I am posting the whole story here of Aunt Kate for those of you that want to read it on your phone or ipod while you are sitting at dance lessons, etc. :)
By: Kate Emily Pillsbury Ham
Written in 1940
KATE PILLSBURY HAM
This is the story of a pioneer woman of California, told by herself.
I was born in near San Andreas, Calaveras County, California on June 29th, 1861. My parents were among the earliest pioneers. My father, Daniel Hackett Pillsbury, born November 1826 in Springford, New Hampshire and died April 20, 1889 in Railroad Flat, Calaveras County, California. He was the first mate of the Bark Oscar, from Mattapoisett, Massachusetts which sailed in the fall of 1849 for the trip around Cape Horn and arrived in San Francisco Bay six months later. My mother came from Brooklyn, New York, by the Isthmus Route and reached San Francisco in 1853. She was Bridget Delia Elizabeth Curley born in Athlone West Meath Ireland in 1839 and died August 23 1874. They were married in San Andreas in April 1857 and I was their third child.
The home into which I was born was one of the best of those times. My father had been in the state for eleven years and had amassed quite a little money. Our parlor furniture was that very uncomfortable sort, made of mahogany, upholstered in the shiny black horsehair that kept people busy regaining their seat. My mother had beautiful clothes and nice jewelry, and there was a horse and buggy to take her to church and to visit her friends.
I can't remember any of this glory for disasters swept it away while I was still a baby. My father lost one piece of property after another until there was nothing left. In the extremely wet winter of 1861 his cattle died and his dairy business was ruined. Not long after this our beautiful home was destroyed in a fire from which only a few articles were saved. One was a mahogany chair which was the chief treasure in the little cabin on the San Antone Creek, now our home.
A year later in 1862 we moved to El Dorado where my father was furnishing water to the miners. He had two large reservoirs and miles of ditches. But bad luck struck again and the dams broke, one at a time. He was left stranded.
I love to go back in memory to those days that were spent at El Dorado. They were the happiest of my life. My parents were now in very straitened circumstances. But what are hard times to children? Everyone else seemed to be having the same troubles and our home was no worse than the homes of our playmates so we were all carefree together. It was my mother who suffered most. Her health failed her and on August 23, 1874 she passed away. I was fourteen years old at the time. By this time my father was working in Railroad Flats and so there we moved. There were six children in the family. The four younger children started school the next Monday after our arrival and all the schooling that any of us ever received was given to us in that old school house. It was gray walled and faded on the outside and worse still on the inside. But it was beautiful to me. I didn't see the dusty brown walls, ceilings and the rough desks and floors. But I did see the splendid oak tree outside the window and the birds flying in and amongst its branches. Our books contained magic stories that I reveled in and if I could be left alone and undisturbed with them I felt as if I were in a beautiful world all my own.
During all of these years the specter of poverty still followed closely. When apples were in season our school lunches consisted of the fruit and bread eaten without butter. I was the pilot of my family so seizing the ten pound lard bucket that held our lunches. I led the little fry to a nice quite spot remote from the eyes of the rest of the school. There we feasted joyfully without any remarks or curios glances to interfere with our pride or our digestion.
During the first fifty years of my life I never knew anything but hard times. The only difference was that every once in so often times froze up so very solid that it seemed to me a battle axe was the only thing that might cause them to thaw.
In 1879, my oldest sister Mary Delia Pillsbury, who had been housekeeper since my mother's death, was married and went to a home of her own. I tried to take her place and go to school also. But it was too much for me to do. We lived at least a mile and a half from the school house and by the time I had prepared breakfast, finished the housework, baked the apples for lunch, dressed myself decently for school and hurried to be on time, I was too tired to do justice to my studies. I went about six weeks of the fall term and then quit.
It seemed queer to think of the studies I had in that one room mountain school in the 1870's. I don't know if there was a course of study or not because a pupil could take up or leave out anything he or she wished. But I think that all had to learn to read, spell, count and to write at it. Other subjects were their own choice. I took all the subjects usually included in a grammar school course and in addition I took Algebra, Geometry, Physiology, Philosophy, Botany and I read Astronomy. As there were no other pupils in school taking those subjects, it just depended on me, myself, whether or not I got anywhere with them. I think I must have had a streak of scholarly ambition, for the teachers said I did very well.
