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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 39: SLOW NEWS DAY

If you’ve ever wondered what the papers in 1886 had to write about, there was a particular day in that year when they had no news. That fact alone made this short story interesting.

It was a ‘slow news day’. The owner of the local newspaper, the Clear Lake Courier, was desperate. C.B. Woods, then Editor, had nothing to print that day except want ads and an advertisement for Major Stallings Miracle Hair Restorer. He badly needed news to fill the front page of his paper. Editor Woods sent his ace reporter into the street to dig up whatever news he might find. This what he found:

“I was directed by my employer to find a good story to put into the next issue of the Courier. News had been slow of late. Not much was doing in the county. I made inquiries of several citizens. The few that were still awake, among the several asleep in front of the Hay and Feed store and those on the street that were vertical and seemed to be going somewhere on business, had nothing of interest to report.  I next retired to seek out news from the two lawyers in town.”

“One said, upon being asked, ‘Legal business in Lakeport has been slow.’ The other remarked with a sad smile, his unhappiness plain, ‘The citizens of Lakeport and the County have been on such good behavior and with a willingness to pay their just debts, there has not been a Lawsuit, either criminal or civil, for the last twelve months. I am closing my office to go hunting.’”

“At noon I wandered to the Courthouse. I hoped one of the officers had a speck of interesting gossip to give me. When I came into the building there were evident signs that the edifice had housed inhabitants at one time. Nevertheless, on that day, there was no sign of any person having been there for I knew not how long.”

“As I cruised through the different offices, the doors were, either open wide, or the keys had been left in the locks on the outside…all except the Clerk’s office. I took a view of the interior of his room through the windows. The rain in Lake County had been coming down in torrents for several days and the Clerk’s office, that is on the ground floor, was in disarray. Several chairs and a table were swimming in the water.”

“In each office I examined, there was the usual stove to keep things warm. On this day, each stove I saw was wet and rusty. I was under the impression that the stoves had not been warmed or cleaned for a great length of several days. The Court House building and all that was inside reminded me of some old wasted dwelling place that had been deserted and given up to the abode of owls and bats.”

“Judge J.B. Holloway’s chambers presented a clue to what occurred. A note lay on his desk. It read as follows; ‘To whom it may concern, I have retired from my jurisprudence to take temporary employment with Jenkins Feed and Grain Establishment. I am ready to return to conduct a hearing at any time. Please call.’ It was signed by the judge and, when I looked closely, I detected the stains of a tear or two on the paper. “

“Making further inquiries of a weary-looking gentleman, who was wandering about the Courthouse, I learned that the County Officers had been compelled, for lack of business, to revert to other occupations to procure a livelihood. The Sheriff, J.C. Crigler, was dealing in cord wood and swapping horses. The Clerk, Sarshel Bynum, was tending his garden. Woods Crawford, the District Attorney, was hunting quail. The County Treasurer, J.B. Cook, had gone back to his old hobby of mending clocks and gun locks. My informant told me there were some other limbs of the law working in the Court House at one time but, during this last year, they all starved to death.”

The Clear Lake Courier was started October 6, 1866, by J.F.P. Farley and C.B. Woods. Editor Woods retired in January of 1867 and Lewis Music soon took his seat in the editorial chair for a few months. Farley never seemed to be much of a responsible publisher. The newspaper ended its life in January of 1871. The paper was taken over two months later, in March, by John H. Goldsmith. It was renamed The Avalanche.

A few months after this report of slow business in Lake County, quite happily and to the Editor’s delight, things got livelier. There were several murders, highwaymen accosted the stages on four occasions, the County Treasurer misplaced the County’s tax monies, and the Court House burned down.

Next Episode: You will learn more than you wanted to know about what lies on top of, and under Lake County and Wildcat Road.

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Website: genepaleno.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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