The Unity Society of Palo Alto

An excerpt from a history of early Unitarians in Palo Alto. I haven’t made much progress on this project, due to the long hours I’ve been putting in dealing with the pandemic. With luck, I’ll be able to get back to it.

The Unity Society, 1895-1897

In November, 1892, the very first issue of The Pacific Unitarian, a periodical devoted to promoting liberal religion up and down the West Coast, declared that a Unitarian church should be organized in Palo Alto:

“The University town of Palo Alto is growing fast. Never was there a field that offered more in the way of influence and education than this. A [building] lot for a church ought to be secured at once, and the preliminary steps taken towards the organization of a Unitarian Society.” (1)

Organizing churches in college towns had been a standard missionary strategy for the American Unitarian Association (AUA) since the denomination had funded a Unitarian church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1865. These “college missions” were seen as “one of the most effective ways of extending Unitarianism,” (2) and many of them resulted in strong Unitarian congregations.

But who had the time and the skills to organize a Unitarian church in Palo Alto? The Unitarian church in San Jose was the one nearest to Palo Alto. In early 1893, the two ministers of the San Jose church, Revs. N. A. Haskell and J. H. Garnett, organized two new Unitarian congregations in Los Gatos and Santa Clara, ignoring Palo Alto. (3) Support for a new Palo Alto congregation would have to come from somewhere else.

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A 1907 Unitarian sermon from Palo Alto

This is the only sermon I’ve been able to find that was preached at the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, which existed from 1905 to 1934. It’s a sermon preached at the dedication of the new building of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, March 24, 1907. It was doubtless revised for publication, and then was printed in the Christian Register (later called the Unitarian Register) on April 25, 1907, pp. 465-466.

George Stone, who preached this sermon, was the first minister the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto ever had. He was actually the American Unitarian Association’s Field Secretary for the West coast, and part of his duties were planting new Unitarian churches; since Palo Alto was a college town, it was seen as a likely spot for a Unitarian congregation, and that’s doubtless why Stone went ot Palo Alto in 1905. He worked with the new Palo Alto congregation for about a year, until 1906, when they called their first settled minister, Sydney B. Snow. Evidence in the extant documents of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto show that they considered him their minister, even though he wasn’t a called minister. And in 1907, he returned to Palo Alto to preach the dedicatory sermon when their new building was complete.

But this sermon is of more than historical interest. True, we might not agree with some of the theology, and certainly the gender-specific language (e.g., “man” for “humankind,” male pronouns for the deity, etc.) now sounds dated. But Stone argues for the continual progress of organized religion; looking back at old forms of American religion, Stone says that our spiritual forebears “were passing through a stage of evolution which to us seems a sad one.” And he acknowledges that some day, he, too, will seem outdated: “Who knows but our descendants will look back upon the record of our lives with equal pity and tenderness?” Yet Stone has some powerful things to say about the purpose of public worship. A Unitarian congregation, says Stone, “stands for the solidarity of the race rather than for the single individual” — and yet, all these years later, we Unitarian Universalists are still overly individualistic, and reading Stone’s sermon might help us realize how far we have yet to go in our religious development.

“Public Worship” by Rev. George W. Stone

The mission of Unitarianism is to help mankind to a higher and more spiritual faith than it has had before; for Unitarianism is not a theology and a philosophy only, it is a life. It is, least of all, a negation or a denial of some other religion. It is a comprehensive religion, including the good in the older religions. No man is ready to become a Unitarian until he is able to do his own thinking. In order to be a Unitarian he may outgrow the old theologies, but he must not outgrow religion. Until he learns to use his freedom wisely, and not make it simply a license to reject everything he cannot understand, until then, he may not be orthodox, but he is not necessarily a Unitarian, for Unitarianism is a positive faith. It believes that love is the only divine power in the universe, and that at last all mankind will grow into it, that the process of man’s development from the animal, through the human, into the spiritual, is now going on, that it will one day be completed.

