“The calendar is a fun twist for learning about local history,” said local historian Kathy Leighton. “As we (ECCHS volunteers) do research and catalog the archives, we make note of significant dates in East County history, and we thought it’d be fun to compile them in a calendar. It will make a great Christmas gift for anyone who lives in this area. There are a lot of interesting little things that most people don’t know about.”
The $10 calendar is filled with fun facts and important dates. For example, did you know that on Jan. 26, 1920, a robber fled the Byron Bank with $50,000, or that President Benjamin Harrison’s train stopped in Brentwood on April 29, 1891?
The calendar, the first of its kind, also includes a historical photo marking each month. The historical photos, most of which have not been published before, offer a glimpse into life in far East County during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The month of January is marked with a photo from the 1890s, featuring a horse-drawn carriage being ferried across the Delta marshes. The ferry system was used to transport everything from people to produce to the various islands scattered throughout the Delta. Other calendar images include a 1900 photo of the Oakley Cash Store, and a shot of guests exploring the Vasco Caves.
All proceeds from the calendar sales will go toward the restoration of the Eden Plain schoolhouse, which is used as a field trip destination for local third-graders who visit the ECCHS museum.
When the museum reopens for its 2010 season in March, visitors of all ages will be treated to a variety of new displays. The society has recently received several significant material donations such as artifacts that belonged to Frances Donner Wilder, a surviving member of the Donner Party, who settled in Byron.
Leighton said material donations to the historical society come in waves. Sometimes the society goes months without any donations and then suddenly the floodgates open and the volunteers get bombarded with boxes of new items and photos.
“We get contacted every now and then by people who find old boxes in their garage and want to know if we want might find its contents useful. They figure if grandma kept it all this time, maybe it should go some place special. Some of us are more selective about what we accept, but I love it all. You never know what someone might bring in. Sometimes you find some real treasures – things you won’t find anywhere else. We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to acquire some real finds in the past month. We’ve received a lot of good stuff.”
In addition to the Donner artifacts, a World War I Navy uniform belonging to Brentwood resident Everett LeMoine will also go on display next year. LeMoine was the fourth mayor of Brentwood, serving the city from 1952 to 1954. He also helped organize Brentwood’s first fire department in 1928. When the town’s fire truck broke down, LeMoine, along with a man named Clarence Bray, made a new fire engine out of a 1917 Chevrolet touring car by attaching water tanks and a 110-foot hose to the back. Once the new fire engine was complete, LeMoine stored it at his business, the OK Garage, located on Oak Street.
LeMoine was also a charter member of Brentwood’s American Legion Post 202, founded in 1919 following the end of World War I. Leighton said LeMoine’s uniform will be added to the historical museum’s military display.
The historical society also recently received nine boxes of items belonging to Edna Hill, the renowned teacher whose legacy was immortalized when the Brentwood school that she taught at was named after her in 1953. She was still teaching eighth grade at the school at the time of its renaming.
“We received boxes of handwritten notes by Edna Hill,” Leighton said. “She’d probably roll over in her grave if she knew her former students were reading her notes, but they’re exciting to have. She was going to write a book about East County, so she wrote notes on the back of envelopes and napkins – whatever she had handy when someone told her a story. There are notes from a 1950 interview with Judge Robert Wallace (Brentwood’s elected Justice of the Peace) talking about what life was like in 1908. You can’t put a price on that.”
Leighton said all the notes and photos will be digitally scanned and filed in the archives.
Hill has become a historical figure in her own right. The Knightsen native and Liberty High School graduate began teaching in Knightsen in 1912. She later served as Brentwood school district superintendent from 1930-1937 before returning to the classroom.
Hill retired from full-time teaching in 1964 but continued to work at Edna Hill Middle School as a substitute teacher. The East Contra Costa Business and Professional Women’s Club named her Woman of the Year in 1959. She was also one of the founding members of the ECCHS, an owner of the Brentwood News, and a member of the Native Daughters of the Golden West. She died in 1975 at the age of 84.
Another helpful addition to the ECCHS archives came from Brentwood resident Barbara Guise, who recently donated dozens of articles about Brentwood published in the late 20th century.
“Barbara has always been very involved with what’s going on in Brentwood,” Leighton said. “She was mayor in the early ’80s and has been active in the community for many years, and over time she’s been collecting article clippings about things happening in town going back to the ’60s. She’s a lot like me, collecting all these things, saying that she’ll do something with them later and file them away, so when she found that box of old articles, she decided to give it to us.”
Leightson said these original sources are valuable to the archives and would also be preserved digitally.
The articles might also provide new dates that could be added to the 2011 edition of the ECCHS calendar, which Leighton is already compiling.
The 2010 calendar is available at the Brentwood Press office, 248 Oak St., and the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce office, 8440 Brentwood Blvd., Suite C. The ECCHS Museum will reopen on March 28, 2010. For more information about the historical society, visit www.theschoolbell.com/history. For more information about the calendars or the ECCHS, call Leighton at 925-634-0917.