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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

San Mateo County Places - Camp Fremont

Few of today’s San Mateo County residents know exactly where Camp Fremont once stood, but for about 18 months, from July 12, 1917 until it was dismantled in early 1919 it was a teeming World War I Training Camp. At it’s peak nearly 27,000 personnel were resident on the base. In all more than 43,000 soldiers passed through the little town of Menlo Park (former population 2300). 

Menlo Park Historical Association Collections
Camp Fremont - Easter 1918
Country living was disturbed by the sounds of guns, canon and grenades exploding as troops trained for their eminent war duty. Menlo Park was chosen as the training site due to it’s similarity to the French terrain where troops were supposedly heading. Located from the El Camino Real to the Alameda de Las Pulgas and from Valparaiso to the San Francisquito Creek, Camp Fremont covered approximately 25,000 acres (15 Square miles). 

Besides cavalry and infantry there were horses and mules which were housed further east at the 332nd Auxiliary Remount Depot on Ravenswood, near the camp hospital. Of the 16 training centers erected by the War department, Camp Fremont was the largest east of the Mississippi. Every idle carpenter on the peninsula was put to work. In all more than 700 men were put to work turning over 100 railroad cars of lumber into temporary buildings. Barracks consisted of wooden floors and sidewalls topped with canvas tents. Camp Fremont’s tent city covered more than 1000 acres. 150 Southern Pacific workers laid spur track from the main line to the middle of camp. El Camino Real was paved to accommodate the increased traffic, and Menlo Park became known as one of the worst traffic bottlenecks on the peninsula.. 

Suddenly every available store front was occupied by merchants from throughout the Bay Area. A movie theater, post office, church and library were built. Beltramo’s Winery and all taverns within 5 miles of the base were declared dry by order of the army and the county. Sequoia High School opened a branch on the base offering classes in English, arithmetic, shorthand, typing and accounting but low attendance caused the program to fold. 

Stanford University, worried about the proximity of so many men to their co-eds, stopped their objections when two companies of soldiers were assigned to the duty of making sure that no soldiers invaded Stanford’s borders and no Co-eds infiltrated Tent City. Shortly after the building started the war department halted the effort for three months. The original troops, the 41st Infantry Division National Guard from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming were moved east to Camp Greene, but then the 8 Division, Regular Army was transferred in and remained until the dismantling. 

The troops which had trained to join the war efforts in France never did reach Europe. Some 5000, however, did serve time in Siberia. Michael Svanevik’s article "When ‘the forgotten army’ went to Siberia", The San Mateo Times, Friday, Aug 19, 1988 pg B3, tells a little of the tale of the Siberian intervention. 

In Dec 1918, just 18 months after it was erected Camp Fremont was abandoned and the land reverted to it’s previous owners. During those short months 43,000 men had been trained. But the efforts of the 8 Army Corp of Engineers had permanently changed the once rustic town of Menlo Park.  Paved roads, water and gas services encouraged new growth. Another legacy was the more than a million pounds of lead that were removed from the hills as they were developed. 

Today a few remainders of the 1000 plus Camp buildings dot the landscape of Menlo Park. The popular McArthur Park restaurant and the Oasis Beer Garden are housed in remnants of the vast camp and the Veterans Center on Willow Road was the base hospital. 

Many of the 43000 men who served at Camp Fremont were recent emigres to the United States. In accordance with legislation passed at the time of the Civil War, the naturalization process was changed to honor their efforts for their new country. In all nearly 3200 men took advantage of the opportunity to become United States citizens before the base closed. SMCGS has indexed the Camp Fremont Naturalization Records 
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

John Christ: Redwood City Town Marshall

John Christ Elder
John M. Christ
"John Christ. Was born in Germany (actually Gluckstadt, Holstein, Denmark)  June 8, 1838, and received his education in his native country. He came direct to this coast in 1861, and to San Mateo county during the same year. He ran a boat on the bay from the embarcadero to San Francisco until 1868, when he engaged in the wood, coal and grain trade, which he still follows.  Mr. Christ, before going to California, was a tailor, having left home at the age of sixteen to follow that occupation, his voyages carrying him to many countries.  He married Theresa Putner, and they have seven children, Cornelius, Julia, George, Charlotte, Olive, John and Franz." History of San Mateo County(6) 

Charlotte, Theresa, Ollie @1890
Besides his warehouse, wood and coal business which was located in Redwood City at Beech and Heller Streets (3), John continued the operation of several schooners.  In 1878 he was elected to the office of town marshal of Redwood City for a two year term. He was reelected in 1882 and from that time on served for many years either as a town trustee or as marshal.  In 1896 he retired from trade but continued living in Redwood City until about 1923 when he moved to live with his daughter, Julia Rathbone, in Kentwood.

