Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson Part 6 – Energy is Directed Toward Community, Family, and Friends

The saga of my Great Grandmother Agnes’ life spanned a number of major world events, and that never rang more true than in the early twentieth century. To learn about the interesting first chapters of her life please check out The Early YearsAgnes Makes a Regrettable ChoiceAgnes Rejoins Healdsburg SocietyA New Family for a New Century, and A Sister Found and Lost.


Liberty Bonds LOC4In the years leading up to the United States entering the Great War in April of 1917, Agnes and Albert Wilson had become quite active in the progressive politics of the Pomona Grange of Healdsburg. However, once the country was directly involved in the global conflict, their focus shifted. They, along with so many other citizens of Healdsburg, jumped on the patriotic bandwagon and campaigns to sell Liberty Bonds were quickly organized.


Liberty Bonds LOC1Albert Wilson was among those contributing to the initial $57,600 collected in Healdsburg during the first Bond drive in June of 1917. In October 1917, 6 months into the war, a rally for the second campaign that began with a parade and concluded with speeches at the Opera House was held in Healdsburg. California Governor William Stephens was among the luminaries who spoke at the event which resulted in over $8,000 of pledged subscriptions. Albert Wilson was listed among the donors who purchased $500 worth. The following week, after an article was published in the Healdsburg Enterprise admonishing the town for falling short of its stated goal, an additional $100 was pledged in the names of Agnes and Helen Wilson. The next spring the Wilsons bought another $200 worth of bonds during the third drive. And in the fall of 1918 there was yet another $400 subscription by the Wilsons in the fourth and final campaign.

The fund raising rallies were not shy about exploiting ugly anti-German sentiment as they urged citizens to pledge funds to prosecute “the war against the Hun.” Investments made in the first three bond drives did eventually pay off the percentages promised. But those purchased during the fourth drive, which were to become payable during the 1930s, were defaulted upon.

Red Cross LOCFund raising during the war was not limited to the sale of Liberty Bonds. The very successful Red Cross fund drive held in May 1918 yielded over $23,600 from Healdsburg, almost triple the district quota that had been set at $9,000. The Wilsons contributed $25 toward that organization’s important work that month.




At the end of the war it became apparent that the many of the American soldiers would be remaining in Europe for an unknown duration. A coalition of seven organizations; the Knights of Columbus, the Jewish Welfare Board, the American Library Association, the Salvation Army, the War Camp Community Service, the YMCA and the YWCA joined forces to raise money for the entertainment of those troops. The Wilsons donated $15 to this noble effort.

But donating money was not the only way that Agnes was supporting the war effort. She also did her bit by maintaining correspondence with at least one of the young men from Healdsburg who had joined the fighting. He was Harold Long, son of good friends Mr. and Mrs. John Long, with whom the Wilsons frequently vacationed at Jenner. The August 10, 1918 edition of the Healdsburg Enterprise published the full contents of one of Harold’s letters sent from Charlotte, North Carolina in which he describes not only his duties as an army cook, but also the interesting fact that the Southern states marked the end of the Civil War Memorial Day not with a celebration, but rather with a solemn day of prayer.

HE19180810 headline

Meanwhile, the monthly meetings of the Social Neighbors Club continued which gave the ladies living on the Southside of Healdsburg an opportunity to do their socializing, lunching, and sewing away from the disturbing events across the Atlantic Ocean.


After the Great War ended in November 1918 life returned to normal for the Wilsons. As Agnes and Albert approached their 60s, the frequency of visits with out-of-town friends and trips to the cottage on Tomales Bay with friends and family increased. In 1919, for example, the 4th of July was celebrated in grand style at the Wilson cottage at the coast. Revelers included Mr. and Mrs. Goodrich and their sons Erwin and Wayne, Jennie Taeuffer and her son, Claude Congleton, as well as the Frey family including Herbert Frey who would soon become Agnes’ son-in-law.

