The New Year: A Landmark of Time

From the January 2016 Martinez Historical Society Newsletter


The following quotation is from the January 1, 1868 entry in the diary of Louisiana Strentzel (mother of Louie Strentzel, who married John Muir). Charlene Perry donated this diary to the Martinez Historical Society.

Louisiana was married to John Strentzel on December 31, 1843 and they gave birth to three children: Louisal_strentzel Wanda (“Louie”), John Erwin, and Carlotta (“Lottie”). Louisiana’s reflections on the New Year are lovely and timeless and full of hope. Happy New Year to all!


Sunday. In the swiftly flowing tide of time another wave has been added to the great ocean of the past. The Old Year disappears, and we are called upon to hail the advent of its successor. With all its doubts and uncertainties, with all its hopes and fears, with all its joys and sorrows thickly clustering around its cradle, still we welcome it, and with it all its trials and labors. Let us try to inscribe on each day of the New Year that lies before us the golden characters of a good deed, or a cheering word, or a helping hand outstretched for the aid of someone who is ready to perish. Let us grow if we can mentally and spiritually, and be faithful to the trusts God has given us, remembering the while that every Christlike deed and charitable thought makes a shining stone in the pathway leading to our home. The New Year is an event of life linked with associations of the deepest moment to all; socially, morally, and intellectually it stands out a landmark of time. At the opening of the New Year within the circle of home are seen and felt the bright beamings of new and warm affections, thrown around us as a protection when we go out into the world to meet the ever-changing scenes of life. The heart offerings that are scattered at the opening year are like the sweet apple blossoms of the early spring, giving promise of a goodly harvest of delicious fruit. From this altar of home goes out that kindly affection, extending far and wide like the flowings of a river, fertilizing on the right hand and on the left.


Editor’s note: In addition to keeping extensive diaries which documented much of her life and the lives of her neighbors, Louisiana Strentzel made quite a notable contribution to us.

The beautiful Alhambra Valley was originally named CaƱada del Hambre, or Canyon of Hunger. As the story goes, a group of Mexican soldiers were chasing a group of Native Americans through the Valley. The trip took longer than expected and the soldiers ran out of food. Finding themselves by what is now Alhambra Creek, they named the stream Arroyo del Hambre.

When John and Louisiana Strentzel arrived in the Valley, she felt that the connotation of the name did not do justice to the beautiful area. Washington Irving had written a series of essays around that time called Tales of the Alhambra and Ms. Strentzel was quite impressed by it. It was an account of the Alhambra in southern Spain, a palace with exquisite architectural detail. Ms. Strentzel felt the name “Alhambra” was more romantic and certainly more flattering, and christened the area the Alhambra Valley. (Source: Shadows on the Hills: Place Names of Contra Costa County, by William Mero, 2011.)


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