Mystery at the Stonyford Museum: Sheet and Pillow Case Ball uncovered

It wasn’t until an old poster was found recently among the many items donated over the years to the Stonyford Museum by the Lawrence “Sharky” Moore family that folks in the small foothill community in western Colusa County had ever heard of a Sheet and Pillowcase Ball, or that the town had one 135 years ago. 

“It was a Thanksgiving ball in 1893,” said Joyce Bond, curator of the Stonyford Museum, as she looked up at where the poster now hangs just inside the small community museum. “It was held at the Grand Hotel. It must have been a pretty big affair since so many people were involved, including the entire town of Stonyford.”

It wasn’t until the 1950s that the name “Toga Party” became popular for any kind of Greek or Roman-themed costume party, but in the 19th century, these unique events – typically called “Bed Sheet and Pillow-slip” parties – became a social novelty that rose in popularity from the 1870s to the mid-20th century, according to newspaper accounts. 

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was known for hosting elaborate public events at the White House, is said to have held a “Sheet and Pillow-slip Party” in January of 1934 as a birthday celebration for her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to spoof the popular comparison of him at the time to “Caesar.” 

While Bond and other local historians have so far found no other references to the Thanksgiving Day event on Nov. 30, 1893, in any of the museum’s archives, the poster does tell a great deal about who was involved in the planning of such a grand affair. 

“The names on the poster are some of the most prominent people in the area,” Bond said. 

Managing the event, according to the poster, were William H. Ragain, the first Ladoga Postmaster (1899), who at the time ran the Old Smithville Hotel before it burned down in 1892, and Henry Engrahm, who held the United States Mail contact, which gave residents of Stonyford twice a week delivery by stagecoach – although in bad weather, it was said that two weeks could elapse before a stage could get either in or out of the town. 

The Smithville Hotel and the store, built in the 1870s by John L. Smith, had been taken apart and moved on rollers to Stonyford in 1890, and it was reported that business continued as usual while the moving process was underway.

“People could see Mrs. Cheney still cooking in the kitchen as a horse rolled the hotel down the street,” Bond said. “It must have been quite a sight.” 

On the poster advertising the Sheet and Pillow Case Ball, Harriet Elizabeth Smith Goulding, the wife of Samuel Lasdon Goulding, is listed as giving a supper prior to the event. Mr. Goulding, (1833-1904), the ball’s floor manager, ran the stage three times a week from Colusa to Wilbur and Bartlett Springs, which he established on June 3, 1872. 

John McClaskey “Jack” Adams (1864-1932), who was married to Mary Belle Stites (1865-1945), was also a floor manager for the event. 

Jack and Mary Belle’s children include Alice Isabell Adams Huttman; Hazel M. Adams Causley Foutch; Freeman Adams, who died at age 1 in 1902; and Clement Clayton Adams (1903-1983), a Colusa County Supervisor and husband of Irene Adalaide Moore (1903-1951). 

The people on the invitation committees from the nearby towns were also very prominent, Bond said. 

Gold Rush Pioneer Colonel Frederick Gustavus Crawford (1831-1913) was on the committee from Willows. He moved to the area after giving up mining in 1880, and rented the Willows Hotel, which burned down in 1882. He then built the Crawford House, a small upscale hotel in Willows, which today is still nicely kept as a private home. His daughter was Hattie Crawford Hochheimer, whose husband owned Hochheimer & Company General Store, in Willows. 

Also on the committee from Willows was Sheriff Peter Herman Clark. Clark was elected the first Glenn County sheriff on May 5, 1891, in the same bitterly contested election that also ratified the division of Glenn and Colusa counties by vote of the majority. Immediately after the election, the anti-divisionists (Colusa County faction) filed a lawsuit with the Sacramento County Superior Court to try and block Glenn County’s formation on the grounds of illegal voting, colonization of voters, stuffing ballot boxes, and making fraudulent returns by election officials. The lawsuit did not prevail. The California Supreme Court upheld the decision, and Gov. Henry Harrison Markham signed the legislation that created Glenn County as the 44th county in California. 

Clark served only one term as sheriff. William H. Sale, who was elected Glenn County Clerk in the same May 5, 1891 election, then ran for and was elected sheriff on Nov. 7, 1894. 

William Johnson King, of Leesville, was on the committee. King co-operated the Old Smithville Hotel and store with Ragain. King, who was an attorney, was also the Stonyford schoolteacher and had as many as 90 children traveling to school from all over the hills as early as the 1880s. Mrs. King was a member and past president of Native Daughters of the Golden West, which was organized on June 24, 1887. 

Also from Leesville was Mathew James “Mutt” Keegan. 

