Friday, December 26, 2008

Norma Ng Lau (1923-2004): Oakland City Auditor, Pioneering Woman

[Photo of Norma Ng Lau and obituary from the SF Chronicle; Photo of Lau gravesite by Michael Colbruno]

Norma Ng Lau was born Jan. 2, 1923, at the home of her parents, Ng Shun Kay and Alice Jung Ng of Oakland, under the sign of the goat according to the Chinese calendar. She was the oldest of four children.

Norma Ng Lau was elected five times as Oakland's city auditor.

As a baby, she could not drink cow's milk, so her father found a neighbor with goats, and her parents fed her goat's milk every day.

She attended Oakland's Lincoln School and later University High School, which was a feeder school for UC Berkeley. In 1944, she graduated from Cal as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. At Berkeley, she met her future husband, Chris Lau. They were married in 1944.

In addition to raising her two children in the 1950s and '60s, Ms. Lau helped her parents run a small grocery store on Oakland Avenue. While she worked behind the counter, she studied for the state's certified public accountant examination. She later also became a certified internal auditor and a certified fraud examiner.

Her political career did not start until she was 54 -- and at first it was just a whim. She was urged to run for city auditor by friends, family and co-workers. She won after a runoff.

Ms. Lau prided herself on being able to get along with everyone in Oakland's diverse political spectrum. Although she received endorsements from all factions in Oakland politics, she never publicly supported candidates.s

Her audit results of city programs sometimes made headlines.

In the 1980s, she exposed a series of bogus names on the city's payroll in the Office of Economic Development. In the early 1990s, she uncovered overpayments to health care providers and excessive, fraudulent cell phone use by city employees.

In 1998, an audit of funds to upgrade Oakland's emergency-response system revealed that $1.3 million worth of computer equipment was missing without explanation or documentation.

After her retirement, she wrote a mystery novel set in the Chinatown of Parkland, an imaginary East Bay city much like Oakland. She was editing the manuscript at the time of her death, her daughter said.

Ms. Lau was active in her profession and in her community. She was president of the local Institute of Internal Auditors and international secretary of its parent organization. In 1999, the national Association of Government Accountants recognized her for distinguished local government leadership.

A member of Business and Professional Women and board president of Citizens for Better Nursing Home Care (now known as Ombudsman Inc.), she was named a woman of achievement by the Soroptimists in 1980 and woman of the year in 1982 by the National Women's Political Caucus.

Most recently, she was a board member of Purple Silk, a program that teaches children to play Chinese music using traditional instruments in Oakland.

She died in Oakland of cancer.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joseph Stickney Emery (1820 – 1909): Stonecutter, Businessman, Emeryville founder, Original Trustee

[Photo from Oakland Tribune; Picture of Emery burial plot by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 1, Lot 352

Joseph Stickney Emery was born in Pembroke, New Hampshire in 1820, whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.

Emery came around the Horn to California aboard the John Marshall arriving on September 18, 1850. Unable to resist the call of the gold fields, he went to the mines in Butte County, but in 1851 returned to San Francisco hoping to find work when he heard that a fire had destroyed the city.

He was a farm boy who had learned the stonecutter’s trade during ten years he spent in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Shortly after his arrival he spent six months supervising the building of the San Francisco County Jail. That spring he developed the stone quarry on Yerba Buena Island, the first quarry from which stone was taken to San Francisco, and he later developed quarries on Angel Island. For the next several years he engaged in contracting, working on some of the major buildings of the area. He furnished most of the stone for the building of the Mare Island dry dock as well as the U. S. Mint in San Francisco.

While he lived in San Francisco he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Vigilance Committee of 1856.

In 1858, he moved across the Bay to Oakland. In 1859 he settled on 185 acres he had bought in Alameda County, now the site of Emeryville, and he served as a trustee of that town for a number of years. Emeryville is probably the oldest inhabited land in the East Bay, as it was home to the Costanoan Indians who left behind skeletons, artifacts and camp-refuse. He played a key role in the formation of the town as a member of the Town Board of Trustees.

