William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

By Catherine Mulholland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
The Chief and the General
1908

ENTER THE GENERAL

Mulholland had told Allen Kelly that he knew what building the aqueduct would entail. “I'm going into this as a man in the army goes into war, because it would be cowardly to quit. It will take the life out of me and if I stay to the end I'll come out a rickety old man, tied together with baling wire. But if you think I'm going to wear myself out for a lot of political jobbers, you can think again. ” This outburst was not without cause, as since the election of Mayor Harper and the passage of the water bonds, Mulholland's files had begun to fill with letters from job seekers or petitioners for friends and acquaintances of the mayor. Nor was his military analogy inapt as the organization needed to achieve this mighty task resembled a military campaign. When it began to appear that political favoritism and unwieldy red tape might subvert a clean operation, help arrived in the shape of an old army man. 1

Although the Progressive reform group fought to retain the retiring chairman of the board of public works, J. A. Anderson, an authority on water law who had proven both able and fair handed, Mayor Harper was prevailed upon to name an aging military hero and friend of General Otis, Lieutenant General Adna Romanza Chaffee (1842–1914). General Chaffee, a great bear of a man with piercing eyes, had recently retired with his family to Los Angeles after a long, distinguished military career. He had been cited for conspicuous bravery at Gettysburg as a cavalry officer in the Civil War; he had fought Indian wars in Texas, New

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