Bethel on horse

Bethel Sims Coats Journal

Bethel Sims Coats (1868 – 1951) kept a pocket journal that he started at the age of 14. It covers a period of 25 years from 1883 until 1913. It may have been continued in a second volume, but one hasn't been found. This version is from a transcription made by Charles Edmonston, the husband of Vivian Coats. Vivian was Bethel's first cousin. All the place names unless otherwise stated are in California.

Bethel was born and raised in the Tassajara section of Contra Costa County. He lived there until 1906 at which time he moved to Santa Clara County so his daughters could attend school there. He moved back when they completed their education.

The journal metions his marriage and the birth of his children. He also mentions many relatives and neighbors.

Bethel is pictured at right at the ranch.


A. J. Young taught his last term at the Tassajara schoolhouse.

R. V. [Richard Vardaman, Bethel's uncle] Doggett moved from Mendocino [County] to Tulare [County] in the fall

Nolen [William Berry Nolan Coats, Bethel's brother] married in the fall [to Catherine Drennan]


We moved from our old house to our new, March 10

I visited Uncle Jird's [Doggett] during the summer at Suisun

C. A. Menefee's first term at Tassajara school

Frank Coats [possibly Lemuel Allan Coats' son James Franklin] worked during haying


J. L. [James Longstreet, Bethel's brother] Coats began school at the University of the Pacific in March

Rain during summer spoiled hay, knocked down wheat

Uncle Jack [Bethel had an uncle, John Russell Coats] visited us late in the fall

Also Ed and Russell [may be John R. Coats' sons] bought mustangs. Sold old Sam

Dry winter, fall of 1884 - spring of 1885 first cultivating

C. A. Menefee second term.

Bob Brownfield worked here

[I] passed the examination and got my diploma in June


First trip to San Joaquin in spring

L. A. Coats [Lemuel Allen, Bethel's uncle] moved from Tassajara to Fresno in Sept.

J. R. Coats [John Russell Coats, Bethel's uncle] visited us also family in Sept. I visited at Middletown, also Santa Rosa.

Rain in November. Warm wet winter fall of 1885 - spring of 1886. Lots of grass. Hard cultivating & plowing.

My last term at public school. Quit in spring.

S. A. Chadwick, teacher.

J. Backus and W. Serht worked for us in the fall & winter

E. Harms and Henry worked during haying


Attended school at Livermore College. Began middle of March.

Went to San Jose during summer.

Frank Coats visited us.

W. Davis and W. Serht worked for us during fall & winter

Went to San Joaquin with W. Serht on Thanksgiving Day.

H. B. Needham, teacher

Dry winter fall of '86 – spring of '87

Uncle Jack visited us during summer and took away mustangs

W. Willis worked for us

Plenty of baled hay to haul off during fall

Dolf Podvia sold out to W. Hanna in the spring

Grandpa [Wilson] Coats died in January [the 3rd]


Went to Mt. Diablo April 3

I went to San Jose in June

J. L. Coats graduated from University in June

Silas Larrimore and [his] mother visited us during summer

Went to the county fair in the fall

Went on the San Joaquin with Nolen & wife and Mary and Blanche

R. D. Williams first term of teaching

Got a watch and chain on my birthday, April 16

J. L. Coats rented the ranch and I worked for him.

Hot north wind in the summer, which cooked the wheat

Mr. [Caleb] Bowles family moved to Tassajara in the fall. [The father of Bethel's future wife]


Big snow storm in January

Went to Fresno in the spring and came home with the chills. Was sick for a month and a half.

Worked about 75 days for J. L. Coats during summer.

Uncle Jird and family visited us during summer

J. Williams worked for us in spring, J. Webster in the fall

H. Finleys moved from Tassajara on Tues. Oct. 16. I went with them to Santa Rosa. Also visited Middletown. Got home Friday, Nov. 9

It began to rain Wednesday night Nov. 14

Ney [Doggett] left on Sat. the 17th

We began to plow Mon. aft., Nov. 26th

Xmas week very stormy.

R. D. Williams second term teaching Tassajara school


Went to Mt. Diablo Feb. 10

Got through work Feb. 5.

