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George Henry Tinkham.

History of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres online

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Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 8 of 177)
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Reuel C. Gridley. He is also one of the highest honored patriots of the state, because
of his patriotic labors during the Civil War, in behalf of the Sanitary Commission
fund. At that time, April, 1864, he was living in Austin, Nev., engaged in the
grocery business. A city election was held that month and Gridley, who was known
as a war Democrat, made a wager with Dr. Herrick that if the war Democrat for
Mayor, David Buel, was defeated, he, Gridley, would carry a sack of flour on his
shoulder from Clifton to Austin, a distance of a mile and a quarter. A band was to
lead the procession and the band would be ordered to play, "John Brown's Body."
If Buel was elected then Dr. Herrick was to carry the flour, the band playing "Dixie,"
the good old southern tune so loved by the Democrats of the olden davs. Charles Hol-
brook, the anti-war Democrat, was elected mayor. True to his wager, Gridley appeared
to carry out his part of the wager. He carried on his shoulder a sack of flour from
his grocery, neatly trimmed with flags and red, white and blue ribbons. The pro-
cession was formed. It comprised the newly-elected city officers and escort of thirty-six
horsemen, Gridley and his sack of flour and the Austin brass band. As they marched
the band, playing the famous old war song, some of the crowd sang the chorus:

"Glory, glory hallelujah, and his soul goes marching on."
while others shouted: "Go to it, Gridley, stick to it, old man," "Never say die!"
On arrival at their destination, the party visited the saloons and liquor flowed like
water. Gridley, although a strict prohibition advocate and member of the Methodist
denomination, enjoyed the fun with the boys. He quietly listened to their good-
natured jokes, regarding his "being the goat." Finally some one shouted : "What
shall we do with the flour?" Then came to Gridley the inspiration that was to make
him famous. "This crowd of people," he said, "has had their fun at my expense; let
us see now who will do the most for the sick and wounded soldiers. We will put this
sack of flour up at auction with the understanding that the buyer is to return it to
be again sold for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission." The novel proposition was



66 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

quickly approved by the crowd who anticipated more fun over the sales. Then and
there $4,400 was realized for the fund, one man alone bidding it in at $350. It was
then the "flush times" of the Nevada silver mines. The flour was then taken to Gold
Hill, and Thomas Fitch, the silver-tongued orator, made a. ringing speech which
brought the fund $5,850. It was then taken to Silver City, the Sacramento State
Fair, throughout the large cities of California and along the eastern coast. The Sani-
tary Commission received from the repeated sales of this sack of flour $270,000 in gold.
Air. Gridley, paying all of his expenses, accompanied the sack of flour on all its travels
through the United States. The task for him was too great and as the result he
returned to Austin, Nev., completely broken down in health. His business was almost
bankrupt. Believing that in a lower altitude where the air was less rarefied, he might
regain his health, he sold out his business at a great loss and with his family removed to
Stockton. There he opened a grocery store. In 1868, however, he removed to Paradise
City and again engaged in the merchandising business. He died November 24, 1870.
He now lies buried in the Grand Army plot at Rural Cemetery, Stockton. Over the
green mound stands a beautiful memorial erected in his honor, for his splendid service
in the cause of freedom. The memorial, erected by Rawlings Post, G A. R., comprises
a granite base and marble column, about ten feet in height, surmounted by a statue
of the patriot. He stands, his right hand resting upon the sack of flour, a table its
support. The memorial was dedicated September 9, 1887, by a parade of the Grand
Army and the military, with instrumental and vocal music, an oration and a poem
composed for the occasion.

ADAMSVILLE
Named after its founder, Dr. Adams, in 1849, the embryo town of Adamsville was
located on the south bank of the Tuolumne River about three miles above Tuolumne
City overland, but nearly seven miles by water, the "river being broad and deep but
very crooked." It was about ten feet above high-water mark and a very favorable
place for the shipment of grain by river boats. The town figures in history only
because of the fact that for a few months it was the county seat of Stanislaus County.
At that time it had a fine hotel conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. After the
removal of the county seat to Empire the town was deserted and did not again claim
any public attention.

