Finding aid to the Helen Holdredge Collection, 1849-1979 SFH 36

Finding aid prepared by Tim Wilson
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
(415) 557-4567

Title: Helen Holdredge Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1849-1979
Date (bulk): 1951-1972
Collection Identifier: SFH 36
Creator: Holdredge, Helen O'Donnell
Physical Description: 12.0 boxes (6.0 cubic feet)
Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
(415) 557-4567
Abstract: The collection contains research materials and draft manuscripts for Holdredge's books on Mary Ellen Pleasant, Thomas and Teresa Bell, Lola Montez, Isaiah W. Lees, and Lillie Hitchcock Coit. It also includes some correspondence about her research and speaking engagements, as well as photographs and some realia.
Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Helen Holdredge Collection (SFH 36), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library


The Helen Holdredge Collection was donated to The San Francisco Public Library by Holdredge in several accessions from 1971 through 1982.

Related Materials

Researchers are encouraged to also see the San Francisco Public Library's ephemera files on Mary Ellen Pleasant, Lola Montez, Isaiah Lees, and Lotta Crabtree. It is possible that some of Holdredge's collected newspaper articles may have been incorporated into these files.

Processing note

For many years the collection was divided into 2 major groupings (the Mary Ellen Pleasant Collection and the Lola Montez Collection) with all additional accessions organized as stand-alone collections, and with photographs separated to the San Francisco Historical Photograph collection according to subject. In 2013, the library reintegrated all of the smaller collections to form a single Helen Holdredge Collection that documents her research and writing, in addition to the primary sources that she collected.
Many of the items have a number assigned by Holdredge. These numbers have been noted on folders but not within the finding aid.

Biographical note

Helen Douglas O'Donnell Holdredge is the author of several books on noteworthy and notorious San Franciscans. She was born in Duluth, Minnesota, on September 17, 1898, the daughter of Patrick J. and Martha Archer (Simpson) O'Donnell. Helen was a student at the University of Oregon, 1923-1926; and was a member of Theta Sigma Phi. She trained as an opera singer and debuted in concert in 1919. She performed with various opera companies through 1924. She was also active in theater in Laguna Beach and Sacramento.
The primary subjects of Holdredge's books are Mary Ellen Pleasant, Lola Montez, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, Thomas Frederick Bell and Teresa Percy Bell, and Isaiah Wrigley Lees. Holdredge's books are generally quite accessible but have come under criticism for their lack of specific documentation. Her books include: The House of the Strange Woman (San Carlos, Calif.: Nourse, [1961]), Mammy Pleasant (New York: Putnam, [1953]; republished San Carlos, Calif.: Nourse, 1961), Firebell Lillie (New York: Meredith Press, [1967]), Lola Montez (London: Alvin Redman, [1957]), Mammy Pleasant's Cookbook (San Francisco: 101 Productions, [1970]), Mammy Pleasant's Partner (New York: Putnam, [1954]), and The Woman in Black: the life of Lola Montez (New York: Putnam, [1955]).
Helen married Claire Parker Holdredge in 1926 and the couple lived in Sacramento, California. They had two children. Claire died on January 28, 1961; Helen died on March 19, 1986.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains research materials and draft manuscripts for Holdredge's books on Mary Ellen Pleasant, Thomas and Teresa Bell, Lola Montez, Isaiah W. Lees, and Lillie Hitchcock Coit. It also includes some correspondence about Holdredge's research and speaking engagements, as well as photographs and some realia.
The largest series are the Writings and the Research Files for Mary Ellen Pleasant. The first contains book drafts. But is also includes notes on writing style, with particular references to the Brontes, and on how to convey a story. In addition, the Interview books in the Mary Ellen Pleasant subseries contain several references to lawyer John McNab's recommendations for emending drafts of the book "Beware of Mammy Pleasant" (published as Mammy Pleasant).
The Pleasant subseries includes several primary documents by Mary Ellen Pleasant and Teresa Bell. Several of these documents, most especially the Bell diaries, include Holdredge's tabbed entries with her notes in pencil on important points for her books. Holdredge's research on Mary Ellen Pleasant includes material on the experience of African-Americans in the United States, specifically San Francisco, and the work of abolitionists.


The collection is arranged into five series: Series 1. Correspondence; Series 2. Writings; Series 3. Research; Series 4. Photographs; and Series 5. Realia.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Bell, Teresa, d. 1922
Bell, Thomas Frederick, 1819 or 20-1892
Coit, Lillie Hitchcock, 1843-1929
Lees, Isaiah W., 1830-1902
Montez, Lola, 1818-1861
Pleasant, Mary Ellen, 1814-1904

Box 1, Folder 1

Series 1 Correspondence, 1956-1978, undated

Physical Description: 1.0 folder

Scope and Contents

The series contains both professional and personal correspondence. Holdredge notes that she discarded fan mail unless it contained information pertinent to her research. As a result, some correspondence is filed in the Writings, Research, and Realia series.
Of note are the exchanges with Russell Leake who photographed many places for Holdredge's books, and with Mildred Robbins, the San Francisco Chronicle writer of "Millie's Column," with whom Holdredge shared gossip and research of San Franciscans. The correspondence with James D. Hart, and from George F. Jackson to Holdredge's agent Noel R. Rubaloff, concerns the authenticity of some images of Mary Ellen Pleasant. Letters exchanged with William B. Tyler concern the bedspread made by Mary Ellen Pleasant that Tyler gave to Holdredge.


Arranged alphabetically by surname.

See also:

Box 4 / Folder 48. Realia. Scrapbook

See also:

Box 4 / Folders 24-26. Research-Files-Pleasant. Interview books

Abajian, James de T., 1970


Ackerman, Irving C., 1961, undated


Arbuckle, Clyde, 1972


Benton, Elinor Eltinge, 1969


Bradshaw, Olive, October 29


Burkhard, Grace, 1957


Bushman, Iva M., undated


Butler, Phyllis, 1972


Caen, Herb, [1971]


Caro, Linette (Mrs. William), 1972


Clary, Raymond H., 1971


Cowan, Elbert S., Santa Barbara Historical Society, 1957


Gilbert, Helen, undated


Gold, Jacquelyn Floody, 1966


Hart, James D., Bancroft Library, 1975


Harvey, Patricia, 1961


[Jackson, George D.] to Noel R. Rubaloff, 1974


Lapp, Rudolph M., 1972


Leake, Russell, 1957-1968


Lee, C. Y., 1966


Montgomery, Richard G., 1975


Moran, Mrs. Colette M., [1972]


Parker, Joan, undated


Parmelee, Robert, 1964


Peterson, Ivan L., Jr., 1959


Robbins, Mildred "Millie", 1966-1976


Tilton, Cecil G., undated


Tyler, William B., 1967


Webber, Madeline Columbo ["daughter of Frank Columbo, the "ghost" of Mammy Pleasant's House of Mystery"--HH], 1978


Williams, David A., 1961


Wolsham, A. M., 1956


Yates, John D., 1972


Series 2 Writings, 1951-1967

Physical Description: 22.0 folders

Scope and Contents

The series contains typescripts, drafts and galleys for several of Holdredge's books. Several of the drafts contain editorial markings. There are also shorter articles written by Holdredge. In addition, this series includes the legal papers regarding Holdredge's suit against against Knight Publishing for infringement of copyright specifically regarding the works Mammy Pleasant's Partner and Mammy Pleasant. Of interest within the legal papers is the page describing the provenance of the Pleasant and Bell papers in Holdredge's collection.
The interview volumes in the Research-Files-Pleasant series contain Holdredge's notes on conversations with lawyer John McNab regarding the draft "Beware of Mammy Pleasant" which was published as Mammy Pleasant. The volumes also include some correspondence with editor Virginia Carrick.


Arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Box 1, Folder 2

Mary Ellen Pleasant book project. Notes on the provenance of Holdredge's research material, and on her meeting with researchers Muriel Wright and Stella Ingram Brown, 1951, undated

Box 1, Folder 3

Notes regarding dramatic writing and some plot summaries, undated

Box 1, Folder 4

"Barbary Coast Frequenters," undated

Box 1, Folders 5-6

Firebelle Lillie [typescript, edited], undated

Box 1, Folder 7

Firebelle Lillie [galley, typescript pages], December 12, 1966

Box 1, Folder 8

Firebelle Lillie [galleys], January 31, 1967

Box 1, Folder 9

Firebelle Lillie [galleys and typescript pages, "duplicate proof"], January 31, 1967

Box 11, Oversize-folder 1

"From Wigwams to Castles" ( San Francisco Examiner), May 31, 1959

Box 1, Folders 10-12

The House of the Strange Woman [aka "Secret House" and "Silent House"], undated

Box 1, Folders 13-14

Lola Montez [typescript], undated

Box 1, Folder 15

Mammy Pleasant. Letter from Helen Holdredge to Virginia Carrick, G. P. Putnam's, regarding the rewriting of the draft and Charlotte Dennis Downs, September 7, 1952

Box 1, Folder 16

Mammy Pleasant Cookbook [typescript], undated

General note

Compiled and edited by Helen Holdredge, illustrated by James Beauchamps Alexander.
Box 1, Folders 17-18

Mammy Pleasant's Partner [typescript], September 3, 1954

Box 2, Folder 1

Mammy Pleasant's Partner [galley proof and typescript pages], September 16, 1954

Box 2, Folder 2

Helen Holdredge vs. Knight Publishing Corporation, No. 840-60-K. Correspondence, exhibits, decision, and press regarding suit against Knight Publishing Company and K. Robert Howard for the invasion of copyright on Mammy Pleasant's Partner, 1962-1964

Box 2, Folders 3-4

The Woman in Black [typescript "re-edited by Virginia Carrick and Ted Purdy"], 1955


Series 3 Research, 1852-1979

Scope and Contents

The series contains research on Mary Ellen Pleasant, Thomas and Teresa Bell, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, Isaiah W. Lees, and Lola Montez. The largest amount of material is on Pleasant and the Bells. In addition there is background research on San Francisco and California history of the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s.


