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
San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
THE earthquake in San Francisco was on April 18, 1906 and two days afterwards, on April 20th, 1906, a mass meeting was held in the Marysville City Hall. The meeting was called to order by Mayor G. W. Hall, who stated that it was time for action and not words and asked that a subscription list be immediately opened at the meeting of those present. I “opened the pot” with $100.00 for the W. T. Ellis Company, this was immediately followed with $100.00 subscriptions from T. J. Kelly Co., J. R. Garrett Co., Valley Meat Co., Kelly Bros., Powell Bros., and others and within about one hour, $5,000.00 was raised and the following day, the Garrett Company, Ellis Company and the Buckeye Mill shipped, what was understood to be, the first carload of foodstuffs to the stricken City. Many present at the meeting remembered that when Marysville was flooded in 1875, San Francisco loaded up a river steamer with foodstuffs, blankets, bedding, etc., which was thankfully received and Marysville wanted to reciprocate the favor. Within a few days, something like $11,000.00 was subscribed in all for San Francisco.
A few days later, I went to San Francisco and walked up the center of Market Street to the City Hall, which was in ruins; I had to take the center of the street as the sidewalks and gutters and for considerable distances out in the street, was rubbish of all descriptions. The fire which followed the earthquake was, I presume a blessing in disguise, as practically no earthquake insurance was carried at that time and the fire enabled property owners to obtain fire insurance on badly damaged buildings which would have had to be repaired or torn down without any remuneration to the owners. It was a severe blow to the insurance companies; many paid their losses in full; some made part payments while some foreign companies welched and paid little or nothing. The State at large, however, had all insurance rates raised by the insurance companies for a number of years following the fire and in that way, the insurance companies were reimbursed to a certain extent by property owners throughout the State; as the State in general had a natural interest in the prompt rebuilding of San Francisco, it seemed fit and proper that such assistance should be rendered. To me, however, the new City lost the romance and associations of the original city; the old Palace Hotel with its tiers of indoor balconies, and its indoor carriage drive way; the old Occidental Hotel, Grand Hotel and others; the Pup, Poodle Dog, Zinkands, Marchands and other famous old French restaurants, which I had known so well, also the Goodfellow's Grotto, near the City Hall where a luscious steak could be obtained for 25¢, which would now cost you $1.25 in a San Francisco restaurant, were gone forever. With it went also, the finer saloons, where lunch counters were maintained, where wonderful roasts, assorted vegetables, etc., were served, presided over by a chef, immaculate in his white jacket and apron and rimless white tall hat; everything was free, all that was expected of you was to patronize the bar, which was of course always done, sometimes quite often when several friends met and each in turn would “set them up.”
In those days, there was published a “poem” which made quite a “hit,” as follows:
There's lots of time to burn,
There's a devil of a lot to learn,
Out in Frisco;
Where they make their human matches,
To end in single scratches
And the husbands mix their latches,
Out in Frisco.
Where the red lights are contagious
And the conduct is outrageous,
Out in Frisco.
You get next at Sanguinetti's
Where the girls forget their pretties,
Out in Frisco,
And the blood-red native wine
Mixes up the clinging vine
And she calls you “Baby Mine,”
Out in Frisco.
Next day you meet at Zinkands
And you hold the dear girl's hands,
Out in Frisco.
Dry Martini, then another,
And she telephones to Mother
She'll take dinner with her brother,
Out in Frisco.
If in Poodle Dog a crowd,
Disturbs your nerves with noises loud,
Out in Frisco,
You will go just one floor up
And in privacy you'll sup
Close beside your buttercup,
Out in Frisco;
Or, in the elevator,
If, in parlance of the waiter,
Out in Frisco,
You more quiet wish to be,
You will stop at Number three
Just to see what you can see--
Out in Frisco.
If your conscience then is rife
Cause it's another fellow's wife,
Remember this is life,
Out in Frisco.
When you finally cash in
And end this life of sin
Out in Frisco,
They will gently toll a bell,
Plant your carcass in a dell,
No need to go to hell,
You're in Frisco.
Military Experiences and the Debs' Strike
IT WAS about 1883 when a number of school boys formed a Zouave Company in Marysville; there were about forty in the Company, their ages from about fifteen to eighteen; as I remember it, I was a Second Sergeant in the Company. We had very gaudy uniforms, a red fez for the head, a snappy blue short jacket with plenty of braid ornamentation and our trousers were very bright red and very baggy, reaching to about the knee and with white puttees on our legs from the knee down. We were always on hand for 4th of July and other celebrations and gave occasional exhibitions of marching, bayonet drills, etc., at entertainments; we “showed off” every chance we got.
Later on a Company was formed called the Marysville Guards of which Godfrey L. Carden was Captain and I was a Second Lieutenant. I was instrumental in forming this Company, advancing most of the money with which to purchase at a very low price a lot of discarded old Springfield Rifles from the Government and my father permitted us the free use of a large vacant hall on the second story of the brick building still situated at the southeast corner of D and First streets. We did a lot of target practice on the south side end of the D Street bridge; just before Thanksgiving, we would hold a “turkey shoot” on the sand area; the turkeys would be buried in the sand with just their heads sticking out for targets; ten shots were sold for a stated price and if the turkey's head was hit, it was the marksman's turkey. The range was rather long and the target was rather small so we picked up some profits for the Company's expenses. This Company was in existence for several years until one day, when an annual election for officers took place, there were two rivals for the office of Captain; a free-for-all fight took place, a number were thrown down the steep flight of stairs, my father came over to investigate and refused further use of the hall and the Company disbanded.
In 1892 a militia Company was formed, this Company being Company C of the Eighth Regiment. George Baldwin was Captain, John S. Lydon was First Lieutenant and I was Second Lieutenant; there were other Companies at Oroville, Chico, Red Bluff, Redding and Colusa forming the Regiment. Regimental Headquarters were at Chico, James Montgomery was General, Park Henshaw was Colonel. The Regiment held annual encampments for a week each year at some one of these towns, daytime was given over to Regimental parades, etc., and the greater part of the night time was given over to dances, banquets with plenty of instruction in the graceful and convivial art of “bending the elbow” while maintaining your balance with one foot on a brass rail.
Colonel Henshaw was a good sport and had a most convivial nature when he was off duty, but when he was on duty, he was a strict disciplinarian; his Regimental Sergeant was Ulrich Collins; he and I were great cronies, he was a “perfect blonde” while I was a decided brunette, wearing those days a full pointed black beard. On one occasion, when the encampment was at Chico, on the last day of the encampment, there was to be a grand parade at the Camp Grounds under the oaks in Bidwell Park. The Colonel was using a very fine white horse for his mount which he had borrowed from a friend and Collins and I decided we would have some fun with the Colonel that day. Just before the parade took place, Collins and I obtained some nitrate of silver and just before the Colonel came for his horse we striped the horse with the nitrate of silver in rows. This was not apparent at the time but as soon as the Regiment was in formation, with the Colonel sitting erect on his horse in the sun, the sun's rays commenced to get to work, the stripes of nitrate began to show black, the horse gradually commenced to look like a zebra, the assembled large crowds of people who had come to view the show commenced to laugh. The Colonel, sitting up stiff and erect in his saddle, did not know what the merriment was all about, but when he discovered the reason, “was he mad”; he borrowed another horse and the parade commenced but the occurrence nearly wrecked the parade. When the parade was over, the various Companies started to return to their various home towns but the Colonel was running about trying to find who those “son -- -- were who had pulled this dirty trick on him,” but he did not find out at the time. Collins sent me word to keep still, that the owner of the horse threatened to sue the Colonel for $200.00 damages to his fine pet horse but that the Colonel had compromised by having the hair on the horse clipped and so take off the disfigurement to the horse's appearance as the horse itself was not injured. At the next annual encampment which was held in Colusa, when the week was ended, Collins and I told the Colonel who had been guilty; well he was “off duty,” and so was in excellent good humor; several of us had “chipped in” and had ready an open landau with four horses driven by Noah Sligar from his Marysville stable and we invited the Colonel to drive back to Marysville with us. It was a hot day, a very large cake of ice was placed in the floor of the rig, plenty of bottled refreshments were placed about the ice to keep us cool on the way over. On the way over the Colonel went to sleep with one of his legs stretched out on top of the cake of ice. When we arrived at the Western Hotel at Marysville and the Colonel awakened, he couldn't walk, his leg had been on the ice too long; we had to carry him into the hotel; his leg wasn't in good shape for several days; he had another score to settle with Collins and myself. Those encampments were rather lively affairs.
It is not generally known that Company C of Marysville held at that time the enviable title of Champions of the World for rifle shooting at 200 yards, off hand, fifty men competing on a side. This honor was won by the members of Company C on May 19th, 1895 and it has, I understand, never been equaled. The Marysville Militiamen won over the members of Company B of the National Guard of San Francisco on that date, by seventy-five points, the score being Marysville 1982, San Francisco 1907; this was thirty-one points better than any showing made before or since in a National Guard match between one hundred men. The officers of this Company at that time were Captain E. A. Forbes, Lieutenants George H. Voss, and Phil J. Divver, Sergeants Henry Schuler, David Canning and Peter J. Delay. In the year 1898 when volunteers were called for in the Spanish-American war, Company C then became known as Company D and proved the machine through which a volunteer Company of 105 men, including officers, entered that war. This Company went into training at Camp Barrett, Alameda County, under Captain George H. Voss where they remained three weeks before being mustered into the regulars. Later, some of the Company members were sent to barracks at Mare Island, the others going to Vancouver, B. C.
I had advanced to the position of Major, Fifth Brigade, N.G.C. and happened to be taking a week's vacation at Bartlett Springs when, on July 23, 1894 I received instructions from General Montgomery from the Chico Headquarters, that I had been “detailed with the Eighth Regiment of Infantry and will report immediately to Colonel Park Henshaw, Commanding, at Sacramento for duty.” The great railroad strike, eventually affecting every railroad in the United States had commenced just a short time previous, generally known as the “Debs' Railroad Strike.” I took the first stage back to Marysville, put on my uniform and as the trains were still operating, took the first train for Sacramento. I reported to Colonel Henshaw at his headquarters and asked for instructions; the Colonel informed me that all the Companies of the Regiment had been ordered immediately to entrain for Sacramento and I was first to pick out a camp site somewhere near the Southern Pacific's American River bridge and report back to him. I picked out a large vacant area at the corner of 8th and D Streets (which happened to be the same streets where I lived in Marysville); there were only a few scattering houses in that vicinity and a man came out of one of the small shanties, no doubt curious, and seeing me dressed in a uniform and looking over the property asked me what I was looking for. I told him I had selected the property for a camp site for a lot of soldiers; he said we could not have the site until we had paid him rent in advance; he was told we would take the site and discuss price afterwards; he told me that he would have me arrested for trespassing if I did; he was told to go right ahead. Returning to Colonel Henshaw for further instructions, he told me there would be about four hundred men arriving in the next two days and I was to arrange for commissary supplies for the camp and was to order supplies only for one day's requirements each day for the camp. I said “Hell's bells, Colonel, I am no hotel kitchen chef, what do I know what a large kitchen camp wants, where am I to get these supplies and what do I pay for them with?” He replied, “You are in the grocery business and should know what should be wanted in a kitchen and you surely are acquainted with some grocery and produce stores in Sacramento; go and order what you want and tell them to 'charge the bill to the State' and get busy; those are your orders, then report back to me the results.” I sat down, made out a long list of what I thought was wanted and then called on a large retail store, being acquainted with the proprietor, gave the order and told them to “charge the bill to the State”; did the same thing with a butcher shop and some other stores and told where to deliver the goods the following day, by which time kitchen tents had been erected and the commissary department ready for business. I thought I had ordered a plentiful supply but when the cooks got busy, there were many things I had overlooked and I got cussed good and plenty, behind my back. In a few days, as the orders for goods each day were quite large, I presume that the store proprietors got a little uneasy about “charging to the State,” so one of them, when I called to place an order said, “Now Major, we appreciate the very nice business you are giving us but we really are not hoggish and believe that some of our competitors are entitled to some of this nice business and we would suggest that you scatter your orders about with some other stores.” I took the hint and patronized other stores but they soon gave me the same “suggestions” about the “nice business” I was giving them. I never had the nerve to ask prices, they always gave me bills and they all certainly knew how to charge good prices; eventually, when I okayed these bills I cut down the charges very materially and sent them to the Adjutant General's office. I have always felt ashamed of having done this because it was several years afterward before the State Legislature made appropriations to pay these bills. My records show that the cost of three meals a day for a regiment was 41 cents per man.
Our Regiment patrolled the railroad tracks on the north side of Sacramento and the railroad bridges; other National Guard Companies were detailed for duty at other points; several of the Sacramento City Companies were in and about the passenger depot and freight yards. This was a mistake soon found out, as many men in the Companies were friends of the strikers and when orders were given the strikers to disperse, they only laughed and kidded the officers; this same thing happened in various places and then, regular army troops arrived from the Presidio and soon brought order out of chaos and our, and other, National Guard regiments were ordered home. For some years afterward I was kidded about the “mulligan and sockeye” stews I had provided for the boys while in camp; I decided that as a “Commissary Major” I was a “washout.” Shortly afterward, having served about ten years, I resigned from the service.
Liberty Loan Drives
DURING the world war, Mr. Herbert Cave and myself had charge of all the Liberty Loan “drives” and in each case we put Yuba County “over the top” with plenty to spare on each drive. At first we had considerable difficulty with several naturalized German citizens, three in particular. All three of them had lived in Yuba County for many years and two of them were very affluent while the other was in only moderate circumstances. The latter was very pro-German and got to be so outspoken that he was brought before the Superior Court Judge and threatened with being sent to the Federal Prison at Alcatraz Island; after that he subsided. The other two still continued absolutely to refuse to subscribe for the bonds so I sent them a letter to appear at our headquarters on a certain day and at a certain hour, absolutely without fail or “some action would be taken.” It had the desired effect, they both appeared and we told them just how much each had to subscribe and they were very substantial amounts; they wanted to know what would happen if they failed to subscribe and they were told that it was up to them to subscribe or not, it made no particular difference to us, but that “they would be exceedingly surprised and greatly inconvenienced if they decided not to subscribe”; knowing what had been threatened to the third one who had been taken before the Superior Judge, they weakened and subscribed for the amounts we had allocated to them. I had always been on friendly terms with these two men but after that, one of them has never spoken to me since. Had they refused, I really do not know what I would have done as I “had no aces up my sleeve.”
The various Red Cross drives were in charge of Mrs. P. T. Smith; she was an indefatigable worker and also succeeded in “going over the top” with every Red Cross drive; she never took no for an answer from anyone, the word “no” was not in her vocabulary.
