Sunday, December 26, 2010

Arthur Hastings Breed, Sr. (1865-1953) – State Senator; Father of State Highway System

Niche of Senator Arthur Breed, Sr.

Arthur Breed, Sr. during his early days in Oakland and shortly before his death
Arthur Hastings Breed was born in San Francisco in 1865 and moved to Oakland in 1883. He ran the A.H. Breed and Sons real estate company in downtown Oakland.

He was elected City Auditor Oakland in 1899 and later to the State Legislature in 1912. He rose to become President pro tempore of the California State Senate, a role he maintained for 18 years, which remains the longest term in history.

Breed was author of the California Motor Vehicle Act and of the gas tax, which provided for the construction of highways in California. At his death, Governor Earl Warren called Breed “the father of our state highway system.” 

He was named an honorary member of the Sierra Club in recognition of his efforts to build the John Muir Trail, running from Mt. Whitney to the Yosemite Valley.

He served as acting Lietenant Governor when Frank Merriam became Governor after the death of Governor James Rolph, Jr. 

Breed served on the Board of Directors and the finance committee of the Mountain View Cemetery Association.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ina Coolbrith redux


Although I've previously posted Ina Coolbrith on this site, I thought that this more comprehensive article from the Oakland Tribune might be of interest.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nathaniel Spaulding (1829-1903) Saw inventor; Mayor of Oakland

Spaulding Grave (photo: Michael Colbruno); Mayor N.W. Spaulding from (Photo: Oakland Tribune)
Plot 6, Lot 1

Nathaniel Spaulding was born in North Anson, Maine on September 24, 1829. He learned the carpentry trade from his father and uncle and worked in the trade in Portland and Boston.

In 1851, he sailed for the Gold Fields of California, where he pioneered in the building of mills and flumes on the Mokelumne River in Calaveras County. He also built and managed the first hotel in Campo Seco, where he was married Mary Clinkinbeard in 1854. The couple eventually had ten children.

In 1859, he began a business in Sacramento as a manufacturer lf inserted-tooth saws. Spaulding patented the saw, which became known as the Spaulding Saw or chisel-bit saw. According to one source it, “…thoroughly revolutionized the circular saw business, not only in the U.S., but also throughout Europe.

He moved to San Francisco in 1862 and established the Pacific Saw Manufacturing Company. He also established the N.W. Spaulding & Company in Chicago with two of his brothers.

Spaulding moved to Oakland in 1866 where he built two large homes, one at 9th & Madison and the other in Highland Park. He was elected as a Republican to the City Council, where he was named as chair of the committee that oversaw streets. Spaulding played a major role in the layout and lighting of the city. He was elected as Mayor in both 1871 and 1872 without opposition. He was a noticeable presence in City Hall, as he stood 6’3” and weighed 220 pounds, which was unusually large for the time.

As Mayor, Spaulding led the effort to move the Alameda County seat from San Leandro to Oakland, which was approved by the California Legislature in 1874.

After his terms ended, he served two more terms on the City Council and then was appointed as Assistant U.S. Treasurer by President Garfield. He also served as a trustee at Stanford University.

A thirty-third degree Mason, Spauling was founder of the Oakland Lodge No. 188 and Grand Priest of the California Royal Arch Masons. He died on October 8, 1903 in New Britain, Connecticut from complications related to malaria.

William Watrous Crane, Jr. (1830-1883): Oakland Mayor, Author

Oakland Mayor William Crane, Jr. (photo by Michael Colbruno)

Plot 14A, Lot 224

William Watrous Crane, Jr. was born in New York City on September 14, 1830 to parents of Irish and Scottish decent. He was educated in New York, including a stint at Columbia University. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1853 and practiced law for a year before heading to San Francisco via the Panama route.

In San Francisco he practiced with the law firm of Doyle, Boyd & Barber, then alone for a time and afterward as a member of the firm of Crane & Boyd. In 1856, he married the former Hannah Austin. In 1862, the Cranes moved to Oakland and he got involved in politics. He was elected as a State Senator from Alameda County and in 1867 was elected as Mayor of Oakland and served from March 1867-November 1867. He didn’t complete his term as Mayor due to bad health and was succeeded by Samuel Merritt. He was offered the Republican nomination for Governor on more than one occasion, but declined due to his health.

