In 1870, when Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson was a small girl, she travelled from Minnesota to Healdsburg with her adopted parents John and Mary Call.
ANOTHER NEW BEGINNING
The twentieth century began for Agnes and Albert Wilson with a surprise party to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. By this time Agnes’ son Claude Congleton had left the family farm on Bailhache Avenue to make his way in San Francisco and her daughter Mae Congleton was engaged to be married to local farmer John Taeuffer. In March 1902, Mae and John were married on the Taeuffer ranch on Magnolia Drive. Their son, Ernest Louis Taeuffer, was born in November of that year. Just as the new grandparents and empty nesters 41 year-old Agnes and 40 year-old Albert were celebrating that joyous event, they received an unexpected surprise when they discovered that they were going to have a baby of their own! Their daughter, Helen Agnes Wilson, was born June 10th, 1903. Mae and John Taeuffer’s daughter, Dorothy, was born the following May, in 1904. Dorothy and Ernest Taeuffer would grow up with Helen Wilson being more like a cousin rather than their aunt.
STEWARDSHIP OF THE BAILHACHE AVENUE FARM
While Agnes kept busy with raising the new baby, Albert focused on improvements to their farm. In 1903 the original 10-acre parcel of land that Agnes’ father John Call had purchased from the Spanish Land Grant holder in 1872 was planted primarily in hops. An opportunity to expand the ranch presented itself in early 1904 when the prune orchard next door became available. Albert purchased the “Wright place,” also known as the “Campbell ranch” that February. But the diversity of the Wilson farm was not limited to hops and prunes. In October 1904, the Healdsburg Tribune reported that Albert Wilson had brought a branch from one of his Tartarian cherry trees into the newspaper office. He did so to demonstrate that his trees were experiencing an unusual second full bloom within a year and that a rare second crop could be expected.
In addition to his talents as a farmer, Albert must have also been a good businessman. In October 1904, he traveled to Santa Rosa to broker sale of the hops from the Bailhache Avenue farm. At a time when the average price being paid for hops was around 15 cents per pound, it was reported that Albert had received 31 cents, “the highest price in the region” for his 3-ton crop. Thus the Wilsons grossed $1,860 that year which was quite a tidy sum for the era.
In August 1908, Agnes’ mother, Grandma Call, celebrated her 82nd birthday. In November she signed over the original 10 acres of “lot 1 of Spurr Survey of Sotoyome rancho” purchased from John Bailhache, holder of the original Spanish Land Grant, into Agnes’ name but leaving Albert off of the new deed. This transaction formally consolidated the ranch holdings and established Agnes as 75% owner of the farm.
ENJOYING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Despite the time demands of raising a daughter and of making all the improvements to the farm, Agnes and Albert were still able to enjoy many leisure activities. Dinner parties were regular events and served as a way to keep in touch with the extended family. Agnes played hostess to her former sisters-in-law, Jennie Cook (nee Amelia Jane Congleton) and Sarah Greaver (nee Sarah Ann Congleton), and their families on a routine basis. After daughter Mae Congleton married John Taeuffer the parties began to include members of that family as well, including Mae’s mother- and father-in-law, Sophie and Ernest Taeuffer, along with their best friends, Ferdinand and Katherine Grabner. Neighbors were typically present as well, including Anita Fitch, J.B. and Nancy (aka: Auntie B) Brown, Julia Bachman and her brother Emil, and Mr. and Mrs. John Minaglia.
The parties usually featured competitive card playing, such as the trick-taking games Progressive Whist and Pedro. Afternoon gatherings of the ladies often provided an opportunity for the musically inclined to entertain the others with voice, violin, and piano. The evening parties would typically end with a sumptuous feast served at midnight. It had also become a Valentines Day tradition to hold a joint birthday party for Agnes and daughter Mae Taeuffer. In February 1910 guests were treated to particularly unique and memorable entertainment at one such party when Albert Wilson captivated the crowd with music played on his newly acquired graphophone.
By the time the second decade of the 20th century was beginning, many members of the younger generation of the pioneer families had left the small hamlet of Healdsburg to seek their fortunes in the bigger cities of San Rafael, Benicia, and other points south. But this only served to present a delightful opportunity to host out-of-town visitors and to enjoy out-of-town excursions. Agnes often would alternately host and visit many of her nieces and nephews, including Bertha Reilly (nee Greaver) in San Francisco and later in Los Angeles, Irene Robinson (nee Greaver) in San Rafael, and Harry Brown in San Francisco.
Another tradition that began around this time was for the Wilsons to spend extended visits to the Pacific coast for camping and fishing. Many excursions to Bodega Bay, Jenner, and Tamales Bay were reported in the local newspapers. Participants included daughter Helen of course, but also Mr. and Mrs. Walter Cook, Mrs. Harry Brown and her daughter Maude, Mae and John Taeuffer, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Greaver, and Agnes’ grandson Claude Congleton. One visit to Dillon’s Beach, made with friends Mr. and Mrs. John Long, in September 1910 was particularly notable because the group had made the trip in the Long’s automobile. Eventually, in 1916, the Wilsons decided they enjoyed spending time at the coast so much that they partnered with a friend, J.C. Green, to build a vacation cabin at Jenner.
In April 1910 some of the ladies living on the South side of Healdsburg formed a sewing club that met twice each month. They dubbed themselves “The Busy Bees” referring to their busy hands as well as to the buzzing of their conversation. Each lady took her turn at hosting the group which followed the rule that no more than two items of refreshment would be provided, usually cake and either ice cream or hot chocolate, depending on the season. Frequently, musically inclined members Miss Julia Bachman, Miss Joey Brown and Mrs. Millie Brown would provide entertainment.