The First Fourth of July

Independence Day, 1854, was celebrated at Adamsville by a ball given by the pro-
prietor of the hotel. The dancing floor was a platform beneath a large oak tree and
inclosed by upright boards on the north and east ends. It was the future court house
under construction. The ball was given that night and it was lighted by whale oil
lamps hung in the tree. At ten o'clock a fine supper was served and the happy couples
danced until 2:30, then the party retired to rest. The ladies were given accommo-
dations in the hotel. The men slept in the open, in their blankets, their saddle their
only pillow. In the morning the Democrats held a county convention. Seneca Dean
was chosen chairman. They passed a series of resolutions, eulogizing the Democratic
party and advocating William M. Gwin for United States Senator. It was ordered
that the resolutions be printed in the San Joaquin Republican and the Columbia Gazette.

EMPIRE CITY

Empire City, now quite a flourishing little village settled principally by Dunkards,
was in early days a very important place. It was for a season the county seat and the
head of navigation. Its founder, a man named Townsend, was what we would call
today a land promoter or a booster of real estate. He had dreams of fame and fortune
to be won on the bank of the River Tuolumne. He saw in the near future a pros-
perous city arise, the work of his brain, a city government and he the mayor. Town-
send had a map drawn of his city in the "land of somewhere" and actually sold lots
to the business men of San Francisco. Accompanied by E. Conway, a surveyor, Mr.
and Mr. Jenkins, and a purchaser of real estate, the writer from whom these facts
are taken, the party left San Francisco, April 16, 1850, by boat for Stockton. They
took with them a four-horse wagon and a good supply of provisions. On arrival at the



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 67

steamer's destination they climbed into the wagon and started for the Stanislaus country
by the way of Heath & Emory's ferry. "We arrived at the place," says the narrator,
"fatigued and hungry. A large number of travelers were stopping there for the night.
We were treated with marked attention because there was an American woman (Mrs.
Jenkins) in our party. She was the first white woman to cross the ferry and the first
to travel over Stanislaus County."

They were again on their journey soon after daylight and in a few hours they
expected to reach their destination. They had no idea of their location and at midday
they concluded that they were lost. They saw a small band of Indians and for a time
were terror stricken but the Indians were also in fear and quickly skulked away. In
order to find their position the surveyor unpacked his compass and soon discovered
their location. That evening they arrived at the point selected, a spot about six miles
above the present city, Modesto. Townsend, before leaving San Francisco, chartered
a vessel and loading it with supplies and building material, ordered the captain to sail
with the cargo up the Tuolumne River. The vessel arrived some time before the party,
having on board "several adventurers, men who had purchased lots." The men went
to work and put up tents and before night, the entire party were housed. Thus Empire
City was founded.

In course of time several buildings were erected. These buildings included three
stores, a hotel, two boarding houses, a blacksmith and a harness shop. It was then the
head of navigation and all Government supplies were shipped from Empire by team
to Fort Miller. The Government also had men there engaged in breaking mules to
harness for the Government wagons. They did not know until nearly ten years later
that steamers could ascend the San Joaquin River to Firebaugh's Ferry. During the
winter of 1851-52 the town was almost destroyed by the January- flood, as the flood
water had washed away every vestige of activity, says Branch. Not only that, but the
tide of travel had changed. Because of the foreign license law and trouble with the
Mexicans all travel had ceased through Pacheco Pass and the miners, taking the shorter
route to the mines, traveled directly from Stockton to Knights Ferry. The press
declared in January, 1852: "There are five cities about us containing in all five
inhabitants. A traveler passed through San Joaquin City near the mouth of the San
Toaquin River, but it was as silent as the tomb. We believe that a ferryman still lives
at Graysonville. Tuolumne City is in the same languishing condition. Crescent City
has been converted into a cabbage patch and as for Empire City, the last inhabitants
left it two months ago."

