Sunday, July 19, 2009

Alfred A. Cohen (1829-1887) - Created First Railroad in Alameda & Edgar Cohen (1859-1939) - Photographer

Historian Dennis Evanosky at the Cohen gravesite [Photo by Michael Colbruno]

[Biography by Dennis Evanosky; reprinted from the August 11, 2008 Alameda Sun]

Look at a map of San Francisco's Tenderloin district between Leavenworth and Hyde streets and you'll find Cohen Place, named for Alfred Andrew Cohen. This gated alleyway's moniker might raise a question for most Alamedans. How did the man who built Fernside in their city have a street, humble as it is, named for him in San Francisco? The answer reveals what most Alamedans do not know about Cohen: he (and his money) wielded considerable influence in Gold Rush San Francisco.

In the 1850s Cohen was a respected and trusted financier and banker. He rubbed elbows with — and on at least one occasion clashed with — another San Francisco banker, William Tecumseh Sherman. The respect and trust that some felt for Cohen vanished in 1855, however, when rumors spread that he played a major role in what his contemporaries called "Black Friday."

Alfred A. Cohen was born in London, England, on July 17, 1829, the son of a wealthy merchant. Stunning news reached the family just a month after Alfred's fourth birthday. On Aug. 28, 1833, King William IV had freed all the slaves in his kingdom. "Whereas divers Persons are holden in Slavery within divers of His Majesty's Colonies, it is just and expedient that all such Persons should be manumitted and set free," the decree read.

Among the family businesses that included wine and money-brokering, the Cohens owned a coffee plantation in Jamaica. Since this enterprise depended on slave labor to squeeze the profits from its popular bean, the Cohens found themselves in financial straits. They could no longer afford to live in London and moved to Exeter in Devonshire where Alfred attended school until 1841. By age 14, he had returned to London to work for a solicitor. Two years later he immigrated alone to Canada where he earned his living in a variety of jobs.

In 1847, Alfred left Canada for the West Indies. He joined his older brother Frederick's mercantile business in one of the family's old footholds in the New World, Jamaica. In 1849, the thought of striking it rich in far-off California got the better of Alfred and he headed west. At first he settled in Sacramento, where he established the commission firm of Alfred A. Cohen.

By 1852 he had moved to San Francisco where his brother joined him. Alfred had prospered enough to mingle with San Francisco's high society. He cemented his membership in that elite circle when he married. Emilie Gibbons, daughter of prominent San Francisco physician Henry Gibbons, in 1854.

Barely a year into his marriage on Thursday, Feb. 22, 1855, news arrived that the major St. Louis bank Page, Bacon & Co. had serious financial problems. This news precipitated a run on San Francisco banks. The Page, Bacon branch closed immediately.

The next day, depositors lined up at the doors of other San Francisco banks: Price, Rodman; Miners' Exchange; Robinson & Co.; Wells, Fargo and Adams & Co. They demanded their deposits in gold. Many found themselves penniless in the streets, however, and remembered the day as "Black Friday."

Before Adams & Co. opened its doors that morning, the board of directors declared bankruptcy; the courts appointed Alfred Cohen receiver. So while its depositors waited outside for Adams & Co.'s customary opening time of 10 a.m., the bank's money was already "legally" in Cohen's hands.

Cohen discovered that Adams & Co. had not only cooked its books but had made a "quiet run" on the bank and withdrawn $250,000 before the doors opened on Black Friday. Unfortunately for the hoi-polloi waiting outside in the February chill, little was left for them.

Although Cohen was nothing more than the bearer of very bad news, he was made the scapegoat. A warrant for his arrest was issued. In an attempt to escape, Cohen concealed himself in the hold of the steamer Uncle Sam bound for Nicaragua, to no avail. On Jan. 5, 1856, deputy sheriff John Harrison came aboard warrant-in-hand and arrested Cohen.

Cohen did little to help his cause. In his memoirs William Tecumseh Sherman — who was working as a banker in San Francisco at the time — accused Cohen of spreading false rumors about his bank, Lucas, Turner & Co.

Cohen's older brother Frederick also involved himself in the shenanigans. On Feb. 12, 1857, he assaulted San Francisco Bulletin editor (and Adams & Co. manager) James King of William.