In an effort to improve his health, he took two trips to Europe with his wife. He ended up serving as a bank director as well as the president of the Oakland Gas and Light Company. He was also published as a poet and essayist and was donor to the prestigious journal The Overland Monthly. He was the author of Politics: An Introduction to the Study of Comparative Constitutional Law.

Crane died at his Oakland residence at 10th & Market St. on July 31, 1883.

Friday, September 10, 2010

William Rheem (1862-1919) - Built Chevron Refinery

Garden 8, Tier 1, Vault 162

William Rheem is third from the left

William Rheem's Vault -Photo by Michael Colbruno
William S. Rheem (1862 – April 19, 1919), was and executive with Standard Oil in Chicago before being tranfered to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1901. That same year, Augustine Macdonald, the founder of Richmond, convinced William Rheem to buy some old farmland north of Point Richmond. Rheem needed to replace a refinery in Alameda that couldn’t be expanded due to the limited availability of land.

Within eight months Rheem completed construction of what is now the Chevron Refinery and transformed the rural area into a company town. A year after it opened the refinery was producing 10,000 barrels of petroleum. In 1902, Rheem opened the Richmond Belt Line Railrod to provide service to the bustling refinery.

After the refinery was completed, Rheem remained as the superintendent. Chevron remains the largest employer in Richmond to this day.

Rheem Creek a small river in the Hilltop District and Rheem Avenue in the Central Richmond District are named in his honor.

Rheem died of a heart attack in a restaurant on his way to Santa Cruz with his family.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chang Kia-ngau (Chinese:张嘉璈, Zhāng Jiā'áo or Chang Kia-ngau, Courtesy: 公权, Gōngquán) (1889-1979) - Banker, Academic, Author


[Photo of Chang Kia-ngau vault by Michael Colbruno]

Known almost exclusively as Chang Kia-ngau in the West, Zhang was born in 1889 in Baoshan District, near Shanghai. His grandfather was a Ch'ing dynasty official and his father a doctor, so he and his siblings enjoyed educational opportunities not available to most of their countrymen. While his brother, Carsun Chang distinguished himself in the world of politics, Chang Kia-ngau became a leading figure in modern Chinese banking.

Chang Kia-ngau was a supporter of reform in China and started his public service career in 1910 as editor-in-chief of the Official Gazette published by the Ministry of Communications. In 1913 he started his banking career assistant manager of the Bank of China in Shanghai. He distinguished himself just a few years later in 1916 when he refused a request by Yuan Shih-k'ai to stop redeeming banknotes for silver. The move was meant to secure silver deposits for Yuan's use, but would have undermined confidence in the new currency, so Chang disregarded the order and was instrumental in the bank's separation from the Peking government's control. By 1923, the Bank of China was almost exclusively owned by private, Shanghai-based shareholders, and during the next decade, it became the largest bank, by far, in Republican China.

Under Chang's leadership, the Bank of China resisted the Kuomintang government's pressure to return to government control and to purchase government bonds which would contribute to ever-growing deficits. In 1928, T.V. Soong tried quite aggressively to assert control over the bank, but Chang and the directors resisted, so Soong created the Central Bank of China. Chang agreed to finance the new central bank's creation in exchange for a measure of independence and a charter to serve as the country's international exchange bank. Chang's interest was the development of the country, particularly railroad and other infrastructure development, even if such projects were not particularly profitable for the bank.

MVC docent Peg Stone discussed Chang Kia-ngu

In March 1935, H.H. Kung staged a coup against the Bank of China and Bank of Communications, forcing both to create new shares to allow the government to take a controlling share financed by overvalued government bonds. Chang Kia-ngau was removed as general manager of the Bank of China and was offered a lesser role with the Central Bank. He declined the offer, but in December 1935, accepted the position of Minister of Railways.

During much of the Sino-Japanese War, Chang served as Minister of Communications, accompanying the central government from Nanking to Chungking. After mid-1943, he was frequently in the U.S. promoting aid to the Republic of China and negotiation post-war arrangements, including aviation right. He wrote a book on railroad development which was published in the U.S. at a time when interest in China was high. After the War, he was appointed Economic Commissioner for Manchuria, and his diaries from this period were also published in the U.S.

After his departure from China, Chang moved to the US and was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He died on October 13, 1979 in Palo Alto, California. His wife, Chang Pihya, died in Palo Alto on May 17, 1997.

