San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grandfather Edward Arnold

by Zita Ballinger Fletcher

Edward Willingham Arnold, an original founder of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, was a pioneer of capital projects in San Mateo County.

Edward was a longtime resident of the Peninsula with strong ties to the Burlingame and Hillsborough communities. He was born in Wartrace, Tennessee on October 14, 1895. He was of English lineage and belonged to the Willingham and Arnold families, known for their notable achievements in America.

As a young man, Edward moved to Riverside, California in 1909 with his parents and six siblings. He attended Riverside Polytechnic High School and studied law at Stanford University from 1915 to 1921.

While at Stanford, Edward was known for his fine character and leadership. He was admitted to Phi Delta Phi law honor society, which required members to have a grade average in the top third of their class and impeccable good standing at school. He also joined Kappa Alpha fraternity. He served as a student election official in 1916. He was chosen to represent and lead Kappa Alpha in 1917 in a campaign to increase membership in the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) student government. The same year, Edward was elected as a representative of the Stanford Flower Committee, who entrusted him with the responsibility of decorating the Stanford mausoleum with flower arrangements every Sunday morning for the upcoming fall semester. World War I interrupted his studies. Edward was drafted and sent to Camp Hancock outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He served in the U.S. Marines in the 76th Company of the Machine Gun Corps.

In June 1922, Edward married Ann Wickliffe Lowrie, of Nashville, Tennessee. She was a music major at Ward Belmont College and a gifted pianist. Her father, Harold Watkins Lowrie, was a lawyer and judge. The couple married at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, with Ann’s father as a witness.

Edward and Ann lived in Burlingame in the early years of their marriage and resided at 1240 Drake Avenue. In 1931, the couple lived at 108 Stonehedge Road in a large home built in 1910, which remained their family home for the rest of their lives. Together there they raised three beautiful daughters: Virginia, Ann and Sally.

Edward’s legal finesse, financial skills and ambition enabled him to become a California business titan. He began his career in 1921 at a small company called Coldwell, Cornwall & Banker, which was not yet prominent at the time. Edward was noteworthy for his exceptional performance. He became a General Partner in 1939 at age 43, ranking among the most successful executives. He and fellow board members changed the growing company’s name in 1940 to establish Coldwell, Banker & Co. He became Vice Chairman in 1963 and acceded to the post of Chairman in 1967.

Edward led the development of the Baywood Knolls subdivision in San Mateo, which today remains one of the most prestigious communities in the entire United States. Evidence of Edward’s high standards and belief in education can be seen in some of the community’s street names, which derive from America’s greatest universities. It is likely he wished families who settled there to aspire to first-class education goals for their children.

He was also active in charity initiatives. Edward was director of the United Bay Area Crusade, a medical charity organization in San Mateo County that provided essential funding to over 230 medical charities throughout five counties. The organization supplied more than 50% of budgets for Bay Area care centers including cerebral palsy organizations, drug and rehabilitation programs, family service agencies, and hospitals for unwed mothers and their babies.

Edward also served on the board of directors of Mills Hospital, a non-profit institution in San Mateo. He aided St. Luke’s Hospital in 1951 in an expansion project. He assisted St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in a project to underwrite debt in 1953. In 1946, he financed and led a committee to construct a new building for St. Paul’s to provide room for school classes, an auditorium and stage, meetings and a youth group space. He raised funds for the American Cancer Society in 1961 and, also that year, took part in a Hillsborough Citizens’ Committee 1961 to sponsor a local school board election.

He also personally directed the creation of the new Peninsula YMCA and Youth Center in San Mateo as director of the building committee in 1951. Edward managed a small team of people that bought the property in 1949 and supervised its planning and construction. The structure, valued then at $230,000, was a large-scale project and described by the San Mateo Times in 1951 as “one of the first of its kind in the nation.” At a dedication ceremony that drew about 1,000 attendees, the Reverend Benton S. Gaskell dedicated the building “in the terms of the ideals of those who made it possible.”

Throughout this time, Edward was also busy as a leader in San Francisco. He was president of the San Francisco Real Estate Board and director of the Better Business Bureau. He also held many additional offices. He was a member of the Pacific Union Club, which includes the nation’s leaders among its members. He belonged to the Burlingame and Menlo Country Clubs and served as Vice Chairman for the Hillsborough Racquet Club.

