Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thomas Rickard - Berkeley Politician & Civic Leader

[Gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 17
Thomas Rickard (1865-1911) was an early resident of Berkeley and served as the last President of the Town Board of Trustees from 1903 to 1909, before the new city charter went into effect, creating the office of Mayor.

Rickard was born in France in August of 1865. Both of his parents were English-born. He immigrated to the United States with his family in the 1870s. In 1889 he married his wife Alice Whitmore. They had four children: Leontine (1889-1902), Helen (b.Jun.1891), Donald (1894-1915), and Thomas, Jr. (1899-1927).

Rickard had a cousin whose name was also Thomas, but regularly used his middle initial "A" (for Arthur). Thomas A. Rickard was a prominent writer on the subject of mining.
Rickard was a graduate of the University of California, with a degree in mining engineering. From 1901 until his death, he served as vice president of the San Francisco mining firm of Harron, Rickard and McCone. He also served as a trustee of the California Institute for the Deaf and Blind, located in Berkeley.

Mountain View Cemetery docent Jane Leroe discusses Thomas Rickard:

Rickard's father Reuben Rickard also served as President of the Town Board of Trustees in Berkeley from 1891 to 1893 and again for about a month in 1895. He was also a mining engineer, having worked throughout the western United States. Thomas' brother Edgar Rickard was the editor of a mining newspaper in London and a close acquaintance of Herbert Hoover.

Thomas Rickard died on March 25, 1911. His obituary states that he "...died at his home at Berkeley, California, March 25, following heart failure and a fall from his bedroom window." His wife died September 10, 1945 in San Joaquin County. Although she had remarried, she and Thomas are interred together

James Divoll - Wealthy Gold Miner [Crown with cross]

[Gravestone photos by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 33

James George Divoll (1831-1904) owned the Big Bonanza Mine in Sonora along with Charles Clark and Joseph Bray. They bought the mine from a group of Chilean miners in 1851 and soon struck a massive pocket of gold. The day after the find they sent $160,000 of gold to the mint in San Francisco. Within a week, they had shipped $500,000 worth of gold.

Old mining legends in Sonora claim that Divoll stored his gold in the Star Flour Mill, which he built. The mill burned to the ground and it was believed that the fire was started to cover up a robbery.

According to Douglas Keister's "Stories in Stone," a crown with a cross "...is a Christian symbol of sovereignty with the Lord. When the crown is combined with a cross, the crown means victory and the cross means Christianity."

Monday, April 28, 2008

William Keith, Painter & Mary McHenry Keith, Suffragette & Legal Pioneer

[Gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 14B

William Keith (1838-1911) was born in Scotland and moved to San Francisco in 1859 after a brief apprenticeship in New York City. He became one of the leading landscape artists of the time and was dubbed the "Dean of California Painters." He became lifelong friends with John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, who shared Keith's love of the California landscape.

In 1891, he shared his studio with tonalist painter George Innes, Sr. and the two men became devotees of Swedenborgianism. Keith lived in Berkeley, but worked out of a studio in San Francisco. Tragically, about 2,ooo of his paintings were destroyed by the earthquake and fire of 1906. By the turn of the 20th century, Keith was the wealthiest painter in California and one of the richest in the entire country.

Keith Avenue in Berkeley is named after him.

A devoted follower and art professor named Brother Cornelius worked for twenty years on a book about William Keith and established a home for much of his collection at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.

Mary McHenry Keith
(1855-1947) was the first female graduate of Hastings Law School and a leading suffragette. One of her classmates was future Governor George Pardee, another Mountain View Cemetery denizen.

She was the daughter of Judge John McHenry, a former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice who came to California in 1850. After marrying William Keith, she stopped dreaming of practicing law after just one year and dedicated the next chapter of her life to fighting for the right for women to vote and other issues of equality, including fighting prostitution and ending white slavery.

Her collection of letters, which included correspondence with Susan B. Anthony, is housed at the University of California at Berkeley. William Keith painted a portrait of Susan B. Anthony.

After William Keith's death, she catalogued over 100 pieces of his work, often loaning them out so that the public could enjoy his work.

