From the Los Angeles Sunday Times, Nov. 13, 1904


Mrs. Eliza A. Otis Called to Another World.


At 9:35 o’clock last night, November 12, 1904, Mrs. Eliza A. Otis died at her home, “The Bivouac,” Westlake, her bedside surrounded by her husband, daughters and sons-in-law.


She had been in impaired health for several years and in a serious state for more than twelve months. Her disease was primarily a stubborn case of stomach ailment succeeded by frequent attacks of angina pectoris, which finally ended her life.

She was a member of the recent Times World’s Fair excursion party, traveling with it during it long course of 10,000 miles . . . with open enjoyment of eye and mind. . . .

The time for the funeral has been fixed for Tuesday afternoon, November 15, at 1:30 at “The Bivouac.” The presence of friends will be appreciated. Interment at Hollywood Cemetery, on Santa Monica Avenue.


Brief Sketch of Her Life

Mrs. Otis, who was born Wetherby, was a native of Walpole, N.H., and graduated at Castleton Seminary, Vt., in 1859. . . .

She had from childhood a deep love of poetry, . . . her first published poem appearing in the Congregationalist and also in the New York Tribune when she was but sixteen years of age. . . .

Shortly after her graduation, she rejoined her parents, who had removed . . . to Southern Ohio, and there she met and married . . . Harrison Gray Otis.

At times during the Civil War, in which he served, Mrs. Otis followed her husband to the field and there performed whatever tasks fell to her hand.

After the war, she lived with her husband at Marietta, O. Here three children were born to Mrs. Otis, the youngest of whom, Harrison Gray, came a few weeks after Sumter was fired upon and died in the following December.


The other two were born after the close of the Civil War. They are Mrs. A.M.M. McPherson of Hollywood and Mrs. Harry Chandler of this city.

During her residence at Marietta, Mrs. Otis kept up her literary work, contributing to a little journal published by her husband at that place.

In 1867, she removed with her husband to Washington City, which was her home for nine years. Here two more children were born to her, one of whom is now Mrs. Franklin Booth of Hollywood, and the other died in infancy. . . .

In 1876, the family removed to California, settling in Santa Barbara, where they lived for six years. Mrs. Otis became a passionate and discriminating lover of California and things Californian and . . . wrote continuously for the Santa Barbara Press, then published by her husband.

In 1878 she made a notable overland journey to the Yosemite Valley as a member of a special observation party, including the artist [Henry Chapman] Ford . . . . On this unique journey, made by wagon, involving three months and involving much camping-out and “roughing it,” Mrs. Otis wrote a series of descriptive letters, which by common admission delighted and informed her readers . . . .

In the fall of 1882, the family removed to Los Angeles . . . . Mrs. Otis at once joined the staff of the Los Angeles Times, in which her husband had acquired an interest on August 1 of that year. . . .


At times she has been a copious contributor and staff writer. . . . She wrote poetry, sweet, strong and tender; descriptive letters, children’s stories, fairy tales, essays, lay sermons and editorials.

Among the regular departments which she conducted . . . were “Woman and Home,” “Our Boys and Girls,” “Susan Sunshine” and “The Saunterer.”

In the editorial department, Mrs. Otis was always strong and graphic, treating large and patriotic subjects with force and discrimination and with the broad grasp of a mind strongly masculine in some of its phases. . . .

Her last verse was written only last Tuesday while sitting up in bed . . . .


November in Sunland

In the far East the Autumn’s fires are burning,
The forests burst into a crimson glow,
The air is full of whispers of the snow,
The winds awake, the river’s tides are turning
To meet the frosts that will enchain them soon
And weld their icy feathers till the noon

Of the glad springtime. But here the summer’s breath
Still lingers, the many blossoms wake,
And color, sweetness from the sunshine take.
They show no signs of fading or of death,
The summer trails her lovely garments still
And smiles at us from ev’ry vale and hill.

The leaves are green, the waters ripple by,
And bird song floats upon the sunny air.
The butterflies are flying everywhere
On their wings, like blossoms in the sky.
November comes with heart of sunny June,
With Summer’s loveliness ’tis all atune.
 From the Los Angeles Examiner, November 5, 1904

The last act in the Griffith divorce case closed yesterday when Judge M. T. Allen . . . granted Mrs. Mary A.C. Griffith an interlocutory decree divorcing her from Col. Griffith J. Griffith on the grounds of cruelty.

Over a year had elapsed since the curtain was raised on the first act of the tragedy when Mrs. Griffith was shot by her husband at the Hotel Arcadia, Santa Monica . . . .

Mrs. Griffith, accompanied by her sister, Mrs. C.L. Whipple, and her attorney, Isidore B. Dockweiler, entered the court room and took their places inside the railing.

Col. Griffith was not present. He was in the county jail. . . .

Mrs. Griffith stated that she was married January 27, 1887, and had lived in Los Angeles for about thirty-five years. Attorney Dockweiler then asked:


“Was there any issue resulting from your marriage?”

“Yes, a son, now 16 years of age.”

“Kindly state what happened on September 3, 1903.”


Mrs. Griffith, pale and somewhat nervous, then stated that her husband shot her while she was upon her knees and after she was allowed to pray.


“Did you have any quarrel?”

“No, sir, not one word.


Shooting Was Deliberate

Judge Allen then interrupted and inquired more closely concerning the act of shooting itself.


“It was deliberate,” said Mrs. Griffith emphatically. “He made me get down on my knees. I asked to pray.”

Judge Allen: “He then fired?”

Mrs. Griffith: “Yes, sir.”

Judge Allen: “Divorce granted.”


The testimony of Dr. Moore, who went on the stand first, was as follows:

Attorney Dockweiler: . . . “There was a bullet hole in her eye brow. . . . I discovered that a part of the bullet had been deflected upward into the forehead. She was given stimulants. The next morning she was driven to the California Hospital. The eye was removed and the bullet extracted from the socket.”

Major John T. Jones, representing Col Griffith, called the attention of the court to the fact that Mrs. Griffith had consented to have her son, Vandel, continue his education in Leland Stanford University at the expense of the son’s father.

Mrs. Griffith will retain the custody of Vandel . . . .

What Became of Vandel Griffith?

Col. Griffith's son Van lived a long and eventful life, much of it spent protecting his father's wishes for the park.

His last real decade of Griffith Park activism was the 1950s, when he opposed the Rodger Young Village (temporary housing for returning servicemen and their families), the building of the Golden State Freeway along the park's eastern border and the creation of the Toyon Canyon dump site in the park. He spent a lot of time and money fighting these issues in court.

By the 1960s he was less active, but still interested in the park. In 1967, I believe, he was interviewed for UCLA's Oral History Project. A local newspaper article about him in 1971 was the last interview of him that I saw. He died at his home near the Vermont Avenue entrance to the park in August 1974. He was 86.

— By Mike Ebert

Los Angeles his

For a personal look at Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s, click for
He Usually Lived With a Female: The Life of a California Newspaperman