On a Monday afternoon in late November 1920 after attending her classes at Healdsburg High School, 18 year-old Helen Wilson married 21 year-old Herbert Frey in Santa Rosa, California. On Tuesday, the new Mrs. Frey returned to her classes as normal. However, by the end of the day the secret was out and the young bride was being showered with congratulations. The couple soon moved to the Frey ranch near Napa leaving Agnes and Albert Wilson once again with an empty nest. Helen and Herbert welcomed daughter Fernande in April 1922 making Agnes a grandmother again just a few months before her first granddaughter, Dorothy Taeuffer would marry George Lindel Harris.

Marriage RecordUnfortunately, the Frey union did not work out and the couple divorced. By 1924 Helen and her daughter Fernande were spending much of their time with Grandma Agnes. By the time Albert Wilson’s surprise birthday party in October 1925 rolled around, a new companion, Redding Peterson, had appeared on the scene. In May of 1926 a wedding shower was held for Helen Wilson Frey with dancing and card playing for the thirty guests. Helen married Redding Peterson in San Rafael on June 5, 1926. Mae Garrett stood up for Helen as did George Nardi for Redding. Following their honeymoon, the couple joined Agnes and Albert at the cottage in Jenner for a visit.

As the frequency of trips to the coast and visits with out-of-town friends increased, so did the parties the Wilsons hosted on Bailhache Avenue. Visitors to the ranch came from as nearby as Marin County and from as far away as Oregon State. Even Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Bailhache traveled from their new home in Vallejo to stay with the Wilsons. In 1921 a group of thirty guests assembled for Agnes and Albert’s wedding anniversary where card games were played and the happy couple was presented with an “aluminum kitchen set and two beautiful cut glass vases.”

But the increased socializing did not signal a slow-down on Albert’s interest in innovative agriculture. The August 17, 1923 issue of the Healdsburg Tribune ran an article discussing local farmers who rejected common farming practices. In it, Albert was listed as one who did not favor irrigation, preferring instead to spread Petaluma chicken manure frequently. The article described the Bailhache ranch as planted primarily in French prunes, but that “Jefferson plums, olives, pears, alligator pears, walnuts, chestnuts, apples, figs, grapes, sweet corn and potatoes, with lilacs and ‘snowballs’ for good measure” were also being grown, and all on a mere 10 acres of land.

Past Chief pinIn the last couple of years before the Great War, Agnes had left the responsibilities of serving as officer in the Pythian Sisters to the younger ladies. Once the war had ended she took up active participation in the Past Chiefs Club, which was comprised of those who had held the highest office of the local chapter. The ladies would meet monthly to socialize and to play Whist as well as the related game of Bridge which was becoming more and more popular in the US. The Past Chiefs were also responsible for arranging the annual banquets held following the installation activities for the Knights of Pythias and Pythian Sisters. In 1928 the Past Chiefs put on a pantomime reviewing past shows they had presented to the Sisters. The entertainment they provided for over one hundred Sisters in February 1929 consisted of an original play entitled “School Days Recalled.” And Agnes was featured as one of the students.

Past Chief pins
Pythian Sisters Past Chief Pins

Agnes returned to active participation in the Madrona Lodge of Pythian Sisters when in October 1929 she represented the local group at the District Convention at Willits. She was subsequently installed as Press Correspondent at the December 1929 meeting where the group was entertained by a young Smith Robinson performing a clog dance. Agnes served in the same capacity the following year while also continuing with her monthly meetings of the Past Chiefs Club.

All in all, the busy Healdsburg social whirl was proceeding quite nicely when in October 1929 the Stock Market crashed and, once again, everyone’s life would be changed. Find out more details in the next chapter coming soon.


Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar: 25 October 1917, 1 November 1917, 24 October 1918, 26 May 1921, 30 June 1921, 28 October 1921, 21 June 1923, 15 January 1925, 30 July 1925, 7 December 1926
Healdsburg Enterprise: 9 June 1917, 10 November 1917, 23 February 1918, 13 April 1918, 10 August 1918, 15 March 1919, 19 March 1919, 28 June 1919, 5 July 1919, 23 August 1919, 3 November 1927
Healdsburg Tribune: 12 May 1921, 12 July 1923, 22 May 1922, 12 July 1923, 17 August 1923, 5 June 1924, 28 July 1925, 21 October 1925, 4 February 1928, 4 February 1928, 2 February 1929, 21 February 1929, 13 September 1929,
Sotoyome Scimitar: 22 June 1926,
Library of Congress
National Archives
English Bridge Union:
California Marriage Records, Marin County 1850 – 1941

Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson Part 5 – A Sister Found and Lost

In February 1861, in a drafty frontier cabin on a farm in the newly-minted state of Minnesota, Clarinda Stokes Vanderwalker died giving birth to her daughter Agnes. Clarinda and husband Isaac Vanderwalker already had five children, four of them girls. They were fourteen year old Elizabeth, twelve year old Helen, ten year old George, six year old Mary, and five year old Clara who was afflicted with dwarfism. The two older girls may have wanted to take care of their new baby sister Agnes, but in the dead of winter in rural Minnesota it could not have been easy. As Agnes’ daughter Helen Wilson Peterson describes in the audio clip below, the best option available to widower Isaac Vanderwalker was to give the baby away to the neighbors who had access to a milk cow.

Only months after Agnes’ birth the Civil War broke out and soon after her first birthday her birth father Isaac Vanderwalker joined the Union Army. He served in the 4th Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers Company K from April 6, 1862 through April 5, 1865, marching around the United States from Missouri to Texas to Georgia to Virginia to Washington, DC. Upon his return to Minnesota in September 1865 he married local widow Carrie Smith and they began a new family.

Meanwhile, Agnes lived with her adopted parents John Call and Mary Fulton Call and her adopted brother Finley Call in Lansing, Minnesota, about 10 miles away from her birth siblings. John Call had been born John McCall June 20th, 1822 in Scotland and had immigrated to the United States as a young man. By the time he had established his shoe making business in Minnesota in the 1850s he had dropped the “Mc” from his name.

It is unknown whether or not Agnes’ siblings maintained a relationship with her as she grew from baby to toddler to young girl. But she was about nine years old when the Call family left Minnesota so it is possible that she had memories of her Vanderwalker siblings. In any event, mail service was spotty and expensive in the mid-1800s and any relationship that may have existed and even memories would have soon faded. So imagine Agnes’ surprise when almost fifty years after she had left Minnesota the following ad appeared in the April 26, 1916 edition of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

Press Dem 26 April 1916 clip

Mrs. Scofield turned out to be Agnes’ older sister, Helen Vanderwalker who had been about twelve years old when Agnes went to live in the Call household, and about twenty when the Calls left Minnesota in the late 1860s. By that time Helen had married George Scofield, a local clerk in Austin, Mower County, Minnesota. And in the early 1900s the Scofields had relocated to Siskiyou County, California.

The ad in the Santa Rosa newspaper apparently did the trick and it was only a couple of months later when Agnes and her sister were reunited. The July 8, 1916 edition of the Healdsburg Enterprise reported:

Mr. and Mrs. A.A. Wilson returned recently from an enjoyable automobile trip to Red Bluff. The trip to the Sacramento valley city was taken for the purpose of Mrs. Wilson meeting her sister whom she had not seen since a baby. In deference to the family that raised Mrs. Wilson her sister kept her identity a secret until after her own parents had died. When this had occurred the two ladies quickly got in communication with each other. No doubt many reunions will be held by the two now that they know of each other’s whereabouts.

Unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending. As Helen Vanderwalker Scofield had indicated in her original letter to the Santa Rosa Postmaster, she was seriously ill. The front page of the September 30, 1916 edition of the Healdsburg Enterprise reported:

Mrs. A.A. Wilson was called to Red Bluff Tuesday by the death of a sister. Just four months ago Mrs. Wilson heard of her sister’s whereabouts, and the two met for the first time since they were separated when Mrs. Wilson was two years old. During the past summer Mrs. Wilson made a visit to this sister, and she was extremely pleased to renew the sisterly love. It is a sad blow to her that she should lose this sister so soon after finding her.


Helen Scofield gravestoneHelen Vanderwalker Scofield died September 26, 1916 in Red Bluff, California and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in that city. We can only hope that it was a comfort to her to learn that her baby sister Agnes had named her youngest child Helen, perhaps as an unconscious homage to her long lost older sister.



