Sometimes it's easy to forget that history surrounds us. Look closely, though, and you can see it in structures, bridges, roadways, rivers, and other objects. Each has a story to tell, sometimes reaching back hundreds or thousands of years.
Inside Stockton’s Fox California Theatre, 1932.
San Joaquin County is no exception. Many people don't know that the Stockton Cultural Heritage Board keeps track of historically significant landmarks, sites, districts, and structures within city limits. The Board's lists includes Saint Mary's Church, Hotel Stockton, Benjamin Holt's house, the Nippon Hospital, the Fox California Theatre, the Philomathean Clubhouse, Stockton's Sikh Temple, and many others.
Want to know more about the background of these and other historic resources? One of the most valuable resources is Wikipedia, which can be accessed here.
Other, private organizations have compiled lists of their own. These include Native Daughters of the Golden West, E. Clampus Vitus, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Stockton Cultural Heritage Board keeps tabs on historic resources within the city that these organizations have identified, as well.
The longest lists, which people also tend to overlook, are kept by the California Office of Historic Preservation, which administers State Landmarks, the California Register, and California Points of Interest. The Office of Historic Preservation also lists entries for the National Register of Historic Places, which the National Park Service administers. Designations by the state and national governments often overlap with those of the Stockton Cultural Heritage Board.
Items within San Joaquin County listed by the California Office of Historic Preservation and the National Register but not elsewhere include the Bank of Italy in Tracy, French Camp, the Lodi Arch, Stockton's Temple Israel Cemetery, the Temporary Detention Camp at the Japanese-American Stockton Assembly Center, and the Women's Club of Lodi.
The full list of historic resources in San Joaquin County already designated goes on and on. Links to government agencies on the local, state, and national levels that keep track of them can be found elsewhere on the Web site of the San Joaquin County Historical Society. However, other resources probably exist that have somehow escaped scrutiny. Chances are, at least some readers of this blog can identify them.
Here's a challenge: Pretend you have guests coming from outside San Joaquin County. To which historic resources would you direct them—besides those already identified by the Stockton Cultural Heritage Board, the California Office of Historic Preservation, and the National Register? And why would you recommend them?
Send your submissions to me at email@example.com. I'll be happy to post them online.
Did you know that Charles M. Weber, the founder of Stockton, was interested in gardening? Did you know that the tradition goes way back in time and that many of the nation's founders shared that interest? On February 27, 2013, New York Times Best Seller List author, Andrea Wulf, will visit the University of the Pacific to discuss the relationship between horticulture and the Founders, as explored in her 2011 book, Founding Gardeners: How the Revolutionary Generation Created an American Eden.
Thomas Jefferson (1805).
Wulf's illustrated talk looks at the lives of the Founding Fathers and how their attitude toward plants, gardens, nature, and agriculture shaped the American nation. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison regarded themselves foremost as farmers and plantsmen. For them, gardening, agriculture, and botany were elemental passions, as deeply ingrained in their characters as their belief in liberty. In a unique retelling of the creation of America, the award-winning historian will show how plants, politics, and personalities intertwined during the early years of the nation.
Wulf was born in India, moved to Germany as a child, and currently lives in Britain. She has authored several books, among them, The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession, which won the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award and was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008, the most prestigious non-fiction award in the United Kingdom. The Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation was published to acclaim in 2011 and made it to the New York Times Best Seller List.
Wulf has written for many newspapers, including The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. She is the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence 2013 and a three-time fellow of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.
The event is sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa, the College of the Pacific, the John Muir Center for Environmental Studies, and the University of the Pacific Library. The presentation starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Library's Community Room, 3601 Pacific Avenue, in Stockton. A book signing will follow.
Have you ever wanted to meet your doppelgänger, the person who supposedly looks just like you? I'm not convinced I have one, though a number of friends once told me that some guy in college looked just like me—from behind. How about meeting someone who shares your first and last names? That seems more likely, though my own names might be hard to match.
