Lexington: The Long-Lost Treasure Of A Long-Lost Town

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, 1886 – December 3rd, to be exact. “Colonel” Alonzo Winfield Scott Smith was out exploring the back country of eastern Ventura County, near the confluence of Piru and Lockwood Creeks.

And some might say it was a Christmas miracle: Voilà! Smith stumbled across a “lost” gold mine. Or maybe it was a silver mine. Maybe it was both.

In any event, as Col. Smith gleefully told the tale, this “lost” (now found) mine had been dug by the Spanish padres. The mine’s entrance (he said) was cleverly concealed, hidden by cottonwoods deliberately planted to hide the tunnel’s mouth. Bolstering the seriousness of his discovery (so he claimed) were remnants of an old mining smelter. And for those who might still be dubious, Smith turned up a “silver brick” – or, as later stories would describe it, a one-pound “ancient Jesuit silver spike.” (Spikes made out silver? Well, who knows. Perhaps silver spikes were a “thing” back then.)

The Piru Mining District, where Smith claimed to have made these astonishing discoveries, had long been the focus of “lost mine” tales. There were indeed rumors, even before Smith, that the Spanish padres once mined there. Assorted tales were spun about an elderly Native American named Tecuya who’d worked in the mine for the padres and supposedly spilled pieces of the tale – despite a vow of secrecy and a deadly curse on anyone who shared the mine’s location. Some described ingots stacked up like cordwood. An unnamed prospector once arrived at Fort Tejon (it was said) with a “sack” full of gold. How could you not love such fables?!

The townsite of Lexington was west of I-5 and south of Frazier Park, in eastern Ventura County, at Lockwood Flat (circled, center left). (Sec15, T7N, Range 19W). The survey for the townsite commenced at the nearby section corner and ambitiously encompassed 560 acres.

Long before Col. Smith put in his appearance, traces of placer gold actually had been found in the Piru Creek area. Some sources even claimed gold was found at Piru 11 years earlier than John Marshall’s famous mill-race discovery! In 1871, a good 15 years before Smith wandered out there, a heap of ore at Piru was thought to include both silver and gold – though a later investigation debunked the report. Apparently there was enough substance to the rumors of placer gold, however, that a four-mile ditch was completed in May, 1876 to bring water to would-be Piru miners.

A 4-mile ditch brought water to the Piru placer miners in 1876. (Los Angeles Herald, May 25, 1876.)

And then Col. Smith arrived on the scene in the winter of 1886. Some described Col. Smith as “affable”; the Kern County Echo (perhaps a bit more honestly) called him a “queer character.” But Smith was just the type you’d expect to be intrigued by “lost mine” tales.

“[T]horoughly conversant with the mines of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado,” as one newspaper put it, Smith claimed he hade 14 years of mining experience under his belt. His previous mining travels reportedly had taken him as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico, Chile, and Peru. In addition to whatever mining chops he may have accrued, Smith may also have picked up tips for a mining scam or two. As recently as June, 1886 (less than six months before his miraculous mine “discovery” at Piru), A.W. Smith “of Campo” was exhibiting a sample of ore from a newly-discovered mine in San Diego – one which Smith’s buddy enthusiastically claimed “will astonish the unbelievers.”

Following the happy December discovery of his latest “lost” mine at Piru, Smith rushed to file five mining claims. These included the Exchange; the Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”); and the Matchless (according to Smith, the “mother lead of the world”). News of the find traveled quickly. By February 7, 1887, there were already 150 men in camp. Soon, Santa Maria surveyor J.V. Jesse was busily engaged in laying out an entire town there at Lockwood Flat, to be known as “Lexington.”

Thanks to the surveyor’s work, some 148 blocks were created – on paper, at least. Each block measured 300 x 162 feet, and included 24 individual building lots, each 25 x 75 feet. Newly-arriving miners could secure a town lot for $10 — or $15 for a more desireable corner lot.

That probably sounded pretty appealing, at the time. The new townsite of Lexington was a “wild and beautiful” place and, except for its remoteness, offered a good spot to build. The ground here was nearly level. And the waters of the creek were conveniently just 50 feet away. A few log cabins were thrown up. Other miners took up residence in tents or simply slept out under the stars.

The Town of Lexington, all 148 blocks of it. Surveyor J.V. Jesse owned a 1/12th interest in the town, and DeMoss Bowers, son of a Ventura newspaper publisher, was part-owner in another 1/12th.

Early newspaper reports helped fan the initial mining excitement. Ventura’s Free Press reported enthusiastically on March 17 that the Exchange claim was “bigger than the Comstock and possibly as rich.” Perhaps not surprisingly, DeMoss Bowers, son of the Free Press‘s publisher, was a part-owner in the Lexington townsite.

By late March, a log store was under construction, and a restaurant and boarding house were being planned. By mid-April, hoisting machinery had been purchased for the Esperanza, and a 50-stamp mill and a sawmill were predicted soon. A small arrastra was built of upright logs and a crossbeam, driven by mule-power. “Well-known mining expert” R.B. Harper purchased the Esperanza, and was said to be in negotiations to acquire a second mine as well. Soon even more miners had heard the exciting news. “The camp is becoming lively, and prospectors are arriving every day,” noted the Mining & Scientific Press in early April.

Snow prevented wagon travel, but the walking route to the new town was “good if you want to tackle it.” (Mining & Scientific Press, April 2, 1887).

The Brown claim boasted a 75-foot tunnel and a 68-foot shaft. The Golconda, a 30-foot vein of silver and gold, had its own tunnel stretching 150 feet. The General Lee, Double Standard, Smith & Grover, Exchange, and Matchless were also making progress. A miner named Newton Nunn claimed to have located a quartz vein three feet thick, and rich in free gold. And those were just the hardrock claims.

Men engaged in placer mining were said to be pulling out $5 per day per man. Nuggets worth from $5 to $100 reportedly had been found.

For those eager to join the rush to Lexington, the trip from Ventura took three days by wagon. Directions were helpfully provided by the newspaper, as follows:

        Take the stage road and turn off three or four miles this side of Newhall, up the San Francisquito canyon, to Elizabeth Lake; thence to Gorman’s Station; thence to John F. Cuddy’s, and ten miles farther to Lexington.]

Or, if you preferred to arrive by “trail” (which presumably meant on foot or astride a horse or mule), you could take the Matilija Trail to “Mart[in] Beekman’s, and the next day to Lexington by [way of] Samuel Snedden’s.”

By early April a new wagon road had been opened from Gorman’s Station to Lexington. But even that route was only “passably fair” at first. Wagons remained impractical through the early spring as long as snow lay on the ground. But walking was still possible.

With the snow finally melted, things at Lexington became livelier than ever by May, 1887. Enough would-be miners had arrived that formal miners’ meeting was called for May 8th. A newspaper correspondent was living on site (presumably DeMoss Bowers, whose father published the Ventura Free Press). A post office was said to be planned.

Eager for publicity, promoters shipped off a sample of ore in early July to the offices of the L.A. Times for inspection.

