Men who had numbered their fortunes in the tens of thousands camped on the ruins of their homes, eating as primitive men ate—gnawing; thinking as primitive men thought. Ashes and the dull pain of despair were their portions. They did not have the volition to help themselves, childlike as the men of the stone age, they awaited quiescent what the next hour might bring them.
Fear they had none, because they had known the shape of fear for forty-eight hours and to them it had no more terrors. Men overworked to the breaking point and women unnerved by hysteria dropped down on the cooling ashes and slept where they lay, for had they not seen the tall steel skyscrapers burn like a torch? Had they not beheld the cataracts of flame fleeting unhindered up the broad avenues, and over the solid blocks of the city?
Fire had become a commonplace. Fear of fire had been blunted by their terrible suffering, and although the soldiers roused the sleepers and warned them against possible approaching flames, they would only yawn, wrap their blanket about them and stolidly move on to find some other place where they might drop and again slumber like men dead.
As the work of clearing away the debris progressed it was found that an overwhelming portion of the fatalities occurred in the cheap rooming house section of the city, where the frail hotels were crowded at the time of the catastrophe.
In one of these hotels alone, the five-story Brunswick rooming-house at Sixth and Howard streets, it is believed that 300 people perished. The building had 300 rooms filled with guests. It collapsed to the ground entirely and fire started amidst the ruins scarcely five minutes later.
South of Market street, where the loss of life was greatest, was located many cheap and crowded lodging houses. Among others the caving in of the Royal, corner Fourth and Minna streets, added to the horror of the situation by the shrieks of its many scores of victims imbedded in the ruins.
The collapsing of the Porter House on Sixth street, between Mission and Market, came about in a similar manner. Fully sixty persons were entombed midst the crash. Many of these were saved before the fire eventually crept to the scene.
Part of the large Cosmopolitan House, corner Fifth and Mission streets, collapsed at the very first tremble. Many of the sleepers were buried in the ruins; other escaped in their night clothes.
At 775 Mission street the Wilson House, with its four stories and eighty rooms, fell to the ground a mass of ruins. As far as known very few of the inmates were rescued.
The Denver House on lower Third street, with its many rooms, shared the same fate and none may ever know how many were killed, the majority of the inmates being strangers.
A small two-story frame building occupied by a man and wife at 405 Jessie street collapsed without an instant's warning. Both were killed.
To the north of Market street the rooming-house people fared somewhat better. The Luxemburg, corner of Stockton and O'Farrell streets, a three-story affair, suffered severely from the falling of many tons of brick from an adjoining building. The falling mass crashed through the building, killing a man and woman.
At the Sutter street Turkish baths a brick chimney toppled over and crashing through the roof killed one of the occupants as he lay on a cot. Another close by, lying on another cot, escaped.
Two hundred bodies were found in the Potrero district, south of Shannon street in the vicinity of the Union Iron works, were cremated at the Six-Mile House, on Sunday by the order of Coroner Walsh. Some of the dead were the victims of falling buildings from the earthquake shock, some were killed in the fire.
So many dead were found in this limited area that cremation was deemed absolutely necessary to prevent disease. The names of some of the dead were learned, but in the majority of cases identification was impossible owing to the mutilation of the features.
A systematic search for bodies of the victims of the earthquake and fire was made by the coroner and the state board of health inspectors as soon as the ruins cooled sufficiently to permit a search.
The body of an infant was found in the center of Union street, near Dupont street.
Three bodies were found in the ruins of the house on Harrison street between First and Second streets. They had been burned beyond all possibility of identification. They were buried on the north beach at the foot of Van Ness avenue.
The body of a man was found in the middle of Silver street, between Third and Fourth streets. A bit of burned envelope was found in the pocket of the vest bearing the name "A. Houston."
The total number of bodies recovered and buried up to Sunday night was 500. No complete record can ever be obtained as many bodies were buried without permits from the coroner and the board of health.
Whenever a body was found it was buried immediately without any formality whatever and, as these burials were made at widely separated parts of the city by different bodies of searchers, who did not even make a prompt report to headquarters, considerable confusion resulted in estimating the number of casualties and exaggerated reports resulted.
THE CITY OF A HUNDRED HILLS.
A Description of San Francisco, the Metropolis of the Pacific Coast Before the Fire—One of the Most Beautiful and Picturesque Cities in America—Home of the California Bonanza Kings.
San Francisco has had many soubriquets. It has been happily called the "City of a Hundred Hills," and its title of the "Metropolis of the Golden Gate" is richly deserved. Its location is particularly attractive, inasmuch as the peninsula it occupies is swept by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the beautiful bay of San Francisco on the north and east. The peninsula itself is thirty miles long and the site of the city is six miles back from the ocean. It rests on the shore of San Francisco Bay, which, with its branches, covers over 600 square miles, and for beauty and convenience for commerce is worthy of its magnificent entrance—the Golden Gate.
San Francisco was originally a mission colony. It is reported that "the site of the mission of San Francisco was selected because of its political and commercial advantages. It was to be the nucleus of a seaport town that should serve to guard the dominion of Spain in its vicinity. Most of the other missions were founded in the midst of fertile valleys, inhabited by large numbers of Indians." Both of these features were notably absent in San Francisco. Even the few Indians there in 1776 left upon the arrival of the friars and dragoons. Later on some of them returned and others were added, the number increasing from 215 in 1783, to 1,205 in 1813. This was the largest number ever reported. Soon after the number began to decrease through epidemics and emigration, until there was only 204 in 1832.
The commercial life of San Francisco dates from 1835, when William A. Richardson, an Englishman, who had been living in Sausalito since 1822, moved to San Francisco. He erected a tent and began the collection of hides and tallow, by the use of two 30-ton schooners leased from the missions, and which plied between San Jose and San Francisco. At that time Mr. Richardson was also captain of the port.
Seventy-five years ago the white adult males, apart from the Mission colony, consisted of sixteen persons. The local census of 1852 showed a population of 36,000, and ten years later 90,000. The last general census of 1900 credits the city with a population of 343,000. The increase in the last six years has been much greater than for the previous five, and it is generally conceded that the population at the time of the fire was about 425,000.
California was declared American territory by Commodore Sleat, at Monterey, on the 7th of July, 1846, who on that day caused the American flag to be raised in that town. On the following day, under instructions from the commodore, Captain Montgomery, of the war sloop Portsmouth, performed a similar service in Yerba Buena, by which name the city afterwards christened San Francisco was then known. This ceremony took place on the plot of ground, afterward set apart as Portsmouth Square, on the west line of Kearney street, between Clay and Washington. At that time and for some years afterwards, the waters of the bay at high tide, came within a block of the spot where this service occurred. This was a great event in the history of the United States, and it has grown in importance and in appreciative remembrance from that day to the present, as the accumulative evidence abundantly shows.
Referring to the change in name from Yerba Buena to San Francisco, in 1847, a writer says: "A site so desirable for a city, formed by nature for a great destiny on one of the finest bays in the world, looking out upon the greatest, the richest, and the most pacific of oceans—in the very track of empire—in the healthiest of latitudes—such a site could not fail to attract the attention of the expanding Saxon race. Commerce hastened it, the discovery of gold consummated it."
Modern San Francisco had its birth following the gold discoveries which led to the construction of the Central Pacific railway, and produced a vast number of very wealthy men known by the general title of California Bonanza Kings. San Francisco became the home and headquarters of these multi-millionaires, and large sums of their immense fortunes were invested in palatial residences and business blocks.
The bonanza king residence section was Nob Hill, an eminence near the business part of the city.
In the early days of San Francisco's growth and soon after the Central Pacific railroad had been built by Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington and the others who devoted the best part of their lives to the project of crossing the mountains by rail this hill was selected as the most desirable spot in the city for the erection of homes for the use of wealthy pioneers.
The eminence is situated northwest of the business section of the city and commands a view of the bay and all adjacent territory with the exception of the Pacific Ocean, Russian Hill, Pacific Heights and several other high spots obscuring the view toward the west.
Far removed above the din and noise of the city Charles Crocker was the first to erect his residence on the top of this historic hill which afterward became known as Nob Hill. The Crocker home was built of brick and wood originally, but in later years granite staircases, pillars and copings were substituted. In its time it was looked upon as the most imposing edifice in the city and for that reason the business associates of the railroad magnate decided to vie with him in the building of their homes.
Directly across from the Crocker residence on California street Leland Stanford caused to be built a residence structure that was intended to be the most ornate in the western metropolis. It was a veritable palace and it was within its walls that the boyhood days of Leland Stanford, Jr., after whom the university is named, were spent in luxurious surroundings. After the death of the younger Stanford a memorial room was set apart and the parents permitted no one to enter this except a trusted man servant who had been in the family for many years.
But the Stanford residence was relegated to the background as an object of architectural beauty when Mark Hopkins invaded the sacred precincts of Nob Hill and erected the residence which he occupied for three or four years. At his death the palatial building was deeded to the California Art Institute and as a tribute to the memory of the sturdy pioneer the building was called the Hopkins Institute of Art. Its spacious rooms were laden with the choicest works of art on the Pacific coast and the building and its contents were at all times a source of interest to the thousands of tourists who visited the city.