Mutt’s father was a pioneer gold prospector who purchased a ranch in Bear Valley in 1880, intending to move his family there, but he died of pneumonia in September of that year. Mutt’s mother moved the family to Leesville the following November, and after renting the ranch out for seven years, she assumed managing the 527-acre cattle ranch with Mutt (then 15) until her death in 1900. It was said that Mutt received a good education at the Leesville School. He was administrator of his mother’s estate and he bought out his siblings, paying the ranch off over time. He made substantial improvements on the place and bought out surrounding ranches to a total of 1,257 acres. In addition to his own land, he leased the mountain range to raise cattle. In 1910, he built a confortable residence for him and his wife, Rosemarie Lang, a schoolteacher and native of Colusa, whom he married on Sept. 29, 1909. She was the daughter of William H. Lang and Rosie (Burns) Lang. 

Most of Mutt and Rosemarie’s nine children settled in Williams or Maxwell. They were Rose Marie Keegan Jauregui (1910-1996); Mathew James Keegan Jr., (1911-2007); Wanda Ann Keegan Dunlap (1912-1993); Aloise Alexa Keegan O’Sullivan (1915-2001); Alice Owena Keegan Irwin (1917-2011); Rita Joan Keegan Azevedo (1925-2007). Two infants: Mary Loyola Keegan, died at one month of age in 1914, and Richard Keegan, died at birth in 1922, are buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colusa. 

Mutt was a member of the Marysville Elks Club, the Leesville School District Board of Trustees, and the Maxwell Catholic Church. He died Sept. 22, 1951, at the age of 78. He is buried in the Catholic Holy Cross Cemetery in Colusa, as are his parents and four of his siblings. His sister Margaret Keegan (1862-1935) was Sister Mary Aloyse, a Notre Dame nun. She is buried in Santa Clara Mission Cemetery. 

On the committee from Sulphur Creek was gold minor William Cherry, who owned the Manzanita Gold Mine, which he worked with Woodruff Clark after gold was discovered there in 1863. The Manzanita Mine at one time was grouped together as the Cherry Hill Mine, located about 1.3 km (4,200 feet) west of Wilbur Springs, 20 miles southwest of Williams. It was the largest gold mine in Colusa County, with gold production from 1865 to 1892. The Manzanita and Cherry Hill were patented in 1893, the same year as the Sheet and Pillow Case Ball, when the primary interest in the mines became mercury. 

Willis Alexander Kruger (1869-1908), of Sites, was also on the committee. Kruger was married to Florida Hawkins Shearin Spencer (1871-1947). They had five children, although it appears most scattered outside Colusa County. Only their daughter, Lavista Kruger Wilson (1903-1978) remained. She is buried in Maxwell. Her daughter, Dorothy (Dottie) Wilson Sutton, the second wife of widower Park Sutton, is also buried in Maxwell. 

On the committee from Williams were Frank Hamilton McGee, occupation unknown, and Ed Rathbun, whose family were pharmacists at Fouch’s Pharmacy.   

Maxwell farmers Tom Cooper and George Scott were also on the committee, although very little information could be found about them. The same with Ed Gould and Francis Marion Mayfield, of Elk Creek; Rancher Herbert Boardman, of Leesville; Ed York, of Sulphur Creek; and Jes Rummelsburg, whose family apparently owned a general store in Williams and held several land patents on Goat Mountain. 

The Stony Ford (as spelled on the poster) String Band provided the music at the ball. Bond said very little is known about this group, but she believes that members of the Stites family may have been involved.  

A ticket to the ball, which included supper, was $2 per person, which is equivalent to $56.20 in 2018 dollars. 

Sadly, the Grand Sheet and Pillow Case Ball was held just three months after the death of John L. Smith, who had just completed the first and second story of the planned three-story Grand Hotel, when he was crushed from the hip down between two logs at his sawmill in August of 1893. He died at his home three days later. 

After his death, the Grand Hotel in Stonyford was never finished and it remained the same until it was torn down in the summer of 1945. 

Smith was one of the first pioneers to settle in the Stonyford area. 

He had moved his family from Utah to California in the summer of 1863. He, at first, hauled freight in Sacramento, but then settled on Stony Creek later in the year to work at the sawmill, which he bought in 1876. 

Although Smith could not read or write, he established a flourmill, a blacksmith shop, and built the Smithville Hotel and Grand Hotel from lumber from his own sawmill. 

While the poster is another treasure for the museum, Bond said it would be wonderful if people in Colusa and Glenn counties with information about the 1893 Sheet and Pillow Case Ball, or with more information about the people listed on the poster, would share their stories with the museum by calling (530) 570-5591 or (530) 963-3141, or by contacting Susan Meeker at the Pioneer Review, (530) 458-4141 or smeeker@colusacountynews.net. ■