San Simeon Creek - Page 3
We go now to 1862. We shall see in E.A.'s diary for December of that year that E.A, in addition to homesteading and doctoring, was working as an attorney, serving as acting District Attorney, making tax assessments, teaching school, and building a chimney. But let's look first at an excerpt from Lovina's next letter to her step-daughter, written that same month. It brings home the worries of Union supporters in California.
San Simeon, Dec. 9th 1862
I planted those flower seeds that you sent me this spring.
What disturbing times we are having in the United States at the present time. California has been highly favored so far, but I am afraid we are likely to have trouble here soon. This state is settled by people from every state in the Union. It is natural that persons born and educated in the Southern states should sympathize with the South; while there was no particular call for action they contented themselves by merely expressing their opinion in favor of the Southern Confederacy, but now the government are making preparations for drafting this state, they are coming out in open rebellion wherever they are strong enough to do so. In this county the secessionists are the majority. They are holding secret meetings in San Luis Obispo. They say they will go into the mountains and fight guerilla fashion before they will be drafted into the federal army. Whether they put their threats into execution remains to be seen."
Meanwhile, back on the ranch as it comes to life in E.A.'s 1862 diary, the range of farming tasks that E.A. did during these homesteading years is striking, and shows both that he felt he couldn't sit back and gamble on putting in only one crop, and just how much self-confidence he had to undertake all sorts of work.
H.F. Foote, writing a biographical sketch later in San Jose, focuses on E.A.'s fruit growing and states that he planted "the first successful orchard in the northwestern part of the county."
Charles Quincy Clark
William Washburn Clark
E.A.'s diaries contain entries reflecting that activity and recording—typical of his usual practice of staying up on developments in whatever field he was working in—that he kept in touch with horticultural experts on fruit. Years later, his two sons, Charles Quincy and William Washburn, moved to San Diego County and worked in a famous peach nursery owned and run by a Mr. Chapin, who, if it is the same person, shows up in letters as an old family friend.
Here are some sample diary entries that illustrate graphically the variety of farm tasks E.A. undertook (in addition to coal mining and house building):
Wed. January 29 Killed pig.
Thurs. March 6—Grafted a few small quince trees and dug cow out of landslide in the afternoon.
Fri. March 7—Sowed wheat in the forenoon.
Sat. March 22—Trimmed young apple trees.
Mon. March 24—Trimmed grape vines.
Thurs. March 27—Hoed raspberries and currants.
Thurs. April 17—In the forenoon went up to Letcher's and got my Irish Angus. In the afternoon put up 4 panels of the creek fence.
Wed. April 23—In the forenoon helped Chet plant sorghum.
Tues. May 6—Planted beans in the afternoon.
Fri. June 20—In the morning went to Leffingwell's and got two shoes set on Blue Jack. Then dug potatoes till noon. In the afternoon went to Lockwood's and made bargain with him to work on coal claim and fence for meat, $1 per day. Sat. June 21 Fixed saddle and put in an ax handle in the forenoon.
Many of these tasks were done cooperatively with other farmers, in the best frontier tradition. Migrating to a new area with extended family members and friends who would expect to follow that custom was the accepted practice of pioneers, including the famous Daniel Boone. Boone and his 'clan' were all part of this tradition of mutual support in facing challenging and often dangerous situations in remote areas.
It's clear that E.A. and Lydia Helen were no exceptions. Some examples.
Mathers' House as it Looks Today
Thurs. February 6—Went to Uncle James' after syringe and gave Willie an enema. Willie some better. Chet and I ground grist on the hand mill." [It was a hand mill, since Cambria, and flour mills, wouldn't get started for some time yet.].
Mon. April 7—Plowed in place of Chet, who went to Chase's to record his claim. [The federal homesteading law went into effect in 1862] Tues. April 15 Chopped house logs for the house for the coal claim. Cal [i.e., Carolan Mathers] and Adam [Leffingwell] hauled logs. Jones [Bolivar Jnes], Riley [Franklin Riley] and I chopped. Chet [i.e., Chester Pinkham] and Mr. Leffingwell prospected. They took out four sacks of coal when the lead ran out. In the evening I hunted for Mrs. Woodie's child.
