How Things Can Change Suddenly


In the spring of 1863, sixteen year old Ellen Maria Goff wrote her Uncle Henry a note stating she had talked to her mother and that she wanted the school teaching position offered her in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  Her father had died in 1859 from typhoid fever and her mother was now a widow with four children.  Of the four, Ellen was the second eldest.  Henry was two years older, but  Mary Jane and Emma were 12 and 4 respectively.  It was necessary to not be a burden.

 So on May 2, 1863, Ellen was cerified to teach by the Longmeadow school district.

However, things were to change quickly...

Ellen’s Uncle Henry was Abel Henry Calkins, and was the brother of Ellen’s mother, Amelia (Calkins) Goff.  The Calkins family was a long established family that originally was out of Connecticut.  He was married to Sarah Maria Watrous.  The Watrous - or Waterhouse - family was another long established family like the Calkins. Sarah had a brother Benjamin who in 1850 had left Massachusetts to go via the Isthmus of Panama to California.  He arrived in San Francisco in August, 1850 heading directly to the southern mine area of the Mother Lode.  Benjamin eventually settled in Chinese Camp, California and found there was better money to be made is stock raising.

It is not known exactly how matters transpired, but Benjamin had not been back to Massachusetts since going to California.  But in 1863 in the midst of a Civil War he went back home to meet and marry Ellen.  They were married September 2nd, 1863 just 5 days before Ellen’s 17th birthday.  Benjamin was 32.

They left for California once again via the Isthmus of Panama and made their way back to Chinese Camp.  It happened so quickly that one of Ellen’s young friends wrote her to say she had missed her leaving but had heard about the handsome stranger from California.

In Chinese Camp they had their first child, Willie in 1865.  But Willie barely made it through his first winter,  They had two more children in Chinese Camp - Fred in 1867 and Emma Jane in 1869.  Emma was our grand-aunt Edie.  I can barely sustain a memory of her when I was little.

In 1872 Benjamin built a new home for his family in Stockton, California.  They went on to have two more surviving children - Alice in 1872 and Ben in 1875.

Ellen spent the rest of her short life raising her children and died at the age of 46 in 1893.  She and her husband Ben encouraged their daughter, Alice to attend the university at Berkeley, but on Ellen’s death Alice came home.

Of the four children, only Fred had two surviving children - George who went on to have his family in Sacramento, and Ethel (Mary Ethel) who raised her family in Stockton.

Edie had a son, Raymond, but he passed away as a young man.  Alice never had a child, but married and with her husband participated in the Klondike gold rush.

Ben married, but had no children as well.

But the pioneering Ellen who gave up being a teacher to come to California with the handsome stranger eventually saw all her siblings and mother follow her to California.  Her mother is buried with her in the Rural Cemetery in Stockton

© Ken Piper 2016