Adam Lee Moore

Appeared in the February 1987 Chapter 10 Newsletter, Hewgag-Monitor

Last time, this short history of ECV went back to the early 30s to describe the refounding of the Order. Most Clampers think that the Order had died and was buried by that time, and not much had taken place, E Clampus Vitus-wise, since the late 1880s or 90s. Attempts of modern historians to follow the Clampers on their journey in California history seem to be frustrated by a paucity of information, save the occasional reference in the old newspapers of Lodge Meetings.

Clamper Dave Dunlop, of Yuba City, has done considerable research along these lines and has recently presented to the Editor of your very own Hewgag-Monitor the manuscript of a paper he delivered to the Sutter County Historical Society. Clamper Dunlop has graciously given permission for us to use this material freely for this series of articles.

Briefly, E Clampus Vitus was very much alive and kicking, having been officially incorporated by a group of businessmen in Marysville in 1915, even to the extent of issuing Charters to new ECV Chapters in Oroville and Chico in 1916. XNGH Francis Rakow has in his possession a picture of a very large (1000 or so) gathering of Clampers in Oroville in 1916. Our next installment of this series will go into this era of Clamperdom more fully.

But, we digress. As promised last time, this article will concern itself with Adam Lee Moore, the link of the old E Clampus with the new, and his recollections of the life and times of Clampers in the Sierra City area.

G. Ezra Dane, of whom we heard last time, wrote a sketch of Adam Lee Moore. We borrow from it freely here:

Adam Lee Moore was born May 5, 1847 at Rahway, New Jersey. In 1862, aged 15, he shipped out on a whaler from New London and spent the winter of ‘62-‘63 frozen in at Hudson Bay. His youthful wanderings ended in 1867 when he landed in San Francisco and went up to Sierra County in search of gold. Arriving at Downieville, he was cordially (and thoroughly) “taken in” by the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, rollicking burlesque brotherhood of the gold rush days.

From Downieville, he pushed on to Sierra City, which became his home and the base of his mining activities for many years. There, in 1879, he married Jennie Larrieu and there they raised their children. But he always had time for transaction of the important monkey business with which the Clampers concerned themselves. Transferring his allegiance to the Sierra City Chapter, “Balaam Lodge No. 107,304,” he filled the honorable office of Royal Platrix and finally rose to the supreme dignity of Noble Grand Humbug, which he occupied until the roisterous order faded and died with the free and easy spirit of the gold Rush days that had fostered its existence.

Mr. Moore and his family moved to San Francisco and there, years later, he was surprised to learn that a group of choice spirits had revived the old order of ECV as a vehicle for pursuing their common interest in California history. He made himself known to them as the last surviving Noble Grand Humbug of the old dispensation and was acclaimed the Grand Clampatriarch of the new one.

On Wednesday, May 5, 1937, in San Francisco, the Bay City Clampers met to honor Clampatriarch Moore on the occasion of his 90th birthday, and presented him with a curiously carved staff in token of their affection and of his supreme authority.

From some of his writings of his reminiscences of E Clampus Vitus, we can learn of the boisterous and thorough initiations to which new members were subjected. Of his own initiation he writes:


“I answered the usual questions in the anteroom, the portals were thrown open, and I was conducted to the coffin where they placed my hand on the skeleton and took the blindfold off of my eyes, and there I took the obligation; they then elevated me, for I had said that I believed in the elevation of man; and I took it in good part and with the exception of the brand enjoyed the evening, for they made it short for me as there were two more that night. One of the two got smart and would be tough, so what they did to him I do not think he will ever forget; they rode him over the rocky roads to Dublin till he begged them to quit. This is done with a wheelbarrow with a large wet sponge in it. The candidate is seated, while the by-laws are read to him; then there is a ladder on the floor, rungs down, and the wheelbarrow is run over it, a man at each handle, the C.P. on one side and the C.M. on the other, to see that the candidate is seated comfortably. Then they elevated him, first with the tackle, and then in the canvas, and they sure threw him up. At last he said, ‘Boys, if you will quit I treat,’ so they passed the Staff of Relief. It was about four o’clock in the morning, and we kept it up till after breakfast, and we kept singing our closing ode, We’ll take a drink with you, dear Brother.”


