Saturday, December 3, 2016

William Sayer Snook (1826-1911): Oakland City Councilman; Vigilance Committee member

William Snook (Oakland Tribune) and gravesite
PLOT 12

William Sayer Snook was a pioneer businessman, who also represented the First Ward on the Oakland City Council and was an inaugural member of the Board of Education.

He was born in New York City to a father who was a contractor and builder. He arrived in San Franciso on July 1, 1849 aboard the Tahmaroo with his brother George. The two promptly pitched a tent at Kearney & Washington and, instead of heading to the gold country, they went to work. They both eventually went in to the plumbing and gas fitting business. He also became an active member of the Vigilance Committee that maintained law and order in a city riddled with rampant crime and corruption.

In 1854, he married the former Helen Laughan and they had 11 children together. Two of his sons followed him into the plumbing trade. His son Charles founded the law firm Snook & Church in Oakland and served as District Attorney from 1892-1894.

In 1855, he moved to Oakland, where he was appointed to the newly created Board of Education. He was subsequently elected to the office, which began his political career as a Republican office holder. He was instrumental in building the first school house just west of Market Street.

In 1869, he was elected to represent the First Ward on the Oakland City Council, where he served until 1875. He served on the Council with a number of prominent men buried at Mountain View Cemetery, including Nathaniel Spaulding, Enoch Pardee, Benjamin Ferris, Mack Webber and James Larue. 

His brother George Snook committed suicide in 1901 by filling his pockets with rocks and jumping into the bay. William Snook died of pneumonia at his Berkeley home at age 85.

Sources; Oakland Wiki, Oakland Tribune, Alameda District Attorney's Office, San Francisco Call

Officer David Branham (1944-1974): Shot at Madison Middle School

Officer David Branham
PLOT 72

Officers David Branhan and David Marks were shot and killed with Officer Marks' service weapon after a suspect gained control of it.

The officers had been dispatched to Madison Middle School on a call that a disorderly person was on the school grounds and fighting with school staff. When the officers arrived they located the man and took him to a conference room. The man began to struggle with the two officers and gained control of Officer Marks' service weapon and shot them both. The man was apprehended at a nearby apartment building after he was shot and wounded by other officers.


Officer Branham's grave marker
About 1,400  law enforcement officials from throughout California attended the joint funeral services. Officer David Marks is also buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

25-year-old John Richard was convicted of two counts of second degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive 15 year to life terms on May 29, 1975.

Officer Branhan had been a member of the Oakland Police Department for four years, and was survived by his wife Sandra, who died in 2008.

SOURCES: Hayward Daily Review, Oakland Police Department

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The McKinley Memorial Tree

The McKinley Memorial Tree
The McKinley Memorial Tree was dedicated on May 30, 1902 under the auspices of    Company A, Veteran Reserves of the Grand Army of the Republic. The tree was planted in memory of President William McKinley, who was assassinated on September 14, 1901, six months into his second term.

Speakers at the tree planting included Senator G.R. Lukens and former Oakland Mayor George Pardee, who would become California's governor in the November election. 



The original tree was a Giant Sequoia (Sequoia gigantea), which is no longer present. According to docent and tree expert Chris Pattilo, the current tree is a Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). The tree was planted with soil from historic battlefields by local school children, as the Elks Quartette performed. 

The site has become a common location for annual Memorial Day tributes.

Monday, November 7, 2016

James Gimbel (1887-1918): Died of influenzu while serving in World War I

James Gimbel (Left: Gimbel Family; Right: Michael Colbruno)
The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 killed about 20 million people, far more  than the 17 million who died in the war. According to the Deseret News, an estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza during the pandemic, ten times as many as in WWI. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy. Berkeley resident James Gimbel was one of them.

The close quarters and massive troop movements of World War I hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation. The war may also have increased the lethalness of the virus and some speculate the soldiers' immune systems were weakened by undernourishment, as well as the stresses of combat and chemical attacks.

After being drafted, Gimble ended up in France via Camp Kerney in San Diego, Arizona, Canada and eventually England. In a letter to his parents, he bemoaned the fact that he was too ill to help a fellow Berkeley soldier who was lying on the ground. He died in France on November 17 of the flu.

