Liz Writes Life 12-29-15

Dec. 29, 2015
Liz Writes Life

Published in Siskiyou Daily News, Yreka, CA

Back in September, I discussed the sour dough starter that I used to make eight dozen rolls for the Jefferson State Flixx Festival dinner. I have been meaning to discuss more of the history of this sour dough, or rather, the family that used it. The youngest brother, Judd Sullivan, gave my mom, Jeanne Fowler Dillman, the start when she married my Dad Hearst Dillman in 1941. It is from a true Siskiyou gold miner family – the Sullivans.

Most of the Sullivan family members are buried in the Catholic Callahan Cemetery. By accident, when doing other genealogy research, I found that Judd is buried in the Etna Cemetery along with his nephew Homer Schneider, whom my dad talked quite a bit about, but I never connected to the Sullivan family until this year and it was a surprise.

So let’s start from the beginning. James A. Sullivan was born in Ireland around 1847. In the 1870 U.S. Federal census, James and a Daniel Sullivan are found living near the Callahan Ranch Post Office.

In the same census, another Irish native Patrick Samon is listed living near the Callahan Ranch Post Office. He and his wife had four children. One was “Maggy” Margaret Samon age 16.

Soon after the 1870 census, James A Sullivan and Margaret M. Samon married and by the 1880 census were living at the upper Wildcat Creek property. It looks like all their children were born there. The first was Cornelius (Con) F. Sullivan born 1874 and it seems that he inherited the Wildcat Ranch or purchased it from his family as he was still living there in the 1940s and early 1950s according to my brother, Steve Dillman, who visited the old man quite often in the two-story Victorian home the family had built – no electricity even in the 1950s.

Francis (Frank) D. Sullivan was born in 1877 and later owned several ranches down on Sugar Creek and across the Scott River on the Eastside.
Jerome J. Sullivan was born 26 July 1879.

The mystery was Ella K. Sullivan, who was born in 1883. I never knew she existed and accidently found her through the 1900 U.S. census record. My parents were good friends with this second generation of Sullivans and they always talked about there being five or six sons, but never mentioned a daughter, whose children, inadvertently, played an important role in my life.

Robert (Bob) P. Sullivan was born in 1885 and later owned a large ranch between Sugar Creek and Wildcat Creek. He married Mary Edith Webster on 1 Aug. 1916 at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Yreka, according to their marriage certificate housed at the Siskiyou Co. Courthouse. (I paid for a copy. As a child, I knew Bob and Edith as acquaintances.)

James (Judd) B. Sullivan was born in 1890. This is our sour dough connoisseur, a gold miner and expert with dynamite. My brother recalled that Judd was so good with dynamite, he could use just enough to gently roll a stump out of the ground, instead of blowing it up. Yep, very efficient.

When I realized that Ella was a sibling to the brothers, I checked her death date. It was 20 May 1905. Before this time, I had learned in the 1910 census that her mother, Margaret, had married Henry L. Davis and several Sullivan sons were living with her along with two young children named Homer and Margaret Schneider. Hum?
With local genealogist, Peggy Whipple, helping me, we were able to track down Ella Sullivan’s marriage to William Schneider in a Siskiyou County Marriage Registrar-type book housed by the Genealogical Society of Siskiyou Co. Wow! Then, through the census I found the dates when Ella’s two children were born. Margaret in 1903 and Homer on 17 May 1905. Ella tragically died a week after Homer was born. So, I then assumed that her mother took in the two young children.

Through the census in 1910, I learned that William Schneider was remarried with a new family living near Callahan.

Somewhere along the way, I found that Grandmother Margaret Samon Sullivan’s first husband, James, had been killed in 1897 in Idaho. He had gone there during one of their gold strikes.

None of the Sullivan brothers had children, so the upper Wildcat Ranch was left to Homer and Margaret and they, eventually, sold it to my dad. He began leasing it in 1943. I grew up riding horses and working cattle on this beautiful ranch. I ate many lunches on hot summer afternoons in the coolness of the old Sullivan house kitchen, played in the vacant upstairs bedrooms and wondered about the rock fireplace. Little did I know, that 50 years later, I would piece three generations of the Sullivan family together – all because I wanted to know more about a sour dough starter that has been used continuously for at least 80 years.

Liz Bowen is a native of Siskiyou County and lives near Callahan. Call her at 530-467-3515.
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