October 19 (1976, 1977, 1986, 1987, 2000, 2016)
Lucky, but Anxious. Another California Diarist

10/19/76   early morn in wren shack. i sawed myself right out of 6 x 6 yesterday, and accordingly have returned for another load. i am frustrated by these timbers, much as i enjoy their effect when in place—they are slow to cut, and hard to cut to the line—if the saw begins to deviate halfway through a cut, nothing can be done about it. and some of the cuts are real bears! for instance, since i am also using the 6 x 6 for blocking between the rafters, i have in four instances to make a compound angle cut, of 28° one direction and 60° the other. a long, slow job, and all the easier to lose the line. i placed in position five of the ‘small’ rafters yesterday, and with the larger of the ‘small’—those heading up near the ridge pole—had a difficult time, even though they are but a shade over seven feet in length, and i can lift them easily myself. but holding them in place while i nail them is still another thing, and i had to resort to tying their lower ends in place to keep them from sliding while i nailed the tops. i lost control of the first i attempted, and it fell end-first to the floor, bounced to one side, and grazed the window on wall six ~ the one i made. it came within an ace of smashing it to pieces, but only tore up one of the inner edges a bit. a wonder it did no more. i am lucky.

lucky, but anxious. now that i am committed to this rafter pattern, i am finding fault with it, and can think of other, easier courses i could've taken, involving fewer cuts. and i wish i had a pile of 2 x 6 for the blocking, as it would be so much easier ~but no such pile exists. so i fret, because it takes so dolgarned long to cut those six-byes, and once cut, it is hard to shave them down. neil may come out today to lend a hand ~ i want to avoid dropping any more 7' 6x6 fourteen feet down onto the floor. i have already broken my guitar and chipped my window. well, time's awasting. days are so short now. weather holds fine and sunny ~ but it can't for much longer. to work!

~ sunset. the rafters are all in place, though i contemplate doubling up the rafters on each of the long walls. i may not have enough 6 x 6 for blocking, as it stands. or enough to double up on the rafters. do have some four-by-four.”

[Russell Towle's journal]


10/19/77  ~ before dawn. a few cirro-cumulus to the east. the days have been quite warm ~ i usually wear only shoes and cutoffs.”

[Russell Towle's journal]


10/19/86 Just home after a day with Ed and Tina. [We went] up to Crystal Lake for some hiking and rock scrambling. Some really wonderful trees, huge jeffrey pines, white fir, and incense cedar. Extensive glacial pavement and numerous ponds. Some birds singing sweetly. Warm sun. Tall aspens. […]

[Russell Towle's journal]


10/19/87   […]

Last Friday, Gay and I took off and drove to Cascade Lake, walking to Long Lake and then on to some Indian petroglyphs near Devils Peak; a delightful day, the latest of several we've enjoyed together in ’87.”

[Russell Towle's journal]


Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 21:38:03 -0800
To: "Bruce C. Cooper"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Clement



Hi Bruce,

We corresponded a bit about the CPRR not too long ago. I live in Dutch Flat, and perhaps you'll recall my theory that the construction of the Placer County Canal, or Bradley & Gardner's ditch, demonstrated ipso facto that a railroad could be built from Dutch Flat to Emigrant Gap—from there easy grades into the glaciated upper South Yuba to Donner Pass—and so the ditch, in 1859, made a little spark, let us say, in the minds of Daniel Strong and other Dutch Flat men, who contacted Judah, and the rest is history.

At any rate. I stumbled upon a paraphrased diary (online collection of the California Historical Society) which bears upon the surveying of the route, and mentions Clement, so I thought you'd be interested. The diary begins with the sea voyage to California. The last surveying work in which Curry was involved was it seems in or around Lake Valley, just west of Crystal Lake. The Black Butte he mentions might be Cisco Butte; there is a Black Mountain near Lake Valley, but its summit is about 7000 feet, not 5000 feet, and is far more than 300 feet above the DF Donner Lake wagon road. Confusingly, not far to the north—a few miles—is a ridge of little peaks called the Black Buttes. But it is impossible that he could have meant these.