Edward retired from Coldwell Banker in 1969, a year after making the nationally significant decision as Chairman to issue public stock. He dedicated a total of 48 years of his life to the company.

Edward’s interests demonstrated his pursuit of personal excellence, law and leadership. Until his death in 1974, he continued to be involved in business and civic affairs in San Mateo County.

His wife, Ann, lived to the age of 106 and died in 2005. Their daughter Sally died at age 48 and is buried next to her parents in California.

Zita Ballinger Fletcher is Edward Willingham Arnold’s great-granddaughter through his daughter Sally. She admires her Grandfather Edward as a role model and has inherited his interests in finance and law. She resides in Europe.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SMCGS Sharing Stories 2017

Daniel Joseph  McSweeney

Diane Bader

Daniel Joseph Sweeney was born on November 12, 1869, into one of the large Irish families in the burgeoning young city of San Francisco. He waof s the ninth child born to Julia Lenahan of Roscommon and Daniel Sweeney County Donegal, Ireland.

His father, Daniel Sweeney, owned one of the first stockyards in San Francisco. He ran his successful cattle business there for twenty-five years. During the early years of young Daniel’s life, San Francisco was a flourishing city. Lavish homes were being built by Leland Stanford Jr., Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker and others. The Palace Hotel, the Baldwin Hotel, prosperous banks, and magnificent churches were all under construction. Many streets were paved and gas lights were being installed.

Then in 1877, when Daniel was only eight years old, his father decided to retire and return to Ireland with Julia and their eight living children. He purchased an estate called Carrowcannon House as well as fifty-three acres in Falcarragh, County Donegal, North West Ireland.
Carrowcannon House

When the Sweeney family arrived in Ireland, the children saw a beautiful but very poor country. In contrast to what they were used to in San Francisco, there were no mansions, no two-story houses, one small wooden church. The children had to learn to speak Irish; they rode in a horse cart to school and church. All the children, including Daniel, wanted to return to San Francisco. It was especially hard for them when their older sister and brother did return after only two years and the six younger children had to remain in Ireland for six more years.
Upon arrival, Daniel’s father saw how poorly the peasants were being treated by the landlords. Their rents were constantly being raised and when they couldn’t pay them, they were evicted from their tiny homes. He decided to help them by organizing the Land League in four parishes of County Donegal, becoming president of one branch and traveling around the county delivering fiery speeches against the landlords and urging the poor not to pay their unfair rents. Young Daniel watched how hard his father fought for justice.

When his father was arrested at Carrowcannon House on June 2, 1881, Daniel, then 12 years old, raised the American flag over their home and said, “Father, they’ll pay for this yet!” Although he was an American citizen, the elder Daniel was imprisoned for 14 months without trial and without help from the U.S. government. With his father in prison, Daniel’s mother, Julia, joined the Ladies’ Land League and gave fiery speeches of her own.

The family remained in Donegal for 4 more years. Daniel was 16 years old when his father was released and they finally returned to San Francisco where he completed his education. An interesting fact: when they returned, they all used the name of Mc Sweeney which has confused genealogists ever since, especially since the eldest two children never changed their names from Sweeney to Mc Sweeney.
540 Baden St.
Daniel Mc Sweeney moved to South San Francisco with his brother, Ambrose Mc Sweeney, on November 17, 1895. He was employed as the first U.S. meat inspector on the Pacific Coast for the Western Meat Company. Previously, he had worked as a butcher in the Customs House in San Francisco. Soon after moving to South San Francisco, Daniel went into the hotel business. He purchased the Grand Hotel on Bayshore Blvd. He also obtained a contract with the Ocean Shore Railroad Board to act as commissary head with accommodations for 400 men. The earthquake came along in 1906 and ruined this business contract, although he still kept the hotel. He was also the proprietor of The Old Bohemia Saloon.

In 1908, Daniel became interested in the incorporation of South San Francisco and ran for city council. He was elected and then reelected in 1910. Then he was selected by his fellow trustees to serve as the second mayor of the city from 1910 to 1912. Daniel also served on the county Democratic Central Committee for over 30 years. During the Wilson administration in 1916, he became postmaster until 1917 when it was taken over by San Francisco Ferry Station Post Office.

