Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Memorial Plaque for 7 Saugus Community Club Members
St. Francis Dam Disaster Victims

December 27, 2014 — Commemorative plaque for seven members of the Saugus Community Club (aka Saugus Women's Club) who perished in the St. Francis Dam Disaster of March 12-13, 1928.

The plaque was fabricated by Lloyd Houghton, a local real-estate tycoon who owned, among other things, the Hap-A-Lan Hall in Newhall, which was used as a morgue in the aftermath of the dam disaster.

Similarly, the Saugus Community Clubhouse, at what is now 23027 Drayton St., was utilized as an emergency shelter (per Ann Stansell 2014 PC) and possibly as a morgue (per Don Ray 2014 PC).

The plaque reads:

In / Memory / Of
Nellie Hanson
Nora Coe
Cecelia Small
Clara Wilmot
Ethel Cochem
Felda Pike
Thelma Mathews

St. Francis / Dam Disaster
March 13th 1928
[Saugus Community Club logo]

After the clubhouse closed in the 1940s, the buyer of the property, whose daughter attended Saugus School, donated the plaque to the school, where it was displayed alongside a school bell. Apparently the plaque came to the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society at the same time as the bell; both were scheduled to be "rededicated" at a Memorial Banquet organized by historian Don Ray for dam survivors on the 50th anniversary, March 12, 1978. The plaque made it to the banquet, held at the Ranch House Inn in Valencia, but the 400-pound bell did not, Ray remembers (2014 PC).

Sometime after the 1978 banquet, the plaque was mounted onto wood and the following inscriptions were added:

Original Plaque Designed & Executed by
W. Lloyd Houghton
Using Acid Etching Technique

Rededicated March 1978 / By
Newhall Woman's Club
California Federation of Womens Clubs
To the Memory of
Saugus Community Club CFWC
Members Who Perished in the
Saint Francis Dam Disaster
March 1928

The plaque resides in the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society Museum in Heritage Junction-Hart Park in Newhall.

Click to enlarge.

Club Extends Thanks.

The Saugus Community club extends its deepest sympathies to all who have lost relatives and friends in the St. Francis Dam disaster.

We mourn with you for we have lost eight valued members and it is with heavy hearts that we have carried on.

Our doors were thrown open early the next morning after that terrible night, and have remained open day and night since. We have given food, shelter and clothing to all who come, no one was turned away. If we have failed in any way it was beyond our power to do otherwise. We want all to feel that our little Club House is a real Community Home. That what concerns the welfare of the community concerns us. We wish to thank Mr. Wilson of Lone Pine who left his home and interests to offer his services in this great crisis, for his services proved indispensable.

We extend thanks to the Red Cross for the cots and bedding loaned us.

Thanks are due to KMIC, Associated Oil of La Habra, and others for their generous cash donations. To Saugus, Mass., who promptly wired $100 to "Their little brother town of the West."

Thanks, yes many thanks, to sister clubs and club women who so generously opened their hears and purses. The money has been placed in the general relief fund unless otherwise specified as the following: South Side Ebell club sent $25 as a memorial to Henry Mathis and family, and Mrs. William Baurhyte $50, wished to help us with our building funds.

We have buried our dead and the women who have labored so faithfully can return to their homes, but we shall keep in touch with those who are left, there must be no charity. These friends and neighbors must realize that it is an honor and a pleasure for us to aid them and serve them in every possible way, and may we say with Edwin Markham:

"Great Master of Life, be with us this day as we friendship together. Amen."


News story courtesy of Ann Stansell.

Click to enlarge.

Memorial Held For Victims of St. Francis Flood.

The women of the Saugus Community club, who lost seven of their members in the recent St. Francis dam disaster, and whose tiny clubhouse was, during those first tragic days, a refuge, hospital and morgue, held last Thursday a touching memorial service. Some two hundred women from clubs which had responded to the early call for help were invited to attend, to which invitation some two hundred from the district responded. The brief service was simple in the extreme, but tragic in its every detail, since loss of some sort had touched almost every home. Out of the little group of school children attending, ten were gone and all the local people were worn and spent by the unusual combination of shock, anxiety, sorrow and strenuous service.

Following the service, fifty or more cars, preceded by a city motor guard, traveled some thirty miles along the path of the flood. Although many reports, vivid and terrible, have been written of the ruin caused by the flood, no word "of tongue or pen" can bring to anyone the realization of the utter desolation of the entire region, nor yet a full conception of the power and force of the rush of water which carried iron railway bridges and great cement abutments a hundred feet as if they were but straws. A long row of unclaimed and wrecked automobiles was a mute but striking incident of the grim tragedy.

