Saturday, April 8, 2017

Charles Holbrook (1830-1925): Mayor's race bet became part of Nevada lore

The Holbrook Family Mausoleum on Millionaire's Row and Charles Holbrook
Charles Holbrook was born on August 31, 1830 in Swanzey, New Hampshire and was educated in public schools  After finishing school he learned the trade of machine builder at the American Machine Works.

After hearing about the discovery of gold in California he embarked on the steamer Georgia at New York on April 13, 1850. He went down to the coast of Panama, walked over the Isthmus, boarded the sailing vessel Thomas P.  Hart and landed in San Francisco. 

After spending eighteen months in the mines, he went to work for the iron merchants Howes & Prader in Sacramento. He eventually worked in the lumber business in El Dorado County,  with a stove and metal merchant in Sacramento and as a partner at J.D. Lord & Company. However, the severe storms and floods from the winters of 1861 and 1862 Sacramento pretty much ruined his business.
R.C. Gridley's famous flour sack
In 1863, he decided to open a branch house of J.D. Lord & Company in Austin, Nevada, where he remained as a manager there for two years. But he had his eye on politics. 

In 1864, at the height of the Civil War, when many western states still had split loyalties between the North and the South, the little town of Austin, Nevada held its first mayoral election. The pro-Confederate Democrats nominated David Buel to run against the pro-Union Republican Charles Holbrook.

On election day, a brass band led a parade down Main Street and men placed wagers on the election outcome. One bet involved a guy named R.C. Gridley who told his friend Dr. Henry Herrick that if Buel lost the election he'd carry a 50-pound sack of flour a quarter-mile up Main Street marching to "Old John Brown."

Holbrook eked out a victory and the bet became a big deal in town, as citizens gathered to watch Gridley pay up his bet. After he completed his march, Gridley placed the sack on a stand and the men, most of whom had been imbibing at the local saloon all day, began bidding on the flour sack. The flour sack ultimately went for $350 with the money going to the Sanitary Fund, a forerunner of the American Red Cross. As a challenge, the bidding continued on the flour sack, eventually raising $4,349.75.

After news of Gridley's Sack spread to adjoining communities, bidding took place over and over as a means to raise money for the Sanitary Fund. Although no final tally was ever formally done, accounts estimate that between $100,000 to $275,000 was raised for the Civil War soldiers. ($1.5-$4.5 million in today's dollars!). The town of Austin decided to commemorate the fundraising success by adopting a coat of arms with an image of the sack and the motto "SANITARY FUND $5,000" inscribed onto it. The sack is now on display at he Nevada Historical Society in Reno. 

The Holbrook Libray at the Pacific School of Religion
In 1865, he created a new firm called Holbrook, Merrill & Company, which he eventually located in San Francisco. During his time in San Francisco, he served as a director of the Market Street Railway, the San Francisco & San Joaquin Valley Railroad, the California Insurance Company, Pacific Lighting, the Mutual Savings Bank and the Union Trust Company of San Francisco.    

He developed the Holbrook block at Beale and Market streets in San Francisco, as well as serving as a trustee of the Pacific School of Religion, the Lux School of Industrial Training, the Hospital for Children of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association.  In 1883 he was teamed with educator/philanthropist Sarah B. Cooper and Archbishop George Thomas Montgomery in organizing the Associated Charities in San Francisco.

The Holbrook Home in San Francisco
He build a spectacular home on the northwest corner of Van Ness Avenue and Washington Street, where he lived for almost forty years until it was destroyed by fire. He also donated money to build the library at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

He died on July 25, 1925, at the age of 94.

After his death, he was honored for his contributions to society by having a 297-acre stand of redwood trees named after him just north of Garberville, which was added to the California State Park system.

Sources: "The San Francisco Bay Region" by Bailey Millard, Berkeley Daily Gazette, Oakland Tribune, The San Francisco Call, The Windsor Page, Wikipedia, Ancestry.com, "It Happened In Nevada: Remarkable Events that Shaped History" by Elizabeth Gibson

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Frederich Edwin Meese (1857-1933); Oakland City Councilman; City Treasurer

Ed Meese gravesite and obituary
Frederich Edwin Meese (1857-1933) was a Republican member of the Oakland City Council from 1899-1907 and later served as the City Treasurer.

Meese was born in San Francisco in 1857 to Herman and Catharina Meese, who traveled west around the Horn in 1850. He attended Lincoln Grammar School in San Fransisco, Concordia College in Indiana and graduated from the Heald Business College in 1876.

