I recently returned from a whirlwind trip with my Dad. We left San Jose Ca on Wednesday afternoon and returned to the Bay area Monday afternoon. We put close to 1500 miles on his car and met with relatives.
First stop was Eugene to visit my dad’s aunt Alice (whom I am named for). She happens to be my favorite Great Aunt and the only sibling of my grandmother that is still living. She is 94 and is full of stories about her life with Annie Brown Adams. She is a GREAT GRAND DAUGHTER of John Brown, and we believe she may be the closest relative living. Eleanor Clausen Blangsted in California is a bit older than my aunt, but she is a great-great grand daughter.
We spent Thursday afternoon and evening with Alice talking about family history, family gossip (guess every family has some of that) and her memories of Annie Brown Adams, her grand mother.
Friday my sister Jane and her son Cassidy joined us at Alice’s apartment to continue the discussions and fascinating trips down memory lane. I had my tape recorder and took notes constantly throughout the day. Jane, Cassidy, Dad and I went to lunch and then returned to Alice’s for more chatting. Jane and Cassidy had to catch a bus back to the Country Fair where they were working as traffic coordinators so we said good bye to them in the early afternoon. Dad, Alice and I continued visiting until after 9:30 pm.
Saturday morning Dad and I again stopped in to see Alice and spend a couple of hours with her. Then we left for home via Humboldt County and the old highway down the coast. I wanted to come home via Humboldt County because I wanted to stop and visit Annie’s gravesite as well as see some of the place I have always heard about. While my older sister spent her early years and many summers in the area, I only visited it a few times after my grandparents move close to us in the bay area when I was six years old.
Fires in California closed the 199, 299 and 36 routes over the mountains to the coast, so we had to backtrack into Oregon to get across. We drove through many of the small towns and Dad gave me running commentary on who, what, where, when from the past. We stopped in Crescent City for the night and called Dad’s cousin, Dede, to see if she could give us directions to the cemetery in what used to be Rohnerville where Annie is buried.
Sunday morning found us at the Rohnerville Pioneer Cemetery and Annie’s gravesite. I was sad to see that the slab is sinking at one corner. Annie’s headstone is very plain and makes no mention of her relationship to John Brown, like Mary A. Brown’s does. Also buried there with her are her two children who died in childhood and her grandson twin that died immediately after birth. My Dad realized that when he had gone looking for the gravesite many years ago, he was in the correct cemetery, but it was all overgrown with blackberry brambles to the point of obscurity. His cousin Dede was instrumental in getting the cemetery cleaned up and restored to usability.
As we were leaving the cemetery, Dede drove up. We invited her to join us for lunch. We chatted over a great Chinese Buffet. She told us that Bertha and George (my great grand parents) were buried in Eureka. Dede was not sure where in the cemetery but was confident we could ask at the office. Dede had to run to a previous engagement so we bid her goodbye. We backtracked to Eureka and went to the Cemetary Office. Unfortunately the Cemetery Office was closed and we could have wandered around reading headstones for days before we found them. We tried to call another of Dad’s cousins, Marilyn, to see if she knew where they were, but she was not home so we left without seeing the gravesites.
Dad was born and raised in Pepperwood so he took me down to where the town Pepperwood used to be located. There are still of 50 or so souls living there now, but officially the town is now public forestry park land. I wanted to see where Annie had lived when she died, so Dad headed for Shively across the “Summer Bridge”. Bridge is a misnomer – planks laid out just as wide as a car and balancing on a pile of gravel across the river ending at gravel unpaved road and only accessible in the hot summer months is not my idea of a BRIDGE. (Okay so I am exaggerating – but not as much as you might think!) During the winter months you have to drive over the mountain on a very narrow winding road to get to Shively.
Dad pointed out the land that was called “The Shively Ranch” which is where Bertha and George Cook rented a farm which included a small one room house on the property where Annie lived. We continued on the gravel unpaved road to Shively proper and Dad stopped at his Cousin Marilyn’s house. Before we could get out of the car she was coming to great us. She had been out with her grandchildren when we had called earlier. We spent a couple of hours chatting with her about family and the area before we continued on our way towards home.
Monday found us back in the Bay Area with some time to kill before meeting my Brother James and his wife Jennifer for dinner, so we went to see Mary A Brown’s gravesite in Saratoga. The cemetery had made a few changes to the driveways and Dad, who before could walk to the site blindfolded, was lost. We went to the office to ask for help after wandering around for an hour with no luck. I walked into the office and pointed to the portrait of Mary hanging on the wall and said “she is my great-great-great grand mother and we can not find her grave”. The gentleman chuckled and pointed it out to us. Once Dad found out the road he used to drive down was now a sitting area off limits to cars, he got his bearings and we walked right to it. On the way back to the car I stopped to read the signs on the office outside bulletin board. I had to laugh at the map of the cemetery with all of the plots laid out and a label with an arrow pointing to Mary Brown’s Grave. How many people have their ancestors notated on a cemetery maps?
We tried to go to the Saratoga Historical Society Museum, but it was closed. We did peek in and saw portraits, books and other John Brown memorabilia. We also stopped by the Japanese gardens that are just up the road from Saratoga. We had dinner with James and Jennifer and our whirlwind trip came to an end.
Back home I am working on transcribing the notes and recordings
Quick, long, but very fun and educational trip.