The series is arranged into three subseries by format: Files; Films; and Cards.

Files, 1852-1979

Physical Description: 3.0 boxes

Scope and Contents

These are primarily subject files with research notes or copies of relevant materials used for Holdredge's books. Items that were identified as research material for a specific book have been kept together in the Coit, Lees, Montez, or Pleasant subseries. Files that were not attributed to a specific book are divided between the two headings: California and Nevada, or General.
In a few cases, manuscripts relating to particular people or subjects appear within the files. The Mary Ellen Pleasant subseries is the largest. It contains significant amounts of manuscript documents for the Thomas and Teresa Bell family, and, to a lesser extent, Mary Ellen Pleasant. There are three interview volumes in this series that document Holdredge's conversations with several informants. The majority of the interviews were with William Willmore, Eduard Bergner, John L. McNab, and Charlotte Dennis Downs. The interview volumes also include some letters and documents, notably the certified 1890 census entries for 1661 Octavia Street.
Holdredge had correspondence regarding the authenticity of a photograph that was published as Mary Ellen Pleasant but may in fact be of Hawaii's Queen Emma. Holdredge asserted that the image was taken by Isaiah Lees. Additional correspondence by the library photo curator may be found in the library's Holdredge legal file. There is a file in the Pleasant subseries with a negtive photostat of Emma from 1865.


The files are arranged into six subseries based on subject: California and Nevada; Lillie Hitchcock Coit; General; Isaiah W. Lees; Lola Montez; and Mary Ellen Pleasant. All Thomas and Teresa Bell family documents appear in the Mary Ellen Pleasant subseries. The folders are filed alphabetically within each subseries.

California and Nevada, 1864-1977

Physical Description: 80.0 folders
Box 2, Folder 5

"Allensworth, a Proposed State Historical Park" [brochure], undated

Box 2, Folder 6

Baldwin, Elias Jackson "Lucky" [clipping], undated

Box 2, Folder 7

Bank of California statement [Notice of incorporation. San Francisco]. Trustees include Thos. Bell, W.C. Ralston June 18, 1864

Box 2, Folder 8

The Barbary Coast, San Francisco--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 9

Bibliographical reference cards and notes, undated

Box 2, Folder 10

Bidwell, John, 1971

Box 2, Folder 11

"Samuel Brannan" from Western Argonauts--Men of the West series, undated

Box 2, Folder 12

"Joseph Lancaster Brent, Confederate General from Southern California, ca. 1864; William Tecumseh Sherman, famous Union general...From the Society's collection" [photo plate from book], undated

Box 2, Folder 13

Broderick, David C. Summary of research--not used [notes], undated

Box 2, Folder 14

Bulette, Julia. Clipping with portrait, "she was murdered at Virginia City," undated

Box 2, Folder 15

Bull, Alpheus, 1970-1971

Box 2, Folder 16

"California and the Civil War: a bibliographical essay" by Benjamin Franklin Gilbert; "Dan Showalter--California Secessionist" by Clarence C. Clendenen ( California Historical Society Quarterly, vol. 40), 1961

Box 2, Folder 17

California resorts of the 1850s--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 18

"Chinese at the Mines" illustration by George Mathis [reproduction], undated

Box 2, Folder 19

"A Concord Stage" by Russell E. Belous (from Los Angeles County Museum Quarterly, vol. 2 (no. 3)). Includes clipping on stagecoach, Winter issue 1963-1964

Box 2, Folder 20

Crabtree, Lotta. Clipping [mentions painting], undated

Box 2, Folder 21

Crabtree, Lotta--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 22

Crocker, Henry S. [drawing], undated

Box 2, Folder 23

Crocker family, undated

See also:

Box 1 / Folder 1. Correspondence: Robbins, Mildred.
Box 2, Folder 24

Downieville, California, undated

General note

Contains mentions of the Donahue brothers and I. W. Lees.
Box 2, Folder 25

Fair, Flood, O'Brien and MacKay (The Secret of the Flood Case). Virginia City--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 26

"Fisherman's Wharf at San Francisco in the early was taken around 1900" [clipping], undated

Box 2, Folder 27

Folsom, J. L. Letter to National Institute (Washingington, D.C.) presenting the first gold nugget from Sutter's Mill race, Coloma, August 29, 1848 [copy and transcript], undated

Box 2, Folder 28

Folsom, Joseph. Notes, undated

Box 2, Folder 29

Folsom Lake, 1971

Box 2, Folder 30

Gwin, William--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 31

Count Agoston Haraszthy at Sonoma, Oak oval casks of fine wine in historic cellars of [photo postcard], undated

Box 2, Folder 32

"President Hayes' home" and "President Hayes' study." [negative prints of etchings]. Caption: "Reception by President and Mrs. Hayes at their private residence in Fremont, September 14th--from a photograph by North & Oswald of Toledo" undated

Box 2, Folder 33

Holladay, Ben. Stagecoach, 1971

Box 2, Folder 34

Ito, Okei. And Mrs. Ed Sayre, Jr., 1971

Box 2, Folder 35

Lake Berryessa, 1971

Box 11, Oversize-folder 2

Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco. Rules and Regulations. Notice. [cloth banner] July 1, 1868

Box 2, Folder 36

Inez Leonard to Senator Fair [autograph letter signed] "Reproachful letter from a lady to James Graham Fair", July 17, [18]93

Box 2, Folder 37

Locke, Sacramento County, California. "The Old West." "There's Life in the Old Town Yet" by Jack Viets ( San Francisco Chronicle) November 26, 1971

Box 2, Folder 38

Cancelled check: J.W. MacKay, Pacific Mill & Mining Company, to David Miller, March 3, 1876

Box 2, Folder 39

"Officer John McGreevy" from Western Argonauts--Men of the West series, undated

Box 2, Folder 40

Mining country--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 41

Montgomery Block, San Francisco--unused research from interviews with Oliver P. Stiges and article by Helen Holdredge, undated

Box 2, Folder 42

Nevada City, California, [1971]

Box 2, Folder 43

O'Brien. William S. "Auction lunch rooms; the Late William S. O'Brien, of the firm of Flood & O'Brien." [negative print of etching], undated

Box 2, Folder 44

[Orizaba (ship)--clipping photo] "Long familiar on the Pacific Coast, the Orizaba was built in the East and transferred to Isthmus trade in 1855, later sailing only down to San Diego", undated

Box 2, Folder 45

Pleasant Grove House, near Folsom, California, undated

Box 2, Folder 46

"Point Reyes: scenic playground on our doorstep" by George Dusheck in San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, California Living (folded) June 25, 1967

Box 2, Folder 47

Ralston, William and Elizabeth [printed photo]; and "The Run on Ralston's Bank" [illustration], undated

Box 2, Folder 48

Riverboats--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 49

Rough and Ready (Gold Rush town)--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 50

Sacramento, California, 1850-1851--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 51

"Sacramento, California from the waterfront in 1849" and "Sacramento 1849" [clippings of drawings], undated

Box 2, Folder 52

San Francisco cemeteries, summary of research--not used [notes], undated

Box 2, Folder 53

San Francisco districts--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 54

San Francisco duels--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 55

San Francisco "earliest live visual record" [printed photo], undated

Box 2, Folder 56

San Francisco expressions of the 1850s, undated

Box 2, Folder 57

San Francisco gambling houses--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 58

San Francisco hotels--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 59

San Francisco houses--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 60

San Francisco humor, wit--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 61

San Francisco lawyers--unused research, undated

Box 11, Oversize-folder 3

San Francisco looking to Marin County [clipping of panorama printed in California Living Magazine, pp. 16-17 ( San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle), July 24, 1977

Box 2, Folder 62

San Francisco restaurants, undated

Box 2, Folder 63

San Francisco society--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 64

San Francisco stage, "Theatre sequence and the stage and actors 1850 through 1864" [notes, clippings], undated

