Friday, September 30, 2016

Samuel S. Johnson (1857-1905): Millionaire lumber man

The Johnson Family Mausoleum at Plot 11

Samuel Johnson was born in Malahide, Ontario, Canada on September 9, 1857. His family moved to Almont, Michigan when he was three years old. In 1879, he married Emma Almeda Gibbs with whom he had two sons, William and Samuel.

He came to Berkeley on a few years before his death in 1905 and established himself as a successful lumber man. Minneapolis millionaire J.H. Queal purchased the Scott & Van Aisdale lumber mills on the McCloud River in Siskiyou County and renamed them the McCloud Lumber Company. Queal made Johnson the president and general manager of the company, which was one of the largest on the West Coast.

The McCloud Lumber Company circa 1915

The McCloud Lumber Company circa 1915
At it's height, the McCloud River Lumber Company owned or controlled over 600,000 acres of timberland. The company had extensive logging operations that produced the logs needed to keep the sawmill running, along with an extensive railroad system connecting the woods operations with the mill. Some of the railroad system was owned and operated by the McCloud River Railroad Company, but the vast majority of the railroad operation were owned by the lumber company.

In July 1905, Johnson fell ill with Bright's disease, a condition involving chronic inflammation of the kidneys. Friends and business associates came from all over the country to be with him during his surgery and recovery, but he he died the following month. He is buried in the Johnson family mausoleum by the second fountain on Mountain View Cemetery's main road.

Sources: Meriam Library. California State University, Chico;; San Francisco Call

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jefferson Maury (1826-1895): Noted Ship Captain; Home landmarked by Berkeley

The Maury Plot near the Mountain View reservoir

Jefferson Maury (1826 1895) was born in Virginia and may have been descended from Rev. James Maury, teacher of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe and grandfather of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, known as the father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology.

Maury entered the U.S. Navy at the age of 15 and received his warrant as a Passed Midshipman in 1847. The following year found him in the Gulf Squadron, participating in the Mexican-American War. In 1854 he was stationed in San Francisco and a year later left the service.

It is not known when Maury joined PMSS, but shipping records indicate that in 1862 he commanded the company s S.S. Northern Light, a wooden-hulled steamer with side paddle wheels and three masts on a sailing between Aspinwall, Panama and New York.  In the 1860s, he was relieved of his duties when his ship ran ashore in China, despite an investigation showing that it was not through an error on his part.

He eventually became captain of the S.S. America, followed by the S.S. Atlantic, both plying the same route.  From 1866 until 1870, Maury was master of the S.S. Arizona, which his future neighbor, Captain Seabury, would take over in 1874.  At one time he was the oldest person to hold the title of Commodore in the fleet.

The Captain Maury house was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1982 (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)
In 1894, when Captain John Slater built his house at 1335 Shattuck Ave., he was joining two other master mariners who had settled on the same block a decade earlier. They were Jefferson Maury and William B. Seabury, both high-ranking captains of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company who ended their careers as Commodores of the PMSS fleet. While Captain Slater commanded square-rigged ships, Captains Maury and Seabury were at the forefront of the mechanized age.

Captain Maury died suddenly at midnight on January 1, 1895. The Berkeley Advocate reported that he had suffered from heart disease. His wife, Adelaide Maury, continued living in their home at 1317 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley until her death in 1916.

[Biography taken from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and Martime Heritage. Additional information from the Berkeley Gazette].

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Andre Louis Hicks (July 5, 1970 – November 1, 2004) aka "Mac Dre": Rap Artist Gunned Down After Concert

Gravesite of Mac Dre
 [By request, the Lot and Plot number are not disclosed]

Andre Hicks, who was known as "Mac Dre," was born in Oakland and grew up in Vallejo. He was an American rapper, and the initial founder of Thizz Entertainment, and the now defunct Romp Productions. Mac Dre recorded his first three EPs albums between 1989 and 1992.

In 1992 Mac Dre was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison after he refused the deal the police had offered him, which was informing law enforcement about his partners. While in Lompoc, Mac Dre would go on to obtain his G.E.D. and record his album "Mac Dre Presents: The Rompalation" over the phone, taunting law enforcement officials. After his release from prison in 1997, he recorded his second album Stupid Doo Doo Dumb.

