Peter Cavanaugh

Clampers, a very cool group

The darkened bar was surrounded by intense players, collegiality and attention to the game harshly intruded upon by a stranger of unknown origin and unappreciated purpose.

He wanted to meet “Steve the Clamper” and quickly learned such a request was inappropriately phrased and indelicately presented.

When I decided I wanted to write a column on “E. Clampus Vitus,” people around town who knew said Steve Schermerhorn was the guy with whom to speak. They also disclosed where and when to find him. They were right.

After observing that he knew I was in “The Sierra Star” and mentioning that he appreciated what Dr. Bill Atwood wrote each week, Steve added that he especially liked those opinions expressed by the late J.R. Froelich and other conservative writers. I felt right at home.

Although he’s a “Greybeard” and “Ex-Noble Grand Humbug,” Steve is actually a bit younger than I. Showing respect for an elder and quickly bonding through our mutual appreciation of Led Zeppelin, I asked that he send me a few notes about his group. I have decided to simply pass along much of what Mr. Schermerhorn provided since it is assuredly authentic, quite inclusive, and self-explanatory.

Here’s Steve:

“The Grub Gulch Chapter of E Clampus Vitus is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada at the end of the Golden Chain Highway. Our chapter encompasses all of Madera County. Called the Order of the Rose, the original Grub Gulch Rose was growing wild near the gold rush town of Grub Gulch. The town was named this because any miner who would stop and work was almost guaranteed to gather enough gold from the river to stake him on his way to the gold fields further north. Today our chapter continues to uphold the traditions set forth by our forefathers.

Since the major ore producing mines have all but played out, the Clampers of today are dedicated to the preservation and recognition of these historic sites. This is accomplished through the erection of monuments.

There are 56 monuments in Madera County.

Grub Gulch Chapter #41-49 was chartered in 1979.

ECV motto, “Credo Quia Absurdum,” “Because it’s absurd I believe.”

There are currently more than 600 members in this chapter.

All members are officers, and all officers are of equal indignity.

Our president is called “Humbug,” the treasurer is the Gold Dust Receiver, the cook is the “Gutrobber.” Other board members may be referred to as: “Greybeard,” “Clamp Patriarch,” “Clamp Matrix,” “Playtrix or Vitrix,” “Damn Fool,” “Doorkeeper,” and “Hangman.”

ECV was born in the mining camps of California.

Based on absurdity, and shunned by the pompous “Stuffed Shirts” of the Odd Fellows, Moose or Elk, Clampers would adorn their red union suits (long underwear) with the cutout bottoms of a bean can. They would parade about and make fun of the upper crust. This was referred to as wearing the tin. Today Clampers wear red shirts depicting the union suits once worn in the camps as well as adorning vests with badges, buttons and ribbon to represent the tin.

ECV is still the number one fraternal order that continues to steadily grow year after year. Currently there are more than 43 Chapters of ECV throughout nine states. The exact number of Redshirts is said to be around 50,000.”

And guess who created and operates the worldwide website www.eclampusvitus.com? Our very own Steve Schermerhorn, right here in Oakhurst.

You’ll find tons of California Gold Rush links, dozens of localized monument site pictures and much more intriguing Clamper Information.

“Ipsum Fasciculum Frigus” - A very cool group.

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