Thursday, January 17, 2019

John Charles Adams Jr (1905-1931).: Grandson of Oakland's founder; Died in mystery fall

Adams Family mausoleum at Mountain View Cemetery
John Charles Adams, Jr. was the grandson of Edson Adams, considered one of the first white settlers in Oakland. His father was a well-known and prominent businessman and property owner along the Oakland waterfront. After his father's death, his mother Ernestine married San Francisco Supervisor and three-time mayoral candidate Adolf Uhl.

John Charles Adams, Jr. died mysteriously on the night of August 2, 1936, when his near lifeless body was found at the bottom of a hillside at a friends house in Corte Madera. He was declared dead at 2:15 AM after being transported to Ross General Hospital.

Witnesses said there was plenty of alcohol consumed at a party that evening. Newspaper reports claim that witnesses and Adam's wife Marion gave different accounts of how the evening progressed. Adams was found with two black eyes, which initially led investigators to believe that he had been involved in a confrontation before plunging to his death. However, the death was ruled an accident with the sheriff claiming that he fell while trying to climb down a drain pipe.

The autopsy revealed that all the ribs on his left side had been fractured, both lungs punctured and his backbone broken.

Sources: Marin Coroner's report, Oakland Tribune, Find a Grave,

Friday, December 28, 2018

David Adlington (1822-1910): Built some of San Francisco's first homes

Gravestone of David Adlington
Plot 48

David Myrick Adlington was a pioneer carpenter and home builder who arrived in San Francisco from Nantucket, Massachusetts during the Gold Rush. He arrived after a long boat ride around Cape Horn and briefly mined for gold before settling in San Francisco.

San Francisco's Portsmouth Square, Adlington built his first homes on Kearney Street
He built some of the earliest home for the new settlers on the West Coast. Trained as a carpenter, he constructed a number of homes on Kearney Street, only to see them destroyed in the fires of 1851 and 1906. After the earthquake and fire in 1906, he briefly lived with daughter in Berkeley before returning to the city where he had set down roots. His hometown newspaper, the Boston Post, reported him safe on the opposite coast.

He retired as a wealthy man in lived out his final years in San Francisco. His wife, Sarah Rule, died in 1892.

Sources: Boston Post,  U.S. Census,, Oakland Tribune

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Oscar Roy Morgan (1879-1958): Newspaper Publisher; Coined Reno's Slogan

Oscar Morgan

Plot 40, Lot 51
Oscar Morgan was born in Cherokee, California and moved to the mining town of Bodie, California with his parents shortly after his birth. His father, who had served as sheriff, town constable and school trustee, died suddenly when Oscar was just nineteen.

After his brother Alfred, bought the Hayward Review newspaper, he moved there and finished high school. After graduation, he entered the University of California at Berkeley.

When Alfred died suddenly in 1899, Oscar and his brother, Stanley, took over the Hayward Review and published it until they sold it in 1905. Oscar purchased the Reno Evening Gazette in 1904, and moved to Reno, Nevada.

The Gazette developed it into one of the state's leading publications and Morgan built the Gazette Building. He was a vocal opponent of gambling in Nevada, which remained illegal until 1931. He also covered the development of Reno into a "marriage and divorce" mecca.

Gateway to Reno on Virginia Street
Oscar Morgan is best remembered for creating Reno's city slogan, "Reno, the Biggest Little City in the World." Morgan recounted that he was a judge at The Commercial Club to pick a slogan for the then sleepy town of 5,000. He claims he coined the slogan after he decided that he didn't like any of the entries into the contest.

In 1912, he sold the Reno Evening Gazette due to ill health and moved to Oakland. He purchased the Modesto News that same year, which he eventually sold to the McClatchy Newspapers. While in Oakland, he wrote numerous articles for the Sunday Knave section of the Oakland Tribune, many of which dealt with Nevada history. During the 1940's, he was on Radio KSFO as the Country Editor.

Sources: Oakland Tribune, Find a Grave, San Mateo Times

Monday, December 24, 2018

Second Lt. Charles J. Robinson (1838-1877): Civil War Veteran

Charles Robinson (courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society)
Second Lt. Charles J. Robinson was born in Wisconsin in 1838.

He served in the Civil War with the Wisconsin 1st Infantry.

The 1st Wisconsin Infantry was organized into a regiment of three-month service at Camp Scott in Milwaukee, and then mustered into service on April 27, 1861. Following that it reorganized for three-year service at Camp Scott, and mustered in again on October 19, 1861.The regiment left Wisconsin for Louisville, Kentucky, October 28-31, 1861, and moved through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia during the war.

It participated in the Battle of Chickamauga and the Siege of Atlanta, and mustered out on October 13, 1864.

