Monday, May 31, 2010

John "Ross" Browne (1821-1875) - Writer & Special Agent

PLOT 16, LOT 53
[Photo of Ross Browne gravestone by Michael Colbruno]

John Ross Browne was born near Dublin, Ireland, in January 1821. His father was a journalist who landed in jail when one of his editorials upset the British aristocracy. His sentence was commuted after three months on the condition that the leave Ireland. The family ended up in Kentucky, where the elder Browne set up a private girls school.

Ross Browne was a man of interests, who loved reading, traveling, writing and playing the flute. He learned shorthand, worked for his father, clerk, attended medical school and worked as a deckhand on a flatboat. He wrote a book called "The Confession of a Quack: The Autobiography of a Modern Aesculapian," which was the beginning of his lifelong interest in exposing quacks and frauds. It is said that his literary career was encouraged by Edgar Allen Poe and that one of his books inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby Dick.”

In 1844, Browne married the former Lucy Ann Mitchell with whom he had two children. The next year Browne began a long career working for the government. In 1849, the family left for San Francisco where he was appointed Third Lieutenant for the United States Revenue Service. His job was to find ways to keep sailors from deserting their duty and taking off for the gold mines. During this time he was also responsible for setting up post offices between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.

In September 1849, fellow Mountain View Cemetery denizen Senator William Gwin, appointed Browne as the official reporter to the Constitutional Convention in Monterey, for which he was paid the princely sum of $10,000.

Browne used his payment to travel across Europe and write about his experiences. In 1853, Browne became a “Confidential Agent” for the United States government. He was tasked with investigating custom house operations and report on fraud, corruption and poor work habits. Browne eventually upset the politically powerful and well-connected and was fired.

In 1854, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and devoted himself to his mining interests, real estate and an irrigation project. He also designed and had built a palatial home in Oakland’s Rockridge district known as “Pagoda Hill.” Browne is not only remembered for his vast literary works and government work, but as a passionate champion for the rights of the Chinese and Indians in California.

He died suddenly in 1875 at the age of fifty-four, apparently of acute appendicitis.

You can download any of Ross Browne's 47 articles from Harper's at their website.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lincoln Doyle (1895-1904) & Michael Doyle (1850-1938) - Smallest Gravemarker

[Photo of Lincoln Doyle gravemarker by Michael Colbruno

This small bronze marker is believed to be the smallest gravestone in Mountain View Cemetery. The image is of Lincoln Doyle  (1895-1904), who died at age nine from a ruptured appendix. The gravemarker was made by the boy’s father Michael Doyle, a trained cabinet maker who had also studied sculpting and painting. At the time of the boy’s death, Michael Doyle was working as a school teacher in San Francisco.

Michael Doyle (1850-1938) is also buried in the plot, but his grave is unmarked. He was separated from his wife Emma at the time of his death.


[Bio excerpted from Doyle family genealogy and Mountain View Cemetery docent notes]

Dr. N.L. Buck - Victim of Sensational Murder

PLOT 13, LOT 14

[Photo of Buck gravestone by Michael Colbruno]

A Doctor Murdered by an Angry Husband
From the Lowell Courier (Massachusetts), May 26, 1885

Dr. N.L. Buck, a highly respected citizen of Oakland, Cal., was shot at his door Sunday night by Henry P. Prindle, a member of Joe Hooker post, G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic]. Prindle was arrested.

At the police station he said he shot Buck because his wife told him Buck had taken improper liberties while she was under his professional care. Dr. Wythe, a friend of the murdered physician, says he attended Mrs. Prindle for a time and believes her to be insane.  He thinks she labors under the hallucination that Dr. Buck was guilty of unprofessional conduct. Mrs. Prindle’s female friends assert, on the contrary, that Buck was guilty of everything charged against him. Dr. Buck was a widower, and leaves a grown up family.

A Springfield dispatch says Dr. Buck went there from Vermont in 1867. He had a large and lucrative general practice, although making a specialty of female diseases. He and his family were well thought of and had many friends. The doctor was a member of the Massachusetts Medical society and rarely came in contact with the physicians of the city. His wife’s failing health compelled him to go to California.