Here it is:

Diary of Stephen Allen Curry
(from the online collection of California Historical Society)
[From November 23, 1864 to January 25, 1865, Curry's entries recount his travels by ship, across the Isthmus, and up the Pacific coast to San Francisco.]
Wednesday, January 25, 1865. It is raining. He reports having no business yet and says his money is getting low. He has moved to cheaper — and inferior — lodgings. Yet Curry has an optimistic outlook.

Thursday, February 2, 1865. Curry is in Sacramento, where he met with the president, secretary and chief engineer of the Central Pacific Rail Road. On Saturday he will learn where and when he will begin work on the engineer's staff.

Saturday, February 5, 1865. Curry reports he still hasn't heard from the C. P. R. R. engineer re his job. He muses about his future and states his trust in Providence.

Sunday, February 6, 1865. Curry meets with Mr. Clement, a C. P. R. R. engineer, who offers him some company work in Sacramento. Curry hopes it will be a permanent job!

Sunday, February 12, 1865. Curry reports that he mailed a letter to Jonathan (his youngest brother) and attended the 6th Street M. E. Church where Rev. Briggs gave a sermon on the 4th commandment. In the afternoon he went to Camp Union where he heard a sermon preached to about 200 soldiers, enjoyed the singing of some old favorite hymns, and watched the dress parade of the cavalry regiment. Curry expresses his loneliness and claims "God is my nearest friend".

Wednesday, February 15, 1865. Curry says he left Sacramento on the 6:30 a.m. train for Newcastle, then traveled 10 or 12 miles over rough and muddy roads by wagon to "Houn's House".

Sunday, February 19, 1865. Curry reports a snow storm struck the previous night, but says the sun is shining now. He says he has sent two letters home. He reports no church or school nearby.

Tuesday, February 21, 1865. Curry has been "engineering" in the Clipper Gap ravine for two days. The weather is changeable — snow squalls both days. He had lunch by a fire in the woods.

Wednesday, March 1, 1865. Curry is near Wild Cat in Placer County, California. He and Safford are sitting by a fire to combat the cold weather and snow squalls awaiting the rest of the party. He describes the pines and manzanitas on the hills.

Friday, March 3, 1865. The snow is now 6 inches deep and the weather cold. Curry received a packet of letters the previous day.

Saturday, March 4, 1865. Curry is in Illinoistown (Placer County), California on Inauguration Day. He walked there the 6 or 8 miles from Mr. Draper's place over snow and muddy roads. He reports that Illinoistown is very small — only two hotels, a post office and a telegraph office operated by Mr. Clement. Curry has had wet feet for two or three days and forgot his gloves; this has given him a cold. His valise, left at Mr. Draper's, will be sent up by stagecoach.

Monday, March 6, 1865. Curry says he came from Illinoistown with Broward and Mulligan. They renovated the cabin which will be their home for the next month or so.

Saturday, March 11, 1965. This day ends Curry's first week at Shake Shanty — a "lonely and sad day", he says.

Sunday, March 12, 1865. Curry writes from Shake Shanty, Robber Ravine, Placer County, California. He says that 9 men are in the old shanty on this day. He says that usually 7 or 8 engineers sleep, dress and cook there, without benefit of stove poker, shovel or tongs. Mr. Montague arrived on this day along with Mr. Clements. Curry mentions that he hasn't received letters from home since January 15.

Saturday. March 18, 1865. Curry says it has been a long week of hard work. Finally he received letters from home — from Janey and Lizzy on Monday and from Jonathan and Lizzie on Wednesday. He says he will answer them the next day.

Sunday, March 19, 1865. Curry notes that he has written to his mother and to Lizzie on this rainy day, but that he owes letters to Mary, Jonathan and Janey.

Sunday, March 26, 1865. Curry says he went to Illinoistown and wrote to Uncle J. and to Ben. He still owes letters to Janey, Lizzie, Jonathan and Mary. It is raining again.