The original Robert (E.) Lee.
It turns out that quite a few people from San Joaquin County have shared names with celebrities. My friend and former colleague, Ed Wittmayer, made this discovery last year while arranging and scanning a collection of the Museum's photographs.
The nature of Ed's discoveries varied widely. From the world of sports, he found photographs of San Joaquin County residents named Pete Rose and Jerry Jones. Military and political names you might recognize included Robert Lee and Ted Kennedy. The largest number of celebrity names came from show business. Included among them were Willie Nelson, Dick Gregory, Jerry Lewis, and Gary Cooper. Ed even discovered someone from San Joaquin County named Charles Brown. I can't help wondering whether Brown's circle of friends included Lucy, Schroeder, and Snoopy.
Other, non-celebrity names caught Ed's eye, too. I couldn't stop laughing when he shared with me the name of a woman from San Joaquin County who married "Mr. Wright." I truly hope they lived happily ever after—just like the man who married "Miss Wright." Shouldn't we all be so lucky choosing our own mates?
These and hundreds of other pictures come from a collection created by Ed Ehrhardt, a longtime Lodi resident and police officer. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Ehrhardt ran a photography business off duty that specialized in weddings, confirmations, and passport preparation. His children generously gave much of his collection to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum after his death, and there it remains.
Researchers are welcome to comb the Ehrhardt Photography Collection for other celebrity names or persons of interest. To make an appointment, which is required, send me a message at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever wondered what the past sounded like? That's right, sounds from the past—before there were cars, airplanes, and radios. Human voices, animals, birds, and nonmotorized vehicles like wagons and carriages dominated the soundscape. But there were also choirs, bands, and pianos, and they sang or played music we don't hear often today.
A time capsule of music.
Several weeks ago, I came across a book in the Museum's archives that offers a brief glimpse into music you might have heard in Stockton shortly after the Gold Rush. Think of it as a 150-year old time capsule of popular music. The book has a hard binding and is about two inches thick. Viewed from the front, it measures ten by fourteen inches. Embossing on the cover reads "Miss Hattie Lanius, Stockton 1858."
The volume contains seventy pieces of sheet music, bound by Atwill and Company, in San Francisco, and apparently gathered at the direction of Miss Lanius. The contents include such sentimental titles as "Adieu Dear Native Land," "Death of Minnehaha," "I Wonder If She Loves Me," and "Willie We Have Missed You." Stephen Foster is one of its better known composers. A handwritten note inside the cover indicates that Miss Lanius at one point gave the volume to an acquaintance named "Mary."
And who was Hattie Lanius? A quick check in local history sources tells me that her father, William Lanius, held the position of postmaster in Stockton in the late 1850s. An appointee of Abraham Lincoln's predecessor, James Buchanan, Lanius played a prominent role in local Democratic politics leading up to the Civil War. In the presidential campaign of 1860, he supported one of Lincoln's opponents, Kentucky politician John C. Breckinridge.
Hattie Lanius disappears from the historical record in the spring of 1858, shortly after marrying Thomas R. Anthony in Stockton. But she left this book as the seed of an imaginary picture. In it, I see a young woman seated at a piano with a group of close friends—boys and girls. They talk; they laugh; they sing popular music; they flirt. They do what young people have done for a long, long time. But they do it without iPods, and with sentimental tunes and words we don't often hear these days.
Hattie Lanius's time capsule sends me a message: Words, melodies, and instruments of delivery may change over time, but the ability of music to express emotions and bring people together lasts forever.
Today, Harriet Lanius's collection of sheet music rests safely on a shelf in the Museum's archives. Perhaps some enterprising musician will crack it open someday, play a sample, and leave us swaying, weeping, or tapping our toes to popular tunes that also had the power to move Stocktonians shortly after the Gold Rush.
