The Carpenter of Mission San Jose
Joseph Edouard Baron (1825 – 1921) *
Empty promises and no payments were all Eduard Baron and his fellow workmen received after months of repair work on the church and adjoining rooms at Mission San Jose. Their attempts to recover lost wages from the parish priest, Father Joseph du Lin, were met with disdain and derision. They escalated their efforts and hired an attorney to represent them in a claim against the diocese.
Word soon reached Father John Nobili at Mission Santa Clara, some 15 miles to the south. Adding to the matters that crossed his desk about Mission Santa Clara and the fledgling Santa Clara College, the French curate’s needless trouble pushed his patience to the edge. Outraged, he wrote to castigate him.
The Santa Clara University archives only have what appears to be an unsigned, cathartic first draft. Dated May 24, 1852, It contains references to piastres, a French term referring to currency, in this case, American dollars.
What follows is my translation of the French document. The letter says as much about the recipient as the writer:
My Reverend and very dear [Father] Dulin [sic],
Without talking about the hundred piastres, which were due to Mr. Stafford, I just received strong remonstrances against you on behalf of five persons** who complain that you have not paid them for a long time the sum of money that you have promised, nor have you given them (the equivalent) in merchandise the amount of one thousand and seven hundred piastres!!
And more! I have received a cordial letter from Mr. Yates, the attorney for the Pueblo, in which he advises me that three of the workers you refused to pay will be pursuing payment through the Court, in the sum, altogether, of six hundred seventy-nine piastres!!
My dear [Father]…this is a disgrace to the Clergy and the Church!!!
I tried to prevent this scandal from taking place today! I do not know if I succeeded because I could not see Mr. Yates yesterday, nor even the merchants of the Pueblo!
All the sum, therefore, for which you are indebted, adds up to $2479!!! And maybe you have even more debts than I know!!!
What then will be the consequence? And what danger for the little left at the Mission of San José! If you have no money, why are you spending so much in San Francisco, the Pueblo, and the Mission? Indeed the Court could not have obliged you to do that – Did you not have enough out of the five hundred piastres from the tithes to pay the lawyer?
So, what have you done with the four hundred piastres you received recently from Mr. White, about whom, astonishingly, you could not say enough! At least (!) if you had used that money to pay your debts – but – no!! – Why do you then try to take further advantage by ordering even more merchandise on credit from San Francisco?
Might you … be surprised that I speak to you in such a manner, and as your Superior! Well! I will tell you …. I do it reluctantly.
In the end, I am to answer to God and man, and in particular to the Bishop, regarding my conduct in this very delicate affair. . . and I cannot hide in the present circumstances, whatever goodwill I have had until now. . . [Bishop] Alemany vests me with doubts about the Mission of San José and even about your person as the pastor of said Mission. I have the Bishop’s written documents and the testimony of [Father] Langlois, who the Bishop Himself sent, while [Langlois] was still Vicar General. . . and I have, I flatter myself, also the testimony of the present Vicar, [Father] Llebaria.
[unsigned, but penned in Nobili’s hand]
* Note: Historical documents reveal that after arriving in the United States from France in 1849, Joseph Edouard Baron dropped his first name so that he was known as “Eduard, ” a simplified variation of his name that left out the “o” from the French spelling. In Arizonan and Mexican historical documents, his name took on the Spanish version of “Eduardo.” This article uses his preferred name, Eduard.
** The “five persons” were the French carpenters Eduard Baron, Jules Audrain, Jean DuPont, Bernard Garance, and Jean Salavert.
Nobili, John (draft) re: Dulin regarding outstanding debts. May 24, 1852. Archives and Special Collections, 3DB1 Papers of John Nobili, S.J. 1851 – 1856, Santa Clara University.
Next: Part 7: Trouble at Mission San Jose
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