"A cowardly attack was made Wednesday, about 10 o'clock, by F.A Cohen, brother of A.A. Cohen, on Mr. Thos. S. King, the editor of the Evening Bulletin," the Alta California reported. "(This) resulted in the latter being beaten over the head by Cohen and the wounding of Cohen in the neck by a pistol ball fired by Mr. King."

The article went on to describe the confusion that ensued after the assault. The reporter likely did not notice that he had stoked the fire himself by confusing Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King with the Bulletin's editor, James, King of William.

By then Alfred had likely had enough of San Francisco. While in jail, he studied the law. He was admitted to the bar in 1857. He was looking forward to getting out of town. He would still keep his fingers in politics. He had already wrangled himself an appointment as justice of the peace in Alameda County.

He settled in on some property across the Bay that he had obtained from a pair of his clients, W.W. Chipman and Gideon Aughinbaugh.

Click here to purchase Dennis Evanosky's book about Alameda.

[Photo of Edgar Cohen gravemarker by Michael Colbruno]

Edgar A. Cohen was a famous photographer and the son of Alfred A. Cohen. Some of his earliest pictures are of Fernside, the Cohen family estate in Alameda. Cohen traveled all over the state, and photographed Yosemite and most of the Missions. He was in San Francisco for the earthquake and documented the ruin of the city. He called Monterey County, "the best place to photograph over any place I know." Cohen used a 5" x 7" Premo No. 6 (a folding field camera).

Cohen died from complications resulting from being hit by a 12-year-old boy on his bicycle.

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

A.K.P. Harmon (1821-1896) & George Edwards (1852-1930) - Cal Athletic Facilities Named For Them

[Photo of Harmon/Edwards gravesite by Michael Colbruno; Harmon drawing from Oakland Tribune]

Listen to docent Barbara Smith discuss A.K.P. Harmon [video by Michael Colbruno]

Albion Keith Paris Harmon was born in Maine and referred to as A.K.P. Harmon. He became a successful lumber and shipping magnate in California.

Harmon headed for California in 1849, setting off for Chagres, Panama where he ended up crossing the Isthmus by foot. Once his long walk was completed, he boarded the Oregon for San Francisco. Harmon headed to Sacramento and then to the mine fields of Coloma rather than staying in San Francisco. The decision paid off as he found an ounce of gold on his first day in the mines.

Harmon headed back to New York to buy stock up on provisions to open a store in San Francisco. However, his luck temporarily ran out as his new general merchandise store burned to the ground and Harmon lost everything. He opened a new store in Sacramento, which he ran for four years before investing heavily in the Comstock mines. By 1872, he had made a fortune and decided to settle down in Oakland, building a home on six acres near Lake Merritt.

In 1878 he spent $15,000 having an octagonal wooden building built on the University of California at Berkeley campus just inside the present location of Sather Gate. When it was completed in early 1879, he presented it to the university and it was named for him.

Harmon suffered from an enlarged liver, but his cause of death was listed as “hemorrhage of the bowels.”

Harmon is also related to the Edwards family (Edwards Field at Berkeley) and the Derby family (Derby Street in Berkeley). Harmon loaned money to W. E. Dargie when the 22-year old Dargie had just finished his freshman year at Cal, enabling the young man to buy the Oakland Tribune.

George C. Edwards was born in the Spencer Indian Territory in 1852. The third student to register at the University of California, where he earned a degree in philosophy. Edwards later married Harmon’s daughter, Marietta. After college he became the assistant professor of math at Cal and also served many years as the colonel of the University Cadets, an earlier version of R.O.T.C.

Friends said that Edwards never recovered from the death his wife earlier in the year and his condition rapidly deteriorated. Edwards’ memorial service was held at Edward Field in the Cal campus.

Harmon also served as President of the Mountain View Cemetery Association. Both men are buried at the same plot and lot.

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

Charles Crocker (1822-1888) - One of "Big 4" Railroad Barons

[Photo of Crocker Family Mausoleum by Michael Colbruno]

Docent Barbara Smith discusses Charles Crocker

Notice the Spite Fence behind the house, which Barbara Smith discusses on the video.

[Biography adapted from Wikipedia and PBS; video of docent Barbara Smith by Michael Colbruno]

Charles Crocker was born on September 16, 1822 in Troy, New York into a modest family. He quit school at the age of 12 and the family moved to an Indiana farm when he was 14. He worked on several farms, a sawmill, and at an iron forge. In 1845 he founded a small, independent iron forge of his own.

