Armilda Carter Douglass wrote:

I was born and raised in Schuyler Co., MO.  I lived there until I was 14 years old.  When I was 7, my father died and left my mother with 12 children.  We owned our home, had some stock, horses, cows, hogs, and a few sheep which were very necessary as mother made our winter clothes from the wool she got from them.  We had our butter, milk and meat, and raised corn and lived on corn bread.  Wheat bread was more of a luxury to us than cake is to children today.  We had biscuits once in a while on Sunday morning.

There were so many girls in our family older than I to do the work and they could do it quicker, so they were not putting me to work.  When I was 10, mother let me go to my uncle's to stay.  They had two children, a boy and a girl who was a cripple.  There I learned to work, helping with the housework and also with the milking.  I stayed there three or four years and then my step-father took us to California.

I well remember the day we left our home.  It came up one of those Missouri rain storms and rained all afternoon.  We stayed at a friends' that night so we did not have to camp out.  We went to the Missouri River and camped there for two or three weeks waiting for more emigrants to come.  We crossed the river and waited at Fort Laramie where our train was made up.  We had to have 200 wagons before we could leave as we were starting on the plains where we could see no one except those who were in the train.  There was constant danger from the Indians.

We had two big wagons with four horses to each wagon, and a big tent.  I remember the night on the Platte River we had a thunder and lightning storm and our tent blew down.  We had to get in the wagons and sit up the rest of the night.  The men brought the horses in and tied them to the wagons.  Every time it would lightning, the horses would jump and jerk the wagons this way and that, keeping them rocking.

It is interesting to know how those big trains are managed.  They have a captain who goes ahead in the afternoon until he finds a place where there is room for the wagons and feed for the horses.  He waits there until the train comes up and then shows them where to drive off the train and drive around in a circle forming a big corral.  After they unhitch the horses, the wagons are run together and the tongue of one put on the back axle of the next wagon, making a tight corral.  The women do their cooking inside this corral.  It also affords protection in case they are attacked by Indians.  The next thing for each family to do is to go to rustling for wood to cook with.  Sometimes it is bare plains and not a stick of wood to be found.  Then there is a scramble to get Buffalo chips enough to cook with.  The water was so bad with alkali that we could not drink it.

As our provisions ran short, mother would fry bacon in the morning and make gravy for breakfast and save the meat for lunch.  On the last lap of our road, there were soldiers stationed every 16 miles and we camped at those stations.  The horses were getting fagged out by that time and everyone who could had to walk.  Some of us walked all of the 16 miles and never got in the wagon all day for days.  I used to say that I walked half way across the plains, part of the time for fun.

How glad we were when we landed at my step-father's home in Solano County, CA., in September.  We were so tired of travelling and camping out.  Two of my brothers stopped on Feather River and went to work in the harvest fields and came on home later.  There were yet a boy and four girls to look for work.  The oldest girl, who was a widow with a little girl, got married and went up on the Sacramento River to live.  My brother and I went up there with her and helped with the work and went to school.

I was married in 1867 to Cyrus Douglass, who owned a farm there in Solano County and we lived there until 1875.  We sold out and came to Hollister.  In January, they were having a land sale in Lompoc and my husband went down to see the country.  He bought a man out who had 40 acres with a house on it.  We moved to Lompoc in the fall of 1876 and that was his home as long as he lived.  He passed away in 1902.

Corn grew higher than the ceiling of an average room, and wild mustard was so high in the fields that horses used in ploughing it under could not be seen from the road in 1876.

During that winter not enough rain fell at any one time to lay the dust.  During the following winter, no rain came until December 31, 1878.  When the rains finally started on that last day of the year, they continued with such steadiness that floods were feared.  For the rest of the winter and late into the Spring, the rainfall was heavy, delaying the planting of crops until farmers feared that they would have another cropless year.

Having most of their capital invested in the ranch, and unable to raise any foodstuffs during those two dry winters and springs, the people had to subsist chiefly on corn remaining from the bumper crop of 1876.

