Merchandising Memoirs of Eugene F. Rogers
Merchandizing Memoirs of Eugene F. Rogers
On Gene’s death, his son Allen gathered a collection of newspaper articles from the Santa Barbara News-Press that Eugene had dictated to the Rogers Furniture Store (928 State) bookkeeper, Florence McAllister, on days when business was slow. Florence had been encouraged to record Gene’s adventures by her husband “Mac” who was a News-Press reporter. Allen then presented the articles, along with some notes that his mother Mabel Goss Rogers had saved, to his daughter Catherine Rogers Goodfield and asked her to organize them for the family.
“Father” was well known as Ben Rogers. He was a farmer, merchant, and hotel keeper at East Walden, Vermont. When I was not in school, I clerked in his store until I was about sixteen years of age.
In the spring of the year 1869 I went to Boston and secured employment in the store of Ezra Allen, on Washington Street, for several months. I did not like this position as my salary was but five dollars weekly, and my meals and lodging amounted to six dollars weekly. I was offered a position with H.C. Hayden, agent for the Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Co., on the corner of summer and Washington Streets, at a salary of three hundred dollars a year. After working one month in the adjusting room, I asked to be put on a commission basis, soliciting orders for sewing machines. After working one year and saving eleven hundred dollars in commissions, I was offered a position with the Elias Howe Sewing Machine Company, New York City. I accepted it and was sent by them to Jersey City, where I opened an office on Grove Street. After six months I decided to return to the Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Company, Boston, where I was offered the agency for their machines at Lawrence and Haverhill, Massachusetts. I was in charge of this territory until my cousin, Hansen Rogers, came to see me and persuaded me to take a trip with him to Denver and Pueblo, Colorado, where I had another cousin, George W. Perkins, who had a small furniture store there.
My cousin Hansen and I traveled from New York on an immigrant train over the Erie route and connecting roads to Kansas City, and from there to Denver on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Just before we reached New York a ship arrived in port filled with German immigrants who were planning to settle in the middle states. My cousin and I had slender means and could not afford to travel on a first class ticket. These immigrant cars were attached to a freight train, consequently travel was slow, and there were no sleeping accommodations.
My cousin Hansen and I traveled from New York on an immigrant train over the Erie route and connecting roads to Kansas City, and from there to Denver on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Just before we reached New York a ship arrived in port filled with German immigrants who were planning to settle in the middle states. My cousin and I had slender means and could not afford to travel on a first class ticket. These immigrant cars were attached to a freight train, consequently travel was slow, and there were no sleeping accommodations.
After sitting up three nights in a crowded car full of German peasants, we decided to attempt boarding a faster train without a change of ticket. There was some objection on the part of the conductor, but he allowed us to go on to Kansas City, Mo. And there transfer to the Kansas Pacific R.R. Co., the only railroad in the West at that time.
In crossing the states of Kansas and Colorado we encountered many herds of buffalo on the plains. Hunters were slaughtering them in large numbers for their hides which we saw drying and piled in quantities at the various stations along the way ready for shipment. At one point an enormous herd of many hundreds were crossing the railroad track which delayed our train for three-quarters of an hour.
On the train we had several “three card monte” men and a few prospectors on their way to Denver, Colorado. On arriving at Denver we stopped at the “Ford Hotel”, a second rate house, owned by a colored man. “The United States” was the main hotel in the City.
Located on Cherry Creek was “The Cricket”, a famous gambling hall – The Monte Carlo of Denver. At this early day the population of Denver was only five thousand. After remaining in Denver, we decided to go to Pueblo. To Colorado Springs, at which place an English Colony had settled, we traveled on a narrow gauge railroad, thence by stage to Pueblo, as the railroad was then under construction.
Pueblo was located on the North bank of the Arkansas River and had from two to three thousand inhabitants at this time. Santa Fe Avenue was the main street, and the only hotel was the “Chilcoot House” where we stopped. While there, I went hunting for deer and antelope in the Greenhorn Mountains, stopping at the ranch of Peter Dobson about thirty miles away. During my stay at this ranch a band of Ute Indians appeared and in three days time killed more than a hundred deer. Antelope and deer were very numerous, also black bear.
After a few months in the West, I left my two cousins and started home, stopping on the way at Kansas City, where I spent two months selling machines for the Wheeler and Wilson Company, and earned enough money to purchase a ticket to St. Louis, Mo. On the road to St. Louis, our train ran off the tracks near Jefferson City and we were delayed one day. The train was wrecked and many passengers were injured. I could not afford a berth in the sleeping car, so about midnight, being hungry, I had walked forward to the baggage car and purchased some cookies of the train boy. At that moment the car in which I was riding began rolling down the embankment. When it finally came to a stop, I made my escape through a window unhurt, and I still had a cookie between my teeth. The shock was terrific and I trembled for an hour afterwards.
At St. Louis I sold Singer sewing machines until I had made enough money to take me to Columbus, Kentucky, on the opposite shore from Belmont, Missouri, where Grant fought his first battle. Here I remained a short time. I remember seeing a cat there which had lost a foot during the battle, having been struck by a minnie ball. Thence to Memphis, Tennessee, where I stopped with Jerry Lewis, who had been a captain in the Southern Army. An epidemic of small pox was raging while I was there, and many deaths occurred. I was employed by the Singer Sewing Machine Company to sell machines, and I also sold pianos for a piano firm whose name I have forgotten. It was located on Madison Street, opposite the Carolina Insurance Company of which Jefferson Davis, formerly of the Southern Confederacy, was president. I used to see him almost every day. Walking on the streets I very often saw General Forrest of Cavalry fame, who had a suburban home there. Frequently I visited the Fay Six Hotel – the famous hotel of Memphis during wartime. During the months I was there the Mardi Gras took place, and the keys of the City were given to King Momus. My friends and I masked and visited the seven different halls that were given over to dancing. When everyone unmasked, much to our surprise we found that our dancing partners were colored girls.