Got hurt in the mower May 22

Went to see the doctor July 18th

Dance in the new schoolhouse July 19th

Began heading July 20, finished July 30

Georgie and Willie came over in June

Aunt Fannie [James Longstreet Coats' wife] and Mary [Coats, also Bethel's aunt] in July

R. D. Williams third term of teaching Tassajara school

July 30, weather very warm

Went to Sunol to a dance and picnic Aug. 9-10

Sore leg about well Aug. 10.

Began thrashing [sic] Monday Aug. 26. Finished Aug 29th

Began hauling wheat Monday Sept. 2.

Went on Mt. Diablo Sat. Aug. 31

Hauled hay for Mr. Bowles Oct. 15-16-17

Began raining Oct. 17

Began cultivating Nov. 4

Caught the mumps Nov. 8 – was sick a month

Lots of rain

Heavy rains in December

Rained about 40 inches during fall & winter.

My Father was taken down with Rheumatism in the winter and wasn't able to move [from bed] for a year.


Jan. 1st very cold

Jan. 4 snowed. Mountains white for several days. Weather very cold

Miss Stetson, teacher

Went to Byron Springs in April

Went to St. Helena in August. Got back in November

Began Cultivating Dec. 1.


Got through farming Jan. 24

Took a trip in fall to Ione, Sacramento & Sutter. Co.

Began batching Oct. 20

Got married Dec. 30 [to Phoebe Ellen Bowles]

Dec. 30 Phoebe and I went to S. F. on our wedding trip

Miss Riley was teacher.


Phoebe, George [Phoebe's brother], Marg [Phoebe's sister?], Nellie Markell and I went to the San Joaquin in Feb.

Not very good crops

Phoebe and I hauled off baled hay. Phoebe helped load

Joe Stein, Will Ramsey, Joe Ryan, Tom Walton, John Nissen [worked for us]. Tom accidentally shot himself in the fall.

Phoebe and I and her mother and father and George went down to the coast in the fall overland [probably to San Simeon]. Had a fine time.

Traded Kit and Flora for Queen [horses?]

Carrie Peckham came to visit Phoebe in the fall

Miss Riley teacher


Wet winter '92 & '93. Bridge fell in. Got a new one later

Pete Jansen worked for us in the winter

Eunice born May 4 at 6 o'clock in the evening.

Phoebe's father died June 19th.

My mother [died] Christmas day

Emma Walton Spiel visited us in spring.

Antone Jason and Antone Mattheson and Bill Martin worked for us in summer. Fine crops, but poor price. Jon Fitz(?) came to stay with us in the fall. Went to San Jose.

Went to S. F. with my father – got a new shotgun

Kate came up to visit Phoebe

Margaret teacher (in Tassajara)


Phoebe went to San Jose with Kate and stayed a week.

I killed lots of wild pidgeons [sic], farmed only a little.

Lots of rain during haying, damaged the volunteer hay

Built piece on the house in fall

Southern half of the state very dry.

Phoebe & I went to San Joaquin in the fall & had a fine time.

Jack Fitz went away in the fall to work for Nolen

Maude Jones teacher

Bought new stove


Wet winter '94 & '95

Bernice [Bethel and Phoebe's 2nd child] born Feb 16 at 5:30 in the A.M.

Phoebe & I, her mother, George and Lena [Prindle] took a trip to the coast in the fall & had a fine time.

Ella and Charley and Jim & Fanny married in the fall

George [Bowles] moved to the coast in the fall [Cambria Pines]

Miss Boone, Tassajara teacher.


Phoebe's mother and Lena went to the coast in the spring

Rented our place to Ella and Charley Worth in the fall and went to the coast for a year or more

Phoebe and the Babies had the measles in winter

Johnston's Stubble and straw stacks burned in the fall.

Went to Los Gatos to Mollie Bray's and Harry Finley's Wedding, March 4


Killed fifteen quail at one shot in winter

Phoebe caught lots of fish during winter & spring

Will Mc Pherson, teacher at Tassajara School for spring term.

May & Jennie Coats [Bethel's sisters] went to University of the Pacific in January.

Phoebe and I and Eunice, Bernice and Lena started from the coast to Yosemite July 2nd and got Trip to yosemite home to Tassajara Aug 19th. We had a fine time. Visited at Uncle Dick's [Doggett], Claude and Lee's (Coats), Will McPherson's, Mr. Snyder's, Silas Larrimore's and Mr. Sutherland's. Also the Yosemite Valley and Big Trees.

Miss Boswell taught second term at Tassajara School.

