The San Francisco Calamity
Part 2 out of 7
LOSS TO ART AND SCIENCE.
Art suffered as severely as science, the valuable collections in
private and public buildings being nearly all destroyed. We have
spoken of the rare paintings burned in the Bohemian Club building.
The collections on Nob's Hill suffered as severely. When the
mansions here, the Fairmount Hotel and Mark Hopkins Institute were
approached by the flames, many attempts were made to remove some of
the priceless works of art from the buildings. A crowd of soldiers
was sent to the Flood and the Huntington mansions and the Hopkins
Institute to rescue the paintings. From the Huntington home and
the Flood mansion canvases were cut from the framework with knives.
The collections in the three buildings, valued in the hundreds of
thousands, in great part were destroyed, few being saved from the
ravages of the fire.
The destruction of the libraries, with their valuable collections
of books, was also a very serious loss to the city and its people.
Of these there were nine of some prominence, the Sutro Library
containing many rare books among its 200,000 volumes, while that of
the Mechanics Institute possessed property valued at $2,000,000.
The Public Library occupied a part of the City Hall, the new
building proposed by the city, with aid to the extent of $750,000
by Andrew Carnegie, being fortunately still in embryo.
In the burning of the banks the losses were limited to the
buildings, their money and other valuables being securely locked in
fireproof vaults. But these became so heated by the flames that it
was necessary to leave them to a gradual cooling for days, during
which their treasures were unavailable, and those with deposits,
small or large, were obliged to depend on the benevolence of the
nation for food, such wealth as was left to them being locked up
beyond their reach. It was the same with the United States Sub-
Treasury, which was entirely destroyed by fire, its vaults, which
contained all the cash on hand, being alone preserved. Guards were
put over these to protect their contents against possible loss by
One serious effect of the conflagration was the general
disorganization of the telegraph system. News items were sent over
the wires, but private messages inquiring about missing friends for
days failed to reach the parties concerned or to bring any return.
That the world received news of the San Francisco disaster during
the dread day after the earthquake is due in part to the courage of
the telegraph operators, who stuck to their posts and, continued to
send news and other messages in spite of great personal danger.
The operators and officials of the Postal Telegraph Company
remained in the main office of the company, at the corner of Market
and Montgomery Streets, opposite the Palace Hotel, until they were
ordered out of it because of the danger of the dynamite explosions
in the immediate vicinity. The men proceeded to Oakland, across
the bay, and took possession of the office there. That night the
company operated seven wires from Oakland, all messages from the
city being taken across the bay in boats. As the days passed on
the service gradually improved, but a week or more passed away
before the general service of the company became satisfactory.
THE DANGER FROM THIRST.
Such news as came from the city was full of tales of horror. For a
number of days one of the chief sources of trouble was from thirst.
Although the earthquake shocks had broken water mains in probably
hundreds of places, strange to say, no water, or very little at
least, appeared on the surface of the ground. Public fountains on
Market Street gave out no relief to the thirsty thousands. At
Powell and Market Streets a small stream of water spurted up
through the cobblestones and formed a muddy pool, at which the
thirsty were glad enough to drink. The soldiers, disregarding the
order not to let people move about, permitted bucket brigades to go
forth and bring back water to relieve the women and the crying
children. To reach the water it was necessary sometimes to go a
mile to one of the four reservoirs which top the hills.
Here is a story told by one observer of incidents in the city
during the fire:
"I talked to one man who slept in Alta Plaza. The fire was going
on in the district south of them, and at intervals all night
exhausted fire-fighters made their way to the plaza and dropped,
with the breath out of them, among the huddled people and the
bundles of household goods. The soldiers, who are administering
affairs with all the justice of judges and all the devotion of
heroes, kept three or four buckets of water, even from the women,
for these men, who kept coming all night long. There was a little
food, also kept by the soldiers for these emergencies, and the
sergeant had in his charge one precious bottle of whisky, from
which he doled out drinks to those who were utterly exhausted.
"Over in a corner of the plaza a band of men and women were
praying, and one fanatic, driven crazy by horror, was crying out at
the top of his voice:
"'The Lord sent it, the Lord!'
"His hysterical crying got in the nerves of the soldiers and bade
fair to start a panic among the women and children, so the sergeant
went over and stopped it by force. All night they huddled together
in this hell, with the fire making it bright as day on all sides;
and in the morning the soldiers, using their sense again,
commandeered a supply of bread from a bakery, sent out another
water squad, and fed the refugees with a semblance of breakfast.
"There was one woman in the crowd who had been separated from her
husband in a rush of the smoke and did not know whether he was
living. The women attended to her all night and in the morning the
soldiers passed her through the lines in her search. A few Chinese
made their way into the crowd. They were trembling, pitifully
scared and willing to stop wherever the soldiers placed them. This
is only a glimpse of the horrible night in the parks and open
"We learn here that many of the well-to-do people in the upper
residence district have gathered in the strangers from the highways
and byways and given them shelter and comfort for the night in
their living rooms and drawing rooms. Shelter seems to have come
more easily than food. Not an ounce of supplies, of course, has
come in for two days, and most of the permanent stores are in the
hands of the soldiers, who dole them out to all comers alike. But
the hungry cannot always find the military stores and the news has
not gotten about, since there are no newspapers and no regular
means of communication.
"An Italian tells me that he was taken in by a family living in a
three-story house in the fashionable Pacific Avenue. There were
twenty refugees who passed the night in the drawing room of that
house, whose mistress took down hangings to make them comfortable.
In the morning all the food that was left over in that home of
wealth was enough flour and baking powder to shake together a
breakfast for the refugees. They were hardly ready to leave that
house when the fire came their way, and the people of the house,
together with the refugees, who included two Chinese, made their
way to the open ground of the Presidio. With them streamed a
procession of folks carrying valuables in bundles.
"There came out, too, tales of both heroism and crime. The firemen
had been at it for thirty-six hours under such conditions as
firemen never before faced, and they do little more than give
directions, while the volunteers, thousands of young Western men
who have remained to see it through, do the work. The troops have
all that they can do to handle the crowds in the streets and
prevent panics. The work of dynamiting, tearing down and rescuing
is in the hands of the volunteers.
"This morning an eddy of flame from the edge of the burning
wholesale district ran up the slope of Russian Hill, the highest
eminence in the city. All along the edge of that hill and up the
slopes are little frame houses which hold Italians and Mexicans. A
corps of volunteer aides ran along the edge of the fire, warning
people out of the houses. But the flames ran too fast and three
women were caught in the upper story of an old frame house. A
young man tore a rail from a fence, managed to climb it, and
reached the window. He bundled one woman out and slid her down the
rail; then the roof caught fire. He seized another woman and
managed to drop her on the rail, down which she slid without
hurting herself a great deal. But the roof fell while he was
struggling with another woman and they fell together into the
flames. There must have been hundreds of such heroisms and dozens
of such catastrophes. We are so drunken and dulled by horror that
we take such stories calmly now. We are saturated."
HOW LOOTING WAS HINDERED.
One thing to be strictly guarded against in those days of
destruction was the outbreak of lawlessness. A city as large as
San Francisco is sure to hold a large number of the brigands of
civilization, a horde who need to be kept under strict discipline
at all times, and especially when calamity lets down for the time
being the bars of the law, at which time many of the usually law-
abiding would join their ranks if any license were allowed. The
authorities made haste to guard against this and certain other
dangers, Mayor Schmitz issuing on Wednesday the following
"The Federal troops, the members of the regular police force and
special police officers have been authorized to kill any and all
persons engaged in looting or in the commission of any other crime.
"I have directed all the gas and electric lighting companies not to
turn on gas or electricity until I order them to do so. You may,
therefore, expect the city to remain in darkness for an indefinite
"I request all citizens to remain at home from darkness until
daylight every night until order is restored.
"I warn all citizens of the danger of fire from damaged or
destroyed chimneys, broken or leaking gas pipes or fixtures or any
He also ordered that no lights should be used in the houses and no
fires built in the houses until the chimneys had been inspected and
There was need of vigilance in this direction, for the vandals were
quickly at work. Routed out from their dens along the wharves, the
rats of the waterfront, the drifters on the back eddy of
civilization, crawled out intent on plunder. Early in the day a
policeman caught one of these men creeping through the window of a
small bank on Montgomery Street and shot him dead. But the police
were kept too busy at other necessary duties to devote much time to
these wretches, and for a time many of them plundered at will,
though some of them met with quick and sure retribution.
STORIES BY SIGHTSEERS.
One onlooker says: "Were it not for the fact that the soldiers in
charge of the city do not hesitate in shooting down the ghouls the
lawless element would predominate. Not alone do the soldiers
execute the law. On Wednesday afternoon, in front of the Palace
Hotel, a crowd of workers in the mines discovered a miscreant in
the act of robbing a corpse of its jewels. Without delay he was
seized, a rope obtained, and he was strung up to a beam that was
left standing in the ruined entrance of the hotel. No sooner had
he been hoisted up and a hitch taken in the rope than one of his
fellow-criminals was captured. Stopping only to obtain a few yards
of hemp, a knot was quickly tied, and the wretch was soon adorning
the hotel entrance by the side of the other dastard.
"These are the only two instances I saw, but I heard of many that
were seen by others. The soldiers do all they can, and while the
unspeakable crime of robbing the dead is undoubtedly being
practiced, it would be many times as prevalent were it not for the
constant vigilance on all sides, as well as the summary justice."
Another observer tells of an instance of this summary justice that
came under his eyes:
"At the corner of Market and Third Streets on Wednesday I saw a man
attempting to cut the fingers from the hand of a dead woman in
order to secure the rings which adorned the stiffened fingers.
