Chaffey: The Banal to the Unusual

I’m back and furiously working on metadata for the infamous Chaffey
Letters. After nearly a month off I thought I would have forgotten
everything, but somehow I was able to jump right back in. Luckily I left myself
a note to remind me where I had left off and this Tuesday I was able to upload
20 documents onto the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. Today I started
creating metadata for 22 more letters written by or on behalf of the Chaffey brothers.
I’m up to my eyeballs in the Chaffey brothers, reading each letter quickly but
carefully so that I can concisely create metadata for each item uploaded onto
the digital library.

Some of the letters are quite dull and creating metadata for
these documents can be difficult. Some letters are short correspondences of a
couple lines that reference something banal like a check being deposited at a
bank with no additional context. The Chaffey brothers may have known what they
were referring to in 1883, but in 2018 I have no idea what to glean from that.
For each document I must compile a list of key terms as well as write a short
summary of each letter. If the letter is only a few vague sentences doing these
two tasks can be a stretch.

Other letters are quite interesting and provide much needed
relief when creating metadata on a large scale like this. One memorable letter
from this week regarded a boarding house in the San Antonio Canyon. The letter
was written by William Henderson, on behalf of the Chaffey brothers, to a man
who was interested in establishing a boarding house on Chaffey lands in the San
Antonio Canyon. William Henderson reported that the Chaffey brothers had no
problem as long as the boarding house did not serve liquor. He later adds, “From
what we are informed we believe your boarders would be of a highly respectable
class and of course we couldn’t permit none others to reside even temporarily
on our property.” The propriety of the letter tickled me, but besides my own
amusement at the letter’s strict morality, I think it is illustrative of a time
and place as well as the nature of the Chaffey brothers.

I’m happy to be back at Special Collections as a CLIR CCEPS Fellow and I’m looking forward to what other unusual letters (and other documents) I find along the way.