Daniel then became personnel manager at Pacific Coast Steel.  He was elected to the position of City Clerk of South San Francisco in April 1920 and was reelected four times. He remained in that position until his death in 1946.

According to the April 10, 1910 Enterprise Journal, Daniel “is a very active and earnest man in all his work and undertakings and a most genial and jolly good fellow. Although one of the town’s first city fathers, Dan is, we are sorry to say a bachelor. However, he is not old and his friends still have hopes for him.” Daniel was 41 years old.

His friends’ hopes were fulfilled when he married May Elizabeth Ryan. Daniel never had any children of his own but was father to his wife’s son and daughter: Joseph Lloyd Ryan and Gladys Ryan. 

On Dec. 8, 1939, The Enterprise said, “His sunny disposition and friendliness has endeared him to all who come in contact with him. His pleasant Irish face framed by the wings of white hair is a familiar and welcome sight around the city hall.”


Pictures: Personal File
Newspaper: The Enterprise, South San Francisco, CA

Diane Bader is member of the Sacramento Genealogical Society, where she lives.  She grew up in Menlo Park and Atherton, attending St. Joseph's School, College of Notre Dame and Stanford. Diane has written a book about her life in Menlo Park in the 1940s and early 1950s.  She remembers when Silicon Valley was all fruit trees where people would come each spring to see the blossoms. Her father had a dental office in San Carlos and her mother and family were from San Francisco.  Diane is a retired teacher, church musician and liturgist.  She presently sings with the Consumnes River College Gospel Choir. Her book "Setting Donegal on Fire", about her great grandfather Daniel McSweeney, was launched in Falcarragh, Donegal, last August by the Minister of the Diaspora, Joe McHugh. You can contact Diane at

© 2017 Diane Bader - Please contact author for use of any portion of this story.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

SMCGS Databases Online: Layng & Tinney Mortuary

One of the  mortuaries in San Mateo County, was that of Layng and Tinney, which was located at Marshall and Jefferson in Redwood City. The mortuary closed its doors and eventually the San Mateo County Genealogical Society acquired a collection of records that filled 11 vertical file drawers.  Due to computer problems, the index that was begun and worked on by many library volunteers in the 1990s was lost.

Fortunately one printout of that original index survived.  Fran Pillsbury scanned it and work began anew.  Irene Gough, Leon Glahn and Donna Farmar checked every entry against the files in those eleven drawers. Others joined in as the list was proofread two more times. Finally in 2005 the index was deemed complete and the society published it in book form.

The files, themselves, date mainly from the mid 1920's to about 1970. Additionally, through the years, various families removed their loved ones from Union Cemetery, favoring the perpetual care of the cemeteries in Colma. The  files of removals by Layng andTinney provide information on deaths back as early as 1877.

You can find obituaries, death records, receipts, letters and more within the files.

There are over seven thousand files housed in the SMCGS library. They are filed alphabetically by surname and then given name. In the case of two identical names the earlier death is filed first. Some records are contained in file folders and others in envelopes. It is important to remember if you use these records that they are anywhere from 45 to 90 years old and, therefore, they are somewhat fragile.  If you visit the SMCGS Library during staffed hours, a volunteer can retrieve a file for you to view.  If you would like to order a record you will find information on the SMCGS Research Page.

Today the index, like all indexes created by SMCGS is available for free on our website.

Layng and Tinney Mortuary Record Index

Registers for earlier Layng and Tinney burials can be found in the Redwood  Library History Room.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mortuaries - San Mateo & San Francisco

The following list was compiled in the 1980-1990s. It is hopefully the start of a more comprehensive listing of mortuaries in San Mateo County and where their records might be.  If you can help please contact   The ads were gathered from the Examiner pages while working on our obituary project.  They are mainly for San Francisco mortuaries.
  • Carlmont Funeral Chapel - Belmont 
    • Rod McCoy (pre 1906)
    • Duggan's Carlmont Chapel 
    • Layng & Tinney - Belmont (SMCGS & RWC History Room have some records)
  • Chapel of the Highlands - Millbrae records start Oct 1952
  • Coehlo Bergler Dessem & Dufault - San Carlos 1947  
    • White Oaks Chapel
  • Crippen & Flynn Chapel - Redwood City 1950
    • Flynn & Crippen
    • Woodside Chapel
  • Crosby N Gray & Co - Burlingame 1940 
    • Stedt & Co - to 1927 bought by Frank Wycoff
    • Frank Wycoff 1927-1940 bought by Gray 
    • Gray combined with Crosby in 1943
    • N Gray-Crosby & Co
  • Duggan's Serra Mortuary - Daly City 1963
  • Dutra-Randleman Coastside - Half Moon Bay 1960
  • Johnson Menlo Colonial - Menlo Park 1947
  • Jones Mortuary - East Palo Alto 1974
  • Laswell W  & Co - Daly City 1915
  • Nauman & Lincoln Mortuary - SSF
  • Neptune Society of San Mateo
  • Noftsger South San Francisco1953 
    • Chapel By the Sea - Pacifica
    • Garden Chapel Inc - SSF 63
    • Larsons Garden Chapel 
  • Patterson & O'Connell's Chapel - San Mateo 1942
    • O'Connell's Chapel
  • Redwood Chapel
  • San Bruno Funeral Home - San Bruno 1974
    • Jack Bowlds 1963-1974 
    • Ray Ruskosky 1956-1963
    • Neri 1941-1956 
  • Snyder & Sullivan - San Mateo 1909

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SMCGS Sharing Stories 2017

The Courtship and Marriage of Angela Saso and George Otis Row

Barbara Ebel

My mom and dad met at a coffee shop in San Francisco during the war, in October of 1942.  Angie, as she was known by almost all, was a native San Franciscan, the daughter of Sicilian immigrants.  Mom was on a break from her job at Postal Telegraph.  She was with her friend and co-worker, Connie Lombadero.  Daddy was eyeing Mom, and Connie told her she had to be nice because he’s in the military and there’s a war going on, and we have to support our servicemen.  Daddy was undergoing treatment at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland for a fungus he’d picked up in Hawaii while diving for bodies after Pearl Harbor.   

My Mom’s nickname at work was “Sassy” because her last name was Saso, and she was kind of feisty.  Dad told Mom he was a “chief” in the Navy.  Mom said, “Chief of What?  Baghdad?”  My father had joined the Navy at 17 in 1928. There wasn’t much work for a farm boy from the little town in the northwest corner of Missouri, call Ravenwood.  His older brother Ranian had joined the Army Air Corp which became the Air Force.  He earned the rank of Master Sargeant.

After Daddy asked, Mom told him her phone and then wrote it down then tore up the note.  Daddy had memorized the number and called her.  They went on a few dates.  The most spectacular was the date at the Bal Tabarin a nightclub which later became Bimbo’s 365 Club.  They saw one of the regulars, Sophie Tucker, perform.  Ms. Tucker (the last of the red hot mama’s she called herself) was pleased to announce their engagement to the crowd.  (Anything for a serviceman.)  Mom was embarrassed and wished Daddy hadn’t asked Ms. Tucker to make that announcement. 

Because it was a “mixed marriage” (Mom was Catholic; Daddy was Protestant) and the church was way stricter then, my parents were married by a Justice of the Peace in grandma’s downstairs room nine days after meeting in the coffee shop.  Mom wore a blue dress.  Daddy was 31 and Mom was 32, but she told him she was born in 1911, so she’d seem only a couple of months older.  Her birthday was in February; his was in April.  I guess it was okay to be a couple of months older, but a year?  No way.

Mom wasn’t going to let this one get away. She’d been engaged previously for five years to a Dick Minahan.  One of her sisters saw Dick with another woman, and that ended that.  She kept the ring.  I have it today.

Angie and George were married ten years (although Mom said it seemed like five because he was away so much of the time) and had three daughters.  When she had my younger sister, Georgia, and third girl, Mom said I’m sorry to my father (for having another girl).  My father said, “That’s okay Honey.  I’m partial to girls.”

My father was stationed in Yoshida, Japan at the time he had his fatal heart attack.  We learned of his death via a Western Union telegram that was placed under the door mat on the front porch.  A friend from down the street was picking me up to walk to school and told my mom there was something under the mat.  I remember crying and saying I didn’t want Daddy to die.  I was five and a half years old and in kindergarten.  It took a month for his body to arrive so there could be a funeral.  I remember he was in a glass topped casket, and the smell of gardenias.  I hate that flower to this day.  He was buried in a military funeral at Golden Gate National Cemetery.  We didn’t go to the funeral itself.  I guess the flowers were at the wake.  My cousin, Caroljean, watched us at our house, and the family came back to the house after the funeral. 