Three soldiers witnessed the deed at the same time and ordered the
man to throw up his hands. Instead of obeying the command he drew
a revolver from his pocket and began to fire at his pursuer without
warning. The three soldiers, reinforced by half a dozen uniformed
patrolmen, raised their rifles to their shoulders and fired. With
the first shots the man fell, and when the soldiers went to the
body to dump it into an alley nine bullets were found to have
The warning this severity gave was accentuated in one instance in a
most effective manner. On a pile of bricks, stones and rubbish was
thrown the body of a man shot through the heart, and on his chest
was pinned this placard:
Those of the ghouls who saw this were likely to desist from their
detestable work, unless they valued spoils more than life.
Willis Ames, a Salt Lake City man, tells of the kind of justice
done to thieves, as it came under his observation:
"I saw man after man shot down by the troops. Most of these were
ghouls. One man made the trooper believe that one of the dead
bodies lying on a pile of rocks was his mother, and he was
permitted to go up to the body. Apparently overcome by grief, he
threw himself across the corpse. In another instant the soldiers
discovered that he was chewing the diamond earrings from the ears
of the dead woman. 'Here is where you get what is coming to you,'
said one of the soldiers, and with that he put a bullet through the
ghoul. The diamonds were found in the man's mouth afterward."
Others were shot to save them from the horror of being burned
alive. Max Fast, a garment worker, tells of such an instance. He
"When the fire caught the Windsor Hotel at Fifth and Market Streets
there were three men on the roof, and it was impossible to get them
down. Rather than see the crazed men fall in with the roof and be
roasted alive the military officer directed his men to shoot them,
which they did in the presence of 5,000 people."
He further states: "At Jefferson Square I saw a fatal clash between
the military and the police. A policeman ordered a soldier to take
up a dead body to put it in the wagon, and the soldier ordered the
policeman to do it. Words followed, and the soldier shot the
Among the many stories of this character on record is that of a
concerted effort to break into and rob the Mint, which led to the
death of fourteen men, who were shot down by the guard in charge.
They had disregarded the command of the officer in charge to
desist. They disobeyed, and the death of nearly the whole of them
DEATH FOR SLIGHT OFFENSE.
As may well be imagined, the privilege given to fire at will was
very likely to lead to examples of unjustifiable haste in the use
of the rifle. Such haste is not charged against the United States
troops, but the militia and volunteer guards showed less judgment
in the use of their weapons. Thus we are told that one man was
shot for the minor offense of washing his hands in drinking water
which had been brought with great trouble for the thirsty people
gathered in Columbia Park. It is also said that a bank clerk,
searching the ruins of his bank under orders, was killed by a
soldier who thought he was looting. More than one seems to have
been shot as looters for entering their own homes.
Among the reports there is one that two men were shot through the
windows of their houses because they disobeyed the general orders
and lit candles, and one woman because she lighted a fire in her
cook stove. Yet, if such unwarranted acts existed, there were
others better deserved. It is said that three men were lined up
and shot before ten thousand people. One was caught taking the
rings from a woman who had fainted, another had stolen a piece of
bread from a hungry child, and the third, little more than a boy,
was found in the act of robbing tents. One thief who escaped the
bullet richly deserved it. He came upon a Miss Logan when lying
unconscious on the floor of the St. Francis Hotel after the
earthquake, and, rather than take the time to wrench some valuable
rings from her hand, cut off the finger bearing them, and left her
to the horrors of the coming fire.
The climax in the too free use of the rifle came on the 23d, when
Major H. C. Tilden, a prominent member of the General Relief
Committee, was shot and killed in his automobile by members of the
citizens' patrol. Two others in the car were struck by bullets.
The automobile had been used as an ambulance and the Red Cross flag
was displayed on it. The excuse of the shooters was that they did
not see the flag and that the car did not stop when challenged.
This act led to an order forbidding the carrying of firearms by the
citizens' committees and to stricter regulation of the soldiers in
the use of their weapons.
Later on looting took a new form different from that at first shown
and was practiced by a different class of people. These were the
sightseers, many of them people of prominence, who entered upon a
crusade of relic hunting in Chinatown, gathering and carrying off
from the ashes of this quarter valuable pieces of chinaware, bronze
ornaments, etc. It became necessary to put a stop to this, and on
April 30th four militiamen were arrested while digging in the ruins
of the Chinese bazaars, and others were frightened away by shots
fired over their heads. A strong military line was then drawn
around the district, and this last resource of the looter came to
The Panic Flight of a Homeless Host.
The scene that was visible in the streets of San Francisco on that
dread Wednesday morning was one to make the strongest shudder with
horror. Those three minutes of devastating earth tremors were
moments never to be forgotten. In such a time it is the human
instinct to get into the open air, and the people stumbled from
their heaving and quivering houses to find even the solid earth was
swaying and rising and falling, so that here and there great rents
opened in the streets. To the panic-stricken people the minutes
that followed seemed years of terror. Doubtless some among them
died of sheer fright and more went mad with terror. There was a
roar in the air like a burst of thunder, and from all directions
came the crash of falling walls. They would run forward, then
stop, as another shock seemed to take the earth from under their
feet, and many of them flung themselves face downward on the ground
in an agony of fear.
Two or three minutes seemed to pass before the fugitives found
their voices. Then the screams of women and the wild cries of men
rent the air, and with one impulse the terror-stricken host fled
toward the parks, to get themselves as far as possible from the
tottering and falling walls. These speedily became packed with
people, most of them in the night clothes in which they had leaped
or been flung from their beds, screaming and moaning at the little
shocks that at intervals followed the great one. The dawn was just
breaking. The gas and electric mains were gone and the street
lamps were all out. The sky was growing white in the east, but
before the sun could fling his early rays from the horizon there
came another light, a lurid and threatening one, that of the flames
that had begun to rise in the warehouse district.
The braver men and those without families to watch over set out for
this endangered region, half dressed as they were. In the early
morning light they could see the business district below them, many
of the buildings in ruins and the flames showing redly in five or
six places. Through the streets came the fire engines, called from
the outlying districts by a general alarm. The firemen were not
aware as yet that no water was to be had.
THE PANIC IN THE SLUMS.
On Portsmouth Square the panic was indescribable. This old tree
plaza, about which the early city was built, is now in the centre
of Chinatown, of the Italian district and of the "Barbary Coast,"
the "Tenderloin" of the Western metropolis. It is the chief slum
district of the city. The tremor here ran up the Chinatown hill
and shook down part of the crazy buildings on its southern edge.
It brought ruin also to some of the Italian tenements. Portsmouth
Square became the refuge of the terrified inhabitants. Out from
their underground burrows like so many rats fled the Chinese,
trembling in terror into the square, and seeking by beating gongs
and other noise-making instruments to scare off the underground
demons. Into the square from the other side came the Italian
refugees. The panic became a madness, knives were drawn in the
insanity of the moment, and two Chinamen were taken to the morgue,
stabbed to death for no other reason than pure madness. Here on
one side dwelt 20,000 Chinese, and on the other thousands of
Italians, Spaniards and Mexicans, while close at hand lived the
riff-raff of the "Barbary Coast."
Seemingly the whole of these rushed for that one square of open
ground, the two streams meeting in the centre of the square and
heaping up on its edges. There they squabbled and fought in the
madness of panic and despair, as so many mad wolves might have
fought when caught in the red whirl of a prairie fire, until the
soldiers broke in and at the bayonet's point brought some semblance
of order out of the confusion of panic terror.
This scene in Portsmouth Square but illustrated the madness of fear
everywhere prevailing. On every side thousands were fleeing from
the roaring furnace that minute by minute seemed to extend its
THE FLIGHT FOR SAFETY.
In the awful scramble for safety the half-crazed survivors
disregarded everything but the thought of themselves and their
property. In every excavation and hole throughout the north beach
householders buried household effects, throwing them into ditches
and covering the holes. Attempts were made to mark the graves of
the property so that it could be recovered after the flames were
The streets were filled with struggling people, some crying and
weeping and calling for missing loved ones. Crowding the sidewalks
were thousands of householders attempting to drag some of their
effects to places of safety. In some instances men with ropes were
dragging trunks, tandem style, while others had sewing machines
strapped to the trunks. Again, women were rushing for the hills,
carrying on their arms only the family cat or a bird cage.
There were two ideas in the minds of the fugitives, and in many
cases these two only. One of these was to escape to the open
ground of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio reservation; the other
was to reach the ferry and make their way out of the seemingly
At the ferry building a crowd numbering thousands gathered, begging
for food and transportation across the bay. Hundreds had not even
the ten cents fare to Oakland. Most of the refugees at this point
were Chinamen and Italians, who had fled from their burned
tenements with little or no personal property.
Residents of the hillsides in the central portion of the city
seemingly were safe from the inferno of flames that was consuming
the business section. They watched the towering mounds of flames,
and speculated as to the extent of the territory that was doomed.
Suddenly there was whispered alarm up and down the long line of
watchers, and they hurried away to drag clothing, cooking utensils
and scant provisions through the streets. From Grant Avenue the
procession moved westward. Men and women dragged trunks, packed
huge bundles of blankets, boxes of provisions--everything. Wagons
could not be hired except by paying the most extortionate rates.
"Thank Heaven for the open space of the Presidio and for Golden
Gate Park!" was the unspoken thank-offering of many hearts. The
great park, with its thousand and more acres of area, extending
from the thinly populated part of the city across the sand dunes to
the Pacific, seemed in that awful hour a God-given place of refuge.
Near it and extending to the Golden Gate channel is the Presidio
military reservation, containing 1,480 acres, and with only a few
houses on its broad extent. Here also was a place of safety,
provided that the forests which form a part of its area did not
THE EXODUS FROM THE BURNING CITY.
To these open spaces, to the suburbs, in every available direction,
the fugitives streamed, in thousands, in tens of thousands, finally
in hundreds of thousands, safety from those towering flames, from
the tottering walls of their dwellings, from a possible return of
the earthquake, their one overmastering thought. There were many
persons with scanty clothing, women in underskirts and thin waists
and men in shirt sleeves. Many women carried children, while
others wheeled baby carriages. It was a strange and weird
procession, that kept up unceasingly all that dreadful day and
through the night that followed, as the all-conquering flames
spread the area of terror.
At intervals news came of what was doing behind the smoke cloud.