It is with a heart full of gratitude that I look back to that fine group of men who were my teachers, and who made school life so interesting and pleasant for me. Namely: Mr. Swank, Mr. Wells, and Mr. Coulter. They knew how to arouse ambition in a student. I hope in the Great Beyond to which they have passed, they are still leading other pupils on to higher things.
In my neighborhood in the 1870's and 1880's there were some ladies who made a god out of housekeeping. They appeared to have no charity for anyone that was not as capable of a housekeeper as were they. They said I was lazy and preferred reading the New York Ledger when I should have been helping to prepare the evening meal. I was a tomboy and instead of assisting my sister in doing the family mending and other household duties I played outdoors with my brothers. In short, I was everything I should not have been and nothing I should have been.
How many times in the days since then I have been thankful I read the Ledger and everything else readable that came my way. It is thrilling even now to recall the enjoyment and sometimes the feeling of horror I felt when reading those long ago stories. Books by Dickens, Scott, Thackeray, George Elliot, Washington Irving, Cooper, The Scottish Chiefs, Robinson Crusoe and other tales which took me along wonderful paths of pleasure and gave me glimpses into the life of worlds before unknown to me.
In the Ledger Mrs. Emma D. Southworh, a native of one of the Southern states wrote most entertainingly of life in the slave states before the Civil War. Mrs. Harriet Lewis of the same paper laid the scenes of her stories in England and Scotland and far off India. Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., another Ledger contributor, took one back to the stirring days both before and during the Revolutionary War, while Leon Lewis chose New York and islands of the Atlantic, the Bermudas, Jamaica, Madeira and Azore Islands to engage the attention and charm the mind of his readers.
Those books were not only interesting stories to me, they were also books of travel. Where else even today can one find such vivid scenes of home life in England and Scotland as are to be found in the novels of Elliot, Scott and Dickens? In one of Mrs. Southworth's books, I accompanied a young married couple on their wedding tour. From their home in Virginia we went to Washington and registered at the Willard Hotel. - A new Willard has replaced the one we stayed in. - We visited all the points of interest in that city and I was no more surprised at the magnificence and strangeness of the big town than was Gertrude, the little country bride from Virginia. From Washington we went to New York. After a week there spent in visiting picture galleries, going to theaters, riding in Central Park, eating in places so gorgeous that one's breath was taken away. And partaking of food so delicious and at the same time queer, it was rather startling to both Gertrude and me when Gerald told us that he had engaged passage on a Cunard steamship and we would leave on the next day for Europe.
This trip is still fresh in my mind. It was a wonderful experience. And this was just one of the many that were mine and of the many people I became acquainted with. I shared their joys and their sorrows, called them by their given names, and was really one of them.
When I was no longer a school girl but a homemaker in earnest, I turned my attention to the work with the greatest zeal. I would show my fault-finding neighbors I knew how to run a small three room house as such a place should be run. I have to admit that it was an uphill undertaking, but I never gave up. With the aid of broom and scrubbing brush, newspapers and plenty of elbow grease, I made that shack, if not exactly blossom as the rose, show up as a model of neatness and comfort. The cooking was not quite so easy. It was conquered, though I eventually became the best pie maker in the community. It all took time and effort to do it, and with the means at hand it often seemed impossible.
In 1880 my father bought the farm adjoining us on the east and we moved into the house there which was much larger than the shack we were occupying. There were five rooms on the lower floor and two in the attic. In the attic room on the eastern side the walls and the ceiling had been covered with rough pine lumber, but the western room had been left untouched. There was neither paint nor paper here and the imagination had to be stretched almost to the breaking point to see any beauty in these rude surroundings. The lower rooms were more hopeful and I went to work with vim to see if I could improve them. With a little money I could have worked wonders but there was no money to be spared for anything but the - must be paid fors.
Luck threw in my way a chance to earn a couple of dollars. Ah Hoo, one of the Chinese working in the sawmill decided to have some jumpers made. I was only too glad to do the sewing and by this means I earned enough to by paper for the border and walls. Each little job of sewing gave me enough to buy muslin for the ceiling and paper for the walls of the sitting room. When I finished those rooms they just looked lovely to me. I was enthusiastic now in housekeeping and flower gardening as I had been in my school work.
At the head of the stairway was a large box filled with magazines and papers. They were accumulations of several years left there by the former owners. There was a wealth of good reading among them. I have forgotten most of the titles, but I do remember Godey's Ladies Magazines. I wish I had those now. They would be quite antique.