His other interests included the Blue Lakes Water Company of Amador County, the Telegraph Avenue horse-car line that ran from Oakland to Berkeley, a rail line that ran from 14th & Broadway to his home and then to the Bay, the California and Nevada Narrow Gauge (Rail) Line and the Oakland Home Insurance Company (which later became Fireman’s Fund Insurance).

Perhaps his greatest achievement was supervising the dredging of the channel at the Oakland Estuary. This allowed the ferries to run regularly from Oakland to San Francisco. This accomplishment allowed for the transcontinental railroad terminus to be built in Oakland, causing the city’s rapid growth into a major California port and industrial center.

He was an original director and later president of the Mountain View Cemetery Association. Historian Dennis Evanosky points out an interesting irony about Emery's resting place, it contains no gravestone and Emery was a stone cutter.

[This bio written by Mountain View Cemetery docent Barbara Smith with additional information added by Michael Colbruno]

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hiram Tubbs (1824-1897): Hotelier, Rope Maker, Land Owner, Founding Trustee

[Photos of Tubbs Family Vault by Michael Colbruno; Tubbs House rendering courtesy of the Oakland Public Library]

Plot 4, Family Vault

Hiram Tubbs was born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1824. He married Abby Ann Stanyan in 1844 while living in Boston and running a hotel. She died in 1851, and he then married Susan Ann Staniels.

Hiram Tubbs arrived in San Franciscio aboard the steamer Tennessee in 1853, joining his brother Alfred Tubbs who arrived three years earlier. The Tennessee wrecked in shoals outside of the Golden Gate and Hiram and his wife Susan had to wade ashore at low tide.

Tubbs joined his brother in business opening what eventually became known s Tubbs Cordage Company, a rope-making and marine cordage company that sold to ship riggers and mining companies throughout the Western United States, Mexico, Peru, China and Japan. The plant was located east of Potrero Hill in San Francisco in an area known as Dogpatch. The company was a major San Francisco employer and operated until 1962.

In 1857, the brothers sent for their father Michael Tubbs, a hotel owner and stage coach operator. Upon his arrival he opened the Tubbs Hotel on East 12th Street, which burned to the ground in 1893. While it was in operation, the Tubbs family entertained many members of high society at the hotel.

The Tubbs brothers were staunchly pro-Union and donated $1,000-per-month to the Sanitary Commission, an early version of the Red Cross.

Hiram Tubbs became a major property owner and one of the first to buy large tracts of land east of the lake. His major purchased was a 400-acre farm near Captain Jack Hays behind Piedmont. He also became one of the first major purchasers of land in Napa Valley.

He also became interested in establishing rail lines in the East Bay. His major creation was the Oakland, Brooklyn and Fruitvale Railroad, a street car system that ran up 12th Street to 13th Avenue and for twenty years it was the only connection to East Oakland other than 7th Street. It operated with four cars, 22 horses and numerous workers. The tracks eventually became the property of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Tubbs was at the meeting at Dr. Samuel Merritt’s home on December 26, 1863 where the concept of Mountain View Cemetery was first imagined. A year later, he was elected the first Treasurer of the Board of Trustees. Merritt was elected as President and Jeremiah Whitcher was elected Secretary.

Records show that of all the original trustees, he remained the most engaged and enthusiastic about the cemetery. In 1865, he and Dr. O.P Warren built the first family vaults hoping that it would encourage others to do the same. These vaults can be seen on Plot 4 leading to the maintenance yard.

On January 9, 1888, Mountain View denizen Anthony Chabot died and Tubbs allowed his body to be placed in his family vault for ten days while Chabot’s plot was being prepared.

Tubbs died in 1897. Accounts of his memorial service at his home describe a house filled to the rafters with flowers and a portrait ringed with sweet peas.