He worked as secretary of the Bay Sugar Refinery, which was owned by his father and was the first sugar refinery on the West Coast. He then went into the mercantile and insurance business, including a brief stint in Sacramento. He was a member of the Board of Trade, the Nile Club and in 1905 became a founder of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce.

In 1898, he was elected from the Fourth Ward on Oakland's west side and later served as the at-large councilman. He served as chair of the City Council's Finance Committee. In his May 1907 election, he won by just nine votes after a recount.

The Meese Family plot at Mountain View Cemetery
In 1908, Richard B. Ayer resigned from his post as the City Treasurer & Tax Collector. He had been appointed to the position in 1906 then elected in 1907. Meese was appointed to the position on April 1, 1908 by Mayor Frank Mott. Allegedly Ayer resigned to continue in his personal business affairs, but it was noted that the whole thing was handled with great secrecy. Meese had already declared to run for the office in 1907. He was replaced on the Council by Frank Bronner, an accountant at the Central Bank.

In 1912, Meese was accused of graft in his post as Treasurer & Tax Collector and charges were brought in Superior Court by Rev. Robert Whitaker, pastor of the 23rd Avenue Baptist Church. Meese responded to the reverend by stating, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor - Ninth Commandment." It's unclear whether anything became of this.

Meese was an active member of Zion Lutheran Church and active in German Lutheran affairs in the state.

He died of a heart attack at his home in Oakland. The City Council adjourned in his memory on June 1, 1933.

His great-grandson Edwin Meese III served as Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan.

Sources: OaklandWiki, Oakland Tribune, Ancestry.com

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Malonga Casquelourd (1947-2003): Famous Congolese Dancer, Choreographer

Malonga Casquelourd and the arts center named in his honor
Plot 76, Grave 1067

Malonga Casquelourd was born on November 5, 1947 in Douala, Cameroon as Auguste Leonard Malonga

He started dancing as a young boy and by his teens was a member of the National Congolese Dance Company, touring Africa, Europe and the United States. He eventually joined the Le Ballet Diaboua in Paris as a choreographer and principal performer. In 1972, he moved to New York and co-founded Tanawa, the first Central African dance company in the United States.

In the mid-1970s, he moved to Oakland where he taught Congolese dance and drumming at CitiCentre Dance Theater at the Alice Arts Center. When the Alice Arts Center faced closure in 2002, Casquelourd led the effort to keep it open. He also taught African studies at San Francisco State University. 

Plot 76 where Malonga Casquelourd is buried
He was also the voice of the 'Baaka Leader' in the 2002 film "The Wild Thornberrys Movie." 

In 2003, while returning home from his niece's graduation party, he was hit head on by a car going in the wrong direction and was killed. The Alice Arts Center was renamed the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in his honor. 

SOURCES: IMDb, SF Gate, Oakland Tribune, Ancestry.com

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

James Raymond "Gimi" Lippi (1913-1942): Only British Commonwealth military burial

Lot 65, Grave 2741

There is only one known burial of a British Commonwealth war grave, which is that of Pilot Officer James Raymond Lippi. He was the son of Oaklanders Paul and Elvira (nee Fava) Lippi of Oakland.

He was American born in Santa Cruz, California in 1913, but in July 1942 he went to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force to serve in World War II. His occupation was listed at bottler and records show he may have been in the process of a divorce.

He was killed during a training fight in Vulcan, Alberta along with Flying Officer Almond Maynard Vandre in September 1942 and was returned to California for burial. It is unclear why he went to Canada, but his death certificate from the Royal Canadian Air Force states the he "...exhibited a copy of the certificate of his birth in the United States and declared his willingness to serve but took no oath of allegiance."

He was posthumously awarded the General Service Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

SOURCES: Ancestry.com, Royal Canadian Air Force records, Veterans Affairs Canada, Winnipeg Free Press

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dudley Brown (1835- 1911): Oakland City Councilman; Alameda County Supervisor

Obituary photo from the Oakland Tribune
Dudley Brown was an Oakland City Councilman, Alameda County Supervisor and owner of a men's clothing store.

Brown was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on January 5,1835 and came to California in 1872, settling in Sacramento before moving to Oakland two years later. In 1881, he founded the men's clothing store Brown & McKinnon at 1018 Broadway Street in downtown Oaklnad. In 1906, the store moved to San Pablo remained until his business partner died a few years later.

An Oakland Tribune ad for Brown & McKinnon
Brown served on the Oakland City Council from 1887 to 1889 representing the Fifth Ward. His dsitrict comprised everything east of Broadway, south of Twentieth and Delger Streets, north of Tenth Street, and west of the dividing line between Oakland Township and Brooklyn Township.

