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.

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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.

To learn more about her next adventures, please read Agnes Rejoins Healdsburg Society

 

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

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

 

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

HATS!!!

George Eastman pretty much created amateur photography when, in 1888, he introduced the Kodak #1 camera to the world. This camera was sold pre-loaded with a roll of film.  Once film had been exposed, the entire camera was returned to the factory in Rochester to be processed. The camera would be refilled with new film and returned to the owner while they waited for their prints. But when the economical “Brownie” camera came out at the turn of the 20th Century, the hobby exploded in popularity.

Hats were also all the rage at the turn of the century. And the ladies of Healdsburg were more than delighted to use the new photographic technology to document their fine plumage. Mae Congleton Taeuffer, Maggie Pauli Fischer, and Katherine Pauli Grabner are featured in the top row. Sophie Scheuer Taeuffer is at the bottom right of this grouping.

But the ladies were not the only ones wearing and photographing hats. Babies, children, and basically the whole family got into the act. The young man in the middle is Fritz Grabner. The family grouping includes Mae and John Taeuffer, Maggie and Alvin Fischer, and the youthful siblings Fritz and Katie Grabner all sitting on the back porch of the Taeuffer house on Magnolia Drive.

And, of course, getting silly with hats became a part of it as well. As, apparently, did the phenomenon that would come to be known as “hat hair.” So far the identities of these ladies remain blessedly anonymous.

 

 

Taeuffer Baseball

The Mendocino Township Nine


In April of 1895 the newly formed baseball team, the Mendocino Township Nine, began playing on a recently built diamond located “just across the railroad track in Heald’s addition.” George “Monk” Taeuffer played center field while his brother John Taeuffer held down left field. The Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar stated that “John Taeuffer…is referred to as the coming ‘phenom.’” In April 1896, George was starting pitcher in the first game of the season against Windsor. By 1898, John was playing first base and George was covering third.

Healdsburg Grammar School

Norman Taeuffer circa 1930
John Taeuffer’s son, Norman played on the grammar school team beginning in 1930. He started playing first base, then moved to second base. By the time 1932 rolled around he was the team’s pitcher. In May 1932 the Healdsburg Tribune reported “Taeuffer for Healdsburg pitched an airtight game, allowing only three hits.”

Practice on Magnolia Drive

Bobby Harris and Norman Taeuffer circa 1931
Living next door to each other provided plenty of time for Norman Taeuffer and his nephew Bobby Harris to hone their batting and fielding skills.

Healdsburg High School

Norman Taeuffer circa 1934
Norman Taeuffer’s career in high school baseball began as a freshman playing first base in 1933. On May 4th the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar reported his season-to-date stats were a batting average of .500 (16 at bats) and a fielding average of 1000 (35 outs). It was a championship year for Healdsburg when, on May 25th they clinched the North Bay League northern division title. By then, Norman’s batting average had slipped to .384 (29 at bats) which was the second best on the team. Unfortunately, the squad was prevented from taking the overall North Bay League title when, on May 26th they were bested by the team from Tamalpais High School.

Norman Taeuffer Injury
Norman began his sophomore at center field. But his baseball exploits were cut short during the first league game of the year when, on April 4, 1934 he broke his leg sliding into second base. The article detailing his injury was featured on the front page of the April 5th edition of the Healdsburg Tribune. He would spend the rest of that school year on crutches.

The 1935 season started in April with Norman at first base, but by the end of May he was playing right field. The team ended that season in second place in the league, their dreams of a championship once again thwarted by the superior playing of the Tamalpais nine.

Most of the 1935 team graduated that year, so the 1936 team consisted of mostly new members, with only five on-going players anchoring the squad. Norman started his senior year at center field, but was soon doing service out on the mound. The local papers described him as the “big right-hander” and “probably the strongest chucker the locals have.” The team played several practice games against Santa Rosa Junior College that year, in addition to their league games against other high schools. Norman ended his high school career with the fifth highest batting average on the team of .333 with 42 at bats.

