MEMORIES: MY SEVENTY-TWO YEARS IN THE ROMANTIC
OF YUBA CALIFORNIA
BY W. T. Ellis
with an introduction by Richard Belcher
EUGENE: THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
PRINTED BY JOHN HENRY NASH
Copyright, 1939, by W. T. Ellis, Marysville
DEDICATED TO MY OLD HOME TOWN MARYSVILLE
A Duel in Marysville with my Two Uncles as Seconds
IT WAS the month of June, 1853 and two Marysville editors had been scrapping through their columns for some time about the politics of the day. Now came a challenge to mortal combat, and--unexpectedly--an acceptance. They met at sunrise on a field a mile south of Yuba City, because the Yuba County sheriff was opposed to the “code duello” and threatened such combatants with jail.
Judge O. P. Stidger, who had been publishing a paper in North San Juan, had but recently purchased an interest in the Marysville Herald, a tri-weekly publication supporting the Whig party, and was its editor. Colonel Richard Rust was the editor of the California Express, a democratic sheet. Editors did not merely espouse causes in those days; they fought for them.
Rust was a southerner and the duel was an institution of the south for satisfying the honor of the gentleman when offended. Stidger was short on knowledge of weapons with the exception of the pen, and with this instrument he had sorely wounded Rust. So the latter issued the challenge, the bearers being Lee Martin and Charles S. Fairfax.
Judge Stidger was a northerner and Colonel Rust was said to have counted on a refusal by the judge to resort to the field of honor. But the challenge was promptly accepted, Stidger, as was his right, naming the weapons and the distance. He chose Buckeye rifles with set triggers, and fixed the distance at 60 yards. No Buckeyes were to be found. The second dug up two Mississippi Yagers, but they were of different calibre and not equally reliable.
Lots were drawn for choice of the guns, and Rust's seconds picked the largest and best. They also won choice of position. My uncle, Judge Gordon N. Mott acted as second for Judge Stidger, and my uncle Judge T. B. Reardan volunteered as the second one.
“At sunrise of a Sunday morning on a beautiful day in June, with the larks singing, the two editors from Marysville faced each other at a stepped-off distance in Sutter County, 'all east 500 yards from the Yuba County line' and waited for the signal to start firing.
“Dr. R. H. McDaniel, was in Judge Stidger's party to advise him and to treat him if necessary. Dr. Rust, brother of the other editor served in like capacity on the other side. There was a large gathering of friends of the antagonists, and of spectators.
“Fairfax gave the instructions. He was to say 'Fire, one, two, three, stop.' Firing was to start any time between the first and last word. As he said 'Two,' both rifles barked.
“Stidger had fired high over Rust's head. Rust shot to kill, but the bullet tore into Stidger's coat pocket, riddling a handkerchief, and remained there.
“Rust demanded another shot and Stidger promptly agreed. Judge Mott and Dr. McDaniel urged that he, too, shoot to kill, as Rust meant to kill him. He promised, but on the second shot he clipped some of the hair from Rust's head, while Rust missed. Stidger had tried to wing his adversary, without killing him. 'He has a family,' the judge told his seconds. They again admonished him, and he promised faithfully to shoot Rust if the latter insisted upon his already requested third shot.
“The two groups of seconds went into consultation. After a few minutes a gun was fired and the announcement came that Rust was satisfied.
“Fairfax, experienced in such matters, said afterward that he had never seen two duelists stand more manfully than had these two editors.
“Their fighting through their newspapers continued as forcefully afterwards as it had before the affair of honor, even more so, for in August both papers had become dailies.”
In later years, when the hydraulic mining controversy was at its height, Judge Stidger again was the owner of a newspaper in North San Juan, called The Times; at the same time, A. S. Smith was the editor of the Marysville Appeal. These two men were constantly criticizing the other's stand on the mining question. Smith in his editorials took liberties with Stidger's name by referring to him as “Old Stinker” and Stidger in turn would take liberties with Smith's initials by referring to him as “Ass Smith”; their duels were “long distance” ones. Whenever Smith would write a particularly nasty editorial, he always made it a point to see me to ask if I had read his last editorial on “Old Stinker.”
Yuba County's English Lord
YUBA County was once represented in the state legislature by a British lord. Charles Snowden Fairfax was the tenth Lord Fairfax, but he, like his father and grandfather, back in Virginia, failed to use the title. They were Americans. They had been Americans for several generations of the family.
Fairfax County in Virginia was named for the first member of the family to locate there, Thomas, the sixth in the line of lords. His mother was a daughter of Lord Culpepper, so he had titles on both sides. His mother left him a large estate in the American colonies and he came to look after them, living at Mount Vernon. He employed George Washington to survey his lands, thus beginning a close friendship.
Charlie Fairfax was a democratic fellow, who fitted into the miner's cabin or the drawing room of a mansion with equal grace. He was extremely popular, and, although not an orator, he was a great vote getter, occupying several offices in California. He was prominent in San Francisco as well as Marysville, and was a power at Sacramento. He served as clerk of the supreme court for some time.
Election of Fairfax as assemblyman from Yuba County occurred in 1852, and he served in two sessions, 1853 and 1854. In the second year he was speaker of the house. In 1856 he was named to the supreme court office.
Harvey Lee, who had represented El Dorado County in the ligislature, was appointed as reporter of decisions of the supreme court, and the action of Governor Weller in naming him was not popular. Lee and Fairfax met on March 25, 1859, in front of the old St. George Hotel in Sacramento and Lee upbraided Fairfax, the latter, during the quarrel, slapping Lee. Lee was carrying a sword cane, which he promptly unsheathed and ran through Fairfax, piercing a lung.
Fairfax, even though badly wounded--mortally, he thought, drew a derringer and covered Lee, who cried, “Don't kill me; I'm unarmed!” The wounded man held his fire and in words that burned told him: “You miserable coward, you have murdered me--you have assassinated me; I have your worthless life in my hands; but for the sake of your wife and children I shall spare you.”
Witnesses urged Fairfax to kill Lee, but he refused and repeated, even more stingingly, what he had said.
Charlie Fairfax made his last public appearance in 1868. He was a delegate from California to the democratic national convention in Tammany Hall in New York on July 4, that year, when Seymour and Blair were nominated. He died in Baltimore, April 6, 1869, a few months after the convention. The wound Lee inflicted was at least partially responsible for his death, as it had never healed.
Lee moved to Amador County and represented that and Alpine County in the assembly for awhile, being elected in 1865. He was in 1866 appointed by Governor Low as one of the judges of the new judicial court, but never took the office. On August 19 of that year he was driving a spirited team at Agricultural Park, then just outside Sacramento, when his vehicle collided with a post and he was almost instantly killed.
Fairfax was a lawyer and practiced in San Francisco after leaving here. He had a wonderful country estate, called “Bird Nest Glen,” in Marin County, three miles north of San Rafael. His widow lost this property and moved to Fort Ross, which he had owned, but this was lost as a result of her lavish entertaining there. Eventually she died while occupying a government position that was provided for her in Washington.
Fairfax was a second to Colonel Richard Rust in the famous duel in Marysville, in 1852, between Rust and Judge Stidger.
As a young man, I often heard my father speak of Charlie Fairfax. My uncle, Judge Reardan, and Fairfax were great friends; and this uncle named one of his sons Fairfax Reardan, but he always went by the name of Fax Reardan.
Black Bart, Stage Robber
A Train Robbery
THE exploits of Black Bart used to give us young fellows a great thrill; I guess we used to look upon him more as a hero than an ordinary stage robber.
Black Bart, “The Po8” was not a train robber. He confined himself to stages. Twenty-one or more holdups were attributed to him. He carried a shotgun, which he used to intimidate the drivers and passengers of stages, but it was said the gun never was loaded. He never shot at a stage or those on it, although shots were fired at him.
In his last robbery, near Copperopolis, on November 3, 1883, a boy on horseback had been traveling along with the stage for awhile and had then dropped back. He was carrying a gun. This boy came upon the scene while the robbery was in progress and the driver motioned the boy who, unobserved, passed him the gun. Black Bart fled, dropping a handkerchief. The laundry mark on this led to his capture. It was found to be the mark of a San Francisco laundry, and the customer's name was found by a Wells Fargo detective to be Charles E. Bolton, supposed to be a mining man. He lived at the Webb House on Second Street, and was highly respected. It was learned though that he was also known as Barlow and Spaulding. His right name, found in his Bible, was Charles E. Boles. He was a Union veteran and had a wife and daughter in Hannibal, Missouri.
After his six years' sentence, Black Bart was released January 22, 1888, having been a good prisoner, getting the benefits of credits, which reduced his time four years and two months. “Never again,” he said to reporters as he left the prison. Nothing was heard of him (of an incrimination) after that.
Black Bart began operating in 1875. Before a robbery he usually appeared in the vicinity as a quiet, gentlemanly stranger. After the robberies he might be present for a day or so, then dropped from sight. He held up the La Porte-Oroville stage early in the series, getting $50.00, a gold watch and the mail. A few months later he repeated on the same route. In November, 1880, after robbing two stages near Yreka, he was traced to near Oroville, but was lost.
Early in 1881 he robbed a stage between Marysville and Downieville. In June, 1882, he stopped the Oroville-LaPorte stage again and the express messenger, George Hackett, riding up in front, fired twice, grazing the bandit's scalp with buckshot.
After his capture, Boles told officers he had often been in Marysville while on his robbery pilgrimages, but no one ever took him for a bandit. Until he was identified by the laundry mark in San Francisco he had been above suspicion. He had lived there as a well-to-do mining man with interests up country that required his absences from time to time.
He generally left some “poetry” at each robbery, as a sample,
Here I lay me down to sleep,
To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow.
I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns too long you've tread,
You fine haired sons of bitches.
Let come what will, I'll try it on,
My condition can't be worse,
And if there's money in that box
'tis money in my purse.
BLACK BART, The Po8.
A TRAIN ROBBERY
About 1895 Marysville had a train robbery. It ended the careers of the bandits and of Sheriff J. J. Bogard of Tehama County, who was a passenger. The Oregon Express train of the Southern Pacific was approaching at night from the south when Browning and Brady, notorious killers, stopped the train by crawling over the tender into the cab and menacing the engineer and fireman with guns. They fired shots to force the passengers to let them into the express car, but they were unable to open the safe.
One bandit led the way into the passenger cars and the other drove the engine crew ahead with sacks into which passengers were ordered to drop their valuables. Shots were fired when some of the passengers started to flee.
