History and Genealogy Research



submitted by Harriet Sturk

Their son John Collins submitted this history, April 27, 1959, to the Mariposa Historical Society, Mariposa, California, USA.

1. Migration from Cornwall, England, to Pennsylvania, USA, 1856; then to

2. Mariposa and Hornitos and Indian Gluch, California, USA, 1859.

My father, Edward Collins, came to Mariposa, California, in 1859. He left Redruth, Cornwall, England in 1856, and went to the mines in Pennsylvania, where he worked for three years before coming to Mariposa. He had married in Cornwall to Mary Ann Northey and then their daughter, Bessie Collins (Thorne) and their son, Edward were born in Cornwall, England. Bessie later married Frank Thorne, the son of Colonel Thorne of Quartsburge, California. (Col. Thorne died in 1853).

My father brought his wife and children over in 1862. When he first came to California he was mining in the placer mines of Calavaras for a little while and then came right to Hornitos, California. He was doing some placer work behind the Catholic Church on the hill. Everything was open for they had no claims in those days.

My father stayed at a cabin in town and worked with friends. Both my mother and father came across the Isthmus and then on up to San Francisco. It took her about three months to get here from England. He did not have any chance of getting information or mail because letter and papers came only about once a month. When he went to San Francisco to meet my mother, he could not find her right away. Finally he found her in a boarding house and they came on to Mariposa by way of the boat to Stockton, California, then on a six-horse stage to Mariposa. They lived in Mariposa when my mother came. We still own the lot they had in Mariposa and are paying taxes on it. There was a nice little opening where we lived. The State wanted the rest of it for a highway. The lot was where the first cut is when you come down the hillside toward town.

We moved to the ranch in October of 1870. My father was looking for a place down there. The mines were getting worked out. Just out of Hornitos and north about three miles there were some squatters who had claimed some land. It had not been surveyed. My father paid them $250 for their squatter’s rights and then when the land came on the market, he had to buy it again. I have the bill of sale now. The Land is on the township line of 4 and 5. The line comes over Mariposa and the cemetery.

My father died and willed the place to my mother, who in turn willed it the way he wished it to be. They gave me the place for the rest of my life. After I pass away it goes to any living brothers and sisters. Then it goes to their heirs, 16 or 17 of them I believe. There are 363 acres and two mining claims. We raised cattle, horses and hogs, no sheep or goats. When I married I built a home across the creek. My brother and sisters all lived at home until they were grown and left.

I went to school in Quartsburg and Hornitos. Wm. Eganhoff was the Superintendent of Schools. George and Frank were his brothers. I worked for Crocker-Huffman, drove a supply team from Merced, California, to the camp at Six-Mile House in 1889.

I was born on June 7, 1870, and was only two months old when I left Mariposa. The old Jenny Lind Mine (the old Washington Mine) was the deepest mine ever in Mariposa). My father was underground boss for 16 years. The mine had two shafts, the old Washington Shaft and the Jenny Lind Shaft. They met down below. My father lost fortunes by not knowing about cyanide work. The Washington Mine was rich in sulfides. They had their own chlorination works, to separate the gold from sulfides. Also they had a mill. Caught them after they left the mill. The tailrace came to our place and at right angles into the creek. The sand in the middle of the creek would be three feet deep or more. Dodm't know’t know what to do with it. Found out later there was more gold in that sand than anything out of the mine had. . Araan Bates, Sam Bates had the express office, was Sam’s son. He came back up there with a cyanide outfit and out of the little sand that had been left around there he gleaned up $3,000 or $4,000 dollars worth of gold

My father worked at the No. 9 Mine for awhile. A few years after that the Grand Mine started up and they came down after him to work at the Josephine Mine. When I was a boy the Pine Tree Mine had the drill working. They drilled around the holes and fired with a battery. They would go out of the tunnel where they thought they would be out of danger. The crank turned two ways, one to see if everything was all right, and the other to set the charge.

Once an old fellow who was manipulating the crank turned it the wrong way and the blast went off too soon and killed 8 or 9 men.

I worked on the ranch all the time. I took a bunch of cattle to Stockton, California, one time, which took about five days. George Thorne went with me. We went by Le Grange, California, and the old Mariposa Road, and came in to Stockton at Nightingale, California. There was a 75-foot water trough there and the cattle were very thirsty. When they arrived, they jumped right into the trough. A fellow Came out, we were worried about disturbing the place, and said to let those cattle drink.

George Reeb, my mother's brother, Joe Thorne, and my father, who drove the cattle wagon, were with me. We got to Stockton at night. We wanted to stop about 10 miles out, but the fellow who bought the cattle met us and said he wanted the cattle brought in that night.

