Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson Part 2- Agnes Makes a Regrettable Choice

My great great grandmother began her life on February 14, 1861 in the tiny snow-bound village of Moscow, Minnesota as Agnes Vanderwalker. Sadly, her mother, Clarinda Stokes Vanderwalker, died in childbirth leaving her father, Isaac Vanderwalker, with six young children. When the Civil War broke out two months later, he decided it would be best to hand the infant over into the care of a local couple who wanted to expand their family. And after being adopted by John and Mary Call who, in 1870, relocated to a farm on Bailhache Avenue outside of Healdsburg, California, Agnes Vanderwalker Call did enjoy an idyllic childhood. [More details here.]

TEENAGERS IN 19TH CENTURY HEALDSBURG

In November 1876, a few months before Agnes’ sixteenth birthday, the Healdsburg Amateur Minstrel Club put on their first show to rave reviews. Many of the townspeople attended the event held to benefit the local library. The show was repeated the next month, this time followed by a dance which lasted past midnight. If Agnes was there, her eye would surely have been drawn to rakish eighteen year-old George Congleton who was playing the Mr. Bones character.

Young George Washington Congleton had been born May 26, 1858 in Petaluma where he lived until the sudden death of his father, John E. Congleton, in January 1863. By 1870, the family had relocated and the widow Almira Almy Congleton was living in Healdsburg with her new husband Sebre Gustin Burgess. Twelve year old George Congleton was living with a tenant farmer in nearby Washington Township where he attended school. By this time his older siblings were all married and living in various parts of Northern California.

Agnes spent her sixteenth year establishing herself in Healdsburg Society. She attended numerous parties along with other young people from locally prominent families and joined the Charity Temple, No. 14, of Junior Templars, serving on the Executive Committee. She even represented the local temple at that organization’s 1877 regional meeting.

A HASTY MARRIAGE

Meanwhile, the Healdsburg Amateur Minstrel Club continued to present shows at various venues around Healdsburg throughout 1877 and George Congleton’s name was always prominently displayed in the reviews. In February 1878, Agnes Call turned seventeen. A few months later she discovered that she was pregnant. In 1878 there was only one thing that could happen next.

Newspaper Clipping edit1The Healdsburg Enterprise reported on their September 8, 1878 Bailhache Avenue wedding in a manner that reflected the devil-may-care personality of the groom, offering special congratulations in appreciation for the wedding cake that had been provided to the newspaper staff.

On February 14, 1879 Lula Mae Congleton was born on her mother Agnes’ eighteenth birthday. The young family moved in with George’s mother, Almira Burgess, now widowed for the second time, in her house on Sherman Street in Healdsburg. Just over a year later, on May 21, 1880, little Mae was joined by a brother, John Easley Congleton, named after his grandfather. Their father, George, was making a living as an apprentice to a painter, specifically a carriage painter.

THE FUN NEVER STOPS

On December 4, 1881, just eighteen months after Johnny Congleton had been born, a second son, Aden “Porter” Claude Congleton, joined the family. Three weeks later, on December 26, 1881, George left his wife and their three children (a 2 year-old, an 18 month-old, and a three week-old), at home to kick up his heels at the grand masquerade ball given by Healdsburg Post 16, G.A.R., at Powell’s Theater. The evening was reportedly a great success and many prizes were awarded for the best costumes and dancers, although, sadly, George’s monkey costume did not win a prize that night.

The fun did not end for Agnes’ husband, as the following May 1882 found him enjoying the huge picnic at Hasset’s Grove held by the Turn Verein and Firemen of Petaluma that was attended by 3,000 people. The day-long program included foot races, a tug-of-war, weight lifting, shooting and equestrian competitions. George Congleton won the Firemen’s prize for running 175 yards. The day was capped off with a dazzling dance that evening in Petaluma. There is no indication that Agnes was there to enjoy the festivities.

PURSUIT OF GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT

By all accounts, George’s wagon painting business seemed to be doing well when in July Newspaper Clipping 2 edit11882 the Russian River Flag reported that he may soon be taking over the E.B. McWilliams’ sign-painting business on West Street across from the flouring mill. However, there was no further mention of the deal ever going through to fruition. Then six months later, in January 1883, George’s first publicized brush with the law occurred when he was sentenced to 60 days in jail for disturbing the peace and resisting an officer.

Soon after his release, George contracted with J.H. Biggs to build a peddler’s wagon that was to be stocked by W.L. Griffith, which George planned to drive throughout the countryside selling merchandise. But again, there was no further mention of this scheme which would indicate that the deal had ever gone through. By now Agnes had her hands full raising 4-year old Mae, 3-year old Johnny, and 16-month old Claude.

MORE TROUBLE WITH THE LAW

The next serious brush with the law came in January 1884 when George Congleton was arrested and fined for driving over the 6-mph speed limit established by the newly-adopted charter for the City of Healdsburg. He refused to pay the fine and was jailed. A writ of habeas corpus was successfully processed and George was released, only to be picked up the following month in Petaluma and sentenced to 90 days in jail for again resisting arrest.

Meanwhile, long-suffering Agnes had begun taking in seamstress work to keep her young family fed and the rent on their Piper Street house paid. That house was conveniently located just about a block away from the saloon district where George was known to spend a good deal of his time. On one occasion, when one of her sons was ill, Agnes walked to the saloon to obtain some whiskey that she hoped would ease his suffering. There she found George, in a state of drunkenness.

Slide1

By the time that 1885 rolled around, George had left Agnes and the children and had set up housekeeping with a prostitute named Carrie. The pair was soon expelled from town by the local constabulary on a charge of vagrancy. Reportedly they headed North to Lakeport where Carrie opened a house of ill repute. When that establishment burned to the ground, they left Lakeport, passing through Healdsburg on their way to points South. George stopped in long enough to visit Agnes and to inform her that he was living the life of an idle gentleman at Carrie’s expense.

FREE AT LAST

Meanwhile, Agnes continued to support herself and her children as best she could. In addition to her work as a seamstress she was now going out to clean people’s houses. And she was saving up every spare penny for the day she would be able to break free.

In the 1880s, a man could sue his wife for divorce claiming a number of grounds including adultery and cruelty. But the only grounds for divorce that a woman was allowed to claim was desertion. And there was a year-long waiting period.

By the end of 1886, Agnes had been abandoned for the requisite year, but she needed to retain the services of an attorney. In addition to the attorney fees, she also would have to pay the Sheriff to serve papers on the defendant. Since by this time George Congleton was living in Santa Clara County, there would be the added cost for the Sheriff’s travel.

In the 1870s, Healdsburg native William Francis Russell had attended grammar school at Mill Creek and had completed High School at Alexander Academy with distinction. He had then obtained his law degree in Ventura County. In early 1884 he set out his shingle Divorce Cover Sheetacross the street from the County Courthouse in Santa Rosa and began looking for clients among his Healdsburg friends. In 1887 he agreed to represent Agnes in her action against husband George. Finally, on July 20, 1887, Agnes Call Congleton was able to file for a divorce.

Agnes testified in her own behalf, relating the sometimes lurid details of her experience with married life. Her friend Vesta F. Clark, respected local matron active in the Pythian Sisters, also testified for Agnes, confirming that she had a good reputation and was a good and devoted mother to her children. A neighbor and friend of defendant George, Jess King, also testified. He confirmed that his friend, George Congleton, had told him he was living with the woman known as Carrie. He agreed that Agnes had a good reputation and was attached to her children. And although he indicated that George was good as far as his work went, he also testified that his morality was very poor. Although the court records are clear that the Santa Clara Sheriff had successfully served George Congleton with the divorce summons, George did not bother to appear or to respond in any way.

On October 3, 1887, Judge Thomas Rutledge decreed that the marriage between Agnes L. Congleton and George W. Congleton was dissolved and that Agnes would be granted the care, custody and control of the minor children.
Divorce Decree Detail edit2 resize

Tragically, Agnes would not have been in any mood to celebrate her newfound independence because on August 9, 1887, while the court case against her husband was still pending, their seven year-old son Johnny Congleton had died unexpectedly.

STARTING OVER

Agnes had really been put through the wringer for the better part of ten years. Now she was a 26 year-old single mother with two young children to raise. But she was made of strong stock and was not about to give up. She possessed the resilience to begin anew. Before long she would find the love of her life who would partner with her to raise her children and she would rejoin Healdsburg Society with her head held high. She would even be able to parlay the expert sewing skills that she had honed in order to keep their heads above water during the tough times into a source of enjoyment and camaraderie in later life.

