This article was submitted by Sandi Rohrig- the granddaughter of Zeora Thomas Butterfield England Wommack-Mansfield

Memories of Hornitos
Pair of natives recounts life in foothill town
By Rose Certini
Sun-Star Staff Writer

Nov 1- 2000
HORNITOS - The gold mines gave out more than a century ago, but there are riches still to be found, not in the ruins of old buildings, but in the memories of two lifelong area residents whose ancestors settled this area in search of gold.

Winfred "Whinnie" Williams, 90, is a native-born son of Hornitos now living in Mariposa and Zeora Wommack-Mansfield, 91 lives in Hornitos now but grew up a couple miles up the road at Quartzburg, a town that no longer exists.

Stored in their heads are recollections of simpler times as children and of hearing their parents talk about how things were in their day, as the generation who stayed in the mountains and hewed out a living once the ore was gone.

"We were all poor but we didn't know it," Williams says, noting that these were times when no one in Hornitos had a car, electricity, running water or a bathroom in the house. Things moved slower in the 1910s and 1920s, and most folks were just scraping by.

Even though he's battling a cancer that causes him pain, Williams makes quick work of an uphill stroll of Bear Valley Road, the main drag through Hornitos. A tour of the town starts at the plaza which is across the street from today's Golden Stag Hall which sits atop the old Native Sons Hall site. There's the old Masonic Hall across from a tree-shaded park where Williams used to play marbles as a kid.

There were no doctors in Hornitos, nor dentists, although there was one traveling dentist who used to come through and put up a little tent in the plaza.

"He had drills that were run by foot. like the old sewing machines," says Williams. "I had the pleasure of having my teeth worked on by one of those. When you don't know any different, it was all right."

He walks past the ruins of the brick 1850s Ghirardelli building which was mostly rubble even in his childhood.

A wood slat foundation marks the spot where the barber once cut hair. A modern telephone company building sit atop the site of an old boarding house where the proprietress had a special liking for men with money to spend. It was next to Lesman Livery Stable which rented out horses and buggies.

Remnants exist of a tunnel that led under the street to what was a bar. Local legend has it the bandit Joaquin Murietta used the subterranean hole to stage his many getaways, though some sources think it was more likely used to hide Prohibition-era booze.

Still standing is the Post Office building where Loula Rodgers, the black postmistress worked. Williams said she would teach the local girls how to sew and was "real well thought of," by the townsfolk.

Cavagnaro's General Merchantile faces Galiardo's Merchantile across Bear Valley Road, as it has for 100 years. These shops sold everything from food and clothing to medicines and lumber. Cavagnaro's has an old green gas pump facing the street while the red-brick Galiardo building wears a faded sign and has a horse trough out front.

Nothing stands of China Town but some barns and stone foundations. Williams says that as a kid he used to find opium pipes lying on the ground, but he didn't know what to do with them.

Although there were once hundreds of Chinese laborers in the area in the 1860s, in Williams' day there were only five or six individuals. The only lasting signs of their stay are miles of rock fences they build under hire by area ranchers to keep cattle contained - as well as an unkept cemetery located just over a rise behind the still-used Hornitos Cemetery. There's another obscure burial ground further up the hills, the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Williams grew up in a house that no longer exists which was on the outskirts of town. His more-vivid memories were of going to his grandparents' place, which still stands on Bear Valley Road. This tiny structure not far from the mercantile stores was where he - and his mother before him - were born.

It's painted gray, has been reroofed and is shaded by an enormous walnut tree. Someone else lives there now.

"There was a lot of good Italian cooking done in that house," Williams smiles.

Grandpa Cademartori had come to Hornitos like thousands of others looking for gold and when that ran out, he went to work at the Merced Falls sawmill.

Giovanni Cademartori was an Italian immigrant born in 1850 in Genoa, who immigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old. Cademartori planned to marry Laura Castagnetto, a local girl born in Bear Valley in 1864, so he commissioned Joe Bauer to build the house.

Bauer was not only the town's cabin-builder but barber, carpenter and coffin-maker. As soon as the house was finished in 1884, Cademartori married Castagnetto and they mobbed into their new home.