Sources: Gimbel family history; Berkeley Gazette; Wikipedia

Carl Castlemann Jones (1892-1918): Baseball player killed in WWI

Carl Jones (grave photo by Michael Colbruno)
PLOT 45 

Carl Castlemann Jones was a semi-professional baseball player who was killed in WWI. 

He born in Oakland in 1892 to Ada and Fred Soule Jones. He was raised in Piedmont and became a noted baseball player in the area.  In 1914, he played second base for Bill Glavin’s Federals team which participated in a four-team league that played under artificial lights – still quite a novelty at that time.

During the winter of 1914/15, he played for the Dreier & Nevis team in the Oakland Merchant’s League. Then, during the summer of 1915, he played in the Carbon-Emery League in Utah, a league made up of coal mining teams. Jones led that circuit with a .387 batting average. 


In October 1915, he was signed by the Maxwell Hardware Company to play in the highly competitive semi-pro Oakland Tribune Midwinter League. His teammates that year included Carl Zamloch, who pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 1913 and remained in minor league baseball into the 1930s; Tom Fitzsimmons, who would play for Brooklyn in 1919; Ralph Croll, who would go on to play for the Oakland Oaks and Joe Devine, who had made a couple of appearances with the Oaks that summer.

In 1916, he received a lucrative offer from the Ambrose Tailors baseball team in Oakland, but that but ended up Jackson in Amador County, California, where he played throughout the summer. He joined Alameda in the Midwinter League in November 1916, then was appointed manager of the newly-formed Exeter Athletics in March 1917.

He was drafted into military service in September 1917, and was assigned to Camp Lewis at American Lake, near Tacoma, Washington. He served with Company K of the 363rd Infantry Regiment and in April 1918, where he asked friends back in Oakland for bats, gloves and uniforms to help him organize a baseball team. The Oakland Tribune responded by arranging benefit shows at Pantages Theater with all proceeds being used to buy equipment for troops.

Jones played shortstop for the 363rd Regiment baseball team at American Lake, but the season was short-lived as the regiment, as part of the 91st Division, was on its way overseas and arrived in France in June 1918.

Sergeant Carl Jones was killed in action during the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1918. The Battle of the Argonne Forest (also known as the
Meuse-Argonne Offensive), was a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. 

The battle was fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, a total of 47 days. The battle was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end. 

The battle cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force, which was commanded by General John J. Pershing. American losses were exacerbated by the inexperience of many of the troops and tactics used during the early phases of the operation.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Isidore Giambruno (1889-1918): Bugler killed in WWI

Grave of Isidore Giambruno and a WWI recruitment poster with bugler

PLOT 45

Isidore Giambruno was born in New Orleans and shows up in Oakland records as early as 1905, the year that his father Reverend Giovanni Battista Giambruno died. In the 1910 Oakland Directory he was listed as a meat cutter and in the 1916 Directory as chauffeur.

He was drafted into the Army, served as a bugler, and was killed in action in September 27, 1918 at the Battle of Argonne. The American Expeditionary Forces lost 26,277 men and saw another 95,786 wounded at the infamous battle.

He was serving with Company D, 363rd Infantry 91st Division under Brigadier General Frederick S. Foltz and Major General William H. Johnston.  His unit fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and successfully helped to destroy the German First Guard Division and continued to smash through three successive enemy lines.

A month after Giambruno died and twelve days before the end of World War I, his division, as part of the VII Corps of the French Sixth Army, helped drive the Germans east across the Escaut River. The division was awarded separate campaign streamers for its active role in the Lorraine, Meuse-Argonne and Ypres-Lys campaigns.

Isidore Giambruno
His body was not returned to the United States until October 1921, when he was buried with military honors by members of Oakland Post No. 5 of the American Legion at Mountain View Cemetery.

We don't know if Giambruno played taps on his bugle for any of his fellow soldiers, but it is likely. Taps is a bugle call played at dusk, during flag ceremonies, and at military funerals by the United States armed forces. The official military version is played by a single bugle or trumpet.

The tune is also sometimes known as Butterfield's Lullaby, or by the first line of the lyric, Day Is Done. The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the Scott Tattoo, which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860. It was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient. Taps replaced a previous French bugle call used to signal "lights out."

