Click Here to Print This Story!   Click Here to get a PDF Copy of this Story!   

Sunday, November 30, 1997

Elmira hotels, turkey shoots thrived in 1884

Kristin Delaplane

Livery stables, farms were the big businesses in town

The population of Elmira was about 300 people in 1884. The streets were in place and the residents were living in neat cottages painted and surrounded by shade trees.
If one chose to live in the area, for $1,200 you could buy John Gamble’s place. It included an eight-room house with closets and a bathroom (no running water), a smokehouse, two barns, a buggy shed, a well and a windmill with a tank. The acreage was planted in fruit trees and some grapevines.

The churches were represented with substantial buildings: the Catholics, Methodists and Christians. Rev. H.J. Seaman divided his time between the Christian Churches in Elmira and Winters. The ladies aid society of the Methodist Church had an ice cream and strawberry festival at the Star Hall during the strawberry harvest.

The public school was operated by D. G. Creighton and Miss Emma Keeney (or Kearney). When Miss Keeney wed later in the year, there were over 400 applicants for the vacated teaching position

Dr. S.M. Meeker was the town’s physician.

The town boasted a justice of the peace and notary of public. The deputy constable was Sturgill.

Elmira had grown to include a substantial number of businesses.

J. Allison & Co. and N. Scheeline & Co. were the two mercantile businesses in town. Scheeline also had a barley mill in operation.

C.M. Schneeline was a saddler and harness maker.

The blacksmiths included J.A. Collier, who later relocated to Vacaville. Collier, was reported in bad condition from yellow jaundice, but a short time later, Meeker confirmed that Collier was much improved.

Both Collier and the Cripps Bros. blacksmithing firm were mainly engaged in the manufacture of spring wagons. The Cripps Hall had been a meeting hall for the town, but the Star Hall replaced it and Stephen Cripps remodeled Cripps’ Hall into a dwelling house. William Cripps sojourned at the new Williams Hotel in Vacaville in 1884.

The two other blacksmithing businesses in town were operated by William Cadman and John P. Chord. Davis Turner purchased half interest in Chord’s business.

J.N. Hubert was a painter in town. J.E. Shurbert was just preparing to go into business and was fixing a paint shop in the rear of Cadman’s blacksmith shop. Thomas Ball also moved to Elmira to open a business as a painter and paperhanger.

A.W. Hamilton, boot and shoemaker, relocated next to Collier’s blacksmith shop. C.W. Simpkins arrived from the East. He established his shoe shop with R.B. March as a financial partner. Later in the year, A.W. Pierson opened a shoe shop near Scheeline’s store.

R.B. March, in preparing to retire, had his successful businesses up for sale. The main one was his livery business, the only livery stable in town.

The sale included two stables, 11-by-80 feet, eight horses, 10 buggies and carriages, two wagons, four sets of harness, and more.

His other business was a confectionery and fruit store. He also was selling his residence, which included eight furnished rooms. The premises included a total of five lots 25-by-140 feet.

A.W. Rogers operated the Elmira Harness Shop and advertised he furnished first-class goods and believed in quick sales and small profits. Rogers did work in carriage trimming and upholstering. He also reupholstered lounges and chairs. The business had been good and in 1884 Rogers had an addition built to his harness shop.

F.B. Chandler was operating a successful lumberyard and had branch yards in Madison and Winters. Chandler also acted as an auctioneer when there were a lot of cattle to sell. At that auction, the butcher from Vallejo, G.W. Farmer, got away with most of the meat.

Milliner Mrs. K. Dally was in Chandler’s Building. Mrs. Church and Hattie Mangus were local dressmakers. Andrew Kerr was the town’s merchant tailor.

Kerr enjoyed hunting and when the 1884 hunting season opened he and his friend W.W. Spaulding went out and bagged 96 ducks. This was the largest score on record for the season.

A while later, the Kerr family went away on a short trip. Thieves broke into the home and stole bedclothes and wearing apparel. The thieves, two tramps, were discovered at the depot in a boxcar and were carted off to the county jail. It was shortly after this that Kerr and the family moved to Winters.