After losing election, he successfully ran for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors where he championed the development of infrastructure, particularly the growing need for roads.  He served from 1890-1894 and then became a member of the Grand Jury for the United States District Court of Northern California, where he remained until 1903.

He was one of the early organizers of the Merchants' Exchange and served as President. The Exchange association whose primary objective was to bring together the merchants of Oakland, bring new manufacturing to the City, improve transportation and work with city and county government to improve conditions for local merchants. 

He died two weeks after suffering a stroke while on his way home. He was survived by his wife Angenette and two daughters, Carrie Brown Dexter and Mrs. Benjamin Brittin.

SOURCES: San Francisco Call, Oakland Tribune,

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Louis de Rome (1854-1910): Prominent foundry owner

Louis de Rome and his foundry workers
PLOT 30 

Louis de Rome (May 14, 1854 – January 7, 1910) owned the de Rome Foundry in San Francisco.

De Rome was born in Buffalo, News York, in 1854 and came with his parents to California in 1858. He was reared, educated and learned his trade as a brass molder in San Francisco, eventually becoming the head brass molder at the Garratt Brass Works for eight years.

He eventually founded the Globe Brass and Bell Foundry, of which he is the practical business manager. In 1880, he joined with Neil C. Whyte in founding the Whyte and de Rome Foundry. Over the course of his career, de Rome was responsible for forging many iconic structures, including twenty-seven large bronze lamp-posts for the new City Hall, numerous bells for fire stations, the bell at the San Miguel Mission, the Lick Observatory Medallion and statuary, the Native Sons Fountain in San Francisco, the Robert Louis Stevenson statue in Portsmouth Square, the Mechanics Fountain at Market & Battery, the President McKinley bust in Berkeley,  the Robert Burns Monument in Golden Gate Park and the Christ Of The Andes statue in Santa Clara.

The Whyte & De Rome Foundry also cast one of the most iconic structures at Mountain View Cemetery, the big, bronze elk that sits atop a tumulus in Plot 32. The elk was commissioned by the Oakland Lodge Number 171 of Elks to mark their burial plot at the cemetery. It was completed in 1896.  The elk was modeled after an actual animal in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park known as “Father Elk” who had been moved to the park from the wild. The sculptor was Frank Hapersberger and the cast was completed at the  in Oakland.  The burial plot where the elk stands is known as “Elks Rest,” which is common term for Elks burial plots and they exist in almost every state.

In 1900, de Rome was badly burned, including his eyes, when he was experimenting with Acetylene gas, which was commonly used in welding.

Louis DeRome died January 7, 1910, from heart problems that started aboard the ferry returning from San Francisco in April 1908.

SOURCES: OaklandWiki, Berkeley Gazette, California State Library, Ancestry. com, Oakland Tribune

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lydia Flood Jackson (1862–1963): Businesswoman and social justice activist

Lydia Flood Jackson was born in Brooklyn (now part of Oakland) in 1862. She was a businesswoman, advocate for women's rights and racial equality.

Flood’s mother, Elizabeth Thorn Scott Flood, led the 19th Century campaign for desegregated education in California and founded the state’s first African American school in Sacramento in 1854. Her father Isaac Flood, one of the first African American residents of Oakland, also fought for education and equality for blacks. In 1871, he led the successful fight to admit black students into the Alameda County schools. Her brother George was believed to be the first African-American child born in Oakland in 1857.

In 1872, she became the first African American child to attend the newly integrated John Swett School in Oakland. Flood continued her education attending night school at Oakland High School and married William Jackson. In part because of the efforts of her parents, the black schools were closed in 1875 and integrated schools became the law in California in 1880.

An entrepreneur and inventor, Lydia Flood founded Flood Toilet Creams, a successful West Coast cosmetic business which manufactured toiletries, creams, and perfumes.

She was also a political activist who traveled to Mexico, the West Indies, and South America on speaking engagements. She rallied audiences with her calls for democracy and questioning of white male supremacy in her speeches. Jackson challenged all women to question stereotypical roles that limited their options. She spoke at the 1918 state women's convention in favor of suffrage. She was present at the 80th anniversary of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, a church her parents had helped found in 1858 (then Shiloh AME).

At the time of her death at age 101, newspapers claimed she was the oldest native of Oakland. Along with her parents, she is buried in an unmarked grave in the Elks Plot.