My mom raised the three of us by herself.  We turned out all right.  There’s not a thief or a murderer among us.

Barbara Ebel is currently Secretary of SMCGS.  She was born in San Francisco and moved to Redwood City in 1948 where she has lived since.  Barbara first started working on her husbands genealogy in the 1980s while her sister worked on their family.  Employment put a halt for twenty years, but a class with Gayle Simon got her going again.  Other interests include hand quilting (she won a blue ribbon at the county fair for an antique Grandmother's Flower Garden), crocheting and knitting and baseball.  She has been a SF Giants fan since they moved west; Willie Mays is her all time favorite player. 

© 2017 Barbara Ebel - Please contact SMCGS for use of any portion of this story.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Genealogy Educational Opportunities

Introduction to Online Genealogy Sources
Saturday, August 19th, 2017 1:00PM 

Burlingame Public Library Central Library, Tech Lab
480 Primrose Rd, Burlingame, CA 94010

One-time workshop at Burlingame Library featuring a power-point lecture followed by a hands on workshop.  
Limited to 12 students.
Sign up by phoning Burlingame Public Library at (650) 558-7400 ext 2

The following is a listing of classes being held in San Mateo
North Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties this fall.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom for information on the SMCGS Fall Seminar
Federal Records and Mapping the West with the Sayres.

Advanced Genealogy with Maggie Melaney
(Trinity Monday Genealogy Club)
Mondays, 9:30 - 11:30
Trinity Church 330 Ravenswood Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Open to experienced genealogists actively working on research, documentation, and publication.  Must be able to work as a group to help all class members explore and celebrate their family histories.
Please contact Maggie for information on joining.


Life Story Writing with Craig Siulinski- College of San Mateo Continuing Education: Saturdays, 9/9 – 11/18 (no class on 11/11) 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Class Fee:  $125 + $15 materials fee payable to instructor

Palo Alto Adult School: - Fall Quarter Registration opens 11 August 2017

Jump Start Your Genealogy: Fundamentals
Instructor: Christine Bell Green, PLCGS
9 weeks • September 14 – November 9 2017
Thursday • 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Palo Alto HS Rm. 204 • $75*

Discovering your roots is exciting; it teaches you about yourself as well as your family. This class is designed to give family historians/genealogists a strong foundation. We learn to effectively use common genealogical record types and important family history websites. Helping each other by sharing our journeys is an important part of the class.  Field trip is included.

Optional text: Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy: 3rd Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2005

Genealogy: Intermediate
Instructor: Christine Bell Green PLCGS
9 weeks • September 13 – November 8 2017
Wednesday • 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Greendell Rm. P3 • $75*
Prerequisite: Beginning Genealogy or 1 year Genealogy research experience.

Do you have brick walls in your family history or ancestors you know little about? Learn to research using a broad cross-section of genealogical records and extract all the information from them, use the Internet effectively and become skilled at inferential genealogy. We maximize our efficiency by organizing our research better and sharing helpful tips. We write stories that will interest our families.  Field trip is included.

Optional text: Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy: 3rd Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 2005


Atherton Library Drop-In  - First Monday of the month, 1:30- 3:00PM With Maggie Melaney
Open drop in for anyone needing help with online or local resources.  We especially welcome people starting out or just curious about their family roots.
2 Dinkelspiel Station Ln, Atherton, CA 94027
Sign up for a spot by phoning the library at (650) 328-2422.


The San Mateo County Genealogical Society invites you to our Fall Seminar

Federal Records plus Mapping the West
Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA & Rick Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA

After October 27, registration goes up to the walk-in rate of $55

Saturday, November 4, 2017, 9 am - 3 pm
Menlo Park LDS Church, 1105 Valparaiso Ave, Menlo Park
$45 Members, $50 Non-members

Pam & Rick Sayre are among the best instructors in genealogy. Federal records, including maps and land records, are their specialty. Join us for these sessions:
- Mapping the West: Lewis & Clark to railroad surveys
- Rivers & Canals: Finding federal records
- Capital Treasure: Case studies featuring federal records

Also at the seminar:
Book Sale
Silent Auction  
Home-baked Cookies  

For more information & to register:

Christine Green, Seminar Chair


Special Interest groups offer an opportunity to work together to further your knowledge of records in specific areas. SMCGS currently has the following groups scheduled --  check Calendar for current meeting information

British/Irish Interest Groups with Maggie Melaney
Fourth Tuesday of the month 10AM/11AM at Redwood City Downtown Library
Resuming in August.  See calendar for details.