Adam Lee Moore writes of the initiation of a famous writer:


“(Another) meeting I attended was of Sierra Valley Lodge, ‘The Badger.’ They were the roughest order in my time. They always said, ‘Throw wide the portals and let the S.B. enter.’ The night I was there Ned Buntline attended and we sure had a time, as he was smart - having traveled a great deal. He was the writer at that time of most of the dime novels. They asked him a lot of questions and he had an answer for every one. They asked him, ‘In your travels did you ever meet any of the persons known as C.S.?’ and he answered right away, ‘Not till I came in this hall.’ Well the boys were just delighted with him, and there was very little rough stuff, and when they sang the closing ode it was, You’ll take a drink with us, dear Brother.”


Adam Lee Moore was truly a remarkable man, not only for his memory and his desire to see that ECV got restarted off on the right foot, but for his longevity. Adam died on November 13, 1946, just 6 months shy of his 100th birthday.

Submitted by Tom Barry, XSNGH Dec 2003

From The Pony Express December 1946 issue

December 1946


XIII - #7

Adam Lee Moore


Adam Lee Moore, once Noble Grand Humbug of Sierra City’s Balaam Chapter of E Clampus Vitus passed to his great reward on November 13th (1946) in San Francisco.

“Adam the First,” as he was saluted by many of the Clampers, reached the ripe old age of 99 years, 6 months and 9 days. In the 1860s, he was mining around Sierra City and joined the Ancient & Honorable Order, which was brought across country by the ‘49ers, from Wheeling, West Virginia.

Previous to Adam’s arrival in California he was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and many interesting stories he used to tell of his days with the northern sailors, whose songs also he used to sing which brought forth great gusto. Many of the older Clampers, who knew him well, will mourn his loss, and all members of the historical order join together in expressing sorrow to his immediate family in the hours of their bereavement.

To Adam’s wife, Jennie, and his son, S. C. Moore, and daughter, Mrs. E. E. Hursh, the Pony Express offers deepest sympathy. Their husband and father was a grand old man who spread cheer, and laughter for many years along life’s path that would have been much less pleasant without him. The world needs more characters with joy-spreading proclivities like old Adam, the late Clampatriarch of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus.

P. S.: Dr. Charles L. Camp of the University of California, who has been acting Clampatriarch of the order during Adams late illness, and Lee Stopple, Ex-Noble Grand Humbug of the order, who knew Adam well, have been delegated to write an obituary on Adam the First which will appear in a later issue.



Late Clampatriarch of E Clampus Vitus

May 4, 1847 November 13, 1946

From the icy shores of Nova Scotia, and Hudson Bay, came the former Noble Humbug of Balaam Chapter of E Clampus Vitus of Sierra City. Back in the 1860s he journeyed there to hunt for gold, shortly after arrival in California by boat. He brought with him sailor songs and recitations of humorous vein which fitted well into the woof and warp of E Clampus doings. It was here he joined the historic frontier order and rose to its leadership where he often blew the Hewgag, calling brethren to action. Not far up the canyon was Sierraville where 88 year-old Haven Mason, from Berlin, Wisconsin, published the Sierra Valley Leader, and joined in initiation of Clampers in the 1870s. In the reorganization of the modern order of E Clampus Vitus, in the early 1930s, “Uncle Adam” helped immeasurably in establishing chapters at Sacramento and the Mother Lode, where he spent his early days digging gold, driving stage, and enforcing law as deputy sheriff. At Sierra City he built a home where his life-long wife, Jennie Bell, joined him and spent many happy years. Abundant humor, carefree disposition, and spreading happiness wherever he went, was no doubt the attributive factor to Adam’s longevity. All Clampers hoped he would carve out the century mark, and, and he tried hard to please them, with less than six months to go. Many members of the historic order who knew and loved him now join to mourn his loss.

January 1947


XIII - #8

Adam Lee Moore

Early Day initiation at Sierra City

Haven Mason

The Passing of Adam Lee Moore

By Lee L. Stopple

(Former President and Noble Grand Humbug of the Ancient & Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, and Member of the Roxbury Club)

Uncle Adam is no more.

With the passing of this grand old man the end of an era for the members of E Clampus Vitus is at hand. A vacancy with us exists which no one else will ever fill. He more than any one among us made possible the authentic and legitimate revival of the grand old order of California’s colorful history.

