RAYMOND — It was the perfect way to spend a beautiful spring day — taking a drive through the Sierra foothills to the historic town of Raymond, and sharing in the festivities as another piece of history was dedicated by the Grub Gulch Chapter 41-49 of E Clampus Vitus.
The “Clampers” are well known for their ribald merrymaking and love of a good joke, but their true mission is the preservation of the history of the West, and Sunday’s event was to dedicate yet another monument to a piece of our local Gold Rush history.
About four dozen Red Shirts and interested citizens gathered at the Raymond Museum on May 1 for the unveiling of their latest monument, installed in front of a hydraulic monitor which was donated anonymously by an Ex-Grand Noble Humbug, and set up on the grassy expanse in front of the Museum.
With the beautifully restored caboose as a backdrop for the day’s proceedings, Steve Varner — historian for the day, as the the official historian had to answer the call of duty and show up for work — called everyone to assemble with a few blasts on his purple cornet.
“Hydraulic mining using monitors was popular by large mining operations. More material could be processed daily for significantly less cost and higher profitablity than other methods. Monitors larger than this one were common at the Malakof Diggings near Nevada City and throughout the Mother Lode. A much smaller monitor was reportedly used to tunnel mines here in the Madera County Foothills.” (text engraved on monument)
Through the use of monitors, high pressure jets of water were blasted through these nozzles, and miners could unearth material right down to the bedrock. But there was a huge downside. Massive amounts of material were dumped into streams and rivers, clogging them with debris and causing extensive flooding and erosion.
Farmers cried foul, as their fertile farmlands were covered with silt from the mining upstream. With the huge silt discharges into the river, flooding became a bigger and bigger problem, destroying not only rich farmlands, but towns as well. The war over hydraulic mining continued throughout the 1870s and 1880s. Farmers feuded with the miners, politicians got involved, and eventually the practice was outlawed on Jan. 7, 1884. (source http://www.goldrushnuggets.com)
Now an historic reminder of this controversial mining process is a permanent part of the displays at the Raymond Museum.
Thanks went out to Stinky (known in his other life as Bill Williams, owner of the Frontier Tavern in Raymond) for supplying the granite; to Rob, Stinky, CY and JJ for the wordsmithing; to Gateway Memorials for the engraving; to Rockstackers Keith and Kurt and all the brethren who helped reassemble the monitor and build the site; and to Wayne and Lynn Northrup, owners of the museum and lovers of the area, its history and the community.
After the new monument was unveiled, followed by a ceremonial baptism with the finest whiskey (well, maybe not the finest…) the Clampers acquiesced to the request for a photo op, and loudly declared their work to be “Satisfactory!”
Before the whiskey was even dry on the new monument, the Clampers were busy in the shade of a large tree on the museum lawn making plans for their next project, this one in the Ahwahnee area working with the Disabled American Veterans.
And if you’re looking for a great way to spend some time, take a glimpse into the past at the Raymond Museum, located in the Charles Miller house, the first residence in this town once known as “Wildcat Station.” You’ll learn why “All roads lead to Raymond” through extensive photographic displays, and experience what life was like for the early settlers to the area.
For more information on the Clampers and all the work they do to preserve the history of our area, spend some time enjoying the website of The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus Grub Gulch Chapter 41-49.
There are dozens of ECV monuments in the area, keeping mountain area history alive, and just waiting for a visit from you. Here are some – visit the website for a complete list: