Servant Problems

A Homestead Headlines Article by Chuck Oldenburg

May, 2006

After the April 1906 earthquake, the Eells family immediately moved to their farm in Homestead Valley. Alexander commuted to his relocated law office in San Francisco. His wife Caroline tried to make life more comfortable for their two young daughters and a third daughter to be born in July. Local craftsmen added on to the house. Day laborers did much of the farming and made lots of improvements. But Alexander and Caroline soon decided to hire a live-in couple, the husband for general work on the farm and the wife for housekeeping.

On Thursday morning Sept. 21, 1907 this ad appeared in the Help Wanted column of the Examiner: “Man and wife for general work and housework on country place near Mill Valley. Wages $30 each. Apply 804 Crocker Bldg. 11 & 12.” There were 8 applicants that day. The first couple interviewed impressed him very favorably. He invited them to come over Friday morning and gave them 80 cents for the ferry/train fare, but they never showed up. He concluded they were confidence operators.

He hired the last couple to apply, middle-aged Scots who were very kindly in disposition. John and Mary Nicholson settled down in the upper floor of the barn. A week later he noted in his diary that John and Mary were seemingly satisfactory and content so far. They were gone by Nov. 17. John had been drinking hard for two weeks and finally got so bad that he failed to meet Caroline at the train station. Alexander had to let them go.

A second Examiner ad on Nov. 17 elicited 18 applicants. He hired Robert and Catherine Scott, but had to let them go a week later when Catherine came down with pneumonia. On Nov. 29 he hired Sam Lovejoy and his wife, Eva, a stout little French woman who appeared to be energetic and capable. They lasted until May 1908. The Eels did without live-in help until Sept. 1908 when John and Carrie Sullivan were hired, but they left a few weeks later.

In Oct. 17, 1908, a young German couple, William Molkentin and his wife Katie, came, but left on Nov. 3 after William was injured while harnessing a horse.

And so it went until Oct. 1, 1909 when Gordon and Dora Gorman, a young couple came and stayed for more than a year.


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.