But by summer’s end, 1887, interest in Lexington’s mines was waning. Well, all except for DeMoss Bowers. Still a believer in the mines’ potential, Bowers purchased the Carbonate Prince, Carbonate Queen, Carbonate King, and Matchless claims plus a mill site and five acres of land from Alonzo Smith on September 24, 1887, for real money: $12,500. About this same time, Smith had “just concluded negotiations” with an English syndicate to sell the Exchange claim for a whopping $60,000.

The L.A. Herald reported that Col. Smith had sold his “famous” Exchange mine for $60,000. (September 30, 1887).

On October 6, two weeks after the sale to the ever-hopeful Bowers, the L.A. Times reported: “Lexington is dead; not a man in it.” Even the usual “bar-room mining” had ceased.

The trouble? The news column put it down to “that pile of rock brought down to Los Angeles.” The “rich sample” they’d sent to the Times apparently wasn’t quite so rich, after all. And before long, the town of Lexington itself had disappeared.

So what became of Col. Smith? Well, he didn’t hang around long, either. By October, 1887, Smith had left the wilds of Ventura County and was snugly ensconced in the far more comfortable digs of the St. Charles Hotel in Los Angeles. Remember, he’d just raked in at least $12,500 – possibly $72,500 if his deal with the “English syndicate” actually went through. Either way, he was sitting pretty.

The year 1892 found Smith in Utah, working as manager for a mining company and doing what he did best: rounding up investors. And by November, 1894 he was in Reno, touting a “rich ore discovery” in a “new district” south of Eureka.

But there the trail of Col. Alonzo Winfield Scott Smith goes cold. Someone named “Al.” Smith passed away  in January, 1898 and was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery at Fresno. But so far we’ve found nothing that would confirm this was our Col. Smith.

The “Lost Padres” mine itself dropped out of sight again. For a while, at least.

Then in January, 1915, a Bakersfield paper reported two gentlemen had shown up in town with an “old Spanish map” pointing the way to an old silver mine located somewhere in the San Emigdio district. Wrapped first in silk and then buckskin, encased in a tin, and finally snugged into a protective cover of rawhide, the tantalizing map bore the date 1828. The two gents claimed it once belonged to a great-grandmother – and of course it was for sale.

The world is never short on willing believers. So this “ancient” map was purchased by three hopeful Bakersfield treasure-hunters for $500 – and that was pretty much the end of that fool’s errand.

And now, before you dismiss the legend of the Lost Padres Mine as total bunkum, consider this: In May 1976, a writer for the Mountain Enterprise newspaper claimed she personally had seen a tarnished silver ingot, presented for her inspection “a few years ago” by a stranger named Ben Clark. A metal detecting buff, Clark claimed the bar was just one of 29 silver ingots he’d found in a hollow tree near – yes, Lockwood Flat, the former site of Lexington. Stamped on each bar was the image of a lamb carrying a banner – said to be the mark of an asistencia (extension) of the San Emigdio Mission.

So, who knows. Perhaps the good padres really did once have a silver mine in Piru. Maybe, just maybe, Col. Alonzo Smith was onto something.

Could the indentation in the center of this photo be evidence of an early mine? (R. Dustman photo, July 1994)

 

The road up Alamo Mountain leading out of the Piru Creek area (Dustman photo, July 1994).

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Mrs. Pitts’ Maternity Home

This year, a modest house on Centerville Lane will celebrate its 100th birthday (or so the assessment records say). And ironically, the word “birthday” holds a very special meaning for this old home. Think 159 of them . . . .

Options for pregnant mothers were limited in Gardnerville during the World War II years. You could have your baby the old-fashioned way, at home. But if you opted instead for a high-speed run to reach the hospital in Reno or Carson City, you took your chances on getting there in time.

After a few “hair-raising experiences” involving babies delivered by the side of the road, local doctor Ernest Hand figured there had to be a better way. He prevailed upon Mrs. Frieda Pitts to open a maternity home right here in Gardnerville in 1943.

That plan sounded great to Frieda Pitts. A widow, Mrs. Pitts had lost her husband, William, to kidney disease in March, 1940. Never mind that she had no formal training as a nurse. Or that the “maternity home” facility would consist of just two beds in her own house here on Centerville Lane – a home that initially had no indoor bathroom and no furnace.

Mrs. Frieda Pitts, circa 1950. (Photo courtesy ofDouglas County Historical Society).

Mrs. Pitts devoted her living room and a bedroom to the cause. Neighbor Lizzie Etherton assisted with laundry, courtesy of her wringer washer. And Dr. Hand taught Frieda all about labor, delivery, and maternity care.

And that’s how, you might say, Mrs. Pitts’ Maternity Home was born. When it opened in March, 1943, the facility was a welcome addition for Valley mothers indeed. Over the next eleven years, some 159 babies would enter the world there. Dr. Hand was just a phone call away.

Sometimes mothers would come to stay with Mrs. Pitts before the baby arrived. But “generally you would go to Mrs. Pitts when your contractions started,” a long-time Valley resident recalled. “You’d leave home with your little satchel and then you would stay there at Mrs. Pitts’s for eleven days. They wanted to make sure the baby had a good start. So that was considered the proper length of time to see if the baby did well and if you did well. And they kept you in bed for those eleven days. You didn’t get up and run around.”

Mrs. Pitts not only cooked meals for her patients, she also changed diapers, prepared formula, and cared for the babies at night so their mothers got a good night’s sleep.

Pitts Maternity Home became so popular that Frieda added an addition to her house in September, 1944. It must not have been a large one, however; as late as July, 1952, the facility offered only two beds. In a pinch, however, it was able to accommodate a small “baby boom.” The largest: five babies in a single week.

Image courtesy of TheGraphicsFairy.com.

Babies of all sizes made their debut at Mrs. Pitts’ home. One of the smallest, a 4-pound daughter, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Andres Ortiz in 1948. For tiny preemies like this one, Mrs. Pitts created a make-shift incubator that was lined with flannel and heated with hot water bottles. At the other end of the spectrum, one baby boy tipped the scales at 10 pounds, 4 ounces! At least one set of twins was delivered at Mrs. Pitts’ home. And one impatient baby didn’t even make it in the front door, instead making its debut at her front gate! But of all those 159 children born at Mrs. Pitts’ home, not a single baby was lost.

The Record-Courier once noted that the names of those who gave birth at Mrs. Pitts’ home “reads quite a lot like the old Carson Valley telephone book.” But it wasn’t just Valley children born here. A few mothers came from Markleeville. And even a few moms-to-be who were just “passing through” availed themselves of Mrs. Pitts’ kind services.

So, who was Frieda Pitts, the kindly soul who tended to all these moms and babies? Well, she was oldest of the eight children of Fritz and Marie Sarman, born October 22, 1906. The Sarman family owned the “Ladies Best” flour mill south of Gardnerville, and Frieda was raised there. Frieda’s siblings included brothers Edwin and John; and sisters Mabel Marie (Mrs. James Perry) of Smith Valley, Mrs. Aldon Arigoni of Reno, and Edna Araujo.

Frieda Sarman (soon to be Pitts) is seated in the front row, third from left. This is the Freshman Class at Douglas High School in 1922. (Photo courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society).