The area of the flames spread all night. People who had decided
that their houses were outside of the dangerous area and had
decided to pass the night, even after the terrible experience of
the shake-up, under their roofs, hourly gave up the idea and
struggled to the parks. There they lay in blankets, their choicest
valuables by their sides, and the soldiers kept watch and order.
Many lay on the bare grass of the park, with nothing between them
and the chill night air. Fortunately, the weather was clear and
mild, but among those who lay under the open sky were men and women
who were delicately reared, accustomed all their lives to luxurious
surroundings, and these must have suffered severely during that
night of terror.
The fire was going on in the district south of them, and at
intervals all night exhausted fire-fighters made their way to the
plaza and dropped, with the breath out of them, among the huddled
people and the bundles of household goods. The soldiers, who were
administering affairs with all the justice of judges and all the
devotion of heroes, kept three or four buckets of water, even from
the women, for these men, who continued to come all the night long.
There was a little food, also kept by the soldiers for these
emergencies, and the sergeant had in his charge one precious bottle
of whisky, from which he doled out drinks to those who were utterly
But there was no panic. The people were calm, stunned. They did
not seem to realize the extent of the calamity. They heard that
the city was being destroyed; they told each other in the most
natural tone that their residences were destroyed by the flames,
but there was no hysteria, no outcry, no criticism.
The trip to the hills and to the water front was one of terrible
hardship. Famishing women and children and exhausted men were
compelled to walk seven miles around the north shore in order to
avoid the flames and reach the ferries. Many dropped to the street
under the weight of their loads, and willing fathers and husbands,
their strength almost gone, strove to pick up and urge them forward
In the panic many mad things were done. Even soldiers were obliged
in many instances to prevent men and women, made insane from the
misfortune that had engulfed them, from rushing into doomed
buildings in the hope of saving valuables from the ruins. In
nearly every instance such action resulted in death to those who
tried it. At Larkin and Sutter Streets, two men and a woman broke
from the police and rushed into a burning apartment house, never to
The rush to the parks and the dunes was followed in the days that
followed by as wild a rush to the ferries, due to the mad desire to
escape anywhere, in any way, from the burning city.
THE WILD RUSH TO THE FERRIES.
At the ferry station on Wednesday night there was much confusion.
Mingled in an inextricable mass were people of every race and class
on earth. A common misfortune and hunger obliterated all
distinctions. Chinese, lying on pallets of rags, slept near
exhausted white women with babies in their arms. Bedding,
household furniture of every description, pet animals and trinkets,
luggage and packages of every sort packed almost every foot of
space near the ferry building. Men spread bedding on the pavement
and calmly slept the sleep of exhaustion, while all around a bedlam
of confusion reigned.
Many of those who sought the ferry on that fatal Wednesday met a
solid wall of flames extending for squares in length and utterly
impassable. In their half insane eagerness to escape some of them
would have rushed into fatal danger but for the soldiers, who
guarded the fire line and forced them back. Only those reached the
ferry who had come in precedence of the flames, or who made a long
detour to reach that avenue of flight. When the news came to the
camps of refugees that it was safe to cross the burned area a
procession began from the Golden Gate Park across the city and down
Market Street, the thoroughfare which had long been the pride of
the citizens, and a second from the Presidio, along the curving
shore line of the north bay, thence southward along the water
front. Throughout these routes, eight miles long, a continuous
flow of humanity dragged its weary way all day and far into the
night amidst hundreds of vehicles, from the clumsy garbage cart to
the modern automobile. Almost every person and every vehicle
carried luggage. Drivers of vehicles were disregardful of these
exhausted, hungry refugees and drove straight through the crowd.
So dazed and deadened to all feeling were some of them that they
were bumped aside by carriage wheels or bumped out of the way by
SCENES OF HUMOR AND PATHOS.
As already stated, the scene had its humorous as well as its
pathetic side, and various amusing stories are told by those who
were in a frame of mind to notice ludicrous incidents in the
horrors of the situation. Two race track men met in the drive.
"Hello, Bill; where are you living now?" asked one.
"You see that tree over there--that big one?" said Bill. "Well,
you climb that. My room is on the third branch to the left," and
they went away laughing.
Another observer tells these incidents of the flight: "I saw one
big fat man calmly walking up Market Street, carrying a huge bird
cage, and the cage was empty. He seemed to enjoy looking at the
wrecked buildings. Another man was leading a huge Newfoundland dog
and carrying a kitten in his arms. He kept talking to the kitten.
On Fell Street I noticed an old woman, half dressed, pushing a
sewing machine up the hill. A drawer fell out, and she stopped to
gather the fallen spools. Poor little seamstress, it was now her
A more amusing instance of the spirit of saving is that told by
another narrator, who says that he saw a lone woman patiently
pushing an upright piano along the pavement a few inches at a time.
Evidently in this case, too, it was the poor soul's one great
treasure on earth.
He also tells of a guest berating the proprietor of a hotel, a few
minutes after the shock, because he had not obeyed orders to call
him at five o'clock. He vowed he would never stop at that house
again, a vow he might well keep, as the house is no more.
In one room where two girls were dressing the floor gave way and
one of them disappeared.
"Where are you, Mary?" screamed her companion.
"Oh, I'm in the parlor," said Mary calmly, as she wriggled out of
the mass of plaster and mortar below.
At the handsome residence of Rudolph Spreckels, the wealthy
financier, the lawn was riven from end to end in great gashes,
while the ornamental Italian rail leading to the imposing entrance
was a battered heap. But the family, with a philosophy notable for
the occasion, calmly set up housekeeping on the sidewalk, the women
seated in armchairs taken from the mansion and wrapped in rugs and
coverlets, the silver breakfast service was laid out on the stone
coping and their morning meal spread out on the sidewalk. This,
scene was repeated at other houses of the wealthy, the families too
fearful of another shock to venture within doors.
Another story of much interest in this connection is told. On
Friday afternoon, two days and some hours after the scene just
narrated, Mrs. Rudolph Spreckels presented her husband with an heir
on the lawn in front of their mansion, while the family were
awaiting the coming of the dynamite squad to blow up their
magnificent residence. An Irish woman who had been called in to
play the part of midwife at a birth elsewhere on Saturday, made a
pertinent comment after the wee one's eyes were opened to the walls
of its tent home.
"God sends earthquakes and babies," she said, "but He might, in His
mercy, cut out sending them both together."
There were many pathetic incidents. Families had been sadly
separated in the confusion of the flight. Husbands had lost their
wives--wives had lost their husbands, and anxious mothers sought
some word of their children--the stories were very much the same.
One pretty looking woman in an expensive tailor-made costume badly
torn, had lost her little girl.
"I don't think anything has happened to her," said she, hopefully.
"She is almost eleven years old, and some one will be sure to take
her in and care for her; I only want to know where she is. That is
all I care about now."
A well-known young lady of good social position, when asked where
she had spent the night, replied: "On a grave."
"I thank God, I thank Uncle Sam and the people of this nation,"
said a woman, clad in a red woolen wrapper, seated in front of a
tent at the Presidio nursing one child and feeding three others
from a board propped on two bricks. "We have lost our home and all
we had, but we have never been hungry nor without shelter."
The spirit of '49 was vital in many of the refugees. One man
wanted to know whether the fire had reached his home. He was
informed that there was not a house standing in that section of the
city. He shrugged his shoulders and whistled.
"There's lots of others in the same boat," as he turned away.
"Going to build?" repeated one man, who had lost family and home
inside of two hours. "Of course, I am. They tell me that the
money in the banks is still all right, and I have some insurance.
Fifteen years ago I began with these," showing his hands, "and I
guess I'm game to do it over again. Build again, well I wonder."
Among the many pathetic incidents of the disaster was that of a
woman who sat at the foot of Van Ness Avenue on the hot sands on
the hillside overlooking the bay east of Fort Mason, with four
little children, the youngest a girl of three, the eldest a boy of
ten years. They were destitute of water, food and money.
The woman had fled, with her children, from a home in flames in the
Mission Street district, and tramped to the bay in the hope of
sighting the ship which she said was about due, of which her
husband was the captain.
"He would know me anywhere," she said. And she would not move,
although a young fellow gallantly offered his tent, back on a
vacant lot, in which to shelter her children.
THE GOLDEN GATE CAMP.
In the Golden Gate Park there was the most woefully grotesque camp
of sufferers imaginable. There was no caste, no distinction of
rich and poor, social lines had been obliterated by the common
misfortune, and the late owners of property and wealth were glad to
camp by the side of the day laborer. As for shelter, there were a
few army tents and some others which afforded a fair degree of
comfort, but nine out of ten are the poorest suggestions of tents
made out of bedclothes, rugs, raincoats and in some cases of lace
curtains. None of the tents or huts has a floor, and it is
impossible to see how a large number of women and children can
escape the most disastrous physical effects.
The unspeakable chaos that prevailed was apparent in no way more
than in the system, or lack of system, of registration and
location. At the entrance to Golden Gate Park stands a billboard,
twenty feet high and a hundred feet long. Originally it bore the
praises of somebody's beer. Covering this billboard, to a height
of ten or twelve feet, were slips of paper, business cards, letter
heads and other notices, addressed to "Those interested," "Friends
and relatives," or to some individual, telling of the whereabouts
One notice read: "Mrs. Rogers will find her husband in Isidora
Park, Oakland. W. H. Rogers." Another style was this: "Sue, Harry
and Will Sollenberger all safe. Call at No. 250 Twenty-seventh
There were thousands of these dramatic notices on this billboard,
and one larger than the others read: "Death notices can be left
here; get as many as possible."
Another method of finding friends and relatives was by printing
notices on vehicles. On the side curtains of a buggy being driven
to Golden Gate Park was the following sign: "I am looking for I. E.
That searchers for lost ones might have the least trouble, all the
tents, here known as camps, were tagged with the names or numbers.
For instance, one tent of bed quilts carried this sign: "No. 40
Bush Street camp."