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Mein Family

[Gravestone photos by Michael Colbruno]

Millionaire's Row

Gardner Mein

Gardner Mein (1919-2012)
[Obituary from David Perlman, SFGate]

Gardner W. Mein, a scion of San Francisco society whose reputation as a lighthearted boulevardier belied his dedication to preserving the city's historic sites, died Friday after a long illness. He was 93.

Mr. Mein was widely known as a socialite, but he was also a canny political tactician who campaigned successfully against high-rise buildings that threatened to obscure the San Francisco waterfront.

In 1970, for example, he and then-Supervisor Roger Boas successfully rallied the public to stop U.S. Steel from building a proposed a 550-foot-tall office building on the Embarcadero between the Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building.

"High-rises are like heroin," Mr. Mein argued at one public hearing. "Once you start you can't stop except by drastic means, and by then it's too late."

Several years earlier, Mayor George Christopher asked Mr. Mein to raise funds to save the Bernard Maybeck-designed Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina. Built in 1915, the structure was crumbling into ruin and slated for demolition.

Mr. Mein led a public campaign in 1957 that quickly raised $300,000, and then persuaded Walter S. Johnson, a San Francisco industrialist, to contribute another $2 million. With that, plus city funds, the Palace of Fine Arts was rebuilt, and it now houses the Exploratorium along with a 962-seat theater. He later led a successful campaign for city funds to have the building illuminated permanently at night and preserved as a historic monument.

In 1962, Mr. Mein was named president of the San Francisco City Planning Commission and served in that post for many years.

A member of a historic California family, Mr. Mein was president of the Clear Lake Water Co., a longtime family-owned firm, and vice president of another, the Calaveras Cement Co.

In 1978, he founded the Nob Hill Gazette, in which he chronicled the lives and philanthropic activities of affluent San Franciscans. He made the illustrated monthly magazine a successful venture and it continues today with a circulation of about 82,000.

In Lake Tahoe, where he maintained a beachfront home, he was president of the Tahoe City Chamber of Commerce and founded the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society. In 1965, he built the River Ranch Inn along the Truckee River at the entrance to the Alpine Meadows ski resort.

Gardner Williams Mein was born in New York City and educated at the Cate School in Carpinteria (Santa Barbara County) and UC Berkeley. He lived in Napa Valley in his later years.

Mr. Mein is survived by his wife of 49 years, Lani Logan Mein; their sons, Gardner Hatch Mein of Portland, Gardner Logan Mein of San Francisco, Gardner Williams Mein Jr. of Boulder, Colo.; and a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Mein of Los Angeles.

Captain Tommy Mein (1838-1900) - Native of Jedburgh, Scotland and husband of Mary Mein.

William Wallace "Tommy" Mein (1873-1964)- Husband of Frances Williams Mein (1878-1967). After graduating from Cal, Tommy Mein went to South Africa to work with the Robinson Mines. He later founded the Calaveras Cement Company and Bishop Oil Company. In 1907, Frances married the Captain's son, Tommy Mein. Frances was the daughter of Gardner Williams, who along with Captain Thomas Mein pioneered hydraulic gold mining in California. Frances would probably appreciate this post, as she was an active member of the California Historical Society. Their son, Tommy Mein, Jr. (1910-1998) later took over the Calaveras Cement Company. They had another son, Gardner Williams Mein (who lives in Napa Valley), and two daughters, Dorothy Fay and Frances de Bretteville (1915-2007). In 1938, Frances married Charles de Bretteville, a native of San Francisco. Mr. de Bretteville was a leading businessman who was a nephew of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. He became the president of the Spreckels Sugar Company, and later the CEO of the Bank of California.

Robert Menzie Mein (1875-1913) - The son of Captain Tommy Mein and Mary Mein, he was one of the most successful mining engineers in California. He was one of the first people to recognize the mining potential of South Africa. He also owned mines in Alaska and Nevada. Unfortunately, he caught pneumonia on a visit to Alaska and never recovered.