The San Mateo Times of 13 Feb 1933 
John and Theresa had a home at 114 Madison Ave where it met the road to San Francisco (El Camino Real)(3).  They were members of the First Congregational Church and John belonged to the Odd Fellows, the Ancient Order of United Workmen and served as a volunteer fireman.
Christ Home 1878

In her History of John Christ, Sue Corso notes, "Longevity of life and good health were some of the blessing of his life, as were his children.  He lived to be over 94 years of age at his passing.  His granddaughter, Florence E. C. LeRoy, remembers that he would walk to town from Lowell Street everyday, when they lived together with her family.This was in the early 1920's."

John Christ (Jun. 8, 1838 - Schleswig-Holstein, Germany- Feb. 11, 1933, Kenwood CA)  John married Theresa Puttner (Mar. 16, 1846 NY -  Jun. 6, 1934 CA)  on 7 Jan 1868 aat St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco.  John and Theresa are buried in Union Cemetery.

John and Theresa had nine children and outlived all but two.

Cornelius circa 1880
Julia Christ Rathbone
George - Music Teacher

  1. Cornelius Nicholas   (pr. 12, 1870 CA - Jan. 7, 1900 CA(2)) Cornelius died of typhoid fever and is buried Union Cemetery plot N134
  2. Julia Char  (Sep. 3, 1872 CA -  Nov. 5, 1927 CA)  married Leland D Rathbone (1861-1938) on 30 Jun 1896.(6)  They settled in Kenwood, Sonoma County after Leland retired as minister of the First Congregational Church in Redwood City.
  3. Herman M.   (13 Apr 1873 CA - 30 Apr 1876 (2)) Herman died of Scarlet Fever.  He is buried in Union Cemetery plot N134. 
  4. Theresa   (15 Jan 1875 - 3 May 1876 (2)) Theresa died of of Scarlet Fever and is buried in Union Cemetery.
  5. George Charles (Apr. 30, 1876 Redwood City  Jul. 9, 1965 CA) George married Edith Brace (1886-1979) on 31 Jan 1911.  George was a resident of Redwood City and a Journeyman Carpenter.  He served in the Navy during the Spanish American War. A Member of the Eagles Lodge and carpenters union local 1408, George is buried in Golden Gate national cemetery.  George and Edith had four children:  
    1. Lucille ( b.11 Feb 1912  d.26 March 2003) married Diego Moyano
    2. John C (b.3 June 1913 d.5 September 2006) married Josephine Gibson
    3. Florence (living)  mother of family researcher Sue Corso
    4. George  (b 28 March 1924 d. 28 February 2005) married three times.
  6. Charlotte Ernestine (May 3, 1878 Redwood City Oct. 19, 1923 Redwood City) Charlotte married Frank Pitman Wentworth (1867-1960) on 25 Jun 1902 (6) Charlotte was a member of the First Congregational Church and the Redwood City Woman's Club. She died unexpectedly after a short illness and minor operation. Charlotte and Frank had four children George Cornelius(4), John Russell, Frank Dealton (3) and a daughter who died in infancy.
  7. Olive R. (11 Mar 1880 Redwood City - 31 Mar 1979 Stanford) Ollie married Hary Winslow Brace (1879-1953) on 8 Sep 1903. She lived most of her life on the peninsula where she was a member of the Order of Eastern Star and of the Palo Alto Lawn Bowling Club.   Ollie and Hary had two sons: Harry and Beverly(4).   Ollie is buried in Alta Mesa Cemetery. 
  8. John   (Mar. 17, 1881 CA Sep. 21, 1887(2)) John is buried Union Cemetery plot N135
  9. Frank 1957
    Charlotte Christ Wentworth
    as teen.
  10. Frantz P.   (Frank) (Sep. 25, 1882 CA  - Jul. 31, 1894(2)) Franz is buried Union Cemetery plot N134  
Parade Float of Christ Coal & Feed Store, on Broadway, Redwood City. CA
Left to right. George Christ,abt 14: Cornelius Christ, abt 20: John Christ Sr.abt
 42 Mr Ketlins,  unknown Driver, Frantz Christ, abt 8 yrs
All pictures courtesy of Joe Wentworth    

