Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dr. Selah Merrill (1837-1909): Clergyman; Anti-Semitic U.S. Consul to Jerusalem

Dr. Selah Merrill

Dr. Selah Merrill was a virulent anti-semite who served as U.S. Consul to Jerusalem under three American Presidents. His views were instrumental in shaping the State Department’s infamous hostility to the presence of the Jewish people in the Holy Land.

Merrill was born in Canton Centre, Connecticut on May 2, 1837 and was a member of the fifth generation of the Merrill family in America. The Merrills were descended from an old Massachusetts family and his original immigrant ancestor was Nathaniel Merrill, who was one of the earliest settlers in Newbury, Massachusetts.

After graduating from Williston Seminary in Easthampton, Massachusetts, he studied at Yale College, but did not graduate. He studied theology at the New Haven Theological Seminary, graduating in 1863, and was ordained in the Congregational Church, at Feeding Mills, Massachusetts in 1864. He spent two years in Germany at the University of Berlin where he studied the ancient Hebrew language.

He served as a chaplain of the 49th U. S. Colored Infantry, also known as the 11th Louisiana Regiment Infantry, at Vicksburg, Mississippi from 1864 until the close of the Civil War.

From 1874–1877, he worked as an archæologist in Palestine for the American Palestine Exploration Society, excavating the second wall of Jerusalem and trying to determine the site of Calvary.

He was a staunch opponent of the commune at the American Colony, Jerusalem and sought every opportunity to dismantle it. He also opposed Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine. Merrill believed that the Jewish people didn't want land to colonize, but cities “where they can live on the fortunes or the misfortunes of other people.”

He also believed that there must have been some hidden justification for the persecution of the Jews in Russia, or the government would not have been so determined to get rid of them.

In 1872 and 1879, he taught at Andover Theological Seminary and became curator of the Biblical Museum there. In 1907 he served as American Consul at Georgetown, Guyana.

Merrill was the author of numerous books including, East of the Jordan, Ancient Jerusalem, Galilee in the Time of Christ, and The Site of Calvary.

He died at his sister's home in Fruitvale (now Oakland, California).

Sources: Jewish Post, Wikipedia, Find a Grave, Washington Post, NY Times

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Judge Henry Lyon Bradford (1851-1932): Newspaper editor; Attorney

Henry Bradford (Image: SF Chronicle)
Henry Lyon Bradford was born in San Francisco on June 28, 1851 and considered himself one of the first native born citizens of California born to white parents. He was educated in San Francisco and went on to study law. His grandfather William Bradford, was a passenger on the Mayflower.

He practiced law in the 1870's in Stanislaus and Mono counties before moving to the Central Valley, where he started the Modesto Strawbuck, a daily newspaper. He went on to publish the Modesto Republican, Modesto Free Press, Interior Press and the California Railroad Journal. While in Modesto, he married Mary Eva Roehrig and had two children.

In 1888, several businessmen encouraged him to move to Monterey, where he started the Monterey Cypress. The paper lasted until 1901.

At the end of the 19th century, he returned to San Francisco to practice law. Bradford, who was fluent in Spanish, dealt with many cases dealing with Mexico and Mexican land trusts. 

According to newspaper accounts, Bradford became the subject of many of Bret Harte's stories, the famous chronicler of the Gold Rush era. 

In September 1910, he married a divorced woman with two children who was 23 years his junior, a story that was significant enough at the time to warrant a news stories in the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Call.

Sources: American Newspaper Directory, Oakland Tribune,, A Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California by Henry Barrows, San Francisco Call, San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Charles Campbell (1838-1890): Oakland mayor who fought waterfront monopoly

Oakland's disputed waterfront in the 1850's
Charles Campbell was Oakland’s second mayor. His term began on March 5, 1855 and ended March 2, 1856. He was the Know Nothing party candidate for the “Anti-Squatters,” which ran on a promise to break Horace Carpentier’s hold on the Oakland waterfront.

Campbell was born in Kentucky and came to California during the Gold Rush. He studied law and was also a minister with the Methodist chruch in Kentucky before arriving in San Francisco.

