Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Adam and Joseph Donohoe "J.D." Grant

[Photos by Michael Colbruno]

Adam Grant was a Highland Scotsman who came to California in 1850 and founded the dry goods store Murphy, Grant & Co. in San Francisco. He started by selling goods to the forty-niners who were mining for gold in the Sierra. He owned the store for over 50 years, turning it over to his son upon his death in 1904. Judge John Garber, who was a recent addition to this blog, was one of his pall bearers.

His son J.D. Grant continued the successful operation of Murphy, Grant & Co. and became a successful businessman and philanthropist in his own right. His father made him work his way up through and he worked in most of the store's departments.

After the earthquake and fire destroyed the store in 1906, J.D. reopened the store in Oakland's Tribune Tower with a fresh supply of goods and kept the company operating. In 1907, he opened the Adam Grant Building at Sansome & Grant in San Francisco (see photo). He served on numerous corporate boards and was a lifetime trustee at Stanford University (despite having attended the University of California).

An avid lover of nature, J.D. Grant was the president of the Save-the-Redwoods League for 21 years. The J.D. Grant Grove on the Del Norte coast in named in his honor. The Joseph D. Grant State Park in Santa Clara is built on land bought by his father and where J.D. operated a ranch. After Herbert Hoover lost the Presidency to Franklin D. Roosevelt, he stayed at the Grant Ranch for an entire month. It remains the largest park in the county.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Domenico Ghirardelli - Chocolateer (1817-1894)

Domenico "Domingo" Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy (near Genoa) in 1817 to an exotic foods importer and his young wife. At a young age, Domenico was introduced to the chocolate and confectionary trade as he apprenticed for a local candy maker. At the age of 20, Ghirardelli married his first wife, and set sail to Uruguay to partake in the South American chocolate trade.

In 1838, attracted by opportunities in Lima, Ghirardelli sails around Cape Horn to Peru. Fatefully, Ghirardelli opens a confectionery store next to a cabinet shop owned by an American, James Lick. Enticed by the stories prosperity in North America, Lick leaves for San Francisco in 1847, taking 600 pounds of neighbor Ghirardelli’s Chocolate with him. Meanwhile, Ghirardelli continues to operate his store in Peru, soon replacing his Italian name with its Spanish equivalent, Domingo.

Following the death of his first wife in 1848 and his remarriage to Carmen Alvarado, Ghirardelli learns of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill and sails unaccompanied to California. After prospecting in the Jamestown-Sonora area, Ghirardelli once again becomes a merchant, opening a general store in Stockton, California, offering supplies and confections to fellow miners. Located in a tent, it’s one of the first shops in the area.

Several months later, Ghirardelli opens a second store on the corner of Broadway and Battery in San Francisco, which becomes his first establishment in the city. On May 3, 1851 the fifth of a series of great San Francisco fires destroy some 1,500 buildings,including Ghirardelli’s Battery Street location. Three days later a runaway fire levels half of Stockton. In the span of a few days, Ghirardelli’s businesses are burned out of existence. He quickly consolidates his salvaged assets and opens the Cairo Coffee House on San Francisco’s Commercial Street in September of the same year.

After the Cairo Coffee House proves unsuccessful, Ghirardelli stays in San Francisco and forms a new confectionery company called Ghirardely & Girard on the corner of Kearny and Washington streets. This is the establishment of what is to become the modern day Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and over 150 years of traditional chocolate manufacturing.

Over the next few years the company relocated to a number of locations around San Francisco. By 1869 the Ghirardellis moved to Oakland.

In 1879, Ghiradelli became incensed with the Catholic Church when a priest refused to administer last rites to his granddaughter Aurelia. One story says that the priest refused to come to the house because it was raining, while another version says that the priest didn't think that Ghiradelli gave enough money to the Church. Carmen Ghiradelli was devastated and Domenico forbade any member of his family from ever entering a Catholic Church again.

Ghiradelli got his revenge by building the mausoleum pictured above with a giant Masonic emblem above the door. In 1890, Domenico and his sons snuck into St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery and removed the bodies of four family members and moved them to Mountain View.

In 1892, Domenico Ghirardelli retires as head of the company, turning the management over to his three sons. Needing additional space, the company purchases the Pioneer Woolen Mill building, and manufacturing moves to that location, on San Francisco’s northern waterfront. This is the present location of Ghirardelli Square.

