Tehama County Jubilee!

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Look at that! Top billing at the Tehama County Museum’s 38th Annual Jubilee.

If you like a good old-fashioned fair, not too big but with plenty to do for old and young, then the Jubilee was the place to be today.

I was their featured author, and I had a table inside the air-conditioned annex (lucky me!) where I talked to local folks and sold and signed books.

You can tell from this array of signs that there was plenty going on, and that wasn’t the half of it. I was sitting next to the Fiber Arts ladies, who were spinning away on their spinning wheels, making yarn to craft a shawl.

There were craft booths, a pancake breakfast, a picnic lunch, vintage trucks and tractors, raffle prizes, an art show from Corning High School, and plenty of toe-tapping music. Something for everyone!

Here are a few pictures:



The Tehama County Museum, in the town of Tehama, just over the Sacramento River from Los Molinos. I hope you all know where Tehama County is. (I have to admit that I didn’t until I moved to Northern California.)


Every county needs a jail.



Ladies, start your spinning wheels!


Look at those beauties! Vintage trucks on display.

History comes alive at the Tehama County Museum!


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California Admission Day


Courtesy of the Society of California Pioneers

Here’s Cuffy in a cartoon from 1850, reading the news of California’s admission into the Union.  The drawing comes from the Society of California Pioneers, but I don’t know anything else about the source of this picture. The SCP has a treasure trove of California items.

In September 1889 — 39 years after the event — John Bidwell wrote to his friend E. Nelson Blake:

Your memory is good — true, 39 years ago we brought the news of California’s admission into the Union. Where are those who were our fellow passengers? Except for yourself, I cannot recall the name of one living! We ought to be thankful that our lives have been spared to behold the wonderful march of events of this prolific age!

Unfortunately, Blake’s letter to Bidwell recalling the great day does not survive. Blake had a very good memory for his California days — I wish we had his recollections.

Bidwell and Blake were both passengers on the steamship Oregon, arriving on October 18, 1850 with the news that California had become the 31st state. Bidwell was traveling in a first class cabin, while Blake, a farm boy on his way to the goldfields, was in steerage.

Bidwell carried with him the statehood documents, but fearing their loss to unknown men who opposed the admission of California as a free state, he gave the document into the keeping of Mrs. Elisha Crosby and her daughter Helen. Miss Helen slept with the packet of papers under her pillow and hid them in her blue silk umbrella as the crossed the Isthmus of Panama.

You can celebrate Admission Day with the Bidwell Mansion Association at Bidwell Mansion on Sunday, September 8th at 4 p.m. and hear the whole story of how John Bidwell brought the news and the documents safely to San Francisco.



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A Visit to the Haggin Museum

I travel quite often from our home in Chico to our son’s home in Livermore (because that’s where the grandchildren are). Traveling down I-5 we pass through Stockton. I have never had any reason to stop in Stockton, until I found out about the Haggin Museum.


What a gem! Stockton is very lucky to have such a fine museum. And luck has played a significant role in the creation of the Haggin Museum. According to Wikipedia:

The San Joaquin Pioneer and Historical Society wanted to build a history museum, but was unable to raise sufficient funds to do so. Robert McKee offered the group $30,000 in honor of his wife, Eila Haggin McKee, if the museum would be named for her father Louis Terah Haggin and if they added a wing to house his art collection. The museum opened its doors to the public on 14 June 1931, Flag Day.

So Mr. Haggin never lived in Stockton, but his fine collection of 19th century European and American does reside there. It’s an especially good place to see paintings by Albert Bierstadt.


Sunset in Yosemite Valley, by Albert Bierstadt

The museum also has an extensive collection of the works of the American “Golden Age” illustrator, J.C. Leyendecker, which also came to them by luck. Leyendecker never lived in Stockton either, but his sister did, and she left her collection to the museum. If 19th century French art is not your thing, then go to the upstairs gallery to see Saturday Evening Post covers and advertising art for Kellogg’s cereals and Arrow shirts.


J.C. Leyendecker — Is it any wonder that we all eat cereal for breakfast now?


Charles Weber, member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party and founder of Stockton

And then there is local and California history, farm machinery, boats, old fire engines, a World War II Jeep (one of 275 bought by the students and teachers of Stockton High), and traveling exhibits. Something for everyone!

The museum is easy to get to — close to I-5 on Pershing Ave. Directions and hours are here.  Put it on your list of places to visit soon.

The museum is set in a city park so you can have a picnic or run some energy off the kids. There is also a lovely rose garden.



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A Saturday Evening Post cover by J.C. Leyendecker 

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A Quick Visit to Rough and Ready

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DSCF7688 MIf you drive along Highway 20 from Marysville to Grass Valley, you see a sign that points left and says “Rough and Ready 2 miles”. I have meant to take that turn for a long time now, and last Friday I finally did.

The town of Rough and Ready was once a thriving mining community of over 3000 people. Now there are only a few hundred in the area, but they are an independent-minded bunch, and proud of their little town.

They have quite a sense of humor too.



A copy of an original painting depicting Rough and Ready in gold rush days.

Rough and Ready got its name from General Zachary Taylor, known as “Old Rough and Ready.” The first settlers were a company of gold seekers from Wisconsin who arrived in the fall of 1849, led by Captain A. A. Townsend, who had served under Taylor during the Black Hawk War of 1832. Townsend’s company of 49ers was the “Rough and Ready” Company in honor of their leader and the President.