The porter, robbed of a watch, sneaked out behind and ran along the train to a car where Sheriff Bogard was asleep. Bogard put on his guns and went through the train until he came to where the robbers were at work. He shot Browning through the heart, but before he could fire past the engine men a bullet from Brady's gun killed him. The same bullet wounded the fireman. Brady fled, leaving his booty and firing on the passengers as he went, wounding several.
A bicycle the escaped bandit used was found and led to his capture and he was sentenced to life in prison.
Historic Yuba Dam
ABOUT 2 miles southeast of Marysville in a bend of the present Hammonton Road is the old site of a small settlement which existed in early days and was known as “Yuba Dam” and made famous by Bret Harte. Nothing now remains to mark the old location except a large pecan tree. In early days there were no bridges crossing the Yuba River; there was, however, a ferry for crossing the Yuba River at the south end of E Street to the south areas; but on the east of town, the Yuba River was about one and a half miles southeast of its present channel on the Simpson Lane, the old original Yuba channel being about one quarter mile westerly of the old site of “Yuba Dam.” Another ferry was operated by a man named Simpson, from whom Simpson Lane took its name. Floods and mining debris have entirely altered old conditions and where the old river channel used to be, a large peach orchard now is growing, known as the Yuba Dam Ranch, owned by my two friends, R. R. Stowell and S. F. Weiser.
The following story attributed to Bret Harte, recounts the experience of an early day pioneer who passed through the old “Yuba Dam” settlement on his way to the mining area to the east. Here is the poem:
Of Yuba Dam, the story's told,
It may be false, it may be true,
How Jones in search of placer gold
Chanced in the town while it was new.
He saw a man upon a fence,
The usual chills and fever type,
Who sat and watched the lizards play
And smoked a vilely smelling pipe.
“What place is this? My friend,” said Jones,
“I think I've somehow lost my way,
“I left this morn the Billings Ranch,
“I seek the prospect, Break of Day.”
Still puffing at his corncob pipe,
The native looked the stranger o'er,
Then, in a low and peevish voice,
Said “Yuba Dam”--just that, no more.
Astounded at the answer given,
Jones asked once more, in terms polite,
“Please tell me what this place is called,
“I did not get the answer right.”
Taking his pipe from out his mouth,
The more tobacco in to cram,
The native said “I told you once,
“You must be deaf, it's Yuba Dam.”
The fighting blood of Jones rose up.
He dropped his neck and seized the man,
“You goldarned bunch of bones,” he said,
“I'll teach you to say 'You be dam'!”
The Native came down from the fence
And hit the earth an awful slam,
But while Jones rolled him in the dust,
He feebly muttered “Yuba Dam.”
The contest o'er, his honor cleared,
But angry still, Jones took his way.
He saw a little girl at play
At a cottage near the road.
“My dear,” said Jones, in sweetest tones,
“Please name the town in which you dwell.
“This two-bit piece I mean for you
“When your town's name you rightly tell.”
The child looked up with bashful grace
And shyly eyed the stranger man,
One finger in her mouth,
And softly lisped, “Oo be Dam.”
“Good God!” said Jones, “I'll ask no more.
“Helltown's the name the place should bear
“Where little children, sweet and mild,
“At inoffensive strangers swear!”
WHEN I graduated from the High School, I informed my father of my desire to go to college and take up an engineering course of study; he listened attentively to my plans and then told me to come down to the store next morning; this gave me hopes that I had made a favorable impression. When I reached the store next morning he gave me a nice new bucket, a nice new sponge and a nice new chamois skin and said, “Now Bill, you are on the payroll and let's see what kind of a window washer you are.” There were many glass windows and partitions in that large store; I felt rather depressed and disappointed but concluded that he was just “trying me out” and if I worked hard, during the next two summer months, he might conclude to let me go to college, so for the next two months, I was very industrious but I never got to that college.
Father had a janitor, a colored man by the name of Henry Clay, who had been with him for quite a number of years and Henry Clay was much perturbed at first, thinking that he had possibly lost his job to me, but he was evidently “tipped off” by Father as the next day, Henry Clay took me in charge and kept me busy all day and every day on various clean-up jobs; in fact, whenever I finished one job, Henry Clay seemed always waiting with another job for me--he never gave me a chance to loaf a minute.
When my first two months were up, Father informed me that I had apparently mastered the job of janitor and I was to be promoted to the position of “roustabout” which position consisted of helping load and unload wagons and drays and trucking grain, etc., which latter was pretty hard work for awhile until I became accomplished in loading five sacks of wheat, etc., on a hand truck and moving them about without prematurely dumping the load, which I did quite often at first, to the evident enjoyment of the other employees. From this position, I was advanced to an assistant behind the sales counter, learning prices, how to wait on customers and take orders, and gradually worked up to head salesman in the retail department. From there, I was advanced to the wholesale department and after I had become proficient in that department, I was sent out on my first trip with a buckboard and span of horses to visit some of our customers who had stores in the mountain area, as a “drummer,” and from whom we enjoyed a good business.
At that time we were doing a large business; we had a retail business of about $200,000 per year; a wholesale business of about $350,000 per year, and besides, we did also a very large business in buying and selling grain; we had grain warehouses situated at Marysville, Ostrom (then Reeds) Station, Oswald and Tudor where we conducted a grain storage business.
When I first commenced to work at the store, the hours were long. The store opened at 6:00 A.M. and closed at 9:00 P.M. and Sundays we kept open from 8:00 A.M. till noon. A few years afterwards, I “connived” with other clerks in other stores in town and we put on pressure to close at 6:00 P.M. which met with strong opposition from the store-keeper but we “put it over.” Still later, we used similar “persuasion” and got stores to cease keeping open on Sunday mornings; this clerks' association I rather imagine was the first “labor union” in town so possibly I am entitled to the distinction of having not only formed the first Labor Union, but was the first “President” of a Labor Union in Marysville.
Competition in the retail trade got quite keen and some articles such as flour, sugar and other staples were sold at prices which did not include the cost of doing business, so after I became a partner in the business, I called a meeting of all the men in the grocery business and we established prices on those articles which permitted of a reasonable profit. I was the head of the association and as costs varied, I would send out new lists of prices to the various store-keepers; at first, every store-keeper was under a forfeit of $50.00 if found cutting prices; that did not work very well, so then we eliminated the forfeit and put every one on his honor and that worked successfully for many years. In making these agreements between the merchants we really accomplished voluntarily, what merchants are now compelled to do by the present “Unfair Practices Act.” There was great deal of credit given in those early days and still losses were comparatively small. Most farmers those days, and they were mostly grain farmers, usually paid their bills once a year; when they had harvested and sold their grain, then they would come in and “settle up.” For their information and record of purchases on credit, we had small “pass books” in which was recorded an itemized statement of their purchases and prices and they would always bring these pass books in with them. Roads were bad and horses were slow traveling those days, so Saturdays were the big days for the farmers' trade and after making their purchases, the men would largely congregate on the south side of 3rd and D Streets and “visit” while the women would congregate on the north side of 3rd and D Streets and do their “visiting” there. How very different is business conducted now, with chain stores, cash stores, good roads and automobiles and coming to town most every day and buying many things, which in those earlier days, were produced on the ranch. Many a pound of “sow belly” have I purchased from farmers who had produced an excess. When butter was purchased, it generally was in 15 or 25 pound kits, packed solid with brine; fish, such as salt mackerel and salmon bellies, were handled in wooden kits; purchases were usually in liberal quantities so as to save coming to town too often. People were frugal in those days, they had all the real necessities of life, they were content and happy; their weekly “event” was coming to town on Saturdays, and the big event, was when the circus came to town once a year.
As an example of their frugality, there was one farmer who lived south of town; when he came to Yuba County, he was first a school teacher at Wheatland; he purchased a small tract of land in the red dirt district and used to walk back and forth from his ranch to the school, a distance of about six miles each way; he saved his money and purchased some more land and gave up teaching; he raised grain, made money and kept purchasing until eventually he owned several thousand acres. He did all his trading with our firm; he came in every Saturday for supplies and almost always had something which he had raised on the ranch to “trade” with. At our office we always took the local and a San Francisco newspaper and I always placed them to one side and when he came in Saturdays, he would ask, “Well Billie, have you some newspapers for me?” When he died he left an estate over $200,000. Another large farmer lived in the Cordua District; he also had accumulated until he had a very large grain ranch; he had two grown sons who did hard work on the ranch; he also made it his custom to come in and get his supplies on Saturdays, the two boys rarely coming in with him. One Saturday, I sold him his supplies and one of the things he said “the boys” had told him to be sure and get, was a 25 pound tub of butter as they were all out; he asked the price and I told him and he said “Oh my, oh my, but butter is awfully high,” and then said, with a twinkle in his eye, “I won't take any butter this week Billie and I will tell the boys I forgot the butter.” He also had a very large estate when he died. There were really few farmers, however, who bought butter, most of them had the family cows and the “old woman” made the butter with the old fashioned churn.
After the floods of 1904, 1907 and 1909, and even before those flood years, the business district had continued to stay largely between First and Fourth Streets; the uncertainty of security caused every business man to be satisfied to remain in his old location. But after the last three flood years mentioned above and the Levee Commission had so raised and strengthened the levees that they felt security, they took my statement, “that if ever a flood came, which possibly would be big enough to flood all the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, that there would still remain two dry spots, and they would be Marysville and the Sutter Buttes.” The old town “commenced to put on airs,” the new hotel was built on Fifth Street, the residential district north of Fourth Street became changed to business property, many merchants wanted to and did “move up town,” valuations and rents were accordingly reduced “down town,” and when also the “big depression” came upon us, I found that the combination of my efforts to make the town safe from floods, plus the “depression” and “fire” had resulted in a “wave” of business activity to the north and that the recession of that “wave” had left our main holding, the “Ellis Block,” “high and dry on a sand bar” to the south. The joke was on me; I was “holding the bag” and then came my experience with my first and only law suit. But that's another story in another chapter to follow.
As for my experience in the mercantile business, I had commenced as a janitor in 1880, gradually worked up all “rounds of the ladder” until 1889, when I became a part owner with my father, firm name becoming W. T. Ellis & Son; later on, in 1895 the mercantile business was incorporated under the same name and I became general manager of all the business. My father died in 1913 and four years later, in 1917, I sold out the business which had been operated continuously for sixty years, and with which I had been connected for thirty-seven years. I thought I was going to “ease up” and have a little more leisure; that was just twenty years ago and I haven't “eased up” as yet and have come to the conclusion I never will as it has always been a pleasure with me to keep busy. I never learned to loaf.
For several years, after I had retired from the mercantile business, my old employees used to arrange each Spring for an annual picnic where we would all have a reunion and jolly time, some coming from considerable distances to attend; they used to call it the “Old Ellis Company's Employees' Picnic” and quite naturally I always felt quite complimented by these events.
