Monday, January 24, 2011

Recollections from Childhood - The Old Bale Mill



I've never been much interested in Americana--that is, the history of our culture as a discipline or record. Each State has its own demarcated field--Californiana, Western Americana. The opening and settlement of the American West is certainly an exciting story--really, thousands of stories--and to read any one of them is an adventure. Carving out a civilized life in the wilderness, far from established settlement is difficult, and those who do it must have stamina and energy and dedication.

In the early days of California, nearly everything that hadn't been carried in wagons, or on boats around the Horn, had to be made from scratch. Food was home grown. In the 1840's, Dr. Edward T. Bale, an Englishman, who had come to America the decade before, married a well-to-do Hispanic woman and obtained a tract of land in the Napa Valley from the Mexican Government (which owned much of California at that time). One of his first ideas was to build a grist mill to provide flour for the growing local population. It was completed about 1847, and was regularly in use until just after the turn of the Century, at which time it was acquired by a local fraternal organization and run as a historical tourist attraction.




In the 1950's, when I was eight, my Third Grade Class went on a field trip "up valley" from Napa, where we lived, to the Old Bale Mill. I think my parents may have taken me there before that--or, since memory is fickle, this may have happened after the field trip. In any case, while there I found a beautiful black flint Indian arrowhead--something that used to be common on the ground in historic California backwaters. The fifth photo (below) looks very much the way the unrestored Mill did when I first saw it circa 1955. It was maintained by a resident "overseer's" family who lived in a building behind the Mill itself, and I remember they complained that no "improvements" could be made because it had to look as "authentic" as possible. The old redwood timbers used to build it had settled and leaned in the years since it had been in use, and it had an especially picturesque quality.

These first two photos below were probably taken sometime between the First and Second World Wars, there's vegetation grown up around the structures, and it's clearly an "abandoned" place, no longer being kept up. The third photo--in color--though it looks a bit romanticized, probably looks most like how it was when I saw it the first time. The entrance in those days was right off the shoulder of Hiway 29, which tracks up the Western side of the Napa Valley. The Mill is located about halfway between St. Helena and Calistoga. This is heavily given over to grape growing now, as is nearly the whole of the region, though fifty years ago, the wine business hadn't yet begun to grow beyond its sleepy Prohibition Era profile.



In the fourth photo, stairs have been added, to the front wall, but I'm not sure if the restorations--which took place in the 1960's and 1970's--resulted in the stairs, or if the stairs were later removed for authenticity to the original structure.

Flour mills like this function by diverting a water course conducted up over the top of the great wheel via a flume, though it's unclear to me where the water drained to, since there was never any apparent course for it to take, unless it was sent underground and spilled into a course alongside or under the old highway.



Nowadays, the Mill is accessed from a visitor area behind (to the West--not visible in these shots). The concluding two images are taken from the backside, under the over-arching flume structure, sort of like an aqueduct. I can still remember going inside to look at the great cylindrical grinding-stones, where the grain was processed into flour. Stories about that flour claim that bread made from it tasted wonderfully, perhaps due to the somewhat damp air where the grinding took place.


Original structures like these allow people to connect with their own pasts, or with the past of their ancestors, or with the lives of those who preceded them in a specific region. In my case, looking at these pictures, I feel a continuity not only with my own childhood and growing up, but with the life of a rural community which had been formed 150 years before I'd first seen it. Conditions were relatively primitive in rural California in 1850 (a century before), the year it became a State in the Union. One traveling North from San Francisco during that period would have found it hard going, riding horse or wagon over unpaved roads, hot and dusty and sparsely populated, most of the land given over to subsistence farming or ranching. A commercial enterprise like the Bale Mill was a center of activity and congregation, almost like a church. People might ride their wagons all morning from the other side of the valley to fill up a sack of freshly ground flour--which might last them for several weeks. It had to be kept dry, though, lest it get moldy and stale, and it had to be kept away from rodents.


