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~ Kathy M.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tin Pot Valley, Chaper IX: "To Ride An Elephant"


Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews


Welcome to this week's third Sepia Saturday post!   My first one this week was "The Saggy Baggy Elephant" and the second one (off theme) is  "Souvenir Folder of Texas ... The Lone Star State".  

 

This post is an excerpt from Tin Pot Valley, a collection of true stories written by my distant cousin Wilfred Brown.  Wilfred's Grandmother Aurilla is also my Great-Great Aunt.  Horace Greeley Putnam, Aunt Aurilla's husband, was just a youngster on his grandparents' farm when an elephant came to visit in the story below.

 



 
Tin Pot Valley, Chaper IX: To Ride An Elephant

by
Wilfred H. Brown
"To Ride An Elephant"
 
Jesse Applegate was 50 and his wife 48 when they added the eight motherless Putnam grandchildren to their own sizeable family in their home at Yoncalla. 

In the mid-1850's, as he prospered in trade with the mining camps, Jesse had built a  house at the base of Mt. Yoncalla, a short distance from where a historical marker on U.S. Highway 99 now notes his life and works.  It included nine bedrooms, parlor, living room, and a library and music room that extended the full length of the second floor.  Furniture and Brussels carpeting were shipped from San Francisco to Scottsburg by steamer, then hauled overland to Yoncalla by ox team.  Chairs and sofas in the parlor were of solid walnut, and upholstered in the hair-cloth that was considered quite elegant in that day. 

The Jesse Applegate family was one of the first in Southern Oregon to own a melodeon, and it made the music room the center of many a social gathering.  It wasn't hard, of course, to round up quite a group for a song-singing any night, from just the family at home.  The library was stocked with several hundred volumes of history, travel, science, philosophy, poetry and fiction -- including some battered volumes brought across the plains.  Most of the other books were ordered from New York and shipped around South America. 

Cynthia Applegate was a devout, patient woman of great energy, and she needed it to have charge of such a household.  But older children were on hand to perform many of the chores under her general supervision -- and to help with the care of the younger Applegate and Putnam children.  Gertrude Applegate was assigned the care of her youngest niece, Ada Putnam, who became known as "Gertrude's baby."    

Horace Putnam was nine years old and his brother Edward seven when they went to live at their grandparent's home.  With Peter Applegate, an uncle about eight, they formed a perpetual-motion trio that apparently harried Cynthia almost out of her senses.  Horace Putnam's stories of the adventures, and mis-adventures, of "me and Ed and Pete" -- some doubtlessly exaggerated -- are still recalled at family gatherings, after more than a dozen decades.

They rummaged through old family trunks stored in an attic.  They chased the chickens in the barnyard and shouted encouragement when a family dog chased sheep.  They teased the younger children.  They clambered to the top of the barn roof and walked along the peak, carefully balancing themselves and shouting greetings to Cynthia -- leaving her petrified with fear until they were safely down.
   

Horace and Ed and Pete out-did themselves when they got permission to go fishing.  Cynthia thought they intended to try their luck in a small brook near the house, where others had found an occasional trout.  But the boys had something more adventurous in mind.    

Carrying their poles and some sandwiches, and a can of earthworms for bait, the brothers and their small uncle walked several miles to a spot that had never been fished before, and their luck was phenomenal.  They returned after sunset bearing in triumph fork twig 'strings" that held more than 1000 small trout.  They also found a massive search for them under way, and Cynthia was frantic with worry.    

She reacted to the re-appearance of the boys as she often did when her patience snapped.  She switched them; then supervised baths in the wash tub in the middle of the kitchen floor; then lined them up on their knees in the bedroom, and ordered them to pray to God to make them better boys; then ordered them to bed without supper.  Later, as usual, she relented and saw that they got fed at least as well as usual.   

Everyone among the women-folks grumbled about Horace, Ed and Pete that night, as they toiled at cleaning 1000 small trout.  But everyone at the ranch, the next day, found the fried fish a pleasant change of diet. 