On a trip to his home in Rapallo, Italy in 1894, Domingo Ghirardelli dies at the age of 77 on January 17.

Monday, February 18, 2008

John Garber: Eminent Jurist (1833-1908)

John Garber was a renowned attorney and jurist who founded the Garber, Boalt & Thornton law firm. He was born in Virginia in 1833 and moved to San Francisco in 1857 to live with his uncle, Joseph G. Baldwin, a noted author and member of the California Supreme Court. Garber himself would later serve on the Nevada Supreme Court, only to resign in order to make more money in private practice.

Garber moved to Nevada in 1863 where he practiced law and met his wife Julie White, the daughter of an Alabama judge. He returned to California in 1867 only to return to Nevada in 1870. Upon his resignation from the Court he entered into legal partnerships with Colonel Harry I. Thornton, Thomas B. Bishop, Judge John Boalt, Judge Eugene R. Garber, Harry Thornton Creswell, and his son, Joseph Baldwin Garber. One of his most famous cases was his representation of Jane Stanford against the U.S. Justice Department who were going after the $13,000,000 Stanford estate to pay off a $60 million judgment against the Big 4 railroad magnates.

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the Panama Canal Commission, but Garber declined the appointment.

Garber died of typhoid fever at his Berkeley home.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

General Ralph Kirkham - War hero, businessman, philanthropist

[Photo of Kirkham gravesite by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 6

General Ralph W. Kirkham (1821-1893) was a hero of the Mexican War, whose journals and letters provided historians with a vivid portrayal of the period. His lineage in America extended back to 1640 and his family was filled with military heroes. His grandfather Henry Kirkham fought in the French and Indian War and his father John Kirkham fought in the American Revolution.

In 1846, while stationed at Ft. Gibson in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, he met Catherine E. Mix and claimed it was love at first sight. He married the New Orleans-raised woman known as Kate six months later. Shortly after being married Kirkham was called away from his marital bliss when he was summoned to serve in the Mexican War. Kirkham dropped off Kate in New Orleans and boarded a boat to Veracruz, Mexico.

During his time in Mexico, Kirkham kept detailed journals of his wartime service, including six battles and accounts of his Infranty's travels throughout Mexico. After the American takeover of Mexico City he continued to write about the American occupation, showing that there was great cooperation between Mexican civilians and U.S. military personnel. A devout Episcopolian (who frequently trashed Catholics in his journals), he often wrote down his prayers and asked for divine protection for his wife.

In 1848, he was reunited with his wife in New Orleans. The next few years saw the young couple move all over the vast young country, from Minnesota to Missouri to the West Coast. In March 1855, they arrived in Ft. Tejon, California and Kirkham was promoted to captain. In 1857, he was reassigned to San Francisco where he served as quartermaster for the remaining thirteen years of his military career. [A quartermaster is responsible for supplying clothing and provisions to troops]. Kirkham purchased a large home in Oakland at 9th & Fallon Street where he raised his four daughters Leila, Julia, May and Kate.

In 1861, when the American Civil War erupted, Kirkham volunteered to return to duty but was ordered to remain in San Francisco as quartermaster. One of his major responsibilities during this time was to send gold to Washington D.C. to purchase armaments.

In 1870, Kirkam retired from the military and became a prominent Oakland businessman. He became one of the founding members of the Union National Gold Bank (later Union Savings Bank) and began buying real estate. Along with Colonel John Coffee Hays (who has a plaque honoring him at Mountain View Cemetery), Kirkham purchased a huge tract of land that later became Oakland. Hays and Kirkham began selling plots of land to hundreds of settlers, while donating land to railroads, gaslight companies, churches, parks, hospitals and the county seat. In 1879, Hays and Kirkham hosted former military colleague and United States President Ulysses S. Grant in Oakland.

Kirkham also left his mark as a great civic leader of the early days of Oakland, He was one of the founders of Mountain View Cemetery and served on its Association for years. He also donated land to St. John's Episcopal Church, donated generously to the Oakland City Hospital and provided and endowment for St. Luke's Hospital. His wife was one of the early supporters of Fabiola Hospital and served as its first president. Fabiola was built to serve the indigent and the poor.

Kirkham died at his Oakland home in 1893. Both San Francisco and Oakland honored him by naming streets after him and his sword is on display at the Presidio Army Museum. Kate died four years later.