[Reprinted from Wikipedia]

Henry Snow (1869-1927) - Big Game Hunter; Oakland's Snow Park

PLOT 50, GRAVE 245

 [B&W Pictures from the Oakland Tribune; Photo of Henry Snow grave by Michael Colbruno]

Allen: The story of Oakland's Snow Park
By Annalee Allen
Oakland Tribune columnist

This past week I spent some time at the Cultural Heritage Survey Office in the city's Planning Department preparing for today's Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour. The tour, called "Lake Merritt's West Side Story," starts at 11 a.m. in front of the historic Municipal Boathouse, now home to the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill, at 1520 Lakeside Drive.

I have learned that whenever I look through the survey files, I should expect to find out more fascinating things about Oakland; this time was no exception.

Little Snow Park, next to Harrison Street and facing Lakeside Drive, has an interesting story to tell. According to the files, Henry Snow was a hunter of African big-game animals in the early 1920s. He wished to donate his collection of animals to the city, provided that a suitable museum could be built to show off the collection.

The mayor at the time, John Davie, was eager to accept the donation, thinking a natural-history museum would complement other cultural institutions, such as the city's Fine Arts Gallery and the newly opened Public Museum, which was located nearby in a Victorian-style mansion that overlooked Lake Merritt and was converted from what had been a private residence.

Davie's predecessor, William Mott, Oakland's mayor from 1905-15, was responsible for opening the Public Museum. Museums, galleries and other civic improvements were part of the so-called Progressive Era agenda prevalent in many communities like Oakland in the early 20th century, the files state.

Oakland voters approved bond measures during that time to pay for the improvements, which included building a new city hall, an auditorium/arena and boulevards around the lake. A state-of-the-art water pumping station — today's Lake Chalet restaurant — to be used in firefighting emergencies also was constructed.

Mott's administration purchased the lakeside mansion and other grand homes such as the deFremery estate in West Oakland — subsequently converted into a public park — and the Mosswood estate on Broadway — it too became a park.

When Snow was ready to turn over his collection, the city had another vacant residence to offer him. It was to be a temporary location, files say, until a proper facility could be built. The home in question belonged to the late Francis Cutting, who had made his fortune in the canning industry during the late 19th century.

An East Coast native, Cutting came to California during the Gold Rush, and brought with him knowledge about new technology that preserved and packaged foods so they could be stored at room temperature without losing nutrient value or flavor.

This proved to be a big advance in the processing of fruits and vegetables. Oakland, with its strategic location close to rail, road and water, was a convenient place to establish canning companies. Cutting's company eventually would grow and merge with others; today's Del Monte Corporation is the modern conglomerate with roots back to that era.

After Cutting's death in 1913, his heirs inherited his estate and later sold it to the city. File photos of the Cutting home, erected in 1903 and facing Alice and 19th streets, show it resembled a rustic hunting lodge. The plot maps show back garden acreage running to the lake's shoreline; a separate boat house stands nearby.

At the time Cutting lived in his home, Lakeside Drive did not yet exist along that side of Lake Merritt. He, like other well-to-do lakefront dwellers of that era, enjoyed special access to the water.

In 1922, Snow, with the help of his son and daughter, moved in, transforming the place into "a taxidermic menagerie of elephants, bears, leopards, lions, snakes and birds," according to an article in a survey newsletter. A small enclosure was created next to the building to house live animals.

Unfortunately, Davie could not keep his promise to the Snow family to build a proper institution. Snow died in 1927. Son Sydney and daughter Nadine kept his legacy alive, relocating and expanding the zoo to the hills and keeping the specimens in the house available for countless school field trip visitors well into the 1950s, files tell us.

The old home was torn down in the 1960s, and for a time it appeared that a large convention-type hotel would be built there. Open space advocates protested, and it has, thankfully, remained a park.

As I continued my review of the files on Snow Park, I did come across something I was unaware of. Very early maps show the area now listed as the park was one of Oakland's early cemeteries. I checked my copy of Beth Bagwell's "Oakland: The Story of a City," and sure enough, as the town grew in the 1850s, the need to find a more remote location for the dead became ever more pressing. Today's Mountain View Cemetery, which opened in 1864, became the solution.

It does seem, file notes speculate, that because of all the early rush to build, some graves may not have been properly emptied. That did give me pause.

