CCC Vol. 1 Rpt. 2 p. 41-46 Charles Harris Congdon


#200 Fifth Avenue,
New York City
October 15th, 1923.

Dear Cousins:-

    Cousin Will Selph has requested me to give an account of my western trip which extended along the Pacific Coast practically from Old Mexico to Canada. I have hundreds of friends in that part of the country and my visit was one continuous round of joyful re‑unions. Many of these friends I had known forty-five years ago. Some of them have attained high places in business and the various professions.

    A. W. Frater, formerly of Brainerd, Minn., is now Judge of the Superior Court at Seattle; Frank Hartley runs the largest shingle mill in the world. The capacity‑of this mill is one million two hundred fifty thousand shingles per day. The recent enormous orders for lumber from Japan will undoubtedly fall into his hands.

     David Clough, an old friend of mine and formerly Governor of Minnesota, is associated with the Hartleys in the lumber industry. They operate several large mills.

    Roland Hartley, son‑in‑law of Governor Clough and brother of Frank, is a candidate for Governor of Washington.

    I took brother Ed with me on this trip and he stuck to me even closer than a brother. We visited the Hartleys and many other old Brainerd friends. We stayed all night with Frank and took lunch with Mrs. Roland Hartley. Roland himself was away campaigning. Mrs. Westfall, another Brainerdite, was present at this luncheon.

    On my way from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, I stopped off at San Jose to visit W.W. Hartley. I found him at Mountain View and, of course, spent the night at his home. He used to be editor of the Brainerd Tribune, and was also postmaster there.

    Ed and I never had such a splendid visit together before. In a letter I received from him yesterday he says: "You certainly had a wonderful trip. We all enjoyed your visit,‑ I can't tell you how much. It has been many years since we had such a good visit together. We live it over and over in our memory." This was true of Em and Lee and Georgia.

     The grandest trip we took was up Mt. Tacoma or "Rainier" as it is called in the geography. It is the "Mountain that is God". While I saw Mount Shasta for nearly a whole day as I took the Shasta Route from San Francisco to Portland, and also several

- Report No. 2 - Page 41 -

(Sarah Campbell Family)


other peaks and mountain ranges, nothing approaches the grandeur and sublimity of this marvellous [sic] mountain whose foothills cover several counties and whose snow‑capped peak rises fourteen thousand five hundred feet above the sea. It stands like a sentinel to the pearly gates. One is lifted far above the lowly plains of earth almost into the presence of the Creator. Nothing moves me to worship like this wonderful mountain. I came away feeling that my soul had been refreshed for I had drunk from the living streams that flow from "The Mountain that is God".

    I will not impose on you by going into unnecessary detail, but I feel that I could write all day on this most inspiring theme.

    As you have all heard from Ed and Em and their children from time to time, I will not attempt to relate all the pleasant things that occurred while I was there. Em is a good scout and entered into our pleasures with zest and keen appreciation.

    Georgia lives across the sound from Seattle. They have a nice home at a little place called Harper. Oscar has a good position with the Alaska Steamship Company. This connection has afforded them frequent trips to Alaska. Georgia is very capable and enterprising. She makes big money raising flowers and marketing them in Seattle. Lee is in the real estate business at Tacoma. and is doing well. Most of you saw Helen, his wife, at the last Cousins' Dinner. They have two unusually bright children, Edgar and Elizabeth. Edgar is a prodigy on the violin. He will make a national reputation if permitted to pursue his studies. He is only fifteen years old and plays like a virtuoso.

     The National Educational Association met in San Francisco and Oakland, across the bay. There I met the leading educators of the country. Anna was with me during these meetings and enjoyed them immensely. I was honored by having my songs sung at one of the important meetings and was invited to lead the singing.

     Among the cities I visited on this trip were Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Sacramento, Placerville, Portland (Ore.), Tacoma, Seattle and Everett (Wash.), and other smaller places.