Frieda married William Pitts in 1925, when she was fresh out of high school. He was 39 at the time; she was just 18.

Despite her lack of formal nursing training, Mrs. Pitts became a fine  nurse, midwife, and caregiver. When Douglas County began registering all the registered and practical nurses in Douglas County in 1956 for “civil defense and disaster planning” purposes, Mrs. Pitts was the one they put in charge of the nursing registration effort.

But in 1954, state regulations changed. Hospital births began to be required, essentially putting Mrs. Pitts out of business. But she never stopped caring for others. Various younger siblings and nephews from Smith Valley lived with her over the years so they could attend Douglas High School. Dr. Hand’s granddaughter, Debbie Lambert, lived with Frieda for a while. She cared for her father when he became ill, and her mother eventually came to live in the house with her. Frieda was also in great demand as a local babysitter. Locals still remember the fine homemade bread and cookies she would bake.

Frieda Pitts died in 1991, and is buried at Garden Cemetery in Gardnerville. Although she never had any children of her own, she always said she felt a special kinship with every one of those 159 babies she helped bring into the world.

 

Sandberg’s Lodge on the Old Ridge Route

When we visited in 1992, all that was left was a sturdy stone wall and a few cracked rectangles of concrete. But in the 1920s, Sandberg’s Lodge was a bustling wayside stop for travelers on the old Ridge Route between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Some say Old Man Sandberg was a heck of a guy. Others say he was so mean-spirited he charged shivering travelers 40 cents an hour to warm themselves by his big, stone fireplace. A native of Oslo, Norway, Sandberg had emigrated to the United States in 1880 at the tender of age 12. He’d settled near Lebec as early as 1889, eventually developing an apple ranch “down below.” There his wife, Marian, bred her own tasty green-and-red “Sandberg” apple variety.

When the contract was let for construction of the new Ridge Route in June, 1914, Sandberg smelled opportunity. He determined to open a new lodge to serve travelers along the new route. Although the new Ridge Route was opened to traffic in 1914, it actually wasn’t finished until the grading and oiling were completed in November, 1915. (It would later be resurfaced with concrete in 1919.) Sandberg built his hotel at a site south of Quail Lake, formerly an old stage stop. As many as 300 laborers were said to have camped there while the new road was under construction.

Postcard image of Sandberg’s early “Summit Hotel” circa 1918-1922. (Dustman collection)

Sandberg’s lodge was constructed of hand-hewn logs on a stone foundation, and was surrounded by a stand of bull pines and oaks. This was one of the highest points on the Ridge Route – a great place to offer respite to overheating tin lizzies and serve hungry travelers.

There was only one problem: Sandberg had already used up his homestead rights. So he persuaded his wife’s brother, Alexander Grant, to homestead the site in his own name. In exchange. Sandberg promised to build Grant a house beside his lodge, and make him postmaster of the “town” of Sandberg.

Four years into the five-year homestead prove-up period, however, a family feud erupted. Rather than help Sandberg perfect the homestead, Grant relinquished his rights to the newly-created Forest Service.

Sandberg was furious. He’d already built his new lodge. Now he was forced to negotiate a lease with the Forest Service. This he did in 1920, which allowed the Lodge to continue to operate.

Early guidebooks show “Sandberg’s Summit Hotel” offering 25 rooms, “most with running water and toilet.” Room rates were $1.50 to $2.50, or $2-$4 for double accommodations. Lunch was cost $85 cents; dinner would set you back a dollar.

Sandberg’s in the snow, circa 1940. (Dustman collection).

Wife Marian’s apples were made into tangy apple pies and homemade cider. At least one 6-year-old boy discovered – much to his chagrin – the after-effects of sweet hard cider stored in a barn.

But even good things eventually come to an end. In 1933, the old Ridge Route was bypassed by modern Highway 99, leaving Sandberg’s off the beaten path. Predictably, business plunged. In February, 1936, Sandberg’s bills were going unpaid; a supply company sued him, alleging he owed $302.27 for supplies. Sandberg didn’t even bother to contest the debt. A default judgment was entered against him that April.

Harold Sandberg passed away in July, 1939, at the age of 71. Mrs. Sandberg’s brother, Alexander Grant, may have tried to keep the lodge going; Grant died there at Sandberg’s of a heart attack on May 22, 1944. And Mrs. Sanders soon sold the property.

Pottery by Lillian Grosjean, manufactured at Sandberg’s, displayed a signature “Sandberg apple” motif. (Dustman photo collection)

Subsequent owners included a man named Cox, and a ceramic artist named Lillian Grosjean, whose beautiful greenware pottery featuring Sandberg apples was said to command high prices in the L.A. market.

Another example of Mrs. Grosjean’s pottery from the 1940s. (Dustman photo collection).

During the 1940s the Lodge reportedly became the scene of some rollicking good times. Open 24 hours a day, it continued to offer food, lodging, and – some say – gambling and X-rated entertainment. For such activities, its remote location apparently came in handy.

Then in 1951, Sandberg’s was acquired by Walter “Lucky” Stevens for about $15,000. A larger-than-life character, Stevens had previously worked as a Hollywood stuntman with such stars as John Wayne.

Lucky Stevens, in 1992, at his property in Lebec. (Dustman collection)

“The mileage was rough but it was fun,” Stevens laughed, when we interviewed him in 1992. “I’d ride anything you could saddle, and if you couldn’t saddle it, that just made it a little more interesting.” Among other colorful stories this uber-colorful guy could tell: he once stole bottles of booze from Al Capone’s rum-running gang.

Map drawn by Lucky Stevens to promote his hoped-for guest ranch.

Stevens dreamed of making Sandberg’s a guest ranch. But the old inn was in pretty sad shape. By the time he acquired it, pigeons were making their home in the rafters. An old Victrola was still inside, primed to play that long-ago classic, “Brown October Ale,” if anyone was inclined to crank it up.

Sketch showing arrangement of the buildings at Sandberg’s, drawn by Lucky Stevens. Grant’s house is shown at upper left, and the ceramic studio at right.

Over the next four and a half years, Stevens set about making improvements, trading his labor for logs at the sawmill on Frazier Mountain and hand-hewing them to match the originals. When he was done, the lodge featured a massive stone fireplace, three full floors of guest rooms, an 8-foot mantel, and ten-foot-long wooden dining tables. And there were now a total of 7 outbuildings. “I got good with a draw knife!” Stevens bragged.

Interior of Sandberg’s after Lucky Stevens’ renovation.

Perhaps the ghost of old Man Sandberg or those ladies of the evening hadn’t entirely left. Stevens claimed to have witnessed doors opening and closing all by themselves. Locals say a female spirit remained in the “crib” even after that building was toted a few miles away to become a bunkhouse for the Rodriguez Ranch.

In 1959 and 1960, Stevens arranged lavish Christmas parties for underprivileged kids at his lodge. Stationwagons-full of food and gifts were donated. Wrapped Christmas presents formed a ten-by-twenty-five foot pile, and a delightful turkey dinner was served. “We just flat had a ball!” Stevens recalled. That made him decide to try to open the resort as a campsite for children. He incorporated his business endeavor as the “Town for Lucky Children” on April 29, 1960.