I was married on April 10, 1887, to a man named James Ham, a native of England. I think my wedding day was the most unhappy day of my life. For months afterward I couldn't think of it without tears. The wedding took place in the sitting room that I had worked so hard to make presentable. There was a nice group of friends present and everything should have been happy. But it almost broke my father up. If it had been my funeral he couldn't have felt worse. When congratulations were in order, he shook Jim's hand and said, with tears coursing down his cheeks, that Jim had taken the best spoke out of his wheel. It almost broke my heart and I would have given anything to have reconciled my father to my leaving.
After the wedding we went to New Almaden in Santa Clara County to visit his brother and their families. We stayed there a few days more and than a month. During that time I had my first contact with real English life. As far as I know I was the only American in the community. All were English born the children of English born parents and they talked, ate and lived as in England.
When we left New Almaden we were weighted down with silver dollars. While he was there Jim worked in the quick silver mines, and as they paid off in silver dollars, a month's pay amounted to some weight. He managed it though by putting most of the dollars in one of the trunks and the remainder in several of our pockets.
From here we went to San Francisco on a sort of delayed wedding trip. This was my first visit to the city and was on of the most memorable events of my life. We stopped at the International Hotel on Kearny Street. At that time it seemed to be a family hotel and the people whom I met there were all very nice people.
While we were in the city we took in as many of the points of interest as possible: Woodward's Garden, Golden Gate Park, The Cliff House, the seals and the seal rocks, and the theaters. We also saw the panorama of The Battle of Waterloo. Even now, after all the years since then, I have only to close my eyes and in fancy see that wonderful picture. It was glorious to me.
After our visit in San Francisco, we went to Angels Camp where Jim went to work in the Angels Mine. We were there from May to October. Those days were not very pleasant. In fact they were horrible. I was afraid all of the time, afraid that every time Jim went down into that dreadful mine he would never come out alive. It's something I don't care to think about even now.
Our next place was the Union Mine about three miles south of San Andreas. He and some other miners took a contract to sink the shaft a certain number of feet at a certain sum per foot. But to get a house to live in we were obliged to board the men at the mine that had no home close by. Before April, when we went away there, I had twelve people to cook for. But Jim made money on his contract and was able to carry away a thousand dollars.
In July 1888 my baby Kathryn Grace Ham was born and I tried to feel well again, but I had worked too hard in those months before her coming to gain any health. It looked as the months passed on as if I would never be well again. Fifteen months later another baby was born, a boy , now I had two babies to care for and no health.
My father was aging fast and it made me feel rather unhappy to have to recognize the fact. He was sixty three when he passed away in April 1889. After my father's death, we moved from the home place to a small house in town, and in October of 1889 James Jr. came.
Jim Sr. had had a bad cough every once in awhile for a long time and it was coming more frequently and getting worse with every recurrence. That spring the La grippe first made its appearance, he coughed so hard that I made him go to San Francisco to consult a physician. The doctor examined him and said that his lungs were perfectly healthy: the trouble was his throat and was nothing to worry about. It was hard not to worry.
Time passed on until 1893. There was another baby in the family and no money. Jim's cough was worse and he was not able to work in the mine. The outlook was very dubious and what to do was the question. When the baby was six weeks old we heard of an opening in a hotel in West Point and we took it. The winter had been very stormy and the rivers were very high. The south fork of the Mokelumne River, which we had to cross, was unbridged and the water came into the bed of the wagon. We crossed over safely however and reached West Point.
Since the birth of my first child I had never felt very well and the coming of two more babies into the family did not make me feel better. I was in no condition to engage in any kind of work, but our financial circumstances were such that I felt ready to grasp at anything.
The hotel was the best offer and we took it. At that time there were six permanent boarders in the house besides my family and quite a few transient customers. The morning after our arrival we took over the management. My sister Nettie, who made her home with me now that my father was gone, helped me prepare breakfast for a dozen people. Our sleeping quarters were on the upper floor, and there was no way of warming the rooms to make them comfortable for the children, but we dressed the two older ones and rolled the baby in a blanket and brought them all down stairs. I made a bed in an old fashioned rocking chair for my baby and put it close to the stove and went to work.