Box 2, Folders 65-74

San Francisco "Through the Years," 1849-1860--unused research, undated

Physical Description: 10.0 folders

General note

There is not a folder for 1857.
Box 2, Folder 75

"The Sharon Case" [clippings of Millie Robbins column], undated

Box 2, Folder 76

"The Spreckelsville Plantation: A Chapter in Claus Spreckels' Hawaiian Career" by Jacob Adler ( California Historical Society Quarterly, vol. 40), 1961

Box 2, Folder 77

Stanford, Jane Lathrop (Mrs. Leland), regarding death in 1905; and Millie's Column, June 10, 1970 1905, 1970

Box 2, Folder 78

Stockton, 1854--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 79

Vanishing Victorians: a guide to the historic homes of Sacramento by the Sacramento Branch of the American Association of University Women, 1973

Box 2, Folder 80

Various characters--unused research, undated

Box 2, Folder 81

Walkinshaw, Francesca (in book Mammy Pleasant's Partner) [drawing from newspaper], undated

Box 2, Folder 82

Washington Square, San Francisco. "Stereoscopic view of California troops at Washington Square, San Francisco. July 4, 1862. From the Society's collection" [photo plate from book], undated

Box 2, Folder 83

Woodward, Selim A.--research, some unused, undated


Coit, Lillie Hitchcock, 1863-1961

Physical Description: 5.0 folders
Box 2, Folder 84

Evelyn Curro's calendar of fire engines and wagons, undated

Box 2, Folder 85

"A hobby--Flowers and Ferns--Martha Hunter Hitchcock, mother of Lillie Coit" [pressed flowers], undated

Box 2, Folder 86

Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5. Honorary membership certificate [photo of original], October 1863


Newspaper articles

Box 2, Folder 87

Clipping on moving house [not about Coit], 1961

Box 11, Oversize-folder 4

"Major M'Clung Dies--His Slayer in Jail" ( San Francisco Chronicle). [negative photostat of newspaper articles about the death of Major J.W. M'Clung who was shot by Alexander Garnett. M'Clung was protecting Lillie Hitchcock Coit at the time of the shooting.] November 27, 1903

Physical Description: 1.0 oversize items

General, 1953-1979

Physical Description: 7.0 folders
Box 2, Folder 88

"Civil War sequence" [notes], undated

Box 2, Folder 89

Evelyn Curro's Third Annual Americana calendar: antique auto edition, (12 color cards of antique automobiles), 1953

Box 2, Folder 90

"Ohio Touring: Savoring a Thick Slice of Americana" by Bobbie Justice ( Los Angeles Times) [includes photo and reference to Akron, Ohio home of abolitionist John Brown] May 20, 1979

Box 2, Folder 91

Rattle and Snap Plantation, Tennessee. Built by George Polk 1845. [reproduction of drawing], undated

Box 2, Folder 92

Salem, Massachusetts. Witchcraft, undated

Box 2, Folder 93

Vischer, Edward [clipping], 1974

Box 2, Folder 94

"You Can Help Save America's Historic Treasures" by Frances P. Bolton ( This Week Magazine), September 3, 1961


Lees, Isaiah W., 1958-1976

Physical Description: 7.0 folders
Box 2, Folder 95

Clipping with etching of Captain I. W. Lees by J. Kahler, undated

Box 2, Folder 96

The Koppel Case, Koppel's Fate [notes], undated

Box 2, Folder 97

Letter from Holdredge to A. A. Smyser, editor, Star Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii), regarding photograph of Mary Ellen Pleasant taken by Isaiah Lees, November 3, 1976

Box 11, Oversize-folder 5

Library. "Photostat of Chief [Isaiah W.] Lees Library"

Box 2, Folder 98

Lists of San Francisco Policemen, [1858]-1872 [notes], undated

Box 2, Folder 99

"Receipt" for sale of [Lees] records to Sven Skoar, July 22, 1938?. Far-West Trading Post (San Francisco, Calif.) business card. Sam Appleman, prop. [3 photos], September 1958

Box 2, Folder 100

Russian cutthroat case [notes], undated


Montez, Lola, 1852-1961

Physical Description: 7.0 folders

Card files [20 cards]. See Box 9. Research. Cards. HH 54

Box 2, Folder 101

"Cartoon of Lola Montez" [photostat]. Caption: " 'Europe, farewell! America, I come!'--A cartoon published at the time of Lola Montez's first voyage to the United States, picturing her farewell to a group of sorrowing kings.--The Bettman Archive," undated

Box 2, Folder 102

Clipping: "Lola Montez and her Spanish dance troupe..." [present-day imitator] ( San Francisco Chronicle) June 25, 1961

Box 2, Folder 103

Clipping: "New Lola Montez Story--'Dirt is Ditched' Right at her Final Curtain." Includes lace, beaded trim, typewritten notes on Montez's dress with mention of Mrs. Crabtree and Lotta. Regarding death of Montez, undated

Box 2, Folder 104

Clippings, 1852, 1960

Box 11, Oversize-folder 6

Fabric pieces from rug, upholstery, and draperies in Lola Montez's Grass Valley home at the time of its sale in 1856

Box 2, Folder 105

Film log by roll, undated

General note

Inventory of the items photographed by Holdredge in her research on Montez. Pages list the following film roll numbers: 1-6, 11-13, 17-23, 27, [28?], 29.
Box 2, Folder 106

Montez, Lola--unused research, undated


Pleasant, Mary Ellen, 1865-1976

Physical Description: 2.0 boxes
Box 3, Folder 1

Address book, with some notes, in the pursuit of the Mary Ellen Pleasant story, undated

Box 12

Bedspread and 2 pillow cases, undated

Physical Description: 3.0 oversize items

Bell (Thomas and Teresa) Family

Box 3, Folder 2

Thomas Bell--photostat of photograph, undated

Box 3, Folder 3

Thomas Bell family and Mary Ellen Pleasant [notes by Helen Holdredge], undated


Teresa Bell diaries,

Box 3, Folder 4

August 12, 1892-July 22, 1893

General note

Original and photocopy. Includes August 21, 1892 receipt for $34.90 payment from Mrs. Thomas Bell to J.H. Weise for grafting vines.
Box 3, Folder 5

August 10, 1893-August 22, 1897

General note

"Day Book of Beltane Ranch." Includes notes of received shipments at the outset and entries become more like diary entries as the volume continues. Includes photocopies of some pages.
Box 3, Folder 6

January 1-September 5, 1898

General note

Sections A-H contain French-English vocabulary. Sections H-Z contain diary entries; "Beltane Ranch".
Box 3, Folder 7

September 6, 1898-March 18, 1899

General note

Sections A-O include English-German phrases; section P includes Spanish phrases. Sections P-Z contain diary entries.
Box 3, Folder 8

March 18-December 31, 1899

General note

"Contains items 9, B-B 2-9." Includes: "A Copy of Mrs. Bell's list of what Fred and Arthur Schell took from Beltane Ranch, the following is the list of things, September 27, 1896-January 16, 1897" (page 3); "A Copy of list Fred Schell gave Mrs. Bell - of the things he took from Beltane Ranch...all these things were taken from Beltane Ranch Nov. 1896 by A. B. and F. A. Schell" (pages 5-7); [A Copy of] "George E. Caldwell lawyer for Earnest Geiger, Napa, January 4, 1896" (page 9); "List of the boys clothes that are going to the Brothers Saint Mary's College, Oakland" (page 151); loose page of notes in pencil. Includes photocopies of some pages.

June-July, 1899. See Box 4 / Folder 31. Mrs. Pleasant grocery book for C. Hillebrandt, grocers. 1899

Box 3, Folder 9

April 27-August 19, 1901

Box 3, Folder 10

August 20, 1901-December 31, 1902

General note

"Contains items E-1, E-2, B-B 2-4 B-B 2-6, G-G7, B-B 2-5." Includes "Copy of Agreement from Olive J. Clark to M. E. Pleasant" dated September 21, 1886 regarding sale of property at Octavia and Bush streets in San Francisco.
Box 3, Folder 11

January 4-December 31, 1903

General note

"Contains item 5-EE" with reference to Bell children, Sarah Althea Hill and Ruben Lloyd.
Box 3, Folder 12

September 9, 1906-September 12, 1909


Estate of Thomas Bell

Box 3, Folder 13

Bond applications and statements concerning the Estate of Thomas Bell received from Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, 1902-1907

General note

Bond applications and statements from Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland.
Box 3, Folder 14

Reporter's transcript. In the Matter of the Estate of Thomas Bell, Deceased. No. 3,137 N.B., N.S. In the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the City and County of San Francisco, Department No. 9, September 12, 16, 29, 1916

General note

Testimony of Arthur S. Holman, T. Z. Blakeman, J. E. Manning, Reginald Bell, and J. D. Brown.