But the ladies did not restrict use of their creative talents to making things for themselves and in January 1912 they sewed quilts to be donated for use by the orphans living at the Lytton Home. By April 1913 they had changed their club name to “The Social Neighbors Club” perhaps to better describe the primary purpose of their congenial gatherings.
Albert Wilson had become involved with the Knights of Pythias lodge in 1900, when he served as Master of Works. Agnes began her active involvement with the women’s auxiliary of that organization, the Pythian Sisters, in 1914, when she was elected Junior of Temple. Two years later she moved up to become Most Excellent Chief, the highest office at the local chapter level. In June 1916 she became Most Excellent Senior, followed in January 1917 when she assumed the role of Past Chief. Card playing was a regular part of the lodge meetings and both Agnes and Albert were frequently listed as the high scorers of the evening in the local press.
CHANGES IN THE FAMILY CONTINUE
Agnes’ son Claude Congleton had married local girl, Eugenia Selistine Hoar, who was called Jenny and who was also known as Birdie, on October 13th, 1903. The young couple had one son, Claude Franklin Congleton on February 13th, 1905, who missed having a shared birthday with his Aunt Mae and Grandmother Agnes by just one day. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on December 2nd, 1906 before the boy had even turned two. His father Claude suffered a severe injury that day in a horrible accident while working as a brakeman on the train running out of Eureka. He passed away the following day, December 3rd, just one day before his own 25th birthday. From then on, Agnes and Albert would take extra care to include their grandson Claude, who would later become known by the nickname “Buster Brown” in their fishing and camping trips. To learn more about his life, please read AKA “Buster Brown”. A number of years later, in 1909, widow Jenny Hoar Congleton would marry George Taeuffer, Mae Congleton Taeuffer’s brother-in-law, linking the two families in a second way that would confuse researchers in later decades.
Life continued for Agnes, Albert and little Helen on the Bailhache Avenue farm. Sadly, Grandma Call’s health went into decline and she began to suffer from a progressive dementia. In early 1911 she took a fall in the garden and broke her femur at the hip. She was not strong enough to recover from her injury and on May 20th she passed away at the age of 84 years. Healdsburg pioneer Mary Call was then laid to rest in Oak Mound Cemetery next to her husband John.
POLITICS ENTERS THE PICTURE
The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, commonly known as simply “The Grange,” was originally established to improve agricultural conditions in the post-Civil War South by teaching modern techniques. The goal of providing education was replaced fairly quickly with the goal of yielding political power, particularly in pursuing regulation of the railroads, but also in supporting temperance, the direct election of Senators, and women’s suffrage. It was also unique for a fraternal society of the time because it did not have a women’s auxiliary associated with it. Instead, it recognized women as members equal to the men. In fact, the by-laws established that four of the elected positions could only be held by women, thereby acknowledging the important role that women played on the family farm.
The Wilsons became involved with the Pomona Grange of Healdsburg in 1907 when Albert agreed to join the Hop Growers’ Union of the Pacific Coast. The goal of the union was to leverage the volume of the crops of multiple growers to improve their ability to negotiate price with the large processing companies. By 1915 it was Agnes who was most closely involved with the organization when in December she was elected Steward for the following year. The main focus of the Healdsburg group in 1916 was to entice the California State Grange to hold their October 1917 annual meeting in Healdsburg. They were successful and the meeting, which focused on both co-operative buying and nationalizing the railroads, was held in town. Agnes served on the all-important banquet committee for the large state meeting.
NEVER ENDING CHANGE
While Agnes and Albert were busy working to unionize the hop growers of California, the world was being plunged into war. The United States avoided participation as long as was possible, but on April 2nd, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany. Four days later that request was granted and the US joined allies Britain, France, and Russia in fighting the Great War to End all Wars. No one’s life would go untouched by the events to follow.
To learn about the next surprise in Agnes’ life, please read A Sister Found and Lost.
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise, and Scimitar; 13 Dec 1900, 24 Jul 1902, 14 Aug 1902, 25 Sep 1902, 6 Oct 1904, 6 Dec 1906, 6 Mar 1910, 27 Apr 1910, 11 May 1910, 25 May 1910, 25 Jan 1912, 24 Apr 1913, 22 Jan 1914, 10 Feb 1916, 20 Jul 1916, 25 Jan 1917, 8 Feb 1917, 15 Feb 1917, 26 Apr 1917
Healdsburg Enterprise; 3 Oct 1903, 6 Feb 1904, 29 Oct 1904, 18 Jul 1908, 19 Feb 1910, 17 Sep 1910, 11 Nov 1911, 25 Nov 1911, 1 Jun 1912, 6 Jul 1912, 20 Jul 1912, 16 Nov 1912, 15 Mar 1913, 10 May 1913, 12 Jul 1913, 17 Jan 1914, 4 Jul 1914, 18 Jul 1914, 3 Jul 1915, 11 Dec 1915, 22 Jan 1916, 8 Apr 1916, 22 Jul 1916, 21 Oct 1916, 4 Nov 1916, 11 Nov 1916, 27 Jan 1917, 10 Feb 1917, 15 Dec 1917
Sotoyome Scimitar; 3 Feb 1904, 20 Jul 1904, 24 Nov 1908
Healdsburg Tribune; 1 Nov 1900, 16 Feb 1910, 31 May 1911, 11 Nov 1915
Press Democrat; 6 Dec 19072
Friends of Historic Butteville
Centennial History of Oregon, 1811 – 1921, vol.1
Museum of Musical Instruments
Arbor Day Foundation