Sources: US Military records, Ancestry.com, Oakland Tribune, Wikipedia,


Friday, September 30, 2016

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

The Johnson Family Mausoleum at Plot 11
PLOT 11

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

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

The McCloud Lumber Company circa 1915

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

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


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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

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

The Maury Plot near the Mountain View reservoir
PLOT 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

Mac Dre's "Thizzle Dance":

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Roi Partridge in 1952 (photo: Paul Bishop) and in 1915 (Photo: Imogen Cunningham)
PLOT 11

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

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

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

[REPRINTED FROM WIKIPEDIA]

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Holmes Beckwith (1884-1921): Killed Syracuse Professor

Grave of Holmes Beckwith (photo Michael Colbruno); News photo courtesy of Dubuque Telegraph-Herald
PLOT 1

[Reprinted from Wikipedia]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Wikipedia, Syracuse Herald

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

Caspar Hopkins (Grave by Michael Colbruno; Head shot courtesy of Bancroft Library)
PLOT 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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

Roy Mirriam and his grave in Plot 14
PLOT 14

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

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

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


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

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

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

* Coxswain is the person responsible for steering the ship

Friday, May 13, 2016

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

Emma Bigelow's tombstone on the Bigelow plot; Ladies Relief Society
PLOT 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fritz Boehmer (1831-1910): Early Alameda pioneer

Fritz Boehmer (Image from Hayward Daily Call; Grave photo by Michael Colbruno)
Plot: Plot 21, Lot 17
GPS (lat/lon): 37.83457, -122.24029


Text by John Sandoval, reprinted from Hayward Daily Call, December 13, 1964

One of the most colorful early pioneers of Alameda was Fritz Boehmer, who was an early merchant whose general merchandise store was built on Park Street.

Fritz Boehmer was born in Prussia, near Magdeburg in 1831. His father was a machinery maker and foundry owner. At 17 Fritz and a company of students fought briefly in the battle of Gravelot, for the unification of Germany under Bismark.

However, the news of the discovery of gold in California swept the youth of Germany into a frenzy to come to the gold fields, and in the fall of 1848 Boehmer went to Bremerhaven to see his older broth- er, Edward, off by ship to California. Fritz stowed away on his brother's ship and came to California with him without his family's permission.

The Schroeder Building was built in 1873 for Fritz Boehmer. He moved his grocery and hardware business into the ground floor, and the upper floor contained a public meeting hall. The Masons leased that space until their new hall was built in 1891 at the corner of Park Street and Alameda Avenue. In 1876, Boehmer sold the building to Adolph Schroeder (co-owner of a local feed and fuel business), who used it as rental property.
Mr. Boehmcr's ship rounded the Horn and arrived in San Francisco Bay in 1849. He went to the mines near Mokelumne Hill but being unsuccessful, returned to San Francisco and there joined with his brother in the house-building business. As a contractor the Boehmer Brothers paid carpenters the then-high wages of $12 a day.

Fritz Boehmer then alternated between operating mining ventures at Marysville, Coloma, and the American River, and in farming at Sacramento, in running a restaurant at Sacramento and in the contracting business in San Francisco.

In 1851 Boehmer and a partner, Henry Rosenbaum, bought rights to 150 acres of land in what is now downtown Oakland. However "squatter trouble" with a very rough element in the little village of Oakland caused Boehmer and Rosenbaum to sell out.

With the proceeds of the land-sale Boehmer joined a brother-in-law, Henry Gersting, in a mercantile business in San Francisco. Boehmer then established mercantile establishments in the booming gold-strike towns of Campo Seco and later Columbia and eventually in Alameda.

An historic post card of Park Street where Fritz Boehmer opened his first store
His store in Alameda on Park Street eventually expanded to encompass an en-tire block of the business section. When Alameda was in-corporated as a city the first board of city trustees was composed of Fritz Boehmer, Henry Robinson, Henry H. Haight, E. B. Mastick, and Jabish Clement.

Boehmer was also on the local school board and was effective in getting teachers salaries raised from $50 per month to $125, a very high scale for the 1880's. He also was instrumental in getting $300 raised by subscription to start the first public library in Alameda.

Boehmer was a member of the pioneer fire department of Alameda and was always interested in glee-club and choir singing, being a member of the pioneer San Francisco Harmony Glee Club and the Thalia Singing Society of Alameda.