During my business experience, I have employed many persons, but almost all of them stayed in our employ for many years; there were few changes and only one, a man in whom we had the greatest confidence, failed me, having been proven dishonest for many years; he was simply discharged. As for women employees in our office, they were always uniformly dependable, capable and very loyal to our interests. And speaking of women, it has oft times been said that a woman cannot keep a secret as well as a man; I disagree with any such theory, my experience has been that women can keep secrets and much more so than men. Only last summer in London, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin remarked that he had “never known leakage of information due to a woman,” but that he had “known leakages through men who should have known a great deal better.” Some months ago, the President's Supreme Court decision came as a surprise to the nation, but a woman had helped to formulate it and knew it inside out, weeks, even months before--Marguerite Le Hand, the President's private secretary. I believe that women and particularly women in business life, have always kept secrets and are particularly vigilant in detecting lies and in this connection, it has been said that “the first lie detector was made from the rib of a man.” Why, take Eve for example; it has been said that she may have given Adam away, but she never told the snake's story of how he found out about the Tree of Knowledge--and of course she asked him, because all women are curious.
Experience as a Traveling Salesman
TRAVELING salesmen in those days used to be called “drummers”; they were selected by their employers, not only for their ability as salesmen, but also for their ability to be “hail fellows well met”; most of them would have a fund of “good stories” to regale, and be able to “hold their liquor well,” as in those days this counted very considerably. They were also allowed liberal “expense money,” which in their reports went under the head of “entertainment”; some of the most successful of these traveling men were really better “entertainers” than they were “salesmen,” ingratiating themselves with their customers, who looked forward to their dates for calling and holding orders for them in place of sending in orders direct to the wholesale houses by mail; these salesmen were often called “order takers” by other salesmen who lacked the personality or the natural ability of being “good fellows.” It is entirely different these present days; price, quality and service now count first and good fellowship comes last; it was largely so then with my father.
Taking example, however, from the drummers with whom I had become acquainted, when I was first sent out on a “drumming expedition” through the mountains by my father, I decided to emulate them.
My first trip was through the mountain towns, where we did a large business, both retail and wholesale. In those days, the roads were practically impassable during the winter months, the main traffic being by stages, which largely carried the mails and Wells Fargo & Company Express shipments; in the summer, of course, the roads could be traveled, but they were very rough and the dust would be about a foot deep; it was very unpleasant and slow going.
I started my first trip in the month of May, my conveyance being a “buck-board” vehicle, drawn by two horses. I started very early in the morning and my first stopping place was at Dobbins where I called on the old firm of Slingsby & Gettens (now J. C. Merriam & Son Co.). William Slingsby was an Englishman and Daniel Gettens was an Irishman. Everyone knew them as just plain Bill and Dan, but to Dan, Slingsby was always Billie. Slingsby was the real business head of the firm and Gettens filled orders, looked out for the loading of wagons and very small pack mules which were called “burros,” and used where goods had to be taken over steep and narrow trails to their destination; it was remarkable the amount of load these sure-footed, patient animals could transport and it was a real art, how these heavy and sometimes bulky loads could be strapped to their backs and never come loosened; sometimes these loads would look as large as the animal itself.
Both Bill Slingsby and Dan Gettens were fine types of men; Dan was a “diamond in the rough” and had a wonderful sense of good old Irish humor. Many years after, when he died, I went to his funeral; he had left instructions that he did not want any “fancy hearse” to take him to the little cemetery on the nearby hill; he wanted to be buried in a plain coffin and be taken to the cemetery in the old store wagon, drawn by his two pet mules, and his instructions were implicitly carried out. There was a very large concourse of people, both from the hills and the valley who came to the funeral, all waiting around in groups in the road for the Catholic priest to come; he was a little late in arriving from Smartsville. This was Father Toomey, who was known far and wide and was beloved by everyone. He often called on me at my office, he was always joking and full of humor and I loved to listen to his rich Irish “brogue.” As Father Toomey drove up the road, as he recognized various persons, he would call out, “Hello Jim,” “Hello there McCarthy,” “Hello George,” “How do you do Mrs. Malarkey and how are all the childre,” etc., etc. Everyone was in a pleasant frame of mind, everyone was cheerful even though they had come on a sad errand; it was exactly what good old departed Dan Gettens would have wanted it to be.
Many of these mountain stores had a small bar at the rear and, following the usual mountain custom, after I had exchanged salutations with the two proprietors, Dan invited me to the bar to have a drink “on the house” with him. After this little “ceremony,” again following the usual mountain custom, I invited every one in the store to “belly up and have a drink with me,” which invitation was always accepted by all those present; straight whisky almost always being called for, and sometimes a cigar. Should any one present refuse the invitation, it was taken by those present to mean that the party refusing had some unfriendly feeling to the party extending the invitation.
After having secured an order for goods, I continued on my way to Camptonville where I planned to stay over night. At Camptonville was the firm of Meek Brothers, who had conducted a store there for many years and we had always enjoyed a good share of their business. They were also of the fine type of men who conducted stores in the mountains in those days, all of whom had the confidence of the public and who not only dispensed their wares to customers but also dispensed advice and often were called on to arrange amicable adjustments in controversies between miners. The elder Meek had two sons, Jason R. Meek, who in later years was Yuba County's surveyor for a great many years and at this writing is “still going strong”; the other son, William Meek, was familiarly known by almost everyone as Bill Meek or Bull Meek. Both of these sons had wonderful senses of humor, they were great mimics and could tell the most entertaining stories of the old times and the old timers. Bill Meek, a wonderful “whip,” had the reputation of being the best stage driver in the mountains and that was a distinctive reputation to have in those days. I have often told them that it was just too bad that the stories they could tell could not be preserved on phonograph records as they were not only entertaining and descriptive of old time characters, but both men had inimitable gifts of description. The Town store was, particularly during the winter months, the “town club,” where a huge barrel-shaped stove, setting on a large box filled with sand, with oftentimes a circular iron rail surrounding the stove, permitted the visitors to put their boots high up on the rail and spit tobacco juice with unerring aim at the sand under the stove and put in the winter hours, “swapping lies,” discussing the prospects of the “diggins” in the Spring, politics and what not. When a “stranger” would happen in, there was usually silence and he was looked at askance until his conversation with the store-keeper had explained in a way who and what he was and what business he was bent on. If his explanations received approval and he should then do the “proper” thing by asking, “Won't all you boys belly up to the bar and have a drink,” he would then be admitted to the “charmed circle,” take a chair and also have the privilege of putting his boots on the stove rail.
The following morning, I proceeded to the “Mountain House,” situated on a high ridge about 4500 feet altitude and where the then road forked, one going easterly to Forest City, Alleghany, etc., the other road, leading north, down the canyon, a distance of about eight miles to Goodyear's Bar, thence to Downieville, Sierra City and beyond.
Before reaching the Mountain House, I stopped at Nigger Tent, where we had a customer, a Frenchwoman by the name of Mother Romargie; she ran a roadhouse with a bar and always had several Spanish girls about. The place had a very unsavory reputation; several miners, who had been known to be “headed” for this place, rather well supplied with “dust” or coin, had mysteriously “disappeared,” but probably, having no relatives, nothing was ever done about it. When I stopped and hitched up my team and told Mother Romargie who I was, she seemed pleased to know me and immediately “treated”; of course, I reciprocated and invited the girls and a couple of men present to “have one on me,” in fact, they had “several on me” before I left (with an order from her) which made me a little late arriving at the Mountain House. On future trips I always stopped at Mother Romargie's place and once, getting caught in a heavy rainstorm, I remained all night, had a pleasant evening dancing with the Spanish girls, one of whom played the guitar, and I managed never to “disappear.”
It was a Saturday evening when I reached the Mountain House and my stop at Mother Romargie's had made me late for “supper.” However the proprietor, Dan T. Cole was an old time friend of my father and the Chinese cook very promptly had a repast ready, sufficient for several men. The Mountain House was a very large frame building and Dan T. Cole “was monarch of all he surveyed” in that territory. While he ran a roadhouse, which meant a stopping place for large freighting teams, his principal business was logging and each year he did a very large business in this line, employing a large number of men, expert as “loggers.” As usual, there was a bar and the place had the reputation of serving about the best meals in the mountains. Dan Cole was very tall (about six feet six inches), angular, but well built, had eyes as “sharp as a hawk's” and a “poker face.” He was a Democrat and a political power in the hills and, in later years was appointed a Harbor Commissioner of San Francisco, and it was when he was on this Commission, that the present large Ferry Building was constructed and his name and two others are still to be seen on the large granite “cornerstone” at the front of the building.
The evening's entertainment was always poker and as this was Saturday night, the game had commenced when I arrived. The Chinese cook, after he had furnished my meal, hastily returned to the poker game, as both he and Dan had the reputation of being about the best poker players in the mountain; in fact, it was rumored that between Dan and his Chinese cook, much of the wages of the loggers went back to the house, after they had been paid off on Saturday night. I watched the game and spent some of the evening talking with Dan's two grand-daughters, who were frequently there on visits and both of whom were very entertaining and vivacious young ladies. About 1:00 A.M. I decided to go to bed, the room assigned me being on the second floor; when I was ready to retire, the night air being very cool, I endeavored to close the lower half of the window, which was directly at the foot of my bed, but finding that it was nailed in place, could not do so. I had gone to sleep, when I was suddenly awakened and found all the blankets and the sheet on top of me had suddenly disappeared out the open window; well, it was either put on my clothes and sleep in them or go down stairs where I knew it was warm, so I decided on the latter course. When I reached the barroom, everyone was present and a great “whoop” went up and of course, the “drinks were on me for the house.” The two girls then acknowledged that they had tied a rope to the ends of the blankets and the sheet and waited till they were quite sure I was asleep and then pulled them out of the window. I met them several times afterwards, they were mighty fine young ladies but after that, I was always on my guard, in fact, one had to be everywher in the mountains as playing practical jokes, particularly on strangers, was a great diversion.
The next morning I drove down hill, a distance of about four miles in a straight line but about eight miles by road, to Goodyear's Bar, situated on the north fork of the Yuba River, where we had several customers, among them a man by the name of John Saunderhaus. Some years later a son of this man called on my father at our store and said he was quite sure he knew where there was a good prospect for a quartz ledge and asked for credit for a “grub stake”; as this family always had a good reputation for paying their bills, the accommodation was granted; young Saunderhaus went on his prospecting tour and discovered what was afterward named the Young America Mine, which proved to be a great producer and young Saunderhaus sold it out for about one million dollars. Young Saunderhaus was an immense and powerful man; he stood about six and a half feet high, weighed about two hundred and sixty pounds, but was well proportioned. He got to be a “play boy,” became very friendly with a young millionaire of San Francisco named Jimmie Dunphy and the twain used to put on some wild parties. They used always to attend annual conventions of the Native Sons of the Golden West and delight in buying champagne for the entire convention; money meant nothing to them, but old “John Barleycorn” cut their careers short.