     Anna and the girls are at Santa Barbara, Calif., and now that Louise is on the road to recovery they will no doubt enjoy another winter there.
[Charle lived in a hotel in NYC and had a summer home near Stroudsburg, PA. Because of his daughter Louise' health problems, Louise and her sister, and most of the time their mother, lived in the SW. Louise recovered and lived to age 99.5.] While I was with them, Bernice drove me several hundred miles in her car along the coast through fertile irrigated valleys, through mountain passes and along the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Anna was with us most of the time. We met thousands of

- Report No. 2 - Page 42 -

(Sarah Campbell Family)


automobiles and often, as night came on, the headlights approached us in droves while herds of cars were chasing us from the rear.

     Let me here quote a few lines from a letter I wrote to sister Em. It was written while I was on the spot and inspired by the beautiful scenes that were constantly moving before my wondering eyes:

    “We pursued the setting sun and, later, the new moon until they both sank into the 'dark and deep blue ocean';‑ but the next morning the sun peeped apologetically over the Coast Range, apparently none the worse for his nocturnal escapade."

"The night has a thousand eyes
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the whole world dies,
When the day is done."
                F. W. Bourdillon.
     Think of the many lands, and the awful scenes this nightly prowler looks upon every twenty‑four hours. Since I wrote the above, he beheld the greatest disaster recorded in history. [Probably a reference to The Great Tokyo Earthquake] The new moon resembled a bent safety razor blade, but what a tremendous load she pulls. The tides have a potential force that would, if converted into electricity, heat and light every home and turn every wheel in the whole world.

    In many cities in California, and more especially in Santa Barbara, one is impressed by the Spanish names and the Spanish styles of architecture. A very large percentage of the residences are only one story high but no two are alike in the same locality.

    There are many Catholic missions here. The Indians and primitive people were the easiest to convert, but the "civilized heathens” wiped out these beautiful traditions, leaving only architectural relics of the Spanish regime. The missions are valuable however for advertising this land of plenty, where "Fleecy flocks the hills adorn, with valleys filled with gravy corn." But these valleys are more noted for their vast orchards of apples and oranges.

    We can look out on the ocean from our cottage in Santa Barbara. Three islands extend southward. The channel separating them from the mainland is thirty miles wide but it does not look to be over five. I hear voices of strange birds here, but none more sweet than the robin or the bluebird whose songs were familiar to me in childhood.

    The nights are invariably cool but it gets hot in the middle of the day. There are no thunder showers out here to shudder at.

- Report No. 2 - Page 43 -

(Sarah Campbell Family)


    Before leaving California for the north, I took a side trip from Sacramento to the top of the Sierra Nevada Range. It was so interesting that I would not consider this letter complete without giving a brief account of it.

    As in every other city I visited, I found a number of old friends in Sacramento. I called on the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and then took the train eastward to Placerville. This is a famous gold mining town that has a very interesting history.

    Some of the older Cousins will remember "Zade and Georgia” Congdon, who left Nelson with their parents in 1860 to cast their lot in California. They settled in Placerville., where Aunt "Emmie's" father lived. Uncle George, the girl's father, was not a success in business but he could fiddle almost as well as Ole Bull. He made lots of money playing for dances, receiving usually twenty‑five dollars a night.

    The girls grew up with two other children, all of whom were married in due time. But Georgia developed into a beautiful singer. This put her into the best society and she married a man worth half a million dollars. He was a brother of William C. Ralston of San Francisco, who was at one time worth many millions. He built the celebrated Palace Hotel of San Francisco which was destroyed by fire at the time of the earthquake there. The Ralston brothers lost the bulk of their fortunes and William drowned himself on the beach near San Francisco. Thomas, Georgia's husband, saved a large tract of land in Iowa which is now quite valuable and will keep Georgia in good circumstances the rest of her life. Of course, "Zade" will be well provided for.

    I dropped off at Placerville which is the end of that line of railroad and after some inquiry found these two old dames sitting on the front porch of one of a row of cottages which Georgia owns. You can imagine their surprise.

    Georgia's daughter, Stella, married a shoe merchant of that place and as this was Saturday he drove us all up the gulch about forty miles where they have a summer cottage. We stayed over Sunday among trees that measure from six to eight feet in diameter and tower to a height of over one hundred feet. These are not the celebrated big trees of California which have a diameter of thirty feet. Their cottage is surrounded with sleeping porches so that when an occasion requires they can entertain a dozen guests or more. Sunday we drove on to the top of the Sierra Nevada range where we could look over into the state of Nevada and also get a good view of Lake Tahoe, which is a very beautiful lake situated in California near its eastern border.

