28 April 2009

San Joaquin County Local History - A Sack of Flour

The 71st Edition of Carnival of Genealogy is coming soon. Submissions must be in by May 1st
The theme for this edition is about local history where you live - a person, place or event.

I live in Stockton which is located in San Joaquin County, California. A German immigrant, Charles M. Weber, had acquired 49,000 acres of land through a Spanish land grant by becoming a Mexican citizen. In 1849 he founded the city of Stockton, named for Commodore Robert F. Stockton who was instrumental in freeing California from Mexico in 1847. It is interesting to note that Stockton is the first city in California to acquire a name that was not Spanish or Native American in origin.

Home to the largest inland seaport on the west coast, Stockton is about 35 miles south of Sacramento and 70 miles East of San Francisco. Stockton sits at the top of the San Joaquin Valley which is known for its rich, fertile farmlands. While 24,000 acres are devoted solely to asparagus, wine grapes are the leading crop for the county.

Historically, the area has some really interesting points and places of interest. Stockton was home to one of three of California's first insane asylums. In 1851 Stockton State General Hospital and Asylum for the Mentally Insane opened its door for business. It sat on 100 acres of land that was donated by Charles M. Weber.

Temple Israel Cemetery, established in 1851, is the oldest Jewish cemetery on the west coast. Located in Stockton, the land was given to the Jewish congregation by Charles M. Weber.

At Mossdale Crossing, near Tracy, you will find the San Joaquin Bridge. Built in 1869 this bridge is historically significant because it completed the last link of the transcontinental railroad by linking the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento.

One of my favorite historical stories is about a sack of flour. Reuel Colt Gridley only lived in Stockton for two years, but his claim to fame and reputation followed him here. When he died, a group of citizens raised money to erect a monument to place on his grave. If you haven't heard of Reuel Colt Gridley then you are in for a good story.

It begins in Austin, a small town in the middle of Lander County, Nevada where Reuel is a prosperous owner of a general store. Gridley ( a Democrat and Southern sympathizer) made a wager with Dr. H. S. Herrick ( a Republican and Union supporter) on the outcome of a local election. Reuel lost the bet and and made good on the wager. He was to carry a 50 pound sack of flour, decorated with Union flags, on his shoulder from Austin and proceed one and one half miles down to the valley floor to the town of Clinton. While he made his journey, a marching band followed him playing patriotic Union tunes. Dr. Herrick graciously carried his coat for him.

Just like the pied piper, a huge crowd started following him. Along the way they stopped for "refreshment" at pubs and saloons. By the time this parade reached Clinton, everyone was in a patriotic frenzy singing and cheering at the top of their lungs. The last stop in Clinton was a place called the Bank Exchange Saloon. It was there that Gridley came up with an extraordinary idea - he auctioned off that sack of flour, with the money to be given to the U. S. Sanitary Commission, a precursor to the Red Cross active during the Civil War. He convinced the successful bidder (who paid $350 ) to donate the sack of flour back to be auctioned again. By the end of the day, $4,500 had been raised. Encouraged by this, Reuel took his show on the road through the Comstock and raised over $20,000 from the miners. It was only natural that he continue on across the state line into California. By the time he reached San Francisco he had $150,000 . His success made news all over the country.

A great little side note to this : Reuel hailed from Hannibal, Missouri and it is said that Mark Twain was a boyhood friend. In his book "Roughing It", Twain writes about Reuel and this story.

The Sanitary Commission asked Gridley to come east to New York City. Reuel toured all over the North until the end of the war. The approximate total of the funds he raised from auctioning off that same sack of flour over and over again? $450,000 which is about $6 million today.

The price Gridley paid for his patriotism was high. The year of traveling ruined his health. When he returned home to Austin, he found that the mine had played out and his general store had gone bankrupt. Two years later, Gridley, his wife and children were found living in Stockton in abject poverty. When newspaper editors in the area got wind of this they pulled their resources and came up with $1400 to purchase a home and small farm for the family. Reuel's health continued to decline however, and he died November 24, 1870 at the age of 41. He was buried in Stockton Rural Cemetery.

In 1886, veterans and members of the GAR from San Joaquin County raised money for a monument and statue to be place on Gridley's grave. How did they raise the money? They sold miniature sacks of flour decorated with the Union flag.

Gridley is a splendid example showing us that one person can make a difference in the world and when people begin to work together for a common cause, anything is possible.

23 April 2009

Shades of History

Oohh Have I got news for you .......Guess who has a column of her very own at Shades of the Departed?