I.O.O.F Team


In April 1941, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) team from Healdsburg held try-outs. Among the new comers was Norman Taeuffer who earned a spot on the pitching staff. Before long, his nephew Bob Harris (no longer Bobby) joined the team. Soon Bob was outshining all others from the mound, his pitching described by the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar June 16, 1941 edition as the “brilliant hurling of youthful Bob Harris.” And this while he was holding down similar responsibilities on the Healdsburg High School baseball team. The Odd Fellows just missed the first place spot that year when they were bested by the Sonoma Athletic Club on August 31, 1941 in a ten-inning game.

 

Sources:  Healdsburg Tribune; 25 April 1895, 11 May 1930, 23 March 1933, 4 May 1933, 11 May 1933, 25 May 1933, 3 May 1935, 12 March 1936, 19 March 1936, 26 April 1936, 28 May 1936
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar; 27 June 1895, 22 May 1930, 23 March 1933, 4 May 1933, 11 May 1933, 24 May 1933, 25 April 1935, 23 May 1935, 7 May 1936, 21 May 1936, 17 April 1941, 16 June 1941, 29 August 1941, 4 September 1941
Sotoyome Scimitar – 29 May 1930, 9 March 1933, 23 May 1933, 29 August, 1941
Press Democrat; 30 March 1898

 

I want to give a special shout out of thanks to the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society, without whose project to digitize their collection of historic newspapers this story could not have been written.

American Legion Auxiliary Sotoyome Post 111 – 1957 & 1958

In the 1950s, the American Legion Auxiliary was the women’s branch of the “men only” American Legion. It was a service organization comprised of wives and mothers of American Legion members and was focused primarily on veterans’ affairs and promoting patriotism, as well as other worthy causes.

On July 11, 1957, officers for the 1957 – 1958 term were installed during the general meeting held at the Villa Chanticleer. Later that same month, the projects and goals for the 12-month term were planned and mapped out at the initial meeting of the officers, executive board and committee chairmen held at the home of the new president, Mrs. Norman (Maria) Taeuffer. The activities and accomplishments of this group of ladies are described below.

 

Legion Auxiliary Officers 1957

Front row, left to right: Mrs. Don (Margaret) Cadd, Mrs. R.J. (Ruth) Albini, Mrs. Norman (Marie) Taeuffer, Mrs. Laurel (Florence) Musselman, Mrs. Hazel Kolb. Back row, left to right: Mrs. J. Chittenden, Mrs. Chester (Elsie) Leard, Mrs. Thomas Alexander, Mrs. Harold (Lucille) Hoskins, Mrs. Jirah (Margaret) Luce.

 

 

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

The group enjoyed many social activities including monthly birthday teas, which were held at St. Paul’s Parish Hall. Refreshments were enjoyed and cards were played. Responsibility for arranging the teas rotated between ladies each month. Anita Larrieu, Margaret Cadd, Elsie Leard, Mildred Gagliardo, Mrs. Roy Gannow, Mrs. Edward Beeson, Margaret Luce, and Miriam Tingstrom each took their turn. Also, monthly meetings of the Past Presidents were held. These gatherings rotated amongst the homes of various participants and featured refreshments and Canasta tournaments.

 

Lois Day Life Member

Mrs. Lois Day and Anita Larrieu

 

 

At the December general meeting of the Legion and Auxiliary held at the Villa Chanticleer, Mrs. George (Lois) Day, resident of Healdsburg since 1895, was honored for her 30 years of service with a Gold Life Membership award. Anita Larrieu prepared one of her famous cakes for the occasion, decorated to resemble a Life Membership card. Elmer Sandborn sang “If I Had My Way.”