When news of the fortunes to be made in California spread across the nation, Crocker led a party of Forty-niners overland to the Pacific coast, arriving in 1850. Two years in the mines convinced him that mining was no way to make a fortune, and so he opened a store in Sacramento. By 1854 he was one of the wealthiest men in town. Political positions and further business opportunities accompanied Crocker's initial economic gains. In 1855 he was elected to Sacramento's city council as a member of the Know Nothing Party, and in 1860 was elected to the California' State Legislature as a Republican.

In 1861, after hearing a very intriguing presentation by Theodore Judah, he was one of the four principal investors along with Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington and Leland Stanford who formed the Central Pacific Railroad. The men became known as The Big Four and their railroad became the western portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in North America.

Crocker’s position with the company was that of construction supervisor and president of Charles Crocker & Co., a Central Pacific subsidiary founded expressly for the purpose of building the railroad. Crocker managed the actual construction of the railroad. He overcame shortages of money and manpower caused in part by the Civil War by hiring Chinese immigrants to do much of the back-breaking and dangerous labor. He drove the workers to the point of exhaustion, in the process setting records for laying track and finishing the project seven years ahead of the government's deadline.

Deming, New Mexico is named after Mary Ann Deming Crocker, wife of Charles Crocker (who is also buried here). A golden spike was driven at Deming in 1881 to commemorate the meeting of the Southern Pacific with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroads, completing the construction of the second transcontinental railroad in the United States.

Charles Crocker also acquired controlling interest in Woolworth National Bank for his son William, which became Crocker-Anglo Bank. In 1963, Crocker-Anglo Bank later merged with Los Angeles' Citizens National Bank, to become Crocker-Citizens Bank and later, Crocker Bank. The San Francisco, California based bank no longer exists. It was acquired by Wells Fargo Bank in 1986.

Crocker was also an early proponent of the massive irrigation projects which eventually transformed California into a fruit and vegetable growing center.

In 1886, Crocker was seriously injured in a New York City carriage accident. He never fully recovered, and died two years later at the Del Monte Hotel in Monterey, which was owned by the family. Crocker's estate was valued at between $20 and $40 million dollars, none of which was used to advance philanthropic causes. According to the American National Biography, Crocker "gave nothing to charity...nothing to public institutions of any kind."

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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Henry Casebolt (1816-1892) Cable Traction Pioneer; Rival to Andrew Hallidie

[Photo of Casebolt grave by Michael Colbruno; biography from Mid-Continent Railway Museum]

Henry Casebolt (1816-1892) was born in Virginia, but came to California in 1851, probably in search of gold. He may have worked first as a blacksmith, but soon was building houses, carriages and eventually railway cars.

About 1857, Casebolt formed a partnership with Charles Van Gulpen [sic], an immigrant from Prussia, who had come to California in 1850, probably also in search of gold. They built omnibuses (oversize carriages to haul groups of people) and built the first horse cars for the Market Street Railway, the first street car line in California.

[There is some evidence that Casebolt and Van Gulpin parted ways about 1863, and that the business thereafter was Henry Casebolt & Company]

It is unclear whether it was the partnership, or Casebolt personally, that was the contractor for the Front Ocean & Mission Railroad in 1866. But it is clear that it was Casebolt that became the principal owner of this railroad (later the Sutter Street Railroad Company) when its promoters paid him in railroad notes and then defaulted. Casebolt & Van Gulpin built the cars for this line.

It was for this horse-powered line that Casebolt invented the “balloon car,” characterized by its oval outline (see image below). The body of this car pivoted on the undercarriage so the direction of the car could be reversed by simply removing a retaining pin and directing the horses in a semi-circle to rotate the body on the undercarriage. These cars operated on Larkin Street, between Ninth and Mission, and Mission to Fourteenth Streets, which was the entrance to Woodward Gardens.

Residence of Henry Casebolt, West side of Pierce St. bet. Vallejo & Green in SF. Built about 1868.
But with time, the pivot mechanism would wear heavily, the body of the car become wobbly, and passengers begin to get seasick. Further, the lightly constructed cars had a habit of jumping the track. Needless to say, they were not popular. (It is interesting to note that Casebolt claimed to have “invented” the pivoting car, but John Stephenson had obtained a patent for a braking system for a pivoting car back in 1859, the wording of which seems to take for granted that such cars already existed.)

