Mrs. Evoy Leaves Briggsville

Shasta Courier 25 March 1854

Two months after the conviction of Col. John H. Harper for the theft of $1800 in gold from Mrs. Bridget Evoy, she decided to sell the California House in Briggsville. What motivated her to give up running (as it says in the advertisement) “a store and a house of entertainment”?

She had recovered her stolen gold — that was not the problem. But at the age of 62 she had probably grown weary of running a hotel and eatery. The labor involved in such a venture was arduous and unrelenting. Even if she had hired help, it was still up to her to keep food on the table for hungry miners and beds ready for tired travelers.

Mary Jane Megquier, who ran a boarding house in San Francisco, wrote to her sister about her daily round:

I should like to give you an account of my work if I could do it justice. . . In the morning the boy gets up and makes a fire by seven o’clock when I get up and make the coffee, then I make the biscuit, then I fry the potatoes then broil three pounds of steak, and as much liver, while the woman is sweeping, and setting the table, at eight the bell rings and they are eating until nine.

I do not sit until they are nearly all done. I try to keep the food warm and in shape as we put it on in small quantities. After breakfast I bake six loaves of bread (not very big) then four pies, or a pudding, then we have lamb, for which we have paid nine dollars a quarter, beef, and pork, baked, turnips, beets, potatoes, radishes, salad, and that everlasting soup, every day dine at two.

And that was only half the day. There was still beds to be made, laundry to be done, and supper to get. As Mrs. Megquier said, “I am obliged to trot all day and if I have not the constitution of six horses I should have been dead long ago.” Mrs. Evoy could surely have said the same.

The same endless round of chores was described in a song, The Housewife’s Lament, one verse of which says:

It’s sweeping at six and it’s dusting at seven
It’s victuals at eight and it’s dishes at nine.
It’s potting and panning form ten to eleven
We scarce break our fast ere we plan how to dine.

Mrs. Evoy had earned her rest. She sold the California House and went to the little town of Oakland on the San Francisco Bay, where she bought “a 100-acre tract with an existing residence and farm buildings on what was then called Peralta Road (present-day Telegraph Avenue).” (Craig S. Harwood, Quest for Flight, p. 7).

An excellent real estate investment! If only she could see what her farm looks like now.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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