After earning money enough, I thought, to take me home, I purchased a ticket for Cincinnati on the packet boat, Andy Baum. Our passenger list was composed of a New York theatrical company and orchestra who had been playing during the winter at the Grand Opera House at Memphis. We were two weeks making the trip, as we stopped at all the little landing places along the Mississippi River, loading and unloading freight. We passed our time playing poker and drinking whisky on the boat, and the hour or two we were ashore at each landing place we spent in talking to the natives, both black and white. The service was very good – the dining room was on the upper deck, and when the colored waiters began to set the tables we would sit around and from sheer deviltry, say as they would come in from the kitchen, “Sam, Sam, Alabasam!” in time to their varying gait – some slow, some quick. We got the poor fellows so flustered that they refused to go on with their work.
On arrival at Cincinnati the actors went out for a good time and were arrested. One of them, being chased by a policeman, turned and shot the officer wounding him severely. John Robinson (son of the John Robinson of circus fame), proprietor of the “Main Theatre” where this theatrical company was to play, heard of the difficulty into which the actor had fallen and went to the courthouse when the trail came off, interceded for him, and succeeded in getting him free.
After leaving the boat, I never saw the actors again. I had spent all my money on the trip up from Memphis, so I again went to work for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. I was fairly successful in my machine selling in Cincinnati, and getting impatient to start homeward, I sold out my commissions on machines to a fellow for forty or fifty dollars. After paying my board and room rent, I had only enough money left to purchase a ticket to Montreal. When I arrived at Montreal I decided to telegraph to Father for money, but upon leaving the hotel to cross the street to go to the telegraph office, I looked down on the sidewalk and saw a five dollar Canadian bill, so instead of telegraphing I took the bill into a hotel lobby where a poker game was in progress. After I had watched the players for a while, one of them left, and I asked permission to take his place. I played for some hours and then left with twenty dollars in my pocket. The next day I took the train for Walden Heights to visit the family.
After a week I left for Boston and again was employed by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Through Zenas Bangs, the Sewing Machine agent with headquarters in Boston, I secured the agency of northern New Hampshire, including Plymouth, making my headquarters at Littleton at Daddy Thayer’s Hotel. I had local agencies at Whitefield, Kent, at Griswold’s in Lancaster, Groveton Hotel, Groveton, also at Berlin, and at New Stratford.
The machines were sold on a commission basis and at that time machines were in great demand and business was good. Being young and fond of a good time, I did not work as hard as I should have. There were many young people in Littleton at that time, and, during the winter months especially, there were many dancing parties. I attended these parties not only in Littleton, but in the surrounding towns – even going as far as Plymouth to a dance at the old Pemigewasset House. Among my girl friends in Littleton were Esther Young, Flora Hoyt, Alice Jackson, Mary Poore, Ella George, Emma Kennedy, Mary Ward, Mrs. E. Flint, and Anna Jennison. The young men in Littleton with whom I chummed were Ezra Holmes, Cephas Brackett, Frank Thayer, Henry Thayer, Tod Bellows, James Jackson, William Tilton and Sewall Schute. In Lancaster I counted as my friends Nellie Burns, George Kent, and the Hopkinson family.
I continued with my work until 1873, when I gave it up and returned to Vermont where my father and I planned a trip to California. I had previously contemplated taking a sea voyage to South America, stopping off at Buenos Aires where, I had been told, there was an excellent opening for a Singer Sewing Machine agent, but upon reaching home and talking matters over with Father, I decided to join him on a trip to California. Father had become very tired of the cold, severe winters and was anxious to go to a milder climate. About this time Father received a letter from his cousin, Guy White, who had left Vermont some time before and gone West, finally settling in Santa Barbara, California. He wrote a glowing account of this beautiful country, with its mild climate and almost perpetual sunshine, and this letter was really what decided us to start for the West.
Early in the fall of 1873, we left home, going by rail to Boston and there taking the Fall River Line to New York. Then we purchased tickets to San Francisco for a hundred dollars each on the steamer Acapulco of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. The stewards were all colored, and the water through the Gulf was so rough that most of the passengers were seasick. After ten days we arrived at Aspinwall, where we took a train for a days ride across the Isthmus to Panama. The heat was intense, and at the halfway station on the Chagres River we refreshed ourselves with fruits, among them a species of banana found only on the Isthmus, a short and thick banana. At Panama there had been an insurrection, and for the safety of the passengers, a company of Mexican troops accompanied us to our steamer, China by name, also of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. On this steamer the stewards were all Chinese. We made one stop at Acapulco along the Mexican coast, which had a fine harbor, and we went ashore and visited a famous old fort. Thence we went without a further stop up the California coast to San Francisco. The trip from New York to San Francisco lasted thirty-six days. In San Francisco we were obliged to stay over for a couple of days before getting a streamer to Santa Barbara, and here we received our introduction to the California fleas, which were so annoying that we could not sleep. Our sail down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Barbara on the steamer Constantin, Captain Harlow in command took three days.
Upon our arrival in Santa Barbara, we went directly to the home of Mr. Guy White on East Victoria Street. His family consisted of his wife and son George, then about two years of age, and a Miss Brown, a sister of Mrs. White. After being in Santa Barbara a month, Father was so favorably impressed with the City that he decided to remain and make it his permanent home, so he purchased the vacant lot on the corner of Laguna and East Victoria Street, adjoining Mr. White’s property, for fifteen hundred dollars in gold. At that time California was on a gold basis. Currency was worth only seventy-three cents and did not become par for several years, and as Father had brought only currency from the East, this had to be exchanged for gold before purchasing the land for the new home. Santa Barbara had then a population of only three thousand; two thirds of whom are native Californians. The prominent men of the city were Mortimer Cook, who was president of the First National Bank and soon afterward made Mayor, and John P. Stearns who built the new wharf. The Court House had just been completed, and the old Arlington Hotel was under construction. The Santa Barbara College was organized by Elwood Cooper, Col. William W. Hollister, Charles E. Huse, and others, but was headed by Mrs. Elwood Cooper and located in the building built for the college on the site where the present San Marcos Building stands. C. A. Storke came to Santa Barbara under contract to join the faculty of this College, which was founded as a means of providing a higher course of study than the town schools at that time afforded. There were both day and boarding pupils. The Old Mission furnished water for the City – the reservoir being in Mission Canyon. Back of the Mission and on the surrounding hills were Government lands that were later filed on by different claimants. There were very few homes in Montecito.