 

Sources:
Agnes Wilson Death Certificate
Taylor-DeGood Cemetery in Moscow, Minnesota
Isaac Vanderwalker Civil War Pension File 297,775
1870 U.S. Census
1880 U.S. Census
Free and Accepted Mason Records from California, May 1863
Court Transcript, Agnes L. Congleton vs. George W. Congleton, October 3, 1887, Sonoma County Book C, Page 181
Extreme Genes – America’s Family History and Genealogy Radio Show & Podcast, Episode 162, Judy Russell, “The Legal Genealogist,” On Divorce in the 19th Century
Daily Evening Bulletin, San Francisco: 3 June 1858
Russian River Flag: 27 June 1872, 2 November 1876, 7 December 1876, 4 January 1877, 8 February 1877, 15 March 1877, 19 April 1877, 29 November 1877, 3 June 1880, 8 December 1881, 29 December 1881, 13 July 1882, 20 July 1882, 26 April 1883, 6 December 1883, 24 January 1884, 14 February 1884, 6 March 1884, 17 April 1884
Healdsburg Enterprise: 12 September 1878, 22 May 1879, 18 December 1879, 27 May 1880, 12 August 1887
Sacramento Daily Union: 16 September 1878, 25 February 1879
Petaluma Daily Argus: 4 June 1880
Sonoma Democrat: 29 May 1880, 10 December 1881, 13 May 1882, 27 January 1883, 26 January 1884, 9 February 1884
Petaluma Courier: 14 December 1881

How I Found My Buchignani Connection

 

My mother was born Maria Columbia Buchignani. Her parents were Vittorio Alberto Buchignani and Eva Veronica Giorgi.

Mom and Grand Parents

Growing up in Healdsburg, California I remember spending a lot of time visiting with my mother’s cousins on her Giorgi side. But there were also numerous families in town and the surrounding area named Buchignani, and we never socialized with any of them. My mother’s explanation was that “We’re not related to them.” By the 1990s there were 39 Buchignani families in Sonoma County. There were 160 in California. But, of course, we were not related to any of them.

SKIMPY DETAILS

Giorgi Family Tree - 1985In 1985, my Giorgi family held a reunion in Healdsburg. My sister, Joanne Taeuffer, wrote a family history using research and remembrances from our mother and other family members. From this work I learned that my mother’s father, Vittorio (Victor) Buchignani had been born 26 September 1894 in Carignano, Lucca, Italy and that he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1910. His parents had been Orlando Buchignani and Columba Puccetti, and he had had a brother named Natale, who had remained in Italy. And that was about all.

After my mother died in 1994, I embarked on my journey into our family history. Admittedly, I focused mostly on my father’s side. This was, in large part, because most of his people had come to the United States much earlier than my mother’s people had and consequently the records they had left were written in English and easier to read.

Nevertheless I was able to find the record of 16 year old Vittorio Buchignani arriving at Ellis Island in 1910 on the S.S. Berlin. The ship manifest indicated that he was coming to stay with his cousin who was working in a brick factory in the tiny village of Waynesburg, Ohio. By the next year, 1911, he was in San Francisco working at the Gray Brothers Brickyard. Apparently that type of physical labor did not suit Vittorio, because soon he was working in a bar in San Mateo. By 1917 his World War I Draft Registration Card indicated that he was working as a grocery salesman for Orlando (sic – it had actually been Oreste) Buchignani’s grocery store in Healdsburg. Surely having the same surname as the boss could not have been a coincidence. There must have been a family connection, right? In 1919, Vittorio married local girl, Eva Veronica Giorgi, which resulted in her losing her American citizenship (but that is a story for another time).

THE ODD MAN OUT

In 2012 I came across an article written by Shonnie Brown, well-known Sonoma County genealogist-for-hire and popular newspaper columnist, detailing a Buchignani family reunion that had recently taken place. When I contacted her asking if she had any additional details about the family genealogy, she referred me to Suzy Buchignani in Healdsburg. Suzy was extremely helpful and explained that she had built her husband Ken Buchignani’s family tree for their recent reunion. Her work had traced that family back to Narciso Buchignani whose son had immigrated from Carignano, Lucca in 1907, just three years before Vittorio. But my grandfather didn’t show up in that tree. Nobody living knew where Vittorio might fit in. Suzy was able to put me in touch with another family researcher, Stacey Joose, who had also done some research into the second Healdsburg Buchignani family line.

It took until 2013 for me to get in touch with Stacey who had traced her Healdsburg Buchignani family back to Vincenzo whose son had immigrated from Carignano, Lucca in 1896. But again, my grandfather wasn’t in her tree. In the course of our correspondence she happened to mention that her two great uncles Angelo and George Buchignani had owned a bar at 201 Railroad Avenue in San Mateo, California in the 1910s. Now wait a minute…That is the bar I have a picture of Vittorio standing behind! Being able to provide Stacey with a photo of her great uncles’ bar was one of those goose-bump genealogy moments that are equally rewarding for the donor and the recipient. Priceless!!

Now if Vittorio had found a job with these Buchignani brothers, how could he have not been related to them in some way? Or did he just go from town to town looking up people named Buchignani in the phone book so he could hit them up for work?!?

So by 2014 I had learned that the two Healdsburg Buchignani lines could be traced back to Lucchesi ancestors Vincenzo and Narciso. Family lore said that they were uncle and nephew, but nobody had proof. Nobody knew where Vittorio might fit in, so everybody assumed that he didn’t. He was still the odd man out.

In 2015, the genealogically inclined Buchignani folks had agreed to get together in Healdsburg the day before Thanksgiving to compare notes. Suzy was kind enough to invite possible-relative me to join them. When I arrived I found they had laid out printed copies of the family trees of the Narciso and Vincenzo Buchignani lines on either side of the long dining room table. The descendants present aligned themselves on the side of the table corresponding with their family tree. I stood awkwardly at the short end of the table, like Vittorio, the odd man out.

THE PLOT THICKENS

Enter my potential cousin John Puccioni, raised in Healdsburg but recently retired and living in Colorado, whose grandmother had been a Buchignani. He had taken the time to sift through the unindexed vital records from Lucca available on the LDS Website Family Search and had found some crucial records, but he had not been able to translate them completely. My contribution to the pre-Thanksgiving gathering was to connect him up with the Facebook group Italian Genealogy where he was able to get the documents translated by an expert. It turned out that Vincenzo and Narciso were actually brothers! Their father was Ranieri Buchignani. The two Healdsburg Buchignani branches were now linked definitively. Hurrah for them!!

But what about Vittorio? Perhaps he came from another, yet unknown son of Ranieri. But how would we find out? The civil records available on Family Search only exist for events that occurred between around 1860 and 1890. We needed to go back further to determine whether or not my line might lead to Ranieri. But how could we get access to the early church records in Carignano?

LET’S GO BACK TO THE OLD COUNTRY

Meanwhile, I had retired in 2014 and had been studying the Italian language at Glendale City College. The school was organizing a study abroad program in Italy for January 2016 rental carand so I signed up. After a whirlwind four-week semester studying Italian culture through film, touring all the great spots in Rome, and eating a lot of amazing food, the rest of the group went home and I set off by myself to look for my ancestors.

After spending an amazing four days staying in Boveglio with my cousin Anna Cesari on my Giorgi side (but that is a story for another time), I headed westward toward the community of Carignano just to the north of Lucca. I arrived at the Hotel Carignano in the early afternoon and checked in. It was Carignano ChurchFebruary and the place was deserted. I decided to drive up the hill to the nearby church, Chiesa di Maria Assunta, to see if I could determine when they held Mass and when the church might be open. I spotted the parking lot sign just below the church and pulled the rental car in. Miracle of miracles! The lot was filled with cars! The church was open right now!!

I grabbed my camera and slogged through the muddy parking lot toward the church, which was abuzz with activity. It was Carnevale week and they were selling gift baskets of traditional treats in the room just outside the main church entrance. I approached a gentleman there and in halting Italian I tried to tell him that I was looking for old church records. He seemed mystified, but a mature woman overhead me and understood well enough. She grabbed me and dragged me inside the church and over to the elderly priest. He spoke absolutely no English, but apparently I was not the first crazy American to show up there with a similar request. I explained in Italian that my grandfather had been born nearby and that I was looking Cabinetfor the birth records of my great grandparents, Orlando Buchignani and Maria Columba Puccetti. I knew the dates, so he was agreeable and lead me back past the altar and into a dark room with the cabinet that held all the old records. He brought down the book of baptisms that began in 1790. It was Volume III. How far back might the earlier volumes go?!?

THE MOTHER LODE

Before long I was looking at the original record of Orlando Buchignani’s baptism in January 1851. It identified him as the son of Francesco and grandson of Ranieri. There was the link! I WAS related to all those other Healdsburg Buchignani families!!

Orlando Baptism
15 January 1851 – Orlando Paladino, son of Francesco son of Renieri Buchignani and of Maria Rosaria daughter of Arcangelo Farilla, his wife, was born the abovementioned day at 10 o’clock in the morning and was baptized at Lucca in the church of San Frediano.