In 1876, Casebolt decided to power the Sutter Street line by cable. Unwilling to pay the license fee Andrew Hallidie wanted for use of his patented cable grip, Casebolt invented his own with the help of engineer Asa Hovey. Casebolt and Hovey’s side grip with lever control was better than the Hallidie wheel-operated bottom grip, and became the most common kind of grip in the cable traction industry. It is unclear whether the new cable cars were built in the railroad’s shops or by Casebolt & Van Gulpin, but the conventional wisdom is that later cars were built in the railroad’s shops, and the partnership was apparently dissolved.

Casebolt sold his interest in the Sutter Street line early in 1880. The U.S. Census for that year—official date June 1—shows his occupation as “money broker.”

In the mid to late 1880s, Casebolt built an experimental railway at Emeryville, California, to demonstrate the use of an overhead cable. The car would run on rails like an ordinary cable car, but the cable—rather than running in a raceway under the street—would run through pulleys supported on poles somewhat similar to those supporting an electric trolley wire. The idea was to avoid the inconvenience and expense of tearing up streets to install the cable underground. Little is known about this experiment, but it obviously was not a commercial success.

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

Dennis Evanosky Discusses Cemetery Symbolism

[Photo of anchor and Goodall monument by Michael Colbruno; click images to enlarge]

From Dennis Evanosky's book "Mountain View Cemetery" -

Symbols abound in cemeteries and make them interesting; Mountain View is no exception. A neatly trimmed sheaf of ripened wheat, an inverted torch that still burns and an obelisk draped with a tasseled pall: each has its own meaning.

Some symbols make personal statements about the deceased; others chosen from the stonecutter's sketchbook leave more general messages.

A dove flies across a marker with a sprig of olive bearing the message of life after death. A winged hourglass reminds us that time flies.

Laurel leaves, often in the shape of a wreath, announce victory over death. A broken column speaks of a life cut short. Ivy and lambs; lilies and urns all have their messages.

All we have to do is discover them.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." These words from the New Testament - Hebrews 6:18 - appear throughout Mountain View in the form of a woman leaning on an anchor. She points skyward in this detail on the Goodall mausoleum on Millionaire's Row: the star above her forehead announces she is not of this world.

To purchase Dennis Evanosky's book on Mountain View Cemetery, click here:

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

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Henry Crocker (1832-1904) - Businessman

Henry Crocker was born in Troy, New York in 1832. He moved to California in 1850 with his three brothers, Edwin, Clark and Charles, who became famous as one of the “Big 4” railroad barons. Charles Crocker is buried in one of the more spectacular family mausoleums on Millionaire’s Row in Mountain View Cemetery.

Henry Crocker traveled to the mines, where he worked until 1856. He then moved to Sacramento where he opened a stationery store named Crocker & Edwards, which later became H.S. Crocker & Company. He opened a store with the same name in San Francisco in 1874 at 1st & Market Street[pictured above]. The company made stationary, maps and books.

He married the former Clara Ellen Swinerton in 1864.

He died at his residence at the St. Francis Hotel after a three month illness. One of the floral tributes at his well-attended memorial service was a representation of a Benjamin Franklin Printing Press. The beautiful angel was designed by the San Francisco firm of Seregni & Bernieri. It is also the angel that graces the banner of this blog.

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Washington Oglesby Story Runs in Globe

The Globe newspaper, one of the preeminent newspapers serving the African-American community was gracious enough to allow me to publish a story about my recent post of Washington Oglesby. You can read the entire story here:

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

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dr. Wallace O. Buckland (1838-1903) – Brigham Young’s Doctor; Oakland Councilman and Mayoral Candidate

[Photo of Wallace Buckland gravesite by Michael Colbruno; city hall as Buckland knew it, photo from]


Wallace Buckland was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and moved to Chicago when he was still a young man. He had worked as a rector in various Episcopalian churches before getting his medical degree. He later converted to Presbyterianism.

He lost all of his belongings in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and decided to move to Salt Lake City. In Utah, Buckland became the personal physician for Mormon leader Brigham Young.

In 1873, he moved to Oakland where he became a successful doctor. He served for one term as a Republican on the Oakland City Council and in 1899 ran for Mayor on the Prohibitionist ticket against Roland Snow and John Davie. Buckland campaigned on a platform of suppressing the saloons and women’s suffrage. He received only 86 votes.

He died on November 29, 1903 of pneumonia after a surgical procedure. His wife Kate McNeal Buckland survived him for five years.

