Installation of Officers
Secret Location TBA to only a select few
Tomales Founder's Day Parade
September 17 - 19, 2021
Cunningham House - Windsor, CA
Born in Maine in 1819, at age fourteen he moved to Ohio with his family. He completed his printer's apprenticeship in 1836, and spent the next five years moving from state to state as a journeyman printer. Brannan converted to Mormonism in 1842 and subsequently moved to New York City to help publish several Mormon newspapers.
In November of 1845 a large group of New York City Mormons decided to seek refuge in California, then formally a Mexican territory. Brannan led the expedition of over two hundred people, which travelled by boat around South America and to the Hawaiian Islands. Their 1846 arrival in San Francisco (then called Yerba Buena) immediately tripled the city's tiny population.
After a brief period as publisher of a San Francisco newspaper, Brannan moved to John Sutter's settlement on the Sacramento and American Rivers and soon established a general store. The Mormon church claimed that he had diverted tithe money to this commercial enterprise, and expelled Brannan when he refused to return it. ("I'll give the Lord his money when I get a receipt signed by the Lord," Brannan is alleged to have said.) When James Marshall discovered gold on Sutter's land in 1848, Brannan seized the opportunity by widely publicizing the discovery and then selling his goods to the flood of men who came in search of gold.
Within several years, Brannan's meteoric commercial success had made him California's first millionaire. In 1849 he returned to San Francisco, where he continued his business activity, was elected to the City Council, and played a leading role in organizing the controversial Committee of Vigilance, which served as a citizen's police force. Throughout the 1850's his wealth and influence continued to grow; he became a major California landowner and helped to establish several banks and railroad and telegraph companies. Serious alcoholism and a volatile temperament, however, were his eventual undoing. He lost his fortune and health, as did many of those who first benefitted from the gold rush, and died an unnoticed death in rural San Diego county 1889.
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E Clampus Vitus
The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (ECV) is a fraternal organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the heritage of the American West, especially the history of the Mother Lode and gold mining regions of the area. The fraternity is not sure if it is a "historical drinking society" or a "drinking historical society." There are chapters in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and has Outposts in other western states. Members call themselves "Clampers." The organization's name is in Dog Latin, and has no known meaning; even the spelling is disputed, sometimes appearing as "Clampus," "Clampsus," or "Clampsis." The motto of the Order, Credo Quia Absurdum, is generally understood as meaning "I believe it because it is absurd;"
Members claim that the organization was brought to the United States in 1845 in Lewisport, Virginia, now West Union, West Virginia, when inn and stable owner Ephraim Bee was given a commission from the Emperor of China to "extend the work and influence of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus."
Bee claimed to have received his commission from Caleb Cushing, the American Commissoner to China. A monument to Bee in West Union now stands on the site of the old "Beehive" Inn along the North Bend Rail-Trail; the original "Bee Hive" was destroyed in a flood in the late 1800s.
The original purpose of the order appears to have been to initiate new members. When a stranger came to town, Clampers would inform him that to do business in the town it was essential to join the local secret society. The initiation rite was a parody of Freemasonic, Oddfellow and other orders, and took many forms, including rowing the initiate down in a wheelbarrow, hoisting him into the air and leaving him there, or dropping him into a vat of water. Afterwards, the initiate had to buy the other members a round of drinks.
Bee felt that an organization was needed which was less exclusive than the other organizations of the day, such as the Masons, Elks and Odd Fellows. In addition, nativism was rising in the United States, as evidenced by such political organizations as the Know-Nothing Party. Bee opened membership in ECV to any "upstanding" man who had come of age. It is known that there were E Clampus Vitus chapters in Bedford, Pennsylvania; Metropolis, Illinois; Bowling Green, Missouri; and Dahlonega, Georgia.
The original E Clampus Vitus disappeared after the Civil War but a "second era" version of the organization was formed in 1930 by attorney Carl Irving Wheat. The new incarnation of ECV is more serious than its predecessor, as an historical society as well as a mirth making club. ECV historical plaques are found on many buildings around California.
As the mining industry faded towards the end of the 19th century, ECV started to fade as well. It was revitalized in 1931 by San Francisco historian Carl Wheat and his friends G. Ezra Dane and Leon O. Whitsell. They were contacted by one of the last surviving members of the original ECV, who passed on all that he could remember of the organization's rites and legends. The three founded a new chapter, Yerba Buena Number 1.
New chapters sprang up in Los Angeles (Platrix Chapter #2) and other major cities in California, and were numbered sequentially. However, once Chapter 10 was established in 1936, members pointed out that it was illogical for such a rowdy organization to be so neat in its numbering scheme, and so some creativity was developed in the numbering. The de la Guerra y Pacheco chapter, halfway between Chapter 1 in San Francisco and Chapter 2 in Los Angeles, is Chapter 1.5.
The organization has raised historical plaques in many places throughout the West (often those sites such as bordellos and saloons overlooked by more traditional historical societies). These are now common in historical areas around California and the West.