The record indicated that Orlando had been baptized in the church of San Frediano inside the wall of Lucca. I later learned that the church of San Frediano was originally built in the 6th century and that the Romanesque baptismal font had been carved by three artists in the 12th century. My great grandfather had been baptized there.

Over the next three days I was able to spend a total of six hours hunched over the table in the dark room lit by a single bulb, which I would estimate at about a 10W power rating. I spent the time photographing every record that included the surnames I knew to look for: Buchignani, Puccetti, and Puccioni. The translation and analysis of these records would have to wait until I was back in the states when I would have more time (not to mention better lighting). It would turn out that through these records I would be able to identify at least 50 new blood relatives going back three generations beyond what I had known before my trip.

GiadaWhile I was poring over the records, the word went out into the neighborhood that some Buchignani descendant had arrived from America and was in the church looking at the old books. So it was not long before a pretty young lady arrived to say hello. She introduced herself as Giada Buchignani, great granddaughter of Natale, making her my second cousin once removed. She gave me a list of her aunts and uncles that coincided with the list that my mother had compiled during her visit to Carignano in the 1980s, about 30 years earlier.

I’VE HEARD THAT SOMEWHERE BEFORE

On my second day in Carignano the church was closed, so I took a walk through the cemetery. I knew that in Italy the practice was that after a certain amount of time had passed the remains would be removed and the graves reused, so I wouldn’t find plots older than 50 or 100 years. But we genealogists just can’t stay away from a graveyard. As soon as I opened the creaky rusted gate I noticed a group of older ladies placing flowers on the graves at the other end of the cemetery. One redheaded lady approached me and Giuliannaintroduced herself as Giulianna Buchignani, daughter of Natale. This was my mother’s first cousin! She gave me a tour of the cemetery, pointing out the various Buchignani graves and telling stories about those people contained within.

Presently, we stopped in front of one Buchignani plot. Giulianna pointed at it and shook her head. Then I heard my mother’s words (only in Italian) come out of her mouth, “We are not related to them.” I didn’t have the heart to try and set her straight!

Sources:
U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993 – 2002, Ancestry.com
Passaporto Italiano di Vittorio Buchignani
“A Giorgi Family History 1882 – 1985” by Joanne Taeuffer
Ship Manifest, S.S. Berlin – Ellis Island Records
Wikipedia
“History of Sonoma County 1937” by Ernest Latimer Finley
Photo of Vittorio in Ovest Fontana, 201 Railroad Avenue, San Mateo, California
U.S. World War I Draft Registration Card, Ancestry.com
http://www.sacred-destinations.com
Libbro di Battezzati della Cura di Carignano e Busdagno – 1790

 

 

 

Claude F. Congleton – AKA “Buster Brown”

In October 1903, Eugenia Selestine Hoar, daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Eugenia Chichester Hoar of Healdsburg married A. Claude Congleton, son of Agnes Call Congleton Wilson of Bailhache Avenue. The young couple set up housekeeping in Healdsburg and on February 13, 1905 their son Claude Franklin Congleton was born. Eugenia, better known as Jennie or Birdie, and baby Claude kept the home fires burning while Daddy Claude was away working as a brakeman for the Railroad.

Tragedy struck the young family early on when, in December 1906, just one day before his twenty-fifth birthday, A. Claude was killed while working on the train to Eureka, California. Little Claude F. was not even two years old at the time, so he never got the chance to know his father.

AN EXTENDED FAMILY

In June 1909, when Claude was six, his mother married George Taeuffer, who was the

PHOTO 1
Claude F. Congleton in striped shirt seated on George Taeuffer’s knee with Birdie Taeuffer standing next to them. Mae and John Taeuffer are to the right. Ernest and Sophie Taeuffer are at the far right. Seated from the left are: unknown, Dorothy and Ernest Taeuffer, and Helen Wilson.

brother-in-law of her late husband’s sister, Mae Congleton Taeuffer. George soon took Claude under his wing and made him a part of the Taeuffer family. In May 1910, the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar reported that “George Taeuffer and son, Claude, returned to their home over on the West Side Monday after a stay of two weeks with Mr. and Mrs. E. Taeuffer.”

 

PHOTO 2
From the left: Dorothy and Ernest Taeuffer, Claude F. Congleton, and Helen Wilson playing with a litter of kittens.

Luckily for Claude, he had two cousins and an aunt who were close to him in age. Cousins Ernest and Dorothy Taeuffer were three years and one year older, respectively. His aunt Helen Wilson was just two years older. The four children were inseparable. Fancy parties were held frequently, particularly for the little girls. In 1910, for example, Dorothy Taeuffer hosted a party for her little friends where “chocolate, bread and butter and cake were served in her own wee dishes.” Birthday parties typically included favors or souvenirs for all in attendance in addition to the traditional cake and ice cream.

In 1912 when Claude was seven, his half-brother, George Edwin Taeuffer was born. Possibly in an effort to give the new mother a little break, Claude began being included in excursions with his grandparents, Agnes and Albert Wilson. In 1913 he enjoyed a two-week trip to the Wilson’s cottage in Jenner along with his aunt Helen. The John Taeuffer family including young Ernest and Dorothy joined the group for a portion of that seaside vacation.

A PROPHETIC NICKNAME

The popular comic strip “Buster Brown”, depicting a conservatively dressed boy who behaved mischievously, created in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault for the New York Herald was in its heyday when Claude was a child. The recurring theme of the comic was that each time the naughty Buster’s misdeeds were discovered he would always promise to behave better, but of course he never did. Claude’s mother chose to dress her son in the style of Buster Brown and he would soon become known by that nickname. The name was so pervasive that his cousin, Mildred Harris Farrell, who was only three when Claude died, would recall it seventy years later.

Claude’s experience in grammar school was a mixture of academic struggle and extracurricular fun. He was held back in the second grade and his promotion from fifth to sixth grade was only “conditional.” Yet he participated in the Healdsburg Grammar School Bazaar Mother Goose Pageant held in June 1916 performing “Sing a Song of Sixpence” as part of a chorus of 4th graders and then again as part of the 5th grade “Tinker’s Chorus” the following May. He also recited “Spare That Tree” at the Burbank and Arbor Day Program celebrating both Luther Burbank’s birthday and Arbor Day in March 1918.

His mischievous behavior started catching up to him when in April 1917 it was reported in the newspaper that Deputy Game Warden Henry Lencioni had caught twelve-year old Claude and his friend Fred Mason on Mill Creek fishing before the season had opened. The boys were in possession of a total of 163 trout which were confiscated and taken to the Detention Home were the children there reportedly enjoyed a fine fish dinner. The incident even made it into the California Fish and Game Commission Report for the year where parents were warned that such behavior by youngsters would no longer be tolerated on account of their “tender years” and offenders would be prosecuted without exception.

In June 1920, Claude completed grammar school and was promoted to high school. But academics were not in his future. The following month, at the age of fifteen, he traveled to San Francisco with his mother and step-father to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

THE NAVY WILL MAKE A MAN OUT OF HIM

On July 20, 1920, Claude F. Congleton enlisted in the U.S. Navy for a period of three years. Because he was not yet eighteen, his mother had to sign a consent form. Claude was actually only fifteen at the time, which was apparently too young for enlistment. So Birdie Taeuffer signed an oath swearing that his birth year was 1903 rather than 1905, which would have made him seventeen. At the time he was described as being 5 feet 6 inches tall, 139 lb., with light brown eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion. On his insurance paperwork he listed his mother Birdie Taeuffer and his brother George Edwin Taeuffer as his beneficiaries.

After enlistment at the Naval Recruitment Station in San Francisco, California, Claude traveled to the Navel Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois, arriving on July 31st. There he began his training as an Apprentice Seaman.

PHOTO 4 - USS Prairie 1919On October 11, 1920 Claude began his first assignment on the USS Prairie in San Diego. The ship was originally built in 1890 to be an ocean liner. It was acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1898 and re-fitted. It then would be decommissioned and recommissioned three times before the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917 at which point it was converted into a destroyer tender. Claude served aboard her until her final decommissioning in November 1922. At that time, he was transferred onto PHOTO 5 - USS Nechesthe USS Neches where he served the remainder of his 3-year hitch. The USS Neches was a much more modern ship having been commissioned in late 1920.

Claude’s Navy service record does not indicate that he received any academic training nor did he receive any training in small arms or rifles. He did, however, get into a number of scrapes with various offences listed including; being out of uniform, AWOL for a few hours, gambling, using obscene language, wearing a dirty uniform at inspection, repeatedly absent from muster and for sporting a “non-regulation haircut.” His punishments for these offences included being fined, being put on restriction, and even a day of solitary confinement. Considering the fact that he was a 15 to 18 year old boy away from home for the first time in his life, these behaviors could pretty much all fall into the category of youthful transgressions.

