It’s week 17 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. This week the theme is prosperous. I’m going to write about my great grandfather, Charles Mazeres dit Salanave.
Born in 1868, Charles Mazeres’ was the son of, Jean Mazeres dit Salanave and Marie Anne Lacrouts. They were farmers. Their home in Ogeu les bains, France, still stands today.
(Source: Jean Mausonabe)
Around 1880, their daughter, Magdalaine, left for America. It appears she went alone. I haven’t found her immigration records to answer that question. She settled in San Francisco, CA, got married, and had a baby. Then, around 1884, she found herself alone with a child in a strange country. Her husband, Louis Pierre Lacazette, deserted her. You can read Abandoned in a Strange Land to see how I found her story in a local newspaper.
I do not know if my great grandfather planned to migrate to America, but when Magdalaine was in need, he answered the call. Charles arrived in New Orleans, LA in February of 1885, then made his way to San Francisco. Sometime after, their brother, Antoine, joined them. This dapper young man is Charles ca 1888.
We know what these early days were like for the three because of a letter Charles wrote home to his parents in 1887. Magdaleine’s daughter had been ill for a month with measles. The siblings were working and trying to fit in to their new home. He wrote that he followed his father’s instructions and did what his employer told him to do, but he dreamed of the day when he was his own boss as many do.
“225 francs per month, and quite often the bosses tell me or give me orders that I always show that I do not object and I never tell them anything that sounds bad. Sometime in the future I will buy a laundry for myself.”
I don’t think their financial situation was all that great. Nine years after he migrated, Charles wrote a letter to his parents telling his sister, Veronique, not to come yet. Life in San Francisco was harder than they had enticipated. It was too late, she had already left France.
Charles met a woman from the same region, Brigitte Breilh. He married Brigitte in 1897. Up until this time Charles is listed as an employee in city directories. In 1899, there is a change. He is in San Francisco and listed as a laundryman. There is no mention of a business so perhaps he worked for someone else.
It is very clear from this newspaper advertisement that was a business owner in 1901. Charles and Brigitte had moved to Modesto. Charles had placed an add in the newspaper touting his new business.
Why Modesto? I can only conjecture, but Magdaleine had married a wealthy man from Modesto who owned The Old French Hotel. Perhaps Romain Menaud helped Charles set up his business.
The young couple is shown here about the time that ad was placed. My grandmother, standing, is the only one of their children to survive.
The venture was short lived. They were back in the San Francisco Bay Area by 1904. In the San Francisco City Directory for that year, Charles is listed as a laborer. He lived at 1355 5th Street. He was back to working for someone else.
They moved again before 1906. They were living at 820 Twelfth Street in San Francisco when he had the misfortune of meeting up with two pickpockets on his way to work on the 8th of April 1906. He was beaten unconscious and robbed of his gold watch and chain.
Note the date. This was only a couple weeks before the earthquake struck and the city was decimated. When it was all said and done, his brother, Antoine, said to heck with this! He went back to France. Charles stayed.
Charles must have been tenacious. Even after losing his first business, getting severely beaten, and surviving a major natural disaster, he was back in business for himself in 1907. The Oakland City Directory shows this entry:
MAZERES, CHARLES, Propr. French Laundry. Fine Hand Work, 1314 10th Avenue, r. same
He gave it another go in the laundry business and this time he succeeded. His family lived in the same building that housed the laundry. The family and an employee are standing on the front steps of the building. My grandmother, Anna (Mazeres) Lassalle is the young girl in the big hat. Photo is ca. 1908.
Things must have been going well. He even had a delivery wagon.
By 1914, they move to the location at 1624 10th Avenue. I was interested to see if either houses still existed. I used the Interactive Planning and Zoning Database operated by the city of Oakland, California to search for the addresses.
The house at 1314 is gone, giving way to roads and train tracks. The house at 1624 is still there. The database states that it was built in the 1910s which is the right time period.
It is a narrow, but long building. I guess the family lived in one part and had the business in the back. (Source: Google Maps via the Interactive Planning and Zoning Database for the city of Oakland, California)
Charles died on Christmas Day in 1926. Brigitte stayed in the house and continued to run the laundry business with her daughter helping out at times. My Dad who was born in 1927. When he was a child he did deliveries around Lake Merritt using his red wagon to hold the orders.
I’m not sure how long Brigitte kept the business up. I know that in the 1930s a granddaughter came to stay with her for awhile due to health issues. She remembers helping with the ironing.
Brigitte’s health started to decline in the early 1950s. She died 15 Jan 1959. I remember my Dad telling me that they had to tear open some of the walls because Charles and Brigitte had hidden away money with them.
I would say that Charles did alright for himself. He came from a fairly good life in France to one where he was barely surviving in America. He had his failures, but he kept at it. With some help from family, he was able to realize his dream. It took him 20 years after he wrote that letter to his parents, but, he did eventually own his own laundry.
I love seeing old photographs. Those showing my relatives are special. And, those that depict the places they lived in give me insights into their world. I wish old photos of the laundries existed. It’d be interesting to see them as they were.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com