In the Spring of 1874, at the suggestion of Father, I took the steamer Senator to San Francisco, and then went East by rail over the Central and Union Pacific railroads, which had recently been completed. The purpose of this trip was to close out all business Father had left in Vermont, and to bring Mother and Brother Herbert back to Santa Barbara. In this time father planned to have the new home ready to move into. Upon arrival at East Walden, I made arrangements to hold an auction to sell the stock of merchandise and all real estate. My Uncle Norman, Mother’s brother, purchased the Hotel, and his widow, Aunt Ann, still makes her home there. Great interest and excitement was shown in our plans by the neighbors. Before leaving for the West, a farewell reception was held for Mother, and friends from Cabot, Hardwick, and Danville came to bid her goodbye. My Sister was married and living in Boston at this time. Her husband, Lawrence Lilly, was in the employ of the Boston and Lowell Railroad Company. The square piano, set of china dishes with gold band, and many other household articles highly prized by Mother were packed and shipped to California.
We left early in the fall of 1874 by rail for Boston, thence to New York be the Fall River Line. The steamer Colima carried us as far as Aspinwall. A rough sea down the Atlantic coast and through the Gulf stream made us all seasick – in fact, Mother was very sick the entire trip of thirty-two days to San Francisco and was confined to her stateroom. Among the passengers were Mr. and Mrs. William R. Boyce, who settled in San Francisco where Mr. Boyce was connected for many years with the San Francisco Bulletin. In later years they moved to Santa Barbara to be near Mr. Boyce’s aged parents, and here Mrs. William Boyce still makes her home. The nephew of the president of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company was also aboard. Our trip across the isthmus to Panama was made in a day and my experience not unlike that of the year before – intense heat and an abundance of fruit – especially bananas. At Panama we boarded the steamer, Granada of which Captain Cavalry was in charge. Our only stop was at Acapulco, where we went ashore, and some of our party got into serious difficulties. This nephew of the President of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company with other young men upon arrival at Acapulco, visited the saloons, drank heavily, and becoming quarrelsome, shot at some of the natives, wounding one man severely. A battalion from the fort was called out to quell the disorder, and this young man was arrested. He was held for trial, while the soldiers accompanied the rest of the passengers to the steamer, and we set sail for San Francisco. There were added to our passenger list at Acapulco some Spanish young people, who’s home was in Guatemala – children of coffee planters. They with their musical instruments and dancing furnished entertainment each evening for us on the upper deck. During the days my time was spent principally playing poker, but I have no remembrance of losing much. Most of the way from Panama and Acapulco we experienced vivid lightening and heavy thunder, and after passing the Gulf of California, we ran into a very severe northwest gale, causing much fear among the passengers lest we be unable to weather the storm.
Upon arrival at San Francisco we were transferred to the steamer Orizaba with Captain Alexander, who took us down to Santa Barbara. We found that Father had the new home finished, and there on the corner of East Victoria and Laguna Streets we lived for many years.
I at once made arrangements with a Mr. McKenzie, the Western Singer Sewing Machine agent, to sell machines. They gave me as my district three counties: Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles. I soon found my territory too great and confined my work to Ventura and Santa Barbara, selling many machines in Goleta, Montecito, Carpinteria, and also in Ventura. I dissipated quite a little and traveled with a gay set. There were frequent dances at night and always on Sunday afternoons at the Lobero Theatre, commencing at one o’clock and continuing until midnight. Father disapproved of my keeping such late hours and frequently said he feared I would end on the gallows. Mother always took sides with me, and although Father regularly locked the front door the nights I was out, Mother saw to it that the backdoor was left unfastened. One night I stayed out much later than usual, and fearing I might disturb the family, I took off my shoes before entering the house, but as I opened the door quietly, much to my surprise, there was Father making the kitchen fire for breakfast.
The Carrillos, Cavarrubias, Martins, Andronagnis, and Packards were some of the families to whose homes I often went and was entertained. During this year General Fremont visited Los Angeles and sent from there invitations to his former friends in Santa Barbara to go down there to meet him. One day I was walking down State Street when I met a Tom Martin, an illiterate fellow, who handed me a telegram which he had just received from General Fremont. He said, “Yes, that’s from Fremont all right. I know his handwrite.”
In December of this year, I went to Los Angeles to attend the County Fair, which was held on the grounds near where the Hamburger Department Store was later located (now the May Co.) Returning by stage rain began to fall soon after we left Los Angeles, and by the time we reached Conejo, the adobe mud was so deep that we were obliged to remain over for two days before continuing our journey. Caesar Latillade was one of my fellow passengers.
One of the famous trials of these early days was that of a Mr. Cotton and Mrs. Norton, charged with the murder of Mr. Norton who lived with his wife at the Rincon. This Cotton, a tramp, stopped at the Norton home and asked for work. Mr. Norton employed him, and he was the cause later of winning over the affection of Mrs. Norton. Together this Cotton and Mrs. Norton killed her husband and buried his body in the sand nearby the home. The body was later found, and the guilty pair drove to Santa Ana where they sold the team and fled to the northern part of the State. They were traced and brought back to Santa Barbara for trial, convicted, and sent to San Quentin for life.
In the year 1875, Father opened a grocery store on the corner of State and West Figueroa Street, renting the building from Augustine Jansens. I was affiliated with Father, and in addition to carrying groceries we had sewing machines. As though these two branches of business were not sufficient to occupy my time, I became interested in hunting seals and sea otter, and also in gathering abalone shells on the Channel Islands. For these purposes I purchased first the schooner, Surprise, and later two schooners, Keturah and N.B. George and Jake Nidever, Manuel Cordero, Antonio Cavarillo, Jose Espinosa, and Charles Brown were employed by me on these boats. Some of the seals were shipped east for exhibition purposes. Others were killed, the hides sold to be converted into leather, the oil used for various purposes, and the trimmings going to Chinamen. I had fifteen to twenty Chinamen employed in prying the abalone off the rocks at the islands. The abalone shells were shipped to Baltimore and London to be made into buttons, while the abalone meats were boiled and dried and then shipped to San Francisco and from there to China.
After spending a year in the grocery business in the Jansens building, Father decided to retire, so my brother, Alvah, who had come on from the East, and I opened a grocery store in the Mortimer Cook building on State Street where the Cornwall store later stood, and the firm was named “Rogers Brothers”.