But in spite of the list of errors he made, at the end of his 3-year stint, on July 19, 1923 Claude F. Congleton received an honorable discharge with the rank of Seaman 2nd Class and a recommendation for reenlistment. He was discharged at Port Angeles, Washington and given funds to pay for his transportation back to his point of enlistment, San Francisco.

FALLING IN WITH THE WRONG CROWD

After leaving the Navy, Claude made his way from Washington State back to Healdsburg where he just didn’t seem to be able to stay out of trouble. His name was back in the newspaper when in 1925 he was called before the Justice of the Peace on a charge of driving with no tail light.

It was soon thereafter when he found work at the Healdsburg Concrete Pipe Company. Nevertheless, he apparently could not resist the lure of easy money. The state fishing commission suspected that a gang of salmon poachers was operating on the Russian River at that time. It would turn out that Claude was among their number. This choice would prove to be the worst one of Claude’s life.

On the evening of Saturday, December 18, 1926 Claude drove a borrowed Nash roadster to the Tucker Street home of his boss at the concrete plant, Alfred Sousa. He and his friend known only as Shipp had been drinking. They convinced Sousa to drive them to the Grant gravel plant shed about 100 yards upstream from the railroad bridge on the Russian River. There they were met by several other young men, including Delano Grant, in a Ford coupe. Around 11:00 pm Claude proceeded to the shore of the river and got into a small rowboat without oars, determined to collect the illegal net they had set in the river several hours earlier to catch salmon. Sousa tried to dissuade him, urging him to wait for the morning. But it was to no avail, and the young man pushed off into the river. In a few minutes those on the shore heard a splash. A hurried search yielded the empty boat, but no Claude, and it was suggested that perhaps he had crawled to shore and gone home.

Around 12:30 am, Alfred Sousa went to the North Street home of Claude’s parents, George and Birdie Taeuffer, to inform them of the evening’s events. It was 2:00 am when the police were notified. They proceeded immediately to the river where they found the rowboat with the weighted fishing net pulled most of the way inside, lodged against snags and willows under the highway bridge, but no sign of Claude.

PHOTO 6At first light on Sunday morning, the search began in earnest. Six local men probed the river with poles, working their way from the railroad bridge to the highway bridge. When that search was unsuccessful, the river was dragged with a net for more than 200 yards. Nat Pettenfill was one of the men who spent all day Sunday working at the river with a ten-foot pole. He returned to his gruesome task the next day and finally, at 9:30 am Monday, Nat Pettenfill of Front Street hooked the coat worn by Claude and pulled his lifeless body to shore.

The Coroner’s inquest was held that afternoon at the funeral parlors of Fred Young & Company. Henry Lencioni, now Captain of the county game wardens, who had arrested Claude nine years earlier for fishing out of season, came up from Santa Rosa to confiscate the net, which would later be destroyed. Other agents of the Fishing Commission scrutinized the crowd in an effort to identify members of the alleged salmon poaching gang. The inquest concluded with a determination that the cause of death had been accidental drowning. The newspapers were full of the grizzly details of the story and the Healdsburg Tribune even went so far as to point out that Claude’s death had come exactly 20 years to the month after his father’s violent death by the train. On Wednesday, December 22, 1926, twenty-one year-old Claude F. Congleton was laid to rest in Oak Mound Cemetery beside his father.

EPILOGUE

Although there may not have been any great accomplishments that can be attributed to Claude F. Congleton during his short life, it is worth noting that he did receive one posthumous honor. He must have made an impression on his younger half-brother because in 1942 Ed Taeuffer would name his first-born son in memory of his late brother, Claude.

 

Sources:
California Marriages, 1850 – 1952
Healdsburg California Death Certificates, 1905 – 1915
http://www.britannia.com
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar: 5 January 1910, 25 May 1910, 10 July 1913, 23 June 1917, 26 April 1917,
Healdsburg Enterprise: 18 June 1910, 1 June 1912, 15 June 1912, 10 August 1912, 12 October 1912, 12 June 1913, 30 May 1914, 10 June 1916, 12 May 1917, 9 March 1918, 26 June 1920, 24 July 1920, 23 December 1926
Healdsburg Tribune: 15 October 1925, 20 December 1926, 21 December 1926
Sotoyome Scimitar: 21 December 1926
California Fish and Game Commission Report 1917
Conversation with Mildred Harris Farrell
Navy Service Record for Claude Franklin Congleton
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
Wikipedia

 

Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson Part 1 – The Early Years

THE LIVES OF TWO FAMILIES INTERSECT

Both John Call and Mary Fulton were born in Scotland in the 1820s. Mary immigrated with her family to Canada while still a child. The family subsequently relocated to Rhode Island where Mary met and married John Call in 1844. They then moved to Massachusetts where their son, Finley, was born in in 1846. But unfortunately, the couple would not be blessed with any additional children of their own. After about ten years in New England, they relocated to Minnesota Territory on the American frontier. Mn Map 1876 - sizedIn 1857 they were living in Town 103 N 17, east of the main market town of Albert Lee. The unnamed town, located on the South Fork of the Root River was described as rough and wooded, except for a narrow prairie belt occupying the river bottoms. Nevertheless John Call was able to eke out a living there as a farmer. Life was good, but the small family felt incomplete and the Calls wished in vain for another child.

Meanwhile, New York-born Isaac Vanderwalker and Clarinda Stokes had arrived in Minnesota Territory in 1856 with their five daughters and one son in tow. They were among the first settlers of Austin, Minnesota but by 1860 they had relocated to a small cabin in the tiny town of Moscow located on the border between Mower and Freeborn Counties. Their youngest daughter, Clara, had been born in New York in 1855 and at 39 years of age, her mother Clarinda had assumed her child bearing years were behind her. But in the summer of 1860 she found herself once again in the family way.

The winters are bitter in Minnesota and surely 1861 was no different. The average low Clarinda grave - sizedtemperature in February runs around 12⁰F with an average high around 29⁰F. The average snowfall for the month is over 8 inches. So when forty-year old Clarinda gave birth to baby Agnes on St. Valentine’s Day inside their drafty log cabin in the middle of nowhere, it is not a surprise that she perished the following day, leaving Isaac with six children under the age of 13 to care for.

The Vanderwalker family did not own a cow, so in order to provide milk for baby Agnes, Isaac would have to ride his horse to the nearest neighbor who did. Unfortunately, the jostling of the horse ride back home caused the milk to separate rendering it less than optimum for the infant. It soon became apparent that a different arrangement was needed. Perhaps instead of bringing milk to the baby, it would be more sensible to take the baby to the milk. Enter John and Mary Call.

There is no record as to when Agnes went to live with the Calls and there is no indication that she was ever formally adopted. But in the 1860s, Minnesota was the Western Frontier and it was not always possible to worry about every formal legality. It is likely, however, that the transfer occurred before April 1862 when Isaac Vanderwalker entered the Union Army and left Minnesota to fight in the Civil War. But even though Agnes had become a member of the Call family, her older sister, twelve-year old Helen Vanderwalker, would never forget her.

Mower County Transcript 29 July 1869Agnes’ early years were spent in the village of Lansing, Minnesota where the family attended services at the Methodist Episcopalian (M.E.) Church. Her adopted father, John Call, operated a shoe store that offered boots and shoes as well as custom work of all description. His son, Finley worked with him and was learning to be a cobbler.

Soon after Agnes’ birth father Isaac Vanderwalker returned from the Civil War in 1865, he married local widow, Carrie Smith who brought one small daughter with her to the marriage. The couple soon added two sons to their growing family which now totaled seven children. Since Agnes was happy with the Calls, there really was no reason to wrench her from her new family and everyone went ahead with their lives.

CALIFORNIA, LAND OF OPPORTUNITY

As pleasant as life may have been on the prairie, the lure of the West soon became irresistible to the Calls. Perhaps it was the bitter cold Minnesota winters, or just the limited opportunity in the small town that spurred them to leave. But no sooner was the Currer and Ives - sizedtranscontinental railroad extended to San Francisco Bay in California in November 1869, than the little family was on a train west. Years later, Agnes would tell her daughter, Helen Wilson, how along the way to California the train was stopped and boarded by a group of American Indians. Mary Call was so scared that she pushed 9-year old Agnes under the seat and covered her with a pillow case. The Indians exited the train without incident of course, but it was an exciting experience that Agnes would never forget.

By early 1870, little Agnes was attending school in Healdsburg, California and her father Russian River Flag 31 October 1872 cleanJohn had set up a new boot shop next door to Hertel’s store on the west side of the Plaza. Things went well for the family and by November 1871, John Call opened a new shoe shop in the Odd Fellows lot on the south side of the Plaza, next door to the Lockwood & VanSlyke bookstore, where he and Finley worked making shoes.