One family kept two cows and horses alive on salt grasses that grew down by the river.  Otherwise the stock would have died and they would have had no milk for the children to drink with their cornbread or black barley bread.

The Coopers, ranchers in the Santa Rita District, had quantities of corn stored from their 1876 crop and they gave much of this to families who had little surplus of their own and no money to buy foodstuffs in town.

The only mill was in LaSalle Canyon.  There all the ranchers had their corn and other grains ground into flour.  Only animals were sheep and cattle.  Most familes brought cows with them to supply milk and butter and horses for farm work.

When first bean crops were planted in the valley, no one knew just how ripe pods had to be before they should be picked.  Consequently, the farmers waited until the pods were so dry that the beans would pop out if any effort to pick them was made during the day time.  In order to gather the crop, pickers waited until night fogs moistened the pods and crawled down the furrows on their hands and knees in the dark picking beans all night long.

There were only a few fanning mills in the valley to clean the beans and as the crop all ripened at the same time, the fanning crews were working night and day.

The women were working night and day too!  Hot meals, hot coffee, and extra meals for the harvesting and fanning crews.  Nobody stopped until all the beans were sacked because that fanning mill had other farmers clamoring for it.

Next year the farmers had more sense and harvested the beans before they got dry.  That first season was so awful that I just wanted to pick up and go back east where a farmer did not have to work all night and all day to make a living.

The mustard had to be plowed under late every spring, after the ground got dry enough.  The tall red mustard had grown wild for so long that its seed was all through the soil several feet underground and for many years, a layer of dormant seed was turned up every time the plants were plowed under.  Nobody thought of mustard as anything but a terrible nuisance until an Englishman brought in yellow mustard seed and began growing it for market.

Havoc caused an overflow of the Santa Ynez River in 1884 - quicksand gathered in one place, rolling together and drawing refuse of all kinds into a barrier across the river bed.  Diverted into low swales on each side of its normal path, the river swelled these depressions to rushing streams that inundated numerous farms in the lower valley.

Upon hearing that the water was rising, we hitched up our team and started in a wagon toward the river to see what the danger was of its reaching our farm.  At a neighbor's place, we could see the water coming and stopped to help get livestock and family to safety.  The wife and children returned to our farm, while the husband stayed behind to pile furniture up inside the house so that it would not be swept away.  But by the time he was through, he had to swim his horse across to our place where the wagon had passed over a dry gully a short time before.  The river continued to rise until it entered a slough at one side of our home.  There it was diverted toward the lower end of the valley and gradually receded while the two anxious families watched.

After the river had returned to normal, we helped our neighbors return the livestock to their farm and shovel out dirt and debris deposited two feet deep in the house by water, which had burst open the doors and flowed through the building.

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Sitting - Cyrus Douglass and wife, Armilda; next to Cyrus is Ernest Arthur Douglass; between Cyrus and Armilda is Daisy Pearl Douglass.  Back Row left to right is Mary Annie Douglass, Daniel Milligan Douglass, Charles Douglass, Lester Douglass and Luther Sidney Douglass (my grandfather).  Luther's face is also on one of the Murals of Lompoc.  Picture was taken 1886.

George Sanor, Charles Beuterbaugh, Ellis Ball, John Heffernan, Frank Wilkins, Jim Plumm, my grandfather, Luther Douglass, sits 6th from right (hands crossed), Gus Bol(sp), Will Archer, Clyde Sybol, Henry Boletti, Charles Robbins, Clarence Gregg, John Sybol, Tom Devand(sp), Charles Streeter, Frank McBride and James Cantlay.

Mother Douglass

Grandpa Luther Douglass

Grandpa Luther Douglass and Grandma Ella Barker Douglass...the "Barker Books" are available at the Lompoc Valley Historical Society.

Left to right:  Marvin, Anderson (Bud) my dad, Ethel, Elsie and Eva Douglass

Douglass Relatives
Douglass Family Reunion 2000
Jim and Pat Douglass