Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Colorful Character And A Good Group

Some more California history.

Last week when I was crossing Carson Pass and made a pit stop at the summit, I came across this marker that I hadn't noticed before although it's been there since 1977. I guess I'm just focused on getting to where I want to fish or going to the bathroom. I'm not sure which.

This is a monument to a character from the California/Nevada past named Snowshoe Thompson (real name John Albert Thompson). His claim to fame was that he delivered mail between Placerville, California and Genoa, Nevada during the period 1856 to 1876.

Despite his nickname, he never used snowshoes, but traveled across the Sierra Nevada's on 10 foot skis and a sturdy pole generally held in both hands at once. This type of skiing he learned in his native Norway. He is considered the father of California skiing.

So you say, big deal. The guy skied across the mountains, but you have to take into consideration that some of those places had 10's of feet of snow and he went no matter what. The odd thing is that in those twenty years of carrying the mail across the mountains, he never got paid a dime.

Snowshoe Thompson
Snowshoe Thompson died of appendicitis which developed into pneumonia on May 15, 1876 (probably why he quit delivering the mail in 1876) and is buried in the cemetery in Genoa, south of Carson City, Nevada along side his son, Arthur.

If you click on the picture, you can read the dedication inscription. This is what is on the top picture.
As you can see at the bottom of the plaque, it was dedicated by a group called E Clampus Vitus.

With a little help from Wikipedia, here is how they describe themselves:

The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (ECV) is a fraternal organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the heritage of the American West, especially the history of the Mother Lode and gold mining regions of the area. The fraternity is not sure if it is a "historical drinking society" or a "drinking historical society." There are chapters in California, Nevada, and other western states. Members call themselves "Clampers." The organization's name is in Dog Latin, and has no known meaning; even the spelling is disputed, sometimes appearing as "Clampus," "Clampsus," or "Clampsis." The motto of the Order, Credo Quia Absurdum, is generally understood as meaning "I believe it because it is absurd;" the proper Latin quotation Credo quia absurdum est, is from the Christian apologist Tertullian (c.160 – c.220 AD), who rejected rationalism and accepted a Gospel which addressed itself to the "non-rational levels of perception."

In my travels, I've seen similar plaques in many places.

As much as they are an "historical drinking society" or a "drinking historical society.", they do a lot of good work and I'm proud to be able to profile them here.


  1. Thanks for sharing some more of your rich California history with us. Good read!

  2. i think i would wanna get paid for that trip!

    very cool, thanks

  3. Good read, history has always been one of my interest--thanks for sharing