Discover one of the world’s most unique and fascinating cities through 28 dramatic true stories spanning the colorful history of San Francisco. Author Gael Chandler takes readers through more than 250 years of American history with exciting essays on topics such as the city’s origins to the founding of the Presidio of San Francisco and the Mission San Francisco de Asis to its modern role as the progressive and innovative heart of a nation. Along the way you’ll meet characters like the city’s foremother Juana Briones, Gold Rush entrepreneur Levi Strauss, confectioner Domenico Ghirardelli, gangster Al Capone, the rock legends of Haight-Ashbury, activist politician Harvey Milk, the pioneers of today’s techno boom, and many others who changed the face of the city—plus lesser-known tales, like those of the children of Alcatraz and the story of John McLaren, the architect of Golden Gate Park. In addition, guided walking tours of San Francisco’s historic neighborhoods by the bay and beyond, illustrated with color photographs and period maps, take readers to the places where history really happened.
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About the Author
Gael Chandler is a former film editor who taught editing and digital editing systems. She is the author of three books on film editing. She lives in San Francisco.
Read an Excerpt
Chronicles of Old San Francisco
Exploring the Historic City by the Bay
By Gael Chandler
Museyon, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Gael Chandler
All rights reserved.
LIVING ON THE LAND IN PEACE AND FREEDOM: THE YELAMU AND THE EXPEDITION OF JUAN BAUTISTA DE ANZA
The men let their hair grow long. The women didn't always cover their breasts. They went barefoot or wore handmade fiber sandals and lived in cone-shaped houses framed with willow branches and layered with tule reeds on communal land. They made love uninhibitedly, coupling and uncoupling freely. They baked their own bread and picked wild cherries and blackberries from their land. They possessed no weapons. Regularly, they dressed up in feathers and beads to sing and dance all night and day.
No they weren't hippies, they were Yelamu, the 160 original inhabitants of the peninsular thumb of land we call San Francisco. A tribelet of the Ohlone Indians, who numbered up to 10,000, the Yelamu lived for approximately 4,000 years in relative harmony with their neighboring tribelet, intermarrying and settling disputes with exchanges of gifts between chiefs.
They used double paddles to propel their boats of watertight tule reeds through ocean, lake and stream. For the peninsula and 50 hills that make up the 46.9 square miles that is today's city were then comprised of giant sand dunes — many more than 100 feet high. These dunes, along with tidal marshes, mudflats, and creeks, were also home to wolves, grizzly bear, tule elk, antelope, panthers, and many species of birds. The Yelamu lived in villages located at areas now known as the Presidio, Ocean Beach, Fort Mason, and possibly Alcatraz Island.
Salmon, oyster, deer, rabbit, nuts, seeds, insects, and other local foodstuff nourished them, along with homebrewed beer and Manzanita cider. The Yelamu were steady stewards of the land who routinely pruned and burned shrub, grass, and poison oak to maintain the ecosystem and their food, herb, and medicine supply. They maintained small, seasonal villages as well as a larger, primary village. The work was divided up between shaman, doctors, song leaders, crafters, midwives, and storytellers. The chief hosted visitors and served as speaker and philosopher — overseeing ceremonial functions yet holding little governing power. The leader of each family unit dealt with disputes and rights.
Matrilineal, the Yelamu used shells for currency to cement marriages as well as divorces and to trade with other tribes. They kept their language intact, not learning the language of other Ohlone tribes, with whom they co-existed (with occasional warfare) for centuries. Their middens (garbage mounds) reveal a consistency of diet, basketry, clothing, trade and religious objects over the millennia. When someone died, the Yelamu buried their body or burned it along with their hut and belongings, obliterating all traces of the person and never referring to them again.
It was an extended time of community, peace, tradition, and freedom — the likes of which the city hasn't seen since. But change was on the horizon, literally, with masts of ships, unlike anything the Yelamu had ever seen, approaching the shore.
Beginning in the 1500s, European ships had been plying the Pacific Ocean, some to explore, some to claim land and take spices, gold, and other riches from it, and some to rob these booty-laden ships. The Spanish had claimed the most land and made off with most wealth and this irked the British. Unwilling to make war head on, Queen Elizabeth I endowed sea captains — French and Dutch as well as British — with a Letter of Marque. This effectively licensed these privateers, or buccaneers as they were known, to attack and loot Spanish ships.