Our parents and teachers believed in instilling in their children a sense of history, and visiting an old relic like this was the most immediate vehicle for making a real connection with stuff we only read about in books. We heard the stories--about the Indians, the Mexicans with their churches and haciendas and great estates. General Vallejo [1807-1890], who gave his name to the nearby town of Vallejo, was an important figure during the strife and turmoil which resulted in Mexico relinquishing its authority in California. Vallejo eventually threw in his lot with the American authorities, despite losing nearly his whole land and agricultural holdings in the process.



From the Wikipedia entry on Vallejo: "Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally protected the legal rights of Mexicans now part in the United States, a long legal challenge to Vallejo's land title cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees and finally deprived him of almost all his land and farm animals. Most Californios could not afford the legal expenses to claim their lands, which were thus lost to wealthy Americans and the flood of immigrants, beginning with the Gold Rush, which left the Californios outnumbered and unable to protect their political power."

I find this assertion very relevant to the current state of affairs in the State of California. Citizens in other parts of the country tend to regard the Hispanic diaspora moving northward as a minor social problem, which can be solved with a bit of fine-tuning of our national immigration laws; but a little historical perspective can be very useful here. If trends in illegal Mexican and Central American immigration continue, California will undoubtedly become overwhelmed with Hispanics. Just as the sparse Mexican population in California was overwhelmed politically, and through sheer numbers by the middle of the 19th Century, California may become inundated with foreign arrivals, and end up becoming, in effect, a kind of extended Mexican province, officially a part of America, but in reality controlled politically by a people and an ethnic tradition that has its roots to the south.


Life in Alta California was certainly pleasant in many ways, and the coming of the "white" population from the East (and abroad) was by no means an unalloyed blessing to the land or its original indigenous population of Indians, or to the Mexicans who'd first settled it. But the California I grew up in, a century after it became a State, was a much nicer place than it's since become. Post-War suburban in-fill is rapidly being replaced by sprawling cheap cookie-cutter tracts, and our cities have steadily ghetto-ized, with large, alien groups of Spanish-speaking living in barrios. The American culture and way of life owes some of its "riparian" culture to the Spanish and Mexicans, but few would advocate that we allow our country to be turned into another version of Mexico--an outlaw nation, burdened by corruption and poverty and overpopulation on a frightening scale.

The Old Bale Mill was a harbinger of the aggressively enterprising American commercial instinct, which built California in its first hundred years. It would be a shame to see it sold out to a vast, refugee, peasant population of immigrants. We need to secure our borders against further incursions, and to prevent a reverse "takeover" of our country, as occurred 150 years ago. If we don't preserve our heritage and our birthright, our sovereignty will be seized from us, in a "quiet" revolution of rapid foreign occupation. But it seems these days that no one's minding the store. California could eventually look and feel just like Mexico. It's not something we should look forward to. Our children deserve better.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

it's just "pay-back" time for what "we" did
to the indians, the Blacks, the Chinese AND the Mexican's

what we need is not to "preserve our heritage and our birthright"
what "we" need is a Black-Chinese ZORRO
drinking up all of that bull-shit Napa Valley cheap wine AND
raping those Mill Valley Air-Heads

as for "our children" they can play with their i-pods and their Virtual Realities.

Curtis Faville said...

I don't buy into the guilt and revenge trip you're selling here.

"Pay-back"--does that mean everyone gets to "go home" and reclaim something that was "taken from them" five generations back?

Kind of a chaotic concept, if you really think about it.

I don't idolize a probable future of electrified children hooked up to the WWW and mindlessly buying into multi-culturalism and politically correct relativity. If you never saw post-War America at its best, that's a shame. But if the Barrio in L.A. is what you think things should look like, you may get your wish. Sweet dreams. Thank god, I won't live to see it.

J said...

Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally protected the legal rights of Mexicans now part in the United States, a long legal challenge to Vallejo's land title cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees and finally deprived him of almost all his land and farm animals.

From a hispanic perspective the refusal of the new state of Cal. to enforce the Treaty of G-H indicated how the white settlers would be treating them. SO your point, or rant against the barrios depends on perspective--yes, the WASPs have reasons to be concerned. Yet many hispanic people, whether you care for them or not, consider this their land, as much as it's the gringos-- not without some justification. Then, really CA belonged to the..chumash, gabrielleno, yokut, modoc, paiute etc before the spanish arrived as well.

Really you want someone to blame for the population explosion?Blame the.......traditional christians, including RCC, who refused to consider family planning, even to the extent of contraception. Then BF Skinner &CO had other solutions to social chaos but they weren't so PC and were not approved by academia.

Curtis Faville said...

J:

You really do miss the point here.

Political and social power isn't about who's morally right and deserving. The control of institutions usually centers around ethnic and social matrices. There's a carefully orchestrated movement throughout the American Southwest to manipulate the electorate along ethnic lines. Increasingly, Latino interests are being courted and organized to change the dominant political and social paradigms. The geo-political map is being redrawn, in effect, by simple numbers.

This happened in Florida where the Cuban and Caribbean influx overwhelmed the resident populations there.

Each nation has a choice: It can move to control its fate through population and density and development, or not. Simply letting things happen isn't a policy, it's weakness and ignorance. If we allow ourselves to see these changes as natural, inevitable outcomes of an attitude of "tolerance" or "diversity" we'll eventually inherit the chaotic outcomes they imply. Refugee migrations are a recipe for disaster. It's always been so, and there's no reason to think it will be any different here.

Each entity protects its own interests. Would you voluntarily relinquish what you have in the interests of someone else's greed or desire? If you hate your own people, or your own culture, enough to sacrifice it on the alter of "international human rights" or some other vague principle--you might consider joining the Peace Corps, assuming you have any skills or talents to offer, that anyone could benefit from.

We are a nation. Mexico is a nation. If we can't agree to a reasonable neighborly practice, we must protect our own interests. If that seems a guilty or selfish choice to you, then you should simply ignore politics. After all, it's inevitable, right? And, following your line of reasoning, what's inevitable must be good.

J said...

No, you're missing my point. You yourself grant that Cali. was initially hispanic, and that the white settlers did not uphold Treaties they agreed to (such as G-H). Then you seem to object to the hispanics...merely for being hispanics.: Post-War suburban in-fill is rapidly being replaced by sprawling cheap cookie-cutter tracts, and our cities have steadily ghetto-ized, with large, alien groups of Spanish-speaking living in barrios.

Im not sure whether you're saying this is due to illegal immigration, or just hispanics themselves. Two different issues--re immigration--we may not be in favor of an open border--and agree the border should be patrolled-- but I object to the Arizona style shakedowns. For that matter, businesses/contractors who depend on cheap illegal labor should face penalties.

There are hispanic professionals, teachers, technicians so forth--many of them were born in CA-- bourgeois, really. You want to suggest they're all wetbacks or something. Not the case, and verging on racism.

The situation seems rather Hegelian, in a sense. Two factions, WASPs and hispanics are vying for power in the Southwest (and...in CA add blacks and asians as well, really). They will fight for their own ...values, historical tradition, "culture", language, perhaps religion ( then, is Castillian less of a language than...pinche Ingles? No se pienso). But it's nearly Foxnews jingoism to assert "WASP USA is the Best." Besides, what "culture" are you referring to in regard to WASPs?? Baptists? Mormons? Klansmen?? Really most of the yokel WASPs are hardly superior humans to educated hispanics (often..worse---I would rather play bingo with catholic ladies than hang with mormon zombies). The average WASP generally has as little knowledge of or interest in Constitutional principles as do gangsters. A few months ago, a local politician stood up in Palmdale and declared the entire area...Christian. This happens quite frequently. So much for 1st Amendment.