Estate of Teresa Bell

Box 3, Folder 15

Teresa Bell's holographic will, page 6 [photostat, 3 copies], June 7 and 22, 1910

Box 3, Folder 16

Deposition of F. Edward Gray, witness on behalf of the contestants. In the Matter of the Estate of Teresa Bell, Deceased. No. 34,795. In the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the City and County of San Francisco, November 23, 1922

Book 3, Folder 17

Deposition of Kate Clingan Gray, witness on behalf of the contestants. In the Matter of the Estate of Teresa Bell, Deceased. No. 34,795. In the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the City and County of San Francisco, November 23, 1922

Physical Description: 1.0 folder
Box 3, Folder 18

Transcript of testimony, volume 1, Teresa Bell Estate case No. 34,895, December 6, 1922-January 3, 1923

Box 3, Folder 19

[Deposition of Viola Smith Bell]. Transcript of No. 34,795 Department No.9, regarding the estate of Teresa Bell, September 1923

Box 3, Folder 20

Probate San Francisco No. 11,406 in the matter of the estate of Teresa Bell, deceased, May 6, 1925

General note

Inscribed: "To Edward Bergner with the compliments of Glensor, Clewes & Van Dine." Given to Holdredge by the detective Bergner.
Box 4, Folder 1

Estate. Memo in the Bell case [10 items and 1 photocopy set], January 12, 1923, undated

General note

Primarily concerns the estates of Thomas Bell and Teresa Bell, and Viola Smith Bell's contest of the will. Contains memorandum from Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland listing bond applications and statements for Thomas Bell estate.
Box 4, Folder 2

Estate. "Confidential Report--Bell Estate. With Particular Reference to Viola G. Smith" sent by Eduard Bergner to Glenser, Clewe and Van Dine, June 14, 1923

Box 4, Folder 3

Film log by roll, undated

General note

Inventory of the items photographed by Holdredge in her research on Thomas Bell for Mammy Pleasant's Partner. Pages list the following film roll numbers: 1-8, 11-18, 20-27, 29-35, 38, 40, 44, and 46.
Box 4, Folder 4

William Ralston's raid on Flood and O'Brien's bank deposit. Notes on Thomas Bell's account, [10 leaves], undated

Box 4, Folder 5

Vaughan Mine Report typescript. "Report on Thomas Bell's Aurora Mine", 1890

Box 4, Folder 6

Beltane Ranch. Notes on "Purchases of ranches incorporated into the ranch Beltane" [2 leaves], undated

Box 4, Folder 7

Certificate of marriage for Nicholas Gordon and Rebecca Howard, on April 24, 1879, at Old St. Mary's, San Francisco. Rebecca was the niece of Mary Ellen Pleasant's first husband, September 23, 1950

Box 4, Folder 8

Christophe, Henri, of Haiti. Articles on Christophe and Haiti from The National Geographic Magazine, volume 38, number 6, pages 469-510. (purported to be the grandfather of John James Pleasant, Mary Ellen's husband), December 1920

Box 4, Folder 9

The colored people of African blood in San Francisco--unused research (cites Nevada Democrat, April 19, 1854)

Box 4, Folder 10

The condition of the Negro in Canada (cites New York Tribune, 1858; and, Sacramento Daily Union, May 8, 1858)--unused research

Box 4, Folder 11

Dennison, James. Negro of Nantucket Island who knew Mary Ellen Pleasant. "Story told by William Willmore, Jr."--unused research, undated



Box 4, Folder 12

At Mammy's boarding house [pen and ink drawing], undated

Box 4, Folder 13

Thomas Bell's bachelor home at 1107 Bush Street [small pen and ink sketch], undated

Box 4, Folder 14

"Sarah Althea Plants Clothes in a Graveyard Under 'Mammy's' Advice" (Hill placing William Sharon's sock in grave) [Photostat], undated

Box 4, Folder 15

Teresa Percy house on Tehama where she lived before she became Mrs. Bell, "715-1/2 Tehama St.", undated

Box 4, Folder 16

Mary Ellen Pleasant: "In Her Last Days She Suffered Neglect" [photostat], undated

Box 4, Folder 17

"Emma, Queen Dowager of Hawaii" (negative photostat from Harper's Weekly), August 19, 1865

Box 4, Folder 18

Gardner, Captain Edward. Correspondence from Zelma H. Mack to Helen Holdredge regarding Gardner, September 19, 1975 and January 25, 1976

Box 4, Folder 19

Gordon, George. Murder copied from ( Daily Alta California, October 30, 1861)--unused research, undated

Box 4, Folder 20

Hunter, Joseph, and family. Mentions Catherine Hunter, wife of Americus Price ( History of Missouri, 1888, pages 302-303) [photostat]



Box 4, Folder 21

Address book of people interviewed by Helen Holdredge, undated

Box 4, Folder 22

Bergner, Eduard, undated

Box 4, Folder 23

Interviews in Tennessee concerning the background of Mary Ellen Pleasant when she was owned by Americus Price, who married Catherine Hunter. Interview with Mrs. Clara Whitesall, said to be Sarah Althea Hill's half sister. [22 leaves], undated

Box 4, Folder 24

Interviews Book #1, 1938, 1949-1954, undated (bulk 1949-1954)

General note

Contains items: I (i), C, A, P, K, H, Q, B, D, M, L, N, O, E, F, G, V, S, W, Y, 3 C-C, Z, 1 A-A, X, U, 6 F-F, 8 H-H, 4 D-D.
Page 2-6, 14, 74-75, 103, 141-146

David W. Ruggles, Negro, son of David W. Ruggles, leader with Mary Ellen Pleasant in abolition activities in San Francisco, December 30, 1950; January 18, 1951

Page 6-7, 9, 11-12

Mrs. Bertha Behler, Teresa Bell's neighbor at Beltane, together with a letter from Mrs. Behler, January 27, 1951

Page 8, 13, 95

Benjamin Behler, who worked for Pleasant at Beltane when he was nineteen and knew her up until the time of her death, undated

Page 15-17

Miss Muriel Wright, who assisted Stella Ingram Brown in thirteen years of research into the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant, undated

Page 18-19, 33-38, 42

Mrs. Charlotte Dennis Downs, daughter of George Dennis, a Negro Pioneer of San Francisco, undated

Page 20-21, 26-32

Frank Colombo, who lived at the Bell mansion when it was a rooming house in its final days, June 24, 1953

Page 22

Harold Camba, Negro writer who did many years of research into the Abolition activities of San Francisco Negroes which included research into Mary Ellen Pleasant's background and activities, undated

Page 23-25, 58, 100

Mrs. May Carroll of Oakland, who knew Mary Ellen Pleasant after she was evicted from the Bell house in 1899. Name also listed as Mary and Mae, undated

Page 33

James Diamond, who attended parties at the House of Mystery during the residence there of Calhoun Bryant, who had purchased the house from Teresa Bell, undated

Page 39-40, 155

Erhard Stigert, who worked for Mary Ellen Pleasant at Beltane in the 1890s, undated

Page 41

Mrs. Evelyn Wells, author, who did research into the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant, February 17, 1949

Page 44

Expense list for Holdredge's research trips to Los Angeles, 1951

Page 45-48

Mrs. Agatha Fay Sabichi, who went to boarding school with Marie Bell and testified in the Teresa Bell will contest, March 1951

Page 48-50

John Allen Francis, whose pioneer Negro father engaged in Abolition endeavors with Mary Ellen Pleasant, March 6, 1950

Page 51

Letter from Mrs. Alberta Floyd, whose husband is the son of Isabella Floyd, nurse of the Bell children in the 1880s, February 2, 1951

Page 54-56

Stella Ingram Brown's interview with Sarah Althea Hill Terry in Mrs. Brown's handwriting, undated

Page 59

Arthur H. Holman, the widower of Marie Bell,

Page 60

Statements of Miss Lottie Howard to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Heins, present day owners of Beltane. Miss Howard was the Glen Ellen teacher of the Bell children, undated

Page 61-69

Josephine Hinkle, a witness in the Bell case, undated

Page 70-73

Milford Hunter, descendant of the planter, Joseph Hunter, March 19, 1949

Page 78-80

Mrs. Julia Jackson, daughter of Negro pioneers Isaac and Elizabeth Flood, undated

Page 82-86

Mrs. Anna Kerns, neighbor of Teresa Bell, who knew William Willmore from 1906 onward when he worked for her husband and was given quarters in Teresa Bell's Laidley Street house, undated

Page 88

Mrs. Helen Kelly, whose mother knew Mary Ellen Pleasant, undated

Page 89-94

George S. Lane, who learned about Mary Ellen Pleasant's background from his father who knew her exceedingly well, undated

Page 97-99

Mrs. Katherine MacDonald, neighbor of Teresa Bell on Laidley Street, undated

Page 101

James Ross, who knew John Bell, Thomas Bell's so-called nephew, 1954

Page 109-110, 158

Harry Johnson (who knew Mary Ellen Pleasant in 1901), April 2, 1960; March 18, 1954