DNA Interest Group with Chris Green meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month from 2:15-3:45 in the CaƱada College Library.  The purpose of this group is to ask questions and get help interpreting your DNA results and deciding on next steps.

German Interest Group  meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 9:30 at the Family History Center at the Menlo Park LDS Church. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

SMCGS Databases: Naturalization Records

The Naturalization Indexes were published by SMCGS around 2000.  PDF versions which include the written explanation of the records have been posted on the society website.  They index all known naturalization records held at the county level, including Declaration of Intention to become a Citizen, Petitions and Certificates.

The Camp Fremont Index includes many soldiers from other places who were naturalized before they were discharged from the Army after WWI.

In order to vote, it was necessary to provide information on naturalization if you were foreign born. The county created a card file of those who had done so, the information included might provide not only a place of naturalization, but also a date, the name of the person who was naturalized (in the case of a wife or child), a marriage date and the voting district the person was living in at the time they provided the information.  (Note: this card file was not copied by FamilySearch but all information on the cards was extracted here.)

FamilySearch has digitized the Naturalization Records for San Mateo County through 1946, including the card file mentioned above.  Later records can be ordered through the County Recorders Office, or obtained from the federal government.

This new Finding Aid will hopefully direct you to the volume that you need to find the records after using the indexes above.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

SMC Places:Searsville

Map of Searsville - Situated on the El Corte Rancho The property of H. Templeton
Surveyed by A S Easton - County Surveyor San Mateo Apr 1866
Filed 1 May 1866 by Thomas H Noble, County Recorder
 "After traveling through the mines for some time, he returned to San Francisco and in 1853 came to this county. The next year he built a house on the site of what was afterwards Searsville. Here he established a blacksmithing and wagon making shop and in 1857, he was in partnership with the late Daniel Ford. Disposing of his Searsville property in 1861, Mr. Sears moved to La Honda where he has remained up to the time of his death. " RC Democrat 20 Jun 1907

So began the town of Searsville.  

In Jan 1862 floods swept away six sawmills in the vicinity of Searsville.   Simon Knight lost a child when a slide from the mountain rushed towards his house.  Simon managed to run with two children, but a son of five or six was crushed and buried when he couldn't run fast enough. The child, unnamed, was buried in Union Cemetery in Redwood City(California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences (San Francisco)--Vol: XVI Iss:14 Pg: 130) 

Later that year the SMC Board of Supervisors granted SM Tilton  the right to construct a turnpike between Searsville and Pescadero, which was then in Santa Cruz County. (Supervisor Minutes Vol 19 pg 270 Road Account No 347)

San Francisco Bulletin, 23 Dec 1863 Vol:XVII Iss:65 Pg:3
SF Bulletin 3 Jul 1865 Vol:XX Iss:74 Pg:2
The town continued to grow.  A.A. Davis and August Eikerenkoetter opened hotels and advertised in the San Francisco papers. Advertisements for help could be found in local papers.

SF Chronicle 3 Apr 1869  pg2

SF Abend Post 3 Apr 1871 p2
Among those who could be found traveling from Searsville and staying in San Francisco hotels were WE Knott, August Eikerenkotter, E Edmunds and RJ Weeks.

Searsville School
courtesy San Mateo County Historical Association
By 1871 the town and surrounding area had grown enough to have 99 students as//////// .  However, in 1877 when the Grand Jury reported that the Searsville School Board had spent $600 on grand piano, there were only 30 students. (Weekly Alta California 14 Apr 1877 p2)
SF Chronicle 10 May 1881 p2

The Searsville Water Company was incorporated in 1872 to acquire water from Arrago Clanbique and Otter Creeks to supply the inhabitants of Searsville and the surrounding vicinity. 

