A Load of Chickens  

Letter # 10; 12 October 1863

‘Dear Sister Mary, Eva sent me a letter containing two treasury notes. The notes were from a legacy. I bought five hundred pounds of wheat with one of them. The man took the note on condition he could do anything with it. The people are afraid of the notes.’

This was during the hottest part of the Civil War. Some of the folks in Lake County were afraid the value of treasury notes might corrode if the Confederation managed to become a separate country.

‘Emory will take the notes to San Francisco and take a discount. At any rate, I have some wheat. I intend to go right on raising chickens. It is very nice to have eggs again and if there is need, I can sell some. Last week I got thirty-five cents a dozen for them.’

‘After waiting two months for the money market to get better (it got worse) Emory went to San Francisco in July and came back with a check. They took off fifteen percent…. fifty-one dollars. We had no idea there would be that much until the check arrived for $335. There will be another $300 for each of the heirs.’

 Times were getting better for Susan and Emory.

‘Emory can lay out the money for needful tools and he bought a mule and a cow with a calf. Now we will have milk all winter. We owe money to people, who trusted us, so fifty dollars goes to pay for Dead Horses. Emory will soon go to San Francisco to buy a plow, grindstone, cultivator, hoes, and a good supply of groceries as money allows. Emory bought two big hogs to put in the pork barrel. For people in the country the pork barrel or smoke house is the standby. Beef or mutton is an occasional treat. We have not had candles since last spring. We are going to have lamps and kerosene and put an end to these dark evenings. (When I was younger) I would never have believed people could get along until I tried it.’

Susan’s sister Mary, knowing Susan’s sorry living condition, urged Mary to leave Emory and come back east with the family. Mary and her husband, Gardner, have two sons and four daughters. They are well off and able to take care of Susan and her children. They already care for Fanny, Susan and Mary’s other sister. Susan responds to Mary’s urging to come east and leave Emory in certain terms.

‘Mary, no indeed. I could not think of leaving Emory and taking my children away from him. The joy of his heart, the light of his life would be gone from him. It would be cruel. I thank you for your warm sisterly love but there is a rift in the clouds and better times are opening for us. …… Susan.’

      Letter # 11;7 December 1863

‘Dear Mary, Emory went to San Francisco with a load of chickens. He sold them for six dollars a dozen. On his way home, he had the misfortune to turn over on a bad piece of road. One of the chicken coups was smashed and some fowl that he had not sold, were killed. The fowl roosted in some bushes and he caught most of them and made a coup on the spot from boards laying around an unoccupied house. It is an awful road.’

The old Hopland Trail from Lakeport to Hopland, was precarious. Even today, trucks are cautioned not to take the steep turns and sheer drops at the higher passes of the mountain.

‘Now about the barrel Emory brought. When I opened it the old lady in Scotts Valley, Mrs. Moore, was in attendance, happy to be at the opening. I handed the things out and she examined each one and exclaimed, counting the towels, pairs of stockings, and the skirts, I am sure so she could report correctly. Mrs. Moore has shown me favors. When she came by, she would say.’ We just had a killing. I thought you would like a side of beef.”

What follows next in Susan’s letter is a page filled with a detailed recital of each of the bonnets, drawers, petticoats, dresses, stockings, table cloths, towels, yarn for knitting, needles, scrubbing brush, and shoes, who they would fit best and a description of each.

‘Everything in the barrel is so acceptable and valuable to us. With love to you all, your affectionate sister, Susan.’

Next Episode: a Dolly Worth Kissing

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

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

Website: genepaleno.com


To enjoy more of Gene’s writing and read his books

visit Gene’s website; http://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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