Mac Dre's "Thizzle Dance":

Mac Dre was killed around 3:30 AM on the morning of November 1, 2004, on U.S. Route 71 in Kansas City, Missouri. Along with members of Thizz, he was scheduled to perform in Kansas City on October 31, but the group had a dispute with the club promoter about their payment. A group of unknown assailants in a stolen black Infiniti G35 began shooting at the white van in which Hicks was a passenger. The driver crashed and was able to get to a phone to call 911, but Hicks was pronounced dead at the scene from a bullet wound to the back of the neck from an AK-47.

The case has remained unsolved for years, but police believe that fellow rapper Anthony "Fat Tone" Watkins was the likely person to call for the hit. Six months later, a San Francisco rap promoter nicknamed "Mac Minister" and a friend avenged Hicks in Las Vegas by firing 33 assault-rifle rounds into two Kansas City men, including Anthony "Fat Tone" Watkins, who was killed.

The viewing was held at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Fairfield, California to a packed crowd of 2,000 people. When the body was moved to Mountain View Cemetery there was a near riot, as only 100 people could fit into the chapel for the service. Allegedly, even the singer's father had a difficult time gaining entry. The service was officiated by former Oakland Raiders running back and Pastor Jerone Davidson of Fairfield's Bountiful Harvest Ministry Church. Mac Dre was buried in a platinum-plated, stainless steel basket lined with cardinal red crushed velvet, protected by a fiberglass shield. Visitors commonly visit his graveside under a hillside oak tree an leave mementos. His notoriety and fame have only grown in death and his tombstone has been stolen on at least one occasion.

SOURCES: Oakland Tribune, Wikipedia, San Francisco Chronicle, Rap News Network

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Earl W. Smith (1908-2000): Developed "Flat Top" home; Influenced Eichler

Earl W. Smith
Earl W. Smith's was a pioneer in the construction of affordable housing, who is best remembered for designing and building the "Flat Top" home. He developed the home in 1947 in order to open the door to home ownership to thousands of post World War II Californians. The key to the design was a flat topped home built atop a concrete slab.

The home was so popular that it appeared in the September 10, 1951 issue of LIFE magazine in a feature on the "Best Houses under $15,000." After  World War II, building supplies were scarce and President Harry Truman had signed a bill easing down-payment requirements. Smith seized on the opportunity building over 2,000 homes a year that ranged in price from $6,795 for a two-bedroom home to $8,250 for a deluxe three-bedroom home with 1,300 square feet of living space. Smith estimated that the flat top roof saved him about 4% on building costs.

Part of the feature on Earl Smith that appeared in the September 10, 1951 issue of LIFE
Smith was dubbed "Flat Top" after the popularity of his homes took off. Many of the homes were built in El Cerrito, El Sobrante and Richmond, California. His design had a great influence on both two noted builders of homes,  California’s Joseph Eichler and Kansas City's Donald Drummond.  Eichler closely studied the construction techniques of Smith, particularly the poured concrete floors  and flat roofs and modeled his earliest housing development, the 104-unit Sunnyvale Manor, on Smith's designs.

Smith eventually switched to building California's first zero-lot line homes in the 1960s. These also allowed him to cut costs by building the more tradition-style home but with low-pitched roofs and "compact" lot placement allowing families to buy into the "American Dream."

In the early 1940's, Smith was one of the founding members of the Association of Home Builders of the Greater East Bay. This group represented home builders in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, and soon joined six other associations in the state to form the then Home Builders Council of California. He became its President in 1948.

In 1955, "Flat Top" was elected President of the National Association of Home Builders. As President, he brought about the first official "people to people" exchange with representatives of the Soviet Ministry of Construction and the heralded "Homes for Korea" program. In later years, he also helped establish an improved housing industry for the country of Equador.

​In 1978, Mr. Smith was inducted into the National Housing Hall of Fame. He was honored by the National Association of Home Builders Research Institute for promoting "improved building techniques, more economical construction methods, and fundamental improvements in the standard of American housing."

Smith was also a Regent of St. Mary's College in Moraga, where he also served as a guest lecturer in the Graduate School of Business.