The regiment lost 300 men during service. Six officers and 151 enlisted men were killed. One officer and 142 enlisted men died from disease.

He died of consumption (tuberculosis) in Oakland in 1877 and was buried in the G.A.R. (Civil War) plot at Mountain View Cemetery.

Source: Find a Grave, Wisconsin Historical Society, National Archives

Monday, December 17, 2018

Charles Wendte (1844-1931): Unitarian Minister & Author

Charles Wendte
Rev. Dr. Charles William Wendte (June 11, 1844–September 9, 1931) was a Unitarian minister and responsible for much of the early growth of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland.

Wendte was born in 1844 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father died when he was young, and Charles developed tuberculosis at age 14. Doctors urged him to go west for his health, so he moved to California, and there met Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian and Universalist minister. Charles' health improved, and during the Civil War he served as a drill sergeant. After the war, he returned east and studied at a divinity schools, graduating from the Harvard Divinity School in 1869. After various assignments, he came to Oakland in the 1880s.

In 1886, Rev. Wendte reorganized the Rev. Laurentine Hamilton's break-off congregation into the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. For his work at the church, the main meeting hall was named Wendte Hall in his honor. Rev. Wendte helped raise much of the money required for the new Unitarian church building. During his time in Oakland, he presided over the funerals of several people of note, including Josiah Stanford and pioneer educator Emma Marwedel (both of whom are buried at Mountain View Cemetery).

Although it was thought he was to be a life-long bachelor, in 1896 he surprised his friends and married Abbie Louise Grant (December 22, 1857–October 25, 1936), the daughter of George E. Grant (1823–1904) and Ellen Louisa Daggett (Grant) (1833–1910), a wealthy merchant family in East Oakland. Charles and Abbie had no children. Wendte is buried in the Grant family plot.

First Unitarian Church of Oakland (California Historical Landmark 896)
 Rev. Wendte was an early supporter of women's suffrage. In the 1896 "Twenty opinions on woman suffrage by prominent Californians," Wendte wrote: 
"The same enlightened confidence in human nature which led the fathers to found the Republic on manhood suffrage, and its saviors to confer the ballot on millions of emancipated slaves, should animate us, their successors, in bestowing equal political rights on that half of our population which is confessedly the most virtuous, order-loving and trustworthy. Until this is done there can be no true democracy among us, and our Republic is such only in name."  
After some disagreements about the church's debt (they extended the mortgage on the new building, and were behind on paying his salary), Wendte left Oakland and accepted a call in 1897 to a Unitarian church in Los Angeles.

Rev. Wendte's name appears frequently in the California newspapers of the 1880s and 1890s, generally for typical news of the day: traveling here; lecturing there; presiding over a funeral. But it also seems he was no stranger to controversy. Most infamous seems to be a comment he made about the state of reform schools in California and responsibility of then-governor Budd. John P. Irish (editor and principal owner of the Oakland Times newspaper) seized on this, and soon articles and opinions were flying, with one of the school's trustees referring to Wendte as a "yellow" preacher.

Some people took exception to his sermons ("The Catholic Clergyman's Caustic Words to the Oakland Divine"), ("Thou Shalt Not Kill" - after a sermon on euthanasia being OK in some cases) but sometimes it was over trivial things ("Rev. Dr. Wendt's Magic Lantern Slides Enter the Controversy" - whether Lutherans should use his images from Europe ). There was even a small but vocal group at the church in Los Angeles opposing him becoming their next pastor.

Bio by Oakland Wiki

Maggie Gee (1923-2013): Pioneering Aviator & Political Activist

Maggie Gee
Margaret "Maggie" Gee, whose Chinese name was Gee Mei Gue, was born to a successful Chinese importer and a first generation Chinese-American. Maggie's maternal grandparents were fishers who immigrated to the United States to escape the Taiping Revolution. Her father had a heart attack on a San Francisco street after the announcement of the Stock Market crash in 1929, and died shortly thereafter, leaving his daughter, five siblings, and their mother to manage on their own. Maggie witnessed her mother take on great responsibility, not only raising six children and working, but remaining actively involved in her church and community. Despite hardship and hard work as a youngster, Maggie said, "My heroes were Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. I loved to watch airplanes fly."

When America entered WWII, she passed a drafting test and left her first year of college to work at the Mare Island Naval Shipyards in Vallejo, California as a draftsperson for the engineers working on classified US Navy ship repair.