The Enterprising Citizen, Eli S. Marvin
At the time of the flood, John G. Marvin, a former Boston, Mass., lawyer, an
owner of real estate in Empire, was in the East. He returned to California accom-
panied by Eli S. Marvin and his wife. On arrival at Empire they found the town
deserted. The buildings not washed away by the flood had been moved to higher and
less dangerous ground. Eli S. Marvin was a man of considerable wealth and he
concluded to take his chances in the town. Building a large and comfortable "wayside"
hotel, he named it the "Travelers' Home" and awaited results. "It was the only
house in that section," says the writer, "being twelve miles from the Stanislaus River
and twenty miles from Hill's Ferry." Marvin in our day would have been a million-
aire, for he not only saw things, but he did things. Among other things he worked
for and finally succeeded in making Empire the county seat. This event created a new
life and interest in the town and in the winter of 1854 it was reported "the place is
being rapidly built up and there is a great demand for carpenters and other mechanics.
Mr. Ziegler has opened a store on Main Street. The court house, a fine and capacious
building, and eight other buildings have been erected. A few weeks ago not a drop
of alcohol could be found in the place but now whisky shops are everywhere. Our
town has improved very much during the past ten months and before long our popula-
tion will be twice the present number. What we greatly need is mail facilities."



68 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

No Mail Nor Postal Route

We never appreciate our many blessings unless we have been long without them
or have lost them. The people of the county at this time were very anxious for Uncle
Sam favors, and a writer declared, so hungry for news were they that a copy of the
San Joaquin Republican two weeks old caused a sensation. It was believed that a mail
route would soon be established throughout the county, as through Judge Marvin an
application had been made to the postal department for post offices at Grayson, Hill's
Ferry, Clark & Toombs Ferry on the Tuolumne River, and Empire City. The section
was thickly settled with farmers and they had no communication with the large
cities. "The only way," said the correspondent, "that we can get our mail is by riding
thirty-two miles to Stockton or waiting an opportunity to send by ox team. In many
cases the letters are ten days in the Stockton post office before we receive them. I
believe that there are at least 2,000 people on the Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne
rivers who would be benefited by a mail route through this section."
The County Seat

It was asserted in early years that the state capital was on wheels as it was removed
to six different cities within ten years. It was also true that the county seat of Stanislaus
was on wheels, for the county seat was removed no less than five times in fifteen years.
One of the most important local questions to every citizen is the location of the county
seat, as every citizen, tax payer and voter and juror must at some time during the year
visit the court house. As we have noticed when the Legislature in 1850 created the
county of Tuolumne, they named Stewart, later called Sonora, as the county seat.
When the legislative body in 1854 set apart the county of Stanislaus, they decreed that
tlie people of the new county by a majority vote, should declare their place of location
of the county seat of the new county. When the time of election came to hand there
were but two locations that desired the honor, Adamsville and Empire City.
LaGrange at this time apparently did not want the county seat. Her people were too
busy digging gold. Eli S. Marvin and Dr. Adams worked hard in the interest of
their home towns, as they had property interests and knew that the selection of their
particular town would greatly increase the value of their property. Marvin was so
anxious to have the people vote for Empire City that he filed a bond with Judge
Dickerson, with good security, and agreed if Empire City were selected, to build a
court house for the county, free of cost to them, and that he would erect the building
within six months after the election or forfeit $10,000. Empire City was supposed
to be the people's choice. Some disgruntled citizens, however, were not satisfied with
either location. They said Empire was too far east and Adamsville too far west. Dr.
Adams, shrewder than the Boston lawyer, knew how to use money to the best ad-
vantage, and when the votes were counted by the supervisors they found that Adamsville
was the people's choice for county seat by a majority of thirty votes. As the time
approached for the sessions of court, as there had been no building provided, court was
held under an oak tree, a wooden platform serving as the floor. A short time later, it
is stated that the county officials erected a shanty of a court house, putting up the build-
ing during the official hours.

County Seat Removed to Empire
The selection of Adamsville as county seat was quite a surprise and many of the
citizens were dissatisfied. They wanted a change and in October of the same year, two-
thirds of the voters petitioned Judge H. W. Wallis to call a new election for a county
seat. Under the state law as then existed, he was obliged to comply with their request.
He named October 21, 1854, as the day of election. Again there were but two
places seeking the honor, Empire City and Davis Ferry. All of the other contestants
had withdrawn by mutual consent. We have no details regarding the election. Em-
pire City was the choice over Davis Ferry by twenty-nine majority. "The site of the
new county seat," said a writer, "is a delightful one, and taking it all together, a better,
more central or more healthful locality could not have been selected in the county."
Judge John G. Marvin also was delighted and he said he expected to "see Empire
wake up from its long sleep."



