On June 22, 1841, Don Abel Stearns (age 43) married Arcadia Bandini (age 14) at the Mission San Gabriel with Hugo Reid as one of the witnesses. The book “Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles: Hugo Reid’s Life in California” detailed Arcadia & Abel’s wedding:
“Members of the Stearns-Bandini-Reid clan gathered from far and near for a week of merrymaking. The bride looked ravishingly beautiful in contrast to her husband, whom the paisanos called ‘Cara de Caballo’ or ‘Horse Face.’ She, a fresh young girl of fourteen, and he, a weatherbeaten bachelor of forty-three, older than her own father!”
In spite of his looks, Stearns was one of the most prominent and influential men in the pueblo. His home (pictured above) was called El Palacio and “when the gates were closed [it] was a citadel of itself capable of withstanding a siege. On several occasions its strength was put to the test.” (From Guinn’s “A History of California” ).
The Stearnses were apparently happily married until he died in 1871. Mrs. Stearns remarried in 1875 to Robert S. Baker, owner of the San Vicente rancho. Baker demolished El Palacio to build the Baker block which included the couple’s residence as well as businesses. After he died in 1894, Mrs. Baker moved to their home in Santa Monica, where she ran her businesses and philanthropies. Her continued importance to Los Angeles and to Santa Monica is well told in this article from the Santa Monica Mirror.
The photo of Don Abel Stearns comes from the Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, 1860-1960 housed at the USC Digital Library. The photo of young Arcadia Bandini has been cropped from an original photo found at the San Diego History Center. Stearns’ home, El Palacio, is archived at the Los Angeles Public Library.