The late Collis P. Huntington was the next of the millionaires of San Francisco to locate upon the crest of Nob Hill. Within a block of the Crocker, Stanford and Hopkins palaces this railroad magnate of the west erected a mansion of granite and marble that caused all the others to be thrown in the shade. Its exterior was severe in its simplicity, but to those who were fortunate to gain entrance to the interior the sight was one never to be forgotten. The palaces of Europe could not excel it and for several years Huntington and his wife were its only occupants aside from the army of servants required to keep the house and grounds in order.
Not to be outdone by the railroad magnates of the city the next to acquire property on the crest of the hill was James Flood, the "bonanza king" and partner with William O'Brien, the names of both being closely interwoven with the early history of California and the Comstock lode. After having paid a visit to the east the millionaire mine owner became impressed with the brown stone fronts of New York and outdone his neighbors by erecting the only brown stone structure in San Francisco.
It was in this historic hilltop also that James G. Fair laid the foundation of a residence that was intended to surpass anything in the sacred precincts, but before the foundations had been completed domestic troubles resulted in putting a stop to building operations and it is on this site that Mrs. Hermann Oelrichs, daughter of the late millionaire mine owner, erected the palatial Fairmont hotel, which was one of the most imposing edifices in San Francisco.
The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest hearted, most pleasure loving city of this continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of huddled refugees living among ruins. But those who have known that peculiar city by the Golden Gate and have caught its flavor of the Arabian Nights feel that it can never be the same. It is as though a pretty, frivolous woman had passed through a great tragedy. She survives, but she is sobered and different. When it rises out of the ashes it will be a modern city, much like other cities and without its old flavor.
The city lay on a series of hills and the lowlands between. These hills are really the end of the Coast Range of mountains which lie between the interior valleys and the ocean to the south. To its rear was the ocean; but the greater part of the town fronted on two sides on San Francisco Bay, a body of water always tinged with gold from the great washings of the mountains, usually overhung with a haze, and of magnificent color changes. Across the bay to the north lies Mount Tamalpais, about 5,000 feet high, and so close that ferries from the water front took one in less than half an hour to the little towns of Sausalito and Belvidere, at its foot.
It is a wooded mountain, with ample slopes, and from it on the north stretch away ridges of forest land, the outposts of the great Northern woods of Sequoia semperrirens. This mountain and the mountainous country to the south brought the real forest closer to San Francisco than to any other American city.
Within the last few years men have killed deer on the slopes of Tamalpais and looked down to see the cable cars crawling up the hills of San Francisco to the north. In the suburbs coyotes still stole and robbed hen roosts by night. The people lived much out of doors. There was no time of the year, except a short part of the rainy season, when the weather kept one from the woods. The slopes of Tamalpais were crowded with little villas dotted through the woods, and those minor estates ran far up into the redwood country. The deep coves of Belvidere, sheltered by the wind from Tamalpais, held a colony of "arks" or houseboats, where people lived in the rather disagreeable summer months, going over to business every day by ferry. Everything invited out of doors.
The climate of California is peculiar; it is hard to give an impression of it. In the first place, all the forces of nature work on laws of their own in that part of California. There is no thunder or lightning; there is no snow, except a flurry once in five or six years; there are perhaps a dozen nights in the winter when the thermometer drops low enough so that there is a little film of ice on exposed water in the morning. Neither is there any hot weather. Yet most Easterners remaining in San Francisco for a few days remember that they were always chilly.
For the Gate is a big funnel, drawing in the winds and the mists which cool off the great, hot interior valleys of the San Joaquin and Sacramento. So the west wind blows steadily ten months of the year and almost all the mornings are foggy. This keeps the temperature steady at about 55 degrees—a little cool for comfort of an unacclimated person, especially indoors. Californians, used to it, hardly ever thought of making fires in their houses except in the few exceptional days of the winter season, and then they relied mainly upon fireplaces. This is like the custom of the Venetians and the Florentines.
But give an Easterner six months of it and he too learns to exist without a chill in a steady temperature a little lower than that to which he is accustomed at home. After that one goes about with perfect indifference to the temperature. Summer and winter San Francisco women wore light tailor-made clothes, and men wore the same fall weight suits all the year around. There is no such thing as a change of clothing for the seasons. And after becoming acclimated these people found the changes from hot to cold in the normal regions of the earth hard to bear. Perhaps once in two or three years there comes a day when there is no fog, no wind and a high temperature in the coast district. Then there is hot weather, perhaps up in the eighties, and Californians grumble, swelter and rustle for summer clothes. These rare hot days were the only times when one saw on the streets of San Francisco women in light dresses.
Along in early May the rains cease. At that time everything is green and bright and the great golden poppies, as large as the saucer of an after dinner coffee cup, are blossoming everywhere. Tamalpais is green to its top; everything is washed and bright. By late May a yellow tinge is creeping over the hills. This is followed by a golden June and a brown July and August. The hills are burned and dry. The fog comes in heavily, too; and normally this is the most disagreeable season of the year. September brings a day or two of gentle rain; and then a change, as sweet and mysterious as the breaking of spring in the East, comes over the hills. The green grows through the brown and the flowers begin to come out.
As a matter of fact, the unpleasantness of summer is modified by the certainty that one can go anywhere without fear of rain. And in all the coast mountains, especially the seaward slopes, the dews and the shelter of the giant underbrush keep the water so that these areas are green and pleasant all summer.
In a normal year the rains begin to fall heavily in November; there will be three or four days of steady downpour and then a clear and green week. December is also likely to be rainy; and in this month people enjoy the sensation of gathering for Christmas the mistletoe which grows profusely on the live oaks, while the poppies are beginning to blossom at their feet. By the end of January the rains come lighter. In the long spaces between rains there is a temperature and a feeling in the air much like that of Indian summer in the East. January is the month when the roses are at their brightest.
So much for the strange climate, which invites out of doors and which has played its part in making the character of the people. The externals of the city are—or were, for they are no more—just as curious. One usually entered the city by way of San Francisco Bay. Across its yellow flood, covered with the fleets from the strange seas of the Pacific, San Francisco presented itself in a hill panorama. Probably no other city of the world could be so viewed and inspected at first sight. It rose above the passenger, as he reached dockage, in a succession of hill terraces.
At one side was Telegraph Hill, the end of the peninsula, a height so abrupt that it had a 200 foot sheer cliff on its seaward frontage. Further along lay Nob Hill, crowned with the Mark Hopkins mansion, which had the effect of a citadel, and in later years by the great, white Fairmount. Further along was Russian Hill, the highest point. Below was the business district, whose low site caused all the trouble.
Except for the modern buildings, the fruit of the last ten years, the town presented at first sight a disreputable appearance. Most of the buildings were low and of wood. In the middle period of the '70s, when a great part of San Francisco was building, there was some atrocious architecture perpetrated. In that time, too, every one put bow windows on his house, to catch all of the morning sunlight that was coming through the fog, and those little houses, with bow windows and fancy work all down their fronts, were characteristic of the middle class residence district.
Then the Italians, who tumbled over Telegraph Hill, had built as they listed and with little regard for streets, and their houses hung crazily on a side hill which was little less than a precipice. For the most part, the Chinese, although they occupied an abandoned business district, had remade the houses Chinese fashion, and the Mexicans and Spaniards had added to their houses those little balconies without which life is not life to a Spaniard.
Yet the most characteristic thing after all was the coloring. For the sea fog had a trick of painting every exposed object a sea gray which had a tinge of dull green in it. This, under the leaden sky of a San Francisco morning, had a depressing effect on first sight and afterward became a delight to the eye. For the color was soft, gentle and infinitely attractive in mass.
The hills are steep beyond conception. Where Vallejo street ran up Russian Hill it progressed for four blocks by regular steps like a flight of stairs. It is unnecessary to say that no teams ever came up this street or any other like it, and grass grew long among the paving stones until the Italians who live thereabouts took advantage of this to pasture a cow or two. At the end of the four blocks, the pavers had given it up and the last stage to the summit was a winding path. On the very top, a colony of artists lived in little villas of houses whose windows got the whole panorama of the bay. Luckily for these people, a cable car climbed the hill on the other side, so that it was not much of a climb to home.
With these hills, with the strangeness of the architecture and with the green gray tinge over everything, the city fell always into vistas and pictures, a setting for the romance which hung over everything, which always hung over life in San Francisco since the padres came and gathered the Indians about Mission Dolores.
And it was a city of romance and a gateway to adventure. It opened out on the mysterious Pacific, the untamed ocean, and most of China, Japan, the South Sea Islands, Lower California, the west coast of Central America, Australia that came to this country passed in through the Golden Gate. There was a sprinkling, too, of Alaska and Siberia. From his windows on Russian Hill one saw always something strange and suggestive creeping through the mists of the bay. It would be a South Sea Island brig, bringing in copra, to take out cottons and idols; a Chinese junk with fanlike sails, back from an expedition after sharks' livers; an old whaler, which seemed to drip oil, back from a year of cruising in the Arctic. Even the tramp windjammers were deep chested craft, capable of rounding the Horn or of circumnavigating the globe; and they came in streaked and picturesque from their long voyaging.