Lucky Stevens dreamed of opening a camp for teens.

But at least in Stevens’ telling, the Forest Service had a 20-year plan to “get everyone out of the Forest.” The government refused to renew his lease. Stevens tried to arrange a land-swap that would allow him to keep his property going, but officials said no.

Exactly a year to the day after Stevens filed those incorporation papers, on Saturday, April 29, 1961, Sandberg’s burned to the ground. It took less than an hour to turn the lodge and another cabin in the rear to ashes.

The timing and severity of the blaze were – to put it mildly – suspicious. “There was evidence that some kind of explosion might have occurred, as pieces of burning wood debris were scattered about,” reported the Bakersfield Californian. One first responder claimed to have heard “popping noises, such as ammunition of dynamite caps.”

Report on the fire in Bakersfield Californian (May 1, 1961)

Locals would quietly hint later that Stevens had packed the fireplace with fuel and closed the damper – deliberately torching his many years of hard work just to make sure that the Forest Service couldn’t have it. But  early news reports blamed a “defective chimney.”

The property was uninsured. “Even if it had been insured, the Forestry would have gotten the money to fight the fire,” Stevens shrugged. He wasn’t able to raise an estimated $250,000 to rebuild.

Stevens continued to live on the property while lawsuits with the Forest Service dragged on. “It took three federal court orders to get me out,” he concluded with a certain amount of pride. “I had to be out on June 17, 1963. I left about three hours early.”

As for the once-thriving resort: “They bulldozed the remainder.” Lucky Stevens eventually acquired a new property in Lebec. And that is where we interviewed him in 1992. His large metal warehouse was filled with out-of-date electronics and miscellany. The steel door had stood open so long two birds had taken advantage, building nests in the doorframe. He was still a dreamer. And his eyes still sparkled when he talked about happy days at Sandberg’s.

Lucky Stevens in 1992 when we interviewed him. (Dustman photo)

Later, we made a pilgrimage to the spot where Sandberg’s once stood. And lo and behold. Small, unglazed apple-leaf shapes could still be found poking from the ashy-soil.

Remnants of this pottery were still visible in the 1990s. (Dustman photo collection).

Carson City’s Vanishing History: Please Help Save Adele’s!

A beautiful piece of Carson City history may soon be — history.

The former Adele’s restaurant, that popular upscale eatery that has graced N. Carson Street since 1977, could soon be razed to enlarge the gas station next door.

An view of the building that became Adele’s, circa 1900. (Carson City Historical Society photo).

Folks are scrambling to save this century-and-a-half-old landmark. But the deadline to raise an estimated $100,000 and physically move it? March 1. Yes, this March 1, 2020. Just a few weeks away. So if you want to help preserve Adele’s, there’s no time to waste.

As of this writing, over $5,000 has been donated to the cause between checks and a GoFundMe account. Contribute NOW to Carson City Historical Society’s fundraiser to save the original part of the building: www.GoFundMe.com/f/cchistoricalsociety-save-adeles.

Like to know the history of this 146-year-old lady? Here’s a short thumbnail:

The building we know today as Adele’s was built in 1874 by a man named Captain Porter. It featured the gracious mansard roof and dormer windows typical of a Victorian building style known as “Second Empire,” popular between 1860-1880.

Daily Appeal, 5-28-1874 story about Capt. Porter building his home — the “first of the kind” in Carson with a mansard roof.

In the 1880s, the home became the property of Benjamin F. Slater, a hotelier and hay yard owner who later would enter politics. The Slaters apparently didn’t own it long, moving on to Southern California in March, 1884.

In the 1890s, the home’s owner was Judge Michael Augustus Murphy. Born in New York, Murphy had made his way west at 16, mining as a young man at Aurora. After becoming a lawyer in 1872 Murphy entered public service, serving as district attorney for Esmeralda County, state attorney general, a District Court Judge, and eventually a Nevada Supreme Court justice.

After Judge Murphy’s death in 1909, son Frank Murphy continued to live in the house until the 1920s. Frank started his career with the V&T Railroad as a baggage handler, eventually rising to the post of V.P./General Manager.

Just think of all the conversations about law and politics that have taken place through the years under Adele’s roof !

The Belknap House (from National Register application).

But if the Porter/Murphy/Adele’s house was the first mansard-roofed home in Carson, it wouldn’t be the last. There’s a similar home just two blocks away. This one, at 1206 N. Nevada (just west of Adele’s) was built the next year, in 1875, by Henry Hudson Beck. It was purchased in 1881 by Judge Charles Henry Belknap, Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court. Belknap and his wife Virginia  lived there for more than two decades, eventually moving to California in 1908 (Judge Belknap died in 1926). The Belknap House is now listed on the National Register.

The Leport-Toupin house at 503 E. Telegraph St. (National Register application photo).

And there’s also a third Second Empire-style house in Carson City at 503 E. Telegraph, on the east side of town. This is the Leport-Toupin house, built in 1879 by French merchant Alexander Leport for his soon-to-be bride, Mary Blavee. The house was later acquired by Genoan T.P. Hawkins and his wife, Clara, in 1907, and it stayed in the Hawkins family until 1963. The Leport-Toupin house, too, is currently listed on the National Register.

Similarly-styled building at 377 S. Nevada St.

By coincidence we also spotted this similar-looking beauty at 377 S. Nevada St. It’s more modern than it looks, though; the assessor’s records peg it as a 1985 creation.

 

 

Like to help save Adele’s and its history for future generations? Upset with great historic buildings going away for a parking lot?  Please donate generously to saving Adele’s. Then tell your friends that you did, and urge them to contribute, too.

Make sure Adele’s 146-year history doesn’t come to a tragic end on March 1! Here’s that link for Carson City Historical Society’s fundraiser to save it:

www.GoFundMe.com/f/cchistoricalsociety-save-adeles

Or checks can be mailed to: Carson City Historical Society, 112 N. Curry St., Carson City NV 89703, with a memo “Save Adele’s.”

 

 

3 Writing Tips To Make Your Writing Sing!

Ever hit a long-winded passage and turn the page, hoping the story would pick up later? I see a few hands out there.

This month, I wanted to share three quick writing tips to avoid page-turning-reader syndrome and let your writing sing!

Yes, sing! (This great illustration from TheGraphicsFairy.com.)

(1) Look for “padding” you don’t need.
An easy place to start: those extraneous, repetitive, extra, unnecessary, duplicative, redundant and overused words. (See what I just did there?) Yeah. You don’t need every single one. Get out the pruning shears and chop away.

Here’s a great example of a slightly different kind of “padding”:

 “Her mouth was parched, and a slow fever seemed to kindle in her blood, and creeping slowly through every sluggish vein, touched the torpid tide with stinging fire. Her languid eyes gleamed with a fierce light…”

Oh dear. No, it’s not a passage from a modern romance. This was an 1865 writer. A very breathless 1865 writer. And it’s a great example of what happens when you lean too hard on adjectives to paint your scene.