That was in 1894. I was worried because we had to cross the street of town at night to get to the butcher’s yard. Next morning I saddled the horse and counted the cattle, and they were all still there. They paid my father and me in gold and silver, we got $10 a head, and threw in 20 calves. We only had that one big bunch of 175 head. We sold another bunch of 50 to 60 head to John Stitts, on the old Adobe Ranch in Madera, California. They sent up after those. Before we sold them we were having a lot of trouble with cattle straying to the Merced Falls and we would never see our cattle again. Went down there one day, and there was a cow and a calf which had our brand on them. We knew it was not our stock because it was a Durham cow. We drove them on home. I told my father it was not ours. He flew off the handle. We sold this bunch of cattle to John Stitts and this cow and calf were in that bunch.

About a year later Father got a letter saying that one of those cows belonged to a Mexican fellow down there. Wanted to know what Father was going to do about it. Father told him that if that Mexican fellow was a better man than he was, he could have it. Received $16 a head for those cattle.

There was no bank in Merced and Father put his money in a safe at the No. 9 Mine. He told Frank Thorne that if he got a chance to, to invest it. There was a ranch, later sold to Wilborn, next to Fred McKays, that Frank Thorne bought with this money.

In 1898 I ran for County Supervisor. I am the only one left who had anything to do with the county government at that time.

Sharp, in Madera, wrote the 1907 book put out by the supervisors. Dave Barcroft might have one of these books; you can get a lot of history from him. Joe Barcroft, his father, is married to my sister, the only other member of the family alive now and living in Madera.

My first wife and I were children together. Things got a little thicker all the time. We belonged to the Hornitos Amateur Dramatic Society in Hornitos. She was never in the plays, but we had this society. We were engaged to be married when about 18. We went together until I was 23 and my wife was 21. We were married in 1893.

After the death of my wife, I was married again in 1924 to Sam Glough’s widow. Married the first time by a Justice of the Peace in the Merced Hotel. It was called the Cosmopolitan (Morgan’s). We built our home after we were married. The eighth grade was the highest we could go in school. The high school was started in the old Presbyterian Church which was where the Pacific Gas & Electric offices are now. It was started in 1913. Dexter was superintendent of schools. (Miss Jones was in part of the time and I can remember her coming there.) Had a run in with Miss Jones one time about members of the Board of Education. There was a young fellow on the Board of representatives appointed from Hornitos. Before he was on, Mrs. Gallison, of Mt. Bullion was on. Wanted representative appointed from the Hornitos area, and they appointed him. When Miss James got hold of that she caught me by the old Corcoran place. I told her that I was a member of the Board of Supervisors, we appointed this man. (When Miss Jones said anything, it had to be that way. She was a very bright person.)

They had a hotel at Hornitos, up on the hill by the jail and a little farther down the line. I shook hands with President Grant there. He had a six-horse stage and went on to Yosemite. George Munroe, a colored man, was the driver, and a colorful fellow. Dick Morrissey was our nearest neighbor. We built 7 bridges over the creek down there.

We had lots of good times. We used to have dances and put on two or three plays there, “The Last Loaf,” “Down By The Sea,” (still have that picture). Had lots of Mexican dances, especially on the sixteenth of September. Would all get together and sing the Mexican National Anthem. Madera was made of people who moved away from Hornitos, I remember when Madera was made a county.

There was a case in Mariposa, and they had the usual number of jurors. They were questioned to see if they qualified as jurors. Got an old German fellow up to see if he would qualify.

Started in: “Mr._________, where do you reside”. “I have been living down here on Bear Creek.”

“Occupation?” “Raising hogs and cows and grape vines and making wine.”

“Mr._______, if you were taken on as a juror in this case, do you think you would be governed by the law and the evidence?” “I think I would be governed by mine own mind.”

“But would you be governed by the laws and the evidence?” “No I’d be governed by mine own mind.”

The Judge then intervened, “Mr.______, do you think you understand the English language well enough to serve if you were taken?” “Ah, yah, I understand.”

“Mr.______, what does ‘felonious’ mean?” “Ach, Gott, that is a sausage.”

There was a little Frenchman who had a vineyard where the old road crossed Bear Creek. He was a great friend of Joe Adair and John Maloney who belonged t the same church. One day he went up to see Adair. “You know, Joey, I have a nice vineyard. Johnny Maloney got a damn good bull, and he come in there and breakup my vineyard. What shall I do?” Adair replied, “I ’d shoot the damn bull!” So the Frenchman went back home, found the bull in his vineyard again. He went out with a gun and shot the bull dead. Maloney came back and found his dead bull. Right away Maloney rushed to the District Attorney about it. Joe Adair was the District Attorney, and when he told Maloney he’d told the Frenchman to shoot the bull, there was no case.