In the orange colored dawn which always comes through the mists of that bay, the fishing fleet would crawl in under triangular lateen sails, for the fishermen of San Francisco Bay were all Neapolitans who brought their customers and their customs and sail with lateen rigs shaped like the ear of a horse when the wind fills them and stained an orange brown.
Along the water front the people of these craft met. "The smelting pot of the races," Stevenson called it; and this was always the city of his soul. There are black Gilbert Islanders, almost indistinguishable from Negroes; lighter Kanakas from Hawaii or Samoa; Lascars in turbans; thickset Russian sailors; wild Chinese with unbraided hair; Italian fishermen in tam o' shanters, loud shirts and blue sashes; Greeks, Alaska Indians, little bay Spanish-Americans, together with men of all the European races. These came in and out from among the queer craft, to lose themselves in the disreputable, tumbledown, but always mysterious shanties and small saloons. In the back rooms of these saloons South Sea Island traders and captains, fresh from the lands of romance, whaling masters, people who were trying to get up treasure expeditions, filibusters, Alaskan miners, used to meet and trade adventures.
There was another element, less picturesque and equally characteristic, along the water front. For San Francisco was the back eddy of European civilization—one end of the world. The drifters came there and stopped, lingered a while to live by their wits in a country where living after a fashion has always been marvellously cheap. These people haunted the water front or lay on the grass on Portsmouth Square.
That square, the old plaza about which the city was built, Spanish fashion, had seen many things. There in the first burst of the early days the vigilance committee used to hold its hangings. There in the time of the sand lot riots Dennis Kearney, who nearly pulled the town down about his ears, used to make his orations which set the unruly to rioting. In these later years Chinatown laid on one side of it and the Latin quarter and the "Barbary Coast" on the other.
On this square men used to lie all day long and tell strange yarns. Stevenson lay there with them in his time and learned the things which he wrote into "The Wrecker" and his South Sea stories, and in the center of the square there stood the beautiful Stevenson monument. In later years the authorities put up a municipal building on one side of this square and prevented the loungers, for decency's sake, from lying on the grass. Since then some of the peculiar character of the old plaza had gone.
The Barbary Coast was a loud bit of hell. No one knows who coined the name. The place was simply three blocks of solid dance halls, there for the delight of the sailors of the world. On a fine busy night every door blared loud dance music from orchestra, steam pianos and gramophones and the cumulative effect of the sound which reached the street was at least strange. Almost anything might be happening behind the swinging doors. For a fine and picturesque bundle of names characteristic of the place, a police story of three or four years ago is typical. Hell broke out in the Eye Wink Dance Hall. The trouble was started by a sailor known as Kanaka Pete, who lived in the What Cheer House, over a woman known as Iodoform Kate. Kanaka Pete chased the man he had marked to the Little Silver Dollar, where he turned and punctured him. The by-product of his gun made some holes in the front of the Eye Wink, which were proudly kept as souvenirs, and were probably there until it went out in the fire. This was low life, the lowest of the low.
Until the last decade almost anything except the commonplace and the expected might happen to a man on the water front. The cheerful industry of shanghaiing was reduced to a science. A stranger taking a drink in one of the saloons which hung out over the water might be dropped through the floor into a boat, or he might drink with a stranger and wake in the forecastle of a whaler bound for the Arctic. Such an incident is the basis of Frank Norris's novel, "Moran of the Lady Letty," and although the novel draws it pretty strong, it is not exaggerated. Ten years ago the police and the foreign consuls, working together, stopped this.
Kearney street, a wilder and stranger Bowery, was the main thoroughfare of these people. An exiled Californian, mourning over the city of his heart, said recently:
"In a half an hour of Kearney street I could raise a dozen men for any wild adventure, from pulling down a statue to searching for the Cocos Island treasure."
This is hardly an exaggeration.
These are a few of the elements which made the city strange and gave it the glamour of romance which has so strongly attracted such men as Stevenson, Frank Norris and Kipling. This lay apart from the regular life of the city, which was distinctive in itself.
The Californian is the second generation of a picked and mixed stock. The merry, the adventurous, often the desperate, always the brave, deserted the South and New England in 1849 to rush around the Horn or to try the perils of the plains. They found there already grown old in the hands of the Spaniards younger sons of hidalgos and many of them of the proudest blood of Spain. To a great extent the pioneers intermarried with Spanish women; in fact, except for a proud little colony here and there, the old Spanish blood is sunk in that of the conquering race. Then there was an influx of intellectual French people, largely overlooked in the histories of the early days; and this Latin leaven has had its influence.
Brought up in a bountiful country, where no one really has to work very hard to live, nurtured on adventure, scion of a free and merry stock, the real, native Californian is a distinctive type; so far from the Easterner in psychology as the extreme Southerner is from the Yankee. He is easy going, witty, hospitable, lovable, inclined to be unmoral rather than immoral in his personal habits, and above all easy to meet and to know.
Above all there is an art sense all through the populace which sets it off from any other part of the country. This sense is almost Latin in its strength, and the Californian owes it to the leaven of Latin blood. The true Californian lingers in the north; for southern California has been built up by "lungers" from the East and middle West and is Eastern in character and feeling.
With such a people life was always gay. If they did not show it on the streets, as do the people of Paris, it was because the winds made open cafes disagreeable at all seasons of the year. The gayety went on indoors or out on the hundreds of estates that fringed the city. It was noted for its restaurants. Perhaps the very best for people who care not how they spend their money could not be had there, but for a dollar, 75 cents, 50 cents, a quarter or even 15 cents the restaurants afforded the best fare on earth at the price.
If one should tell exactly what could be had at Coppa's for 50 cents or at the Fashion for, say, 35, no New Yorker who has not been there would believe it. The San Francisco French dinner and the San Francisco free lunch were as the Public Library to Boston or the stock yards to Chicago. A number of causes contributed to this consummation. The country all about produced everything that a cook needed and that in abundance—the bay was an almost untapped fishing pond, the fruit farms came up to the very edge of the town, and the surrounding country produced in abundance fine meats, all cereals and all vegetables.
But the chefs who came from France in the early days and liked this land of plenty were the head and front of it. They passed on their art to other Frenchmen or to the clever Chinese. Most of the French chefs at the biggest restaurants were born in Canton, China. Later the Italians, learning of this country where good food is appreciated, came and brought their own style. Householders always dined out one or two nights of the week, and boarding houses were scarce, for the unattached preferred the restaurants. The eating was usually better than the surroundings.
Meals that were marvels were served in tumbledown little hotels. Most famous of all the restaurants was the Poodle Dog. There have been no less than four restaurants of this name, beginning with a frame shanty where, in the early days, a prince of French cooks used to exchange ragouts for gold dust. Each succeeding restaurant of the name has moved further downtown; and the recent Poodle Dog stood on the edge of the Tenderloin in a modern five story building. And it typified a certain spirit that there was in San Francisco.
For on the ground floor was a public restaurant where there was served the best dollar dinner on earth. It ranked with the best and the others were in San Francisco. Here, especially on Sunday night, almost everybody went to vary the monotony of home cooking. Every one who was any one in the town could be seen there off and on. It was perfectly respectable. A man might take his wife and daughter there.
On the second floor there were private dining rooms, and to dine there, with one or more of the opposite sex, was risque but not especially terrible. But the third floor—and the fourth floor—and the fifth. The elevator man of the Poodle Dog, who had held the job for many years and never spoke unless spoken to, wore diamonds and was a heavy investor in real estate. There were others as famous in their way—the Zinka, where, at one time, every one went after the theatre, and Tate's the Palace Grill, much like the grills of Eastern hotels, except for the price; Delmonico's, which ran the Poodle Dog neck and neck in its own line, and many others, humbler but great at the price.
The city never went to bed. There was no closing law, so that the saloons kept open nights and Sundays, at their own sweet will. Most of them elected to remain open until 3 o'clock in the morning at least. Yet this restaurant life did not exactly express the careless, pleasure loving character of the people. In great part their pleasures were simple, inexpensive and out of doors. No people were fonder of expeditions into the country, of picnics—which might be brought off at almost any season of the year—and often long tours in the great mountains and forests. And hospitality was nearly a vice.
As in the early mining days, if they liked the stranger the people took him in. At the first meeting the local man probably had him put up at the club; at the second, he invited him home to dinner. As long as he stayed he was being invited to week end parties at ranches, to little dinners in this or that restaurant and to the houses of his new acquaintances, until his engagements grew beyond hope of fulfillment. There was rather too much of it. At the end of a fortnight a stranger with a pleasant smile and a good story left the place a wreck. This tendency ran through all grades of society—except, perhaps, the sporting people who kept the tracks and the fighting game alive. These also met the stranger—and also took him in.
