Santa Cruz County History - Films


Full Text Newspaper ArticleSanta Cruz Evening News. Oct. 23, 1911. p. 6

DEACON SAM FOWLER IS HIT IN 'THE DANITES'

Well-known aged local character, hero of many a real fight with the Indians in days of the Gold Rush, plays the part all over again in mimicry with the Selig Players yesterday on Rincon Heights -- other local people took part -- Selig people may come back next year for several months' stay.

It is a far cry from the exciting scenes on the rolling prairies in the days of '49 to the realistic, though purely imitative, enactments of yesterday on the beautiful treeless slope in the Rincon hills on the Cowell property, but the Selig players spent the day working hard to produce one of the thrilling chapters of those golden and romantic days--and the most fascinating feature of the mimic tragedy was the -- whole-heartedness with which the old men, many of them heroes of several real battles with redskins and Danites in the days of the prairie schooner, entered into the spirit of the occasion.

Deacon Sam Fowler, although engaged merely as a live addition to the setting of yesterday's presentation of 'The Danites,' surprised even himself by his activity in the line of silent histrionics.

When the mother rushed up to 'Sandy,' who held her sweet-faced child 'dead' in his arms and covered the cold little face with kisses, it was Deacon Fowler who first, and without instruction, bared his head in the presence of the 'cold clay.' When 'Sandy' laid the little fellow on the ground the tensest face in the group of old men who bowed over the 'corpse' was Deacon Fowler, and it was he, and he only, who thought to lift his hands in silent blessing. His acting was perfect.

The climax of Deacon Fowler's skill came in the afternoon. The boy was 'buried' in this scene to the accompaniment of the mother's heartbreaking sobs. Who should step out and pray with closed eyes and all the fervor of his soul over the mother and her dead offspring but Deacon Fowler. Seven feet of him, topped with a head of flowing gray, his hat off and his eyes raised to heaven, dressed in his old black swallowtail, his shirt open at the throat--Sam Fowler was a feature yesterday that the Seligs long will remember.

When lunch was served yesterday under the trees, Miss Betty Harte, of the Seligs, who had been playing the 'mother,' carried on quite a flirtation with the deacon, toasting him with a full bottle of beer, which she drained in his honor. Sam only drank water out of a pail, refusing beer, but he had as much fun as anybody.

Thirty oxen, six to a wagon, were used in yesterday's production, as well as large number of horses, some pack mules properly laden, two or three stages, and about a dozen old men from the county hospital, who played their parts with much skill.

Miss Bessie Eyton, rigged out as a man in old trousers, knee boots, and old hat and coat, cut a daring figure on the back of a mule.

Among the men who were on their horses around the campfires when the Danites first made their appearance yesterday and entered the camp, might be found the following Santa Cruzans: Frank Roberts, Jr., Rollin Mellon, E. Pickett, Harry Dean, Brayton Prhibrook and Swift Train, the latter being in charge of the mounted division.

'The little boy who played the part with so much skill today,' said Geo. Hernandez to a News man yesterday afternoon, as he leaned on his gun which two minutes before had been wrested from his hands by the infuriated 'mother' as she started to revenge her son's death, 'came all the way from Australia with his little sister alone. His father used to be in the show business over there and the children came by it naturally. He had barely arrived in Los Angeles before we brought him right up to play in 'The Danites'.

The Selig people returned to Los Angeles this morning, having completed four or five big scenes yesterday under the most favorable circumstances--settings, actors, weather, were all perfect.

Swift Train, who has assisted materially in making the Selig work here a success, is authority for the statement.

Copyrighted by the Santa Cruz County Sentinel. Reproduced by permission.