Curtis Faville said...

No, you're missing the point, not out of stubbornness, but because you've bought into the pro-immigration position.

California was initially "native Indian." Then the Hispanics came, along with the Russians. Then American settlers came. The point isn't whether one group is "better" than another--we aren't in the business of deciding who "gets" to settle someplace--that happens through conflict, of one kind or another. California is a State, part of the United States. Mexicans and other Latinos from Central and South America (and Asia and so forth) all want to come here because their lives in their native countries are grinding poverty and deprivation and corruption. That's what they know--that's their culture, that's their inheritance, that's their familiarity. To insist on what America's advantages and superiority is doesn't constitute ethnocentrism, it's just common sense.

You bring up all these fringers--religious sects, and provincials and so forth--but that doesn't constitute an argument for or against anything. We aren't in the business of "comparing" religious groups with foreign nationals, or of trying to rig some kind of contest between who does and who doesn't qualify to be "repatriated." And we aren't talking about American nationals, especially those who may have lived here for generations.

We're talking about a social policy which pretends that the immigration phenomenon we're currently seeing is either harmless ("we can absorb these people" and anyone who disagrees is "racist") or actually useful ("who cuts your grass" and "give me your sick, homeless, rejected" etc.).

This is all nonsense. America is FULL. We no longer NEED people. Our actual immigration policy--sensibly conceived--acknowledges this fact, and sets sensible limits on how many people we can comfortably absorb. But the immigrant lobby wants to tear down those limits, and let the flood inundate our country. It doesn't matter where these people come from, or what language they speak, or what color their skin. If they were all Irish, or Australian, or Indian, it wouldn't matter one iota.

J:

It isn't about Catholic ladies playing bingo--it's about who's in charge, and whose future it belongs to. I'll make a value judgment about the country of Mexico, and the culture it propagates, and so forth, but that's really secondary. We don't need millions of needy, desperate people flooding across our Southern border. It's bad. Bad for the environment, bad for our employment, bad for our schools, bad for our health care system. Bad. It needs to stop.

But the game will be played out in the public sphere first. Then the politics will take over. We'll be told lies and half-truths by everyone with an axe to grind. If you want open borders, anyone who argues against you is "racist" and "selfish" and nuts. These are political propaganda. The reality is in the ghettos where these people live and hide. Go check them out. It resembles "the world they left behind" and it's the world they want to reconstitute here. If we allow them to overwhelm us, they will. It's a fight, but not an argument I have with any one of them. It's a larger social problem which can only be dealt with on that scale. You don't deny any single man the right to life, liberty and happiness, but you can't accommodate that wish to every man woman and child in Central and South America who wants to seize these principles by force, or to sneak in "under the radar."

Let's stop talking about "racism" and address the real issues.

J said...

Mexicans and other Latinos from Central and South America (and Asia and so forth) all want to come here because their lives in their native countries are grinding poverty and deprivation and corruption

No, you don't seem to grasp that hispanics were in CA, in numbers. Many of them have lived here for generations. They were probably 1/4 population even 50 years ago (now, they have achieved near parity with whites). You're playing the Foxnews alarmist card (as you often do, along with Kirby O). The hispanics were here before many of the whites were.

And as I just wrote in my last comment, I support a patrolled border--to some extent. That doesn't imply supporting the McCain style enforcement. Besides, the contractors and agri-business of CA depend on the labor. So maybe charge them with crimes. Anyway, the immigration's usually a straw man. You don't care for eastside barrios, so avoid them.

What about say silicon valley execs--like GOogle scum-- who don't pay taxes? That's an issue. The corrupt pedazos who run UC Regents Co--an issue. Diane Feinstein's awarding dealios with defense contractors to her man Blum --an issue

Curtis Faville said...

Sorry, J, wrong again.