Centers of men of hospitality were the clubs, especially the famous Bohemian and the Family. The latter was an offshoot of the Bohemian, which had been growing fast and vieing with the older organization for the honor of entertaining pleasing and distinguished visitors.
The Bohemian Club, whose real founder is said to have been the late Henry George, was formed in the '70s by a number of newspaper writers and men working in the arts or interested in them. It had grown to a membership of 750. It still kept for its nucleus painters, writers, musicians and actors, amateur and professional. They were a gay group of men, and hospitality was their avocation. Yet the thing which set this club off from all others in the world was the midsummer High Jinks.
The club owns a fine tract of redwood forest fifty miles north of San Francisco, on the Russian River. There are two varieties of big trees in California: the Sequoia gigantea and the Sequoia sempervirens. The great trees of the Mariposa grove belong to the gigantea species. The sempervirens, however, reaches the diameter of 16 feet, and some of the greatest trees of this species are in the Bohemian Club grove. It lies in a cleft of the mountains; and up one hillside there runs a natural out of door stage of remarkable acoustic properties.
In August the whole Bohemian Club, or such as could get away from business, went up to this grove and camp out for two weeks. And on the last night they put on the Jinks proper, a great spectacle with poetic words, music and effects done by the club, in praise of the forest. In late years this had been practically a masque or an opera. It cost about $10,000. It took the spare time of scores of men for weeks; yet these 700 business men, professional men, artists, newspaper workers, struggled for the honor of helping out on the Jinks; and the whole thing was done naturally and with reverence. It would hardly be possible anywhere else in this country; the thing which made it possible is the art spirit which is in the Californian. It runs in the blood.
Some one has been collecting statistics which prove this point. "Who's Who in America" is long on the arts and on learning and comparatively weak in business and the professions. Now some one who has taken the trouble has found that more persons mentioned in "Who's Who" by the thousand of the population were born in Massachusetts than in any other State; but that Massachusetts is crowded closely by California, with the rest nowhere. The institutions of learning in Massachusetts account for her pre-eminence; the art spirit does it for California. The really big men nurtured on California influence are few, perhaps; but she has sent out an amazing number of good workers in painting, in authorship, in music and especially in acting.
"High Society" in San Francisco had settled down from the rather wild spirit of the middle period; it had come to be there a good deal as it is elsewhere. There was much wealth; and the hills of the western addition were growing up with fine mansions. Outside of the city, at Burlingame, there was a fine country club centering a region of country estates which stretched out to Menlo Park. This club had a good polo team, which played every year with teams of Englishmen from southern California and even with teams from Honolulu.
The foreign quarters were worth a chapter in themselves. Chief of these was, of course, Chinatown, of which every one has heard who ever heard of San Francisco. A district six blocks long and two blocks wide, when the quarter was full, housed 30,000 Chinese. The dwellings were old business blocks of the early days; but the Chinese had added to them, rebuilt them, had run out their own balconies and entrances, and had given it that feeling of huddled irregularity which makes all Chinese built dwellings fall naturally into pictures. Not only this, they had burrowed to a depth equal to three stories under the ground, and through this ran passages in which the Chinese transacted their dark and devious affairs—as the smuggling of opium, the traffic in slave girls and the settlement of their difficulties.
There was less of this underground life than formerly, for the Board of Health had a cleanup some time ago; but it was still possible to go from one end of Chinatown to the other through secret underground passages. The Chinese lived there their own life in their own way. The Chinatown of New York is dull beside it. And the tourist, who always included Chinatown in his itinerary, saw little of the real life. The guides gave him a show by actors hired for his benefit. In reality the place had considerable importance in a financial way. There were clothing and cigar factories of importance, and much of the tea and silk importing was in the hands of the merchants, who numbered several millionaires. Mainly, however, it was a Tenderloin for the house servants of the city—for the San Francisco Chinaman was seldom a laundryman; he was too much in demand at fancy prices as a servant.
The Chinese lived their own lives in their own way and settled their own quarrels with the revolvers of their highbinders. There were two theaters in the quarter, a number of rich joss houses, three newspapers and a Chinese telephone exchange. There is a race feeling against the Chinese among the working people of San Francisco, and no white man, except the very lowest outcasts, lived in the quarter.
On the slopes of Telegraph Hill dwelt the Mexicans and Spanish, in low houses, which they had transformed by balconies into a resemblance of Spain. Above, and streaming over the hill, were the Italians. The tenement quarter of San Francisco shone by contrast with that of New York, for while these people lived in old and humble houses they had room to breathe and a high eminence for light and air. Their shanties clung on the side of the hill or hung on the very edge of the precipice overlooking the bay, on the edge of which a wall kept their babies from falling. The effect was picturesque, and this hill was the delight of painters. It was all more like Italy than anything in the Italian quarter of New York and Chicago—the very climate and surroundings, wine country close at hand, the bay for their lateen boats, helped them.
Over by the ocean and surrounded by cemeteries in which there are no more burials, there is an eminence which is topped by two peaks and which the Spanish of the early days named after the breasts of a woman. At its foot was Mission Dolores, the last mission planted by the Spanish padres in their march up the coast, and from these hills the Spanish looked for the first time upon the golden bay.
Many years ago some one set up at the summit of this peak a sixty foot cross of timber. Once a high wind blew it down, and the women of the Fair family then had it restored so firmly that it would resist anything. As it is on a hill it must have stood. It has risen for fifty years above the gay, careless, luxuriant and lovable city, in full view from every eminence and from every alley. It must stand now above the desolation of ruins.
SCENES OF TERROR, DEATH AND HEROISM.
Thrilling Escapes and Deeds of Daring—Sublime Bravery and Self-Sacrifice by Men and Women—How the United States Mint and the Treasuries Were Saved and Protected by Devoted Employes and Soldiers—Pathetic Street Incidents—Soldiers and Police Compel Fashionably Attired to Assist in Cleaning Streets—Italians Drench Homes with Wine.
The week succeeding the quake was a remarkable one in the history of the country. For a day or two the people had been horror-stricken by the tales of suffering and desolation on the Pacific coast, but as the truth became known they arose equal to the occasion.
And not all the large amounts contributed were confined to those ranked as the great and strong of the nation. The laborers, too, banded together and sent large contributions. The members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of Indianapolis realized their brethren would be in dire need and they sent $10,000. The United Mineworkers sent $1,000, and several other labor organizations were equally generous.
During even the most awful moments of the catastrophe men and women with sublimest heroism faced the most threatening terrors and dangers to assist, to rescue and to save. Everywhere throughout the city scenes of daring, self-sacrifice and bravery were witnessed and thrilling escapes from imminent death aroused enthusiasm as well as horror.
A landmark of San Francisco which escaped destruction, though every building around it was destroyed, is the United States Mint at the corner of Fifth and Mission streets. Harold French, an employe of the mint, gave a graphic account of how the flames were successfully fought.
"Nearly $200,000,000 in coin and bullion," said Mr. French, "is stored in the vaults of the mint and for the preservation of this prize a devoted band of employes, re-enforced by regular soldiers, fought until the baffled flames fled to the conquest of stately blocks of so-called fireproof buildings.
"For seven hours a sea of fire surged around this grand old federal edifice, attacking it on all sides with waves of fierce heat. Its little garrison was cut off from retreat for hours at a time, had such a course been thought of by those on guard.
"Iron shutters shielded the lower floors, but the windows of the upper story, on which are located the refinery and assay office, were exposed.
"When the fire leaped Mint avenue in solid masses of flames the refinery men stuck to their windows as long as the glass remained in the frames. Seventy-five feet of an inch hose played a slender stream upon the blazing window sill, while the floor was awash with diluted sulphuric acid. Ankle deep in this soldiers and employes stuck to the floor until the windows shattered. With a roar, the tongues of fire licked greedily the inner walls. Blinding and suffocating smoke necessitated the abandonment of the hose and the fighters retreated to the floor below.
"Then came a lull. There was yet a fighting chance, so back to the upper story the fire-fighters returned, led by Superintendent Leach. At length the mint was pronounced out of danger and a handful of exhausted but exultant employes stumbled out on the hot cobblestone to learn the fate of some of their homes."
* * * * *
A number of men were killed while attempting to loot the United States Mint, where $39,000,000 was kept, while thirty-four white men were shot and killed by troops in a raid on the ruins of the burned United States Treasury. Several millions of dollars are in the treasury ruins.
* * * * *
Among the many pathetic incidents of the fire was that of a woman who sat at the foot of Van Ness avenue on the hot sands on the hillside overlooking the bay east of Fort Mason with four little children, the youngest a girl of 3, the eldest a boy of 10.
They were destitute of water, food and money. The woman had fled with her children from a home in flames in the Mission street district and tramped to the bay in the hope of sighting the ship, which she said was about due, of which her husband was the captain.
"He would know me anywhere," she said. And she would not move, although a young fellow gallantly offered his tent back on a vacant lot in which to shelter her children.
In a corner of the plaza a band of men and women were praying, and one fanatic, driven crazy by horror, was crying out at the top of his voice:
"The Lord sent it—the Lord!"
