The Nethercutt Family and the dust bowl



My paternal grandmother June Anne Nethercutt Gardner (1929-2017) was a mysterious woman whose lineage has always been an unclear area in our family history.  More on that later, but one thing we do now know is that she was born in 1929 in Sacramento, CA months before the stock market crash to Ruby Luella Russell Nethercutt (1900-1945) and Cloyd H Nethercutt (1892-1946).  Cloyd’s profession was listed in the 1920 census as “Laborer” but in the 1930 census he was listed as an auto salesman.  They lived in the 12th Street Auto Camps, which were Depression-era migrant worker camps similar to the one seen below.

Migrant camp on the outskirts of Sacramento, California on the American River. About thirty families lived on this flat. (Dorothea Lange, 1936)

Sometime after 1935, Cloyd and Ruby took most of the kids and left, leaving Grandma June (aged 6-9) with her eldest, Estella Louise Nethercutt Mohr (1919-2004) and her husband Floyd Edward Mohr (1911-1968).  Cloyd and Ruby had two more children after this: Glenn Elwood Nethercutt (1932-1999) and Ruby Luella Nethercutt Stefanini (1934-2008).  This brings me to a number of questions:

  • Where did Cloyd, Ruby, and Grandma June live in Sacramento in 1930?  Details of the American township are sparse and photos/maps even more so aside from the amazing work of FSA Photojournalist Dorothea Lange who came through the area in 1935 or so.  The census record only mentions the 12th Street Auto Camps.
  • Why did most of the Nethercutt clan scoot up to Oregon, leaving their middle child with their oldest?
  • Their presence in the Sacramento area pre-dates the stock market crash by years – what happened to their home to cause them to move to the camps?

I may never know the answers to these questions.  But I’ll continue digging and continue learning.  In the meantime, check out those photos by Dorothea Lange – they are amazing glimpses into life at that moment in time.

If you’ve got information on my family history or adjacent information, please reach out.