Discontent and disputation over a proposed mining tax and no government services led to an independence movement. On April 7th, 1850, at a mass meeting, the townsfolk voted to secede from the Union and declared itself the “Independent Republic of Rough and Ready.” Colonel E. F. Brundage was elected president of the new republic and a Constitution was written and signed.

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The original blacksmith shop

Alas, the republic was short-lived. As July 4th approached, the miners began making preparations for the big day (and the 4th of July was a very big day at that time, the biggest and noisiest holiday of the year.) How could they celebrate the independence of a nation they had left? What was worse, as “foreigners”, they were running into refusals when they tried to buy liquor from nearby towns for the celebration. The independence movement was called off and Rough and Ready rejoined the Union, just in time to celebrate Independence Day.

Rough and Ready still has a few old buildings from the Gold Rush era. Mr. Weldon Travis, who stopped his pickup truck to see what we were doing, kindly invited us up to the grange hall to learn some history of the town.

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The Secession Days Celebration takes place on the first Sunday in June (June 2, 2019.) Formerly it was the last Sunday in June. This is a family-friendly event with a pancake breakfast, chili cook-off, craft fair, blacksmith demonstrations, kids’ activities, and The Original Saga of Rough and Ready re-enactment melodrama. Go to Rough and Ready for a fun-filled day of history and excitement!


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August 27, 1847


John Sutter in 1850

John Sutter needed lumber. He was always building — on his fort, around the fort, up at his farm. He also planned to sell lumber to the settlers who were coming into California  in increasing numbers. He needed a sawmill.

In his New Helvetia Diary, where he kept a daily record of events and comings and goings at the fort, John Sutter wrote:

Aug. 27: Made a contract and entered in partnership with Marshall for a sawmill to be built on the [American] fork.

John Bidwell wrote out the contract, although he had his doubts about the advisability of the plan. He had inspected the site at Coloma himself, and thought that the American River canyon was too rocky and narrow for safely rafting lumber downstream to Sutter’s Fort. Later he would write:

I wrote the contract between Sutter and him [Marshall] to build the mill. Sutter was to furnish the means; Marshall was to build and run the mill, and have a share of the lumber for his compensation. His idea was to haul the lumber part way and raft it down the American River to Sacramento, and thence, his part of it  . . . . down to San Francisco for a market. . . . It is hard to conceive how any sane man could have been so wide of the mark, or how anyone could have selected such a site for a sawmill. Surely no other man than Marshall ever entertained so wild a scheme . . . and no other man than Sutter would have been so confiding and credulous as to patronize him.

But in the end it didn’t matter. Marshall, who was a skilled carpenter and wheelwright, hired Indians and soldiers from the Mormon Battalion to get the sawmill built. It was coming along nicely until January 24, 1848, when Jim Marshall found little flecks of gold in the tailrace of the mill.

And the rest is history.

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Sutter’s Mill



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The Grass Valley Museum

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Me and my floppy hat go to Grass Valley

I don’t think I have to tell California readers that Grass Valley is a beautiful place to visit. Gold Rush history, the homes of Lola Montez and Lotta Crabtree, the historic Holbrooke Hotel, a handsome and well-preserved downtown, a grand old Carnegie library, great shopping, and a used book paradise, all go into making this a great day or weekend trip. Add to that Empire Mine State Historic Park and the North Star Mining Museum and you have more than you can take in on one day.

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I do like a Carnegie Library (1916) that is still being used as a library.


But not many people visit the Grass Valley Museum, and that’s too bad, because it is another wonderful step back in time.

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The museum is on the second floor of a building that was once Mount St. Mary’s Convent and Academy, run by the Sisters of Mercy. Today the museum holds mementos of its years as a convent and girls’ school, as well as artifacts from Grass Valley’s gold rush history — Victorian furniture, knick-knacks, and musical instruments, vintage costumes and christening gowns, paintings and china.


A red velvet wedding dress

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A buckskin suit that belonged to Simon Storms

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The bathtub that Lola Montez used to provide water for her pet bear


And be sure to have a Cornish pasty at Marshall’s Pasties. That’s a taste treat you just can’t get anywhere else.

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A Quest for a Grotto

Our trip today to Grass Valley was not only a fun day trip to an historic California town, it was also a quest to find where this picture was taken.


This postcard-size photo shows a class of girls at a Catholic school for young women. My husband’s mother is second from the right, front row, just in front of the statue of St. Bernadette. The location is a Lourdes Grotto, a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

Marjorie’s family lived for a time in Grass Valley and I remember her saying that she attended Mount St. Mary’s School, run by the Sisters of Mercy. The school is now the St. Joseph Cultural Center and Grass Valley Museum. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 3:30.




The museum focuses on the convent and school, but also includes many other artifacts from Grass Valley history. It is packed full of paintings, china, furniture, vintage clothing, dolls, and numerous other items. Anyone can find something there to interest them, and the museum is free (though of course they appreciate donations).

It’s a handsome old building, surrounded by lovely gardens, and well worth visiting. The only problem is: it does not have a grotto. As far as the docent knew, it never had a grotto. So where was that picture taken?

A little sleuthing on Internet turned up several photos from the Center for Sacramento History. The grotto was at St. Joseph’s Academy in Sacramento, downtown on G Street between 8th and 9th. Alas, the original school and grotto are no more. But here is a very similar photo that shows the grotto about the same time:


We still have some researching to do, to figure out when Marjorie attended which school, because I have an idea that she attended both. It may be time to start looking at school archives and city directories.

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