Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Weaverville, CA--combined this week with Songs My Mother Taught Me . . . Red River Valley

This postcard was purchased either in the mid-1960s when our family visited the area, or in the early-1970s when my mother was there alone. Both short trips were pilgrimages for her back to Trinity County, California, where my grandmother, my mother, and her little (adopted) sister lived on a large property with a rustic cabin and outhouse during the Great Depression. The property belonged to my uncle Marshall, who had work elsewhere in California. During the entire time they lived on what they called "the ranch," my grandfather held various traveling sales jobs and stayed with them for a short time to recuperate from an illness.

"The ranch" was situated in the mountains known as the Trinity Alps (A on the map below), and Weaverville (B on the map) was the town where they bought all supplies that they didn't grow themselves. The following description of the area is from the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Assn. website (nicely presented, I might add):

Weaverville/Trinity Country

Now known for its gracious hospitality, golden history, and many outdoor splendors, as with many portions of Northern California, the lure of gold is what brought settlement to the area. Even before the gold rush of 1849, pirate Bill English and his rogue crew discovered gold on Trinity River near Big Bar and left the area with their purses full. It was the eventual discovery of gold in 1849 that brought thousands of miners to the area and the construction of such towns as Weaverville and Lewiston. Most of the county is forest land and some of the most beautiful scenery and natural lakes are found in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, so named because its snow-capped peaks are reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. The Trinity River, designated as a wild and scenic river, provides opportunities for kayaking, rafting, fishing, and swimming. Resorts in the Coffee Creek area, just north of Trinity Lake, offer horseback riding, cabins, and recreational activities.  

Weaverville, located along Highway 299, provides a nostalgic step back in time.  One of the most interesting portions of Weaverville's history comes from the 1800's, when as many Chinese men and women inhabited the region as did Euro-Americans; all of them searching for the abundant gold found nearby. In 1852 they established a Taoist place of worship, which burned in 1873.  The new temple, Joss House in the state park of the same name, dedicated in April of 1875, has since been in continuous use as a place of worship.

(click image to enlarge for better viewing)

The three women moved up there to the mountains the day following my mother's graduation from Santa Monica High School in 1933. All was lost. The power was even turned off as she dressed for her graduation in a frock borrowed from a cousin. My grandmother had held the household together nearly on dignity alone, insisting that Margaret (my mom) be able to graduate before they retreated to the available shelter of "the ranch" in Trinity County. In a description of the times, an informative online essay begins:
The decade of the 1930s saw the Great Depression in the United States and many other countries. During this decade large numbers of people lived in poverty, desperately in need of more food, clothing, and shelter. Yet the resources that could produce that food, clothing, and shelter were sitting idle, producing nothing.
Soon after they had moved into the ranch some people from the countryside came asking if Margaret would become the teacher of the one-room schoolhouse, as the previous one had married and moved and they'd been without instruction for awhile. My mother was aghast, and informed them she had only a high school diploma. It was exactly that, a diploma that none other in their area had, which made her seem highly qualified to be their school teacher. My mother declined and years later wondered how her life might have been different if she had simply taken on the challenge, and later, when conditions improved, completed a teaching degree.

Instead, she worked in a small office in Weaverville for a short time before becoming extremely ill with rheumatic fever, after which she regained her health and strength growing a large garden, maintaining the fences surrounding the property, and milking and caring (deeply) for their cow, "Molly."

In the two years they lived there she made wonderful friendships with people she spoke of even in her last years, had suitors who took her to dances at the Grange Hall, and learned to truly love Trinity County for its awesome beauty. In 1935, the word circulated around the countryside that they were moving, and the afternoon before moving day the three of them were inside the cabin finishing the chore of packing when they heard singing..........

From mountainside cabins and all the way from Weaverville, folks who had grown to love my grandmother and her two daughters were walking, riding horses, and driving a few cars toward the cabin at the ranch -- and they were singing Red River Valley. Once congregated, they stood and sang the song together and my mother remembered that it was the most beautiful sound. It is a story she told over and over while I was growing up, and she cried each and every time the song played.

I do believe that it is my favorite of all her stories, and one of my favorite songs my mother taught me. Red River Valley.
{This is the seventh in an undetermined number of songs my mother taught me I'm posting this month in her memory. For background, please visit the post containing the first song, Ivory Tower.}

SidsCardShop uploaded this marvel to youtube, adding this information:
If the video starts and stops repeatedly, go do something else until it has struggled through one time. Restart and it will play properly. I have a pretty fast PC, but I must do that.



Don't Feed The Pixies said...

So freaky!

The second i clicked onto your site i got Fleetwood Mac "You can go your own way" in my head - i looked down and there was Stevie Nicks. How weird. Funny the "best of's" tend to forget to mention Peter Green (is there any piece of music as beautiful and simple as "Albatross"??)

Weaverville - i love the name. Something about it just shouts ole USA :)

Fantastic postcard - another Wednesday highlight xx

Phivos Nicolaides said...

I'm really pleased to read the history behind the post card. It's a great idea Lydia. Thank you!

Bon'O said...

Well, Lydia, you've done it again with the old postcard memory blog...not for me this time, but for a dear friend. We were coworkers until she retired a couple years ago. She immediately sold her home to return to her roots in Weaverville, building a new home near her children on what she calls their "Walton's Mountain". I'll be sending her a link to your blog today!

Darlene said...

Rad Rver Valley is one of the most beautiful of all the folk songs. Along with Shenandoah, it is my favorite.

Your story is beautiful and I don't think your mother was much older than I was. I was a child during the great depression and remember it well. I fear it is returning.

Lydia said...

@Pixies- Strange and yet not strange....friends are connected, no matter the circumstances that brings them together!
Love Albatross, certainly do.
Glad you enjoyed this one. :)

@Phivos- Well it is my pleasure!

@Bon'O- That's exciting there is a link to your friend with this postcard. I really appreciate you letting me know the interesting connection, and for sending the link to her. :)

@Darlene- Shenandoah is my favorite of the old folk songs, too! It nearly always brings tears, and always brings chills to me. From now on I will always think of you when I hear it, I promise you that.
My mom wasn't too much older. I believe you are the age of her younger sister, who definitely remembered the Depression as you do. I hope we aren't in for another...very scary.

Looking to the Stars said...

Lydia, I loved every word of this!
I have always loved "Red River Valley" song also. Your story brought tears to my eyes,I love hearing of community's showing care for one another.

I wonder what your mom's path would have been like if she had taken the teaching job.

I like hearing about the temple, there needs to be more history on america's diversity concerning other beliefs.

Good post kiddo, thank you so much for sharing :)

Lydia said...

@Looking to the Stars- Thanks so much for appreciating this the way you did. I like the information about the temple, too, and would be interested to know more.
My mother would have been a very good teacher, I think, especially for high school. She related well with quirky, troubled, and genius-type teens.
Red River Valley is indeed such a beautiful old song. :)

LesandSueA said...

This is so evocative of a time, a place, and people. When my husband and I read the part about the neighbors approaching the home, singing, we were moved to joyful tears.

What a wonderful sharing! Thank you, Lydia.

Les & Sue

Lydia said...

@Les and Sue- Thanks so much for your visit and sweet comments! You may enjoy a photo of my mother and her little sister high atop one of the "Trinity Alps." It's in this post. (Other shots are included but they are not of Trinity Co/Weaverville...)



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