His wife, Susan Tubbs, died in1905. The couple had nine children, five of whom lived to adulthood. The four daughters were Susan Grace Henshaw, Mrs. W.G. Henshaw, Lillie Hall, Jr. and May Greenwood. Their only adult son, Herman Tubbs, was killed in an accident in Sausalito shortly before her death. Music was prohibited at his memorial service for fear that his mother would be too overcome with emotion.

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Addison Crane (1814-1887): Judge, Politician, Founding Trustee of Mountain View Cemetery

[Photo of Addison Crane grave by Michael Colbruno - click to enlarge]

Plot 1, Lot 312

Addison Crane was born in New York in 1814. At age 17, he began teaching school during the winters and also studying. He had become interested in law while listening to legal cases being argued in his father’s home.

In 1835, he moved to Alleghany County, New York and was hired by the law firm Benedict Lagley. By July 1841, he was licensed to practice in the Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery of the State of New York.

In October 1839, Crane married the former Gertrude Ashley and started a large family. In 1843, the family packed up and moved to Lafayette, Indiana. Crane became a law partner of Daniel Mace, and later of Edward H. Brackett.

In January 1847, he was elected as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, which heard civil cases. It was abolished by the new constitution of Indiana in 1851. Crane decided to take a trip down the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and ended up in New Orleans. The following year he decided to travel to California and he eventually ended up in San Lorenzo — then known as Squatterville.

He tried his hand at farming but was drawn back to the law and politics. In 1853, Alameda County was formed out of portions of Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties. In April of that year, elections were held and Crane was elected the first County Judge of Alameda County, serving from 1853 to 1857. In October 1853, his wife and six children joined him after sailing around the Horn. They settled in Hayward and had three more children.

As a judge he often ruled against Horace Carpentier, a notorious figure in Oakland history, who used his legal training to deviously obtain titles to desirable land. Crane believed that Carpentier had transcended his rights. In protest, Carpentier and his associates then set up cabin in the middle of Broadway Street, but squatters and other settlers compelled him to remove it.

1861 was a good year for him politically, but disaster struck when his house burned to the ground when his children attempted to smoke a mouse out of a hole in the attic. He still managed to get elected as a Republican to the California State Senate. Two years later, he was elected as a member of the Union Party and was elected as President pro tempore of the California State Senate.

Crane was a vocal opponent of discrimination and supported the women’s suffrage movement. In 1867, at the Union County Convention, he offered a resolution that called for an end to discrimination against the “…better educated of the colored people in this State.” He also promoted a concealed weapon law driven by fear over escalating tensions between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces.

On the floor of the Senate he railed against slavery, “An institution, sir, wicked in its inception, cruel, relentless and unpitying in all its forms, degrading alike to all classes, making honest labor a dishonor, merchandise of the bodies and souls of men, shutting out the light of the advancing civilization of the age, and reducing to mere chattels the laborers who till the soil. This institution of human slavery is the great black ulcer which has eaten the vitals of our national existence, through the ignorance and darkness which it carries in its train. Without this, and its attendant consequences, we should have had no rebellion, no war, no such attempt as now exists to overwhelm in blood and slaughter this great and free Government.”

Crane attended the meeting at Dr. Samuel Merritt’s home on December 26, 1863 where the concept of Mountain View Cemetery was first dreamed up by Oakland’s leading citizens.

Addison Crane died in Oakland of pneumonia on October 21, 1887.

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George E. Grant (1818-1888): Wealthy Businessman; Founding Trustee of Mountain View Cemetery

Plot 2 Lot 24

George E. Grant was born on October 23, 1823 and was a native of Lyme, New Hampshire. He was educated at Hannover, where he also got his first job as a clerk in the local store.

He married the former Ellen Louisa Daggett of Maine. He arrived in San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama around 1850 and eventually settled in Oakland.