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

George Turner (1828-1885) Corrupt Judge Appointed by Lincoln; Mark Twain’s Career Launched by Lecture on Jurist

[Photo of George Turner tombstone by Michael Colbruno]


George Turner served as a United States District Judge of Virginia and a Territorial Judge of Nevada.

With the establishment of the Nevada Territory in 1861, President Lincoln appointed three justices to the Territorial Supreme Court, one being Turner. Territorial Governor James Nye assigned each to a judicial district to serve also as a circuit court judge, giving Turner the Central District. The Territorial Supreme Court rendered 88 decisions, which were never formally reported. Chief Justice George Turner was commissioned by the legislature to have them published, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Henry Blasdel. Turner took the majority of opinions with him when he left the state and they are considered lost.

Turner developed quite a reputation for corruption and pompousness during his brief stay on the bench, catching the attention of Mark Twain. According to the Nevada Observer:
Judge Turner began to earn a reputation for being the shallowest, most egotistical and mercenary occupant of the Supreme Bench. It was a matter of record that when he traveled in Europe he invariably signed his name on hotel registers as "Hon. George Turner, Chief Justice of the United States." Curiously enough it was Judge Turner that first attracted attention to Mark Twain, then "Samuel Clemens." He delivered a lecture in Carson City on some apparently important subject, but it turned out to be merely a history of his own vain-glorious achievements. Clemens reported the lecture for the Territorial Enterprise and spoke of Turner as "Mr. Personal Pronoun." The skit was regarded with such favor by Joseph Goodman, the editor of the paper, that he offered Clemens a permanent place upon the Enterprise, which was promptly accepted, and this incident launched Twain upon a literary career which gave him, later on, a world-wide reputation. The article was a scorching exposition of Turner's vanity, egotism and emptiness, and created a great deal of discussion throughout the territory.

This was soon followed by a signed article from the pen of R. E. Arick, the first Mayor of Virginia City, who charged the Chief Justice with being absolutely corrupt in his court decisions, and for sale to the highest bidder. Similar charges followed from other sources until in the summer of '62 the Enterprise was in full cry against him and demanding his resignation or removal. But it was not until 1863, when some of the big mining cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, that Judge Turner began playing the game for all that was in it. He did it in a regal way, his broker—a man named Johnson, a near relative—notifying litigants what a favorable decision by his royal highness would cost. In the first Chollar-Potosi trial it was only $60,000 for Judge Turner himself and $10,000 for his broker, which the Chollar company readily paid, of course ; and in every other suit there was a similar demand.
The Territorial Enterprise newspaper hammered the judges for their ethical lapses, particularly focusing on Judge Turner. More from the Observer:
The Enterprise opened fire on Judge Turner and demanded his removal as early as 1862. From that time it never ceased pouring hot shot into him and the Supreme Court, and by 1864 its attacks became a regular bombardment. In August of that year the Supreme Court convened for the fall term, but before any proceedings were had the judges were informed that the bar of the State unitedly refused to practice before them until they had vindicated themselves or taken action against the Enterprise for the charges of corruption it had made against them. The response was probably the most remarkable one ever seen in a court; all the judges descended from the bench—Turner and North resigning at once, and Locke a little later in the day.
All three justices resigned on August 22,1864.

George Turner's Coroner's report (courtesy of Janice Sellers)
Turner committed suicide at the Lick House in San Francisco by shooting himself in the head with his revolver. Turner had been complaining of ill-health before killing himself. He left behind his widow and two children. His wife was known to have accepted bribes on behalf of Turner when he was on the bench.

The Cornoner's report states, "Seven dollars and twenty cents cash, two gold nuggets, eleven pair quartz sleeve buttons, eye-glasses, one gold watch and chain, one seal ring, one stud, one gold stud, one gold match-box, keys, papers, certificate of deposits for three hundred and eighteen dollars and sixty cents on Anglo-California Bank. August 15, to Charles Hensley, order of widow of deceased."

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

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Washington Jacob Oglesby (1859-1902) First Black Member of California Bar; Candidate for Judge

Jackie Robinson. Franklin Raines. Barack Obama. Sidney Poitier. Arthur Ashe. These are all black men who we know were the first to break the color barrier in their respective fields. However, does anyone remember Washington Oglesby today?

