[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy
Today in
S.C.V. History
March 21
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]

Commentary by Linda Castro
| Thursday, Nov 23, 2017
Figure 5.

Traveling through our desert, one often sees roadside markers that are typically constructed of concrete or rocks with a metal plaque on the top or front. Some are marked with the letters “ECV” on the back or on the ground.

If you take the time to stop and read these plaques, you will discover that many of them were erected by an organization called E Clampus Vitus, often times in cooperation with a federal land management agency or other groups.

Seeing this name on so many roadside plaques in the desert can only cause a curious person to wonder – what is E Clampus Vitus? What does the name of the organization mean? What is the history of this organization? What is its mission?

Figure 1

When you start looking for the answers to these questions, you soon learn there are not too many straight answers. To begin with, nobody claims to know what the name of the organization means. The name is apparently made-up, nonsensical words. Not surprisingly, their motto is Credo Quia Absurdum, which, in Latin, roughly translates to “I believe because it’s absurd.”

If you try to research the history of the organization, you will find some interesting details – most of which are obviously tall tales, due to their absurdity. One is that the organization started with Adam in the Garden of Eden, claiming that the “unimpeachable unwritten works of St. Vitus (say that the organization) was founded by our Clampatriarch Adam himself in the Garden of Eden, and that the original Staff of Relief, which figures so greatly in the Clamper ritual, was a branch that Adam broke from the Tree of Knowledge and smuggled out with him, hidden beneath his apron, when he was driven from Eden.”

Figure 2

At least a handful of facts appear to be undisputed about the organization. It is a nonprofit historical organization with chapters in eight western states, although they are not well-known outside of California. Members of the fraternal organization are called Clampers, and the chapter presidents are given the ceremonial title of Noble Grand Humbug. They claim their purpose is to be a historical drinking society or a drinking historical society, the debate over which has never been resolved. They describe their objectives as “taking care of the widows and orphans, but especially the widows.”

Figure 4

The organization requires potential Clampers to have “a sense of humor, an interest in Western history, an open mind, and a cast-iron stomach.” If a man has those qualities and strikes up a friendship with a Clamper or two, they may invite him to join the organization. This invitation will be extended only once, and if it is refused, it is never tendered again.

It appears as though E Clampus Vitus was brought to California in the mid 1800s. The first attempt at establishing a lodge in modern-day Placerville failed, but a second attempt to do so finally caught on at Mokelumne Hill (approximately 50 miles southeast of Sacramento). The organization became popular because it afforded the young men at the mines with a perfect excuse for horseplay. Furthermore, it ridiculed the stuffy secret fraternal, benevolent and political societies such as the Masons, Odd Fellows, and in the mid-1850s, the Know-Nothings, which were so important in the Gold Rush days.

The Clampers’ work can be seen throughout our desert. If you visit Burro Schmidt tunnel in the El Paso Mountains, you will see one of their markers at the entrance of the tunnel (Figure 1). While cruising along Route 66 east of Amboy, you will see a marker along this longest stretch of undeveloped Route 66 that highlights the history of the route and its demise (Figure 2). Off-roading groups that make trips on the Mojave Road, will come across remnants of the Southern Nevada Railway that have a marker erected next to them at the intersection of the Mojave Road with Lanfair Road in the Mojave National Preserve (Figure 3). A plaque marking the Harry Wade Exit Route, used by a group that escaped the fate of the 1849 caravan (also known as the Death Valley 49er’s), can be found on Highway 178 between Baker and Death Valley National Park (Figure 4). The Clampers have also been part of the plaques that have been placed at each of the World War II training camps in our desert, such as Camp Iron Mountain and Camp Rice which are both found along Highway 62 between Twentynine Palms and the California-Arizona border (Figure 5).

Figure 5

There are many more E Clampus Vitus markers to be found throughout our desert. The Clampers claim to have plaqued hundreds of places “from ghost towns to saloons, from bordellos to ranchos, from heroes to madmen.” The next time you visit or pass by a somewhat obscure place that has some kind of historical importance and see a small marker with a plaque, more than likely, E Clampus Vitus had some part in putting it there.

One might come to the conclusion that these drunken “frat boys” are merely a bunch of lunatics who belong to an organization just to have an excuse to get together and drink. Perhaps that is true for a number of them, but they seem to have a passion for history and educating and inspiring others about it, which is a great goal and accomplishment if you ask me.


Linda Castro is a nature enthusiast and animal lover. She is the Assistant Policy Director for the California Wilderness Coalition and serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club.  Her commentaries relate to California’s deserts.


Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. George Palmer says:

    The Clampers had a “clubhouse” in a little (hydraulic) mining enclave called Humbug in what is now known as Malakoff Diggings near Bloomfield CA in the mountainous area near Nevada City, Local lore describes the social group as an mild protest reaction of the mostly poorly paid miners to the mine owners who had become massively wealthy during the CA gold rush. Perhaps a place to “blow off a little steam” at the end of a long, hard workday.

  2. George Palmer says:

    Re. My previous comment, The town name I posted was Bloomfield, CA…..it is actually N. Bloomfield. Sorry.

  3. I have checked your website and i’ve found
    some duplicate content, that’s why you don’t rank high in google, but there
    is a tool that can help you to create 100% unique content, search
    for; Boorfe’s tips unlimited content

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Friday, Mar 16, 2018
Quentin Kopp, retired judge and Bay Area politician, was once chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority and helped sell the bullet train to voters. He’s now suing to stop it, saying, "The litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."
Thursday, Mar 8, 2018
A wildfire stripped the banks of Placerita Creek of its thick, lush blanket of green – exposing thousands of shoots of the evil tamarisk.
Friday, Mar 2, 2018
In her March 2018 message, Mayor Laurene Weste outlines why Santa Clarita is a tech-savvy "smart city" and previews coming upgrades in street lighting, recycling stations and the local fiber-optic network.
Thursday, Feb 15, 2018
There was broad public support for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which struck a careful balance between lands available for large-scale renewable energy development and the environment. Now the federal government is rethinking it - putting the important and much-needed protections at risk.
Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018
You can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma
Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018
Sierra Club Angeles Chapter SCV Group Chair Sandra Cattell urges Santa Clarita Valley residents to contact their congressional representatives to push legislation to kill the Cemex mining project in Soledad Canyon.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
A flash flood watch will be in effect from 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 5 a.m. due to heavy rain expected over the next couple of days, according to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.
Flash Flood Watch in Effect Wednesday PM to Friday AM
Radio station 88.5 FM/Los Angeles, Southern California’s leading Triple-A (adult album alternative) format station and headquartered at California State University, Northridge, is adding Andy Chanley to its afternoon drive spot.
88.5 FM/Los Angeles Adds Andy Chanley to PM Drive
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control encourages all pet owners to make their homes pet-safe during National Poison Prevention Week, now through Saturday, March 24.
March 18-24: National Pet Poison Prevention Week
The family-friendly Gilchrist Farm in Bouquet Canyon will host its annual egg hunt and Spring Fling on Saturday, March 31.
March 31: Egg Hunt, Spring Fling at Gilchrist Farm
Weather permitting, CSUN beach volleyball is scheduled to host a pair of tri-duals this week as the Matadors host Cal State LA and No. 19 Washington on Wednesday followed by No. 15 Loyola Marymount and top-ranked Pepperdine on Thursday.
Matadors Face Trio of Ranked Teams in Beach Volleyball Tri-Duals
CSUN's softball team will host the Matador Classic this weekend with Cal Poly, Pacific, Santa Clara and Georgia Tech all visiting the Matador Diamond in Northridge.
March 23-25: CSUN Softball Team to Host Matador Classic
Fale Avin's two-out RBI single in the top of the 11th sent No. 5 Oklahoma past the CSUN softball team 2-1 Monday afternoon.
No. 5 Oklahoma Edges CSUN Softball Team 2-1 in 11 Innings
No. 4/5 Notre Dame shot 54.8 percent (40-of-73) from the field as the Fighting Irish defeated CSUN 99-81 in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament Friday night.
No. 4/5 Notre Dame Defeats CSUN 99-81
CSUN senior Arvis Greene picked up his second consecutive Big West Player of the Week award in men's volleyball Monday after leading the then-No. 10 Matadors to a pair of upset wins over No. 3 Hawai'i last week.
CSUN’s Arvis Greene Repeats as Big West Player of the Week
Mental and physical agility, resourcefulness and a never-say-die spirit are just a few of the survival traits needed for participants to succeed in the inaugural Bear Grylls Survival Challenge April 28 and 29 at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch.
April 28-29: First Bear Grylls Survival Challenge at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch
Kameron Quitno safely slid across the plate for the first home run of his collegiate career, sparking the TMU Mustangs to a 13-4 win over visiting Bethesda University on Tuesday at Lou Herwaldt Stadium.
Mustang Baseball Rides Home Runs to Non-Conference Win
Walmart recently expanded its test of new AI shelf-scanning technology to four stores in Southern California, including the store on Kelly Johnson Parkway in Valencia.
Walmart Launches AI Shelf-Scanning Technology at SCV Store
James Allen Hayes, 55, nicknamed by law enforcement authorities as the "Seasoned Bandit" because of his age, has formally pleaded guilty to robbing four banks in 2017, including two in the Santa Clarita Valley.
‘Seasoned Bandit’ Cops to String of Bank Heists