Tuesday, March 28, 1865. Writing from a camp near Cold Spring Ranch, Placer County, California, Curry says that on the previous day, the engineers began the dangerous job of putting reference points near "Cape Horn" on a bluff about 1,200 feet above the rushing American River, heading toward the cabin in Robber Ravine. A "pucker" came by about 4 p.m. to say that on orders from Mr. C. he had moved their camp to a tent near Cold Spring Ranch 5 miles north and all up hill. It took Curry and the men about 2 hours to get there. They found the cook in an abandoned miner's cabin about 50 feet from their tent. The men leveled the ground inside the tent, and Curry's friend Hubbard cut fragrant pine branches beneath their blankets, where they slept after a hearty meal of potatoes, meat, bread and butter. They were up and breakfasting by candlelight. Curry says they will move again tomorrow to "Dixie". He reports that he saw a horned toad this day.

Wednesday, March 29, 1865. Curry writes from Camp No. 3 near Gold Run, where he arrived after dusk and set up the tent. Supper was cooked over a fire in the woods by the light of which he is writing. He wonders whether his present circumstances can be attributed to Providence or Fate.

Thursday, March 30, 1865. Curry says he slept very poorly the previous night. because a dog was barking, a stagecoach passed by, and Clement's horse kept walking around the tree to which he was tied. Safford has left the line, he reports.

Friday, March 31, 1865. Curry mentions that he was unable to write to Lizzie and Janey in time for the April 3 steamer, as he had hoped.

Saturday, April 1, 1865. Curry is still at Camp No. 3, where he has been making stakes all day. He saw a herd of 8 deer in the nearby ravine. He hopes to go to church in Dutch Flat the following day, and to do his washing, mending and letter-writing (to Lizzie and Janey).

Sunday, April 2, 1865. Curry reports that he attended church 7 miles from camp in Dutch Flat, where Mr. E. preached on the text "to virtue add knowledge." It is a cold day with a snow squall, but he managed to wash his clothes nonetheless.

Monday, April 3, 1865. It has been a very cold night; the water can has an inch of ice on it by morning. Curry and the others are waiting for Mr. Clement. A band of Italian musicians has come down the road. They are playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on harp and violin. Curry asked them to play "Garibaldi's Hymn", which they loved doing and which reminded him of hearing it last "in W. W. bounding from the fingers of my gentle friend". This memory causes Curry to reminisce about home and his family and friends there.

Wednesday, April 5, 1865. Sitting around the campfire, Curry says he and his colleagues have been contouring near Dixie on a day marked by a snow squall followed by more moderate weather. He notes nearing confirmation of the fall of Richmond.

Thursday, April 6, 1865. Curry says he saw a herd or 7 being driven over the mountains while he was working on the line near the wagon road. He notes that it was very cold the previous night.

Friday, April 7, 1865. Curry writes in the morning from a poorly pitched muslin tent at the camp near Dixie during a snow storm. At night he adds the information that the snow turned to a cold rain during the day. He went to Dixie to get his show mended and to mail letters to Lizzie and Janey. Curry says the tent leaked during the night and he got wet. He is trying to dry out by the fire, hoping for better weather.

Saturday, April 8, 1865. Eight inches of snow fell during the night and is continuing. Curry says he will never forget this past week.

Sunday, April 9, 1865. Curry is still in camp in the leaky tent, full of all the cooking items plus damp blankets and clothes, while the snow is still falling fast outside. He hopes he doesn't get sick. He says he wrote to Mary — then wonders whether those at home will ever realize the hardships he is suffering, as he feels he must not mention them in his letters.

Monday, April 10, 1865. The snow is 6 inches deep. Curry went out on the line toward town about 2 p.m. Suddenly a hail, rain and thunder storm hit. He mentions hearing about the surrender of Lee and his army.

Tuesday, April 11, 1865. Curry saw an eclipse of the moon the previous night at 8:30 p.m. Now the weather feels as if spring might be coming. Guppy has joined the others as "transit man". They ran the line over "tunnel hill" and beyond. In a ravine, Curry reports having seen a bush next to a nutmeg bush which reminds him of siringa. He is camped above the Bear River.

Wednesday, April 12, 1865. Curry is still at Camp No. 3. The weather is bright, his health is good.