When Charles Weber's partner received a Mexican land grant for Rancho del Campo de los Franceses in what is now central San Joaquin County, he agreed to settle eleven families on the 48,000-acre property. In 1844, herders James Williams and Thomas Lindsay built tule huts and began living near what would later be called Stockton Slough.
Later that year, David Kelsey, his wife, Susan, and their twelve-year-old daughter, America, agreed to settle on French Camp Slough, where Hudson's Bay Company trappers had wintered for many years in the prior decade.
America Kelsey Wyman as an adult.
David Kelsey was a frontiersman and a veteran of the famed Kentucky Rifles of the War of 1812. Four of his sons had left Missouri in 1841 in the same wagon train as the famed Bartleson-Bidwell party. Two of those sons continued on the Oregon Trail, whereas sons Benjamin—with his wife, Nancy, and baby daughter, Martha Ann—and Andrew were among the first American settlers to enter California as part of the Bartleson group. In 1843, father David and the remainder of the Kelsey family emigrated from Missouri to Oregon. They spent the winter in Oregon and in the spring went south to Central California. At Sutter's Fort in 1844, David Kelsey accepted the offer to settle at French Camp in exchange for one square mile of prime land.
A few months after moving to French Camp, David Kelsey had to go to San Jose for supplies. While there, he was exposed to smallpox. Soon after returning to the French Camp cabin that fall, he became sick.
David's wife, Susan, loaded him and their daughter America into a wagon and headed for Sutter's Fort to get medical help. They had only gone as far as Thomas Lindsay's hut on McLeod's Lake (now downtown Stockton) when the nature of David's illness became apparent. Lindsay and James Williams fled from the dreaded smallpox. They suggesting to Mrs. Kelsey that should David die, she should not risk contact with the body, but should drag it out to be disposed of by the coyotes.
In the coming days, Mrs. Kelsey also fell ill and was blinded by the smallpox. Young America was left alone to nurse her critically ill parents. Her father, David, died in Lindsay's hut.
Fortunately, some cowboys came along. One of them, George Wyman, had the courage to enter the hut, bury David Kelsey, and care for blinded and weakened Mrs. Kelsey. He took her and her daughter, America, to Monterey on his cow pony.
James Williams and Thomas Lindsay returned to their huts after the risk of smallpox had passed. Lindsay was soon killed by Indians and buried near David Kelsey. Williams left the frontier to participate in the Bear Flag Revolt.
Susan Kelsey, permanently blind, moved to Oregon to live with her son, Isaiah.
What became of young America Kelsey? On September 2, 1846, America and her rescuer, cowboy George Wyman, were married by Captain John Sutter at his fort on the American River (now Sacramento). They lived a long life together near Half Moon Bay. They were blessed with nine children: seven boys and two girls.
How could anybody ever forget Commodore Robert F. Stockton (depicted below)? Who? You know, the U.S. naval officer who commanded American forces in California during the Mexican War and served as military governor in 1846 and 1847. Remember now? Remember how Charles M. Weber admired him so much that he named the city of Stockton after him? Now remember?
You don't? Well, you're not alone. If only you had known about a very special song that dates from 1852. It's called Stockton the Hero, and it's all about the Commodore. I discovered sheet music for this anonymous piece in the Museum's archives yesterday. Here's how it starts:
Oh, know ye the land on the Pacific's wild coast,
Where the stars and stripes by Stockton were planted,
Where mountains and streams, with the treasures they boast,
The hearts and the hopes of mankind have enchanted,
And know ye the story that tells of the fame
Of the hero who conquered those wide realms of treasure,
'Tis the land of bright gold—California by name,
Where fields are so green, and whose skies are so azure
And Stockton the hero, whose exploits of glory,
Shall emblazon through ages Columbia's story.
Get the idea? Stockton the Hero goes on for two more verses, but I'll save you the excitement of the rest.
Robert F. Stockton deserves to be remembered, especially here in San Joaquin County. Stockton the Hero once helped serve that purpose. But times have changed and, quite honestly, we need an update. We need something catchier, with shorter words and phrases. We need something with a strong beat.
