A snapshot in time: Tuolumne County in 1909 | News | uniondemocrat.com – Union Democrat

Please purchase a subscription to read our premium content. If you have a subscription, please log in or sign up for an account on our website to continue.
Please log in, or sign up for a new account to continue reading.
Thank you for reading! We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content.
Welcome! We hope that you enjoy our free content.
Thank you for reading! On your next view you will be asked to log in to your subscriber account or create an account and subscribepurchase a subscription to continue reading.
Thank you for reading! On your next view you will be asked to log in to your subscriber account or create an account and subscribepurchase a subscription to continue reading.
Thank you for signing in! We hope that you continue to enjoy our free content.
Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to continue reading.
Please purchase a subscription to continue reading.
Your current subscription does not provide access to this content.
Sorry, no promotional deals were found matching that code.
Promotional Rates were found for your code.
Sorry, an error occurred.

do not remove
Clear skies. Low 48F. Winds light and variable..
Clear skies. Low 48F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: November 2, 2021 @ 8:09 pm
Many of today’s landmarks can be seen in this panorama of Sonora in 1909. The courthouse with flag flying from its cupola is just right of the center. The spire rising in the middle of the picture tops the Sonora Methodist Church, which was demolished and replaced in 1922.
The cover of “Tuolumne County, California,” featuring an illustration prepared by an engraving firm in San Francisco, portrays the bounty of Tuolumne County.
The author pays tribute to early nay Argonauts with this contemporary photograph of two prospectors provision and ready to strike it rich.