 

But the Auxiliary was more than just a social club for local ladies.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

In the late 1950s, polio was a major concern throughout this country. The Auxiliary spearheaded several activities during the January 1958 March of Dimes fund raising drive. Ladies of Post 111 made and sold “Blue Crutches” in front of local businesses and raised $180. This initiative had originated with the Healdsburg group the prior year and by 1958 had spread to other communities. Also, a “Dimes Dance” was held in coordination with the Legion at the Villa. Admission to the dance was $1, but additional funds were surely collected “at the Villa’s beautiful cocktail lounge” bringing the total for the night to “over $500.” Later in the month, the ladies also participated in the “Porch Light” collection drive. The town and surrounding area was divided into sections which were assigned to the various volunteers. The details were published in the papers. On the prescribed evening, those interested in making a donation were instructed to illuminate their porch light so the ladies would know to knock on the door to collect.

In addition to the work done with the March of Dimes, the Auxiliary made donations to numerous local groups. These included monies given to the Healdsburg Elementary School for school lunches, to Healdsburg Junior High for underprivileged children, toward the cost of dinner for the 6th Army Band during the Future Farmers of America Fair parade, and to the Camp Fire Girls.

At the March 1958 general meeting, the Auxiliary presented the Sotoyome Post with two signs reading “Welcome to Healdsburg, Please drive carefully” in honor of the Legion’s 39th anniversary. These signs were posted at the North and South ends of Healdsburg for many years.

Jim Foppiano and Mildred Gagliardo

Mrs. Anita Larrieu again provided an elaborately decorated cake for the birthday celebration. This cake was designed as a replica of the “Welcome to Healdsburg” signs.

VETERAN SUPPORT

The Auxiliary also upheld a strong commitment to supporting the country’s veterans. They worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the residents of the Veterans’ Home in Yountville.

In October 1957 “Legion Day” festivities were held at the Home. The Auxiliary provided a picnic lunch for the Legion color guard and the former Healdsburgers living at the Yountville facility. Those veterans listed in the Tribune were Gidon McCord, William Allan, A.V.A. Johnson, and Fred Leoni. Also in October, Margaret Cadd, Mrs. Ray Ganow, and Anita Larrieu represented the Auxiliary at the annual bingo party in the women’s quarters housing 54 ladies ranging in age from 64 to 86 years.

In preparation for the Christmas festivities, in November a basket was placed in Biasotti’s Market to collect scraps of foil, lace, etc. to be used by the Junior Auxiliary members to make ornaments for the veterans’ trees. On December 14, 1957 a Christmas party was held for the mostly World War I Veterans. Participants from Healdsburg included Gracie Stewart, Margaret Cadd, Hazel Kolb, and Anita Larrieu. The morning began with each of the 2,000 veterans in residence being presented with a stocking filled with fruit and cigarettes while other ladies trimmed the trees. Later on, a “Christmas Review” consisting of singing and dancing by Florence Berning’s group of 50 youngsters ranging from 4 to 20 years was presented. The day concluded with cake and coffee in the evening.

An important activity each year was the making and selling of poppies for Memorial

Poppy Making

Margaret Cadd, Hazel Kolb, and Lucille Hoskins with two enthusiastic veterans

 

Day. The poppies, made in 80 veterans’ homes across the nation, represent those seen growing in Flanders Fields, France in 1919 (immortalized in John McCae’s poem). The poppy is also the official flower of the American Legion and Auxiliary. The first Poppy Day was held in Milwaukee, WI in 1920. Hazel Young began the tradition in Healdsburg in 1925. In 1958, the Auxiliary provided the supplies for the Veterans to make the poppies. Volunteers traveled to Yountville twice a week for six weeks in the winter to assist the veterans in making the poppies. Veterans were paid a standard amount for each poppy they made. The balance of the proceeds from selling the poppies in May was placed in a special fund used towards projects for veterans and their families. Lucille Hoskins (1957 Poppy Chairman for Post 111), Margaret Cadd, Anita Larrieu, Mildred Gagliardo, Gracie Stewart, Marie Foppiano, Mrs. Ray Ganow, Ruth Albini, and Hazel Kolb participated in the twice weekly visits. As Memorial Day approached, the Auxiliary then began selling the poppies on the streets of Healdsburg for donations.

