After he retired from the California Assembly in 1878, Captain Russel Perry Mace turned to operating his Yosemite Hotel. The building, shown here in 1879, was Madera’s first structure. It was located at the corner of Yosemite Avenue and F Street (now Gateway Drive). Photo courtesy of Madera County Historical Society.
At first blush, the old rocking chair in the Madera County Courthouse Museum didn’t appear to be anything special. It just sat there outside the blacksmith shop, still and silent, never moving unless a visitor gave it a slight tap. If there was anything unusual about its appearance, it was in the fact that it was so well preserved for being 138 years old.
It actuality, however, that old chair has a rather compelling story. It was presented to Capt. Russel Perry Mace on the occasion of his leaving the California State Assembly. Standing there on the bottom floor of the museum, between the tack room and the blacksmith shop, one could almost hear the chair creak under the Captain’s 350-pound frame, and one could almost see Madera’s first Assemblyman leisurely rocking back and forth in pleasant reverie as he pondered his three terms in the California State Legislature.
Mace first came to California during the gold rush. Shortly after the close of the Civil War, he was elected to the California State Assembly. Before making his first trip to Sacramento, Mace felt the political pulse of his constituency and found that there was a strong desire among the people to send a message to the nation. Not everyone in California rejoiced in the outcome of the War Between the States, and among the most dissatisfied were voters in the San Joaquin Valley.
Something had to be done to give vent to the frustration that existed in Mace’s district, and it didn’t take him long to come up with a plan. Once he had been sworn in, Mace introduced a bill, which raised eyebrows all over the country. His very first piece of legislation was a proposal for a joint resolution of the California Legislature. Mace wanted a pardon for the imprisoned President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis! ...