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A short History of E Clampus Vitus - Andy Rogers and William Morris Stewart, (part 2)
Submitted By: XNGH Jason Thorn Date: March 09, 2010, 09:13:40 AM Views: 11635

Originally published in the Hewgag Monitor by Tom Barry - May, 1989



In 1957, the Grand Council of Venerable Clampatriarchs of E Clampus Vitus was, according to then-Sublime Noble Grand Recorder Dr. Al Shumate, “amazed,” to say it gently, “to find that the E.C.V. Corporation was on the State ‘subversive’ list and no longer had any legal standing.” This was at the time when a Loyalty Oath was required of most any person or corporation doing business with the State. In perhaps typical fashion, the papers with the Loyalty Oath were either lost of thrown away by the Officer(s) of E Clampus Vitus, Incorporated. In any case, Andy Rogers, Noble Grand Humbug of the successor Chapter to the original group in Marysville which had incorporated in 1915, failed to return the papers to the State. There are TALES that the clenched fists of the sign of the Well Jackass and the RED shirts being worn in the mountain chapters may have also had a part in the loss of Incorporation status of E Clampus Vitus. These were the days of the height of the Cold War and Communist subversives were suspected, by many, of infiltrating the very fibers of our nation in order to attain the final Communist victory over Capitalism.

The Grand Council was also informed that Andy Rogers and an attorney had been to Sacramento and were trying to obtain a new ECV Corporation. Edgar Jessup, head of the Marchant Calculator Company, was the President (now known as the Sublime Noble Grand Humbug) of the Grand Council at the time. A man with a keen sense of order and responsibility, Jessup was very upset with the loss of incorporation. Also still most active at the time was Carl Wheat, one of the original “re-founders” of E Clampus Vitus in the 1930s who was a lawyer and one of California’s more famous historians and author of the six volume tome; Mapping The Transmississippi West. Carl was not a particular fan of Andy Rogers, who had in 1952 published a poorly written, poorly printed booklet; A Hundred Years of Rip Roarin’ Rough and Ready. Andy had little support from the officers of the Grand Council, due to the loss of the incorporation.
The Grand Council at that time was composed of many Yerba Buena members, and that chapter had an imposing ceremony of Initiation of new members. Andy, on the other hand, was known to sit at a table on the street in Nevada City or Grass Valley and “take in” to ECV anyone with the money to join. He also held “meetings” at will, and was, seemingly, running a one-man show as far as William Bull Meek Chapter was concerned. As a result, Andy had little support from the rest of the members of the Grand Council, either.

The problem with the Incorporation was straightened out with some legal work by Ralph Cross, an attorney and owner of an Alameda County ranch. Cross had personally paid the fines to reinstate the ECV Corporation and get it off the subversive list. The minutes of the May, 1957 Grand Council meeting indicate that Ralph was granted the title “Hon. Re-incarnator of E. C. V., Inc.” by unanimous vote of the Council. The minutes also indicate the public action of the Council in authorizing Edgar Jessup to appoint a committee to investigate the William Bull Meek Chapter.

Then, on April 13, 1958 in Petaluma, President Jessup presided at the first official meeting of the Clamproctors of E Clampus Vitus Inc. since the Memorial Day weekend of 1957. Charters were granted to several new Chapters, including: James D. Savage in Fresno, another in Monterey, with a name to be decided later, and one in Oakdale to be known as Estanislao Chapter. (Interestingly, but not germane to this article, is the news that Matuca Chapter was granted permission to change its name to the Bret Harte Chapter, and Las Plumas Del Oro Chapter was granted permission to change its name to James Beckwourth “if and when their members so indicate by majority vote.”) In other action that day, the proctors unanimously voted to allow a new chapter in Nevada City, since the William Bull Meek Chapter had moved its operating headquarters and its principal activities to Rough and Ready. As a result of all this activity, the Committee appointed to investigate the William Bull Meek Chapter the previous year at Murphys was dissolved.

During the time from May, 1957 to April, 1958, what had happened to cause the Grand Council to take the action of dissolving the committee to investigate the William Bull Meek Chapter? Why had Andy Rogers moved his base of operations to Rough and Ready?