That was forty seven years ago and more was eaten for breakfast in those days. At the hotel a three course breakfast was always served from six to eight o'clock. My sister and I did all the work, cooking, dish washing, waiting on table, and chamber work. I did the cooking myself which included the baking of bread, pies, cakes, in fact, everything that comes out of an oven. I often wonder how I did it. A women scarcely able to walk, nursing one and caring for three children the hours filled the with work from morning until late at night, it seems almost incredible, but - I did it.
During the summer and fall months times were fairly good but by October, everything was at a standstill. It would not pay to keep the hotel open so we moved to private life, and Jim took a job at forty dollars a month for the winter. In the Spring he went into a mine with some of the other men, one of those specimen rock mines that were never known to pay, and came out in June with the usual outcome, - nothing.
It is said that hope springs eternal in the female breast and maybe it does, but about that time hope was lying quite dormant in my heart. With Jim it was different, bless him. He and my brother Dan were going to try a place on the Stanislaus River that had never been touched. Above and below this place fabulous sums had been taken out but this part of the stream was just as nature and formed it. This story had been told to my brother by a very aged Mexican who had been in the neighborhood since the earliest of days, perhaps prior to 1849. A fortune waited for those who would go there, blast out the rocks, as large as a house, some of them, get down to bed rock in the river bed, and take out gold. What wonderful golden dreams people have. Before going, Jim made arrangements with a store in town to supply his family with whatever was necessary, and in June 1894, he and Dan left to find a fortune in the Stanislaus.
Before the summer was very far advanced I became aware that another baby was on its way. This meant that more than ever a little money was necessary. Then the women from whom we were renting our house decided that she wanted to occupy it herself and gave me notice. As I was in no condition to go house hunting I concluded to return to the home belonging to us in Rail Road Flat.
We moved in September, leaving our store bill unpaid, a matter to me of keenest regret. Many a night afterward I lay awake planning how to get enough ahead to pay that bill. It was years before I had the money, but at length I succeeded in raising the amount and sent it with a joyful heart and straightened shoulders to the merchant we owed, who received it as gladly and as thankfully. He wrote that it seemed as if the money had come from God to help pay for medical help for his sick wife. "God moves in mysterious ways."
In November Jim wrote that he was coming home. They had removed all the debris and found, when they reached the river bed, that it had already been worked by someone. Those huge rocks and been deposited in that place in the river by a flood, a cloudburst probably higher in the mountains. So that was that.
One afternoon I saw someone approaching the house with a little bundle on a stick over his shoulder. I didn't recognize him. As far as dress was concerned he bore no resemblance to the spic and span Jimmie Ham who left West Point in June. But it was Jim arriving just in time to summon the doctor.
For two or three days I had been feeling sick, and at the time of his coming, I was suffering such pain that medical help was imperative. At twelve o'clock that night a premature boy baby, who lived but a few minutes, was born, our fifth and last child.
Now that Jim was at home with empty pockets and I was able to be up and around, what to do next was the problem uppermost in our minds. It was a period of hard times, the depression of 1893 in its second year. There was no work to be had and Jim's thoughts turned to mining for himself as a solution. There were a number of prospects in this mining district on which the required assessment work had not been done, and according to mining law, they were open on the first of January, for any person to relocate. At one minute past twelve o'clock on January 1st, 1895, Jim put a notice of location on the Crown Point Mine. This mine had been discovered and worked in the early days by a company of men from New York, and it had paid very well. They abandoned it for better prospects closer to a mill. Since then it had been "jumped" a number of times by different parties and was open to relocation when Jim took it.
The winter was very rainy but not cold. As the long walk, four miles, was too much for Jim before and after a days work, we moved to the mine in February. There was a cabin, eight by sixteen feet wide by sixteen feet long on one side, which had belonged to the former owner. Jim replaced the windows which had been stolen, also put in a rough board ceiling, and I papered the black boards with clean newspapers. We had a nice heater and wood was to be had for the cost of picking it up, so we were warm and comfortable if one didn't ask too much. Of course we didn't intend to stay there very long. It was a sort of get-rich-quick proposition and we would soon be out and away.
My brother Dan was a partner in the mine with Jim, and they went right to work to take out a crushing. It wasn't long before they had ten or fifteen tons of quartz on the dump, all of which prospected well, and they were in good spirits. Poor boys, when the returns came back they received less than forty dollars on an expected two hundred fifty or more. Of course they said what most everyone says at such times, the gold was allowed to run off the plates, or the mill man helped himself. What a year that was, and the years that followed.