Meanwhile, Agnes was fitting in well at school in her new town. In the programme presented by the Healdsburg Public Schools on December 3, 1875, 14-year old Agnes gave a presentation called “Young Curiosity Shop” representing Miss McGauahey’s room. Around that same time a missionary school was being held at the home of Mrs. Hugh McLeod, called the “Busy Bee Society.” The children of various Christian faiths were provided instruction in the manufacture of fancy goods in addition to moral guidance. This group put on a Fair at the Presbyterian Plaza Church on October 13, 1876 where they sold the goods they had made to raise funds. Entertainment was also provided and fifteen-year old Agnes Call along with three of her chums, Misses Libbie Jewel, Lizzie Smith, and Ella Laymance, known collectively as “the country cousins,” provided a Dialog.

A BUSY YEAR IN HEALDSBURG SOCIETY

Agnes Call spent 1877 in a whirl of Healdsburg Society. That year witnessed a variety of festive community events. In February, sixteen-year old Agnes enjoyed a well-attended soiree at the elegant “Oakwood Villa” located just southeast of Healdsburg on the road to Windsor. The 47-acre estate sat on an elevation providing views of Fitch Mountain, Mount St. Helena, the Russian River, and the town of Healdsburg. The party was held in the 10-room house which boasted all the modern conveniences, including hot and cold running water. The attendees enjoyed waltzing to the music provided by the young gentlemen of the Sotoyome String Band before partaking of coffee, cakes, fruits, nuts, and candies.

Lest this type of foray into Society go to Agnes’ head, in March 1877 she became one of the 28 charter members of the Charity Temple, No. 14, lodge of Juvenile Templars. Membership required a pledge of “abstinence from malt liquors, wine and cider as beverages, the use of tobacco, and from all profanity.” The lodge was an off-shoot of the IOGT (International Organization of Good Templars), a group that advocated for an alcohol-free life. At the first meeting of the Healdsburg chapter, Agnes was elected to serve on the Executive Committee.

The 1877 May Day celebration hosted by the Grange Association in Healdsburg was quite an elaborate extravaganza. “King Godfrey” played by Captain L.A. Norton presided over a medieval-style tournament between chivalric knights that drew an estimated crowd of 6,000 people to the town whose population hovered around 1,000. In addition to the tilting and ring spearing contests, a harvest feast and hundreds of private luncheons were enjoyed before the crowning of the Queen of May. The day closed with a grand ball held in Powell’s Theatre commencing at 10 o’clock in the evening. Agnes Call was among those ladies attired in beautiful costumes who danced to the tunes of the Santa Rosa String Band.

The social hoopla continued ten days later with a two-day Concert and Festival put on by the Ladies of the Presbyterian Church featuring entertainment, a tree of presents, grab bag, luncheon, lemonade, ice cream and strawberries held in Powell’s Theatre. The program included singing, musical interludes, various tableaux, and a colloquy called “Mrs. Partington’s Tea Party” starring 16-year old Agnes Call as Mrs. Partington. The event netted over $100 that was to be used for the completion of the new parsonage being built on Fitch Street.

Juvenile Templars Badge 1 sizedAgnes continued her more serious activities as well when in May 1877 she served as one of the Healdsburg delegates to a meeting of the Sonoma County Lodge of Good Templars held at Two-Rock (located between Petaluma and Tomales Bay). The events of that month concluded with a festive party at the home of J. McManus attended by Agnes and many other daughters and sons of prominent Healdsburg families.

A SUDDEN TRANSITION INTO ADULTHOOD

On Valentine’s Day 1878, Agnes turned seventeen. Seven months later she was married to George W. Congleton at her parent’s home on Bailhache Avenue by Rev. William Angwin of the M.E. Church. George was a well-known figure in Healdsburg at the time. He was one of the players in the popular Healdsburg Amateur Minstrel Club and his reputation was that of an easygoing, devil-may-care young buck. Their daughter, Lula Mae Congleton, was born six months later on Agnes’ eighteenth birthday. Thus ended the carefree first chapter in Agnes’ life.

To find out what happened next, click here.

 

Sources:
1841 Scotland Census, Ancestry.com
1870 US Census
1905 Minnesota State Census
Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. XIV, Minnesota Biographies 1655 – 1912
California Great Registers, 1866 – 1910, Ancestry.com
Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota – Fifth Annual Report – 1876, Google Books
Remembrances of Helen Wilson Peterson as told to Maria Buchignani Taeuffer
Bayareacensus.ca.gov
California Digital Newspaper Collection: Russian River Flag; 25 August 1870, 2 November 1871, 23 November 1871, 9 December 1875, 5 October 1876, 19 October 1876, 7 December 1876, 1 February 1877, 29 March 1877, 17 May 1877, 24 May 1877, 31 May 1877
California Digital Newspaper Collection: Sonoma Democrat; 5 May 1877
California Digital Newspaper Collection: Healdsburg Tribune; 31 May 1911
California Digital Newspaper Collection: Sonoma County Tribune; 27 October 1892
Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub: Mower County Register; 9 January 1868
Marriage certificate for George W. Congleton and Agnes Lula Call
Wikipedia

KEEP LOOKING: More on that elusive Congleton family…

One very basic building block of family research is to catalog your family’s movements via census records. These reliable documents provide us not only with evidence of where our people lived across time but also indications of family relationships, countries of origin, occupations, etc., etc. However, every family historian soon learns that the information contain is not always 100% accurate nor is it always complete. I suspect we all have that branch of the tree consisting of people who, by all appearances, were intent on hiding from census takers.

In 1849 the new California state constitution mandated that a state census be conducted in 1852. Since I had discovered a reliable record of my New York-born Great Great Grand Uncle, Aden C. Congleton, having come to California in 1849 from Michigan by wagon train, I felt certain that I should find him in the 1852 census. His brother, John E. Congleton, my Great Great Grandfather, had reportedly arrived with his family sometime in 1852 and so they may or may not have been enumerated. But Aden should be in there!

Repeated rigorous searching of the 1852 California Census on Ancestry using every conceivable spelling and misspelling of Congleton yielded nothing. Years went by.

Recognizing that the database on FamilySearch was likely built using data from a different indexing project than the one done for Ancestry, I repeated the rigorous search on that site. It yielded nothing. More years went by.

Eventually, in 2016, my research led me to the California State Library in Sacramento. There I found a microfilm copy of the typewritten “California Census of 1852” which had been transcribed and published by the DAR in 1934. There, on page 13 of Volume IV, I found a listing for “Congleton, A. – 36 years old – born in New York – last residence Michigan.” There he was! Just as he should be! So why had my seemingly endless searching on Ancestry and FamilySearch not found him?

I made note of the other names on the page with my Congleton and searched Ancestry for them. I found the image of the page that, to my eye, obviously listed “A. Congleton” (OK, the “A” is a bit of a stretch, but…). Ancestry had indexed him as “W. Coughton.” No. Not even close.

1852 CA Census detail

But where was John E. Congleton and his family? Considering that land records indicate they had lived close to Aden, it is likely that they had been enumerated on the same page as him. But since 27 entries on the page had been eaten away by time and neglect, those names would be lost to history forever. I guess John and family are among those lost. But I won’t stop looking for them!

1852 Census full page

MORAL OF THE STORY: Don’t give up the search before every resource has been exhausted. Sometimes the answer can be found in a library, not online. Look at the source document yourself. People make errors.

Cliff House in San Francisco

The original Cliff House in San Francisco was built on the bluffs above Ocean Beach in 1863. It was extremely difficult to reach and only the rich and famous could afford to pay the $1 fare to use the toll road. By the end of the 1870s it was losing money so gambling and liquor were introduced, much to the detriment of the establishment’s reputation.

In 1883 San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro bought the beleaguered Cliff House and set about refurbishing both the building and its reputation. He also commissioned a railroad to improve accessibility for everyday people. Unfortunately, the entire place burned to the ground on Christmas day 1894. Sutro replaced it with a $75,000 replica of a French Chateau that soon came to be known as the Gingerbread House.

The new Cliff House that opened in February 1896 featured an observation tower 200 feet above the Pacific, various restaurants, an art gallery, a gem exhibit, private dining rooms, several bars, and (lucky for us) a photo gallery. The establishment regained its family-friendly reputation and soon other attractions were being built nearby, including the amusement ride called Chutes at the Beach. Eventually more rides and attractions would be added to create the popular Playland at the Beach amusement park several decades later.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the good citizens of Healdsburg, California made periodic visits to San Francisco. As these tintypes attest, the Cliff House was one of the sights they took in.