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 69

Empire City in 1868
We regret that we cannot fill up the gap of these cities from 1854 but of records
there are none, and the actors вАФ they have played their part upon the stage, and the
curtain is rung down. The removal of the county seat from Empire City to La Grange
in 1855 caused a decline in the prosperity of the town and it became almost deserted
until 1868. Then the revival, of the river trade brought the town to the front. Spen-
cer, writing of the town in April of that year, said: "The business that is done here
now in the way of shipping would lead a casual observer to believe it had been carried
on for years. Ons of the shipping firms, Hughs & Keyes, established there a branch
of their Stockton house. The land is rapidly advancing in value. Less than a year ago
it could be bought for two dollars and fifty cents an acre, now it is worth ten dollars
an acre. Immigrants are constantly coming in and settling on the plains in this vicinity
while others go farther south where land is cheaper."

Dr. Thomas Tynan, the Pioneer

One of the families that remained in Empire City in 1854, long after all others
had deserted it, was Dr. Thomas Tynan, his wife and two stepdaughters. In Decem-
ber, 1860, Eli Marvin died. He left behind a widow and two bright girls. Across
the river lived Dr. Tynan, who had located on the land in 1852. Ten years later
he was married to Mrs. Marvin, and moving into Empire City practiced his profes-
sion until 1874. In that year he engaged in farming, but continued his residence in
Empire City until 1881. Later he moved into Modesto, erected a fine hotel and
created a sensation in October, 1891, by suddenly disappearing from sight.

CRESCENT CITY
In the fall of 1849 Crescent City was founded on the south bank of the Tuolumne
River by Benson & Byers. They laid off the town one mile square, had a lithographed
map made in New York and furnished the real estate dealers in the cities with copies
of the growing town. The proprietors advertised the town as thirty miles above the
mouth of the Tuolumne River. "The town has been accurately surveyed and laid out
and several large buildings are about to be erected." Many lots were sold, said a
visitor, but no improvements were made and the proposed city comprised a long cabin
covered with canvas. The only inhabitants of the place were the proprietors and
about a dozen hunters and boatmen. The proprietors also advertised that arrange-
ments had been made to establish a steamer line between Crescent City, Stockton and
San Francisco. The steamer Etna made a trip between Tuolumne City and Crescent
City. She encountered no difficulty in the navigation and a hopeful correspondent
stated. "It can be truly said that between Crescent City and Tuolumne City the river
is well adapted for steamers." Two months later, however, the little steamers tried
to steam up to the town, but failed. It was the finishing blow to Crescent City.

HILL'S FERRY OF THE SAN JOAQUIN
In 1886 the railroad from Banta's to Fresno, passed by Hill's Ferry a few miles
to the south. There was a sudden exodus of inhabitants from the ferry and soon the
old town was a thing of the past. The town was founded in 1850 by Jesse Hill, on
the southwest bank of the River San Joaquin. It was nearer the Merced County line '
and a part of the old Mexican grant, which was known as the Orestimba Rancho.
Hill in time sold the ferry and adjoining lands to Dick Wilson, along in the 70s, and
traded the ferry property to Charles G. Hubner for a good paying property on Main
Street, Stockton. Hubner, who was a wagonmaker by trade, worked at the business
until the coming of the Cental Pacific Railroad ruined all of the wood and iron work-
ers' occupation. Mr. Hubner, after purchasing Hill's Ferry, removed there with his
family and began many improvements. He erected a large warehouse, homes for
families and stores for merchants. In fact, it was said that Hubner owned the
town. It was the head of navigation, a fine shipping point for grain and often there
would be from four to six river steamers with barges waiting to load with grain. The
town grew rapidly and with its 500 population was the largest town in the county. In



