Friday, June 26, 2009

Freeborn Family Mausoleum

[Photo of Freeborn Mausoleum by Michael Colbruno; Center photo - Charles James Freeborn; Bottom sketch is Mrs. James (Eleanor) Freeborn]

James Freeborn (1828-1894) came to California on a steamer from Nova Scotia.

He became a prominent businessman in San Francisco. He co-owned the brokerage firm Woods & Freeborn and Castle & Freeborn grocers. He also served as a director of the Bank of California. He was owner of the gold mining firm of Alaska Mill & Mining Company, which was previously known as the Treadwell Mine and was the second highest producing gold mine at one time.

He retired in 1877 and moved to Paris where he died of Bright’s Disease in 1894. At the time of his death his estate was valued at about $1 million, including his residence at 1830 Jackson St. in San Francisco and numerous commercial properties.

Charles James Freeborn (1877-1919) was born in San Francisco on November 11, 1877, the son of James and Eleanor Freeborn. He graduated from Yale University in 1899. He became the director of the Freeborn Estate Corporation.

A devoted Francophile, in 1914 he and a group of friends joined the Ambulance Service in Neuilly, France. He became a tireless worker and provided great aid to the French hospital authorities. During this time he traveled back to California with film of the war to show Americans the atrocities that were occurring. Because of his efforts, he received numerous honors from the French.

Freeborn’s tireless efforts left him exhausted, he contracted influenza and three weeks later on February 13, 1919, he died in Paris.

The family mausoleum was built by Ettore Bernieri, a California sculptor and contractor.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Francis Kittredge Shattuck (1824-1898) - Berkeley Founder; Politician; Businessman; Died From Train Mishap

[From Wikipedia]

Francis Kittredge Shattuck (March 6, 1824 – September 9, 1898) was the most prominent civic leader in the early history of Berkeley, California, and played an important role in the creation and government of Alameda County as well. He also served as mayor of the city of Oakland in 1859, and represented the 4th District in the California State Assembly from 1860-61. He also served many years on the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County starting in 1860. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Town of Berkeley in 1884.

The principal avenue in the city of Berkeley, Shattuck Avenue, is named for him, as is a smaller street, Kittredge. The Hotel Shattuck occupies the site of his original home.

Shattuck was born in Crown Point, Essex County in northern New York state. His mother was Betsy Mather, a descendant of Increase Mather who was the president of Harvard from 1685 to 1701. His father Weston Shattuck, a native of Massachusetts, was a farmer who died when Francis was 12. Francis earned a teaching certificate by age 18 and was a schoolteacher for four years. He then moved to a small town in Vermont and worked as a store clerk, until he heard of the discovery of gold in California. He and a friend, George Blake, by then also his brother-in-law, took off for California.

In 1852, Shattuck, Blake and two partners they met in the gold fields, William Hillegass and James Leonard, laid claim to four adjoining 160-acre (0.65 km2) strips of land in the area which became the central part of Berkeley. (See Kellersberger's Map)

Shattuck was instrumental in getting the Central Pacific Railroad to construct a branch line into Berkeley in 1876 connecting the community and University of California with the main line and the railroad's ferry to San Francisco.

Ironically, Shattuck died as a result of complications stemming from injuries sustained from being knocked down by a man alighting from a train that Shattuck was attempting to board on Shattuck Avenue. He is buried with his wife, sisters, and George Blake.

Shattuck had two sisters, Millicent and Elizabeth. It was Millicent who married Shattuck's original partner, George Blake. Shattuck, although married (wife: Rosa Maria Morse, b. 6/12/1834, d. 9/12/1908), died childless, and his estate including several Berkeley properties went to his wife and to his nephew, John W. Havens, the son of his sister Elizabeth Helen Shattuck Havens.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

John Whittington (1838-1912) – Railroad Executive Killed By Train

Plot 33

John Whittington was born in Pennsylvania and came to California in 1880. He fought at the Battle of Antietem during the Civil War with the 124th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

In Pennsylvania, he served as superintendent of the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad. Upon his arrival in California he became general superintendent of the Pacific Coast Company in San Francisco, a marine and rail company.

