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The Sherman Rose Adobe

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:12 pm    Post subject: The Sherman Rose Adobe Reply with quote

A BANK—a good one, incidentally, that went through the Late Disaster without batting an eye—stands on the site of the famous old Bonifacio adobe, with its rose-covered gateway, and sweet-smelling broom. For nearly a century it had beautified Alvarado Street, with its balcony and its garden. Its romantic atmosphere had furnished an impecunious poet of local fame the price of a noble dinner for himself and his fellow Bohemians, with vino to grace it—the story of Dona Ignacia Maria Bonifacio and Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman.

When the bank coveted the spot that had grown into the hearts of the people for its beauty and charm, and the adobe had to go—banks have a way with them— an artist came by, looked upon the scene with sorrow. "Could the adobe and tiles be bought?" They could. And were, on the spot. And the adobes and tiles—even the rose-tree, with its eruption of yellow blossoms-were transplanted to the Mesa, and built into what is as exact a duplicate of old Bonifacio adobe as was possible. Percy Gray and his wife performed a miracle.

The lovely old gateway, beneath which many a notable personage had paused to beg a rose from the hands of the little dark lady, looks exactly as it looked in the pastoral days of Monterey, when the old clock on the shelf banked one's doubloons, with more or less security, But the old setting is gone, Alvarado Street is "improved."

The fame of the Bonifacio adobe has spread to the uttermost ends of the earth because of the love of a soldier bold for a maiden fair—a love that never was. The story ran something like this: When the 250 Yankee sailors captured the town in '46, and the army held it until the United States took California over as its own, a group of young army lieutenants were stationed at the Presidio. They attended all the bailes, meriendas, fiestas and fandangos for miles around, and gave the gay caballeros of Monterey considerable competition.

As the years passed, and the war was over, they left for their Eastern homes, leaving behind many memories laid away in lavender. And the senoritas with whom they had danced la jota, la contradanza and la varsovienne, on starry nights on the Plaza, had married, raised families; and, still gay in spirit, lived over the gay days when the Yankees came.

But one did not wed—Dona Ignacia Maria Boni¬facio. Why not? Was she not beautiful? And petite? And witty? So happened there came a poet a-walking one summer afternoon. He saw the tiny figure in her black frock, tending her flowers, the yellow roses bobbing overhead.

His funds were low, and friends from Bohemia were due on the afternoon boat, to toast St. John of Nepomuk, in a grove west of the Old Town. And St. John of Nepomuk was never known to have been toasted in water. At any rate not by Bohemians from San Francisco.

In a flash, it came upon Daniel O'Connell, strolling past, that here was opportunity for a "story." Worth at least a ten-spot in a San Francisco newspaper.

Surely, Dona Ignacia must have remained unwed because of a romance. Who shall her lover be? And running back over the possible candidates, he picked the most talked-of from among the many young blades long ago stationed in Monterey—General William Tecumseh Sherman, hero still of the "March Through Georgia."

And the story, copied far and near, related, with rare Irish tenderness, how, on the eve of the departure of the young officer for the East, the sweethearts pledged their love, he promising to return to wed her when the roses should bloom on the slip they planted together—close by the gate, where so often they had whispered "good night." And he never came back. She was still waiting, sadly, resignedly.

The facts are that General Sherman left Monterey for New York, in 1850, to marry his Ellen Ewing, daughter of United States Senator Thomas Ewing— who had brought up Sherman from the age of nine. The wedding was one of the most notable of the year, the President and his staff, members of Congress and the diplomatic corps attending the reception. Ellen and William had had an "understanding" all through his four years of training at West Point. He was her hero. He may not have been an exciting lover, but he was not a philanderer. Not Sherman, who was the reverse of romantic.

As for the rose that grew and bloomed over the gateway—

In the Customs House Museum is a signed statement by Sherlock Harmon that he and a companion, Ross Morey of Monterey, brought two cloth-of-gold rose slips from San Jose, in 1871; that Ross Morey gave his slip to Dona Ignacia, and they saw her plant it by the gate; that they saw it grow and spread over the entrance until it became a tree. Sherman, thusly, missed the rose-planting by twenty-one years. And besides, he had been tightly married twenty-one years, when the rose was planted.

Nor is that all.

A short time before she passed away, Dona Ignacia, while having tea with Mrs. Walter Little, a girlhood companion, said to her, when the oft-told story was being laughed over, "And who was Sherman ?" "Don't you remember that little, red-headed lieutenant we used to dance with at the bailes?" said Mrs. Little. But the unwitting heroine shook her pretty head and laughed.

When the story first started, and a few people came to ask for a "Sherman" rose, she—having only her Spanish tongue—was puzzled. When people began to come in numbers, not only to ask for a rose, but to buy them, and to ask to take tea in her garden, she protested. But to no avail. She became the symbol of woman's true love and the perfidy of man, who loves and runs away. Poor Sherman! One wonders what Ellen Ewing thought about it. His son, Father Thomas Sherman, whom I knew in Santa Barbara, said his father was always perplexed about the yarn, and knew somebody had lied.

But at that time, I had not the facts. Now Ellen and her childhood companion, soldier-lover and husband are dead. So, too, the Monterey sweetheart he never embraced, and the careless, cheerful romancer—well-beloved of Bohemians to this day—have gone to rest this many a year. One wonders if he and Sherman have met. And if so, what they said to each other.

A bank—a nice bank—stands on the site of the old garden. And all the actors in the little drama care not that the story was just a day-dream of an Irish troubadour, down on his luck.

Let it be said, in passing, to soothe despairing souls, that one balconied adobe still survives on Alvarado Street—"My Attic"—the old home of Dona Maria Ignacia Sanchez. When an order went out from the city council that all balconies on Alvarado Street had to be removed—their drip on passers-by their principal objection, though perhaps the matter of safety entered in—the new owner strengthened his balcony, and put in drains. And sat and waited. Nothing happened. And one precious example of Monterey's own architecture remains to gladden our souls.

Three other adobes still stand on Alvarado Street— Dr. Callahan's adobe, near Pearl Street, the first post-office in Monterey under American rule, and re-furbished recently by two understanding men; and the other, the Osio, or the Rodriguez, an adobe just north of Franklin, bearing the inscription: "BUILT IN 1819." With less luck than the Sanchez adobe, the Osio building lost its balcony, under the mandate of the city council, though the protective overhang remains. It has also suffered the ignominy of having art nouveau windows at their worst thrust into its noble walls, and—hold your breath—a German beer-and-sandwich shop built into its south corner. The owners of the latter have found it necessary, "to preserve firm unity” to frame in a Hofbrau front to their particular section of this landmark. No one seems to have protested. Maybe the balcony could go back.

Another precious old building to pass its hundredth birthday is the Alvarado House, at Alvarado and Pearl Streets. Thus did the old street acquire its name. Though the second floor is now frame construction, it is said that the entire building was adobe when the Mexican governor occupied it.
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