Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Henry Durant (1802 - 1875): First UC President; Oakland Mayor

[Gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 9, Lot 30

Henry Durant had been a Congregational clergyman in Massachusetts for several years, and had taught at Yale before his arrival in California at the age of 50 on May 1, 1853 with the dream of establishing a college in the rough, new state. Shortly after his arrival he met Rev. Samuel Willey, another New Englander who had been sent by the American Missionary Society in 1849 to bring Christianity to the miners. Willey had hoped to promote public and private schools, and eventually found a college, but his audience had not been receptive. The two joined forces and, with the support of a committee of ministers, the Contra Costa Academy was opened in Oakland as a college preparatory school.

In the beginning, Henry Durant and three pupils met upstairs in a house at Fifth and Broadway. The rent of $150 a month, plus the $150 a month Durant had to pay the couple who acted as caretaker and cook proved to be more than the school could afford. When the couple did not receive their pay as promised, they took matters into their own hands and opened a bar on the lower floor. Durant was horrified and got the court to order the bar closed. Clearly, something had to be done. He found some property between 12th and 14th Streets and Franklin and Harrison. After they purchased the property, somehow Durant and the committee scraped up $3,000 toward construction of the first building, an amount insufficient to finish it. Worried that the contractor might try to repossess it, the mild-mannered Durant slept in the unfinished building with an axe under his bed. When the building was finished, Durant changed the name to the College School.

According to Beth Bagwell in Oakland, the Story of a City, “Durant’s dream came closer to reality in 1855 when the state granted a charter for the College of California. The college existed on paper for five more years, but beginning in 1857, the College School was preparing students to enter it. By 1859 there were seventy students at the academy from all over the state. They paid $365 a year for tuition and board.”

In 1860, the College of California finally opened in a small building on the campus of the College School, and Durant, who had been principal of the school, became a professor of Greek and Moral Philosophy in the new college. Taking his place as principal of the preparatory school was the Rev. Isaac H. Brayton who, just a few years later, would sell his own hillside property to his fellow trustees of the new Mountain View Cemetery Association. And Dr. Willey who had helped bring the whole idea to life, was made Vice President and Financial Agent. Money problems continued to plague the young institution. Rev. Brayton himself advanced money to build needed buildings, and finally bought the College School which continued to provide students for the new College of California.

While finances were still a problem, help was on the horizon. In response to the full flowering of the Industrial Revolution, in 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Act which granted each state public lands to finance the establishment of agricultural, mining and mechanical arts colleges, later known as “A & M’s”. Such a philosophy was in sharp contrast to the tradition of liberal arts colleges in the east where practical courses were not considered scholarly.

In 1863, the California legislature did a study on the feasibility of establishing a State University, and the next year formally accepted 150,000 acres as California’s portion of public lands under the Morrill Act. In 1866 the legislature agreed to establish an agricultural, mining and mechanical arts college, and the following year decided to locate it in Alameda County.

Here was the ideal answer to the financial dilemma faced by Rev. Durant and the College of California’s Trustees. The state college would have money from the sale of public lands, and the College of California had several buildings, a 10,000 volume library, a faculty and a student body. In addition, the College of California had acquired 160 acres of vacant farm and hill land near Strawberry Creek north of Oakland in an area the trustees subsequently named “Berkeley,” in honor of philosopher George Berkeley, the Bishop of Cloyne. (Berkeley’s famous words, “Westward the course of empire takes its way...” had inspired the trustees as they looked out through the Golden Gate from their property).

In August of 1867, Durant and the trustees offered all the assets of the College of California to the state with the request that the state would forever maintain a college of letters in addition to the schools of agriculture, mining and mechanical arts. On March 23, 1868, (the date still celebrated as Charter Day) the legislature passed an act “to create and organize the University of California.” Professor John LeConte was named acting president, but in 1870, Henry Durant officially became the University’s first president, a post he held until 1872.

Durant was elected mayor of Oakland in 1873-74, in gratitude for the difficult task he had accomplished in bringing a major educational institution into existence in Oakland’s “sphere of influence.” Henry Durant died in 1875, memorialized in a street name, a hotel, and even a bar ---“Henry’s” in Berkeley’s Durant Hotel.

[Biography courtesy of Mountain View docent Barbara Smith]

Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email

Charles Franklin Doe (1833-1904): Bequethed Doe Memorial Library

Plot 27, Lot 22

Charles Franklin Doe was the twelfth and final child of Bartlett and Elizabeth Doe. His grandfather, John Doe and his grandmother Elizabeth Doe, emigrated from England in 1776 and settled in Parsonsfield, Maine.

Charles was born August 13, 1833 and was in poor health most of his life. He took his first job as a schoolteacher in Parsonsfield but soon found himself ill-prepared and ill-suited for the profession and moved to Boston, working as a carpenter.