In 1896, Oglesby was the first black man to be admitted to the California Bar Association. However, today he is completely forgotten and buried under a bunch of dried out weeds in the unendowed section of Mountain View Cemetery. I searched for an hour and couldn’t find his grave. Most of the gravestones are either damaged beyond recognition or are too overrun with weeds or covered with dirt to locate. It’s a sad ending for a man who was truly a trailblazer in the closing years of the 19th century. [UPDATE: The weeds have been cleared and the unendowed area in being restored].

Oglesby was born and raised in Virginia. He came to California around 1890 from Arkansas, where he was teaching school. Upon arriving in Oakland, he began selling real estate. His home was at 8th & Linden in Oakland. Directories from the late 19th century show him working in real estate, but the 1902 Husted's Oakland City Directory has him working as an attorney at 861 Broadway in Oakland.

He was involved with the Populist Party (also known as the People’s Party), whose national platform was getting rid of the gold standard. However, many Southern Populists, including their Presidential candidate Thomas E. Watson, spoke about whites and blacks getting past their racial differences and focusing on issues where they had economic self-interest. Oglesby ran for Justice of the Peace on the Populist ticket, but lost.

After passing the California Bar, one of Oglesby’s first divorce cases he handled was for a white woman named Elise Burkert. Her husband in the East had abandoned the woman and her two children. Oglesbly not only won the case, but he won a bride and raised the children as his own.

Oglesby died of a “weak heart” at the early age of 43. His wife said that she heard him call out her name at 3 AM, she flipped on the light and saw him breathe his last breath.

According to the California Association of Black Lawyers, there are over 2,600 black lawyers in the state today. Hopefully, the story of Washington Oglesby will become better known as he helped pave the path for generations of black lawyers.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Edward Newland (1827-1912) – Wealthy Businessman on Both Sides of the Bay

[Photo of Newland gravestone with hawk by Michael Colbruno; Click image to enlarge]

PLOT 14, Lot 120

Edward Newland was born in Kirkdale, England on May 12, 1827. He lost both parents by the time he turned three and was raised by his brother. In 1833, he was sent across the Atlantic to meet his brother who had emigrated to Boston. He stayed until 1848, before moving west.

Newland traveled around the Horn in inclement weather, delaying the ship’s arrival for weeks. Unlike most people on the ship, Newland did not head for the gold mines. He settled in South Park in San Francisco and started a stage coach line, which made him quite wealthy. He soon opened a drayage business (hauling goods on wagons), which carried much of the produce in San Francisco at the time.

In 1856, he married the former Catherine Allen, a Canadian who had come to San Francisco with her sister. The couple had four children.

In 1859, he moved to Oakland where he went into the livery stable business with his brother at 1st and Broadway. Newland rented from Oakland founders Horace Carpentier and Edson Adams.

Newland who had made friends with many of the Comstock millionaires in San Francisco (Flood, Ralston and Fair), soon became friends with the millionaires on the eastern side of the Bay (Merritt, Castro and Hayward). He regularly hosted parties for Oakland’s emerging high society at his home. He also constructed the Newland Hotel, which stood at 7th & Broadway. He started breeding race horses, including many for Senator Leland Stanford.

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

Conrad Liese (1833-1886) - Alameda Banker and Butcher

[Photo of Liese monument by Michael Colbruno]

PLOT 16, Lot 4

Conrad Liese was born in Cassel, Germany on July 25, 1833. He emigrated to New York City where he owned a butcher shop. After a few years, he traveled west to San Francisco, and lived in Brooklyn (now East Oakland) where he ran a butcher shop with his brother Henry.

In 1866, he sold his interest in the shop to his brother and moved to Alameda. He originally lived in a two-story house on Park Street before moving to Pacific Street. In 1883, he became president of the Alameda Bank. The bank was the first one in California based upon a currency standard, rather than gold.

Liese became active in creating a vibrant retail community in Alameda, helping create the Park Street business district. He built the Alameda Market on Park Street, which was another butcher shop. Liese turned over the shop to his nephew when he became involved with the bank. Liese also became a major land owner in Alameda and Oakland.

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

Hameline Palmer (1837-1894) - King of the Gypsies

[Photo of Hameline Palmer grave by Michael Colbruno; photo of Point Lobos Road as it looked when Palmer lived]

PLOT 58, Lot 843

Hameline Palmer was known as “Bendigo” and ruled the gypsies on the Pacific Coast. He led a nomadic pack of horse traders and peddlers up and down the coast, camping out in tents along the way. Newspaper accounts describe him as “portly” and holding autonomous sway over his camps.

