Heading into history | TheUnion.com

Heading into history

In late July, I had a call from Donna Carver, who is the Queen Mum and founder of her chapter of the Red Hats in Nevada County, and if you don’t know who Les Rouge Chapeaus are, well, you need to get out and about a little more. She said they wanted to come out to Washington to have lunch at the hotel and would I, could I be their guest and tell them a little bit about my town? Of course I said yes, because you just don’t turn down the Queen Mum for any reason.

I got there a tad late because I was shlepping props and notes, and I was practically blinded by the gorgeously decorated red hats and purple outfits they wore. Did they look sharp! The only person I could think of who might could out-sparkle ’em is Irma Hart, who I met when the Fruit Jar Pickers were down here, but it’d be a stretch.

They were interested in the history of Washington, had many questions to ask, enjoyed their lunches and had a grand time. I did too, since they treated me to all the iced tea and French fries I could eat, oh yum.

Mesdames, it was a pleasure to visit with you, and I surely hope you come back again very soon.

Then The Union forwarded a letter from Marion Waldecker who lives in Banning. She has a friend in Grass Valley who sends her my column every once in a while, and she wrote to tell me she likes it. Thank you, Marion. She asked me if I could tell her a little about Washington’s history. Would any of you, dear readers, be interested in that?

In the ’70s, longtime residents Robert and Grace Slyter wrote a history of how Washington began and how the new Gold Rush town fared over the years. The Slyters have long since passed, but their book is still in print and available at the Washington Hotel. I’ve been told that Mr. Slyter spent literally thousands of hours patiently sifting through old documents and various newspapers to gather his information.

I want to update his book from about 1900 to 1975 or so, and it’s my turn to put in the hours playing with the microfiche machine at the Doris Foley Library in Nevada City.

Initially, I started out interviewing anybody who ever lived in Littletown, or had a relative or friend who lived here. I found some in Sacramento and a couple as far away as Oregon, but the majority live in Bigtown now.

I know I’m getting sappy, but I got to meet some of the real creme of Nevada County, the people who lived and worked here, who defined the whole county when the mines were booming when even Washington was booming. Jim and Barbara Thue, Tony Metz, the Cicogni family, Bonnie Flindt Jones and her brother Max Flindt, Kenny Ribble and his mom Lil and so many others – all of them played a part in making Grass Valley and Nevada City and points in-between what they are today, made it the place you live in now.

The staff at Doris Foley Library got me started. They are Manager Maria Brower, who’s worked there for nearly six years; Steffanie Snyder, on board for two years; and volunteers Pat Chestnut, Nevada County native Brita Rozynski and Dayle Smidt.

They are all the very soul of patience and helpfulness, not just with me but everyone who comes through those old, old doors, and the traffic is varied and steady.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about this wonderful place for months now, and there’s more for next week.


Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.

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