The son of a farmer, Grant became a wealthy man on the West Coast. He was an investor in the Key Route Railway, owned cattle in Cambria, ran a dairy business, and was an investor in the Union Savings Bank of Oakland along with Mountain View denizens Robert Farrelly and Thomas Prather.

In 1895, Grant prevailed in a lawsuit against the city of Oakland which had tried to declare his tract of land as public property.

He died of pneumonia at his home on 1253 Third Avenue on December 3, 1904, survived by his wife and his two children, Abbie Wendt (Mrs. Charles William Wendt) and George E. Grant , Jr. Among his pallbearers, were Mountain View denizens George Pardee, Joseph Emery and Isaac Requa. Grant was the Vice President of the Mountain View Cemetery Trustees at the time of his death. Grant specifically requested that there be no music at his memorial service.

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Solomon E. Alden (1812-1881): Farmer, Founding Trustee of Mountain View Cemetery

[Picture of Alden property from 1878 edition of Thompson and West; Photo of Alden grave marker by Michael Colbruno - click images to enlarge]

Plot 1, Lot 347

Solomon E. Alden was a descendant of the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts. He came to California in 1850, settling in Alameda County in 1852. Census tracts list his occupation as “farmer.” His only daughter married John McElrath a colonel in the Confederate Army.

According to the August 31, 1889 issue of the Oakland Daily Evening Trinity, at one time almost all of the Temescal area was owned by Solomon Alden. Alameda County records list his property at 300 acres. Friends used to come to his house to eat cherries and chat.

Note the ad above, which simply lists his address as Temescal. From 1899 to 1908 the post office in North Temescal was known as the Alden Post Office. When he died the property was turned over to his daughter, Mrs. J.E. McElrath.

That same year, the Assessor’s office listed him as the fourth wealthiest property owner in Alameda County after Edson Adams, Samuel Merritt and Frederick Delger, all of whom are buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

He also served as a Director of the Oakland Bank of Savings along with Mountain View Cemetery denizens Walter Blair and Frederick Delger.

He died of diabetes in 1881.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jeremiah Whitcher (1817-1888): Surveyor, Original Mountain View Trustee

[Photo of Whitcher family plot by Michael Colbruno; 1860 Oakland map courtesy of the Oakland Public Library - click to enlarge]

Plot 21, Lot 15

Jeremiah Elkins “J.E.” Whitcher was born on June 23, 1817 in Andover, New Hampshire. On April 20. 1843, he married Henrietta Martin in Dubuque, Iowa.

In 1842, Whitcher created one of the first official surveys of the Iowa territory along the Mississippi River. His work followed these instructions, “[F]or the survey of the valuable islands in the Mississippi River, not heretofore surveyed, having regard to the timber or quality & location of soil, and those only which are embraced in this surveying district.”

Census records next find Whitcher living in Oakland in 1860, with his occupation described as “surveyor.” The 1870 census lists his occupation as a civil engineer and then in the 1880 census, he is again listed as a surveyor. A famous map of Oakland [see above] was created by Whitcher and bears his name. He can also be found as a surveyor for the railroads and projects in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Many of the early tract maps in Oakland bear his name.

The day after Christmas in 1863, Whitcher and a group of prominent Oakland leaders met to organize Mountain View Cemetery. Thirteen months later they met again and elected Dr. Samuel Merritt as President of the Board of Trustees, Hiram Tubbs as Treasurer and J.E. Whitcher as Secretary. They also appointed Rev. Samuel T. Wells as the first Superintendent. In 1870, the Trustees elected a whole new leadership team and Whitcher was replaced as Secretary by Edmund P. Sanford.

He apparently had other interests, as well, as records show him being granted the rights to a rail line on Second and Franklin streets in 1872 along with H. F. Shepardson, Theodore Meets and Hugh Slicer. Slicer is also buried at Mountain View.