Resources for Christ Genealogical Research
  1. Find A Grave Memorial # 52970436  Links to memorials for the rest of family.
  2. James Crowe Death Register   Cornelius, Frank P, Herman M., John Theresa
  3. Christ Redwood City Land Records
  4. San Mateo County Birth Index  
    1. Brace Beverly Orlando 1904 10 12 Christensen M 1D 360
    2. Brace Harold Henry 1906 11 28 AF B2 1018 85 
    3. Christ Florence E 1920 10 9 Brace F 8 45
    4. Christ George C 1924 3 28 Brace M 11 120
    5. Christ John O 1913 6 3 Brace M 4 156
    6. Christ Lucille B 1912 2 11 Brace F 3a 353
    7. Wentworth Frank D 1906 1 3 Christ M 2 264 1017 376
    8. Wentworth George Cornelilus  1903 4 7 Christ M 1 215 A 210
  5. Richard Schellens Collection of Historical Materials Christ entries p 395-397.  See also Brace, Rathbone and Wentworth
  6. History of San Mateo County (1883)  p.266  
  7. Irvine, Leigh Hadley, A history of the new California: its resources and people, Volume 2  pg.656-7
  8. The History of John Christ     By M Sue Corso   August 25, 2000 
  9. San Mateo Times Gazette Index  (1859-1879) 
    1. Christ, boy 23-Apr-1870    b.12-Apr   John Christ (Cornelius)
    2. Christ, boy 19-Apr-1873    b. 13-Apr   J. Christ  (Herman)
      1. Christ, Herman  06-May-1876    d.28-Apr   3 yr./ John Christ
    3. Christ, girl  23-Jan-1875    b 15-Jan   J. Christ (Theresa)
      1. Christ, Theresa  06-May-1876    d.31 Apr   1 yr./ John Christ 
    4. Christ, boy  06-May-1876    b. 29-Apr   John Christ (George)
    5. Christ, girl   25-May-1878    b. 03-May   John Christ (Charlotte)
  10. San Mateo County Marriage Index. 
    1. Brace Harry W 24 Christ Ollie R 23 8-Sep 1903 5 341 Redwood City  
    2. Christ George C 34 Brace Edith L 24 31-Jan 1911 9 522 Redwood City
    3. Rathbone L D 35 Redwood City Christ Julia S 24 Redwood City 30-Jun 1896
    4. Wentworth Frank P 24 Redwood City Christ Charlotte E 24 Redwood City 25-Jun 1902 5 250 Redwood City

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

SMCGS Databases Online: James Crowe Register of Deaths

A transcription by Pam McReynolds, the James Crowe Register of Deaths was first published by SMCGS in 2000,  this volume is an extraction of the records listed in what is known as the San Mateo County Death Record book. The exact intent of the book is not known. There is duplication of many of the records found in San Mateo County Death Register 1 and the San Mateo County Coroner's Index 1, but some records found here are not in either of those volumes and some records listed in those volumes are not found in this volume.

It seems likely that this was the mortuary book of James Crowe, who served as the coroner and owned a mortuary. This would explain it being housed with the country records.

If you browse through this volume you will find it includes deaths that occurred elsewhere. Some
died elsewhere and were buried in the county. Some died in the county and were buried elsewhere. This is in keeping with it being the dealings of the mortuary rather than the coroner or the county.

Whatever the original intent, what you have here is a recording of some of the earliest deaths (1880s-1920s) in San Mateo County.  This is a full transcription of what is in the book including name, age, birth place, death date, death place, marital status, sex, race, occupation, cause of death, physician, cemetery, date of burial and mortuary.

If you do not find the record of someone who supposedly died in here, be sure to check both the San Mateo County Death Register (an index to the earliest death records will be available later this year on SMCGS)  and the San Mateo County Coroner's Index. Other possibilities for early death records are the newspapers or
church records. "

 Check out the other SMCGS Databases and good luck with your research.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

San Mateo County Cemeteries: Pilarcitos

In 1820, Pilarcitos Cemetery was established as the Catholic cemetery for the coastal settlers and Indians. This land was later included in the rancho granted to José Tiburcio Vasquez by the Mexican Government.

This church was destroyed by fire in 1875. The bell from the church is now mounted permanently in front of our present church (shown in the photo). The site of the first church in Spanish Town became a cemetery and is now know as the Old Pilarcitos Cemetery on Highway 92.

Vasquez donated part of the land next and a frame church was built on the land adjacent to the cemetery. In 1868  Father Antoine Langlois was appointed as pastor to the Spanishtown (aka San Benito and Half Moon Bay) church.

Vasquez had intended that the family would be buried below the floor of the church.  However when the church burned in 1875 the cemetery was extended into the church grounds.  The grounds are now owned by the Arch-diocese of San Francisco.

You will find the earliest catholic settlers of the San Mateo Coast here the names including Guerrero, Casey, Valladeo and more.  They are Mexican, Chilean, Portuguese, Irish, etc.   

Pilarcitos is located on the north side of San Mateo Road (Highway 92) adjacent to the IOOF cemetery.  A new fence separates it from the adjacent IOOF Cemetery with arched gateways leading into each. 

The fence is welcome as it might eventually lead to a clean up of readings showing families in both cemeteries.  I suggest using Dana Chaliff's 2004 reading to determine which cemetery your ancestor is buried in and then using checking Find A Grave to see if a tombstone picture has been uploaded.

This cemetery is in a little better shape than the adjacent IOOF, but there are broken and toppled stones. There are also signs of repair and it is easier to walk through the grounds.   

Pilarcitos Cemetery was closed to new plot sales in 1923 and the last burial took place in 1964.

Main St. & Rt. 92, Half Moon Bay