Excerpts from Life In Our Time by Joe Cullumber.
Recorded, transcribed, compiled and edited by Frances Tompkins.
Joe Cullumber, builder, San Juan Bautista, CA, 1998
My interest in genealogy and family history began when I entered my first year of school in 1926. I was eight years old. We lived on the Flint Ranch a mile from Olympia school, where mother had gone for schooling in a horse-and-buggy with her brothers and sisters. The school was built on land furnished by the Flints. In that generation, mostly all mother’s classmates were of Anglo-Saxon decent: Gleason, Duncan etc.
The old school, where grandfather Flint had been trustee, had burned and a new one had been built in the mid 1920’s. Due to the overflow of students, the first grades were housed in an old single-walled board-and-batten shack at the rear of the school property with a kerosene stove for heat.
My preschool years were spent on the sprawling ranch with my younger brother and the dog, so seeing all of these young people gathered in this one room was a new experience. I was an oddball. I wasn’t Portuguese or Japanese, as were most of the students. Their parents came from another land and spoke a second language. What was I? Where did we come from? Why didn’t we speak another language? Why didn’t we go to the old Mission to church on Sunday where all the Portuguese went? Answers to my questions were vague. Mother’s reply was that her father said he was a blue-blooded Yankee and a Republican. Father said his people were Scotch-Irish and English and came to California on the California Trail, Oregon Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail in covered wagons. How did we all get together in San Benito County [Monterey County until 1874]? My search began.
I found that all our ancestors had come to America beginning nearly 400 years ago in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Those who came to California in the 20th century came by ship through the Panama Canal or overland—Breen (1847), Flint (1849), Chambers (1853), Cullumber (1856).
“Old bar hunter” Henry S. Chambers of Bitterwater/Hernandez, California, Joe’s great grandfather
Letter from William McHaley to his sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Harvey Akers, March the 25, 1870.
(Original spelling preserved. )
“Dear brother and sister. After waiting sontine for a ancer I take this opportunity of droping you a few lines to let you no about our bar fite. A grisely cild a cow for one ouf our nabers and me and Henry [Chambers] and three others tucke hit tracke and falered him about too miles found him in the brech. We got above when come a hole and we cud see him thru the bruch. Henery shot him down and he ran of in the brush. We falered him thru the bresh about a hundred yards, right thru the thicke bresh and we got rite one him before we node hit. He mad one Gumpe and lite rite on tope of Henry, then he gumpe on me and another man. The bresh was so thick that we cud not use our gunes. He hurte Henry very bad – bite him rite there in the lungs. He can’t move onley as he is lifted. We have had doctor Greenlefe to see him twist. I think that he by good treatment. The olde feler herte me prite bad. He bit me thrue the ankle and thrue the thy but nothing very dangres. I think I be all rit in two or three weekes….”
FROM: And Then There Were Three Thousand by Donna Hull, pgs 140-141. Original letter owned by Donna M. Hull.
(Spelling corrected for easier reading. )
“Dear brother and sister. After waiting some time for an answer, I take this opportunity of dropping you a few lines to let you know about our bear fight. A grizzly killed a cow of one of our neighbors, and me and Henry [Chambers] and three others took its track and followed him about two miles, found him in the brush. We got above, where came a hole, and we could see him through the brush. Henry shot him down and he ran off in the brush. We followed him through the brush about a hundred yards, right through the thick brush, and we got right on him before we knew it. He made one jump and lit right on top of Henry, then he jumped on me and another man. The brush was so thick that we could not use our guns. He hurt Henry very bad – bit him right there in the lungs. He can’t move, only as he is lifted. We have had doctor Greenleaf to see him twice. I think that he got good treatment. The old fellow hurt me pretty bad. He bit me through the ankle and through the thigh but nothing very dangerous. I think I’ll be all right in two or three weeks…”