In a strange irony, Whittington a lifelong railroad man, was killed by a train while taking his nightly walk after dinner. Whittington left his home at 1711 Encinal Street in Alameda and was struck by the Alameda Loop electric train. He died minutes after being struck.

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George Hutton Swingle (1826-1895) - Yolo Supervisor; Rancher

[Photo of Swingle gravestone by Michael Colbruno; postcard of Davisville around the time of Swingle's death]

George Hutton Swingle was born in Frankfort, Kentucky on July 26, 1826. He lived briefly in Missouri before moving to Sacramento, California in 1853. He worked in the gold rush town of Dutch Flat, which was the largest town in Placer County at the time.

After five years in the bustling mining town where he sold goods and ran a freight operation, Swingle decided to move to Davisville in Yolo County where he purchased 1,600 acres near Putah Creek. The land turned out to be ideal for agriculture, as well as dairy farming. Swingle transformed the barren land into a highly successful ranch with grain, almonds and cattle. When the railroads came along, the successful farmer allowed them to build a stop dubbed Swingle Station. The town was later renamed Davis to avoid confusion with Danville.

The descendant of Southerners, Swingle allied himself with the Democratic Party and in 1866 ran for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. He was elected to four consecutive terms where he focused on building the infrastructure of the county.

Swingle was single until the age of 45 when he married the former Mary Etta Hall in San Francisco. One might wonder why a Yolo County rancher in buried in Oakland. The answer is that the Swingle’s believed that their son George Kirk Swingle would get a better education in the Bay Area, so they bought a home in Alameda in 1890. Kirk Swingle attended junior high school and high school in Alameda before heading off to the University of California.

Shortly after returning to Yolo County, Swingle died after a long illness on November 1, 1895. Mary Swingle and her son Kirk ran the ranch after his death.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

William Clift (1831-1900) - Businessman

[Photo of Clift Family Mausoleum by Michael Colbruno; photo of railway from SF Cable Car Museum]

William Clift, was born in England on Oct 25, 1831.

Clift made his fortune as an investor in the mines of California and Nevada. He owned one-third of the Hueston Hill Mine in Nevada, which yielded valuable amounts of gold. He also owned an interest in the Boston Ravine Flat north of Grass Valley.

He later became the President of the Presidio and Ferries Railroad in San Francisco, succeeding the legendary Andrew Hallidie. The company’s lines ran primarily on Union Street, covering roughly two miles of track. However, they were most famous for being the first line to climb Russian Hill. Presidio and Ferries Railroad was originally horse powered, but switched to electricity after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

One of the company’s lines was unique in that it combined horse power, steam power and cable power, the three modes of transportation known at the time.

Clift also served on the Board of Directors of the Oakland Bank of Savings.

He died of stomach cancer in 1900.

The question often gets asked on docent tours if William Clift founded the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. The famous hotel was founded by his son Frederick Clift, who died in Santa Barbara.

Also buried in the Clift Family Mausoleum is Irving Lundborg, who founded the brokerage firm Irving Lundborg & Co., which later became UBS Paine Webber.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Captain Charles Nelson (1830-1909); Sailor and Businessman

[Photo of Nelson family mausoleum by Michael Colbruno; photo of barkentine from]

Charles Nelson was born in Ballum, Denmark September 15, 1830 the descendant of generations of seafaring people. In 1850, he came to San Francisco and headed for the gold mines. He ended up operating a small schooner on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers until 1865, during which time he bought more boats.

In 1856 Captain Nelson wedded Miss Metha Clausen, a native of Denmark who died in 1896. The had five children who died in infancy. Their one surviving daughter Margaret married Eugene Bresse and both are buried in the family mausoleum.

In 1865 he purchased an interest in a lumber company owned by John Kentfield at Mission and Steuert in San Francisco, as well as a line of sailing vessels and two saw mills. He owned the first barquentine sailing vessel on the West Coast and was commonly referred to simply as “Captain Nelson.”

Mountain View Cemetery docent Peg Stone discusses Captain Charles Nelson:

In 1879 he sold his interest in the Kentfield lumber company and opened a business that he named after himself. He became a trustee of Mills College, was chair of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and served on the boards of several companies.

In 1901, he married his second wife, Helen Stind, a fellow Dane. At the time of his death on June 5, 1909, his estate was valued at $1 million, a significant amount for the time.

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