Page 111

Some notes at random on Teresa Bell residences and Nicolas Gordon, undated

Page 112-129

John L. McNab, attorney in the Teresa Bell will contest. Summary of interview. Also refers to drafts of "Beware of Mammy Pleasant," undated

Page 130

Research on Pleasants family done by Claire P. Holdredge at the Library of Congress, undated

Page 131

John Thomas Peters, son of John T. Peters, property agent for the Bells, undated

Page 137, 157

Eugene Rist, a former Negro waiter at the Palace Hotel who knew the relatives of Mary Ellen Pleasant's first husband, January 1950

Page 138-140

Mrs. Lucy Ritzmann, playmate of the Bell children at Glen Ellen. Includes letter from Mrs. Louise Ritzmann, February 14, 1951

Page 147-148

Samuel Johnson, whose father once owned Drummond's Station, later named Beltane Ranch, undated

Page 149-153

Joseph Sarasini, whose father purchased Teresa Bell's 198 Laidley Street house, undated

Page 154

James Spencer, who lived in the Bell mansion, 1661 Octavia, from 1920-1926, undated

Page 156

Notes on Bert Schlessinger who left John L. McNab "a collection of rare volumes and papers," undated

Page 159-161, 164-175, 179-180, 184-185

William Willmore, Negro, the son of William Willmore who was Mary Ellen Pleasant's steward, February 27-28, 1938

Page 162-163

Notes on Teresa Bell's attorneys, William Tomlinson, Joseph Saracini, John Bell, undated

Page 183

Notes of Miss Muriel Wright and Stella Ingram Brown, undated

Page 186-187

James Alexander Forbes, son of the Director-general of Bell's New Almaden Mine, December 30, 1953; May 8, 1954

Page 190-195

Eduard Bergner, January 11, March 8, and June 6, 1954

Page 196-200

"Outline of facts," undated

Page Inside back cover

John S. Bell obituary and notes, undated

Box 4, Folder 25

Book of interviews, letters and clippings, 1923-1967


The record of a telephone call to detective firm in London recommended by Eduard Bergner. No record of Thomas Bell or John Thomas Hill at Scotland Yard. The result of sending a detective to Dundee, Scotland: information was obtained as to who Bell's parents were and where they lived


British Consulate instructions for obtaining birth, marriage and death certificates


Letter from British Consulate-General at San Francisco, May 18, 1949


Card showing James W. Smith's death was not recorded at Boston, undated


Copy of marriage certificate of David S. Terry and Sarah Althea Hill, June 1, 1949


Letter from Floyd C. Shoemaker, State Historical Society of Missouri concerning Sarah Althea Hill's father November 14, 1950


Copy of certificate of baptism of Thomas [Fred?] Bell in 1875 at St. Peter's Church, San Francisco, October 9, 1948


Interview with John Allen Francis, 1952


Interview with Erhard Steigart by Bertha Behler, undated


"Mammy draws some plans," undated


Interview with Mrs. Isabel Richie, undated


Notes attributed to Mrs. Behler, McNab, and Mrs. Lilienthal


Interview with Mrs. Vina Dyer, friend and heir of Teresa Bell, 1938


List of people at luncheon honoring Helen Holdredge at Sonoma, September 17, 1954


Interview with Charlotte Dennis Downs, Negro, the daughter of pioneer George Dennis, undated


Conversation jotted down at dinner party at Frank Colombo's home in San Francisco, undated


Another interview with Agatha Fay Sabichi, undated


Death records from Cypress Lawn Cemetery, June 29, 1951


Some random notes from interviews concerning Negroes of early San Francisco


Statement made by Muriel Wright


Some random notes


Letter from Holdredge to Mr. Worthington Ames explaining the Sharon family, January 17, 1954


Interview with Mrs. Alberta Joyce conducted by Claire Holdredge and put into a letter. Contains material on the Howard family related to James Smith, January 18


Letter from Louise Ritzmann contains confirmation that Mary Ellen Pleasant was once in the Creole quarter of New Orleans, February 27, 1951


Letter from Mrs. Grace Burkhard tells of her father living in San Francisco and being able to remember the Committee of Vigilance, September 19, 1955


Letter from Mrs. Pauline Bonnemort who knew Robina Bell, went to school with her and visited the Bell mansion in her company in 1898, February 19, 1955


Letter from Mrs. A.D. Bassett describes Mary Ellen Pleasant as she looked in 1900. Mrs. Bassett was in training as a nurse at Stanford with Marie Bell, February 8, 1955


Letter from Loretta Manahan Kelly regarding Mary Ellen Pleasant, July 26, 1954


Letter from Mrs. Chelton Hill, one of the Kelly sisters, whose father was president of the Kelly-Donahue Bank. She remembers Mary Ellen Pleasant's reputation, November 2, 1953


Program of memorial services in honor of Mary Ellen Pleasant at Napa, February 12, 1965


Article about Negro stereotypes in the motion picture industry, sent to Helen Holdredge by Barbara Walden, Negro actress, February 19, 1967


Letter of Mrs. Abby Hardy (Duggan) Moran who was fearful her ancestress was a madam for Mary Ellen Pleasant, April 9, 1967


Holdredge's reply assuring Mrs. Moran that this could not be, April 26, 1967


Letter from Mrs. Elena Albert of the Negro Historical Society thanking Helen Holdredge for assistance in obtaining ingoing marble slab from the doorway of Mary Ellen Pleasant's last home, April 23, 1967


Another letter from Elena Albert regarding Pleasant's grave, Sunday evening


Photostat of letter written by Teresa Bell to her brother James on August 17, 1904


Letter from Virginia Perry Wilson regarding Bancroftiana article about Pleasant letters, May 23, 1968


Letter from Robert Haas tracing the wife of T.A. Harcourt, Fannie Rulofson, daughter of the San Francisco photographer. She disappeared in 1879. (Mixed into a murder case solved by Captain Lees of San Francisco was a tidbit that Mrs. Harcourt ran away with another man, Although I knew of this I could not find the reference and therefore gave Mr. Haas an unsatisfactory answer. HH), January 27 or 29, 1954


Letter from Anna Readen (Mrs. John E.) Beck, regarding the Rearden family with excepts of letters between Timothy Rearden and L. Dennison in the 1880s, November 1953


Letter of Mrs. Ethyl Sehorn of Morgan Hill, California regarding . (Another mixup on similar names), June 10 and October 27, 1954


John L. McNab's instructions to Bert Schlesinger in the Teresa Bell will contest (4 leaves), undated


Letter from Russell Leake regarding photographs of Teresa Bell 's Laidley Street house, November 7, 1957


Letter from Lydia N. Weiss containing material about Fred Bell and Teresa Bell, March 28, 1958


Letter concerning a transcript by Sam Shippy, Deputy County Clerk, Napa, California regarding Beltane Ranch, June 30, 1954


Photostat of Teresa Bell standing in front of the fireplace in the Bell mansion. (Said by Frank Colombo to be the cardroom of the house.)


Sketch of Bell's Los Alamos ranch


Financial statement of Reginald Bell


Drawing of a tree and the carriage gate of the Bell mansion


Voodoo powders were sold at No. 13 - 13th Street, San Francisco, in Mary Ellen Pleasant's time


Letter from William B. Sherrill regarding the Bell Los Alamos Rancho property, January 31, 1955


News paper article on Mary Ellen Pleasant "What Was Mammy Pleasant's Sinister Power?" undated


Notes written by John L. McNab and Bert Schlesinger regarding the Teresa Bell will contest, undated


Letter from W. M. Stewart, Bureau of the Census to John L. McNab and Bert Schlesinger, attorneys, regarding 1890 census entries for Bell family, December 7, 1923


Certified copy of 1890 census entries for 1661 Octavia Street, San Francisco, December 6, 1923

Box 4, Folder 26

"A Record of conversations with Eduard Bergner, also letters & etc.: Interviews, letters and clippings, 1938-1967 (bulk 1950-1958)


Note written by Teresa Bell referring to Eustace Bell and a farmhand named Riley


Letter from Ivan L. Peterson, Jr., containing material on Commodore Vanderbilt and Rudolph and Claus Spreckels, October 17, 1955


Letter from Bertha Behler, January 11, 1954


Letter from Police Department, City of New York, concerning John Thomas Hill, which was Thomas F. Bell's true name, February 23, 1950


Card from City Registrar of Boston which proves Elizabeth Smith Peck's birth to Mary Ellen Smith was not recorded there


Note of introduction from Leo Uhle, publisher of the Call-Bulletin to R. A. Carrington, Jr., publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner


Letter from Dick Friendlich, San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 1954


Letter from Mrs. Ethyl Sehorn concerning a May Thompson she knew--not the one in Mammy Pleasant, June 24, 1954


Letter from Russel Leake concerning Captain I. W. Lees, Mary Ellen Pleasant's final residence, March 7, 1958


Letter from Virginia Carrick (Holdredge's editor) regarding Christmas gift, December 30, 1953


Letter from Jim Grady, KCBS, concerning furniture from the Bell house, December 23, 1953