Find out more about Lake Merritt's fascinating history. Details about today's tour are at Copies of Bagwell's history of Oakland are available at the Oakland History Room in the Main Library, and I recommend it to all who want to learn about our history.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alice Sturgis (1885-1974) - Author; Famed Parliamentarian

PLOT 27, LOT 50
(No gravemarker; Plot marked Fleenor, Sturgis)

Alice Fleenor Sturgis was the author of "The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure" and considered one of the leading parliamentarians of her time.

Sturgis was born in Ukiah, California. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and her master's degree from Stanford University. In 1918 she traveled to France to work for the Red Cross during World War I. While in France, she married Eugene Sturgis, a law student that she met at Stanford. He went on to serve as an Oakland City Commissioner (councilman), City Attorney and City Clerk. He outlived her by two years.

Alice Sturgis' first book on parliamentary procedure was published in 1925. Sturgis became much in demand for her expertise on parliamentary issues and her book became a serious challenger to the standard Roberts Rules of Order which was written in 1876. Many organizations used her book instead of Roberts, including the American Bar Association, American Medical Association, American Dental Association and the United Automobile Workers Union. In 1951, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to write a book for college professors on how to teach parliamentary law. 

Sturgis was active in women's issues, particularly issues related to women veterans. She was also the founding president of the Women's Athletic Club.

[Photo of Fleenor-Sturgis plot by Michael Colbruno]

I can be contacted at

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Goddards, McKibbens and Julia Morgan


The Berkeley Daily Planet published the following article by Daniella Thompson who publishes for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). It is the story of the Goddards and McKibbens, who are buried in Plot 15 at Mountain View Cemetery. They invested in properties and had five or six homes designed by another denizen of the cemetery, Julia Morgan.

Around the turn of the last century, it was common practice for middle-class or well-to-do families with adolescent children to move their residence to Berkeley in order to secure good education for their young. Among those was the household of Clark and Louise Goddard.

Clark La Motte Goddard, A.B., D.D.S., A.M., born 1849 in Beloit, Wisconsin, was Emeritus Professor of Orthodontia and former dean of the University of California’s College of Dentistry. His scholarship, analytical turn of mind, great mechanical ingenuity, and superior manipulative skill combined to make him one of the West Coast’s preeminent dentists.

In 1881, Dr. Goddard married Emily Louise Bunker, born 1857 in Barnard, Maine. Their union produced two children, Malcolm (b. 1883) and Florence (b. 1886). Great travelers, the Goddards took their children to Europe and kept a motorcar for trips around California. Dr. Goddard was an accomplished amateur photographer; his collection of over 1,100 prints and negatives is housed at the Bancroft Library on the UC campus.

About 1902, the Goddards moved from Oakland to Berkeley, where Malcolm enrolled at the University of California and Florence entered Miss Head’s School.

For a couple of years, the family lived in a rented house on Hillside Avenue near Dwight Way. In 1904, they built their own house at 2647 Dwight Way. The architect was Oakland-based D. Franklin Oliver, who was building the First Congregational Church of Alameda at the same time. Two years later, Oliver would design the six-story Breuner Furniture Company building at 13th and Franklin, now part of the Oakland Tribune Tower.

The Goddard house survived into the mid-1950s, converted into seven apartments before being razed to make way for UC’s Unit 2 student residence halls.

On March 30, 1905, Dr. Goddard dropped dead on the sidewalk in front of the San Francisco ferry building while waiting for the boat to Berkeley. He was 55 years old. Goddard left an estate valued at $122,000, of which about $80,000 were out on loan to many individuals.

Almost immediately after her husband’s death, Louise Goddard began investing in real estate. In May 1905, she acquired lots on Parker and Etna streets and proceeded to build three shingled two-story houses at each location. Julia Morgan designed at least five and possibly all six of these houses.

The architect was then at the beginning of her long and prolific career. The first woman to study architecture at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Julia Morgan returned to the Bay Area in 1902. Almost immediately, she opened her own practice out of her parents’ home, taking on private clients even as she assisted John Galen Howard with major UC projects such as the Hearst Greek Theatre and the Hearst Memorial Mining Building.

[Three Julia Morgan homes designed for the Goddards; Malcolm Goddard, D.D.S. in a passport photo on the eve of his move to France, March 1920]

Morgan obtained her state architect’s license in March 1904 and opened an office in San Francisco. By then, she had already designed El Campanil on the Mills College campus, and within two years she would take charge of reconstructing the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. During her 45-year career, Julia Morgan would design over 700 private and public buildings, most of them completed.

