Thursday, August 29, 2019

Charles Campbell (1838-1890): Oakland mayor who fought waterfront monopoly

Oakland's disputed waterfront in the 1850's
Charles Campbell was Oakland’s second mayor. His term began on March 5, 1855 and ended March 2, 1856. He was the Know Nothing party candidate for the “Anti-Squatters,” which ran on a promise to break Horace Carpentier’s hold on the Oakland waterfront.

Campbell was born in Kentucky and came to California during the Gold Rush. He studied law and was also a minister with the Methodist chruch in Kentucky before arriving in San Francisco.

On May 4, 1852, New York transplant Horace Carpentier persuaded the new California State Legislature to incorporate Oakland as a town. He became Oakland's first mayor under allegation of fraud and promptly persuaded the new town's trustees to pass an ordinance "for the disposal of the waterfront belonging to the town of Oakland." That ordinance gave Carpentier complete control of Oakland's waterfront, which was situated on prime real estate. Oakland's citizens were outraged by the transaction and he was ousted and replaced by Charles Campbell, who became Mayor on March 5, 1855.

During his time as mayor, Campbell signed two pieces of legislation that began the fight against Horace Carpentier's monopoly of the waterfront, which city officials deemed was obtained illegally.

Oakland's committee on streets and buildings then advertised for proposals to build a large wharf at the foot of Bay Street. The action placed the city firmly in opposition to the claims of the Carpentier interests.

After decades of legal wrangling over control of the waterfront, Carpentier returned to New York, where he became a trustee and major donor of Columbia University.

Shortly after serving as Oakland's mayor, Campbell moved to Stockton where he was elected  District Attorney (aka Prosecuting Attorney) of San Joaquin County as a Lecompton candidate, who were pro-slavery Democrats determined to have Kansas enter the union as a slave state. He eventually moved to Yolo County and retired in 1862. After that, there is little record of Charles Campbell.

Sources: Oakland Wiki, Wikipedia, Oakland Tribune, Past and Present of Alameda County by Joseph Eugene Baker, Bay Crossings, NY Times, Sacramento Daily Union.

Colonel Charles Dexter Pierce (1859-1909): 26th mayor of Oakland

Charles Pierce (Oakland Tribune)
Plot 15

Charles Pierce was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1859. His family moved to California in the 1870s and in 1879 Pierce's father, Dexter Pierce started a successful hardware business with Charles and his brother Frank. 

Pierce was a well-known businessman and was elected on an independent businessman's ticket in 1888 and 1889. He served two terms, but declined to run for a third term. He was one of the last Oakland mayors to serve under the original city charter, where mayors were elected by the city council for 1-year terms. In 1889, the Democrats wanted Pierce to run on their ticket but he declined. His brother Frank was also recruited to run for Governor, but also declined.

Pierce owned lots of land in in the Central Valley, including  Mandeville Island, which is 15 miles northwest of Stockton. He also owned Rough and Ready Island, near Stockton, which in the 20th Century was home to the Naval Supply Depot and berthed mothballed ships from the United States Navy.

The brothers also owned the Pierce Land and Stock Company, where they raised prize-winning Holstein Friesian dairy cattle. His cattle once held the world record for their yield of milk and butter.  

The brothers had their hands in numerous other ventures, including the Standard Electric Company,  Stockton Water Company and banking. They successfully brought the National Cash Register to the west coast. The company is still in existence and is known as NCR Corporation. It rapidly expanded during Pierce's lifetime and by 1911 it had sold one million machines, had 6,000 employees and controlled 95% of the U.S. market. According to the Oakland Tribune, the brothers "amassed a large fortune" from this business venture. 

Charles and Frank were often referred to as the "Cheeryable Brothers" after characters in Charles Dickens' "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby," who were known for their humanitarian activity, benevolence and private charity.

Pierce died of Bright's disease (today known as chronic nephritis), which was triggered by an accident with his horse-drawn buggy. He had suffered from kidney ailments for ten years. Mayor Frank Mott and William Davis were pallbearers at his Masonic funeral. Pierce succeeded Davis as mayor.

Sources: Oakland Wiki,, SF Call, Holstein-Friesian Register (Vol. 17), Wikipedia

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Samuel Irving (1858 -1930): Berkeley mayor killed by car

Samuel Irving
Main Mausoleum, Section E, 28, T1

Samuel Irving, was a former mayor of Berkeley, who was struck and killed by a car driven by a 19-year-old University of California student, who was later exonerated as it was determined that the accident was unavoidable.

Irving himself was an 1879 graduate of the University of California and later served as a UC Regent.

Professionally, Irving worked as the treasurer at Parafine, a paint manufacturing company, as well as President of the California Cider Company. He also served as President of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.

He was served as mayor of Berkeley from 1915 and survived a recall during his first term orchestrated by the Taxpayers' Protective League. The group claimed that the City Council and Mayor failed to consult with voters and taxpayers about the use of city money. Irving said the group was nothing but a group of disgruntled former and current politicians. He went on to be elected for a second term. 

In the 1915 election, Irving beat former Mayor and prominent Socialist Stitt Wilson. Two incumbent Socialist members of the City Council were also defeated. Upon his election, Irving declared, "Berkeley has been torn by factional differences. It is too big a city to suffer this way. From today on we are going to be united - east, west, north and south."

In 1926, he ran for the United States Senate as a "Dry Democrat," who supported a ban on alcohol, including its production, importation and transportation. Prohibition in the United States ran from 1920-1933.

Sources: Berkeley Daily Gazette, Oakland Tribune,, Find-a-Grave 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

James Paine Miller "J.P.M." Davis (1817-1864): Marshall and Mayor of Oakland

Mayor J.P.M. Davis
LOT 14, Plot 2

J.P.M. Davis was born in Maine in 1817.

He was elected Marshall of Oakland in 1855. He served only one term.

In 1860, he was elected Mayor of Oakland.

Little else is known about him.