Guy C. Earl often told his four children—Alice, Martha, Guy Jr. and Eleanor—bedtime stories about his own childhood in “The Enchanted Valley” of the Owens River. ”I had the great good fortune,” he believed, “of spending my boyhood in the midst of majestic surroundings and wondrous beauty —where I walked in Paradise.” “To listen to Father,” remembered son Guy Jr., “one would think that he had spent the major portion of his life in the EnchantedValley.” In fact, his tenure there lasted only half a dozen years.
Addicted to pioneering, Forty-Niner Josiah Earl kept his family, wife and two sons, on the move. When a Virginia City venture busted after the Civil War, he filed a homestead claim in the Owens RiverValley, recently secured from the Piutes. Josiah set about building “quite an ambitious adobe” but things fell apart. “Before we could accumulate a woodpile and before our house was finished,” Guy narrated, “my father, at the verge of winter, fell very sick.”
Necessity revealed that his mother possessed a talent for business. She sent her two young boys to a neighbor to offer a silk dress in exchange for a cow and calf. Twelve cut-glass goblets bought a dozen hens and a red rooster. The previously unplowed soil yielded exceptional vegetables. Guy and his older brother, Edwin, were pressed into service on market days to sell the ranch’s butter, eggs, produce and pies in town.
At first, Guy felt lonely in what he called, “the land of little rain, the cow country.” Although his brother, Edwin was only two years older, “he never entered thoroughly into the joys of boyhood, and because of this I went my way. My companions were my horse, my dog, and some Indian boys.”
Eviction from the EnchantedValley came suddenly. “In 1872 an earthquake came that destroyed our home. I can remember counting eighty-seven tremors. The whole community was wiped out.”
Guy listened in as his parents discussed the next move. His mother argued that the boys needed a good education. Josiah agreed that Guy “thought more of throwing a lariat or riding a bucking horse than of serious work.” Deciding that Oakland possessed the best school facilities, the family relocated there. Once again the twelve-year-old had to leave friends and pets behind “I used to have terrible homesickness,” he confessed, “and cried practically every night for several months.”
After high school, Guy won acceptance at the University of California. Josiah Earl, pursuing a new scheme in Australia, missed his son’s graduation in 1883. The following summer, news of his death reached home. “I walked up and down the streets of San Francisco with my fists doubled up,” Guy recalled, “saying over and over to myself, ‘I will be a lawyer. I will find a place for myself.’”
After passing the bar exam, Guy found a job as Deputy District Attorney of AlamedaCounty. His boss, Samuel P. Hall, proved to be more than a legal mentor. An avid sportsman, Hall introduced his assistant to his favorite recreations—hunting and fishing in the San LorenzoValley. In March, 1888, the Oakland Tribune noted that the two had left their office to “try the streams above Felton.”
The following November, Guy C. Earl married Ella Ford, his high school sweetheart. Her parents were also California pioneers. Their first child, Alice, was born ten months later, followed by Martha and then the twins, Guy Jr. and Eleanor.
After leaving office, Hall and Earl formed a partnership. In 1891, Hall bought a summer home overlooking Felton. “They had had a bathroom and other conveniences put in,” noted the Sentinel. The partners were soon cast into political roles. In 1892, local Republicans elected Guy tor the state senate. Several years later, Hall successfully ran for a Superior Court judgeship. Both men relied on weekend excursions to Felton to take the edge off their busy lives; whipping the streams for trout or beating the bushes for quail.
The Earls hoped to balance the education of their children with experience of the natural beauties of California. The Judge offered his friend a time-sharing arrangement—when the Hall children left for high school in August, the young Earls moved into Madrone Cottage for the fall.
“I fell in love with the valley,” Alice recalled. “We went fishing in Fall Creek and did all the other exciting things children do. We vacationed each summer in Felton for four years, each vacation being four months long. My mother borrowed desks from the FeltonElementary School and taught us so that we’d not fall behind in our school work. My father didn’t seek reelection in 1897 because he was a devoted family man, and he would come to Felton for weekends.”
Randall C. Brown is a local historian and is a member of the SLVWD