After Buck’s death there was a fight over his $5,000 insurance policy between his father, adopted children and fiancée. Although not named in the policy, the father prevailed.



Joseph McChesney (1832-1912) - First Principal of Oakland H.S.


Joseph Burwell McChesney was born in Brunswick, New York on October 12, 1832 to Quaker parents.  After eighteen years living on a farm, McChesney went to college, eventually graduating from Union College in Schenectady, New York.

In February, 1858, he left New York for California, coming by way of the Isthmus route and arriving in San Francisco a month later. While in Forbestown in Yuba County he married a miners daughter named Sarah S. Jewett. Shortly after his marriage he began teaching in both Forbestown and Oroville.

In 1859 he became the Republicans nominee for the Legislature. He was defeated and returned to teaching. From 1862 to 1867 he was principal of the high school in Nevada City.  In 1867 he was offered the job as the principal of the first grammar school in Oakland.  In 1869 he organized the high school, and was appointed its principal, a position he held for 25 years. 

McChesney also served as president of the Equity Building and Loan Association of Oakland, president of the Home Security Building and Loan Association and was elected as a Trustee of the Oakland Free Library. 

The McChesney’s spent thirty years in Oakland, but also lived in Mill Valley and San Francisco. Their daughter Clara Taggart McChesney became an artist of some note in New York.

When his death was announced, the Oakland City Council ordered flags flown at half-mast.

[Photo of McChesney gravestone by Michael Colbruno]

[Bio excerpted from "The Bay of San Francisco," and the Oakland Tribune]

Saturday, May 29, 2010

William Edward Dargie (1854-1911) - Oakland Tribune Publisher

[Picture from Oakland Tribune]

[Dargie gravesite photo by Michael Colbruno]

William Edward Dargie was an American newspaper publisher and politician. He was publisher of the Oakland Tribune and served in the California State Senate.

Dargie was born in San Francisco, California, to John and Eliza G. Dargie. He graduated from Union Grammar School and for one year he attended San Francisco High School. In 1867, Dargie, secured the position of bill clerk with the wholesale wood firm of Armes & Dallam. Dargie became an apprentice in the printer's trade at the San Francisco Bulletin, becoming a member of the International Typographical Union's, San Francisco Local # 21. As a journeyman printer, Dargie learned all the operations and jobs in the composing room. He was transferred to the editorial department as a reporter for the Bulletin.

In 1875, Dargie decided to better his education and entered the new University of California at Berkeley. He continued to work as a reporter for the San Francisco Bulletin. Dargie's salary from the Bulletin paid his university expenses. After his freshman year at the university, Dargie purchased controlling interest in the Oakland Tribune with a loan from A. K. P. Harmon. On July 24, 1876, Dargie became the manager of the newspaper.

He envisioned that Oakland and Alameda County would grow in the future and that the Oakland Tribune would be the major newspaper to serve the new populace. Using his knowledge from the composing room and editorial department, Dargie made the Tribune a newspaper of credibility. He hired an excellent staff and purchased the latest presses and linotype machines.

On February 27, 1883, President Chester A. Arthur appointed Dargie, a Republican, to the post of Postmaster of Oakland. When his term as postmaster ended in 1888, Dargie ran for the California Legislature. He represented Alameda County in the California State Senate from 1889 to 1891. During his political career, Dargie continued as publisher of the Oakland Tribune.

On December 15, 1881, Dargie married Hermina Peralta at San Leandro, California in the home of the bride's father Miguel Peralta. The couple's daughter died at birth, their son, William Edward Dargie, Jr. died at age 20. Dargie died in Oakland, California from the effects of a nervous breakdown and stroke. The California State Senate adjourned in honor of William E. Dargie. State Senator John W. Stetson of Alameda County praised the work of William E. Dargie. His widow, Hermina would be involved in a long legal battle over the purchase of the Oakland Tribune stock with former U.S. Congressman Joseph R. Knowland.

The Peralta-Dargie Family have two large burial plots one located at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Oakland, California and another at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.