Sources: "El Sobrante’s Canyon Park Neighborhood – The “Flat-top” Smith Legacy" by Maurice Abraham, El Sobrante Historical Society, California Homebuilding Foundation, LIFE magazine, Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream by Paul Adamson

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lucius Anson "L.A." Booth (1820-1906): Railroad pioneer; Grocery mogul

Booth Family plot at Mountain View Cemetery
New York native Lucius Anson Booth, was a Forty-Niner  who arrived in California via Mexico.

He was one of the original incorporaters of the Central Pacific Railroad with the Big 4 - Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Collis B. Huntington. In 1860, the five men, along with Theodore Judah, James Bailey, Charles Marsh and John Marshall, learned about an unused wagon trail across Donner Pass. They decided to organize the Central Pacific Railroad and funded the survey that convinced Congress to approve the Western portion of the transcontinental railroad. The Pacific Railway Act was passed by Congress in July 1862 and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.

The nine men bickered about numerous business issues and the board often split 4-4 on key votes (with Marsh often absent). The company faced numerous financial and technical challenges, including the inability to find workers after the Civil War. Over the next six years, the Central Pacific brought in 13,000 workers who were mostly Chinese. The immigrant workers laid 690 miles of track over the Sierra Nevada's and over 1,500 died from avalanches, freezing weather and dynamite explosions while making tunnels. They were paid $26 a month and had to buy their own rations.

Booth & Co. on J Street in Old Sacramento
Booth made a fortune in mining, which he invested in founding a wholesale grocery business on J Street in Sacramento, which at various times was known as Booth & Company, Booth, Adams & Company and Forshee, Booth & Company. One of the investors in the business was his cousin Newton Booth, who was the 11th Governor of California.

In April 1877,  he became an investor in James Gamble's 350-acre tract of land that he purchased from Walter Blair, which became the Piedmont Land Company. The property was subdivided and sold to individual land owners.

He died at his residence, known as Hazelwood, on Hazel Lane in Piedmont.

[Sources: "Historic Donner Stock Trail" by Milan E. Wight; Oakland Tribune; San Francisco Call; "History of Sacramento County" by G. Walter Reed; "Classy  City: Residential  Realms  of  the  Bay  Region" by Richard Walker; Wikipedia; Bancroft Library;]

Roi Partridge (1888-1984): Noted printmaker and teacher; Married Imogen Cunningham

Roi Partridge in 1952 (photo: Paul Bishop) and in 1915 (Photo: Imogen Cunningham)

Roi George Partridge (October 14, 1888 – January 25, 1984) was an American printmaker and teacher. He was born in Centralia in the territory of Washington on October 14, 1888. At age four he moved with his family to Seattle, Washington, where his father worked as a typesetter and later owned the local newspaper.

Roi Partridge is buried in his wife's Fisher family plot
In Seattle, Partridge was one of three Seattle artists who worked together under the name "The Triad". The others were painter John Butler and miniaturist Clare Shepard Shisler. Also in their circle were photographer—and Partridge's future wife—Imogen Cunningham, and painters Mabel Lisle Ducasse and Yasushi Tanaka.
Roi Partridge's Santa Rosita (Hollister Peak) - 1923
In 1909 the budding artist traveled with Butler to New York City for one year of art study at the National Academy of Design and then studied etching in Munich. His next three years were spent in Paris where he worked as a printmaker under the mentorship of Bertha Jaques. When the German troops were approaching the French capital in 1914, Roi returned to Seattle. When 44 of his etchings were shown at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, he decided to make California his home. After moving to San Francisco in 1917, he began teaching at Mills College in Oakland, California in 1920 and became the first director of the school's art gallery. His marriage to photographer Imogen Cunningham in 1915 ended in divorce in 1934. They had three sons, including photographer Rondal Partridge. His second wife, artist Marion Lyman, died of cancer in 1940; his third wife was May Fisher.

Partridge took a leave of absence from Mills College in 1946, continued etching until 1952, and retired in 1954. His last years were spent in Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California, where he died on January 25, 1984.
Roi Partridge's California Coast -1924–1925
The Amarillo Museum of Art (Amarillo, Texas), the Bancroft Library (University of California), the British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art, Mills College, the Mobile Museum of Art (Mobile, Alabama), the New York Public Library, the Oakland Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, California), the University of Michigan Museum of Art (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and the Weisman Art Museum (University of Minnesota) are among the public collections holding works by Roi George Partridge.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Holmes Beckwith (1884-1921): Killed Syracuse Professor

Grave of Holmes Beckwith (photo Michael Colbruno); News photo courtesy of Dubuque Telegraph-Herald

[Reprinted from Wikipedia]

Holmes Beckwith (1884–1921) was an American political scientist and professor of finance and insurance at several universities. He shot and killed Dean J. Herman Wharton and himself at Syracuse University on April 2, 1921.

