Tuesday Nov. 22, 1966


by Helen Callen Sun Star correspondent

MARIPOSA–The old Bootjack Hall, pride of the community at the turn of the century, has been torn down.

The weatherbeaten landmark, which had stood on a little rise overlooking Bootjack Road for nearly three-quarters of a century, went on the auction block last month, but no bids were submitted. Subsequently, it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. James O’Hara, newcomers to Mariposa County. A few hundred yards distant from the hall, the home of Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Butler is also being razed. It is said to be more than 100 years old, and was originally the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. David McNally. The McNallys operated a way station for wagons and stage coaches in the early days, and it was they who donated the land for the community hall.

Progress, in the form of a new highway, (extension of California 49) necessitated the removal of both buildings, which were sold for one dollar each.

The entire community took part in building the hall, and everyone from miles around turned out to celebrate its completion. The year was 1894, and the children from the nearby Sebastopol Grammar School presented a program to launch the dedication festivities. The two-room schoolhouse burned down during the Christmas season of 1945, and the adjoining woodshed housed the classrooms until early in this decade, when a new school was built a few miles away.

Ethel Wass, born in 1887, was eight years old when she took part in that program. She remembers how the music of the fiddlers and the sound of dancing feet echoed late into the night at that first celebration that started the hall’s long career as an important contribution to the social life of the community.

When she grew up, Ethel married the late Robbie DeMoss, and their son Everett, still a resident here, recalls his father playing the fiddle and guitar at many of the Bootjack dances when he was a child.

When a dance was in the offing preparations were under way for days, as the women cooed and baked enormous amounts of food before the buckboards came lumbering along the rutted roads, loaded with blankets, edibles and excited children. Mrs. Fred Bradshaw, a granddaughter of the McNally’s, tell of the many times that she and her family, and many of the nearer residents who had only a few miles to go, "wore their walking shoes, and carried their dancing shoes," and were joined along the road by other groups as they walked to the hall.

After the feast, the children bedded down wherever space permitted, and the carbide lamps shone on the dancers until dawn. A hearty breakfast and church services fortified the party goers for the long trek home.

With the passing of time, the wagons were replaced by "horseless carriages" in the parking area, and eventually the "old days" were gone. The sturdy old hall still served for dances, and was used principally by the "Bootjack Stompers," Mariposa’s Square dance club from 1948 until this year for its bimonthly dances. Condemnation of the hall forced the group to find new quarters.

Few repairs were made on the once-proud hall through the years, and the ravages of time and weather did their worst to the 40 by 70 foot building. The original pine floor had been replaced with hardwood, and electricity was brought into the area in 1948. The old building boasted a little kitchen lean-to, and a new deluxe Chick Sale, with electric lights, was built during the past few years.

All things must come to an end, the old Bootjack Hall, and the era it represented, are gone–but not quite. The fine hardwood floor is to be used in an addition to the O’Hara’s home, and the old wood heating stove has again come into its own. It was the stove that the O’Hara’s really wanted in the first place, but the old hall was part of the package deal, so to get the stove they bought the hall.

Even though it can’t be seen from the road anymore, a bit of the indestructible old hall lives on.

transcribed by Carol Lackey