Yoncalla, in that era, might seem an unlikely place to ride an elephant -- but it really happened.   Almost every night, in those days before the railroad, travelers stopped at Jesse Applegate's house.  Few were as memorable as two men who arrived with two heavy wagons, in the gathering of dusk of a summer day.  
As they pulled into the barnyard, Applegate cattle and horses beyond the fence sniffed, stared, snorted and went high-tailing off at a gallop to the farthest pasture corners.  Dogs barked fiercely, then, on closer look, slunk back to the house, with low growls and tails between hind legs.   

The foremost wagon was loaded with gear that included huge rolls of canvas.  In the second wagon rode a creature like no one had ever seen before, except Grandfather Jesse, as a teen-aged boy learning the surveying trade in St. Louis, an elephant.  The owners of this first beast of her kind to appear on America's Pacific coast were north-bound out of California.  They were setting up the tent at towns along the way and charging admission to see their elephant, whose name was Lady Victoria.  They needed lodging for the night, and hay and water for their horses and their elephant.

The children, women-folks and everyone else at the ranch came out to watch as Lady Victoria backed out of her wagon, at one of the men's order.  She was led into a shed and anchored to a stout corner post by a chain to a front foot.  Jesse brought a pitchfork load of hay, and she went to work with her trunk, conveying hay to her mouth.  The ring of children pushed in closer.   

"Will it bite?"  Horace asked.   

"Of course not!"  said the elephant's owner.  "She's as gentle as a kitten.  Kneel!"    

At his order, Lady Victoria got down on her knees, still gathering in hay with her trunk.  The man caught Horace under the arm pits and swung him onto the elephant's neck, right behind her huge fan ears.  Behind Horace, he boosted Peter, then Edward, then Gertrude, then Joseph and Susan, until the full length of her back was a line of giggling young Putnams and Applegates.   

"Stand!" he ordered, and they all gasped as Lady Victoria arose.  The lady herself paid no apparent heed to anything but the diminishing pile of hay.  Later, the boys joined in carrying an incredible amount of water to the tub which Lady Victoria drank. 
The Jesse Applegate Ranch was swarming with neighbors the next morning by the time the visitors headed north.  Most of the youngsters got to sit on Lady Victoria's back, and for the rest of their lives they held vivid memories of the day the elephant stopped at Yoncalla.    

And as for the resident cattle and horses -- for days afterwards they sniffed in suspicion, and wouldn't go near the place where Lady Victoria had been stabled.

(Pages  69 -73)

I'm not sure who owned the farm pictured above, but this gives you and idea of what Yoncalla looked like in 1910.


Update:  The following photos were taken on Memorial Day, 2013 at the Applegate Cemetery located between Drain and Yoncalla:







So, there you are, my friends.  If you enjoyed this story, please visit my Sepia Saturday friends by "CLICKING HERE" to find other neat photos and stories.  To read more about my family and other stories featuring old photos, memories and more, please look for this picture of me and my dad on the left-hand sidebar and read whatever else catches your fancy.  Thanks so much for visiting!


Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews


At Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy, if you miss a day, you miss a lot!  All material on this post is copyrighted and not for use without my permission ...Please click here to go to my home page and see what is happening in Mayberry today.
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7 comments:

Wendy said...

A most excellent elephant tale! Your cousin's stories are always so enjoyable, so well-crafted too.

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, that was a facinating story. Hard to imagine never having seen an elephant before and found it interesting that the farm amimals were leary of the scent. Makes sense.

Little Nell said...

Why am I not surprised Kathy that you have managed two posts that are bang on theme? Lovely story of Lady Victoria.

Food Smarts said...

What a great story! Your cousin tells a terrific tale.

Postcardy said...

Excellent story and a great experience for the kids.

Sharon said...

Another wonderful story. I could just imagine the children sitting on the elephant and the smiles and looks of amazement that must have been on their faces.

Bob Scotney said...

Great story, Kathy. This rounds off three fine posts.

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