Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson Part 3 – Agnes Rejoins Healdsburg Society

Agnes circa 1899By the time Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton was 26 years old, she had already experienced a lifetime of tribulation. She had lost her mother at birth, been given away to the neighbors by her father, been relocated 2,000 miles from home by her adoptive parents, endured a “shotgun marriage” to a handsome ne’er-do-well, given birth to three children, lost a son to illness, and managed to obtain a divorce under the repressive laws of the 1880s. To learn more about these adventures, please read  The Early Years and Agnes Makes a Regrettable Choice

NEW BEGINNINGS

As 1888 dawned, 26 year old divorcee and single mother Agnes Congleton was faced with the daunting task of reestablishing herself in respectable Healdsburg society. She and her two surviving children, nine year old Lula Mae and six year old Claude Congleton, had moved back onto her parents’ small farm on Bailhache Avenue just outside of Healdsburg, California. By this time, her father John Call, although only 65 years old, was already experiencing declining health and her mother Mary Fulton Call was glad to have her there to help run the household.

Meanwhile, between 1880 and 1890, Healdsburg had experienced a 30% increase in population, growing from about 1,100 to about 1,500 inhabitants. One eager young man who came to town from Oregon State that decade was Albert Allen Wilson. The lanky Albert was 5’ 8 ¼” tall with brown hair and grey eyes. He had been born October 20th, 1862 in Forest Grove, Washington County, Oregon to John R. Wilson and Miranda McNamer Wilson. His mother had died when Albert was just a young boy and his father had remarried soon thereafter. It was not long before John Wilson had begun a second family with his new wife, Rebecca Tong. So when 25 year old Albert arrived in Healdsburg in 1887 he had left his old life behind and was ready to start a new one. Agnes was also starting a new life and it would only be a matter of time before their paths would cross.

Methodist Church Haydon Street 1873
Healdsburg Methodist Church on Haydon Street 1873 Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Library

By 1889, John Call’s health had continued to deteriorate to the point that he was no longer able to participate in the activities of his beloved Masonic Lodge. Agnes’ brother Finley Call, who had arrived from Minnesota to rejoin the family in 1881, was doing his best to run the farm, but due to his physical disability it was more than he could handle on his own. It was clear that someone else would need to take over management of the ranch. Luckily there was a willing candidate available. On October 28th, 1890, 29 year old Agnes Congleton was married to 27 year old Albert Wilson by the Reverend A.R. McCullough of the local Methodist Episcopal Church.

As Agnes and Albert worked on settling into their new family life, changes continued around them. On October 24th, 1892 Agnes’ father John Call, who by this time had become completely blind and an invalid, passed away at the age of 70 years. Five months later, in March of 1893, his 47 year old son Finley joined him in death. This left the three-generational household of Grandmother Mary Call, newlyweds Agnes and Al Wilson, and the youngsters, 14 year old Mae and 11 year old Claude Congleton, living on the Bailhache Avenue farm.

The small family enjoyed socializing with their neighbors, many of whom were prominent members of the community. In January 1894 they attended John Bailhache’s son Temple’s 24th birthday gala. Among the guests were many notable Healdsburg Mae Congleton Valentine Cardresidents including members of the Fitch, Sewell, Norton, Petray, Garrett, Sobranes, and Meyer families. Also in 1894, the newspapers reported on the Valentine’s Day party Agnes and Albert held in honor of daughter May Congleton’s fifteenth birthday, which featured a candy pull and which culminated with a supper at midnight. The Wilsons also began what would become a long tradition of spending leisure time at the Pacific coast, making extended excursions to Jenner with friends and family.

In July 1894 word reached Healdsburg that Agnes’ 36 year old ex-husband George Congleton had been killed in a work place accident in Hollister, California. The local newspaper there reported that his two sisters from Healdsburg, Sarah Congleton Greaver and Jenny Congleton Smith Cook, had declined the opportunity to claim his remains and that he had been buried on Mahoney’s Hill by Benito County as an indigent. Agnes had remained close friends with both of her former sisters-in-law over the years and it was clear that their loyalties lay with her.

