Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake and fire. Though the Richter Scale was not yet in use, it’s estimated that the earthquake was about a 7.8. What the earthquake didn’t damage, the horrific fire destroyed. The death toll sits at 3,000 though that number has come under scrutiny over the years. San Francisco was left in a shambles, but as we can see, like the phoenix, it was reborn from the ashes.
Many of my relatives were there that day. My maternal great grandparents, Margaret (Jones) and Harry Jackson, my maternal great great grandfather, Thomas Augustine Jones, and my paternal great grandparents, Brigitte (Breilh) and Charles Mazeres dit Salanave (who not only survived the earthquake but was mugged coming off the ferry that same month!). I also had a host of cousins from the Pohley, Bourne, Burke, Segalas, McSwegan, and Meincke lines living in the cities. And, just before the earthquake my Pacheco, de Braga, and Cosma cousins started to leave Hawaii and set up home in Oakland (across the bay). I wonder if it cross their minds to head on back to Hawaii after the earthquake?
I remember a couple of things my Grandmother told me about her mother’s experiences–from using newspaper as toilet paper in the refugee camp to finding out that her brother-in-law, John Burke, went missing, only to be found buried in a pauper’s grave weeks later.
One story has always stuck in my mind. As her parents were escaping their crumbling home, they looked back to see a woman on her porch. They yelled out to their neighbor to hurry up and leave. The woman adamantly refused. She had paid up for a months rent and she wasn’t going anywhere until the month was up. As they turned away, there was another rumbling of the earth and a loud noise. They looked back to see that the woman’s house and crumbled on top of her and killed her. I can’t imagine how many more horrific events they must have seen during the disaster. My Grandma said her Mother really didn’t like to talk about it. I can understand why!
I’ve written a couple of posts about my relatives’ experiences in 1906. I hope you’ll enjoy them!
Were your ancestors there that day? What were their experiences like? Make sure you write them down so your descendants will know they were there and they survived.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com