Tuesday, October 3, 2023

2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl Details

Join us for the 2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl on October 7, 2023, from 10 am to 4 pm, as we explore our region's archival record in the realm of Myth, Folklore, and Legend. You can start your crawl at any of the event's four host venues - the Central Library at 828 I Street, the Center for Sacramento History at 551 Sequoia Pacific Boulevard, the California State Archives at 1020 O Street, and California State Library at 915 Capitol Mall - and take our luxury shuttle bus (click here for bus schedule) to move from spot to spot. The event is free and there's no registration required. 

Special features include a spooky 1:00 o'clock presentation by Skeleton Crew Paranormal at Central Library, an always pleasing montage of a/v content shown throughout the day at Central Library by our talented friends at California Revealed, and the terrific sounds of Stout Rebellion from 12:00 to 2:15 on the 5th floor at the California State Library! 

Also challenge yourself with our scavenger hunt which can make you eligible for prizes from Vic's Ice Cream and Time Tested Books -and- try your luck with our always fat raffle that includes prizes kindly provided by the Sacramento Kings, Republic FC, Gold Country Ghost Tours, Torchlight Brewing, Sudwerk Brewing, the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, Gold Discovery Park Association, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, and the Sacramento Regiona Community Foundation.

If you love local history and want to get a choice behind-the-scenes look into four great archives and visit with tens of local cultural heritage groups, you won't want to miss the Crawl!

Shuttle Your Way Through History!

A little gassed after looking at a book made of poison? Take advantage of our luxury shuttle which will be running between all four venues. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, September 22, 2023

We Love Our Sponsors...

Another year and another avalanche of kindness from our sponsors. Produced by our great graphic designer, this year's poster, which lists all of our donors, is displayed below. Also take a look at this page's sweet sponsor sidebar. 


Thursday, September 21, 2023

A Most Noble Contribution...

We thank our hometown Sacramento Kings for a massive addition to the Sacramento Archives Crawl raffle: a Kings autograph photo and swag bag valued at $150! Being an integral part of city culture since 1986, there's plenty of legend surrounding the organization. Is anyone familiar with "Tuesday Night Magic?" In their inaugural 1985-86 season, the Kings won on 11-consecutive Tuesday nights at Arco Arena, including a victory over Larry Bird's Boston Celtics who'd go on to win it all that year. It was also a big deal that the team made the playoffs in its first NBA season.

As regional repositories and cultural heritage groups, Archives Crawl participants understand the impact of their collections and the power that comes with making the past a bit more relatable and the stuff of legend nudged into closer reach, e.g. roundball kismet taking place on a chilly winter night in Natomas 37-years-ago. 

We also love this advertisement that shows LaSalle Thompson living it up at the Woodlake Resort of Convention Hotel, taken from the King's 1985/86 press guide (Frank McCormick Collection, MC 79).    


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Who Knew that Scavenging Could Be the Stuff of Legend (and Winning!!!!)

One of the most enjoyable parts of the Crawl is our scavenger hunt. As one moves from venue to venue and table to table, questions will be posed about several of the archival items before you. Answer all of them (and your answers don't have to be correct - just do your best) and you'll automatically be entered to win something really, really big. If you're an adult, you'll be eligible to win a $100 gift card to the venerable Time Tested Books, founded in 1981; if you're a young person, you will have a chance to win a $100 gift card to the equally venerable Vic's Ice Cream, founded in 1947. Wherever you start - the Sacramento Public Library, the California State Archives, the California State Library, or the Center for Sacramento History - we can answer any and all questions you might have about the hunt. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Free Stuff Alert

As in past years, the Archives Crawl will offer a pleasing array of free entertainment and educational programming both at the Central Library Galleria at 828 I Street and at the California State Library at 914 Capitol Mall. Take a look at the free stuff. It's free! 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Ghost tours and ghost talks...

The paranormal is fertile ground for legend, myth, and folklore. This year's Crawl will welcome Skeleton Crew Paranormal at the Central Library's West Meeting Room from 1 to 2 on October 7 for a chat, storytelling session, and q and a about the experiences of the group which operates primarily in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They plan to bring evidence. They'll have an investigation in Ryde that evening so we might get some real-time insight into their trade.  

We will also be raffling off (also at Central Library) two tickets for an October 23 ghost tour put on by Auburn Ghost Tours. This wildly popular tour requires participants to check in at the Placer County Courthouse (101 Maple Street, Auburn, CA 95603) at 8 pm for an 8:30 pm tour. The tickets are valued at $40 each! 

