Monday, August 6, 2018

George Wyman (1877-1959): First Transcontinental Crossing of US by Motorcycle

George Wyman and Burial Niche
Main Mausoleum, Section 157, Niche 1, Tier 2

George Wyamn was the first person to make a transcontinental crossing of the United States by motor vehicle. In 1903, Wyman rode his 1902 California Motorcycle Company motor bicycle from San Francisco to New York City in 51 days, finishing 20 days before Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, the first person to cross the continent by automobile.

Wyman was born on July 3, 1877, in Oakland, California. As a teen, he became interested in bicycle racing, which reached its zenith during the 1890s. He became a leading bicycle racer and, at the turn of the century, moved to Australia to pursue his racing career. Following Australians Arthur Richardson, Alex White, and Donald Mackay, Wyman became the first American to circumnavigate the continent of Australia on a bicycle. In 1902, he returned to California as a top-ranked cyclist, and raced for various Bay Area bicycling clubs. It was during this time that he also began to ride motorized bicycles.

In the summer of 1902, perhaps inspired by the epic 1884 bicycle expedition of Thomas Stevens, Wyman became the first person to cross the Sierra Nevada aboard a motor vehicle, riding his 1.5-hp California motorbike from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada, to compete in a club bicycle race at the Reno Fairgrounds. During the trip, Wyman conceived the idea of riding a motorbike across the United States.

These commemorative plaques appear along Wyman's route
Wyman used his 1902 California machine for his crossing of the United States. The California had a 200 cc (12 cu in), 1.5 hp (1.1 kW) four-stroke engine attached to an ordinary diamond-frame bicycle.Wyman's machine was equipped with 28 x 1.5 in. tires, wooden rims, a leading-link front suspension fork, a Garford spring saddle, a Duck Brake Company front roller brake, and a 1902-patent Atherton rear coaster brake. A leather belt-drive with a spring-loaded idler pulley directly connected the engine output shaft to the rear wheel. Using a standard steel bicycle frame, the California weighed approximately 70–80 pounds (32–36 kg) without rider, and was capable of approximately 25 mph (40 km/h) using the 30-octane gasoline of the day, with a range of 75 to 100 miles (121 to 161 km). Throttle control was not yet perfected, and engine revolutions were mainly controlled by means of a spark timing mechanism.[5] The wick-type carburetor was crude, consisting of a metal box with internal baffles stuffed with cotton batting. With no float chamber, the rider had to open the gasoline tap periodically to admit fuel into the carburetor.

For such a long trip, Wyman carried a remarkably small amount of gear. A set of warm clothing, money, water bottle, cans for spare oil and gasoline, a Kodak Vest Pocket camera, a cyclometer, various bicycle tools and spare parts, and a long-barreled .38 Smith & Wesson revolver constituted his total luggage. 

Wyman departed from Lotta's Fountain at the corner of Market and Kearny streets in San Francisco at 2:30 P.M on May 16, 1903. He had previously agreed to keep a diary of his journey for later publication in The Motorcycle magazine, a periodical of the time. The first part of his trip took him across the Sierra Nevada, through the Nevada desert into Wyoming, then on through Nebraska to Illinois.


As the dirt trails and wagon tracks of the day were often impassable, Wyman rode the railroad tracks for over half of his journey. During the first part of his trip, he frequently slept in railroad company housing or at rooming houses located in division settlements (small municipalities founded by the railroad). His motorbike suffered several breakdowns along the way, requiring him to make improvised repairs until he could get to a larger town to obtain new parts. As he neared Aurora, Illinois, his engine's crankshaft snapped, and after pedaling his way to Chicago, Wyman was forced to wait there five days for a new crank to arrive by railway express.

After leaving Illinois, Wyman traversed the states of Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania before entering New York state. Outside of Albany his engine lost all power, and he was required to pedal his heavy motorbike the remaining 150 miles (240 km) to New York City using a cycle path reserved for licensed cyclists.


On July 6, 1903, Wyman arrived in New York City, completing his transcontinental crossing and becoming the first person to cross the North American continent aboard a motor vehicle. His journey took a total of 51 days to cover some 3,800 miles (6,100 km). Afterwards, Wyman's motorbike was placed on display at the New York Motorcycle Club while Wyman recovered from his grueling journey. While in New York, Wyman was present for the inauguration of the very first nationwide motorcycle organization, the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) at the Kings County Wheelmens' Club in Brooklyn; it was reported at the time that his hands were still in bandages from the trip. Wyman later returned to San Francisco by train. His California motorbike was put on display in San Francisco at Golden Gate Park for a special exhibition commemorating the trip.