So here's a proposal: I challenge anybody reading this blog to turn Stockton the Hero into a rap song. Feel free to expand, paraphrase, or rework the wording in any way you see fit. (The copyright expired long ago.) If you want, I'll even share the other two verses with you.
Post your creation and share the link with me at email@example.com. The winner will receive one free ticket to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum, fifteen minutes of fame, and the eternal gratitude of visitors to this site.
So let the rapping begin! Let's immortalize the memory of Commodore Robert F. Stockton and strike a blow for historical literacy.
Visitors to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum will recognize the image below as a photograph of the Calaveras Schoolhouse, a genuine nineteenth-century structure moved to and currently located at the Museum. The San Joaquin County Historical Society is pleased to announce a grant from Walmart for a new interpretive panel that discusses the school's history, and it invites donations of photographs that deal with the structure, its students, and its teachers not only for inclusion in the panel, but also for preservation in the Museum's archives.
Public education has been important in San Joaquin County since the Gold Rush. In 1850, two years before the State of California provided for public schools, a free public school was started in Stockton. The first rural or country school, Henderson School, was built in 1852 less than three miles northwest of the Museum. By 1878, there were sixty-two schools in the County: one had three rooms, four had two rooms, and fifty-seven were one-room schoolhouses.
In 1866, the county superintendent of schools approved the new Calaveras School District. Volunteers built the schoolhouse near the Calaveras River, on land donated by Jonathan Dodge. Due to flooding at the original site, the school was later moved north of the river on Highway 88.
The number of students at Calaveras School varied from year to year. In 1878, it had twelve girls and eight boys in grades one through seven. There were twelve students in 1884 and twenty-nine ten years later. Like most early country schools, it also served as a meeting place for local organizations and churches.
Calaveras School closed in 1959 after ninety-three years of service. It was one of the last one-room country schools in San Joaquin County. The building was moved to the Museum in 1976. It was restored by Museum docents, led by Ken Norton and Mel Davison, and is now used by schoolchildren reliving the 1880s in the Valley Day and Pioneer School Day programs.
To donate photographs of Calaveras School for this project, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who says history is boring? Lots of people. All too often, conventional wisdom sees history as a disjointed smattering of names, dates, and battles. Often it has tended to equate the study of history with the accomplishments of males. What often gets overlooked, however, is an expanded definition that includes not only stories of men, but also of women, children, science, technology, culture, religion, transportation, and ethnic minorities. The list could go on and on to cover the full scope of human experience over time.
The photograph at left was taken in San Joaquin County. How many negative stereotypes about history does it shatter? It doesn't involve politics, the military, or men, and appreciation of the image doesn't require memorization of dates. It certainly doesn't tell me that our ancestors led boring lives, or that either the questions it raises or the story it tells lack interest. To me, at least, the photo suggests that history can actually be interesting, even a little edgy.
The image of the woman on the motorcycle is one of about two hundred recently given to the Museum in response to an appeal made on this blog last year (May 2, 2012). This particular collection originated with a member of the Stockton Motorcycle Club. Unfortunately, the identity of the rider is unknown, though we do know that she sits astride an Indian motorcycle that probably dates from the 1930s. Other subjects represented in the collection include motorcycle races in Stockton, Lodi, and Micke Grove; hill climbs near Tracy; group photos of motorcyclists from a variety of eras; and individual shots of male and female riders in an array of settings.
The San Joaquin County Historical Society has a mission to preserve and promote the history of the County in all its complexity. It welcomes additions like this collection of motorcycle photographs. For information about how to contribute historical material—and to help keep learning about the past interesting—send me a message at email@example.com.
I have a soft spot for explorers. My interest dates back to childhood, when I poured over old black-and-white issues of National Geographic while visiting my grandparents in Berkeley. It wasn't hard for me to close my eyes, slip on an imaginary pith helmet, and see myself hacking my way through virgin forests to dig up lost civilizations.
