mohr died in 1945 and Bard in 1951.

In 1962, the U.S. Postal Service decided to amalgamate the post offices in Seven Oaks and Camp Angelus. The new post office was named Angelus Oaks and became the official name of the small town perched on the mountainside along California State Highway 38.

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