Laura Cademartori(see obituary of Laura below) gave birth in 1890 to Amelia Cademartori. Amelia married Anthony Williams, a fellow of English extraction who was born in 1881 in Hunters Valley. His father was William Williams who'd come to Hunters Valley to raise cattle and hunt for gold. Anthony was a carpenter for the Yosemite Valley Railrod, building bridge crossings until the railroad shut down in 1947. Winfred Williams was born to Anthony and Amelia in 1910.                                 

Zeora Wommack-Mansfield's family has mining in its blood, but it was cattle grazing and real estate that put bread and butter on the table.

Her father, William Thomas, had come from England to seek his fortune in the new land, starting with the copper mines of Arizona, then moving to California to try his hand at gold mining in the Whitlock Road area.

Thomas returned to the copper mines near Globe, Ariz., met and married Susan Baker who was a cook in the boarding house where he stayed. They had a baby which Thomas named"Zeora" because he'd seen it in a book and thought it sounded different.

Thomas moved back to California and by working his Whitlock Road stake saved up enough to send for his wife and child.

"We came on a train to Merced Falls and he met up with a spring wagon. My mom said 'oh my goodness! Where are we coming to?' She thought this was the end of the world," Wommack-Mansfield recalls.

The Thomas home for many years was on Cotton Creek Road in Hunters Valley near Quartzburg, a town with shops, houses and a school located almost two miles up Bear Balley road from Hornitos.

Founded a few years before Hornitos, Quartzburg would not survive the ravages of time and today all that's left of Quartzburg are a few old olive trees.

Thomas continued to work the mine but also raised cattle and put in barley and wheat on the 412-acre ranch. When Zeora's brother George came into the world, the midwife was Laura Cademartori, Winfred William's grandmother.

The family homesteaded a 640-acre parcel on Parker Mountain and later added 320 acres to it. The children attended first through eighth grades in Quartzburg's one-room schoolhouse. Zeora would graduate from Mariposa High School and attend Western Norm, a school for teachers in Berkeley.

Wommack-Mansfield doesn't swell on the details of her full life or keep track of the dates, but the pain of her many losses resurface from time to time, especially when talking about the death of her one son, Jack Butterfield.

There would be a string of other events - some good and some bad- that make up the fabric of who Zeora Wommack-Mansfield is, much like the many colored patches of the quilt she's working on.

There would be the death of her father to either cancer or "miner's consumption, and he'd be buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery. And there were financial difficulties brought on by her brother's spending habits and this brother's death to "blood poisoning" from working at the Mt. Gaines mine.

Then there would be the death of her first, third and fourth husbands and divorce from the second one.

She cared for her mother through a long debilitating illness until her death.

Wommack-Mansfield paused briefly to think of how things might have been for her if circumstances had been different.

"If wishes were fishes we'd all have some for dinner tonight,k" Wommack-Mansfield smiles as she draws consolation from an old saying.

She married Fred Butterfield of San Francisco and Jack was born. Butterfield would die of heart trouble some 20 years later. Then it was Ted England in a marriage that would end in divorce four years later.

She met and married widower Les Wommack and they had a good life for 26 years until he died at 94 years of age. At this point Zeora figured she'd never tie the knowt again, but then she met Richard Mansfield and she did it all ober again. He died about four years ago.

No matter what was going on in her life, Wommack-Mansfield was a worker who did what was needed to make ends meet and even save a little. At different times she cooked, sewed, managed the post office, fixed up and rented out cabins, and picked up advertising for the Mariposa Gazette.

"I kept myself busy and out of trouble," she says. "In a small way, I've made something of my life."

Her only disability is arthritis and she continues to maintain her own home plus four rentals: three in Hornitos and one in Mariposa.

She was honored by fellow residents for founding the annual Hornitos Enchilada Dinner 52 years ago. This event held the first Saturday in March feeds about 900 people.

Williams has always called Hornitos "home" even though he moved to Mariposa at age 17 to become a barber, a trade he practiced for the next 68 years.

His memories from his childhood go to  little things, like how they entertained themselves making soapbox car "coasters" using slats of wood and wheelbarrow wheels.

"I remember putting a candle in a can and going out to coast at night. It wasn't much for speed, but we had fun."