Most of the tents were merely named for the family name of the
occupants, the former streets number usually being given. But
these tent tags told a wonderful story of human nature. A small
army tent bore the name, "Camp Thankful," the one next to it was
placarded "Camp Glory" and a few feet farther on an Irishman had
posted the sign "Camp Hell."
The cooking was all done on a dozen bricks for a stove, with such
utensils as may usually be picked up in the ordinary residential
alley. But in all of the camps the badge of the eternal feminine
was to be found in the form of small pieces of broken mirrors, or
hand mirrors fastened to trees or tent walls, in some cases the
polished bottom of a tomato can serving the purposes of the
One woman, in whose improvised tent screeched a parrot, sat
ministering to the wounds of the other family pet, a badly singed
cat. The number of canaries, parrots, dogs and cats was one of the
amusing features of the disaster.
Among the interesting and thrilling incidents of the disaster is
that connected with the telegraph service. For many hours
virtually all the news from San Francisco came over the wires of
the Postal Telegraph Company. The Postal has about fifteen wires
running into San Francisco. They go under the bay in cables from
Oakland, and thence run underground for several blocks down Market
Street to the Postal building. About forty operators are employed
to handle the business, but evidently there was only about one on
duty when the earthquake began.
What became of him nobody knows. But he seems to have sent the
first word of the disaster. It came over the Postal wires about
nine o'clock, just when the day's business had started in the East.
It will long be preserved in the records of the company. This was
"There was an earthquake hit us at 5.13 this morning, wrecking
several buildings and wrecking our offices. They are carting dead
from the fallen buildings. Fire all over town. There is no water
and we lost our power. I'm going to get out of office, as we have
had a little shake every few minutes, and it's me for the simple
"R., San Francisco, 5.50 A. M."
"Mr. R." evidently got out, for there was nothing doing for a brief
interval after that. The operator in the East pounded and pounded
at his key, but San Francisco was silent. The Postal people were
wondering if it was all the dream of some crazy operator or a
calamity, when the wire woke up again. It was the superintendent
of the San Francisco force this time.
"We're on the job, and are going to try and stick," was the way the
first message came from him.
This was what came over the wire a little later:
"Terrific earthquake occurred here at 5.13 this morning. A number
of people were killed in the city. None of the Postal people were
killed. They are now carting the dead from the fallen buildings.
There are many fires, with no one to fight them. Postal building
roof wrecked, but not entire building."
The fire got nearer and nearer to the Postal building. All of the
water mains had been destroyed around the building, the operators
said, and there was no hope if the fire came on. They also said
that they could hear the sound of dynamite blowing up buildings.
All this time the operators were sticking to their posts and
sending and receiving all the business the wires could stand. At
12.45 the wire began to click again with a message for the little
group of waiting officials.
This message came in jerks: "Fire still coming up Market Street.
It's one block from the Post Office now; back of the Palace Hotel
is a furnace. I am afraid that the Grand Hotel and the Palace
Hotel will get it soon. The Southern Pacific offices on California
Street are safe, so far, but can't tell what will happen.
California Street is on fire. Almost everything east of Montgomery
Street and north of Market Street is on fire now."
There was a pause, then: "We are beginning to pack up our
"Instruments are all packed up, and we are ready to run," was
another message. It was evident that just one instrument had been
left connected with the world outside. In about ten minutes it
began to click. Those who knew the telegraphers' language caught
the word "Good-bye," and then the ticks stopped.
At the end of an hour the instrument in the office began to click
again. It was from an electrician by the name of Swain.
"I'm back in the building, but they are dynamiting the building
next door, and I've got to get out," was the way his message was
translated. Dynamite ended the story, and the Postal's domicile in
San Francisco ceased to exist.
Facing Famine and Praying for Relief.
Frightful was the emergency of the vast host of fugitives who fled
in terror from the blazing city of San Francisco to the open gates
of Golden Gate Park and the military reservation of the Presidio.
Food was wanting, scarcely any water was to be had, death by hunger
and thirst threatened more than a quarter million of souls thus
driven without warning from their comfortable and happy homes and
left without food or shelter. Provisions, shelter tents, means of
relief of various kinds were being hurried forward in all haste,
but for several days the host of fugitives had no beds but the bare
ground, no shelter but the open heavens, scarcely a crumb of bread
to eat, scarcely a gill of water to drink. Those first days that
followed the disaster were days of horror and dread. Rich and poor
were mingled together, the delicately reared with the rough sons of
toil to whom privation was no new experience.
Those who had food to sell sought to take advantage of the
necessities of the suffering by charging famine prices for their
supplies, but the soldiers put a quick stop to this. When Thursday
morning broke, lines of buyers formed before the stores whose
supplies had not been commandeered. In one of these, the first man
was charged 75 cents for a loaf of bread. The corporal in charge
at that point brought his gun down with a slam.
"Bread is 10 cents a loaf in this shop," he said.
It went. The soldier fixed the schedule of prices a little higher
than in ordinary times, and to make up for that he forced the
storekeeper to give free food to several hungry people in line who
had no money to pay. In several other places the soldiers used the
same brand of horse sense.
A man with a loaf of bread in his hand ran up to a policeman on
Washington Street. "Here," he said, "this man is trying to charge
me a dollar for this loaf of bread. Is that fair?"
"Give it to me," said the policeman. He broke off one end of it
and stuck it in his mouth. "I am hungry myself," he said when he
had his mouth clear. "Take the rest of it. It's appropriated."
As an example of the prices charged for food and service by the
unscrupulous, we may quote the experience of a Los Angeles
millionaire named John Singleton, who had been staying a day or two
at the Palace Hotel. On Wednesday he had to pay $25 for an express
wagon to carry himself, his wife and her sister to the Casino, near
Golden Gate Park, and on Thursday was charged a dollar apiece for
eggs and a dollar for a loaf of bread. Others tell of having to
pay $50 for a ride to the ferry.
One of the refugees on the shores of Lake Herced Thursday morning
spied a flock of ducks and swans which the city maintained there
for the decoration of the lake. He plunged into the lake, swam out
to them and captured a fat drake. Other men and boys saw the point
and followed. The municipal ducks were all cooking in five
The soldiers were prompt to take charge of the famine situation,
acting on their own responsibility in clearing out the supplies of
the little grocery stores left standing and distributing them among
the people in need. The principal food of those who remained in
the city was composed of canned goods and crackers. The refugees
who succeeded in getting out of San Francisco were met as soon as
they entered the neighboring towns by representatives of bakers who
had made large supplies of bread, and who immediately dealt them
out to the hungry people.
THE FOOD QUESTION URGENT.
But the needs of the three hundred thousand homeless and hungry
people in the city could not be met in this way, and immediate
supplies in large quantities were necessary to prevent a reign of
famine from succeeding the ravages of the fire. Danger from thirst
was still more insistent than that from hunger. There was some
food to be had, bakeries were quickly built within the military
reservation there, and General Funston announced that rations would
soon reach the city and the people would be supplied from the
Presidio. But there was scarcely any water to relieve the thirst
of the suffering. Water became the incessant cry of firemen and
people alike, the one wanting it to fight the fire, the other to
drink, but even for the latter the supply was very scant. There
was water in plenty in the reservoirs, but they were distant and
difficult to reach, and all night of the day succeeding the earth
shock wagons mounted with barrels and guarded by soldiers drove
through the park doling out water. There was a steady crush around
these wagons, but only one drink was allowed to a person.
Toward midnight a black, staggering body of men began to weave
through the entrance. They were volunteer fire-fighters, looking
for a place to throw themselves down and sleep. These men dropped
out all along the line, and were rolled out of the driveways by the
troops. There was much splendid unselfishness here. Women gave up
their blankets and sat up or walked about all night to cover the
exhausted men who had fought fire until there was no more fight in
The common destitution and suffering had, as we have said, wiped
out all social, financial and racial distinctions. The man who
last Tuesday was a prosperous merchant was obliged to occupy with
his family a little plot of ground that adjoined the open-air home
of a laborer. The white man of California forgot his antipathy to
the Asiatic race, and maintained friendly relations with his new
Chinese and Japanese neighbors. The society belle who Tuesday
night was a butterfly of fashion at the grand opera performance now
assisted some factory girl in the preparation of humble daily
meals. Money had little value. The family that had had foresight
to lay in the largest stock of foodstuffs on the first day of
disaster was rated highest in the scale of wealth.
A few of the families that could secure wagons were possessors of
cook stoves, but over 95 per cent. of the refugees did their
cooking on little campfires made of brick or stone. Battered
kitchen utensils that the week before would have been regarded as
useless had become articles of high value. In fact, man had come
back to nature and all lines of caste had been obliterated, while
the very thought of luxury had disappeared. It was, in the
exigency of the moment, considered good fortune to have a scant
supply of the barest necessaries of life.
As for clothing, it was in many cases of the scantiest, while
numbers of the people had brought comfortable clothing and bedding.
Many others had fled in their night garbs, and comparatively few of
these had had the self-possession to return and don their daytime
clothes. As a result there had been much improvisation of garments
suitable for life in the open air, and as the days went on many of
the women arrayed themselves in home-made bloomer costumes, a
sensible innovation under the circumstances and in view of the
active outdoor work they were obliged to perform.
