Tue, Sep 29, 2020

People of Evergreen: Mary Amney Case

We're back with another People of Evergreen Cemetery feature. In our last story we dove into the revered story of Judge William Blackburn, the second American Alcalde of Santa Cruz. This week as we take a look at another one of Evergreen’s compelling interred, Mary Amney Case, whose trailblazing actions promoted educational inclusivity during a time of religious fervor. Most revered for her work in public education we'd also be remiss to mention the MAH's new free downloadable educational resources and lesson plans for grades 3rd-12th.

Mary 1

Mary Amney Case was born in 1800 in Vermont. Not much is known of Mary’s early life until her marriage to Benjamin Case in 1821. After living in Iowa with her husband for some years, Mary and Benjamin loaded up their covered wagon and set out for California in 1847. However, the group faced many adversities throughout their journey. During one instance of the trip, Mary and her family found their camp surrounded by indigenous Sioux natives. The Sioux, who owned hunting rights for that very territory, grew upset after certain men traveling with Mary had shot buffalo for sport, rather than for food or clothing. To appease the natives, the men agreed to make a payment to the Sioux. The group offered up their food and supplies as reparations, which the Sioux accepted, allowing them to safely travel through.

American Pioneers Covered Wagons

American pioneers with covered wagons, c. 1847

After arriving in Santa Cruz, which at the time was referred to as “The Mission”, Benjamin and Mary Amney Case built their home next to Neary Lagoon. Upon their arrival, Spanish was the dominant language amongst Alta California residents. Children were taught to read, write and keep accounts in Spanish. The Catholic faith was also heavily preached, as Protestant families did not arrive until the late 1840s. However, Mary wanted her children to learn to read and write in English, and thus took it upon herself to begin teaching classes in her own home in 1848 and 1849. This was the first English school of record in Santa Cruz County! In her classroom Mary welcomed children from all faiths to a multi-age classroom, located in her home adjacent to the Neary Lagoon.

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Mary, a devout Methodist and experienced school teacher was extremely passionate about education. Despite already being endowed with the responsibilities of an early nineteenth-century matriarch, such as cooking and sewing the family’s clothes, Mary was determined not to let her children grow up illiterate. At the time, illiteracy was so frequent that many early Santa Cruz documents were signed with an ‘X’ and required the presence of a literate witness to legalize the deed.

Mary Amney Case died in 1889, just three weeks before her 90th birthday. But while she may be gone, her compassionate, courageous spirit lives on through her contributions to Santa Cruz's history and the advancement of education.

Learn more about Mary in the new publication on sale now, Evergreen Cemetery of Santa Cruz by Traci Bliss and Randall Brown.

Mary Amney Benjamin Case

“She was a woman of great mental capacity, good judgement and a warm heart and was the valued friend of the little American colony, who for a number of years found themselves so nearly isolated here.”

A Quote from Mary's Obituary in 1889

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