Let’s Talk Clovis: Clovis Pioneer Maggie May Jackson Curtis, 1887-1985 Family History by Granddaughter Carol Curtis Dahme

Stephen and Maggie Curtis, 1905 wedding photo. CONTRIBUTED BY CLOVIS MUSEUM

Our first contact with Carol Dahme was by letter on March 12, 2005. She stated, “I am cleaning out my closets of memories. I came across the hat she (Grandmother Maggie) wore in all those parades (Clovis).” She forwarded the hat, family pictures and her family history to the Museum.

Carol’s father Emory Curtis graduated from Clovis High in 1936. We share portions of a two-page letter that Maggie sent to Carol: “Doris (her daughter) will have to write together now that the postage is ten cents. No [sic] when we irrigate, the water sinks too fast. We have promises of rain that terminates in some fog or wind. My hard work is Sutt (her dog) and I trapping gophers. Sometimes two a day.  I did see snow on look-out mountain one day. Your dad knows where that is north of Clovis.”

We share Carol’s letter: “I thought it might be helpful if I gave you a little biography of my paternal grandmother Maggie May Jackson Curtis. Most of this was passed down in writing from my Aunt Doris, the oldest daughter of Maggie. My father, (Emory the sixth born and youngest son) also gave me a rich understanding of his mother and father, as he was quite interested in genealogy, but not in writing and I’s [sic] afraid some of it has slipped away from me.

Maggie May Jackson, born November 13, 1887 in Texas, was the daughter of Cicero Woodruff Jackson and Nancy Caroline Cobb, both originally from Alabama. Jackson and Cobb moved from Texas to California via the train in 1892, because “they were tired of the cyclones blowing their house away.” They stayed with Cicero’s brother in West Park, Calif., renting land from a Mr. Wing. The Jacksons were neighbors with a more prosperous family, the Curtis Family.

My grandfather, Stephen Hiram Curtis, born March 18, 1873, was the oldest son of Jessie Leonard Curtis and Elizabeth Wagar, of Michigan and Ohio respectively. They moved to Fresno in May 1888 to escape the cold and hardships of living in Dansville, Mich. and Pierre, S. D. They bought a ranch in West Park and lived there until 1900, moving to Kutner Colony (Fresno) in 1901 and back to West Park in 1905.

The neighborly association resulted in three marriages between the families, the most important one to me was the union of Stephen Hiram Curtis and Maggie May Jackson on March 19, 1905. I had always heard a romantic talk of these two pioneer families traveling to California meeting each other when their wagons broke down and therefore the families just married each other, but Aunt Doris set me straight, it must have just been an inside joke.

After they were married, Stephen and Maggie lived on his ranch on Belmont Avenue in Kutner Colony. They had eight children between 1906 and 1925: Leonard Woodruff, Doris Louise, Myrtle Emma, Mary Jane, Evelyn O., Emory Francis, Helen Ann and Barbara Jean.

Stephen and Maggie moved around quite a bit between 1910 and 1920, from Oregon to Santa Rosa and then Salida, to the ‘Scandinavian Colony’ in Fresno, and finally to the ranch and home known as the Old Reyburn Home built in 1881 on the corner of 4538 N. De Wolf, the only place I remember Grandma Curtis living.

The home did not have an indoor bathroom until the 1960’s and I remember it was pretty scary for a city girl going out to the outhouse. But to my delight this house had as many doors that led outside as there were rooms, (probably due to many additions through the years), and I would entertain myself on our visits going in and out of the many doors.

Through my Dad and Aunt Doris I understand the family was very close to the extended family they had living close by. On weekends there were always large picnics, sometimes down by the river, or near the Limbaugh head gate where the water was so swift and deep the kids never touched the bottom.

They brought tons of fried chicken, potato salad and a freezer full of ice cream. There was the inevitable big ball game and card games for the adults. Doris said back at home her mother was always right in the middle of the fun, whether it was making taffy for the kids to pull or joining a water fight on a hot summer day.

At the time of Grandma’s death, Aunt Doris described her as a dairy farmer, but I remember she had a well-rounded farm with horses, cattle, sheep, chickens, a vegetable garden and a flower garden (only person I ever knew who grew carnations), pomegranates, persimmons, walnuts and best of all was the huge old fig tree (more than 80 years old in 1975), with more figs than any one of us could eat.

Maggie always loved animals: whether it was the many parakeets she raises, her favorite cockatiel Cookie, or her many dogs, but one favorite stands out and that was her horse Lady Captain. She raised her from a baby in 1935 and rode her in many of the Clovis parades, wearing her favorite hat that I’m sending today.

Maggie was an independent, strong-willed soul who lived on her beloved ranch alone until she was 95 or so and it was no longer possible. She had no heat in her old house besides the fireplace, tended her garden herself, cared for her birds and chickens, protecting them from varmints with a shotgun that she always kept behind the kitchen door.  Maggie died August 26. 1985 and her old home was torn down in a few years later.”

Maggie and her family are an important part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos
Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.