Interview of Helen Wilson Peterson by Maria Buchignani Taeuffer circa: 1979
“History of the Fourth Regiment of Minnesota Infantry Volunteers” by Alonzo L. Brown
Isaac Vanderwalker Compiled Military Record
Clara L. Vanderwalker Civil War Widow’s Pension File 692.026
Mower County Register: 9 January 1868
Santa Rosa Press Democrat: 26 April 1916
Healdsburg Enterprise: 8 July 1916, 30 September 1916
1870 US Census
Find A Grave memorial #10961064 courtesy of Kimberley Terrill

Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson Part 4 – A New Family for a New Century

In 1870, when Agnes Vanderwalker Call Congleton Wilson was a small girl, she travelled from Minnesota to Healdsburg with her adopted parents John and Mary Call. To learn about her adventures in the nineteenth century, please read The Early YearsAgnes Makes a Regrettable Choice, and Agnes Rejoins Healdsburg Society.


The twentieth century began for Agnes and Albert Wilson with a surprise party to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. By this time Agnes’ son Claude Congleton had left the family farm on Bailhache Avenue to make his way in San Francisco and her daughter Mae Congleton was engaged to be married to local farmer John Taeuffer. In March 1902, Mae and John were married on the Taeuffer ranch on Magnolia Drive. Their son, Ernest Louis Taeuffer, was born in November of that year. Just as the new Cousinsgrandparents and empty nesters 41 year-old Agnes and 40 year-old Albert were celebrating that joyous event, they received an unexpected surprise when they discovered that they were going to have a baby of their own! Their daughter, Helen Agnes Wilson, was born June 10th, 1903. Mae and John Taeuffer’s daughter, Dorothy, was born the following May, in 1904. Dorothy and Ernest Taeuffer would grow up with Helen Wilson being more like a cousin rather than their aunt.



While Agnes kept busy with raising the new baby, Albert focused on improvements to their farm. In 1903 the original 10-acre parcel of land that Agnes’ father John Call had purchased from the Spanish Land Grant holder in 1872 was planted primarily in hops. An opportunity to expand the ranch presented itself in early 1904 when the prune orchard next door became available. Albert purchased the “Wright place,” also known as the “Campbell ranch” that February. But the diversity of the Wilson farm was not limited Black Tartarian Cherry Blossoms from Arbor Day Foundationto hops and prunes. In October 1904, the Healdsburg Tribune reported that Albert Wilson had brought a branch from one of his Tartarian cherry trees into the newspaper office. He did so to demonstrate that his trees were experiencing an unusual second full bloom within a year and that a rare second crop could be expected.

In addition to his talents as a farmer, Albert must have also been a good businessman. In October 1904, he traveled to Santa Rosa to broker sale of the hops from the Bailhache Avenue farm. At a time when the average price being paid for hops was around 15 cents per pound, it was reported that Albert had received 31 cents, “the highest price in the region” for his 3-ton crop. Thus the Wilsons grossed $1,860 that year which was quite a tidy sum for the era.

In August 1908, Agnes’ mother, Grandma Call, celebrated her 82nd birthday. In November she signed over the original 10 acres of “lot 1 of Spurr Survey of Sotoyome rancho” purchased from John Bailhache, holder of the original Spanish Land Grant, into Agnes’ name but leaving Albert off of the new deed. This transaction formally consolidated the ranch holdings and established Agnes as 75% owner of the farm.


Hop Harvest 800x600


Despite the time demands of raising a daughter and of making all the improvements to the farm, Agnes and Albert were still able to enjoy many leisure activities. Dinner parties were regular events and served as a way to keep in touch with the extended family. Agnes played hostess to her former sisters-in-law, Jennie Cook (nee Amelia Jane Congleton) and Sarah Greaver (nee Sarah Ann Congleton), and their families on a routine basis. After daughter Mae Congleton married John Taeuffer the parties began to include members of that family as well, including Mae’s mother- and father-in-law, Sophie and Ernest Taeuffer, along with their best friends, Ferdinand and Katherine Grabner. Neighbors were typically present as well, including Anita Fitch, J.B. and Nancy (aka: Auntie B) Brown, Julia Bachman and her brother Emil, and Mr. and Mrs. John Minaglia.

