The Bancroft Library
Description of the Earthquake of the California Coast and Fire of San Francisco.
And short, truthful stories of the same.
At 5:15 A. M., April 18th, 1906, thousands and thousands of people were awakened in terror by a rushing, roaring, rumbling noise, and before any one could collect half a thought the earth began to rock, and rise, and lower, and roll like a mighty sea.
Terror seized every living creature within its wake. There was a slight lull for about a quarter of a second, then a mightier roll came that made all living think only of God's mercy; then the rolling stopped with a twisting, ziz-zag jerk, as though the old earth had ceased to move around on its axis and was slipping and groaning under its weight like steel rails under a train of cars.
Buildings rocked, poised for a moment, then toppled and fell to the ground—some in a heap of ruins burying their inmates underneath to a terrible
In San Jose the shock was as heavy as anywhere. Great churches, our beautiful city buildings, handsome residences, business blocks, all showed severe handling. Some lay in a crumbled heap of brick and mortar on their beautiful grounds, here and there a lofty spreading palm waving over their ruins like a sentinel on guard. Rich and poor suffered alike, giving the observer the impression that God is no respecter of persons. Car service was stopped, gas was cut off—everything was at a standstill—all anyone thought of was life. People who were under the debris were extricated, dead or alive, as fast as it was possible to get at them.
Everyone was thankful that the earthquake had not happened at a busier hour. The fire that started and ruined half a business block at the corner of San Fernando and Second streets, San
From one end of the Garden City to the other, either way, was more or less a wreck. Communication with sister cities from one to the other was cut off and each place was ignorant of its neighboring cities' plight. Towards mid-day news began to circulate of the havoc of the earthquake, and that fire was claiming everything before it in San Francisco; and each sister wept for the loss of the oldest of the family. Two or three slight shocks followed through the day and chilled everyone who noticed them.
In San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and all the largest cities the soldiers were called out by a riot call, early in the morning; and as night began to close in, then it was that all citizens learned that martial law prevailed and would be carried out to the letter. No fires were allowed within the city limits, in some places; and no lights in San Francisco. This rule is still obeyed. Night closed in and people then began to realize the horror of San Francisco. As far as seventy miles distant the awful glare of flame reflecting on the heavens could be seen; and the rumbling and noise of the dynamite explosions could be distincty heard eight and nine miles distant. People read the evening papers from the light of the burning city. Three hundred thousand people were homeless. Tents were used as far as they could be obtained, then nothing but the cold ground remained for a resting place. People were
Three days and nights of terrible sweeping fire with sheen and shimmer almost unclouded by smoke leaped on out towards Golden Gate Park. Great arms of fire would leap out and clasp in their embrace whole business blocks; and then a tongue of flame would mount high and sweep towards fine residences; soon they would disappear and their ashes would be passed by for more. Up Telegraph and Mission Hills mansion after mansion —millionaires' homes—were devoured. The Government sent three men from Mare Island who knew well how to handle dynamite, and told them to stop the fire at all cost at all hazards; and they succeeded after many a brave and noble fireman had lost his life at the task, working weary long hours without food or water. The earthquake had broken the mains and water was not to be found.
All liquors and wines were poured into the gutter so men who worked would not get intoxicated. Babes died for want of food and milk. One hundred and fifty people were shut in by fire on Mission and Telegraph Hills and forced to roast alive. Mothers threw their little ones and fell prostrate themselves; some cried, "Shoot me, for God's sake shoot before I roast." Many a heart leapt fairly out of its socket in despair and anguish as they lay bound down with debris and nothing ahead but to roast. The number who died will never be known. Some say five hundred, others say perhaps one thousand; but I firmly believe
As one faces the burned city while crossing the Bay and looks on to what used to be a grand spectacle, they now have, since the fire, looked upon nothing but a graveyard, The view from Telegraph Hill, or any high point, will give the same impression to a thoughtful mind. The tall, white, charred walls look like massive monuments and the lower ones like headstones. Awe and sadness will come over every heart that is loyal to our State. People will dig among the ruins for souvenirs and view crumbled bones hundreds of places over the burned city. Millionaires have said they would give wealth if only they could blot out the awful sights from their memory of what they saw.
As the fire began to die down famine stared three hundred thousand people in the face. Homeless and nothing to eat! Think of it, reader far and near, those who had their little homes left for shelter and their board well laden thanked the Great Omnipotence for that blessing.
Signs of encouragement were put up all over the burned city to keep up spirit. Bread went up the first two days to $1.00 per loaf and ten cents for one soda cracker. Two or three merchants raised on provisions which Providence had permitted them to have, and our noble boys in blue marched in, and with pointed guns not only made them drop in prices but made them give away until hunger was quenched or the supply exhausted.