The year 1875 is remembered as the “dry year”, having only about five inches of rain. The ranchers suffered heavy losses from the dying of their cattle due to the lack of feed.
In the spring of 1876 I leased Jacques Ranch, which afterwards became the Spiritualistic Colony of Summerland, and put down two oil wells. I sent back to Pennsylvania for machinery and an engineer and drilled five or six hundred feet. One of the wells was worked and our tools were dropped down into the other and lost, so we abandoned both, concluding that the oil we found was merely a seepage and it would be better to get at the source of the supply back in the mountains, and then we formed the “Santa Barbara Oil Company”. About the same time we put down two wells at Camulos, but being on government land and having no railroad connections, these wells also were given up. I was called the “Oil King” and was persuaded by my friends to run for the Mayorship at the election in the fall of 1876. I was defeated by thirty-five votes, and Mr. Chamberlain was elected Mayor.
In January 1877, a severe southeaster destroyed the wharf and all freight passengers had to come ashore in lighters. I had two built and named them the Oil King and the Baptist Dugout. About three hundred feet of the end of the wharf was left standing at which the ships tied up and were unloaded. The lighter propelled by a rope attached at one end to a post firmly sunk in the sand and at the other to an anchor not far from the wharf. The freight and passengers were transferred to the lighters and taken as near to the shore as possible, but it was still necessary for the sailors to wade knee-deep in order to carry the women passengers to land.
In the spring, Caesar Lataillade, who had been elected as councilman from the third ward (called the “Bloody Third”, resigned to make a trip to Spain, and I, living in this ward, was chosen to succeed him.
During this year the County National Bank had built for us a structure on the site now occupied by the Holiday Hardware Company to be used for a grocery store in connection with the other one we were conducting. About this time my sister Mary and her husband, Lawrence Lillie, moved out here from Boston and he was made our bookkeeper. Some of my employees were Al Pierce, Fred Pierce, Will Higgins and Eugene George. As Alvah was here to take charge of the grocery business, I took the opportunity to go to Guadalupe Islands, Lower California, on a sea-otter trip.
The schooner Surprise had for her crew Manuel Cota, Jose Olivas, Antonio Cavarillo, and young Knox, a brother of Dr. Knox of Santa Barbara, and of Philander Knox, one-time Secretary of War. Also George and Jake Nidever, sons of Captain George Nidever, who discovered the woman on San Nicholas Island and whose history in later years was written and appeared in the Scribner’s Magazine. Captain Nidever brought the woman to his home here in Santa Barbara, where she received so much attention and was given so much food to which she was not used, that she only lived about three months. Her clothing was made of skins, which was preserved and can now be seen at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
We stopped all along the way at Coronado Islands, Descancia bay, Ensenada, and Cape Everrett, succeeding in shooting a few otter, but it was at San Vicente that we ran into a school of two hundred, and out of that number managed to get about forty. No shooting of sea otter had ever been done there and they were very tame, coming close to our boat. We took them to San Martin to clean and dry the skins. At this time the skins were only worth about fifty dollars apiece, but in later years they brought anywhere from five hundred to a thousand dollars. We anchored off San Quintin Bay and with a small boat rowed up close to shore and walked across a salt marsh to the home of the son of Judge Hyde of San Francisco, for whom Hyde Street was named. He had married a Spanish woman and lived there. He invited us to his home where he had a still and treated us to a drink of Mescal. We were unfamiliar with it, and not realizing its strength, became intoxicated. There were many stingrays in those shallow waters which we had carefully avoided in going ashore, but in returning across the marsh to the boat we were in no condition in mind or body to look out for them.
The otter were killed by using a muzzle-loaded gun in the hands of an expert, who stood up in the bow of the boat. The game was very exciting, as the otter would dive and then appear some distance away. In all we killed fifty-five. We stayed some time in this locality still looking for the school, but never saw it again.
We were gone on this cruise three months, much longer than we had intended, and the report went abroad that we were all lost. The families of my crew visited the Catholic Church and offered prayers for their husbands, sons, and brothers. When we did actually return there was great rejoicing and we were the center of attraction. Soon after my return from Lower California I began making trips to the Channel Islands for sea lion and sea otter. There were always sea lions to be found on the rocks of Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, and we knew of a small school of otter near these islands on the other side of San Miguel. We captured the sea lions by lassoing them, but the otter by shooting. The coasts of both Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands were rocky and dangerous. On these trips we used the three schooners, Surprise, N.B., and Keturah. The first two were wrecked and the third we afterwards sold. San Miguel Island was government land, but I owned a possessory right of half the island with the sheep, which I later turned over to Captain Waters.
We were unfortunate in the several trips made in losing a number of our men both by drowning and accidental shooting. Pedro Garcia, Pelican, so called because of his long neck, and a colored boy, all drowned. Ventura Indian Bill, the cook, and another Indian lost their lives by being shot. On one of these trips Antonio Cavarillo and I went ashore on Santa Rosa Island while the rest were on San Miguel. While there a severe southeast storm arose, and for two weeks, we were obliged to remain and find shelter under an overhanging ledge in a small cave. We hung a small canvas taken off our boat at the entrance to the cave to keep some of the rain off of us, but it was still pretty wet. Lying on our backs for so long a time on the damp sand I took cold and later was a great sufferer from sciatica. In addition to my rheumatism due to the exposure, I coughed a great deal until I brought on my hemorrhages, which confined me to my bed, for a week. During this illness I had plenty of time to think and plan for the future. The warm dry climate of Arizona appealed to me, and I decided that as soon as I was able I would go there.
The Southern Pacific Railroad Company was completed for a few miles east of Yuma, but from there to Tucson we had to go by stage, which took us two days. We traveled day and night sitting up the entire distance. Every twenty miles or so we stopped at stage stations and changed horses. While in Tucson I leaned of Harshaw, sixty miles away and only ten miles from the Mexican border. This was a new mining camp near which was the Hermosa mine in the Patagonia Mountains, where a Mr. Gillette, a mining operator, was building a twenty stamp mill. Here in Harshaw I did my first merchandising in Arizona. I purchased my stock in Tucson, and there being no lumber with which to build, was obliged to make use of a tent, twenty-five feet by fifty feet. Later I erected a granite structure from rock found close by. In connection with the store at Harshaw I opened another at Washington camp, twelve miles away, which George Metcalf of Santa Barbara managed for Rogers Brothers. We were also interested in some mining claims there. These stores were in a way an outlet for our Santa Barbara stores – our eggs and butter coming from there, also much of our canned fruit, which was put up by the packing plant of Sheffield and Dimmick. Our trade was principally with the Mexicans who came over the line and smuggled their purchases back across. Business was good and I was making a hundred percent profit in most everything. In the one year I made fifteen thousand dollars. There was a very rough element in Harshaw – shooting frays and robberies were of frequent occurrence.
