Robert William (Bob) Estel was born
June 13, 1914
Fulton County, Ohio, to Frank and Mabel (Clifton) Estel. He passed away
March 17, 2005
Mesa AZ, at age 90.
He grew up on farms near his
birthplace, and attended local schools, graduating from
Fulton High School in Ai.
Bob and his parents, Frank and Mabel,
Pasadena CA in January of 1935, part of a great migration seeking work and warmer
weather in the still-Golden State. Their destination was chosen because
they had relatives there, Fred and Harley Estel and their sister
Florence (Flossie) Estel Hemphill. The three were cousins of Frank and the children
of Augustus Estel, a German immigrant who moved west from
California about 1910.
In Pasadena Bob and his parents stayed
at Flossieís home. They played the part of tourists, going to the ocean,
seeing the southern
California sights, going to the movies, and enjoying warm sunshine at a time of year
when they had normally experienced the snow and below freezing weather of
cousins were not the only people
Ohio roots that they knew in
California. One of Frankís boyhood friends, Roy Merrill, had been in
California since the mid-1920s. In 1928 he and Ruby had moved from
San Diego to Mariposa, a tiny town in the Sierra Nevada
foothills. On February 1st Bob and his parents headed for the
Merrill ranch, about 300 miles north, where they spent a week, making
their first visit to Yosemite. This was their first sight of the place where Bob and his future wife,
Hazel, were to spend the rest of their lives.
During their time in southern
California, Frank and Bob worked at whatever odd jobs they could find, such
things as delivering hand
bills. Mabelís diary for March 5 notes that they worked all day and made $3
In April of 1935,
Roy visited the Estels in
Pasadena, on his way to
Long Beach and San Pedro to shop for machinery. He told Frank and Bob that he was
thinking about starting a sawmill, and if he did, heíd give them a job.
(Bob had previously worked in a mill in
Ohio, sawing custom barn timbers.)
On May 28 they left
Pasadena early in the morning, arriving at
Royís place about 6 p.m.
At that time the Merrills lived in Bootjack, about five miles east of
Mariposa, at what is now the corner of State Highway 49 and
The men, including
Royís two sons Marion (Molly) and Dean, immediately began work building the
mill, a project that took about six weeks. The construction site was along
Owl creek, at the 5,000 foot elevation, between Footman and Windlass
Ridge, and the mill was often referred to as Owl Creek Mill.
With the mill in operation, some of
the families moved into the little tent city that had sprung up in the forest. Mabelís diary notes that on
Saturday, June 22, 1935, they moved up to Owl Creek.
On August 20 they moved into the
cabin. While they certainly did not live a life of opulence in
Ohio, it was far more civilized and settled than the wild Sierra of California
in the 1930s. Mabelís feelings were probably best expressed by her entry
of September 30: "Hip hurrah! Left Owl Creek at 8:30." Nine days later they arrived at her parentís home in
Winter conditions in the
required a seasonal shutdown, so throughout his career with the mill, Bob
did something else in the winter. They made several trips back to
Ohio, and in 1938, the ďsomething elseĒ was to get married to Hazel Mason.
Immediately after their marriage in April 1938, they left for
California, which became their permanent home.
The elder Estels remained in southern
California, eventually settling in
Ventura, where both Frank and Bob spent some time working in the defense industry
at Port Hueneme
during World War II. Frank did electrical work for most of the rest of his
working life, while Bob returned to the mill, working seasonally for local
mines and for the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.
This era came to an end when the mill
burned down in 1947. The cause of the fire was never determined, although
Roy suspected arson. However, in a site with several wood-burning steam
engines, there were plenty of opportunities for fire, and there was no
evidence one way or another.
Bob then worked for short periods at
other mills, gold mines, and whatever he could find. In 1948 he went to
work for Jack Messenger, who was a plumbing, electric and sheet metal
contractor. About nine years later Bob and Hazel purchased the electric
portion of the business, and Hazel started working with Bob doing the book
work. At the same time, their close friends, Glenn and Helen Ballard, took
over the plumbing and sheet metal business. Bobís Electric and Posey
Plumbing were located in the same building for many years.
This was during the time when Mariposa
county was going through a period of rapid growth, with many houses being
built or remodeled. Because of this, the Estels made the acquaintance of
nearly anyone who moved to the county, and many became life-long friends.
Bobís Electric continued for 20
years, until Bob and Hazel retired in 1976. A couple of years before that,
they purchased a motor home, and began trying it out on weekend trips.
They enjoyed this activity so much that it became the focal point of their
vacation and travel activities after retiring.
For many years, they took their motor
Ohio every other year, and spent the summer there visiting friends and
relatives. They tried to take a different route across the country each
time, so they could see the sights and visit people along the way.
1985 they discovered
Arizona, and spent every winter there through 2005. Here they visited with several
couples from Mariposa and three of Hazelís cousins who had relocated to
Bob and Hazel were founding members of
the Bootjack Stompers Square Dance Club, and remained active in the
organization for more than 50 years. Along with other volunteers, he was
instrumental in building the clubís new dance hall across from the
fairgrounds in the 1960s. During their many trips, they enjoyed meeting
and dancing with others who enjoyed this hobby.
Bob was also among the many volunteers
who worked on construction of the
Mariposa Senior Center. After cooking was no longer a joy for Hazel, they visited the center for
lunch nearly every day.
Along with Hazel, Bob was active in
the 4-H clubs of
Mariposa County for a number of years. He was a member of the
Mariposa United Methodist Church.
Bob is survived by his wife, Hazel;
two children, Richard Estel of Fresno CA, and Linda Estel and her partner Anne
Tellett of Duluth MN; two granddaughters, Theresa and husband Tim Liddle
of Fresno, and Jennifer and Rod Neely of Oakhurst; two great grandsons, Johnny Upshaw
and Michael Liddle; and numerous cousins, nephews and nieces.
A memorial service was held at 11 a.m.
, Saturday, March 26 at the
Mariposa United Methodist Church. The family
requested that any remembrance be made in the form of a
donation to the church building fund.