Isolde Constantini Mein (1932-1999) - Isolde was a German immigrant who worked as a cook for the Mein family. When she was 24, the Mein's 20-year-old son Billy fell in love with her and ran off to Reno to get married. His mother Sally Miller Nickel Mein was outraged and went to court to annul the marriage based on the fact that he was not 21. Despite her efforts, Billy and Isolde married legally two months later after he celebrated his 21st birthday. Sally Miller Nickel Mein (1916-1995) was the great-granddaughter of land and cattle baron Henry Miller [see Lux posting]. She was heiress to the substantial Miller fortune.

Robert Nickel "Nicky" Mein (1942-1996) - Another son of Sally Mein, Nicky Mein was a former schoolteacher and interior design consultant who died of AIDS. He volunteered with Meals on Wheels and helped found Project Open Hand.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Josiah Nickerson Knowles - Clipper Ship Captain

[Photo by Michael Colbruno; Portrait of Captain Josiah Nickerson Knowles]

Millionaire's Row

Josiah Nickerson Knowles (1830-1896) - Captain of the clipper ship "The Glory of the Seas," Knowles was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts to a family of sea captains. He sailed his clipper ship from Southampton, England to New York and then to San Francisco. He retired in 1884. Knowles designed the original shelter for the helmsman of clipper ships.

Symbols: Manx triskelion

[Photo of gravestone triskelion by Michael Colbruno; Flag of Isle of Man]

The Manx triskelion is most commonly found on the flag of the Isle of Man. There is also a related Sicilian version with a face in the center of the symbol.

The Manx triskelion is one of the oldest continually used government symbols. It is a version of the sun symbol or swastika used by many ancient civilizations. Common in Scandinavian lands, it may well have been introduced to the Isle of Man when the Norse ruled the area prior to 1266. Its use is confirmed from the late 13th century by a medieval document and by the sword of state carried in ceremonies of the Tynwald Court, the Manx parliament. The symbol became the basis for the local flag after the Scottish earl of Moray, Sir Thomas Randolph, was made the ruler of Man in 1313.

Man fell under the rule of England in 1341. The island government flew the Union Jack from the 17th century to July 8, 1929, when the triskelion flag replaced it as a local symbol. There were many artistic variations on the design until the flag was standardized in 1966. A special version, incorporating a Union Jack in the upper hoist, is flown by ships registered in Man.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

William Heron Lowden - Pioneer Insurance Man

[Gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

At a time when fires were a common occurrence in San Francisco and Oakland, William Lowden (1848-1912) became a pioneer in the fire insurance business. Lowden moved to Truckee, California from Belfast, Ireland as a young man where he worked as a merchant while "dabbling" in fire insurance.

He moved to San Francisco after a few years and accepted a job with the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company, where he worked his way up to manager. In 1895 he was appointed a manager of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society, a job he held until his death. During this time he served as President of the Fire Underwriters' Association of the Pacific.

Lowden took up a number of hobbies with great ardor, becoming an amateur photographer of some note, a competitive "high wheel" bicyclist, a competitive rifleman, trout fisherman and competitive yachtsman (with Mountain View denizen William Letts Oliver).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mountain View Cemetery Knockers

[Photo by Andrew Alden]

I've always wondered about the big rocks that one encounters at Mountain View Cemetery. I have asked the docents if they were placed there or if they are natural. No one seemed to know the answer and some speculated that they were put there, while others were fairly certain that they were natural.

Well the mystery may have been solved by Andrew Alden at Oakland Geology. Check out his fascinating post at http://oaklandgeology.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/knocker-on-display/

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thalia Treadwell (1877-1902) - Tumuluous Lover

[Photo by Michael Colbruno]


Thalia Treadwell was the first wife of Jimmie Swinerton, who was one of the most famous cartoonists in the world at the time. Swinerton was the protege of Will Hearst and worked as a caricaturist at his San Francisco Examiner newspaper. Swinerton married the young woman when she was just twenty years old. They soon moved to New York where the marriage turned tumultuous and they divorced shortly after their arrival. The famed cartoonist once said that his marriage “was not a long one, nor was it civil" and that it fell apart because of "booze and bickering." Swinerton went on to make a small fortune as an artist.