I continued in business for a year in Harshaw and then sold out to Mark Ezekiels. On my last trip to Harshaw from Tucson the stage had just reached Camp Crittenden, an old government post, over a very rough road when it tipped over. I was riding on the outside with the driver, and my hip was quite severely injured, laying me up for two weeks.
My next move was to Bisbee, where I first purchased the interest of Lazard of the firm of Lazard and Jones, but later bought out Jones too. They were the only merchants in Bisbee, and furnished supplies to the Copper Queen Mining Company. There were three hundred men employed in the lower levels of the mine. At the smelter there were a hundred men, and we employed fifty men to cut wood and timber for the mine. The smelter men were paid in cash, but the Copper Queen Mining Company paid the miners by check on the tenth of each month.
Alvah and I were, with others, interested in the Holbrook and Cave mines, which were an extension of the Copper Queen, and we later sold out to the Copper Queen Company for seventy-five thousand dollars. At that time copper was only worth four cents a pound with no prospect, as far as we could see, of its ever bringing any more.
There was no bank in Bisbee, so it was necessary for us to go to the bank in Tombstone for money with which to cash the checks issued by the Copper Queen so that we could pay our employees. The Wells Fargo stage had been robbed several times by two desperadoes, Curly Bill and Frank Stillwell, so at this time the express messenger had been taken off this route entirely. One day in returning from Tombstone to Bisbee, thirty miles away, on horseback, with considerable money, I was intercepted by a robber who was also on horseback. He accosted me and suggested that I take the lead. We had just come to a woodcutter’s camp where I hastily decided to remain over and let the desperado go on. Although he had not yet molested me in any way, I felt sure that he was only waiting his chance when he would rob me and possibly shoot to kill. At about this same time the Indians got off the San Carlos reservation and on the outskirts of Bisbee they attacked some ranchers who were cutting hay, wounding one of them. A posse was organized at Bisbee, but by the time the men arrived the Indians had gotten away to Galeyville where many of the inhabitants entrenched themselves in a mining shaft to escape. Word was sent to Tombstone for aid but a number of the prospectors in the mountains were killed. These Indians belonged to the Geronimo outfit.
Father visited me while doing business in Bisbee, but decided not to remain long when he found it such a rough and lawless place. One evening during his stay with me James Connelly was killed in a saloon by a man named Hunt, a dealer of faro. They got into a dispute over the game and Hunt shot three times into Connelly’s body. I was in the saloon at the time, and I, with others, hid behind the stove. When I went home and told Father about it he decided to leave at once for Santa Barbara. He said he would not live in such a place. Shortly after this I sold my store and stock at Bisbee to Goldwater and Castenada.
As there was no bank in Bisbee, Castenada had to leave almost immediately for Tombstone to get money to use on the tenth of the month in cashing checks as I had been in the habit of doing. Evidently he was being watched in the Tombstone bank by some desperate characters, for he had not been back at the Bisbee store for more than a half hour when five men, all on horseback, arrived by another trail on the edge of town. One of the five men was left in charge of the horses, the other four went up town to the store – two of them were stationed outside the building and did not allow anyone to enter – the other two walked inside and ordered Mr. Goldwater, at the point of a gun, to open the safe, provide them with a sack and empty into it all watches and valuables, which belonged to the miners working under ground, that the safe contained. Then they walked to the rear of the store where Castenada was lying on a cot and ordered him to turn over to them the three thousand he had just brought over from Tombstone. While all this was going on inside the building, the two men outside were busy shooting. A man named John Tappiner was walking in front of the store and the desperadoes called to him to stop and hold up his hands; he laughed at them, supposing them to be joking, but they immediately shot him. A man by the name of Smith, hearing the shooting, crossed the street to the store and said to the desperadoes, “I am the deputy sheriff”, and they said, “You are just the man we are looking for”, and shot him. Across the street they killed a man called Texas and wounded Indian Joe. A Mrs. Roberts, who kept a restaurant nearby, hearing a commotion ran to her doorway and they shot her also. The robbers then went back quietly to their horses and left town. While all this was going on there were three hundred miners not more than five hundred feet away in the lower levels of the Copper Queen mine, but it was all done so quickly, and the people were so taken by surprise that the miners knew nothing about it. The robbers rode back to Tombstone and then started for Mexico, but one of the five was captured and put in jail. The next day the populace broke open the jail and hung the robber to a telegraph pole. After a few months the other four men were caught in Sonora, Mexico, brought back to Tombstone and tried. They were found guilty, and Clark, the sheriff, erected a staging and hung all four at the same time.
My next business venture was in Benson, where I purchased from Germain and Montgomery their warehouse at the railroad station and store building on the main street. Here I did a jobbing business all along the San Pedro River, and various army posts. In addition to the Benson store, I opened one at Fairbanks, eighteen miles from Tombstone, which was under the management of George N. Kent and Sam Katzerstein. I also bought another store at Nogales of which my brother, Herbert, took charge.
The Santa Fe people were at this time building the N.M. and A.R.R. from Benson through Nogales to Guaymas, Mexico. For six years I did the government freighting for the following army posts – Fort Grant, Fort Thomas, Fort Huachuca, Fort Bowie and San Carlos – also field forage for Captain Lawton’s and Captain Lebo’s companies, and for Lieutenant Johnson’s troops in the Whetstone Mountains, for whom Dr. Leonard Wood, who then ranked as Second Lieutenant, was the physician. We also had the contracts for one million pounds of grain and the same for hay for Fort Huachuca. We supplied Captain Lawton’s company who went into Sonora in pursuit of the Apaches under Geronimo. These Indians killed something like a hundred people in the surrounding mountains and had carried a woman from Calabassas with them into Mexico, but they were so closely followed by the soldiers, that they left the woman behind and fled. I had gone to Nogales with Captain Lawton to interpret to the Mexican authorities the reason for his soldiers crossing the line that no trouble might arise later between the countries. Colonel Royal, General Miles, and Lieutenant Dupray also came down to Nogales to learn the success of Lawton’s trip. With them I returned to Fort Huachuca. I recall Lieutenant Dupray inquiring of General Miles why Lieutenant Davis who had grown gray in the service, had not been promoted, General Miles replied, “You may become gray too before you get a promotion.” This caused considerable merriment.
