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Picture of the Great Catastrophe

San Francisco, the beautiful "City of the Golden West," the "Paradise of the Pacific," is no more. This was this message wafted around the remnants of what was one of the most beautiful, most picturesque, most generous of cities.

I, like all the rest of my stricken brethren, stood and watched the home, which contained treasures that neither time nor money can ever replace–the home dearest of any spot on earth, around whose walls clustered memories of blissful by-gone days,–yes, I stood on the loft eminence overlooking the tranquil water of the mighty Pacific, and watched and watched, and watched, and waited, and watched–until I saw my home, which had been a part of my very life, within a few feet of the hungry, angry flames–and then, oh then! My poor heart throbbed wildly with pain, and the repressed tears fell and I, with my loved ones wept as we had never done before. Frail, human intellect cannot comprehend the awful anguish endured by the stricken ones of San Francisco since Wednesday morning, April Eighteenth. Hunger and cold were as naught compared with the thought that one was forced to stand idly by and witness the destruction of our beautiful homes, our precious belongings. Never while memory lasts can I forget the distressing heartrending scenes in the doomed city. Space will not permit enumeration, suffice it to say, that through it all the people acted nobly and well. All honor to these heroes, fathers, sons, husbands and brothers, who guarded the tottering footsteps of their loved ones, encouraging them onward to places of safety, while on the verge of collapse and starvation themselves.

With my folks and a few belongings we could save, we left our home on Broadway and Mason on Thursday morning, April Eighteenth, and trudged over hills and rocks until we reached an apparently safe spot. There with but food or covering we camped for the night. Oh! the terrors of the night! All around us was one roaring, crackling furnace of flames. The people watched and waited, until warned by the soldiers of certain death should they remain, moved onward, where they knew not.

It was two o'clock! Still the flames raged, still we wended our weary way, until we reached Fort Mason and there we camped beside twenty-five decaying bodies. Oh, it was terrible, terrible! No food, no water, nothing! Still the fierce flames leaped toward us, each new report that reached us was more dreadful than the preceding, till, at last, ill from hunger, exposure and the odor from the dead bodies, and as a last desperate means of delivery from an awful fate, we decided to tramp to Golden Gate Park–oh, thanks to our merciful God, relief came.

An acquaintance whom we had not seen for years came and asked us if we wished to board his sand scow, which was bound for Vallejo. We could scarcely believe it–anything, anywhere, as long as we could escape from the terrifying scenes around us. Nothing was ever more welcome–but for Captain Murphy's forethought and generosity, I with my loved ones would be lying dead at Fort Mason.

For two nights we slept on sand, planks and rocks, with no covering save the blue studded heavens, but we thanked God with all the fervor and from the very depths of our souls.

Sunday morning we attended mass at Vallejo's Catholic church, and prayed for our poor friends in the domed city, and thanked God for His mercy to us.

After a light breakfast on board the scow, we knew not where to go–when my brother, who had been searching for his fellow Knights of Columbus, returned and informed us that a home awaited us in Vallejo. These noble, generous, brave hearted Knights of Columbus came to our aid, and to them do we owe our present safety. They have provided everything for us and for our comfort. How can we, homeless wanderers, ever repay them? Oh, who can realize the anguish, the sorrow that is ours? We have never been in a position to give and to give freely, but now-but God has been with us. He will not desert us now.

To Mr. Lynch, Mr. Folmer, Mr. Cunningham and family and Mr. Jones, together with all the Knights of Columbus whose names are unknown, to Captain Murphy, of the "Two Brothers" scow, to you all, noble hearted men, do we owe a debt of gratitude, which with God's help we shall son be able to repay.

The past our tears cannot undo, but the future is ours, and as old Father time carries us farther down the stream of life, we shall never forget the men who came so nobly to our rescue.

We have naught to offer now but our thankful hearts and fond prayers. May every kindness you have shown us, oh, Knights of Columbus, be showered a hundred fold on you and yours, and may your deeds of charity be sparkling jewels added to that crown of eternal life, which our God has promised His faithful followers.

Rose M. Quinn.

Vallejo Daily Times
April 27, 1906
This article was a gift to the Museum from Rosemary T. French of San Francisco

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