Recalling CCHS Roots: How
the Conference Came to Be
By Mary Lou Lyon
This article was originally
published in the April 1991 issue of the California HISTORIAN.
The ancestor of the Conference
goes back into the early 1900s. Money was set aside by the State for the
formation of a statewide California history association.
Originally, it was based at the
University of California, Berkeley but when Dr. Owen Coy, the director,
moved to the University of Southern California, he took the organization
south with him.
Several rival historians pressed
the State that state funds could not be diverted to a private institution so
the funds were cut off and the 20 years of archives sent to the State
Archives in Sacramento. Dr. Coy urged that a statewide association be
continued. Dr. Rockwell D. Hunt, dean of the Graduate School at USC agreed.
In 1947, Dr. Hunt was invited by
President Tully Knoles of the College of the Pacific in Stockton to head up
a California History Program there. He urged that some type of grouping of
the statewide historical societies be considered.
In 1953, Dr. Hunt and Dr. Robert
E. Burns planned a meeting at Columbia State Park at the Presbyterian Church
of the ‘49ers with a luncheon in the garden at Dr. Burns’ summer home in
Columbia. Dr. Hunt sent invitations to historical societies, museums and
Among those attending were Dr.
Coke Wood; Harold Schutt of the Tulare Historical Society; Mr. and Mrs. Fred
Meamber of Yreka; Dick Bailey of the Kern County Museum; Don Segerstrom from
Tuolumne County; Warren Howell, book dealer and member of the California
Historical Society; Michael Harrison of Sacramento; Joe Doctor of Tulare
County; Clyde Arbuckle of San Jose; Irene Simpson (Neashain) of Wells Fargo;
Dr. Frank Stanger of San Mateo; Hal Goodyear from Weaverville; Jerry
MacMullen, San Diego; L. Burr Belden, San Bernardino; Mrs. Doris Foley,
Berkeley; Miss Ivy Loeber, St. Helena; Reginald and Grace Stuart; and others
whose names I have not found. Unfortunately, there did not seem to be a list
Dr. Hunt was appointed temporary
chairman of the constitutional by-laws committee with Harold Schutt, vice-
chairman, and Grace and Reginald Stuart and Dr. Coke Wood as committee
Another meeting was called in 1954
and the Conference of California Historical Societies was officially
founded. Dr. Hunt was unanimously selected as the first president, with
Harold Schutt as vice president, Mrs. Doris Foley, treasurer and Dr. Coke
Wood as executive secretary. There were eight regional vice presidents
First Annual Meeting
It was decided that the first
annual meeting would be held in Monterey, June 24-25, 1955, with Mrs. Mayo
Hayes O’Donnell, president of the Monterey Society and Mrs. Mary Green as
co-chairmen for Local Arrangements.
The first meeting was highlighted
by a luncheon at the Memory Gardens in Monterey, a theatre party at
California’s first theatre and guided tours of Monterey.
Speakers on Friday included Mrs.
Fremont Older of Cupertino, speaking on “A Novelist Discovers California
History;” Eric A. Falconer of San Francisco on “The Unsettled Mystery of
Drake’s Landing Place;” Earl E. Rhoads, San Jose, “A Kodachrome History of
the Donner Trail.”
On Saturday, the papers were given
by William Shepard, U.C. Berkeley, “Parisian Paupers in the California Gold
Rush;” H. Price Webb, “The Adult Center Vagabonds, or Learning California
History via a Greyhound Bus;” Joseph A. McGowan, Sacramento State College,
“An Interpretation of the Relationship Between the Missions and the Indians
of California;” Benjamin F. Gilbert, San Jose State College, “A Survey of
Techniques and Procedures Used by Historical Societies of Other States.”
The luncheon was on the Overland
Mail Centennial Committee. A business meeting followed the two full days of
activities. A vote was taken among three areas who wanted the second meeting
and San Jose was selected with Clyde Arbuckle as Chairman. It was decided to
retain the first officers for another year.
Registration at the first meeting
was 157 and 180 persons were served at the luncheon. The total attendance
was over 200 members. Regional vice presidents were increased from eight to
15 to better serve the state. President Burns of the College of the Pacific
notified the Conference that a suitable desk and chair and filing case would
be installed in the California Room of the new Irving Martin Library as
headquarters for the Conference.
It was also decided to publish the
proceedings of the meeting to include the papers given, starting a precedent
for the Conference.
In 1975, when the Pacific Center
for Western Studies moved to its new quarters in the renovated Education
Building, President Stanley McCaffery allocated a separate office and
storage space to the Conference. As University of the Pacific has grown and
its archives have grown, it has still supported the Conference with a small
office and many benefits from the affiliation.
For this summary of the history of
the Conference, I have used excepts from the brief resume written by Ruthie
Clarke in June 1978 and from the Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of