Cliff House October 1899
John Taeuffer and Mae Congleton at Cliff House in October 1899

 

Cliff House
Standing: William H. Smith, Amelia Jane “Aunt Jennie” Congleton Smith Cook, A. Claude Congleton(?) Seated: Sarah Congleton Greaver(?), Agnes Call Congleton Wilson

 

Shoot the Chute
A yet-to-be-identified relative documenting his visit to Chutes At The Beach

 

 

Sources:
Wikipedia
Mashable.com – “c.1900 The house on the cliff” by Chris Wild
thevintagenews.com – “The long & peculiar history of the Cliff House in San Francisco…” December 26, 2016 by Ian Harvey
National Archives

 

Richard Buchignani, Veteran

Richard Buchignani was 17 years old when he graduated from Healdsburg High School in June of 1942. His first order of business was to begin his attempts to join the military so that he could participate directly in the war effort. He was able to get his mother, Eva Giorgi Buchignani, to sign his under-age application to join the Coast Guard on July 7, 1942. While he waited for that to be processed, he took a job at the shipbuilding facility on Mare Island in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Coast Guard did not avail themselves of the opportunity to induct Richard, so in January 1943 he applied to the local draft board in Healdsburg for voluntary induction into the Navy. But apparently, he did not fit the bill for them either.

Richard Army PortraitRichard Buchignani’s military career finally began in April 1943 when he was inducted into the Army Air Force. He first reported to Laredo, Texas and was then sent to the Army Air Force Technical School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for basic training.

After completion of basic training, Richard was sent to the Army Air field in Tonopah, Nevada in December 1943 to receive training in aerial bombardment aboard a B24 Liberator Bomber. There he met the crew he would serve with in combat. After three months of training, the crew was sent to Hamilton Field near Novato, California. Richard was able to take a short leave to visit with his family in San Francisco and Healdsburg before deploying overseas.

Richard and the rest of the crew joined the 31st Bombardment Group in the South Pacific in early June 1944. After quickly completing their combat training missions in the area, they began flying extended missions against Yap Island in the Caroline Islands on June 27th. It would not be long before their focus shifted to the Palau Island, relocating to a crude tent city on Wakde Island. Each time they relocated their accommodations became increasingly primitive.

In September 1944, the Americans were determined to destroy the oil refineries on Balikpapan that the Japanese Army needed in order to repel an American invasion of the Philippine Islands. So the squadron moved to Noemfoor Island to shorten the distance to their target. The accommodations there were even worse than on Wakde.

Richards Map resized

Despite the move, the 2,600 mile round trip that the team would have to travel to reach their target was still well beyond what their planes were rated for. All extraneous weight was eliminated from the planes in an effort to maximize their chances of making it back to the temporary field which had been hastily built on the Island of Morotai located about half-way between their target and their home base.

Richard MedalsTwenty-four B24s participated in the September 30th raid on Balikpapan. Three did not make it back, including Richard’s. The final transmission received from their plane put them over islands that were controlled by the Japanese. Search parties conducted over the following three days did not reveal any trace of the crew or plane.

The 31st Bombardment Group conducted four more missions against the Balikpapan oil refineries over the following weeks. These raids destroyed the factories and enabled the eventual success of General Douglas McArthur’s return to the Philippines.

For a more detailed account of Richard’s life please read my 2014 book, Richard Buchignani Country Boy to Fly Boy

 

Sources:
Healdsburg High School 1942 Yearbook
Buchignani Family Ephemeral
Richard Buchignani’s service record: National Personnel Records Center, St. Louise, MO
“Courage Before Every Danger, Honor Before All Men” by Joanne Pfannenstiel Emerick 2010
Missing Air Crew Report: Fold3.com
GoogleEarth.com

Ernest Taeuffer, son of John

John and Mae Congleton Taeuffer started their married life on March 2, 1902. They set up housekeeping on the Magnolia Drive ranch located south of Healdsburg where John had grown up and where his father, Ernest Taeuffer, still farmed. The couple’s first child was a son, born November 11, 1902. They named him Ernest Louis Taeuffer, after both his grandfather and his late uncle.

THE COUSINS

 

1 Cousins resized
Ernest Taeuffer standing, Dorothy Taeuffer, Claude Congleton and Helen Wilson, seated.

When Ernest was just seven months old, his grandmother, Agnes Call Congleton Wilson, gave birth to his aunt, Helen Wilson. A year later, in 1904, his sister, Dorothy Agnes Taeuffer was born. And a year after that, in 1905, his Aunt Birdie Hoar Congleton, gave birth to his cousin, Claude Congleton. These four children who were a mixture of siblings, cousins, and an aunt would spend much of their formative years together as a group.

 

 

 

In the early 20th Century, the first eight years of education were lumped together under an umbrella called Grammar School. Children were grouped according to their progress rather than strictly by age. In 1911, Ernest, Dorothy, and Helen, despite having an age range from 7 to 9 years old, were all in the same “High First Grade” class at Healdsburg Grammar School. As the years went by, Ernest and Helen pulled ahead of Dorothy, as would be expected due to their being older. Claude followed along just a grade or two behind his older cousins. In 1817, at fourteen, Ernest would graduate from Grammar School and head for High School.

Birthday parties for the little ones was a popular pastime in the early 1910s. In June of 1912 the group of four attended not one, but two fancy parties with ice cream, cake, and “dainty little favors” or “souvenirs” to commemorate first Dorothy Taeuffer’s eighth birthday on Magnolia Drive and two weeks later Helen Wilson’s ninth birthday on Bailhache Avenue. Ernest attended a similar birthday party in February 1913 honoring one of this classmates, Miss Leota Van Devere in Dry Creek.

2 Whist_marker 2 resizedBut birthdays were not the only excuse for a party. The extended family and neighbors took pretty much every opportunity to have a gathering. The party may have been for a special occasion, such as John and Mae Taeuffer’s tenth wedding anniversary in 1912 or simply a gathering to play progressive whist (a card game similar to bridge). And the little ones were always included. Many evenings spent playing progressive whist at the Taeuffer’s, the Wilson’s, and various neighbors of both families were reported in the local newspapers. In all cases, the evening would last until refreshments were served around the midnight hour. For the most part these events took place on Saturday nights. But not on school nights.

THE WORLD CHANGES

3 Liberty Loan posterIn 1917 a new type of story began receiving high visibility in the local newspapers – the bond drives organized to finance the United States entry into the Great War. Both Ernest L. and his sister Dorothy were listed as bond subscribers for the four drives held in June 1917, October 1917, April 1918, and October 1918. These official U.S. “Liberty Loan” bond drives were augmented by the YMCA Drive in December 1917 and the United War Work Campaign in November 1918. Ernest Taeuffer’s donations to both of these drives conducted at Healdsburg High School were also documented in the local press.

HEALDSBURG HIGH SCHOOL

Attending High School in Healdsburg in 1918 was an exciting adventure. In September the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar reported that the entire faculty was engaged in registering pupils to begin school in the newly constructed high school on Grant Street which would open on September 30th. They reported that “as the floors of the new high school building were hardly ready for the tread of many feet, the work of enrollment was performed at the old building on Fitch street.” The total enrollment would be 172; 4 Specials, 25 Seniors, 32 Juniors, 45 Sophomores (including Ernest), and 66 Freshmen.

4 HHS Yearbook 4 resized

High School provided the opportunity for Ernest to participate in several extracurricular 5 HHS Band 1919activities. As a Junior in 1919, he played in the newly formed band led by Professor Numberger. The band entertained their fellow students at lunchtime, playing music at noon, however, as Principal Morehead announced at the February assembly, “NO dancing would be allowed as the health authorities will not allow it.” It was, after all, the time of the influenza pandemic.

That same year right fielder Ernest Taeuffer was unanimously elected captain of the 6 HHS Baseball 1919 editedbaseball team. That baseball team, however, only won one out of the four games played. They did, however, beat the prior year’s record, when the local team lost every game. They could be forgiven, of course, since in 1918 there had not even been a diamond at the new high school for them to practice on!

But Ernest did not allow his extracurricular activities to deter him from his studies. In December 1917 he was listed in the Honor Roll category “None below C” and in February 1918 in the category “One below B.” In March 1919 they dispensed with the categories and he was simply listed as having made the Honor Roll as a Sophomore. His scholastic efforts were rewarded when he was able to complete his High School education in just three years to graduate with the Class of 1920.

In the 1920 Ye Sotoyome Yearbook, Ernest’s Class Horoscope indicated that his nickname was “Earney,” his favorite expression “Yep!” his hobby “Selling stocks,” his ambition 7 HHS Baseball 1920“Broker,” and his destiny “Lawyer.” He was once again captain of the baseball team, still paying right field. The team did not have a good winning record, but they did have “a swell new outfit of suits.” The yearbook also made note that “Influenza visited our town this year and gave us several weeks vacation not saying how much hard work we had to make up. We can consider ourselves lucky that we did not have to wear those horrid masks this year.”