In 1850, his brother Bartlett traveled to California, and was joined two years later by his brother John. Together the two brothers formed the firm “B. and J. S. Doe,” a sash, door and blind business.

In 1857, Charles followed them west to San Francisco, and formed a partnership with James Knowland to sell retail lumber. Even though this business partnership dissolved, the company Doe helped found prospered as “Charles F. Doe & Co.”

Unlike many who made their fortunes during this era, there was no wild speculation in western bonanzas. Doe managed his business conservatively with the goal of sure returns on his investment. It is said that Doe lived the simple, placid and staid life of a New Englander. His daily routine seldom varied, including stated hours for his meals, walks and hours of business.

He lived at California and Laguna in San Francisco, was never known to have female companionship other than relatives, and had his house maintained by his niece Martha Swan. He rarely interacted with others, had few friends and seldom traveled.

It was reported that he believed that no one should need more than $500,000. He gave generously to the local orphanages and other organizations benefiting children. He began to discuss philanthropy with his close friend and advisor, H.B. Phillips—especially concerning what would be done with his estate, valued at many times that sum. Doe was impressed with the impact that the Alexandria Library in Egypt had on civilization at that time and began to ponder the founding of a library with his wealth. In 1902, he created a will that left nearly a quarter of his property (then totaling more than $595,000) to the Regents of the University of California, for the construction “…of a library building for its Academic Department….” (It is said that he would have left much more, but California State law at that time limited bequests to benevolent institutions.)

For a man so identified with Cal’s Library, there are strangely no photographs of him—only one daguerreotype seems to exist in Maine, taken just before he left for California. It was said that he felt uncomfortable with the idea of sitting for a portrait. He was described as thin, 5 foot 10 inches in height, weighing 150 lbs., with a long face, full beard; prominent forehead; firmly modeled nose, bushy eyebrows, with the brows and lids well apart.

At the laying of the cornerstone of Doe Library on Thanksgiving Day in 1908 (still in evidence at the northeast corner of the building), his nephew, Loring B. Doe, remembered Charles F. Doe and stated that “…His life was an inspiration to all who came in contact with him. He was the embodiment of honor and integrity, and every dollar invested in this building was honestly acquired. His character was without blemish, and he carried to the grave the love and esteem of all who knew him….” This is the wonderful legacy that continues to benefit scholars today on the Berkeley campus.

[Biography taken from the UC Berkeley Library biography of Doe and a biographical piece written by Benjamin Kurtz for the University of California Chronicle]

[See the post about his sister Nancy Kezar HERE]

Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email

Friday, October 17, 2008

Remillard Family: Brickmakers

[Top two photos by Michael Colbruno - Remillard Family Mausoleum and the Remillard house in Preservation Park; Bottom two photos from Wikipedia - The Countess Dandini and The Carolands]

Remillard Family Mausoleum- Plot 35, Lot 10

The Remillards were the leading brickmakers of the Bay Area in the period following the Gold Rush.

Eleven of twelve Remillard siblings finally emigrated from Canada, led by the eldest, Helaire (1834 - 1902), who went to Boston at age 19 and the learned brickmaking craft.

According to the Oakland Tribune, Helaire arrived in California via the Nicaraguan route in 1854. He immediately headed to the placer mines in Auburn and made enough money to send for his brothers Peter and Edward.

In 1864, Helaire, by then an ex-miner in the Gold Country, and some of his brothers established the Remillard Brick Company in East Oakland (some references list it as Remillard and Brothers). The family later expanded their business to manufacture bricks in Pleasanton, San Jose, and Greenbrae. The Greenbrae kiln remains a landmark along the road between San Quentin and the Larkspur ferry landing, and has served in recent years as an upscale restaurant.

Edward Remillard held many patents related to the improved process of making bricks. In 1867, he briefly returned to Canada and married his cousin Virginia Remillard. They returned to Oakland and lived at 1355 Webster Street.

Peter, (died 1904) the inventor of a new brick process, had an Oakland home that is now part of Preservation Park and pictured above. Peter Remillard’s house may have served as the model for the Morse mansion in Jack London’s Martin Eden. Jack London knew the Remillard family well while he was growing up in Oakland. Peter Remillard’s young daughter, Lillian once acted as a tutor for London who, although older than she, had academic problems. (After dropping out of school at fourteen, he eventually crammed four years of high school into one and was admitted to the University of California -- which proved too tame for his tastes -- and he dropped out again).

By 1879, the Remillards were producing 45,000,000 bricks a year and employed 400 people.

Lillian Remillard was born in Oakland in 1880 to Peter and Laurin Remillard (died 1934) and grew up with many other Mountain View Cemetery denizens including the De Fremerys, Requas, Pardees, Blairs and the Edson Adams family, most of whom relocated to Piedmont after the 1906 earthquake.

