Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Taft Family - Oakland Retailers

[Taft gravesite photo by Michael Colbruno; store photo from Oakland Public Library]

Plot 14B

Henry Clay Taft owned the dry goods store Taft & Pennoyer at 14th & Clay in Oakland, which later became Capwell's. He was born in Rochester, New York and moved to California in1865. He originally settled in Petaluma, but in 1878 he moved his business and his family to Oakland. In 1880 he went into partnership with Albert Pennoyer and opened their eponymously named store, which had one of the first passenger elevators in Oakland. Taft wanted a store that would prevent people from taking boats across the Bay to San Francisco, so he stocked a vast array of merchandise.

He married his wife Lizzie Maxwell in 1877, who is also buried here. Lizzie Maxwell was related to many prominent New Yorkers, including United States Senator Theodore Pomeroy and poet William Cullen Bryant, a major driving force behind New York City’s Central Park.

The Tafts had three children, Joshua Maxwell, born March 11, 1878, Clara Maxwell, April 21, 1879, and Dorothy Elizabeth, December 18, 1890, who all lived in Oakland. Clara studied at Anna Head School (see blog posting) and became a Carmelite after studying at Columbia University. Following in the footsteps of her relative William Cullen Bryant, she published a book of poetry called “Give Me the Stars.”

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