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Ellen R. Dolliver

Birth Place: Ellen R. Dolliver
Pioneer Father: Thomas Dolliver
Birth Place: Marblehead, Mass.
Date of Arrival in California: Oct. 1849
Pioneer Mother: Ann Coxeter Dolliver
Birth Place: Lancashire, Eng.
Date of Arrival in California: April 1858
Father April 5, 1911; Mother Oct. 24, 1905

Remarks:  I left New York accompanied by my mother and two sisters Sarah J. and  Clara G. Dolliver March 24, 1858 on board the steamship Empire en route to Havana. After waiting three days, the passengers were transferred to the New Orleans steamer Granada. We arrived at Aspinwall [illegible] one hot afternoon about two o’clock. The newly arrived steamship was soon surrounded by hundreds of naked natives. Some were in boats, and others were swimming in the water. The passengers were taken on shore in boats. The heat was oppressive. Every body [sic] was warned against drinking water or eating too much fruit. I detested the smell of oranges for years afterward. The cars that were to transport us across the Isthmus arrived at 7 P.M. and we soon arrived at our destination as the distance was only 25 miles. The night was very dark and all the passengers were crowded together on a small steamer that was to carry us to the ocean liner Sonora some two or three miles distant. The Sonora left Panama with nearly sixteen hundred people. Men, women, and children were huddled together promiscuously in a vile smelling hold swarming with rats. In the stifling atmosphere of the tropics the place was nearly unbearable. “This Ship” said one indignant lady passenger “is a disgrace to the American Flag.” We reached the first cooling station, Mansanillo [sic], about 10 A.M. As usual the natives surrounded us, diving down to the bottom of the ocean to bring up coins thrown by the passengers. After leaving Acapulco no further stops were made until the steamer was moored at Folsom St. wharf San Francisco. Hotel runners were shouting, [illegible] House, Globe Hotel, Russo House, and several others whose names I have forgotten. Father had preceded us to California several years before he being one of many thousands who walked across The Great Plains in 1849. Our home was in East Oakland for a period of two years. In 1860 we all came to San Francisco where we have since resided. There were two very important events that occured [sic] during this memorable year. The great flood in Sacramento and the appearance of an enormous in the sky. It extended across the entire heavens from north to south. I attended Rincon School on Hampton Place. John Swett was principle and Miss E. Downes in charge of the primary department. The new school house on  Vassar Place was completed the following year and dedicated amid a terrific down pour of rain. Third St. was flooded—the planks floating in the water. May Day festivals were usually celebrated at Hayes Park. Steam cars located at 3rd and Market sts. taking us direct to the Park which was in the Mission District. Communication with the East was at that time very uncertain. Letters were usually a month old when delivered. During this year 1861 Pony express riders carrying U.S. mail rode from one station to another across the continent. At the time of the civil war when every American was anxious to hear the latest news ‘from the seat of war.” A most provoking headline would appear, “Wires down beyond Fort Laramie. No news today.” Nobody seemed to know exactly what caused the accident to the wires but it was generally believed to be the work of the Indians. There seemed to be no lack of patriotism notwithstanding our isolated position. The appearance of a Federal Soldier on the streets attracted considerable attention. After the close of the war two soldiers appeared one [illegible] a [illegible] organ on which their discharges were pasted. The other took charge of the vast sum of money they collected during their stay in this city and the surrounding country. A number of people were killed and considerable damage done. The survivors did not recover from their fright for some time. The shock lasted 22 seconds. The following year 1869, one of the most important events in our country’s history was celebrated. A Railroad had been completed across the continent. The old emigrant road was a thing of the past. No one thought of the numberless clipper ships carrying passengers around Cape Horn. Gradually the [illegible] were deserted and the Panama line abandoned. The following year 1870, we determined to visit our childhood home in Woburn, Massachusetts. We took the overland train one Monday morning and arrived at Omaha Saturday afternoon. The bridge across the Missouri river was not then completed. We were ferried across in a large steamer. Father tried to discover the road he had traversed in 1849 but was obliged to give up as the railroad is much farther south than the old emigrant road. After a short visit, we returned to San Francisco. My sister (Sara) and myself were employed as assistants in the San Francisco School Department, 1870-1874. With the transcontinental railway a new era of prosperity began and continued to April 18th 1906 when the city was nearly destroyed by a terrific earthquake, 5:15 am. It lasted but one minute. During that time, many buildings were thrown down and hurled into the streets. To this horror was added another. The city was on fire. There was no water as the pipes of the water company had been separated by the earthquake. The fire continued for three days destroying the entire business section and a large portion of the Mission district. The loss was estimated at nearly one billion dollars. San Francisco has been destroyed by fire several times in the earlier days of its history but the brave descendants of the hardy pioneers were not discouraged by the terrible condition of affairs that followed the fire. Nearly four years have elapsed since those dreadful days of ruin and destruction. Thousands of beautiful and expensive buildings are now to be seen. A new City Hall is to replace the old one (a total wreck). All city records were lost in the destruction of the building. When the city was on fire, I went to Oakland remaining away 2 ½ years. But my home will always be where I spent the greater portion of my life.


Historian, Association Pioneer Women 1909.

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