Navigation on the Feather and Yuba Rivers
IN 1849, the Steamer “Linda” which had come around Cape Horn from the East, made a trip up the Yuba River for a distance of about four miles, where a landing was made and a town site was laid out and called after the Steamer, the district south of the Yuba River taking that name, which it bears to this day. The Steamer “Phoenix” also made a trip up the Yuba River to Owsley's Bar, in 1854, which place is approximately opposite the present location of Hammonton, about ten miles upstream from Marysville. A few years afterwards, George C. Perkins, (later U.S. Senator) conducted a grocery store at Oroville, loaded a large steamer with supplies and had same delivered to Oroville, which is 34 miles upstream on the Feather River from Marysville. In the Sacramento Bee, under date of February 16, 1862, appears the following news item: “Captain Gibson's steamer “Defiance,” after having been engaged for some weeks in annoying the Marysvillians and proving that the Feather River is navigable to Oroville, returned to this City yesterday afternoon.”
Many steamers and sailing vessels were making regular trips from San Francisco to Marysville at that time, as Marysville was the natural distributing point for the mining section of the State, it being of record that on August 27th, 1850, there were twenty-four sailing vessels at the landing in Marysville. On August 22, 1851, there arrived at the wharf at Marysville with full cargoes, seven steamers, viz, “Marysville,” “Kennebeck,” “Yuba,” “Mansel White,” “Fashion,” “Orient,” and “Gamecock.” At this same time, many other steamers were navigating between San Francisco and Marysville, among them being the “Confidence,” “Camanche,” “Jack Hayes,” “American Eagle,” “Urilda,” “J. Bragdon,” “William G. Hunt,” “Fashion,” “Faun,” and the “New World.”
At about that time the passenger rates from San Francisco to Marysville were $35 and $25 from Sacramento to Marysville. The freight rate was eight cents per pound, including baggage, blankets, etc. In 1852 strong opposition sprang up between the various steamers and the fare dropped to $5 and then to $2.50 and some steamers hauled passengers free. Shortly after this, a combination was made to raise freight rates, a new company being formed called the California Steam Navigation Company, with a Capital Stock of $2,400,000 and freight and passenger rates were advanced. This new combination was very unsatisfactory to the best interests of Marysville and a public meeting was held to consider the matter which resulted in the formation of an opposition line called “The Citizen's Steam Navigation Company,” with a Capital Stock of $175,000. The rivalry between these two companies caused the old company to drop its freight rate from $25 a ton to as low as $1.00 per ton and the passenger rates were reduced to 25 cents. Sharp rivalry and opposition resulted and races were resorted to and consequently collisions were by no means rare. In 1855, finding that too sharp opposition was injuring both companies, a compromise was effected whereby uniform rates were established.
The filling of the rivers with hydraulic mining debris finally forced the old companies to withdraw their steamers as they drew too much water and finally, in 1874, the Marysville Steamer Company was organized at Marysville, and steamers were constructed especially for the new river conditions. This company was organized by my father, W. T. Ellis, associated with D. E. Knight and N. D. Rideout. The company had three steamers which were named the “C. M. Small,” “D. E. Knight No. 1,” and “D. E. Knight No. 2.” The steamers were 160 tons register each and in conjunction with the steamers, were four barges, used also to haul freight and towed behind the steamers, these barges being 350 tons register, each. This steamer line operated for sixteen years, my father being the business manager and during the last five years of the company's existence, I was bookkeeper and collector in addition to my other duties in my father's mercantile affairs. In 1890, one of the partners, N. D. Rideout (the banker), bought out the interests of his two partners, as at that time, Mr. Rideout, who then owned the railroad extending from Marysville to Oroville, had started an extension of that railroad from Marysville to Knights Landing, through Sutter County. After he had this new railroad completed, he sold out his railroad and steamer interests to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and very soon afterwards, the railroad company withdrew the steamers from the Marysville run and operated them from Sacramento south.
Under the terms of the sale, the two other original owners (W. T. Ellis and D. E. Knight) were given a written agreement by the Southern Pacific Company that they were to be guaranteed their old steamer rates on any shipments which they had from San Francisco to Marysville by rail, and each month rebates were given on such shipments; later on, these rebates were given to all large shippers in Marysville. Later still the railroad company decided to violate this agreement and stop this rebating, so Knight & Ellis, then had constructed a steamer barge, named the Acme and again resumed navigation to Marysville. Not enjoying this new competition, the railroad company, then purchased this new steamer Acme and resumed the rebating. Later on, the Interstate Commerce Commission ruled that all rebating by all railroads in the United States must stop and after that, the Marysville merchants had to pay regular railroad rates. In after years, when a successful attempt was made by the Cities of Sacramento, Stockton, Oakland and San Jose to take away, “terminal rates” from the City of Marysville, I appeared before the Examiner of the Interstate Commerce Commission and placed a record of these matters before him, including the original agreement made between the Southern Pacific Company and Messrs. Knight & Ellis, guaranteeing rebates on rail shipments from San Francisco to Marysville. This was in 1914.
During the sixteen years my father managed this steamer line, the steamer rates were always less than the railroad rates from San Francisco to Marysville and we handled no freight except to or from Feather River points and did not compete for business on Sacramento River points; we did no passenger business.
Our freight rates on general merchandise from San Francisco to Marysville were $3.00 per ton, while rail rates on the same class of merchandise were $5.20 per ton, between the same points. Our rates on grain, taken from the banks of the Feather River at various landings were $2.20 per ton, delivered mostly at Port Costa, most of the grain being unloaded at ship's side there, into large steamers which took the grain to Liverpool. This steamer line was conducted with a very satisfactory profit each year of its existence and the Company would probably not have sold out but for the fact that river conditions continued to grow from bad to worse from mining debris and navigation, at times, was very difficult. During the last three years of the Company's operations, there were handled 28,240 tons of freight between San Francisco and Marysville per year and business commenced to slacken as many shippers declined to take the risk of shipping by river after we had lost one steamer and two barges with full cargoes of freight because of the bad river conditions and marine insurance companies declined to issue any more policies on either the steamers or their cargoes. After that, occasionally a steamer would come up the river with some special cargo but regular service ceased from then on.
In 1910, there started considerable discussion in connection with rehabilitation of navigation on the Feather River and in the following year, May 20, 1911, I decided to make an investigation of river conditions. Accompanied by County Engineer, Leslie B. Crook, we started down the river in a row boat, taking soundings at many places as far down the river as Nicolaus; we found the condition of the river very much better than we had expected and so reported upon our return.
It was then arranged to have a large committee of citizens make an inspection of the river; we all went to Nicolaus where we had arranged to have a small steamer from Sacramento come up to meet us and take us to Marysville. We left Nicolaus at 9:50 A.M. and reached Yuba City at 2:00 P.M. taking soundings at various places enroute. The committee was very much enthused, meetings followed, the City authorities were interested, a road was built from Third Street to the River and a landing constructed with a shelter warehouse. This was all accomplished the following year and it was planned to endeavor to interest some steamer to operate to Marysville; this took some time but finally arrangements were completed with Captain A. Fay, owner of the Steamer Weitchpec to make regular trips to Marysville, bringing freight from San Francisco and Sacramento. The Weitchpec was 100 feet long, 20 feet wide and 4.4 feet deep and drew 16 inches of water; it had also two barges, both of 300 tons capacity. The first trip was on February 1, 1913 and it operated till June of that same year, at which time the water in the river had lowered so much that navigation was difficult. During the four months of its operations it carried 2,729 short tons of freight valued at $159,046 and the rates charged were 75 per cent of the rail rates. At that same time, several tows of dredgers and oil barges were made from Sacramento to points on the river below Marysville. We hadn't done much navigating but we had accomplished what we had set out to prove, that the river was navigable easily for about eight months of the year and there was sufficient water for navigation for the remainder of the year if some works of improvement, such as wing dams, etc., were constructed. This was then followed by an effort to obtain Federal assistance; in the meantime, we had obtained an Act of Congress under date of March 4, 1913 for a preliminary examination of the Feather River. A public hearing was held at Marysville on August 5th, 1913 before Major S. A. Cheney and Captain A. B. Barber, Corps of Engineers, at which hearing many persons gave testimony and I filed a brief, which I had prepared, giving a complete history of early navigation, history of the Marysville Steamer Company, which I had been connected with, the possibilities for business for navigation and other pertinent matters.
As a final result of this hearing and the reports which had been filed with Dan C. Kingman, Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army at Washington, through the efforts of Congressman William Kent, a preliminary appropriation was made of $10,000 for experimental correction work, contingent upon a like amount being raised locally. We raised $2500 from each of the Boards of Supervisors of Yuba and Sutter Counties and $5000 from the State and these monies were turned over to the Federal Government. The Federal Engineers then commenced work on wing dams at various places on the river and were expending considerable of the money in this way, when the world war and the participation of the United States stopped all work of this kind.
After the war and realizing the immense amount of water which was then being taken out of the two rivers by large irrigation canal systems, I came to the conclusion that in the future, during the natural low water periods of the river, the chances of navigation during the late summer months would probably be an impossibility but that perhaps this condition could be cured by locks in the river. I approached Major Cheney on the subject and asked if he could expend the remaining sums of money, left on hand when the war stopped work, on a survey to ascertain the possibility of canalization of the Feather River. Major Cheney was interested but explained that the money had been appropriated for work and not surveys and it was impossible for him to so expend the money. I then took the matter up with Congressman Kent and after considerable trouble, he was successful in getting the Congress to pass an Act authorizing the remaining money be so expended for surveys.
The surveys were made under the direction of Major U.S. Grant, 3rd, and on May 29, 1925 the report was made. It planned for three locks, one just below the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento Rivers and two upstream on the Feather River, the total estimated cost being $5,709,998. (See Document No. 1, 69th Congress, 1st Session.) Well we had the plan but we realized that the freighting business on the river would never justify the expenditure of that sum of money so we dropped the idea. When the Shasta Dam and also other dams are constructed on the Feather and Yuba Rivers, as now planned for under the Water Conservation Plan, then the Feather River will become navigable again to Marysville, in the summer as well as in the winter months, but not before.
Dredging Feather River for Navigation
EVER so often, some proposal is advanced by various persons, that the Federal Government should dredge the debris out of the Feather River from its mouth to Marysville and so rehabilitate navigation.
About two years ago, the same suggestion was made and to demonstrate the impractibility of such a thing, I gave the following estimates:
The distance between Marysville and the mouth of the Feather River is 28.3 miles; the average width of the low water channel, between natural banks is about 375 feet.
Now if one will multiply 28.3 miles (length of the river) by 5280, (the number of feet in a mile), this will give the entire length of the river as 149,424 feet. Then if you multiply that last number by 375 (the average width of the river) it will give the entire surface feet of the river low water channel at 56,034,000 square feet. Now if we assume that the river should be dredged only five feet, then multiply the last mentioned number of square feet by 5 and it will give 280,170,000 cubic feet which would be dredged; again, if we divided this last mentioned number of cubic feet by 27 (the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard), it would result in 10,376,666 cubic yards of material to be dredged to lower the bed only 5 feet. The cost of dredging in the lower Sacramento River by the large Government dredgers has been eight cents per cubic yard, where working conditions are more favorable than they would be on the Feather River, so it is safe to assume that ten cents for dredging on the Feather would be a very low figure and if so, then to dredge 10,376,666 cubic yards at 10¢ would cost $1,037,666.60. Again, rights of way would have to be secured to store this dredged material and what would that cost? Assuming, however, that the work was actually performed, the river was dredged five feet deep, would that depth be maintained? The answer is that it certainly would not, because we must remember, that the Yuba, Feather and Bear rivers are constantly discharging old mining debris in the river below Marysville every year, particularly when freshets occur and this discharge of old debris will continue for many, many years hence, so it is safe to assume, that if the river was dredged five feet deep, in only a few years, the flow of debris would fill the excavated area and the river's bed would again assume its necessary and natural gradient, which is governed by the bed of the river down stream from the mouth of the Feather River. Whenever the Feather River's bed is lowered, it will be only by the current action of the river itself combined with a gradual diminution of the old mining debris, left in the upper reaches of the rivers, by early day hydraulic mining which was the cause and the only cause of the present conditions of our rivers.
Experience as a County Supervisor, First Time
MY first experience as a County Supervisor commenced when I was elected on November 6th, 1888, when I was twenty-two years of age. I was elected at a regular election to fill a vacancy on the Board that was caused by the resignation of George W. Pine who had been elected to another public office.
When I was a candidate for this office, there were three other candidates in the field besides myself. One ran as a Democrat, one as a Republican, one as a Prohibitionist, while I ran as an Independent; and, very much to my surprise, I was elected. For two or three years previous, I had been taking an active interest in the hydraulic fight, making several trips to the mountains as a “watchman,” gathering information about mines which were operating and doing damage, etc., all for a “little excitement,” as I took no pay for my services. Presumably, that was the reason for my election.
Several years previously, a flag pole had been removed from the north tower of the Court House because it and the flag were very large and the tower was endangered when a heavy wind blew; so my first official act was to have a smaller pole erected on the roof of the building and I took some pride in running up the Stars and Stripes again.
The roads in the county those days were terrible, exceedingly dusty in the summer and almost impassable in the winter, except some few miles of the main valley roads which had some gravel on them. As for the mountain roads, some of the “toll roads” were kept in fair condition, but there was hardly any traffic over the mountain roads during the winter months except by the stage lines and they had great difficulty at times keeping on schedule. As a result, the stores in the mountain towns and many of the inhabitants laid in full stocks of goods, not later than the first of November, enough to last them until the following spring when the roads would “dry out” sufficiently to travel, which was usually about the first of April.
I broached the subject of a bond issue to obtain funds with which to gravel some of the main roads but dropped that idea very quickly when I ascertained from bankers that even though the people might vote in favor of a bond issue, there would be no hope of selling the bonds because the quite general opinion then prevailed that the rapid filling of the rivers was going to result in the ruination of the better valley lands as well as the City of Marysville itself. That thought was in every one's mind, it was the chief topic of conversation. The total assessment roll of the County at that time was $6,771,915.00 or about one third of what it is at the present time.
The financing of the litigation in the hydraulic mining issue was paid for jointly by Sutter and Yuba Counties. In Sutter County, the vote for such appropriations was always unanimous but in Yuba County, two of the members of the Board were always from the mountain district and quite naturally were favorable to hydraulic mining, so the vote of our Board was always three “for” and two “against” such appropriations. One of the members of our Board was James Malaley; sometimes he would attend meetings a little “lit up.” On one of these occasions, when one of these claims came up for payment, for a joke, I got him to vote “aye,” he not knowing just what he was doing. When the published proceedings came out in the newspaper, having him on record as so voting, he had a lot of explaining to do to his constituents in the hills. At the next Board meeting, in very “choice” language, he told me what he thought of my jokes.
