Part 1- Getting there is half the fun
The first weekend of June was the California Cornish Cousins gathering in Grass Valley. They aren’t my actual cousins, they are other people of Cornish descent. And for those still wondering, Cornish people come from Cornwall, the “toe” of England. The original Cornish were Celtic, like the Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Breton and Galicians. By now, many have some Anglo-Saxon in them, and many who left Cornwall married other non-Celts. My mother’s mother was Cornish, so I’m ¼, but it’s the heritage I knew most about while I was growing up. The Cornish were world renowned hard-rock miners, and went wherever miners were needed during the 1800s when the Cornish mines were closing down. My ancestors went to Pennsylvania to mine anthracite after tin and copper became scarce in Cornwall. So I joined CCC as a life member to keep in touch with my roots (and if any readers have the last names of Eddy or Tredinnick, we’re probably related.)
Of course, I can’t just take the freeways and get places quickly. I take the scenic routes, and visit cemeteries looking for heritage roses on the way. My first detour was to avoid Hwy 580 by taking the road through Livermore. I like downtown Livermore- it’s a nice small-town type of downtown, and a nice place to stop for a cold coffee drink. Then on to Vasco Rd to Byron where there is a great fruit/vegetable stand just before getting on Hwy 4 toward Stockton. Their strawberries are the tastiest I’ve ever had, but need to be eaten right away. They don’t keep well. Fresno St. and Luftus Hwy avoid actually seeing any of Stockton, then up several highways to Ione. I wanted to look at the cemetery there. We have a rose in the Heritage from this cemetery, and I was happy to see it is still quite happy in its original location. I also saw 2 plants of Red Runaround and one of Hermosa, both almost ubiquitous in central Calif. cemeteries. I would have stopped for lunch or another coffee drink here, but the town is only a block long and all the parking was taken. It was also very hot, so I didn’t want to park a couple blocks away and walk.
I continued up 124 to 49 and Plymouth Cemetery. In 2008, I was really impressed with the condition of the roses there. Many were unknown to me them, but most have been identified since. (I must repeat what I’ve said before- If you aren’t an expert at propagating roses from cuttings, please don’t collect cuttings in cemeteries. The roses are often stressed, and taking cuttings could damage them. Also most have already been propagated and you can buy plants from some nurseries and at sales at Sacramento Cemetery’s Historic Rose Garden or the Heritage.) By 2010, someone pruned the roses. A climbing Hybrid Tea cut back to 3′ is a sad sight, but now a crew has gone through spraying weeds with Roundup. Two of the roses will probably die as a result, and a group of us are trying to get a group of volunteers in the area to take over caring for the cemetery to prevent it happening to the rest of the roses. Several other central California cemeteries have volunteer groups who make sure the roses are watered, weeded and otherwise cared for, so I’m hopeful this will work out for Plymouth, too.
I stopped at a store in Plymouth that advertised espresso drinks. It was pretty hot and I really wanted a frozen blended pick-me-up. Turns out they also sell a lot of interesting foods, and have a wine bar. I sampled some gourmet chips and dip while waiting for the frappe, which turned out so much better than the ones that well-known coffee chain makes. Drove straight to Nevada City from there, though I was tempted to stop at several wine tasting rooms on the way. There were also a lot of yard sales and some cemeteries, but I wanted to get to my friends Kathryn and Doug’s house by 4pm, so I’d have time to visit a bit before heading back to Grass Valley for the Cornish Cousins dinner.
Part 2- The Gathering
The first part of the gathering was held at the North Star House in Grass Valley on Friday evening. I’ve been there a couple times before. The first time, in 2008, I was invited to take a look at the roses and tell them anything I could about them. In the process, I met a couple of local rose enthusiasts, Joy and Kathy. The North Star House was designed by Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle, and was where Arthur and Mary Hallock Foote lived. I’ve been reading ‘Angle of Repose’ lately, which is a fictionalized account of their lives before they lived in Grass Valley. Some of it very fictionalized. The house is now run by the North Star Historic Conservancy (http://www.northstarconservancy.org). Dinner was Cornish pasties, of course. There are several places in Grass Valley that make them. We had musical performances by two local acoustic groups before dinner. Then we had singing by the Grass Valley Male Voice Choir. After dessert, we adjourned to the other side of the house for a Cornish sing-along and view of the sunset. It was all quite lovely.