[Biography from Wikipedia]

Simona Bradbury (1849-1902) & Lewis Bradbury (1822-1893) - Owned Mines and Real Estate

PLOT 35 (Millionaires Row)

[Photos of Bradbury Mausoleum by Michael Colbruno]

Lewis "L.L." Bradbury is best remembered for an unusual building in Los Angeles that he commissioned in the 1890's. Bradbury's architect was George Wyman, who had no formal training and designed another notable structure. The five-story Bradbury Building with its light filled atrium and wrought iron decor was largely ignored in contemporary architecture circles. Now a National Historical Landmark and Los Angeles tourist attraction, the building is a testament to the vision of Bradbury and Wyman.

Bradbury, a native of Maine, developed the rich Tajo silver and gold mines in Sinaloa, Mexico. He made a fortune while in Mexico and also picked up a bride, the former Simona Martinez. On their return to America, the Bradburys established homes in both Northern and Southern California in order to oversee their rapidly growing real estate empire. Their Oakland residence was at 1040 Filbert Street, which they purchased in 1875.

The city of Bradbury in Southern California's San Gabriel foothills is also named after the couple. In 1892, Bradbury purchased the 2750-acre Rancho Azuza de Duarte, which is where the town now sits.

In the 1880's and 1890's the Bradbury's spent most of their time at their beloved Oakland home. Simona, who did not speak English at the time of her wedding, became an accomplished businesswoman in her own right. She was the executor of her husband's estate and oversaw the completion of the Bradbury Building.

In 1894, Simona, a devout Catholic, purchased a lot on Millionaires Row and ordered the construction of a family mausoleum. The angel at the gate is believed to have been ordered by her. L.L. Bradbury was placed in the family vault a year later in September 1895. Several years later Simona was taken ill while living in Los Angeles and asked to be taken to her home in Oakland, where she died.

Many relatives are buried on the surrounding lawn.


Charles Peter Weeks (1870-1928) - Architect; Designed Main Mausoleum

[Photo of Weeks urn by Michael Colbruno]

Main Mausoleum, Niche 47, Tier 3

Charles Peter Weeks was born in Copley, Ohio on September 1, 1870, the son of Peter Weeks and Catharine Francisco. He was educated at the University of Akron and obtained some preliminary experience working in the Akron office of architect Charles Snyder.

From 1892-95 he attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, having been accepted into the atelier of Victor Laloux. Returning from Paris, he worked in Cleveland for a while and then moved to New York, initially working as an interior decorator, until in 1899 he joined John Galen Howard at the firm of Howard & Cauldwell.

In 1901 Howard moved to Berkeley, to become supervising architect for the University of California, and he invited Weeks to join him as head designer. That association did not continue for long. In 1903 Weeks joined established San Francisco architect Albert Sutton (1867-1923) as junior partner in the firm of Sutton & Weeks.

Weeks wrote a plaintive article for the June 1906 Architect and Engineer magazine titled ‘Who is to blame for San Francisco’s plight?’, referring to the devastating earthquake and fire damage. The article hit owners first for a lack of concern for quality, the City for performing inadequate inspections, architects for acquiescing on cheapness, and contractors for not giving value for money. In April 1907 he wrote another article on the renaissance of apartment houses in the City, which featured several Sutton & Weeks designs. Sutton moved to Hood River, Oregon in 1910, after a bitter divorce and child custody battle, leaving Weeks to practice on his own.

In 1916 Weeks took on engineer William Peyton Day as a partner and together they designed the magnificent Don Lee Building at 1000 Van Ness, the Huntington Hotel, the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the Brocklebank apartments at 1000 Mason and the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Powell at Sutter. Weeks & Day were responsible for designing the main mausoleum at Mountain View Cemetery.

In 1923, at the age of 53, Weeks married Beatrice Woodruff Mills, a member of New York high society. The couple married one day after her divorce was granted from attorney John Woodruff, who she accused of cruelty. Divorce papers list the act of cruelty as kissing her while standing on a public street.