They kept on summer and fall with no better results. In the fall sometime, a mine at Railroad had been bought by some capitalists and Jim and Dan got work there. Before going to work Dan moved his family, and we, my sister Nettie and I, and the children, were left in the woods alone.
It seemed very quite and almost lonesome now that so many of our summer family was gone. It gave me time to think. One thing I had to think about was the question of school. How was I ever going to send my children to a school four miles distant. When I thought of the long miles through the woods, facing wind, snow and rain, the wild animals they might meet, to say nothing of snakes in the summer, I turned sick with dread. But something had to be done. They could not be allowed to grow up in ignorance. For awhile I tried to teach them at home but didn't meet with much success with James Jr. He was somewhat of a problem pupil, and when he did go to school I felt a great sympathy for his teachers. Finally he and Kathryn went to Railroad to school.
Ever since her first school year Kathryn wanted to become a teacher, and I encouraged her in every way I could. But the obstacle that had hindered me from climbing higher in my girlhood days was still hindering me from giving my daughter the thing we both valued and longed for more than anything else, - an education.
In our school at that time we had an excellent teacher, a man who had inspired many of his pupils to go onto something higher and had helped them all in their preparation. He coached Kathryn in all the subjects for her teachers’ examination and advised her to take the test in Sonora in May, this was 1907. She did not want to go until I told her I would go with her and take the test too. When I gave her that promise she was delighted.
It had been twenty eight years since my last day in school and my life had been spent in cooking, sewing, gardening, mining, surveying, cattle and sheep raising, and a thousand other things so necessary to make a home run smoothly.
The next question was what to do about clothes, but I managed that. I had a skirt belonging to a suit that cost four dollars, fifty cents in 1898, and a pair of shoes of the same vintage. I bought enough cotton cashmere for blouses and made them up according to a Delineator illustration. Kathryn was already supplied with shoes and for hats I sent to Sears Roebuck and Company and bought two at fifty cents each which were really quite nice. The weather was warm so coats didn't mean much, fortunately. It was sort of tempering the wind to the shorn lamb, and we got along nicely.
The examination was to begin on Monday at 9 o'clock, so it behooved us to start early. On Saturday morning, after harnessing old Bill to the buggy, and with twenty dollars, borrowed money, in my purse, we started on our journey and reached Murphy's that evening.
That old Bill was a character if there ever was one. His driver never knew what he was going to do next. Sunday morning instead of continuing our journey with Bill for our buggy horse, my brother put one of his horses in Bill's place and Kathryn rode Bill.
We rented a room for the week for six dollars and the next morning entered the examination room, there to find ourselves in company with twenty two or three applicants from the Western Normal in Stockton, all primed for the test. I did not have any expectation of passing. Each applicant had to pay two dollars, and I shall never forget the pang in my heart when I put that money down and whispered "Good-bye" to it. Well, after laying down the dollars we began the examination, not as I thought from a printed list, but by copying each question as read by the superintendent. This was the first test I had ever taken in my life and my first thought was, "I can never do it." My second thought was, “and lose the two dollars? No, never. I will do my best."
It was a very difficult test and so long that it was tiresome. When Mr. Morgan read an example of a question I knew right away if I could answer it correctly or not. And the greater part of them I could.
The test was finished on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning we started out on our home journey expecting to reach Murphys that evening but we couldn't make it. Bill had been in one of the best stables in Sonora where I had paid first class rates for his board. On getting away from town he acted as if he were starved. Every bunch of grass or weed the poor brute saw he would stop and eat and as our journey proceeded he seemed to get weaker and his temper uglier. We had crossed the bridge at Parrot's Ferry, and were on that part of the road that had been built up on a level with the bridge when, like a flash of lightening, that animal whirled half way around and pushed the buggy over to the edge of the wall between the road and the bed of the river. Kathryn by this time was out and grabbed him by the bridle in time to save us from going over a drop of twelve or fifteen feet to the rocks below. We straightened horse and buggy around and looked at the road, all up hill, that was facing us now. By this time Bill's head was almost down between his feet and we realized he was never going to be able to pull us and the buggy up those hills. The only thing to do was for us to walk up the hill and help Bill with the buggy. It was almost sundown when we gained the top of the grade and stopped again for Bill to rest and for us to decide to go down to Angels or up to Murphys. We decided to take the down grade hoping the weight behind him might help to push him along. When we reached Angels it was getting dark and I took a back road instead of the main street. I felt that I would be arrested for cruelty to animals if I dared drive Bill through the main street. The next day Bill acted as if he were going to die. He lay down all day as if every minute was going to be his last. He was able to make the trip to my brother's after a good rest and from there to home on the following Wednesday.