Continue reading “A 1907 Unitarian sermon from Palo Alto”

Ordinary Unitarians: Martha Ziegler

As the years go by, I find I’m less interested in how famous or “important” Unitarian Universalists live their lives, and increasingly interested in the lives of ordinary Unitarians and Universalists. Maybe this is because I don’t know any important or famous Unitarian Universalists, but I’ve known lots of ordinary Unitarian Universalists. With that in mind, here’s a brief biography of Martha Clara Elizabeth Ziegler Greenlaw [a.k.a. Reynolds, Seymour, and Fancher], a member of the old Unitarian Church of Palo Alto:

A housewife and mother who experienced more than her share of domestic challenges and tragedies, Martha Clara Elizabeth Ziegler was born Feb. 27, 1894, in Chicago. In 1900, she was living in Hyde Park Township (which became part of Chicago). She lived with her father Gustav, a machinist’s helper, who had been born in Denmark; her mother Ida, who had been born in Germany; and her younger brother Charles.

When she was 17 years old, on Aug. 1, 1911, she married Charles Greenlaw (q.v.) in Chicago, Ill. Charles worked for American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) installing new phone systems in communities across the country, and his job required him to relocate every few months. His wife and a growing number of children had to move with him, and some of their moves can be traced from the birthplaces of their four children: Arnold Ziegler (q.v.) was born July 12, 1912, in Chicago; Colin Torrey was born March 27, 1914, in Baltimore, Md. (q.v.); Morrison Bronk was born Aug. 3, 1918, in San Francisco; and Margery Ellen was born Nov. 3, 1920, in Chicago. All these moves put strain on the family.

To try to reduce some of the strain on the family, from about 1918 to 1920 they spent significant amounts of time in a cabin Charles owned in Willits, Calif. But soon they had to move again, and in January, 1920, they were living in Detroit, Mich. And by 1923, the family had moved to 523 Webster St. in Palo Alto.

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Obscure Unitarians: Sylvie Grace Thompson Thygeson

An advocate for woman suffrage, and an early birth control activist, Sylvie Grace Thompson was born June 27, 1868, in the small town of Forreston, in central Illinois. Progressive activism had a long history in her family: her name “Sylvie,” a French name, came from a girl that her father had met when he was a boy; his parents were active with the Underground Railroad, and this girl was one of a family of fugitive slaves escaping from Louisiana.

Her family had no religion, and was the only family in town that were atheists. When interviewed at age 104, she stated that she had never had any religion, though as we shall see she associated for a brief time with a Unitarian church.

She entered high school at age twelve and graduated at sixteen, then taught in a country school for a month until her father died; thereupon she went to live with an uncle who lived in St. Louis, Mo. She worked for her uncle, an appellate judge, as a stenographer. She later recalled that time in St. Louis as a broadening experience, one that made up in part for her family’s inability to send her to college. After two years in St. Louis, she rejoined her mother and younger siblings, who were then living in St. Paul, Minn.

She married Nels Marcus Thygeson, a lawyer, in 1891. They had children including Ruth Adelaide (b. April 9, 1895, Minn.), Elling Henry McKee (b. Feb. 26, 1898, Minn.), Phillips Baker (b. March 28, 1903, Minn.), and Mary Ellen Baker (b. May 26, 1906, Minn.).

While living in St. Paul, Sylvie became active both in the suffrage and birth control movements. Her suffrage work in St. Paul was centered in the Women’s Welfare League, of which she was the First Vice President. The Women’s Welfare League also financially supported birth control efforts. Around 1915, working with two other women, Sylvie started a birth control clinic in St. Paul. Margaret Sanger came to speak to them, and they found two (male) physicians to work with them, to actually provide the “birth control instruments.” Birth control was illegal, so while they arranged public lectures on the topic, actually providing birth control was done in secret, relying on word-of-mouth referrals.

In 1917, Nels died after a long fight with cancer, upon which Sylvie and her four children moved to Palo Alto — after a brief stop in Old Orchard, Maine — so the children could attend Stanford Univ. By 1920, Sylvia was widowed and living with Elling, Phillips, and Mary in Palo Alto; Sylvie gave her occupation as “none”; Nels’ death apparently did not cause her financial hardship. In Palo Alto, Sylvie was active with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILF) — as were Annie Tait and Marion Alderton, who were both members of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, and may have introduced her to church.

Sylvie was listed in the 1919 parish directory of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto with her daughter Ruth, and Sylvie appeared on the 1920 membership list. This church would have been a good fit for her; the young adult group called themselves the Humanist Club, and there were many other pacifists and advocates for women’s rights in the church. However, Sylvie’s name was crossed out in the 1921 revision. Fellow pacifists Marion Alderton and Alice Locke Park resigned from the church in June, 1920, in protest against “the attitude taken” by the church in the First World War; Sylvie left the church at about the same time, perhaps for the same reason.