During my term as Supervisor, I made several more trips in the mountains as a watchman; we were anxious to get information with which to get an injunction against the North Bloomfield Mine, one of the largest in the mountain area, the President of the mining company being L. L. Robinson, who was also President of the Hydraulic Miner's Association. Finally we got some information from two watchmen whom we had kept there for some months. They posed as gamblers, and by keeping their ears open and taking strolls, we ascertained how the mine was operating. This mine was an immense bowl, made by washed out debris, the banks in some places being 530 feet high; the hydraulic monitors had eleven inch nozzles, and a number of years previous, what was then considered quite an engineering feat, a tunnel had been constructed through the mountain for better drainage of the mine and, through the tunnel, debris also escaped. The owner, Mr. Robinson, in an effort to stave off law suits, had constructed a dam across the westerly half of the mine and his sluice boxes emptied on one side of the dam, forming a small lake, where the debris was supposed to settle and the water, cleared of any large quantity of debris, would escape over a spillway, then through the tunnel, thence into Humbug Creek, to the south fork of the Yuba River. Our watchmen discovered, however, that, while some debris was being stored and restrained by this dam, that most of the time, the greater portion was allowed to escape through the tunnel by an extension of the sluice boxes, in which was a cleverly camouflaged secret opening in the flume, which no one would observe, should any inspections be made by occasional visitors who might be permitted to see the mine. After we had obtained information of this secret box opening, Mr. George Ohleyer, President of the Anti-Debris Association wrote to Mr. Robinson and complained that his dam must not be restraining the debris as it was reported that the tunnel was discharging heavy material. This letter was written in the hope that Mr. Robinson would invite inspection. Feeling safe that he could fool us, Mr. Robinson “fell for the bait,” invited Mr. Ohleyer and myself to come up and offered to demonstrate to our satisfaction that he was restraining debris properly. What happened will be explained in another chapter.
At the end of my term, being a County Supervisor did not appeal to me much, as funds did not permit of much constructive work, so I was not a candidate at the next election.
Experiences with James D. Stewart
AS a young man, when I first got into active participation in the hydraulic mining fight, I was familiar with the names of various large mine owners, particularly of Jim Stewart, but never came in personal contact with them, for the very good reason, that when we obtained information through our watchmen, (the miners called them “spies”), that some mine was operating and doing damage by letting its debris flow into the river and we had proof of this fact and could demonstrate it in court and ask for an injunction, these mine owners made themselves “scarce” so that injunction papers could not be served on them. As a result, many miners went into “seclusion,” some took trips to Europe and sundry other places, leaving their properties in the hands of their superintendents. We used to play “hide and seek”; to go into court with your proofs and obtain an injunction was not very difficult but to serve the injunction on the mine was an entirely different matter and Jim was an expert at the “hide and seek” game; it was Jim Stewart who first conceived the idea of leasing their properties to Chinese and which was the boss, the cook or one of the workmen, no one could ever find out, their only reply to questions was “no sabbee, no sabbee.”
We also had considerable difficulty with the watchmen we employed to get information; in many cases they “sold out” to the miners and reported back that mines were not operating, when they really were. Some of these watchmen would pose as gamblers and take odd times to “look around” to obtain information which was rather difficult as most every mine had armed guards at various places to see that “suspicious characters” did not get close to the mines. Some of these men who posed as gamblers for us, had of course to keep up appearances by actual gambling, and in several instances, they were darn poor gamblers (or said they were) and we would have to stand for their gambling losses in addition to their salaries. We then had to send actual farmers themselves, who were vitally interested in the problem, to serve as watchmen. That didn't work so well in two instances, one of these watchmen being a large rancher who also raised fine work horses and we found that he was selling horses to the miners for about $500 when their actual worth was about $150, and he could not “see” anything wrong. Another party was interested in the flour business and we found that the brand of flour he sold was a “very popular” brand in many of the kitchens of the mining camps; he was exposed to us by a United States Engineer, who gave us a written statement of the facts. I still retain this information in my office.
Occasionally our watchman would be shot at, when they got too close to a mine and they would “make tracks” in a hurry. We almost always had men go in pairs so that if necessary, they could corroborate each one's testimony. I made several trips with a companion, just for a little excitement; we were “snooping around” the Blue Tent mine and had gotten very close without being observed, when suddenly we heard the crack of a rifle and the bullet hitting rather close by, this followed by another shot. We didn't wait to argue, we got out of there “hell bent for election” (an old time saying).
I really believe that the marksman was not a poor shot but just wanted to scare us away; if that really was his intention, he was successful. There was a watchman named Fleetwood, who lived in Yuba City and made many trips for us; it appears that he and his companion got separated in the timber and he was discovered and shot at. On his return he told us of his experience and said several men got after him, all shooting at the same time. In after years, when the “war” was over and Jim Stewart and I had become acquainted and had really become good friends, we were talking over “old times” and I told him of this man's experience. He immediately remembered the man and the circumstance and said that in place of “several men” being after him he (Stewart) was the man himself who did the shooting; that he had not attempted to hit the man, he just wanted to scare him good and plenty and said that he had run after the man for about a half mile, emptying his revolver several times, shooting over his head. He said the man was sure scared because when he (Jim), retraced his steps after scaring his man, he picked up various things which Fleetwood had dropped in his mad flight, consisting of his hat, coat, pocket knife, tooth brush and other things which he had either discarded or dropped out of his pockets, trying to do the fastest time on record in his run.
We finally got quite provoked about this leasing of mines to unknown parties so at one of our meetings of the Anti-Debris Association, we decided to take some action which might have the desired effect.
A few weeks previous, an injunction had been issued by our Superior Judge, (Judge Keyser), enjoining the owner, superintendent and some thirty of their employees from operating the Omega Mine. Our watchmen discovered that the injunction had been ignored, the mine was being operated, and no attention being paid to the court summons. Our District Attorney, E. A. Forbes, got out papers for contempt of court. Secret arrangements were then made with the Southern Pacific Railroad for an engine, passenger coach and box car to come from Sacramento and stop on the main track of the Yuba River railroad bridge, in the thick timber which existed there at that time. Sixteen of us had been sworn in as deputy sheriffs the day before, and by ones and twos, we walked across the bridge, so as to not attract attention and all met in the timber where the train was to stop and meet us. When we got on the train, we stopped at Yuba Station, where we loaded a wagon and horses into the freight car.
We left at 3:30 P.M. on a Thursday afternoon on April 18th, 1889, pulled down the blinds and started for Emigrant Gap, which we reached shortly after midnight; we unloaded and started for the Omega Mine, about eight miles distant over a mighty bad road, covered with snow and slush, most of us walking the entire distance to keep warm. We reached the mine just at daybreak, surrounded the rooming house, then called out for the inmates to come out and surrender. Immediately there was a great stir inside the house, doors and windows were hastily barricaded and it looked like a fight ahead. Finally however, there was quiet inside the house and then finally, a number of our men, finding a large log handy, rushed with it against the front door, breaking it down, the rest of us following in ready for action. It was rather amusing however, when we found no one in sight, the inmates had hid under beds, tables, in a basement and up in the eaves of the house; they had plenty of arms and ammunition, but they showed no fight. We got the bunch out, placed handcuffs on them and started on the long weary trek back to Emigrant Gap. We were in a hurry, wanting to get out of the country as soon as we could but the prisoners wanted to lag on the way and had to be hurried by some well directed swift kicks; the one I had was very “onery” but after I had prodded him several times in the ribs with the rifle I carried, he “got a move on.”
We reached Emigrant Gap, embarked on the train in a hurry and started for Roseville at high speed, having arranged for a “clear track” to that place. When we reached Roseville, we were much relieved, on the trip down, we feared that some telegraph operator would “tip” some one off and the train might be ditched; we wired home from Roseville and reached Marysville at 4:00 P.M. and practically the whole town was at the depot. We marched our twenty prisoners to the County Jail placing them in charge of Sheriff Saul. The following day a Mr. Frank M. Stone, an attorney from Stockton appeared on their behalf and made all kinds of demands and complaints but on April 25th, Judge Keyser fined each of them $500.00. They all expected their mining friends to pay their fines but failing to do so, were kept in jail for several months, when the County, getting tired of feeding them, made an arrangement, by which some lumber company took them off the County's hands and took them to Oregon to work in a lumber camp. I was a County Supervisor at that time and some of the mountain newspapers “roasted” me “good and plenty” for being a County Supervisor and stooping so low as to be a “kidnaper and a spy.”
After the Judge Sawyer decision and later on, with the adoption by Congress of the “Caminetti Act” in 1893 which was the miner's own legislation and placed hydraulic mining under the charge and supervision of the Government Engineers, known as the California Debris Commission, hydraulic mining, with this Commission's regulations, began to wane and became practically a dead issue for the next thirty-six years, until the sudden and unexpected “resurrection” when the Cloudman Bill was introduced in the Legislature in 1929. In the previous intervening years, Jim Stewart and I had often met and exchanged reminiscences of our old battles and had become good friends; with the introduction of the Cloudman Bill, Jim Stewart and I quit smoking the pipe of peace, put on our war paint and feathers, and proceeded to go on the war path again, for the next five years.
This Cloudman Bill proposed that the State appropriate $300,000 for hydraulic mining dam sites, the money to be turned over to the Federal Engineers, (California Debris Commission) with the expectation the Federal Government would match the contribution; the bill was an “entering wedge” for more and larger contributions to follow in the future. After weeks of controversy and lobbying, the bill was defeated. At the next session, practically the same bill, proposing a modified appropriation was introduced, known as the Seawell Bill, which was passed but vetoed by the Governor; more details about this proposed legislation will appear in another chapter, as this chapter I am “dedicating” to Jim Stewart.
To tell all the happenings in those two Legislatures in connection with these two bills, would be too long a story, but at each session, there were joint meetings of the Assembly and Senate at evening sessions to listen to arguments pro and con. The chamber was packed with spectators, largely from Yuba and Sutter Counties and from Nevada, Placer and other mountain counties, each side giving at times, loud approval to the speakers who represented their point of view.
At one of these joint meetings of the Legislatures, which was held one evening to consider the Seawell Bill, the chamber was again packed in this manner. Jim Stewart was a good organizer, and the delegations from the mountains all had large badges pinned on their coats, and Jim had brought down also a large brass band from Auburn to dispense music when the meeting was ready to be held; the band wasn't so “hot” on harmony, but it was certainly strong on “noise”; it “raised the roof” of the Capitol building when it played. When the meeting was opened, it was announced that each side was to be permitted to have an hour and a half of time to present their arguments. Each side had about four speakers, most of them making brief talks, Jim and myself, taking up most of the time.
The representatives of the miners were first on the program, followed by the representatives of the valley area, and when the allotted time was up, some further time was permitted pro and con. It was all very entertaining and at times highly amusing but when the meeting was over, I doubted whether any real results had been accomplished. I thought that the legislators were more confused than they had been enlightened.
Jim in his talk said that the closing down of hydraulic mining had resulted in the confiscation of over one hundred millions of mining property, to which statement, my reply was that the filling of the rivers had caused the expenditure of over one hundred and fifty millions of dollars for levees for protection and in addition, that there had been untold millions of dollars of property damage from floods, mainly as the result of debris filling of the rivers. In my talk, I dwelt on the damage done to navigation, that boats could now only navigate to Sacramento and that before the rivers were filled, the Feather River was navigable to Oroville, about 33 miles above Marysville, and I gave a detailed statement of the names of the many steamers which were navigating between San Francisco and Marysville. To this Jim replied, that those steamers which Ellis was talking about, were so small that he could have put any one of them in a wheelbarrow and cart them away, that they were not steamboats, they were just toys. I had dwelt at considerable length on the report of Colonel Thomas H. Jackson of the California Debris Commission, which report had been adverse to the proposed legislation and strongly recommended that the Federal Government make no appropriations for the dams because of mining being a private enterprise, etc. To this Jim answered that he had read this report of Colonel Jackson several times very carefully, that he had in the past read many of my reports and listened to my talks and that he “recognized Bill Ellis' logic” in the report and really believed that Bill Ellis had written Colonel Jackson's report and not the Colonel himself, but in any event, Colonel Jackson's report had been so disappointing to his superior officers, that in disgust, they had removed him in the meantime from the Commission and demoted him and had assigned him to duty to some small obscure post in the eastern states. To this I replied, that my friend Jim was badly mistaken and that Colonel Jackson's report was so very satisfactory to his superior officers and his past work in conceiving his flood control and by-pass plan in the Sacramento Valley had so favorably impressed the Chief of Engineers at Washington, D.C. that in place of having been “demoted,” he had been promoted and appointed to the very high and responsible position of President of the Mississippi River Commission, where the Government was about to spend many millions of dollars on levees, etc. This raised a laugh on both sides at Jim's expense.
Eventually the Seawell Bill was passed by the Assembly notwithstanding our efforts to defeat it and it then came up before the Senate toward the end of the session. We did a lot of lobbying among the Senators, in fact, there was so much lobbying on both sides that an order was issued to have everyone stop doing any lobbying in the Legislature chambers, with the threat of expulsion, so we had to be very careful. It was finally agreed that a vote would be taken at 9:00 p.m. of the day before the Legislature adjourned, which was to be the following day. We knew pretty well how most of the Senators stood on the bill, but there were some who refused to let us know how they were going to vote; we felt that we had a possible chance but were not sure; on the other hand, the miners felt so sure they were going to win, that the night before, they had held a “party” in one of the hotels which had been attended by numerous Senators. There were several Senators who had evidently had a “good time” and the following day they made quite frequent visits to the ice water stand, presumably to “cool their tummies,” and among them, was one Senator from San Francisco whom I had not contacted. The San Francisco delegation we understood had made a “deal” with all the Senators from the mining districts, that if the latter would support a San Francisco bill, having for its object to have the State owned water front, including the Ferry Building, turned over to the City of San Francisco, that the San Francisco delegation would in turn reciprocate by supporting the Seawell Bill for the miners. This one San Francisco Senator I wanted to contact was, I knew, the nephew of a Marysville girl, with whom I had been very well acquainted as a young boy; she had married a member of a very large, old established business firm in San Francisco, many years before. I watched my chance and when I saw him making a trip to the ice water stand and no one else was near it, I went over and waited until he had finished his drink of water and then I took up a cup also and said to him, “Pardon me Senator, but could I ask you a question?” He replied, “Of course”; I then asked him if he would kindly let me know if Jennie Filkins, whom I had known many years ago in Marysville, was an aunt of his; he looked surprised and said, “Why yes, she is my favorite aunt; do you know her?” He then got interested and asked me questions about Marysville and I told him how well I had been acquainted with his aunt's father, that he had been a very prominent attorney and Judge in early days, etc., etc. He then said, “I have noticed you about here for some time, might I ask what you are doing around the Legislature?” I then had the opportunity of telling him I was attending the Legislature because of the Seawell Bill. He said, “Are you in favor of that bill?” and I replied that “I certainly was not” and then proceeded to tell him a lot of things, which he listened to attentively, and then said, “Well I wish I had known more about these matters before, but the fact is, I have pledged myself to vote for the Seawell Bill and cannot break my promise.” Just at that moment, I felt a heavy hand laid on my shoulder and turning around, was confronted by the Sergeant-at-Arms who said, “I have to expel you from the Senate Chamber because you are lobbying”; the Senator then asked, “Who says he is lobbying?” The Sergeant-at-Arms, said “Senator R-- standing there by the door, says he overheard this man lobbying”; the Senator said, “It's a damned lie; Mr. Ellis was talking with me about my aunt.” We all three then went over to the Senator who had made the complaint; my Senator explained that I had been talking with him about his aunt, the other Senator apologized and I was not thrown out. As we separated, my Senator, whispered to me, “Well we got away with that, didn't we?” We did not, however, get his vote, or any of the San Francisco delegation. Jim Stewart “had them in the bag.” Some very interesting occurrences followed, which will be told of in another chapter; and will include some more experiences which I had with Mr. James D. Stewart.