Ernest graduated Healdsburg High School in June 1920 with 33 other scholars, one of the 8 Ernest Taeuffer 1920 resizedlargest graduating classes in the history of the school. The ceremony was held in the auditorium and was celebrated with a program including musical numbers and an address by Professor C.E. Rough of the University of California. A reception for the graduates along with their parents and friends followed the program.

After high school, Ernest spent his time working with his father and grandfather on the Magnolia Drive ranch. But farm work was not enough to keep him completely out of mischief. In March 1923 Game Warden Henry Lencioni arrested him for illegally fishing for steelhead trout out of season on Dry Creek. The fine imposed by the justice court in Santa Rosa was $25. A pretty high price for some admittedly delicious trout.

LOVE ENTERS THE PICTURE

9 Mae Garrett 1923 resizedIn 1921, Bird and Virgie Garrett relocated from Ukiah to upper Dry Creek with their four sons and four daughters. Their eldest daughter, pretty and vivacious seventeen year old Mae Garrett immediately caught Ernest Taeuffer’s eye. In August 1922 Ernest and his sister Dorothy attended a “forfeit” party thrown by Mae Garrett and in that same month all attended a birthday party for one of Mae’s Dry Creek neighbors. Still in August, Mae joined Ernest and Dorothy, their little brother Norman, parents John and Mae Taeuffer, and Dorothy’s sweetheart George Harris on a hunting trip. The two families became close very quickly with the three Taeuffer siblings visiting the Garretts’ home in Dry Creek and two of Mae’s brothers, Walter and Harry, even spending the summer on the Taeuffer ranch.

Meanwhile, a tall, lanky stranger who had come to town to work on the bridge construction turned out to be too charming for Dorothy Taeuffer to resist, so after completing just two years of high school, she married George Harris in October 1922. Ernest Taeuffer and Mae Garrett served as their best man and bridesmaid. Everyone assumed they would be the next couple to be joined in holy matrimony.

The parties continued into 1923 when, in April, the Taeuffer, Harris, and Garrett families all attended a multi-generational masquerade party in Dry Creek. Two months later Mae Garrett graduated from Healdsburg High School. That November, Ernest celebrated his 21st birthday. He received a handsome pocket watch to mark his having reached adulthood.

OUTBREAK

Tragedy struck a month before Ernest’s 22nd birthday. In September 1924, Ernest’s fifteen month old nephew Bobby Harris was suffering with a bout of the dreaded poliomyelitis virus. Bobby would survive his illness with only one unusually small foot to show for it. In children, paralysis would occur for only about one out of every thousand afflicted. The rate in adults, on the other hand, was one in seventy-five. The virus lives in the throat and intestines and is spread through waste, or sneezes and coughs. The contagious period lasts about 7 to 10 days from onset and the incubation period is anywhere from one to three weeks. Family members could act as unwitting carriers. Caring for an infant with the virus was a hazardous undertaking, indeed.

It was not long before Ernest fell ill with what initially seemed like a bout of the flu which, in those times, was not a trivial ailment in itself. The October 7 edition of the Healdsburg Tribune reported that Ernest was at home suffering from an attack of influenza. Two days later the Tribune reported that he was in critical condition.

Quickly, the diagnosis would take a more serious turn. Like his tiny nephew, Ernest had contracted polio, specifically bulbar polio which attacks the medulla oblongata (brain stem). Within three days of onset patients will exhibit difficulty swallowing, speaking and breathing. This was the case with Ernest and it was only a few days before he became paralyzed. Just before dawn on October 10th, Ernest Taeuffer perished.

There was an outpouring of grief from the town. The October 10 Tribune reported “Just attaining to man’s estate, Ernest Taeuffer counted among his scores of friends not only those of this own age, but his elders as well. He was a carefree young man of amiable disposition, with a smiling greeting for all that had made him widely loved in the community where he made his home.”

The funeral service was held from the Fred Young parlors with Rev. D.J. Donnan officiating. It was “attended by scores of relatives and close friends of the deceased and his family, and a great offering of flowers was made it tribute to the memory of the youth.” Ernest was laid to rest in Healdsburg’s Oak Mound Cemetery.Ernest Memorial 4 resized

As the October 16 Healdsburg Enterprise stated “Ernest Taeuffer… was called by the Angel of Death Friday morning, after an illness of but a few days. Apparently in the best of health, the young man was suddenly stricken with infantile paralysis and all that medical science could do was of no avail.” Indeed, even in the 21st Century there is no cure for polio. The treatment is still just bed rest, pain relievers, portable ventilators, and a nutritious diet. It would be 31 years after Ernest’s death before the first polio vaccine would become available and mothers could cease their annual worry.

EPILOGUE

Ernest’s death may have prevented Mae Garrett from becoming an official Taeuffer, but she would be known within the family as “Aunt Mae” for the rest of her life. In 1926 she served as Helen Wilson Frey’s maid of honor at her marriage to Redding Peterson. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s she would attend many of the celebrations and parties held on Magnolia Drive, and even traveled on vacations with the Taeuffer family.

After high school, Mae had started working as secretary for Principal Morehead of the Healdsburg High School. In 1927, he took a job as Vice Principal at the larger high school in Monterey, California. When he was promoted to Principal two years later, Mae moved to Monterey to take a position as secretary and stenographer for her former boss.

Mae continued in that role for many years. But she did not forget her “family” in Healdsburg. In December 1944 Mae brought San Franciscan Don McKillop to Healdsburg for a visit with Dorothy Taeuffer Harris. The couple would soon be married. They adopted a son, Ronald, in the late 1940s and relocated to Diamond Springs, California where Don started a roofing business. Years later they returned to Monterey. The visits to and from Healdsburg continued until 1973 when Mae Garrett McKillop passed away due to complications of a life-long heart condition at 68 years of age.

 

 

Sources:
Healdsburg Enterprise: 17 June 1911, 16 March 1912, 28 June 1913, 6 February 1915, 1 May 1915, 13 May 1915, 19 June 1915, 24 June 1916, 23 June 1917, 27 October 1917, 8 December 1917, 20 April 1918. 12 October 1918, 22 December 1917, 9 February 1918, 1 February 1919, 15 March 1919, 26 June 1920, 16 October 1924, 9 June 1927
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar: 4 July 1912, 10 July 1913, 18 March 1915, 6 May 1915, 15 May 1915, 14 June 1917, 1 November 1917, 18 April 1918, 19 September 1918, 28 November 1918, 31 August 1922, 19 October 1922, 22 March 1923, 1 December 1944, 14 June 1951
Healdsburg Tribune: 22 June 1920, 23 June 1920, 25 June 1920, 11 August 1922, 28 August 1922, 2 April 1923, 7 October 1924, 9 October 1924, 10 October 1924, 14 October 1924, 10 June 1929
Ye Sotoyoman Yearbook 1919
Ye Sotoyoman Yearbook 1920
Ye Sotoyoman Yearbook 1923
1920 Census
1930 Census
1940 Census
Library of Congress
Taeuffer Family Lore

Aden C. Congleton, Late Bloomer

Aden C. Congleton was born around 1809 in New York State. Details about his early life are as yet undiscovered, but it is known that in 1849 he heard the siren call of the California Gold Rush.

Miner Image

As all California elementary school children know, on January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill on the American River near the settlement of Coloma. Word soon got out and fortune seekers from California, Oregon and other nearby areas swarmed into the area. San Francisco was immediately drained of men. On August 19, 1848 the discovery was reported in a major East Coast paper for the first time by the New York Herald and the floodgates really opened up.

GETTING THERE

Aden Congleton, most frequently referred to as A.C., was living in Michigan where he joined with twenty-five other eager 49ers to form the Albion Company wagon train. They headed west in early 1849, immediately after the spring thaw. On April 25 they were traveling on the steam boat Dakota on the Platte River with about 35 other California emigrants when the boat wrecked about 18 miles below Fort Kearney, Nebraska.

The survivors of the shipwreck all retreated eastward. A group of around twenty families wrote to the Kanesville, Iowa newspaper from the confluence of the Missouri and Nishnabotna Rivers about 50 miles south of Omaha requesting rescue.

But the all-male Albion Company wagon train had lost most of the mining equipment they had brought with them in the shipwreck and they retreated even further east, almost halfway back to their starting point in Michigan. On May 16, 1849 they were reported to be in Danville, Iowa near Burlington on the Mississippi River. It is lost to history as to whether or not the entire group was able to recover from this setback, but intrepid A.C. Congleton did make it to the gold fields.

Wagon Train map

THE WILD WEST

When A.C. arrived in Nevada County, California it was pretty much a lawless area. Still part of Mexico, but far removed from the government in Mexico City, there was no system of maintaining order in place. Miners would “stake a claim” literally placing stakes around the area they thought might have potential. That would establish their right to work the claim, as long as they were actively mining it. If they left the claim alone too long, another miner could come along and “jump the claim” by simply starting to work it. Before California statehood in 1850 there simply were no property rights and no deeds were being recorded. Disputes were often settled in the saloon with fisticuffs or side arms.