Letter in reply to Dr. A. T. Leonard concerning possessions of Captain I.W. Lees, February 9, 1958


Letter from Madeleine B. Stern, author of Purple Passage: the life of Mrs. Frank Leslie, regarding Lola Montez materials, June 8, 1957


Letter from David A. Williams, author of The Forgery of the Broderick Will, undated


Letter from Mrs. Neill (Evelyn) Whitman concerning bank checks of Mary Ellen Pleasant, October 12, 1954


Script from KCBS, [Jim] Grady, This Is San Francisco: "House on Laidley Street" regarding the whereabouts of the furnishings, December 22, 1953


Letter from Swift Paine, author of Eilley Orrum, Queen of the Comstock, June 12, 1957


Envelope from John L. McNab's law officer to Mrs. Holdredge, postmarked May 9, 1949


Letter from Ernest Clewe, attorney of the Bell case, regarding Claire Holdredge's health, July 12, 1956


Letter to Millie Robbins, San Francisco Chronicle, regarding furnishings of Mary Ellen Pleasant and Teresa Bell, January 28, 1957


Letter from Rex Stout, Authors Guild of the Authors League of America, regarding membership, March 8, 1958


Letter from Johnny Winters, chief book salesman of G. P. Putnam's Sons, publishers, undated


Letter from W. B. Haugh regarding Lola Montez family in Ireland, January 14, 1956


Letter from Russell Leake regarding Lees book and photos of Lola Montez house at Grass Valley, September 19, 1958


Note that Holdredge spoke with Axel Johnson, Vassalo, Fred Meyer, and Harry Hilp regarding demolition of Bell mansion and construction of Green's Eye Hospital


Letter to Virginia Carrick, Putnam's, regarding photos of Mary Ellen Pleasant and the Bells, September 4, 1954


Letter from Albert Shumate, California Historical Society, regarding Lillie Hitchcock Coit, March 18


Letter from Herbert Asbury, author of The Barbary Coast regarding Theo Durrant, June 29, 1958


Research by Mr. Claire P. Holdredge concerning the Hunter family and Sarah Althea Hill's guardian, Judge Hunter. Includes notes of conversation with Milford Hunter


Notes at random


Letter from John L. McNab regarding sending "the grip" [i.e. valise], May 11, 1949


Letter from Abby Hardy Duggan Moran regarding her ancestor Victoria Andres and her life in San Francisco, April 2, 1967


Letter from Mama to Abby [Moran] regarding Andres family, June 22, 1941


Letter to Mrs. J. M. Snelling, Episcopal Churchnews regarding authenticity of photo of Mary Ellen Pleasant purported to be of Queen Emma of Hawaii, August 14-15, 1955


Notes on Geneva Cottage as a baby farm


Letter from Virginia Carrick of Putnam's concerning John Bell's children with references to Bergner, March 19, 1954


Letter from Eduard Bergner [an invitation to his wedding reception after his marriage to Irma Doolittle Eagan], March 9, 1954


Copy of letter written after Civil War regarding negroes--source unknown


Story told by Charlotte Dennis Downs regarding gold found by Whitfield family


The explanation of how Helen Holdrdge met Eduard Bergner (transcribed from shorthand notes)


Bergner's questions of Holdredge and her responses regarding research on Mary Ellen Pleasant's early years in San Francisco, including names used, John Brown, and the Woodworths, April 1954


Copy of "Mammy [Pleasant's]...1856 list of colored people in San Francisco" provided by Bergner


Bergner's list of Negroes residing in San Francisco who engaged in Abolition activities with Mary Ellen Pleasant


Interview with Eduard Bergner


Bergner's list of Mary Ellen Pleasant's neighbors at Geneva Cottage. (It will be noted that Stella Ingram Brown's grandparents are on this list.)


List of properties owned by Mary Ellen Pleasant


Georgiana Schell is shown as being the owner of Pleasant's last home


List of passengers on the ship which brought Mary Ellen Pleasant to San Francisco


An analysis of Mary Ellen Pleasant's character by Claire Douglas Holdredge


On March 23, 1940 William Willmore II was reported as having passed away


Tracing the Schell family, relatives of the Woodworths


Random notes from interviews


Article which mentions Bell's French mistress


Note concerning Mary Ellen Pleasant's first marriage


Interviews with William Willmore (transcribed from shorthand notes), 1938


Random notes on slavery in California


Mr. Claire P. Holdredge's interview with Clara Whitesall, the half-sister of Sarah Althea Hill, November 20, 1950


Interview with Eduard Bergner, after July 4, 1954


List showing distribution of Teresa Bell's estate


Interview with Arthur Chyrabian


Interview with Eduard Bergner, July 1954


Research concerning the proposed demolition of the House of Mystery


Mary Ellen Pleasant's death records from Bergner' s papers


Descriptions of Pleasant used in Mammy Pleasant


Interview with William Willmore concerning [Pleasant's] meeting with John Brown, March 1938


Transcript of article about Pleasant and John Brown published after her death, San Francisco Call, January 1904, undated


Transcript of the Bell marriage certificate, St. Peter's Church, San Francisco. (which the Catholic Church refused to give to either John McNab or Eduard Bergner)


Research by Fern Sayre concerning colored labor


Charles Turrill research: he was trying to find a record of children born to Teresa and Thomas Bell and trying to find out when Teresa Bell arrive in San Francisco and also trying to trace the arrival of her first husband


U.S.G. Survey concerning California mining, specifically the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine


Research concerning California mining


Notes on interviews with Bergner, July 1954


Interview with Harold Camba


Interview with Mrs. Samuel Rubin, widow of Dr. Greene who had the Bell house torn down


A newspaper interview with Mary Ellen Pleasant, copy of which was with Mrs. Downs' papers


Research by Emma Merrit


Material furnished by William Willmore, 1938


Some addresses


Description of the Bell mansion, the result of a number of interviews


Interview with George Dennis, father of Mrs. Downs--from an unidentified newspaper clipping


Negro testimony and Negro immigration from newspaper clippings


Item from Alta California, December 15, 1853, regarding Negro slavery


Interview with Charlotte Dennis Downs, April 16, 1950


George Dennis' family listed


Some chilling predictions concerning the future of America


What a negro bishop thought might come to pass


Trouble in the schools in 1897


Research done by Mrs. Emma Merrit


"Teresa Bell spent most of 1902 recovering properties once owned by Thomas Bell" notes

Box 4, Folder 27

E. J. Talbot's interview with William "Blind Billy" Tomlinson, undated



Box 4, Folder 28

Address book, with an entry on purchasing lumber, a laundry list, and a few entries on goods purchased, accounts, and storage of items. Labeled: "Mammy Pleasant's journal, addresses, and a murder". Includes negative of one page, 1890-1895

Box 4, Folder 29

Autograph: "Mrs. M. E. Pleasant, 1661 Octavia St." on back of business card: G. Monnier, Importer and dealer in Wines and Liquors, 1153 Howard Street, San Francisco., undated

Box 4, Folder 30

Cancelled checks: M. E. Pleasant, written on Donohoe, Kelly & Co. [bankers] Spring Valley Water Works, March 5 and December 8, 1884; May 7, 1885

Box 4, Folder 31

Mrs. Pleasant grocery book for C. Hillebrandt, grocers, June-November, 1895; Teresa Bell diary, June-July, 1899 1895, 1899

Box 4, Folder 32

Harris vs. Mary Ellen Pleasant and G. Benson, No. 47539 regarding Sarah Levina Hall and estate, November 13, 1894 [fair copy]. Label: "Mammy's account of murdering Mrs. Hall" [sheets torn from Pleasant's journal by Teresa Bell. It is a record of what Pleasant gained by Mrs. Hall's death in Nicolas Gordon's handwriting to whom the veiled account of murder was dictated, 1894, undated

General note

Sarah Frances Harris, Mary Ann Harris and Henrietta Stewart Harris, plaintiffs.
Box 4, Folder 33

Recipe book [#1], undated

Box 4, Folder 34

Recipe book [#2], undated

Box 4, Folder 35

Negro scavenger's depot. Testimony of colored people ( Daily Evening Bulletin, September 16, 1856 and February 7, 1857)--unused research, undated

Box 4, Folder 36

Negroes and the California Legislature; Colored people in San Francisco; and testimony of colored people (cites Sacramento Union, October 6, 1862; Sacramento Daily Union, April 22, 1858; unidentified clipping 1863)--unused research, undated

Box 4, Folder 37

Negroes and the right to vote (cites Sacramento Daily Union, April 29, and May 8, 1858)--unused research, undated


Newspaper articles [photostats]

Box 11, Oversize-folder 7

"Home, Actors in Bell Mystery" ( San Francisco Examiner)

Box 11, Oversize-folder 7

"The 'House of Mystery' is Under the Hammer" ; "The Eviction of 'Mammy' was a Ruse" ( San Francisco Call) [photostat] May 11, 1899

Box 11, Oversize-folder 7

"Mammy Pleasant: Angel or Arch Fiend in the House of Mystery?" ( San Francisco Call) May 7, 1899

Box 11, Oversize-folder 7

"'Mammy' Pleasant Lays Claim to Real Estate and Jewels Owned by Mrs. Teresa Bell"

Box 11, Oversize-folder 7

"Servants Tell Tales of Life in Bell Home" ( San Francisco Chronicle). Bell servants at the time of Teresa Bell's death December 21, 1922

Box 4, Folder 38

"Shadows on the House of Silence"

Box 4, Folder 38

"Side view of the House of Mystery" (copy of photo from "Home, Actors in Bell Mystery" ( San Francisco Examiner))

Box 11, Oversize-folder 7

So We're Told column: "A forgotten grave" by Hal Johnson about Mary Ellen Pleasant ( Berkeley Daily Gazette) July 21, 1952

Box 4, Folder 38

"That House is Haunted!"