Throughout the day no word of blame, no word of bitterness was expressed; only the hope that out of the terrible loss might come a federal and state strict supervision of all dams.

News story courtesy of Tricia Lemon Putnam.

Click to enlarge.

[Brief: Memorial Trees to be Dedicated.]

The town of Saugus is small, based on population. But measured from the standpoint of activities of the Womans Club, it is quite [a] town. The club home nestles invitingly in a little canyon that suggests quietness. Tuesday evening when the ladies were cleaning, arranging and planting, it made one think of the poem "Evangeline." They were getting ready for Reciprocity day, to be held next Wednesday, Mar. 13th. Those trees they were planting and which will be dedicated on that date have a meaning. Recall a vision that's only a year old, a vision that commands a reverence that cannot be described, partially this; unwarned, instant doomed, midnight horror, terrorizing moment, lightness of life pitted against the tonnage of death. Yet, the lowly infants of the Almighty, those members that survive, will on this date dedicate a lane of memory, as respect, to a statute that we cannot see, but to those we recall as memories, it will be larger than our world. Reciprocity day, Mar. 13. Go. If only long enough to bow your head one minute.

News story courtesy of Ann Stansell.

Click to enlarge.

[Memorial Trees Dedicated.]

The Saugus Community Club observed the first anniversary of the Great St. Francis Dam Disaster, Wednesday, March 13th, at the Club Home, with a great Reciprocity Day program. There were delegates from almost all of the clubs in Southern California, the attendance reaching into the hundreds. Addresses by Mr. Needham, at the dedication of the trees in the Memory Garden, in honor of the seven members lost in flood, and short remarks by numerous visiting members, besides splendid banquet, made up the program.

The exercises began at noon, in the memory garden where the dedication of the trees took place, the opening address and prayer being by Rev. W.H. Evans and music by the Clint trio. Following this, the names of the seven members were read, as follows:

Mellie Hanson, Nora Coe, Cecelia Small, Clara Wilmot, Ethel Kochem [sic], Felda Pike, and Thelma Matthews [sic].

Trees were also dedicated in memory of Mrs. M. Calver[?] (mother of Mrs. J.C. Haskell), Mrs. J.C. Rolls, and Mrs. Stella Smith, members who died at other times and since the flood.

After Mr. Needham's memorial address, the assembly repaired to the hall, where a delicious banquet was served, under direction of Mrs. Wm. Phillips and her committee, the principal dish of the splendid menu being a surprise, with a name that a mere man has no business to fool with, unless he should call it "American Chop Suey." And that home made apple pie certainly made a fitting dessert.

Promptly at the close of the banquet Mrs. J.C. Haskell, president, read her report of the Club's progress, from its organization, comparing it to the voyage of a ship, with its different presidents as captains, its financial struggles, and the terrible "shipwreck" that left the bodies of seven of the crew on the rock-bound shore, the work of the survivors in relief, along with the effort to build a safe harbor, and of success at last with no clouds or storms threatening.

Following this, the President introduced the various officers of the visiting clubs, many of whom made brief addresses expressing their pleasure at being present, and congratulating the club on its progress, and its loving tribute to the departed members. Some of the guests also spoke briefly.

District officers present were: Mrs. Thayer, Federation Sec'y; Mrs. Parker, Corresponding Sec'y; Mrs. J. Hokum, Radio chairman; Mrs. Michael, courtesy chairman; Mrs. H. Stroh, reciprocity chairman; Mrs. Cheek, vice-president; Mrs. Killian, literature chairman; Mrs. R.F. Wood, reservation chairman; mrs. Riley, junior chairman; Mrs. Fuller, birds and flowers conservation; Mrs. Winsworth, Emblems; and Mrs. Richardson, Federation News. More than twenty five clubs were represented by delegates, in addition to a number of visitors and guests.

Mrs. Rumsey, program chairman, then put on a very enjoyable program of musical and recitation numbers, featuring the Sepulvida [sic] ladies' quartet, the Clint trio, the Estes twins in dancing numbers, Virginia Hale in recitations, the last three also giving a trio with Mrs. R.L. Carson at the piano.

All in all, it was one of the most successful affairs ever given by the club, and Mrs. Haskell, president, and her faithful group are to be congratulated on the result.

News story courtesy of Ann Stansell.

19200 dpi jpegs from digital images (photographs) December 27, 2014, by Leon Worden.

Club House 1927-1946

Dam Victim Members

2014 x4

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