The Museum Building

Gadgets and Gizmos -
Meet the Inventors

1862 & 1871

In 1869, a fuse factory was erected on Zayante Creek in Felton. The company was incorporated as Lake Superior and Pacific Fuse Company and the principal stockholders were the inventors and patentees Richard Uren, Thomas Dunstone, and Joseph Blight. The plant was also known as the Eagle Fuse-works.

The machinery was driven by three 5-hp water wheels. Water was supplied to the factory by a flume from a reservoir fed by water from Bean Creek.

The main building was three stories high with a two story wing. The wheels, pulleys, shafts, etc. that drove the fuse making machinery were on the lower floor; the actual fuse making on the second and third.

The fuse making process was kept a tightly held secret. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported: “We did not see the second story of the works in operation, as that portion of the building is private and sacredly confidential, the various processes and machinery being a profound secret, never divulged by the inventors and patentees.”

Jute, one of the raw materials, was imported from Dundee, Scotland. The finished product, which was “used all over the Pacific Coast,” was also exported to Australia and Central America.

In 1871, the factory production capacity was increased to 120,000 feet of fuse per week. After Thomas Dunstone’s death in 1878, his son-in-law William H. Talbot took over the operation of the factory. In 1881, South Pacific Coast railroad employee, Joseph H. Aram, married Evangaline, Dunstone’s daughter. SPCRR issued the following congratulatory statement: “SPCRR tender you and your bride our sincerest congratulations on your marriage, with the hope that your future happiness will burn as bright as the fuse, and never die out till it burns to the end.”

In 1883, Talbot, Dunstone’s widow Susan, and Aram formed a partnership under the name W. H. Talbot & Co. “for the purpose of manufacturing patent fuse and farming.”

On a fateful day in August just one year later, Aram was working at the plant, when there was an explosion in the room above him. He was watching the machinery that fed powder from hoppers in the room above into the fuse, to ensure that it was working correctly. Aram saw the roof raise up, and the sides of the room he was in spread out. Hurriedly he ran to a window intending to jump out, but as he reached the window a second explosion occurred throwing him out. He suffered a fractured arm and was badly bruised. The building was soon engulfed in flames and burned to the ground. It was uninsured and never rebuilt.

Fuse Factory Patent

Uren, Dunstone, and Blight's Patent No: 37,079.

Fuse Patent

Uren's Patent No: 114,233.

1870

Romanzo Erastus Wood, better known as R. E., and his wife Mary Olmstead Wood, arrived in Santa Cruz County around 1868. The register of voters in 1869 describes Wood's self-stated occupation as a broom-maker. What an understatement! Wood was an incredibly talented individual. An inventor, industrialist, landscape photographer, traveler, showman, and a talented, opinionated, sometimes cryptic, writer with a poetic bent, who wrote under many pseudonyms.

In 1870, he was awarded a patent for "an improvement in animal traps." This patent for a cylindrical gopher trap was reportedly the first such trap to be produced commercially.

He made his home at Troutdale Farm on Bear Creek Road where he had a fine vegetable garden, cornfields, and a vineyard of 3,000 vines with 35 varietals. He had workshops for his manufacturing with the best tools and machinery of his own manufacture, a stock of chemicals and acids, and a foundry. There appeared to be no branch of art or science with which Mr. Wood was "not familiar, especially mechanics, chemistry, etc." He also repaired guns, sewing machines, "in fact everything made out of wood, iron, steel, copper or brass."

Wood had a four-horse team and wagon that made monthly visits to each of the towns selling the goods he had manufactured. Besides his traps he sold potato-knives, brushes, and dusters among other things. The Sentinel noted that his traps would be indispensable "now there was a premium of 8 cents on each gopher scalp."

By 1874, he was producing 8,000 traps annually at his factory, at Troutdale Farm. Two sizes of traps were produced, selling for $1.00 and $1.50 each.

His manufacturing business also included a corn-broom manufacturing plant and a match-making factory. And he was purportedly going into the cutlery making business too.

In 1875, Wood used his newly acquired camera to document the building of the San Lorenzo flume. He had six different size lenses for either single or double (stereoscopic) views. Noted county scenery and buildings were also photographed, with the goal of the images being displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

At the 1877 Mechanics Institute Industrial Exhibition in San Francisco, Wood won an award for his cylinder gopher trap. One of his advertisements extolled the virtues of the rodents as pets and boasted that when the trap was placed appropriately in their boroughs it will "about half the time take them alive, so they can be put in a coal oil can or dry aquarium, half filled with dirt, and their interesting habits studied, to the great delight of all."

R. E. Wood put his broom and match manufacturing businesses up for sale and he and his wife took again to the road; they traveled around California and beyond, putting on lime-lighted optical lantern exhibitions with "newly imported European double mammoth oxy-hydrogen stereopticons." Around 200 oil-painted transparencies of noted scenes were projected ten feet in diameter and "laughabilities" made the show one of the most entertaining and instructive for just 50 cents a person. They also offered their services as photographers and at the same time, introduced the gopher trap to a wider audience.

Gopher Trap Patent

R. E. Wood's Patent No: 109,789.

A page from R. E. Wood's Scrapbook at CSU Chico

A page from R. E. Wood's Scrapbook in the collection of the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.

R. E. Wood's gopger trap based on a drawing by T. Butler.

1881

In 1880, Judge James Harvey Logan began experimenting with blackberries. He considered the “flavor of the wild blackberry of the Pacific Slope unrivaled.” Logan planted wild blackberries and variety called Texas Early, a domestic blackberry that bloomed at the same time, in adjacent rows in his Ben Lomond Mountain garden. He also planted a row of Red Antwerp raspberries.