Following his successful crossing of the United States, Wyman settled in San Francisco. He endorsed the Duck Roller Brake in promotional advertisements and worked as a chauffeur before becoming an automobile mechanic. He eventually married and had two sons. Wyman later moved to Eureka, California, continuing to work as an auto mechanic. He died November 15, 1959, at age 82 in San Joaquin County, California. He was cremated and his remains rest with that of his wife Nellie G. Wyman in the Main Mausoleum at Mountain View Cemetery.

[Text reprinted from Wikipedia; Photos from George Wyman Memorial Project]

Erastus Volney Joice (1810-1891): Commissioner of Deeds; SF Street named for him

Plot of Erastus Joice (Photo: Michael Colbruno)
PLOT 31

Erastus Volney Joice, who went by "E.V.", was an attorney, San Francisco Commissioner of Deeds, early member of the Democratic Party in California, "land grabber", and Vice President of the 1851 Committee on Vigilance. He is remembered today for having Joice Street in San Francisco named after him, which is located at the edge of Chinatown, bordered by Powell, Pine, Stockton and Clay Street.

Joice was born in New York in 1810 to Reverend Stephen and Ann Joice. At age 23 he was working as an attorney in New York and later as Commissioner of Deeds in Albany. For unknown reasons, he filed for bankruptcy by age 33 and ended up in California at age 39, just as the Gold Rush Era was kicking off in January 1849.

Joice Street in San Francisco
Ten months after arriving in San Franicsco, he was elected as Vice President of the nascent Democratic Party, which was tasked with setting up State elections. A month later he bought his first home from Alcalde John W. Geary, which led to a career in grabbing land opportunities, including property at Humboldt Harbor, becoming a partner in the Union Hotel owning a ranch near Suisin Bay, and buying a home near Portsmouth Square.

In June 1850 he helped establish a volunteer fire department called the St. Francis Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1, who had to fight the constant scourge of wood buildings burning down, which was complicated by the difficulty of getting water to the fires. Concerned about a group of thugs starting fires and terrorizing local residents, he became the VP of the 1851 Committee on Vigilance.

By 1870, he was selling insurance and working as Commissioner of Deeds for California. After his wife's death, he moved to East Oakland, where he died in 1891.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Gustave “Gus” Koch (1865-1898): Oakland Township Constable killed in explosion

Front and back of Gus Koch's gravestone (photos: Michael Colbruno)

Constable Gustave Adolph "Gus" Koch was one of five deputies killed as a result of a powder magazine explosion. Along with Deputy Daniel Cameron, Deputy John Lerri, Deputy Charles White, and Deputy George Woodsum the group were killed when a barricaded murder suspect deliberately set off an explosion.

The suspect was an employee of the Western Fuse and Explosives Company and had murdered a coworker during a dispute over a 25 cents seven spot Chinese lottery ticket (known as Keno today) and $48 in winnings.

The suspect fled into the powder keg, which contained 5-tons of powder, and threatened to blow it up if anyone attempted to arrest him. The standoff continued overnight and into the morning until the suspect called to Deputy White and told him he was ready to come out. As the other deputies approached the magazine it suddenly exploded, killing the five deputies, a female bystander, the suspect, and seriously injuring two other deputies.


The Western Fuse and Explosives Company was completely destroyed along with more than two dozen nearby homes and businesses. Windows were broken out miles away and the blast was felt as far south as San Jose, where residents believed an earthquake had occurred. The suspect's body had to be recovered in bits and pieces.

Koch was born in Tuolumne County in 1865. He never married and lived in the Temescal area of Oakland. He had been elected constable by the citizens of Oakland Township four years prior to his death. He was an avid yachtsman and was a member of the Marine Yacht Club of San Francisco. He also was a volunteer firefighter for the Temescal Volunteer Fire Department. 

Koch's grave remained unmarked until the Alameda County Heroes Grave Project erected a monument and plaque in his honor.

To learn more about the Alameda County Heroes Grave Project visit their website at ACHGP.org

Monday, March 26, 2018

Donald Glaser (1926-2013): Nobel Prize Laureate

Donald Glaser
Donald Glaser was born on September 21, 1926, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Russian Jewish immigrants, Lena and William J. Glaser.. He enjoyed music and played the piano, violin, and viola. He went to Cleveland Heights High School, where he became interested in physics as a means to understand the physical world.