The grave question to be faced at this early stage was: How soon
would an adequate supply of food arrive from outside points to
avert famine? Little remained in San Francisco beyond the area
swept by the fire, and the available supply could not last more
than a few days. Fresh meat disappeared early on Wednesday and
only canned foods and breadstuffs were left. All the foodstuffs
coming in on the cars were at once seized by order of the Mayor and
added to the scanty supply, the names of the consignees being taken
that this material might eventually be paid for. The bakers agreed
to work their plants to their utmost capacity and to send all their
surplus output to the relief committee. By working night and day
thousands of loaves could be provided daily. A big bakery in the
saved district started its ovens and arranged to bake 50,000 loaves
before night. The provisions were taken charge of by a committee
and sent to the various depots from which the people were being
fed. Instructions were issued by Mayor Schmitz on Thursday to
break open every store containing provisions and to distribute them
to the thousands under police supervision. A policeman reported
that two grocery stores in the neighborhood were closed, although
the clerks were present. "Smash the stores open," ordered the
Mayor, "and guard them." In towns across the bay the master bakers
have met and fixed the price of bread at 5 cents the loaf, with the
understanding that they will refuse to sell to retailers who
attempt to charge famine prices. The committee of citizens in
charge of the situation in the stricken city proposed to use every
effort to keep food down to the ordinary price and check the
efforts of speculators, who in one instance charged as much as
$3.50 for two loaves of bread and a can of sardines. Orders were
issued by the War Department to army officers to purchase at Los
Angeles immediately 200,000 rations and at Seattle 300,000 rations
and hurry them to San Francisco. The department was informed that
there were 120,000 rations at the Presidio, that thousands of
refugees were being sheltered there and that the army was feeding
them. One million rations already had been started to San
Francisco by the department. But in view of the fact that there
were 300,000 fugitives to be fed the supply available was likely to
be soon exhausted.
FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY.
Such was the state of affairs at the end of the second day of the
great disaster. But meanwhile the entire country had been aroused
by the tidings of the awful calamity, the sympathetic instinct of
Americans everywhere was awakened, and it was quickly made evident
that the people of the stricken city would not be allowed to suffer
for the necessaries of life. On all sides money was contributed in
large sums, the United States Government setting the example by an
immediate appropriation of $1,000,000, and in the briefest possible
interval relief trains were speeding toward the stricken city from
all quarters, carrying supplies of food, shelter tents and other
necessaries of a kind that could not await deliberate action.
Shelter was needed almost as badly as food, for a host of the
refugees had nothing but their thin clothing to cover them, and,
though the weather at first was fine and mild, a storm might come
at any time. In fact, a rain did come, a severe one, early in the
week after the disaster, pouring nearly all night long on the
shivering campers in the parks, wetting them to the skin and
soaking through the rudely improvised shelters which many of the
refugees had put up. A few days afterward came a second shower,
rendering still more evident the need of haste in providing
All this was foreseen by those in charge, and the most strenuous
efforts were made to provide the absolute necessities of life.
Huge quantities of supplies were poured into the city. From all
parts of California trainloads of food were rushed there in all
haste. A steamer from the Orient laden with food reached the city
in its hour of need; another was dispatched in all haste from
Tacoma bearing $25,000 worth of food and medical supplies, ordered
by Mayor Weaver, of Philadelphia, as a first installment of that
city's contribution. Money was telegraphed from all quarters to
the Governor of California, to be expended for food and other
supplies, and so prompt was the response to the insistent demand
that by Saturday all danger of famine was at an end; the people
were being fed.
WATER FOR THE THIRSTY.
The broken waterpipes were also repaired with all possible haste,
the Spring Valley Water Company putting about one thousand men at
work upon their shattered mains, and in a very brief time water
began to flow freely in many parts of the residence section and the
great difficulty of obtaining food and water was practically at an
end. Never in the history of the country has there been a more
rapid and complete demonstration of the resourcefulness of
Americans than in the way this frightful disaster was met.
Food, water and shelter were not the only urgent needs. At first
there was absolutely no sanitary provision, and the danger of an
epidemic was great. This was a peril which the Board of Health
addressed itself vigorously to meet, and steps for improving the
sanitary conditions were hastily taken. Quick provision for
sheltering the unfortunates was also made. Eight temporary
structures, 150 feet in length by 28 feet wide and 13 feet high,
were erected in Golden Gate Park, and in these sheds thousands
found reasonably comfortable quarters. This was but a beginning.
More of these buildings were rapidly erected, and by their aid the
question of shelter was in part solved. The buildings were divided
into compartments large enough to house a family, each compartment
having an entrance from the outside. This work was done under the
control of the engineering department of the United States army,
which had taken steps to obtain a full supply of lumber and had put
135 carpenters to work. Those of the refugees who were without
tents were the first to be provided for in these temporary
THE CAMPS IN THE PARKS.
To those who made an inspection of the situation a few days after
the earthquake, the hills and beaches of San Francisco looked like
an immense tented city. For miles through the park and along the
beaches from Ingleside to the sea wall at North Beach the homeless
were camped in tents--makeshifts rigged up from a few sticks of
wood and a blanket or sheet. Some few of the more fortunate
secured vehicles on which they loaded regulation tents and were,
therefore, more comfortably housed than the great majority. Golden
Gate Park and the Panhandle looked like one vast campaign ground.
It is said that fully 100,000 persons, rich and poor alike, sought
refuge in Golden Gate Park alone, and 200,000 more homeless ones
located at the other places of refuge.
At the Presidio military reservation, where probably 50,000 persons
were camped, affairs were conducted with military precision. Water
was plentiful and rations were dealt out all day long. The
refugees stood patiently in line and there was not a murmur. This
characteristic was observable all over the city. The people were
brave and patient, and the wonderful order preserved by them proved
of great assistance. In Golden Gate Park a huge supply station had
been established and provisions were dealt out.
Six hundred men from the Ocean Shore Railway arrived on Saturday
night with wagons and implements to work on the sewer system.
Inspectors were kept going from house to house, examining chimneys
and issuing permits to build fires. In fact, activity manifested
itself in all quarters in the attempt to bring order out of
confusion, and in an astonishingly short time the tented city was
converted from a scene of wretched disorder into one of order and
At Jefferson Park were camped thousands of people of every class in
life. On the western edge of this park is the old Scott house,
where Mrs. McKinley lay sick for two weeks in 1901. Three times a
day the people all gathered in line before the provision wagons for
their little handouts. "Yesterday," says an observer, "I saw, in
order before the wagons, a Lascar sailor in his turban, about as
low a Chinatown bum as I ever set eyes on, a woman of refined
appearance, a barefooted child, two Chinamen, and a pretty girl.
They were squeezed up together by the line, which extended for a
quarter of a mile. It is civilization in the bare bones.
"The great and rich are on a level with the poor in the struggle
for bare existence, and over them all is the perfect, unbroken
discipline of the soldiery. They came into the city and took
charge on an hour's notice, they saved the city from itself in the
three days of hell, and but for them the city, even with enough
provisions to feed them in the stores and warehouses, must have
gone hungry for lack of distributive organization."
COMEDY AND PATHOS IN THE BREAD LINE.
At one of the parks on Tuesday morning a handsomely dressed woman
with two children at her skirts stood in a line of many hundreds
where supplies were being given out. She took some uncooked bacon,
and as she reached for it jewels sparkled on her fingers. One of
the tots took a can of condensed milk, the other a bag of cakes.
"I have money," she said, "'if I could get it and use it. I have
property, if I could realize on it. I have friends, if I could get
to them. Meantime I am going to cook this piece of bacon on bricks
and be happy."
She was only one of thousands like her.
In a walk through the city this note of cheerfulness of the people
in the face of an almost incredible week of horror was to a
correspondent the mitigating element to the awfulness of disaster.
In the streets of the residential district in the western addition,
which the fire did not reach, women of the houses were cooking
meals on the pavement. In most cases they had moved out the family
ranges, and were preparing the food which they had secured from the
Out on Broderick street, near the Panhandle, a piano sounded. It
was nigh ten o'clock and the stars were shining after the rain.
Fires gleamed up and down through the shrubbery and the refugees
sat huddled together about the flames, with their blankets about
their heads, Apache-like, in an effort to dry out after the wetting
of the afternoon. The piano, dripping with moisture, stood on the
curb, near the front of a cottage which had been wrecked by the
A youth with a shock of red hair sat on a cracker box and pecked at
the ivories. "Home Ain't Nothing Like This" was thrummed from the
rusting wires with true vaudeville dash and syncopation. "Bill
Bailey," "Good Old Summer Time," "Dixie" and "In Toyland" followed.
Three young men with handkerchiefs wrapped about their throats in
lieu of collars stood near the pianist and with him lifted up their
voices in melody. The harmony was execrable, the time without
excuse, but the songs ran through the trees of the Panhandle, and
the crows, forgetting their misery for a time, joined the strange
The people had their tales of comedy, one being that on the morning
of the fire a richly dressed woman who lived in one of the
aristocratic Sutter Street apartments came hurrying down the
street, faultlessly gowned as to silks and sables, save that one
dainty foot was shod with a high-heeled French slipper and the
other was incased in a laborer's brogan. They say that as she
walked she careened like a bark-rigged ship before a typhoon.
An hour spent behind the counter of the food supply depot in the
park tennis court yielded rich reward to the seeker after the
outlandish. The tennis court was piled high with the plunder of
several grocery stores and the cargoes of many relief cars. A
square cut in the wire screen permitted of the insertion of a
counter, behind which stood members of the militia acting as food
dispensers. Before the improvised window passed the line of
refugees, a line which stretched back fully 300 yards to Speedway
"I want a can of condensed cream, so I can feed my baby and my
dog," said a large, florid-faced woman in a gaudy kimono, "and I
don't care for crackers, but you can throw in some potted chicken
if you have it."
"What's in that bottle over there?" queried the next applicant.
"Tomato ketchup? Well, of all the luck! Say, young man, just give
A little gray-haired woman in an India shawl peered timorously
through the window. "Just a little bit of anything you may have
handy, please," she whispered, and she cast a careful eye about to
see of any of her neighbors had recognized her standing there in
the "bread line."
"Yesterday, at the Western Union office," says one writer, "I saw a
woman drive up in a large motor car and beg that the telegram on
which a boy had asked a delivery fee of twenty-five cents be handed
to her. She said she had not a penny and did not know when she
would have any money, but that as soon as she had any she would pay
for the message. It was given to her, and the manager told me that
there were hundreds of similar cases."
Many weddings resulted from the disaster. Women driven out of
their homes and left destitute, appealed to the men to whom they
were engaged, and immediate marriages took place. After the first
day of the disaster an increase in the marriage licenses issued was
noticed by County Clerk Cook. This increase grew until seven
marriage licenses were issued in an hour.