It didn't register with me as a child, but at least one of those explorers was a woman. Her name was Harriet Chalmers Adams, and she was born in Stockton, California, on October 22, 1875. From her mother, Francis Wilkins, Harriet inherited a pedigree grounded in the early history of Stockton. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, was a Scottish engineer who sparked a love for travel in his daughter by taking her at the age of eight on a trip by horseback throughout California.
In 1899, Harriet married Franklin Adams, an electrical engineer. Both thrived on adventure. Shortly afterward, the newlyweds embarked on a three-year journey of South America, during which they visited every country on the Continent. Returning to the United States, Harriet set out on the lecture circuit, sharing slides, photographs, and stories from her adventures.
The next four decades saw Harriet travel widely. By the end of her life, she had visited every county with a Spanish or Portuguese connection. Other parts of the world also on her itinerary included Haiti, Siberia, North Africa, Turkey, and Sumatra. Published widely—most notably in Harper's Magazine and National Geographic—Harriet was one of the first correspondents to visit the front during World War I and the only woman at that time permitted to enter the trenches.
In Harriet's day, the National Geographic Society did not admit women as full members, although the Royal Geographic Society granted her admission in 1913. In response, she and four other women explorers founded the Society of Women Geographers in 1925. Harriet spent the next eight years organizing and developing the Society, which was based in Washington, D.C. In 1937, she died in Nice, France, where she and her husband had taken up residence. Harriet's obituary in the New York Times called her "America’s greatest woman explorer."
Harriet was one of many strong and independent women from San Joaquin County. Her memory endures, not only in her accomplishments, but also in archival material she left at the time of her death. The San Joaquin County Historical Society is pleased to announce a gift from the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library of six scrapbooks kept by Harriet, comprised mainly of newspaper clippings, which can be consulted by appointment. For years to come, periodic exhibits that include these items will remind Museum visitors of this remarkable Stocktonian.
I like photographs a lot. Sometimes they give me information I can't find anywhere else. Other times, I see glimpses into artistic sensitivity and expertise. But the images I find most memorable are ones that open doors into the personality of the photographer, giving me a sense of what it might have been like to know him in person.
The creator of the photograph at left, which is taken from a postcard, was V. Covert Martin, a native of Stockton and for many years a noted local photographer. One of Martin's grandfathers, Joseph Harrison Tan, arrived in Stockton in 1850. The family prospered. Three and one-half decades later, Martin was born to a daughter of Tan in a house at the corner of Main and Grant Streets. After a brief apprenticeship in Nevada City, Martin returned to Stockton, worked for photographer Charles W. Logan, and eventually set up his own studio. Early in the twentieth century, he became the official photographer for the Stockton Record.
Years ago, a friend of the Museum donated a small collection of Christmas cards that Martin and his wife created and sent out to acquaintances over the years. The donor apparently belonged to that circle. Each of these cards is unique, not only for breaking staid and often boring greeting card conventions, but also for revealing a delightful, light-hearted, and self-deprecating sense of humor.
The photograph above, which seems to date from the 1930s, epitomizes these qualities. Can you imagine a grown man and woman eagerly waiting for Santa at the bottom of their chimney? The thought honestly hadn't entered my mind before seeing this card. But now that it has engaged my imagination, I can also envision Martin and his wife setting out milk and cookies for Santa, then curling up on the sofa and waiting into the early hours of the morning.
Martin retired in 1938 due to ill health and died in 1962 at the age of seventy-seven. His legacy has endured not only in Stockton Record photographs and portraits from his studio, but also in a delightful book titled Stockton Album Through the Years (1959), a photographic recollection of the city that Martin loved.
In addition, there are those Christmas cards. I suspect that Martin never intended them to be seen as major accomplishments. But in my view bringing light-hearted cheer during the Holiday season may be one of the best legacies anybody can leave—especially in world all too often marred by hatred and senseless violence.