In 1579, one such British buccaneer, Sir Francis Drake, was deadheading to England, his ship, the Golden Hind, stuffed with plunder. A storm blew his galleon off course and as a respite, he set anchor at an inlet — now called Drake's Bay — near Point Reyes (just north of San Francisco). In the first recorded encounter of cultures, the Golden Hind's chaplain, Francis Fletcher, described the Indians' actions, dress, houses, often with misinterpretation and Christian cultural bias: "They are a people of a tractable, free, and loving nature, without guile or treachery; their bows and arrows (their only weapons and almost all their wealth) they use very skillfully but yet not to do any harm with them being by reason of their weakness, more fit for children than for men."
By 1775, Spain, having won and lost a few battles with England both on land and sea, set its sights on the west coast of the New World, specifically Alta (upper) California. Spain had already planted a string of presidios (forts), pueblos (villages), and missions as far north as Monterey. In addition to the buccaneer raids in the Pacific, the Spanish had other worries: The Russians were running a thriving fur business in Alaska and extending their trading posts south, and France and England were financing explorers to the region to pinpoint the Northwest Passage.
The Spanish crown decided it was time to act. The maps had been drawn and the route defined by earlier Spanish expeditions. And so Viceroy Antonio Maria de Bucareli's order came down to Juan Bautista de Anza: Claim a site for Spain and Catholicism on San Francisco Bay.
Recently promoted to lieutenant colonel as both reward for past forays — including a reconnaissance trip to San Francisco Bay in 1774 — and encouragement for this assignment, Anza did not hesitate to accept.
Born in Fronteras, Sonora, Anza now resided in Tubac, Arizona (all Spanish territory) where his military career had taken him. He prepared methodically, planning his route, gathering five years' worth of supplies, and putting together a party of Franciscan priests, colonists, and soldiers at the presidio in Horcasitas, Sonora. The Spanish crown bolstered his recruitment, providing many enticements: generous amounts of clothing, from sturdy boots to petticoats, as well as chocolate, Castilian wine, 335 cattle, and 695 horses and mules. The historical roster reflects the success of their efforts, totaling 240 people: three Indian interpreters, three padres and their servants, 21 soldiers and their 29 wives, 40 families with 115 children, and 23 wranglers.
On September 29, 1775, Anza shouted the first of many "¡Vayan subiendos!" (Mount up everybody!) and the party took off. First stop: Tubac. They holed up in the presidio due to Apache raids on the town, then moved out again on October 23. Within a few days, the group experienced their first death (a mother in childbirth) and new life: her baby survived. Illness — of humans and animals — caused further downtime.
Underway again, Anza led them north through the Maricopa Mountains, then west across the Arizona desert, where, parched and exhausted, they anticipated reaching Yuma and the Colorado River. They made it to the river, only to discover the ford was washed out. Yuma Indians came to their aid, helping scout out a new ford. At last, the expedition crossed the river and arrived in Alta California only to face more desert. They trudged onward to San Sebastian (present day Harper's Well), a sub-sea-level town in the Yuha Desert, where snow and unseasonably frigid weather accosted them. But on they went, making their weary way up Alta California, often short on water. At one dried-up campground most of the thirsty cattle bolted.
Finally, after two and a half months, they reached their first Catholic outpost since Tubac: Mission San Gabriel. The future colonists took a long, much-needed rest, but not the intrepid Anza. He rode his horse south to the San Diego mission to help quell the Indians who had killed its priest and two Spanish workers. He also rounded up more supplies — along with a few soldiers who had stolen provisions and deserted the expedition.
Rejuvenated and rejoined with Anza, the group worked its way north, enjoying welcoming stays at Mission San Luis Obispo and Mission San Antonio, and, after 1,500 miles, Mission Monterey. There they rested, waiting for their eventual summons from Anza, who headed north to San Francisco Bay accompanied by one padre (Pedro Font), eight soldiers, and a few regional guides.
On March 28, 1776, on a bluff above the future city, Anza fulfilled his mission: He claimed the land for Spain and designated a site of 90 varas (paces) on each side for a presidio. Father Font rhapsodized about his choice: "The commander decided to erect the holy cross on the extremity of the white cliff at the inner point of the entrance to the port — This mesa commands a most wonderful view, since from it a great part of the port is visible, with its islands, the entrance, and the ocean, as far as the eye can reach — it is so commanding that the entrance of the mouth of the port can be defended by musket-fire, and at the distance of a musket-shot there is water for the use of the people ..."
Construction began after the arrival of the settlers (grown to 244 now) on June 27. Soldiers forced the Yelamu into laboring for the mission. On September 17, Father Francisco Palóu blessed the newly erected presidio and conducted a mass at a small, wooden church nearby.
