In Remembrance of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire

In Remembrance of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire

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Were your ancestors living in San Francisco on April 18th, 1906? My Kelly, Dolan, Jones, and Segalas relatives were there. The Mazeres and Breilh cousins were over in Oakland and Berkeley. The Cosma’s and a couple of Pacheco’s were new arrivals in Oakland.

I like to think of what that period must have been like for them. John Cosma (aka Joaquin Jacinto da Camama) worked in San Francisco. He worked for the Pacific Pipe Company.  I wonder if he thought moving from Hawaii to California was a bad mistake?

Charles Mazeres may have been thinking twice about his migration from France. A couple weeks before the earthquake he had been beaten and robbed on his way from the ferry from San Francisco. Imagine that! He is beat up, robbed, and then natural disaster strikes. He was in the laundry business. Business probably dropped off for awhile after that. Enough to make an immigrant buy a ticket back home.

Incidentally, his brother, Antoine, did just that. He was struggling in San Francisco. After the earthquake and fire, he decided that was enough for him. His family made their way back to France. He never returned, but his son did.

Mary (Kelly) Meincke’s husband died in 1900.  It appears she kept the Five Mile House, a boarding house, going for a couple of years afterward.  In 1907, she is listed under a different address.  I don’t know if she sold the boarding house before the earthquake.  I believe Mission Road was hit hard.

I wrote a post previously about the Jones woman called The Remarkable Jones Women about how they survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.  I find it incredible that with one of them pregnant and ready to deliver within a couple weeks,  two of them toting around one month old babies, and all of them keeping track of their older children as they staggered around the city looking for a safe haven that all them lived through the ordeal.  My Grandma told me only her Aunt Josephine (Jones) Pohley had a home to go to after it was all said and down.  That makes their feat of keeping everyone alive even more remarkable.

My Grandmother says her parents, Marguerite (Jones) and Harry Jackson, along with other relatives took refuge at the Bernal Heights Camp.  Her Mother spoke little of it, though noted that food was scarce and they used newspaper for toilet paper.  She also shared this funny story about her Grandfather, Thomas Augustine Jones, who was quite superstitious and almost let a broken mirror stand between him and escaping their crumbling home.

Reading the San Francisco Chronicle, I found that my Great Grandmother’s cousin, Joseph McSwegan, was a trouble maker around town.  He and his gang were looting and robbing folks.  He eventually got his comeuppance when his gang messed with a cop and one of them shot him.

As far as I know, the Jones family only lost one member that day.  I have yet to find a record of his death on the official lists or in a newspaper.  Family lore says that John J. “Jack” Burke disappeared during the earthquake.  His poor wife, Gertrude (Jones) Burke was about 7 months pregnant and had five children ranging from 1 to 7 years of age to fend for.

According to my Grandma, John’s body was found sometime later by officials.  He had been stripped of his jewelry (he wore several rings) and his money.  He was buried in a mass grave as far as my Grandmother remembered.

Those are the family stories surrounding that tragic day that I know of.  From these tidbits, I can put together an image of what that period must have been for my relatives.

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