In May of 1881 the Searsville Hotel and Store was put up for sale by August Eikerenkotter. (SF Bulletin, 16 Nov 1872 pg3)
By 1886 Searsville was being considered as a good site for a water project.  It was reported that Charles Web Howard as president of the Spring Valley Water Company had been purchasing land for a reservoir for about five years, and now had nearly all the land required. (SF Bulletin 7 Apr 1886 p3)  A description of the project can be found in the SF Chroncle on 30 Dec 1886

The building of the dam took a little longer than the three years originally estimated, but in 1891 the dam was complete, the buildings of Searsville were removed and Searsville Lake was filled.  

Thus ended the town of Searsville.

Some deaths recorded for individuals connected to Searsville include

  • Nathan Dawley 23 May 1874 age 57  SF Chronicle
  • Frank Booza Pioneer of the county committed suicide 27 Oct 1890 age 65 SF Bulletin
  • Louis Stephens "French Louie" 19 Aug 1891 suicide SF Chronicle
  • John P Kelly (born in Searsville) in MP 27 Nov 1898  SF Chronicle
  • John H Sears 19 Jun 1907 SF Chronicle

courtesy of San Mateo County Historical Association
For Further Research.....
The Town of Searsville - Journal of Local History Summer 2009 RWC Archives Committee
When San Jose was Young: Searsville (San Jose Evening News 9 Mar 1918)
San Mateo County - SF Chronicle 25 May 1890
The Sears Family in Union Cemetery


Life Story and Family History Writing Group

We would like to form a local group to encourage, support, and learn from each other by sharing writing skills, tips, ideas, organizational strategies, etc.  A ‘sharing of writing’ component would be part of each session. You are invited to join us at a planning meeting on Sunday, Aug 6 at 2 pm. If you are interested, or have questions, please mailing Elle Hedenkamp at or Craig at
We hope to hear from you! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SMCGS Sharing Stories 2017

Notes of My Grandfather’s Early Years in San Mateo County

Jim Kelly

My grandfather, James Arthur Kelly, was born in San Francisco on July 18, 1875. Records indicated his father was Patrick Kelly from New York and that his mother was Bridget (Lyons) Kelly, from Ireland. His father may have died shortly after my grandfather’s birth but I really don’t know. What I do know was that his mother was married to a Mr. Edmund Smith (a naturalized citizen from England) and they had had one child, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Anne Smith, born in San Francisco in July 1880.

It appears the family didn’t live in San Francisco long after the birth of my grandfather’s sister. Based on the voter’s registration for his stepfather, the family had moved to a farm along the San Mateo County Coast, referred to today as Moss Beach. His stepfather’s name can be found in the San Mateo County Great Register (a voter’s registration document), living in the Denniston (voting) Precinct.   Edmund first record was found in the 1882 registration, and his registrations continued until about 1901. Of note, in 1896 when my grandfather turned 21, both my grandfather and his stepfather voted in this precinct.
A close neighbor to my grandfather’s family were the Kyne family. In particular, the Kyne’s son Peter, Peter would, in his later years, became well known for his books and stories.  Peter was a few years younger than my grandfather, but Peter, (my great-aunt) Lizzie, and my grandfather all attended a one room school in the area. My Aunt Mary told me that my grandfather kept in touch with his school teacher, a Miss Rose Meechan, for years after he had grown.
I’ve included Peter Kyne because they served together during the Spanish American war and Peter was the best man at my grandparent’s wedding.  Spoiler alert, it appears this friendship ended a few years after my grandparents marriage when my grandfather loaned money to Mr. Kyne and the loan was not repaid.
A family story was that my grandfather had driven a horse drawn wagon for the Levy Brothers Department Store as a young man. The Levy Brothers operated a chain of department stores in San Mateo County, one: in Half Moon Bay, in Burlingame, in San Mateo, and in Redwood City. At least one of the Levy brothers lived in the Half Moon Bay area and that store might have been considered the company headquarters in the early years. The business operated from the late 1870’s until the final store closed in the early 1970’s.  I actually worked in the Burlingame Levy Brothers store for about a year while attending Burlingame High School. I’d estimate my grandfather worked for the Levy’s sometime between the years 1890 and 1905.  A relative told me that there was a photo of my grandfather driving the Levy’s wagon, hanging in a restaurant named the Peanut Farm, in Woodside, California. I understand that restaurant closed about 1985, and I wasn’t able to locate the photo.  Since the Levy’s operated a stage coach line for a short time, I have been interested in whether the wagon was designed for carrying passenger or to haul freight and supplies?
On July 28, 1896, my grandfather’s mother passed away, according to a record in the “Record of Internment” journal from the Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church in Half Moon Bay. Her name was recorded as Bridget Kelly (Smith) (with the name “Smith” enclosed in brackets). According to this journal record, Bridget had emigrated from Ireland and she was 52 years old at the time of her death. She was recorded as being buried in a Half Moon Bay cemetery, most likely in the Pilarcitos Cemetery. I searched for grave marker for Bridget in the Cemetery, but I didn’t find one.  I checked around for a log or map of burials in that site and the church staff provided me with a contact person with knowledge of the site.  I talked with her and she told me that there were many individuals or groups who had administered the cemetery over the years, and that she didn’t know of any books or site maps.
James A. Kelly in his Army uniform.  According to printing on the photograph’s matting and/or on the frame (plus someone added a date in pen on the rear one the photo), this image of my Grandfather in his uniform was apparently taken in Manila P.I. on August 1899 at the Fotografico Espanola Studio.