By then Anza had de-camped back to Arizona and been boosted to governor by the viceroy. On August 2, 1791, Father Palóu dedicated the completed mission, naming it San Francisco de Asís. Composed of wood, 36,000 adobe bricks, and adobe roof tiles molded on the thighs of Indian women, the Mission Dolores, as it has always been called, still stands today. Despite quakes and renovations, it remains the oldest building in San Francisco. Its cemetery shelters the bones of its creators: settlers, soldiers, Yelamu Indians, and clergy.CHAPTER 2
IN THE TIME OF WINE, ROSES, GRIZZLY BEARS, AND RANCHOS: PIONEER JUANA BRIONES AND MEXICAN CALIFORNIA
Things weren't going so well at the Presidio when Juana Briones was born in 1802. Since her grandparents and her mother made the trek with Anza in 1776, its buildings were deteriorating and the number of potential converts and laborers — the Yelamu Indians of the Ohlone tribe — was dwindling. The shortage of servants had gotten so bad that the Presidio's soldiers were galloping far afield to capture other Ohlone Indians who were retreating to outer areas. It's not that the padres hadn't tried; God knows they'd baptized scores of Yelamu. But the Lord's savage, dim-witted children — as the misioneros regarded them — somehow didn't take to imprisonment. Many ran away or otherwise revolted. The soldiers, (who reviled this hardship post, which paid little or nothing), constantly hunted them down, dragged them back to the Presidio, and strapped them into bastinados (fetters). The unmarried women worked all day and were kept sequestered in the name of virginity, making them soldiers' prey also. Annually, a third of the Yelamu population was dying from dysentery, measles, malaria, tuberculosis, syphilis, and other diseases previously unknown to them, as well as from lack of proper medical treatment, beatings, shootings, and despair.
The Spanish needed to find other ways to maintain a hold on their territory, so in 1784 they instituted the rancho (land grant) system. A rancho was a concession of land (located outside the presidio and mission) from the Spanish government (which retained title) that allowed the owner to launch a livelihood — usually cattle grazing — and set down a home. Under the Spanish rules, Briones wouldn't have been eligible for a grant but eventually she would get one and fight a lengthy legal battle to keep it.
In 1820, at the age of 18, Briones married a cavalry soldier and proceeded to have eleven children, seven of whom lived. She raised them along with an orphaned Indian girl she adopted. When her husband's drunken abuse became too much, Briones obtained a clerical divorce and moved her family to a new house on a farm near the Presidio where she grew vegetables and raised cattle.
Although she had no formal education and could neither read nor write, Briones was both a curandera (herbalist healer), having learned the practice growing up from Indian and Mexican neighbors, and a bonesetter. Throughout her life she tended all races and occupations of people she encountered, including sailors in port and village Indians. She was also a consummate entrepreneur, aided by the Mexican government's actions during the 1820s and 1830s.
On September 16, 1821, Mexico achieved independence from Spain. With a sweep of the pen, Alta California became a territory of Mexico. By 1828, Mexico had set new rancho rules, designed in part to help Californios — as the settlers now called themselves — obtain land more easily. The Spanish had issued 30 land grants in Alta California; the Mexicans upped this to total to over 800 grants of an average 22,000 acres each. The Mexican government forged these new laws to break the hold the missions had on the land, an effort augmented by The Secularization Act of 1833. The act officially ended the already moribund mission system and ceded the majority of mission land — save for the mission church and priests' residences and gardens — to Mexico.
The act aimed to give small plots to the Indians who deserted the missions in droves. However, most of the land was sold to powerful male Californios of Spanish blood — which Briones had, along with African and Indian blood. She purchased a rancho in San Francisco in a section that would be called North Beach. On her land, documented as Playa de Juana Briones (Juana Briones Beach), she grew vegetables and created a dairy farm. When sailors and merchants came into port, she traded produce and milk with them. She also doctored their ailments and in 1834 crossed the bay to Marin County to help squelch an outbreak of smallpox.
Castilian roses and wines, rodeos (to herd and brand cows), barbeques, and fiestas: It was the heyday of rancho life, with dons running large estates and their wives running the households, both relying on the labor of Indians and mixed blood servants. Rancheros lived in adobe haciendas with tile roofs made of red clay and straw tile, and they planted a cornucopia of trees, plants, flowers, and vines: olive, citrus, peach, pear, fig, grape, hemp, flax, and more. They depended on a large and extended family — twelve to fifteen children comprised a typical brood — for entertainment, though friends and visitors made for more fun and sport on fiesta days.