M. Wolf was a tinner operating his business in Elmira.

Rogers and McKinney were butchers.

Thomas Price had a store carrying confectionery and drugs and he was the town’s postmaster. When the Sunset Telephone Co. erected a line in Elmira, Tom Price was to be the operator.

The hotels in town included Al Marston’s Elmira Exchange, which had a saloon attached and a feed stable connected to the premises. Turkey shoots had become a holiday tradition hosted by Marston. New Year’s Day, 1884, a large crowd arrived. The day ended with 10 turkeys being handed over to the sharp shooters.

Later that year, Marston would expand his business by renting Ed George’s barbershop. W.H. White of Suisun was the barber.

The year ended with Marston’s turkey shoot on Thanksgiving Day. Over 500 people came and 28 turkeys, 18 chickens, and 16 geese met the bullet. At Christmas, Marston hosted a masquerade ball.

Another ball was hosted by Chafe Sweizter, proprietor of the Sweitzer House. Forty couples danced at Star Hall and had supper at the Sweitzer House. The Sweitzer House provided good accommodations for all classes, clean beds and a good table.

The Elmira Hotel, which also had a saloon, was operated by Mrs. Myers. A shooting gallery was established in the rear that year. The hotel became news when a tramp robbed one of the boarders of $40 and an overcoat.

The Sherman House was operated by D.P. Carter. In December 1883, the widow Mrs. Ryan, after failing to sell her deceased husband’s business, was determined to operate the Sherman House on her own. This plan was short-lived as it turned out. In February, D. P. Carter leased the business.

A while later the former Sherman House had a new sign designating it the Carter House. Carter opened a saloon in connection with the hostelry. However, within a few months, Carter had determined the business was not for him. Tom Murphy purchased Carter’s saloon, and Carter had plans to take up farming.

The Stock Breeders Assn. was located in Elmira with M.D. Cooper as the manager. He was offering horses and jackasses for breeding purpose.

H. Shirley was the agent for the depot in Elmira and he was very busy the summer of 1884. The area around the train station was constantly full of farmer’s wagons bringing in barley and wheat for shipping. Hogs were also being shipped out regularly.

A.S. Cook and W.C. Strait were going into the hog business and they built a 64-foot hog corral for this purpose.

Farmer Ed Selecman was a bit too ambitious. He cut 40 bales of grain, but came close to ruining a valuable animal in doing so.

Orchardist John Brazil was raising 20 acres of corn among his fruit trees.

Two men from Elmira found work off-season in the Vaca hills cutting wood on some of the ranches.

The news items of 1884 included the following:

On the railroad line at Elmira, things sparked up when Conductor Knight ejected Suisun’s Dr. W.H. Robinson from the train for refusing to check his baggage. The case went to court and Knight was fined $20 on a battery charge. Then, Robinson sued the California Pacific Railroad. He won the judgment and was awarded $1,140.

Elmira’s thespians were rehearsing a play “Highways and Byways,’’ which was described as bright, breezy and totally rollicking fun. The play was scheduled a performance at the Star Hall.

Washington’s Birthday was a big celebration and the town had a grand ball to celebrate. Tickets were $1.

A grand traveling magic camera exhibition came to town.

The famed Elmira Brass Band ordered new silver mounted instruments. One of their first engagements with these new instruments occurred when they traveled to Madison to furnish music for a ball in that town.

The band also was on hand to play for a dance and roller-skating party at Oiler’s Grove. Mr. Oiler oversaw the supper table, which featured coffee, bread and butter.

An unidentified span of mules arrived at M.L. Vanpelt’s ranch of near Binghamton.

B.F. Pritchard had his son arrested for assault. The son turned around and made similar charges against his father.

Miss C. Romero was buried in Elmira in 1884. Romero qualified as an early-day pioneer. She had come to California from Sonora, Mexico, in 1850 with her sister. They established a bakery in Red Bluff, where she accumulated over $40,000. When she went to return to her homeland, she was captured by Indians and all her wealth went to the Apaches. She returned to California, lived in Oakland for some time and then came to Elmira.