Originally published in the Hewgag Monitor by Tom Barry - February, 1989
This time, our short history of E Clampus Vitus takes a look at the beginnings of the William Morris Stewart Chapter No. 8591, which merged with the William Bull Meek Chapter No. 10 in 1962.
Information here comes from the files and memories of R. Peter Ingram and Bob Wyckoff, two of the four Noble Grand Humbugs of the short-lived Wm. Morris Stewart Chapter. Our thanks to them for helping us to recall our “roots.”
While we mention four Humbugs of the William Morris Stewart Chapter, recent perusal of the newspaper articles of the day may indicate that a fifth Humbug of WMS existed, but this is a story for later.
Frustration by numerous Clampers over the continual reign of Rough and Ready resident Andy Rogers - seemingly the perpetual Humbug of William Bull Meek Chapter, prompted several disgruntled (ever meet a gruntled person?) Clampers to seek a new local chapter of the Clampers in the Grass Valley - Nevada City area.
(Editor’s note: Sketchy records recently found indicate that Andy Rogers was a PBC in Mono County in 1952, and NGH of Wm. Bull Meek chapter from 1955 to 1959, but he was, nonetheless, a powerful influence on that Chapter for many years.)
A very colorful “character,” Andy Rogers was “Mr. Clamper” in the area for many years, and chapter archives do contain numerous letters to and from the great and near-great in California at the time. Lieutenant Governor, California State Supreme Court Justice, or ordinary citizen, Andy carried on correspondence with them all. His letters invited them to partake of some good times with the Clampers. One letter in particular must have bothered him a little. It is from the Commanding Officer of Beale Air Force Base and was written just after the Clampers had held a meeting in one of the dining halls on the base to celebrate the placement of a plaque dedicated to the namesake of the base, Gen. Beale. In the letter, the base Commander indicates that he would not have allowed the Clampers to have their meeting on the Base, if he had known all the damage they would cause. He mentions sixteen dollars worth of broken dinnerware, floors that had to be refinished, etc. Total damage is in the “over $50.00” range. He made it most clear that the Clampers would not be re-invited to the Base during his tenure as Base Commander. Imagine the problems we would have today if we tried to have a meeting and Initiation at Beale Air Force Base!
Anyway, suggestions, as well as some actions, had been made by some of the higher-ups in the Grand Council, to take the Chapter away from Andy, but he always seemed to be able to hang on to his territory.
The efforts to unseat Andy and/or establish a new chapter of E Clampus Vitus and Andy Rogers himself were the subjects of articles written by Herb Hamlin (1890-at least 1977), editor of The Pony Express, in the issue dated April, 1958.
(Editor’s note: The Pony Express, which concerned itself with western history, was the “unofficial” publication for the Clampers for many years, beginning in 1940, then “official” beginning in 1954, until the development of The Clamper by Wes Simard, Joe Geddes and Dr. R. Coke Wood.)
Poor Andy of Rough and Ready
If he shows up at the pilgrimage everybody sees him ‘cause he towers so high. If he doesn’t show up, there are many who always miss him. He’s got a Hewgag ten times bigger than others, which we presume makes too much noise, and some Clampers don’t like it. But no man in our time has advertised the Northern Mines more than this hard working sport, who is Humbug and Chamber of Commerce all in one. He has put Bull Meek Chapter high in the realm of activity, yet for some reason a few have envy or jealousy. Yerba Buena boys gang up on him with secret meetings and connive with sundry methods to punish the poor fellow who has been really going to town with E Clampus Vitus. We are told that less than $200.00 was in Grass Valley or Nevada City banks, belonging to Bull Meek Chapter. Who on earth should have access to it more than Humbug Andy Rogers? We are told: “He drew it out and treated Clampers from near and far to their favorite libation; that fellows came with cups hanging around their necks for free liquor.” But alas, it’s the old story. His popularity sailed high so long as it lasted. When the liquor waned, some Clampers turned sour, and have carried a scowl every since.