But I have been diverging from the story of my mountain trip. After leaving Goodyear's Bar, I drove next to Downieville, a distance of about twelve miles. Downieville then was mighty lively litte town, lots of stores, many more saloons and gambling houses. Being Sunday, it had more than the usual number of visiting miners and, of course, practically all places of business were open; if there were any closed, I did not see them. The narrow street (just as it is today) was crowded with people, the sidewalks unable to accommodate them. After I had “put up” at the St. Charles Hotel (still there), I crossed the street to call on our principal customer, Spaulding, Mowry &Co., the “Co” part of the firm being “Billy Holmes.” I was not a stranger, having met all three of them when they had visited our store at Marysville previously. There happened to be present a young man, with whom I was also well acquainted. He was the District Attorney of the County and his name was Tirey L. Ford. They were all very pleased to see me and Mr. Spaulding “opened my eyes” with wonderment when he opened up a large safe and drew out a large bowl, about eight inches in diameter and about six inches deep, filled to the brim with the most wonderful gold nuggets of various sizes. We had a pleasant visit, but I wanted to “talk shop” but seemed unable to do so; during the visit, I noticed that Billy Holmes drew Tirey Ford off to one side and indulged in a whispered conversation. Soon Ford invited me to come out and see the sights with him and shortly afterward we were joined by Billy Holmes. We visited various saloons, each one having many gambling tables of all devices in the rear end, stacks of gold and silver piled up on the tables and all doing a rushing business. For the first time, I saw miners come up to the bar and order drinks and then pull out their long buckskin bags, filled with gold dust, insert their thumb and fore-finger in the sack, take out a “pinch” of gold dust, the bartender extending a large glass for the purpose, for the customer to deposit the gold dust in, as payment for the drink. There was no argument as to the size of the “pinch” of dust, the miners were easy and careless, and if the dust amounted to about 25¢ or 50¢ worth or more, it made no difference; after watching this performance several times, I came to the conclusion that the bar was “getting the best of the break” by accepting gold dust in place of hard cash for drinks.
That night I had an experience which I have never forgotten but which resulted in me getting a lot of orders, but what this experience was, I will tell in another chapter.
It took me two days to finish up my soliciting at Downieville and then I left for Sierra City, Tirey Ford accompanying me. I had good success there as Ford introduced me as a fellow “Clamper” and that seemed to bring in orders easily. That evening, Ford said, “Let's go up and dance 'jigger',” and when I asked for an explanation, he said “Wait and see.” We went up the side hill from Sierra City and a short way up there was a very large building used as a dance hall. On one end of the building was a very long bar with several bartenders apparently doing a thriving business; all around the hall were rough wooden benches and as we entered, numerous couples were dancing. Many of them I might say, were attempting to dance, some groups having a regular old time “hoe down,” but all apparently having a good time. In the center of the room, suspended from the ceiling was a large circular iron frame with, I believe, three coal oil lamps for light, and on the back of the bar were about three coal oil lamps with tin reflectors. The orchestra consisted of a banjo, violin, guitar and a wheezy horn which, however, made fairly good music, a polka being the prevailing dance when we entered. The majority present were men, a number being seated on the benches, some talking with Spanish girls. Ford and I moved up to the bar and immediately some of the Spanish girls followed us there and we invited them to have a drink. After a few “rounds” we each picked a girl and joined in the dance. The dances were very short, and after each dance, your lady partner was given credit for the patronage by the bartender, who would place a mark after her name on a book so that she could get a “commission” at the end of evening's entertainment, to which she obtained added income by expecting “tips” from her partner if she managed to make him believe he was having a “bang up time.” The more frequent the visits to the bar, the more liberal her partner would be, although usually, the men who went there did so with the idea of having a good frolic and expected to pay for it and liberally too.
It was about 1:00 A.M. and Ford and I were having a good time with our partners, who stuck to us like glue, when two men, rather intoxicated, got into an argument near the center of the hall. One had a bottle of beer in his hand and attempted to strike the other fellow on the head with it, but a by-stander, in an attempt to prevent the blow, caused the bottle to fly out of his hand, and the bottle was deflected to the coal oil lamps above, causing them to crash to the floor, where ready feet prevented any fire. Someone, it sounded as if it was in the rear of the hall, fired a shot, which I afterwards believed was a call for the hall's “boosters” to come and stop the fracas. However, at the time, it looked as if it was going to be a “free for all”; I grabbed my girl and stepping up on a wall bench, kicked out the flimsy window sash and out the window I went, draging my partner with me, followed by Ford and his partner, who had been standing close by when the fracas commenced. The “scrap” was soon settled and we went back to the hall, my partner taking advantage of the fact that the broken glass in the window had made some rents in her dress which she claimed “ruined” it and I “came through” with her demand for $10.00 without any argument, knowing that these Spanish girls had quick tempers and a bad habit of having a nice little sharp dagger attached to their garters. It rather spoiled the balance of the evening for me, but no one else seemed to pay much attention to the little fracas; it was “just one of those things” rather expected to occur.
From Sierra City, I went over the Yuba Pass, to Bassett's, Sierraville, thence down the Mohawk Valley to Quincy, thence home via Oroville. It took me twelve days, which Father considered too long but after turning in my orders and telling him of my various experiences, which gave him a lot of amusement, he remarked that now that I had had my “initiation,” perhaps I could make better time next trip, which from then on was every Spring and Fall and covering more territory than I did on my first trip. Every one of those mining camps was lively those days, the miners making plenty of “clean ups”; it “came easy and went easy,” very largely over the gambling tables and the bars and no one seemed to worry about the future. In recent years, I have visited many of these old mining camps, some of which in early days boasted of a large population. They are now “Ghost Towns.” It was saddening and depressing seeing them and at the same time remembering them as they were in their heyday of prosperity; the “days of gold and the days of 49” are now only memories.
Later on, we worked up a good wholesale business on the line of the railroad, as far north as the Oregon State line, and I made many trips to all the intervening towns by rail. It was rather inconvenient, time being lost between trains which required “doubling back” from town to town because of the train service, both by day and night. I much preferred traveling with the old buckboard in the mountains notwithstanding the bad roads and enveloping dust, particularly, when the sound came to your ears, of the clanging of bells on the shoulders of each horse or mule of some freighting wagons, drawn by some twelve or fourteen animals, giving you advance notice of their approach so you could hunt for some convenient spot, where the road was a litte wider, called “turn outs” and where you would have to wait patiently until the teams had passed you.
Experience with the Lodge of E Clampus Vitus
IN A previous chapter, I have mentioned that I first joined this lodge on my first business trip to Downieville, having been advised that it was necessary to be a member of this lodge if I expected to obtain any business with the merchants.
The night I joined, the meeting was held in quite a large hall, and there must have been about one hundred men present. When the proceedings were about to commence and the meeting called to order by the presiding officer, whose title was “Noble Grand Humbug,” those present were seriously admonished to keep quiet and preserve due decorum during the initiation.
I was then led out by two husky men and was stationed before the Noble Grand Humbug, who proceeded to ask my name, my age, my occupation and this was followed by some very embarrassing questions.
The Noble Grand Humbug, then addressed those assembled and asked them in a loud voice, if in their opinion I had answered all questions in a satisfactory manner and asked, “What is the will of the lodge?” In unison and with practically one voice, all those present roared, “Initiate the Son of a B--.” They all then joined in a song, which commenced as follows;--
“You will get all that is coming to you,
And a damn sight more before you are through--”
(I will not give the rest of the song for obvious reasons.)
I have still a very vivid recollection that they DID initiate me and for about two hours I was put through various hazings, from being dropped from a coffin suspended in the air with a trick opening bottom, into a tank of cold water, to crawling through what was called a “noiseless cavern,” which consisted of a long pipe, just wide enough to crawl through and when I got about the middle of the pipe, several husky fellows, commenced to roll it back and forth the hall's length, all the time belaboring the tank with clubs, which made it anything but “noiseless.” The finishing touch was trying to ride the back of a large stuffed bear in my birthday suit, the bear being so adjusted that it would buck me off quite frequently; there was no use to attempt to refuse to “do my stuff”; I soon found that out because four good husky fellows would compel me to keep up with the programme. It was rather a cold evening but notwithstanding my lack of clothing, I was bathed in perspiration; the final stunt was to throw me in a bank of snow outside the building “to cool me off” and then immediately returned to the hall, where two huskies with Turkish crash towels gave me a rubdown and then helped me to put on my clothes. Then each “brother” in turn came up and saluted and welcomed me and shook my hand, each one apparently trying to outdo the other in the violence of the hand shake, which left my hand sore for over a week. Otherwise, outside of being “just a little sore and bruised,” there were no ill effects from my experience.
As far as I can learn, this lodge of E Clampus Vitus started in the mountain areas for amusement purposes during the long winter months, when snows prevented mining and when there was little or no communication with the outside world except the mails. Several of the larger mountain towns had their separate lodges and they really did a lot of charitable work. I remember that at Downieville one time, a miner was accidentally killed, leaving a wife and several children; a meeting of the full membership of the Lodge was called and every one was expected to contribute to a charity fund which was at once turned over to the widow amounting to several hundred dollars.
However, my “initiation” was not forgotten and I swore to get even on some one and shortly afterwards, I helped to start a lodge of E Clampus Vitus in Marysville. We had a large hall of the second story of the present brick building at the southeast corner of D and First Streets; we raised funds and had a complete set of necessary paraphernalia, obtained a copy of the “ritual” from Downieville and were “ready for business.” It wasn't long before most all business men and their clerks had joined the lodge. We initiated candidates quite often, mostly drummers, and we made agreements for quite a long while between the business houses, that drummers had to “belong to the lodge” if they wanted to get orders. Almost every week we would have an initiation and every member knew when a “sucker” was had for an initiation that evening, when the “hewgag” sounded, which sounded like a fog horn and could be well heard over town. A minister of a certain church heard about the lodge's “doings” and took exceptions to their practices and complained that most of these initiations were on Sunday evenings, so on one Sunday evening, he gave a sermon on the absence of men at church and exclaimed, “Where, oh where are our young men tonight” and just at that moment, the hewgag was heard with its weird and mournful sound, and many in the congregation were unable to refrain from laughing, as that sound of the hewgag was sufficient answer as to “Where, oh where are our young men tonight.”