His hysterical crying got on the nerves of the soldiers and bade fair to start a panic among the women and children. A sergeant went over and stopped it by force. All night they huddled together in this hell, with the fire making it bright as day on all sides, and in the morning, the soldiers using their sense again, commandeered a supply of bread from a bakery, sent out another water squad, and fed the refugees with a semblance of breakfast.
A few Chinese made their way into the crowd. They were trembling, pitifully scared, and willing to stop wherever the soldiers placed them.
* * * * *
The soldiers and the police forced every available man in the downtown district to work, no matter where they were found or under what conditions. One party of four finely dressed men that came downtown in an automobile were stopped by the soldiers and were ordered out of the machine and compelled to assist in clearing the debris from Market street. Then the automobile was loaded with provisions and sent out to relieve the hungry people in the parks.
One young man who was pressed into service by the soldiers, came clad in a fashionable summer suit, straw hat and kid gloves.
* * * * *
An incident of the fire in the Latin quarter on the slope of Telegraph Hill is worthy of note. The only available water supply was found in a well dug in early days. At a critical moment the pump suddenly sucked dry and the water in the well was exhausted.
"There is a last chance, boys!" was shouted and Italian residents crashed in their cellar doors with axes and, calling for assistance, began rolling out barrels of red wine.
The cellars gave forth barrel after barrel until there was fully 500 gallons ready for use. Then barrel heads were smashed in and the bucket brigade turned from water to wine. Sacks were dipped in the wine and used for beating out the fire. Beds were stripped of their blankets and these were soaked in the wine and hung over the exposed portions of the cottages and men on the roofs drenched the shingles and sides of the house with wine.
Past huddled groups of sleepers an unending stream of refugees was seen wending their way to the ferry, dragging trunks over the uneven pavement by ropes tethered to wheelbarrows laden with the household lares and penates. The bowed figures crept about the water and ruins and looked like the ghosts about the ruins of Troy, and unheeding save where instinct prompted them to make a detour about some still burning heap of ruins.
At the ferry the sleepers lay in windrows, each man resting his head upon some previous treasures that he had brought from his home. No one was able to fear thieves or to escape pillage, because of absolute physical inertia forced upon him.
Mad, wholly stark mad, were some of the unfortunates who had not fled from the ruins. In many instances the soldiers were forced to tear men and women away from the bodies of their dead. Two women were stopped within a distance of a few blocks and forced to give up the dead bodies of their babes, which they were nursing to their bosoms.
A newsgatherer passing through Portsmouth square noticed a mother cowering under a bush. She was singing in a quavering voice a lullaby to her baby. The reporter parted the bushes and looked in. Then he saw what she held in her arms was only a mangled and reddened bit of flesh. The baby had been crushed when the shock of earthquake came and its mother did not know that its life had left it thirty hours before.
* * * * *
When law and order were strained a crew of hell rats crept out of their holes and in the flamelight plundered and reveled in bacchanalian orgies like the infamous inmates of Javert in "Les Miserables." These denizens of the sewer traps and purlieus of "The Barbary Coast" exulted in unhindered joy of doing evil.
Sitting crouched among the ruins or sprawling on the still warm pavement they could be seen brutally drunk. A demijohn of wine placed on a convenient corner of some ruin was a shrine at which they worshiped. They toasted chunks of sausage over the dying coals of the cooling ruin even as they drank, and their songs of revelry were echoed from wall to wall down in the burnt Mission district.
Some of the bedizened women of the half world erected tents and champagne could be had for the asking, although water had its price. One of these women, dressed in pink silk with high heeled satin slippers on her feet, walked down the length of what had been Natoma street with a bucket of water and a dipper, and she gave the precious fluid freely to those stricken ones huddled there by their household goods and who had not tasted water in twenty-four hours.
"Let them drink and be happy," said she, "water tastes better than beer to them now."
* * * * *
Soon after the earthquake San Francisco was practically placed under martial law with Gen. Fred Funston commanding and later Gen. Greely. The regiment has proven effective in subduing anarchy and preventing the depredations of looters. A detail of troops helped the police to guard the streets and remove people to places of safety.
The martial law dispensed was of the sternest. They have no records existing of the number of executions which had been meted out to offenders. It is known that more than one sneaking vandal suffered for disobedience of the injunction given against entering deserted houses.
There was a sharp, businesslike precision about the American soldier that stood San Francisco in good stead. The San Francisco water rat thug and "Barbary Coast" pirate might flout a policeman, but he discovered that he could not disobey a man who wears Uncle Sam's uniform without imminent risk of being counted in that abstract mortuary list usually designated as "unknown dead."
For instance: When Nob Hill was the crest of a huge wave of flame, soldiers were directing the work of saving the priceless art treasures from the Mark Hopkins institute.
Lieut. C. C. McMillan of the revenue cutter Bear impressed volunteers at the point of a pistol to assist in saving the priceless art treasures which the building housed.
"Here you," barked Lieutenant McMillan to the great crowd of dazed men, "get in there and carry out those paintings."
"What business have you got to order us about?" said a burly citizen with the jowl of a Bill Sykes.
The lieutenant gave a significant hitch to his arm and the burly man saw a revolver was hanging from the forefinger of the lieutenant's right hand.
"Look here," said the lieutenant. "You see this gun? Well, I think it is aimed at your right eye. Now, come here. I want to have a little talk with you."
The tough stared for a moment and then the shade of fear crept over his face, and with an "All right, boss," he started in upon the labor of recovering the art treasures from the institute.
"This is martial law," said the determined lieutenant. "I don't like it, you may not like it, but it goes. I think that is understood."
* * * * *
John H. Ryan and wife of Chicago after spending their honeymoon in Honolulu and Jamaica reached San Francisco just before the earthquake. They were stopping at the St. Francis Hotel, which was destroyed partially by the earthquake and totally by the fire following the shock. They lost many of their personal effects, but are thankful that they escaped with their lives.
"When the first shock came," said Mr. Ryan, "I was out of bed in an instant. I immediately was thrown to the floor. Arising, I held on by a chair and by the door knob until I could get around the room to the window to see if I could find out what was the matter. I saw people running and heard them in the corridors of the hotel. I also heard women screaming. I hastily called one of my friends and he and myself threw on our overcoats, stuck our feet into our shoes and ran downstairs. I ran back to tell my wife, when I found her coming down the stairs.
"The first shock lasted, according to a professor in the university, sixty seconds. I thought it lasted about as many days.
"At the second shock all the guests piled into the streets. We stood in the bitter cold street for fully a quarter of an hour with nothing about us but our spring overcoats. I said 'bitter cold.' So it was. People there said it was the coldest spell that has struck Frisco in years.
"After standing in the streets for a while my friend and myself, with my wife, started back into the hotel to get our clothes. The guard was at the foot of the stairs and he told us that we would not be allowed to go to our rooms. I told him we merely wanted to get some clothes on so we would not freeze to death and he told us to go up, but to come right down as soon as possible, for there was no telling what would happen. We rushed into our rooms and hurriedly threw on our clothes, and started out to reconnoiter. We stopped near a small building. Just then a policeman on guard came up and ordered everybody to assist in rescuing the persons within. We did not hesitate, but rushed into the building heedless of the impending falling of the walls. We found there a man lying unconscious on the floor. He revived sufficiently to make us understand that his wife and child were in the building and that he thought they were dead. We looked and finally found them, dead.
"We saw ambulances and undertakers' wagons by the score racing down Market street. They were filled with the bodies of the injured and in many cases with dead. The injured were piled into the wagons indiscriminately without respect for any consequences in the future of the patients."
* * * * *
R. F. Lund of Canal Dover, O., was asleep in apartments when the shock rent the city. "I awoke to find myself on the floor," said Mr. Lund. "The building to me seemed to pitch to the right, then to the left, and finally to straighten itself and sink. I had the sensation of pitching down in an elevator shaft—that sudden, sickening wave that sweeps over you and leaves you breathless.
"I got into my clothes and with some difficulty wrenched open the door of my room. Screams of women were piercing the air. Together with a dozen other men, inmates of the apartments, I assembled the women guests and we finally got them into the streets. Few of them tarried long enough to dress. We went back again and then returned with more women.
"In one room particularly there was great commotion. It was occupied by two women and they were in a state of hysterical terror because they could not open their door and get out. The sudden settling of the building had twisted the jambs.
"Finally I put my two hundred and thirty pounds of weight against the panels and smashed them through. I helped them wrap themselves in quilts and half led, half carried them to the street.
"While passing through a narrow street in the rear of the Emporium I came upon a tragedy. A rough fellow, evidently a south of Market street thug, was bending over the unconscious form of a woman. She was clothed in a kimono and lay upon the sidewalk near the curb. His back was toward me. He was trying to wrench a ring from her finger and he held her right wrist in his left hand. A soldier suddenly approached. He held a rifle thrust forward and his eyes were on the wretch.