A big scary thanks to Auburn Ghost Tours and Skeleton Crew Paranormal for their frightful contributions to this year's Crawl!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Lost Locomotive in the Sacramento River

Before he became Master Mechanic for the Central Pacific Railroad, Sacramento railroad pioneer A.J. Stevens was hired as a mechanic for the San Francisco & Alameda Railroad. In January 1866, C.W. Stevens and younger brother A.J. Stevens built one of the earliest steam locomotives on the West Coast -- the “J.G. Kellogg.” Named after a principal investor for the railroad, the J.G. Kellogg was sold multiple times throughout its lifetime and renumbered as the Central Pacific No. 176, the Stockton & Visalia No. 2, the Stockton & Copperopolis No. 2, and Southern Pacific No. 1100.

In July 1891, the engine was eventually sold as Anderson & Bellavista RR No. 1, owned by the Shasta Lumber Company near Redding, California. On the fateful day of November 17, 1893, it was transported by ferry across the Sacramento River near Anderson where it failed to stop on the ferry and fell into the deep water below. A month later on December 16, 1893, the Weekly Shasta Courier newspaper printed an article which stated, “The Shasta Lumber Company’s engine has been ‘snaked’ out of the river, where it has been in soak for two or three weeks.” However, legend grew of the sunken locomotive, with some people claiming it fell a second time in the river in the late 1890s and never recovered.

In his book Red River: Paul Bunyan’s Own Lumber Company and Its Railroads, Robert M. Hanft, professor emeritus of transportation at Chico State, writes: “In 1970 a new highway bridge was being erected just downstream from the fiasco. Divers worked in the swift cold water and one reported he had come across a steel hulk 40 feet down that appeared to him to be an old steam railroad locomotive. Northern California newspapers buzzed with the story in January of 1971 and speculation arose about what should be done with this find, whose property it was, and how it could be retrieved. The story of how it got there in the first place was revived, with no more than the customary mangling of facts.”

Over the years, attempts to locate the lost locomotive have been made by historians, railroad fans, and other curious individuals – but the engine’s discovery has never been documented. In 2011, a group of individuals set out to locate the locomotive and believed it had been spotted in a sandbar near the Deschutes Road Bridge. A group of divers with metal detectors turned up zero results, however. Some people speculate it remains buried under a sandbar near the bridge, while others purport the river current might have decimated it or washed it further down the river. Still, others speculate it might have already been removed either by construction crews or salvagers—but just never reported. Whatever the case, the legend of the sunken J.G. Kellogg lives on.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

What You've All Been Waiting For...

Our master graphic artist and committee of crackerjack historians has just produced one of the best parts of the Archives Crawl, our designer coasters. Join us on October 7 and you'll get a set. No simpler than that. They're kind of a big deal which means you'll be kind of a big deal.


Saturday, September 9, 2023

A Haunting in Sacramento?

For decades, many have considered the big house at 2131 H Street haunted. Built in 1907 by physician Aden C. Hart, it's certainly imposing. Moreover, the rusticated masonry bricks on the bottom, fish scale shingles on the top, and expertly carved lion's heads located on the lower and upper facade, give the Hart house a unique if not foreboding and sinister look. But is it really haunted? No quick answers. Some contend that it definitely is; others, not so much. Either way, the Harts (Aden and Alice, and for a while son Lloyd), despite a glut of garish mistruths that live all over the Internet that would indicate otherwise, enjoyed a long and fruitful time as residents. While we know that Hart was just a regular person living a regular life in Sacramento, proving that the house is or isn't haunted is another thing. Is the concept of haunting even a possibility? What actually makes something haunted? Maybe not an answer to these questions, but enter the Martinez family who moved into the Hart House in 1973. According to Dannis William Hauck's Sacramento's Haunted Hot Spots: A Survey of Sacramento Area Haunted Locations, the Martinez family certainly experienced some edgy moments:

...The trouble seems to have started three weeks after Mrs. Lillian Martinez and her family moved into the remodeled house in 1973. Sounds of crashing glassware and noises for a struggle in the kitchen started late at night, but nothing was there. Then 15-year-old Angie began seeing a gray and white cat fade in and out of reality. Upstairs, a "panting presence" started following people around and later materializes as the ghost of an [Asian] man wearing a white coat. The ghost of a woman wearing a yellow flower-print dress was also seen by Lilly Monica, Tyrone, and Diana Martinez. Husband Julio reported the ghosts of two children hiding in doorways. Rumors of a family murder in the house have never been confirmed, but other tenants down through the years reported similar activity. 