In 1925, Sylvie was still living in Palo Alto with Elling, Mary, and Phillips; Ruth had married in 1918, and had moved to San Francisco with her husband. Mary was the last to finish her studies at Stanford, receiving her degree in 1928, and she and Sylvie were still in Palo Alto in that year. After that, Sylvie moved to Los Angeles. In 1930, she was living there with her mother, her son Elling, a brother and other relatives. In 1940, she was still in Los Angeles, now living with her mother and two brothers. While in Los Angeles, she continued her social activism, and was a member of the Anti-Nazi League. Her mother died in May, 1946. Sylvie returned to Palo Alto in 1955.

Late in life, she expressed her world view as being based on the theory of evolution. She died in San Mateo County, Calif., in 1975, at age 107. At her request, there was no funeral service.

Though she was a Unitarian for only a couple of years, given her strong commitment to women’s rights and her commitment to women’s access to birth control, we should be proud that this freethinker and atheist was willing to affiliate with a Unitarian church for even that brief time.

Notes: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 U.S. Census; 1895, 1905 Minnesota State Census; Feminist History Research Project, interviews conducted by Ralda Sullivan, and Sherna Gluck and Mary Shepardson, “Sylvie Grace Thompson Thygeson: In the Parlor,” The Suffragists: From Tea Parties to Prison, Berkeley: Univ. of Calif., 1975; Directory of Palo Alto, Mayfield, Stanford Univ., Ravenswood, and East Palo Alto, Palo Alto: Willis Hall, 1925; New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957, S. S. Majestic sailing from Cherbourg, May 2, 1928; Obituary, Mary Ellen Thompson, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1946, p. 8; California Death Index.

Obscure Unitarians: historian Frank Golder

A historian, Frank Alfred Golder was born near Odessa, Russia, on Aug. 11, 1877, and emigrated to the United States about 1880. He attended schools in New Jersey and Kentucky, and attended Bucknell Univ., from which he graduated in 1898. He then taught for three years in a government school in Alaska, where he collected Aleut songs and stories which he published in the Journal of American Folklore. He went to Harvard Univ. in 1902, received his A.B. in 1903, then did graduate study relating to Alaska, receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1909. He taught briefly at Boston Univ. and the Univ. of Chicago before joining the faculty of the State College of Washington in Pullman, Wash.

His dissertation was published in 1914 under the title Russian Expansion on the Pacific, 1641-1850. He was studying in Russia in 1914, and on Aug. 2 saw the Tsar address an excited crowd in front of the Winter Palace, telling the nation that they were at war. He returned to the United States by way of Siberia, and resumed teaching in Pullman. But he returned to Russia in 1917, sailing from Seattle to Petrograd, arriving on March 4, less than two weeks before the Tsar was overthrown. He remained in Russia through August, working in the archives on material relating to Russian expansion on the Pacific Coast of North America, but he also witnessed the July uprising in the capital city of Russia; he also traveled in Russia between Vladivostok and Petrograd, and in European Russia as well. The notes during 1917 he took helped him write The Russian Revolution and the Jugo-Slav Movement, published in 1918; his work in the archives studying the Russian presence in North America led to the book Bering’s Voyages (vol. 1, 1922; vol. 2, 1925).

In 1920, he returned to Russia, and did relief work there under the auspices of Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration; this work led to the book On the Trail of the Russian Famine (coauthor Lincoln Hutchinson, 1927).

In 1923, he went to the Hoover War Library, Stanford Univ., where he was both professor of history and one of the directors of the library. He visited Russia again in 1925 and 1927.

He joined the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto in 1924, and was listed in the 1926 “List of Resident Members.” He died Jan 7, 1929, in Santa Clara County, Calif.

Notes: 1920 U.S. Census; Passport application, Frank Golder, Aug. 23, 1920 (no. 84075); H. H. Fisher, “Frank Alfred Golder,” Journal of Modern History, June, 1929, pp. 253-255; California Death Index.

