“The most severe earthquake I ever felt occurred on the morning of April 18th (Wed) at about 5:15. It of course alarmed us all especially as it shook off the tops of both chimneys making a frightful noise. After breakfast, I went on my usual course down town and was astonished to see the damage done. When I got to the City Hall and found the dome tower and all the south front in ruins I was astounded. When I reached 6th and Market a cordon of Federal Cavalry stopped the crowds of people on the streets and I turned homeward. Arriving home I found water stopped. Got some siphons of Shasta water and laid in stock of groceries and provisions. Then came the terrible fire for nearly 3 days.”
This testimony comes from the diary of Alexander Eells, a San Francisco lawyer who, in 1906, lived in San Francisco near Buena Vista Park with his wife and two young daughters. They owned a small farm in Homestead Valley next to Three Groves. On Saturday April 21, while the city was still burning, they fled to their farm and made it their permanent residence.
Many San Franciscans moved to their secondary residences in various Marin communities including Homestead. Others stayed with friends for a while, sometimes in backyard tents. Later on, several families from San Francisco and Oakland bought property in Homestead Valley and built houses there. The population of Homestead Valley as well as Marin county increased substantially after the 1906 earthquake and fire.
More from Eells’ diary: “I put in time from Sat. April 21st to Wed April 25 in working around the house and garden here. I had no desire to get back to the city and couldn’t have done so if I had wished to as I had no permit and the Federal troops would not allow anyone to go to S.F. without a permit signed by General Funston. Some three weeks after the fire we had our vaults broken open [at his law office – ed.] but found nothing but fine ashes and scraps of tin. Some 30 to 40 wills are gone besides numbers of other valuable papers.”
A few wells in Homestead caved in, but John Bone’s brick-lined well at Evergreen and Hawthorne survived and supplied water for nearby residents.
If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.