Moral of the story: watch out for “adjective addiction.” So, how would it read without all those adjectives?

 “A fever seemed to kindle in her blood, and creeping through every vein, touched her with fire. Her eyes gleamed…”

Still a bit on the dramatic side. But way better!

(2)  Vary your sentence structure.

Cookies come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. Try playing with changing up your sentence size and structure, too. (Image from TheGraphicsFairy.com).

It’s easy to fall into a “same-same” sentence pattern. But changing up the sentence structure can make things a lot more fun for your reader.

Like some examples of different ways to craft the same sentence? Here you go:

  • My mother loved baking cookies.
  • December was the time of year when the aroma of cookies always permeated our house.
  • Cookies? We had them all. From shortbread to chocolate chip, lemon bars to oatmeal, butter cookies to gingersnaps.

Bonus tip: Unless you’re doing technical writing or striving for formality, don’t get hung up on using complete sentences. I know, I know. It’s what we learned in school, right? But for less-formal writing, short and pithy works just fine. (Check out that third bullet point above, for an example).

Be thoughtful. But be merciless in editing out words you really don’t need. (TheGraphicsFairy.com image).

(3) Chop overly-long sentence into pieces.
If you really want to know why overly-long sentences don’t work and how they frustrate your reader, how obnoxious it can be to get to the very end of a sentence and have no idea where the thought actually began, and why most editors reach for their red pencil frequently to separate long, wordy sentences into two, three, or even four different parts, just think about how your attention quite naturally wandered away when you were forced to wade through a word-salad mess — like this ridiculously convoluted sentence.

Okay, I did that one on purpose. How about this real-life example (from 1865 again):

“The opportunity was offered him in July, 1862, at Boonesville, by an old class-mate at West Point, and one who subsequently won, under Bragg and Forrest, a character for belligerency similar to that now enjoyed by Sheridan.”

Huh? That requires some real work on the reader’s part to parse out the meaning! Chop that run-on stinker into two sentences and it might read like this:

 “In July, 1862, an old class-mate from West Point offered him an opportunity at Boonesville. That same class-mate would later serve under Bragg and Forrest, winning himself a reputation for belligerency similar to that of Sheridan.”

Unpacking those two ideas into separate sentences makes them easier for your reader to digest. (Extra bonus credit for anyone who noticed that the rewrite also shifted from passive to active voice! That helped, too.)

Zachary Taylor Wilcox must’ve loved excess or hated scissors. And look where it got him.

So there you go. Hope these three simple ideas help your memoir writing sing!

And now I’d like to hear from you: What questions do you have about memoir writing? Where are you getting stuck? Drop a line and let me know.

Newly-Discovered History at Mormon Station

Next time you drive past Mormon Station State Historic Park, keep an eye peeled for a small, white, garage-looking structure just north of the stockade.

When Mormon Station acquired the 1.2-acre property adjacent to the Fort in 2002, that’s exactly what they thought this small building was: just a “barn or garage.” Initial estimates dated it to about 1948-50, so it was brushed off as having “no significant historic value.”

Not surprisingly, the Park Service’s 2005 Master Plan called for this small building to be torn down. At the time, planners had grand ideas to actually rebuild some of the early Genoa’s now-gone buildings, such as Gelatt’s Livery Stable and the early “White House Hotel”, which once sat to the south of the small garage. There was no place in such a glorious picture for a remnant of the 1940s or ’50s.

Well, that all sounded terrific — until the price tag showed up. Initial estimates pegged the ambitious project at $1.6 million. And even that figure could have been too low. Yup, after that wake-up call, the plan to recreate long-ago buildings was no longer in the cards.

In the meantime, however, Park employees began noticing a few things about the humble “garage” that were, well – a little bit odd. For one thing, it had been built on a stone foundation. Pretty unusual for 1940s/50s construction. There were square nails in the wooden flooring. And, a central section of the floor planking was missing entirely, suggesting perhaps a forge once sat there.

The vacant space in the floor probably held a forge.

Yep, on closer inspection, it didn’t look like much a 1940s or 1950s building, at all!

Park staff already knew that the property had been owned by the Rice family from 1872 to 1902; the Rice family’s White House Hotel once was located just to the south. When Chris Johnson was hired at the Mormon Station in 2017 as Park Interpreter, he began digging more into the past ownership of the property. He started searching through the old newspapers for  mentions that might shed additional light on the building and its former use. And because some early-1900s newspaper issues aren’t searchable, that meant long hours of skimming page-by-page through microfilm reels.

But Johnson’s sleuth work finally paid off! Johnson turned up a newspaper article from 1908 reporting that the White House Hotel had been purchased by a man named Nels Morrison (legal title was actually held in his wife Hattie’s name). Best of all, that same 1908 newspaper story reported that Morrison was planning to use part of the old Rice Hotel to build a blacksmith shop on the property. “Bingo!” says Johnson. His suspicions that this had been a blacksmith shop were confirmed.

The front door, with its original heavy metal hardware.

As Johnson kept digging,  even more fun pieces of the puzzle began coming to light.

An oral history by local Arnold Trimmer mentioned the old Hotel had been torn down and that some of the hotel’s lumber went into a house across the street.  So it’s no surprise that Morrison might have used some of the lumber from the old hotel to build his new blacksmith shop, too.

The Rice brothers’ White House Hotel, circa 1865. This hotel was one of the first buildings to be erected at Genoa, according to a 1908 newspaper account. (Photo courtesy of Mormon Station State Historic Park).

As Johnson and his crew began clearing away decades-worth of trash from inside the old  building, even more fun traces of the building’s past came to light!

Trap doors in the old wooden floor concealed lots of litter beneath — and a few treasures!

That “solid” wooden floor? Well, turns out three small trap doors had been cut in it. Reaching beneath one of the trap doors, Johnson discovered an intact bitters bottle, dating from the period 1906-1920. Although sold as a “medicinal” remedy, such potions contained as much as 37% alcohol. Can’t you just picture the boys sitting around the blacksmith shop, passing the “medicine”?

The beautifully-preserved “Bitters” bottle discovered by Johnson beneath the shop floor is now on display at Mormon Station.

Lath marks on some of the interior boards of the “garage” (photo below) confirm that some of the lumber used to build the blacksmith shop had originally been part of a different building – quite possibly Rice’s earlier White House Hotel.

Studs and crossbracing boards show lath and nail marks, suggesting they likely were salvaged from an earlier building — quite possibly the White House Hotel.

Three sets of initials also were found painted on the shop’s walls: “C,” “CM,” and “CF.” Although the first two are a mystery, the initials “CM” might stand for “Claire Morrison” — one of owner Nels Morrison’s sons, who worked as a mechanic at COD Garage.

Three sets of initials painted above the workbench include “C.M.”

But the most exciting discovery of all came to light only a few months ago.

As Park employees cleaned out the debris that was packed in the old building, they eventually uncovered the original old work bench. Johnson looked closely at the side of the wooden bench – and discovered blacksmith Nels Morrison’s “maker’s mark” stamped into the old wood!