After we got home from Yosemite, went to San Jose and Los Gatos and Mr. Apperson's [father of Phoebe Apperson, Phoebe Coats mother's girlhood friend].

Built wagon shed and granary in the fall


Took a trip to Los Gatos in the winter. Mattie and her two children came home with us.

Phoebe and I and the children and Lena took a trip to the coast – started June 23, got back July 24, had a fine time. Killed my first big buck.

Aggie Arbuckle came home with us and we went to the city [San Francisco] in latter part of August to see her off and we also went to Angel Island.

Will Hanna & Alfred Podva worked for us in summer and winter.

Miss Boswell, teacher.

Will Hanna dug the spring out in the fall and we walled it up.

Had to serve on the jury for 3 weeks, first part of Nov. and Dec. My first experience.

Had the La Grippe [influenza] 3 times during the winter


Very dry winter fall of '88 spring of '89 until March 14th when we had a fine rain.

Doris born April 18 at 10:15 at night.

Rained May 31. Damaged hay & standing grain.

Margaret [Bowles] married [Elfin Martinelli] June 21 at Watsonville. Phoebe and I and children went down June 21st, back the 22nd.

Lena [Prindle] took examination for diploma and graduated.

W. Patton [Phoebe had a cousin, William Nelson Patton], Howard Arbuckle, Owen Murray, Bob Worth, Dave Mc Glashan, Emile Colderweih & R. Place worked for us in summer.

Harvested over 2000 sack of grain.

Rained from Oct 11th to middle of Dec.

Phoebe, Lena, Will and I went to the city about the 4th of November.

Phoebe's mother had a fine crop of grapes. I helped haul them. She moved to the coast and rented the ranch.

Miss Boswell taught the first term of school and Miss Merrit the second

Mother and George [Bowles] deeded Tassajara ranch to Phoebe and Margaret deeded San Simeon ranch to mother and George in the Fall.


Phoebe and I went to the city and spent one night there this winter. Got the paper for the house.

Miss Merrit came to board with us in Feb.

Built dairy house in the spring – shed over it in the fall.

Bought a new buggy April 18th. Eunice and Bernice began to go to school for the first time during spring.

Miss Merritt taught both first and second terms of school.

Phoebe and I and the children went camping to the coast. We started from home Oct. 11th and got back Nov. 5th.

Will Patton & Jim McMurray worked for us in winter. Will Patton, Charley Coats [possibly the son of Lemuel Allen Coats] and Bob Worth and Joe Rodgers worked for us in summer and fall.

Rented farming land and vineyard of Phoebe's ranch to John Smith for $200 and the house and barn to Dolph Podva for $3.50 a month.

Rented home ranch to Will Patton for half the crop.[A William Patton appears in the 1900 census as a servant of the family.

Phoebe and I went to Oakland and back the same day, Dec. 7th.

Phoebe and I went to Oakland twice and S. F. twice and S. F. [may have meant S. J.] once in March.


Hail storm April 3rd.

Got first water through our new pipe to the house April 6th, Saturday.

Got a wagon and started out camping with whole family, Eunice, Bernice & Doris. Started July 1st, back Oct. 1st. Went through Santa Rosa, Geysers, Lake County, Adam's Springs, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Mercer's Cave and Big Trees of Calaveras Grove.

Miss Merritt taught first term of school; Miss Riley taught the second.

Played Santo Claus to please the children and had a very nice time.


Went camping in the fall. Started Sept. 27th, got back Nov. 13th and visited Watsonville, San Simeon, Kings County, Fresno County, Madera County.

Had a Christmas tree for the children. Elfin and Margaret and the children were there. Also Lena and Edith. Elfin was Santa Claus.


Very cold for about two weeks and then turned warm and began to rain.

Miss Riley taught both terms of school. School began Jan. 26th.

Snow storm first of Feb. Very cold for a long time.

Phoebe, her cousin Lulu [Jennett, daughter of Phoebe's Aunt Harriet], Doris & I went to Santa Cruz on a camping trip. Also to Monterey, Mt. Hamilton and Palo Alto. Went in the new surrey and had a fine time


Lots of rain in the spring for almost two months straight.

Drove in to Los Gatos in Feb. Nice trip.

Phoebe and I went to the World's Fair [in St. Louis]. Started Sept. 30th and got back Jan 29th 1905. Stopped in Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Watsonville and Livermore.