Before doing so however, I will relate another experience with Jim. After the agitation over the defeat of both the Cloudman and Seawell Bills had quieted down I conceived the idea that there might be a possibility of assisting Jim to operate one of his mines by the dredger process. I made a date and went up and met him at Auburn and together we visited this mine, in which is left a very large deposit of gold bearing gravel; it has been shut down for years. We walked all over the property and I told him I would take the matter up with Mr. W. P. Hammon. It was about 2:00 p.m. when we finished our trip of inspection and Jim said, we would drive over to Dutch Flat and have lunch. It was a small hotel where we went and Jim was apparently well acquainted with the proprietor and asked if it would be too much trouble to give us a bite to eat and then introduced me to the man and his wife as Mr. Ellis. The old lady looked at me, I thought rather closely, then went to the kitchen; she came back several times, each time she seemed to give me a close inspection; finally she exclaimed, “Now I have you spotted; you was the man fighting Jim at the Legislature last year; I was there and heard you talk; what are you two up to anyway?” Well you could have heard Jim's ha, ha, ha, for a mile; I was glad I had obtained the lunch before she had “spotted” me. When we finished our lunch, we went outside and across the street, on a porch in front of an old abandoned brick store building, there was an old man, with a long white beard, sitting in an old chair, with his feet cocked up against a tree. Jim said, “Come over, I want you to meet an old timer.” Jim introduced me again as Mr. Ellis and said, “Dad, I guess you never saw this man before”; the old man looked at me closely for a minute and then drawled out, “Oh yes I have, a good many years ago you came through here on a black horse when you were spying on us miners.” Again, Jim's ha, ha, ha, could have been heard a mile. On our way back to Auburn, Jim remarked, “Say Bill, if those fellows in Sutter County ever find out that you and I were traveling together in these hills, they will believe that you have “sold out to me.”
As I had promised, I took the matter up with Mr. Hammon and he informed me that he had had the same idea one time and had it investigated by his engineer, who made an unfavorable report because the gravel was too deep and the width too narrow to permit of the convenient operation of a dredge.
Right here however, I want to state, that in the early days, before I had ever met Jim Stewart, we all considered him as an arch enemy of the valley's interests; after I had met him and had “crossed swords” with him on many occasions, I began to realize that he was one of the most resourceful “fighters” I had ever run up against. He had a ready wit and at the same time, a most sarcastic tongue; he was never at a loss for an answer and he had a good strong voice with which he “never pulled his punches.” Jim and I finally got pretty well acquainted and we have on several occasions had a lot of enjoyment talking over old times. I entertain a most friendly feeling for him and which I feel he reciprocates, notwithstanding that for some forty years we have entertained divergent views and both of us have, I guess, been as uncompromising as a gas meter. Jim's large and varied collection of mining specimens and other interesting relics, which he has at his home, is well worth seeing and is very valuable. The last time I looked them over, he remarked that he guessed that I had many interesting things in my office and was coming down to look them over, but I told him that most all my “specimens” were a large array of printed documents, photographs and several scrap books I had been filling for the last fifty years and that I had never been able to obtain a warehouse large enough, to have a replica of the size of the levees which had been constructed, of a reproduction of a twenty-six foot fill of debris in the bed of the Yuba River at the D Street bridge and various other “small” items, but I could, at any time, show him a “shock of gray hair” under my hat, the color of which I held him partly responsible for.
Experience with L. L. Robinson, President of the North Bloomfield Mine
GEORGE OHLEYER of Yuba City and myself, had an interesting experience with Mr. L. L. Robinson at the North Bloomfield mine on one occasion. Mr. Ohleyer was for many years the President of the Anti-Debris Association, was a large rancher, a man of fine reputation and highly thought of in the two counties; he was the soul of honor and put in a great deal of his time on the efforts to protect the valley areas. Mr. Robinson was the President of the Hydraulic Miners' Association, was the President of the North Bloomfield Mining Company, one of the largest in the mountains; the mine operations had excavated an immense amount of material, the excavated banks being six hundred feet in height, the monitors having 11 inch nozzles, with a water pressure of about 200 feet, which gave tremendous power for washing.
At one time, to have an easy way to get rid of the mine tailings, a noted engineer by the name of Hamilton Smith, had planned and put into execution, a tunnel leading through the mountain to the floor of the mine, which was considered quite an engineering feat at the time. Suits which the Anti-Debris Association has brought, resulted in an effort on the part of the North Bloomfield Mine, to build a restraining earth dam across the floor of their mine with the idea that it would make a settling basin and restrain the debris. Our watchmen, however, ascertained that the long, large flume, which was constructed to carry the debris behind this dam, had a secret box opening, which was used, (when no “enemies” were about) to permit this debris to escape through the tunnel, thence to the river. Our watchman had made a sketch of the mine, showing where this secret box opening was located, where the tunnel was and its outlet. Mr. Ohleyer then wrote to Mr. Robinson, stating that he would like to be permitted to come up to the mine and see how the mine was restraining its debris and Mr. Robinson “fell for the bait” and invited Mr. Ohleyer to come up on a certain day; Mr. Ohleyer accepted the invitation and told Mr. Robinson that it would be impossible for him to be up early in the morning but would meet him at the mine headquarters at noon time. In place of doing this, Mr. Ohleyer and myself started very early in the morning; we first went to the mouth of the tunnel and as they had no idea we would go up early, they were taking full advantage of the opportunity afforded of discharging the debris through the tunnel until we arrived. We found a full head of water discharging through the tunnel, heavily charged with debris from the mine; the force of the water was very great as when we picked up several large rocks, weighing about thirty pounds and threw them against the water, they would be tossed away like pebbles. We then continued to the mine headquarters, reaching there at noon and Mr. Robinson of course was under the impression that we had come direct from Marysville. Mr. Robinson was a very genial host; he was a large fine looking man, very entertaining and had a wonderful chicken dinner prepared for us, with champagne to assist in digestion; also some fine “two bit” cigars; the two latter I enjoyed but Mr. Ohleyer, as I remember it, never indulged in either at any time. We talked about almost everything except mining and when the luncheon was over, Mr. Robinson then invited us to visit the mine and said he was going to show us how well he had arranged to hold back all the debris. He first showed us several large monitors at work, then he took us over to where the dam was and showed us the large settling pool; to do this, we walked on top of the large flume which was conveying the debris laden water. Mr. Ohleyer then started down the flume which extended beyond the dam but Mr. Robinson held back, saying that there was “nothing to be seen down there”; Mr. Ohleyer, however, continued on his way, I following, Mr. Robinson very reluctantly bringing up the rear. Finally we came to the place where the secret escape way box was located and we then told Mr. Robinson that that was what we had really come up to discover; we also told him of our early morning trip to the mouth of the tunnel and what we had discovered there. Mr. Robinson immediately ceased being the genial host; he was about the most disgusted, crestfallen and at the same time the maddest man I have ever seen. Mr. Ohleyer told him that action would be taken, which it was; we had had a very successful trip, we had enjoyed a fine luncheon and I had enjoyed some fine cigars and champagne. Mr. Ohleyer and I were very content and satisfied on our return trip home.
My Warning to Professor G. K. Gilbert
AFTER the decision of Judge Sawyer on hydraulic mining in 1884, the Miners' Association advocated and was successful, through the efforts of Congressman Caminetti of Amador County, in having a bill introduced in Congress, placing all hydraulic mining in California under the charge and supervision of three U.S. Engineers, called the California Debris Commission, this Commission having the power to grant permits for such mining, when a showing was made that no debris would be permitted to escape, which might have detrimental effects on the rivers. This law adopted by the Congress was generally known and referred to as the Caminetti Act. After a few years, the miners became dissatisfied with this legislation which they had sponsored, because of the restrictions and regulations placed on mining by this Commission and finally, in 1904, at the urgent request of the Miners' Association, President Theodore Roosevelt sent out Professor Grove Karl Gilbert, of the United States Geological Survey, to make a thorough investigation of the whole question and to ascertain, if possible, some way in which the hydraulic mining industry could be rehabilitated. Professor Gilbert spent several years in investigations and research and finally issued a report of his findings, consisting of a large book of 149 pages; I have referred to same elsewhere in another chapter.
When Professor Gilbert first arrived, he made his first investigations in the bay area, then in the delta area, finally he came to Marysville and called on me and for several weeks, I put in most of my time showing him all over the Feather, Yuba and Bear river areas in the Valley, the levee systems and all the data I had on hand in connection with levee expenditures, filling of the rivers, etc., etc. He was exceedingly thorough in his investigations. After he had completed his investigations here, he told me he was then going to visit the mountain area and planned to drive about the mountain area for a few days and then make an engagement to meet with the Miners' Association Committee at Nevada City. The Professor looked anything but a professor; he was a tall spare man, about fifty years of age, wore an old slouch hat, an old well worn corduroy suit, and sported a long heavy beard and drove about in an old horse and buggy. Thinking that he might be taken as a disguised “spy” from the valley, I cautioned him about keeping on the roads and if he should see any hydraulic mines in the distance, not to let his curiosity get the better of him and proceed to “look them over” unless he was accompanied by some of the mining officials, explaining that if he did not, he might be taken for a “spy” and be shot at. He was vastly amused at my advice and said, “Now Mr. Ellis, I have spent considerable time with you, you have shown me many interesting things and given me a lot of documentary information which I firmly believe to be absolutely correct, but do not try and make me believe that if I went too close to some mine, that I would be in any danger of being molested.” A few months afterwards, the Professor made a short visit to Marysville and called on me, I believe really to confide with me his experience. He told me, that on his trip in the hills, his curiosity had been aroused at one mine he saw a few miles off the road. He had hitched his horse and walked towards the mine when he suddenly was confronted by a man with a rifle; the man demanded to know what he was doing there and he said that he was making an investigation of the mining section and told him who he was but that the man was obdurate and told him to “make tracks and get out of there pronto or there would be trouble,” so he retraced his steps. He also told me that no doubt, the man had told the story to his employer who probably relayed the story to the Miners' Committee, as the Professor, when he met with them, said they acted considerably embarrassed, no doubt because, the representative of President Roosevelt, who had been sent out at the request of the Miners' Association, had been challenged by a mine watchman armed with a rifle. I could see that it made a great impression on the Professor and he apologized to me for having laughed at me when I had cautioned him to keep on the roads and not leave them.
BEFORE the white man arrived in California, many of the rivers of the State had natural “by-passes” or “spillways,” through which excess waters escaped when the rivers were in full flood and their natural channels were unable to accommodate the discharge. The Feather River had one of these natural spillways at Hamilton Bend, the escape waters running westerly north of the Buttes, thence into Butte Slough. Another natural spillway was what is now known as Yuba City Slough, its entrance being on the northerly end of Yuba City, this slough running through Sutter County in a southwesterly direction and discharging in the basin area now known as District No. 1500. Still another spillway of the Feather River was on the opposite or east side of the river, where Simmerly Slough discharged into the Feather River and when the Feather was in extreme flood, the Feather would reverse the current in the lower end of Simmerly Slough and flow southerly through a natural channel which ran through what is now the City of Marysville, discharging these waters into the Yuba River at the lower end of what is now F Street.
Both the north and south ends of this slough were closed off with small levees after the flood of 1857 but without much success until in 1875, when the present levee system construction was commenced. This new levee system effectually closed off this spillway of the Feather River, and formed, what was termed for many years “the Slough,” in the City.
Back of my father's home at 8th and D Street, the lake was very wide in the winter time but in the summer it drained almost dry north to 14th Street and when I became old enough, my father bought me the first hammerless shot gun ever seen in Marysville, for which he paid $200. I used to walk up the lake bottom as far as 14th Street and shoot ducks and snipe which were always plentiful. Later on, as the rivers filled with debris and the lake could not drain dry, I was the proud possessor of the only round bottom boat with a large sail which I managed to capsize occasionally when a stiff north wind was blowing. I took a lot of pleasure in that lake, boating, swimming and fishing and as I grew older, the idea came to me that some time it could be made a beautiful park and when I commenced to earn money, when opportunities offered, I bought up these “slough lots” at moderate prices, the taxes amounting to but little. I kept acquiring lots in this way, until I owned the greater portion of the water area and conceived the idea of obtaining some of the shore properties. It was then that I arranged to incorporate the “Ellis Lake Improvement Company”; this was in 1906, the officials were W. T. Ellis, Jr., President and C. F. Aaron, Secretary.
What properties I had been accumulating for a number of years past, and which were major lake portions, I turned over to the Company and took stock for. We then sold some non-assessable stock to various parties, W. P. Hammon and John Martin each investing $500 and with these additional monies, more properties were purchased. The new corporation had in all about two meetings of its Board of Directors and none afterward; in the meantime I continued to advance necessary monies for taxes, etc.
On December 7, 1914, I made an agreement with the Mayor and Council, that if they would fill in D Street, carry out a sewer to the north side of 14th Street, to keep sewage out of the lake, and make improvements on the lake area, that the Ellis Lake Improvement Company would deed all its properties, consisting of about twenty-five acres to the City for the sum of $1.00. The City accepted the offer and about two years afterward, when improvements were completed, the deed to all the properties was turned over to the City and on March 6, 1916, the Council gave me a warrant on the City Treasury for the One Dollar, which I never cashed but have kept in my possession as a memento.
When we deeded this property over to the City, we reserved out the large area, 200 feet x 160 feet on the northeast corner of D and 13th Streets. Six years later, I waited on the Council and told them that this property really should belong to the lake area and that for some sixteen years I had been paying all the taxes and other expenses of the Ellis Lake Improvement Company and that this had amounted to $1016.77 and suggested that if they were interested in this property, I would sell it to them for the sum of $1000, provided they accepted the same on the basis of the original transfer of the larger area, which was that it was to be used solely for park purposes by the City. As the price I offered for this new property to the City was much less than its actual value, (the City's valuation on same being $3,550) the offer was accepted and in June 1922 the property was turned over to the City. This last tract was never improved, but all the balance of the lake property has been highly improved and the Natatorium was built on land which was included in the first One Dollar sale.
In 1926 the Elks Home Lodge Building on D Street between 1st and 2nd Streets was destroyed by fire and the Lodge cast about for a new location. They finally decided they would like to build a new home on D Street, fronting the lake, and selected their present site. This was part of the property which had been deeded to the City by the Ellis Lake Improvement Company, and I raised objection to the City giving this property away as the consideration was to be only $10, also, that I had a provision in the deed that it must be used only for “park purposes.” They then had the title looked up and claimed that my original title to the property was defective, notwithstanding that I had owned and had had possession of the property for a good many years and had always paid taxes on same. Many of my brother Elks finally persuaded me not to make any objections; a suit to quiet title was commenced and as President of the old Ellis Lake Improvement Company I was made a defendant; when the suit came up I intentionally failed to appear and so permitted the City to acquire clear title; the City then deeded the property to the Elks Home Association for $10.00 in 1928 and the present very fine Elks Home building was erected.