"Involuntarily I stopped and involuntarily my hand went to my hip pocket. I remember only this, that it seemed in that moment a good thing to me to take a life. The soldier's rifle came to his shoulder. There was a sharp report and I saw the smoke spurt from the muzzle. The thug straightened up with a wrench, he shot his right arm above his head and pitched forward across the body of the woman. He died with her wrist in his grasp. It may sound murderous, but the feeling I experienced was one of disappointment. I wanted to kill him myself.
"Along in the afternoon in my walking I came upon a great hulking fellow in the act of wresting food from an old woman and a young girl who evidently had joined their fortunes. No soldiers were about and I had the satisfaction of laying him out with the butt of my pistol. He went down in a heap. I did not stay to see whether or not he came to."
"Strange is the scene where San Francisco's Chinatown stood," said W. W. Overton, after reaching Los Angeles among the refugees. "No heap of smoking ruins marks the site of the wooden warrens where the slant-eyed men of the orient dwelt in thousands. The place is pitted with deep holes and seared with dark passageways, from whose depths come smoke wreaths. All the wood has gone and the winds are streaking the ashes.
"Men, white men, never knew the depth of Chinatown's underground city. They often talked of these subterranean runways. And many of them had gone beneath the street levels, two and three stories. But now that Chinatown has been unmasked, for the destroyed buildings were only a mask, men from the hillside have looked on where its inner secrets lay. In places they can see passages 100 feet deep.
"The fire swept this Mongolian section clean. It left no shred of the painted wooden fabric. It ate down to the bare ground and this lies stark, for the breezes have taken away the light ashes. Joss houses and mission schools, grocery stores and opium dens, gambling hells and theaters—all of them went. The buildings blazed up like tissue paper lanterns used when the guttering candles touched their sides.
"From this place I, following the fire, saw hundreds of crazed yellow men flee. In their arms they bore their opium pipes, their money bags, their silks, and their children. Beside them ran the baggy trousered women, and some of them hobbled painfully.
"These were the men and women of the surface. Far beneath the street levels in those cellars and passageways were many others. Women who never saw the day from their darkened prisons and their blinking jailors were caught like rats in a huge trap. Their bones were eaten by the flames.
"And now there remain only the holes. They pit the hillside like a multitude of ground swallow nests. They go to depths which the police never penetrated. The secrets of those burrows will never be known, for into them the hungry fire first sifted its red coals and then licked eagerly in tongues of creeping flames, finally obliterating everything except the earth itself."
"The scenes to be witnessed in San Francisco were beyond description," said Mr. Oliver Posey, Jr.
"Not alone did the soldiers execute the law. One afternoon, in front of the Palace Hotel, a crowd of workers in the ruins discovered a miscreant in the act of robbing a corpse of its jewels. Without delay he was seized, a rope was procured, and he was immediately strung up to a beam which was left standing in the ruined entrance of the Palace Hotel.
"No sooner had he been hoisted up and a hitch taken in the rope than one of his fellow criminals was captured. Stopping only to secure a few yards of hemp, a knot was quickly tied and the wretch was soon adorning the hotel entrance by the side of the other dastard."
Jack Spencer, well known here, also returned home yesterday, and had much to say of the treatment of those caught in the act of rifling the dead of their jewels.
"At the corner of Market and Third streets on Wednesday," said Mr. Spencer of Los Angeles, "I saw a man attempting to cut the fingers from the hand of a dead woman in order to secure the rings. Three soldiers witnessed the deed at the same time and ordered the man to throw up his hands. Instead of obeying he drew a revolver from his pocket and began to fire without warning.
"The three soldiers, reinforced by half a dozen uniformed patrolmen, raised their rifles to their shoulders and fired. With the first shots the man fell, and when the soldiers went to the body to dump it into an alley eleven bullets were found to have entered it."
Here is an experience typical of hundreds told by Sam Wolf, a guest at the Grand Hotel:
"When I awakened the house was shaken as a terrier would shake a rat. I dressed and made for the street which seemed to move like waves of water. On my way down Market street the whole side of a building fell out and came so near me that I was covered and blinded by the dust. Then I saw the first dead come by. They were piled up in an automobile like carcasses in a butcher's wagon, all over blood, with crushed skulls and broken limbs, and bloody faces.
"A man cried out to me, 'Look out for that live wire.' I just had time to sidestep certain death. On each side of me the fires were burning fiercely. I finally got into the open space before the ferry. The ground was still shaking and gaping open in places. Women and children knelt on the cold asphalt and prayed God would be merciful to them. At last we got on the boat. Not a woman in that crowd had enough clothing to keep her warm, let alone the money for fare. I took off my hat, put a little money in it, and we got enough money right there to pay all their fares."
W. H. Sanders, consulting engineer of the United States geological survey, insisted on paying his hotel bill before he left the St. Francis. He says:
"Before leaving my room I made my toilet and packed my grip. The other guests had left the house. As I hurried down the lobby I met the clerk who had rushed in to get something. I told him I wanted to pay my bill. 'I guess not,' he said, 'this is no time for settlement.'
"As he ran into the office I cornered him, paid him the money, and got his receipt hurriedly stamped."
Dr. Taggart of Los Angeles, a leader of the Los Angeles relief bureau, accidentally shot himself while entering a hospital at the corner of Page and Baker streets, Saturday, April 21. He was mounting the stairs, stumbled and fell. A pistol which he carried in his inside coat pocket was discharged, the bullet entering near the heart. He rose to his feet and cried, "I am dying," and fell into the arms of a physician on the step below. Death was almost instantaneous.
Mrs. Lucien Shaw, of Los Angeles, wife of Judge Shaw of the State Supreme Court, disappeared in the war of the elements that raged in San Francisco.
At day dawn Thursday morning, April 19, the Shaw apartments, on Pope street, San Francisco, were burned. Mrs. Shaw fled with the refugees to the hills.
Judge Lucien Shaw went north on that first special on Wednesday that cleared for the Oakland mole.
Thursday morning at daybreak he reached his apartments on Pope street. Flames were burning fiercely. A friend told him that his wife had fled less than fifteen minutes before. She carried only a few articles in a hand satchel.
For two days and nights Judge Shaw wandered over hills and through the parks about San Francisco seeking among the 200,000 refugees for his wife.
During that heart-breaking quest, according to his own words, he had "no sleep, little food and less water." At noon Saturday he gave up the search and hurried back to Los Angeles, hoping to find that she had arrived before him. He hastened to his home on West Fourth street.
"Where's mother?" was the first greeting from his son, Hartley Shaw.
Judge Shaw sank fainting on his own doorstep. The search for the missing woman was continued but proved fruitless.
One of the beautiful little features on the human side of the disaster was the devotion of the Chinese servants to the children of the families which they served. And this was not the only thing, for often a Chinaman acted as the only man in families of homeless women and children. Except for the inevitable panic of the first morning, when the Chinese tore into Portsmouth square and fought with the Italians for a place of safety, the Chinese were orderly, easy to manage, and philosophical. They staggered around under loads of household goods which would have broken the back of a horse, and they took hard the order of the troops which commanded all passengers to leave their bundles at the ferry.
A letter to a friend in Fond du Lac, Wis., from Mrs. Bragg, wife of General E. S. Bragg, late consul general at Hong Kong, and one-time commander of the Iron Brigade, gave the following account of the escape of the Braggs in the Frisco quake. Mrs. Bragg says under date of April 20:
"We reached San Francisco a week ago today, but it seems a month, so much have we been through. We were going over to Oakland the very morning of the earthquake, so, of course, we never went, as it is as bad there as here.
"General Bragg had to wait to collect some money on a draft, but the banks were all destroyed. The chimneys fell in and all hotels were burned as well as public buildings. There was no water to put out the fires which raged for blocks in every square and provisions were running low everywhere. Eggs were $5 a dozen, etc.; no telegraph, no nothing.
"We went from the Occidental to the Plymouth and from there to the Park Nob hill, where we lay, not slept, all Wednesday night, the day of the earthquake. From there we took refuge on the Pacific with friends who were obliged to get out also and we all came over together to Fort Mason, leaving there last night. We came from there to the flagship Chicago, the admiral having sent a boat for us.
"General Bragg is very well and we have both stood it wonderfully. The Chicago fire was bad enough, but this is worse in our old age. May we live till we reach home. So many here have lost everything, homes as well, we consider ourselves quite fortunate. May I never live to see another earthquake.
"The General had a very narrow escape from falling plaster; never thought to leave the first hotel alive. Many were killed or burned. God is good to us. Our baggage was rescued by our nephews alone. No one else's was to be got out for love or money. The baggage was sent to the Presidio, not four miles from us."
THRILLING PERSONAL EXPERIENCES.
Scenes of Horror and Panic Described by Victims of the Quake Who Escaped—How Helpless People Were Crushed to Death by Falling Buildings and Debris—Some Marvelous Escapes.
The stories of hundreds who experienced the earthquake shock but escaped with life and limb constitute a series of thrilling stories unrivalled outside of fiction. Those that contain the most marvellous features are herewith narrated:
* * * * *
Albert H. Gould, of Chicago, describes the scene in the Palace Hotel following the first quake:
"I was asleep on the seventh floor of the Palace Hotel," he said, "at the time of the first quake. I was thrown out of my bed and half way across the room.