How Louise Goddard came to know Julia Morgan is not clear, but the connection was likely to have come about through the vast women’s network - including clubs and sororities — through which many of the architect’s commissions were funneled.

In December 1905, while the houses on Parker and Etna streets were under construction, Louise, Malcolm, and Florence Goddard purchased three lots on Elmwood Avenue (now Ashby Place). In 1907, Mrs. Goddard commissioned Julia Morgan to design a speculative house on the westernmost lot.

The first five or six houses Morgan designed for the Goddards were relatively modest and clad in redwood. The new house was more substantial, costlier ($4,500 vs. $2,900), and the only one clad in stucco, a material just coming into popular use in Berkeley.

The first tenant at 2733 Ashby Place was George G. Towle, the son of lumber baron Allen Towle, who owned the town of Towle near Dutch Flat in Placer County and had diverse business interests, including lumber, logging, sawmills, crate manufacturing, mining, pulp mills, narrow-gauge railroads, and vast landholdings.

George managed the Towle Estate Company. His daughter, Katherine, who grew up to become the University of California’s Dean of Women, reminisced about those days: “I’m quite certain the family’s decision to move [from Oakland] was because of the schools, and Berkeley was then a very attractive place to live. We rented a house on what was then called Elmwood Avenue. It’s now Ashby Place. You know, it’s down there off College Avenue. Those were just nothing but fields, you know. There were a few houses, ours among them.”

On narrow lots, Julia Morgan liked to position the entrance halfway down the side of the house, so the hall and stairwell were centrally located for easy access to all rooms. The Goddard house at 2733 Ashby Place is a good example of this design principle. The architect would recreate its floor plans on a slightly smaller scale in two shingled rental houses she and her partner, Ira Hoover, built at 2814 and 2816 Derby Street in 1909. All three houses will be open on Sunday, May 2, during the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s annual Spring House Tour, devoted this year to Julia Morgan’s early residential work in the Claremont and Elmwood districts.

The Goddards continued to live at 2647 Dwight Way until Florence married Justin Warren McKibben in late 1910 and set up housekeeping at 15 Alvarado Road. Louise and Malcolm, the latter now a dentist, let the Dwight Way house and took up temporary residence in the Hotel Carlton on Telegraph Avenue.

In 1914, when the McKibbens built a new house at 2522 Piedmont Avenue, they called Harris C. Allen, not Julia Morgan, to design it. Malcolm Goddard also looked elsewhere for his proposed residence in Walnut Creek. The first architectural presentation for that house was made in 1914 by Irving F. Morrow. For some reason, Morrow’s design was not executed, and Julia Morgan ended up working on the same project a year later.

Engaged to a young society woman since 1912, Malcolm mysteriously remained single, his much publicized and long-awaited 1913 nuptials having fallen through without so much as a murmur in the press. He maintained a private practice in San Francisco, taught Comparative Anatomy and Odontology at the UC College of Dentistry, and was active in the Association of Allied Dental Societies. While waiting for his Walnut Creek house to be completed, he resided at one of his mother’s Parker Street houses.

An enthusiastic mountain climber, Malcolm utilized his expeditions for scientific exploration. In 1903, he participated in a paleontological expedition to Southern Idaho and later published the paper “Fish Remains from the Marine Lower Triassic of Aspen Ridge, Idaho” in the University of California’s Bulletin of the Department of Geology. In July 1912, he was the first person to ascend and survey several mountains around Lake Chilko in British Columbia. He named one of those peaks Mount Merriam, after Professor John C. Merriam, the UC paleontologist. Another peak was later named Mount Goddard in his honor.

In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Malcolm enlisted in the Army’s Dental Corps and was shipped to France, where he served as a dental surgeon in base and field hospitals in the Auvergne and in Paris. Promoted to the rank of Captain, he was mustered out in September 1919.

Meanwhile, Louise Goddard had established residence in one of her Julia Morgan-designed houses on Etna Street. After returning from Europe, Malcolm lived with her for a few months, but in early 1920 he surprised his friends by announcing that he would be returning to Paris to make his home there. He was by no means the only UC Dental College graduate practicing abroad. In 1931, the Oakland Tribune named 45 men trained in this school who were practicing in other countries, including three in Paris.