SOURCES: BlackPast.org, Online Archive of California, San Rafael Daily Independent Journal, OaklandWiki, Oakland Tribune

Gustave B. Hegardt (1859 -1942): First General Manager at Port of Oakland

Gustave Hegardt's official Port portrait

Gravestone of Gustave Hegardt (photo by Michael Colbruno)
PLOT 65

Gustave Hegardt was born in Sweden in 1859 and came to the U.S. as a boy. He  graduated from several technical schools and was naturalized as a kkU.S. citizen in Cook County, Illinois in 1885. His earliest work records show him employed with the Illinois Corps of Engineers in 1887. The Portland city directory shows him working as a "U.S. Assistant Engineer" based in Ft. Stevens near the Oregon/Washington border as early as 1888. For fourteen years he supervised the construction of locks, jetties and fortifications on the Columbia River.

Hegardt moved to Portland in 1905 and founded the consulting firm Hegardt & Clarke, which specialized in land surveys, irrigation systems, and reclamation projects. In 1911, he was appointed as chief engineer of the newly established Portland Commission of Public Docks, which later merged with the Port of Portland.

In 1925, Oakland voters approved bonds for an expanded port with an autonomous Port commission. In 1926, the newly created Port of Oakland hired Hegardt as its first General Manager along with his assistant from Portland, Arthur Abel.

Hegardt had been on a three member board of consulting engineers appointed by the Oakland City Council who created a general plan for harbor improvements in Oakland. The other members were Charles Leeds, consulting engineer at the Port of Los Angeles and Charles Marx, a professor of engineering at Stanford University. The trio recommended a series of new priorities for the Port, which included a wharf and watershed on the western waterfront, a pier with a double transit shed on the estuary, a pier and shed between Clay and Washington, and a larger facility near Brooklyn Basin. The total cost was estimated at $9,960,000 ($135 million in 2017 dollars).

(Left to right-standing) Retsu Kiyosawa-NY representative Hochi Shimbun R.H.Tibbits -Mitsubishi Co.  B.H.Pendleton Seiji Yoshihara Gustave Hegardt (Seated)
The trio also recommended that Port administration be "vested in a board or commission of competent, responsible men, serving without compensation and free from political interference." Oakland Mayor John L. Davie opposed the expansion of the Port, believing that it could not compete with San Francisco and wanting to turn it over to private development. The first Board of Port Commissioners were sworn in on February 12, 1927 and included former Oakland Mayor and Governor George Pardee (who is also buried at Mountain View Cemetery).

After meeting with Commissioner LeRoy Goodrich, who outlined his duties, he made his first order of business the construction of two double-fill piers at the foot of Grove Street and Clay Street, which were 520' long and 450' long respectively. The cost of the piers was approximately $1,000,000 (approximately $13.5 million in 2017 dollars). He also made the dredging of the inner harbor a top priority. Under Hegardt's leadership, the Port rapidly developed new terminals to accommodate larger cargo vessels, which served the Port for 40 years until the advent of containerized shipping.
 
Charles Lindbergh (center) and Gustave Hegardt (far right)

Hegardt and Abel also initiated studies in 1927 for a municipal airport in Oakland. Construction began later that year and was completed in 1929 and became Northern California's largest and best-equipped airport. In a July 5, 1927 report to the Board, Hegard wrote, "The grading of a runway, 150 feet wide and 7000 feet long, was completed on June 25th, in readiness for the Oakland-Hawaiian flight by an Army and a private plane...The details of this flight have been so fully covered by the press that it seems unnecessary to make further comments thereon in this report." The flight he references was that of the Fokker Bird of Paradise, piloted by Army Lieutenants Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger.

When Hegardt stepped down as general manager in 1932, he was replaced by Arthur Abel. Hegard remained with the Port as a consulting engineer and was paid $400/month ($5,400/month in 2017 dollars). He died in 1942 and was honored by the Board of Port Commissioners.

SOURCES: Port of Oakland, Oregon Historical Society, SF Call, Pacific Gateway by Woodruff "Woody" Minor, Oakland Tribune, Oakland Aviation by Ronald Reuther and William Larkins, Portland City Directory

Monday, February 6, 2017

Captain Edwin Webster Woodward (1839-1920): Civil War Vet Chased off City Council floor


Captain Edwin W. Woodward
Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Plot

Captain Edwin Webster Woodward was a Civil War veteran and elected official in Oakland, San Francisco and Napa.