Boehmer was married twice, first to Johanna Sevening, whom he courted by mail back in Germany and brought back as a bride to California. His second marriage was to Mary Elizabeth Hildenbrand a member of a well-known pioneer family of Stockton and Tuolumne County.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Socrates Huff (1827-1907): Gold Rush Pioneer; Banker; Alameda County Treasurer

Socrates Huff (photo of grave by Michael Colbruno)
Plot: Plot 21, Lot 43

Socrates Huff was a Gold Rush Pioneer, successful businessman and the elected Treasurer of Alameda County. 

He was born in Crawford County, Ohio on July 1, 1827 and moved to St. Joseph, Michigan when he was 2 years old. His mother died a year later and stayed in Michigan until 1849, when word reached the community that gold had been discovered in California. Huff organized a party of men to travel west, purchasing mules in Indiana, wagons in Chicago and provisions for the journey in St. Louis. The group arrived in Bear River in the Sierra Nevada on August 12, 1849, where Huff tried his hand at mining. He abandoned his gold mining pan after just two weeks and traveled 33 miles to Sacramento, where he worked for the city.

Due to ill-health (purported to be malaria), he headed to Mission San Jose where he bought a freighting boat that he ran for profit between Stockton and Alvarado (now Union City). In 1853, he returned east where he married Amelia "Mamie" Cassady and returned to California with her.

In the ensuing years, he raised cattle and horses in Green Valley, Contra Costa County and Hayward, ultimately settling on Estudillo Avenue in San Leandro. In 1869, his wife was injured in a famous train wreck that killed a number of notable people, including the Honorable Alexander Baldwin, U.S. District Court Judge of Nevada.

The Huff residence, which was torn down in 1972 to make way for a fire station
In 1863, Huff was elected Treasurer of Alameda County from 1863-67 and from 1886-92,  opting not to run again in 1892. In 1880, he was chosen as a  delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention in Chicago which chose James Garfield as their nominee. During much of this time he also ran a mercantile business in Carson City, Nevada. 

In 1891, while serving as Treasurer, he caught three men stealing oysters from his oyster bed near San Leandro and seized the boat and its load. He refused to give the boat back to its owner, Joseph Peralta, and the county official was arrested on charges of petty larceny. He was eventually acquitted, while the two thieves were apprehended and arrested.

Huff became a successful banker in East Bay, serving as a director of the Union Savings and Union National Bank, and as president of the Bank of San Leandro.

A description of his memorial and funeral took two full columns in the Oakland Tribune. 

 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Joachim Mathisen (18??-1896): Noted architect; Hanged himself from tree

Gravesite of Joachim Mathisen and image from San Francisco Call
Mathisen was born in Trondhjem, Norway and trained as a civil engineer at Hanover's Technische Hochshule. He came to the United States around 1886 and in 1890 worked as a draftsman for A. Page Brown. In 1891, he set up business in San Francisco with William Howard on Montgomery street. In 1892, along with Maybeck, he entered the competition to design the California Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They lost to he famed architect George Brown.

Mathisen design for San Francisco homes (SF Call)
He later honed his skills under the tutelage of George Brown, who mentored many other great architects including William Knowles, Sylvain Schnaittacher, Frank Van Trees and James R. Miller. Even Bernard Maybeck was associated with Brown in 1890.

His business partner George Brown took ill after they had taken over much of A. Page Brown's work, after the latter died from severe injuries suffered in a runaway horse and buggy accident. The stress proved too much for Mathisen, as income dropped and his rent increased. Two days after laying off two employees, he headed into the woods behind the Asylum for the Blind and Deaf in Berkeley and hanged himself with a four-in-hand neck tie which he had suspended to a small cypress branch.

Asylum for the Blind and Deaf in Berkeley
The branch that Mathisen hanged himself from was only about three feet from the ground and his body was found in a kneeling posture, his bead thrown forward, and his hands and arms dangling by his sides. There was no sign of struggle and there was a post card found in his pocket addressed to C. B. Vorce, a draughtsman in his office, with the following written on the back: "Please look for directions in safe."
Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley
Mathisen designed the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, which included fellow architect Bernard Maybeck amongst its parishioners.  The ambitious design for the church and seminary resulted from a resolution by the Pacific Coast Unitarian Conference to establish a Unitarian divinity school. The redwood-shingled structure became a landmark of the Bay Region's "building with nature" architecture and still stands at its original location and is now used as a dance studio on the University of California campus. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981.