Herds of grizzly bears marauded the countryside, so pairs of vaqueros (cowboys) hunted them. Each vaquero employed a taut reata (a 50- to 60-foot rope made from rawhide or braided horsehair) to lasso the wild beast and parade it around before killing it. On occasion, they tethered the bear's hind foot to a bull's forefoot, staging a fight to the death for a raucous, appreciative crowd.
Excerpted from Chronicles of Old San Francisco by Gael Chandler. Copyright © 2014 Gael Chandler. Excerpted by permission of Museyon, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER 1. LIVING ON THE LAND IN PEACE AND FREEDOM: Expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza 1775,
CHAPTER 2. IN THE TIME OF WINE, ROSES, GRIZZLY BEARS, AND RANCHOS: North Beach Pioneer, Juana Briones 1821–188,
CHAPTER 3. A GOOD HERB, A GOOD MAN, AND SAN FRANCISCO: William Leidesdorff 1841–1848,
CHAPTER 4. SEEING THE ELEPHANT ... AND MAYBE SOME GOLD: Forty-niners and the Gold Rush 1849,
CHAPTER 5. THE LUMBERMAN'S LAMENT: What Henry Meiggs left in San Francisco 1850–1854,
CHAPTER 6. THE FOUNTAIN AND THE ETERNAL YOUTH: Lotta Crabtree 1847–1924,
CHAPTER 7. THE EMPEROR HAD CLOTHES AND LOYAL SUBJECTS: Joshua Norton 1819–1880,
CHAPTER 8. A WOMAN OF SMARTNESS AND SCANDAL: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814–1904,
CHAPTER 9. AN IRON HORSE AND AN OCTOPUS: The Big Four Create a Railroad Empire 1859–1869,
CHAPTER 10. TAKING A RIDE ON THE ROPE: Andrew Hallidie and San Francisco's slot machines 1873,
CHAPTER 11. OH MR. SANDMAN, BUILD ME A PARK: John McLaren 1870s,
CHAPTER 12. THE SHANGHAI ORPHAN WHO FOUGHT BACK: Mary Tape 1885,
CHAPTER 13. BOOKS, BATHS, AND BEYOND: The Legacy of Adolph Sutro 1830–1898,
CHAPTER 14. EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE: Leonie von Zesch and the Great Earthquake 1906,
CHAPTER 15. A BANKER, A BEDMAKER, AND BOHEMIANS: A.P. Giannini and the Earthquake Aftermath 1906–1949,
CHAPTER 16. A MAN, A PLAN, A PALACE AND EXPO: Bernard Maybeck 1915,
CHAPTER 17. BECOMING INA COOLBRITH AND CALIFORNIA'S FIRST POET LAUREATE: 1841–1928,
CHAPTER 18. DON'T CALL IT THE ROCK: The Alcatraz Kids 1934–1963,
CHAPTER 19. SHAPE UP, SHIP OUT, AND STRIKE: Harry Bridges 1934,
CHAPTER 20. PAINTING THE TOWN'S BRIDGE RED: Joseph Strauss 1937,
CHAPTER 21. TEA AND NO SYMPATHY: The Hagiwaras and Their Garden 1941–1945,
CHAPTER 22. MR. SAN FRANCISCO ... AND BAGHDAD-BY-THE-BAY: Herb Caen 1938–1997,
CHAPTER 23. THE BOOKSTORE, THE BEATS, AND THE POETICKALL BOMSHELL: Lawrence Ferlinghetti 1955,
CHAPTER 24. WESTERN ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION: Mary Rogers and Justin Herman 1960s,
CHAPTER 25. THE BLOSSOMING OF FLOWER POWER: Behind the Scene with Bill Graham 1960s,
CHAPTER 26. THE RISE OF THE CASTRO AND HARVEY MILK 1970s,
CHAPTER 27. A MATTER OF HABIT IN THE TIME OF AIDS 1980s,
CHAPTER 28. THE NEW ARGONAUTS: Digging for Gold on the Internet 1990s-Present,
TOUR ONE CHINATOWN AND NOB HILL,
TOUR TWO NORTH BEACH,
TOUR THREE UNION SQUARE AND FINANCIAL DISTRICT,
TOUR FOUR CIVIC CENTER AND MARKET STREET,
TOUR FIVE EMBARCADERO TO GHIRARDELLI SQUARE,
TOUR SIX GOLDEN GATE PARK AND HAIGHT-ASHBURY,
TOUR SEVEN CASTRO AND MISSION,
TOUR EIGHT GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, PRESIDIO, AND PALACE OF FINE ART,