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The Early Chapters
Submitted By: XNGH Jason Thorn Date: March 07, 2010, 10:26:30 PM Views: 2716

Originally published in the Hewgag Monitor by Tom Barry on May, 1986

   In our last issue, we covered the beginning of E Clampus Vitus. We now continue with the series, focusing this time on the Chapter functions of the old days.

   Keep in mind, Brothers, the working conditions of the old times. Many hours spent in cold water, physically hard, and for many, dangerous and isolated labor. Free time, what there was of it, was spent obtaining the barest of necessities for life. Food was high priced; liquor was of poor quality and expensive. Homes were cold and drafty, clothes were wet and ill-fitting. (As an example, right and left boots were not readily available, only generic boots for either foot.)

   As for other necessities, women were few and far between and in some cases, expensive also. Besides, who would really like to have much to do with a “girl” named “Big-nosed Kate” who was probably 20 or so years older than you, and was known to carry obnoxious little bugs to share with her “friends?”

   For a somewhat glamorized account of life in the mining country, see the movie Paint Your Wagon.

   To provide mutual aid and companionship, the miners flocked to join the various Chapters of E Clampus Vitus. Each community of any size probably had one, and it is certain the larger ones all did, as we can read of the various Lodge meetings in old newspapers. The mobility and ingenuity of the miners was evident in some of the names of the Chapters.

   Rather than hold semi-annual meetings as we do now, the early Clampers held meetings whenever a sucker or two showed up. A pot and pan salesman had no chance of selling anything if he wasn't a Clamper. In January, 1886, a touring actor, Lord Sholto Douglas from England, son of the Marquis of Queensbury, was once to appear in Marysville. He declined the off hand invitation to join the Clampers and was greeted by a virtually empty house on opening night. Reconsidering, he was “taken in” to the Clampers. His account of his initiation is hilarious, and most feel, an accurate description of the irreverent and lusty entertainment enjoyed by the miners. Although the Brothers cleaned his pockets and drank on the money till it was gone, his initiation was a financial godsend to him, as he was greeted by standing-room only crowds and recouped his money over and over. The building he was initiated in still stands in Marysville and does business as the Silver Dollar Saloon, on First Street. Two plaques grace the front of this original building, one commemorating the Lord Sholto Douglas incident and another, more recently dedicated, refers to New Mecklenburg, original site of settlement in the area.

   More than fun and entertainment, the early Chapters took care of their own in other ways. If a Brother was down on his luck, or suffered a loss of equipment or supplies, he was able to “weather the storm” with help from E Clampus Vitus. Later, miners with families were aided, especially the “widows and orphans” of miners killed or injured.

   As to the paraphernalia and rituals of the Order, the various Chapters used the basic ideas in the “Ritual of Ecclampus Vitus:” brought to California by old Joe Zumwalt. Records are scanty as many of the meetings were conducted without benefit of literate record keepers, and besides, many times no one was able to remember what had happened at the meeting.

   Much of what we know of the old days is due to the memory of one old man named Adam Lee Moore. Upon hearing of the reforming of E Clampus Vitus by some history minded Californians in the 1930’s, he contacted them and related the Ritual and other facts as he remembered them. (He was the last Humbug of his Chapter in the declining days of E Clampus Vitus in the 1870’s.)

   More next time on Adam Lee Moore and the refounding fathers of E Clampus Vitus.

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  • hickey197234: i have moved how do i update my info and i lost my card how can i get a new one
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  • Tom Barry: Tom Barry: Mistake on the newsletter page with the plaques. Should be Scotts Flat, not Hammon Grove.
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