California Historical Articles
San Francisco Earthquake - Ruins And Havoc In Coast Cities
( Originally Published 1906 )OUTSIDE of San Francisco the earthquake did immense damage for fifty miles north and south of the Golden Gate City. San Jose, the prettiest city in California, sustained the severest shock, which killed a score of people and left the business section a pile of ruins. The loss in this one city alone amounted to $5,000,000.
The State Insane Asylum at Agnews near San Jose collapsed and buried upwards of 100 patients beneath its walls.
Among the buildings wrecked in San Jose are St. Patrick's church, the First Presbyterian church, the Centella Methodist Episcopal church, the Central Christian and South Methodist churches.
Every building on the west side of First street from St. James park to San Fernando street either went down, toppling or was badly cracked. The Auzerias building, Elks club, Unique theater and many other buildings on Santa Clara street went down to the ground.
On Second street the six-story Dougherty building and several adjoining blocks were destroyed by fire. A new high school in Normal Park was a complete wreck.
The Nevada & Porter building on Second street, the Rucker building on Third and Santa Clara streets were also ruined.
The annex to the Vendome Hotel was completely wrecked, and one man was killed therein.
Sheriff William White, of Los Angeles, who was in San Jose at the time attending a convention, thus describes the scenes following the quake:
"San Jose, which was the prettiest city in California, is the worst-looking wreck I ever saw. When I left there nineteen dead bodies had been recovered and there was a possibility that others would be found. I reached Agnew Asylum a few hours later in an automobile and was one of the first on the spot. There I helped to carry out sixty corpses. At noon, when .I arrived at San Jose, it was believed that fully 100 bodies were still in the ruins.
"The shock came to San Jose exactly at 5 :12:45, according to the clock in the St. James Hotel, which was stopped. Supreme Court Clerk Jordan, my young nephew; Walter Jordan and my-self occupied apartments on the fourth floor of the St. James Hotel. The shock awoke the three of us, but only seemed to disturb my nephew, who commenced calling out.
"There was not a brick or stone building of two stories or over in San Jose that was not leveled to the ground or so badly dam-aged it will have to be torn down. Some fires started after the quake, but the fire department soon had them under control.
"I secured an automobile at 7 o'clock and left for Agnew, where the insane asylum was located, with two or three of the visiting sheriffs. The sight there was awful. The walls were standing, but the floors had all fallen in.
"Scores of insane persons were running about in the grounds, unwatched and uncared for. I helped to take out the body of Dr. Kelly, the assistant superintendent of the asylum, who had been instantly killed. A nurse who was also taken out of the ruins by me died a little later.
"After getting away from San Jose I saw evidences of the earthquake at Niles and even as far as Livermore in the shape of fallen chimneys and broken glass."
The main building of the State Hospital collapsed, pinning many of the patients under fallen walls and debris. The padded cells had to be broken open and more dangerous patients were tied to trees out on the lawn in lieu of a safer place. The doctors and nurses stuck heroically to their posts and 100 students from Santa Clara College went over in a body and assisted in succoring the wounded.
State Senator Cornelius Pendleton, who escaped the earth-quake shock at San Jose, thus narrated his experiences:
"We were all at the Vendome Hotel. The shock of the earth-quake was so severe the floors and walls of the building collapsed at once and those of us who escaped made our way as best we could out of the ruins. On the side of the hotel where my room was there was a large tree. The side wall of my room fell against this tree, which also sustained that portion of the roof, preventing it from falling in on us.
"My room was on the second floor, but when I picked myself up I was in the basement of the building. I crawled up and out over the debris and escaped through a window on a level with the ground. After getting out I found this was one of the third story windows. Those of us who were uninjured at once set about assisting the less fortunate. I saw one dead woman in the hotel. We carried her out. The remainder of the dead were in various parts of the town. The residence district was not badly damaged. Martial law had been declared in the city when we left.
"Among the large buildings that were totally demolished were the Hall of Justice, the First Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Cathedral, the Hale Block, and the Vendome Hotel. Fire broke out following the earthquake in several quarters, but fortunately the water mains were Uninjured and the spread of the flames was checked."
At Salinas the immense plant of the Spreckles Sugar refinery was completely destroyed, and the loss of property aggregated $2,000,000.
