Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nellie and Her Cabin at Cedar Slope

(A log cabin going up!)

Cedar Slope is a glowingly lovely place that was homesteaded by Nellie Marshall in the 1881. Nellie was the great niece of James W. Marshal, the man credited with the discovery of gold in California. There is a monument and educational center dedicated to that discovery, which took place in 1848 on the South Fork of the American River in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah.

That location, is between Placerville and Auburn in California, and gold played a pivotal part in the development of California and brought people here who otherwise would never have come.

Dad pointed the location out to me for the first time on an old map at Uncle Chuck's Cabin on Lot. No. 7 when I was six. We had been coming up to Cedar Slope for what then seemed like my whole life, but it was only three years.

I remember his finger pointing as he told me about Marshall. The Stream that runs through Cedar Slope is one of the things still left that remembers Nellie.

Nellie was living in Porterville and working as a seamstress. She had gotten into the habit of taking trips into the Southern Sierras that overshadow the Central Valley when that year she cane across the area we now know as Cedar Slope. Trading the heat of the summer for the sudden summer showers that bring up the scent of sweet growth and life, she began proving out the land where the small community of Cedar Slope now sits.

Nellie built her log cabin on what is now Lot 65, where the Clark cabin sits. When I first came up to Cedar Slope in the 50s Nellie's cabin was still there and I searched it diligently for square nails, which were plentiful if you dug down past the layer of fallen leaves busy turning into mulch and soil. My collections of square nails lived in a box as home right next to the little car that James Dean gave me around the same time.

Nellie had felled the logs for the cabin and traces of the caulking she used to fill in the gaps between the logs were still in place in the back corner, which was still standing. I later learned that the settlers used thick mud, sand, and leaves in the deepest parts of the structure and thinner mud farther out so they could smooth it out. Later, they used mortar. I did not see any sign of mortar at Nellie's cabin.

I made a hidie place for myself there and dug a cache in the corner for my Precious Things, which was a diary of my thoughts and events. My older brother Cappy, was inclined to grub it out of my possessions at the Cabin, then on Lot 7, and hear it aloud. This was much better.

My father explained to me how log cabins were built and how old the architecture really was. He told me that log cabins had been found in Scandinavia and were associated with Danish settlements in the North of England, where the Viking incursion had settled many of the people who later came to America as Quakers and Puritans and Scots-Irish. That was when Dad began telling me about our own history.

His family had all come over before the Revolution and his grandmother, Dr. Harriet Foster Pillsbury's family, had homesteaded in Andover, Massachusetts in the 1640s. This is now North Andover, I later discovered. In 1850 South Andover paid the original Andover for the right to call itself Andover. The thrifty original settlers were happy to let them have the name for $500.00, a lot of money back then.

Harriet's family still owns the original homestead and when we went home Dad showed me the sampler Harriet had done when she was just a little older than I was then. Harriet was 8 when she did the sampler in 1846. Later, when I visited the Foster Family at in North Andover I noticed that the house had not changed very much.

At the bottom Mom and Dad had put a sketch from the little sketch book Abigail, Harriet's oldest daughter, had painted, before they left the East Coast for California in 1883.

Nellie's log cabin was very simple. You could still see the foot print where it had stood but only that one corner was standing and that was listing badly. But there was plenty of room for me when I was six. The view from there, looking out down the slope, was beautiful and Dad explained by showing me the likely size of the trees as they would have been then what it would have been like for Nellie to sit there in the early evening, just listening to the leaves murmuring in the wind and smelling the cedar and pine trees.

Later, Dad drew a sketch for me showing me how Nellie's log cabin would have looked. I went on the Internet to find a picture that looked like it and found this Site that shows you what a similar cabin would look like after two days of work by a group of men. So it probably took Nellie longer, though people being companionable and helpful back then Nellie might well have had friends come up and help her raise the logs. Dad told me that using wenches and ropes she could have done it herself. I sort of like to think she did just that.

It was Paul Gordeuk, who worked for Les Bailey, the person who primarily took charge of developing the Marshall Claim into the little cabin community it is now, who knocked down the cabin. I cried when I found it gone when we came up one year. I thought about Nellie and her hard work and the time she had spent there learning to love the mountains.

Paul once told me that he was Les's slavey, working at the 'dangest' things. Paul said that he built the cabin that today belongs to the Khourys and he stood there as an ounce of gold dust was poured into the concrete they used for the foundations.

Foundations are things that hold us the places we live. History is therefore a foundation for everything.

The Log Cabin Gallery

James Marshall State Park