Graphophone which was originally sold by Sears, Roebuck & Company for $20 both records and reproduces sound.

The parties usually featured competitive card playing, such as the trick-taking games Progressive Whist and Pedro. Afternoon gatherings of the ladies often provided an opportunity for the musically inclined to entertain the others with voice, violin, and piano. The evening parties would typically end with a sumptuous feast served at midnight. It had also become a Valentines Day tradition to hold a joint birthday party for Agnes and daughter Mae Taeuffer. In February 1910 guests were treated to particularly unique and memorable entertainment at one such party when Albert Wilson captivated the crowd with music played on his newly acquired graphophone.

By the time the second decade of the 20th century was beginning, many members of the younger generation of the pioneer families had left the small hamlet of Healdsburg to seek their fortunes in the bigger cities of San Rafael, Benicia, and other points south. But this only served to present a delightful opportunity to host out-of-town visitors and to enjoy out-of-town excursions. Agnes often would alternately host and visit many of her nieces and nephews, including Bertha Reilly (nee Greaver) in San Francisco and later in Los Angeles, Irene Robinson (nee Greaver) in San Rafael, and Harry Brown in San Francisco.

Another tradition that began around this time was for the Wilsons to spend extended visits to the Pacific coast for camping and fishing. Many excursions to Bodega Bay, Jenner, and Tamales Bay were reported in the local newspapers. Participants included daughter Helen of course, but also Mr. and Mrs. Walter Cook, Mrs. Harry Brown and her daughter Maude, Mae and John Long car and houseJohn Taeuffer, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Greaver, and Agnes’ grandson Claude Congleton. One visit to Dillon’s Beach, made with friends Mr. and Mrs. John Long, in September 1910 was particularly notable because the group had made the trip in the Long’s automobile. Eventually, in 1916, the Wilsons decided they enjoyed spending time at the coast so much that they partnered with a friend, J.C. Green, to build a vacation cabin at Jenner.


In April 1910 some of the ladies living on the South side of Healdsburg formed a sewing club that met twice each month. They dubbed themselves “The Busy Bees” referring to their busy hands as well as to the buzzing of their conversation. Each lady took her turn at hosting the group which followed the rule that no more than two items of refreshment would be provided, usually cake and either ice cream or hot chocolate, depending on the season. Frequently, musically inclined members Miss Julia Bachman, Miss Joey Brown and Mrs. Millie Brown would provide entertainment.

But the ladies did not restrict use of their creative talents to making things for themselves and in January 1912 they sewed quilts to be donated for use by the orphans living at the Lytton Home. By April 1913 they had changed their club name to “The Social Neighbors Club” perhaps to better describe the primary purpose of their congenial gatherings.

Pythian Sisters Pin
The Pythian Sisters’ motto was “Purity, Love, Equality, and Fidelity”

Albert Wilson had become involved with the Knights of Pythias lodge in 1900, when he served as Master of Works. Agnes began her active involvement with the women’s auxiliary of that organization, the Pythian Sisters, in 1914, when she was elected Junior of Temple. Two years later she moved up to become Most Excellent Chief, the highest office at the local chapter level. In June 1916 she became Most Excellent Senior, followed in January 1917 when she assumed the role of Past Chief. Card playing was a regular part of the lodge meetings and both Agnes and Albert were frequently listed as the high scorers of the evening in the local press.


Agnes’ son Claude Congleton had married local girl, Eugenia Selistine Hoar, who was called Jenny and who was also known as Birdie, on October 13th, 1903. The young couple had one son, Claude Franklin Congleton on February 13th, 1905, who missed having a shared birthday with his Aunt Mae and Grandmother Agnes by just one day. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on December 2nd, 1906 before the boy had even turned two. His father Claude suffered a severe injury that day in a horrible accident while working as a brakeman on the train running out of Eureka. He passed away the following day, December 3rd, just one day before his own 25th birthday. From then on, Agnes and Albert would take extra care to include their grandson Claude, who would later become known by the nickname “Buster Brown” in their fishing and camping trips. To learn more about his life, please read AKA “Buster Brown”. A number of years later, in 1909, widow Jenny Hoar Congleton would marry George Taeuffer, Mae Congleton Taeuffer’s brother-in-law, linking the two families in a second way that would confuse researchers in later decades.