Burlingame Train Station

In 1893, he worked with his architectural partner George Howard in designing the Burlingame Train Station, where trains brought wealthy businessmen from San Francisco to the Burlingame Country Club. The two men chose a quintessentially California design for the station—that of a California mission. The train station, completed in 1894, is now designated as a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due primarily to its architectural significance as the earliest permanent example of California Mission Revival architecture.

Sources: San Francisco Call, Burlingame Historical Society, UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, "On the Edge of the World: Four Architects in San Francisco" by Richard W. Longstreth, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Joseph Glover Baldwin (1815-1864); California Supreme Court Justice

Justice Joseph Baldwin is buried in the Felton Family Plot
FELTON FAMILY PLOT 
Lot 2, Plot 410c

Joseph Glover Baldwin was born January 21, 1815 in Winchester, Virginia who became a noted lawyer, author, politician and California Supreme Court Justice.

In 1835, he edited the ‘Buchanan Advocate" and eventually went on to write he Old Southwest, as the southern frontier at the time has come to be known by historians. He is best known for his work The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi, a series of humorous sketches describing life on the frontier. Flush Times established Baldwin as both a serious author and astute observer of antebellum Alabama.

He moved to DeKalb County, Mississippi in 1836 then to Gainesville, Alabama in 1838 where he practiced law with J. Bliss, Esquire.

He was a Whig in politics and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1843 in Democratic  Sumter County, and was acclaimed as a skillful debater in the House. He was known for his courteousness, demanding respect and confining himself to the parliamentary rules.

In 1849, he lost to his Democratic rival Samuel W. Inge, who once partook in a duel with Congressman Edward Stanly from North Carolina, which gave him decided prestige. Baldwin was defeated by a narrow margin and  moved to Livingston, Alabama. Ironically, Stanly is buried near the grave of Joseph Baldwin.

In 1854, Baldwin moved to California, where he served as legal counsel on a number of important cases. In 1858, following the death of Chief Justice Hugh Murray from consumption, he became an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. He served from October 1858 to January 1862 and he resumed the practice of law in San Francisco after he left the bench.

The book “Lincoln’s Stories” (Chicago 1879), tells the following humorous anecdote: "Judge Baldwin, of California, being in Washington, D.C., called one day on General Hallock, and presuming as a familiar acquaintance in California, a few years before, solicited a pass outside our lines to see a friend in Virginia, not thinking he would meet with a refusal, as both his brother and himself were good Union Men. 'We have been deceived too often,' said General Hallock, 'and I regret I can’t grant it.' Judge Baldwin then went to Stanton, and was very briefly disposed of with the same result. Finally he obtained an interview with Mr. Lincoln, and stated his case. 'Have you applied to General Hallock?,' inquired the president. 'Yes, and met with a flat refusal,' said Judge Baldwin. 'Then you must see Stanton,' continued the president. 'I have, and met with the same result,' was the reply. 'Well, then,' said Mr. Lincoln, with a smile.' I can do nothing, for you must know that I have very little influence with the administration!' 

His son Alexander White Baldwin, was a U.S. District Court Judge. He was killed in a railroad collision near San Francisco at age 34 and is also buried at Mountain View Cemetery.  His nephew, John Garber, who lived with him at one point, served on the Nevada Supreme Court and is also buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

Joseph Baldwin was the author of Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi which was written to show the evil effects of an inflation of paper currency from 1833 to 1840 when paper money was so abundant. “The work was quite dramatic and described many transactions and scenes in and out of court, of wonderful originality and humor. It had an extensive sale. His other work was Party Leaders, in which Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Randolph and Clay were introduced as representative men, with contrasts and parallels well delineated, showing a great fund of information, and remarkable power of analysis in the writer.”