With his vivid memories of the events incidental to and the practices of the order in the mining regions of over three-quarters of a century ago, he made a notable contribution to the recapture of the spirit and life of those early days. By reason of his unfailing good humor and dependable willingness to contribute his time and talents to Clamper affairs, he has left a debt of gratitude upon all our shoulders.

Ninety-nine years!

His age was startling to contemplate.

Ninety-nine years!

A generous extension of the proverbial three score and ten. Few of us even dare hope to see ninety-nine years pass in review. The world’s war, plaques, famines, revolutions, inventions, and toppling dynasties – the whole gamut of history unfolds in that great space of time.

Adam Lee Moore is dead. He has answered the last call of the Hewgag. He has gone to join the immortals of our order – St. Vitus move over!

His friendly voice is stilled. No more shall we hear his wise counsel at our conclaves. No more shall we be regaled with first-hand stories of happenings in the diggin’s. No more shall we listen, enthralled by the erotic verses of the Clamper song “For She’s a Good Woman and I’m a Good Man.” No more shall poor blind candidates receive instructions from his venerable voice and be passed the staff of relief from his unshaking hands.

The widows and orphans mourn. Our hearts are heavy. Though his soul has departed the good deeds he left behind him will live forever. He built on firm foundations. He planted his heart where he wanted it to thrive and prosper. He left behind a heritage of success more precious than all the gold dug from the Yuba’s bed – he was loved by his fellow man.

He gave without stint to the success of the Clampers. Some fifteen years ago when a group of California historians – both amateur and professional – were groping around in the outer darkness to find ways and means of reviving the old serio-comic order, one of their number, Carl I. Wheat, received a telephone call from an elderly voice inquiring: “What are you young fellows up to?”

“Miracles, sir,” was the laconic reply.

The voice claimed to be the only surviving noble grand humbug of the order. He stated that he had wielded the baton of authority and passed the staff to the uninitiated in the heart of the gold regions many years back. That was like unto manna from heaven to those interested in a revival of the organization. A personal interview was immediately arranged.

Thus began an association that endured as long as Uncle Adam’s health permitted him to take an active part in Clamper affairs. With his participation in the revival its success was assured. He possessed a lucid recollection of numerous stirring events in the gold regions, some of which he was not only an eyewitness, but also a participant. Our respect and admiration for him grew with the years of association, and he was affectionately known to all as “Uncle Adam.” His venerable age automatically brought him the office of Clampatriarch, the order’s highest honor, which was his until the end.

Adam Moore came to California in 1867, arriving in San Francisco by sailing vessel. He tarried only briefly in the city by the Golden Gate, and he hied himself to the then lusty mining towns of Sierra City and Downieville, a long trip by mule pack to the upper reaches of the Yuba River. It was at the former place that he established a home and lived the most active years of his life.

His pleasure in revisiting the scenes of his former activity when on pilgrimage with the Clampers knew no bounds. Again and again, he would entertain us with incidents of the forgotten history along the roads of the Mother Lode. In his company we lived over the days when men dug their living out of the earth and man was a law unto himself.

The writer well recalls the last trip Uncle Adam made to the Mother Lode. It was in the spring of 1941, on the occasion of the granting of a charter to Downieville Chapter of E Clampus Vitus, when Uncle Adam officiated at one of his last ceremonies in passing the staff of relief to a large group of poor blind candidates. On this trip he returned to the scenes of his early days in California, a region where he spent many years of his life and had taken part in the stirring events of those rough and tumble times. His experiences as gold digger, stage driver and at one time a deputy sheriff had enabled him to become familiar with every square mile of the surrounding country. He had contacts with the bad men – and women – as well as the good, and none of them pulled the wool over his eyes.

After leaving Marysville in our car there was hardly a mile of the road that did not recall some eventful happening in his life. At one place he would point out where a celebrated stage robbery had taken place; at another he would recall the story of a broken axle, with unlucky passengers out in the rain or perhaps walking to the nearest settlement, in those days usually miles away. His recollections were lucid and his memory recalled time and again stories of the area through which we were passing with vivid details as though the events were only a matter of days instead of perhaps sixty or more years.

His soul expanded on this trip and I had never seen him more thoroughly enjoy himself. Though he has departed to that bourne from which no traveler returns, his benign influence will live among us for all time. May his soul rest in peace.