Obscure Unitarians: Eliza Corbett Thompson Stebbins

Eliza (Elsie) Corbett Thompson Stebbins was born in England on April 6, 1879, and emigrated to the United States in 1884. She attended the University of California at Berkeley c. 1898-1901, but she does not appear to have graduated. In 1900, she gave her occupation as “Teacher of Music,” and lived in a boarding house in Oakland.

She married Horatio Ward Stebbins in Santa Barbara on February 14, 1906; Horatio was the son of Rev. Horatio Ward Stebbins, long-time minister of the Unitarian church in San Francisco. The younger Horatio, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, taught mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Presumably the younger Horatio was also affiliated with the Unitarian church, though the extant documents do not mention him. Elsie and Horatio had one child, Amelia “Amy” Adams Stebbins (b. June 11, 1912).

Elsie served on the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Church in Palo Alto beginning in 1916.

She died May 25, 1968, in San Mateo.

Notes: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 U.S. Census; University of California Reg-ister, 1898, 1901; “Marriages,” Christian Register, March 1, 1906, p. 249; Eliza “Elsie” Corbett Thompson, “The New England Mathers,” https://wc.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=mikemather63&id =I147333 accessed 11 September 2018); Bulletin of the Massachusetts In-stitute of Technology, Boston: Register of Former Students (Boston, Mass.: May, 1915), p. 470; California Death Index, 1940-1997, Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.

Obscure Unitarians: “Mr. Wolff”

A “Mr. Wolff” served on the Committee of Ushers of the old Unitarian Church in Palo Alto in 1908. Who was this man, mentioned only once in the extant records of that long-defunct church?

A likely candidate is Franklin Fowler Wolff. The son of a Methodist minister, he was born in Pasadena in 1887, and rejected orthodox Christianity while he was in his teens. He studied mathematics, psychology, and philosophy at Stanford University, and received his A.B. in mathematics in 1911. He then did graduate study in philosophy at both Stanford and Harvard, returning to Stanford in 1914 to teach mathematics. But after only a year, he left academia to pursue his own studies, and changed his name to Franklin Merrell-Wolff. He eventually became known as a spiritual teacher, a mystic, and a writer.

This identification of “Mr. Wolff” should be considered tentative. Another possible “Mr. Wolff” is Marcus Wolff, who received his A.B. in economics from Stanford in 1906; however, he appears to have been living in San Francisco in 1908.

But if Franklin Merrell-Wolff did indeed attend a Unitarian Church while an undergraduate at Stanford, barely out of his teens, it would not surprise me — the Emersonian philosophy that underlies much of Unitarian theology could have had a distinct appeal to a developing mystic.

Notes: Ron Leonard, The Transcendental Philosophy of Franklin Merrell-Wolff (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1999).

Obscure Unitarians: Alice Locke

A writer, feminist, and pacifist, Alice Elizabeth Locke Parke was born Feb. 2, 1861, in Boston, Mass.; her father, John Locke, a lawyer, was from New Hampshire and her mother Harriet was from Nantucket.

She graduated from Rhode Island Normal School in 1879. She taught in the public schools in Cumberland, Smithfield, and North Kingstown, R.I., in 1880-1882.

She married Dean W. Park, Sept. 27, 1884, and they had two children, Carl J. (b. Oct. 13, 1885, Colo.) and Harriet (b. Feb. 7, 1887, Colo.). Dean was a mining engineer and graduate of M.I.T., and the family lived in a number of places, including Montana, Colorado, Mexico, and Texas, following his jobs. Alice moved to Palo Alto in 1906 while her children were attending Stanford Univ.; Dean died in Palo Alto May, 1909, in a bicycle accident.

In 1910, Alice gave her occupation as “writer” for “papers, etc.” She was active with the California Equal Suffrage Assoc., and participated in the successful 1911 campaign for women’s suffrage in California. Subsequently, she continued to be active in suffrage work outside of California.

She was branded as a “subversive” by the New York State Legislature, which noted that she belonged to the National Women’s Suffrage Party, and branded her a “sympathizer” of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In 1912, she wrote a letter to the editor of Pacific Unitarian in support of the IWW.

She later said that she could not remember when she became a pacifist, and called it a family tradition. She opposed the Spanish-American War, and displayed a peace flag on her house during the First World War. She helped form the Palo Alto branch of the Women’s Peace Party (WPP); Jessie Knight Jordan, wife of David Starr Jordan, the president of Stanford University, was also involved with the WPP. In 1915, she went to Europe on the Ford Peace Mission. With the entrance of the U.S. into the war in 1917, the Palo Alto branch of the WPP disbanded; Park then joined the American Union Against Militarism, and began holding meetings of the Palo Alto branch in her house beginning April 16, 1917; and when the Palo Alto branch publicly supported conscientious objectors, she was threatened with arrest.

She went to meetings of the People’s Council in San Francisco (of which Rev. William Short, formerly minister of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, was an officer); she was presiding at a meeting in August, 1917, with David Starr Jordan on the speaker’s platform, when the meeting was raided by police. She continued her pacifist activities throughout the war, sometimes enduring illegal searches by the police. After the war, in 1919, she planned a meeting at the Palo Alto Community House (which Edith Maddux, another Palo Alto Unitarian, helped organize) to call for the release of all political prisoners.

She was an early member of the Women’s Alliance of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, joining before 1910. However, she and Marion Starr Alderton withdrew from the Palo Alto church in June, 1920, in protest against “the attitude taken” by the church in the First World War.

She described her religion thus:

My religion is humanity — humanitarianism — confident that the present time is all that we are sure of and our duty, our progress and our usefulness are all here and now — If we think earnestly of the present and try to do all we can right here and now — we are at least sure of immediate results. My religion is boundless — Nothing human is alien to me. (quoted in Eichelberger; see Notes)

She died Feb. 17, 1961, just after her hundredth birthday.

Notes:

Notes: 1900, 1910, 1920 U.S. Census; Birth, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, town clerk office, FHL microfilm 592,869; Thomas W. Bicknell, A History of the Rhode Island Normal School, 1911; “School Officers and Teachers in Public Schools, 1880-1881,” Twelfth Annual Report of the Board of Education…of Rhode Island, Providence, R.I.: E. L. Freeman & Co., 1882, p. 9; “School Officers and Teachers in Public Schools, 1881-1882,” Thirteenth Annual Report of the Board of Education…of Rhode Island, Providence, R.I.: E. L. Freeman & Co., 1883, p. 9; Class of 1884 M.I.T.: 25th Anniversary Book, Boston, 1909, p. 114; “Dean W. Park” obituary, The Mining World, Chicago: Mining World Co., May 22, 1909, p. 991; Eunice Eichelberger, “‘Hearts Brimming with Patriotism,’” ed. Robert W. Cherny, California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression, Univ. Neb. Press, 2011, pp. 321-332; Pacific Unitarian, July, 1912, pp. 271-272; “The Ford Peace Party,” Revolutionary and Subversive Movements Abroad and at Home, Albany: N.Y. Legislature, 1920, p. 98 (for the meeting of the People’s Council that was raided, see also San Francisco Daily Call, Aug. 9, 1917); Board of Trustees minutes, archives of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto; Nancy L. Roberts, American Peace Writers, Editors, and Periodicals: A Dictionary, Greenwood Press, 1991, p. 216.

Park deserves additional research (though such research lies outside the scope of my current research interests). Sources for further research include the Alice Park papers at the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. (mssPK 1-338), and the Register of the Alice Park Papers 1883-1951 at the Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ. There is a Masters thesis on her, written by Paige G. Greenfeld: Yours for Women and Peace: The Feminism of Alice Locke Park, San Diego State University, 2003.

Obscure Unitarians: Bertha Chapman Cady

An expended version of this short biography may be found here.

A writer, biologist, and sexuality educator, she was born July, 5, 1873, in California. There she knew John Muir, and went hiking with him in the Sierra Nevada mountains. She received her A.B. in English from Stanford University in 1895, and her A.M. in entomology in 1902. After graduating from Stanford, she taught high school from 1900-1907; was assistant in nature study at the Univ. of Chicago, 1907-1909; taught biology at Calif. State Teachers College in Chico in 1918; was a lecturer at Stanford 1921-1923.

She married Vernon Mosher Cady on Dec. 15, 1908, at the Abraham Lincoln Center in Chicago. The Abraham Lincoln Center was a Unitarian church and community center with permanent and transient residents; Bertha and Vernon had both lived in the Center in the summer of 1908. They were probably wed by Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones. They had two children: Carol (b. c. 1910) and Jean (b. c. 1913).