So where to go with such a report? According to the 1910 Census, the Harts had a servant of Japanese birth, 24-year-old Kikuo Hamamoto. Is that our panting specter in the white coat? Hard to know, can't prove it, but still compelling to the curiosity. 

The Sacramento Public Library's Special Collections and Archives, Sacramento Room, recently acquired a series of 10 images capturing early life at the Hart residence, including Aden, Lloyd, and a young woman named Aldie. They are part of the Manwaring-Rigoli Collection (MC 123). For a larger version and relevant metadata, click on the image: 













Thursday, September 7, 2023

We Are Most Grateful...

The legendary Joshua Norton of San Francisco, First Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico was appointed by a constituency of one (himself). Sacramento City Councilmember Karina Talamantes, however, was duly elected by the will of District 3's constituents, living in the burgeoning communities of Northgate, Natomas, and Gardenland. Lucky for us, Councilmember Talamantes has given a monetary donation to help sustain the Sacramento Archives Crawl. We are most grateful to her for supporting the Crawl's mission to educate and expose the Sacramento Region to the magic of local history, primary source research, cultural heritage, and critical thinking. Councilmember Talamantes and supporters like her keep our regional history alive. If you're interested in doing the same, you can provide a gift to the Crawl's fiscal sponsor, the California State Library Foundation, by clicking here: Donate.

Thanks for supporting the Sacramento Archives Crawl!


Thursday, August 10, 2023

And We'll Leave the Porchlight on For Ya...

Granted, Edgar Allan Poe is scary stuff, but why worry when the Porchlight’s on? A new sponsor to the Sacramento Archives Crawl is one of Sacramento and Northern California’s quickest-rising artisanal brewers, East Sacramento’s own Porchlight Brewing Company. They have kindly donated a terrific t-shirt and a $50 gift card to our always stocked and fun SAC drawing at Central Library.

It’s through their generosity and the generosity of donors and businesses throughout the region that our mission to introduce the Capital community to the magic and merit of archives and primary source research persists. A massive thanks to our friends at Porchlight, the ideal spot to bring your dog, sit under the misters, grab a bite from the diverse compliment of food trucks that visit, and sip some of the finest handcrafted beer in the State of California. 

Oh, and don't miss the Archives Crawl on October 7, 2023, from 10 am to 4 pm!     


Friday, July 28, 2023

Legend of the "Laggin' Dragon"

Although few know as much, Mather Field's most legendary, if not anxious, sendoff came on July 28, 1945, after a B-29 called the Laggin’ Dragon arrived at the Sacramento airbase. Piloted by Air Commander Edward M. Costello and co-pilot Harry B. Davis, it was the last of 15 custom-built “Silverplate” B-29s, designed to carry robust loads. The Laggin’ Dragon sat on Mather’s flight line under a veil of high security which was made much cloack/dagger by a crew of odd handlers who wore olive-drab uniforms sans insignia. Much to the horror of Mather’s ground crews, who insisted on a standard multipoint inspection for every plane prior to takeoff, the strangers demanded haste. The plane was only 50-feet up when a powerful airstream pushed open a hatch containing the plane’s life raft, which then wrapped itself around the right control elevator on the plane’s tail. Costello and Davis immediately fought to stabilize the ship as its nose abruptly dropped. At 300 feet, the pilots finally wriggled the raft loose, but “large areas of the elevator fabric had been torn off, and more pieces were being furled off into the wind.” It was at this point that a laser-focused Costello contemplated either crash-landing or seeking enough altitude for a chance bailout of the crew. He also knew that whatever the plane carried was important enough to avoid crashing.  Even so, the rest of the crew assumed the crash posture. At the last moment, however, and at the shock of a control tower crew that had all but convinced itself that crash landing was imminent, Costello conjured a moment of brilliance and brought the B-29 down for a perfect landing. Muscle, guile and training may have won the day, but the crew also benefitted from the plane’s new reversible propellers, which helped steady it upon landing. As nerves settled, Mather crews replaced the shredded elevator with that of another B-29 and the Laggin’ Dragon flew off to its final destination, Tinian island. Barely known to the plane’s crew and not at all to any of Mather’s personnel was that the Laggin’ Dragon carried the disassembled and coreless “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb that, in 10 short days, would be dropped on Hiroshima.

Michael Amrine, The Great Decision of the Atomic Bomb, (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959), 195-196.

National Air and Space Museum

2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl Poster!

So, look what just dropped. From the ace graphic designer, the 2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl poster is live! Our 13th year and the beautiful posterage keeps coming...