Maggie Gee
By 1942, Maggie had saved enough money to move to Minden, Nevada for flight lessons, paying $800 for six months of training and fifty hours of flying time. After she soloed and accrued the requisite flight hours, she applied to the Women Airforce Service Pilot program at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, and was accepted into class 44-W-9. In June, 1944, in Berkley, California, she boarded a troop train filled with soldiers, and for the next two days, sat on her suitcase or stood up -- all the way to Sweetwater. One hundred seven women pilots entered that class, but she was one of only 55 who earned their silver wings and graduated as WASP on November 8, 1944. She promptly deployed to Las Vegas Army Air Field in Las Vegas, Nevada where she served as a tow-target pilot for male cadets' flexible gunnery training.

She returned to Berkley, completed her formal education after WASP deactivation, and traveled, supervising a European Service Club in the early 1950's.

Later, she worked as a physicist and researcher at UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. Her areas of research included cancer, nuclear weapons design, and fusion energy.

Maggie's lifetime passion for politics began in the Truman Administration, and she supported voter registration and fundraising. She served on the Berkley Community Fund, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, and as a board member of the Berkley Democratic Club, the California Democratic Party Executive Board, and the Asian/Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus. She was quoted during this extensive activity as saying, "I'm very optimistic about the world and people... It will be all right. You can make changes. I think just one small person can make a little bit of change...."

Bio by: PerseidsGirl

Saturday, September 8, 2018

George Prance (1827-1885): Medal of Honor winner who committed suicide

U.S.S. Ticonderoga and grave of George Prance (photo: Dave Johnson)
PLOT 1, Grave 272

George Prance was a sailor in the U.S. Navy during the American Civil War. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Second Battle of Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865.

A native France, Prance volunteered for service in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the Union sloop-of-war USS Ticonderoga in 1862. On January 15, 1865, the North Carolina Confederate stronghold of Fort Fisher was taken by a combined Union storming party of sailors, marines, and soldiers under the command of Admiral David Dixon Porter and General Alfred Terry. Prance directed fire from the Ticonderoga’s guns upon Fort Fisher.

George Prance's Medal of Honor citation
Prance committed suicide at the Park House in the Temescal District of Oakland on April 3, 1885. He was allegedly upset that the Legislature didn't pass a bill which would have  reimbursed him for an eye lost by an injury received while working as a dredger at the Oakland Port.

Thomas Rutherford Bacon (185o-1913): Noted Clergyman, Professor, Mugwump

Thomas Bacon (Illustration: Oakland Tribune)

PLOT 43, Grave 20

Thomas Rutherford Bacon was a member of the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley for over 25 years, where he taught European history. He was considered one of the leading experts on the French Revolution. He also was an American Congregational clergyman and a noted Mugwump.

Bacon came from a long line of New England clergymen, which included his father and three brothers, Leonard, Edward and George. He graduated from the Yale Divinity School in 1877, where he edited The Yale Record, which was run by the son of famed politician James Blaine, who served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator from Maine and Secretary of State. 

The elder Blaine, who was known for corruption, ran as the Republican nominee for President in 1884. Bacon and other reform-minded Republicans broke away to support the Democratic Party Presidential nominee Grover Cleveland in 1884, becoming known as the Mugwumps. The jocular word mugwump is from the Algonquian word mugquomp,  an important person or kingpin, which implied that they were "holier-than-thou" in holding themselves aloof from party politics.

After the election, he resigned his position as the pastor at the Dwight Place Church in New Haven, Connecticut after scurrilous rumors were spread about him. The whisper campaign was allegedly led by supporters of James Blaine. In 1887, Bacon moved to California to take over the pastorship of the First Congregational Church in Berkeley, replacing his brother who had died. He left in 1890 to teach at Cal, where he solidified his reputation as a historian and lecturer.

He died of heart disease in 1913.

Friday, August 24, 2018

George Heinold (1893-1970): Ran saloon made famous by Jack London

Jack London biographer Dr. Franklin Walker (left) and George Heinold (right) Photo: Oakland Tribune
Garden Mausoleum

George Heinold was the owner and operator of the First and Last Chance Saloon, made famous as the watering hole of writer Jack London, who was his godfather. He took over operation of the bar from his father John, who founded it in 1883, and built it out of old shop timbers.  The father befriended Jack London and helped him on his path to fame.

George Heinold also served in World War I where he was decorated for capturing a German lieutenant and 12 soldiers while under fire. After suffering a machine gun wound to his right foot in 1918, he crawled a quarter of a mile on his hands and knees to receive first aid.

First and Last Chance Saloon
At the end of Prohibition he famously refused to open the bar before the deadline, explaining, "I went to France to fight to uphold the Constitution and I am not going to violate it here."

Prior to running the First and Last Chance Saloon, Heinold worked as a copy boy at the Oakland Tribune and as a shipping clerk.

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]