On May 4, 1852, New York transplant Horace Carpentier persuaded the new California State Legislature to incorporate Oakland as a town. He became Oakland's first mayor under allegation of fraud and promptly persuaded the new town's trustees to pass an ordinance "for the disposal of the waterfront belonging to the town of Oakland." That ordinance gave Carpentier complete control of Oakland's waterfront, which was situated on prime real estate. Oakland's citizens were outraged by the transaction and he was ousted and replaced by Charles Campbell, who became Mayor on March 5, 1855.

During his time as mayor, Campbell signed two pieces of legislation that began the fight against Horace Carpentier's monopoly of the waterfront, which city officials deemed was obtained illegally.

Oakland's committee on streets and buildings then advertised for proposals to build a large wharf at the foot of Bay Street. The action placed the city firmly in opposition to the claims of the Carpentier interests.

After decades of legal wrangling over control of the waterfront, Carpentier returned to New York, where he became a trustee and major donor of Columbia University.

Shortly after serving as Oakland's mayor, Campbell moved to Stockton where he was elected  District Attorney (aka Prosecuting Attorney) of San Joaquin County as a Lecompton candidate, who were pro-slavery Democrats determined to have Kansas enter the union as a slave state. He eventually moved to Yolo County and retired in 1862. After that, there is little record of Charles Campbell.

Sources: Oakland Wiki, Wikipedia, Oakland Tribune, Past and Present of Alameda County by Joseph Eugene Baker, Bay Crossings, NY Times, Sacramento Daily Union.

Colonel Charles Dexter Pierce (1859-1909): 26th mayor of Oakland

Charles Pierce (Oakland Tribune)
Plot 15

Charles Pierce was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1859. His family moved to California in the 1870s and in 1879 Pierce's father, Dexter Pierce started a successful hardware business with Charles and his brother Frank. 

Pierce was a well-known businessman and was elected on an independent businessman's ticket in 1888 and 1889. He served two terms, but declined to run for a third term. He was one of the last Oakland mayors to serve under the original city charter, where mayors were elected by the city council for 1-year terms. In 1889, the Democrats wanted Pierce to run on their ticket but he declined. His brother Frank was also recruited to run for Governor, but also declined.

Pierce owned lots of land in in the Central Valley, including  Mandeville Island, which is 15 miles northwest of Stockton. He also owned Rough and Ready Island, near Stockton, which in the 20th Century was home to the Naval Supply Depot and berthed mothballed ships from the United States Navy.

The brothers also owned the Pierce Land and Stock Company, where they raised prize-winning Holstein Friesian dairy cattle. His cattle once held the world record for their yield of milk and butter.  

The brothers had their hands in numerous other ventures, including the Standard Electric Company,  Stockton Water Company and banking. They successfully brought the National Cash Register to the west coast. The company is still in existence and is known as NCR Corporation. It rapidly expanded during Pierce's lifetime and by 1911 it had sold one million machines, had 6,000 employees and controlled 95% of the U.S. market. According to the Oakland Tribune, the brothers "amassed a large fortune" from this business venture. 

Charles and Frank were often referred to as the "Cheeryable Brothers" after characters in Charles Dickens' "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby," who were known for their humanitarian activity, benevolence and private charity.

Pierce died of Bright's disease (today known as chronic nephritis), which was triggered by an accident with his horse-drawn buggy. He had suffered from kidney ailments for ten years. Mayor Frank Mott and William Davis were pallbearers at his Masonic funeral. Pierce succeeded Davis as mayor.

Sources: Oakland Wiki,, SF Call, Holstein-Friesian Register (Vol. 17), Wikipedia

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Samuel Irving (1858 -1930): Berkeley mayor killed by car

Samuel Irving
Main Mausoleum, Section E, 28, T1

Samuel Irving, was a former mayor of Berkeley, who was struck and killed by a car driven by a 19-year-old University of California student, who was later exonerated as it was determined that the accident was unavoidable.

Irving himself was an 1879 graduate of the University of California and later served as a UC Regent.

Professionally, Irving worked as the treasurer at Parafine, a paint manufacturing company, as well as President of the California Cider Company. He also served as President of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.

He was served as mayor of Berkeley from 1915 and survived a recall during his first term orchestrated by the Taxpayers' Protective League. The group claimed that the City Council and Mayor failed to consult with voters and taxpayers about the use of city money. Irving said the group was nothing but a group of disgruntled former and current politicians. He went on to be elected for a second term. 

