Posts Tagged ‘Stansberry’

(From the Ferndale Enterprise, transcribed by Mary Rackliff Etter in 1964 for her weekly column, “News from the Mattole Valley.”)

Here is another daily journal, kept by a schoolteacher in the 1860s. His take on the Mattole area is quite different from Hindley’s, and it’s easy to make a mental picture of a bored intellectual, out of his element in the wilds of recently-named Petrolia and Upper Mattole. His school building was the two-storey structure that sat on the flat on the east side of the North Fork bridge along the county road just west of Petrolia.

Mattole School, Petrolia, 1888

I would sure like to see the original or a copy of this diary. I have only read these newspaper entries.

Mary made some comments, which I have italicized. My own notes will be [bracketed]. Quaint misspellings are retained.


JUNE 1, Friday, 1866, Pleas. This evening the ball comes off at Centerville. The people expect a good time and we hope they may have one. There is too little sociability among the people here. Staid at Andersons. [Anderson’s was an inn on the Table, up near the eucalyptus trees northwest of Petrolia.]

JUNE 2, Sa. Cloudy. Went to town, had a very sociable time. Read history and Harpers Monthly magazine. This is a very popular magazine here. Many are taken here. [I think when he says ‘town’ he means Petrolia.]

JUNE 3, Sunday, Pleas. Went to town, then to church. Heard a sermon by Mr. Burnel. Went in afternoon to singing school, then on the beach where there were horse racing. [Joel Burnell was a well-known preacher and judge, whose name pops up frequently in countywide history. His name is misspelled ‘Bunnel’ on some maps and documents.]

JUNE 4, Monday, Pleas. Studied Quackenboe’s Grammar, although this work has been adopted by the state board of education, it certainly is not the best. I think the members of that board must have been influenced by interested parties.
[G.P. Quackenbos, 1826-1881, published An English Grammar in 1862.]

JUNE 5, Tues. Pleas. Read the Union and Times. It is thought by some that Congress will adjourn on the 4th of July, cannot think so. Gen. Fremont and Parsons and others have purchased a large portion of the R.R. from St. Louis to Fort Riley. Ben. Butler and others have purchased large track in Lower Cal.

JUNE 6, Wed. Pleas. Went to Mr. Stansberry’s, found most of the family unwell. Read the Banner of Light. There is to be a convention of Spiritualists at San Jose in a month.

JUNE 7, Thurs. Pleas. Went to Mr. Butler’s, spent the evening in conversation and in reading the Ledger. This paper still sustains its character as a literary journal.

P.S. In the diary, 1866. The horse racing took place 1 ½ miles west of Petrolia, up the Jeffery hill to what is commonly known as “the Table,” close to where the Eucalyptus trees now stand. At a later date the trees were planted and cared for by Ellis Hunter, now 87, when he was a young boy. The purpose of the trees was to make a windbreak for the creamery that stood just south, across the road. [Leah Kausen told me her father, Jack Smiley, planted that line of trees just around the turn of the century. By then Ellis Hunter would’ve been about 23. Who knows?]

JUNE 8, Friday, Rain. Had a very small school on account of rain. Spent the evening in conversation. Wish people understood the labors of the teachers. How tiresome, how wearing on the system.

JUNE 9, Sat. Rain. Went to town. Read in the Laws of Cal. And in the school law. Petrolia is now a rather dry place. Nothing for excitement or amusement. Most of the people are much discouraged in regard to oil.

JUNE 10, Sunday. Cool. Studied grammar. Read an account of Gen. Scott’s death, which took place May 29th. In him we lose a brave soldier and a true patriot. There was quite an excitement in horse racing. Several races—much money bet.

JUNE 11, Mon. Cool. Misty. Spent evening in conversation. How strange the influence which one person has over another, a magnetic influence, yet one may use good language and have good subjects on which to converse, yet have but little influence.

JUNE 12, Tues. Pleas. Read the Times and Flag. The Cholera is spreading in N.Y. Many deaths have occurred already. Many on vessels coming from Liverpool. War in Europe is almost certain. Napoleon is the grand mover.