Friday, April 14, 1865. In good weather, the engineers are retracing the line to Dutch Flat, the largest town in Placer County, located at the bottom of a ravine in a mining area. Somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 people live there. The town has a school, 2 churches, one substantial building and a few notable houses. The evergreen trees are now increasing. Curry notes also that he saw a dogwood-like tree.

Saturday, April 15, 1865. Curry writes from Camp No. 3 that a rumor has been received that Pres. Lincoln and Sec'y. Seward have been assassinated. He says he has not received letter from home or from Uncle J. since March 21 nor from New York since February 21. He reports that overland mail has resumed and he wonders if letters will now reach home faster.

Sunday, April 16, 1865. . Curry walks to church in Dutch Flat where he spots flags at half-mast in honor of Pres. Lincoln's death. He hopes some day, God willing, he will be able to enjoy the religious and social life he once had at home. He writes and mails a letter to Jonathan.

Monday, April 17, 1865. Curry is now at Camp No. 4 above Dutch Flat, having left Camp No. 3 about 10 a.m. The new camp is on Little Bear River near Canyon Creek, 3 miles by trail from Dutch Flat. He received letters full of good news from his father, Uncle John, Lizzie, Janey, Susie and Mr. Merle d'Aubingie.

Tuesday, April 18, 1865. Curry says he is working on a preliminary line. He mentions seeing a plant resembling a peony and seeing a yew tree. He remarks about the great number of pines, particularly the arbor vitae, some of which are 5 feet in diameter. He passed through a farm with dead corn stalks and potato vines. He pulled up and ate a turnip. Curry says the weather feels like September, but he did come to deep snow banks. He saw a princess pine, a wild strawberry and two kings of manzanita.

Wednesday, April 19, 1865. Curry says three of them walked 5 miles to work, chained the whole length of Dutchman's Gap over old snow, a distance of 3 miles, and ended up 8 miles from camp. He has diarrhea again. He mentions that this is the day of Pres. Lincoln's funerals throughout the U. S., but he is too sick to go to the services in Dutch Flat.

Thursday, April 20, 1865. Curry and his fellow workers chained by Canyon Creek north towards the North Fork of the American River and Blue Bluff. They ate 6 or 7 miles from camp. Curry wore new boots which caused blisters. He tried to sooth his feet in a ditch. Mr. Clement allowed him to return to camp because of the poor condition of his feet; he arrived there about 3 p.m.

Friday, April 21, 1865. Curry remains in camp in pleasant weather, writing letters to his father, Uncle J. and Janey and washing and mending his clothes.

Saturday, April 22, 1865. In warm weather and with still-sore feet, Curry works on a preliminary line which runs across a poorly-built stone wall. He spots wormwood, huckleberry and azalea.

Sunday, April 23, 1865. Curry writes from Camp No. 4. He says he mailed the letters he had written two days earlier plus one to Lizzie. He reports that Mr. Montague and Mr. Clement returned from an expedition to the summit. Curry walks to Dutch Flat in warm weather.

Monday, April 24, 1865. Again in warm weather, Curry chains along and over Canyon Creek then through a gap on the North Fork of the American River which is in a deep canyon with steep cliffs.

Tuesday, April 25, 1865. On the Deserted Ranch, Curry sees wild pea and strawberry blossoms. He runs experimental line no. 3 from below the toll house onward. He collects wild flowers. Beaver is unhappy.

Wednesday, April 26, 1865. Curry crosses Canyon Creek near a dam, where the resulting waterfall makes such a din that he has trouble hearing the transit man unless they are several hundred feet away from the noise. He reports seeing two felled sugar pines, one about 200 feet in length and 6 feet in diameter and the other 225 feet in length and 9 feet in diameter.

Thursday, April 27, 1865. Curry is still running line along the North Fork of the American River. He and the others prepared to move their camp 8 to 10 miles north, but the packer forgot to come, so they must remain in the old camp and repitch their tents. Curry says Hubbard, "the boy", took his end of the chain in exchange for Curry carrying the dinner pail. He has been making stakes with his ax and writing. There is deep snow on the mountain tops across the river, but it is 75 degrees on the sunny side where he is sitting about 3,800 feet above sea level. Curry says he now has saved about $90 which means he can be independent again, even travel home if he wants to do so. He has seen and picked new kinds of wildflowers.