"I don't live anywhere," was the answer given in many cases when
the applicant for a license was asked the locality of his
residence. "I used to live in San Francisco."
Births seem to have been about as common as marriages, in one night
five children being born in Golden Gate Park. In Buena Vista Park
eight births were recorded and others elsewhere, the population
being thus increased at a rate hardly in accordance with the
exigencies of the situation.
THE EXODUS FROM SAN FRANCISCO.
We have spoken only of the camps of refugees within the municipal
limits of San Francisco. But in addition to these was the
multitude of fugitives who made all haste to escape from that city.
This was with the full consent of the authorities, who felt that
every one gone lessened the immediate weight upon themselves, and
who issued a strict edict that those who went must stay, that there
could be no return until a counter edict should be made public.
From the start this was one of the features of the situation. Down
Market Street, once San Francisco's pride, now leading through
piles of tottering walls, piles of still hot bricks and twisted
iron and heaps of smouldering debris, poured a huge stream of
pedestrians. Men bending under the weight of great bundles pushed
baby carriages loaded with bric-a-brac and children. Women toiled
along with their arms full, but a large proportion were able to
ride, for the relief corps had been thoroughly organized and wagons
were being pressed into service from all sides.
In constant procession they moved toward the ferry, whence the
Southern Pacific was transporting them with baggage free wherever
they wished to go. Automobiles meanwhile shot in all directions,
carrying the Red Cross flag and usually with a soldier carrying a
rifle in the front seat. They had the right of way everywhere,
carrying messages and transporting the ill to temporary hospitals
and bearing succor to those in distress.
Oakland, the nearest place of resort, on the bay shore opposite San
Francisco, soon became a great city of refuge, fugitives gathering
there until 50,000 or more were sheltered within its charitable
limits. Having suffered very slightly from the earthquake that had
wrecked the great city across the bay, it was in condition to offer
shelter to the unfortunate. All day Wednesday and Thursday a
stream of humanity poured from the ferries, every one carrying
personal baggage and articles saved from the conflagration.
Hundreds of Chinese men, women and children, all carrying baggage
to the limit of their strength, made their way into the limited
Chinatown of Oakland.
Multitudes of persons besieged the telegraph offices, and the crush
became so great that soldiers were stationed at the doors to keep
them in line and allow as many as possible to find standing room at
the counters. Messages were stacked yards high in the offices
waiting to be sent throughout the world. Every boat from San
Francisco brought hundreds of refugees, carrying luggage and
bedding in large quantities. Many women were bareheaded and all
showed fatigue as the result of sleeplessness and exposure to the
chill air. Hundreds of these persons lined the streets of Oakland,
waiting for some one to provide them with shelter, for which the
utmost possible provision was quickly made. No one was allowed to
go hungry in Oakland and few lacked shelter. At the Oakland First
Presbyterian Church 1,800 were fed and 1,000 people were provided
with sleeping accommodations. Pews were turned into beds. Cots
stood in the aisles, in the gallery and in the Sunday school room.
Every available inch of space was occupied by some substitute for a
As the days wore on the number of refugees somewhat decreased.
Although they still came in large numbers, many left on every train
for different points. Requests for free transportation were
investigated as closely as possible and all the deserving were sent
away. Women and children and married men who wished to join their
families in different parts of the State were given preference.
The transportation bureau was on a street corner, where a man stood
on a box and called the names of those entitled to passes.
Along the principal streets of Oakland there was a picturesque
pilgrimage of former householders, who dragged or carried the
meagre effects they had been able to save. The refugees who could
not be cared for in Oakland made an exodus to Berkeley and other
surrounding cities, where relief committees were actively at work.
Utter despair was pictured on many faces, which showed the effects
of sleepless days and nights, and the want of proper food.
Oakland was only one of the outside camps of refuge. At Berkeley
over 6,000 refugees sought quarters, the big gymnasium of the State
University being turned into a lodging house, while hundreds were
provided with blankets to sleep in the open air under the
University oaks. The students and professors of the University did
all they could for their relief, and the Citizens' Relief Committee
supplied them with food.
The same benevolent sympathy was manifested at all the places near
the ruined city which had escaped disaster, this aid materially
reducing that needed within San Francisco itself.
WORSHIP IN THE OPEN AIR.
Sunday dawned in San Francisco; Sunday in the camp of the refugees.
On a green knoll in Golden Gate Park, between the conservatory and
the tennis courts, a white-haired minister of the Gospel gathered
his flock. It was the Sabbath day and in the turmoil and confusion
the minister did not forget his duty. Two upright stakes and a
cross-piece gave him a rude pulpit, and beside him stood a young
man with a battered brass cornet. Far over the park stole a melody
that drew hundreds of men and women from their tents. Of all
denominations and all creeds, they gathered on that green knoll,
and the men uncovered while the solemn voice repeated the words of
a grand old hymn, known wherever men and women meet to worship the
"Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh, leave me not alone, still support and comfort me!"
A moment before there had been shouting and confusion in the
driveway where some red-striped artillerymen were herding a squad
of gesticulating Chinamen as men herd sheep. The shouting died
away as the minister's voice rose and fell and out of the stillness
came the sobs of women. One little woman in blue was making no
sound, but the tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her husband,
a sturdy young fellow in his shirt sleeves, put his arm about her
shoulders and tried to comfort her as the reading went on.
"All my trust on Thee is stayed; all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing."
Then the cornet took up the air again and those helpless persons
followed it in quivering tones, the white-haired man of God leading
them with closed eyes. When the last verse was over, the minister
raised his hands.
"Let us pray," said he, and his congregation sank down in the grass
before him. It was a simple prayer, such a prayer as might be
offered by a man without a home or a shelter over his head--and
nothing left to him but an unshaken faith in his Creator.
"Oh, Lord, Thy ways are past finding out, but we still have faith
in Thee. We know not why Thou hast visited these people and left
them homeless. Thou knowest the reason of this desolation and of
our utter helplessness. We call on Thee for help in the hour of
our great need. Bless the people of this city, the sorrowing ones,
the bereaved, gather them under Thy mighty wing and soothe aching
hearts this day."
The women were crying again, and one big man dug his knuckles into
his eyes without shame. The man who could have listened to such a
prayer unmoved was not in Golden Gate Park that day.
The Frightful Loss of Life and Wealth.
While multitudes escaped from toppling buildings and crashing walls
in the dread disaster of that fatal Wednesday morning of April 18th
in San Francisco, hundreds of the less fortunate met their death in
the ruins, and horrifying scenes were witnessed by the survivors.
Many of those who escaped had tales of terror to tell. Mr. J. P.
Anthony, as he fled from the Ramona Hotel, saw a score or more of
people crushed to death, and as he walked the streets at a later
hour saw bodies of the dead being carried in garbage wagons and all
kinds of vehicles to the improvised morgues, while hospitals and
storerooms were already filled with the injured. Mr. G. A.
Raymond, of Tomales, Cal., gives evidence to the same effect. As
he rushed into the street, he says that the air was filled with
falling stones and people around him were crushed to death on all
Others gave testimony to the same effect. Samuel Wolf, of Salt
Lake City, tells us that he saved one woman from death in the
hotel. She was rushing blindly toward an open window, from which
she would have fallen fifty feet to the stone pavement below. "On
my way down Market Street," he says, "the whole side of a building
fell out and came so near me that I was covered and blinded by the
dust. Then I saw the first dead come by. They were piled up in an
automobile like carcasses in a butcher's wagon, all bloody, with
crushed skulls, broken limbs and bloody faces."
These are frightful stories, exaggerated probably from the nervous
excitement of those terrible moments, as are also the following
statements, which form part of the early accounts of the disaster.
Thus we are told that "from a three-story lodging house at Fifth
and Minna Streets, which collapsed Wednesday morning, more than
seventy-five bodies were taken to-day. There are fifty other
bodies in sight in the ruins. This building was one of the first
to take fire on Fifth Street. At least 100 persons are said to
have been killed in the Cosmopolitan, on Fourth Street. More than
150 persons are reported dead in the Brunswick Hotel, at Seventh
and Mission Streets."
Another statement is to the effect that "at Seventh and Howard
Streets a great lodging house took fire after the first shock,
before the guests had escaped. There were few exits and nearly all
the lodgers perished. Mrs. J. J. Munson, one of those in the
building, leaped with her child in her arms from the second floor
to the pavement below and escaped unhurt. She says she was the
only one who escaped from the house. Such horrors as this were
repeated at many points. B. Baker was killed while trying to get a
body from the ruins. Other rescuers heard the pitiful wail of a
little child, but were unable to get near the point from which the
cry issued. Soon the onrushing fire ended the cry and the men
turned to other tasks."
ESTIMATES OF THE DEATH LIST.
The questionable point in those statements is that the numbers of
dead spoken of in these few instances exceed the whole number given
in the official records issued two weeks after the disaster. Yet
they go to illustrate the actual horrors of the case, and are of
importance for this reason. As regards the whole number killed, in
fact, there is not, and probably never will be, a full and accurate
statement. While about 350 bodies had been recovered at the end of
the second week, it was impossible to estimate how many lay buried
under the ruins, to be discovered only as the work of excavation
went on, and how many more had been utterly consumed by the flames,
leaving no trace of their existence. The estimates of the probable
loss of life ran up to 1,500 and more, while the injured were very
The shock of the earthquake, the pulse of deep horror to which it
gave rise, the first wild impulse to flee for life, gave way in the
minds of many to a feeling of intense sympathy as agonized cries
came from those pinned down to the ruins of buildings or felled by
falling bricks or stones, and as the sight of dead bodies
incrimsoned with blood met the eyes of the survivors in the
streets. From wandering aimlessly about, many of these went
earnestly to work to rescue the wounded and recover the bodies of
the slain. In this merciful work the police and the soldiers lent
their aid, and soon there was a large corps of rescuers actively
BURYING THE DEAD.