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Farm to Fork Brewers Before There Was a Thing Called Farm to Fork

Before the very recent wave of Farm to Fork madness, Davis's Sudwerk - since 1989 - has been a Farm to Fork engine, producing some of the most exquisite German-style lagers in the world. They have also become a terrific supporter of the Sacramento Archives Crawl. Thanks to our friends in Davis, behold what you can win by simply crawling into Central Library on October 7, 2023, between 10 am and 4 pm and entering what has become one of the best stocked raffles going: A Sudwerk t-shirt, hat, $30 gift certificate, 2 sweet koozies, and a 4-pack of Sudwerk's 2023 California State Fair Silver medal-winning Overgrowth West Coast Double India Pale Ale (ID for proof of age required for all beer-related winners).


We're grateful for Sudwerk's (and all of our other sponsors') commitment to the promotion of archival research, education, history, and community in the Capital Region. No myth or folklore here. Just the genuine legend...Sudwerk:


Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Legend of North Sacramento's Dueling Tree

The duel was a scourge in nineteenth-century California. Perhaps it had something to do with the number of disputed gold claims throughout the state and the passions attached; perhaps it was the paucity of, and competition for, the hand of a women as, according to the 1850 Census, 93 percent of California's population was male while the remaining 7 percent was female. There's also the factor of cultural importation. Historian William Secrest attributes the prevalence of dueling in California to the large number of Southerners who jumped into the Gold Rush. Whatever the factor, between 1850 and 1860, no other state could match the number of fatal duels to have taken place in California, in spite of the fact that the code duello had been expressly outlawed in the state's Constitution.

That brings us to the legend of the dueling tree, which was purported to be a preferred spot for dueling in Sacramento during the 1850s. Set in the small (now extinct) village of Oak Grove, near present-day North Sacramento, was the so-called dueling tree, a towering valley oak that oversaw one of California's most notorious duels.

It was August 2, 1852, and the parties were California State Senator James W. Denver and Alta newspaper editor Edward Gilbert. As the story goes, Gilbert wrote satirical marks about Denver in a column, Denver didn't like it and the result was a duel.

The two met at the oak and Denver being the challenged party chose rifles. Stepping through the morning dew, they walked 40 paces and fired. Nothing happened. Then the next shot came. Denver was untouched and Gilbert died almost instantly. In the short term, Gilbert was buried in San Francisco. In the long term, Denver went on to be the Governor of Kansas, the namesake for a city in Colorado, and live a pretty comfortable life. But what about the tree?

This 1961 aerial image from the UCSB Framefinder is marked to show 
the approximate area of the dueling tree at 2121 Canterbury Road.

Same view of the general location of the dueling tree, but in 1937.

According to an article in the August 30, 1964, Sacramento Bee, the tree endured and was purportedly located in the backyard of Mrs. Myrtle Johnson at 2121 Canterbury Road, in the Woodlake neighborhood of North Sacramento. But is/was that the actual tree? Was there even a tree or was it a grove of trees? While we can only be sure that we can't know for sure, the rest is lost to the fogs of time.

Learn of legends like this and so much more at the 2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl, set to take place on October 7, 2023, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Center for Sacramento History, the Sacramento Public Library, the California State Archives, and the California History Section of the California State Library.

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Count and the Rancher's Daughter

Like so much of Joan Didion's non-fiction, it reads like the juiciest of lore, but it's real and very accurate. In "Notes of a Native Daughter" (found in Slouching Toward Bethlehem), the Sacramento born and bred Didion, shares the storybook tale of a Sacramento rancher's daughter who meets a European prince on a Grand Tour of the European continent. As she writes on page 186: 

I want to tell you a Sacramento story. A few miles out of town is a place, six or seven thousand acres, which belonged in the beginning to a rancher with one daughter. That daughter went abroad and married a title, and when she brought the title home to live on the ranch, her father built them a vast house - music rooms, conservatories, a ballroom. They needed a ballroom because they entertained: people from abroad, people from San Franisco, house parties that lasted weeks and involved special trains. They are long dead, of course, but their only son, aging and unmarried, still lives on the place. He does not live in the house, for the house is no longer there. Over the years it burned, room by room, wing by wing. Only the chimneys of the great house are still standing, and its heir lives in their shadow, lives by himself on the charred site, in a house trailer.

That is a story my generation knows; I doubt that the next will know it, the children of the aerospace engineers...