I was the postmaster at Benson, and had to sort all the mail for Mexico, counting the letters and receiving a receipt from the Mexican postmaster for letters sent. I employed a hundred men and teams from St. David, a Mormon settlement, twelve miles from Benson, who did my freighting to Huachuca, Tombstone and various other points. We owned out in the Galuria Mountains two thousand head of cattle which had been driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in charge of William Roche. Our plan was to develop this land into a large cattle ranch, but later we sold it, taking in exchange Los Angeles property.
At this time there were in and about Tombstone three distinct factions composed of desperate characters: namely the Earp brothers, four in number, who were in the employ of Johnny Behan, sheriff of Cochise county; the four Clanton brothers, who were cattle rustlers and ran a meat market in Charlestown, a lawless place twelve miles from Tombstone; Curly Bill, Doc Holliday and Frank Stillwell, who were operating near John Slaughter’s ranch. During this feud three Clanton boys were killed, also Morgan, Frank Stillwell, and Curly Bill.
On my way East in the Summer of ’86 the train was delayed for one half day at San Simon, Arizona, where Colonel Forsythe with the fourth cavalry and twelve Indian scouts were pursuing a band of Apaches who were holding Stein’s Pass. The soldiers routed the Indians, who passed down through the valley on their way to Mexico. In this encounter Indian Bill and a few of the soldiers were killed. Jerry Barton, another famous desperado of Arizona, was a saloonkeeper for forty years, and he is credited with killing six or eight men. In one of his episodes at Tombstone, he struck with the fist only a single blow but it broke the man’s neck. For this Barton served a short time in Yuma.
The name of Francis J. Heney I want to mention in this narrative. I have known him since 1885. After graduating from the Law Department of the University of California, Heney bought a small ranch outside of Benson, Arizona. He had a partner and together they owned about a hundred head of cattle, and until the great drought they did very well. The dry year, however, killed practically all of his cattle, and so Mr. Heney went into Benson to practice law; first doing collecting for us. His first appearance in court was when he argued a case for us in 1886. Shortly after that Mr. Heney went to Tucson with his brother-in-law, Judge Haynes, who was U.S. Commissioner, first at Tucson and then at San Francisco. When the Judge moved to San Francisco, Heney accompanied him and there he laid the foundation for becoming the Prosecuting Attorney of San Francisco for which work he became famous.
In May, 1887, Benson and surrounding country suffered seriously from earthquakes which continued for weeks. All the crockery on the shelves in my store was thrown off, many adobe walls fell, the Mormon Church at St. David was wrecked. Many fires were started in the mountains, caused by the friction of rocks rolling down, the air was full of dust and smoke, and the people were made seasick by the rolling ground which resembled the waves of the sea.
Due to the intense heat in Arizona I was accustomed to spending the summer months in New England. In July of 1886, I met in Lancaster, New Hampshire, a Miss Mabel Goss from Melrose, Mass. at the home of her parents. We left Boston early in February by a southern route, stopping off at St. Louis and at El Paso, Texas. Benson was our objective, as I had decided to close out my business there and move to Santa Barbara, California. We spent six weeks in Arizona making short trips to Tombstone, Fairbanks and Nogales, and also at Phoenix on our way to Los Angeles. That year we built our home on West Valerio Street in Santa Barbara in which our son Allen was born November 25, 1888. The following March we moved to Los Angeles, where I was engaged in the commission of business on upper Main Street.
In January 1890 we went to San Francisco where I opened a commission office at 605 Front Street, a branch of Rogers Brothers Produce Company of Santa Barbara. At the end of one year we left for Santa Barbara to be associated with Alvah and Herbert in the Rogers Brothers Produce Company. In 1892 Mr. Elias Beckman and I opened a clothing store on State Street in Santa Barbara and continued for some years. In the fall of 1892 we went east to Chicago with the idea of exhibiting sea lions at the World’s Fair. We were there for the Civic Parade of the Fair in October in which the governors of various states rode. My plans for business here did not succeed, so we returned in November to Santa Barbara.
In 1894 the Midwinter Fair was opened in San Francisco and I was induced by Mr. Ed Gaty of Santa Barbara to build what we named the Santa Barbara Amphibia, where exhibitions of trained sea lions were given. George A. Black was our trainer. A Spanish band in Spanish costume from Montecito was hired to entertain and attract the people. We were in San Francisco from January to August of that year.
In the fall of 1894 I became manager of the Santa Barbara Opera House, which was located where the Lobero Theatre now stands – also of the Santa Barbara Opera House Bill Posting Company. During this time many celebrities appeared on the Opera House stage – Robert Mantell, Sousa’s Band, Shaw’s Repertoire Company, Bostonians and all eastern attractions that came to the coast. Our daughter Marian was born December 17, 1894.