Sold 19 cattle for $600 & 3 horses for $210.

Bot [sic] separator in March. Milked 20 cows.

Tore down barn in fall & made a new one out of it.


Rented my farming land to Ed Williams & Chris Hansen.

Phoebe & I went to San Jose in fall with Will and Alice Short. They moved down but we didn't.


Extremely wet the first part of the year.

Phoebe, Bernice & Doris took a trip to Watsonville in March. Eunice stayed home and drove down to San Jose and met them and went home with them.

Big earthquake April 18th. Destroyed San Francisco and Santa Rosa and did lots of other damage.

Built a new barn in the fall. Rohling Bros. Built it. Barn was 40 x 50 ft.

Took a trip in fall to Watsonville and San Jose. The whole family went.

Bought a house in San Jose at 640 Bird St. to which we started to move Thurs. Nov. 8th and arrived next day. Rented our old place to Roy Harris & Ben Wilson, and Phoebe's place to Manuel Silveria. Worked four days in lumberyard when I fell and injured my spine. About well in a month. Work hard to get.

Miss Riley was still teaching Tassajara school.

We moved to San Jose to give the children better school advantages and to gain better associates.


Joe and Margaret Bowles came to call in the summer and we all went to the Yosemite and from there to the Coast. We were gone about 6 weeks and had a fine trip. Our party were Margaret & Joe, Emma and Bert Waltenspiel, Eunice, Bernice, Doris, Phoebe & B. S. [Betel Sims] Coats. [Margaret Bowles wrote a travel log of the trip]


Sold our place on Bird Ave. for $2000 profit & bot [sic] a place on 3rd St. and an orchard on the S. F. Road [El Camino Real?].

Sold off some of the ranch horses & tools.

Moved from Bird Ave. the first part of June & stored our things, most of them near Agnew at the place we rented. Went to Tassajara for the 4th of July, stayed a few days then came back and went to Sunnyvale and camped out and worked in the cannery. I was sick most of the time and could not work. Phoebe got badly burned with gasoline but was soon all right.

Moved to our house at 826 South 3rd St. about Sept. 3. Eunice graduated from public school and started to attend high school.

Pa deeded all of his land to his children and he gave us the place we lived on for fifteen years. Big earthquake in Italy Dec. 28. 152,000 people killed.


Pa & I took a trip to Los Angeles in the spring. We were gone about 3 weeks.

Went on a camping trip to San Luis Obispo Co. in the summer – took the whole family also Hazel, Ancilla and Darrell, were gone about 4 weeks. We then went up to Tassajara and spent about a week. Took Gladys instead of Ancilla.

Margaret and family moved up to the ranch. George [Bowles] sold his ranch in San Luis Obispo Co. and moved up below San Jose. George, Will Patton and I took a trip to Monterey County in Dec. Had a fine trip and killed a lot of game.

Doris and I took a trip to Grandpa's [most likely Doris' grandfather, Felix Grundy] between Christmas and New Years.


Went up to the ranch in March and stayed about 3 weeks and helped change some fences. Helped George with his haying. We all went to Tassajara about the first of July and camped out for five weeks.

Started Aug. 23rd to go to Monterey Co. with George and Mr. Kaiser [George's father in-law?]. Arrived home Oct. 6th.

Began work for Mr. Hershey Oct 14 and quit the 26th of November. Went up to Tassajara Oct. 29th and came home Nov. 1st. Doris went with me.


Rained for two months and ended up March 7 with one of the biggest floods known to the country.

Doris had scarlet fever in May

Went camping, ten of us, to Monterey Co. in July. Were gone about 5 weeks. We then went to Contra Costa Co. for a couple of weeks.

Helped George with his hay for a while in the spring.


Bought candy store, 60 E. Santa Clara St., April 18th, Doris' birthday. [Eunice met her future husband, William James Rowe there]

Eunice went to Alameda for a trip during summer. Bernice and Doris went to Tassajara for a trip.


Was a dry year. Had to sell half the cattle to keep the other half, but the feed was very good considering everything; it was a very warm summer, good for the ice cream business.

I went to Tassajara during summer and from there to St. Helena and Santa Rosa with my Father. Phoebe went to Sacramento to the State fair. Eunice went to San Francisco for a few days and then to Tassajara for about a week. Bernice and Doris went to Capitola for about two weeks.