This first lodge was practically “put out of business” on account of the publicity in many newspapers of the State because of an initiation of an English Lord; this was on January 25, 1896. This was Lord Sholto Douglass, a younger son of the Marquis of Queensbury, who was greatly interested in prize fighting in England and who first drew up the rules of the game which were and still are known as the “Marquis of Queensbury rules.” It seems that young Lord Sholto Douglass had married a London dance hall girl, which got him into disfavor with his father. In consequence, and on the strength of his title, he and his wife started a vaudeville show to make a living and came to America on a tour. They came to Marysville and gave a show one evening in the old Marysville Theatre; it wasn't a very good show and as they had been having very slim attendances in California when they gave their show in Marysville, they were about “broke.” As the show here had a very slim attendance also, they “were up against it” financially.
A few of us thought we saw an opportunity for some amusement, so a committee from the Clamper's Lodge called on the young Lord and told him that if he would give another show the following night, that we would guarantee the theatre rental and some other expenses and would go out and sell tickets and perhaps make him some money, BUT, he would have to join the Clamper's Lodge that evening. He consented and “he got what was coming to him and a damn sight more before he was through,” the same as I had in Downieville; the lodge hall was packed, we had tickets printed and sold them to those present, appointed committees to go out and sell more tickets and the following evening, the theatre was packed full and he and his show left town rejoicing. All the newspapers in the State had accounts of his initiation and it gave him a lot of free advertising and he made a successful tour to New York. After his initiation in the Lodge room, he was called on for a speech and he said;-- “Brother Clampers; I say, you are a rum lot of chappies, I can't say that I really enjoyed this very extraordinary initiation you have just inflicted upon me, but you tell me that this is the usual thing in California and as I have always heard that California was wild and woolly, I know now that it is so and I will always remember you and this Lodge and I want to tell you that I really appreciate what you are going to do for me tomorrow by helping me out of a blasted financial hole and I thank you, by Jove I do.” He was a “good sport,” but he put our Lodge “out of business” as we could get no more “suckers” to join after that because of the newspaper publicity over the State. In after years, Clampers' lodges were started at various times, but without much success as candidates were too few and far between.
Orchard and Vineyard Experience (1916-1927)
ONE of the holdings of the W. T. Ellis Co. was about 600 acres of land situated about four miles north of Marysville in District No. 10. We divided this property into two holdings by a road, 40 feet in width, one mile long, and made a tender of this road to the country. This was accepted as there was need for a road there to connect the main highway in District No. 10, with the “Mathews Road” to the east, (it is still named the “Ellis Road”). We then sold the 280 acres on the north side of the road to Mr. Emery Oliver, who shortly afterwards resold it at a good profit.
The 320 acres we retained, were leased for farming for several years and then, as the fruit and raisin business was yielding big profits to growers and the business appeared to have a bright future, we decided to plant out 45 acres to prunes and about 90 acres to seedless grapes. To make this development, with necessary buildings, wells, pumping plants, underground irrigation systems, etc., required a large investment; it looked like a good investment and the banker who loaned us the money thought so too, and we hoped in a few years to “clean up.”
Our first crop of Thompson seedless raisins was a good one and sold for 18 1/2¢ per pound; our first crop of prunes also brought high prices, “but alas and alack,” two years later, “the tide began to turn,” prices commenced to drop, frosts did heavy damage for a couple of years, and after eleven years of this experience, I came to the conclusion that it would be well to “quit the game,” which I did. I traded the ranch for a six story concrete appartment house near Jones and Pine Streets in San Francisco, the buyer and seller each assuming mortgages on the respective properties; my two daughters were installed as managers of the apartment house. The apartment house business was quite good when we first had it, the income grossing about $2500.00 a month. Then the depression came on, resulting in necessary rent reductions, vacancies, etc., and I finally turned the property over to the mortgage holder, getting a few thousand dollars for my equity, and charged off a good loss to “experience.”
I really believe, however, that I added possibly ten years to my life while operating the ranch; I had a first class foreman, L. J. Fallon, and as I knew nothing about the orchard and vineyard game, he permitted me to be manager of a large vegetable garden we had for our kitchen use and from the exercise with a hoe, shovel, rake and doing other chores, I managed to regain my “youthful figure” by reducing from 220 pounds to 185 and have managed to keep at the latter figure ever since; so I have no complaint, even though it was a mighty expensive flesh reducing experience.
There was a saying at that time, “that a farmer was a man who made his money on the ranch and spent his money in the City, while an agriculturist, was a man, who made his money in the City and spent it on a ranch in the country”; well I decided that as a farmer, I was a prize winning “agriculturist.”
System of New Year's Calls
WHEN I was a young man, on New Year's Day many of the people in town would “keep open house” as it was called and, commencing in the afternoon and lasting until quite late in the evening, friends would drop in and “pay a call” for a short time, making the round of their friends' homes. If for some reason some did not “keep open house,” then usually a small fancy basket would be hung on the front door and any friends calling could leave their calling cards in the basket.
Of course, the ladies who had their homes open for their friends, would mostly remain at home to receive and entertain their callers, it being the “men folks” who usually made the round of calls; it was really a very delightful custom and remained in vogue for many years.
With some other “young blades,” who wanted to do our calling in “style and show some class,” several of us would usually engage an open hack (called a landau) and with a driver and a fine span of horses, make the round of many homes during the afternoon, usually reserving the evening calls at the homes where several young ladies would congregate to assist the hostess in receiving, and where more fun would be had. Every home would have some titbits in the way of eatables and usually some liquid refreshments, such as light wines or beer. Oysters were very popular in those days and at some of the homes a very large block of ice would be in evidence with its center scooped out, making a large bowl and in which large eastern oysters were deposited, ready to serve. If, during our calling, liquid refreshments were not entirely to our taste and satisfaction, we would make occasional stops at Dan Donahoe's Mint Saloon on Third Street, and still further refresh ourselves with a bottle or so of imported French champagne and decide which were the next few places to call on; this was usually necessary to revive our drooping spirits because of “the previous New Year's eve celebration.” We had lots of good fun.
Skating on Ellis Lake
ON JANUARY 7th, 1888, a cold spell commenced all over the State; there was quite a heavy fall of snow in Los Angeles on January 9th. Ellis Lake began to have a coating of ice on portions of the Lake and as the cold spell persisted, the ice finally covered the Lake until on January 17th, the ice was from three to four inches thick and scores of people were gliding about on it. One man in town had ice skates which he had brought with him from the East and was an excellent skater; he rigged up a sled and skated about, drawing the sled after him with his fiancee on it, taking a ride; he was the “pride of the town” and it was the first, in fact the last time, I had ever seen any one on ice skates. The cold snap was not broken until January 21st; the thermometer registered 24 degrees on January 7th, the lowest reading being 18 degrees on January 14th. On January 18th the ice commenced to crack and become dangerous so the City authorities opened the flood gates in the levee at E and 15th Streets and permitted water to run in the Lake and cover the ice. I still retain a photograph showing many people on the ice. My father had a number of large orange trees in his yard, fronting the Lake and they were badly damaged and had to be cut back very considerably but none were killed.
Four Homes I Have Lived In
I WAS born in the old home which is still standing at the northwest corner of D and 8th Streets. My father had purchased the residence from Colonel E. Ransome, who had built it. He bought the residence in 1863 at public auction for only $2800.00. Property at that time was very cheap after the big flood of 1861-62 and the rapid filling of the rivers with mining debris. At that time it was a square two-story brick building with large bay windows on each of the four corners, the first floor having a large hall, leading through the entire house, with a large billiard room on the south side of the hallway and with a parlor and dining room on the north side; there was a very graceful curved stairway leading to the second story, where there were four large bedrooms and a bath room. There was a large cupola over the roof, which permitted plenty of circulation of air and afforded lots of light to the hallway below; all around the top of the exterior walls, were brick battlements, standing about four feet high; these battlements and cupola were removed in later years when a new roof was installed. There was a very large basement under the house with brick floors, a portion of which was the kitchen, the balance being used for storage purposes; meals from the kitchen to the dining room above were conveyed through an opening in the floor called a “dumb waiter.”
This home, as most others in those days, had a deep dug well for a water supply and, about thirty feet away, a deep dug sump for sewage disposal. This made an ideal combination for various epidemics of which we children had our share; the town had a bad reputation for “malaria” and as for mosquitoes--well they just thrived everywhere. Every one of our beds was covered with a canopy of mosquito bar netting suspended from the ceiling, but even that did not keep the mosquitoes out. They managed in some way during the day to get under the netting, so the usual thing to do when going to bed, was to investigate the interior of the canopy, a candle in hand, and endeavor to kill what mosquitoes we could find there. I have often since wondered how we managed never to set fire to the netting. I presume that we should have taken the advice of Mark Twain who, about that time in one of his books said, that to get away from the mosquitoes when he went to bed, was to get in the bed and leave one small opening in the lower part of the mosquito netting, so that all the mosquitoes could follow him in and when they had all gotten under the mosquito bar, he would crawl out of bed, close the opening in the mosquito bar and then roll up and go to sleep on the floor.
Father owned a full half block, the north half reaching the (then) lake shore; the very large garden was always well kept with many varieties of trees growing. There were three “Sequoia Gigantea” (Redwood trees), one of which is still growing and which is about sixty-five feet high. On the west side, there was a two-story large barn and basement.
In 1895 I was married and rented one side of a duplex house, belonging to Miss Annabell Carr, north side of 5th Street, between E and F Streets; the other apartment was occupied by Richard Belcher, who had married a short time before. My wife and I lived there about two years and then moved to the northeast corner of D and 6th Streets, where I had built a home on the site of the “Old Posten School,” which in earlier days had had a fine reputation for being “the” school for young ladies desiring a “finishing education.” To show how cheap real estate was in those days, I paid $1000.00 for this property, a full lot, 80 feet on D Street and 160 feet on the north side of 6th Street. There was a one-story brick school building, also a two-story frame building on the lot; the greater portion of the lot on two sides had a high brick fence or wall, about 8 feet high; I secured enough salvage from these buildings so that the full sized lot only cost me net about $800.00. I built my house on the west side, making use of 80 feet by 83 feet and then sold off two lots to the east, one to John Hoffstetter and the other one on the alley to William Gern, who built the residences that are still there. These houses (as well as other houses built about that time) had high basements, all with the idea that they would have their “first floors” high enough to be above any floods which might occur and which was always in every one's mind, and a possibility, as in those days the river bed was still rising with debris deposits each year.