Soon numbers were taken, alive or dead, from the ruins, passing
vehicles were pressed into the service, and the labor of mercy went
on rapidly, several buildings being quickly converted into
temporary hospitals, while the dead were conveyed to the Mechanics'
Pavilion and other available places. Portsmouth Square became for
a time a public morgue. Between twenty and thirty corpses were
laid side by side upon the trodden grass in the absence of more
suitable accommodations. It is said that when the flames
threatened to reach the square, the dead, mostly unknown, were
removed to Columbia Square, where they were buried when danger
threatened that quarter. Others were taken to the Presidio, and
here the soldiers pressed into service all men who came near and
forced them to labor at burying the dead, a temporary cemetery
being opened there. So thick were the corpses piled up that they
were becoming a menace, and early in the day the order was issued
to bury them at any cost. The soldiers were needed for other work,
so, at the point of rifles, the citizens were compelled to take to
the work of burying. Some objected at first, but the troops stood
no trifling, and every man who came within reach was forced to
work. Rich men, unused to physical exertion, labored by the side
of the workingmen digging trenches in which to bury the dead. The
able-bodied being engaged in fighting the flames, General Funston
ordered that the old men and the weaklings should take the work in
hand. They did it willingly enough, but had they refused the
troops on guard would have forced them. It was ruled that every
man physically capable of handling a spade or a pick should dig for
an hour. When the first shallow graves were ready the men, under
the direction of the troops, lowered the bodies, several in a
grave, and a strange burial began. The women gathered about
crying. Many of them knelt while a Catholic priest read the burial
service and pronounced absolution. All Thursday afternoon this
In this connection the following stories are told:
Dr. George V. Schramm, a young medical graduate, said:
"As I was passing down Market Street with a new-found friend, an
automobile came rushing along with two soldiers in it. My doctor's
badge protected me, but the soldiers invited my companion, a husky
six-footer, to get into the automobile. He said:
"'I don't want to ride, and have plenty of business to attend to.'
"Once more they invited him, and he refused. One of the soldiers
pointed a gun at him and said:
"'We need such men as you to save women and children and to help
fight the fire.'
"The man was on his way to find his sister, but he yielded to the
inevitable. He worked all day with the soldiers, and when released
to get lunch he felt that he could conscientiously desert to go and
find his own loved ones."
"Half a block down the street the soldiers were stopping all
pedestrians without the official pass which showed that they were
on relief business, and putting them to work heaving bricks off the
pavement. Two dapper men with canes, the only clean people I saw,
were caught at the corner by a sergeant, who showed great joy as he
"'I give you time to git off those kid gloves, and then hustle,
damn you, hustle!' The soldiers took delight in picking out the
best dressed men and keeping them at the brick piles for long
terms. I passed them in the shelter of a provision wagon, afraid
that even my pass would not save me. Two men are reported shot
because they refused to turn in and help."
Many of the dead, of course, will never be identified, though the
names were taken of all who were known and descriptions written of
the others. A story comes to us of one young girl who had followed
for two days the body of her father, her only relative. It had
been taken from a house on Mission Street to an undertaker's shop
just after the quake. The fire drove her out with her charge, and
it was placed in Mechanics' Pavilion. That went, and the body
rested for a day at the Presidio, waiting burial. With many
others, she wept on the border of the burned area, while the women
cared for her.
VICTIMS TAKEN FROM THE RUINS.
On Friday eleven postal clerks, all alive, were taken from the
debris of the Post Office. All at first were thought to be dead,
but it was found that, although they were buried under the stone
and timber, every one was alive. They had been for three days
without food or water.
Two theatrical people were in a hotel in Santa Rosa when the shock
came. The room was on the fourth floor. The roof collapsed. One
of them was thrown from the bed and both were caught by the
descending timbers and pinned helplessly beneath the debris. They
could speak to each other and could touch one another's hands, but
the weight was so great that they could do nothing to liberate
themselves. After three hours rescuers came, cut a hole in the
roof and both were released uninjured.
Even the docks were converted into hospitals in the stringent
exigency of the occasion, about 100 patients being stretched on
Folsom street dock at one time. In the evening tugs conveyed them
to Goat Island, where they were lodged in the hospital. The docks
from Howard Street to Folsom Street had been saved, the fire at
this point not being permitted to creep farther east than Main
Street. Another series of fatalities occurred, caused by the
stampeding of a herd of cattle at Sixth and Folsom Streets. Three
hundred of the panic-stricken animals ran amuck when they saw and
felt the flames and charged wildly down the street, trampling under
foot all who were in the way. One man was gored through and
through by a maddened bull. At least a dozen persons', it is said,
were killed, though probably this is an overestimate. One observer
tells us that "the first sight I saw was a man with blood streaming
from his wounds, carrying a dead woman in his arms. He placed the
body on the floor of the court at the Palace Hotel, and then told
me he was the janitor of a big building. The first he knew of the
catastrophe he found himself in the basement, his dead wife beside
him. The building had simply split in two, and thrown them down."
In the camps of refuge the deaths came frequently. Physicians were
everywhere in evidence, but, without medicine or instruments, were
fearfully handicapped. Men staggered in from their herculean
efforts at the fire lines, only to fall gasping on the grass.
There was nothing to be done. Injured lay groaning. Tender hands
were willing, but of water there was none. "Water, water, for
God's sake get me some water," was the cry that struck into
thousands of souls of San Francisco.
The list of dead was not confined to San Francisco, but extended
to many of the neighboring towns, especially to Santa Rosa, where
sixty were reported dead and a large number missing, and to the
insane asylum in its vicinity, from the ruins of which a hundred
or more of dead bodies were taken.
THE FREE USE OF RIFLES.
A citizen tells us that "in the early part of the evening, and
while the twilight lasts, there is a good deal of trafficking up
and down the sidewalks. Having finished their dinners of government
provisions, cooked on the street or in the parks, the people
promenade for half an hour or so. By half-past eight the town
is closed tight. A rat scurrying in the street will bring a
soldier's rifle to his shoulder. Any one not wearing a uniform
or a Red Cross badge is a suspicious character and may be shot
unless he halts at command. Even the men in uniform do well to
stop still, for it is hard to tell a uniform in the half light
thrown up by the burning town and the great shadows.
"Last night two of us ventured out on Van Ness Avenue a little late.
There came up the noise of some kind of a shooting scrape far down
the street. We hurried in that direction to see what was doing.
An eighteen-year-old boy in a uniform barred the way, levelled his
rifle and said in a peremptory way:
"We took a course down the block, where an older soldier, more
communicative but equally peremptory, informed us that we were
trifling with our lives, news or no news.
"'We've shot about 300 people for one thing or another,' he said.
'Now, dodge trouble. Git!' That ended the expedition."
THE LOSS IN WEALTH.
If we pass now from the record of the loss of lives to that of the
destruction of wealth, the estimates exceed by far any fire losses
recorded in history.
The truth is that when flames eat out the heart of a great city,
devour its vast business establishments, storehouses and
warehouses, sweep through its centres of opulence, destroy its
wharves with their accumulation of goods, spread ruin and havoc
everywhere, it is impossible at first to estimate the loss. Only
gradually, as time goes on, is the true loss discovered, and never
accurately, since the owners and the records of riches often
disappear with the wealth itself. In regard to San Francisco, the
early estimate was that three-fourths of the city, valued at
$500,000,000, was destroyed.
But early estimates are apt to be exaggerated, and on Friday, two
days after the disaster, we find this estimate reduced to
$250,000,000. A few more days passed and these figures shrunk
still further, though it was still largely conjectural, the means
of making a trustworthy estimate being very restricted. Later on
swung upward again, and two weeks after the fire the closest
estimates that could be made fixed the property loss at close to
$350,000,000, or double that of the Chicago fire. But as the
actual loss in the latter case proved considerably below the early
estimates, the same may prove to be the case with San Francisco.
Special personal losses were in many cases great. Thus the Palace
Hotel was built at a cost of $6,000,000, and the St. Francis, which
originally cost $4,000,000, was being enlarged at great expense.
Several of the great mansions on Nob's Hill cost a million or more,
the City Hall was built at a cost of $7,000,000, the new Post
Office was injured to the extent of half a million, while a large
number of other buildings might be named whose value, with their
contents, was measured in the millions.
It was not until May 3d that news came over the wires of another
serious item of loss. The merchants had waited until then for
their fire-proof safes and vaults to cool off before attempting to
open them. When this was at length done the results proved
disheartening. Out of 576 vaults and safes opened in the district
east of Powell and north of Market Street, where the flames had
raged with the greatest fury, it was found that fully forty per
cent. had not performed their duty. When opened they were found to
contain nothing but heaps of ashes. The valuable account books,
papers and in some cases large sums of money had vanished, the loss
of the accounts being a severe calamity in a business sense. As
all the banks were equipped with the best fire-proof vaults, no
fear was felt for the safety of their contents.
LOOTERS IN CHINATOWN.
Chinatown suffered severely, the merchants of that locality
possessing large stocks of valuable goods, many of which were
looted by seemingly respectable sightseers after the ruins had
cooled off, bronze, porcelain and other valuable goods being taken
from the ruins. One example consisted in a mass of gold and silver
valued at $2,500, which had been melted by the fire in the store of
Tai Sing, a Chinese merchant. This was found by the police on May
3d in a place where it had been hidden by looters.
But with all its losses San Francisco does not despair. The spirit
of its citizens is heroic, and there are some hopeful signs in the
air. The insurances due are estimated to approximate $175,000,000,
and there are other moneys likely to be spent on building during
the coming year, making a total of over $200,000,000. Eastern
capitalists also talk of investing $100,000,000 of new capital in
the rebuilding of the city, while the San Francisco authorities
have a project of issuing $200,000,000 of municipal bonds, the
payment to be guaranteed by the United States Government. Thus,
two weeks after the earthquake, daylight was already showing
strongly ahead and hope was fast beginning to replace despair.
Wonderful Record of Thrilling Escapes.