In connection with Ellis Lake, I am reminded of an amusing incident which occurred when Patrick C. Slattery was Mayor in 1888. In those days there were some two or three boats on the lake, which were in good demand, particularly on moonlight nights, when young men would take their girls out for a boat ride. Some one conceived the idea that it would be nice to have some gondolas on the lake, (like they have in Venice); a delegation appeared before Mayor Slattery and his councilmen one evening and made the suggestions that the “City dads” cooperate and arrange to have a half dozen gondolas on the lake to make it more attractive. Now “Mayor Pat” (as he was often called), did not know and was not informed what a “gondola” was; he thought it was some kind of a swan or other species of bird and asked what these gondolas would cost and when informed that they might cost about $200 each, he exclaimed, “Holy Mother of Moses, and you want half a dozen, why not buy only two, a male and a female and raise the balance for nothing.” Mayor Pat was a great character, he was a pudgy, very red faced native of Ireland and full of good old Irish wit. When he was Mayor, it was proposed that the City should purchase a very fine hook and ladder truck, which would also carry fire hose and take the place of the antiquated hand drawn hose reel on two wheels. Prices were obtained and an agent appeared before the Council one evening to close the order (the truck to be shipped from the factory in the East), and asked, what color the Mayor and Council wanted it painted. Now this led to considerable discussion, several colors being suggested and finally Councilman Putnam said, “By God, I move it be painted red”; then Councilman Heyl said, “I second the motion by Christ”; Mayor Pat then said, “It's moved by God and seconded by Christ” and be Jasus we'll paint her red.” It was then moved and seconded and unanimously agreed that the truck should have painted on each side, the “P. C. Slattery No. 1.”
WHY ELLIS LAKE WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE FILLED
At various times, I have heard suggestions made that the lake should eventually be filled thereby making a land park in place of a lake park. Those persons making these suggestions do not realize the cost, as the following will show:
1. The water in the lake is an average of about five feet deep and to fill, just to the average water surface and only between 9th and 14th Streets, would require approximately 182,756 cubic yards of material.
2. There is no material close at hand, the only available material being about three-quarters of a mile distant on the water side of the levee in the vicinity of the Simpson Lane bridge. Assuming that this material could be secured and hauled by trucks, it probably would cost not less than 50c per cubic yard, in which case, the filling would cost approximately $91,378. Now remember that this would be only to the present average water surface; if the fill should be made level with B Street, the cost would be about double the above sum. I do not believe that the City would ever bond itself for, say $182,756, for such a purpose.
3. Again, assuming that the lake was so filled, then the City would be put to the added cost of a vastly larger pumping plant to care for the rain water which falls within the City limits and at times requires pumping when the rivers happen to be higher than the lake surface.
4. Such a larger capacity pumping plant would be necessary as the following will demonstrate.
The area of the City inside the seven miles of levee is 1418 acres.
When an inch of rain falls, it is equivalent to 110 tons of water to an acre.
An inch of rainfall is equivalent to 32,079,414 gallons of water on the 1418 acres in the City limits and all of this reaches the lake by means of sewers and open drains.
Some winter seasons we have as much as 20 inches of rainfall, so in such a case, during such a winter season, there reaches the lake the enormous amount of 641 millions of gallons of water. The present storage capacity of the lake is such, that it acts as a regulating reservoir, this water accumulating and at the same time escaping through the pipe under the levee at E and 15th Streets into Feather River, when that river happens to be low; but when high enough to shut off this drainage, the lake accommodates the various storm waters without the necessity of pumping, but quite frequently pumping must be resorted to, but much more frequently, was the storage capacity of the lake largely reduced. The cost of a larger pumping plant to care for such a situation would be another very heavy expense for installation and added cost for electric power.
I do not anticipate the lake will ever be filled.
FRESH WATER SUMMER SUPPLY FOR ELLIS LAKE
About thirty years ago there was a public demand for fresh water for Ellis Lake, which at that time had not been improved, as at present. As a result of this agitation, I superintended the construction of a pipe through the levee at 12th and Covillaud Streets, so as to obtain a gravity water supply from the Yuba River. The levee was cut for a depth of twenty-two feet and through the levee base itself, a concrete tunnel pipe was constructed, with a brick “chimney” on each end in which were steel shut-off gates for safety. All this concrete tunnel pipe was constructed in place with walls about six inches thick, the walls being reinforced with 1150 feet of small railroad track iron. It was a first class job, I looked out for that as the cutting of a levee is always a hazard if the earth is not replaced properly by being moistened and properly tamped, while filling proceeds. From the south end of the concrete tunnel, a large square redwood box was laid underground, reaching to the river bank and below (at that time), the summer level of the river. The cost of cutting the levee, tunnel and two brick chimneys was $2491.31 while the redwood box, leading to the river underground was $1717.07 making the total cost $4,198.38. The north (or discharge end) connected with an open ditch at the base of the levee to the east end of 10th Street and from there, following the south side of 10th Street to the lake, a large concrete pipe is laid underground, conducting the water to the lake.
This worked very satisfactorily for several years, until the river gradually scoured and the intake of the pipe became several feet above the summer river level, which stopped its operation. I have several large photographs, taken during the construction of this piece of work.
There is no good reason why the pipe could not now be used for a water supply for the lake. The summer river channel is still there and water is always ample; the cost of a pump and motor to lift the water into the pipe would cost about $1100 and the cost for electricity for operation would cost possibly $180 for a three months' operation.
The average water capacity of that portion of the lake between 9th and 14th Street is approximately 36,912,410 gallons. If a pumping plant with a capacity of only 2500 gallons of water per minute was installed, this would be sufficient to change all the water between 9th and 14th Streets about every fifteen days. I have on several occasions brought this to the attention of the City authorities, but so far without results.
A Big Fire Loss
IN OUR STORE business we experienced one small fire loss at one time amounting to about $500, but our most serious fire damage was in the property known as the Ellis Block, on June 18, 1925. We got no financial settlement until seven months later, on January 18, 1926 and always considered that we were defrauded out of $14,000 when a settlement was finally made; our indirect loss was even greater.
The fire started in the center of the Block in the very large store occupied by the S. D. Johnson Furniture Company; the original founder, S. D. Johnson had died some time before and the business was being conducted by his oldest son. Every circumstance indicated that the fire was incendiary but could not be proven.
Immediately after the fire, and at the direction of the adjusters, we employed a local contractor, Mr. I. C. Evans, to make an estimate of the cost of replacement of the buildings as they were before the fire and he submitted later on a detailed estimate showing a loss of $82,547.06 which included a deduction for depreciation. Seven different companies held the insurance and they were represented by two adjusters, A. M. Peckham and Charles A. Stuart of San Francisco. Mr. Evans and I met with them; Mr. Evans presented his large sheaf of estimates, on the first page of which was a recapitulation of various items showing a total of $82,547.06. Mr. Peckham picked up the package of papers, glanced at the total sum shown and throwing them back on the desk, remarked “All that glitters is not gold.” That was one occasion when I was “real mad.” I was tempted to slap his face and tell him that negotiations were off, but on second thought, decided it was best to “keep cool”; I then asked Mr. Evans to go over his figures with the two adjusters himself and what he agreed to, would be satisfactory to me. They spent several days going over the estimates, agreeing on no items but making memorandums, finally they told us what sum they would allow and remarked “and that is final.” Mr. Evans requested to know how they had arrived at their offer; they refused details; they then demanded arbitration which we agreed to. I nominated Mr. Evans and they immediately declined to permit him to be an arbitrator; after some time had elapsed they finally accepted him and they then nominated W. W. Coburn of San Francisco. Mr. Evans and Mr. Coburn tried for some time to agree on the third arbitration member but could never agree, Mr. Coburn insisting upon some San Francisco engineer as the third member. This all took considerable time and as in the meantime we had commenced reconstruction on the Second Street fire damage, we wanted some money, so we suggested that they make us a part payment, without prejudice to either side; this was refused. Again Mr. Evans endeavored for three months to get Mr. Coburn to agree with him on a third arbitrator, but obtained no satisfaction. We then made an offer to compromise and this was refused. I then went to San Francisco and called on some of the companies which had the larger share of the loss to talk the matter over; they declined, saying it was out of their hands and the adjusters were in full charge of the matter. I then told the adjusters that apparently my only recourse was to commence suit for our loss to which they replied, that if I did so, and if the award of the Superior Court was not satisfactory to them, they would appeal the case to the Supreme Court, where no doubt it would take about two years to get a decision. They knew that the repairs I had already made represented a large sum, they were satisfied that I did not have the ready money to pay the contractor, Mr. Evans, who owed for materials used and had himself been advancing the money for the labor; that these sums must be met soon and they were satisfied that I did not have the funds to meet these obligations and that I could not wait for a suit with a possibility of further time because of an appeal to the Supreme Court. They “had me in a jam” and I was compelled to capitulate.
When settlement was made, I told one of the adjusters that I intended to give the matter publicity; that I did not propose to take such treatment and be expected to “keep quiet and like it”; that I proposed to give him and the companies he represented some unpleasant notoriety. He laughed at me.
The year previous to the fire, I had opened up a Real Estate & Insurance business and the companies I represented were “Board” companies. I immediately cancelled all these agencies and took new agencies in “Non-Board” companies and proceeded to switch all our business to these new companies. On the front of one of the brick buildings in the center which had been burned and not repaired, I had erected a large canvas sign, about fifteen feet square and on same was wrinted in large letters:
LEST WE FORGET
These ruins were insured in the following Board Companies:
Scottish Union & National Insurance Co.
United States Merchants & Shippers.
Insurance Company of North America.
North British & Mercantile Co.
Alliance Insurance Co.
Old Colony Insurance Co.
Agricultural Insurance Co.
“ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD.”
The “All that glitters is not gold” was in bright red letters and it was the remark which had been made to me the first day I had presented Mr. Peckham with Mr. Evans' estimate of damage. This sign attracted great attention.
I followed this up with a series of advertisements in the local newspaper, the first advertisement being a full page, giving in detail all the controversies and difficulties I had had with the adjustment of the loss. Each day the advertisements were different; they were commented on by other newspapers in the Valley. I commenced to get letters from various parts of the State asking for information as to what it was all about; I received so many letters of inquiry that I had to have a mimeographed letter of explanation run off so I could give an answer and save time in replying.
The local Association of Insurance Agents, representing Board Companies were “peeved”; one of their members wrote to the State Fire Insurance Commissioner complaining about my advertisements and requesting that he force me to stop such advertising or have my license revoked. The State Fire Insurance Commissioner under date of February 26, 1926 wrote me to the effect that my advertisements “were not ethical” and to cease such advertising. I replied stating that I had to admit that my advertisements were hardly “ethical” but claimed that the treatment which had been given me by these insurance companies “was not ethical either” and that I had laid out a plan for some advertising and intended to carry out the plan. I received another letter of warning but finished my advertising plan and that was the last I heard from the Commissioner's office.
These advertisements caused widespread public interest. I did not realize that it was going to enable me to “capitalize on my fire loss,” but that was the result, as for the next twelve months or more, without any solicitation on my part, I averaged an insurance application each day, various persons calling at my office and giving me their business, and our business in this line has been steadily growing ever since.
Trustee for Bondsmen
ON November 6, 1888 George W. Pine was elected Treasurer of Yuba County by a majority of two votes over George Holland, who had been Treasurer for several years previous. In those days, only personal bonds were given by county officials and not security by bonding companies, as at present. Now here is some hidden history which was never publicly disclosed.
It appears that when Mr. Holland was defeated, he was short in his accounts about $5000.00 so when the time came for Mr. Pine to take over the office, Holland withdrew another $5000.00 and when the transfer of the office was made, and the cash was counted, the shortage was discovered and acknowledged by Holland; his bondsmen were notified, a meeting was arranged with Pine and Holland. Holland made the proposal, that if Pine would retain him as Pine's deputy, that he would return the $5000.00 he had last withdrawn and would, out of his salary, pay back each month a certain sum and so eventually make up his first shortage; the arrangement was known only to Pine, Holland and Holland's bondsmen and Pine took his office with a shortage of about $5000. It was a fool arrangement for Pine to accept but no doubt he was influenced by some, or perhaps all of Holland's bondsmen, who were also friends of Pine; so Pine took office with this $5000.00 shortage and trusted to Holland to “make it good” by appointing Holland as his deputy. Holland, however, did not continue as deputy very long; he and Pine could not agree, so Pine appointed a Mr. Jenkins as deputy and was still “holding the bag” for Holland's shortage. From time to time, Pine would “go on a spree” for several days, presumably when the matter preyed on his mind, but he was a very popular official and in those days, just an occasional “spree” was not particularly looked upon with disfavor.
Eventually, Pine himself presumedly commenced to do some “defaulting” and in 1912 when an expert was examining the County's affairs, the shortage was discovered and it was disclosed that Pine had been able all the time to hide his shortage through the fact that he had deposit certificates from a local bank. In those days, partial withdrawals would be endorsed on the back of these certificates and when the cash was counted each month, Pine would do the counting and fail to show the backs of these certificates which had withdrawals, but this, the expert discovered.
Representing Pine's bondsmen (of which my father was one), I took charge of the office that day and I never saw a man so relieved as was Pine by the discovery; he was exceedingly cheerful, humming and whistling and joking, in fact he was glad the matter was “off his mind” and so told me and said he was ready to “take his medicine.” The matter of Holland's shortage was disclosed and to determine on what set of bondsmen the liability lay, a suit was commenced and the court held that Pine's bondsmen were given the responsibility of making up the shortage, which amounted to $11,587 and this sum was paid into the County Treasury.
Pine's attorney, W. H. Carlin insisted that Pine stand trial, feeling that he could possibly save Pine a conviction because of Holland's previous shortage, but Pine refused and pleaded guilty and went to State's Prison for a number of years.
The following article appeared twelve years later in the local newspaper:
“Bill Ellis is playing Santa Claus this week to some of our prominent citizens. Some twelve years ago, a certain Yuba County official got his financial accounts considerably mixed and as a result, his bondsmen, fourteen in number, found it necessary to pay into the County Treasury the sum of $11,587.26 to square his accounts. Through the efforts of W. H. Carlin, a tract of foothill land near Placerville was secured from the said County official and was transferred to W. T. Ellis as trustee for the bondsmen as security in part for the money the bondsmen had advanced. Ellis has been running this ranch at long range for the last twelve years, making it more than supporting and all the time trying to make a sale of it, in which he has been unsuccessful until just last month, when he at last effected a sale. As a result, the aforesaid fourteen citizens are now getting checks for about a 55 per cent dividend on their original investment, which however looks to many of them like 100 percent, or just like “finding it,” as it had been so long since they had to “put up,” that most of them had about forgotten about their “investment.”
President District Agricultural Fair
I WAS always interested in horses, as was my older sister, and when we were quite young, we both had riding ponies. When we got older, we both had fine saddle animals. We were always competing in racing, jumping fences and ditches and it was an accident when her horse stumbled and fell on her, which eventually contributed to her death in 1883; she was five years older than myself.
