George Robert Dillman Family History
1928 – 1941
Depression before the Great Depression –
Throughout the 1920s, even before the Great Depression, thousands of farms and ranches were lost by their owners because of a poor economy. Over 550 U.S. banks went bankrupt previous to 1929 and many of these banks were located in the rural areas. Low prices for crops and products were constant problems for agriculturists, while some businesses in the cities flourished.
George and Rose Ann Dillman were like the majority of America – agriculturists. Their parents were pioneers, sent out by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah to settle new land and establish farming communities.
In the 1880s, George Dillman’s family went to Mexico; Rose Ann Beecroft’s parents settled near the Rio Grande River in the high mountains of Southern Colorado. A few years later, they moved by trains and teams and wagons to Mexico and Arizona.
George and Rose Ann met in their youth in Colonia Oaxaca and or when attending the church’s school at Colonia Juarez Academy in Sonora, Mexico. The couple married on September 22, 1906 in the Sierra Madre village of Colonia Pacheco.
When first married, George and Rose Ann lived in Northern Mexico. In 1907, they crossed the border to live in Arizona. Life was hard. Their homes were either adobe or wooden structures; the floors were hard dirt and the long summers were hot!
Finding work or a way to make a living for the family was a constant struggle. George worked many jobs; driving freight wagon, cowboyin’ on ranches, fighting fire in the mountains of Mexico, running a dairy, or growing cantaloupe, watermelon and cotton. The continual price drop on agricultural products saw to it that everyday life remained difficult. Only the tough and determined survived!
Route of the journey
The drive in a 1922 Dodge screen-side pickup began in Tucson, Arizona up to Mesa and over to Palm Springs in California. Then traveling through San Bernardino, Bakersfield, Modesto, Sacramento, Chico, Redding and up the dangerous canyon to Dunsmuir, Mount Shasta and Weed. At the bustling cattle and railroad town of Gazelle, in Siskiyou County, the family turned off of Highway 99 onto the dusty Gazelle-Callahan Road and climbed up and over the Gazelle Mt. summit to drop down into a beautiful green mountain valley, which became home for the rest of George and Rose Ann’s lives.
April 1928 – George Dillman family moves again
Prayers are sometimes answered uneventfully. And in recalling the journey from their home situated just two miles from Tucson, Arizona, to their newly-found home in Callahan, California, Hearst explained. “I know today, we would never have made it, except for Mother’s prayers.”
The old 1922 Dodge pickup was “worn out before we started,” recalled Hearst in 1993 as he began sharing recollections of his life. A major menace could have been the weather, but it was clear and calm during the entire week of the 1,400 miles trek.
“It was ideal for camping,” Hearst said, as the family cooked and slept along the roadside during the trip, much like early-day pioneers. The roads were dusty and narrow. There were no campgrounds, only wide spots beside the road or camping on the edge of a farmer’s field.
California, here we come! — 1928
George Dillman, age 42, married to –
Rose Ann Dillman, age 39.
Bob Dillman, age 19
Hearst Dillman, 16
Clista Dillman, age 14
Rose Mae Dillman, age 12
Charley Dillman, age 9
Katherine Dillman, age 7
Evie Dillman, age 4
Con Dillman, age 18 months
Chris Beecroft, Rose Ann’s brother, age 34
Never in his 16 years had Hearst Dillman witnessed his mother cry. This was new. Yes, the seven days of journey atop the 1922 Dodge screen-side pickup was exhausting, but no major incidents occurred. Stopping to fix a daily flat tire or two; or checking the radiator for water needed to climb steep foothills and mountains was the norm. And the April weather was surprisingly pleasant, except the nights were colder now that they were ascending into the real Northern California.
Even now, as the family of 11 rested on the roadside in this high semi-desert valley, with gigantic snow-covered Shasta Mountain looming from the south, the flames from the campfire gave light and warmth. Supper was cooking.
Yet, the day had seen untold sights as the young Hearst drove the narrow, winding road up the Sacramento River canyon over high bridges. They had moved ever closer to the 14,000 high Mt. Shasta and then found themselves circumventing its western base to plunge out in this rocky expanse called Shasta Valley.
“George, where is he sending us?” Rose Ann Dillman had finally asked her husband as she felt a great sense of loss and weariness. The couple married 21 years earlier and after the suggestion of a relative, as well as years of poverty and hardship, they decided to move to a new frontier. The hope was that life could be easier somewhere other than on the dry Arizona border of Mexico. Right then, the exhaustion and uncertainty brought this strong woman to tears.
But let’s go back seven days to April 20, 1928. George and his brother-in-law, Chris Beecroft, had climbed into the front seat of the old 1922 Dodge. Sixteen year-old Hearst was at the wheel to drive the family from their desert home.
Though the automobile was becoming a necessity in 1928, George did not totally accept the new contraption. His hands typically held sweat-covered leather reins in his work-roughened hands. Cowboyin’ and driving many a team of horses and mules was his livelihood and his life. So when confronted with 1,400 miles of sitting behind a mechanized wheel, he had stated that he, “wasn’t going to drive that damn new-fangled thing!” And he didn’t.
George’s eldest son, Bob at age 19, was waiting for the family to arrive in Scott Valley.
The Dillmans were frustrated with the continued hard times in Arizona. So when Aunt Mary Brumwell visited Rose Ann in October of 1927 and suggested that the family move to Northern California, the Dillmans were open to the consideration. Aunt Mary lived in the City of Yreka and owned other property in Siskiyou County at the very top of the state. The reason for Mary’s trip to Arizona was to attend the dedication service of the Mesa, Arizona Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Aunt Mary owned a ranch in Eastern Siskiyou County. She thought that the Dillmans would like the area. But with one look at the high 4,000 foot elevation desert area of sage brush of Butte Valley, Bob decided to look elsewhere for a ranch.
Bob in California
After arriving in Yreka via the Greyhound bus on a $50 ticket, Bob caught a ride with Johnny cleaver. As the truck driver for the local Shell Oil distributing business, Cleaver delivered gas throughout the county in 55 gallon drums to the ranches, farms and towns.
Through his travels with Cleaver, Bob was able to find and then obtain a rent on the Masterson Ranch. It was located two miles southeast from the small mining town of Callahan on the old state road going over Scott Mt. to the Trinity area. This was considered the first road into Scott Valley and was forged by trappers and miners. The two-story, stage-stop hotel was to be the new Dillman residence.
(To be continued)