Thalia, however, took off for London, Paris and Berlin after the divorce. She studied art in Paris and left because of her health, which she attributed to the weather, In London she met a character actor of some note named Billy Abbington. Once again, her relationship soon turned sour and the couple separated. After a few failed attempts to make the relationship work, Thalia returned to New York. However, shortly after her arrival she fell ill from consumption and other health complications.

She moved back to California where she died shortly thereafter at her brother's home at age 25.

After her death some friends discovered her body in a cheap casket marked only with a piece of cardboard. They contacted her wealthy family who provided her with a proper burial. Maxwell McNutt, her sister Maud's second husband, always denied this story and claimed that the family intended on building a proper monument to Thalia's honor at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma.

A few months after her death, her 25-year-old brother James committed suicide despite having just inherited $400,000. Tragically, her sister Maud also died young at age 35 from pneumonia. Maud had three failed marriages.

But the story doesn't end here. Her former lover Billy Abbington was visiting California from London and while attending a cocktail party in San Francisco he learned of Thalia's death. He traveled across the Bay to find her grave at Mountain View Cemetery and pay his final respects.

An article after her death described her life as something out of an Alexandre Dumas novel. In the historian Hubert Howe Bancroft's biographical sketch of her father, he describes Thalia as having an "artistic temperment," in what may have been a bit of an understatement.

Thalia Treadwell was the daughter of Mabel and James Parker Treadwell, a prominent attorney. Her other siblings were James Parker, Jr., Ivan, Parthenia and Cynthia (who died in infancy). The Treadwell's lived on ten acres near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Samuel Skerry Montague - Central Pacific Railroad Chief Engineer

[Photo by Michael Colbruno; letter from Sacramento Public Library]


The sudden death of Theodore Judah left the Central Pacific without a chief engineer until the time when his place was taken by one of the men who had worked under him on the surveys that he made. Evidently the choice was a good one, for Samuel Montague continued in that position during the construction of the line and for a number of years thereafter, first as acting chief engineer, and later as chief engineer.

Samuel Skerry Montague, the son of Richard and Content Montague, was born at Keene, New Hampshire, July 6, 1830. In 1836 the family, including another son, John, moved to Rockford, Illinois, where, like thousands of other families of that time, they engaged in farming the new land. He attended public school during the winter months and the Rockford Classical School.

Montague's first engineering employment came in 1852 when he was twenty-two years of age, on the Rock Island and Rockford Railroad. Later he was with the Peoria and Bureau Valley Railroad, then with the Rock Island and Peoria, and finally with the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad. It was on these lines that he gained such engineering education as he possessed when he went to work for the Central Pacific.

In 1859, Montague with three companions joined the rush to the Colorado gold mines, commonly called the "Pikes Peak or Bust" rush. They probably did not find any gold, for the party continued on to California, arriving in the fall of the year. At that time the railroad from Folsom to Marysville was under construction and Montague secured a position with that line, which was a continuation of the road from Sacramento to Folsom, built by Judah.

Apparently Montague became acquainted with Judah, for on February 12, 1862, he went to work for the Central Pacific, probably on the location surveys that Judah was making for the line over the Sierra Nevada. It is also evident that he gained the confidence of the men who were building the road, because when Judah died, Montague was made acting chief engineer, a position he filled with such success that on March 31, 1868, he was made chief engineer, the position he held until his death.

Evidence of the confidence he inspired may be seen in the cordial approval given the relocation of a part of the line by George Gray, the consulting engineer. Strobridge, the superintendent of construction, who took a slightly dim view of engineers generally, simply said that Montague "was a smart man but had not had much experience when he commenced on the Central Pacific."

Montague directed the extensive surveys across Nevada and Utah as far east as Green River, Wyoming, and had charge of all engineering until the line Was completed to Promontory in May, 1869. He continued as chief engineer of the Central Pacific during construction of numerous lines in California up to his death in 1883.

Montague was married in San Francisco on February 13, 1868 to Louisa Adams Redington, a sister of Charles H. Redington, long an official of the Southern Pacific Company. There were four children. The family home was in Oakland, California and when Samuel Montague died on September 24, 1883, it was there that he was buried.

[Biography taken from Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum]