Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Remembering Dorothy...

In 2014, I had finished an oral history interview with a North Fork Mono Elder and we began to talk about whom I should contact next for our Madera County Native Americans Digital Collection. Not being Native myself, I was having a hard time reaching local Indian families and this particular Elder could sense this and quietly told me "you should go talk with Dorothy Sherman..she's a nice woman and will help you".

I called Dorothy that afternoon and after explaining who I was and what I was working on, she invited me to her home.  I was a little surprised when I first met Dorothy as she is not Indian, she is white but had married Kendrick Sherman, the son of Lee and Mae Sherman of North Fork. She shared with me that her maiden name was O'Neal (as in the town O'Neal's in Madera County) and that she had grown up in Madera County "pretty much all of her life".  Sensing my interest in her history, we both agreed we would start with her family history and then discuss Kendrick and his family.

She was born in 1922 and as a young girl, one of her favorite things to do was ride her horse Pedro, especially at the O'Neal's Rodeo that was held every year at Easter.  I had heard of this Rodeo from some of the North Fork Mono Elders and I can confirm through their recollections and photos, this was quite a grand rodeo.  Hundreds of people from all over would come and watch the rodeo and have a great time.  Dorothy's horse, Pedro, was a "big ol' buckskin horse" that at one point was banned from Chubb's Pack Station which was located at Jackass Meadow in Madera County. His crime was knocking all the saddles off the corral fence there, actions which are not tolerated by any horse at a pack station.  I asked her why he wasn't tied up to prevent him from doing this?  Dorothy, innocently and sweetly, explained that Pedro didn't like to be tied up and eventually, after this incident, she found the only way to tie him up was to put a mule halter on him.  I suppose the look on my face revealed my lack of knowledge on this subject area so she then explained that a mule halter has a chain on it so when the horse pulls on it, it tightens up.

Dorothy on Pedro top left corner

Dorothy's beloved horse, Pedro

I'll never forget her expression and the sound of her voice when talking about her beloved Pedro..it was as if she were 18 again, full of life and love for her beloved horse, the fun they had and the shenanigans they would get into.

Dorothy married Ralph Pruett in 1953 and in 1969 they divorced.  She shared that they had one child, a son, whom she sadly admits not having a close relationship with.  During this time, she began working for the County of Fresno and while living in Fresno she became active in the Young Democrats.  In full disclosure, I admit I am a political history junkie so any goal I had set for this interview went out the window as she talked about her involvement with the Fresno County Young Democrats group.  She was re-elected President of this group in 1955, just in time for Fresno to host the California Democratic Council Convention and she was very proud to wear her "Adlai Blue" colored suit she purchased especially for the Convention.  Adlai Stevenson was one of the leaders of the California Democratic Council and Dorothy admired him very much.  She was so proud to show me her scrapbook of articles and photos during this time in her life and she graciously allowed me to scan the scrapbook for inclusion in our Digital Collections.  I kept muttering "what a life you've had Dorothy" and she just nodded her head smiling.
California Democratic Council Convention, 1956
Dorothy (2nd from right) and Adlai Stevenson (3rd from right)

Letter from Adlai Stevenson to Dorothy, 1956

Our discussion turned to Kendrick and she shared that he was one of four sons born to  Lee and Mae (Polkenhorn) Sherman.  In 1977 they married and enjoyed painting ceramics and going to Pow-Wows until his death in 2007.  She lived in the home they shared and it was filled with memories of both of their families. She asked if I had collected many photos for my project and I replied that I was "stuck"..I had researched and obtained quite a bit of information about the North Fork Indian Mission and the Mono families, but no photographs.  I added that through documents and interviews, I had become quite fond of a cowboy named Pinky Bethel, but I  had no photo of him.  She then turned to her bookcase and pulled out a photo of Pinky Bethel for me to have for the Collection and I couldn't help but start to cry.  I had read so much about this man, and I often thought what a manly man he must have been to been named Pinky...and there he was! She was very fond of Pinky Bethel as he had worked for her grandfather, John O'Neal, and had braided rawhide quirts and reins for Dorothy's horses.  She added he was one of the best cowboys and horseman she had ever met.

Pinky Bethel at the Clovis Rodeo

Just when I didn't think it could get any better, Dorothy retrieved Lee and Mae's photo scrapbooks that she had cared for since marrying Kendrick in 1977.  Placed in these pages were hundreds of photos dated from early 1900's through the 1930's of the North Fork Indian Mission students and their families, North Fork Mono Indian Cowboys, and later Lee and Mae's own children.  Many of the photos were not identified and I have spent the last 3 years researching records and meeting with individuals in hopes of identifying most, if not all, of the photos in these scrapbooks.  

North Fork Indian Mission Mothers and their Children

Left to Right:  Lee Sherman, Willie Pomona and Jim Tex

Back Row, Left to Right: Jim Moore, Gene Tully, Bill Major, Jack Norris, Johnny Sherman & Singing Jack
Front Row, Left to Right:  Jim Jackson, Mike McDonald, Mike Riley, Housen Lavell, Joe Burns and Tom Burkhead

Left to Right: Florence Sherman, Frances Sherman and Polly Sherman-Poulton

North Fork Bible School, 1938

I hadn't spoken with Dorothy for almost a year when I heard of her recent passing, but I am confident she knew how much  I appreciated her generosity and enthusiasm for sharing both her and Kendrick's family histories and photographs.  I have often referenced her photos as being the Collection that "expanded our Native American Collection".  In reality,  her Collection became the cornerstone for Madera County Library's Digital Collections and our Library, as well as our Community, will forever be grateful to her and I will always remember the time we spent together.  


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday Indeed

As I mentioned in my last blog post, one of the historical, yet genealogy rich collections  in the California History and Family Research Room are what we call the “1938 School Board Books”. 

In 1938, a volunteer Committee from the Madera County Office of Education worked with Teachers from each school in Madera County to compile “The History of Madera County”.  Each school made a book that contained not only the school’s history, but the history of the area where the school was located, founding pioneer and family information, etc..Each book has a front and back cover made of wood particle board including a symbol of the school made out of metal which is attached to the front cover.  Each of these books is unique and the majority of them are a family researcher’s gold mine.  While I would love to showcase each individual book and their contents, I hope that through the examples in this post you will understand how special these books are and come by the Library to view them in person.

Dixieland School

In addition to providing the history of the school faculty, this book provides a rich narrative on the colonization of the District by the Fairmead Cooperative Land Company.  What makes this book unique is that it includes information on the settlers, a large majority of them, who were of Mennonite Faith. 


Arcola School

The Arcola School Board Book is the largest of all the Board Books.  T.O. Cavin was one of the founding farmers in the area and included in this book is a handwritten document, written by his wife, on the history of the school and the Alabama Colony settlers that lived in the area.  This book is unique in that it provides information on the Arcola 4-H Club!


Green School

This school is one of the many schools that were located in the foothills that surround Madera County.  This book contains history unique to this region, especially regarding the gold mines and the miners that came to California in 1849.


Fresno Flats

Fresno Flats, now known as Oakhurst, was another area located up in the foothills that was inhabited by early gold miners.  This book is both descriptive and colorful in its narrative, as you will see by the example provided below.

For a list of all the schools that have a book in this collection, as well as other school resources in the California Room, please click on the tab above titled "Resources for Genealogy".

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A New Year To Begin Your Family Research!

One thing I love about my job is the people I meet on a daily basis.   Madera is such an ethnically diverse County, I get to learn something new every day and then include this information for future patrons. Because of this, our California Room has grown to include a Genealogy collection that is quite diverse. With the start of a New Year, I thought the month of January would focus on some of the unique resources we have to help you start your family research!

Land Records

Did you family own land or property in Madera County?   Or maybe you’re a map geek like me and enjoy looking at old maps?  Thanks to the Chowchilla Historical Society, we have the 1920 Madera County Land Plat Maps and they are a family researcher’s gold mine for Madera County.  Not only do they reflect an ancestors name and location of property, but also their neighbors, buildings, rivers, schools, even the Sugar Pine Lumber Company Flume!   Below is a digitized image of Township 8 South, Range 20 East in Madera County.

If you are more tech minded, patrons can come in to the California Room and learn how to navigate the Bureau of Land Management’s website.  According to the BLM website “We provide live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, including image access to more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present”.  When I have used their website, I’ve been able to search homestead records back to when California became a state, including Native American Land Allotments issued by the Federal Government.  Did your family live in another state?  The BLM website has information on records outside of the State of California as well. For example, I found my Grandfather’s, 3 times removed, Land Patent in Oklahoma dated 1902.  Some original Land Patents haven’t been digitized, but many have and are available to print for your records. 

Madera County has two incorporated cities, the City of Madera and the City of Chowchilla.  Chowchilla was form when the U.S. Farm Land Company, led by O.A. Robertson in the early 1900’s, purchased large amounts of land which were divided into lots and marketed for sale all over the United States. The Bill of Sale records for these lots were kept in great detail and are included in our Chowchilla Historical Society’s collection.   Patrons whose ancestors lived in Chowchilla are welcome to research these historic records as they provide the Buyer’s original home address as well as the Lot Numbers purchased and Description of Property. 

The above mentioned collections can be a valuable resource to those who had ancestors living in Madera County but who have been difficult to research.  Lots of detailed information and not found anywhere else but our California History and Family Research Room here in Madera.  Next post will cover our Early Madera County Schools Collection.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Woman Wednesday..Susan Johnson

Earlier this year, I made my first research trip up to the National Archives (NARA) in San Bruno, California.  Now, anyone who has visited the National Archives knows that the amount of information within a National Archives facility can be overwhelming to say the very least.  Since this was my first trip to the Archives, I set only two goals for the trip; 1) Understand how to research their archival holdings, and 2) Learn more about the Federal Records pertaining to the North Fork Mono and Chukchansi Yokut tribes of Madera County.

