Thank you, Chuck Smith.
The former Appeal reporter, present-day Sutter County public information officer, and avowed Marysville booster, brought one of the town’s leading figures back to life Saturday to a full house at the Burrows Center. It was well done and much appreciated.
Smith is an avid local history buff who researched the life of Stephen J. Field, wrote a one-man play about him and acted in the part.
We can say with fondness that Marysville is a town full of characters ... and evidently has been since its inception 170 years ago.
Field was the city’s first elected official – mayor. (They used the title “alcalde,” a holdover from the days when California was part of Mexico and denoting an official who was a combination mayor and justice of the peace – the local chief decider on just about anything.)
Field later would be appointed by Abraham Lincoln as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, retiring from that job in 1897.
Field’s life story brings him to this place before it was an official place ... a few hundred people here for the gold rush, many still living in tents. He came to Marysville to put up his shingle as a practitioner of the law and fell into things at just the right time... before he was here more than a few days, he was voted into office and what was being referred to as Yubaville became Marysville, after Mary Murphy Covillaud, Donner Party survivor.
Much of Smith’s play was inspired by Field’s autobiography, “California Alcalde.”
Smith tells or passes along a good story – story after story. The play gave us all a good idea of what sort of foundation Marysville was built upon. Field a hero? Maybe. Opportunist? Maybe. Visionary? Maybe. Good talker? Maybe.
But he had heart.
It wasn’t long after Field was elected that he had to decide a case against a man for whom the town had it in for. Field didn’t want to sentence the man to jail because there was no jail, and there was an angry mob outside waiting to hang the man; and he didn’t want to send the man back down river to San Francisco to be tended by authorities there because of the cost.
So he came up with the whipping post. If that sounds barbaric, it was a terrible enough punishment to satisfy the vigilantes, bad enough to serve as a deterrent, allowed the miscreant to keep his life, and cost nothing to apply.
The performance was an hour and a half of good story telling, with some nice locally sourced music and birthday cake, to boot. And we enjoyed being part of the crowd of local enthusiasts. It meant something that a hundred or so people got together to hear stories about a major local figure and celebrate the town.
They should make a movie out of this. It’s at least a 12-part Netflix series.
Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal–Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Publisher Glenn Stifflemire and Editor Steve Miller.