Shuddering under the memories of what seems more like a nightmare
than actual reality to the survivors of this frightful calamity,
they have tried to picture in words far from adequate the days of
terror and the nights of horror that fell to the lot of the people
of the Golden Gate city and their guests.
They recount the roar of falling structures and the groans and
pitiful cries of those pinned beneath the timbers of collapsing
buildings. They speak of their climbing over dead bodies heaped in
the streets, and of following tortuous ways to find the only avenue
of escape--the ferry, where men and women fought like infuriated
animals, bent on escape from a fiery furnace.
These refugees tell of the great caravan composed of homeless
persons in its wild flight to the hills for safety, and in that
great procession women, harnessed to vehicles, trudging along and
tugging at the shafts, hauling all that was left of their earthly
belongings, and a little food that foresight told them would be
necessary to stay the pangs of hunger in the hours of misery that
We give below an especially accurate picture from the description
of the well-known writer, Jane Tingley, who, an eye-witness of it
all, did so much to help the sufferers, and who, with all the
unselfishness of true American womanhood, sacrificed her own
comfort and needs for those of others.
"May God be merciful to the women and children in this land of
desolation and despair!" she wrote on April 21st.
"Men have done, are doing such deeds of sublime self-sacrifice, of
magnificent heroism, that deserve to make the title of American
manhood immortal in the pages of history. The rest lies with the
"I spent all of last night and to-day in that horror city across
the bay. I went from this unharmed city of plenty, blooming with
abounding health, thronged with happy mothers and joyous children,
and spent hours among the blackened ruins and out on the windswept
slopes of the sand hills by the sea, and I heard the voice of
Rachel weeping for her children in the wilderness and mourning
because she found them not.
"I climbed to the top of Strawberry Hill, in Golden Gate Park, and
saw a woman, half naked, almost starving, her hair dishevelled and
an unnatural lustre in her eyes, her gaze fixed upon the waters in
the distance, and her voice repeating over and over again: 'Here I
am, my pretties; come here, come here.'
"I took her by the hand and led her down to the grass at the foot
of the hill. A man--her husband--received her from me and wept as
he said: 'She is calling our three little children. She thinks the
sounds of the ocean waves are the voices of our lost darlings.'
"Ever since they became separated from their children in that first
terrific onrush of the multitude when the fire swept along Mission
Street these two had been tramping over the hills and parks without
food or rest, searching for their little ones. To all whom they
have met they have addressed the same pitiful question: 'Have you
seen anything of our lost babies?' They will not know what has
become of them until order has been brought out of chaos; until the
registration headquarters of the military authorities has secured
the names of all who are among the straggling wanderers around the
camps of the homeless. Perhaps then it will be found that these
children are in a trench among the corpses of the weaklings who
have succumbed to the frightful rigors of the last three days.
"Last night a soldier seized me by the arm and cried: 'If you are a
woman with a woman's heart, go in there and do whatever you can.'
"'In there' meant behind a barricade of brush, covered with a
blanket that had been hastily thrown together to form a rude
shelter. I went in and saw one of my own sex lying on the bare
grass naked, her clothing torn to shreds; scattered over the green
beside her. She was moaning pitifully, and it needed no words to
tell a woman what the matter was, I bade my man escort to find a
doctor, or at least send more women at once. He ran off and soon
two sympathetic ladies hastened into the shelter. In an hour my
escort returned with a young medical student. Under the best
ministrations we could find, a new life was ushered into this hell,
which, a few hours before, was the fairest among cities.
"'There have been many such cases,' said the medical student.
"Many of the mothers have died--few of the babies have lived. I,
personally, know of nine babies that have been born in the park to-
day. There must have been many others here, among the sand hills,
and at the Presidio."
"Think of it, you happy women who have become mothers in
comfortable homes, attended with every care that loving hands can
bestow. Think of the dreadful plight of these poor members of your
sex. The very thought of it is enough to make the hearts of women
burst with pity.
"To-day I walked among the people crowded on the Panhandle.
Opposite the Lyon Street entrance, on the north side, I saw a young
woman sitting tailor-fashion in the roadway, which, in happier
days, was the carriage boulevard. She held a dishpan and was
looking at her reflection in the polished bottom, while another
girl was arranging her hair. I recognized a young wife, whose
marriage to a prominent young lawyer eight months ago was a gala
event among that little handful of people who clung to the old-time
fashionable district of Valencia Street, like the Phelan and Dent
families, and refused to move from that aristocratic section when
the new-made, millionaires began to build their palaces on Nob Hill
and Pacific Heights. I spoke to the young woman about the
disadvantages of making her toilet under such untoward
"'Ah, Julia, dear, you must stay to luncheon,' she said, extending
her fingers just as though she stood in her own drawing-room.
MISERY DRIVES SOME INSANE.
"I looked at the maid in astonishment, for I had never met the
young society woman before. The maid shook her head and whispered
when she got the chance:
"'My mistress is not in her right mind.'
"'Where is her husband?' I asked.
"'He has gone to try to get some food,' said the girl. 'She
imagines that she is in her own home, before her dressing table,
and is having me do up her hair against some of her friends
"'She must have suffered,' I said, 'to cause such a mental
"The girl's eyes filled with tears. She told me that her mistress
had seen her brother killed by falling timbers while they were
hurrying to a place of safety. A little farther on I saw two women
concealed as best they might be behind a tuft of sand brush, one
lying face down on the ground, while the other vigorously massaged
her bare back. I asked if I might help, and learned that the
ministering angel was the unmarried daughter of one of the city's
richest merchants, and that the girl whom she succored had been
employed as a servant in her father's household. The girl's back
had been injured by a fall, and her mistress' fair hands were
trying to make her well again.
"Thus has this overwhelming common woe levelled all barriers of
caste and placed the suffering multitude on a basis of democracy.
On a rock behind a manzanita bush near the edge of Stow Lake I saw
a Chinaman making a pile of broken twigs in the early morning. The
man felt inside his blouse and swore a gibbering, unintelligible
Asiatic oath as his hand came forth empty. Observing my escort,
the Chinaman approached and said:
"'Bosse, alle same, catchee match?'
"My escort gave him the desired article, and the Chinaman made a
fire of his pile of twigs. 'Why are you making a fire, John?' I
"'Bleakfast,' he replied laconically.
"I asked him where his food might be, and he gave us a quick glance
of suspicion as he said briefly, 'No sabbe.'
"We stood watching him, evidently to his great distress, and
finally he made bold to say, 'You no stand lound, bosse. You go
"We left him, but after making the tour around the lake came back
to the same place. There sat four people on the ground eating
fried pork, potatoes and Chinese cakes. In a young woman of the
group I recognized one whom I had seen dancing at one of Mr.
Greenway's Friday Night Cotillion balls in the Palace Hotel's maple
room during the winter. They offered to share their meal with us,
but we told them that we had just come from breakfast in Oakland.
I told them about the strange conduct of their Chinaman, who was
traveling back and forth from his fire to the 'table' with the food
as it became ready to serve.
"The father of the family laughed.
SOCIETY FOLKS COMPELLED TO CAMP.
'Yes,' he said, 'that is Charlie's way. He has been with us many
years, and when our home was destroyed he came out here with us in
preference to seeking refuge among his countrymen in Chinatown.
Yesterday we were without food, and Charlie disappeared. I thought
he had deserted us, but toward dark he came back with a bamboo pole
over his shoulder and a Chinese market gardener's basket suspended
from either end. In one of the baskets he had a pile of blankets
and a lot of canvas. In the other was an assortment of pork,
flour, Chinese cakes and vegetables, besides a half-dozen chickens
and a couple of bagfuls of rice.
"'Charlie had been foraging in Chinatown for us before the fire
reached that quarter. He made a tent and improvised beds for us,
and he has the food concealed somewhere in the vicinity, but where
he will not tell us, for fear that we will give some of it to
others and reduce our own supply. Charlie boils rice for himself.
He will not touch the other food. Without him we should have been
G. A. Raymond, who was in the Palace Hotel when the earthquake
"I had $600 in gold under my pillow. I awoke as I was thrown out
of bed. Attempting to walk, the floor shook so that I fell. I
grabbed my clothing and rushed down into the office, where dozens
were already congregated. Suddenly the lights went out, and every
one rushed for the door.
"Outside I witnessed a sight I never want to see again. It was
dawn and light. I looked up. The air was filled with falling
stones. People around me were crushed to death on all sides. All
around the huge buildings were shaking and waving. Every moment
there were reports like 100 cannon going off at one time. Then
streams of fire would shoot out, and other reports followed.
"I asked a man standing by me what had happened. Before he could
answer a thousand bricks fell on him and he was killed. A woman
threw her arms around my neck. I pushed her away and fled. All
around me buildings were rocking and flames shooting. As I ran
people on all sides were crying, praying and calling for help. I
thought the end of the world had come.
"I met a Catholic priest, and he said: 'We must get to the ferry.'
He knew the way, and we rushed down Market Street. Men, women and
children were crawling from the debris. Hundreds were rushing down
the street, and every minute people were felled by falling debris.
"At places the streets had cracked and opened. Chasms extended in
all directions. I saw a drove of cattle, wild with fright, rushing
up Market Street. I crouched beside a swaying building. As they
came nearer they disappeared, seeming to drop into the earth. When
the last had gone I went nearer and found they had indeed been
precipitated into the earth, a wide fissure having swallowed them.
I worked my way around them and ran out to the ferry. I was crazy
with fear and the horrible sights.
"How I reached the ferry I cannot say. It was bedlam, pandemonium
and hell rolled into one. There must have been 10,000 people
trying to get on that boat. Men and women fought like wild cats to
push their way aboard. Clothes were torn from the backs of men and
women and children indiscriminately. Women fainted, and there was
no water at hand with which to revive them. Men lost their reason
at those awful moments. One big, strong man, beat his head against
one of the iron pillars on the dock, and cried out in a loud voice:
'This fire must be put out! The city must be saved!' It was
TERRIBLE SCENE AT THE FERRY.
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