Earthquake Diary

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg

April, 2002

Alexander Eells, born in 1862, was a lawyer who lived in San Francisco with his wife Caroline and their two daughters. In 1904 and 1905 he bought about 8 acres between LaVerne and Montford east of Three Groves and had a house built there. He went to the property almost every weekend and kept a diary detailing his farm development activities. Here is what he wrote ninety-six years ago after the earthquake of April 18, 1906:

Millwood, Friday, May 4, 1906 [Millwood was the train station on Miller – ed .] 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. On Sat. a.m. after much search I found an automobile which took us to the ferry and we came over here.

Sunday, May 27 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 in mine are gone besides numbers of other valuable papers. I rented my house for two years to B. Gakata a Japanese for $65 per month. Haven’t succeeded in getting the chimneys fixed yet, however.

Three weeks ago we got Heckman to come and build an addition to the house on the East end for a kitchen and we use the former kitchen for a living room.

Alexander Eells commuted to his law office on week days, and worked on the farm on weekends. A third daughter was born there on July 29, 1906.


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.