It was about 1888 that I took a great fancy to a saddle horse which I used to hire from the old Fashion stables in San Francisco and every time I went to the City, would secure this animal and take rides in Golden Gate Park; it was “quite the thing” to do in those days. I purchased this animal for $500.00 the following year and was quite envied by other horse fanciers in town. This animal was a very beautiful chestnut mare, broken, not only for a saddle horse, but a buggy horse as well. When hitched to a buggy she invariably was a trotter, but when under saddle was always a “single footer”; when under saddle, she would invariably arch her neck and want to prance slightly sideways; she always showed “class.”
James Littlejohn of Sutter County, one of the Board of Directors of the District Fair Association, resigned and on May 9th, 1889, I was appointed a Director to fill the vacancy by Governor Waterman and at once became President of the Association and served until December 1, 1892. I presume it was because of my interest in horses that I was recommended by the other Directors for appointment. For agricultural exhibits, etc., we had a very large pavilion situated on the north side of Third Street, between A and Chestnut streets; our race track was situated where the present Junior College buildings are now located. In earlier days the race track was located about two miles north of Marysville on the ranch afterwards owned by L. B. Hickerson, now owned by Manuel Gomes. One of the old race horse stables still exists there, with its fancy wooden “flutings” on the edges of the roof.
There was great interest in these fairs those days and towns such as Woodland, Colusa, Chico, Red Bluff and Marysville were in a circuit and some of the best racing horses in the State used to attend this circuit and finally go to Sacramento for the State Fair racing. At the Pavilion, every one who entered an exhibit got some cash prize and I well remember that many women were interested in bed quilts which they made of scraps of cloth in intricate designs and as these quilts were not needed in the summer time, invariably they would be entered for prizes, year after year. I presume they paid for themselves many times over with the annual cash prizes they were always awarded and to keep out of trouble with the women owners, those who had quilts to exhibit were each given the same amount of cash prize.
As for the races, they were always well attended and betting on the races was rampant as was also gambling in town. It was always a lively week in Marysville, the country people coming almost every day and the racing stables attracting the sporting element in large numbers, who “took in” the racing circuit which always ended at the Sacramento State Fair, where many of us would go and have a lively time, all “dolled up,” with brown plug hats, dark blue cutaway coats, fancy vests and pale gray striped trousers.
A. C. Bingham
ATKINS Clark Bingham arrived in Marysville in 1866; he was a native of Norwich, Connecticut, where as a young man he was employed in the Norwich Savings Bank, obtaining a good training to fit him for his new field in the banking business in Marysville.
He first came to Marysville to visit his uncle, E. E. Hutchinson, who then owned the famous New England Orchard. This is still a famous orchard, now being owned by the Earl Fruit Co., situated in the bottom lands of District No. 784, about five miles south of Marysville.
Bingham worked for a while as accountant for the Union Lumber Co., and later on was employed by the banking house of Rideout & Smith. Later still, he became associated with the Decker-Jewett Bank with which institution he was connected until his death in 1917, at the age of 70 years.
He became a full partner of the old private firm of Decker & Jewett in 1869 and, in 1888, when the partnership was dissolved and the bank became a corporation under the name of Decker-Jewett Bank, Bingham became cashier and manager. At his death, Bingham also was president of the Marysville Water Company.
For two terms he was president of the Marysville Levee Commission (1888 to 1896); he was also Mayor of Marysville for two terms (1882 to 1886) and refused a third term, which he could have had by acclamation, for as a Mayor, Levee Commissioner, Banker, etc., he had demonstrated marked ability, which combined with natural affability and sociability had endeared him to every one. He was a true sportsman and gentleman; he was my closest confidant and was always an inspiration to me; I looked upon him almost as a second father. In 1902, he became my brother-in-law when he married my sister.
As a banker he was very conservative and I remember that in 1907 when a moratorium was declared by the Governor for all banks in the State because of a financial depression, the Decker-Jewett Bank was, I understood, the only bank in the State that did not close its doors and take advantage of that moratorium but continued open and granting necessary accommodations to its customers. This was possible through the co-operation of Mr. Decker and Mr. Jewett, who having other independent resources in stocks, bonds, etc., cashed in on them promptly and deposited these moneys in the bank and, as Bingham expressed it to me one day in the bank, “We have enough ready cash in the vault to pay every depositor in full, should they call and demand their money.”
In July of the early '70's, an event occurred in Bingham's life which was long remembered. At that time the Decker-Jewett Bank was located in the rear of my father's store, at the southeast corner of High and First Streets; two men attempted to rob the bank, believing at the noon hour that no one was in the bank except Mr. Jewett. One of the men stood outside as a lookout, the other one entering the bank and demanding of Mr. Jewett that he turn money over to him; upon Jewett's refusal, the robber struck Jewett over the head with a large old fashioned Colt's revolver which felled Jewett. Bingham, who happened to be late going to lunch, was in the rear office and, hearing the commotion, rushed out with a sawed-off shotgun loaded with buckshot and shot and killed the robber on the spot. The other robber was later apprehended and served a term in State's prison. After that, invariably Bingham always was armed with a revolver.
When I became Mayor and “started things” in the way of public improvements, he called me to his office one day and said, “Young man, you are going pretty fast but I believe that your policies are sound and that the time is really ripe for public improvements, so I am going to back you,” and he did. That was of great assistance to me for the next four years, when I initiated one improvement after another and with the united backing of the members of the City Council, “put over” everything we planned; it wasn't easy at times, as there was much division of public sentiment at times and in those days everyone had an opinion and was not backward about expressing his sentiments and, as for the two newspapers, they generally had different opinions and sometimes one would be for us and the other against, while on other occasions, they would reverse their positions.
When Bingham was a Levee Commissioner, he was a very active one, putting in a great deal of time studying river and levee conditions, and I was trained under him, as he often said, “You are to be a Levee Commissioner some day.”
Every spring, Bingham and I would take a trip down the Yuba River from Daguerre Point to Marysville, observing what changes had been made by the preceding winter's floods. We had a canvas boat for that purpose which we would take to Daguerre Point to launch, and as at that time, the river had several branches from there on down stream, we would debate for some time, which channel to take. After making a decision, and well started on our way, we wish we had taken some other channel as sand bars were frequently encountered and we would have to wade and pull the boat behind us and, as the water was very muddy, we could not discover deep stretches until we had often times stepped into holes, sometimes over our heads.
During the old hydraulic mining fight, Bingham took a lively interest and again I trained under him in that line of endeavor. In each Legislature, the subject was a leading one, each side trying for favorable legislation. In those days the Southern Pacific Railroad Company was “California's Boss,” and in many instances, opposing candidates for members of the Legislature each received financial aid for their campaigns, so no matter which one won in such cases, the successful one was under obligations to the railroad company, which always had to combat “cinch bills,” introduced by some Legislators in an effort to “shake down” the railroad company for some “easy money.” The railroad company in those days had a personal representative at each legislative session to look out for their interests; he was a blind man by the name of Christopher Buckley, better known as “Boss Buckley.” He was a fine looking, large man, a San Francisco old time politician and ruled politics in San Francisco. He was crafty and keen witted and “knew his politics” and when the Legislature was in session, would sit in a chair by the lobby rail, listening in on what was occurring and with many lieutenants, kept in touch with the Legislators in both houses.
He was employed by the railroad company to look out for its interests; as to other legislation, he could do as he pleased--which he did. For example, there was some anti-hydraulic mining legislation coming up, the fight was “hot” on both sides, Boss Buckley was “influenced” by the miners; he took their program and, through his influence, when a vote was taken, the valley interests lost. Bingham was there at the time, he knew just what had “happened”; he took the first train back to Marysville, raised $10,000.00 and returned the next day. He had an “interview” with Buckley. The matter was again brought up, and there was a “reconsideration” before the Assembly (we had previously won out in the Senate, as I remember it). Another vote was taken and our side won; and “were the miners mad!” The Act became a law, and Bingham was the town's idol.
As I remember it, this legislation was in connection with the serving of injunctions against mining which was doing damage. For many years, an injunction had to be served on the owner of the mine, who usually “disappeared” and could not be found; sometimes they would take trips to Europe. This legislation permitted an injunction to be served on the mine property itself and not the owner; it was one of the big contributing factors thereafter in stopping illegal mining.
First Campaign for Mayor and Defeat
SHORTLY after retiring from office as a County Supervisor, I announced that I proposed to be a candidate for the office of Mayor. Those were the days of the old convention system and every two years, the Republicans and Democrats would hold conventions and the delegates select their candidates for the several offices to be filled. Some of the leading Democratic politicians, believing that my record as a Supervisor might make me an available candidate on their ticket and because my father, being a Democrat, they assumed that I was also, although as a Supervisor, I had been elected as an independent candidate, they waited upon me and offered me the nomination. I told them I would want to know who would be on the ticket for four Councilmen and they told me who were “slated” for those positions; I told them that the names were not satisfactory and that I would accept the nomination, provided the parties selected to run for Councilmen were satisfactory to me. This they refused to do, so I told them then, that I would arrange for an independent convention and we would then have three tickets in the field, Republican, Democrat and Progressive American ticket. They told me that if I did, they would see that my ticket was defeated; a good hot fight was in prospect.
My friends then called for a meeting at the City Hall on February 22, 1890 which was held and a full ticket put in the field. I was nominated for Mayor and J. O. Rusby, John C. White, I. W. Bradley and Peter Engel, nominated for Councilmen.
Soon afterwards, the Republicans and the Democrats arranged to have conventions, separately, but on the same day. These two Conventions were both held in separate places in the morning, but at noon time, mutual arrangements were made for a joint or fusion convention in the afternoon as the principal politicians of these two conventions had made up their mind that I was a “young up-start” who needed a “dressing down” and my ticket must be defeated.
This fusion convention in the afternoon then nominated for Mayor, John C. Hoffstetter, and for Councilmen, H. M. Harris, N. V. Nelson, D. Condon and John Peffer.
Both sides made an intensive campaign for votes and I had one amusing experience. There was a lady in town who always tried to take a great interest in matters of both private and public concern. She was quite a “reformer” and quite a “puritan” and rather prone to gossip and criticize the actions of others. She was very strict, severe, and inclined to be domineering and believed herself to be a leader of the members of her clique and in addition was a great prohibitionist and opposed to smoking by men. She was as straight as a ramrod and one of the type who would always button her gloves in privacy on the modest theory that a lady should never appear in public until fully dressed, even to having her gloves buttoned. Well she called on me one day and stated that she was rather inclined to vote for me for Mayor, even though I was very young for that position but would be willing to overlook that fact, if she could be satisfied about something else; when I asked her what this “something else” was which she had in mind, she said she was not quite sure that my morals were exactly what they should be. Feeling that she was rather impertinent, I asked her, “Do you believe that I am an immoral young man?” to which she replied, “That is the question in my mind.” “Well Madam,” I replied, “if that is what is troubling you, let me assure you that I am absolutely not immoral (she looked very pleased), I am not immoral for the reason that I am absolutely unmoral, I haven't any morals, so having no morals, it is impossible for me to be immoral.” Well I thought she would faint, but she didn't, she turned on her heels, turned her ramrod back to me and walked off. I knew I had lost a vote, possibly several of them, but I felt that this rather impertinent lady “had it coming to her,” and she got it. She never spoke to me again.
When the votes were counted, I was defeated by 63 votes, Rusby by 48 votes, White by 132 votes, Bradley by 182 votes and Engel by 155 votes. 901 votes were cast at the election.
Under the then prevailing convention system, ballots were passed around to any one and there were in those days, about 150 persons who were always willing to sell their vote for $2.50, the purchaser putting the ballot in the voter's hand, which he kept in plain sight, the purchaser walked behind him to the polling place and watched him give the ticket to the polling clerk and then walk away and would then give him the $2.50. The day of the election, these persons who were in the habit of selling their votes, congregated in groups, and held off selling out too soon, knowing that it had been a warm campaign and expecting better prices. Personally I was opposed to the practice, these votes usually were the “balance of power” and had always been purchased by the Republicans in the past, most of the money coming from the Rideout Bank and the Buckeye Milling Company interests for “campaign purposes” and who controlled “town politics.” That day Tom MacNamee who did the “practical” politics, commenced to believe that it was going to be a close election, so raised the bid for votes to $3.50 and commenced to gather in these voters. I “got hot in the collar,” went to the bank and drew out some money to “play the same game,” but I was too late, they had been mostly bought up.
When the votes had been counted and my friends and I saw that our ticket was defeated, a few of us were at my office, talking of the day's events and about midnight, decided to go up-town and get drinks and go home. We went to Billy Ward's saloon and upon entering, there was the newly elected Mayor, Mr. Hoffstetter and a lot of his retainers, all drinking champagne at the bar. Hoffstetter, when he caught sight of me, called out, “Come in Bill and bring in your friends and we will treat the losers,” then added, “what will all of you boys have, will you join us with champagne,” to which I replied, “No, all of us will take some Hoffstetter's Bitters.” That raised a laugh and made good feelings and the champagne flowed for quite a while. Years after, Mr. Hoffstetter moved to the bay region and whenever I ran across him, he would always remind me of the time I had called for Hoffstetter's Bitters.
I always felt sorry for Mayor Hoffstetter, his Council would not work in harmony with him; several times, when Council meetings were called to decide on some matter, some of the Council members would “run out” on him and he was forced to have the City Marshal attempt to place them under arrest and make them attend such meetings. He was timid about expenditures and because I had been his opponent, usually consulted me to be sure there would not be any criticism from our side; he was very much relieved when his term of office ended; he did not like politics.
Elected Mayor, First Term
AFTER Mayor Hoffstetter had served for two years as Mayor, Mr. Norman Rideout was then elected Mayor and served the following two years. Both of these gentlemen were bankers and, as usual with bankers, they were conservative and their thoughts were on lower tax rates and no expenditures for public improvements, for which there was considerable agitation. I was among those who were quite persistently talking public improvements, so when Mayor Rideout was about to retire, my friends in both parties agitated for my nomination for Mayor. When the Republicans and Democrats held their separate conventions, each party nominated separate candidates for all the various offices except that of Mayor, and I was nominated for Mayor by both parties, which I accepted, as the various candidates on both tickets were satisfactory to me, which ever side won out.
When the election was over, the candidates who were elected for Councilmen were, W. F. Kelly, Martin Sullivan, L. C. Williams, and B. Mehl, and they were the ones I had hoped would be elected. This was on March 21st, 1894.
The night of the election, I was “tipped off” that some of my friends were going to come up to my father's home and pay me a visit and serenade me. I knew what that meant and made preparations. In our house we had one large billiard room; I had the billiard table covered with oilcloth, all the chairs removed, engaged three bartenders, laid in a big supply of beer, whiskey and champagne, and waited for the visitors.