After Peter’s death, Lillian and her daughter took over the family business. In 1932 she married a man of meager means who was 20 years her junior, but one who carried a title, the Conte Alesandro Olioli Dandini di Cesena. This made Lillian the Countess Dandini and she became a fixture of high society, founding the da Vinci Society of San Francisco, the Pacific Musical Society and the Opera League of Oakland. She was also a generous patron to the De Young Museum and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. The Count and Countess Dandini divorced after seven years of marriage.

In her later years, the Countess Dandini owned The Carolands, the famous Pullman mansion in Hillsborough. The Carolands was built with Remillard bricks and at the time it was the second largest private home in the United States and the largest west of the Mississippi River. The Countess Dandini died in 1973 at the age of 93. Her ex-husband, now remarried, sued to inherit her estate, but lost.

The Remillards also provided the bricks for most of the early permanent buildings in Oakland and San Francisco, including the Bank of California, Shreve Building, Flood Building and the rebuilt Palace Hotel. According to the Oakland Tribune, at one time, every building made of brick in Oakland was made at least partially from Remillard bricks.

Ironically, neither the family mausoleum or the Peter Remillard house is made of brick.

[Information in this biography is the courtesy of Mountain View Cemetery docent Barbara Smith, with additional research by Michael Colbruno taken from the Hayward Daily Review and the Oakland Tribune]

Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email

Isaac H. Brayton (1822-1869); Pastor, buried on his former property

Plot 2, Lot 105

Isaac Brayton was a minister who came to California from New York in 1850, and shortly became the second pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of San Jose, a post he held until 1852. In true ecumenical spirit, he served in 1855 as the second minister at San Francisco’s First Congregational Church.

Rev. Brayton became an enthusiastic supporter of Rev. Henry Durant’s new Contra Costa Academy opened in 1853. The Academy soon became the College School, and Rev. Brayton attempted to raise funds for the school on a trip east in 1853-54. Brayton was disappointed by the virtual lack of response from would-be eastern donors. Their usual response was, “Everyone in California has so much money from the gold mines, why would they need our contributions?”

The school struggled on at its four-block Oakland campus, always short of money, but finally they decided to open a college on the same campus, the College of California. Durant left his job as principal of the school to teach Greek and Literature at the college, and Brayton succeeded him as school principal, also serving as a part-time college teacher of English, Rhetoric, and Letters.

In 1863-64 Rev. Brayton came into some money when he sold 200 acres to the trustees of Oakland’s newly formed Mountain View Cemetery. This windfall enabled him to buy half of the College of California’s Oakland campus – the portion that held the College School, and to purchase the school’s buildings. He and his wife continued to operate the school which by this time had some 250 students from all over the state.
In the late 1860’s the state finally decided to establish a university, and the College of California was folded in to the new institution.

Isaac Brayton died of tuberculosis in 1869, and is buried on his former property, now Mountain View. Shortly after his death, the new University of California worked out a deal with Mrs. Brayton to trade some of the University’s land above their new Berkeley campus for her land on the Oakland campus. The land Mrs. Brayton received was some 82 acres uphill from Prospect Avenue in Berkeley and is today occupied by hillside homes in the area of Panoramic Way.

[Biography courtesy of Mountain View Cemetery docent Barbara Smith]

Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wiggington E. Creed - President of PG&E (1877-1927)

Wiggington Ellis Creed was born February 8, 1877 in Fresno, California. Creed graduated from Oakland High School and attended the University of California in Berkeley, where he later served as president of the Alumni association and as a Regent. He later graduated from the New York Law School.

In 1904, Creed married Isabel Hooper, the daughter of John A. Hooper, the owner of C.A. Hooper Lumber Company.

After finishing law school he returned to the Bay Area and joined the law firm of Titus, Wright & Creed. He served as president of the Columbia Steel Company in Pittsburg, California, C.A. Hooper Lumber Company, East Bay Water Company, Contra Costa County Bank and was a director of the Wells Fargo Nevada National Bank.

His legal work on water issues made him one of the foremost experts on the topic in the state and led to him becoming President of the East Bay (Eastbay) Water Company.

In July 1920, Creed was named president of PG&E, replacing Frank Drum. Creed was an early advocate of the public ownership of stock in utilities. In 1921, he became an outspoken proponent for building a new UC campus at Davis focused on agriculture.

Creed was a generous philanthropist and was involved with the California School of Deaf and Blind, Mills College and the Hooper Foundation.

Creed was a close associate of noted attorney W.I. Brobeck and was scheduled to be a pallbearer at his funeral after Brobeck died on a trip to Alaska. On the day of the funeral he complained that he wasn’t feeling well and canceled. Two days later Creed died of a stroke at age 50 while leaving his home for work.

[Information from the Oakland Tribune archives]

Subscribe to Michael Colbruno's Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour by Email