After the Brocklebank was completed in 1926, the Weeks’ moved into the building. Unfortunately, on March 25, 1928, Weeks was found dead in the living room of the apartment by his wife’s maid. After Weeks died, Beatrice married the actor Bela Lugosi, but divorced him in about a year.

Will Day continued the operations of the company the two had formed for another 25 years, but the creative spark was gone.


[Bio excerpted from David Parry’s blog, the Oakland Tribune and Mountain View Cemetery docent notes]

Charlotte "Anita" Whitney (1867-1955) - U.S. Communist Party Leader

Plot 15 (Unmarked)
There is a marker for her parents, George and Mary Whitney

Charlotte “Anita” Whitney was a social worker and descendant of prominent Americans who became a leader of the Communist Party in the United States. Whitney’s family could be traced back to the Mayflower and her father, George E. Whitney, served as Oakland’s Republican State Senator from 1883-1886. Her uncle, Stephen J. Field, was a California Supreme Court Justice in the late 1850’s and was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln. Field also later ran unsuccessfully for President.

In the early 1900’s, Whitney helped in the rehabilitation of victims of the San Francisco earthquake and became widely known as a philanthropist.

Whitney was a cultured graduate of Wellesley College who turned to socialism in 1914. After World War I, she helped align the Socialists with the communist labor party. She was jailed in 1919 for criminal syndicalism on grounds that she advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government. An Alameda County Superior Court jury convicted her and she was sentenced to 1-14 years in prison. She managed to stay out of prison during seven years of appeals, until finally the U.S. Supreme Court upheld her conviction. However, just before she was scheduled to go to prison she was pardoned by Governor C.C. Young.

After her pardon, she continued to be an advocate for communism and was frequently jailed on charges of disturbing the peace and was even arrested for picketing the German Consulate in 1937. She devoted the rest of her life fighting for women’s suffrage, civil rights for blacks, minimum wage laws, the rights of union workers and the relief of the poor.

She became the chairwoman of the California Communist Party and ran for the United States Senate in 1927, State Treasurer in 1934 and for State Controller in the 1940’s. Anita Whitney remained extremely popular with the radical left and she garnered 99,000 votes in her 1950 U.S. Senate race despite the anti-communist crusades of future politico Ronald Reagan and from Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Whitney lived in Oakland until 1932 before moving to San Francisco.

[Excerpted from the Feb. 5, 1995 obituary in the Oakland Tribune; additional information from Silvia Lange]

Jeanne Smith Carr (1825-1903) & Ezra Slocum Carr (1819-1894) - Scientists; friends of John Muir

PLOT 4, LOT 5 (Unmarked)

[Jeanne Carr at Carmelita; Ezra Carr]

[The unmarked plot of Jeanne & Ezra Carr; Photo by Michael Colbruno]

Jeanne Carr was an amateur botanist and her husband Ezra was a physician, geologist and chemist. Jeanne Carr met Sierra Club founder John Muir when she served as one of the judges at an exhibition of inventions at the Wisconsin State Fair where Muir had some of his inventions on display.

In 1861, John Muir enrolled at the University of Wisconsin where Ezra Carr was a professor of chemistry and natural history. Ezra Carr introduced John Muir to geology, and Jeanne Carr mentored Muir and introduced him to many famous literary figures of the day. Jeanne Carr recognized Muir's natural talent for writing and send his letters to publishers. In 1865, Jeanne Carr and John Muir began a long history of correspondence between themselves.

In 1869, the Carrs moved to Oakland when Ezra Carr received an appointment as the first professor of agriculture at the new University of California, a post he held for the next six years. Muir had arrived in California a year earlier where he discovered his love for Yosemite and his passion for hiking. During their years apart, Jeanne Carr and John Muir continued their correspondence. Meanwhile, Ezra Carr was creating a practical curriculum focused on helping farmers rather than on research and theory.

Carr's University of California career came to an end in 1873 when he instigated a movement to abolish the Board of Regents and all colleges of the university except for agriculture and mechanical arts. The movement eventually failed and the Regents "dispensed with his services in view of his incompetency and unfitness for the duties of the chair."