Saturday started with a presentation on the history of Cornish miners in the Adelaide area of Australia by one of their descendants, Greg Drew. Greg also has relatives in California he’d never met before this trip. This was held in the Masons building in Grass Valley. Then we went to a park in nearby Penn Valley for a lunch of Cornish pasties. Following lunch we had a talk by Duane Niesen on what it was like to grow up as a Cornish cowboy. Yes, there were Cornish cowboys in the Sierra. Starting at age 12, Duane, with his family, drove cattle from Penn Valley up to higher meadows for the summer, and back down in autumn.
After lunch we had a few free hours in which to explore, so I drove back to Nevada City and collected Kathryn and we drove up to North San Juan to see how the roses in the cemetery and town were doing. The last time I was there, I’d collected cuttings from a large older modern rose near the church. That rose is no longer there. Some of the other roses that were in a row with it, along a side street, are still there. One looked like it might be Talisman, and we’d recently lost one of the plants in the Heritage, so I collected a couple cuttings from this one. The cemetery had two pleasant surprises. First, there were lots of roses despite years of drought, including one we call “Orange Smith” for the name on the nearest headstone. It was even blooming! As far as I could tell, no roses had been lost since I was there 9 years ago. The other surprise came with meeting a woman who was walking through, and told us she maintains the cemetery, getting help from others to clear away dead branches that have fallen, keeping down weeds, etc. I wish we’d had more time to chat, but she was on her way to meet someone. I took pictures of each rose and of its associated headstone.
When we got back to Kathryn’s house, she, Doug and I watched the recording of the Belmont Stakes. What a thrill that was! I’ve watched the Triple Crown races since I was a kid, whenever I had access to a TV. I’d been in the Peace Corps when Secretariat won, and only had a small B&W when Seattle Slew and Affirmed won, so this was the first time I’d seen a Triple Crown winner on a large color screen.
For the evening, it was back to the Mason’s for dinner (not Cornish pasties), singing a few Cornish songs and another presentation. This one was by Prof. Roger Burt from England, whose interest is in the influence of the Masons and other groups like IOOF on the worldwide Cornish migration. Apparently, by joining these groups, the miners were able to get help in moving their families to the new mining towns in the US, Australia and elsewhere. I’d known that many of the foothills cemeteries had Masons and IOOF sections, but never understood the significance before. Some of my English coal mining ancestors are buried in an IOOF cemetery in Pennsylvania, so this talk had real relevance to me. (I even have the deed to the one remaining plot in the family’s section, along with the perpetual care agreement, but I don’t think I’ll be buried there.)
Part 3- More Roses, Cemeteries and the Trip Home
Joy had found a rose at the Empire Mine, where she works, that she wanted to show me, so Kathryn and I headed there first thing on Sunday morning. My best guess is Debutante (Walsh, 1901 rambler), but it might have too much pink. It had been hidden by other plants till she started doing some work in that part of the rose garden. She moved it over where it had room to climb on the wall, and it’s doing quite well. I had to watch my step near it, as there was a pile of (wait for it…) bear poo! next to the stone wall. Not sure why a bear would want to climb a stone wall to get into a rose garden, but it clearly had done it several times, and the outside of the wall now needs some resetting of stones. They plan to set up a motion sensitive camera to get pictures now that they’ve found where it comes in.
Next stop- Pine Grove Cemetery in Nevada City. Kathy was watering the Masons section when Kathryn and I arrived. I first went there in 2006, and there were a lot of large healthy roses. I went there with Kathy in 2008, and soon after, she and Joy talked to the Masons about taking care of their section, adding more Heritage roses, plus annuals and perennials, and keeping it watered and weeded. That’s the only section that has water available, and some roses in the rest of the cemetery have died over the intervening years, but some are amazingly drought tolerant. They’ve cut back watering in the Masons section, but hope to keep all the roses there alive. (Sorry, no pictures of this one this time.)