"No, you don't seem to grasp that hispanics were in CA, in numbers. Many of them have lived here for generations. They were probably 1/4 population even 50 years ago (now, they have achieved near parity with whites)."

The point is that the Hispanic diaspora is an ILLEGAL phenomenon. This isn't 1850, or 1900, or 1950 (when the farm labor argument actually applied) but 2011. The immigration laws currently in place are rational, and need to be applied (not ignored). Our immigration system isn't "broken"--it's overwhelmed, and that's not being addressed.

My arguments are going right over your head.

"Besides, the contractors and agri-business of CA depend on the labor. So maybe charge them with crimes. Anyway, the immigration's usually a straw man. You don't care for eastside barrios, so avoid them."

No that "cheap labor" argument's nonsense. Mexicans want the same life we have here. They want good jobs, and nice homes and schools and good health care. They aren't sweet little fruit pickers. They're trying to assimilate, but on their own terms (illegally). And their apologists don't acknowledge that. It's pure desire. And desire isn't pretty, or nice, or cute, or honorable--it's just naked ambition and selfishness. Which is exactly what made America great. Unfortunately, too many ambitious people in the same place makes an awful mess. As you see.

"What about say silicon valley execs--like GOogle scum-- who don't pay taxes? That's an issue. The corrupt pedazos who run UC Regents Co--an issue. Diane Feinstein's awarding dealios with defense contractors to her man Blum --an issue"

I don't see what Silicon Valley and Google and UC Regents and Feinstein have to do with this argument. In your mind you confuse these things with the immigration problem, but it's separate. The only people who stand to gain from a slackening of immigration regulation are the illegals (and a few pathetic small factory owners). For everyone else it's a terrible, expensive headache.

Wake up, J!

J said...

NO Sir F--first you don't really have an argument, apart from you don't like mez-cans. And you're conflating hispanics as a whole with illegal immigrants. The CA hispanic population (legal, not immigrants) itself nearly matches the whites. Most hispanic people in those barrios are legal residents, probably born in CA. Are they criminals because they don't speak Anglo, Sir F?? Thats what you seem to suggest.

The immigration problem is separate. And again, if CA businesses didn't hire them, they probably wouldn't be here. The central valley as a whole depends on the cheap labor of hispanics (including illegals). The GOP itself now ignores the issue. Why? Because developers and agri-biz need coolie labor--cheap labor means profits for owners. Believe me, I know more about this than you.

And finally, who are you blaming? It's the Fed's responsibility to patrol the border really (INS in CA is a different issue). So write like Nancy Pelosi or something

Curtis Faville said...

J:

The problem is you haven't really thought through any of these issues. You tend to see things in terms of shading of feeling, rather than as real problems with probable solutions. And the solutions often don't "feel" good, because there's always winners and losers in any policy.

"apart from you don't like mez-cans"

No evidence of this. "I never met a man I didn't like." This is true despite what one believes about large social problems. Racism has nothing to do with our immigration debate.

The language issue is real. We pay millions and millions to educate children of illegals who don't speak English. I resent that. True assimilation involves speaking the language of one's adopted country. If I emigrate to Germany, I'd expect to have to learn the language. It's really that simple. But the immigrant lobby thinks we should have as many school systems as there are languages being spoken (in whatever minority). Nonsense.

"...developers and agri-biz need coolie labor--cheap labor means profits for owners. Believe me, I know more about this than you."

Nope. Conservative sentiment advocates for cheap labor. But globalism functions in two ways. Either you export the jobs, or you import the cheap labor. Both ways, it's exploitation. Nothing pretty about the factories along the border. And how is scab labor an argument for illegal immigration? Make all the agricultural laborers legal, and it wouldn't solve the problem. Each successive generation of "coolies" melts into the society, as other waves follow behind.