In 1875, Ezra Carr was elected as California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which placed him on the very Board of Regents he wished to abolish. He served as Superintendent until 1880.

When Jeanne Carr me Dr. John Strenzel and his family in Martinez, she decided that the daughter Louie would make a great match for her friend John Muir. On September 15, 1874, Jeanne invited Louie and her mother Louisiana to her home to meet John Muir. Mrs. Strenzel was impressed, but John Muir was difficult to tie down, as he was always off hiking in the mountains. Jeanne tried several times to entice Muir to Martinez for a visit, finally succeeding in 1877. John and Louie finally got married on April 14, 1880.

According to historian Kevin Starr, the Carrs moved to Pasadena in 1876 where they developed their estate Carmelita into a botanical showcase, helping establish the city as the premier garden and floral city in Southern California.

[First page of 1867 letter from Jeanne Carr to John Muir]

[Biography courtesy of Mountain View Cemetery docent program]


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stephen Bechtel (1900-1989) - Influential Businessman

[Photo of Bechtel crypt by Michael Colbruno]


Stephen Bechtel was a native of Aurora, Indiana and the son of Warren Bechtel, the founder of the W.A. Bechtel Company. Around 1906 the family moved to Oakland where Stephen graduated first in his class at Oakland Technical High School in 1917.

His engineering training was acquired in part in the field as a boy on summer jobs with his father, and during World War I where he served in France with the 20th Engineers, and in part in the classroom at the University of California at Berkeley. He left college in 1921 to join his father's company. The California Alumni Association's obituary called him "perhaps Cal's most successful dropout."

Ascending to the company presidency in 1935 following his father's death in 1933, he took the company international, placing Bechtel in a leadership position in building the Hoover Dam, San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, BART, and the Saudi-Arabian city of Jubail. He was also responsible for work on major oil pipelines, nuclear reactors, power plants, hotels and 500 World War II liberty ships. Stephen Bechtel's leadership turned the company into one of the world's largest engineering firms.

Bechtel was named by Time magazine as one of the twenty most influential business geniuses of the 20th Century. The American Society of Civil Engineers named him one of the top ten builders of the past half century and Fortune magazine called him "the boldest and maybe the biggest builder in the world."

[Biography courtesy of the Mountain View Cemetery docent program]

This site can be contacted at

Main Mausoleum

This Art Deco addition to Frederick Law Olmstead's Victorian cemetery was designed by William P. Day of the San Francisco architectural firm of Weeks & Day. The central section was built in 1929 with new additions added in 1934, 1946, 1949, 1954 and 1964. The stairway at the west end of the last addition is of a temporary nature because further additions had been planned.

The facade of the Mausoleum is of the Art Deco style or Moderne style that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Other Bay Area buildings of this style were designed by Weeks & Day, including Oakland's I. Magnin building. William Day was also the Director of Works for the Golden Gate Exhibition on Treasure Island in 1935, a wonderland of Art Deco design.

Art Deco was the first widely popular style in the United States to break with the revivalist tradition represented by the Beaux-Arts and period houses. It was a style that consciously strove for modernity and an artistic expression to complement the machine age. Emphasis on the future rather than the past was a principal characteristic. Ornamentation consists largely of low-relief geometrical designs, often in the form of parallel straight lines, zigzags, chevrons and stylized floral motifs.

The best illustrations of the style are probably the great movie palaces of the 20s and 30s, where curtains, murals and light fixtures bore the same Art Deco motifs as the building itself. Oakland's Paramount and Fox Theaters are classic examples. Art Deco tended to be eclipsed by the International Style that appeared in the 1930s and which rejected any nonessential decoration.

It appears the the Mountain View Cemetery trustees of the depression era wanted the most up-to-date architecture and spared no expense. The quality of the materials and the skill of the craftsman is evident if one examines the marble, bronze, art glass and the fixtures such as chandeliers, banisters and windows. According to Bob Sorenson, much of the glass came from Germany and the marble and most of the craftsmen came from Italy.

[Text courtesy of Mountain View Docent program]

This site can be contacted at