She was a graduate student at Stanford 1920-1922, and received her Ph.D. in entomology (at age 50) in 1923. Subsequently, she worked for the Girl Scouts as a naturalist from 1924-1936.

Bertha’s career encompassed biology and education. She and her husband co-wrote The Way Life Begins: An Introduction to Sex Education (New York: American Social Hygiene Assoc., 1917). As the Girl Scout National Naturalist, she wrote for, or wrote in their entirety, many Girl Scout publications.

While she was at Stanford earning her Ph.D., she was active with the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto. She taught the 4th and 5th grade Sunday school class at the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto in 1921-22.

She died Jan. 26, 1956.

Notes: “John Muir,” Guide to Nature, Feb., 1914, Sound Beach, Conn.: Agassiz Assoc., 1909, p. 312; Stanford University Alumni Directory, 1921; Unity, Chicago, Unity Publishing, Abraham Lincoln Center, Jan. 7, 1909, p. 293; Oakland Tribune, Dec. 9, 1908 (gives the name of the officiating clergy as “Lloyd Paul Jones”); Tiffany K. Wayne, American Women of Science Since 1900, vol. 1, Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2011, p. 275; 1920 U.S. Census; Stanford University Alumni Directory, 1931.

Obscure Unitarians: Isabel Dye Butler

A key figure in the history of Unitarianism in Palo Alto, and a Mexican-American (but not an immigrant), Isabel Dye was born July 9, 1840 (other sources say June, 1840), in an old adobe house in Santa Cruz, California, the child of Job Francis Dye and Ecolástica Rodriguez.

Isabel’s mother, Ecolástica Rodriguez, born in 1822, was a Mexican citizen — this was before Mexico ceded California to the U.S. — and reportedly the daughter of the Minister to Mexico from Spain. As a young beauty, Ecolástica owned a Parisian lace dress, allegedly worth $1,000 when new (roughly $24,000 in 2015 dollars).

Isabel’s father, Job Francis Dye, was born in Kentucky in 1807, and traveled over land to southern California, arriving in Jan., 1832. In 1839, he lived in Monterey, where he met and married Ecolastica; ran a distilling business in Santa Cruz in 1840, where Isabel was born. The family returned to Monterey when Isabel was barely a year old; she was carried by her father on a pillow on his saddle.

Not long thereafter, Job received a land grant from the Mexican government of 26,700 acres along the Sacramento River in what is now Tehama County. The family stayed in Monterey, but Job had 1,000 head of cattle and 200 horses on the Central Valley ranch, called “Antelope Rancho.”

When she was about five years old, Isabel’s mother drove her around in old Monterey, bringing baskets of food and clothing to poor people. She continued doing charitable and benevolent work throughout her life.

In 1848, Job went to fight with General Fremont of the U.S., and Isabel Fremont and his troops march into Monterey. She gave a loud “Hurrah!” when she saw them, only to be slapped on the face by Alvarado, an older relative on her mother’s side. She participated in the raising of the new flag in Monterey.

The Gold Rush prompted Job to move to Antelope Ranch in 1849, to take advantage of economic possibilities there. Isabel, however, went to school at Notre Dame Convent in San Jose, a part of the first class of students in that school. Her chief attainments at school were facility in a number of languages, and skill at the piano.

Within a few years of the move, Job and Ecolástica apparently divorced, for Job married a second wife in 1853. Isabel went to live with her father in Tehama County, and at this time broke with her mother’s Catholic religion.

Isabel married John Strange Butler Jan. 15, 1859, in Tehama County, Calif. John was born Nov., 1829, in Indiana; he came to California in 1852, and after mining for three years started the first newspaper in Red Bluff, Tehama County, Calif.

She and John had four children of their own: Thomas (b. c. 1860), Minnie (b. Dec., 1861), Charles E. (b. April 14, 1868, Idaho; d. Dec. 20, 1897, Palo Alto), and Isabel (b. Jul., 1872). She also took care of 28 orphans over the course of her life. The first orphan she took in was in the early years of her married life; after whites massacred local native Americans, there were several babies left alive, and Isabel took one in.

After starting the newspaper, John S. then turned to farming until in Sept., 1862, Job Dye asked him to help sell cattle to miners headed to the silver mines in Idaho. He decided to start a newspaper in Idaho with his brother Thomas, and by Sept., 1863, they began publishing the Boise News. The rest of the family joined him in Idaho, and Isabel and John’s third child, Thomas E., was born in Idaho in 1868.

