He lost a leg in World War I, wrote a history of Marysville's beginnings, and donated 30 years to creating an index to local history. Now this index is safely preserved and available online because of a Marysville Rotary Club Project.

Immediate Past President Mary Langsford chose the history access project as her community project during the 2020-21 Marysville Rotary Club year. Here she is at the drawers where Ramey's hard copy index cards are stored.


A World War I veteran’s 30-year labor of love, physically locked up in the California Room of the Yuba County Library, is now online and available for free thanks to a Marysville Rotary Club project focused on preserving the city’s rich history.

Earl Ramey, a Missouri native who lost half a leg during the war, graduated with a Master's Degree in history from Stanford University and moved to Marysville in the 1920s to teach at Marysville High School and the then brand new Yuba College. He spent more than three decades as a volunteer rummaging through historical treasures in the California Room at the Yuba County Library, reading every issue of more than two dozen local and regional newspapers, historical journals, and the minutes of the Marysville City Council dating back to the city’s founding in 1850. On more than 100,000 three-inch by five-inch index cards, Ramey scribbled the names of publications, subjects and titles of articles, dates, and even the page numbers where articles of interest can be found.

The only hard copy of the index cards are contained in 90 deep drawers along a wall in the California Room, where historians and genealogists and the just-plain-curious have for decades availed themselves of Ramey’s gift. Until this summer, however, due to thefts and general mishandling by patrons of the valuable documents in the California Room, access was only available during library hours and patrons were required to sign in and out of the California Room and leave an ID.

“More than once I forgot my driver’s license on the way out the door,” said Chuck Smith, a member of the Marysville Rotary Club who has an interest in local history. “It is a tremendous resource, but if you could not get to the library during specific hours then you had no way to get access to the information Earl Ramey worked so hard for us to know.”

Now, by navigating to the Yuba County Library web page, online access is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Under a tab called “Local History Archives” is another tab called “Historical Resources”, which will take you to a page with a link to the “Digital Reel”. The Digital Reel contains not only the complete Earl Ramey Index, but past issues of more than two dozen local newspapers, City Council minutes, early minutes of the Yuba County Board of Supervisors, the complete transcript of the federal trial that ended hydraulic mining, and a history of Yuba and Sutter Counties by Peter Delay written in 1926. www.yuba.org/historyresource

Mary Langsdorf, president of the Rotary Club in 2020-21, chose making the library's Digital Reel/Ramey Index online as her community project for the year (the new Rotary clock at Third and D streets was also accomplished during her year to celebrate the club's centennial.) "To be born and raised in Marysville and be part of a community service club that has been around for 100 years, it felt natural to give back to the community with the digital reel historical archiving," she said. "This town still amazes me on how rich we are in history, and to capture it in print amazes me even more! Now with the digital reel historical database, we can enjoy history as far back as 1850 with a click of a mouse!"
Ramey began indexing the cards as he was researching local history. He told friends he was embarrassed during an adult education class in the early 1930s to discover the students knew so much more about the history of this region than he did. He and some of his friends formed "The Group"--and they met to flesh out the history of Marysville and Yuba City and the surrounding region as much as they could. In 1936, Ramey published through the California Historical Society "The Beginnings of Marysville," based largely on his research through the library. He wrote several articles for the Sutter County Historical Society magazine, a history of the Yuba County Library, and was named by the Yuba County Board of Supervisors as the County's official--and unpaid, of course--historian.

“What Earl Ramey did was to hand us a road map and torch so we can confidently navigate an otherwise dark and difficult path to the stories of our past,” Smith said. “Library staff has safely maintained this index, but with digitizing there is now a backup copy of the hard copy cards, and now all the cards are available online. Whether you are interested in levees, bridges, arches, peaches, electricity, roads, labor, Ellis Lake, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig visiting Marysville, or the formation of our Rotary Club in 1920, you’ll find guidance in Ramey’s Index of where to look in what publication for what you seek.”

"The library is extremely grateful to the Rotary Club for donating funds to this project," said Yuba County Administrative Services Officer Sandeep Singh. "Not only has the Rotary Club made historical material available online, but they have saved the original Ramey Index from being further mishandled. The library's goal for the irreplaceable material in the California Room is to preserve the original material by all means necessary. The digitization of historical material is the way forward, especially if it can be accessed 24/7 by anyone interested in local history.”

There were two aspects to the project. The Rotary Club secured a copyright waiver from The Appeal-Democrat the Library sought before putting the Digital Reel online, including back issues of the newspaper. Previously, the Digital Reel was only available on one of the computers in the Library. Now the newspapers and other material can be read from a smartphone.

The Digital Reel, including Ramey’s Index, is searchable by topic. Ramey's index extends into the early 1960s. Other library volunteers added some items to the index in the 1970s.

The project, with a price tag of $25,000, also included digitizing several decades of old school admission records that are currently still available only by visiting the library.


Example of an Earl Ramey indexing: Subject is baseball, date of article and title of publication, and a synopsis of what you will find.


Earl Ramey, second from left, married Florence Ramey in June of 1928 at a house at 7th and F street now owned by Marysville Rotary Club member and Earl Ramey fan Chuck Smith. The house is under re-construction after being struck by an eight ton pine tree in January. The man at the left is Pedro Osuma and the woman at the right is Lillie Nordgren, both of whom taught at Marysville High School and Yuba College with Earl Ramey.