Box 4, Folder 39

"Research notebook covering Mammy and the Bells, 1883-1886. Book #1" "1887-1894"

General note

Contains transcriptions of the newspaper coverage of the lawsuits Sarah Althea Hill vs. William Sharon, and Neilson vs. Sharon; and of court reports and published histories of Hill, Sharon, David S. Terry, and others. Includes Holdredge's notes in pencil on significant points.
Box 4, Folder 40

"Research notebook covering Mammy Pleasant and the Bells, 1922-1936"

General note

Contains transcriptions of the newspaper coverage of Teresa Bell's death and the will contest that followed. Includes Holdredge's tabs and notes in pencil on significant events and dates.
Box 4, Folder 41

Santa Cruz Island, California. Excerpts of letter from Helene Claire to Edwin L. Stanton, April 7, 1947

Related Materials

For photos.: See Box 5 / Folder 43. Santa Cruz Island, California.
Box 4, Folder 42

Schell family of San Francisco and Sonoma, "learned from Eduard Bergner", undated

Box 4, Folder 43

"Search for the name Mary Ellen Pleasants used in the early days." Research on people and businesses listed on Washington and Merchant streets, 1858-1872, undated

Box 4, Folder 44

Tevis, Lloyd--unused research, undated

Box 4, Folder 45

West, Charles, who worked with Pleasant in Abolition activities--unused material, undated


Films, undated

Physical Description: 2.0 boxes (76 rolls of film)

Scope and Contents

Contains filmed pages of books, newspapers, and documents about Thomas Bell, Isaiah Lees, and Lola Montez. There are partial film logs with the contents and citations for the Thomas Bell rolls and for the Lola Montez rolls. The film logs are in the Research / Files subseries.


The films are arranged alphabetically by subject and then by roll number as assigned by Holdredge.
Boxes 6-7

Bell, Thomas. Mammy Pleasant's Partner, rolls 1-47 (includes 2 rolls labeled "roll 15"), undated

Physical Description: 48.0 items (48 rolls of film)

See also:

Box 4 / Folder 3 Thomas Bell film log.
Box 7

Lees, Isaiah, rolls 1, 2 and 5, undated

Physical Description: 3.0 items (3 rolls of film)
Box 7

Montez, Lola, rolls L1-3, L5-6, L11-23, L28-30, L32-34 (includes 2 rolls labeled "L29"), undated

Physical Description: 25.0 items (25 rolls of film)

See also:

Box 2 / Folder 105 Lola Montez film log.

Cards [bibliographic references], undated

Physical Description: 3.0 boxes

Scope and Contents

The Cards series contains bibliographic references to subjects such as the Civil War, Lola Montez, the Crocker family, and San Francisco society. It also includes many references to illustrations of people and places germane to Holdredge's books.


The cards are arranged in the numerical sequence Holdredge assigned. Later additions were not numbered and are filed at the end. Each grouping is identified by subject.
Box 8

HH 30. Illustrations: San Francisco and San Francisco residents [476 cards]

Box 8

HH 31. Mark Hopkins and family

Box 8

HH 32. Illustrations, where they are: General [34 cards]

Box 8

HH 33. San Francisco murders [14 cards]

Box 8

HH 34. Illustrations, where they are: The Old South, The Civil War, Negroes [38 cards]

Box 8

HH 35. Odd stories from the files of San Francisco's Captain of Detectives, I. W. Lees [38 cards]

Box 8

HH 36. Illustrations, where they are: Interesting houses across the United States [61 cards]

Box 8

HH 37. Lotta Crabtree [22 cards]

Box 8

HH 38. Lillie Hitchcock Coit [12 cards]

Box 8

HH 40. The Crocker Family [25 cards]

Box 8

HH 41. The Civil War [10 cards]

Box 8

HH 42. California, general [28 cards]

Box 8

HH 43. San Francisco families: births, marriages, deaths [196 cards]

Box 9

HH 44. James Graham Fair, Bonanza King. Collection includes Oelrichs and Vanderbilts (daughters' married names) [122 cards]

Box 9

HH 45. San Francisco file [141 cards]

Box 9

HH 46. San Francisco society [17 cards]

Box 9

HH 47. Leland Stanford [13 cards]

Box 9

HH 48. Stage coaches [13 cards]

Box 9

HH 49. John W. MacKay, Bonanza King [24 cards]

Box 9

HH 50. William O'Brien, Bonanza King [11 cards]

Box 9

HH 51. William Ralston, banking [16 cards]

Box 9

HH 52. Donahue family [10 cards]

Box 9

HH 53. Reminiscences and recollections of old timers [46 cards]

Box 9

HH 54. Lola Montez (references picked up after the book The Woman In Black was finished) [20 cards]

Box 9

HH 55. James C. Flood, Bonanza King [16 cards]

Box 9

HH 56. Subject cards, alphabetically arranged, A-N

Box 10

HH 56. Subject cards, alphabetically arranged, O-Z

Box 10

HH 65. Isaiah Lees cases 1850s-1860s [7 cards]

Box 10

HH 66. Isaiah Lees cases 1870s [51 cards]

Box 10

HH 67. Isaiah Lees cases 1880s [171 cards]

Box 10

HH 68. Isaiah Lees cases 1890s [261 cards]

Box 10

Sacramento, California, primarily references to illustrations of houses [58 cards]

Box 10

Miscellaneous subjects (mailed Dec. 18, 1971): Emperor Norton, French in California, Ben Ali Haggin, Adolph Sutro, Judge Stephen Field, Lillie Coit, Bohemian Grove, Bella Union Theatre, Samuel Tetlow, Milton S. Latham, Libraries of California, Diamond Grand, San Francisco hotels, William Ralston, James King of William, William Coleman, Dennis Kearney, David Broderick, Lola Montez, Stephen Massett, Clara Hastings, Dog Napoleon, Jessie James, John Brown [33 cards]

Box 10

Civil War spies: Pauline Cushman and Rose Greenhow. Also includes cards for the actress Charlotte Cushman. [13 cards]


Series 4 Photographs, 1849-1959

Physical Description: 1.0 box
Physical Location: The collection is stored in Photo Room.


The collection is available for use during Photo Desk hours.

Scope and Contents

The series contains photographs and negatives of people and locations pertinent to Holdredge's books. The majority of the material concerns Mary Ellen Pleasant, Thomas and Teresa Bell, and the residences of each. Some photographs are of published illustrations; others are reproductions of images from the 1840s-1860s. Russell Leake is the photographer of locations in Grass Valley, California, and of various Bell and Pleasant residences in San Francisco.


Arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Box 5, Folder 1

Barry, G. A. and Ben Adams Patten "San Francisco Saloon-keepers" [negatives of etchings from book] [HH 308], undated

Box 5, Folder 2

Bell, John S. "Residence & Ranch of John S. Bell, Los Alamos, Santa Barbara Co., Ca." [photo of etching] [HH 442], undated

Box 5, Folder 3

Bell, Marie [HH 455], undated

Box 5, Folder 4

Bell, Teresa [HH 203, 235, 457, 463, 473], 1901, undated

General note

Includes portraits of Teresa Bell, Kate Clangan Gray, and photographs of Bell's last residence.

[Portrait of Teresa Bell] [graphic], 1901?


[Teresa Bell with stepsister Kate Clangan Gray] [graphic], [1901?]


