Frank Latta Papers
Finding aid created by Yosemite National Park Archives staff using RecordEXPRESS
Yosemite National Park Archives
5083 Foresta Road
El Portal, California 95318
Title: Frank Latta Papers
Dates: 1922 - 1985
Collection Number: YCN: 2003 (YOSE 115196)
Extent: 27.5 LF
Online items available
Yosemite National Park Archives
El Portal, California 95318
Abstract: Latta's notes refer to Native Americans by their anglicized names but by their Indian names in his books. A cross-index is
provided below to correlate the two. Indian and anglicized names appear especially in Latta's field notes but also figure
prominently on the notes for photographs. This list is alphabetical by Indian name, using Latta's orthography, with anglicized
name and tribe following, when known.
Ah-kah-kih-nim Blind Molly [Lawrence], Wukchumne Yokuts
Ah-shah'-co-lit Mary Garcia, Yokuts
Cha-ahm-sah Dick Francisco, Koyeti Yokuts
Chapulin Martin Estrada
Es'-tik Lucy Dick, Entimbits Yokuts
Hay'-cow Sam Osborne, Wuksache Yokuts
Hih'-lah-loo Wilson Lewis, Patwin
I'-chow Henry Icho, Wukchumne Yokuts
Lah-wan-nil George Garcia, Tache Yokuts
Las'-yeh Mrs. Dick Francisco, Bancalache Yokuts
Law-naw'-see Joe Vera, from Tule River
Lee'-mee Chris Brown, Miwok
Loi-eh-yets Dan Williams, Koyeti Yokuts
Low-hi Dick Sampson, from Dunlap
Low-how-she Joe Wilcox, Yaudanche Yokuts
Maht'-chah James Alta, from Tule River
Nen'-wut Josephine Atwell, Wechikit Yokuts
Oot-som'-yet Mrs. Nick Sisco, from Lemoore
Pahmit William Wilson, Dumna Yokuts
Pay'-mi Henry Johnson, Pe-loo'-nee Miwok
Pohut Joe Pohut, Wukchumne Yokuts
Sah-lee-mah-suh Jose Juan Olivas
Sho-shin Susie Medley, Dumna Yokuts
Sow-sut Rosa Domingo, Choinimnee Yokuts
Taw-pin-naw Jim Tawpnaw, Wukchumne Yokuts
Totuya Maria Lebrado, Miwok
Wah'-cho Gervasio Pierre Lopez, Honoumne Yokuts
Wah-hum'-chah Henry Lawrence, Yowlmaynee Yokuts
Wah-nom'-kot Aida Icho, Wukchumne Yokuts
Wah-sis'-cot Mary Tipp, Nutunutu Yokuts
Wah-tuh-che Pete Barrios, Tache Yokuts
Way'-sheem-let Minnie Wilcox, Wukchumne Yokuts
Wee-ah'-lates Sam Garfield, Wukchumne Yokuts
Wow'-ee-ll Ramon Enjinio
Ya-a'-lut Mary Pohut, Wukchumne Yokuts
Yah-wah'-cut Annie Jackson, Nutunutu Yokuts
Yeh-see'-nut Mary Tipp, Nutunutu Yokuts
Yoi'-mut Josie Alonzo, Chunut and Wowole Yokuts
Yow-wis'-nut Julia Davis, Choinimnee Yokuts.
Language of Material: English
While this collection is open to the public, sensitive materials have been flagged and require appropriate permission through
the Yosemite archivist to access.
Frank Latta Papers. Yosemite National Park Archives
Collection was offered by Mona (Frank Latta's daughter), and purchased by the Yosemite Association, which donated the collection
to the park.