JUNE 13, Wed. Pleas. Marshall Wright and others stopped with me at Mr. Anderson’s. We had a pleasant time. Mr. Anderson went to Eureka. Read the Union. The prospects for gold in Montana still appears good in places.

JUNE 14, Thurs. Warm. This is the only real warm day we have had for a long time. The season has been a very singular one. The oldest inhabitants never saw one so wet. The grass has been benefitted, but the corn has been injured.
[Wonder if by “oldest inhabitants” he meant Natives. Since the Whites had only been there basically 9 years– 12 if you count the first couple of bachelors and scouts– the phrase can’t mean much unless it does refer to Natives.]

JUNE 15, Friday, Warm. Read in the history of the United States. In this work, Howe’s many incidents are related for the early settlement of each of the states. It is an excellent work for young persons, because it is calculated to please.

JUNE 16, Saturday, Warm. Went to the Upper Mattole Valley to take the census of the school children. I found a great many persons living with their squaws and have many children—about 25 in the Valley.
[The 1860 Mattole census concurs with this, and is quite an interesting document to peruse.]

JUNE 17, Sunday, Warm, Rain at night. Considerable excitement, several horse races, much betting, card playing, drinking etc. Well, we cannot blame persons much, they must have amusement, some excitement—none here but this, gardening and trapping gophers.

JUNE 18, Monday, Pleas. Read in Howe’s history. He gives an outline history first which merely narrates the principals of events which transpired in the different periods—it is divided in three periods.

JUNE 19, Tuesday, Pleas. Read the Flag Times and Journal. The great excitement in the East now is the Ferrian (?) movement in Canada. In Europe the prospects are that war is inevitable. In South America the Brazillians and Paraguayans are still fighting.

JUNE 20, Wed., Pleas. Probst the murderer has made his confession—it is one of the most brutal murders on record. Read the history of our whole country. Spent most of the evening in amusement.

JUNE 21, Thurs. Rain. Read in history. This is the most rainy spring and summer that has ever been known. Much of the crops in the lower country are spoiled by rust—crops here look well.

JUNE 22, Friday, Pleas. Had a very interesting time at school, Spelling, etc. Considerable excitement about the 4th. We anticipate a good time. Captain Smith was here.

JUNE 23, Sat. Rain. Read in history. Went with Marshall Wright after horses. Had a terrible storm overtake us. Rain and hail with a wind—blowing a perfect hurricane. Strange weather for June, surely.

JUNE 24, Sun. Rain in the morning, pleasant in the afternoon. Some excitement. Two races, quite a number of persons present. Read in history. Spent part of the day in conversation with Mr. J. V. Hunter and others.
[Mr. Lane’s handwriting may have been misread by Mrs. Etter. Mr. John Henry Hunter might have been here—though my records show he arrived 1867—and Thomas, Walker, Shelby, and Paschal M. Hunter, his brothers, came at various times around that decade… but I can’t think who Mr. J.V. would be. Maybe from another family that has since disappeared.]

JUNE 25, Mon. Pleas. Read in History. I think Greeley’s History will be one of the Standard works on this subject yet in many respects it is unjust, if not unreliable.

JUNE 26, Tues. Pleas. Read the Flag, Union & Times. The trial of Jeff Davis [Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy] postponed until October. No doubt but what the President is using his influence in a secret way to liberate him. I do not believe he will be hung.

JUNE 27, Wed. Pleas. Read some articles on the Mines of Montana. From all we can learn there are many persons who will never realize in that country what they anticipate. A few will make fortunes.

JUNE 28, Thurs. Pleas. Read some in the Newspaper and spent some time in amusement and conversation. The great objection to this valley is that there is no amusement of the proper kind.

JUNE 29, Friday, Warm. Went to Stansberrys, read the Banner of Light and Journal. There are few papers I prize more highly than these. In many points they are similar, and we think should be in more [homes?—or in more points?].

