Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Glencoe, California -- The Fun Side Of The River


Back in July of 1958, Ruby E. Taylor wrote this about Glencoe nestled in Calaveras County's Gold Country:

Glencoe, a small town of around 100 voters with a school, a post office, and store is situated about nine miles east of Mokelumne Hill. In the early days it was known as Mosquito Gulch. The early settlers mined the gulch. And on account of the marsh-land and so many water holes the mosquitoes flourished and there seemed to be more mosquitoes here than anywhere around. There were steep hills all around running down to the gulch. The first locations were taken up and the houses built right along the creek.

George W. Berry operated a store on the south side of Mosquito Gulch in 1879. Jerome Burt and son, Bill, operated a store on the north side of the Mosquito Gulch about the same time and on, until after the turn of the century. Burt’s General Store was a two-story wood structure with a post office and store room on the ground floor and a dance hall upstairs. The stairs leading up to the dance hall were on the outside of the building.

At one time the Mosquito Gulch School in the 7th District took in all the land to the east, including Rail Road Flat and Independence. This District No. 7 was divided on November 7th, 1866, under Dr. F. D. Borston, and the eastern half was called Eureka School District, which later became Rail Road Flat School District.

The gravel was very rich along Mosquito Gulch and many thousands of dollars were taken out with the crude hand mining of that day. After the placer mining, came the hard rock mines.

On Three-Cent Flat, about two miles from the main town, there were coal pits where coal was made by burning oak wood under the ground for several weeks. The coal was used by blacksmiths for sharpening mining tools. A man by the name of Benj. Franklin Woodford, nicknamed "Old Jerd," had several coal pits on the Orion Ames ranch.

After the mining had slowed up many people homesteaded small farms and ranches. This was about 1880. These names of ranchers are familiar to all old-timers: Wm. Woodcock, Bartolo Malaspina, Orion Ames, Paul Kenner, Butcher John Etcheverry, John Ames, Francis Fairchild, Swen Danielson, Pete Albers, Stodzer, Richard McNamara, Henry Prackel and the Green Meadow Farm owned by the Wilcox family. All these ranches raised an abundance of fruit, especially pears, apples, quinces, plums, cherries, peaches, grapes, berries and walnuts. These thrifty farmers raised almost entirely everything they ate.

Joe Woodcock entered the lumbering and sawmill business and used oxen to do the logging.

Numerous Indians roamed the hills at this time, and in the fall and spring of the year bands of 300 to 500 Indians, men, women, and children, would camp on the Orion Ames ranch near what they called "cold spring." They gathered acorns for winter. There are still the big ledges of slate rock on the old Orion Ames ranch upon a high hill where the Indians left round deep holes in which they ground the acorns to make acorn bread. The pestles are all packed away but the holes in the big rocks are still there as mute evidence of Indian camping grounds.

Just down on another side hill on the Green Meadow Farm was the Indian burying grounds. When my father would plough these side hills the children would find loads of Indian beads, arrowheads, and other Indian relics. Old Emma, Old Indian Susie, Indian Dick, and some others were more civilized in later years and would come to the white man’s house to beg food which was always given to them.

Another mineral in this section was soapstone. A long mountain of soapstone is on the old Orion Ames ranch about two miles southeast of Glencoe on the Rail Road Flat Road. This soapstone was sawed into blocks and sold to miners and sawmills to encase the boilers. Many ranchers used it to make fireplaces in the early homes.

-- excerpt above from Ruby Taylor’s Glencoe History, by Ruby E. Taylor, Las Calaveras, July 1958.

Glencoe is number 280 on the list of California Historical Landmarks. I tried contacting the State of California about getting the marker for our town. I thought it would add a sense of history more than there already is. Besides, I thought it would make others here feel good. 

When I spoke to a representative of the State of California about it. I was met with an interesting attitude. The state employee that I'd spoke with said that Glencoe's Historical Marker would have to be "reexamined and looked at again" to find out if we "really deserved it." I got so angry at his condescending attitude that I told the individual what he could do with his marker! 

Formerly known as "Mosquito Gulch", Glencoe started out as a mining town. The "business portion" of our "town" was actually on the north side of Mosquito Gulch. Sadly, none of the old buildings remain today.

The first mines are said to have been worked by Mexicans in the early 1850s using "arrastres" or dragging. Though some placer mining was done here, quartz mining was the main focus of mining efforts in these parts. The Good Hope Mine itself was said to have had an 18-stamp mill by 1873. Other mines in Glencoe included the Sierra King, Sierra Queen, Monte Cristo, Blue Jay, Mexican, San Bruno, Blue Bell, the Oriental, and several others.