Frank Forest Latta was born in Orestimba, California, in September 18, 1892, to Presbyterian minister Eli C. Latta and teacher
Harmonia Campbell. Latta married Jeanette “Jean” Allen in 1919, and eventually had four children together. From 1915-1945
Latta worked as a teacher in the southern San Joaquin Valley, teaching mechanical drawing and agriculture. However, his true
passion lay in the study of California history, a curiosity which was ignited when he interviewed early pioneers in 1906 for
a school project. Latta continued interviewing and researching the history of the San Joaquin Valley even as he was teaching,
which led him to stumble on to the story of an old white pioneer who had been raised by the Yokuts, an Indian tribe of central
California. This man was Thomas Jefferson Mayfield, and his experience, which Latta published first as a series of newspaper
articles, became the basis of Latta’s first book Uncle Jeff’s Story: A tale of a San Joaquin Valley pioneer and his life with
the Yokuts Indians (1929).
Latta’s interviews with Mayfield led to a lifelong interest in the Indian people of the central and southern San Joaquin Valley,
particularly the Yokuts and the Miwok. In order to better understand Yokuts culture, Latta studied different dialects and
supplemented his knowledge by corresponding with anthropologists of his day, like linguist and ethnologist John P. Harrington,
with whom he formed a close friendship. Latta also interviewed many members of the Yokuts and Miwok tribes, taking meticulous
notes and eventually developing his own system to record the particular speech and memory of his subject. The interviews were
so essential to his research that Latta would spend years tracking down individuals with first-hand knowledge of important
events and stories. Some of his most important books, like California Indian Folklore (1936) and Handbook of Yokuts Indians
(1949), drew from his research on California Indians.
Latta also contextualized his interviews with local Indians by continuing his research of early California and San Joaquin
Valley history. He sought information anywhere he could find it, including personal and corporate papers, and more notably,
newspapers. Latta would search for old newspapers and index and sort the relevant information, allowing him to publish well-research
historical accounts of the area like El Camino Viejo a Los Angeles and Black Gold in the Joaquin, also published in 1936 and
Latta’s interest in history and California Indians extended far beyond academic research. In 1952, for example, he learned
that allotments of some of his Yokuts friends were about to be sold by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which prompted him to
organize people to stop the sale. He felt deeply that the problems faced by Indian people in the 20th century were directly
related to the 1815 treaties and reservation system in the southern San Joaquin Valley, and thought that greater understanding
of the causes of these problems would lead to possible solutions. This belief led him to help found the Kern County Museum
in Bakersfield in 1941; he wanted people to know their own history and understand the history of the place in which they lived.
Latta retired from teaching and worked as the museum curator and director from 1945-1956, allowing him to focus on history
full time. While at the Kern County Museum Latta also established the Bear State Museum and Bear State Books, the one to house
his collections and the other to publish his work.
In 1946, Latta and his family moved to Santa Cruz, where he established the Rancho Gazos Historical Indian and Early Californian
Museum. He continued to write and publish books about the San Joaquin Valley, early Californian settlers and Californian Indians.
Towards the end of his life, Latta wrote prolifically, publishing Dalton Gang Days, Saga of El Rancho Tejon, and Tailholt
Trails in 1976, Death Valley ‘49ers in 1979, and Joaquin Murrieta and His Horse Gangs in 1980. Even with all these publications,
Latta left behind a wealth of unpublished information when he died in 1983. Fortunately his papers have been housed and protected
at several institutions. In 1987, with the financial assistance of the Yosemite Fund, the ethnographic papers of Frank Latta
came to the Yosemite National Park Archives. These papers, inventoried below, are only a piece of Latta’s incredible legacy.
Scope and Content of Collection
The ethnographic papers of Frank Latta fall into five groups: Field Notes, Correspondence, Manuscripts, Sources, and Photographs.
Within those groups, Latta's filing system has been maintained for the most part. Field Notes and Correspondence are organized
alphabetically by the name of the person or organization generating the material. Manuscripts are organized alphabetically
by title. Sources are organized by author, title, or subject, as Latta filed them. Photographs, once they were cataloged
will be presented also by Latta's system, which was organized alphabetically by person, place, or subject name.
In the course of his work, Latta amassed a mind-boggling amount of material which even he had some trouble keeping organized.
Over the course of time he developed duplicate files of the same name; those have ordinarily been combined in the records
here. Only in the Manuscripts group has that consolidation been difficult because Latta reused so much of his material several
times in different publications or in different versions of the same publications.
As much as possible, the manuscripts are organized in chronological sequence within each title.
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