The prevailing sentiment of the early miners was that they were there to get rich and get out. Eastern standards of conduct were abandoned “for the duration” and the men convinced themselves that those standards could always be readopted once they returned home. Consequently, California became a wild and wooly environment. It even became acceptable in some instances for women to work!

A.C. would stake his claim outside the settlement of Rough and Ready. The 1856 Brown & Dallison’s City Directory described April 1850 Rough & Ready as “a few scattered cabins” which tripled in size by that October. However, a lack of water then stalled and even reversed the growth. Californians have been arguing about water ever since.

In response to concerns about the inaccuracy of the data from the 1850 US Census in California, a State Census was taken in 1852. Much of the information from that census has been destroyed, but A.C. Congleton can be found enumerated on a tattered page listing Nevada County residents.

1852 Census resized1852 Census Close up resized

That same year, his younger brother, John E. Congleton arrived in California with his wife Almira Almy Congleton and their seven surviving children, William, Gordon, Sara Ann, Amelia Jane, Hannah Augusta, Eliza Columbia, and Martha Malinda, the youngest having been born on the trip West, plus his 26 year-old spinster sister-in-law Cynthia Almy. It is said that upon hearing that the family was approaching Rough and Ready Township, A.C. rode out to meet them carrying a gold nugget worth $1,000.

ESTABLISHING SOCIAL NORMS

Masonic Badge 2On March 6, 1854, a dispensation was granted by the Grand Lodge of California Free and Accepted Masons to twenty men at Rough and Ready. And on May 3, 1854 a charter was issued to Rough and Ready Lodge No. 52. Aden Congleton was not among the original twenty, but he and his brother, John E. did join up the next year, in 1855. Aden continued his membership, serving as Junior Deacon in 1857, Junior Warden in 1862, Steward in 1863, and Junior Deacon in 1864 and 1865. It was that year that the Lodge “surrendered its charter owing to the failure of the mines in that locality.”

The towns of Nevada County remained segregated throughout the 1850s and 1860s, with Chinese, African Americans, and foreign-born (especially the Irish) the groups most typically to be isolated. Nevertheless, in 1860, 49 year-old A.C. was sharing living quarters with two 30 year-old Chinese men in Rough & Ready Township. All three were miners and there is no indication that any of them owned property, real or personal. While the 1860 Census does list some households of men with European surnames living near households of men born in China, it was not typical for whites to cohabitate with the Chinese, who were viewed as the “most alien” of the foreign-born new-comers.

PUTTING DOWN ROOTS

Due to repeated courthouse fires, records before 1863 are scanty or nonexistent. But a deed from November 1863 documents that A.C. Congleton purchased the 200 acre “Thomson’s Ranch” on Yankee Flat, two miles NE of Rough & Ready, bounded on the North by Deer Creek from Alexander Thomson. The purchase also included water rights and two buildings. The tax assessor record from 1864 valued the land at $100 and the 6 cows, 2 oxen, and 7 tons of hay at $200. The tax that year came to $8.10.

Thomson Ranch map
Approximate location of A.C. Congleton’s ranch known as “Thomson’s Ranch.”

Aden was not particularly interested in becoming a dairyman, as evidenced by the tax assessor record from 1865, which indicates he was down to 1 cow and 2 oxen; no hay mentioned. The value of the land had increased to $150, but the personal property had fallen to $105 and his tax totaled $6.25.

In November 1865 he sold a 100-ft. portion of Constitution Ledge, a gold and silver bearing quartz ledge located 200 yards from his house for $20. The same month he purchased a water ditch and tunnel located about ½ mile north of the Old Randolph Exchange Hotel in Rough & Ready for $20. Water, apparently, being more useful than gold.

Meanwhile, in the spring of 1862, one James Lynch did abandon his family leaving his wife, Mahala Hanks Lynch and their four children in “destitute circumstances.” At some point, Mahala and A.C. Congleton noticed each other and eventually set up housekeeping. In 1866, their daughter, Adrian Ada, was born.

Perhaps having become a father around the time that he lost the social support of his Mason Lodge helped convince Aden that his future may not lay in the pursuit of mining nor in the increasingly economically depressed Rough and Ready Township. So in 1866 he began divesting himself of mining assets. In March he sold his remaining interest in the Constitution Ledge for $30 and in October 1866 his interest in the mining claim on Kentucky Ravine including a cabin, a water ditch, and various tools, for $100. Mining was no profession for a family man.

The 1866 assessor’s record for Aden’s ranch listed the same 1 cow and 2 oxen, but added 2 horses and 1 male dog (which would have been taxed at a different rate than a female dog). This personal property was valued at $270. The value of the land held steady at $150 but the tax had risen to $8.19. By this time his commitment to Rough and Ready was broken and in October 1866 Aden sold the “Thomson Ranch” with improvements (two water ditches, farm equipment, and various oxen, chicken, and one heifer) on Yankee Flat for a cool $1,400.

On April 22, 1867, Mahala was granted a divorce from James Lynch on grounds of desertion in Nevada County. He was served a subpoena, but did not choose to put in an appearance. Two weeks later, on May 11, 1867, A.C. Congleton and Mahala Lynch were married in Butte County, California. The break with Nevada County was not complete though, for in 1868 Aden registered to vote in Nevada City and listed his occupation as farmer.

STARTING OVER

The family was enumerated twice in the 1870 Census; in Nevada City, where Aden was listed as a Miner, and in Navarro, Mendocino County, where he was listed as a Teamster. The family listed included 48 year-old wife Mahala, 22 year old step-son James (Miner in Nevada City, Laborer in Navarro), 13 year-old step-son George (attending school), 8 year old step-daughter Maria J. (attending school), and 4 year old daughter Ada.

Aden shows up again in the Nevada City Directory in 1871 as a Miner, along with his step-son James who is using the surname Congleton at this time. In 1873 he is again listed in the Nevada City Directory as a Wood Rancher. It seems he kept one foot in Nevada County and the other in Mendocino County.

In 1875, step-son James Lynch/Congleton married and moved across the country to set up housekeeping in Florida where he spent the next twenty years as a Log Sawyer. By now it would appear that logging had become the family business.

Abel Lodge

In 1876 Aden returned to the Masonic Lodge, joining Abel Lodge No. 146 in Ukiah, Mendocino County. He endeavored to make another go with farming, but things did not work out too well there for old Aden. In March 1876 he suffered a significant loss when he “had his house and furniture, smoke house, granary and contents destroyed by fire…during his absence at church.” So by 1879 he had relocated once again, this time to Davis Creek, Modoc County where he registered to vote listing his occupation again as Farmer. Meanwhile, Abel Lodge in Ukiah suspended his membership due to nonpayment of dues.

MODOC COUNTY

In 1880, the family had settled at Goose Lake, Modoc County, California and Aden was working as a laborer. By this time he was 68 years old and only his youngest step-daughter, 19 year-old Maria Lynch and his daughter, 14 year-old Adrian/Ada Congleton were living with he and wife Mahala. But Aden’s step-daughter Louisa and her husband, William Washburn, lived nearby. William was working as an engineer in a local saw mill, further establishing the family’s connection to the lumber industry.

Aden’s step-daughter Maria was married in late 1880 and things were beginning to look better for the family, only to have them go terribly wrong when new bride Maria died a few months later in March of 1881.

The fall of 1884 found Aden lying ill in the County Hospital in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County located over 350 miles away from his home in Goose Lake, presumably due to the lack of hospital services in remote Modoc County. On September 16, 1884, Aden C. Congleton died at the County Hospital in Santa Rosa and his remains were interred the next day in the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery under the auspices of the Masonic fraternity of Santa Rosa.

AdenCongletonGravePhoto resized
Aden C. Congleton’s unkempt gravesite in the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery circa 1970.

 

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Sources:
California Wagon Train Lists, Vol. 1, April 5, 1849 to October 20, 1852 by Louis J. Rasmussen
After the Gold Rush by Ralph Marin
1856 Brown & Dallison’s Nevada, Grass Valley and Rough & Ready Directory
Deeds, Nevada County, California
Judgement Book 4, Nevada County Court Records
Fifty Years of Masonry in California, Volume 1 Compiled and edited by Edwin A. Sherman 33⁰
Free and Accepted Mason Records of the State of California; 1854 – 1884
Nevada County Tax Assessors Records: 1864, 1865, 1866
Nevada City Poll List, 1868
Rand McNally Road Atlas
1852 California Census
1860 US Census
1870 US Census
1880 US Census
Wikipedia
GoogleEarth
Mapquest.com
Sonoma Democrat: 4 March 1876, 20 September 1884
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar, 15 April 1940