The estimated loss of life and damage in California cities out-side of San Francisco is as follows:
Oakland, $500,000, 5 lives; Alameda, $400,000; San Jose, $5,000,000, 19 lives; Agnew (state hospital for insane), $400,000, 170 lives; Palo Alto (Stanford University), $3,000,000, 2 lives; Napa, $250,000; Salinas, $2,000,000; Hollister, $100,000, 1 life; Vallejo, $40,000; Sacramento, $25,000; Redwood City, $30,000; Suisun, $50,000; Santa Rosa, $800,000, 40 lives; Watsonville. $70,000; Monterey, $25,000, 8 lives ; Loma Prieta, 10 lives; Stockton, $40,000; Brawley, $100,000; Santa Cruz, $200,000; Gilroy, $500,000; Healdsburg, $25,000; Cloverdale, $15,000; Geyserville, $12,000; Hopland, $10,000; Ukiah, $50,000; Alviso, $20,000; Niles, $10,000; Hinckley Creek, $10,000, 9 lives; Deer Creek Mill, $10,000, 2 lives; Santa Clara, $500,000; Pacific Grove, $50,000; Wrights, $75,000; Delmonte, $25,000, 2 lives.
The beautiful city of Santa Rosa was a terrible sufferer from the quake, both in loss of life and property:
The entire business section was left in ruins and practically every residence in the town was more or less damaged, fifteen or twenty being badly wrecked. The damage to residences was caused principally by the sinking of the foundations, which let many structures down on to the ground.
The brick and stone business blocks, together with the public buildings, were all thrown flat. The courthouse, Hall of Records, the Occidental and Santa Rosa hotels, the Athenaeum theater, the new Masonic Temple, Odd Fellows' block, all the banks—everything—went, and in all the city not one brick or stone building was left standing except the California Northwestern depot.
It was almost impossible for an outsider to realize the situation as it actually existed there. No such complete destruction of a city's business interests ever before resulted from an earth-quake in America. The very completeness of the devastation was really the redeeming feature, though, for it put all upon exactly the same basis, commercially speaking. Bankers and millionaires went about with only the few dollars they happened to have in their pockets when the crash came, and were little better off than the laborers who were digging through the debris. Money had practically no value, for there was no place to spend it, and this phase of the situation presented its own remedy. Almost every one slept out of doors, being afraid to enter their homes except for a short while at a time until repairs were made.
There were plenty of provisions. Some were supplied by other towns and much was brought in from the surrounding country. Two entire blocks of buildings escaped being swept by the flames, which immediately broke out in a dozen places at once as soon as the shock was over and from the tangled ruins of those buildings complete stocks of groceries and clothing were dug out and added to the common store. Then before the fire gained headway several grocery stores were emptied of their contents in anticipation of what might follow.
The city was put under martial law, company C of Petaluma having been called to assist the local company in preserving order. Many deputy sheriffs and special police were also sworn in, but no trouble of any kind occurred.
The relief committee was active and well managed and all in need of assistance received it promptly. The work that required the principal attention of the authorities was removal of the wreckage in order to search for the bodies of those missing and known to have perished.
Forty marines under command of Captain Holcombe arrived from Mare Island and did splendid work in assisting in the search. Forty-two bodies were buried in one day and the total dead and missing numbered upward of 100.
Santa Rosa, in proportion to its size, suffered worse than San Francisco. Mr. Griggs, who was in the employ of a large firm at Santa Rosa, tells a story which sufficiently proves the earthquake's fury, so great as to practically reduce the town to ruin. In addition to the death roll a large number of persons were missing and a still greater number were wounded.
As in the case of San Francisco, an admirable organization had the situation well in hand. Forty sailors from Mare Island, fully equipped with apparatus, were at work, while volunteer aid was unstinted.
Santa Rosa suffered the greatest disaster in her history, but the indomitable spirit of her people was shown all along the line. Even so early as Friday an announcement was made that the public schools and the college would open as usual on Monday morning, the buildings having been inspected and found to be safe.
At Agnews the cupola over the administration department went down and all the wards in that part of the building col-lapsed. Twelve attendants were killed and Dr. Kelly, second assistant physician, was crushed to death. There were 1,100 patients in the hospital. C. L. Seardee, secretary of the state commission in lunacy, who was in Agnews and attending to official business, declared that it was a marvel that many more were not killed. r. T. W. Hatch, superintendent of the state hospitals for insane, was in charge of the work of relief.
Friday morning 100 patients were transferred to the Stock-ton asylum. Forty or fifty patients escaped.
Dr. Clark, superintendent of the San Francisco County Hospital, was one of the first to give relief to the injured at Agnews. He went there in an automobile, taking four nurses with him, and materially assisted the remaining members of the staff to organize relief measures.
Tents were set up in the grounds of the institution, and the injured as well as the uninjured cared for. A temporary building was erected to house the patients.