Glaser completed his Bachelor of Science degree in physics and mathematics from Case School of Applied Science in 1946. He completed his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1949. Glaser accepted a position as an instructor at the University of Michigan in 1949, and was promoted to professor in 1957. He joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, in 1959, as a Professor of Physics. 

While teaching at Michigan, Glaser began to work on experiments that led to the creation of the bubble chamber, an apparatus designed to make the tracks of ionizing particles visible as a row of bubbles in a liquid. The bubble chamber enabled him to observe the paths and lifetimes of particles. He was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention, The bubble chamber allowed scientists to observe what happens to high-energy beams from an accelerator, thus paving the way for many important discoveries.

Starting in 1962, Glaser changed his field of research to molecular biology, starting with a project on ultraviolet-induced cancer. In 1964, he was given the additional title of Professor of Molecular Biology.

Fermilab's Bubble Chamber
Glaser received many honors in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Henry Russell Award for distinction and promise in teaching and research, the Charles Vernon Boys Prize of the Physical Society for distinction in experimental physics, the American Physical Society Prize for his contributions to experimental physics, and an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the Case Institute of Technology.

In 1971, with two others, he helped found one of the first biotechnology companies, the Cetus Corporation, which developed the cancer therapies interleukin-2 and interferon. The company was sold in 1991 to Chiron Corporation.

He died in his sleep at the age of 86 on February 28, 2013 in Berkeley, California.

SOURCE: Berkeley Lab, Nobel Prize website, Wikipedia, NY Times

John Coghlan (1835-1879): U.S. Congressman

John Coghlan
John Maxwell Coghlan was born in Louisville, Kentucky and moved with his parents to Illinois in 1847, and then to California in 1850 during the California Gold Rush. The family settled in Suisun City, where he went later practiced law.

He was a member of the California State Assembly from 1865-67, representing the 18th District. He was subsequently elected as a Republican to represent California's 3rd District in the 42nd Congress, serving from 1871-73.

He was the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California from 1876 to 1878, and was appointed Chief Justice of the Territorial Utah Supreme Court by President Ulysses S. Grant, but declined to serve. Coghlan said he refused the position, because he preferred San Francisco to Salt Lake City.

He practiced law in Oakland, California until his death at his home in Alameda at the age of 43.

SOURCES: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Los Angeles Herald, History of San Francisco (Clarke Publishing, 1931)

Warren Bechtel (1872-1933): Founder of engineering firm Bechtel Corporation

Burial site of Warren Bechtel
Warren Abraham Bechtel was born on September 12, 1872 and raised on a farm in Freeport, Illinois, which is 25 miles east of the Mississippi River.  He was a restless, energetic teenager who found time for school, farm and store chores, and the slide trombone. After graduation, he had a brief fling as a traveling musician, but realized that he couldn’t make a living with his trombone.

He went on to found the Bechtel Corporation, one of the world's largest engineering and construction services firms.

He worked as an employee of the burgeoning United States railroad industry in 1898 after his Oklahoma cattle ranch failed.

Over the next 20 years, Bechtel built a sizable contracting business that specialized in railroad and highway building. One of Bechtel's earliest major contracts was grading the site of the Oroville, California depot for the Western Pacific Railroad, then under construction.

In 1919, Warren Bechtel and his partners (including his brother Arthur) built the Klamath Highway in California, and in 1921 Warren Bechtel partners won a contract to build the water tunnels for the Caribou Hydroelectric Facility in that state. In 1925, Warren A. Bechtel's sons Warren Jr., Stephen, and Ken joined him and incorporated as W.A. Bechtel Company. In 1926, the new company won its first major contract, the Bowman Lake dam in California. The firm would later help engineer the famous Hoover Dam over the Colorado River, still considered the largest civil engineering project in U.S. history.
 
Bechtel died of an accidental insulin overdose while visiting Moscow in 1933. His son, Stephen D. Bechtel Sr., took over the firm upon his father's death.

Sources: Bechtel Corporation; Wikipedia

Sunday, March 25, 2018

John Glascock (1845-1913):Oakland Mayor; Congressman

John Raglan Glascock
John Raglan Glascock was a mayor, district attorney and member of Congress.

He was born in Panola County, Mississippi on August 25, 1845 and moved to San Francisco in 1856 with his parents. He attended local public schools before graduating from the second class of the University of California at Berkeley in 1865. He went back East to study law at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, returning to California to practice law after graduating.

In 1875, he was elected to a single term as District Attorney of Alameda County. He went on to serve a single term in Congress as a Democrat from 1883-1885, losing his reelection race.

