Stories From The Grave
Bradner & Kezia Curtis (Part II)
Final Resting Place Row 3, Plot 19
Last month our Featured Grave was the story of Bradner & Kezia Curtis. A few days after the newsletter was completed I received additional information about the Curtis Family from a descendant of Bradner Curtis, so I decided to continue their story in this months Featured Grave. If you missed the July Featured Grave you can find it online at http://www.ioofcemeterysonora.com/july-2015-newsletter.
Bradner & Kezia Curtis Part II
The final resting place of Bradner & Kezia Curtis is an impressive vault in the IOOF Cemetery. It overshadows the gravesite of Melvin Belli, the famous San Francisco attorney, only 25 ft. away.
Before I started my research I presumed that the Curtis family was quite wealthy and well known in the community. To my surprised I learned that Bradner Curtis was a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley and the family never lived in Sonora. How was his family able to construct a remarkable crypt, made from Sierra Nevada granite? The new information I received would answer this question.
The Curtis family moved permanently to Stockton, from Tuolumne County in 1854. Mr. Curtis made sufficient money mining to purchase 320 acres of land just north of the city at the cost of $12.00 per acre. In 1885 30 acres of this tract sold for $333 dollars per acre.
As Stockton continued to grow, so did the value of the Curtis property. Selling her land allowed Mrs. Curtis and her family to live quite comfortably. Kezia was also able to honor her husband’s request and build a family vault per his instructions.
Mr. Curtis also bought a block of land in Stockton on Vine, and Rose Streets. At the time of purchase it was a grain field. Mr. Curtis built a house on this property and made it his home until his death, March 4 1881. Later Mrs. Curtis moved a house from the ranch and these two houses are still standing on the property at 1245 N. Center Street in Stockton, Mrs. Curtis lived in one of the houses with her daughter, Belle Kate, and next door to her son Fornia, on Center Street until her death at the age of 101, Kezia died. Pictures of the house(s) are , see the pictures of the house(s) in the left hand column.
Note: It is believed that the young couple named their youngest boy Fornia Stockton Curtis after their newly adopted home state and city, Fornia, being derived from Cali-FORNIA, and the middle name for Stockton, California.
Below is a picture taken of the Curtis house in 2015.
1245 N. Center Street, Stockton CA
Kezia Curtis –
The Gold Rush presented many opportunities for women, and Kezia did a lucrative business selling pies and pastries to the miners. Like cooks through the ages, Kezia Benton Curtis collected recipes worth remembering. She kept a little brown booklet filled with them. On the inside cover, she wrote the title “Kezia’s Receipt Book.” Receipt was the way recipe was spelled in her day.
Kezia’s receipt book reveals just how self-reliant and resourceful a wife and mother in mid-nineteenth century, rural America had to be to ensure the health and wellbeing of her family. Alongside recipes for coconut pudding and fig marmalade are instructions for preparing medicines, brewing beer, and manufacturing cleaning solutions, cosmetics, and other useful products. When there was no professional medical help nearby, the pioneer homemaker had to cope the best she could when a family member was injured or fell ill. Kezia’s receipt book contains remedies for some of most dreaded diseases of the era: diphtheria, smallpox, and scarlet fever. The following is one example of these therapies:
It is believed that Kezia’s receipt book was compiled and used in the mid-19th century. The only date in the booklet is “5 month 23rd day. 1881” Kezia’s receipt book may be the oldest in the State Library’s sizeable California cookbook collection. It may also be unique within the collection in that it is a personal, handwritten collection of recipes.
Below is a photo of Kezia’s handwritten recipe book open to recipes for a
“Floating Island,” graham cake, and hair dye.
Written By Denine Urquhart
California State Library Foundation – Bulletin Number 81
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