This is now the history

I sent the Tongva Gold article to Julia Bogany on June 2nd to get her reaction before sending it to people. She asked me to come to a Festival the following day where she would have a table. She had something to give me.

She gave me a photocopy of a small booklet titled Azusa: the Blessed Miracle by Louisa Williamson Hutchinson. Published by Gaylord Pamphlet Binder, the booklet is from 1937. Someone recently found it at the City of Azusa Library and brought Julia a copy.

Louisa Williamson Hutchinson was a high profile community leader in Azusa. A photograph on the opening page reads:

“In the photograph left to right Frank F. Merrimack, Governor of California, with his wife who attended the 50th anniversary of the City of Azusa with the Chamber of Commerce members, the City Council and citizens of Azusa on May 1, 1937 to witness the program and take part with us in the celebration. At the left is Mrs. Louisa Williamson Hutchinson, the writer of Azusa the Blessed Miracle. Mrs. Hutchinson was Queen of the celebration which lasted all day with a parade of decorated floats and horseback riders and in the afternoon a Rodeo on West Fifth Street. Dinner was served by the Woman’s Club.”

As I skimmed it, especially the end, I asked Julia — What does this mean?

“This is now the history,” she replied.

Here is the first ten per cent of Azusa: the Blessed Miracle. I’ll summarize the next sixty per cent and finish with the final thirty per cent.

“Near Nanga, in the far off years of legend before the trusting faith of man had faltered, in a small rancheria of Indians, there lived a simple Indian maid. Coma Lee they called her. Already in her budding youth — she was fifteen — the story of the healing powers that lay in her slim brown fingers had spread across the hills and valleys. Coma Lee, with the timidity of her years, shrank from laying her hands on any save woman and children, but her fame grew by leaps and bounds so that she was using her divine gift most of the time — laying her hands on the patients who came to her, or rubbing them with deft fingers, using some of the soft, polished sacred stones. Seeing the miracles that she accomplished, Coma Lee, deeply religious after the manner of her people, often fasted for days, and with earnest face uplifted, implored the Great Powers to make her worthy. After her prayers she bathed her young body in a small sacred pool hidden away in a cave of the nearby mountains. Emerging after her purification, she was received back by her people with a reverence strangely befitting her young dignity. Always, after this purification of prayer and fasting, when she used her hands on a patient in great pain, the suffering one would feel almost immediate relief and soon rested in deep slumber from which she awakened of her own accord, often entirely cured.”

Coma Lee broke her ankle miles from home. A bear began to run at her. Arrows from nowhere hit the bear, drove it away. Ohal Ya, the son of a Chief from a neighboring tribe, shot the arrows, put a splint on her ankle and carried her home.

As he carried her, they fell in love.

Coma Lee’s father, a simple farmer, was overwhelmed with joy at the safe return of his daughter. Ohal Ya went back home determined to tell his father, the Chief, he wanted to marry Coma Lee.

Ohal Ya discovered his father had fallen ill, was in great pain, and the medicine men didn’t know what to do. He told his father what happened and the Chief said he could not marry Coma Lee because of his station in life.

Weeks passed, the Chief remained in great pain, and his son could not forget his love. Ohal Ya went to her and asked Come Lee to run off to start a new life together. She said his father had sent a message to her father that marriage was impossible and her father accepted it. She told him to return to his people and walked away.

When Ohal Ya returned home, his father was in even greater pain. A member of the tribe told everyone he heard of a “Miracle Maid” in Nanga.

The Chief with his medicine men and Ohal Ya went to Nanga to see the “Miracle Maid”.

“Here camp was pitched and while Ohal Ya supervised the arrangements so that his father might be as comfortable as possible, the Chief sent for the Miracle Maid. With the unyielding torture of pain his constant companion, and the difficulties of the long journey, he was near to fainting when he reached his destination, so that he saw the serene faced maiden in a far away haze, as she bent above him to catch his whispered entreaty: “Oh, Miracle Maid, whoe’er thou art, relieve my pain and thou wilt always have a faithful subject.”

Coma Lee knew well that her patient was Ohal Ya’s father, but the bitterness of frustration had no place in her heart of compassion. Silently she passed her capable hands over the aching parts, soothingly she rubbed him until the magic of her delicate fingers took effect and he sank into deep slumber. Then, warning his medicine men that their Chief must not be awakened, she slipped away and was lost to sight in the evening shadows.

Came noon of the following day. Listlessly, Coma Lee dreamed in the shade of an old oak tree as she went about her tasks. She was conscious of a great weariness of the spirit, and for the first time in her brief years, life, stretching away ahead of her, seemed purposeless. Stifle them as she would, thoughts of Ohal Ya kept crowding in upon her memory. With a sigh, she turned to the grinding of the meal in her mortar. The season of ripening seeds was upon them.

There was a rush of feet on the trail and two medicine men stood before her, breathless and perspiring, their haste out of keeping with their calling. “Our Chief desires to see the Miracle Maid and her father!”, they cried with ill-concealed excitement.

Coma Lee, visioning a crisis in the Chief’s condition, called her father and ran through the blaze of sunlight to the encampment by the hot springs. Her flying feet came suddenly to a halt, for there, by the stretcher, stood the Chief himself, taller than she had imagined, with a majesty and dignity of bearing that made her drop to one knee in quick obeisance.

“Oh, marvelous Miracle Maid,” came the deep voice of the Chief with a new gladness in its tones, “Azusa shall be your name from me! Azusa, blessed miracle, for surely you are such! Look at me. I stand alone. I have slept long and deeply. I have eaten, I am without pain. Surely you are blessed by the deities, Oh, Maid of Nanga!”

There was a movement back of the Chief. Down the mountainside a young man came striding. Graceful and tall and straight, with the midday sun flashing in his eyes, he looked like one of the great and good deities to Coma Lee beholding him with pulses beating at her throat and the quick, tell-tale color flooding her quiet face.

“Coma Lee, oh, Coma Lee! Are you indeed the Miracle Maid?” he shouted eagerly, coming to her with arms outstretched.

Spoke the Chief, his father, a hand resting lightly upon the shoulder of each as he smiled across their heads into the face of the girl’s father. “If this is Coma Lee, then I have done each a grave injustice.” To his son he said, “She shall be your bride, but from now, henceforth, she shall be called Azusa, the blessed miracle.”

Of the wedding feast and the journey back to Ohal Ya’s home in the valley against the high mountains, much could be told. Once there established, Coma Lee, now known as Azusa, continued her healing practices and her fame spread abroad in the land of the Californias so that wherever there was suffering and pain among men, people said, “Go to Azusa and be healed…go to Azusa.” And so, through the swift-flowing years, the promise of sucrease from all ills lay in those words of magic, “Go to Azusa…”. In the days after the simple Indian maid had passed on to the happy haven of her faith, returning her gift to the great deities who had bestowed it, the place where she lived and ministered came to be called Azusa in memory of her healing hands of mercy.”

There might be some push back on this from the Father Crespi Foundation (there is no Father Crespi Foundation).

The website for Julia Bogany is tobevisible.org

Skid Row artist and activist