Two weeks later we heard the results from Sonora. There was a very nice letter to Kathryn from the Board saying that they were sorry to tell her she had failed to make the required number of credits to pass, but not to let that discourage her. In a separate envelope addressed to me, was a certificate giving me lawful permission to enter the schools of California as a teacher. Of course I was glad that I had not failed, even if I did not intend to use the certificate. Kathryn had taken the test in Calaveras County the year before and had a good standing so it was just up to her to work during the summer and take the examination again in August. She did that and got her credentials and commenced to her first school assignment that fall, on the same day that I entered the school room in West Point.
I have said that I did not intend to teach. I intended to continue to keep my home running smoothly, work in the garden and among my flowers, look out for the sheep and cattle of which we had a good many, and doctor them when they need such attentions, that the chickens went to roost at the proper time every evening, and if there were no men around, kill every rattlesnake that ventured into the yard. But according to the old adage, "Man proposes and God disposes". The old order of my life passed from my hands that year.
At that time there was a big water project, the construction of a dam, going on high up in the Sierras at Relief, and Jim Jr. and his father, went there to stay until operations should close for the winter. After working for a month or so, the work was stopped, and the men laid off. My men came home, the elder Jim being filled with the idea of building or quartz mill on his own mine and crushing his own quartz. It all sounded very promising. There was rock enough at the dump on the shaft to make a net cleanup of a thousand dollars if it could be crushed in his own mill.
Well, the mill was built. Timbers had to be taken out, a mortar block furnished, shakes made, lumber and machinery bought, and living expenses for five persons. I couldn't see anything else but that someone had to go out and get a job. I applied for the primary department of the West Point District School and was hired at sixty dollars a month. My board and room at the hotel were ten dollars. I went home every Friday night in the low back-cart behind old Bill, wearing the same hat and shoes that had done me duty in Sonora. On Saturday I laundered my clothes and did the family washing, starched and ironed my one school dress, a gray chambray, and Sunday afternoon went back to West Point. I was at this school eight months and I think I proved satisfactory.
When I went out to teach I thought it would be for one year only. By the time school would be out, the school would be finished, the rock crushed, and we would be on easy street. When all was done and the clean up made, there wasn't enough left to pay the mill man. Just another one of those things that came our way.
The failure of that rock was a keen disappointment to us all. Jim felt it worse than anyone else, and for that reason I hid my emotions all that I could, in order to keep his spirits from falling. He was anxious to try it again, so the next year I taught at Railroad Flat in the Eureka District. I was here fifteen years.
During these years many changes came into my life. The two older children married and went to live in Stockton. Then along came the World War (ONE) and Harry, my youngest, enlisted. Many of the boys who had gone to my school were in training camps and there was scarcely a home in the district that had a boy old enough to go but had its vacant chair. Although I have tried I cannot forget that awful evening I returned home from school, the day Harry left for the war. I stood before the door and couldn't open it to go in. A feeling of indescribable sorrow possessed me. It seemed as if ---- I can't explain the feeling. It was war and no one knows what war really is until it comes to him. May it never happen again is my fervent prayer.
Jim, after repeated failures and using up the best years of his life in the mine, gave up trying and went to San Joaquin Valley. Here he bought a ten acre farm and planted almond trees. This was a very unwise move for he knew nothing about farming. Well, the inevitable happened, and trouble again. His trees grew well and blossomed full, but developed no fruit because they had not been pollinated.
One Sunday afternoon, while he was absent, the hundred chickens he had bought, his chicken house, his own living quarters, the feed house, pump house and everything else that was flammable, in fact everything was reduced to ashes by a tramp from the hospital for the insane in Stockton who was touring the country by himself. It was just one unlucky thing after another, and it hurt Jim because he was so very anxious to succeed. The summer of 1920 was a very unprofitable one, and when his cough came in October, he came up to Stockton to Kathryn's. He wrote me that he had a cold but would be all right in a few days and able to go home.
That was a very stormy winter and my school wouldn't close until Christmas. On the Friday before that I went to Mokelumne Hill with the R.F.D. driver. The roads were in a dreadful state and we just made it. In some places in the road, the mud and stones could be heard grinding on the bottom of the car, and in others the car wasn't able to move although the wheels were turning.