LODGE WORK

CL-ancient-order-of-foresters buttonIn late 1895 the fraternal order of Foresters of America established a chapter in Healdsburg which they named The Sotoyome Court of Foresters, No. 142. In addition to general philanthropic activities, the lodge provided medical attention and free medicine, as well as cash benefits, to members who fell ill. As a charter member, Albert Wilson really began establishing himself in the Healdsburg community. By the time the court was four months old, it boasted seventy-two members. In December of the following year Albert was elected Financial Secretary for the ensuing term. He served again in 1899, this time as Junior Woodward.

Companions of the Forest pinIn late 1897 an auxiliary organization, Sotoyome Circle, Companions of the Forest, was formed. Among the officers serving the inaugural year were Agnes Wilson, Deputy and her daughter Mae Congleton, Inner Guard. The main activity of that organization appears to have been holding dances every few months. However, an article in October 1898 describing an initiation of new members followed by a banquet is the last mention of the group in the local press. So it apparently was not a long term success. Nevertheless, it had provided Agnes with a path to reestablishing herself as a respectable Healdsburg matron.

Among the most festive and popular fund raising activities sponsored by the Foresters was their annual Masquerade Ball. In the December 30, 1897 edition of the Healdsburg Tribune it was reported that the grand march of those in costume had begun at 9:30 pm followed by dancing until 11:30 pm. After masks were removed and prizes awarded, a supper at the Sotoyome House had then been enjoyed until 1:00 am. After that, more dancing continued until the wee hours of the morning. Among those participating in the Christmas Eve festivities that year were 18 year old Mae Congleton in Evening Dress and 19 year old John Taeuffer dressed as a School Boy. About four years later these two young people would be married.

MORE CHANGES ON THE FARM

Tragedy struck on Saturday, November 7th, 1896 when fire destroyed the two-story home on Bailhache Avenue where John Call had established the family farm in 1874. The fire started between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm when all members of the family were in town. Neighbor Peter Schmidt discovered the blaze and all the neighbors joined in the effort to remove as many of the Wilson’s possessions as possible before the house was completely engulfed. The reason given that firemen were not called to fight the blaze was that the house was located so far from town. The assumption was made that the origin of the fire was a defective stove pipe in the kitchen. The newspaper estimated the loss of the building and contents at $2,000 and reported that there was insurance in the amount of $1,000.

Work began quickly to replace the Wilson home. The firm of Pierce & Holmes was retained to build a $900 cottage on the property. And in March 1897, Al Wilson and family moved into their new cottage on Bailhache Avenue to make yet another fresh start.

Knights of Pythias medal copyThe nineteenth century had provided many adventures for Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson, but she was really just getting started. As the new century dawned, she and Albert began their involvement with a different fraternal organization when in June of 1900 Albert was elected Master of the Work for Friendship Lodge, No 91, Knights of Pythias. The friendships forged at this lodge would last throughout their lifetimes.

In October 1900 the couple’s friends surprised them with a traditional tin ware party to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Among the guests sharing in the festive occasion were Mrs. Charles Wickham, Mrs. Lou Barnes, Sophie Taeuffer, Mrs. Kennel and daughter, Katherine Grabner, Anita Fitch, Anna Lannon, Mrs. Andy Greaver, Mary Call and Agnes’ former sisters-in-law, Jenny Cook and Sarah Greaver.

A FRESH CENTURY DAWNS

By mid-1900, Agnes’ son Claude Congleton had moved to San Francisco and was working as a laborer at a Mineral Springs. In March of 1902, her daughter Mae Congleton married John Taeuffer and moved into the new home he had built for her on the Taeuffer Ranch on Magnolia Drive. Grandma Mary Call was slowing down and Agnes and Albert were settling in to the idea of enjoying their empty nest.