About 9:00 p.m., a brass band came marching up the street, followed by about 150 citizens (of all complexions), I gave them a brief expression of thanks and invited them in for “refreshments.” In about two hours, the refreshments had been exhausted and the room was a wreck, and by that time, we had found out who the other successful candidates were for Councilmen. They were, in turn, all visited and serenaded and the last one called on was Mr. Mehl, who ran the Golden Eagle Hotel, where the crowd was still further regaled with “refreshments” followed with all they wanted to eat in the dining room; there was a “hot time in the old town that night,” and that was the tune the band mostly played that night.
We held our first meeting on April 3rd, 1894, and in my address to the new Council, I asked for their co-operation on improvements on streets and drainage sewers. I immediately obtained estimates for a bitumen paved surfaced street, with concrete foundation, same to be on D Street, between First and Fifth Streets. When I presented these estimates at the next Council meeting, it was clearly shown what it would cost each individual property owner on opposite sides of the street, and this amounted to $24,715.62, the City itself to pay for the intersections, the property owners to pay over a term of years under the Vrooman Act. The following week, a special meeting was held and the interested property owners were present to express their opinions, which were divided, the greatest objections being by the owners of the property between 4th and 5th Streets, which at that time was all residential; that block was eliminated; a majority of the remaining frontage was favorable, and the work ordered performed. Had it not been that the Ellis Company had the largest bill to pay (about $3000) while all the others were less than $1000.00, I doubt if such an entirely new innovation of that kind could have been put over. While the work was in progress, many citizens were very skeptical as to its success, but when it was completed and traffic gave it a test, every one was satisfied and the public became “improvement minded”; the women became interested in park improvements, local talent put on minstrel shows and other entertainments, $299.97 was raised and turned over to me to be expended for trees in Napoleon Square, and those are the very fine large trees which now adorn that square. While the public had this “improvement mood,” the following year, at a Council meeting on April 2nd, 1895, I sprung another surprise proposal, for a drainage sewer system for the area between A and G Streets and First and 9th Streets. George Atherton, City Engineer of Stockton, had in the meantime been engaged, had made surveys and estimates and at this Council meeting, the public was presented with the proposed plan with detailed costs, all this drainage area to have its discharge into the lake at E & 9th Streets. We had, during out first year's term of office, paid off the remaining bonded debt of the City, with the exception of $4500.00, which bonds were owned by the City Library Association. I advocated a new bond issue for $40,000.00 to make the new proposed improvements. Public hearings were held, and on June 6th, 1895, the bond issue carried by a vote of 692 “for” and 94 “against.”
In addition to the street work, some of the money was to be expended for filling in the streets and alleys in the lake area between 2nd and 9th Streets, which resulted in a “checkerboard” of half blocks, of stagnant water, these lots being privately owned; this resulted in an anticipated nuisance and we then forced the owners to abate the nuisances on their private holdings by filling in their properties also. This made a lot of mighty indignant property owners but we “stood pat” and most all of them filled sufficiently to abate the nuisance which had been created, while some refused, and in those cases, the City filled the lots and took ownership. We then sold a few of these lots for about one half what it had cost to fill them (these were at 3rd and Orange Streets) to T. J. O'Brien, Edgar Taber and others, with their promise to build homes on these properties, in an effort to start home building in that area.
For this action I had a lot of criticism leveled at me, but time demonstrated that it was good business policy, as it was not long after that many homes were erected in the newly filled area resulting in increased City assessment; the “barrier” of the lake between 2nd and 9th Streets was eliminated and gradually all the area west of G Street was built up as a residential section.
Advertisements were inserted for performing these various improvements; Gladding-McBean & Co. secured the award for sewer pipe, placing the sewers in position was awarded partly to C. D. Vincent and partly to William Heafey, while the filling of the streets and alleys, amounting to about $26,000, was awarded to C. D. Vincent. It might be interesting to note that Vincent's bid was only eighteen and two-fifths cents per cubic yard and he did the work with horses and wagons and loaded the wagons by men with shovels and made a fair profit when the job was completed; but hay and feed, men and teams did not get the prices which prevail, these later days.
In 1894, a franchise for a street railroad between Marysville and Yuba City had been granted to D. E. Knight and his associates but it was not until March 6th, 1894, that an amended franchise was granted and the street car system was installed and put in operation. The company had two small cars, the motor power consisting of two small mules to each car; the service was rather slow but it filled a long felt want; the profits were very lean and with the idea of improving the service with more speed, Mr. Knight contracted for a gasoline motor car, to replace the mules, with a Mr. Best of Stockton (who afterwards made a success of the Best Caterpillar tractors). This motor car was finally installed and Mr. Best and Mr. Knight made the first trip and the public turned out to witness the innovation; the motor developed considerable troubles on its various trips which Mr. Best endeavored to correct. The cost was to be $3000, and was guaranteed to be successful but apparently Mr. Best had secretly come to the conclusion that it would not be a success, particularly as the public had commenced to make objections to the noise, and it was constantly scaring horses and causing many “runaways.” So after he finished his repairs and alterations, he assured Mr. Knight that it would work properly thereafter and that he needed the money badly and if Mr. Knight would accept same at once, he would throw off $500 and let Mr. Knight have it at a bargain for $2500. Mr. Knight “fell” for the offer and paid for the motor car and continued to try and operate it, but by that time, the public was quite aroused by the noise and the frightening of horses, and the Appeal was poking fun at “Knight's Juggernaut,” so finally Knight gave up in disgust and discarded it and the old mules went back on the job again. My father was associated with Mr. Knight in the company, and I was, in addition to my other duties at the store, the secretary of the company.
These mule cars were operating when I became Mayor and started the paving of D Street from First to Fourth Street, and I demanded from Mr. Knight that he replace the small narrow “T” rails with heavier “grooved” rails. Mr. Knight told me that he would replace the old rails with heavier rails but that he was a better judge of what kind of rails were necessary than I was and what new rails he ordered would be put down. Again I warned him that he must replace with grooved rails. Shortly after, he had a gang of men tearing up the old rails and started to replace them with similar rails, only heavier.
Accompanied by our City Engineer, George Holland, we went to the scene of operations and warned the foreman in charge of the work crew to stop putting down the objectionable rails. This led to an argument and finally the foreman called me a liar and picking up a crowbar, started after Holland and myself with it and, as he was a very large, husky man and the crowbar looked like a very formidable weapon, Holland and myself took to our heels and ran to the sidewalk, where a large crowd had assembled to “watch the fun.” Bets were being offered that I would have to “back down” and that Knight, with his influence with my father would have his way. I was “placed on the spot” and I knew it, so I immediately swore out a warrant for the foreman's arrest for “assault and battery,” and he was placed under arrest. Mr. Knight put up bonds for his release and then came down to my father's office to see me and father. Mr. Knight was “mad as a March hare,” told me that I was discharged as secretary of the company (which, by the way, paid no salary), that I would soon find out “who was running this town” and that before he got through with me, “he would drive a 20 mule team through me and my gang,” etc. My father, who was close by, listened to the rather heated conversation, sided with Mr. Knight, and I was told by him that I was no longer in his employ and to look elsewhere for a job. I put on my hat and walked out.
I immediately consulted the City Attorney and ascertained that the Mayor and Council had full authority to regulate the type of rails which should be installed; I sent this word to Mr. Knight and he finally placed the proper and required type of rail on the streets, much to his disgust and chagrin. He never spoke to me again, which I always regretted as he was a mighty fine man.
As for my job, which I had lost, I did not go home, but got a room downtown and put in time watching City work going on for about a week, when one day I ran across my father. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was taking a “good vacation”; he very gruffly said, “You are wanted at the office. Go back and go to work,” which I did.
When Mr. Knight found this out, he almost had a “falling out” with my father, particularly when father told him that he had made up his mind that I was right about wanting grooved rails and that the other type of rails would not have made a good job.
Some years afterwards, the Sacramento Northern Railroad had commenced construction; it was building a railroad from Chico to Sacramento and planned to reach Yuba City and continue down Sutter County and across the Feather River about Nicolaus, thence to Sacramento. They had commenced to negotiate for rights of way below Yuba City and were having some trouble about prices. We in Marysville did not want to be left to one side of this railroad, so I approached Mr. Henry Butters, who was in charge and who was putting up most of the money for this railroad. I suggested that if he was being “held up” for rights of way, that if he would run his railroad through Marysville, having previously acquired the franchise of the old street car company (which they wanted as a connection), that I could guarantee to furnish them a free right of way from Marysville to Bear River and they could save a lot of money. I was able to make this offer to them because just at that time, Mr. Cline Bull and his associates were planning a large reclamation (afterwards District 784), and were actually building levees; they owned a very large area there, contemplated a large subdivision and expected to make a large amount of money disposing of this subdivision and Mr. Bull realized the importance of having a railroad run through the property. I arranged for a meeting with the representatives of the railroad company with Mr. Bull and his associates and this resulted in an agreement by which a free right of way was to be granted the railroad from Marysville to Bear River and the railroad company was to be paid the sum of $40,000.00 out of the prospective profits of the sale of the subdivision, when and if, same was eventually realized (which it never was). After this railroad was built, then came the floods of 1907 and 1909 which did immense damage to that railroad and Mr. Butters, when I met him one day on the street, gave me particular H--for having induced him to take that route in place of keeping on the Sutter County side. Well, we got the railroad through Yuba County anyway and had it gone on the Sutter County side, his railroad would have been damaged by the 1907 and 1909 floods just the same.
When I first became Mayor, all streets were graveled, with plenty of red dirt in the gravel; the streets were exceedingly muddy in the winter and very dusty in the summer, notwithstanding that the main streets were wet down by sprinkling tank wagons each day. At street intersections, crossings for pedestrians consisted of two rows of granite blocks, which would get quite muddy in winter also, necessitating ladies (whose dresses touched the ground those days) lifting their dresses and skirts, exposing their ankles, much to the edification of the “sidewalk Johnnies.” Similar necessity occurred during the summer months when dust accumulated at times several inches deep on these granite crossings. A favorite “ditty” with the ladies those days was as follows:
“These are the days when the north wind blows,
And flies our skirts knee high;
But God is just and sends the dust,
Which blows in the bad man's eye.”
In those days, also, merchants had the habit and practice of blocking the sidewalks with merchandise on display all day; trunks, wheelbarrows, cases of groceries, etc., and the “gents furnishing stores” always had dummies against the walls, displaying full suits of clothes on them, a small chain being run up through the arms and attached to the building wall, so no one could steal a coat or vest off the dummy, the pants being fairly safe. The fire department those days had the fire hose on a large reel on two wheels, which was drawn by six husky firemen; if the streets happened to be very muddy, they would take a particular delight in drawing this “hose wagon” along the sidewalks, scattering trunks, wheelbarrows and dummies in all directions. The populace at large would enjoy this fun, but the merchants would give vent to profane expressions of disapproval.
When I became Mayor, I gave orders to have all sidewalks kept clear of such obstructions; I had a tough job for a while as the merchants considered this “old Spanish custom” a “birthright.” Some merchants said, “This young Mayor Bill will never get elected again”--but I was.
In connection with the $40,000 bond issue, previously mentioned in this chapter, I had a very interesting and, at the time, a very disturbing experience. The bonds which were voted by the citizens, were to bear 5 per cent interest and with the idea of obtaining votes, they were to be $100 bonds in place of the usual $500 or $1000 bonds, and in circulars which I mailed to the voters, I not only explained just what the bonds were to be used for, the necessity of these public improvements, etc., but that we hoped that all the citizens would purchase at least one bond, so that the interest could be “kept at home.” It helped to get votes. However, when the bonds had been voted by a majority of about seven to one, we made no effort to carry out this plan but advertised the bonds for sale. At that time, the Appeal was supporting the City administration but the Democrat, owned by Tom Sherwood and largely controlled by Mr. D. E. Knight, were bitterly opposed to the bond issue and when the bonds were actually voted, the Democrat came out with a scathing article and followed this with a comment of “now that the young Mayor has put his bond issue over, now let us see him sell his bonds,” claiming that the interest rate (5 per cent) was too low. I soon found out what he had in his mind when we advertised the bonds for sale and only one satisfactory bid was received, that being from De Van & Company of Chicago at par. This was on August 5, 1895, and two days later we accepted their bid. The Rideout Bank made no bid as they were not friendly to the Administration's plans; as for the Decker-Jewett Bank, my friend, Mr. Bingham, Cashier of the Decker-Jewett Bank had told me to have the interest rate fixed at 5 per cent and that they would put in a bid, but when the time arrived, both Mr. Decker and Mr. Jewett were out of the State and Mr. Knight was a very influential Director of the Bank and prevented Mr. Bingham submitting a bid. Assuming that De Van & Company would “make good” and take the bonds, we had advertised for bids for considerable of the proposed works and let some contracts. However, De Van & Company did not even let us hear from them further, so on September 7th, we formally withdrew the award we had made to them of the bonds, and “off the record” I was instructed to endeavor to sell the bonds to some bank in San Francisco. I went to San Francisco, taking the bonds with me and placed them in the vault of the Palace Hotel office. I called on several banks in the City and in every case, was asked, “Why don't your local banks take the bonds” and had to explain that it was a case of “local politics” which prevented them making an offer. Some also mentioned the danger to the City from floods because of the filling of the rivers, about which I could not satisfy them. I was not only very disappointed but very much perturbed, knowing that we had already let contracts for work, which could not entirely be taken care of out of our General Fund. As a last resort, I decided to call on a well known old Jewish private banker, by the name of Daniel Meyer, reputed to be a millionaire, several times over. I called on Mr. Meyer, told him of my mission, in quite glowing terms told him of Marysville and its bright future and that the City had no bonded debt, except the $4500 which latter were some old bonds belonging to the City Library and belonging to the City itself.
After some time, Mr. Meyer said, “Vell, Mr. Ellis, I will take the bonds if my lawyer tells me that they are good; haf you got them with you?” I told him I had the bonds in the hotel safe and would go and get them and would be back in about an hour. Now 400 bonds of $100 each made quite a large bundle, and when I went into Mr. Meyer's office and he saw that large bundle under my arm, he realized at once that they were all of small denomination, and in a loud shrill voice exclaimed, “Vot, hundred dollar bonds; you dam young fool, you dam young fool, do you tink I want to bother mit hundred dollar bonds, do you tink my safe is a varehouse big enough to store dat kind of bonds in it, do you tink I haf the time to spare to cut coupons off of hundred dollar bonds, do you tink I want to wear out scissors cutting off coupons on hundred dollar bonds, you dam young fool,” etc. etc. etc. I had to stand and “take it” and “like it” but when he finally quieted down and gave me a chance to talk, I told him I was quite sure I had explained to him that they were hundred dollar bonds, that he must have overlooked what I had told him and then I said, “Mr. Meyer, I never met you before, but I have heard a lot about you from many people and I have often heard it said, that “Daniel Meyer's word is as good as his bond”; now Mr. Meyer, you told me that you would take the bonds and I am sure you are going to live up to your reputation and keep your word with me.” That seemed to please the old man for he said, “Vell, let's look at the bonds.” Now the bonds had my name printed on them as Mayor, but each bond was signed by hand by Justus Greeley as City Treasurer and immediately Mr. Meyer raised the point that my signature should have been also signed by hand and not printed. I debated the matter with him for some time, claiming that the bonds complied with the law and finally he said he would have to consult his attorney, who had an office on the second floor. His attorney was called in, a Mr. Silverstein, the point in question was explained and he returned upstairs, he said, to look up the law. For the next half hour, I was told what a “dam fool” I was for having the bonds voted in denominations of $100 each in place of $1000 each. Finally, I asked Mr. Meyer if he had any objections to me going upstairs and see how Mr. Silverstein was getting along and he replied, “Go right ahead, go right ahead.” I discussed the matter with Mr. Silverstein a while and finally “took a chance” and told him, “Now Mr. Silverstein there can be no question about those bonds being all right, I feel sure you haven't found anything to the contrary; now I feel that I have been the cause of taking up a lot of your time and feel that I should reimburse you”; with that, I handed him a $20 gold piece, Mr. Silverstein slipped it in his pocket and together we went downstairs and Mr. Silverstein told Mr. Meyer that he was quite sure the bonds were all right. With some reluctance, Mr. Meyer gave me his check for $40,000. The next day, September 17th, I turned the check over to the City Treasurer, with a “sigh of relief” and the Appeal the next day had an article doing a little “crowing” over the Democrat because of the final sale of the bonds.