Paris in the 1920s was the world’s most dazzling metropolis, enticing thousands of American musicians, artists, and writers. Malcolm Goddard had for society an illustrious circle of expatriates and visitors. In 1927, he was a guest at the Paris wedding of a Berkeley couple: Samuel J. Hume, notable theatrical director and scholar, and Portia Bell, then studying sculpture and later a well-known psychiatrist. Also present at the wedding were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gordon Sproul, who were traveling through Europe.

In the spring of 1921, Louise Goddard sailed to France for a prolonged visit with her son. She died on Dec. 29, 1921, two months after her return to Berkeley.

While Florence Goddard McKibben lived on Piedmont Avenue and raised four children, her brother Malcolm persisted in his peripatetic life. In 1925, he went on safari in the French Cameroons, followed by a 1929–30 safari in French Sudan. In 1931, he retired from dentistry and moved to Buea, British Cameroons, establishing a ranch where he crossed the native Nigerian cattle with European stock.

Malcolm continued his scientific expeditions, sailing to the Gulf of Guinea and exploring the mouth of the Niger River. When the Straus West African Expedition of the Chicago Natural History Museum spent a month in the summer of 1934 collecting birds on Mount Cameroon, Dr. Goddard, now married, donated three specimens.

In the summer of 1938, Malcolm Goddard placed his 24-foot motor sail boat on board a banana boat for Hamburg and sailed alone through the Kiel Canal and along the fjords to Oslo. He had planned to continue sailing to the North Cape, but a heart attack felled him on August 24. Like his father, Malcolm was 55 at the time of his death. He was buried alongside the Goddards and the McKibbens in Plot 15 of Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland.

Of all the Goddards, Florence was the longest-lived. She passed away in 1958, a year after Julia Morgan’s death.

BAHA’s Julia Morgan House Tour will take place on Sunday, May 2, 2010 from 1 to 5 pm. For further information and tickets, visit

See the entire article with additional photos at: East Bay Then and Now:The Goddards and Julia Morgan . Category: Home & Garden from The Berkeley Daily Planet - Friday April 23, 2010

One other tidbit that I found during some additional research was that Louise and Clark Goddard were both vocal supporters of the suffragette movement. (Oakland Tribune, 7/30/1911)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Peter Shelton (1954-2009) - Principal Cellist for SF Symphony

OBITUARY by Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle

Cellist Peter Shelton, a musician of striking sensitivity and eloquence and a stalwart of the San Francisco Symphony's cello section for more than 30 years, died at his Oakland home after a long battle with HIV and cancer. He was 54.

Mr. Shelton spent most of his career as the orchestra's second-chair cellist.

His playing was marked by a warm, full-bodied string tone and a depth of expressiveness that could combine with the solidity of his technique to catch a listener unawares. His solo performances were infrequent but always rewarding, as when he undertook the prominent cello part in John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1 in 1991 and again in 1994.

Mr. Shelton's artistry shone particularly brightly in chamber performances. He appeared regularly on the Symphony's Chamber Music Series and the Mostly Mozart Festival, and premiered chamber works by Nicolaus A. Huber and George Perle as part of the orchestra's New and Unusual Music Series. He also co-founded the Chamber Music Sundaes series together with violinists Jorja Fleezanis and Lucy Stoltzman and violist Geraldine Walther, and appeared frequently on that series.

"We sat together for over 20 years," said principal cellist Michael Grebanier. "He was a fabulous stand partner and a terrific musician - totally conscientious, totally committed and he never screwed up.

"And on top of that he had a delightful personality. He was a real optimist, and a focal point for the entire section."

In a statement, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas said, "It was a great joy and privilege to make music with him, from the first moment we met when I guest-conducted the orchestra over 30 years ago. The warmth and generosity of his spirit poured through every moment of his life and his music."

Thomas and the Symphony will dedicate their performances of Schubert's Mass No. 6 on June 10-13 to Mr. Shelton's memory.

Mr. Shelton was born in 1954 in Livermore, and began studying cello as a youth. In high school, he won the Diablo Symphony's Young Artists Competition. He earned a bachelor's degree in music from Stanford and a master's degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Mr. Shelton made his first appearance with the Symphony at 18, playing Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1 in a Youth Concert. He joined the orchestra in 1977, while a student at the Conservatory; in 2007, to mark his 30th season with the orchestra, he was awarded the Christine and Pierre Lamond Second Century Chair, the first named chair in the cello section.

Mr. Shelton is survived by his partner, Javier Valencia; his mother, Catherine of La Jolla (San Diego County); and his brother, Andrew of Descanso (San Diego County).

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Captain Herman Jahn (1836-1916) – Civil War Veteran & Costumer

[Photo by Michael Colbruno; Wedding article from Oakland Tribune]

Captain Herman Jahn was born in Niedersachsen, Germany on April 11, 1836. Shortly after arriving in the United States two important things happened in his life. He met Anne Riecken and shortly thereafter married her. But Jahn had also answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to fight for the Union Army and left for battle after a three day honeymoon.

Jahn enlisted with the 2nd Battery, New York Light Artillery and fought at Chancellorsville. Virginia in 1863. He fought under General Joseph Hooker who was battling against Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Major General Thomas J. Jackson. The Confederate Army won the battle, which many historians consider to be Lee’s greatest battle victory.

He moved to Stockton, California in 1876 from his home in Hoboken, New Jersey, but ended up settling in San Francisco and then Berkeley. He worked for twelve years as a foreman at Mare Island in Vallejo, California. Along with his wife he ended up running a costume company, which furnished outfits and decorations for many Bay Area events and theaters, including the opera house in San Francisco.

In 1913, Anne and Herman celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. He died in Berkeley on November 15, 1916.


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Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Tribute To Silvia Lange

[Photo by Michael Colbruno]

This is the only post on "Lives of the Dead" dedicated to someone not buried at Mountain View Cemetery. Silvia Lange has been a docent for the last 13 years at Mountain View Cemetery and she recently went missing at Pt. Reyes while training her guide dogs. Despite massive search crews, no one knows for sure what happened to Silvia Lange.

I want to honor Silvia Lange on this site, because she would have loved it. The first docent tour that I ever went on at the cemetery was Silvia's women's tour and she had me hooked in the first five minutes. She made these women come to life and she spoke of each one as if they were a favorite acquaintance. I had been talking to Silvia about other women who should be on the tour, which is why you'll see links to the women buried at Mountain View Cemetery to the right.

Every new name brought absolute glee to her. She wanted to know about the woman, go to the grave, touch her marker and take in her spirit. When I took her to see Mary Park Benton, the first woman painter to show professionally in California, she almost jumped out of her hiking shoes.

But it wasn't just the women. She loved her labor tour with a passion. She spoke of the labor leader Vincent St. John as if he were her favorite son. Whenever we walked by the grave of "Dancin' with Anson" Weeks, the big band leader, she would start singing and dancing.

The void that Silvia leaves behind will be felt by countless people, as well as her beloved dogs. One thing that will always live on is her enormous heart and her incredible spirit. Not even death can take that away.

Allen: Fellow Mountain View Cemetery tour guides remember missing volunteer

By Annalee Allen, Oakland Tribune columnist

When I learned this week that Silvia Lange, a longtime volunteer tour docent with Mountain View Cemetery, had been reported missing Jan. 24 while spending time with her dogs at a beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore, I checked in with some of her fellow tour guides to learn more about this remarkable woman.

The news has spread rapidly among the tight-knit group, one of the other guides, Barbara Smith, of Alamo, told me when I reached her by phone. "Like Silvia, a Marin resident, some of us come from quite a distance to lead tours at Mountain View and to do research on those buried there," Smith said. "All the guides share a love of history and sharing this passion with others."

Lange's vehicle was found in the parking lot at North Beach. She was presumed to have been hiking with her dogs and may have been swept out to sea because of high surf in the area on that day, searchers have said.

"Silvia started giving tours at the cemetery 13 years ago, and she was one of the most upbeat, positive people to be around I ever met," Smith said.

Smith added that Lange was most recently working on a new theme tour highlighting individuals active in the Bay Area's remarkable labor-movement history. "Silvia also enjoyed giving a special tour on the women's movement every year," Smith said. "She called her tour 'Restless Women at Rest at Last.'"

Michael Colbruno, another of the volunteer tour leaders at the cemetery, also edits a Web site outlining various historical folks whose final resting place is Mountain View. Mountain View Cemetery was established in 1865 and is considered to be among the oldest and most historically significant burial grounds in all of California.

"Silvia is delightfully quirky, always full of surprises, and always exhibited that extra panache when leading her tours," Colbruno said. "You never knew what she might decide to do. While leading a tour, everyone came away with so much knowledge and appreciation for the people she talked about."

Lange also was a well-known volunteer tour leader at Angel Island State Park.