But that was not to be. In late 1902, 41 year old Agnes discovered that she and Albert were going to have a baby. The twentieth century was starting out with another new beginning for Agnes.

 

Sources:
BayAreaCensus.ca.gov
Sonoma Democrat: 24 January 1874
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar; 11 January 1894, 22 February 1894, 15 August 1895, 10 October 1895, 26 December 1895, 10 December 1896, 7 January 1897, 9 December 1897, 30 December 1897, 17 February 1898, 14 April 1898, 2 June 1898, 6 October 1898, 18 January 1899, 25 March 1949,
Russian River Flag: 16 June 1881,
Sonoma County Tribune; 30 October 1890, 27 October 1892
Healdsburg Tribune; 12 November 1896, 25 March 1897, 1 November 1900, 6 March 1902
Hollister Free Lance; 13 July 1894
Great Register of Sonoma County, 1892
Early Oregonians Database Index, Oregon State Archives, Salem, Oregon
1870 US Census
1880 US Census
1900 US Census
Free and Accepted Masons Records of the State of California
Oak Mound Cemetery Index Cards, Healdsburg Museum
http://www.stichingargus.nt

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.

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

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 learn about Agnes’ further adventures, please read Agnes Makes a Regrettable Choice and Agnes Rejoins Healdsburg Society

 

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

John and Mary Call

John McCall was born in Scotland on June 20, 1822. Four years later, on August 10, 1826, the woman who would become his wife, Mary Fulton was born, also in Scotland. While still a young girl, Mary immigrated to Canada with her parents. In 1844, the Fultons then immigrated to Rhode Island, where Mary and John met. They were married October 25, 1846 in Providence and later moved to Savoy, Massachusetts. Two years later, on February 24, 1846, a boy was born nearby. Later in his life, he would be described as a “lame” boy, but whether his disability was due to an accident or a birth defect is unknown. When that boy was orphaned, the McCalls adopted him and named him Finley.

In January 1849, a bill was introduced to Congress proposing the creation of the Minnesota Territory in what was then the Iowa Territory. The McCalls left Savoy on February 1, 1849 and headed to that region despite the prevailing belief that the people living there were only semi-civilized. In March of that year, the measure passed and the Minnesota Territory was established. In 1855, Freeborn County, Minnesota was created. In 1859, John McCall purchased a plot of land in that region and began to farm. He became a naturalized citizen in May of 1860 in the 3rd District Court.

In July 1860, the family was living in Red Rock Township, Mower County, Minnesota where young Findley attended school. By now they had dropped the “Mc” to make their surname “Call.” Living next door were James and Eliza Stokes, possibly brother and sister-in-law to Clarinda Stokes Vanderwalker who lived several miles away on the other side of Austin, Minnesota.

On February 14, 1861 in Moscow, Mower County, Minnesota, Clarinda Vanderwalker gave birth to a baby girl, who she named Agnes. Sadly, Clarinda did not survive the childbirth leaving her husband Isaac with four daughters and one son under the age of thirteen in addition to the new baby. Isaac did not own a cow and had no way to feed his new infant daughter. The nearest neighbors who did own a cow were the Calls, who lived 16 miles away on the other side of the main market town of Austin. As Isaac traveled the 16 miles through the drifted snow from the Call’s farm to his own on horseback with the milk for little Agnes, the jostling would cause the milk to be churned into butter. This situation was clearly not working out and the solution quickly became obvious: the Calls would take in the baby. A few months later, Isaac Vanderwalker left Minnesota to fight for the Union in the Civil War. By the time he returned, Agnes had become a permanent member of the Call family.