That was the last trip the car made for the next two weeks, so I was very lucky to get through that day. I arrived in Stockton that morning at eleven o'clock. The train was early and I expected that there would be no one to meet me, but Jim had insisted on the train being met. A few minutes more and I was with him and he was so glad. But the minute I looked at him I knew that the time I had dreaded for years was near, yet I knew I must not let him know.
A few short days more and it was all over. He fought the idea of going to the hospital and it was only four or five days before the end that he consented. I have no record of the date on which he died. I know it was some day in January of 1921. I have no desire to know what particular day. I think I would hate it.
Well, it was all over. Jim had passed on. The farm was placed in the hands of a real estate dealer for sale by the boys, the car disposed of, and the time had come for me to return to my school. It wasn't easy to go back to the cabin at Railroad Flat where I had lived. It held too many memories.
I arrived at my hometown on Saturday and once again I stood alone before my empty cabin. Everything all around looked so desolate that it was depressing. I unlocked the door which was chilled by the cold of weeks, made a fire in the stove, put on the tea kettle and rubbed off the steam that was now dimming the windows.
I took the broom and gave the house a vigorous sweeping. I did everything I could to keep from thinking. The long lonely evening was coming and I dreaded it. I prepare something to eat and planned to bake the next day. "Maybe I'll bake a pie. I know little Charlie will like a piece Monday when school opens. It is lovely that I have cords and cords of nice dry wood and that everything for my meal is ready. I'll not set the table that would make it too lonesome. I'll just sit here by the fire in the big chair and eat out of the kettle. I don't think I'm very hungry, though, but I'll drink the tea. No I don't think I want any tea. I'll just sit here and watch the fire, and maybe take little catnaps. I'll not think of those dark days just passed. I am glad that he is at rest, he suffered so. Never again will he be wracked with that awful cough, nor suffer such pain. I'll not think of him as dead. He is just away."
And so my thoughts wondered on and on. At twelve o'clock I was prepared for bed but hour after hour I lay there awake until night brightened into day, and I arose and began another day.
What a blessing is work and what a comfort it has been to me. Monday morning I resumed my school duties and there was plenty to keep both myself and the pupils busy. But the work seemed to tire me more that formerly. For some reason the walk uphill to the school house wasn't as easy as it had been and my breath became shorter. But I was never on to pay attention k to such minor afflictions so I kept right on without doing anything about it and it seemed to pass on its way.
When school was out in June, I went to Stockton for a rest and a change. During the summer I felt far from well, and suffered for weeks with neuralgia. At the end of vacation I went back to Eureka to open school. It would be my fifteenth year.
When I returned in August, as far as I knew I was feeling all right, just a little shortness of breath, but not anything serious so I paid no attention. In September however I developed a cough, something I had not been troubled with since girlhood. After a very severe attack of fever in my nineteenth year, I was left with a bad cough. My father called a doctor who frightened him very badly by saying that I had tuberculosis and wouldn't live three weeks. Since that time I had been free from coughs and it was hard to understand why this was so persistent. In October, Institute was held in Sacramento and while attending I consulted a physician who said I would have to be very careful as my heart was in a dangerous way. He prescribed treatment for me which I followed very carefully, but without any good results. I bought many kinds of cough remedies but nothing seemed to help me, and so many drugs were hurting me in other ways. All of this time I taught everyday, and often locking my school house at four o'clock in the evening I wondered if I would be there to unlock it the next morning. At last I realized I was not getting better but worse, and I quit all medicine and recovered without it. It was a strenuous battle and I would not like to have to fight it again.
When school closed in June, as far as health was concerned, I was better, but I knew it would not be far to myself to return to the old surroundings. I had spent too many lonely and pain racked hours alone at night in that cabin, fighting sorrow to ever want to return to the scene. I realized a complete change was what I should and must have.
Leaving this home place was not easy. This part of the country had been my home since 1875. In the eureka District I had passed the greater part of my school life and a number of my school mates were still living here. Here I had been married and my children born. In this place I have known about the joys and sorrows that usually enter into any one persons life. The people had been as my own people for so long a time that it was hard to part with them.
During the fifteen years of my school teaching here, at the beginning of the term those trusting little children had come, baby teeth shining, and faces glowing, and had gone on from one grade to the next until they had graduated, and had known no other teacher. For fifteen years at the beginning of every term a beginner's class, at it's close a graduating class. What a glorious opportunity I had for doing good.