Many of today’s landmarks can be seen in this panorama of Sonora in 1909. The courthouse with flag flying from its cupola is just right of the center. The spire rising in the middle of the picture tops the Sonora Methodist Church, which was demolished and replaced in 1922.
The cover of “Tuolumne County, California,” featuring an illustration prepared by an engraving firm in San Francisco, portrays the bounty of Tuolumne County.
The author pays tribute to early nay Argonauts with this contemporary photograph of two prospectors provision and ready to strike it rich.
Gold mining was in bonanza again, both major lumber mills were humming, farmers and ranchers were raising an abundance of crops and livestock, and towns and businesses were prospering.
Tuolumne County was a happening place in the early 20th century, and the county Board of Supervisors wanted to capitalize on the good times. They moved forward at their March 3, 1908, meeting on a Union Democrat proposal to produce a publication that would profile the county’s past, present and potential for growth.
According to the minutes from the meeting, the board sought to broadcast Tuolumne County’s “incomparable climate conditions, its horticultural, lumbering, stockraising, mining and other demonstrated industries.”
The board asked John Van Harlingen, the owner of The Union Democrat, to herald the county’s “wide range of possibilities (that) its matchless natural resources offer,” as well as “depicting the county’s splendid inducements to the homeseekers.”
Van Harlingen’s contract was one his print shop would help fulfill. By supplementing subscription revenue, a job shop was an important part of the newspaper’s bottom line, and a majority of the county’s eight papers at the time had them. 
Typesetters and pressmen filled orders from wedding announcements, stationary and election year campaign material to posters and programs for school graduations, grand balls and theatricals.
When it came to selecting the book’s author, Van Harlingen kept it in the family. He recruited his sister-in-law, Amy Marcus Bastian, a school teacher from a pioneer Sawmill Flat family.
By late summer 1909, Bastian had completed her manuscript after almost 18 months of research, interviews and picture taking. The print shop transformed her “frank, fair and accurate exposition” (part of the book’s subtitle) into a 112-page volume with 128 photographs titled “Tuolumne County, California.” It trimmed out at 8 inches tall and 11 inches wide, with a three-panel cover illustration of some of the industries the county supervisors sought to promote.
The board was so enthusiastic following receipt of a finished copy at their Sept. 8, 1909, meeting that they unanimously voted to order 2,500 for the sum of $1,750, or 70 cents each. The books would be distributed free throughout the state and beyond. Additional copies would be made available to purchase locally through the Democrat.
Bastian was a natural for the book’s author, although she did not receive such recognition on the title page or anywhere else. As a native daughter of “Old Tuolumne,” she knew the county well and mustered her considerable writing skills to deliver a tour de force of unabashed boosterism doused with hometown pride.
The book’s first paragraph sets the tone for the prose that follows:
“Tuolumne County, garden spot of California, most blessed of the blest by God and Nature, lavishly endowed, snuggles between the snowy frowns of the Sierra and the sun-kissed smiles of the San Joaquin, rich in all that goes to make up health, wealth and happiness.”
Bastian organized the book into chapters such as agriculture, mining, railroads, lumbering, recreation, local government and schools, as well as vignettes of principal towns, their commercial life and leading citizens. 
First, however, Bastian assured readers that supplies of water, electricity and available land could support a population of 100,000. Census takers recorded 9,979 people in the county in 1910. 
Her crystal ball also revealed future expansion of “marble, lime and granite quarries; …orchards will cover thousands of acres; that trainloads of fruit will be shipped out; that canneries will be running; that dairy cows by the hundreds will browse in fields of alfalfa as far as the eye can see and that creameries will be common.”
To the delight of county supervisors, no doubt, Bastian concluded “wealth, prestige and population” were not far behind.
Bastian’s details and statistics quantify Tuolumne County’s commercial life in 1909, and they are abundant. 
For example, in the chapter on agriculture, Bastian boasts there were 1,200 acres of farmland in irrigation with such diverse crops as apples (37,150 trees), hay (12,220 acres), orange trees (580), plums (4,560) and five kinds of nuts. The cabbage crop in 1909 weighed in at 105,000 pounds, while potato poundage was 1.1 million.
Ranchers were grazing 27,218 cattle, and poultrymen were tending to 68,808 chickens and 5,808 turkeys. It is important to remember that 112 years ago, communities relied heavily on the local agricultural industry for fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products.
Bastian considered the county’s gold resources as “imperishable,” and in 1909 a second gold rush seemed to confirm this bold promise. She profiled close to 100 of the most active mining claims on the Mother Lode and East Belt, as well as in the South County.
Pages of the book are full of such information as mine shaft depths, mills and machinery on site, gold yield per ton of ore, the monetary value of gold extracted to date and mine owners. Many photographs show above-ground mining buildings, such as stamp mills and chlorination.
One page has a picture of two very muddy miners deep underground preparing to blast open another area to work. 
Bastian rhapsodizes that Table Mountain “stands all alone in a class in the estimation of geologists.” Since the days of 1849, miners have tunneled into this volcanic wonder that in 1909 was the scene of considerable activity. One claim, the Humbug, was at $4 million and counting.
The West Side Lumber Co. in Tuolumne and the Standard Lumber Co. in Sonora (its mill east of town would come later) were each less than a decade old. West Side was harvesting 30 to 35 million board feet of timber annually, and its 500 employees earned a total of $35,000 a month in wages. Standard’s cut in 1908 was 15 million board feet.
Steam railroads hauled the harvest out of the woods as raw material for building supplies, such as siding, doors and sash, and wooden produce crates. A significant quantity of finished product was sold to “foreign countries and eastern markets,” beginning its journey as freight on the Sierra Railroad.
According to Bastian, the Sierra Railroad “has contributed so much to the advancement and upbuilding of the county.” The line made it possible for lumber, marble, agricultural products and other commodities to reach distant markets and “for the inflow of what must be sought away from home.” Local passengers were welcomed aboard, and travelers to far away places only needed to take the train to Oakdale for accommodations on the Southern Pacific railroad.
Just before the chapter on local towns and businesses, Bastian, a career educator, listed information important to the homeseekers the county supervisors hoped to attract: an elementary school “teaching corps” of 54 deployed to 37 grammar schools, where enrollment totaled 1,717 pupils. The recently opened Tuolumne County High School in Sonora added a faculty of four to the corps’ ranks at the time.
In her write-ups of towns, Bastian begins with Columbia, “a great town for many years… and remained an important place.” In 1909, the community was served by merchants such as Lyman Tibbits, a druggist, and A.C. Nelson, a wheelwright who also managed the Bixel Brewery on the road to Yankee Hill. Although Antone Siebert had retired, his bakery was remembered “throughout the coast for graham crackers.”
Bastian described Soulsbyville in 1909 as “essentially a town of cozy, well-kept homes, pretty gardens and law-abiding people.” The Soulsby Mine was ranked third that year in production. Along with the Black Oak Mine, their payrolls helped support West and Harry’s “first class department establishment,” William Curnow’s hotel, W.H. Barron’s dry goods store, Mauger’s barbershop, and Galo Ralph’s apple orchard.
Tuolumne, with a population of 1,800 residents, was second in size to Sonora and was developed as a company town by the West Side Lumber Co., its biggest employer. The largest general store in town belonged to Paul Morris, who sold supplies to mines and construction camps and accommodated local customers with home delivery.
J.L. Gibbs Co. had a sizable general store, which Bastian described as “among the most attractive in Tuolumne” and “liberally patronized.” She mentioned a shoe store with footwear for the whole family, Justin Bigelow’s drug store and Trott’s tobacco shop, home of the popular “Flor de Sierra,” a cigar rolled on site using genuine Cuban tobacco.
“The oldest spoke in the wheel of commerce” was Butterfield Mercantile Co. in Jamestown, “a fine little mountain town of about 1,000 inhabitants.” Businesses lining Main Street included W.E. Booker’s mine supply store, Olender’s Eagle clothing store, Mose Arendt’s Emporium, Mrs. Crane’s hat and lingerie shop, and Dentone and De Bernardi’s meat market.
 
