Collection Scope and Content Summary
Title: Conlin Family papers
Collection number: 307-1073
Columbia State Historic Park
Extent: 7.7 cubic feet (8
California State Parks
Physical location: The collection is located at Columbia
State Historic Park, Columbia, Calif.
The collection is open for research by appointment only. Appointments
may be made by calling (209) 532-0150.
Property rights reside with California State Parks. Literary rights are
retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to
reproduce or to publish, please contact the California State Parks, Columbia
State Historic Park.
[Item] Conlin Family papers, 307-1073, California State Parks,
After the last Conlin sibling, Maggie, died in 1944, the family
collection was donated to Columbia State Historic Park, a unit of California
State Parks (CSP). While no CSP-generated documentation exists detailing the
acquisition of the papers, the park does have artifact gift documents that
briefly mention the Conlin family as the source, and that they were donated
through the Columbia Historic Preservation Association (CHPA). The earliest of
these gift documents is from 1947. The bulk of the collection appears to have
been purchased with monies donated by William Cavalier to CHPA and thence given
to the park through the intermediary of Mrs. J.S. (Geraldine) McConnell. Over
time other pieces of the collection were gifted by Mrs. McConnell, and credited
to William Cavalier and CHPA, of which Mrs. McConnell belonged. There are also
notes from early 1950s park staff attributing particular pieces as being from
the Conlin family collection, some with catalog numbers and some without, and
some of these documents were identified through handwriting and known business
associates. While the major part of the collection may have been acquired as a
gift through the Columbia Historical Preservation Association, park staff may
also have found pieces in abandoned structures in the town.
Upon receiving the collection, park staff broke it up and redistributed
individual items throughout the archives, filing them according to the business
or family name mentioned in the body of the document (sometimes cutting up the
document to file in separate locations). In 2001, a survey was done on Columbia
collections as part of a statewide archival assessment project, and it was
determined that the Conlin Family Papers warranted archival organization and
processing. Between 2001-2003 Scott Baker, archaeological specialist with
Columbia State Historic Park, and Sherrin Grout, volunteer historian,
reconstituted the collection, organized it, and created this finding aid.
It should be noted that although the bulk of the Conlin Family Papers
have been reconstituted, there are still pieces of this collection within
Columbia State Historic Park that have not been located. Parts of the
collection are possessed by local families and collectors. And some of the
Conlin material has been seen on the Ebay website for sale and local antique
stores. In addition, it is quite possible that additional Conlin documents
could be found in the Tuolumne County Historical Society archives.
John and Julia C. Conlin were married in Massachusetts in 1855 and moved
to Shaws Flat, Tuolumne County, California in 1856, where Mrs. Conlin gave
birth to the first of her 11 children:
||b. 1856 Shaws Flat
||d March 14, 1890
||b. May 14, 1859
||d January 10, 1930
||b. 1863 Columbia
||d November 11, 1883
||d October 18, 1921
||b. October 9, 1865
||d. October 2, 1939
||b. October 2, 1868
||d. October 12, 1888
||d. November 22, 1916
||b. September 17, 1873
||d. February 1, 1931
||d. November 2, 1889
||b. September 17, 1876
||d. September 27, 1893
||d. July 1, 1944
John Conlin, Sr. was killed in a mining accident near Shaws Flat in
October, 1877. Julia C. Conlin died in January, 1878. All of their children
were educated in Columbia public schools. Tom, the primary assembler of this
collection, also studied bookkeeping in Stockton and in 1877 received his state
and county teaching certificate. Margaret also became a schoolteacher. Tom
operated a Western Union telegraph business in Columbia for 40 years, serving
as the third and last Wells Fargo agent, 1884-1914. He was a trustee of the
Tuolumne County Water Company until it liquidated, had some involvement with
the Columbia Water Company and was an investor in several mining operations,
both placer and quartz. An entrepreneur, Tom had interests in several other
businesses in and around Columbia. He operated the Fallon Hotel in Columbia in
the 1890’s, where he also managed a general merchandise store, and he owned
several pieces of property in and around Columbia. Conlin also appears to have
had a personal loan operation for several of his business acquaintances and
Tom Conlin’s many businesses and investments resulted
in an interest in activities in Columbia and the surrounding areas in the
1850,s and 1860’s, and he accumulated memorabilia, memoirs and reminiscences of
that period. These first and second hand accounts of that period are a
significant part of the collection. He also collected memorabilia, photos,
clippings and literature on Columbia, the Tuolumne County Water Company and the
local vicinity dating up through the 1920’s. Tom and his sisters, Maggie and
Julia, lived together in the Wells Fargo building for many years, and never
married. After his death in 1930, Maggie and Julia remained in Columbia,
maintaining the collection and continuing the tradition of gathering
information and clipping newspaper articles.
Collection Scope and Content Summary
The documents produced and collected by the Conlin family relate to
every aspect of middle class life in Columbia in the 19th century. The largest
grouping of materials in the collection relate to the Conlin family’s business
and financial records. Their financial struggles and growth is detailed through
bank notes and checks, bills and receipts, deeds and mortgages, and similar
documents, primarily in the first two decades of the 20th century. Some
promissory notes may relate to Conlin’s personal and business loans to others.
Conlin’s mining interests are also revealed through the documents in the
collection. Especially interesting are the lists of bullion producing mines in
Columbia and the wide variety of mining claim documents. These materials are
arranged alphabetically by claim title, and include maps, indentures, proofs of
labor, and other mining-related documents.
By far the most unique and
valuable materials in the collection relate to the Conlin’s personal
relationships and family life. The documents in this category depict the
struggles of a 19th century family’s survival after the death of the parents,
who left nine underage children in the care of the oldest sister and brother.
The deaths of many of these children in the late 1880s and early 1890s,
attributed to consumption, is yet another ordeal this family faced and is
detailed in the documents. From Penmanship classes to legal opinions, from
wedding announcements to death cards, this collection is a gold mine of a
striving, ultimately successful middle class family.
while still listed under their series title, have been moved to oversize boxes,
and map items have been moved to mapcases. Except for the framed items,
photographs have been integrated into the general Columbia Photo
The collection has been organized into the following
|| Business and financial records, 1857-1934. 1.3 cubic
||Legal records, 1883-1932. .1 cubic ft.
||Correspondence, 1876-1927. .1 cubic ft.
||Mining interests, 1866-1939. .4 cubic ft.
||Family papers, 1855-1932. .4 cubic ft.
||Research and reminiscences, 1890-1928. .4 cubic ft.
||Collected memorabilia, 1860-1932. .5 cubic ft.
||Photographs, 1880-1939. .5 cubic ft
||Columbia Water Company, 1930’s. .3 cubic ft.
|| Books, 1853-1938. 3.5 cubic ft.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Columbia State Historic Park