[Teresa Bell in gown] [graphic], ]19--]


[Photostat of Picture (of Teresa Bell) in State Archives of California] [graphic], November 28, 1923

Box 5, Folder 5

Bell, Thomas, [HH 238, 452, 466], 1862-1863


[Thomas Bell] [graphic], [18--]


[Thomas Bell] [graphic], 1862

Box 5, Folder 6

Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen [HH 116, 117, 118, 137, 140A, 141, 143, 179, 180, 181, 182, 186, 218, 243, 438, 439, 441, 553, 554, 555], 1958-1959, undated

Box 5, Folder 7

Bidwell, California [photo of engraving] [HH 405], undated

Box 5, Folder 8

"The Bonanza Kings" [photo and negative from book] [HH 200], undated

Box 5, Folder 9

Coit, B. Howard [HH 170] [photo], undated

Box 5, Folder 10

Coit, Lillie Hitchcock and her father [Charles Hitchcock] [HH 271] [photo], undated

Box 5, Folder 11

Crabtree, Lotta. Painting signed "Love, Lotta" [photo of painting] [HH 273], undated

Box 5, Folder 12

Downieville, California [negative] [HH 346], undated

Box 5, Folder 13

Earl, John, a partner of Thomas Bell in mining enterprises [negative of drawing from book] [HH 318], undated

Box 5, Folder 14

Floyd, Richard [HH 275] [photo], undated

Box 5, Folder 15

Folsom, Joseph Libby (Capt.) [picture postcard, HH 280], undated

Box 5, Folder 16

Forbes, James [photo and negative] [HH 429?], undated

Box 5, Folder 17

Grass Valley, California [photo and negatives] [HH 339, 410, 417], 1853, undated

Box 5, Folder 18

Green's Eye and Ear Hospital, Octavia Street, San Francisco [HH 562], October 27, 1957


[Green's eye and ear hospital from Octavia Street] [graphic], October 27, 1957

Box 5, Folder 19

Hill, Sarah Althea. Also "Mrs. Sarah Althea Terry" [HH 468, 471], undated


[Sarah Althea Hill] [graphic], [between 1867 and 1885]

Box 5, Folder 20

Holdredge, Helen [negative] [HH 156?], undated

Box 5, Folder 21

Hopkins, Vigilante Sterling [A.] [negative of etching from book] [HH 310], undated

Box 5, Folder 22

Jackson Street, San Francisco, California. "Building erected about 1856. South side Jackson Street between Sansome and Montgy St." [photo] [HH 157], undated


[Building on south side of Jackson Street between Sansome and Montgomery] [graphic] , circa 1856

Box 5, Folder 23

Lees, Isaiah W. Ex-Chief of Police [negative] [HH 302], undated

Box 5, Folder 24

Ludwig I, King of Bavaria (1786-1868) [print and negative of etching] [HH 312], undated

Box 5, Folder 25

Marysville, California [photo and negatives of engraving] [HH 313, 335, 346, 393], undated

Box 5, Folder 26

Metropolitan Theatre, San Francisco, [photo of engraving] [HH 333, 352], 1853

Box 5, Folder 27

Montez, Lola [photographs and negatives] [HH 234, 240, 247, 248, 249, 319, 322, 334, 336, 340, 341, 345, 347, 348, 355, 358, 360, 361, 363, 421], 1853, undated

General note

Includes photos of portraits and drawings or Montez, some of which were used in Lola Montez and The Woman in Black. A few are of Montez and her spider dance.

Hull, Pat

Box 5, Folder 28

Montez, Lola. Duel in the Bois de Boulogne [photo and negative] [HH 344, 356], undated

Box 5, Folder 29

Montez, Lola. Residence in Grass Valley, includes Bear House [HH 251, 252, 254, 255, 285, 286, 294, 297, 315, 317, 320, 321, 349, 350, 351, 354, 357, 359, 362, 420], 1955, undated

Box 5, Folder 30

Neilson, Adelaide [negative of portrait] [HH 415], undated

Box 5, Folder 31

Nevada City, California [photo postcard] [HH 257, 343, 387], 1849, 1852


National Hotel


Patten, Ben Adams. See Box 5 / Folder 1: Barry, G. A.

Box 5, Folder 32

Placerville, California [photo of engraving] [HH 406], undated

Box 5, Folder 33

Pleasant, John James. Grave [HH 462], undated

Box 5, Folder 34

Pleasant, Mary Ellen. Also includes gravesite and bed with bedspread [HH 205, 238, 448, 449, 450], undated


Mary Ellen ("Mammy") Pleasant at 87 years of age [graphic], [circa 1901]

Box 5, Folder 35

Portsmouth Plaza, San Francisco, California. El Dorado gambling hall, McGuire's Theatre, Union Hotel [HH 413], undated


[El Dorado gambling hall, McGuire's Theatre, Union Hotel - on Portsmouth Square] [graphic], 1865

Box 5, Folder 36

Ralston, William [HH 467], undated

Box 5, Folder 37

Residences. 350 Buchanan Street, San Francisco. Teresa Bell home (where she died) [HH 556, 557, 558], January 1 and 3, 1958


[House where Teresa Bell died] [graphic], January 1, 1958


[Home of Teresa Bell] [graphic], January 3, 1958


[Teresa Bell's last home] [graphic], January 1, 1958

Box 5, Folder 38

Residences. 2781 Filbert Street, San Francisco. Where "Mammy Pleasant died, January 1904" [HH 559, 560, 561, 563], January 2, 1959

Box 5, Folder 39

Residences. 198 Laidley Street, San Francisco (Teresa Bell's home) [HH 184, 187, 189, 190, 204, 552], 1957, 1959


[Teresa Bell's residence at 198 Laidley] [graphic], January 2, 1959


[Teresa Bell's residence at 198 Laidley] [graphic], January 2, 1959


[Teresa Bell's residence at 198 Laidley] [graphic], October 26, 1957

Box 5, Folder 40

Residences. 1661 Octavia Street "House of Mystery" [HH 237, 239, 484], undated


[Thomas Bell mansion at 1661 Octavia between Sutter and Bush Street] [graphic], [before 1927]


[Thomas Bell mansion at 1661 Octavia between Sutter and Bush Street] [graphic], [before 1927]

Box 5, Folder 41

Residences. 1070 Pine Street, San Francisco, California. "Home of Isaiah Lees, San Francisco's Chief of Detectives. 1022 Pine (now 1070 Pine)" [photo] [HH 411A], undated

Box 5, Folder 42

Sacramento, California [photos and negatives of engravings] [HH 311, 316, 338, 364, 365, 366], 1853, undated

General note

Scenes include J Street, K Street at Third, Post Office block, Sacramento Theatre.
Box 5, Folder 43

San Francisco Fire Department. Fire Co. "Knickerbocker #5 Engine in front of their hall" [HH 277], undated


[Knickerbocker Fire Engine No. 5 in front of the firehall] [graphic], [18--]

Box 5, Folder 44

Santa Cruz Island, California [MEP 48, HH 104], 1869

Box 5, Folder 45

Secretary of San Francisco Vigilantes [negative of etching in book] [HH 304], undated

Box 5, Folder 46

Sharon, William [HH 454], undated

Box 5, Folder 47

[Stewart, Helen ?] [HH 446], undated

Box 5, Folder 48

"Grave of James Sullivan--hung by vigilantes" [photo] [HH 307], undated

Box 5, Folder 49

Theta Sigma Phi's Western Presentation Party for Lola Montez exhibition and The Woman in Black, [1955]

Box 5, Folder 50

Washington Street, between Montgomery and Sansome streets, San Francisco, 1927


[Washington Street, between Montgomery and Sansome streets] [graphic], 1927

Box 5, Folder 51

[Samuel] Woodworth's tomb, Lone Mountain Cemetery [negative of book drawing] [HH 416], undated


Series 5 Realia, [ca. 1856], 1954-1969, undated (bulk 1954-1969)

Physical Description: 6.0 items

Scope and Contents

The series contains objects. It also includes a scrapbook that Holdredge assembled. There are samples of fabric from Lola Montez's house in Grass Valley, a bedspread made by Mary Ellen Pleasant and presented to lawyer William Tyler, a pair of cufflinks, some needlework pieces, and a painting.
The scrapbook is organized chronologically. It contains letters and programs for Holdredge's speaking engagements and book parties, materials about the opening of the San Francisco restaurant Mammy Pleasant's Kitchen, correspondence and clippings regarding a movie about Lola Montez, acknowledgements of Holdredge's donations to historical societies, receipts for Holdredge's purchases of Montez memorabilia, a flyer about Tulocay Cemetery which is where Mary Ellen Pleasant is buried, a letter from Lewis Ferbrache Asa, a clipping about Frank Jordan and a luncheon where Holdredge and Jordan were honored guests. There are also short notes from Oscar Lewis and Curt Gentry. Some of the speaking engagements were organized by Theta Sigma Phi or by the San Francisco Public Library.


Arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Box 4, Folder 46

Cufflink and tie-tack, undated

Box 11, Oversize-folder 6

Montez, Lola. Fabric pieces from rug, upholstery, and draperies in Montez's Grass Valley home at the time of its sale in 1856, [ca. 1856]

Box 4, Folder 47

Needlework pieces (2) removed from Mammy Pleasant's Partner box], undated

Box 11

Painting by C. Sadino? of a house next to a river with a bridge in the foreground, undated

Physical Description: 1.0 oversize items
Box 12

Pleasant, Mary Ellen. Bedspread and pillow cases, undated

Physical Description: 3.0 oversize items
Box 4, Folder 48

Scrapbook, 1954-1969, undated