Per the NARA website, I e-mailed them one week prior with my research request but even so, (using my best Duck Dynasty voice), " I was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs".  However, soon after my arrival the Archives Technician had me settled in the research room and pouring through my first group of records.  Throughout the day, new records would be brought in and I soon felt like I knew what I was doing :-)

I reviewed numerous boxes of documents and personal correspondence relating to the Chukchansi and Mono Indians.  I recognized many of the family names except for one, Susan Johnson from North Fork.  The majority of the documents relating to North Fork included the name Susan Johnson and I kept asking myself "who is this Susan Johnson?".  At the end of the day, I came home with 2 file folders of  information that would take me a month to sort through and familiarize myself with.

Susan Johnson, as I would find out, was one fierce woman.  By fierce, I mean she was like a Mother Bear and the land she lived on was her Bear Cub.  Susan was a North Fork Mono woman who was born about 1876 and along with her husband Mike, raised their family in North Fork. Correspondence between Susan and the Sacramento Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs reveal that by 1955, while other families had moved on to land that had modern homes, public road access and adequate water supply, Susan chose to remain on the land she lived on for almost 40 years, land that she called home. I was so disapointed that I didn't have a picture of her or her family, she sounded like a woman I wish I could have known.

Susan Johnson and her Children, 1918

It wasn't until I was scanning a scrapbook of a North Fork Mono Elder that this small picture was carefully glued to the corner of a page. I remember tears rolling down my face because I could finally put a face to this fierce woman and mother of whom through historical documents, I had come to admire.  Since then, I learned that Susan wasn't only passionate about her land, but about her culture as well.  She is documented as a Consultant in Sydney Lamb's 1953 Western Numic Field Notes recordings that are located today in various libraries throughout California.  Now a voice with a picture..


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Our County's School Board (not the Trustee type) Books!

When I began working in the California Room, I came across some early school books that were created in 1938. The Books (30 in total), were created in collaboration with the Madera County Office of Education, and each one was created by school students and staff during 1938.

In general, the School Board Books (as we call them) provide a considerable amount of detail regarding the area and population where the schools were located .  Several of the schools were located in the Eastern part of Madera County where a number of Native American families lived and where their children received their education.  The Books from Manzanita and Picayune are just a few examples that provide both written and photographic information about the native people and their culture during this time period. 

Picayune School Board Book 1938
Manzanita School Board Book 1938

The Chenot Family, Inez, Josie, Julia, Louisa and Viola
Picayune School Board Book, 1938.

Picayune School was located at Picayune, near Coarsegold, California.  Picayune is also the name of the Rancheria for the Chukchansi Band of Yokut Indians.  Many of the Chukchansi children, along with white children,  attended school at Picayune until it closed in the mid-1950's.

"Closing Day Ceremonies" Picayune School May 27, 1938

Isn't this picture a classic? Complete with handmade hats and flags-a-wavin'!  Love it!

Manzanita School Board Book 1938

Many of Madera's early residents worked for the Sugar Pine Lumber Company.  "In the early days, when the mills were running, nearly everyone was dependent on the lumber companies in some way or another.  Whether you were a logger, railroad engineer, Doctor, whatever...everyone, in some way, was dependent on the lumber companies" Lou Davis, North Fork Mono Indian. (1)

Manzanita School included these and other  pictures that reflected the importance of the lumber industry in their school's area.

Poor Old Betsie got melted down to make bullets.

Our School Board Book Collection is one that is appreciated by viewing in person. Whether you descend from one of our local Native American families, or are a Family Historian whose family member settled in Madera County during the Gold Rush, these Books provide a wealth of historical information and photos. For those patrons who are unable to personally come into the Library, I am working on an index for the School Board Books that I hope to have finished by the end of 2013.

(1) Oral History Interview with Lou Davis, Madera County Native American History Project, 2013, Madera County Library.

Monday, October 21, 2013

It’s Now or Never…

Welcome to my first blog post!  I’m hoping that by the end of typing this that the palms of my hands will quit sweating, but I’m not counting on it at this point. 

Many people have asked me why I still live in Madera and, more importantly, how did I become interested in History and Genealogy?  Well, the answer is pretty simple…20 years ago, I was at my parents home and my mom gave me a scrapbook and a box (actually it was a spotless Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket) of old photos and said “Here..these are taking up space, do you want them?” How could I say no?  There were old postcard photographs and tin types..even my parents wedding album!  I didn't recognize any of the photographs and the only information I could get out of her at the time, was that my 2nd Great-Grandfather, Charles Bludworth, was the first Sheriff of Merced County and he shot the bandit, Joaquin Murrieta.  End of story.
Charles Bludworth, my 2nd Great-Grandfather
Over the last 20 years, researching my family has led me in to a number of California's museums, archives, and libraries.  One library in particular was here in Madera when I discovered the library had a Genealogy Book Collection (imagine that!).  Soon after, I met our County Librarian, Ellen Mester, who asked if I would be interested in creating a Local History/Genealogy Room out of an existing space in the Library.  She didn't have to ask me twice and ever since that day, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. 

Through The Family Room, I hope to share genealogy resources, as well as discovering interesting facts and stories about Madera County and our golden State!