In the 1890s, Glencoe was still dependent on mining. But during that time, ranching and farming did in fact become the dominant industries. Most families practiced what can only be called a mixed agricultural economy as they raised cattle, sheep, hogs, and poultry. Besides supplying themselves with a steady supply of meats, wool, hides, and eggs, they also grew their own vegetable gardens and orchards. And by the way, many here today raise their own beef, sheep, hogs, and poultry, and still grow our own vegetables and keep our own orchards.

While back in the day, livestock was the backbone of the agricultural industry in this county, upcountry grazing of cattle, sheep, and goats was taking place as early as 1849. During the hot summers it was not unusual for livestock herds to be moved to the mountains, and then returned to the valley below before winter sets in.

As with today, vineyards produced wines and brandies for personal use and for sale in this area. Commercial winemaking here in this county began in 1851 when 1,000 vines arrived via the Calaveras River. In parts of the county, hops were grown and baked in kilns for breweries to produce beers and ales. It doesn't take much to find olive orchards that were also grown for both family and commercial use.

The way of the world is not hard to really understand. In so far as the Gold Rush in this area goes, as mining declined something had to take it's place. Farming and ranching filled that need. It gained importance as family businesses and filled the need of supplying food.

Besides ranching and farming, logging came in a close third place. Today, many ranchers and farmers are still in this area. As for lumber, it too is still around. It's said lumber from this area played a vital role in America's war effort during World War II. Of course, it also played a huge role in the housing boom that took place at the end of the war and into the 1950's and 1960's.

For many years now, logging has been under attack by radical Environmentalists who have tried to shut down logging efforts here. Thankfully, the people who live and work here are resilient and have beaten back their attacks.

As stated before, the town were initially named "Mosquito Gulch." Actually, I found that the first post office that was opened here was named "Mosquito" in 1858. It closed in 1869. It was re-opened as "Mosquito Gulch" in 1873. The name was changed to "Glencoe" in 1912. The post office closed again in 1916, but then re-opened in 1947.

Glencoe was named after a historic village in Scotland. That village in Scotland was the site of the Glencoe Massacre back in February of 1692. 

The Glencoe Massacre or "The Massacre of Glencoe" took place in the Highlands of Scotland. It was the slaughter of 38 men of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe. They were killed by English troops which the government had billeted in their homes. As pre-arranged, the soldiers systematically killed all of the men who they were living with. It's said that another 40 or more Scottish women and children later died of exposure due to the winter snow after they had fled and their homes were burned to the ground by the English troops. 

What took place in Glencoe, Scotland, had a profound affect on America. It is reflected in our Bill of Rights. It's true. Because of what took place there in Glencoe, the Third Amendment (Amendment III) to the United States Constitution places restrictions on the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner's consent. It actually forbids the practice in peacetime. 

The horrible lessons of what took place in Glencoe, Scotland, was not lost on our Founding Fathers. It is said that Amendment III is a direct response to the Quartering Act of 1774 that was passed by the British parliament during the days leading up to the Revolutionary War. The Brits wanted to put soldiers of the British Army in private residences including in alehouses and inns where Americans gathered. It was the English response to the Boston Tea Party. 

But knowing what took place in Glencoe, Scotland, and not ever wanting it to happen here, the forced quartering of troops is actually cited as one of the colonists' grievances in the Declaration of Independence.

Today, Scots from the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe come to visit their tiny namesake here in the Sierra foothills to celebrate our bond and history. The sounds of bagpipes are heard wafting through the hills each February and all are welcome to attend the festivities. 

Like the old hotel and dance hall, the old school is gone. The old Glencoe store which once also housed the post office is there, but not really. What's holding it up is really anyone's guess. It has been closed for years. A modern post office has replaced it years ago. 

We are located on Highway 26 about 9 miles northeast of the town Mokelumne Hill, about 7 miles southwest of the town of West Point, and about 7 miles north of the town of Rail Road Flat. And today the sign entering Glencoe states that we have a population of 189 and that our elevation is 2,720.  

Our main hub for goods and such is the town of Jackson about 18 miles northeast of us. Our "town" of Glencoe is more of a berg than an actual town. In reality, in my travels I've seen Ghost Towns that have larger populations than we do.  

We really only have two public buildings in use. We have a post office and our wonderful American Legion Post 376. While we are always being threatened with the possibility of the Postal Service shutting down our post office, our American Legion post is the center of all activity in our area. And please, don't be fooled by the numbers as we are an active community. 

In fact, for a place with an official population of less than 200, I've seen events at our Legion where we draw hundreds of people from all over the extended area including Jackson, San Andreas, Valley Springs, and even folks as far away as the town of Ione. I've seen what looked to be many hundreds attend a benefit to support a friend in need. And if we need more parking, all we do is open the pasture gates to a neighbor's property. They don't mind us using that pasture, and we're grateful for that and more. 

