Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

DEATH VALLEY DAYS

Morning Star, May 3, 1998, pg. 12

A pioneer Albion woman was the subject of a CBS "Death Valley Days" radio broadcast on December 10, 1942. Lura (Warner) Church (1897-1883) and her husband Chandler Church (1804-1857) came to Albion from New York in 1834, settling west of Albion on B Drive North in Sheridan Township in Section 33. They settled there on their 160-acre farm. Lura was the daughter of Wareham Warner, one of Albion's first residents hwo erected the first frame house in Albion.

In 1851, the Church's moved to Nevada County, California (near Sacramento) at a place called Rough and Ready. Chandler died there in 1857, and Lura remained there until 1869 at which time she returned to Albion to live in the family house, at 308 W. Erie St.

When the family moved to California, the Church's had left their herd of work horses at their farm west of Albion. They decided that they could use their horses at their California farm, and so Lura came back to Albion to get them. She drove them across the continent from Albion to California, and that was the basis for the "Death Valley Days" story which was broadcast nationwide. Of course, the program was sponsored by the Pacific Coast Borax Company.

The "folksy" type of story was complete with sound effects, music, and the voice of the "Old Ranger." Let us return now to the days of yesteryear as we present an excerpt from this incredible script:

ANNOUNCER: "And now for the Old Ranger and his evening's yarn. What have you got for us tonight, sir?"

OLD RANGER: "The story of a very remarkable woman, one of California's early day pioneers. They was all pretty remarkable, them pioneer women...possessed of plenty of courage an' resourcefulness. Yet few of 'em I imagine, would have attempted what Lura Ann Church did. Her grandchildren an' great-grandchildren an' great-GREAT-grandchildren still love to tell about Grandmother Church an' her famous journey to "fetch the horses." They live...these descendants of Lura Ann's, on the Buckeye Ranch, which has been in the family since the gold-rush days. It's located on the road between Grass Valley an' Wheatland, in the foothills of Nevada County, California."

COMMERCIAL: "Get a good supply of 20 Mule Team Borax at your favorite grocery store or market tomorrow. It's the correct cleanser for your coffee-maker."

OLD RANGER: "Our story opens, four years after their arrival in California. It is an evenin' in early March. Outside, chill winds whistle. But in the ranchhouse sittin' room it is warm an' cheerful. Lura Ann is darnin' stockin's by the yellow light of an oil lamp. Across the table from her, Mother Church is busily knittin.' The men of the family are gathered 'round the fire nearby, deep in discussion."

CHANDLER: "(Regretfully) "Doggone! If we'd only brought along all those horses we had on the farm back home! What a help that'd be.."

An' so the program went. This radio drama would make an excellent local history production. A copy of the script is available locally, and even has places to insert sound effects.

The Church's Buckeye Ranch in California remained in the family until the 1950s when the land was taken over by the U.S. Government and is now part of the Beale Air Force Base. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a lithograph of Lura (Warner) Church, who "fetched the horses" from Albion to California back in the early 1850s.


Lura (Warner) Church

Next: WHITE'S PROMINENT IN GALE COMPANY, PT. 2


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