In late March 1921, Beckwith was informed by Dean Wharton that he would be dismissed; after Beckwith protested, Wharton told him that students had complained about him. Beckwith argued with Wharton twice at his house, and went to see him a final time in the dean's office on April 2, bearing a letter, later found on Wharton's desk, declaring his dismissal to be unfair, and that other professors were more popular because they were "too lax"; he also carried a military revolver and a knife.Beckwith shot Wharton five times and himself once.

After his death, a number of letters were found addressed to relatives and university administrators in Beckwith's hand; the letters complained of a life of failure and misunderstanding, apologized to relatives, and made clear that the murder was premeditated (and that Beckwith had contemplated murdering other academic administrators previously). Beckwith's uncle suggested the following day, in a statement of condolence and regret, that he did not believe his nephew "was dealing in personalities when he shot the Dean, but that the act was just his disordered expression of compensation for the wrongs and injustice he believed the world did him." Physicians and psychologists interviewed by The New York Times suggested Beckwith had an "exaggerated ego" and compared him to the notorious murderer Harry Kendall Thaw.

Headline of Syracuse Herald
Beckwith was born in Hawaii to a family of ministers and missionaries, and spent his early life there and in California. He received degrees in law from the University of California and the Pacific Theological Seminary, and in 1911 completed his Ph.D. in political science at Columbia University. While at Columbia he married Frances Robinson, the daughter of a Berkeley, California minister.

Beckwith's dissertation, German Industrial Education and its Lessons for the United States, was the result of a trip to Germany to observe industrial education practices in the summer of 1911. Beckwith has been cited as a significant part of academic and policy debates in the period about the potential for German-style industrial education in the United States.

After completing his dissertation, he was appointed instructor in economics at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1911. He later described Dartmouth as "the toughest college in America"; he was dismissed not long after arrival, following conflicts with Dartmouth professor George R. Wicker.

During World War I he attended an officer's training camp but was discharged for physical disability, which began a long series of brief positions with a variety of institutions. In 1914, he worked for the California State Banking Commission, but was fired after complaints about his manner from the banks. In 1916 his wife, who had supported him at times during his career, left him, eventually remarrying.

In the following years, he held positions at Grinnell College and the Northwestern University School of Commerce, both rather briefly. He taught for one year at Colorado College in 1920, where he became friendly with folklorist Stith Thompson, who had just begun his first academic appointment there. In his memoirs, Thompson describes Beckwith as "an extremely odd character, utterly unable to adapt to his environment." Soon after, Thompson was asked by a department head to explain to Beckwith that he would not be reappointed; Thompson reports that his colleague "received me very cordially and seemed to appreciate my interest and frankness." Shortly thereafter, Beckwith was appointed to his final position at Syracuse.

Sources: Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Wikipedia, Syracuse Herald

Caspar Thomas Hopkins (1826 – 1893): Pioneer Insurance Man

Caspar Hopkins (Grave by Michael Colbruno; Head shot courtesy of Bancroft Library)

Caspar Thomas Hopkins (1826-1893), moved to California in 1849 two years after his graduation from the University of Vermont. In 1853, he married Almira Burtnett (1828-1875), with whom he had four children, Frances "Belle" Isabella (1854), Amelia (1856), Myra (1864), and William (1866). He settled in what is now known as the Fruitvale area of Oakland. His home was known as Alderwood  and sat on six acres of apple orchards near Sausal Creek. 

After testing out several endeavors, including trading, sailing, and exploring southern Oregon, Caspar finally settled on a career in marine and fire insurance. In 1861 he established the first insurance company on the Pacific coast, the California Insurance Company, and served as its president for 35 years.

He was a prolific writer, including letters which are archived at the University of Michigan, articles for "The Vermont State Agriculturalist," which he founded, and a civics textbook called the "Manual of American Ideas (1872). In 1876, he also was granted a patent for "S.F. street railroad rails."