The Senate Education Committee gave a thumbs-up to Senate Bill 1009 (SB 1009), a measure to expand access to community college tutoring, according to California Senator Scott Wilk (R-Antelope Valley), who introduced the bill.
Wilk Community College Tutoring Bill Clears First Hurdle
Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters doused a house fire in the 24700 block of Chestnut Street in Newhall Wednesday morning.
Firefighters Douse House Blaze in Newhall
To celebrate California’s Water Awareness month, SCV Water will hold its annual Open House on Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Central Park and at its conservation garden and patio located above the park.
May 12: SCV Water Open House; Vendors Sought
The city of Santa Clarita is urging residents and businesses, specifically those living near the recent burn areas of Sand Fire in the Sand Canyon area, to take extra precautions and stay alert as heavy rains fall this week.
City Urges Residents to Take Precautions During Storm
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies out to lunch at a local fast-food restaurant recognized and arrested a 29-year-old man with two outstanding warrants Tuesday, according to officials.
SCV Deputies Arrest Fast-Food Diner on 2 Warrants, Drug Possession
March hasn’t brought a miracle to California, but it has improved the state’s water picture enough to at least delay any drought declarations.
Prospect of California Drought Persists Despite Recent Rain
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]
The William S. Hart High School Wind Ensemble & Concert Band, as well as the Placerita Junior High School Advanced Band will be holding a Rich Musical Heritage Concert, Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m.
March 22: Rich Musical Heritage Concert
If you think you have the right stuff, Blue Star Ranch is looking for volunteers.
Blue Star Ranch Seeking Volunteers
Comic books, comic strips, graphic novels and web comics often provide an escape from reality.
CSUN Professor Establishes Comic Studies Society
From Oklahoma! to The Sound of Music, American composer Richard Rodgers forever changed the face of Broadway musicals, giving them stories and making them oh, so hum-able.
The Soraya to Celebrate Composer Richard Rodgers
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion aimed at preventing foster youth from becoming entangled in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring supportive care for those do.
Supes Approve Motion Preventing ‘Dual Status,’ ‘Crossover’ Foster Youth
On Friday, March 23, CalArts alum Travis Wilkerson’s (Film/Video MFA 01) latest documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? screens at CalArts' Bijou theater.
March 23: CalArts Screening ‘Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?’
LOS ANGELES – As part of the team’s continuing celebration of 60 seasons in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will pay tribute to one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history by permanently marking a commemorative seat located in the area of the Right Field Pavilion where Kirk Gibson’s historic walk-off home run landed during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The “Kirk Gibson seat” is the first seat at Dodger Stadium to be marked in tribute to a historic event.
Dodgers Honor Kirk Gibson Homerun with Seat in Right Field Pavilion
Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, a non-profit that mobilizes community faith groups in the SCV to assist homeless families, recently announced that after six years at its current Resource Center, they are in need of finding a new site for its offices in order to provide services to homeless families.
Local Non-Profit Seeking New Office Site
Adonna Khare will demonstrate carbon art at the April 16 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA). This event is free, open to the public and meets at 6:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd.
April 16: Carbon Art by Adonna Khare
Santa Claritans will have an early spring celebration at the “Touches of Spring”, an art show featuring Zony Gordon, an award-winning local artist who will be showing from March 12- April 30, 2018 at the Art & Photo Gallery of Fast Frame in Valencia.
March 24: Zony Gordon Artist Reception
The ARTree Studio 2 will be holding an art exhibit by artist Six, called Food Memories beginning Friday, March 23 with an opening night reception from 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
March 23-25: Food Memories Art Exhibit by Six
Here is a list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for March 22-24:
March 22-24: Santa Clarita Arts Calendar
Shoppers can find all what they need to make that special Easter Brunch this year by visiting the Santa Clarita Farmers Market located at the College of the Canyons, parking lot 5 on Valencia Boulevard. The market will be open on Easter Day and runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Santa Clarita Farmers Market Open Easter Sunday
The Triumph Foundation's Wheelchair Sports Festival will take place on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and Sunday April 29 from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
April 28-29: Triumph Foundation’s Wheelchair Sports Festival
With significant rain moving across the area Tuesday through Thursday this week, there is a moderate to high risk of debris flows near recent burn areas.
National Weather Service Warns Residents of Debris Flows as Storm Approaches
The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center will hold a Cyber Security: If It's Connected, It Must be Protected Presentation on Wednesday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. in Rooms A1 and A2.
March 21: Cyber Security Presentation at Senior Center