It wasn't that long ago that many of us came to the conclusion that we are "the fun side of the river." No matter if it's crossing the Mokelumne River at whatever point you'd like to, it's true. We are the fun side of the river. 

Our post is used for everything from a place where we meet and discuss county issues, to what seems as our endless number of events such as Bar-B-Q's and parties. Yes, "any reason for a party" is a common train of thought for folks in these parts as we celebrate something every month. And why not? People up here work hard and fight the odds to make it. They deserve to unwind and feel a sense of community and laugh a little.  

Calaveras County may be known for Mark Twain's famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story. His yarn about jumping frogs was turned into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee years ago. Calaveras County is said to be rich with Gold Rush history, stories of Black Bart and Mark Twain, and we even have some of the biggest redwood trees in the entire world, those Giant Sequoia over at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. 

The gold found here was so uncommon a gold telluride mineral that when it was discovered in this county in 1861, it was called "Calaverite gold" because it was only found here. 

The word "Calaveras" is a Spanish word meaning "skull." The name was first given to the Calaveras River because of the hundreds of human skulls that were found along the river when the first Spanish explorers arrived. Those skulls were the remnants of wars waged between Indian tribes long before Europeans every step foot on American soil. 

Yes, Calaveras County is famous for its gold country and much more including the largest gold nugget ever found in the United States. A nugget that was taken from the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in 1854. While Carson Hill is actually listed as a Ghost Town in Calaveras County, the nugget found there is said to have weighed 200 pounds. Some say 214 pounds.

But even with that all being true, to me and others here, Glencoe is the best place to live in these mountains. As for politics, Glencoe is no different than most all of Calaveras Country. We are so Conservative, it's said "Even our trees lean to the right" in Calaveras County. That's probably why the people here are good, genuine, loving, hard working folks. They raise their children right and straight, teach them how to thank the Lord, and are there for their neighbors for whatever reason that may arise.

How we care about each other was never more evident than during the Butte Fire in 2015. It was a fire that even "Old Timers" around here had never seen the likes of. And later, looking at the burn map and how the fire consumed over 70,000 acres of Calaveras County, I believe God spared Glencoe as the fire literally horseshoed around us.  

I have traveled all over our great nation. I have loved areas of this country for it's beauty and its wonderful people. I've been welcomed in homes of people who hardly knew me, and I've met strangers who treated me like an old friend. I've been to towns that I'd love to return to, and cities that I hope I never see again.

In fact, in some places, like say Austin, Texas, I've met snobs that were so condescending that their piss poor attitude of looking down on others seemed to be just their enjoyment. Because of those folks, I can say that I hope I never return to those cities. Fact is Austin is not "The West". It is really no different than San Francisco. They have a great deal in common, especially their now-it-alls who are all too willing to tell others how to live. And worse, correct others about things they have absolutely no knowledge of.

Actor James Cagney once said, "The things the world most needs are simplicity, honesty and decency -- and you find them more often in the country than in the city. My feeling for the country goes beyond sense. I don't like to be in the cities at all."

Like Cagney, I'll take small towns and the country everyday. And really, that's what I like about Glencoe. There's no such thing as snobs or big city attitudes such as I found all over Austin and other big cities that I've visited. We simply don't have fake people making believe they're better than others.

As a place to live, Glencoe is a place where stress is low and feeling good about life is high. It's where one can go hunting and fishing when the feeling strikes him. A place with dirt bike trails that seem to wind every which way through the hills. A place where a cowboy and cowgirl can saddle up and freely ride the back-country to their heart's content. It's a place where kids and family are priorities.

It's a place where deer, fox, mountain lion, bobcat, bear, coyote, and other critters can be found. It's where folks know the words to "The Lord's Prayer" without a Pastor leading them in prayer. It's where everyone is armed and unafraid to respond to calls for help from neighbors. It's where there's no question if people would help a Sheriff's Deputy in trouble. That's just a given.

It's a place where favors are done out of the goodness of one's heart. Where people are free to be themselves, and no one cares about what you drive or how much money you have in the bank. Although a new tractor on your property may make one the talk of the town.

Glencoe is a place where your word is prized, the word "friend" means family, and a handshake is firm. It's where a great story is welcome, but scammers are not. It's a place where honesty is important if you want to be trusted. Where decency and respect for others is admired, and living a simple life is encouraged.

This is a place where changing for others who just got here is just not going to happen. It's a place where strangers are welcome. And are asked to fit in, if they want to stay. Fitting in and loving America are pretty much all we ask around here. Loving America is actually a pretty big deal around here. I like that. Most around here do as well.   

And while this is the fun side of the river with all of it's goings on, I'm thankful we're America's best kept secret. And yes, I feel blessed to live here.

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa

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