Thomas Clendenen only lived in the Cambria area for about 11 years. However, this is longer than he lived in almost any of the places he moved to.
Thomas Hamilton Clendenen was one of eleven children born to John Clendenin and Margaret Hamilton, John’s second wife. Thomas was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the family later moved to a farm near Sweetland, Iowa not far from Davenport, where both of his parents died.
In the early 1850s, Thomas set off to find gold in California. It was at this time, apparently the result of a rift with his parents, that he changed the spelling of his name so that it ended in “en” instead of “in”. He went first to Placerville and then to Diamond Springs where he married Rhoda Inman in 1857. Rhoda was the daughter of Samuel Inman who had five brothers. One of the brothers, Dolphin Inman, married Mary Leah Barnhardt in Illinois in 1854. Mary Inman later married George Lull in Cambria. Lull was a partner in the firm of Grant and Lull who opened one of the first general merchandise stores in Cambria where Samuel Guthrie worked. Later, Guthrie and Lull formed a partnership to run the business. When Lull retired he built a house for Mary which is now the center of the Bluebird Inn on Main Street. In fact, it is well known in Cambria that Mary Inman still lives in that house and occasionally makes appearances as the ghost of the Bluebird Inn, haunting the entire facility.
Thomas and Rhoda moved to San Luis Obispo in the late 1850s and by 1861 they were farming along Santa Rosa Creek Road a few miles east of Coast Union High School. In September, 1869, Clendenen bought a lot from George W. Proctor and George S. Davis which ran between Center Street and Proctor Lane in what is now known as Cambia’s East Village. In December of that year he bought two more lots from them giving him ownership of all the land between Center Street and Proctor Lane and extending 125 feet east from Lee Street (Burton Drive). In early 1870, Clendenen built the original “saltbox” house on this property which is now the eastern portion of the Cambria Historical Museum.
About two years after they bought the Cambria property and built the “saltbox”, they sold the property to Winfield Scott Whitaker and Job Apsey and moved to Weedpatch, near Bakersfield. They later moved to Yolo County and then to Tehama County and then to Oregon. Thomas Clendenen died in the Bakersfield area on December 12, 1921.
Thanks to Stephen Overturf who did the research on the life of Thomas Clendenen.