After my father's death, I sold the old home at D and 8th Streets to the Episcopal Church trustees as a possible future site for a new church. My brother-in-law A. C. Bingham then owned the large brick residence at the corner of 5th and Elm Streets, and after his death my sister rented the residence for a few years and went to live in Los Angeles; afterwards she sold the property to The Ellis Estate Company. In 1919 I sold my home at 6th and D to Mr. John L. Sullivan and moved to my present home at 5th and Elm Streets. This is one of the most interesting residence in Marysville. It was built by one of the original founders of the town, Jose Ramirez who had come from Chile. As earthquakes are rather frequent in Chile and perhaps having felt a slight one in Yuba County, may account for his building the residence as strongly as he did; the outside and inside partition walls are of brick 30 inches thick; the floors on the second story consist of two layers of brick on a sand foundation, on top of heavy timbered floors, requiring such heavy walls to sustain this great weight. The lumber in the house also came from Chile and as there was much hard wood there, the same was used in the house here. The roof now on the building is the same one put on when the building was constructed eighty-five years ago and has never leaked, but an annex, which was built on about twenty years ago and roofed with “modern roofing” has had numerous repairs. The building is of Spanish architecture and in early days was generally known as “The Castle” and had the reputation of being “haunted” but in the years in which I have lived in it, the only “spirits” which I have ever noticed have been those which I have always kept on hand in liquid form and designated as “spirits fermenti.” There was a large basement under the entire main building divided into two rooms, one of which was a large billiard room, the floors being of octagon shaped marble slabs, the other room being the kitchen equipped with a dumb waiter which took the meals to the dining room on the main floor above. Originally there were two very large bedrooms on the top floor, each room having two large doors on each side leading to a long hallway on each side of the building, glassed and latticed in, making what were, I presume, the first sleeping porches in Marysville.
The house now is furnished with a lot of antique rosewood, mahogany and ebony furniture and five very large mirrors, three of which have very ornate gold frames. Two of these were purchased by my father when he was first married, the other being presented to my brother-in-law by the Decker-Jewett Bank when he was first married. It is a very comfortable and commodious house and I take much pleasure in residing there, possibly because I have arrived at an age when I also may be classed as an “antique” and so “fit in” with the house and its contents. Of all my household possessions, there are two things which I prize particularly, one a “banjo clock” made by Howard & Company of Boston about 1850 and which has always been a wonderful time keeper all these years; it was ticking the hours away, long before I was born and from all appearances, will keep on doing so for many years after I “have passed out of the picture.” The other thing I prize, is an old-fashioned mahogany bed in which I now sleep and in which I was born. This assertion, I imagine, is one which but few people can make.
Peter Jackson, World's Champion Heavy-Weight Prize Fighter
I WAS always interested in prize fights and wrestling matches; the latter not the kind one sees these days and which do not appeal to me, consisting mostly of manufactured groans and grunts and fake exhibitions. Whenever Muldoon, the world's famous wrestler came to San Francisco, I never missed going down to see him; those were real bouts. As for prize fights, the well known fighters generally patronized the large cities. I was in San Francisco at one time to see a fight between Peter Jackson, the colored champion of the world from Australia, and another fighter (I cannot now recall his name). I got acquainted with Jackson and invited him to Marysville and guaranteed that it would be financially worth his while (incidentally, I put up $500.00 as a guarantee for his expenses). The following abbreviated account from the Appeal of July 23rd, 1890, will speak for itself.
“Yesterday morning Peter Jackson, the colored Australian champion, accompanied by his trainer, Sam Fitzpatrick, and many sports from the bay region, left San Francisco for Marysville, where Jackson had entered into an agreement to box four rounds with Tom Johnson, the well known Northern heavyweight of Marysville. At the different stopping places along the route, crowds assembled to get a glimpse of the antipodean fighter, who was loudly cheered as the train rolled away from each station. Marysville was reached at 5:30 p.m. and here, the largest crowd of all assembled to do honor to the conqueror of Jem Smith. A deputation from the Marysville Athletic Club welcomed Johnson at his hotel, several bottles of Mumm's extra dry being cracked in honor of the occasion. The party numbered, among others, the following well known sports: W. T. Ellis, Jr., Walt Freeman, Henry Johnson, W. W. Ward, Dan O'Banion, Charlie Pease, Dan McCrate, John Colford, Dan Donahoe and W. J. Collis....the theatre was jammed full...the first entertainment was a bout between two Cornish miners who wrestled in catch-as-catch-can style. The third bout was between two local boxers which went four rounds. Jackson then came into the ring and was received with great applause, followed by Tom Johnson, who also received a warm reception. When the time was called and the two men shook hands, no time was devoted to fancy work, but good solid punching was indulged in from the start....At the end of the third round, Jackson's telling left handers were visible on the Marysville champion's nose and mouth....In the fourth and final round, Johnson scored a heavy left-hander on Peter's forehead, and received a counter which staggered him;...Tom was getting tired, seemed bent on making a brilliant finish. He followed Jackson and tried some sweeping blows, which kept Jackson ducking, greatly to the delight of the onlookers....The universal opinion was it was the best sparring treat ever afforded the Marysville public. After the exhibition, Jackson, in company of Johnson and his Marysville friends, visited the leading sporting resorts in the City and whiled away the hours until the arrival of the Oregon express train which took the San Francisco contingent back to the City.”
Chinese Tong Wars
TONG wars were more or less frequent and the various tongs took part in these rivalries between the rival Tongs. Some Chinese did not belong to any of these Tongs but I believe that the greater number of them did. By being a member of a Tong, a Chinaman felt assured of protection against any impositions by members of other Tongs and if a member of a Tong should for some reason get in straitened circumstances, his Tong would take care of him until “he got on his feet again.” To that extent they were charitable organizations but they had an invariable rule, that if some member of a certain Tong got into an altercation with a member of some other Tong and unfortunately got killed, then it was a case of “a life for a life”; either the Tong to which the murdered man belonged had to pay a substantial sum as “blood money” or else, some member of that Tong must be killed by some member of the “injured” Tong and some member of that Tong was delegated to “do the job.” It didn't make any difference as to who was killed, just so long as some member of that Tong was killed so as to “even up matters and square the account.”
There were two very strong Tongs in Marysville, the Hop Sings and the Suey Sings, both had quite elaborate headquarters. On one occasion, as I remember it, a prominent member of the Suey Sings had been killed by some unknown but presumed member of the Hop Sings. The Suey Sings it was reported, had made an immediate demand for some $5,000.00 “blood money” from the Hop Sings and after negotiations the demand had been refused, which meant that it was then necessary for some member of the Hop Sings to pay with his life as a forfeit. It was pretty generally known about town that trouble was likely to occur but the white population really did not take much interest in these difficulties and the Chinese generally settled their quarrels among themselves, always being careful to see that no person of another race got injured in any way.
Our office was at the corner of D and First Streets and through the large plate glass windows we had a good view of the next three blocks on First Street which was the main center of Chinatown. We were “keeping an eye open” for developments and one day noticed that there were exceedingly few Chinese to be seen on the sidewalks and concluded that something was about to “pop.” We were not mistaken; as if by pre-arranged agreement, suddenly large numbers of Chinese emerged from the stores and many others on the roofs of the buildings on opposite sides of the street and commenced a fusillade of shooting with pistols; it kept up for about ten minutes and sounded like a Chinese New Year's day, when many long strings of firecrackers were burned, making a terrific din. With all that mass shooting, there was only one Chinaman killed, as I remember it, the reason being that the Chinamen were always poor marksmen, almost invariably taking no aim, but just “banged away,” with their pistols probably aimed in the air or at the ground and “letting fly,” usually with their eyes closed and just taking a chance that some one of the other Tong would get hit. It later developed the people up town thought it was just another Chinese celebration with a lot of firecrackers being burned; we had been enjoying the fun from our office window and did not think of sending word to the police department until it was all over. Very soon afterwards, all the police accompanied by the sheriff and his deputies appeared on the scene, all “armed to the teeth”; they marched down Chinatown, where every Chinaman had disappeared; they went into stores to obtain information and the only answers they obtained from the Chinese was “no sabbee.” The police and the sheriff and his deputies marched back uptown again in disgust and the affair became just another “closed incident.”
It is not generally known, but many of the plans for the Chinese Republic were “hatched” here in Marysville. Sun Yat Sin, who later on became the first President of the Chinese Republic, frequently came to Marysville to confer with local leading Chinese, their meetings being held at No. 306 First Street, where was located for many years the well known store of Hong Wo & Co.
After several visits of Sun Yat Sin whom I had the pleasure of meeting on the occasion of one of his visits, the proposed Chinese Republic Flag used to wave from several flag poles in Chinatown. Later on, the Republic became a fact, mainly through the efforts of Sun Yat Sin, who unfortunately died just about that time from cancer; his remains are now in a magnificent mausoleum in China, which is looked upon as a shrine by the Chinese.
Saturday Night and Sunday Too Club
IT WAS in 1887 that a number of young fellows happened to be together one winter evening for a little social time, which resulted in the formation of a club, to be known as the “Saturday Night & Sunday Too Club.” It was resolved that the membership was to be limited to thirteen and that every Saturday night, the club members would gather at some agreed place, usually in the rear room of some restaurant and have a “feed,” followed by a social time, which quite often would last until Sunday night. The club lasted for several years and we had many jolly good times. On holidays we generally put on a special “banquet,” frequently held in the dining room of some hotel after the dining room was closed to the public, quite often to the discomfort of the guests in the hotel who suffered through loss of sleep.
I have in my scrap book the menu card of one of these occasions on Thanksgiving Day, 1889, and on that certain occasion, I am very positive the guests in the hotel did NOT have much sleep, as we had a brass band from Chico with us at that time. The number “thirteen” is presumed to be an unlucky number; well perhaps it was to all the other members of the club as all of them have passed away to other “happy hunting grounds,” many years ago; for some twenty years, I have been the thirteenth and last surviving member; if any one should ask me the reason why, I believe that I can give them the correct answer.
A Typical Mountain Fourth of July Celebration
DANCES and celebrations in the mountains were always well attended; people would travel for miles over rough roads on horseback, horse and buggies or stage coaches to be on hand, and when distances were great, many would come the day before so as to miss none of the festivities.
On July 4th, 1893 a Fourth of July celebration was advertised to be held at Camptonville and there was a great crowd in attendance, not only from the mountains but from the Valley as well. Ten of us at Marysville engaged a bus with four horses to take us up very early in the morning, the driver being Noah J. Sligar, a local liveryman. He was selected because he was a good driver and a sportsman but who never touched liquor; this latter virtue fairly well assured us that we would at least get back home safely.