On February 26, 1876, as chair of the local Republican Party, Whitcher led the convention that nominated Enoch Homer Pardee to be Mayor of Oakland. Pardee was elected and succeeded Mack Weber. Pardee only served one term, but 16 years later his son George would be elected Mayor and later Governor of California. The Pardees are also buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Plot 1.

On August 11, 1870, along with Colonel Jack Hays and other Oaklanders, Whitcher played a prominent role in organizing a society of Alameda County Pioneers.

He died in Oakland in January 1888 of kidney failure and is buried in a family plot near the Cogswell monument.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

William Faulkner: Publisher, Original Cemetery Trustee, Coined "dinky"

[Photo of Faulkner burial site by Michael Colbruno; gravestone is missing; click image to enlarge]

Plot 4, Lot 22

William Faulkner was born December 2, 1808 in Guilford, Connecticut of Scottish and English descent. Following in his father’s footsteps he became a printer and publisher. He began publishing the Norwich Republican in 1828 and published the Norwich News from 1843 to 1848.

Faulkner came to San Francisco from Norwich, Connecticut around the Horn on the ship Trescott. After he boarded in Norwich, the ship left Mystic, Connecticut on January 30, 1849 and the journey took 184 days. According to passenger journals, on July 4th, a play was performed about the ship. The play lasted from seven to ten in the evening and was performed on deck under a tent set up especially for the event. Some of the female passengers provided shawls and dresses for the men who performed female roles.

Upon his arrival in San Francisco, Faulkner founded the Pacific News at the corner of Jackson and Kearney. He had brought his printing equipment with him on the Trescott and printed his first edition nineteen days after his arrival. The paper had four pages and published every morning, except for Sunday.

By 1850, there were seven newspapers publishing in San Francisco, including the Journal of Commerce, published by Washington Bartlett. The Pacific News was successful despite the competition, bringing in $500 a day in ad revenue and making a profit of $10,000 a month. Nonetheless, it ceased publication in 1851 and Faulkner sold his equipment.

According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the first use of the word “dinky,” originally meaning a small boat, was in the Pacific News on November 27, 1849.

Faulkner died in Oakland on March 26, 1878

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Richard "RW" Heath: Mexican War Hero, Vintner, Politician, Original Cemetery Trustee

[Photo of Mtn View docent Stafford Buckley and Heath family plot by Michael Colbruno; click to enlarge]

Plot 2, Lot 55

Richard W. Heath (Jan. 30, 1823-Feb. 6, 1875) was a native of Bladensburg, Maryland. He married the former Mary Elizabeth Allen (1829-1901) in Richmond, Virginia and together they had twelve children.

Heath was hailed as a hero in the Mexican War having served almost the entire duration of the conflict. After the war he was ordered with the U.S. forces to California where he became the quartermaster for the Pacific Division. On his voyage to California, the captain of the Cruces steamship died and Heath took the helm and completed the trip around the Horn. He arrived on February 28, 1849.

That same year, he became a member of the first California State Assembly. He also served as a pilot commissioner of the San Francisco harbor and took part in the founding of San Joaquin County.

In 1856 he was promoted to Brigadier-General of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, of the California Militia.. In his civilian life, he was known as the “Tobacco King” and owned a shop with a Mr. Horne.

Records also show that he was invited to attend the San Francisco Vigilance Committee of 1856, but he refused to serve.

In 1872, Heath bought a 1,500-acre property at what is now Edge Hill Vineryard in Oakville. He died here on February 6, 1875 and his body was transported to Mountain View Cemetery for burial. Tragically, his 16-year-old daughter Marbury Ewell Heath died a month after him of heart disease .

His winery was passed on to his son Richard Shelden Heath, who sold it to William Scheffler in 1879 after quickly going bankrupt.

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Rev. Samuel Taggart Wells: Preacher & Original Mountain View Trustee

[Photo of Wells family plot by Michael Colbruno; click to enlarge]

Plot 31, Lot 15

Reverend Samuel Taggart Wells was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts on August 6, 1809. At the age of six his family moved to the Genesee Valley in New York.