In 1854, Baldwin moved to California where he gained a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court from October 1858 to January 1862 when he resumed the practice of law in San Francisco.
“From the book “Lincoln’s Stories”, Chicago 1879, is the following anecdote: Judge Baldwin, of California, being in Washington, D.C., called one day on General Hallock, and presuming as a familiar acquaintance in California, a few years before, solicited a pass outside our lines to see a friend in Virginia, not thinking he would meet with a refusal, as both his brother and himself were good Union Men. “We have been deceived too often,” said General Hallock, “and I regret I can’t grant it. Judge Baldwin then went to Stanton, and was very briefly disposed of with the same result. Finally he obtained an interview with Mr. Lincoln, and stated his case. “Have you applied to General Hallock?” inquired the president. “Yes, and met with a flat refusal,” said Judge Baldwin. “Then you must see Stanton,” continued the president. “I have, and met with the same result,” was the reply. “Well, then,” said Mr. Lincoln, with a smile.” I can do nothing, for you must know that I have very little influence with the administration!”
His wife, Sidney White, daughter of John White, (above) lived with her daughter, Mrs. Judge Felton of Oakland, California in one of the finest residences in the city of Oakland around 1880. Judge Felton died in 1878. Judge Felton was one of the best lawyers in California and his practice was said to amount to one hundred thousand dollars per annum. It was reported that even in 1880, Sidney retained much of her youthful beauty and vivacity.
He was a Whig in politics and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1843 for the Democratic county of Sumter. Mr. Baldwin was a skillful debator in the House. “He was courteous and always confined himself to parliamentary rules in his efforts on the floor and respected the personal rights and feelings of others in discussion, at the same time demanded the like civilities for himself.
He was a candidate for Congress in 1849 but his Democratic rival Hon. S. W. Inge, in the Tuscaloosa district had the advantage of having knocked down an abolitionist on the floor of Congress which gave him decided prestige. Mr. Baldwin was defeated by a small majority. In 1850, he moved to Livingston, Alabama.
Joseph Baldwin was the author of Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi which was written to show the evil effects of an inflation of paper currency from 1833 to 1840 when paper money was so abundant. “The work was quite dramatic and described many transactions and scenes in and out of court, of wonderful originality and humor. It had an extensive sale. His other work was Party Leaders, in which Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Randolph and Clay were introduced as representative men, with contrasts and parallels well delineated, showing a great fund of information, and remarkable power of analysis in the writer.”
In 1854, Baldwin moved to California where he gained a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court from October 1858 to January 1862 when he resumed the practice of law in San Francisco.
“From the book “Lincoln’s Stories”, Chicago 1879, is the following anecdote: Judge Baldwin, of California, being in Washington, D.C., called one day on General Hallock, and presuming as a familiar acquaintance in California, a few years before, solicited a pass outside our lines to see a friend in Virginia, not thinking he would meet with a refusal, as both his brother and himself were good Union Men. “We have been deceived too often,” said General Hallock, “and I regret I can’t grant it. Judge Baldwin then went to Stanton, and was very briefly disposed of with the same result. Finally he obtained an interview with Mr. Lincoln, and stated his case. “Have you applied to General Hallock?” inquired the president. “Yes, and met with a flat refusal,” said Judge Baldwin. “Then you must see Stanton,” continued the president. “I have, and met with the same result,” was the reply. “Well, then,” said Mr. Lincoln, with a smile.” I can do nothing, for you must know that I have very little influence with the administration!”
His wife, Sidney White, daughter of John White, (above) lived with her daughter, Mrs. Judge Felton of Oakland, California in one of the finest residences in the city of Oakland around 1880. Judge Felton died in 1878. Judge Felton was one of the best lawyers in California and his practice was said to amount to one hundred thousand dollars per annum. It was reported that even in 1880, Sidney retained much of her youthful beauty and vivacity.
- See more at: http://alabamapioneers.com/biography-joseph-glover-baldwin-born-1815/#sthash.sdBb66mk.dpuf

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Captain Henry Nichols (1842-1899): Died from heat in Philippine-American War

Grave of Captain Henry Nichols (photo by Michael Colbruno) and news headline
PLOT 33

Captain Henry Nichols, was the commander of the United States double turreted monitor Monadnock during the Philippine-American War. He died in the first year of the war, which lasted from 1899-1902. The war was over the First Philippine Republic's objection to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain ending the Spanish–American War. The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution.

Captain Nichols died from sunstroke aboard his vessel at Cavite during an intense period of hot weather. The Monandock had been lying off ParaƱque for two months where it had been under heavy fire from the rebels on a daily basis. Nichols had been fighting for the occupation of ParaƱque by American forces.
Newspaper account of Captain Nichols' death
Nichols refused an an offer to retire the ship from her duties and said he would stay until the area was cleared of rebels. However, Captain Nichols was overcome by the heat around noon on June 10, 1899. He retired to his cabin, where he received frequent reports of the operations and continued to give orders for the next three hours, when he finally lost consciousness. He died two hours later.