70 HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY

1881 in contained two hotels, "The West Side" and the "Russ House," ten saloons,
two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a tin store kept by G. C. Green, three livery
stables, two drug stores, two barber shops, a photograph gallery, a shoemaker, a clock
and watch repairer and two large mercantile stores, each store carrying a heavy stock
of goods. One of the stores was run by the Kuhn Brothers. The second store, that
of Simon Newman, carried a $35,000 stock of goods. Newman was quite wealthy, as
he owned a large herd of sheep and a one-fourth interest in the steamer Centennial,
which ran between Stockton and San Francisco. The town also contained a public
school and a Masonic building. Among the prominent men were Constable McSwain,
Attorney Gulterson and two justices of the peace, John P. Newsom and J. P. Allen.
Two lines of stages carrying mail and passengers ran between Banta's, connecting
with the steam cars, and Hill's Ferry, one line continuing on to Modesto. During
the harvest season, they were overloaded daily, but during the winter they lost
money. The town was supported and maintained by the agricultural interests of the
West Side, and during the seasons of good crops the town was "wide open." Each
harvesting crew would have from thirty to fifty men, and when paid off on Saturday
night they would visit Hill's Ferry for a good time. The gambling tables would be
patronized by men knowing that they would be robbed, liquor flowed freely and the
girls of the saloons made plenty of money. Gamblers from the same place made it a
common practice to visit Hill's Ferry every summer and return late in the fall.
Drunken men would lie around the street, quarrels were frequent in which often
deadly weapons were used, and frequently there would be a man stabbed or killed.
"The play went right on, that made no difference," said a son of Charles Hubner
in telling me of the scenes of those days. When Monday morning came many of the
harvest crew would fail to report for work. "Then," said Hubner, "the boss would
come to town with a header wagon and rounding up his men, drunk or half muddled,
lie would lift or throw them into the wagon and away he would go for camp, the horses
on the jump."

FRENCH BAR, THE GOLDEN PLACERS
We are today, as we have been for fifty years past, denouncing the foreigners,
and yet along certain productive lines, they have done as much or more in developing the
country than have the Americans. So it was in early days. The Americans were
continuously harassing and often maltreating the foreigners, and yet, the rise and
growth of La Grange was due, in part at least, to the little band of Frenchmen who
located on the bar of the Stanislaus River sometime in 1852. They came in there
and began prospecting for the golden nuggets about a mile below the present town.
As soon as they satisfied themselves that the diggings were paying, they informed their
friends and soon several hundred of them had located upon the spot. The localitv
took the name of French Bar. They continued to find gold in large amounts and in
1854-55 there was a great excitement in that vicinity. Mines were staked out all
along the river above and below the town and extending into the surrounding hills,
says Branch. That year the Sierras yielded the largest amount of gold for any one
year, $69,433,512, and French Bar produced no small amount of this immense sum.
The Frenchmen were religiously inclined and at La Grange erected a small building
of worship. It was the first church building in the county either Catholic or Protestant.
* It was known as the St. Louis Catholic Church. Mass was celebrated occasionally
only by a traveling priest, and it is said that the Frenchmen assisted at the Mass.
After the founding of Oakdale, stated services were held by the Oakdale priests. It is
now in the parish of Father Nevin.

The Foreign Miner's License Tax
The history of the foreign miner's tax is a topic of state, rather than local, history,
but as it applied directly to the miners in the southern mines, and its baneful effects
were felt there more than in any other locality, mention should be made of it here.
In 1 8 50 tile Legislature, in order to raise money to carry on the state government,
levied a tax of four dollars per month on every foreign miner. Collectors were ap-
pointed in each mining district and if the foreigner refused to pay the tax he could be



HISTORY OF STANISLAUS COUNTY 71

arrested, and his mining implements, baggage or blankets taken from him. There was
.)t the time a hatred far greater than there is today against the Chinese and particularly
against the Mexicans, the Chilenos and the Frenchmen. The Americans said they
were taking all of the gold from the country. The levying of this tax was one cause
of the decline of the river towns, for hundreds of Mexicans left the state, while other
foreigners remained and opposed the tax. A writer of the time declared, "We are
going from bad to worse, and we are in a state of transition. The miners are up in
arms beyond endurance and there is an unusual hatred against the foreigners." At



Online LibraryGeorge Henry TinkhamHistory of Stanislaus County California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the pres → online text (page 8 of 177)