The name “N.P. Morrison” is stamped repeatedly in a vertical line down the front of the old wooden bench — a great remnant of his blacksmith’s “maker’s mark”!

Johnson hopes the old Nels Morrison blacksmith building will eventually be restored into a working blacksmith shop, with artifacts on display to show how it would have looked. Already, they’ve begun acquiring equipment from the 1902-1906 period, including a historic forge and blower. Perhaps volunteers might eventually operate the blacksmith shop on weekends or for school groups, Johnson said, crafting metal objects like dinner bells that might be sold in the gift shop.

Artifacts that might eventually be used in the blacksmith shop exhibit.

So now you know the fun story of this long-forgotten Genoa gem – and the tale of just how close it came to being demolished. Stop by to see the building and the Bitters bottle next time you’re at Mormon Station!

 

Markleeville’s (Unofficial) Sister City: Newman, California

Did you know tiny Markleeville, California has a sister city? Well, not an official one. In fact, the two towns probably have no idea they’re even related. But Newman, California and Markleeville share a common heritage.

The link that binds them? The man who gave the town of Newman its name. Here’s the tale!

Hard-working entrepreneur Simon Newman.

Simon Newman (Neumann) was born in 1846 in Willmars, in the Bavarian region of Germany.

Simon was 16 years old when he first set foot in San Francisco in 1862, traveling by way of Panama. His arrival was courtesy of brother-in-law Solomon Wangenheim, who owned a store in Virginia City and put Simon to work for him in that bustling Comstock town.

Then in 1864, Solomon opened yet another store – in Markleeville. The store originally sat in the lower section of Main Street just south of Montgomery Street. But by 1866 “Wangenheim’s” had moved a few lots north to the northwestern corner of Main and Montgomery (today a vacant lot across from the well-known Cutthroat).

Goods sold included “fancy and staple” dry goods, as well as mining and farm implements. Need boots, bacon, or butter? Wangenheim’s was your store. Here you could find powder and fuse; revolvers; crockery; even stoves, doors and windows. And, of course, liquor!

Brother-in-law Simon Newman was not only employed at Wangenheim’s Markleeville store as a clerk; he also lived in the back.

One night in July, 1866, a fire broke out in the store – caused, it was said, by rats or mice “capering over the friction matches.” (Which gives you some idea of the pest problem!) Newman and a fellow clerk sleeping in the  store managed to escape with their lives by jumping out a window. The St. Bernard dog who had alerted them to the flames was (sadly!) not so lucky.

The store had no insurance and the loss was estimated at an astonishing $20,000. But Wangenheim was determined to rebuild. He was back in business within weeks. As for Simon Newman, perhaps it’s no surprise that from 1866-67 he thereafter volunteered as Secretary for the Alpine Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1.

Biographers have described Simon Newman as “frugal and ambitious.” They should have added hard-working! In 1868, Newman purchased the store in Markleeville from his brother-in-law for $1,000. And in 1869, at just 23 years old, Newman opened another store at Hill’s Ferry, California, on the San Joaquin River. (According to family lore, he leased out the Markleeville store, providing a second source of income for his family until 1885, when another devastating fire swept through Markleeville and destroyed the building.)

Advertisement for Newman’s store in Hill’s Ferry (1880).

After moving to Hill’s Ferry, Newman began lending money to local ranchers, securing his loans with an interest in the crops. By 1877 he not only owned his store but also a 4,000-ton grain warehouse.

Simon Newman married in 1877 and moved to San Francisco, commuting Hill’s Ferry by train every week. (Did I mention he was hard-working?!)  He continued amassing ranch land, sheep and cattle interests. And when the Pacific Railroad decided to extend its line into the San Joaquin Valley, Newman donated 320 acres for the railroad – founding a townsite at the railroad’s terminus.

And how did Newman market his new town? Ever the entrepreneur, he arranged for a special train to ferry potential land purchasers and investors from Oakland to the townsite on April 28, 1888. A free picnic was provided, and lots were auctioned off. Originally called Sanger (not to be confused with the other Sanger near Fresno), the town today is known as Newman.

Simon Newman passed away of apoplexy (stroke) at just 66 years of age in 1912, and was buried in Home of Peace Cemetery in San Mateo County. But the town he founded still honors his name.

Just where is Newman? It’s located on State Route 33 between Gustine and Crows Landing. If you don’t know where those are (I didn’t!), it’s 35 miles southwest of Modesto, and just east of I-5.

One of the beautiful buildings on Newman’s historic Main Street.

Today, Newman dubs itself the “Jewel of the West Side” of the Central Valley. And it’s well worth a visit. With a population of about 11,000 citizens, it prides itself on retaining its small-town charm. There’s an annual Fall Festival; a vibrant historic downtown; a restored 1940s theater; and a district filled with beautiful Victorian homes.

There’s also a fabulous brick Museum (1209 Main Street, Newman) – open only Wed 12:30 – 4:30 or by appointment. Check out the wooden fire tank and farm equipment in the fenced yard behind.

Best of all, the historic Newman Store Building is still here (see pictures below), at the corner of Hwy 33 and Fresno Street. And if you stop by, be sure to look for Simon Newman’s name, written in tile in its entryway.

The Simon Newman store, circa 1920s.
The Simon Newman store today — home to a furniture store and auto parts store.
We were so excited to find Simon Newman’s name still featured in the old tile of the entry!

So, town of Markleeville? – meet Newman. And town of Newman? – meet Markleeville.

Whether you know it or not, you’re sister cities. And you both have hard-working emigrant Simon Newman to thank for it.

Memoir Writers: Who Inspired You?

It’s easy to think of our memoir as just our own story. But how many other paths crossed yours to make you who you are today? Probably thousands and thousands!

In this pool table game of life, we’ve all taken hits from a few random cue balls. Our trajectory has been disrupted by unexpected forces that coaxed us, prodded us, or simply whacked us off the table for a little while.

Not all of those forces were benign. But some were encounters with people who made us better.

Maybe those inspirational forces were your parents. Or perhaps your biggest inspiration was long-gone historic figure, or a celebrity you never met in real life.

But we never, ever forget our heroes. Role models with stories so compelling we aspired to be like them. People who challenged us to reach higher, be better, try harder.

It could have been a movie star; a saint; a surfer; a favorite teacher.

But when you ask yourself, Who inspired you? chances are someone’s face immediately came to mind!

So here’s a memoir tip: Don’t forget to mention those special forces that altered your trajectory. The heroes and heroines who inspired you can add a fascinating dimension to your memoir!

______________________

A FEW MEMOIR WRITING PROMPTS:

*     How old were you when you first felt inspired by this person? How did their path happen to cross yours?

*     What form did “inspiration” take for you? What about this person did you want to emulate?

*    What might have happened if you’d never had their encouragement or inspiring example to follow? How did your life trajectory change as a result?

*    What have you done (or might do in the future) to “pay it forward” and inspire someone else?

 

That’s it for this month!
Let us know how your writing is going! Leave us a post on Facebook: @WriteYourMemoir

And feel free to share this story with a friend!