The St. Rose and Grand hotels at Santa Rosa collapsed and buried all the occupants. Thirty-eight bodies were taken from the ruins. There were 10,000 homeless men, women and children hudelled together about Santa Rosa. As the last great seismic tremor spent its force in the earth, the whole business portion tumbled into ruins. The main street was piled many feet deep with the fallen buildings.
The destruction included all of the county buildings. The four story courthouse, with its dome, is a pile of broken masonry. What was not destroyed by the earthquake was swept by fire. The citizens deserted their homes. Not even their household goods were taken. They made for the fields and hills to watch the destruction of one of the most beautiful cities of the west.
C. A. Duffy of Owensboro, Ky., who was in Santa Rosa, was the only one out of several score to escape from the floor in which he was quartered in the St. Rose hotel at Santa Rosa. He went to Oakland on his motor cycle after he was released and told a thrilling story of his rescue and the condition of affairs in general at Santa Rosa.
Mr. Duffy said when the shock came he rushed for the stair-way, but the building was swaying and shaking so that he could make no headway, and he turned back. He threw himself in front of the dresser in his room, trusting to that object to protect him from the falling timbers. This move saved his life. The dresser held up the beams which tumbled over him, and these in turn protected him from the falling mass of debris.
"I was imprisoned five hours," said Mr. Thuffy, "before being rescued. Three times I tried to call and the rescuers heard me, but could not locate my position from the sound of my voice, and I could hear them going away after getting close to me.
"Finally I got hold of a lath from the ruins around me, poked it through a hole left by the falling of a steam pipe, and by using it and yelling at the same time finally managed to show the people where I was.
"There were about 300 people killed in the destruction of the three hotels.
"The business section of the place collapsed to the ground almost inside of five minutes. Then the fire started and burned Fourth street from one end to the other, starting at each end and meeting in the middle, thus sweeping over the ruins and burning the imprisoned people.
"I saw two arms protruding from one part of the debris and waving frantically. There was so much noise, however, that the screams could not be heard. Just then, as I looked, the flames swept over them and cruelly finished the work begun by the earthquake. The sight sickened me and I turned away."
Fort Bragg, one of the principal lumbering towns of Mendocino county, was almost totally destroyed as a result of a fire following the earthquake of April 18.
The bank and other brick buildings were leveled as a result of the tremors and within a few hours fire completed the work of devastation. But one person of the 5,000 inhabitants was killed, although scores were injured.
Eureka, another large town in the same county, fifty miles from Fort Bragg, was practically undamaged, although the quake was distinctly felt there.
Relief expeditions were sent to Fort Bragg from surrounding towns and villages and the people of the ruined area were well cared for.
The town of Tomales was converted into a pile of ruins. All of the large stores were thrown flat. The Catholic church, a new stone structure, was also ruined. Many ranch houses and barns went down. Two children, Anita and Peter Couzza, were killed in a falling house about a mile from town.
The towns of Healdsburg, .Geyserville, Cloverdale, Hopland, and Ukiah were almost totally destroyed. The section in which they were located is the country as far north as Mendocino and Lake counties and as far west as the Pacific ocean. These are frontier counties, and have not as large towns as farther south. In every case the loss of life and property was shocking.
At Los Banos heavy damage was done. Several brick buildings were wrecked. The loss was $75,000.
Brawley, a small town on the Southern Pacific, 120 miles south of Los Angeles, was practically wiped out by the earth-quake. This was the only town in southern California known to have suffered from the shock.
Buildings were damaged at Vallejo, Sacramento, and Sul-sun. At the latter place a mile and a half of railroad track is sunk from three to six feet. A loaded passenger train was almost engulfed.
R. H. Tucker, in charge of the Lick observatory, near San José, said: "No damage was done to the instruments or the buildings of the observatory by the earthquake."
At Santa Cruz the courthouse and twelve buildings were destroyed. Contrary to reports, there must have been a tidal wave of some size, for three buildings were carried away on Santa Cruz beach.
The Moreland academy, a Catholic institution at Watsonville, was badly damaged, but no lives lost.
In a Delmonte hotel a bridal couple from Benson, Ari.—Mr. and Mrs. Rouser—were killed in bed by chimneys falling.
At 12:33 o'clock on the afternoon following the San Francisco quake Los Angeles experienced a distinct earthquake shock of short duration. Absolutely no damage was done, but thousands of people were badly frightened.
Men and women occupants of office buildings, especially the tall structures, ran out into the streets, some of them hatless. Many stores were deserted in like manner by customers and clerks. The shock, however, passed off in a few minutes, and most of those who had fled streetwards returned presently.
The San Francisco horror has strung the populace here to a high tension, and a spell of sultry weather serves to increase the general nervousness.
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