They had a log floor with square logs in the jail. Had a colored man in the jail that cut through the logs and escaped underneath the jail. The next issue of MARIPOSA GAZETTE said the man had escaped by-- “Nigger Auger out.”

Peter Gordon was an old express rider. When he died, there was a paper at Mt. Bullion. The PRINCETON HERALD.” The editor wrote up a history of Gordon ’s life. It was good and he told all about him being a pony express rider. Gordon used to be in Mariposa with an eating place and had a bench out in front. The old bums would sit on the bench. Gordon would come out front of the house ringing his huge bell. “Well, you hear the bell, why don’t you come in?” Then they would file in and eat. The editor said when Peter Gordon got to heaven, and that was where he was going, the Apostle Peter would say to him, “You here the bell, why don’t you come in?”

The Indian paid the attorney some money. The Indian asked for a receipt. The attorney was very much surprised! “Why, Jim, what do you know about a receipt?” “Supposing I die, I go to heaven, I see Apostle Peter, so I tell him I want to get in Heaven.” “Apostle Peter would say, lets see, what you do when you on earth? I hear you pay this lawyer some money.” “Yes me pay man.” “You got receipt?” “No, then I got to look all over hell to get that receipt.”

The old Maloney’s place was the present Pierce place. Used to go into the house there because it was so cold outside. Had the third seat in our buggy made out of carpet, that was the seat in front of the driver. Rita sat on that seat. Went up to Thorne’s for breakfast one time and all at once Rosenne looked up and said, “Papa, you got on two ties.” I had been so excited I had put on one necktie right over the other one.

My father said he was on that Plaza in Hornitos when it was covered in gambling tables because they were full at all of the gambling places inside. After that the Plaza was mined out and it caved in all back of the butcher shop. Mr. Reeb used to think nobody had mined there. Years later the ground got wet, and that engine house he had put on top had settle down about half way. It was just honeycombed under there. Emma Kocher remembers seeing that plaza covered in cottonwood trees.

For dances we had a violin and a guitar. Robby Flint, the Branson boys and the Goff boys brought the old organ from the Odd Fellows Building down about 17 steps and we danced by that music.

One man, Frank Martinez, is still living in Hornitos. His father was one of the men that Fremont brought out here with him when the Grant was first given to Fremont.. They marched across from the Pacheco and across the desert to the Merced River, and were the ones who named the Merced. His place is to the left of the schoolhouse after you cross the creek.

The Masonic Lodge was at Quartzburg in 1856 and moved to Hornitos then..

The first main business I had to do when I went on the Board of Supervisors was because of a petition. I had to take the toll off that road of Maloney’ s. The Toll road had a franchise to collect toll and had a permit to collect from year to year. People got tired of paying the toll. The Maloney's were people I was most intimate with. Because I had something to do with that toll road they were always against me after that. The tollhouse was about half way up. (Slattery Toll House.) The Zinker Toll House was further on, around the Cow and Calf Creek. Found Johnny Maloney’s mother dead after a heart attack in there. Thorne and his mother and stepfather are buried on top of the hill. Frank Thorne was born in 1854. They had a few old family slaves and gave them their freedom, but they still hung around until they died. Jim White was one of them. “Aren’t you going today to see the President, Jim?’ His answer, “well he’s a man ain’t he.”

There were markings on the rocks where Burns Creek runs into the valley. There was a rock bluff about 150 feet long and 14 or 15 feet high. No one was ever able to decipher them. The Burns Creek flood damn covered them up. The first Hornitos road came down Burns Creek and then down Bear Creek.

Bill Howard owned the place on Burns Creek where the pear trees were. He was with the posse, which captured Joaquin Murietta, the famous bandit, and they gathered by the pear trees to start on their trip.

The tunnel in Hornitos was built 30 years after Murietta was killed.

I signed the highs school bonds when I was chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Just three of us got that across. Two members of the Board were not in favor of creating a high school, Coronet and Mentzer. This was long about 1911 or 1912.

Had a fight all the time to see about the income on the Yosemite Valley railroad. All the income to keep up the roads was from the property tax. Each one wanted the biggest share of that money. After we thought we had it settled a new law was passed so we could not assess it at all.

Barrett sold 1,000 acres for $40/acre. The land wasn’t worth $2/acre. When I was on the Board the highest rate was $3.15, and went down to $2.00.



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