Relief began to come from east, west, north and south; from continents afar off; and soon, with
While the flames still swept up those seven hills of beauty, and nothing looked bright ahead, you could see badges pinned on different people, "Greater San Francisco," or, "Modern City of the World," and up above smoke and flame rose a monster aspiration. Courage, Uncle Sam's backbone. Then we realized that the Father of our Nation had lifted his fairest child in his strong arms and was determined to lift her above her calamity. The State that had given to all nations its wealth, beauty, climate and fragrance; the State of our beloved pioneers must be lifted, and tenderly and surely brought out. Each American heart longs to see her wear still greater and grander splendor than was taken from her by the calamity she has just passed through.
Looking back over the past three score years of her history we take a retrospective view of our Great City that now has five hundred and twenty-four of her elegant blocks, or ten thousand acres, or four square miles, in ashes. We see her as she looked the 24th of January, 1848, the day James W. Marshall picked up the lump of gold at the tail race of Sutter's mill. About two dozen small dwellings were all that told the outside world that
San Francisco of the future. They plan a great city. Build it and dedicate it to God so that the great sunlight of God's love will shine upon it; and all its inhabitants will flourish with prosperity, and it will stand majestically upon its seven hills, a wonder to the world, like the historic Cliff House stood upon the rock overhanging the ocean, a wonder to the survivors of the great earthquake that toppled over buildings that were built on safer looking places.
Since April 18th, 1906.
While the fire was raging in San Francisco great boatloads of people were carried across to the shores of her three sister cities for refuge. Among a crowd that was waiting to go aboard the boat one day, was a young man who felt his need of getting to a safer place. The head boat hand saw that the crowd was so large that all could not go aboard, so he called out, "all men with wives are the only ones allowed to board the boat." The young man took in his situation, and stepping up to an elberly looking lady, who had her arms full of parcels, he said, "Lady, allow me to be your husband for a few moments;" She answered him, "Yes, sir." He took her burden and helped her on board; after finding a seat and sitting down beside her, a young man came up to them and said, "Thank you sir, for carrying those parcels for the lady." "Why should I not carry my wife's parcels?" "Your wife! Why, this lady is my
Quick Adaptation and Separation
A gentleman was hurrying along out of the threatened district, during the fire, and all of a sudden he espied a dear little babe in swaddling clothes. Glancing on all sides he saw that the darling was alone and would soon be only a taste for the tongue of fire that perhaps had already devoured its parents. Picking the tiny angel up he nestled it to his bosom. He worked, he walked everywhere, and through everything he did he pressed the laughing, cooing treasure tightly to his breast. He got it drink—the best he could find. He had no shelter, but when night overtook him he wrapped his coat around its tiny form and lulled it to sleep, laid down beside it and sleep soon closed his weary eyes and his arms lay out to protect it from harm. When he awoke, the Angel of Death had relieved him of his charge, the little, tiny, marble-like form lay still in death. Tears flowed from his manly brow, and he buried his little foundling in a tiny grave, without casket or shroud. It was all, and the best he could do. God looked down upon that noble act of kindness. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his knowledge.
Act of a Salvation Army Lassie
The 18th of April a Salvation Army lassie was walking down a street filled with debris; she espied a man with a bleeding wound; she had no wrappings with her, but that did not thwart her in doing all she could for him; turning up the bottom of her blue skirt she ripped a snow-white
The Funeral of "Noodles,"
The Mascot of Company B, in San Jose.
On the evening of the fateful 18th—thc evening that Company B went into camp in St. James Park, Noodles crawled into camp with them. He was hungry and forlorn; from his length and height he was named Noodles. He was served his first meal and slept in one of the soldier's bunks. No one called for him and so he was pronounced a product of the earthquake. Some passers by tried to coax him away, but "Halt!" was the order given, and Noodles was dropped. He seemed to prefer khaki trousers and blue shirts of Uncle Sam's soldiery, and he cast a disdainful eye to all other admirers.
He was fed nine times a day in a restaurant, and soon he was the fattest dog in San Jose. Like a Spartan, he was game to the last; he waddled around camp with his anatomy distended like a ballon, worrying with all who would play with him. He finally went to private Lake, with whom he was a great favorite; Lake took him in his arms, patted and stroked him. Suddenly he bit Lake's hand and dropped on the ground dead. News spread through the camp of his death. Preparations were made for a military funeral. First Lieutenant Schwartz was officer of the ceremony. The Mascot was wrapped in an American flag; Privates Hanks and Lewis dug the grave under a palm in the flower garden nearest the camp, Six pal bearers bore the body to the grave in the flower bed, and a little mound rose over the spot. A detail of six soldiers then stepped forward, raised their guns heavenward and fired
O! where. O! where is our little dog gone; O! where, O! where can he be, With his ears cut short and his tail cut long, O! where, O! where can he be?