By 1882, Logan found that his plants had born a new large berry. This berry would be come known as the Mammoth Blackberry. But he also found that the Red Antwerp Raspberry had naturally crossed with the blackberry to produce a new fruit, neither a raspberry nor a blackberry, which would become known as the Loganberry.

These new fruits could not be patented however, as the US patent office did not begin granting patents for plants until 1930.

The Loganberry: From Seed to Fruitage by L. F. Kinney, courtesy Google Books.

1900

On March 30, 1907, Engineer William Robert Dow suffered a severe stoke while driving a Southern Pacific steam locomotive on his usual route between Santa Cruz and Boulder Creek. Earlier that day, Dow seemed in the best of health, but on the run home, just opposite Old Felton, he succumbed with “his hand at the throttle of the steel steed which he had driven and controlled so carefully and so well.”

Fortunately, Fireman McDaniels, while backing the engine from a slide where they had been working, noticed that Dow was unable to use his hand to operate the air-brake. McDaniels stopped the engine and Dow was taken to his home where he passed away shortly after. He was one of the most popular engineers employed on the run, which he had operated for the prior twelve years.

Engineer William Robert Dow was the inventor of a new type of compound steam engine, that is a steam engine where the steam is expanded in two or more stages. At the time of his passing, this new engine was intended “to overcome the limitations of the present types in the service of the Southern Pacific Co.” He was also the holder of a patent for a gas engine, filed in 1898, while he was living in Boulder Creek.

One of his gas engine patents, witnessed by Boulder Creek residents Billy Dool and Arthur Stagg, was cited as prior work in a patent applied for and granted to Major Frank Bernard Halford, a renowned British aircraft engine designer, in 1945, for the patent of a Jet Propulsion Plant. Halford's jet engine company was bought by the De Havilland Aircraft Company. Dow's patent has also been cited more recently, in 1976 and 1984.

The winter of his passing, 1907, had been a wet winter. The San Lorenzo Valley had suffered badly; storms and floods had wreaked havoc. Just a few days before he died, Engineer Dow was pronounced a hero. While transporting a train loaded with school children and passengers just south of Felton his keen eyes noticed the brush on the top of the mountain above Big Trees Park bend and “move slowly down the hill preceded by rolling stones which were beginning to strike the track and the train.”

Quickly, Engineer Dow thrust the engine into reverse and not a moment too soon, “for with a thunderous roar the whole mountain side broke loose.” Five hundred feet of the track was buried in mud, rocks, and trees, to a depth of forty feet, and some of the tracks and ties were thrown into the river below. But the train, and all of its precious cargo, although damaged from the pelting of rocks, were saved.

But even worse weather was to come. The storm on the night of March 23, 1907 saw forty mile an hour gales; the San Lorenzo river rose four and a half feet, and all five of the bridges crossing the river in Boulder Creek were completely swept away, carried by masses of drift material. Roads were impassible with slides and washouts. It took days for the debris to be cleared and it was while clearing one such slide our hero, Engineer Dow, was taken.

William Dow's Patent No. 647,651

William Dow's Patent No.786,432

 

1901

In 1901, John Armstrong of Santa Cruz patented an automatic water-elevator. The device used a small amount of water with considerable fall, to move a portion of that water to a higher elevation.

A tower would be erected in a gulch where the top of the tower would be around five feet below a spring. Water was piped to the top of the tower and allowed to fall into buckets attached to an endless chain. When the buckets were full, about every four minutes, the chain moved, setting the pump to work for one minute forcing the water upwards to its destination. Advertisements for the elevator boasted it could raise water up to 450 feet.

One of the first to be installed was on Love Creek, Ben Lomond for Martha Hume. Her home was 400 feet above the creek and she had no convenient way of getting water to the house. It was highly successful. Sadly, it was vandalized two years later when someone with a sharp hatchet cut and destroyed all the buckets on the machine. A second elevator was installed for her in 1904 which raised water 523 feet.

The elevators were manufactured by Joseph Harveston at the Lukens Carriage Works in Santa Cruz. In 1904, Harveston installed one in the San Lorenzo Rover at Boulder Creek for farmer Conrad Shroeder. Shroeder had tried using a rotary pump driven by an undershot water wheel without success. “He got out of patience … and now gets all the water he needs.” The elevator raised a one-and-a-half-inch stream of water to irrigate Shoreder’s land which was around 200 feet above the river.

In 1905, the new Harveston & Lukens Automatic Water Elevator was awarded first prize at the State Fair.

In 1905, a poem was written for the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Way down a steep flight
And quite out of sight,
There’s a magical mill,
Built under the hill,
And run by a stream,
Without any steam.

It runs day and night
By the same silent might,
And though in a deep gorge,
Shut out from the light,
It seldom murmurs
Of its lonely plight.

A grander machine
The world never seen;
‘Tis like a rare jewel

In a crown that was set,
Although never wore,
It shines ever more.

Thus the glory of the pump,
Its true worth unseen,
Except by the trickle
Of the ascending stream,
Its true value is known
In the stream that is thrown

To the tank far above
In the broad light of day,
Silent but constant
It forces its way,
And giving full credit
To the mill that just had it.

 

Gopher Trap Patent

John Armstrong's Patent No: 682,378.

Water Elevator

Patent No. 682,378 Figure 1.

 

 

Santa Cruz Sentinel March 14, 1905

Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 14, 1905, courtesy newspapers.com.

 


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