In 1897 the discovery of gold was made in Alaska, and January 11, 1898 I left home bound for the North, hoping with thousands of others to make a fortune. My supplies were all purchased in Seattle where on January 20th I boarded the steamship, Corona which was to take me to Skagway, Alaska. All went well until the morning of the third day, January 23, when during calm and clear weather, the steamer struck a reef about three miles from Lewis Island – boats were immediately lowered and the passengers all taken off and landed on Lewis Island. Although the steamer was expected to sink at once, it did not go down until afternoon, giving the crew time to save some of the supplies of oil and meat. We remained on this island for five days and nights with snow falling most of the time. On January 28th the steamer Alki arrived and took us aboard bound for Seattle. We had not gone far when we met the steamer Oregon, going North, and a part of us were transferred to her, while others of our party, becoming discouraged because of losing their equipment, decided to give up the trip to Alaska and returned home. Arriving in Skagway February 1, 1898, we found the town in control of the gambler, “Soapy Smith”, and his men, so we decided to move over to Dyea, February 3, and stopped at Chilcoot House. Here I purchased several dogs and also supplies, including five hundred copies of the Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper and two hundred and fifty copies of the Seattle Examiner. Accompanied by Tug Wilson, Jack Acklan and two others to assist with the team of fifteen dogs, I left Dyea February 6th for Sheep’s Camp and the Scales at the foot of Chilcoot Pass. Even with the help of Indians who did our packing in relays over the summit to Pleasant Camp, we were detained until February 10th at the Scales. The trail over the pass was very steep and difficult, heavy snow, and only a narrow footpath. The Indians were able to carry a load of seventy-five pounds, twice as much as the ordinary white man. We met a company of Indians coming over from Lake Tagish to Dyea for supplies. On the way they had encountered a blinding snowstorm, and a squaw of the party becoming separated was frozen to death when they finally found her, but the baby in her arms which she had wrapped in her blanket, was alive. Our camp at Pleasant Camp was simply a cave cut into a snow bank. We had no tents but laid our blankets on the snow. After resting for a couple of days from the hard climb, we started for Lake Linderman and remained there until February 20th – thence to Lake Bennett for two days, and from there to Caribou Crossing, arriving February 26th. A few miles on at Lake Tagish on February 28th, we were entertained by and Indian tribe whose chief was called “Charlie”. These Indians, consisting of twelve to fifteen families, lived in a large log building, in the center of which was the community fireplace upon which all the cooking was done – a large kettle belonging to each family. Directly over this fire was a large opening in the roof to allow the smoke to pass through. Around the sides of this large building were stalls used as homes, one to a family. The day we arrive they had brought in a moose, and they were having a veritable feast of which we were invited to partake.
At the foot of Lake Tagish were stationed mounted police to examine everyone on his way to Dawson, to see if each person were carrying sufficient supplies. In the fall of 1897 there had been a gold strike on El Dorado and Bonanza Creeks, and many people rushed in to Dawson where the report of gold discovery was heard. The supplies of the merchants were soon exhausted and no more supplies had been able to be brought in, so it was important that each person, contemplating a trip down to Dawson, bring with him a thousand pound of supplies. There were five men in our party, and when Captain Godson found that we lacked the required amount of provisions, he refused to let us pass. For a time it looked somewhat discouraging, for with our five sleds, three dogs to a sled, we needed all five men, not one could be spared. I pleaded with Captain Godson to allow us to go on as far as White Horse, where it was agreed that one or our number, Jack Acklan, should turn back. The work for workday was laid out and divided up among the five men. One set up the tent, a second gathered the pine boughs (or feathers as they were called) for the beds, another unharnessed and staked out the dogs, a fourth prepared the food for supper and the fifth fed the dogs. We arrived as White Horse Rapids March 3rd.
When we were ready to start from here Mr. Acklan refused to return, determined to push on with the rest of us. Being now many miles away from the Canadian Mounted Police, he rather had the advantage. It was my intention upon returning to Lake Bennett, to see Captain Godson and explain to him why my word to him had not been kept, but when I came out, I found that he had been stationed elsewhere and I never say him afterwards.
The trail was very difficult due to a Chinook wind in the fall breaking up the ice. We planned to make thirty-five miles per day, but frequently we only covered five miles. Sometimes the ice would be standing almost perpendicularly, and we would have to pull the dogs with the loaded sleds up them and then drag them down again. Our dogs were partly Siwash and some outside dogs. The Siwash or “inside dogs” were better able to withstand the cold, which was sometimes fifty or sixty degrees below zero, than were the “outside” dogs. I became very much attached to the dogs, especially one I called “Whitey”, which was the leader of my sled. He was very intelligent, and when we reached a very difficult part of the trail, he would stop and look back to me to give him the signal to start. I walked at the side of the sled holding the stick which guided it.
When we arrived at “Little Salmon”, March 17th, one of our party developed the scurvy, so we had to enlist the help of some Indians in drawing the sled, as my man was unable to walk. We arrived at “Five Fingers”, March 22nd, and “Stewart River”, April 2nd, and reached “Louse Town”, opposite Dawson, April 5th.
We were seen by the people of Dawson a long distance away, and by the time we had reached the point on the Klondike opposite Dawson, half the population crossed the ice to greet us, and there we held a reception to two hours. We were the first people to arrive and the inhabitants of Dawson had been shut in from the outside world since the previous September, so they were naturally very eager to get the news. The Seattle papers we took in were disposed of very quickly. The Post Intelligencer brought two-fifty each, and the Seattle Times five dollars.
My brother-in-law, George F. Ellis, and Captain Healey, who was employed by the North American Trading Company at Circle City, had come down to Dawson the year before and were located on El Dorado and Hunker Creeks, Number Twelve and Number Thirteen. They had already, upon my arrival, taken out half a million in gold, which they had put into oilcans and stored in their shack. Prices were very high on everything in Dawson at this time; haircut five dollars, a shave two –fifty, and a bath ten dollars. Moose meat three dollars, hot cakes two-fifty, etc., etc.
Mr. Ellis advised me to take an interest in Number Five on Hunker Creek which later proved very valuable, but due to there being no fresh fruit not green vegetables in Dawson, many cases of scurvy had developed – the hospitals were full of these, so as soon as the ice in the river broke up and a steamer could get out, I, not feeling any too well, and fearing this prevailing disease, took passage on the first steamer bound down the Yukon for St. Michael’s. It was a slow tedious and depressing trip. Nearly everybody aboard was ill and several deaths occurred. We were delayed for two days going down the river by running into a sand bay, and this is where the burials took place. One poor woman, the mother of the first white child born in Dawson, died. Her husband was in Dawson and had sent his wife out in hopes that her life might be spared. Two Indian girls cared for the six-month-old baby all the way to St. Michael’s. The following year the child was returned to the father in Dawson.