"Immediately realizing the import of the occurrence, and fearing that the building was about to collapse, I made my way down the six flights of stairs and into the main corridor.
"I was the first guest to appear. The clerks and hotel employes were running about as if they were mad. Within two minutes after I had appeared other guests began to flock into the corridor. Few if any of them wore other than their night clothing. Men, women, and children with blanched faces stood as if fixed. Children and women cried, and the men were little less affected.
"I returned to my room and got my clothing, then walked to the office of the Western Union in my pajamas and bare feet to telegraph to my wife in Los Angeles. I found the telegraphers there, but all the wires were down. I sat down on the sidewalk, picked the broken glass out of the soles of my feet, and put on my clothes.
"All this, I suppose, took little more than twenty minutes. Within that time, below the Palace the buildings for more than three blocks were a mass of flames, which quickly communicated to other buildings. The scene was a terrible one. Billows of fire seemed to roll from the business blocks soon half consumed to other blocks in the vicinity, only to climb and loom again.
"The Call building at the corner of Third and Market streets, as I passed, I saw to be more than a foot out of plumb and hanging over the street like the leaning tower of Pisa.
"I remained in San Francisco until 8 o'clock and then took a ferry for Oakland, but returned to the burning city an hour and a half later. At that time the city seemed doomed. I remained but for a few minutes; then made my way back to the ferry station.
"I hope I may never be called upon to pass through such an experience again. People by the thousands and seemingly devoid of reason were crowded around the ferry station. At the iron gates they clawed with their hands as so many maniacs. They sought to break the bars, and failing in that turned upon each other. Fighting my way to the gate like the others the thought came into my mind of what rats in a trap were. Had I not been a strong man I should certainly have been killed.
"When the ferry drew up to the slip, and the gates were thrown open the rush to safety was tremendous. The people flowed through the passageway like a mountain torrent that, meeting rocks in its path, dashes over them. Those who fell saved themselves as best they could.
"I left Oakland at about 5 o'clock. At that time San Francisco was hidden in a pall of smoke. The sun shone brightly upon it without any seeming penetration. Flames at times cleft the darkness. This cloud was five miles in height, and at its top changed into a milk white."
* * * * *
Mrs. Agnes Zink, Hotel Broadway, said:
"I was stopping at 35 Fifth street, San Francisco. The rear of that house collapsed and the landlady and about thirty of her roomers were killed. I escaped simply because I had a front room and because I got out on the roof, as the stairway had collapsed in the rear. Out in the street it was impossible to find a clear pathway. I saw another lodging house near ours collapse—I think it must have been 39 Fifth street—and I know all the inmates were killed, for its wreck was complete. In ten minutes the entire block to Mission street was in flames."
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Mr. J. P. Anthony, a business man who escaped from the doomed city in an automobile tells a graphic story:
Mr. Anthony says that he was sleeping in his room at the Romona hotel on Ellis street, near Macon, and was suddenly awakened at 5:23 in the morning. The first shock that brought him out of bed, he says, was appalling in its terrible force. The whole earth seemed to heave and fall. The building where he was housed, which is six stories high, was lifted from its foundation and the roof caved in. A score or more of guests, men and women, immediately made their way to the street, which was soon filled with people, and a perfect panic ensued. Debris showered into the street from the buildings on every side.
As a result, Mr. Anthony says, he saw a score or more of people killed. Women became hysterical and prayed in the streets, while men sat on the curbing, appearing to be dazed. It was twenty minutes before those in the vicinity seemed to realize the enormity of the catastrophe. The crowds became larger and in the public squares of the city and in empty lots thousands of people gathered.
It was 9 o'clock before the police were in control of the situation. When they finally resumed charge, the officers directed their energy toward warning the people in the streets away from danger. Buildings were on the brink of toppling over.
Mr. Anthony says he was walking on Market street, near the Emporium, about 9 a. m., when a severe shock was felt. At once the street filled again with excited persons, and thousands were soon gathered in the vicinity, paralyzed with fear. Before the spectators could realize what had happened, the walls of the building swayed a distance of three feet. The thousands of bystanders stood as if paralyzed, expecting every moment that they would be crushed, but another tremor seemed to restore the big building to its natural position.
Mr. Anthony said that he momentarily expected that, with thousands of others who were in the neighborhood, he would be crushed to death in a few moments. He made his way down Market street as far as the Call building, from which flames were issuing at every window, with the blaze shooting through the roof. A similar condition prevailed in the Examiner building, across the street.
He then started for the depot, at Third and Townsend streets, determined to leave the city. He found a procession of several thousand other persons headed in the same direction.
All south of Market street about that time was a crackling mass of flames. Mr. Anthony made his way to Eighth and Market, thence down Eighth to Townsend and to Third street, and the entire section which he traversed was afire, making it impossible for him to reach his destination. He attempted to back track, but found that his retreat had been cut off by the flames. He then went to Twelfth street and reached Market again by the city hall. San Francisco's magnificent municipal building had concaved like an egg shell. The steel dome was still standing, but the rest of the $3,000,000 structure was a mass of charred ruins.
It was not yet noon, but the city's hospitals were already filled with dead and injured, and all available storerooms were being pressed into service. Dead bodies were being carried from the streets in garbage wagons. In every direction hysterical women were seen. Men walked through the streets, weeping, and others wore blanched faces. Transfer men were being offered fabulous sums to remove household goods, even for a block distant. Horses had been turned loose and were running at large to prevent their being incinerated in the burning buildings. Women had loaded their personal belongings on carts and were pulling them through the city, the property being huddled in the public squares.
"The Grand Hotel tossed like a ship at sea. There was a wavelike motion, accompanied by a severe up and down shake," said J. R. Hand of the Hand Fruit Company of Los Angeles. "The shock was accompanied by a terrific roar that is indescribable. An upright beam came through the floor of my room and the walls bulged in. I thought I should not get out alive. All my baggage was lost, but I still have the key to my room as a souvenir, No. 249.
"I was on the third story of the hotel and got the last vacant room. No one in any of the stronger built hotels was killed, to the best of my knowledge. These hotels were destroyed by fire after being severely wrecked. I reached the ferry station by a trip of about six miles around by the Fairmount Hotel and thence to the water front.
"The Examiner Building went up like a flash. I was standing in front of the Crocker Building and saw the first smoke. Just then the soldiers ran us out. We went around two blocks and the next view we had the building was a mass of flames. The burning of the Palace was a beautiful sight from the bay."
F. O. Popenie, manager of the Pacific Monthly, was asleep in the Terminus hotel, near the Southern Pacific ferry station, when the first tremble came.
"The Terminus hotel did not go down at the first shock," he said. "We were sleeping on the third floor when the quake came. The walls of the hotel began falling, but the guests had time to run outside before the building fell in.
"I started for San Jose on foot. When I reached the Potrero I looked back and saw the business section a furnace. Fires had started up in many places and were blazing fiercely. Finally a man driving a single rig overtook me. He was headed for San Jose and he took me in. After a distance of fifteen miles we took the train and went on."
The Terminus hotel was a six-story structure with stone and brick sides. It collapsed soon after the first shock.
Among the refugees who found themselves stranded were John Singleton, a Los Angeles millionaire, his wife and her sister. The Singletons were staying at the Palace hotel when the earthquake shock occurred.
Mr. Singleton gives the following account of his experience: "The shock wrecked the rooms in which we were sleeping. We managed to get our clothes on and get out immediately. We had been at the hotel only two days and left probably $3,000 worth of personal effects in the room.
"After leaving the Palace we secured an express wagon for $25 to take us to the Casino, near Golden Gate Park, where we stayed Wednesday night. On Thursday morning we managed to get a conveyance at enormous cost and spent the entire day in getting to the Palace. We paid $1 apiece for eggs and $2 for a loaf of bread. On these and a little ham we had to be satisfied."
"I was asleep in the Hotel Dangham, Ellis and Mason streets, when the shock came," said Miss Bessie Tannehill of the Tivoli Theatre. "There were at least 100 persons in the building at the time. At the first shock I leaped from the bed and ran to the window. Another upheaval came and I was thrown off my feet. I groped my way out of the room and down the dark stairway. Men, women and children, almost without clothing, crowded the place, crying and praying as they rushed out.
"When outside I saw the streets filled with people who rushed about wringing their hands and crying. Proprietor Lisser of the hotel offered a cabman $50 to take himself and his wife to the Presidio heights, but he refused. He wanted more money. We finally secured a carriage by paying $100. Fire was raging at this time and people were panic-stricken.
"After getting outside of the danger region I walked back, hoping to aid some of the unfortunates. I have heard about big prices charged for food. I wish to testify that the merchants on upper Market street and in nearby districts threw open their stores and invited the crowds to help themselves. The mobs rushed into every place, carrying out all the goods possible.
"I saw many looters and pickpockets at work. On Mason street a gang of thieves was at work. They were pursued by troops, but escaped in an auto."
The members of the Metropolitan opera company of New York were all victims of the great disaster, including Mme. Sembrich, Signor Caruso, Campanari, Dippel, Conductor Hertz and Bars.