Mower County Transcript 29 July 1869In 1868, the Calls moved from the Red Rock farm to the nearby settlement of Lansing, Minnesota where John established a shoe store. He placed an ad in the Mower County Register in 1869 advertising “Boots and Shoes at the lowest possible rates.” The family became active in the local Methodist Episcopal Church. In January 1868, Mary and John served on the Committee of Arrangements for a fund raising event to benefit the Reverend Canfield and his family. In 1869, the Mower County Register published a “Sketch of Lansing” that listed John’s store as the only outlet for footwear in town. But as pleasant as life in Lansing may have been, it would not be long before an opportunity to the West beckoned to the Call family.

The trans-continental railroad was completed when the golden stake was driven at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 providing rail service west to Sacramento, California. The connecting lines extending service to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County were completed in 1870. In that same year, the Calls decided to relocate to the West. John, Mary, and little Agnes boarded the train and told their friends they were headed for Santa Rosa, California, leaving 24 year old Findley on his own in Minnesota. As they were headed across the plains in the train, they were reportedly waylaid by a band of American Indians. Mary Call was afraid that the Indians who boarded the train would steal little nine-year old Agnes so she stuffed her under the seat and covered her with a pillowcase. The crisis passed without further incident and they were soon on their way again.

In 1870, the population of Healdsburg, California was around 1,750 people. The plannedRussian River Flag 10 November 1870 clean railroad extension that would reach the town the next year promised to bring an expansion of the agricultural industry as well as many tourists to the increasingly prosperous town. By the summer of 1870, the Calls were living in Healdsburg and John had set up his shop “next door north to Hertel’s store” on the west side of the Plaza. The following October John moved his shoe store into the new building on the Odd Follows Russian River Flag 31 October 1872 cleanlot on the South side of the Plaza next door to Lockwood & VanSlyke’s book store. The Russian River Flag reported that the shoe store cost $200 to build, while the bookstore cost $225. John continued to ply his trade there on the Plaza for some years. Meanwhile, Mary kept house and little Agnes attended school.

John had been a Master Mason in Minnesota and in 1871 he joined the Free and Accepted Mason Sotoyome Lodge No. 123. He took his turn as an officer of that organization, serving as Tyler (the guy who guards the door during the lodge meetings) from 1875 through 1880.

Lodge life must have agreed with him, because he was also a member in good standing of the Healdsburg Lodge No. 64, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). In 1874 he served as Vice Grand (second in command) and in 1875, he served as Noble Grand (presiding officer) for that lodge.

At fifty years old, John Call had the first indication of what would become a debilitating vision problem later in his life. Just after New Year’s Day 1873 he traveled to San Francisco to consult with an oculist who determined that he was developing cataracts in both his eyes. This was not something that a shoemaker could live with and so he underwent what was in those days a dangerous surgery to have them removed.

The following year John made two major real estate transactions. In January 1874 he purchased lot 1 of the Sotoyome Rancho from John N. Bailhache for $750. His descendants would hold that land for the next 100 years. In February 1874 he sold the south half of lots 76 and 91 in Healdsburg to Mrs. Louisa J. Vaughn for $850.

Meanwhile, in 1878, daughter Agnes had married George Washington Congleton and the couple had moved in with George’s twice widowed mother, Almira Almy Congleton Burgess in her Healdsburg home on Sherman Street.

In 1881, son Findley left Minnesota and joined the rest of the family in Healdsburg. By 1882, John Call had “retired” to his farm on Bailhache Avenue and was focusing solely onhops farming, while his son, Finley, took over the shoemaking business. The main crops in Healdsburg in the 1880s were grapes, lumber, and hops. While the Call ranch focused on hops, they dabbled in plums as well. In an article debating the virtues of various plums Three plums with leaves on white background.and prunes, the August 11, 1881 Russian River Flag reported “John Call, of Bailhache’s addition, thinks that the Livey plum, propagated by him, is the best variety for this section.”

In 1887, daughter Agnes obtained a divorce from George Washington Congleton and, along with her two young children, Lulu Mae and Claude, moved back in with John and Mary Call in their Bailhache Avenue home. John’s health had begun to decline by that point and in 1889 he even withdrew from the Masons.

