Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fritz Boehmer (1831-1910): Early Alameda pioneer

Fritz Boehmer (Image from Hayward Daily Call; Grave photo by Michael Colbruno)
Plot: Plot 21, Lot 17
GPS (lat/lon): 37.83457, -122.24029

Text by John Sandoval, reprinted from Hayward Daily Call, December 13, 1964

One of the most colorful early pioneers of Alameda was Fritz Boehmer, who was an early merchant whose general merchandise store was built on Park Street.

Fritz Boehmer was born in Prussia, near Magdeburg in 1831. His father was a machinery maker and foundry owner. At 17 Fritz and a company of students fought briefly in the battle of Gravelot, for the unification of Germany under Bismark.

However, the news of the discovery of gold in California swept the youth of Germany into a frenzy to come to the gold fields, and in the fall of 1848 Boehmer went to Bremerhaven to see his older broth- er, Edward, off by ship to California. Fritz stowed away on his brother's ship and came to California with him without his family's permission.

The Schroeder Building was built in 1873 for Fritz Boehmer. He moved his grocery and hardware business into the ground floor, and the upper floor contained a public meeting hall. The Masons leased that space until their new hall was built in 1891 at the corner of Park Street and Alameda Avenue. In 1876, Boehmer sold the building to Adolph Schroeder (co-owner of a local feed and fuel business), who used it as rental property.
Mr. Boehmcr's ship rounded the Horn and arrived in San Francisco Bay in 1849. He went to the mines near Mokelumne Hill but being unsuccessful, returned to San Francisco and there joined with his brother in the house-building business. As a contractor the Boehmer Brothers paid carpenters the then-high wages of $12 a day.

Fritz Boehmer then alternated between operating mining ventures at Marysville, Coloma, and the American River, and in farming at Sacramento, in running a restaurant at Sacramento and in the contracting business in San Francisco.

In 1851 Boehmer and a partner, Henry Rosenbaum, bought rights to 150 acres of land in what is now downtown Oakland. However "squatter trouble" with a very rough element in the little village of Oakland caused Boehmer and Rosenbaum to sell out.

With the proceeds of the land-sale Boehmer joined a brother-in-law, Henry Gersting, in a mercantile business in San Francisco. Boehmer then established mercantile establishments in the booming gold-strike towns of Campo Seco and later Columbia and eventually in Alameda.

An historic post card of Park Street where Fritz Boehmer opened his first store
His store in Alameda on Park Street eventually expanded to encompass an en-tire block of the business section. When Alameda was in-corporated as a city the first board of city trustees was composed of Fritz Boehmer, Henry Robinson, Henry H. Haight, E. B. Mastick, and Jabish Clement.

Boehmer was also on the local school board and was effective in getting teachers salaries raised from $50 per month to $125, a very high scale for the 1880's. He also was instrumental in getting $300 raised by subscription to start the first public library in Alameda.

Boehmer was a member of the pioneer fire department of Alameda and was always interested in glee-club and choir singing, being a member of the pioneer San Francisco Harmony Glee Club and the Thalia Singing Society of Alameda.

Boehmer was married twice, first to Johanna Sevening, whom he courted by mail back in Germany and brought back as a bride to California. His second marriage was to Mary Elizabeth Hildenbrand a member of a well-known pioneer family of Stockton and Tuolumne County.

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