However, two years later he was selected to serve as mayor of Oakland on the Citizen's ticket and served from 1887-1890. After leaving City Hall, he returned to his private law practice, Glascock & Howard. He also served as President of the Alameda County Bar Association.

He died at his country home in Woodside, California on November 10, 1913, where he had moved from Berkeley to be closer to his brother-in-law Alexander Baldwin. Glascock suffered from heart disease and asthma at the end of his life, missing his only Cal-Stanford game before dying.

Oakland Tribune, The Roots of Justice: Crime and Punishment in Alameda County, Annals of the Congress of the United States

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Frank Ogawa (1917-1994): First Japanese-American on Oakland City Council

Frank Ogawa
Outside Garden Mausoleum II, Wall #299 #4

Frank Hirao Ogawa was a civil rights leader and the first Japanese American to serve on the Oakland City Council, where he served from 1966 until his death in 1994. Ogawa was a Republican, but never held any partisan office.

Upon his death, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to rename City Hall Plaza in his honor as Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. The plaza displays a bronze bust of Ogawa. 

A Nisei, Ogawa was born in Lodi, California and never lived in Japan. Nevertheless, as Japanese Americans, Ogawa's family members were involuntarily relocated by the U.S. government to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Millard County, Utah; they were detained there for the duration of World War II. Ogawa married Grace Ogawa (née Hiruma) prior to their wartime detention and they had two children, Alan and Nancy. Nancy was born in the Topaz War Relocation Center but died at age 2.

Burial site of Ogawa family
After the war, Ogawa returned to Oakland where he found work as a gardener. Eventually, he borrowed and saved enough money to open his own nursery.

Ogawa was a member of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) from 1972 to 1988, having been appointed to the Commission by the Association of Bay Area Governments. Ogawa served on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors from 1979 until 1992 when he had to retire from the Board because of health issues. He served as Chairman of the Board during most of 1987 and served as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board's Executive Committee and Personnel Committee.

More than 600 people, including a representative of Oakland's sister city of Fukuoka, Japan, attended Ogawa's memorial service. 

[Reprinted from Wikipedia - edited]


Friday, December 22, 2017

Frank Devello Stringham (1872–1931): Mayor of Berkeley

Garber family plot (photo: Michael Colbruno)
PLOT 35
LOT 31

Frank D. Stringham (1872–1931) was Mayor of Berkeley, California from 1923 to 1927. Mayor Stringham was notable for leading the effort to adopt the city manager form of government. Prior to his becoming Mayor, Stringham served as Berkeley's City Attorney and as a Planning Commissioner. It was during his term as Mayor that the 1923 Berkeley Fire occurred. 

Stringham was born on December 9, 1872 in Topeka, Kansas. He attended the University of California where his uncle, W. Irving Stringham was a professor of mathematics. He graduated in 1895. He was admitted to the California Bar in 1897 after receiving his Law Degree from Toland Law College in San Francisco.

After law school, he taught night school in San Francisco for eight years and served as chief clerk of the City of San Francisco and the County Attorney. He served two terms as City Attorney of Berkeley, from 1909-11 and again from 1915-18. He resigned in 1918 to become the enforcement director of the United States Food Administration.

While serving as City Attorney in 1911, he had a kidney removed, which led to health problems for the remainder of his life.  He served as City Attorney under his friend Mayor Beverly Hodghead, who would also become his business partner in their law firm. 

In 1928, Stringham was appointed to serve as a director on the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Stringham married his wife Juliet Garber in 1895. She was the daughter of John Garber, a prominent attorney and member of the Nevada Supreme Court, who owned much of the land upon which the Claremont District was developed. Frank Stringham and his wife donated part of the property to the City of Berkeley for a park which was named John Garber Park.

Stringham was a also a huge champion of the arts and big tennis fan, having served as a referee at a tournament and welcoming tennis legend Helen Willis. 

Stringham died at his Berkeley home of uremic poisoning on December 7, 1931 after having lapsed into a coma. He is buried in the Garber family plot.

Sources: Berkeley Daily Gazette, Ancestry.com, San Francisco Call, Oakland Tribune, Mountain View Cemetery archives

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Oscar Shafter (1812-1873): Oakland Councilman and California Supreme Court Justice

Oscar Shafter's Supreme Court portrait and family burial plot
PLOT 2

Judge Oscar Lovell Shafter (October 19, 1812 - January 23, 1873) served on the  Oakland City Council, Vermont Legislature, and was an associate justice on the California Supreme Court.