The disgruntled, “anti-Andy,” Clampers of Nevada County had made plans to form a new chapter, one which would supposedly be more responsive to the goals of E Clampus Vitus. There were historical sites and buildings that needed recognition, many uninitiated citizens who needed to be taken in, and Andy had been operating a relatively “closed corporation,” in their eyes. Gathering historical data and utilizing the talents of people connected with the newspaper business in Nevada County, along with the participation of some of the members of the local law enforcement agencies, as well as some Nevada County officials, they planned a series of meetings to form the new William Morris Stewart Chapter.

The William Morris Stewart organizers had announced their meeting in October of 1957, and despite protests from Andy Rogers in the form of public announcements in the newspaper, had gone ahead with the process of electing officers and setting up the new chapter without the blessing of the Grand Council, but they apparently felt that all would be approved in time, due to the state of affairs in the William Bull Meek Chapter. Andy’s protests did not stop the organizational meeting, and he withdrew his “operation” to Rough and Ready and points around western Nevada County and Yuba County.

The October 24th, 1957 meeting went on, and Tom Walsh, a hotel keeper from Washington, Nevada County, was elected Noble Grand Humbug, with Peter Ingram, publisher of The Union, a Nevada County newspaper, in the position of Grand Noble Recorder. On November 13th and 16th, notices of an organizational dinner to occur at Seaman’s Lodge in Nevada City on Sunday, Nov. 17th, appeared. “An Italian feed by chefs George Pello and Jack Brickell (would) be served.”

On Jan. 9th, 14th, 17th and 18th, large newspaper ads were taken by the new group announcing the chance to become a Charter member in a “new chapter of an organization that is steeped in our local history.” The event was to take place in North San Juan on Sunday, January 19th, 1958, with Charter Initiation by James W. Marshall Chapter No. 49 of Hangtown, with a Grub Gulch consisting of Hors-d’oeuvres, tossed salad, roast beef and gravy, brown beans, baked potatoes, French rolls, coffee and ice cream. Prospective members were advised: “Be there - we’ll take care of the rest.”

A later newspaper article informed readers that 38 PBCs were taken in and that the total membership swelled to over 130. The initiation team was led by “Eldon Zueger, state director of ECV and past Grand Noble Humbug of James Marshall Chapter... and L. Vernon “Duke” Aaserude, retiring Grand Noble Humbug of Las Plumas del Oro Chapter…”

For years, it has been common knowledge that there were only four Noble Grand Humbugs of the William Morris Stewart Chapter of E Clampus Vitus. Present Chapter 10 records indicate that Tom Walsh was the first, in 1958. This is where it gets confusing, so hang on. The Charter for the new group had not been issued by the Grand Council yet, and at a meeting described as “Election of Officers to be held on Wed., May 14th at Seaman’s Lodge, and reported upon on May 16th, “John Walker, of Rough and Ready, was unanimously elected Grand Noble Humbug” in the first official election of permanent officers. Other officers elected were: Elza Kilroy, Clampatriarch; Jack Brickell, GNR; and Gene Beck, Keeper of the Gold Dust. Plans for a June 8th meeting were made, at which time the Charter would be presented. The confusing part of all this is that “John Walker” has not been acknowledged as having been Noble Grand Humbug in Chapter 10 records. It had always been known that there were four Humbugs in the short, illustrious life of Wm. Morris Stewart Chapter. Only one of those four is still among the living; Tom Walsh, the first NGH (1958), having gone to the Golden Hills many years ago, and Peter Ingram (1959) and Dan Pello (1960) more recently.

Your editor undertook a phone trip to determine the answer to this question: Were there actually five NGHs of William Morris Stewart Chapter? A call to Bob Wyckoff, the sole remaining living NGH of the Chapter did not shine any light on the subject. His recollection begins with the beginning of his association with the Chapter in 1960, when Dan Pello was the Noble Grand Humbug. Be this as it may, the next newspaper article to be found is undated, but is probably from Monday, June 9th, 1958. The article indicates that State Senator Swift Berry, “director of the E Clampus Vitus and past Grand Noble Humbug of James Marshall Chapter, ECV of Placerville, officially notified William Morris Stewart Chapter of the issuance of its charter the previous afternoon, highlighting the ‘Charter Doings’ of the newly organized group in Nevada City.” The article goes on to state that there were 26 new members (PBCs) in attendance and that the Initiation was conducted in Seaman’s Lodge and was presided over by State Sen. Swift Berry and officers of the new Chapter, “including Grand Noble Humbug, Johnny Walker.” 120 Clampers of WMS partook of a wine-barbecued chicken dinner. Caterer Dean McCauley was “complimented on the feed which was deemed the best Grub Gulch of any Clamper doings attended by the members, several of whom have membership cards dating to 1931.”

On September 28th, 1958, William Morris Stewart Chapter held an initiation and meeting in the town of Washington, Nevada County. Contemporary flyers and newspaper accounts of the event give a short Thompson and West sketch of the history of the town, and even announced that 25 PBCs had been signed up before the event, but no list of officers is given. We even know the menu planned by the Pello brothers: “tossed Washington salad, relishes, ravioli au Pello, roast turkey Waldorf, garlic bread Italianno and coffee for the repast following Slippery Gulch.” It is obvious that the early WMS Clampers ate well, a custom in which present day Clampers heartily concur.

Chapter 10 archives contain no reference to other functions until September 20th, 1959. A flyer calling all Clampers in good standing to attend the dedication of a historical plaque at the home of “namesake and patron saint,” William Morris Stewart on Zion Street in Nevada City. Charles Gordon, Noble Grand Recorder, announced that Mrs. Judith Chaffey, owner of the Stewart mansion would be present to attend the dedication. Nevada County Superior Judge Vernon Stoll was to make the official dedication at 1:00 pm. Roll call of Clampers of the Northern Mines and registration of PBCs was held at 1:30 at city hall on Broad Street. After a PBC parade down Broad Street, District Attorney Harold Berliner was to direct the initiation at Seamen’s Lodge. Slippery Ravine and barbecued steak dinner were at the picnic area on Little Deer Creek. It is unlikely that a bronze plaque was dedicated at this event. The Chapter had very little money, and for the first several years carved wooden plaques hanging from pipe standards were standard policy for the Clampers of Nevada City.

Now, more on the “five Humbugs of WMS” question. A call to R. Peter Ingram, who was NGH of WMS in 1959, and who was the successor to first NGH Tom Walsh, indicated that a bit of tomfoolery had perhaps entered into history. Al Trivelpiece, one of the aforementioned “disgruntled Clampers,” was known to enjoy pulling the legs of one and all on occasion. It is said that he “invented the name” of a supposed great singer when one was needed for a plaque the Chapter was dedicating. XNGH Ingram’s theory was as follows: Al, a newspaperman for many years, was probably the reporter for the articles on the Election of Officers and reinvented the name “Johnny Walker” for the articles, and placed “Johnny’s” abode in Rough and Ready as a message to Andy Rogers, also of Rough and Ready. “Johnny Walker” was indeed well known to Al, but it is uncertain whether he preferred the Red Label “Johnny Walker” or the Green Label “Johnny Walker.” As Al is tramping the Golden Hills, it will probably never be known for sure if his idea of fun has caused future Clamper historians to scratch their heads about the mysterious “John Walker, rancher from Rough and Ready,” who was supposedly elected NGH and received the Charter of the Chapter from State Sen. Swift Berry in 1958.

This perhaps solves the “mystery” of Johnny Walker, but what of Andy Rogers? Andy and his wife Geneva were killed in an auto accident in 1959. XSNGH Dr. Al Shumate said of Andy Rogers: “He was a true Clamper, maybe more than we were - but a bit of a rogue.” Many Clampers today carry cards with Andy Rogers’ signature. Many of them have the same thought about Andy. A rogue, perhaps, but a Clamper through and through. He was able to hold the William Bull Meek Chapter together through very rough times, and was always ready, willing and able to give the Clamper Sign. Manuel Pelayo became the last NGH of William Bull Meek Chapter, but no Chapter 10 records exist from that time.

In the meantime, the William Morris Stewart group was busy placing plaques and holding meetings and initiations in various locations in the county. A wooden plaque on the hotel at Webber Lake, dating from September 10, 1961, still survives. The William Morris Stewart mansion plaque has been supplanted by a bronze one with a proper monument.

Next time, this short history will look into the consolidation of the two chapters in Nevada County into the present-day WBM-WMS Chapter 10.

Rating: ***** by 1 members.
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