Me - The Educated Genealogist! Is that groovy or what!!! The one and only
footnoteMaven approached me with this most excellent idea - "The Year Was - Shades of History".

Here is the intro to the column that the Mahvalous Maven wrote:

The Year Was . . . An Introduction
A New Monthly Weekend With Shades Column.

Haven't you wondered, as you researched an ancestor, what their life was like? How did they dress, where did they work, how much did they earn, how did they travel, what did they eat, how did they entertain themselves? What was going on in the world around them?

Starting May 9, Sheri Fenley, the Educated Genealogist, will educate Shades readers in a new monthly column entitled "The Year Was - The Shades of History." Sheri will cover the social issues that would have affected our ancestors in her chosen year. She'll discuss Culture, Law and Lawlessness, Sports, Religion, Fashion, and Industry. She'll even toss a few little known factoids into the mix. I'm really looking forward to this new column and Shades education.

I am so jazzed to be a part of this top notch online publication called "Weekend with Shades." I am in the company of the best of the best - Craig Manson, Jasia, George Geder, Denise Olson, Denise Levenick, Rebecca Fenning and Donna Pointkouski.

I got my shades on - better get yours and join me May 9th.

20 April 2009

Thank You!

For the very first time in my life I am moved beyond words. There just aren’t any to describe the generosity and loving arms that the genea-blogger community has extended to me and my family during this most difficult time in our lives.

The moral support I have been gifted with from each and every one of you is what makes me know that everything is going to be alright. Certainly not today, maybe not tomorrow. But a better time is coming. There are kajillions of families out there who are much worse off than us. My family is healthy and it is times like these that a make person stronger and appreciate things a little better.

We have decided on some temporary arrangements that will have us living apart for a couple of months, but with our jobs and transportation issues this accommodates my family without putting hardship on those who are putting a roof over our heads.

As of this evening a little over 75% of my house has been moved into storage. I have decided that I can live with this arrangement for a couple of months. Husband seems to have accepted this arrangement a little too eagerly but let me explain why.

I will be in Sunnyvale, husband in Stockton during work week. I will see him on weekends – PROVIDING that fishing doesn’t get in the way. The San Joaquin Delta is absolutely the best place in the entire world to fish for bass, or so I am told over and over and over again. To my old man, fishing is more important than life itself. I don’t mind really, it keeps him off the streets and out of trouble.

He catches and releases the buggers and does not usually use live bait, preferring instead to use what I call cat toys. Rubber frogs, rubber sparkly day-glow worms and little plastic fish that have hooks on them. This is pretty much all I know and pretty much all I care to know about this obsession of his because I cannot stand the look, smell or taste of any type of fish.

We are like night and day, the only thing we have in common is watching Booknotes on the weekends and our obsessions. Fishing for him and Research and Family History for me. A match made in purgatory!

So no more pity party, no more depression, I’ve packed and am moving on….Ain’t Life Grand!

17 April 2009

The Nightmare

We all have them. The only good thing about nightmares is that we wake up and it is gone. Most people never even remember what it was that scared the hell out of them.

I have been living in a nightmare for the past 2 weeks. My husband and I left our home for 2 days to get away from it all. We returned to our home only to find that locks had been placed on the doors, the utilities meter boxes removed and a notice that the home had been foreclosed on.

Long story short - our landlord failed to pay the mortgage on the house not once, not twice but since 2007 the bank has not received a payment. Said landlord had claimed that our home was his 2nd home, i.e. NOT rental property.

We contacted the bank and explained to them that we have been living in our home for 8 years and that we were not related to the owners, we were tenants. The bank said that they were ever so sorry and said we still have to go. But they would take the locks off the doors and extend the 3 days to 30 days for us to get out of dodge or the sheriff was a coming.

So I have been camping out in my living room (no utilities), trying to pack up 8 years in less than 30 days and deal with the fact that I will have to put everything in storage and join over 7000 other families in San Joaquin County in the search for a place to live. Yes, I said 7000. That is the figure from the San Joaquin County Housing Authority. 7000 families in this county in just over 2 years have become displaced from bank foreclosures.

I never saw this coming and will need to get creative with finances. This is the kind of crap that happens to other people or on the Tuesday night movie of the week. I am a member of the DAR for God's sake! This certainly can't be happening to me, not when I finally have my foot in the door career wise. My life was finally at a point that made me jump out of bed each morning thinking "Ain't Life Grand."

I am a pretty tough cookie. I am sure that I will survive. But it will take some time. We will find a place to live sooner or later.

Better watch out - I could end up in your neighborhood! Bwhahahah !!!!!(laughter of a woman on the very edge of insanity)