[I googled one of these magazines and got the following:
‘Banner of Light, a weekly subtitled “An Exponent of the Spiritual Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century,” had the largest circulation of any spiritualist paper in the world. For three dollars a year, subscribers would get “a first-class eight-page Family Newspaper containing forty columns of interesting and instructive reading.” Features included a literary section offering occasional French and German works in translation, but specializing in “Original Novelettes of reformatory tendencies.”
Banner of Light also featured reports of spiritual lectures by “able Trance and Normal speakers,” original essays on spiritual, philosophical and scientific subjects, general interest current events, and a very special service: messages from the dead.’
The Camp Meetings were also part of this Victorian trend of investigating the supernatural .]

JUNE 30, Sat. Warm. Marshall Wright and I went to Bear River in the afternoon. Had a very pleasant time. Staid with Stewart. Charley is with him now. Charley has had some difficulty lately with Mr. Davison and family.
[Thomas Stewart’s was a familiar stopover in Bear River/Capetown.]

JULY 1, Sun. Warm. Went to Camp Meeting on the Eel River. Quite a large attendance, but little excitement in a meeting of this kind. Came back to Mr. Frances [Ferndale] and staid all night. Had a very pleasant time with Miss Nook and others.
[Miss Cook, perhaps? ;-)]

JULY 2, Monday, Warm. Went to Eureka and back to Mr. Frances. Eureka is very dull. Some excitement in regard to reported discoveries of silver a few miles from here.

[No entry July 3.]

JULY 4, Wed. Pleas. The glorious 4th again! How we hallow its sacred memories! We had indeed a good celebration for a place of this kind. The Declaration of Independence was read, the oration was delivered by John DeHaven. A ball in the evening. [Not sure if he is in Ferndale or Petrolia for the Fourth.]

JULY 5, Thurs. Pleas. Did not feel much like being at the horse races, yet the excitement drew me out. Yesterday we had several, today we had five or six. People must have some kind of amusement, if it is only this.

JULY 6, Friday, Pleasant. Went down town, had some racing; considerable betting. People do not care for money here. It is easily made and they do not appreciate its true value.

JULY 7, Sat. Pleas. Read some newspapers, wrote some letters, went to town, and to Mr. Stansberry’s to stay all night. Mrs. Bassett was there to pay her last visit before starting to Australia. Mr. Fry and lady start to San Francisco on Monday.
[Mr. Bassett was one of the backers of oil exploration in the early 1860s. Oil drilling equipment was delivered to Bassett’s Landing , just north of the mouth of the Mattole. The Mrs. was likely his wife, perhaps headed to better prospects.]

JULY 8, Sunday, Pleas. Went home, spent the forenoon in conversation, the afternoon in looking at the races. The excitement now is about over, there will be a few more races, but no excitement like what has been.

JULY 9, Monday, Pleas. School again. Well, we have had a good vacation and ought to be ready to work again. Mr. Jones, our County Superintendent of Schools, paid us a visit. He expressed himself as being well pleased with the advancement of the school.
[The local school year used to take its longest break in the winter months, when the rivers were difficult to cross and travel was generally daunting.]

JULY 10, Tues. Pleas. Read in Goldsmith Natural History. He makes a statement which I have not seen elsewhere, that the natural age of all inferior animals is equal to his age when he arrives at maturity, multiplied by 7. Read articles on the hare and rabbit.

JULY 11, Wed. Pleas. Read the Union. It appears that all attempts to settle the difficulties between the European powers have proven futile. The new Pacific R.R. bill has passed the Senate.

JULY 12, Thurs. Pleas. Read Thomson’s Spring. There are many beautiful passages in this. “Love can answer love, and under bliss secure.” His power of picturing the common things of life is very good. His remarks on jealousy are good.


Well, that about brings us to our current posting date. I hope to add to this, bit by bit. Much gratitude to the late Mary Rackliff Etter, who typed up the original newspaper copy.


Read Full Post »