PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

Opinion

Belltower: An early California Valentine story

By From page A4 | February 10, 2014

Retired Chief Associate Forester Doug Leisz told me a few interesting tidbits about his wife Marian’s great-grandfather jumping ship upon his arrival in California in 1847, later getting married and his wife purchasing a book of advice on marriage from a predecessor to the Placerville Newsstand.

But when Marian, who had all the details wrapped up in a little family genealogy, came in with a very old Valentine, the story took on more meaning.

Apparently, Hiram Scott wasn’t successful in attracting the undivided attention of Agnes Cumming. That changed when he sent her a Valentine card covered with paper lace with a rose printed at the top and a cut-out circle that held little gold cupids.

Inside was the hand-written message:

“‘Tis done-I saw it in my dreams:

No more hope the future beams

My days of happiness few;

Chilled by Misfortune’s wintry blast

My dawn of life is overcast;

Love, Hope and Joy alike adiew;

Would I could add Remembrance too!”

Agnes Cumming was born on Valentine Day in 1833. She received this card on her 28th birthday in 1861. By August they were married.

Hiram Daniel Scott was 10 years older. His family, based in Maine on the Kennebec River, owned at least two schooners plying the West Indies trade, carrying lumber and salt fish and returning with sugar, rum and molasses.

In 1846 Hiram answered an ad in the New York Herald for the bark Whiton sailing for California and Oregon, touching at Monterey, San Francisco, Oregon City, Columbia River, “and if inducements are offered, at other intermediate ports.”

Leaving in November, it arrived in San Francisco in April 1847, with Hiram Scott as second mate. Hiram jumped ship in Monterey and was taken in by the Rodriguez family of Santa Cruz. By the spring of 1848 he and another man were building a schooner on the beach at Santa Cruz. By May the news of the gold discovery in Coloma emptied out Santa Cruz, including Hiram Scott, who was next found in Tuleburg (later named Stockton) where he and three others, including Capt. Charles Weber, established a ferry across the San Joaquin River where the San Jose Trail met the river. This same crew also built a schooner that moved goods back and forth from San Francisco. The ferry was a gold mine by itself, charging $1 for a pedestrian, $3 for a man on horseback and $8 for a horse and wagon.

That money helped the entrepreneurs build a three-story hotel in Stockton called the Stockton House.

Capt. Weber did gold mining in El Dorado County, where Weber Creek is named after him. More famously he is acclaimed one of the founders of Stockton.

In 1850, Hiram’s younger brother George arrived from Maine and helped out with the ferry operation. Hiram rode back to Santa Cruz, where he purchased the San Augustine Rancho for $20,000. Renamed Scott’s Valley, he convinced his whole family, including father and stepmother to move from Maine to Santa Cruz. He built a house in 1853 for his parents in Scott’s Valley that still stands and is a California Historical Landmark.

Agnes’ brothers and a cousin also came to California, winding up in the Washoe silver strikes in Nevada in 1860. Her cousin wrote from a place in California called Silver Mountain City. The Leiszes have visited the remains of this town and tell me it is off of Highway 4.

After Agnes gave birth to a son Hiram joined a group of eight men who formed the Eureka Gold and Silver Mining Co. at Silver Mountain City. Near the end of summer Hiram returned to Scott’s Valley to bring Agnes and the 1-year-old William Scott to Silver Mountain City.

It was on this trip that Agnes stopped at the Davis and Roy Book, Stationary and News Depot in Placerville and bought the book of advice on marriage and parenting.

It was called “The Great Harmonia” by Andrew Jackson Davis. Lecture IV caught my attention with its philosophizing about conjugal love:

“The next ascending order is Conjugal Love. Conjugal Love differs from self-love. It elevates the mind above the plane or sphere of self-efforts and endeavors for self-happiness. In a natural state of development, it urges the soul to seek its counterpart or equivalent; it alone prescribes and compels, and, with refined natures, sanctifies the marriage relation between the sexes. It is this principle which informs all the remaining portions of the soul, that self-existence is but half-existence — that self-doing is but half-doing — that a bird with a single wing can not fly — that an equilibrium in life must be had; and Conjugal Love is the only power in man’s nature that can prescribe the conditions which will lead to these results. Without this love there would be no marriage in the universe — no union of soul with soul — nothing known of the family relation; nothing of home — of its hidden charms and interior enchantments.”

The language is flowery and sometimes it can be dense and sometimes practical. There are chapters on Voltaire’s idea of love, the evils of dependence, the seven phases of marriage the use of tea and coffee, among others. Copyrighted in 1855, the book has 455 pages, enough to entertain a young mother during the winter in a high mountain mining camp.

Agnes Scott’s great-granddaughter, Marian Agnes Leisz née Trumbly, was also born on Valentine’s Day. She is guaranteed to always get a Valentine’s card.

Michael Raffety is editor of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears biweekly.

Michael Raffety

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