The problem is Federal and local. Anyone who knowingly hires an illegal is creating enormous problems for our culture. And the "employers" who exploit these people pay NOTHING for the huge social problems thus created. Employers at fault? You bet. But the larger issue is how the society as a whole is influenced to think about the problem. We import cheap labor all up and down the spectrum. Indian and Indonesian and Taiwanese and South American programmers and engineers and doctors, all willing to "work for less" than Americans.

We keep hearing cries for more education, but we all know that's bullshit. The tech corporations want cheap labor the same way corporate farmers to. To cut costs. None of this is in any way an argument for the status quo. Pointing out one injustice doesn't make another less pressing, or real.

Pelosi is a fool.

J said...

The problem is you haven't really thought through any of these issues. You tend to see things in terms of shading of feeling, rather than as real problems with probable solutions.

No, that's you--you're the Lit person, Sir F. I'm all about Logic, evidence, argument. You're reacting to people you don't like. I have made a few substantial points--like, many CA businesses depend on illegal labor. That's not to say scab labor is an argument for illegal immigration (a non sequitur on your part).

So...take on the businesses who hire illegals. That's a solution--superior to the Arizona-cracker style shakedowns. Another solution---catch and release the migros in mexicali or whereever, but....hit them with misdemeanor charge (merely crossing the border's hardly a serious crime), but provide them with some ...goods, even a bit of cash. The charges then escalate.

Curtis Faville said...

J:

The entry point for most of the Mexicans is the scab labor pools--hoardes of these guys loitering on public and private property near building supply outlets or busy intersections, trying to thumb day jobs. They're clearly illegal, else they wouldn't be doing it this way. What's been proposed is that these scofflaws should be picked up and deported on buses back to the border. No one really disputes that they're illegal, or the deleterious effect they have on our skilled building trades, or that they're doing this because it's the quickest route to income and a foot-hold on (illegal) residence. But the Feds refuse to enforce, leaving the problem in the laps of the states. Arizona wanted to make arresting these criminals a routine matter, but Obama (responding to his "base" of minorities) decided he had no choice but to respond. In reality, 50 states having different kinds of enforcement would be chaos. But what would you suggest? If the authorities won't address the problem, who will? If these guys knew they were doing to be discouraged, they wouldn't come here in the first place.

I applaud Arizona for trying. That's constructive. The I&NS enforces nothing.

J said...

If we don't preserve our heritage and our birthright, our sovereignty will be seized from us, in a "quiet" revolution of rapid foreign occupation.

Again, I ask--which heritage?? The 49ers? Outwest, it was mostly german and irish-scots masons-- rude,drunken, illiterate murderers. With some Mormons--sober fiends. And the chinese and mexican slave-laborers.

The Beulahland of the West, including Cal, existed only for a few decades, for a few fortunate WASPs. You probably know a bit about Barbary Coast days, Ambrose Bierce, Leland $tanford's gang, Jack London, Dash Hammett etc. SF itself was a roaring outlaw town until the 30s or 40s or so. AS a teen Jackie London fought for his life on the Oak-town docks.

There never was a Cal. Beulahland, Sir F.--except for a few rich folks in hollywood or around palo alto, nob hill (hardly all WASPs, either)

Craig said...

The mill pictures are great. I think my great grandfather and his older brother helped build one in eastern Wisconsin when they were young men.

The older brother married the daughter of the guy who owned the local lumberyard, an officer in the Turnverein, and fifteen years later they moved to Ohio where he built a flour mill around 1890. Standard Oil had just struck oil in that part of Ohio. The mill burned down in 1898, but the bakery next door survived and he worked there until he died of a heart attack in 1917. It was a Stolzenbach bakery, owned by one of the original Missouri Synod families.

My great grandfather moved to upstate Wisconsin where he had a small farm, but also worked in a sawmill. I don't know if he helped build the mill, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did. He'd been there for twenty years in 1897 when he was fatally injured by a piece of wood spat out by the machinery. I think my grandfather took over the job at the mill at age 14.