Born in Athens, Vermont, Shafter was the son of William Shafter, a farmer who was also a member of the Vermont Constitutional Convention of 1836, County Judge and State Legislative member, and Mary Lovell Shafter.  Judge Shafter was also the grandson of James Shafter, who fought in the battles of Bunker Hill, Bennington and Saratoga, followed by 25 years in the Vermont Legislature.

After attending Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts, Shafter graduated in 1834 from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and in 1836 graduated from Harvard Law School.  He practiced law in Wilmington, Vermont, and with his political star rapidly on the rise, Shafter was elected to the Vermont State Legislature and although he did not want to run for Congress, was the chosen candidate of the Liberty party, with which he was affiliated.

Sarah Riddle Shafter and three of their 11 children
Oscar Shafter married Sarah Riddle in 1840 and together the couple had eleven children, ten daughters and one son.

The prominent law offices of Halleck, Peachy, Billings & Park in San Francisco heard of Shafter's successful New England law practice from his friend Trenor W. Park, a junior member at the firm.  They recruited him to join their firm and after accepting their offer, Shafter moved with his family to San Francisco in 1854.  Although the firm dissolved shortly after he arrived, Shafter formed a partnership with his friend, starting the law practice of Shafter & Park.  Over the years the firm continued to grow and change with the addition and departure of various partners.

In 1863, Shafter served on the Oakland City Council, serving the city where he had built his home.  He spoke fondly of Oakland in his letters, and saw it as growing faster than San Francisco and quite fertile.  In a letter to his wife Sarah on April 30, 1855, Shafter wrote "I went with a friend to Oakland on the opposite side of the bay. There are thousands of acres of level land there and exceedingly fertile, lying between the bay and the mountains, and it is covered with ancient and gigantic oaks standing from 40 to 60 feet apart, and the sward beneath is covered with a luxuriant growth of grass and flowers. Among these trees the town is built. Every variety of fruit and flower, including many tropical exotics, grow here in the greatest perfection, and as to the climate, it is an unending June. Children here do not die young - at least rarely."

Oscar Shafter's gravestone
Shafter also had a role in the current location of Mountain View Cemetery, having mentioned the site which adjoined some property that he owned, to Rev. Isaac Brayton. The idea was brought to the trustees who were looking for a new location for Oakland Cemetery, which sat too close to downtown and had outgrown its usefulness.

In 1863, a constitutional amendment meant all of the seats of the Supreme Court of California were open for election. In October 1863, Oscar Shafter was elected as a justice on the Republican Party ticket, and begin his term in January 1864. The justices drew lots for term length and Shafter was assigned the long, 10-year term as an Associate Justice. According to court records, he was very slow and meticulous in preparing his cases.

He penned numerous cases, including the oft-cited and legally questioned Bourland vs Hildreth, which claimed that an action of the Legislature should be deemed Constitutional, unless an obvious error occurred. A number of the land use cases that he ruled on have defined certain geographic boundaries in Oakland and San Francisco to this day.

Shafter had a great fondness for Point Reyes, where he owned a ranch, Punta de los Reyes, and he had plans to build a home in Olema and take up the life of a farmer following his retirement from the legal profession and serving on the bench. A lone Sequoia gigantea was planted on the building site of his planned for home. He acquired large tracts of land in order to preserve its natural beauty and pass the land on to his descendants for their future homes.

After traveling to Florence, Italy in an effort to regain his health, Shafter died there on January 23, 1873. His funeral was conducted at the home of his son-in-law Charles Webb Howard. As the funeral cortege continued to the First Congregational Church at the corner of 10th and Washington Streets, many leaders of Oakland were in attendance, including numerous judges.

There is a memorial window commemorating Shafter in the First Unitarian Church in Oakland of a farmer sowing his fields. On September 4, 1892 Rev. Charles W. Wendte delivered the discourse at the dedication of the stained glass window placed in the church in memory of Shafter by his daughters.

Life, Diary and Letters of Oscar Lovell Shafter
He was the subject of a biography, the Life, Diary and Letters of Oscar Lovell Shafter, written by his daughter Emma Shafter-Howard and edited by Flora Haines Loughead and published in 1915.  

His nephew William Rufus Shafter was a general in the American Civil War, recipient of the Medal of Honor and had Shafter Avenue in Oakland named in his honor. His family on the Lovell side was related to President William Howard Taft.

Sources: Wikipedia, OaklandWiki, California Supreme Court archives, "Lives of the Dead" by Dennis Evanosky and Michael Colbruno, "Life, Diary and Letters of Oscar Shafter"