During those years I had more to do for the handicapped children than falls to the lot of many teachers. There was a boy who was sent to me, and as I see it now, if God hadn't been with me every minute of the time, I could never had done anything for him. As it was I took him through the grades to the sixth, when his parents moved away. He is now a man thirty seven years of age, and anyone not knowing his history would think he never could be anyway but normal.
Another pupil at Glen Ellen, a girl, was born feeble minded. I taught her to read, write and spell, and when she left my school, she could write a very interesting letter. The last I heard of her was that she was caring for some of the younger children of the institution, washing and dressing them in the mornings and reading to them and putting them to bed at night. I know how happy that must make her. The last time I saw her, ten or twelve years ago, she was reading the Bible to her father.
Another pupil, a bright boy, was stricken with infantile paralysis in the first part of his forth grade year. His parents moved into a house quit near to where I lived, and when he was able to stand it, they carried him across the street to my place and during the years he finished the forth, fifth and sixth grades. When he reached the seventh grade he was able, with the aid of a cane, by starting his journey by seven thirty o'clock, to arrive at the school house in time for school.
There were others who were handicapped in other ways, by poverty, home conditions, by a low order of mentality, and on account of these circumstances they were persecuted by there more fortunate school mates. This I was able to stop very easily. There were some pupils in the school with very good dispositions and by appealing to their sense of kindness and fair play, they were brought to see how very cruel they had been and were willing and eager to make amends.
I am thankful to be able to write that I had no failures in the fifteen years that I was there. The "not so bright" were worked with until they were able to pass on with there class. The second year I was there I had a ninth grade in addition to the regular eight grades. And I often wondered how I did it, but thankfully I did.
At the close of my last year in Eureka, I went to Stockton an applied for the Lammersville District school in San Joaquin County. I shall always appreciate the favorable recommendation that the Superintendent of schools gave me. And another thing which will always make my heart feel grateful is the remembrance of the kind reception given to me by the trustees of Lammersville and their gracious wives. I wonder if they realize how much their warm welcome meant to me a stranger.
Lammersville, like Eureka, is a one room school, and has all the grades. When I first came here, the homes in the district were owned by the families occupying them. Now those people are no longer here and practically all of the places are rented for different periods of times, as dairy farms, thus making a floating population in this district.
As in Eureka, I had a receiving class at the beginning of each year and a graduating class at the close. Out of the fifteen graduating classes that went from Lammersville, there were but two pupils that had been mine through all of the grades.
While teaching at Lammersville, I boarded three years with a family in the district, and the other twelve years in Tracy, which is about four miles from Lammersville. I rode to and fro on the high school bus traveling around the country in morning for miles and miles before I reached my school. And then four miles back home in the evening. I enjoyed the ride and the new faces that came aboard at the beginning of each new year to take the places of the departing group.
Those thirty one years that I spent in the school room were very busy years. I almost always had a large school, the attendance hardly ever fell below thirty pupils and several years reaching forty five. It meant work, patience, enthusiasm, diplomacy, and then victory. I cannot describe feeling of exhaultation in my soul when after months of trying, the boy of long ago, recognized his first printed word. And when Freda, a few years later, could find the word "come" among a page full of other words, it was a glorious feeling to know I had accomplished something that had seemed, to all who knew her, impossible. For all of these opportunities of the past, I am truly thankful today.
I entered the school room in 1907 at the age of forty six. I had raised a family who were now all old enough not to need my care in the same way that they had required when they were younger. I ended my teaching career in 1938 at the age of seventy seven. I have written this account of my life at the request of my friends who say that it is inspirational. To me it doesn't seem so. It has been doing my best from day to day with the best of my ability and in the most part trying to avoid feeling sorry for myself. There are thousands of other women who have done and are still doing Life's work as it comes to their hands.
I do not say that my work is finished. No one's work is ever done until the call come's to close Life's book. When that call comes for me I hope to be able to say in the words of the old hymn, "I have fought my way through. I have finished the work Thou dids't give me to do." My ears not be too dull to hear the blest words, "Well and faithfully done. Enter into my joy.
Daniel Hackett and Bridget Curley were my Great Great Grandparents and the first Pillsbury's in California.
Daniel Hackett and Bridget Curley were my Great Great Grandparents and the first Pillsbury's in California.