His letters document many stages of his life, such as his 1849 voyage to California via Mexico and his participation in the Gold Rush as a speculator and businessman, his exploration of the Umpqua River in southern Oregon in the early 1850s, and his career as president of the California Insurance Company in the 1860s through the 1880s. His Gold Rush letters contain stories about the miners he encountered and on their way of life. On October 14, 1850, he wrote a letter to "Friend Clarke," describing frontier conditions, the attitudes of settlers, and the habits of Native Americans in the Klamath River Valley. 

His brother, Dr. John Henry Hopkins, wrote the popular Christmas song "We Three Kings."

Sources: William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, North Adams Transcript, Bancroft Library.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Roy Merriam (1897-1918): Vanished in Bermuda Triangle

Roy Mirriam and his grave in Plot 14

Roy Merriam was a coxswain on the U.S.S. Cyclops, which disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on March 4, 1918.

The ship carrying 306 people including enlisted men and passengers was never heard from again and remains the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history not directly involving combat. As it was wartime, there was speculation the U.S.S. Cyclops was captured or sunk by a German raider or submarine, because she was carrying 10,800 long tons of manganese ore used to produce munitions, but German authorities have denied any knowledge of the vessel to this day. The ship was thought to be overloaded when she left Brazil, as her maximum capacity was 8,000 long tons.

Rear Admiral George van Deurs suggested that the loss of Cyclops may have been the result of structural failure, as her sister ships suffered from issues where the I-beams that ran the length of the ship had eroded owing to the corrosive nature of some of the cargo carried. This was observed definitively on the U.S.S. Jason, and is believed to have contributed to the sinking of another similar freighter, Chuky, which snapped in two in calm seas. The Washington Herald also reported that the ship has been traveling at a reduced speed due to a damaged engine.

Moreover, Cyclops may have hit a storm with 30–40 kn (56–74 km/h; 35–46 mph) winds. These would have resulted in waves just far enough apart to leave the bow and stern supported on the peaks of successive waves, but with the middle unsupported, resulting in extra strain on the already weakened central area.

The ship has appeared numerous times in popular culture, including in Clive Cussler's novel Cyclops, in an episode of Quantum Leap entitled "Ghost Ship," in the cartoon Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! and  in the video game Dark Void.

Although the ship disappeared on March 4, 1918, the designated date of death for every one on board is June 14, 1918. The list of the missing sailors released by the U.S. Navy stated that he was from Hickman, California in Stanislaus County. There is a Merriam Road in Hickman.

* Coxswain is the person responsible for steering the ship

Friday, May 13, 2016

Elijah Bigelow (1810-1895): Wealthy early Oakland settler

Emma Bigelow's tombstone on the Bigelow plot; Ladies Relief Society

Elijah Bigelow was one of the early settlers of Oakland and one of its wealthiest land owners.

He was born in Newton, Massachusetts on September 9, 1810.  In 1852, he sailed aboard a steamer from New York City to California. He settled in San Francisco where he opened a grocery store on Front Street, eventually opening stores at other locations. In 1863, he headed across the Bay and settled in Oakland, where he opened a successful real estate business.

He settled at what is now 14th and Brush, making his homestead one of the first north of 7th Street. His home was considered to be on the distant outskirts of the city. He subdivided his property in numerous large tracts and created the Oakland Homestead Company.  In 1877, the Daily Alta California listed him as one of the wealthiest land owners in Oakland, along with fellow Mountain View Cemetery denizens Edson Adams, Walter Blair, George Blake, Frederick Delger, James De Fremery, John Felton, A.K.P. Harmon and Samuel Merritt. 

In 1872, he donated a large piece of land at 14th and Franklin Streets to the Ladies' Relief Society, who provided various compassionate services to children, poor women and the elderly living in Oakland. The gift was in honor of his wife Emma. The Society decided that it wanted something farther from the city center, so Bigelow swapped that land for 3-acre site on Telegraph Avenue well to the north near today's Pill Hill District. The home was Oakland's first nonsectarian charitable facility.

You can read my post about the Ladies Relief Society at Plot 26 HERE.

Sources: Oakland Tribune, City of Oakland, Daily Alta California