Tuttletown “isn’t much to look at just now, though it still possesses a few nice residences.” Campo Seco had seen its glory days come and go as well, and nearby Stent, where Bastian and her husband lived in a large Victorian-style home, was reduced to a shadow of its former self by two devastating fires.
Bastian’s assessments of other local settlements included Chinese Camp (“a prosperous little town a few miles from the Sierra Railroad”); Jacksonville (farming, the gravels of the Tuolumne River and quartz mines guarantee the town “is bound to thrive for generations”); Big Oak Flat (Priest’s Hotel with “creature comforts” making it “among the very best mountain stopping places in California”); Groveland (hotels, saloons, restaurants, a blacksmith shop, general merchandise stores, and a butcher shop dotted the main street with active gold mines, ranching and produce gardens on the outskirts) and Confidence (“a great mining and timber district” with some of the county’s largest apple orchards).
Bastian doted on the City of Sonora, Queen of the Southern Mines, across 29 pages. The county seat, she said, had a roaring beginning, but after a few years “an era of high grade semi-civilization began.” 
By 1909, Bastian observed, farsighted Sonorans had purchased 20 automobiles; four large livery stables served the transportation needs of most others. With progress and growth reemerging during the second gold rush, Sonora “now enjoys the distinction of being the finest mountain city in the state, bar none.” 
As a center of regional commerce and activity associated with city and county government offices, Sonora’s main street boasted such businesses as the first-class Hotel Victoria (today’s Sonora Inn), several drug stores, Livingston’s shoe store (site of Diamondback Grill), Baer’s where “well dressed men” buy their clothing (site of Aloft art gallery), Hop Kee’s Green Restaurant (near Emberz), J. Michel & Co.’s grocery and hardware store (south corner of Hotel Victoria), a jewelry store, and Mitch Terzich’s soda works (adjacent to City Hall).
There was homemade candy and ice cream at Bill Burnham’s shop, The Post Home Decor, where the owner’s hunting trophies, such as numerous deer heads with antlers, two bear cubs and a mountain lion, were added during a remodeling.
Other outposts of commerce were Harrington’s photography studio (North Washington Street at Dodge Street), a piano store, hotels, saloons and undertaking parlors. There were also two banks, as well as offices of doctors, lawyers, mining engineers and a title company.
In documenting Tuolumne County’s resources, commerce, people and potential as directed by the supervisors, Bastian’s book gave locals a birds-eye-view of their surroundings and historians valuable insight into life here in 1909.
The book is considered rare and usually sells for over $100. The Tuolumne County Historical Society offers reprints for purchase. Contact www.tchistory.org for more information.

source