 

PATRIOTISM

Promoting patriotism was important to the Auxiliary. An Americanism essay contest was held each year. Students submitted written essays describing their views on the topic. First prize winner in 1958 was Cyd Stockman, sixth grader. Marylyn Smith and Doris Pedroni took second and third.

In addition, Girls’ and Boys’ State conventions were held in Sacramento. Boys’ State was

Girl and Boy State Delegates

Jim Foppiano (Post 111 Commander), Loretta Wright, Marie Taeuffer (Auxiliary President), and Pete Peterson

 

begun in 1937 and Girls’ State in 1943 for the purpose of “educat(ing) our youth in the duties, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.” High School students were chosen to attend this event where they participated in mock elections and legislative activities at the county, city and state levels. In 1957 the auxiliary sponsored Loretta Wright while the Legion sponsored Pete Peterson. Loretta was appointed councilman of her city and Pete was appointed Supreme Court judge. Delegates for the 1958 Girls’ and Boys’ State were Sarah Ann Higbee and Steve Harrington.

 

Another example of youth outreach in 1957 was the formation of the Junior Auxiliary. All girls who were members of an Auxiliary or Legion Post family were eligible to join.

Between the Auxiliary, Legion, VFW, and War Mothers, numerous flags were donated throughout 1958 to local groups including the St. John’s Boy Scout troop, the Alexander Valley 4-H, and to Sonoma County for use at the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach.

MEMORIAL DAY

Of course, Memorial Day was an important event for the organization. Preparations began well in advance. In 1958, calls went out in local newspapers beginning two weeks ahead for donations of floral arrangements. Most local merchants closed their shops for

Memorial Day

American Legion Sotoyome Post 111 Color Guard

 

the day. The festivities began with a morning parade. In addition to the Legion and Auxiliary color guard, the VFW, the Marine Reserves of Santa Rosa, War Mothers, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Camp Fire Girls and High School band participated. The parade began at the Healdsburg Shopping Center and concluded at the Oak Mound Cemetery. A solemn ceremony was then held, which consisted of speeches, laying of a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, recitation of the poem “Flanders Field,” and a 21-gun salute followed by four trumpeters, led by George Izzett, sounding Taps. After completion of the ceremony at Oak Mound, the Legion and Auxiliary conducted additional ceremonies at Shiloh Cemetery in Windsor and Olive Hill Cemetery in Geyserville. After the long day, the participants retired to the Taeuffer ranch, South of Healdsburg, where Norman and Maria Taeuffer hosted a huge barbeque.

 

 

Memorial Day BBQ

Gracie Stewart, Guerdon Miller, Walter Gagliardo, Mildred Gagliardo, Lois Miller and Frank DeCarlo

 

CONCLUSION

When in July 1958 a new roster of Officers were installed for Sotoyome Post 111 Auxiliary, the outgoing officers of 1957 – 1958 could rest assured that they had successfully promoted their cause by caring for the old, nurturing the young, and supporting the community, while enjoying fellowship and good times.

 

 

Sources:
Santa Rosa Press Democrat: 14 August 1957, 18 August 1957, 3 October 1957, 13 October 1957, 18 November 1957, 22 December 1957, 30 December 1957, 16 January 1958, 12 March 1958, 27 April 1958, 28 April 1958.
Healdsburg Tribune: 15 August 1957, 19 September 1957, 3 October 1957, 17 October 1957, 24 October 1957, 26 November 1957, 19 December 1957, 26 December 1957, 16 January 1958, 23 January 1958, 30 January 1958, 5 February 1958, 20 February 1958, 6 March 1958, 20 March 1958, 24 April 1958, 1 May 1958, 8 May 1958, 15 May 1958, 22 May 1958, 29 May 1958, 5 June 1958, 12 June 1958, 19 June 1958, 3 July 1958.
Veterans’ Home of California Observation Post: 20 December 1957, 14 February 1958, 14 March 1958.