A photo of my grandfather in his military uniform was always around my parent’s house. With some research, I found both my grandfather and Mr. Kyne served in the Philippine Islands during the Spanish- American War. Both men enlisted on June 18, 1898, according to the “Register of Enlistments”, and were part of the Army’s 14th Infantry from San Francisco. They may have received basic training at Camp Merritt in San Francisco but I haven’t been able to confirm it. They arrived in the Philippine’s in October 1898 and served until both men were discharged on August 16, 1899, in Manila. My grandfather was a cook but I don’t know Mr. Kyne’s assignment, I also don’t find any records of these men in combat.  According to my grandparents 50th Wedding Anniversary announcement in a church bulletin, only my grandfather and Mr. Kyne served in the Spanish-American War from San Mateo County.  When the two arrived home, a party was held in their honor on the coast.

On October 29, 1899, in the Society news section of the San Francisco Call Newspaper, there was a reference to the party in Half Moon Bay welcoming the two local soldiers back from overseas. Here in the S.F. Call newspaper, my Grandfather was listed as James “Kelly” while in the Redwood City Times-Gazette newspaper he was referred to under his stepfather’s last name, or James “Smith”. My father claims his father always used the last name “Kelly”.
Shortly after my grandfather arrived home from Manila, he moved to San Francisco looking for work.  His stepfather sold the farm about the same time and moved to Alameda County.  My grandfather met and married my grandmother, Clara I. Fitzpatrick, a few years later. They married in January 1906, a few months before the great San Francisco earthquake. My grandparents raised six children, including my father, in San Francisco.

James and Clara’s Wedding photo.   From left to right: James A. Kelly, Clara I. Fitzpatrick, Clara’s Maid of Honor: Isabel Tormay, and James’ Best Man: Peter B. Kyne. They were married at St. Peters Catholic Church, San Francisco on January 31, 1906 but that may not where this photo was taken. A copy of this photo was in both Mary (Kelly) Kraut’s and Joan (Kelly) Debrincat’s collection.  I don’t know the story about Clara’s Maid of Honor Isabel Tormay except that sometime after the wedding she joined a Catholic order, later being referred to as Mother Augustine. 
About 1949, after the children had grown, my grandparents retired to a house in Burlingame, California. My grandfather died in February 1962. My father attributes his death to a freak snow storm in Burlingame and that my grandfather (age 86) walked to and from the Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church and became weakened by sitting in his wet clothes. He was buried at Holy Cross cemetery in Colma, California.

From a Catholic Church Bulletin, the Monitor, dated February 17, 1956 is a write-up on my grandparent's 50th Wedding Anniversary. My grandfather must have told the reporter that he was one of two men to serve in the Spanish American War from San Mateo County.
Jim Kelly is a long time member of SMCGS and also a very active member of the San Mateo County Historical Association.  He has been a docent at the Woodside Store for about 30 years. Born in San Francisco, Jim was raised in Burlingame and has lived in San Mateo for the last 35 years.  He worked for the City of Burlingame in the Public Works division before retiring. Jim keeps his family tree on and actively adds cousins in the hope that he will find more DNA matches.  You can contact Jim at jimkelly192003 @ 

© 2017 Jim Kelly - Please contact author for use of any portion of this story.