He was born in England and raised an Episcopalian, like most gypsies who emigrated from the British Isles. It is unclear where the nickname Bendigo came from, but it’s a small town in Australia where a number of Palmers reside. Palmer made his headquarters in Oakland and was well-known to those in the livestock trade. He also owned real estate in the City, but most gypsy wealth came from their ownership in gold.

He died at a gypsy compound near 5th Avenue and Point Lobos Road (now Geary Blvd.) in San Francisco of natural causes. It was reported that a “pageant” of gypsies followed the corpse to Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. His last rites were performed by Father Akerly, an Episcopalian priest, in front of fifty gypsies.

Read more about the gypsies at Mountain View Cemetery at:

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

William Stow (1824-1895) Attorney, Politician, San Francisco Park Commissioner and Anti-Semite

[Photo of Stow gravesite by Michael Colbruno]

PLOT 33, Lot 3738

William W. Stow (1824-1895) was a native of Binghamton, New York, where he was raised on a farm. He graduated from Hamilton College and moved to California when he was 28-years-old. He married the former Ann Eliza Patterson and they had six children.

He settled in Santa Cruz County and grew lemons. Two years later he ran for the California Assembly and served two terms. In 1855, he became the Speaker of the California Assembly. A year later, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Governor on the Know-Nothing ticket. Stow made headlines as Assembly Speaker when he railed against Jews from the floor and even proposed a tax on Jews that ''would act as a prohibition to their residence amongst us.'' Stow’s outburst was a reaction against Louis Schwartz, a resident of Santa Cruz, who had opened businesses. Stow’s goal was to discourage Jews from moving to California.

California newspapers blasted Stow’s anti-Semitism and San Francisco attorney Henry Labatt published a letter to the Assembly leader in the April 7, 1855 issue of the Los Angeles Star. Despite the uproar from the Jewish community and citizens around the state, another law passed in 1858 after Stow’s departure from the Assembly banning stores from opening on Sundays, a law aimed at Jewish businesses.

Around 1856, he quit his political career and moved to San Francisco. Stow became a partner in the law firm Patterson, Wallace & Stow, which handled primarily land use issues. Despite having what some claimed was the largest law firm in California, he dissolved the practice and accepted a lucrative job with the railroads.

From 1878-1893, Stow made a name for himself as the political “strong arm” and attorney for Collis P. Huntington and the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad. Stow was primarily responsible for the Southern Pacific’s ability to build the railways through his ability to raise massive amounts of financing and gain political favors. His skills as an attorney allowed him to manipulate the complex legal hurdles facing the railroads. Stow became Huntington’s key strategist in California, while issues in Nevada were left to Mountain View Cemetery denizen Stephen Gage. ( The San Francisco Chronicle in its obituary said, “Stow was one of the ablest and one of the shrewdest manipulators of men which the peculiar political conditions of this State have ever developed.” They went on to say that for twenty years there wasn’t a session of the Legislature which Stow didn’t dominate.

In 1889, he was appointed to the San Francisco Park Commission and immediately began complaining about the lack of funds for Golden Gate Park. Ironically, when he was Assembly Speaker, he had cut funding for the park in half. In 1893, a lake at Golden Gate Park was named after Stow, who then convinced Huntington to pay $25,000 for a waterfall that still pours into the lake and is named after the railroad baron. That same year, he retired from the railroad to focus his attention on his duties as a park commissioner. His main reason for leaving the railroad was an ongoing feud with Charles Crocker.

In 1890, Stow showed his skills as a political operative while helping Leland Stanford in his re-election campaign for the United States Senate. Stanford was politically wounded by a very public feud with Huntington, which was regular fodder for the newspapers. He was also being dragged down by the unpopularity of William McKinley and the Republicans, primarily over the issue of tariffs, which Stanford supported. Stow insisted that Stanford return early from a trip to Europe and to re-engage the public on the campaign trail. Thanks to Stow’s tenacity, Stanford was re-elected.

Stow died at his San Francisco office while being tended to by a doctor and Assemblyman G.W. Dixon. Reportedly, his last words were a request for a carriage to take him home and an acknowledgment of the time. Before dying he had complained of severe stomach pains. His cause of death was listed as apoplexy.

His obituary in the San Francisco Call dubbed him the “greatest political manager that California has ever known.” His estate was estimated at $3 million at the time of his death.

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