Patriotism at Bull Meek
Andy’s a mountaineer who sleeps outdoors, goes behind a tree and uses language of the hills. Some folks think he’s “teeched in the head” when he uses the word “ain’t” but ain’t we all touched in the head more or less, sometimes more when we think less? During the depression, Will Rogers said: “Those that ain’t using the word ‘ain’t’, ain’t eating.” So, sophisticated guys take heed if you don’t want to go hungry during the present recession. We are told Andy has enemies. So did Joe McCarthy whom Andy tagged around listening to good speeches on patriotism. As a result, Andy, whose patriotism runs high, won’t countenance any reds, pinks or lavenders in the Clampers of Bull Meek, which is heap good medicine for Yerba Buena.
Scotty Allan’s Last Speech
The famous Arctic explorer, Scotty Allan, was very much interested in Bull Meek Chapter. The last speech he made was before their august body at the National Hotel, Nevada City in 1941, passing away the same year. The historic chapter in Nevada County was in old age when Yerba Buena’s mushroom chapter was born in the 1930s, and euchred King Solomon’s Marysville-Yuba City Chapter of its charter in 1940. Solomon Chapter was not inactive by any means. The writer was there in 1937-39 when ECV’s good work was going strong. One of the most charitable acts in ECV history was staged by this chapter and not Lord Sholto Douglas, at Auburn. Spearheaded by the late Lou Eichler of the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville, they journeyed to Downieville with relief, Christmas cheer, and toys for children, who suffered loss in the flood of mid December when the dam broke.
Perhaps it would do well for the fledgling chapters to learn how to fly before encroaching on older chapters, telling ‘um how to run their affairs. We may be branded as iconoclast. If so, “she’ll have to be.” Principle is bigger than any individual or organization. Our firm belief is: intolerance is an unhealthy condition whether in any organization or government from Russia to Argentina. It’s like a boomerang, proving in the end more injurious to the practitioner than to the practice, if one allows the word.
Ingersoll and Spinoza
E Clampus Vitus Chapters, in early days, were independent by themselves. They had no boss sneaking up behind them trying to sew up their bank accounts, or install chapters under their nose. They were full of humor and tomfoolery, but not with licentiousness, profanity or vulgarity in rituals or otherwise. Nor did they make mockery of any religious sect. Tis’ true their bars were down, but they didn’t go over the mountain to initiate ‘queers’ that one wouldn’t invite in his home through the back door. (Ed. Note: Remember, this was written in 1958, before any sense of ‘political correctness’ had been thought of. Also note Hamlin’s request for tolerance in the next paragraph!)
Ingersoll said: ‘humour is the torch of reason.’ History shows us that E Clampus Vitus of old was replete with it. When one chapter tries to strangle another it’s time to believe in the policy of “live and let live” and turn to study the great Jewish philosopher Spinoza, who said: “This is no time to laugh, or to cry, just understand.” Let’s be tolerant.
Despite this elegant defense of Andy Rogers, the disgruntled Clampers went on with plans to start a new Chapter. Veteran newspaperman and local history buff/poet Alvin S. Trivelpiece assisted in selecting the new “namesake” for the Chapter. William Morris Stewart, who has been the subject of the last two installments of this short history, was selected as best representing the pioneer spirit of Nevada County.
On October 22, 1957, a notice appeared in Nevada County’s newspaper, The Union:
“Attention! Nevada County Clampers. Important Meeting at Seaman’s Lodge, Thursday, October 24, 8 PM.”
On October 23, another notice appeared:
“CLAMPERS ATTENTION! Officially No Meeting of Clampers Has Been Called. ANDY ROGERS, Noble Grand Humbug, William Bull Meek Chapter, No. 10, E Clampus Vitus, Inc.”
Then, on October 24, Andy’s notice was again printed just below another notice by the “disgruntled.” Their notice reads:
“RELAX, ANDY! THE MEETING OF CLAMPERS AT SEAMAN’S HALL 8 PM Tonight No Concern of William Bull Meek Chapter 10 of Rough and Ready.”
With this, we must now close this part of the short history of ECV, but we leave till next time the possibility of a FIFTH Noble Grand Humbug of WMS chapter, except to ask if anyone has ever heard of “John Walker, a rancher from Rough and Ready,” who is reported to have been the second NGH of the chapter.