Helen Eells: A Gentleman’s Farm

Helen’s Oral History
Chapter 3
A Gentleman’s Farm

Published September, 2010

“My father was home very little of the time during the weekdays, but he always came home for the weekend. Now I can hardly remember my father, because he died on October 12, 1911 when I was not quite seven. And until he died, I, as I say, hardly ever saw him except on the weekend. And then he was involved deeply with the Portuguese workers and the dams and people coming and going. The most I remember of pride in him, was that on Saturday nights he’d come home with a wallet that had little pockets in it. And he’d pull that out, and in every little pocket there was a five dollar gold piece. And he lined up the men who were working for him. They were very small, I remember. And they all took their caps off and said, ‘Good evening, Mr. Eells.’ And he said, ‘This is your wage’ and handed them all a five dollar gold piece. I guess it was for the whole week’s work; I don’t know. And I’d stand by his knee and think, ‘What a great man!’

“But now I should tell you some of the lovely things that happened in Mill Valley. My father was a great walker. And he put a boardwalk all the way from our place, which was a mile-and-a-half, down to The Brown Jug [now the 2 AM Club] on Miller where the trains stopped. And he walked down there every day, unless he was late, and then the hired man would hitch up the surrey and take him. And he was met at the station when he came home on Friday nights, because he was tired. You know he really was a great person, and was a very great influence in every kind of situation he ever involved himself.

“Well, the place grew, and it looked like a little gentleman’s farm. We had a cow. And the lake grew big. And he put a little summer house over on the other side, because our side, where the house had to be built, was very dark. In fact, from November to February, that house didn’t have one drop of sun on it all winter. So my mother would traipse over there, across the bridge, and go to the little summer house with her sewing, and her little things that she wanted to do — write letters, or whatever. And she would take us. And we’d play on the bridge, and around her.

“Well, the lovely part of living on a place like that for a little child, is the solitude and the communing with nature. I would go down to the streambed, and I’d make little boats out of wood. And I’d play for hours and hours, until my mother rang a big cowbell. And that meant we had to come in. And I would have had this wonderful two or three hours, all by myself, while my baby sister was taking a nap. Or I’d walk over the place, all around. It never entered my head to be afraid. Grey squirrels were prevalent in those days. And they’d jump from tree to tree, chattering and screaming at you. The birds were singing. The animals were all down in the barn, doing their thing. You know, that’s the kind of life that a child should lead: wonderful, wonderful hours of fun, together with your sister.”

If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.