Friday, April 28, 1865. Curry is running line along the North Fork of the American River past Blue Bluff and on towards the new camp some 4 miles north. He saw dogwoods in bloom and cherry bushes, too. He says they will stay 7 to 10 days in the new camp and then go back to the Little Bear camp. The altitude is 4,200 feet and the temperature is 80 degrees, even though there's snow on the mountains. Hubbard is ailing. They got to the new camp before dark. He received letters from Jonathan, Mary and Lizzie (2).

Saturday, April 29, 1865. Curry says they went through a Chinese man's ranch near Bradley's ditch. Camp No. 5 is on a narrow spur of the ditch. Nine men sleep in the one tent. The weather is good, the temperature about 75 degrees, and snow is all around them. Curry reports that they ran a line across Horse Cock Canyon, a short but deep spot near Blue Canyon. A perpendicular shaft gives the canyon its descriptive name.

Sunday, April 30, 1865. Curry writes to Uncle John, rereads his letters from home, washes and mends his clothes and reads the Bible. At the ditch tender's cabin he saw some recent newspapers including the New York World from March 8.

Monday, May 1, 1865. Curry slept poorly, bothered by mosquitoes, and feels sick. He saw a quail's nest with 8 eggs in it. He has been chaining towards Hell's Kitchen and across Dead Eye Gulch. Beavers is unhappy.

Wednesday, May 31, 1865. Curry reports receiving a letter from Lizzie the previous night. He did not sleep well and is therefore "half sick" today. They left the D line for a time. They had to walk 3 and 1/2 miles to begin work.

Thursday, June 1, 1865. Curry says this is national fast day and they will not work. Instead he washing and mending. He walks 3 miles to Polly's to book passage on the stagecoach to Auburn for next Monday morning. Curry says he has many things on his mind now and a great number of things to do in the next week.

Friday, June 2, 1865. Curry is continuing the D line along the lake valley. He tries to take a short cut to camp via six mile valley and nearly gets lost. He finally reached camp at 9 and slept badly. It snowed during the night and now it is cool.

Saturday, June 3, 1865. The men are continuing the D line through brush. They see many signs of bear. Curry rejoices because this is his last day on the job. He is anxious about what lies ahead.

Monday, June 5, 1865. Curry says he left camp the previous day and headed towards civilization. He met a team going to Illinoistown and rode the 3 miles with them. As he writes, he is sitting on Black Butte 300 feet above the Donner Lake road. He can see snow-capped Devil's Peak to the east. He spots some red flowers which he collects for Lizzie. He is 5,000 feet above sea level. He can see half a dozen small lakes within a few miles, a stream running precipitously from the mountains, and the Yuba River below.

Thursday and Friday, June 15 and 16, 1865. Curry's diary closes as he is aboard the Moses Taylo. which has been disabled at sea for the past 36 hours with a broken crank pin. The ship is rolling heavily. At last the wheels begin to move at 7 p.m. on the 16th, and Curry gives thanks to God. He prays for protection during the voyage.

Acorns return! Rain returns! Pigeons return!
October, 19, 2016 ~ Gay Wiseman 

An ecosystem observation: both yesterday and today I first heard and then saw large flocks of pigeons swooping around in and out of the forest trees here on Moody Ridge. Wonderful! These Band-Tailed Pigeons have largely been absent from here for some years, though in the first two decades I lived here, they were common to see. I am guessing that their presence is related to the acorn crop. That is a favorite (maybe the favorite?) food of these birds, and this is the first year since 2010 that there has been an acorn mast here. I have been watching acorns mature on both black oaks and canyon live oaks all summer, and though not especially large in size, and not as numerous as they have sometimes been, they have indeed been maturing and falling to the ground, especially weighted down by the four days of steady rain we have just gone through—our first soaker of the season.
"When we have a good wet year with a lot of acorns, we see a lot of band-tailed pigeons. If it's too dry, or there's no acorns, there's no pigeons."

~ Bert Wilson, Las Pilitas California Native Plant Nursery


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