He remembers how after a rain, men would be bent over and squatting in the street looking for flecks of gold in the runoff - and there was always some to be found.

Simple tasks like taking a bath took a long time, Williams remembers drawing water from a well in the morning, setting the water in a washtub to heat under the sun during the day, then getting in to scrub down at dusk.

Williams attended Hornitos School through seventh grade, got into some trouble and had to complete eighth grade at Quartzburg School. Then he went on to Mariposa High School.

Two horses named Beauty and Mary were the family transportation until 1927, when Winnie Williams - through his many odd jobs as a soda jerk and service station attendant - was able to afford an economy car, a Durant Motors Star..

Somewhere between 1928 and 1930 he was among the townspeople who shored up St. Catherine Church with rock buttresses using stone donated by Loula Rodgers from a fence near Quartzburg.

In 1932 Williams went to a Fresno barber school, got his license, apprenticed, and worked under many barbers in Merced and Mariposa.

Williams married Pearl Carter in 1937 and they set up housekeeping in Mariposa and had three sons.

He works part-time these days with Ivers and Alcorn Funeral Home in Mariposa helping families in grief.

On a stroll of the cemetery behind 1860s St. Catherine Catholic Church, Williams encounters many old friends and acquaintances.

"There are lots of good people here," Williams says. "Everyone was friendly. Your word was good in those days."

He stops at a pair of headstones secured by a cement slab. "Here's my mom and dad," he says.

Amelia Williams' marker is accented with a Christian cross while Anthony O. Williams' marker has the Masonic symbol.

"You don't see that very often," Williams says, explaining how in most places at the time, Masons didn't like the Catholics and vice-versa. But it was different in Hornitos, where marriages and friendships often crossed racial and religious lines.
Amelia Williams, for instance, grew up speaking English and picked up Mexican from her friends.

Although she was of Italian heritage, she did not speak Italian. She always took part in the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead ceremony, a Mexican custom brought to Hornitos by Dona Candelaria de Sapien.

They would go to the cemetery at dusk to pray and place candles on the graves of loved ones on Nov. 1, which is All Saint's Day in Catholic tradition, then repeat the observance on Nov. 2, which is All Soul's Day.

Others continued the solemn tradition after Candelaria died in 1903 at 86 years of age. But as people got older and died and families moved away, participation dwindled during the late 1930s or early 1940s.

"Some years it was just me and my mom. We kept it up with a few candles," Williams said.

Amelia Williams would not give up and she got others to join her in the semi-private observance. When she died in 1980, the Chamber of Commerce took over and now the Hornitos Patron's Club is in charge of organizing All Souls Day.

What had begun with 30-40 people now attracts close to 200 people in some years, depending on the weather.

Somewhere along the line the Nov. 1 commemoration was dropped and a candlelight procession was added to the Nov. 2 ceremony, but Williams and his wife still go both days.

"We want to do it like it was done in the old days, at least on Nov. 1," he says.

The All Souls' Day procession is Thursday, starting at 6 p.m. at the Hornitos Plaza. Participants should bring a flashlight, candle, walking shoes and warm clothes. The walk goes up a hill to the cemetery behind St. Catheren  of Siena Church.

The Rev. Stephen Bulfer of St. Joseph's Catholic Shurch in Mariposa will officiate over services at Dona Candelaria's grave. Mass will follow in St. Catherine Church. The Patron's Club will serve refreshments afterwards in the Stag Hall.


Merced, Dec 17 , 1926

Services for Mrs. Laura Cademartori, 62, pioneer of Mariposa county, who died at her Hornitos home Wednesday, were held this morning from the Catholic church.  Rev. Father Frederic Deschenes of Mariposa officiating.  Mrs. Cademartori was born in Mariposa county June 10, 1864, and spent her entire life there.  One son and two daughters survive, August Cademartori, Mrs. Angelina Guest and Mrs. Amellia Williams, all of Hornitos.  Surviving are also one brother and two sisters: Dan Castagnetto of Hunters Valley, Mrs Angie Dulcich of Stockton and Mrs. Louisa Lord of Merced
Oakland Tribune, The  1926-12-17