If we should have forgotten the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder about close-knit pioneer family life, we are reminded by this diary of how the work of supplying the family with food was combined with recreation whenever possible:
Wed. May 28—Went to Pujol's rodeo [Domingo Pujol, wealthy lawyer from Spain who bought Rancho San Simeon], and to the pine woods strawberrying.
Tues. June 10—In the afternoon Helen and I went trout fishing. Caught only six.
Wed. June 11—Willie [his son William Washburn Clark] and I went trout fishing in the afternoon. Caught 32.
Still, in spite of such idyllic moments, the stress of not having adequate money can often be felt lurking behind E.A.'s hectic list of activities. One telling detail is recorded in his entry for January 30, 1862—"Went to Letcher's on foot. Borrowed 18 pounds salt."
The two best ways for making extra money that E.A. found in 1862 were lawyering and teaching school.
Legal terms are sprinkled liberally throughout the diary, and although there is no record that he ever attended law school or that he had a license to practice, it is abundantly clear that he was accustomed to teach himself new skills and enhance old ones through reading. Clearly, on the frontier nothing beyond a reasonable competence was expected of those who made possible the functioning of the courts. The first two entries of the year show the connection between his painful financial situation and his energetic response through a can-do, self-taught effort:
Wed. January 1—Mr. Dunn presented bill, $8.92.
Read in Van Santvoord's Pleadings. Subject, 'demurrer'.
Thurs. January 2—Read Van Santvoord's Pleadings. Subject, 'issue'.
In a very uneasy state of mind in regard to my private pecuniary affairs.
E.A. is remembered in Cambria as the first teacher in the area. Records are very incomplete, but not long after arriving in the county he appears to have taught his own and his neighbors' children, for a while in or near his cabin—hence the name "Home School" for the later school district on San Simeon Creek – and also in a log school.
As I mentioned, he also taught in the considerably larger school held in the Old Mission here in San Luis Obispo—during the year ending October 31, 1861 and again in 1862, as this diary documents. In both locations, many of his pupils were Spanish-speaking, and the pedagogical practice in the county during these years was to stress translating from Spanish to English. It is documented that other teachers in the San Luis Obispo Mission school during the early years following the arrival of the American government knew and used Spanish—not surprising given that English speakers were in the minority—so he, too, very likely had a reasonable command of the language.
In his search for professional employment, E.A. made the most of his networking skills, and this was a practice he would continue throughout his life. It would not have been hard to establish contacts, as his command of the corresponding professional register of English would have been a most useful calling card. These acquaintances were also advantageous in his making a little profitable work for himself by acting as sales agent for companies located outside the county, and buying and selling paper Money (discounted in this Civil War era) for 'hard currency.'
And just as he was perfectly aware of the value of having friends in the right places, so, too, there was an immediate and practical consideration: he often needed a place to spend the night on his frequent trips to San Luis Obispo and Los Osos.
What's more, as an isolated country homesteader he missed intellectual stimulation. Still these friendly attachments were doubtless usually sincere. Having been raised in the home of a judge and having attended medical school, he must also have enjoyed the conversation of the well educated. Such men (and while in San Luis Obispo County his only women friends appear to have been relatives) could also be converted at need into fellow entrepreneurs.
The formation of a coal mining cooperative with his neighbors, acquaintances and relatives is an excellent example. As a forceful illustration of these motivations put into practice, one need only consider E.A.'s friendship with the famous judge William L. Beebee, at whose house a few miles south of San Luis Obispo he spent a startling amount of time—a total of 40 days and nights in 1862. It is remarkable that E.A. stayed with him as frequently as he did, especially since going to the ranch would have added eighteen miles to his roundtrip from the north. But E.A. had many projects requiring personal contacts in the county seat, and, being from a family of merchants, lawyers and judges - and Beebee was all three - he would have found the company of his intelligent and ambitious peer agreeable as well as useful.
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