Several hours before his death he expressed gratification at the way events were progressing, remarking to an officer: "We have got the rebels there at last."

After his death, the flags on all the vessels in the area were half masted.

You can read about his wife Juliet in another "Lives of the Dead" post by clicking HERE

Monday, March 7, 2016

Ossie Vitt (1890-1963): MLB player; Managed infamous "Cleveland Crybabies"

Ossie Vitt Pacific Coast League card and burial vault
Main Mausoleum
2nd floor, Sec 155 Nitch 1 Tier 10

Oscar Joseph "Ossie" Vitt was a Major League Baseball third baseman in the American League for the Detroit Tigers (1912–1918) and Boston Red Sox (1919–1921). Vitt later became manager of the Cleveland Indians (1938–1940), where he sometimes clashed with his players.

Ossie Vitt was a product of the sandlots of San Francisco where he made considerable money as a bricklayer after the '06 earthquake. He broke into the Pacific Coast League as third baseman for the San Francisco Seals in 1911. He later advanced to the majors as a utility infielder for the Detroit Tigers. Through his major league career, Vitt played 833 games at 3rd base and 161 games at 2nd base. As the Tigers' regular third baseman from 1915 through 1917, he never batted higher than .254. But he was described as a smart, scrappy baseball man.
Oakland Tribune feature on Ossie Vitt
Vitt had a career batting average of .238, and was a talented third baseman with range and a good throwing arm. His .960 fielding average in 10 years at 3rd base was 20 points higher than the Major League average for 3rd basemen of his era. He led all American League third basemen in consecutive years (1915 and 1916) in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. He had career highs at third base of 208 putouts (team record at 3B), 385 assists, and 32 double plays in 1916. His range factor of 3.93 in 1916 was 70 points higher than the league average for third basemen.

While not a good hitter for average, Vitt was a good contact hitter and one of the best bunters of the era—a valuable talent on a Detroit squad that included Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and Bobby Veach. His career total of 259 sacrifice hits (in a relatively short career) ranks 32nd best in major league history.

Vitt was also one of the toughest players to strike out in MLB history. For his career, he struck out an average of once every 26.6 at bats, 35th best in MLB history. In 1918, his at bat per strikeout ratio was 44.5, 2nd best in the AL.

1917 Ossie Vitt baseball card and newspaper feature, which ran nationwide
On August 10, 1915, Vitt was hit in the head by a Walter Johnson fastball. After being knocked unconscious for five minutes‚ Vitt left the game with a concussion. Ty Cobb‚ observing Johnson's fear of hitting a batter‚ crowded the plate on Johnson from that point forward. Cobb hit .435 against Johnson after the Vitt incident.

On July 30, 1917, Cobb‚ Veach‚ and Vitt followed each other in the lineup‚ with each going 5-for-5.

On January 17, 1919, Vitt was traded by the Tigers to the Boston Red Sox for Eddie Ainsmith, Chick Shorten, and Slim Love.

After playing in the majors for 10 years, Vitt was recommended to Oakland Oaks' owner Victor Devincinzi by the Yankees' management to manage the Oaks in 1935. His style was described as both abrasive and motivational, pushing the Oaks to a third-place finish.

Vitt moved on in the Yankees' organization the next year, managing their farm team in Newark. He was then hired by the Cleveland Indians in 1938 to replace Steve O'Neil as manager and instill new life into their team.

Ossie Vitt with three different teams
Vitt's role in the 1940 Cleveland Indians team known as the "Cleveland Crybabies" has become a baseball legend. "I don't want any lazy players on my club," said Vitt when he was hired. "If the boys won't hustle, out they go." Vitt's players felt they were being accused. In Vitt's first two seasons in Cleveland, the Indians finished third. Yet, there were frequent clashes between Vitt and his players, and the discontent festered.

