Road travel in my lifetime has been so insular: you get into your car and drive, stopping only to gas up, eat, or sleep. But 100 years ago travelers relied on the kindness of strangers along the way, from help getting unstuck to bed and board in a family's home. It's difficult for me to imagine the level of blind trust in strangers that was required of a person making such a trip, or of the families taking strangers into their homes. (At the end of Mormor's narrative I have a short story to tell, so stick around.)
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Mormor was my mother's mother, and the events of this story took place nearly 100 years ago. But my father's mother's home, here in the Valley at about the same time, was also a stage stop.
(Photo stolen from the Wells Fargo blog)
Their ranch in north Chico was the final stop for stagecoaches bringing wealthy people from San Francisco to Richardson Springs, a spa retreat in the hills just north of Chico. San Francisco is about 160 miles from Chico, and the Valley is very hot and dusty, so you can imagine the shape the passengers were in when they reached the ranch. Wealth and position likely dictated that these elegant passengers dress up, not down, for their trip; living in San Francisco, they were probably freezing when they left and were wearing warm clothes (a huge mistake for the Valley, then or now).
(Photo stolen from this site)
Richardson Springs was quite close to my great-grandparents' chicken ranch, so the passengers were almost there and didn't require a meal or lodging, but they certainly must have needed cold water and a privy stop. My grandfather sold eggs to the resort, which the stage driver picked up at this stop. Those eggs represented important income for the family, who were dirt poor.
Richardson Springs Resort burned down in 1921, and while it was rebuilt and continued to operate for years, the depression and World War II hurt the hotel's business considerably. There was to be no chicken egg gold mine for my great-grandfather, and the family remained dirt poor for a few more years.
Two different parts of my family tree with very similar life experiences.