Food & Family History: Special Memories Often Start in the Kitchen

Serendipity gives me goosebumps. Just as I was about to write this post about “food memories,” I stumbled on a terrific example of this exact form of family-history writing.

From Billee’s Kitchen” is a great, simple collection of not only recipes but memories. Compiled in pdf form by Melissa Corn Finlay, it honors her grandmother, Billee Barton Corn. And you can read it for free, here!  It’s packed with Billee’s favorite recipes, from Shrimp Victoria and desserts to die for, and great family photos. But best of all,  it includes Melissa’s memories of her grandmother.

The table of contents from “From Billee’s Kitchen.” Her granddaughter included recipes, memories, and even home movies!

Born in 1918, Billee used to keep a jar of bacon drippings on her stove. (Sound like anyone you knew?) She went to bed every night with a Louis L’Amour novel in her hand. Granddaughter Melissa got sips of Billee’s favorite nighttime beverage (Dr. Pepper over ice) as she joined Grandma under the puffy down comforter. And Melissa can still recall the tantalizing smells of her grandmother’s apricot “fried pies.” Special memories indeed!

So, what fascinating nuggets of family history and memoir material might be lurking in your kitchen? And how can you easily preserve and share them?

  • Start by pulling out that old card file or family cookbook, and thumb through the recipes. What dishes were your parents’ favorites? And what do they say about your family’s travels or the way things were?
A simple recipe box can be a treasure chest of memories! 
  • What special culinary treasures have been handed down from long-gone relatives? I treasure my great-grandmother’s recipe for Burnt Sugar Cake just because it’s a legacy. And I love the visual image of my great-aunt’s recipe for Deep Dish Peach Cobbler, scrawled in her own spidery handwriting. How fun to know that these special treats once graced their tables, too, and how rewarding to pass the recipes along to future generations!
  • What memories do certain recipes bring back for you? I still remember the welcome smell of my dad’s Beans Bretonne simmering in the oven — a family favorite — as I walked in the back door after school. (In case you want to try it, here’s his recipe — with some hilarious comments from my sister.)

    Love the funny notes added to the directions.
  • And you might even find surprises tucked away in that old cookbook or filing box! As I was writing this story, I discovered a long-forgotten collection of old newspaper clippings in the back of our family recipe box. Domestic goddess that she was, my mother had tucked them away in the 1960s, preparing to be the perfect party hostess.
  • Sharing food-and-family memories doesn’t have to be a huge production. Make it  easy on yourself! You might simply copy those old family recipes and bind the pages together, or paste individual recipes into a small scrapbook, as my sisters did (see below). If you’d like to “pretty it up” as Melissa did in her family recipe book, just create a Word document with images, then convert that to a pdf for sharing.

Okay, that’s your Memoir Writing take-away for today:  Let favorite family recipes prompt your memories of both food and family!

And of course I’d love to hear what stories you remember.

Jonas Winchester’s Wild, Crazy, Adventurous Life – Part 2

So, how did Jonas Winchester get to California?

Ah, that’s a story in itself!  (And if you missed  Part 1 of Winchester’s wild and crazy story, here’s where to read it!)

The eighth of 13 children, Jonas Winchester entered the world on November 19, 1810 in Marcellus, New York. At roughly age 16 he was apprenticed to Adolphus Fletcher, printer of the Jamestown Journal, a local weekly paper.

But by the time he was 18, Winchester determined to set off for adventure. He made his way to New York City, where he arrived (as he later put it) “a stranger, without friends, acquaintances, or recommendation of any kind.” He was sure a better life awaited him. “Destiny calls and I must follow,” he wrote to his mother in September, 1829.

Despite his lack of connections in the City and with only 2-1/2 years of apprenticeship under his belt, Winchester managed to land a job as a compositor for two  New York City newspapers. But the pay proved meager. Wages for compositors were so low, in fact, that in September, 1830 Winchester moved back home to Western New York, where he took a job with the Fredonia Censor.

Horace Greeley, Winchester’s printing partner (for a short time).

But the lure of the big city hadn’t left him. He returned to New York City again in the Spring of 1832.  And in 1833, Winchester eventually landed a publishing job with Horace Greeley, likely due to his friendship with Frank Story, Greeley’s partner. Winchester had a certain “larger than life” aura about him, and perhaps a certain amount of moxie helped win him the position. Somewhere in his youth Jonas gained the nickname “General” Winchester, a military honorific with “no foundation in fact,” as his descendants would later admit. (It may have been a bit of a family joke; brother Herman went by “Colonel.” And the oldest brother in the family dubbed himself “Patriarch.”)

Horace Greeley himself was a relative newcomer to New York City, too, having arrived in late 1831. By the time Winchester became an associate, Greeley had already launched and lost the short-lived Morning Post – a publication which cratered within three short weeks of its January 1, 1833 debut. A few months later another tragedy struck Greeley — his original business partner (and Winchester’s friend), Francis V. Story, drowned suddenly in July 1833.

Story’s death presented a fortuitous opening for Winchester, who stepped in to become Greeley’s partner. In March, 1834, Greeley and Winchester launched a new publication called the New Yorker — a “large, fair, and cheap weekly folio” based on Ann Street, New York, dedicated to literature with a sprinkling of news. Greeley handled the newspaper’s editing, while Winchester did what he did best — promotion — taking charge of the profitable “jobbing business” (contract printing). Before long Winchester would solidify his fortunes by marrying Story’s sister, Susan — the wedding taking place on Winchester’s own 25th birthday, November 19, 1835.

Although launched with only a dozen subscribers, the New Yorker’s circulation eventually reached 9,000. But it never became a rip-roaring financial success. Instead, it took “a terrible struggle on the part of its proprietors to keep it alive.” Greeley and Winchester eventually dissolved their partnership in September, 1836. Winchester carried on “job printing” on his own, then tried to make a profit by reprint literature from abroad. But he got himself deep into debt (thanks to what one observer called his “careless and venturesome way”), and about 1844 was forced to declare bankruptcy. The timing couldn’t have been worse for a new family man;  Winchester and his wife, Susan, now had two children: Frank S. Winchester, born in 1840, and Julia, born 1844.

Eager for a new start, Winchester was bitten by the “gold bug” when glittering tales of California gold began circulating in late 1848. It was a chance to redeem his fortunes!

News of the California gold strike at Sutter’s Mill was all over the newspapers in New York. Reports circulated that some $2 million in gold dust was already sitting in San Francisco, just waiting for transportation to the East. Despite stories of earlier “disturbances” in the mining districts, the New York Tribune assured its readers that “excellent order [now] prevails.” As for tales about “thousands starving,” those rumors were simply “greatly exaggerated,” the press reassuringly reported.

This advertisement for passage to California by way of Valparaiso, aboard the “fast ship” Tarolinta, ran in the December 19, 1848 issue of the Evening Post.

Winchester learned of a three-masted “half-clipper” ship leaving New York and headed for California. She was called the Tarolinta, Indian for “floating rose,” owned by the Griswold Brothers of New York and captained by William P. Cave. With a capacity of 549 tons and a crew of 27 (some 20 of them African-American), the Tarolinta expected to carry both a lucrative load of cargo and roughly a hundred passengers to the gold fields. Winchester was determined to be among them, and quickly booked passage.