So, what's the real-life basis for Didion's story? The Sacramento Bee, Thompson and West's 1880 History of Sacramento County, the U.S. Census (via the library's subscription to Ancestry), and various secondary sources tell us that our rancher's daughter is Alice McCauley, daughter of Virginia-born and Confederate sympathizer John F. McCauley. The "title" was Italian-born Count Julio (also referred to as Guilio) Valensin. Alice and Julio were married in Italy in the early 1870s, but eventually came back to the Sacramento Valley. The geographic location of where the ranch would have been, is more than "a few miles out of town," 21-miles southeast of Sacramento proper to be exact, just south of the Consumnes River and east of Galt near the extinct villages of Arno and Hicksville.

Alice and Julio did, indeed, live a lavish lifestyle, full of big houses and massive parties, attended by the Hearsts and various other wealthy families of Gilded Age California. It's also said (actually the Sacramento Bee said it) that Julio won a duel with another suitor for the affections of Alice. On the way less romantic side, the Bee also tells us that Alice was charged with treason for singing "Dixie" in 1861 in a San Francisco hotel, just after the start of the American Civil War. The charges were dropped after the family fled to Europe to stump for the southern cause.

Sacramento County Map, J.C. Boyd, 1903

Julio died young at the age of 46 from a burst appendix, but Alice lived to see two world wars, the Great Depression, the birth of the automobile and advent of human flight, dying in 1949 at the age of 101. A year later, her grand mansion was felled by fire. The lone son of Alice and Julio was Pio Valensin, who was born in Italy and the sole heir to Alice's ranch. When Didion wrote about the Valensins, Pio was still the owner of a roughly 4,500-acre spread of prime ranch land and hardly destitute to where he had to live in a house trailer.

Valensin Ranch, circa 1875. Thompson and West.

In the mid-1990s, the Nature Conservancy paid the descendants of the Valensins $12 million for the ranch, converting it into a massive nature preserve. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Wicker Baskets at Cape Horn. Fact or Fiction? Or Both?

As we near the 2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl and our deep dive into the myth, folklore and legend of history, one tale to consider is the use of wicker baskets by Chinese laborers in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad at a steep mountainside just east of Colfax, California, called Cape Horn. According to various popular histories - many dispensed in the late 1920s by PR and tourism offices of the Southern Pacific Railroad - workers were lowered in either wicker baskets or bosun's chairs to plant explosives along the massive promontory. The malleability of history and historiography leaves us in a spot where while it seems unlikely that such a practice ever took place at Cape Horn, there is indeed documentation, according to Stanford historian Gordon Chang, of something akin to it taking place in other portions of the Sierra Nevada during rail construction, as stated in his 2019 Ghosts of Gold Mountain (pages 86-92): 

The most thrilling scene that came under my observation was in the Sierra Nevada on the Central Pacific. Here the road in built on the side of a precipice 2,400 feet above the base, and the slope is so steep that the [Chinese workers] who did the work were let down in baskets, and in this position drilled holes and charged them in the side of the mountains. (Correspondent for the Pittsfield Eagle, 1868)

From the Sacramento Room's Appleton Family Papers, MC 7

The above photograph of Cape Horn, taken in 1900, and from the Sacramento Public Library's Appleton Family Papers (MC 7), shows us that regardless of whether or not baskets and/or chairs were employed, the Railroad Chinese created a master work of railroad construction. What's more, dangerous, unforgiving, and undervalued at the time, their toil and skill would go on to change the course of American history.  

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Sacramento Archives Crawl 2023: Myth, Folklore, & Legend

It's nearly spring and generally the time when we reveal the theme of the 2023 Sacramento Archives Crawl. This year, the crawl will tackle myth, folklore, and legend and their lifespan within the context of the Sacramento Region's history. Whether or not you believe in a myth, folklore, or legend, it does exist in some form to someone and for a reason. Is there a single human heart buried in the Old City Cemetery next to the gravesite of its owner's lost love? Is there a lady in red that roams the stairwell and stacks of the 1918 main free public library at 8th and I? Were the elms that lined the Victory Highway, as it made its way through the village of Freeport, actually grown from seeds taken from the World War I battlefields of France and Belgium? While this obviously just scratches the surface, it might be helpful to ask yourself why myth, folklore, and legend even exist. Is it a primal drive to bring order to a disordered world? Perhaps the desired end to a story, told in such a way that lifts the human spirit? Join us on Saturday, October 7, 2023, from 10 am to 4 pm as a bevy of archival repositories, historical societies, and other cultural heritage groups present examples of myth, folklore, legend and tackle these compelling questions and so much more.