By February 1, 2017 Read More →

HistoryView: E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 58

History In Your backyard: E. Clampus Vitus Chapter 58
by Lloyd G. Ploutz, Historian

You live in a very historical area of Stanislaus and Merced Counties dating from the Gold Rush days.  These are the established areas of responsibility of your local Chapter of E. Clampus Vitus, AKA, “Clampers”.  Estanislao Chapter 58 was established on June 21, 1958 at Knights Ferry. This meeting of historical and fun loving men joined their original founding group of gold miners who organized the first Clampers at Mokelumne Hill Mining Camp in 1853.

Why did these hard working, hard drinking, hard fighting men with total irreverence towards any organized structure or fraternal organizations want to have one of their own?  The elite organizations like the “Masons”, “Oddfellows”, “Sons of 76”, “Order of the Star Spangled Banner”, or “Knights of Columbus”, would not let the preconceive low life miners join and they would then “Black Ball” them. These elite organization members where the store owners, large mine owners, saloon owners, attorneys, judges, business managers and other business owners  Over time these rejected miners decided to fight back by organizing their own selective Fraternal Group, were by E. Clampus Vitus was formed as an answer to the rejections of these special groups of people,

Their rules were very simple: #1 E Clampus Vitus would be a fun, hell-raising organization.  #2 Each new candidate must go through an initiation before the present members, and if they passed, then  (#3)  the new associate would then buy every member in the saloon their drinks for the night.  Then and only then he would be a member in good standing.  The members of E. Clampus Vitus would “not” purchase any mining supplies, materials, or services from any businessman that was not a member of their organization ECV.  The business owners had no choice but to join E. Clampus Vitus if they wanted to sell their wares.  Join they did.

As I stated E. Clampus Vitus had simple rules of having fun at the expense of the new initiate. Humor was paramount, no limits were had toward practical jokes and tricks played upon the unexpected. Good times were had by all.  As any sound organization must be, it should have a foundation of principals.  These principals were to “Protect the widows and the orphans, especially the widows”. and live by the creed, “Credo Crea Absurdom”, which literally means, “It is absurd because it is.”

So to summarize, the beginning of E. Campus Vitus was born out of social frustration of the day, and to have something extremely fun and fun it was because someone else was paying for the party.

Today your local Estanislao Chapter 58 of E. Clampus Vitus still ensues these principals with its on going work to identify, record, and expose to the public the history in your back yard.  Stanislaus and Merced Counties have over 10,000 members on our registration rolls.  Once you’re a member, you’re a member for life.  There are no dues and no requirements, but to have fun twice a year. Your local Chapter 58 has researched, resurrected, and recorded the physical locations of importance at more than 45 sites.  Many of these historical location have an established monument denoting the local events that took place.  You will note also the plaques mounted upon special building and structures. Please stop by and read them.  For the most part you will see E. Clampus Vitus Chapter #58 and its then Noble Grand Humbugs, AKA, past president name.

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