Our last five blogs have been related to community volunteerism. We will continue this theme with a focus on one of our River Town’s favorite events – the annual Butter & Egg Days parade. It couldn’t happen without volunteers.
A recent Argus-Courier article (3-21-13) – “Petalumans of Yesteryear named Grand Marshal” stated: There are Petaluma legends living among us. In the year that Butter & Egg Days honor the “legends of Petaluma” it is fitting that a group of dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers who have taken on the personas of seven of Petaluma’s most prominent historical legends are honored as the parade Grand Marshal.
Although this article identifies the Petalumans of today who have assumed these historical personas, the purpose of today’s blog is to highlight the fact that these Petalumans not only made significant contributions to the development of Petaluma in its early years; but, they too, served the community as citizen volunteers. For example:
Captain Tom Baylis (arrived in Petaluma 1851) – Chartered member of the Fire Brigade. He was active in local militia units, the Petaluma Guards and the Emmetts Rifles. In 1867, he helped organize the first public library and donated 2000 books, and was elected the first president of the Library Association.
Isaac Wickerham (arrived 1853) – Chartered member of the St. John’s Episcopal Church., as well as a Mason and a board member for local business organizations. He also acted as district Attorney, a position to which his fellow citizens had elected him in 1855. Throughout his years in Petaluma, he took a leading part in whatever was done for the upbuilding of the town and county.
Clara McNear (arrived 1856) – Although Clara died in 1866, at the age of 29, there would be no McNear legacy without her. Three men, her closest kin, are all remembered as having done much for the advancement of Petaluma: George Bailey Williams, her father; John Agustus McNear, her husband and George Plummer McNear, her only surviving son.
Addie Atwater (arrived 1859) – Formed the Ladies’ Improvement Club that resulted in the creation and development of Walnut Park and Perry Park. She was also concerned about the many uncared for arrivals in town, and helped organize the Humane Society, and served as president until her death in 1912. She was also active with other members of the Odd Fellows Lodge in creating a library for the public.
William Howard Pepper (arrived 1858) – Although Mr. Pepper was well know for his nursery and orchard at the intersection of Pepper Road and Pepper Lane, his legacy also includes the founding and construction of Pepper Free Kindergarten (1894) on the southwest corner of Liberty and Washington. This pre-school program still exists, today, at 627 F Street.
Ida Belle McNear (arrived 1869) – First president of the Woman’s Club that sponsored singing and reading groups (1895-1900). She also gave away 200 trees to be planted throughout the city. When the new Oak Hill Cemetery was created in 1900, Ida Belle and the Ladies Improvement Club prevented Hill Plaza Park from being destroyed and becoming a Parking Lot. These ladies carted away trash, planted the grass and the Palm Tress that are still there. Her husband, George, donated land for McNear Park, McNear School, the Petaluma Gulf & Country Club, and the Fire Station at 2nd and D Streets.
Brainerd Jones (arrived 1875) – In 1945, an Argus-Courier editorial stated, “Perhaps no man has left more living memorials of his achievements and of his contributions to this community than this architect who drew the plans and laid down specifications for so many of our homes, our business structures and our schools. He was a small town architect only in the sense that he lived and worked in a small town.” Jones was a member of the Elks and served the Rotary Club’s board as president. He helped oversee the city’s air raid shelters during the first world war and served on the city’s planning commission.
Stay tuned for a future blog that will identify these historic Petalumans of Yesteryear as Petalumans of Today and their volunteer endeavors.