In his final years, John lost most of his sight and became dependent on his wife and daughter. Agnes married Albert A. Wilson in 1890 and the couple took over management of the ranch. John Call died at his home on Bailhache Avenue on October 24, 1892 and was buried in Oak Mound Cemetery. His obituary mentioned that the funeral had been conducted under the auspices of the Masonic lodge and that it had been largely attended.

In March 1893, John and Mary’s son Finley Call, died at only 47 years of age and was buried near his father in Oak Mound Cemetery. Three months later, Mary gained a small modicum of notoriety when she joined with a few of her neighbors to petition the Board of Supervisors to have their area removed from Russian River township and annexed to Mendocino Township. The grievances noted included the facts that the Russian River Township police officers located in Windsor were not able to respond in a timely manner to the “drunken tramps and Indians who congregate in the vicinity of our homes,” that since they were living in the suburbs of Healdsburg (in Mendocino Township) they did most of their business in that place, and that because they were living so far from their voting district they were “sometimes deprived of our votes on important election matters.” After some of the original petitioners had second thoughts and asked to have their names removed from the document, it was voted down summarily.

Mary once again expressed her resolve and independence publicly when, in 1899 afterpeaches attending a fruit growers meeting held in Truitt’s Theater, she signed an agreement with other “prominent” peach growers. The document affirmed that these growers, representing about 2,000 tons, would refuse to accept payment of less than $25 per ton for freestone nor less than $30 per ton for cling peaches.

Mary Call continued living with Agnes and Albert Wilson on the Bailhache Avenue ranch. In July 1902 she was an honored guest of the Old Folks Society annual dinner. The next month a party was thrown for her 76th birthday. The Healdsburg Tribune reported that “Mrs. Call is as hale and hearty as ever, and those present expressed the wish that she might see many more such pleasant birthdays.”

Mary continued to do well for several more years, but in later years began to suffer from dementia. In 1908 she signed ownership of the Bailhache Avenue ranch over to her daughter, Agnes Wilson in a gift transaction. Agnes continued to care for her until her death on May 20, 1911. Mary’s obituary stated “Gramma Call, as she was reverently referred to by all her friends,…was an interesting talker and it was a pleasure to listen to her narrate the early day experiences and the changes that have been made during her long life.” She was laid to rest next to her husband in Oak Mound Cemetery.

 

Sources:
Wikipedia
Minnesota Territorial Pioneers website
Freeborn County, Minnesota deeds
Clarinda Vanderwalker grave marker
1800 U.S. Census
1860 U.S. Census
1870 Census
Mower County Transcript; 9 January 1868, 15 July 1869, 29 July 1869,
Russian River Flag; 25 August 1870, 3 November 1870, 10 November 1870, 19 January 1871, 16 March, 1871, 25 May 1871, 13 July 1871, 14 September 1871, 2 November 1871, 28 March 1872, 24 October 1872, 31 October 1872, 9 January 1873, 7 January 1875, 14 January 1875, 12 December 1878, 16 June 1881, 11 August 1881
Sonoma County Tribune; 28 December 1876, October 18 1890, 27 October 1892
Sonoma Democrat; 24 January 1874, 7 February 1874, 11 July 1874, 8 January 1876, 4 July 1902
Healdsburg Enterprise; August 1897, 21 December 1878, 2 January 1879
Healdsburg Tribune; 14 August 1902, 31 May 1911
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar; 15 June 1893, 13 July 1899
Free and Accepted Mason Records of the State of California; 1871 – 1889
Great Register of Sonoma County 1875
Great Register of Sonoma County 1882
Healdsburg History, Healdsburg Museum website
OurHealdsburg.com
Agnes Congleton vs. George Congleton court transcript
Oak Mound Cemetery index cards, Healdsburg Museum
Helen Wilson Peterson’s personal remembrances shared with Marie Taeuffer