Upon arrival as St. Michael’s I visited the physician at the army post there who prescribed for me, and began to improve. Among the passengers on the steamer, Roanoke, from St. Michael’s to Seattle was Joaquin Miller, who had been sent North by the San Francisco Examiner to write up conditions found in Dawson. We had to proceed slowly through the Bering Sea due to there being so much floating ice. We made two stops on our way down at the island of “Una”, Alaska, and “Dutch Harbor”. Upon arrival at Seattle, our steamer being the first from the North that Summer, we received quite an ovation, especially Joaquin Miller, who was dressed in a reindeer coat and fur cap with a long tail hanging down his back. Several million dollars worth of gold were brought out on this steamer. I, with others, had quite a quantity of gold dust, and at Seattle we went to the mint where our dust, averaging fifteen to sixteen dollars an ounce, was weighed, and we were given government checks. After a day or two I started for Santa Barbara, where during the Summer and Fall I made preparations to return to Skagway and build a scow filled with provisions to take down the river to Dawson.
Early in January 1899, I left for the North again and arrived in Skagway after an uneventful trip. While in Skagway I visited Haines mission, where I became interested in a copper claim. During this time that the scow was being built at Lake Bennett, I made my headquarters at Skagway and kept busy selling out an old stock of merchandise that I had taken up from Santa Barbara, and getting my supplies ready for Dawson. The supplies, which I purchased in Victoria, B.C., consisted of potatoes, oranges, onions, apples, bacon, ham, cigars and tobaccos, and also onion sets for a vegetable garden located across the river from Dawson.
Early in May, the scow being completed, I with three men (one a pilot familiar with the river) started down. We succeeded in shooting the White Horse Rapids without incurring the expense of hiring a pilot for a hundred dollars, who with others stood ready at Box Canyon just above the Rapids to assist the boats as they went down. We took on considerable water, wetting the goods, which made it necessary to take them out on the shore and dry them before proceeding. We were fortunate in escaping the rocks and in keeping in the main channel. Many others lost both their lives and supplies, but we arrived in Dawson in good shape. My supplies I had no difficulty in disposing of. Some I sold to Nelly Cashman, whom I had known years before in Arizona, and was surprised to meet again in Alaska where she had a store.
After disposing of the scow, and also my interests which I had acquired the year before mining claims in “Number Five Hunker”, “Number 258”, “Old Dominion”, and “Number Sixteen Gold Run”, I took passage on one of the river boats for Skagway, and then on to Santa Barbara, where I arrived early in August, 1899.
After spending a month in Santa Barbara, I took my wife and two children and left for Seattle stopping on the way at Berkeley to pay a visit to Dr. Kittredge’s family. We remained in Seattle only a few weeks as I learned there was a business opening at Index, Washington, a small mining town situated in the heart of the Cascade Mountains on the Skykomish river about seventy miles from Seattle on the Great Northern R.R. Mr. Soderberg, owner of a general merchandise store there, was anxious to dispose of a half interest in the business which I purchased. There were no real mines in this locality but many “prospects”, and each day a pack train of twenty-five horses was sent out with supplies for the miners. Before very long Mr. Soderberg decided to sell out his interest and go away, so from then on I ran the business alone and remained for two years. In connection with the store I had a stone quarry which furnished the Great Northern R>R. with material to build all its bridges from Everett to Spokane, Washington.
In November, 1901 I disposed of all my business interests in Index, Washington and with my family made a trip across the country to Melrose, Mass. to visit Mrs. Rogers’ sister and family. Mr.and Mrs. A.G.Whitman. While there we decided to take a European trip leaving our daughter, Marian, aged seven years, with her Aunt and our son, Allen, aged thirteen years in a boy’s school, Worcester Academy. We left on a Mediterranean Cruise from Boston on the steamship “Commonwealth”, Dominion Line, January 4, 1902. We made short stops at Gibraltar, Genoa and then on to Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt where we had intended to make a long stay, but the weather was unfavorable and the port in Palestine where we had hoped to go to visit Jerusalem and other important places in the Holy Land was quarantined. Therefore, we retraced our steps, boarding at Suez a steamer from the Orient carrying many very interesting passengers. We disembarked at Napes and spent some weeks there, visiting Pompeii, climbing Vesuvius, spending a few days at Amalfi, La Leava and Sorrento. The weather was cold and disagreeable, and although we stayed at Sorrento several days hoping the weather would clear that we might make the trip to Capri, we were disappointed and had to leave without seeing the ramous Blue Grotto. We spent two delightful months in Italy dividing our time in the very interesting cities of Rome, Florence, Bologna, Venice and Milan. Thence by train we traveled from Genoa to Nice along the Riviera. We spent a day at Monte Carlo – thence to Marseilles and Avignon where we saw the palace formerly occupied by the Pope. Easter Sunday, chilly and rainy, we spent in Paris, March 30, 1902. We made some short stays in Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague, and Amsterdam. We crossed the Channel from Ostend to Dover on our way to London. We then sailed from Liverpool on the S.S. Saxoma, May 29th for Boston. We were both impatient to return home to see the children. The voyage was delightful and we reached port June 6th.
The summer we spent in Maine, and then in September leaving Allen for another year at Worcester Academy, Mrs. Rogers, Marian, and I came West to Santa Barbara. I was impatient to get into business again, so after a few weeks visit at my Father’s home, we left for Snohomish, Washington where I purchased a drygoods store. We lived a while there with friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ordway, formerly of Walden, Vermont. Soon in addition to the Snohomish business I bought from Mr. Gilkey his stock of goods at Edison, and I also had a store at Mt. Vernon. A peculiar thing happened at Edison, the night following the purchase (about midnight) a knock on my hotel room door awakened me, and I was told that my newly acquired store had been robbed and much of the stock carried away. Police were notified and two of the burglars caught, arrested and imprisoned, and the greater part of the good recovered.
In a few months I disposed of several stores and as a family returned to Santa Barbara. Our son, Allen, joined us in Snohomish after spending two years in the East at school.
We immediately went to housekeeping. Allen entered the high school and Marian one of the grade schools. It was not long before I became impatient to be in active business again. An opportunity presented itself to me to purchase a furniture business recently begun in the old Clock Building at 928 State Street. This was in the fall of 1903. After our son, Allen had graduated from High School and spent one year at Pomona College, he took charge of a General Merchandise store which I acquired from Arthur A. Garland at Nordoff, Ojai Valley. After a year or so I disposed of that business, and Allen came home and entered the furniture store here, where later he was taken in as a partner, and it became Eugene F. Rogers and Son.