In the 1915 election, Irving beat former Mayor and prominent Socialist Stitt Wilson. Two incumbent Socialist members of the City Council were also defeated. Upon his election, Irving declared, "Berkeley has been torn by factional differences. It is too big a city to suffer this way. From today on we are going to be united - east, west, north and south."

In 1926, he ran for the United States Senate as a "Dry Democrat," who supported a ban on alcohol, including its production, importation and transportation. Prohibition in the United States ran from 1920-1933.

Sources: Berkeley Daily Gazette, Oakland Tribune,, Find-a-Grave 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

James Paine Miller "J.P.M." Davis (1817-1864): Marshall and Mayor of Oakland

Mayor J.P.M. Davis
LOT 14, Plot 2

J.P.M. Davis was born in Maine in 1817.

He was elected Marshall of Oakland in 1855. He served only one term.

In 1860, he was elected Mayor of Oakland.

Little else is known about him.


Monday, May 20, 2019

James Blethen (1828-1909): Mayor of Oakland who died destitute

Mayor James Blethen (Newspaper image: Oakland Tribune)
PLOT 8, Lot 23

James Blethen was born on June 25, 1828 in Maine and came to California during the Gold Rush, where he set up shop as a contractor in San Francisco. He paid for his passage aboard he Golconda by working as a carpenter on the ship, a trade he had learned in Dover (now Dover-Foxcroft, Maine).

He was married twice and had nine children. 

In 1868, he and a partner bought the Pioneer Mill at 1st and Broadway in Oakland, where they did mill work, specializing is sashes and doors.  The business proved quite successful and Blethen developed an interest in politics during this time, spurred by the debates over the Chinese Exclusion Act.

He was a two-term Mayor of Oakland, serving in 1881 and 1882 (when Mayor's were elected to one-year terms). A year after he left office his good fortune began to decline. His Pioneer Planing Company became the target of boycotts and he accrued debts of $60,000 ($1.5 million in 2019 dollars) to the likes of Dr. Samuel Merritt, Knowland & Co and the Oakland Bank of Savings.

The Port of Oakland around 1882
The Los Angeles Herald claims his demise was a deal that he cut in 1882 as Mayor when he convened a special meeting of the City Council to pass what became known as the "Second Compromise," which proved to be wildly unpopular with the public. The first compromise, which was passed in 1868, basically ceded waterfront rights for 37 years to the unscrupulous (or wily, depending on your point of view) Horace Carpentier in exchange for $5, some wharf improvements and a new school. The second deal was seen by many as once again benefiting private interests over the public good. The fights over the waterfront dragged on in California and the Nation's highest courts for decades.

The Herald ran an account of him in his later years, describing him as "Old and bent and gray, his clothes patched and threadbare...Blethen, once Mayor of Oakland, now flags the trains of the Southern Pacific...the old man sits on a bench, leans against the Delger Block and either reads the papers or dreams of the days when he was Mayor, and could count more friends than any other citizen of Oakland."

His memorial service was held at the Masonic Temple and he was buried in the Blethen family plot.

Sources: The San Francisco Call, Wikipedia,, Find-a-Grave, City of Oakland Planning Department, Sacramento Daily Record-Union, History of the Port of Oakland by DeWitt Jones, Oakland Tribune

Monday, May 13, 2019

John McHenry (1809–1880): Southern Anti-Slavery Judge

Judge John McHenry

John McHenry was born of Scottish ancestry on October 19, 1809 in Allington, Montgomery. In 1847, he married Ellen Josephine Metcalfe.

The couple settled in New Orleans where he became a noted attorney and judge. He became controversial as a trial judge in the South, as between 1846 and 1851 he ruled in favor of nearly twenty enslaved petitioners who sought freedom on the basis of having touched free soil. These rulings directly contravened Louisiana state law, but McHenry reasoned that they were in keeping with higher sources of law: constitutional, federal, and international.

President Martin Van Buren offered him the post of Minister (Ambassador) to Spain, which he declined in order to sail aboard the Northerner and head to California, where he arrived on August 15, 1850. In California, he was asked to assist in setting up the State's constitution.

In San Fransisco, he opened a law firm and as a judge in the County Courthouse. He commuted across the San Francisco Bay from his property situated on the Temescal Rancho. He moved to San Francisco in 1864 where he successfully invested in real estate (in what is now Mission Bay), but returned to the East Bay in 1878.

