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January 6, 2010 > History: Pioneer society of Washington Township

History: Pioneer society of Washington Township

William Barry and Morris Lestor suggested that an organization be formed by the pioneers of Washington Township. They published a notice in the Alameda County Independent November 11, 1876 calling for a meeting of township pioneers. The meeting was held Thanksgiving Day, November 30 at Centerville. Charles Kelsey, John Riser, J.A. Trefry, Edwood Ross, Emory Munyan, Edward Niehaus, Caleb Scott, William Cockefair, David Bane, George Bane and William Barry were present at this first meeting. John Riser, Charles Kelsey and William Barry were appointed to prepare the constitution and rules for a permanent society.

The committee's report was received in December. George Bane was elected president, Caleb Scott first vice president, W. Layton second vice president, Luther Osgood treasurer and William Barry secretary. Regular meetings were set for the second Saturday of April, August and December. Residents of Washington Township who were in California before March 26, 1853 were made eligible for membership. The organization was later extended to Eden and Murray townships. A constitution was signed by 202 pioneers who were residents at the time.

The object of the organization was declared to be: "To collect and preserve information concerning the settlement of the township and advance the interests and perpetuate the memory of its pioneers." Their purposes were to care for the sick, provide for burial of the dead, and enhance old friendships.

A second anniversary banquet was held in the Riverside Hotel at Alvarado in a dining room festooned with ivy and evergreens; the word "Argonaut" spelled with letters of leaves and flowers. The table was loaded with bouquets, wreaths, cut glass and silver. One member, James Tifoche had already died and his vacant chair was twined with flowers while a beautiful cross rested upon his empty plate. Members were seated according to age. G.W. Bond was the oldest at age 81. C.C. Scott was 74 and William Hayes 71.

The History of Washington Township reported that 40 members were still living in 1904 but only eight had continued in full membership. Annual banquets were held in The Gregory House in Centerville where members relived their pioneer days. The menu consisted of oysters on the half shell, oyster soup, crab salad, cold ham, tongue, Lake Tahoe trout, roast turkey, chicken pie, new potatoes and much more. Dessert was pie, cake, ice cream and oranges. Wines and champagne were also served.

It was agreed that the first cake would be the property of the club and kept from year to year. No more members were to be admitted and the club would meet every year till only one remained. A book was procured in which each member was to write his own biography. After the feast the club adjourned with three cheers.

The "red letter" day of the society was the annual picnic. The first one was held at Dry Creek, May 26, 1877. This was a large gathering of old residents and their families. The older generation recalled memories of early times while the younger folks danced. Then the older folks danced the "Pioneer Quadrille" to show their children that the old styles had not been improved upon by the new. Since it was the full moon, many younger people stayed for an evening dance.

A partial list of members was published in the Oakland Times in 1879 and corrected by an article in the Alameda County Reporter. The article listed 17 wives who were honorary members and nine men incorrectly named as members.

Some members of the Pioneer Society of Washington Township decided to form The Argonaut Club of Washington, Eden and Murray Township Pioneers. All members in good standing were residents of these three townships prior to January 1st 1853. The purpose of the club was to unite members in bonds of friendship. Meetings were to be held annually on the 23rd day of March until all members had died.

The first meeting of the Argonaut Club was held at Centerville in 1876. The last meeting, also at Centerville, was held in 1906, thirty years later. Henry Dusterberry and William Barry were the only survivors present at the last meeting. The last survivor, Henry Dusterberry lived until 1919.

The official record book was labeled "Argonaut Club" and the first page was the "Record of the Deaths of the Members of the Argonaut Club". Members signed a register page at each annual meeting. The last names were signed March 23, 1893 without any explanation. The "Record of Deaths of the Members of the Argonaut Club" lists Ivan Tifoche, August May and Henry Smith as having died by 1892. The seventh annual reunion was held at the United States Hotel in Centerville. After that some reunions were held in Hayward.

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