- Report No. 2 - Page 44 -

(Sarah Campbell Family)


This view was not surpassed by any of the wonderful scenes I beheld except of course, Mt. Ranier, which I have already described.

    The road from Placerville to the top of this range was the old pioneer trail over which thousands of pioneers travelled to the golden state as far back as 1849. This trail is now a part of the Lincoln Highway which is being pushed rapidly to completion.

    There was a stage driver in the early days by the name of Hank Monk. He was a fearless driver of marvellous skill. With one "jerk line" he would guide a team of six horses at break‑neck speed, often running within a foot of precipices a thousand feet to the bottom. Horace Greeley rode with Monk many years ago and I remember a cartoon in one of the New York papers representing Greeley frightened almost to death and stinking his head out of the stage window trying frantically to get out. Georgia said she had ridden with Monk several times.

    Zade and Georgia have a brother Ed who lives in Oakland. He has a position with the Southern Pacific Railroad in their offices at San Francisco. When I called on him there, of course, he did not know me. I said: "It is strange you do not recognize me,‑ I used to knew you sixty‑three years ago back in Pennsylvania; furthermore, you are my cousin."

    Zade and Georgia are now old women. It was interesting to hear them relate their experiences when Georgia was the prima donna of the Pacific Coast. Alzada was a good singer and both moved in the wealthiest circles of California. Now they are serenely waiting for the summons to join that endless caravan that is moving slowly and silently along the final trail, toward the setting sun.

    I stopped at Portland, Oregon, and visited several old friends. I went out to Gresham only a few miles from Portland and stayed all night with Will Congdon, Tom's brother. We visited the County Fair, bought lemonade and had a most enjoyable time. Will is a prominent citizen of Gresham.

    I must now leave this interesting country. I do so very reluctantly for as I have said, this has been the most wonderful tour of my life.

    Ed and family took me to the station at Tacoma and after a tearful parting, I was soon rolling eastward in a modern sleeper attached to a Northern Pacific train.

    I stopped first at Spokane and saw several old friends I used to know in Brainerd, Minnesota. I received the same cordial warm‑hearted greeting that had characterized my entire trip

- Report No. 2 - Page 45 -

(Sarah Campbell Family)


    At Helena, Montana, I stopped off on purpose to see Governor Dixon, who was Chairman of the National Committee of the Progressive Party during the Campaign of 1912. He was then United States Senator from Montana. He invited me into the Executive Chamber of the Capitol and we chatted for more than an hour recalling the experiences of that wonderful campaign. He spoke of the tidal wave of song that poured forth from fifteen thousand throats at the Progressive Convention in Chicago and the manner in which I led them, using the Chicago Tribune rolled up to serve as a baton.

    My next stop was Valley City, N.D., where I stayed all night in order to take a local train for Mapleton where Mate Congdon Shaver, sister of Tom Congdon, lives. She and her husband, Henry Shaver, drove me to Fargo where I met other relatives and friends. I had the extreme pleasure of spending the evening with Rev. R. A. Beard, my pastor at Brainerd, Minn. forty years ago. It was a most delightful re‑union. I also met Charlie Saran, who married Sarah Congdon, Uncle Alfred Congdon's daughter. Sate is dead and Charlie is a retired locomotive engineer. He used to pull those great overland trains on the Northern Pacific Railroad between Brainerd and Fargo.

    I could not stop at Brainerd to see Hannah Hughey and her children because I was overdue in New York, but I stopped off a day in St. Paul where I had spent twelve fruitful years and where our children were born. My next stop was Chicago, then Watkins., N. Y. [to see his sister, Emma Buck] and Mansfield, Pa. [to attend the "Cousins Dinner" at Mabel Shaw's]

    I am now back in the whirl of business, but the memory of this eventful trip will abide with me to the end of my life.

    With love to you all, I remain

Very sincerely,


For photo - See page 2 - (Standing - Left)
For photo - See page 49 - (Back Row - Left)

- Report No. 2 - Page 46 -

(Sarah Campbell Family)

Copyright 2000, 2001, 2012 Tom Zurflieh and Wm. Thompson. Commercial use prohibited.

Return Home      Prev.       Next