In 1834 he began studies at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. He went on to study theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and received his clerical license in 1843.

In 1842, he married the former Catherine McPherson of Schenectady, New York and the couple had four children. She died in 1853 and he remarried in 1857.

In 1843, he began a 12-year stint working for the American Tract Society giving away religious books. During this time he lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The American Tract Society was founded on May 11, 1825 for the following purpose: “To make Jesus Christ known in His redeeming grace and to promote the interests of vital godliness and sound morality, by the circulation of Religious Tracts, calculated to receive the approbation of all Evangelical Christians.”

In 1855, he moved to Dubuque, Iowa where he organized sixteen churches for the Synodical Missionary. Wells arrived in California from Iowa in 1860 and was involved in religious work. Upon his arrival, he became the interim minister at the Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. He replaced the famous and controversial Dr. William Anderson Scott, who opposed the vigilante committees. Scott’s refusal to take sides in the Civil War led to his resignation and Wells’ appointment.

During the early 1860s he preached regularly in Hayward, San Lorenzo and other parts of Alameda County.

His obituary states that he became the first superintendent of Mountain View Cemetery, serving from 1864-1870. On April 7, 1870, Wells offered to buy Mountain View’s marble quarry in Amador County. The trustees approved the sale contingent upon Wells resigning as both a trustee and superintendent. Other biographical information lists him as one of the founders of the cemetery. It is believed that Wells played a crucial role in selecting and hiring Frederick Law Olmsted to design the cemetery.

In the early 1870s, he moved to Ventura County where he purchased a 300-acre ranch near Saticoy and set up a church. His property became quite valuable when the coastal roads were built.

When he died in 1896 his body was shipped back to Oakland for burial.

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Joseph Addison "JA" Mayhew: Sherriff, Businessman, Original Cemetery Trustee

[Photo of Mayhew plot by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 13, Lot 72

Joseph Addison “JA” Mayhew was born in Massachusetts in 1825. He served as the third sheriff of Alameda County in the 1860s. He came to California in search of gold, but after having limited success he moved to Oakland.

While in Oakland he became interested in politics and became one of the founders of the Republican Party and was chairman of the Alameda County Republican Party in 1861. He was elected county sheriff in 1861 and served until September 2, 1863. He created a furor after the Civil War when he became a Democrat.

As sheriff, Mayhew oversaw the first legal hanging in Alameda County on May 9, 1862. The criminal was Edward Bonney, who had been indicted for stabbing a man. He received a 14-day respite from Governor Leland Stanford and almost escaped from jail. The hanging took place at the San Leandro Court House Hall and was attended by 40 invited guests.

In 1862, along with the famed Rev. Thomas Starr King he raised money for the relief of sick and fallen soldiers from the Civil War.

He should not be confused with his uncle, Jonathan Mayhew (1819-1886), who was elected from the Washington District to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1858. Jonathan and JA Mayhew did work together, however, operating Mayhew’s Landing in Newark, California. [Property records show the land was titled to Jonathan Mayhew]. The two men operated a fleet of bay sloops and schooners between Mayhew’s Landing and San Francisco before the advent of the railroad in the area. They also owned a lumber yard and warehouses, where they built vessels. Both men were known as “Captain Mayhew.”

JA Mayhew owned 1,500 acres of land near Newark where he raised cattle. According to his family, he built the Senator Fair House in Newark in 1858 as a home for his wife, the former Ann Frances Fisher. He was a trustee of the Alameda Presbyterian Church in Centerville, served on the Board of the Alameda Valley Railroad, was a staunch defender of the Union cause during the Civil War, served on many cattlemen and agricultural boards, as well as being a founding trustee of Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

Mayhew became a wealthy man but ended up losing all of his money. He died on October 24, 1901 at the Alameda County Infirmary from cirrhosis.

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