Our third stop for the day was Georgetown Cemetery, where we were met by Susan, who is part of a Master Gardeners group that takes care of the roses there. The Heritage had many roses from there 20 years ago, but a few of ours have died. So have some of theirs. They’ve placed wire cages around the remaining roses to keep deer from nibbling too much. We once had roses named for the Schmeder family and one for Fred Schmeder, and we each have one left. Luckily they are different, so I got cuttings of theirs, and I’m now trying to root cuttings of ours to give them a replacement. Their Jerrett plot has one rose left (there were three), and we have two, so I will try to replace the second one, but we’ve both lost the third. I collected cuttings of five roses we don’t have. We also looked at a rose garden behind the Art Center. It had been planted many years ago, and contains many Heritage roses, and some from the 1940s and 50s.
After getting cold drinks, we headed back down the hill toward 49. We’d noticed a small cemetery by the road on our way up, so we stopped to look around. Greenwood Cemetery. No roses, but some very old graves, and some fairly recent ones, too. And lots of big shady trees- which were nice considering the 90 degree weather.
Monday morning, I took my leave of Kathryn and Doug, and of Nevada City and Grass Valley, and headed south to Placerville Union Cemetery. The Heritage has nearly a dozen roses from this cemetery, but with the drought the cemetery has lost quite a few. I walked around writing down which ones were still there. The rose we call “The Rose of Many Names” (TROMN) because we’ve found it in so many places in central California is still quite happy, as is the white Noisette, but “John S. DiBernardi” is barely hanging on. It was nearly my height in 2006, a lovely, fragrant red hybrid tea. (Yes, we have it at the Heritage.) And the “Rustler’s Gold”, Red Talisman and “Rosa Davey” tea are nowhere to be found. Very sad, but all are at the Heritage. If a group starts up to care for that cemetery, they can be propagated and planted there again. Assuming severe drought is not our permanent state of existence.
Next stop- El Dorado Cemetery. Another sad tale- We can’t replace our “James Askew” tea rose that died last year. And the Chrometella by Dr. Hinman is gone. But his Rose of Castile is quite healthy. “Sam Hill” (another TROMN) is alive and well, as are the Standiford plot roses.
I drove down to Sutter’s Creek, a town I know well from years ago- my Master’s thesis in Earth Science encompassed the area east of Sutter’s Creek to Volcano, and south to near Mokulmne Hill. I’ve looked at every roadcut on every road, and every accessible exposure of rocks I could find half a lifetime ago. There are a lot more roads in the area now, as more people move there. Also a lot more vinyards. With a cold coffee drink from a little shop in town, I headed up the ridge to Pine Grove and my friend Beverly’s house. We spent several hours chatting about roses, and the problems in cemeteries, and I showed her my thesis map, and explained a bit about what the rock formation is beneath her house. (After our visit, Beverly visited Plymouth Cemetery, and talked with several people, and spent time thinking about it and has decided to try to organize a group of volunteers to help the roses in Plymouth Cemetery! Thank you, Beverly!)
Altaville- last stop before heading home. I looked for a Talisman that was there a few years ago. Not there anymore. In the Protestant Cemetery, a few of the roses I knew, like “Tylor Carll” are still fine, and I didn’t look for all the ones I knew, so some others may be fine, too. But there is no water at all. I looked for the Dorroh plot and the Johnson plot, but couldn’t find either, and there were no roses on that whole side of the cemetery to guide me to them, so I’m pretty sure those have died. Although it’s possible my memory of where they were is wrong. We have “Frank Dorroh”, and I think I can get cuttings of “Ernest Johnson” from Sacramento Cemetery’s lovely Historic Rose Garden. In the Catholic Cemetery there is also no water. (They have water systems in the cemeteries, but signs on all gates say “No water”). The roses seem to be doing OK, though. I was able to get cuttings of one rose I’ve tried to root a couple times before. The rose is actually looking better than the last time I saw it. The Lady Mary Fitzwilliam isn’t as lush as she has been in years past, but will survive. There’s talk of next year being an El Niño year- they are very rainy. For the roses sake, I hope they are right.