Thomas and John tried to maintain political neutrality in their newspaper, but it was quickly apparent that they were die-hard Republicans, in a state dominated by Democrats who supported the Confederacy. Even though they were financially successful, they felt pressure to sell out to a Democrat. They went on to start two other newspapers elsewhere in Idaho. In 1870, John finally decided to leave Idaho and return to California. The family settled in Oakland, where John established a job and book printing business.

In Feb., 1877, Isabel came into a large amount of money. The San Francisco Call reported the story this way: “In 1877, Isabel came into a large amount of money: “Fortune has showered its gifts profusely on Mrs. I. Butler, wife of John S. Butler, a printer, of Oakland. Mrs. Maria Isabel Toomes, of Tehama county, came to San Francisco in ill-health some time ago for medical treatment. Six months heretofore she removed to Oakland and recovered rapidly, but two months ago she was seized with typhus fever and sank under it. She was accompanied to the city by her adopted daughter, an invalid, about 20 years of age, and by a housekeeper. Mrs. Butler, living next door to the sick lady, was Samaritan-like in her attentions, and, on her death-bed, Mrs. Toomes summoned her lawyer, and devised all her property, real and personal, to Mrs, Butler, merely stipulating that her adopted invalid daughter, Nellie Toomes, should be provided for and maintained during her life out of the estate.” (quoted from the Call in the Isabella County Enterprise, Mount Pleasant, Mich., Feb. 21, 1877)

The truth was less romantic. Maria Toomes was the wife of Albert G. Toomes, a partner of Isabel’s father, Job Dye, back in the Red Bluff days’ Albert and Job had received adjacent land grants from the Mexican government. Maria Toomes had grown up in Monterey, and probably knew Isabel there. in any case, Isabel inherited $141,000, equivalent to $3.1 million in 2015 dollars.

The Butlers moved to Palo Alto in the early 1890s. Rev. Eliza Tupper Wilkes, then serving part-time as the associate minister at the Unitarian Church in Oakland, and part-time helping start up new congregations throughout northern California, came to preach in Palo Alto several times in 1895. On Feb. 12, 1896, thirty people met in the Butler’s living room to form a “Unity Society,” a lay-led Unitarian fellowship; John became the Treasurer of the Committee on Executive and Finance. One wonders if the Butlers had been members of the Unitarian church in Oakland, and whether they helped bring Wilkes to preach in Palo Alto to help start up the new Unity Society.

The Unity Society did not last more than a year or two. But a core of Uitarians remained in Palo Alto, and finally in 1905, with the help of funding from the American Unitarian Association, a new Unitarian church was formed. Once again, the initial meeting was held in the Butler house.

Both Butlers were active in the new church. John once again became the Treasurer of the new organization. For her part, Isabel was one of the charter members of the Women’s Alliance. They were the largest single contributor to the fund to purchase a lot for the Unitarian Church building in 1905 ($200, about $5250 in 2015 dollars).

Isabel died June 4, 1913, after which John moved back to Oakland; he died there Oct. 30, 1916.

Notes: 1900 U.S. Census; Ewald Flügel, “Isabel Dye Butler: Memorial Address given at the Unitarian Church, Palo Alto,” Pacific Unitarian, July, 1913, pp. 264-266; Federal Writers Project, Works Progress Administration, California: A Guide to the Golden State, New York: Hastings House, 1939; “Job Francis Dye,” An Illustrated History of the State of Idaho, Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1899; Ronnie R. Hayes, Idaho World: A Pioneer Chronicle of the Territory 1863-1918, dissertation, Univ. of Montana, 1982; obituary, Oakland Tribune, June 6, 1913, p. 10; Tehama County Genealogical and Historical Society, “Mexican Land Grants in Tehama County,” tcghsoc.org/MexicanLandGrantsTC.pdf, accessed Nov. 30, 2016; obituary, The Grizzly Bear, Los Angeles: Native Sons of the Golden West, July, 1913, p. 26; Harvard College Class of 1890, 1903-1909, 1909; “Active Veteran Printer Passes,” American Printer and Lithographer, New York: Oswald Publ., Nov. 20, 1916, pp. 54-55; death notice, San Francisco Call, June 6, 1913.