The Tarolinta was initially scheduled to depart from New York harbor on December 28, 1848. But not enough passengers signed up at first, so the date was postponed until January 9, 1849 in hopes of recruiting additional passengers. Then arrangements for additional freight to be delivered to South America caused the date to be pushed off yet again, to January 13. You can only imagine Jonas Winchester tapping his toes in frustration.

Ads and handbills like this one lured passengers aboard “elegant” ships, promising “a very quick trip may be relied upon.” .

The morning of the 13th of January, 1849, dawned clear and cold. A huge snowstorm had dumped as much as three feet of snow on the streets of New York. Passengers were instructed to board promptly at the pier at the foot of Wall Street. And finally the Tarolinta pushed off.

Champagne was passed around as the ship was guided out of the harbor by pilot boats. She was heavily laden indeed. Freight was lashed into tall piles on deck, and included barrels of provisions, small boats, and “house frames.” Total passengers came to 125 – more than originally planned.

Winchester was among the passengers happy to turn his face toward California. He still owed thousands of dollars to his creditors. But he left behind his wife and two children.

This departure notice in the newspaper singled out Winchester and several other prominent passengers for recognition the day after the Tarolinta’s departure. His creditors may not have been pleased.

Ads for passage on the Tarolinta had promised travelers “superior accommodations.” In fact, however, space was minimal and the food less than ideal. One passenger reported a dozen men were sharing a 22-1/2 x 7-1/2 foot “stateroom” that was “nearly filled up with our trunks, chests, and other baggage,” leaving meager sleeping spots just three feet apart.

Passengers, of course, eagerly discussed their possible prospects in the California goldfields. At least 15 separate mining “companies” were organized aboard the ship, each with a name and its own distinctive pennant. Jonas Winchester was no doubt one of the founding members of the ten-person “Leyon Winchester & Co.”

Fellow printers James B. Devoe and Daniel Norcross of Philadelphia (later manager of the San Francisco New Age) were also included among the passengers. Others included an “accomplished Oriental scholar” named Caleb Lyon, and Dr. J.C. Tucker, whose diary of the journey would eventually be published.

A physician named Dr. Nelson whiled away the hours at sea by conducting “experiments on the porosity of glass” — a misguided effort to see if submerging a hermetically-sealed glass tube to 89 fathoms would cause water to penetrate the glass itself. (Not surprisingly, the answer was no. But Dr. Nelson nevertheless shared his “experiment” with the world in an issue of Scientific American.)

The Tarolinta was a three-masted ship that may have looked something like this.

The Tarolinta reached Rio in February, 1849, a happy milestone for the passengers as the stop offered fruit and “lots of mint juleps, and porter-house beef steaks.”  These were quite a treat indeed after the shipboard fare. One passenger filed a report from Rio describing typical shipboard fare as a “curious concoction of mouldy bread and frozen potatoes, boiled down in salt water” and “apple fritters, about two inches thick, eighteen inches around, and weighing four pounds and a half each.”

As they continued on around the Horn, passengers aboard the Tarolinta endured stormy weather, extreme cold, poor fare, and personality clashes. Perhaps predictably, disputes arose over food rations, hammock space, bathing water, petty thievery, and other matters. Some led to fisticuffs.

By and large, Captain Cave tried not to intervene. When two passengers got involved in a brawl on the poop deck, the Captain merely told them to move their dispute down to the quarterdeck so neither would fall overboard. But when eager passengers began trying to chop up barrel staves to make tent stakes in preparation for their anticipated mining adventures, the captain finally asserted his authority and stopped them. Barrel staves were a precious cargo.

Some would later say Cave was a “cold, ruthless and stubborn man, whose odious character would become clear to all as the voyage unfolded.” Others called him “big and blustering.” More likely he was just overwhelmed by trying to corral such a large group of eager, unruly passengers.

After 174 days, the Tarolinta finally sailed into San Francisco harbor on June 29, 1849 (July 6, 1849, according to other sources), much to the relief of all aboard, the captain no doubt included. But there they found the dock space completely occupied. They were forced to drop anchor in the harbor and hire rowboats to get their parties and goods ashore. And goods there were, a-plenty! Operators of the “Russian Store” at San Francisco soon advertised the arrival of assorted silk shawls, handkerchiefs, ladies’ fancy cravats, ribbons, plaid silk, buck gloves, silk scarves, plus a “superior assortment of cigars,” all courtesy of the Tarolinta.

Stepping on shore that summer of 1849 put Jonas Winchester among the very first eager members of the California Gold Rush. He and his associates briefly tried their hand at mining on the North Fork of the American River. They purchased steam-powered equipment, and built dams and even roads. But the fall rains washed all of their hard work away.

By the winter of 1849 Winchester turned back to what he knew best, securing a post as editor and part-owner of the Pacific News – one of the first San Francisco newspapers.  In May, 1850, Winchester also took over the appointment of H.H. Robinson, California’s first State Printer. The government printing contract offered plenty of steady work, but payment by the State was issued in semi-worthless warrants, making it difficult for Winchester to meet his obligations. He resigned the post in March, 1851.

The Pacific News folded in 1851, the victim of several fires. But Winchester was still intrigued by mining, and convinced that “greater things were in store for him.” He moved to Grass Valley, where it’s said he built the first sawmill and quartz mill in the vicinity, and acquired interests in mining companies.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Winchester’s wife, Susan, was suffering from consumption (tuberculosis). Winchester’s California mines had failed to produce the great returns he’d hoped for. So Winchester decided to return to New York.

Susan died in Brooklyn in February, 1855, at just 43 years of age.  Sometime after 1855 Jonas wed widow Margaret Bartholomew Brown in New York. Margaret was a supporter of women’s suffrage and an associate of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. But apparently that marriage did not last. In April, 1869, Winchester married a third time, wedding Laura Karner. Their first child, Ernest, was born in 1870 but died in infancy.

Advertisement for Winchester’s “Hypophosphite,” in 1887.

Winchester had launched a patent medicine business, “Winchester’s Hypophosphites” — proudly putting his own signature on the label. The endeavor helped him make ends meet, bringing in an estimated $3,000 per year. But he was still eager to try his hand at mining.

In the 1860s he acquired the Globe Gold & Silver Mining Co. and other mining interests in Monitor Canyon, in Alpine County. As early as 1867, Alpine locals were receiving letters saying Winchester intended to come out “next season.” And come out he finally did, moving to Monitor with wife Laura in 1871. They would have two children who were born there at Monitor.

So that’s how Jonas Winchester wound up in Alpine County. And that’s where our story picked up last time! (Here’s the link again, if you missed Part 1 of Jonas Winchester’s amazing story.)

Call it serendipity. But as luck would have it, Winchester’s 209th birthday was November 19th — just about the time this story came out in our 2019 newsletter. We hope you’ll light a candle to celebrate the birthday of the wild, wonderful, adventurous life of Jonas Winchester! What a life he had.

Happy birthday to Jonas Winchester on November 19th!