Elected Mayor, Second Term
ON March 17th, 1896, another City election was held and as the work of the past administration apparently appealed to the mass of the citizens, the same Councilmen and myself were re-elected without any contest for another term of two years.
The first work accomplished was improving D street from 4th to 5th, with a layer of natural bitumen from a Santa Cruz deposit on a concrete base, thence west on 5th Street to G Street, with a macadamized surface. At that time the first electric power plant had been constructed in the mountains by John Martin and his associates; it was one of the first in the State and Mr. Martin took up with the Council the matter of furnishing electric lights for streets and submitted a bid to the Council for thirty-three arc lights for street lighting, at $6.00 per light per month. The Gas Works Company in Marysville had been operated by David E. Knight for many years, and, anticipating the competition from the new power plant, which was to be operated with water power, Mr. Knight had added to his gas plant a steam power electric plant to meet the competition, Mr. Knight being under the impression that the new opposition company was being constructed to force him (Knight) to buy them out. He considered it just a “hold up” project; and Knight, being stubborn and a first class fighter, determined that he would not be “held up” and would try to prevent the new company getting any business. So the day before Mr. Martin appeared before the Council, Mr. Knight obtained an injunction from the Superior Court to prevent the Mayor and Council letting any contract to the new company. Feeling ran high and the Daily Democrat was almost daily “roasting” the Mayor and Council for proposing to let a contract to the new company without advertising for bids, but we countered by showing that the law permitted a City of less than 10,000 people to let contracts without bids if the price per light was less than $10 per month. There wasn't enough room for people in the City Hall that night. Speakers spoke both pro and con and then, after a hectic meeting, the Council passed a resolution awarding the contract to the new company. For the next few days, the Daily Democrat “roasted” the Council unmercifully and I was charged with “insanity”; on the other hand, the Marysville Appeal, which had formerly been opposed to me when I first ran for Mayor, now gave us unqualified support; it was a bully fight. The new electric light company which had been promoted by John Martin was then called the Yuba Power Co. and, from this small beginning, later on grew the octopus known as the Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
During this term of office, we added many blocks of improved streets and additional sewers, made further improvements in public parks, established a pumping plant for the lake at E and 15th Streets, made improvements at the cemetery, etc., etc. We had “started something” in the way of public improvements, and this movement continued thereafter. At first the citizens were about equally divided, our opponents placing all the blame on me personally, because of my “new fangled crazy notions” which were going to cause the tax payers more expense and there was some talk of impeaching me.
I was particularly fortunate in having associated with me such Councilmen as Messrs. Kelly, Williams, Mehl and Sullivan; they were absolutely independent, were “improvement minded,” influences which were brought to bear never swerved their own good judgment and opinions; we all worked together in harmony as a unit.
I had only one regret and that was that the coming of electric power, in opposition to the very old established gas business of David Knight, resulted in a rift between Mr. Knight and myself which was never healed. Mr. Knight was always exceedingly public spirited and charitable and was a leading citizen and almost always had had “his way.” Unfortunately he did not have the vision to realize that the “old way” could be superseded with a new and better way and also was obsessed with the idea that the new power project was just a “blackmailing scheme,” as he called it, to compel him to buy them out; eventually the new power company bought him out as well as his large woolen mills plant.
Marysville Levee Commission
THE year following the 1875 flood in Marysville the State Legislature was approached which resulted in an Act being adopted on March 6, 1876, creating “A Board of Levee Commissioners for the City of Marysville” which is the same Act under which the City's Levee Commission has been operating ever since. It provided for three Commissioners, to be elected every four years, to serve without salary or expenses, and to be under $10,000 bonds. The Act gave power for the Commission to take property wanted for levee purposes and, if necessary, condemn same afterwards. It has always been a question in my mind if such power was constitutional or not, but I do know, that it has permitted the Commission on many occasions to settle a price on some property with little argument and without a law suit. As for a tax rate, the Act really permitted “the sky to be the limit”; under the City's charter, the Mayor and Council cannot borrow in excess of $10,000 for City purposes, except under a bond issue, but the City can borrow for levee purposes, any sum necessary with the assent of the Mayor and Council. This Commission has more powers than any other similar Commission in the State and the importance of retaining the Levee Commission and these extraordinary powers, will be dwelt on in a succeeding chapter.
In the first election, there were several candidates, my father being among the number; he ran fourth and so was defeated. His opponent was an old German gentleman by the name of William Landis who, I presume, was comfortably well provided for and had always been a great walker on the levees, taking a stroll on the levee almost every day. He always had a cheery salutation to every one of “wee gates,” and was known to every one as “Father Wee-gates.” He objected to having his name proposed as a candidate, said he would refuse the office if elected and did refuse to act, when he was elected. The other two successful candidates then offered the vacant position to my father, but I presume his pride was perhaps a little hurt and he refused; however, father became a member of the Commission in 1882 and served for 29 years. My brother-in-law, A. C. Bingham, also became a member in 1888 and served for 8 years and was a very active member. I was taking a great interest in flood matters at that time and “trained” under Bingham for several years and became a member of the Commission on January 9, 1900. D. E. Knight having died I was appointed in his place and became President and served as President for 12 years until in 1913 when I resigned to go on the State Reclamation Board. I kept in close touch with the Commission work in the meantime, until April 5, 1920 when I left the Reclamation Board and again became President of the Levee Commission and have been connected with the Commission ever since.
WHEN I became a Levee Commissioner on January 9, 1900 the foreman at that time was Michael Long, known by every one as Mike Long. He had been foreman for a number of years before I went on the Commission. At that same time, he had occasional assistants in Frank Smith and John (Jack) Cumisky, the latter still living in Marysville. Mike Long died in 1907 and was succeeded by Frank Smith, who died in 1933 and was succeeded by Nels Nelson. Only three different foremen in forty-five years.
Mike was quite a character, with a lot of good quiet Irish humor and he and I used to put in almost every Sunday, weather permitting, making trips of inspection of the levees, roaming about the Yuba River bottoms, making a study of the (then) innumerable channels, observing the changes made during the preceding winter and trying to guess what the river would attempt to do in the way of changes the next winter season. In those times, the entire Yuba River bottoms, from Marysville to the edge of the foothills, a length of about ten miles, with an average width of about two and a half miles, had a dense growth of trees, underbrush, wild grapevines, blackberry bushes, etc., except for the many channels themselves, and it was with very considerable difficulty that any roaming about an area of about 16,000 acres was possible. Where a channel was observed and which showed that the river had an inclination to head towards our levee system, brush dams or brush mattresses would be constructed. As Mike was an expert in that line such work was usually effective and it was a rare occasion that one ever washed away. While it was impossible to control the Yuba River, having a fall of about 9 feet to the mile and with a discharge of about 140,000 second feet, we found by experience that in most cases we could guide and deflect the river to places where we wanted it to go. Frank Smith had been tutored under Mike Long and had learned his tricks of channel control. Both these men were devoted to their duties, absolutely dependable, never excitable during flood periods and each of them seemed to take the attitude that the levee was his own personal property to be cared for the way a mother would for her child. Each of them in turn, spent his entire working hours on the levee, summer and winter; in the summer time, making repairs and being particularly watchful for gophers and squirrels which are dangerous pests in connection with levees, and hundreds of these “varmints” were caught and killed each year either with traps or poison. The proof of their vigilance is the fact that never since Mike Long came to the levee, has a gopher or squirrel hole ever caused trouble on our levee system, during high water periods, up to the present time. Just the reverse has been the case many times in many other levee systems, (many locally) because of what might be termed, “criminal negligence” on the part of levee directors or, many times, because of parsimonious expenditures of levee funds, a “penny wise and pound foolish” policy which some levee districts have ascertained to their regret, when their levees have failed because of such neglect. It should always be remembered, that just one well located gopher hole, (particularly in a levee constructed of heavy earth material) is sufficient to “turn the trick” and cause a levee to fail and it is surprising how far into a levee a gopher can dig his “tunnel home” for the winter.
Seepage, either through the base or under the base of any levee is never dangerous if the seepage water is perfectly CLEAR, as that indicates that the water is simply “filtering” through a large area; if however, such seepage water is DISCOLORED AND PERHAPS MUDDY IN COLOR, that shows a dangerous situation, requiring prompt action. In the latter case, the main source of such discolored water can be located, usually in one spot and if it is at, or close to the base of the levee, can be made secure by layers of bags, filled with sand or earth, spread over the area to “weight it down.” If the discolored water comes through the side of the levee (probably because of a gopher hole), then with a shovel, just below the hole, dig and level off a “bench” on the side of the levee, so as to have a firm footing and then commence the erection of a “chimney,” made of two (or more) parallel rows of bags of earth, laid in a half circle shape around the hole, with rows on top, each row resting against the side of the levee and each half circle getting longer with the slope of the levee side. Each sack, when placed in position should be firmly flattened in place by “tromping” same in place with your feet, and each layer, should have “joints broken,” the same as a brick layer lays brick in a wall. The result is practically a “coffer dam,” which should have a light lean towards the levee and if properly constructed, the water coming through the hole in the levee will accumulate in the “chimney” until it gets high enough to balance the pressure from the opposite side of the levee. On two occasions I have seen the above method performed (not on the Marysville levee) and it worked satisfactorily and saved a serious situation.
President Hallwood Irrigation Company
ABOUT 1905, some farmers commenced to take water from the Yuba River for irrigation purposes; later on, others joined in and eventually the Hallwood Irrigation Company was formed, which company later on, in conjunction with the Cordua Irrigation Company, joined in constructing a concrete tunnel through the hill at Daguerre Point for a joint water supply, the Hallwood Irrigation Company controlling two-thirds and the Cordua Company one-third of the water delivery of about 200 second feet. In 1913, the Hallwood Company became a Mutual Water Company and later on financial troubles and misunderstandings between the Directors arose and at a stock holders' meeting one day, I was invited to be present, having just previously purchased 100 shares of stock which gave a perpetual water right to 100 acres of land which the Ellis Company owned in the Hallwood area. This was on June 12, 1914.
At this meeting I was made acquainted with their troubles and difficulties and was asked to take the position of President of the Company. I finally agreed, provided that I would be permitted to name the Board of Directors and with the understanding that I was to be also the Manager of the Company; this was agreed to. I then selected a ditch superintendent, a secretary and a legal advisor and had the secretary open a new set of books. The Company was indebted for borrowed money to the Rideout Bank and a private individual, Thomas Mathews, in the total sum of about $8000 which the Company was being pressed for but had failed to pay. I managed the Company for about five and a half years, or until March 13, 1920 having in the meantime, liquidated all the Company's debts, and placed all the ditches, etc., in good condition and repair. I then resigned my position and charged them no salary or expenses for my five and a half years' service.
Two years later, on February 17, 1922 I was again requested to attend a stockholders' meeting and it was explained that the Company was again in debt, the books had not been kept up to date and I was again asked to become President and Manager. I finally agreed to do so, with the understanding that I was to again select the Directors, have a paid secretary and legal advisor but that they would have to pay me $50 per month for salary and expenses. (This I voluntarily decreased later to $35 during the depression.)
This was agreed to and for the next fifteen years I managed the affairs of the Company, made many improvements, kept the Company out of debt and when I retired in 1937, the Company had 6298 shares of stock issued, applying on 6298 acres of land in the District. The Company had thirty-three miles of ditches, several miles of which were concreted and a new intake for water supply, and which took about three years' effort to obtain, and which had cost the Company nothing but had cost the Yuba Consolidated Gold Fields about $30,000.00 to install, because of their interference in the Company's water supply as a result of seepage loss through the dredge tailings. The Company when first formed delivered water only to the lands on the north side of the Yuba River levee but having an ample water supply, I persuaded the Directors to extend the delivery of water to a large area on the south side of the levee, generally known as the Hallwood bottom lands where about 1700 acres are now being irrigated.
Shortly after I first took over the Company, I found that one of the land owners had not turned over his old original issue of stock and obtained in return, a new certificate in the newly formed Mutual Company. This led finally to much controversy and eventually culminated in a law suit which, however, was not pressed during the two years I retired from the Company management. Upon becoming Manager again, I pressed this suit and the Company won in the Superior Court; an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court and the Company again won. Not satisfied, the attorney for the land owner's estate, (he having previously died), again set up the same claims in the names of the grandchildren; this suit the Company won and also won when it went again to the Supreme Court. This engendered considerable feeling; in fact, having the position of President and General Manager was “no bed of roses.” For a number of years, and quite often, at annual meetings of the stockholders, there was a strong effort put forth on both sides for votes and proxies to obtain control, but I always won. This finally quieted down and the great majority of the stockholders either became reconciled or satisfied with my management and the development of the District's properties and financial affairs, as harmony prevailed.
This Hallwood Irrigation Company is one of the best and cheapest irrigation districts in the State. The Company, being a “mutual” company is not conducted for profit but only for service. The Company levies three assessments per year of 50c each, making a total charge for water for the season of only $1.50 per acre and this charge is irrespective of the water's use, whether it be for rice, clover, orchards, vineyards, etc., etc. Rice requires more water than almost any other crop, usually requiring at least an equivalent of seven feet of water per acre per year, and in other irrigation districts in this vicinity, as much as $8.50 an acre is charged for water, which the Hallwood Company delivers for $1.50 per acre. The Company's assets, when I retired, had a book value of $32,992.35 which included the Company's water right which was carried on the books at $449.50 but for a fact, this water right alone is worth at least $75,000.00. I believe that a conservative value of the Company's water right, ditches and other assets would be $100,000.00; this does not include any land as the only land the Company owns is about one acre, on which is situated the Ditch Superintendent's house which the Company furnishes him. The Company has never had a bonded debt and if it continues in the future to operate on a “pay as you go basis,” as in the past, continues to have harmony, as of late years, and cooperates with its neighbor irrigation district, the Company should continue to flourish and the land owners be successful in their agricultural pursuits.
It is prosperous community and the residents are a high type of American citizens.
BACK TO MEMORIES INDEX PAGE