A little silk American flag waves over his grave and two bottles mark his head and feet—Noodles' last resting place.
An immense throug of curious people witnessed something they had never witnessed before—a military funeral.
God's blessing go with Uncle Sam's boys in blue.
While standing at the rope that served as a bar to keep people from the Broad Gauge depot, in San Jose, I saw hundreds fed—among them one Chinaman comes to my mind. He came up to the special officer and said, "Heap hungry, no eatie three days." Soon a sweet-faced American girl led him to a cup of steaming coffee and sandwiches; he ate almost without chewing, and when he had his hunger quenched he bowed and smiled; his slanting eyes closed as he did so; he could not seem to make signs or maneuvers enough to thank his waitress.
Every nation, black or white, was served the same kindness.
Three Scenes of San Francisco
|Nestling on her verdant hill tops, in her pure and natural state,|
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|People cultivating gardens—nothing remarkable to relate—|
|Such was San Francisco City in the year of forty-nine;|
|With a struggling population, nothing definite to define.|
|But a few months, just before this, came a cry so very bold,|
|That a man, James W. Marshall, had found flakes of shining gold.|
|Then a Morman caught the secret, and the news like fire spread;|
|All nations then rushed in like madness. heeding neither living or dead.|
|People swarmed in from every quarter; from the East and from the West;|
|Not caring for state or color—all for gold they were in quest.|
|Soon the magic of the gold fields made her population swell;|
|And the gold from nature's storehouse made them rich, the people tell.|
|Peace and quiet fled forever; bustle and hurry took its place;|
|And the millionaire and miner did all farming quite erase;|
|And the city grew and prospered as the gold increased in store;|
|Magnifient buildings were erected, and the people flocked the more.|
|Nestling on majestic hilltops, lay a city proud and fair,|
|With her spires and lofty buildings, nothing round her could compare;|
|And the shipping from all nations brought their offerings at her feet—|
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|Clothed her in purple and fine linen—then their homage was complete.|
|Yes, wo loved our dear old 'Frisco, City of the Golden West—|
|Trophies were sent her from all nations, nothing but the very best—|
|And the great and mighty commerce did extend from shore to shore;|
|And the rushing, bustling traffic made them rush in every store.|
|This modern Paris was a center for the whole commercial world.|
|All brave and loyal to her colors where Old Glory was unfurled.|
|Mighty palms and lovely park ways—City of the Golden Gate;|
|What enchantments around you gather, fairest of the dear, loved State;|
|Uncle Sam might well feel boastful when he looked upon your charms;|
|And when fate has frowned upon you, lift you in his mighty arms.|
|I can ne'r forget the morning when I last beheld the sight,|
|As I left the dock in 'Frisco filled with wonder and delight,|
|To cross o'er the Bay to Oakland, the waters were so calm and clear—|
|A flock of gulls and other sea birds seemed to hover very near;|
|And I spoke to my companion: "What a lovely, glorious scene!"|
|And she quickly did make answer: "The grandest I have ever een."|
|Good-bye, dear old San Francisco! You will never look the same|
|Though your spires of steel mount heavenward—Still, there is no one to blame.|
|Sadness comes o'er all our nations as we stand upon her pier.|
|To think we cannot see one dwelling of our ancient pioneer.|
|There sits a widow, dressed in mourning, ashes on her head and feet—|
|One vast, mighty, awful graveyard—yes, her ruin is complete.|
|Who can stand and gaze upon her? but their heart will throb with fear;|
|And the sympathizing impulse brings the hot and scalding tear.|
|We would throw our arms around her—she who always was so kind—|
|Dust the ashes from her garments, and her wounds with pity bind.|
|Mighty was the blow that smote her; mightier will the healing be;|
|Soon we shall see a smiling lady in our window by the sea;|
|Soon with greater, dazzling splendor, combined with all her virgin charms;|
|Uncle Sam will lift her higher in his great, strong, brawny arms.|
|Courage borne of great ambition is the loyal builder's cry;|
|They will build a greater 'Frisco—build it stronger if they try.|
|Onward then, we build you success, every step a little higher;|
|And we hope that you will prosper in the plan that you aspire.|
Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000; http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
Title: Selections from: Story and poem of Valencia's wreck and Description of the Earthquake of the California Coast and Fire of San Francisco
By: Baizley, Bessie M.
Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000; http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
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