San Francisco author and historian Bailey Millard (1859-1941) wrote the History of the San Francisco Bay Region : History and Biography, published in 1924 by the American Historical Society. |
He penned this dramatic eyewitness account of the evacuation of the City shortly after the earthquake.
BY BAILEY MILLARD
Like the story of the flight from Pompeii is the story of the flight from San Francisco. True, it was not amid flying scoria that the multitude made its way from the city, but amid a rain of falling cinders, in blinding smoke and a heat that beat over the earth like the heat of the day of judgment. The rush of the grand army of refugees was not so great toward the Presidio as has been reported, but down the neck of the peninsula toward San Mateo and Redwood City, across the bay to Sausalito, San Rafael, Tiburon, Napa and Petaluma, and greatest of all toward Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda, the eastside suburbs beyond the harbor.
As they could not go by way of Market Street, the old-
Automobiles piled high with bedding and hastily snatched stores, tooted wild warnings amid the crowds. Drays loaded with furniture and swarming over with men, women and children, struggled over the earthquake-
City all gone, said one old Mongol with stoic face, but Oakland be all right. Me go Oakland. Catchee here, grub there. Japanese pulled trunks along the splintered pavement or carried their satchels and bags on their back. I saw two Jap girls with a long board running from the shoulder of one to the shoulder of the other, from the middle of which depended a heavy sack of stuff. The board was bending and swaying and it must have hurt their backs, but they were fanning and smiling and chatting with their companions. A band of Italians, men and women, passed along the way. The women carried baskets on their heads, while the men strained under terrible burdens. A little further along I overtook two men and three women who had adopted a strange mode of carriage. They had their goods tied to a long ladder, which they were pulling along the concrete. One woman ran ahead and thrust rollers under the ladder and then ran back and gathered them for another fifteen feet of progress while the queer team halted. All along the way men lay on the sidewalk or in doorways, some resting, some sleeping, some drunk.
Some of the tired refugees had already walked miles and would have still other miles to traverse before they could reach the ferry. Wild talk ran back through the crowds that the ferries were all closed, and all were assured that if they did not get aboard none of them might return to save women or goods. We passed a great campground near Telegraph Hill, where many of the refugees had halted and would go no farther. It was patrolled by soldiers. The vacant lot was swarming with broken-
I met Maynard Dixon, the artist, coatless, and sweating, tugging away at a little childs wagon on which was piled all that he had saved from his burnt studio. By his side walked his wife, loaded down with luggage. Dixon had helped to save his artist friend [Xavier] Martinez, upon whom the first quake had showered a pile of bricks.
Nearer the ferry it was treacherous walking, past the tumbled or crazily leaning warehouses. In some places the curbing had dropped completely out of sight. Freight cars, topping half over from twisted side-tracks, stood on billowy ground and were full of tramps and toughs over which the soldiers kept watchful eye. A little farther along and the great ferry building, the finest in this country, was seen, with its leaning flagpole; and still a little nearer, and the smoking ruins of the lower business section were seen. One could hardly tell where Market street had been. A line of silent fire engines was passed, and we walked by the smoke-
You are able to pay today, but you may not be tomorrow, was what they said, and this was true, for not a bank in Berkeley was open to cash a check for me, and none would be for four days.
The train that had borne us up from the pier was surrounded with a clamoring crowd, eager to get to the city, but no one was permitted to go aboard.
I have a wife and two children out on Franklin Street, shouted one desperate man who clung to the rail and had to be fought off. I must go to them and save them.
Ive got a wife over there somewhere, too, said the guard, if shes alive, but I cant go to her.