Helen Eells: The Family Settles In

Helen’s Oral History
Chapter 2
The Family Settles In

Published August, 2010

“My mother was the craziest woman about comfort. And she was pregnant on top of that. And she was supposed to just be quiet and taken care of, the way she was when I was coming. But she had to put up with it. And the tales that my father told, and my grandmother and aunts, about this terrible little shack, and how they’d pitched tents outside for us to sleep in and, thank goodness, it wasn’t the winter, although it hadn’t become summer yet, either. And Mill Valley is cold in the spring.

“Well, they got all kinds of coal-oil lamps and coal-oil stoves and a wood & coal stove quickly in. And then my father went to Mill Valley, and he himself chose beautiful redwood panels, that he meant to put in the living room of a house he had to build around us. So, that house, while it was very handsome as far as the living room and dining room are concerned, because he had had red rock rolled down from the sides and built a great big beautiful chimney, and fireplace with a hook in it with a big black pot hanging over it. As I say, it was a very charming living room and dining room. But the kitchen had to be built around that little shack. And then they began putting bedrooms on, which didn’t seem to attach themselves in very architecturally beautiful ways.

“So, the house was always a rambling, funny place. But it was built in no time flat, because there were many, many Portuguese living around, who had come from the Azores. And my father hired dozens of them, both to make this house a really pleasant place, and a possible place, I should say, and start landscaping the flat part of the acreage, so that he could put in every kind of tree that ever man has known of, a barn and carriage house. We had chickens, ducks, turkeys, and two dappled gray, beautiful horses to pull the surrey, which had all this cute little fringe hanging down that you’ve seen in the pictures. And we had an old horse that was the work horse, to plow and so on. And she would pull a little butcher wagon sort of thing that my mother, once in a great while, if she couldn’t get the hired man to take her in the surrey, would drive to Mill Valley to do a little shopping.

“Then my father bought a Shetland pony for my big sister, and one of those darling basket carts he had sent over from England. The kind you come in at the back and sit on the sides, and the driver has to sit sideways, too. The place began to develop very well. And since there were two streams on it, my father put in dams and he had a lake that was beginning to form. And it was my job to go down to the lake and take care of the ducks, get them in every night so the skunks wouldn’t bleed them. And we all grew along very well and had a very comfortable and pleasant life.”

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.