All of the splendid scenery, stage fittings, costumes and musical instruments were lost in the fire which destroyed the Grand Opera House, where their season had just opened.
No one of the company was injured, but nearly all of them lost their personal effects. Mme. Sembrich placed the loss by the destruction of her elegant costumes at $20,000. She was fortunate enough to save her valuable jewels. The total loss to the organization was $150,000.
On the morning of the earthquake the members of the company were distributed among the different hotels.
The sudden shock brought all out of their bedrooms in all kinds of attire. The women were in their night dresses, the men in pajamas, none pausing to dress, all convinced that their last hour had come. Ten minutes later Caruso was seen seated on his valise in the middle of the street. Many of the others had rushed to open squares or other places of supposed safety. Even then it was difficult to avoid the debris falling from the crumbling walls.
Several of those stopping at the Oaks were awakened by plaster from the ceilings falling on their bed and had barely time to flee for their lives. One singer was seen standing in the street, barefoot, and clad only in his underwear, but clutching a favorite violin which he carried with him in his flight. Rossi, though almost in tears, was heard trying his voice at a corner near the Palace hotel.
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A. W. Hussey, who went to the Hall of Justice on the morning of the disaster, told how at the direction of a policeman whom he did not know, he had cut the arteries in the wrists of a man pinioned under timbers at St. Katherine hotel.
According to the statement made by Hussey the man was begging to be killed and the policeman shot at him, but his aim was defective and the bullet went wide of the mark. The officer then handed Hussey a knife with instructions to cut the veins in the suffering man's wrists, and Hussey obeyed orders to the letter.
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A story was told of one young girl who had followed for two days the body of her father, her only relative. It had been taken from a house in Mission street to an undertaker's shop just after the quake. The fire drove her out with her charge, and it was placed in Mechanics' Pavilion.
That went, and it had rested for a day at the Presidio, waiting burial. With many others she wept on the border of the burial area, while the women cared for her. That was truly a tragic and pathetic funeral.
In the commission house of C. D. Bunker a rescuer named Baker was killed while trying to get a dead body from the ruins. Other rescuers heard the pitiful wail of a little child, but were unable to get near the point from which the cry issued. Soon the onrushing fire ended the cry and the men turned to other tasks.
Hundreds of firemen and rescuers were prostrated, the strain of the continued fight in the face of the awful calamity proving more than any man could stand. In the crowds at many points people fainted and in some instances dropped dead as the result of the reaction following the unprecedented shock.
At Mechanics' Pavilion scenes of heroism and later of panic were enacted. The great frame building was turned into a hospital for the care of the injured and here a corps of fifty physicians rendered aid. Nurses volunteered their services and also girls from the Red Cross ship that steamed in from the government yards at Mare island and contributed doctors and supplies.
While the ambulances and automobiles were unloading their maimed and wounded at the building the march of the conflagration up Market street gave warning that the injured would have to be removed at once.
This work was undertaken and every available vehicle was pressed into service to get the stricken into the hospitals and private houses of the western addition. A few minutes after the last of the wounded had been carried through the door, some on cots, others in strong arms and on stretchers, shafts of fire shot from the roof and the structure burst into a whirlwind of flame.
One of the most thrilling of all stories related of adventures in stricken San Francisco during the days of horror and nights of terror is that of a party of four, two women and two men, who arrived at Los Angeles April 20, after having spent a night and the greater portion of two days on the hills about Golden Gate Park.
This party was composed of Mrs. Francis Winter, Miss Bessie Marley, Dr. Ernest W. Fleming, and Oliver Posey, all of Los Angeles.
"I was sleeping in a room on the third floor of the hotel," said Dr. Fleming, "when the first shock occurred. An earthquake in San Francisco was no new sensation to me. I was there in 1868, when a boy ten years old, when the first great earthquake came. But that was a gentle rocking of a cradle to the one of Wednesday.
"I awoke to the groaning of timbers, the grinding, creaking sound, then came the roaring street. Plastering and wall decorations fell. The sensation was as if the buildings were stretching and writhing like a snake. The darkness was intense. Shrieks of women, higher, shriller than that of the creaking timbers, cut the air. I tumbled from the bed and crawled, scrambling toward the door. The twisting and writhing appeared to increase. The air was oppressive. I seemed to be saying to myself, will it never, never stop? I wrenched the lock; the door of the room swung back against my shoulder. Just then the building seemed to breathe, stagger and right itself.
"But I fled from that building as from a falling wall. I could not believe that it could endure such a shock and still stand.
"The next I remember I was standing in the street laughing at the unholy appearance of half a hundred men clad in pajamas—and less.
"The women were in their night robes; they made a better appearance than the men.
"The street was a rainbow of colors in the early morning light. There was every stripe and hue of raiment never intended to be seen outside the boudoir.
"I looked at a man at my side; he was laughing at me. Then for the first time I became aware that I was in pajamas myself. I turned and fled back to my room.
"There I dressed, packed my grip, and hastened back to the street. All the big buildings on Market street toward the ferry were standing, but I marked four separate fires. The fronts of the small buildings had fallen out into the streets and at some places the debris had broken through the sidewalk into cellars.
"I noticed two women near me. They were apparently without escort. One said to the other, 'What wouldn't I give to be back in Los Angeles again.'
"That awakened a kindred feeling and I proffered my assistance. I put my overcoat on the stone steps of a building and told them to sit there.
"In less than two minutes those steps appeared to pitch everything forward, to be flying at me. The groaning and writhing started afresh.
"But I was just stunned. I stood there in the street with debris falling about me. It seemed the natural thing for the tops of buildings to careen over and for fronts to fall out. I do not even recall that the women screamed.
"The street gave a convulsive shudder and the buildings somehow righted themselves again. I thought they had crashed together above my head.
"The air was filled with the roar of explosions. They were dynamiting great blocks. Sailors were training guns to rake rows of residences.
"All the while we were moving onward with the crowd. Cinders were falling about us. At times our clothing caught fire, just little embers that smoked and went out. The sting burned our faces and we used our handkerchiefs for veils.
"Everybody around us was using some kind of cloth to shield their eyes. It looked curious to see expressmen and teamsters wearing those veils.
"Quite naturally we seemed to come to Golden Gate Park. It seemed as if we had started for there. By this time the darkness was settling. But it was a weird twilight. The glare from the burning city threw a kind of red flame and shadow about us. It seemed uncanny; the figures about us moved like ghosts.
"The wind and fog blew chill from the ocean and we walked about to keep warm. Thousands were walking about, too, but there was no disturbance.
"Families trudged along there. There was no hurry. All appeared to have time to spare. The streets, walks, and lawns were wiggling with little parties, one or two families in each. The men had brought bedding and blankets and they made impromptu shelters to keep off the fog.
"The cinders still kept falling. They seemed at times to come down right against the wind. They stung my face and made me restless.
"All night we moved about the hills. Thousands were moving with us. As the night wore on the crowd grew.
"Near daylight the soldiers came to the park. They were still moving in front of the fire.
"I had brought a little store of provisions before nightfall and somehow we had kept them. It seemed easy to keep things there. I walked over to the fire made by one squad of soldiers and picked up a tin bucket. They looked at me but made no move. I went to a faucet and turned it on. Water was there. Not much, but a trickling little stream. There was water in the park all night. I boiled some eggs and we ate our breakfast. Then we concluded to try to make our way back to the water front. We did this because the soldiers were driving us from that part of the hills. The flames were still after us.
"The dumb horror of it seemed to reach right into one's heart. Walking and resting, we reached the ferry near sunset. We had come back through a burned district some four miles. I do not understand how the people stood it.
"Other parties staggered past us. They were reeling, but not from wine. It was here that the pangs of thirst caught us. But the end came at last. We reached the ferry and the boats were running. The soldiers were there, too. They seemed to be everywhere. They were offering milk to the women and children.
"We are in Los Angeles now. It hardly seems real. If it were not for the sting of the cinders that still stick to my face and eyes I might think it was all a nightmare."
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Adolphus Busch, the St. Louis brewer, gave this account of his experiences in the earthquake:
"The earthquake which shook 'Frisco made all frantic, and was undoubtedly the severest ever experienced in the United States. The St. Francis hotel swayed from south to north like a tall poplar in a storm; furniture, even pianos, was overturned, and people thrown from their beds.
"I summoned my family and friends and urged them to escape to Jefferson square, which we did.
"An awful sight met our eyes. Every building was either partly or wholly wrecked, roofs and cornices falling from skyscrapers on lower houses, crushing and burying the inmates.
"Fires started in all parts of the city, the main water pipes burst and flooded the streets, one earthquake followed another, the people became terrified, but all were wonderfully calm. Over 100,000 persons without shelter were camping on the hills. There was no light, water, nor food. Regular soldiers and the militia maintained order and discipline, otherwise more horrors would have occurred and riots might have prevailed. Then the worst happened. The fire spread over three-fourths of the city and could not be controlled, no water to fight it, no light, and the earth still trembling.