The principal store-keepers there were two brothers by the name of Meek; one had two sons, William (Bull) Meek and Jason R. Meek. William Bull Meek was the instigator of the celebration and President of the Day, Grand Marshal and a little of everything else. One of the principal events was the enacting of a representation of an old time stage coach, loaded with passengers, being attacked by Indians armed with bows and arrows. The spectators stood on the edge of the bluff at Camptonville where they could look down, a hundred feet or so to a large flat area which had been the location of an old hydraulic mine and on which pine trees again had grown and through which the County road passed. The stage coach came down the road, the four horses on a full gallop, when suddenly the attack was made by the Indians shooting their arrows and the passengers “letting loose” with their revolvers and shotguns, etc. The Indians were represented by local mountain young men, riding their horses bare back; these boys were stripped to the waist, their bodies colored with walnut juice and clumps of feathers tied in the hair on their heads. It was very realistic, several of the Indians were “killed” and fell off their horses while the stage coach had several “casualties” but continued up the road to “safety” to Camptonville; it was a good show. This was followed by various other entertainments during the day and at 8:00 P.M. a big dance was held in a large hall which lasted until about 8:00 the next morning and mighty few had any inclination to leave for their beds; in fact, there were none to be had anyway. As any of the boys got tired and their spirits commenced to “droop,” they were influenced to “rise” by “bending their elbows” and pouring liquid spirits down. The next morning most of the celebrants started to return to their homes but our crowd stayed over upon invitation of Bill Meek and were invited to take a ride to the John Ramm Ranch, which in those days was noted for the fine wines it produced. Without any sleep (but with our spirits still high) we embarked in a Studebaker wagon, with four seats arranged crosswise of the wagon, with twelve persons aboard; Bill Meek was the driver of four large fine gray horses; when we were ready to start, Meek pulled out his pistol, “let go” six shots, cracked his long whip and the horses started on a dead run on their way. We kept this pace up for the five miles or so to the Ramm Ranch. The road was narrow and very crooked and in most places there was a sheer drop of several hundred feet to the canyon bottom. We were all mighty thankful when we reached the Ramm Ranch, where we “recovered” for several hours, sampling the very excellent wines produced on the ranch by which time we had mustered enough “Dutch courage” to make the return trip to Camptonville but not before Meek had promised to be in less of a hurry on his return trip. This he promised with a laugh but he failed to do, making the excuse that he could not stop his horses after they had started to run away with him; we noticed, however, that when we reached Camptonville, he had no difficulty in stopping them, literally pulling them back on their haunches, much to the relief of the rest of us. Meek's father came out and met us and remarked, “Bill, you'll pull off that stunt just once too often some day.” Apparently his predictions were incorrect as I never heard of Bill Meek ever having any accidents driving stages. Meek always knew his horses and his horses knew him, he was rated one of the best stage drivers the mountains ever had.
Our return home to Marysville in our bus that afternoon was uneventful for the very simple reason that we slept (rather uncomfortably) all the way home.
A Fourth of July Celebration in 1895
SINCE the advent of good roads, the automobile, etc., usually the Nation's natal day is celebrated by people getting out of town and taking vacations in the “tall timber” or other places, but in earlier times, this day usually meant a big celebration in town and crowds of country people came for miles to “see the celebration.” Rival celebrations used to be held by nearby towns, such as Chico, Oroville, etc., but later on, by mutual understanding, Chico, Oroville and Marysville “took turns” in holding a celebration.
One of these celebrations, which was held on July 4th, 1895 experienced some unforseen climatic difficulties. A big celebration was arranged for, particularly a large parade and a barbecue lunch for the public and the buildings were covered with flags and bunting. A big crowd was expected and came. A well advertised feature was the employment of a very well known big band from San Francisco, called “Roncovieri's Band” which had cost the Committee a very substantial sum for its services. D Street between First and Second Streets was blocked off to travel and rows upon rows of tables and benches lined this street area for the free barbecue luncheon and in the center, an elevated platform was erected upon which the band was to play. In anticipation of the usual hot day, to protect the people sitting at these luncheon tables and also to protect the members of the band from the sun's hot rays, ropes were strung across the street from the second story brick buildings on opposite sides for almost the entire length of the block and on top of these ropes, was laid canvas to make a roof awning as a protection from the sun; but “alas and alack,” it “rained pitchforks” that day, ruining the celebration except for the hotels, saloons, ice cream parlors and the dance in the pavilion. Umbrellas were everywhere but the biggest “inverted” umbrella was the canvas awning spread over the street for the protection of the band and the diners who were protected for awhile, but soon the canvas awning commenced to accumulate large quantities of water, the ropes began to break with the added weight, and it soon was a deluge on both the diners and the band. Everyone ran for some other cover; the tables were left, heavily laden with food of all kinds and a great many Indians who had come down from the mountains for the celebration secured a lot of sacks and were permitted to dump all the food into the sacks to take home with them. The Indians voted the celebration a great success but hardly any one else did.
Dove Stews at Shelton Grove
FOR many years, there had been a Sportsman's Club in Nevada County and annually they had an outing, sportsmen from all over the State attending; there was always a barbecue, plenty of liquid refreshments, trap shooting, and various other amusements for the day.
It was about 1893 that some local sportsmen, headed by Ben Cockrill, decided on a similar annual event for Yuba County; arrangements were made and the event pulled off. It was successful and proved popular; each year the occasion was repeated and each time on a larger scale until it culminated in the biggest event of them all in 1898. They were stag affairs and this 1898 event proved to be a “riot.” Many prizes were offered for various contests, the money for financing the event being largely secured from all kinds of gambling games which were conducted on the grounds and which were liberally patronized. The Shelton Grove, consisting of several acres of fine large oak trees, closely growing together was always used for the event, the trees affording plenty of shade. Rows upon rows of tables and benches were installed for the “stew,” which was held late in the afternoon so that everyone would have ample opportunity to “get up a good appetite” with plenty of “appetizers,” which the vast majority did as “all eats and drinks” were absolutely free and the liquid refreshments were always more than ample for any demand.
In those days game was plentiful and many of the local sportsmen for a week or so beforehand would be out hunting for doves, deer and young ducks which were placed in cold storage until the day they were required. Immense caldrons of about thirty gallons capacity each were used for cooking these stews and the man in charge of this culinary department was Abraham Lewis, familiarly known by every one as “Old Abe”; he was an expert in this line of work and with many assistants, always put on a very successful and tasteful lot of food, “with all the trimmings.” To give some idea of the real magnitude of that day's events, the dove stew was reported to have required some 3000 doves and in addition there was venison stew and “flopper” stew, but in view of the fact that there were some 1500 men in attendance, it was mostly all disposed of.
Quite naturally, there were always some who when well “liquored up,” were disposed to have a fight and there were a number that day; in the large bus in which I rode with about fifteen others on our way home, the bus was stopped twice on the way in to let some of those on board get out on the road side and settle their “arguments” for a few minutes; then they would get aboard again and the bus proceeded on its way back to town.
I have previously stated that this certain event was a “riot,” well, it was so much so that after that the wives, mothers, sisters and mothers-in-law of various prominent citizens with these “impedimenta,” raised such serious objections to the condition in which some of their men relations returned home, that this Sportsman Club “folded up” and future events “called off”; but they were good, while they lasted.
Attempted Invasion of the City by Caterpillars
IN THE early days, all the territory south of the present north channel of the Yuba River at the D Street Bridge was a vast wilderness of trees and underbrush, wild grape and blackberry vines, this dense forest extending down to Eliza Bend on the south and upstream on the Yuba River for many miles, covering in all, several thousand acres. The southerly boundary of this forest was the higher ridge of red dirt land where is now located the Cline Bull tract of homes, the Canary Cottage (now the Aloha), and Shelton's and Dunning's place, on the present Hammonton Road.
The bridge across the Yuba River at D Street those days was a wooden affair, the same length as the present concrete bridge, but when you had crossed a distance of six hundred feet south of the north approach, the bridge from there on was in a thick forest, the trees being so high that in summer time it was mostly in shadow during sunny days.
The caretaker of the bridge was an old gentleman named Obediah Sawtelle, whose son was a bookkeeper in our office and was in my father's employ for many years. This old bridge tender was known by everyone as “Old Obe”; his chief duty was to watch out for possible fires on the bridge and when any teams ran away in town and started up the approach to the bridge, he closed a gate at the entrance of the bridge and usually stopped them.
It was about fifty years ago, that a singular and never repeated occurrence took place; this large forest of trees suddenly developed a tremendous number of caterpillars. They were about three inches long and about a half inch thick and for quite a while they spent their efforts in devouring all the leaves from all the trees and brush in this forest and when they had about cleaned off all such available green leaves, etc., they started across both the wooden wagon bridge and also the Southern Pacific railroad trestle, presumably on a hunt on the north side of the river for more food supplies. For several days the trains had great difficulty getting across the railroad bridge, the masses of caterpillars on the rails making them so slippery that the engine's wheels could not get traction enough to make headway. On the wagon bridge, many barrels of soft tar were taken to about the middle of the bridge and a strip, about 20 feet wide, was coated with tar, placed on the floor and the railing of the bridge in an effort to stop their progress; this did not prevent their onward march, for as the caterpillars got stuck in the tar, the oncoming mass would cover those which had got stuck and keep on crawling over the other dead bodies and more tar was placed on the “they shall not pass” strip of area. This was kept up for several days and was successful and gradually the attempted invasion was over and they all gradually disappeared. Just what caused this immense mass of caterpillars appearing on this one and only occasion, I have never found out.
The Failure of the English Dam and Comments on Other Dams
THIS dam had been constructed by the hydraulic miners, not for the storage of debris, but for the storage of water for mining purposes; the dam was full of water at the time it failed. A message was relayed to Marysville that the dam had failed and Charles E. Sexey, who was then President of the Marysville Levee Commission, happened to be talking with me when the news was received. We immediately got a photographer and drove to Daguerer Point to take a photograph of the expected flood, believing that it could be used to advantage in the big suit then in progress between Edwards Woodruff, (who at that time was the owner of the Empire Block, situated at the northeast corner of D and Second Streets and the basis of the suit, on behalf of Yuba and Sutter Counties) and the North Bloomfield Mine, the contention being that the filling of the rivers by mining debris was a threatened danger to this property. Previously the miners, at the solicitation of James O'Brien of Smartsville who was also a hydraulic miner, had tacitly admitted threatened damage to other properties by constructing a levee on the south side of the Yuba River from the edge of the foothills (near Marigold), extending westerly a distance of about 8 miles where this levee connected with what was known as the Hedges Grade; this levee cost the miners about $85,000.00.