"I recall that Silvia was fascinated with the story of a lady lighthouse keeper who lived and worked on Angel Island in the past," Smith said. While researching the life of Juliet Nichols, the lighthouse keeper, Silvia found out her subject ended up being buried at Mountain View. "Of course Silvia had to find out everything she could about Mountain View, and the next thing you know she was volunteering for us too."

According to news reports, Lange, 77, was retired and had had a career as a psychiatric nurse. She was also involved with the Santa Rosa nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, and training dogs for that program was another of her passions. "The dogs were so important to her," Smith said. "She loved dogs."

Doreen Herbruger, customer service manager at Mountain View Cemetery and the liaison with the tour guide group, also spoke to me this week. "Silvia will be deeply missed. Most recently I had been working with her to develop new marketing materials focusing upon notable Asians buried at Mountain View," Herbruger said. "I found her always up for a new research project, and her Angel Island history background was a plus."

Those wishing to express their condolences for Silvia Lange may contact Mountain View Cemetery at 510-658-2588. Mountain View is located at the end of Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. The Web address is

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Marcus Mason (1827-1898) – Coffee Pioneer


[Photo of Mason Family Vault by Michael Colbruno]

[Coffee Pulper]

Marcus Mason was the inventor of a coffee pulper and pioneered the development of other coffee equipment. He was born in Vermont in 1827 and trained as a mechanical engineer.

Mason started visiting Costa Rica and other coffee regions beginning in 1857. His inventions allowed for the efficient processing and production of coffee, as they peeled the husk, removed the pulp and disposed of the refuse.

He was granted his first patent in 1860 and his machines were used on coffee plantations around the world. However, he didn’t start manufacturing coffee machinery in the United States until 1873. His plant was established in Worcester, Massachusetts that year, but he also had a business operation in New York.

Mason died in New York and his remains were brought back to Oakland. His service was officiated by fellow Mountain View Cemetery denizen Rev. John Knox McLean, a close personal friend.


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Friday, January 1, 2010

Warren & The Missing Skulls

World Daily News headline]

[Michael Wilson from World Daily News]

[Victorian Family Vault photo by Michael Colbruno]

The above photo is of three of the Victorian family vaults at Mountain View Cemetery in Plot 2. If you look closely you’ll notice that the one on the right has been stripped of the family name. This was done at the request of the family after a horrendous grave robbery in January 1988. The family vault belonged to Dr. Orran Warren.

Michael Wilson, a graduate of Skyline High School in Oakland, and a friend broke into the family vault. Newspaper accounts say that Wilson refused to identify the accomplice, who allegedly had possession of the skulls. According to the Oakland Tribune, someone at Skyline said that Wilson had a “thing for science fiction and monsters and goblins.’

Wilson and his accomplice broke into two coffins and removed the skulls from two women. One had died in 1921 and the other just a year before the grave robbery in 1987. An attempt to desecrate the body of a woman who died in 1941 failed.

Chris Powell, as student at the San Francisco Institute of Art, discovered the grisly scene and took photographs that he gave to the Oakland Tribune. The pictures show the opening above the door where the two men gained entrance as well as graphic images of the desecrated coffins. One image shows the image of the skeletal remains of a child. Cemetery records show that five children were buried in the Warren family vault.

I was unable to find accounts of what happened to Michael Wright or if police ever found his accomplice. The judge in the case, Carol Corrigan, now sits on the California Supreme Court, appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

We don’t know much about Dr. Orran P. Warren. His family vault sits among the very first ones built at Mountain View Cemetery in the 1860s. The cemetery has records of the other people buried in the family vault, but out of respect to the dead they will remain anonymous. We know that some of the vaults, mainly the neighboring Tubbs vault, were used as holding places for bodies before their burial places were ready.

What we do know about Orran Warren is that he was born in Vermont in 1811 and married the former Abigail “Abby” Davis in 1834. Records show that he advertised in the Oakland Tribune as an “Eclectic Physician” and lived and worked at 403 Fourteenth Street in Oakland.

In 1848, we know that he was still on the East Coast, as records show that he chartered the New Hampshire Botanic Medical Society that year. On the West Coast, records show that he was a founding member and President of the Eclectic Medical Society of the State of California.

Other than that, all we know is his family was the victim of a gruesome grave robbery and that the remains of his descendants have been moved to an unknown location.

It should also be noted that this grave robbery did not occur under the current management.

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