He also owned additional property across the Bay, which is the site of the Emeryville Shellmound. After his death, his widow bemoaned the fact that the land contained  “tombs and treasures of Indian royalty.”

Despite his anti-slavery ruling, McHenry still held deep sympathies for the South and was arrested in San Francisco for “enticing a private on Alcatraz Island to join an anti-Union activity” in 1861.

His daughter was Mary McHenry Keith, a noted social justice advocate, suffragist and wife of  artist William Keith.

SOURCES: Vanished Waters by Nancy Olmsted, Bancroft Library, California Art Club, Emeryville Historical Society, Find a Grave, Alta Californi

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Norbert "Nubs" Kleinke (1911-1950): Baseball player who died at sea

Nubs Kleinke
Nubs Kleinke was a right-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1935 and 1937, playing in just nine games during his career. He posted a career record of 1-1 with a 4.86 ERA.

He was born Norbert George Kleinke on May 19, 1911 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

He started his professional baseball career with the Cedar Rapids Bunnies of the Mississippi Valley League in 1931, going 17-7 in his rookie season. He follow up in 1932 with an impressive 15-10 year.  His best seasons were with the Rochester Red Wings of the International League, where he pitched from 1935-38. He posted a 19-7 record with a 3.27 ERA in 1934 and a 19-8 record with a 3.47 ERA in 1937. He played his final years for the Oakland Oaks from 1942-44. His career minor league record was 159-123.

In 2001, Kleinke was inducted into the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame. Other notable baseball figures in the Red Wings Hall of Fame are Cal Ripken, Jr., Dennis Martinez,  Earl Weaver, Boog Powell, Don Baylor and Red Schoendienst.

Nubs Kleinke's high school yearbook photo (left) and short stint in a Cardinals uniform
Kleinke died on March 16, 1950 off the coast of California while fishing with friends. His obituary states that he was "stricken" and "dropped dead" while anchored off the Golden Gate Bridge. Aboard the boat with him that afternoon were two fellow baseball players, Cotton Pippen and Willard Martin.

SOURCES: Long Beach Independent,, Find a Grave,,

Monday, May 6, 2019

Dean Hayes (1919-1943): Killed on submarine sunk by Japanese in WWII

Dean Hayes
Dean Marriott Hayes was born in Midvale, Utah on September 27, 1919 to Ethel and William Hayes. He was living in Berkeley when he joined the military during World War II.

He served aboard the U.S.S. Wahoo submarine as an Electrician's Mate Second Class during World War II. The submarine was sunk by Japanese aircraft in the La Perouse Strait between Japan and Russia on October 11, 1943. Eighty men lost their lives in the depths of the icy cold waters. Hayes was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.

Main deck of the USS Wahoo (Photo: Iskra)
The U.S.S. Wahoo was one of the most famous American submarines of World War II.  It was  launched on February 14, 1942 at the Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California and was commissioned on May 15, 1942.

The U.S.S. Wahoo left from Pearl Harbor for its seventh and final patrol on September 9, 1943 under the command of the aggressive and celebrated Navy Commander Dudley "Mush" Morton. The Wahoo sank at least nineteen Japanese ships, more than any other submarine of the time.

The submarine was believed to be lost in the depths of the sea until the Wahoo Project Group was launched in 1995. The project was made up of an international team of Americans, Australians, Japanese, and Russians, and led by a relative of Commander Mush Morton.

Main gun of the USS Wahoo (Photo: Iskra)
The group's search focused on the review of historical records by Japanese Vice Admiral Kazuo Ueda, who correctly predicted the location of Wahoo. In 2005, electronic surveys in the region yielded what turned out to be a U.S. Gato-class submarine in the Strait. In 2006, the U.S. Navy confirmed that images provided by the Russian "Iskra" team were of the Wahoo, which was sitting in about 213 feet of water in the La Pérouse Strait.

On July 8, 2007, the US Navy held a wreath laying ceremony at the confirmed site of the sinking of the Wahoo. On October 11, 2007, the US Navy held an official remembrance ceremony for the crew of the Wahoo. The ceremony was conducted at the USS Bowfin Museum and Submarine Park at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Hayes' only brother Staff Sergeant Rhuel Hayes was killed one year later in the Mediterranean.