On June 11, 1940, matters came to a head when he went to the mound to remove Mel Harder. "When are you going to start earning your salary?" asked Vitt of Harder, who had won at least 15 games for eight consecutive seasons, including two 20-win seasons. The team revolted, and many players signed a petition to have Vitt removed. After the incident with Harder, a dozen Indians met with owner Alva Bradley to state their grievances against Vitt, whom they described as a "wild man." They made it clear they hoped he would be fired. In the closed-door meeting between Indians players and owner, Harder told Bradley: "We think we have a good chance to win the pennant, but we'll never win it with Vitt as manager. If we can get rid of him, we can win. We feel sure about that." Bradley sought to keep the controversy quiet, but the story quickly got out, and newspaper headlines all over the nation referred gleefully to the Indians as the "Cleveland Crybabies."

Despite the hullabaloo and ridicule, the Indians, with Vitt hanging on to his job, battled the Detroit Tigers for the pennant to the last day of the 1940 season. Through June, the Indians were 42–25. After June, with the "Crybabies" harangue clanging in the papers and from the stands, they went 47–40, not a collapse, but not good enough to stay ahead of the Tigers who won the pennant by a single game over the Tribe. Bob Feller, a 27-game winner that year, lost the decisive game 2–0.

Vitt was among those in the first class of inductees in 1943 in the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame.

SOURCES: Reprinted from Wikipedia, photos from Salt Lake Tribune, Montana Standard,  Oakland Tribune

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mary Ellen Bamford (1857-1946): American author and prohibitionist

Gravestone of Mary Ellen Bamford (photo by Michael Colbruno)
Mary Ellen Bamford was an American author and prohibitionist.

Bamford was the daughter of Doctor William Bamford and Cornelia Elizabeth Rand, her parents were pioneer settlers. Her father was one of the first physicians in Oakland (what was then called Brooklyn).She lived at the Bamford family home for most of her life.

Mary was educated in public schools in Oakland and served as a substitute librarian at the Oakland Library from 1906-1939. However, writing remained her main vocation and she authored 21 books, including Marie's story. A tale of the days of Louis XIV, Miss Millie's Trying, A Piece of Kitty Hunter's Life, Thoughts of My Dumb Neighbors and Ti: A Story of San Francisco's Chinatown.

Mary Ellen Bamford's "Up and Down the Brooks"

Bamford was an committed prohibitionist and was also secretary of the regional Woman's Baptist Foreign Missionary Society and active at the 23rd Avenue Baptist  Church. She supplied books to a number of publishers including the American Baptist Publication Society. Bamford also wrote for Sunday schools of several denominations

In contrast to most Americans at the time, Bamford was sympathetic to Chinese and other Asians attempting to enter the United States. She was the author of Angel Island: the Ellis Island of the West, which was published by Woman's American Home Baptist Mission Society in 1917.

SOURCES: Oakland Tribune, Wikipedia, Amazon.com

Anna McCune Harper (1900-1999): Dominant female tennis player

Anna McCune Harper and gravestone (photo on right by Michael Colbruno)
PLOT 36, Lot 269

Anna McCune Harper was dominant American female tennis player in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1924 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley. She later served as the national president of Sigma Kappa from 1939-1942.

She learned the sport along with her sister, Lucy, when they were youngsters in Pacific Grove, California. She restricted most of her play to the West coast until her marriage to UC Berkeley history professor Lawrence Averell Harper. He received a fellowship to study in England in 1925 and 1926 and Anna entered Wimbledon in those years.

Harper was ranked in the U.S. top ten five consecutive years from 1928 through 1932 and was top ranked in 1930.  She won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon in 1931 partnering George Lott. She was the runner-up in singles at the 1930 U.S. Championships, losing to Betty Nuthall (who won the match in 36 minutes!). She also was the runner-up in women's doubles at the 1928, 1930 and 1932 U.S. Championships and in mixed doubles at the 1931 edition of those championships.
 
Lawrence Averall Harper, who died exactly 10 years before his wife
In 1932, Harper was called home because of an illness in her family. She then decided to give up tournament tennis for other tasks, including the rearing of three children. But she continued to follow the game and played for many years. She even had arthroscopic knee surgery at age 81 so she could continue to play. An adverse reaction to a general anesthetic sidelined her for good and precipitated a long, slow decline in her health.
 
Harper was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981. There is an "Anna McCune Harper Scholarship Fund at UC," which goes annually to a woman student who is an outstanding athlete and scholar.

She died on June 14, 1999, which was the 10 year anniversary of her husband's death. 

SOURCES: Wikipedia, SFGate.com, Baltimore Sun, Tennis Forum, Sigma Kappa