Woodward was born in Tunbridge, Vermont on January 4, 1839 and migrated to Weaverville, California in 1859, He worked in mining and merchandising until the Civil war broke out in 1861, when he joined the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry (also known as "The California 100." Also known as the CAL 100, the regiment was led by Captain J. Sewell Reed and was the first company from California to report for active duty in the field. The soldiers were assigned to the Second Massachusetts Cavalry and engaged in many hard-fought battles, including those of the battle of Winchester, Berryville, Pike, Charlestown, Opequan Creek, Front Royal, Snake Mountain, Waynesboro, Cedar Creek, Gordonsville, South Ana, Southside Railroad and Appomattox Courthouse, and participated in the same engagements in the Shenandoah Valley (where future President William McKinley also fought).

G.A.R. Memorial at Mountain View Cemetery
Woodward remained in active service until the end of the war and the surrender of the Confederate armies at Appomattox. For gallant service he was promoted lieutenant, captain and major. He remained active in Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) posts his entire life and was involved in erecting the monument in honor of G.A.R. soldiers at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, which was unveiled on Memorial day, May 30, 1893.

After the war he returned to California and worked in the real estate and auction business in Oakland, becoming senior partner of the firm of Woodward & Taggart, who handled large lines of property in the Bay Area. He also established a real estate business in St. Helena, was active in the creation of the wine industry in Napa County and helped organize the Bank of St. Helena.

He also partnered with James Gamble in the firm Woodward & Gamble, which built the western connection of telegraph lines which stretched across the continent. Their telegraph lines connected San Francisco to Salt Lake City.

In 1898 he was appointed by Oakland Mayor W. R. Thomas to replace Aaron Fibush, who had resigned. His honeymoon on the City Council was short-lived, as after just ten days he was shouted down by fellow council members and chased from the chambers by an angry crowd after he voted to raise water rates. He was taken to the city prison where he found safe refuge until the angry mob receded.

Apparently unfazed by his prior experience in public office, he accepted an appointment as San Francisco's Notary Public by Governor Henry Gage in 1901. By all accounts, his service in that office went smoothly. He was eventually appointed by subsequent governors as Notary Public for Alameda County and Napa County.

Woodward was married to the former Addie O. Rogers, daughter of the late Henry Rogers, former proprietor of the Boston Journal.

Sources: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II, Find a Grave, Ancestry.com, OaklandWiki, SF Chronicle, Oakland Tribune

Monday, January 2, 2017

John McElrath (1844-1907): Confederate soldier; Prominent Bay Area attorney

The Alden-McElrath grave marker
PLOT 1

John Edgar McElrath (January 2, 1844–May 6, 1907) was a prominent Oakland attorney born in Citico, Monroe, Tennessee, who married into the prominent Alden family of Oakland. 

McElrath was the great-great-grandson of Tennessee Governor John Sevier, an American soldier, frontiersman and politician, and one of the founding fathers of the state. He is listed on the 1851 Silver Roll and the 1852 Chapman Roll as a male of mixed Eastern Cherokee ancestry. 

He served as a soldier in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, rising up to the rank of Major. On Dec. 11, 1862, he was was appointed Quartermaster, with rank of Major of the Cavalry, after which he ordered to Vicksburg, and was in all the battles around that city, surrendering to General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863.

John McElrath
After return from the Army, he studied law and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1866. He was an attorney and counselor at Cleveland, Tennessee before moving to San Francisco in 1869, where he practiced law until 1887. In 1887, McElrath moved his law offices to Oakland.

On September 23, 1875 McElrath married Elsie Ann Alden, daughter of Solomon Ellsworth Alden, with whom he had eleven children. His grandson Charles Alden Black was the husband of former child star Shirley Temple Black.

McElrath was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1880 that met in Cincinnati, where he placed Mr. Justice Stephen J. Field, of the United States Supreme Court, in nomination for President of the United States. He ran for public office as the Democratic candidate for State Senator, and Superior Judge, but was defeated.

McElrath was visiting his old family home in Madisonville, Tennessee, in 1907 when he died at age 63, leaving behind his wife Elsie and their nine surviving children. He was brought back to California where he was interred in Mountain View Cemetery along with many other members of the Alden and McElrath families, some in Plot 1, Lot 347, and some in Plot 1, 322.

The McElrath Mansion (Photo: City of Oakland)
In 1912, the Baby Hospital Association purchased the McElrath's Queen Anne-style mansion to house their new hospital. The two-and-a-half story home, which contained 20 rooms, immediately underwent  renovations for use as a hospital facility, and a clinic was established in the carriage house on the property where patients were treated while these renovations were taking place. 

SOURCES: OaklandWiki, Find a Grave, Berkeley Gazette, San Francisco Chronicle, City of Oakland