The English Dam broke in June 1883, and the water was entirely released from the reservoir in about one hour; the rush of water down the Yuba's mountain channel took out various bridges. The bridge at Freeman's Crossing was destroyed, the water in the river being about forty feet higher than ever known before or since. As the wave of water continued down stream, it “flattened out”; when it reached Daguerre Point, only the tops of large oak trees were out of water; (the photograph showing this I still have in my possession). When the water reached farther down stream, brush, etc., diverted the flow more southerly and the main current was deflected against the “o'Brien levee” at the Beeney Ranch, which was located about seven miles east of Marysville on the south side of the river.
Mr. Beeney was busy working with a crew of men harvesting a grain crop, when suddenly, much to his astonishment, he saw a wall of water running over the top of the levee, in the middle of summer; they abandoned their operations and made haste to get to higher ground. Several breaks occurred in the levee near there, the flood covering a large area of the Linda District, then escaping to the lower river over the Eliza District. The main body of the flood kept in the main channel and raised the river at the D Street bridge two and a half feet. I remember that at the D Street bridge the water was almost as thick as syrup, carrying a mass of mining debris; brush, trees, logs and other debris came down in great quantities and the bridge itself was jammed with citizens “watching the show.” Just twelve months afterward (June 1884) Judge Lorenzo Sawyer of the United States Circuit Court gave his famous hydraulic mining decision and he dwelt on this dam breaking and the resultant debris being brought down the river.
The following data, may be of interest:
The capacity of the English Dam was 618,000,000 cubic feet of water (all available) or about 14,200 acre feet, and it was full at the time it failed.
The dam was situated about 55 miles upstream from Marysville.
The dam was 131 feet high and 400 feet long with a base of 260 feet; the upstream side being faced with boards; the dam being built of rubble stone.
The reservoir created made a lake about 2 1/2 miles long, covering 395 acres.
The dam failed by being overtopped at 5:00 P.M. June 19, 1883.
The water was about 100 feet deep in the canyon, just below the dam when the dam failed; at Freeman's Crossing, 40 miles downstream, the water in the river rose until it was 40 feet higher than it had ever been before or since.
As the flood wave reached the edge of the foothills, it broke the Linda levee in three places at 1:30 P.M. the following day, at the old Beeney Ranch, (a short distance this side of Marigold) where it deposited so much debris in the river channel, that it flowed over portions of the Linda District for several days through these breaks and after the water had subsided to its usual low water summer level at the D Street bridge.
The flood of water commenced to reach the D Street bridge in about 25 hours, on the following day as the following will show;--
The gauge read, 6'4” just before the flood arrived.
The gauge read, 6'10” at 3:45 P.M.
The gauge read, 7'2” at 4:00 P.M.
The gauge read, 8'2” at 5:05 P.M.
The gauge read, 9'0” at 6:00 P.M.
The gauge read, 8'10” at 10:00 P.M.
After that, the river fell rapidly to its previous level of 6'4”. An immense amount of debris, logs and brush was brought down. Samples were taken of the water, four feet under the river surface and showed 3.3 per cent of “slickens,” all previous tests had never shown over 1.125 per cent of material.
At Daguerre Point, where the river was one mile wide at that time, the river rose two and a half feet in the first 15 minutes. At Graniteville, the water was 100 feet deep in the river.
As a matter of comparison, the following are some facts about the Bullards Bar Dam. This dam is at elevation 1500 feet; is 188 feet in height; length 440 feet; sub-base 80 feet; base 43 feet; crest 6 feet. Water behind the dam can be drawn down only to the penstock; with 10-foot gates installed on top, the total water available for use is 16,000 acre feet; below the penstock, there is left available for storage for mining debris, 40,000,000 cubic yards which, in my opinion, it is exceedingly doubtful will ever be stored from that fork of the Yuba River. The drainage area above the dam is 540 square miles. With a head of 13 feet over the dam crest, the anticipated discharge was estimated to be 65,000 second feet but in March 1928, it actually reached 70,000 second feet, the maximum daily discharge during the period of the flood being 56,000 second feet. The dam was designed to carry its load purely as an arch, no consideration was given to gravity or cantilever action; no consideration was given for uplift under the foundation, which latter consists of a hard greenstone. This dam is situated 40 miles upstream from Marysville.
If the proposed dam near The Narrows at Smartsville is constructed, that is another matter to be considered; but now that there is proper supervision over dam construction by the State Engineering Department and, in this particular case, also under supervision of the Federal Engineers, there is no doubt in my mind that this proposed dam will be constructed on much more substantial plans than was the Bullard's Bar Dam. In any event, any possible contingencies have been taken under consideration by the Marysville Levee Commission and with additional changes and improvements, which are now being planned for, it is considered that Marysville will be immune in all circumstances. So I do not want it considered that I am an “alarmist,” for I am not; the possibility of a failure of the Bullard's Bar Dam, I believe is quite remote, BUT, I have always believed in the slogan, “safety first” with a levee system, particularly since my experience in 1907, and have always had that slogan fixed firmly in my mind since then.
THE LAKE ALMANOR DAM
This is a very large earth dam, at an elevation of 4380 feet, situated on the Feather River. The height of the dam is about 140 feet; the spillway is 20 feet below the crest, and at this elevation, the storage capacity is 1,300,000 acre feet, and would cover 30,000 acres. The greatest amount of water storage behind the dam was on June 5th, 1928 with 810,000 acre feet; at that time the water surface was 19 feet below the floor of the spillway. In May 1930, because of rumors of trouble with the dam, at my request, the members of our Committee of Five, visited the dam and made investigations; we were met there by officials of the Great Western Power Company. A great deal of corrective work was under way and this was later completed. The dam will never be filled to capacity for three reasons; first, because recent State laws permit the State Engineering Department to have control and dictate what amount of storage may be permitted; second, it is my firm belief that there is not enough watershed to give sufficient run-off ever to fill the lake to capacity behind the dam; third, the Company which owns the dam would not have the temerity to permit maximum storage, even if they had the right now to do so.
In connection with the failure of the English Dam, and since then, other dams in the State, I have been asked many times since the construction of the Bullard's Bar Dam, what would happen if that dam should also fail, particularly at some high water period; well, the answer is that nothing serious would happen. If it should fail in the summer months, it might raise the river at the D Street bridge, possibly six feet, but if the dam should fail during an extreme high water period, the river might be raised less than a foot, this for the reason that the wave of additional water would “flatten out” as it reached Marysville and being imposed upon the 2000 feet of flood surface width, then prevailing at the D Street bridge, the effect would be practically negligible. Our Marysville levee system has been constructed to care for this possible contingency happening, when a maximum winter flood discharge is also prevailing.
Some Record Snowfalls in the Sierras
THE following measurements were taken at the Summit of the Donner Pass, Nevada County, at elevation of 7017 feet.
While there were 36 inches less snowfall in the winter of 1879-80, than in 1837-38, it will be noticed that the heaviest fall was in April, a month in which the snow does not pack and disappears rapidly.
As for the winter of 1889-90, it will be noticed that the heaviest fall was during the months of December to March inclusive, these months are when the weather is coldest and the snow packs solidly. The rainfall in Marysville that winter was 38.91 inches.
The winter of 1889-90 was a severe one for the Southern Pacific Railroad, traffic was practically discontinued for a long period and following that winter, many miles of more snow sheds were constructed at heavy expense. The snow pack was so solid that it did not commence to melt until March, when the river commenced to rise from these melting snows and for the months of March to May inclusive, the Yuba River at the D Street gauge averaged about 16 feet, the highest reading each month being as follows:
March 8th 16 feet, 8 inches
April 13th 16 feet, 2 inches
May 25th 16 feet, 0 inches
There was no levee system at that time near the river from the old site of “Yuba Dam” to the Southern Pacific Railroad embankment, a distance of about one mile, and there was then (the same as today), the long 150 foot trestle in the railroad embankment, just south of Canary Cottage (now The Aloha). As the rivers were well filled with debris at that time, the melting snows caused a constant fairly high water discharge under this trestle (within about one foot of the then highest water mark of 17 feet 1 inch of 1884), and overflowing the County road and for quite a while the residents of Linda Township had access to Marysville only by crossing the Railroad Bridge across the Yuba River and on their return, packed their supplies on their backs. This overflow showing no signs of subsiding, the merchants in town installed a rowboat service on the line of the County road for the accommodation of the people on the south side of town.
I was a member of the Board of Supervisors at that time and with a gang of men attempted to close off this trestle with a levee made of bags of earth, which seemed at first likely to be a success, but when we attempted to do the final closing, the current was too swift to finish the job. We were all working in water about to our waists and I had the bad luck to dislocate my right knee which placed me on crutches for a couple of months; that was the first and only time (so far) that the Old Yuba “made me take the count.”
In 1911, there was an exceedingly large accumulation of snow in the mountains; on March 24th, a Quincy newspaper reported that “on the ridge between Poorman's and Hopkin's Creek, in Onion Valley and on the north side of Pilot Creek, the snow drifts were as deep as seventy-five feet deep”; the Mullen Hotel in Onion Valley (which was a two story building) had only its stove pipe showing above the snow. About two months later I was making one of my usual spring business trips up that way, and at La Porte and Gibsonville they told me they doubted if I could get through by way of Onion Valley, thence to Nelson Point, then Quincy, but I had a good team of horses and took a chance, but finally the snow on the road made me lose my way. I finally reached the top of quite a high knoll and there at the base of the knoll was the Mullen Hotel. I called out and the proprietor came to the door and with a fog horn voice yelled out, “what in h-- are you blankety blank dam fool doing up there?” He said, “Why don't you drive down the side of the hill?” I thought he meant it and started down and the horses, my buckboard and myself landed in a heap; then he “balled me out” again; well I was marooned there for three days before I could continue on my way again but I had a lot of entertainment as the proprietor could tell the greatest number of stories, with the greatest gusto and with the loudest mouth, I believe it has ever been my lot to meet; he certainly was some mountain character.
It was in October 1846 that the Donner Party had its sad experiences commence, while on their way to California. The party consisted largely of the Donner, Murphy and Graves families; in all, there were ninety members of the party of which only forty-eight finally survived. It was in the Spring of 1847 when the survivors arrived in the foothills and valley area, many remaining at the various settlements east of Marysville and Wheatland, among those coming to the Marysville area being the Murphy family. In the latter part of 1847, W. G. Murphy moved from the Cordua Ranch to Nye's Ranch (afterwards Marysville) and for many years afterwards played a prominent part in the City's affairs. He was a lawyer by profession and a very interesting character and when I first ran for County Supervisor in 1888 he was one of my staunch supporters.
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