Life continued for Agnes, Albert and little Helen on the Bailhache Avenue farm. Sadly, Grandma Call’s health went into decline and she began to suffer from a progressive dementia. In early 1911 she took a fall in the garden and broke her femur at the hip. She was not strong enough to recover from her injury and on May 20th she passed away at the age of 84 years. Healdsburg pioneer Mary Call was then laid to rest in Oak Mound Cemetery next to her husband John.



The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, commonly known as simply “The Grange,” was originally established to improve agricultural conditions in the post-Civil War South by teaching modern techniques. The goal of providing education was Grange Political Cartoonreplaced fairly quickly with the goal of yielding political power, particularly in pursuing regulation of the railroads, but also in supporting temperance, the direct election of Senators, and women’s suffrage. It was also unique for a fraternal society of the time because it did not have a women’s auxiliary associated with it. Instead, it recognized women as members equal to the men. In fact, the by-laws established that four of the elected positions could only be held by women, thereby acknowledging the important role that women played on the family farm.

The Wilsons became involved with the Pomona Grange of Healdsburg in 1907 when Albert agreed to join the Hop Growers’ Union of the Pacific Coast. The goal of the union was to leverage the volume of the crops of multiple growers to improve their ability to negotiate price with the large processing companies. By 1915 it was Agnes who was most closely involved with the organization when in December she was elected Steward for the following year. The main focus of the Healdsburg group in 1916 was to entice the California State Grange to hold their October 1917 annual meeting in Healdsburg. They were successful and the meeting, which focused on both co-operative buying and nationalizing the railroads, was held in town. Agnes served on the all-important banquet committee for the large state meeting.


While Agnes and Albert were busy working to unionize the hop growers of California, the world was being plunged into war. The United States avoided participation as long as was possible, but on April 2nd, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany. Four days later that request was granted and the US joined allies Britain, France, and Russia in fighting the Great War to End all Wars. No one’s life would go untouched by the events to follow.

To learn about the next surprise in Agnes’ life, please read A Sister Found and Lost.

Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise, and Scimitar; 13 Dec 1900, 24 Jul 1902, 14 Aug 1902, 25 Sep 1902, 6 Oct 1904, 6 Dec 1906, 6 Mar 1910, 27 Apr 1910, 11 May 1910, 25 May 1910, 25 Jan 1912, 24 Apr 1913, 22 Jan 1914, 10 Feb 1916, 20 Jul 1916, 25 Jan 1917, 8 Feb 1917, 15 Feb 1917, 26 Apr 1917
Healdsburg Enterprise; 3 Oct 1903, 6 Feb 1904, 29 Oct 1904, 18 Jul 1908, 19 Feb 1910, 17 Sep 1910, 11 Nov 1911, 25 Nov 1911, 1 Jun 1912, 6 Jul 1912, 20 Jul 1912, 16 Nov 1912, 15 Mar 1913, 10 May 1913, 12 Jul 1913, 17 Jan 1914, 4 Jul 1914, 18 Jul 1914, 3 Jul 1915, 11 Dec 1915, 22 Jan 1916, 8 Apr 1916, 22 Jul 1916, 21 Oct 1916, 4 Nov 1916, 11 Nov 1916, 27 Jan 1917, 10 Feb 1917, 15 Dec 1917
Sotoyome Scimitar; 3 Feb 1904, 20 Jul 1904, 24 Nov 1908
Healdsburg Tribune; 1 Nov 1900, 16 Feb 1910, 31 May 1911, 11 Nov 1915
Press Democrat; 6 Dec 19072
Friends of Historic Butteville
Centennial History of Oregon, 1811 – 1921, vol.1
Museum of Musical Instruments
Arbor Day Foundation



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


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.


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.


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.


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.

To find out what happened next, read A New Family for a New Century.


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