1892: “La Purissima” Closed Down

Story from John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected]et)

Hi June,
The article in the attached ScreenShots followed the year after the publishing of the sad state of the Purisima Creek in the “La Purisima” story. An earlier posting I sent you had the opposite take of this article as to any difference in spawning dates or the need for special regulation. Wow. People fighting about the dwindling fish supply and what to do about it? Go figure. Enjoy. John

The Fish in the Purissima Creek Spawn One Month Late

The angling community of this city are much exercised as to the proposed closing of the Purissima Creek until May 1. Many Waltonians have been in the habit for years of fishing this creek early in April, and they have always found abundance of trout. Many, however, declare that the fish therein do not spawn until the end of April and it is because of the representations of these atter that the proposed closing is about to be ordered.

William Lambert, a prominent Waltonian, was seen on Steiner street yesterday, and being asked about the matter, said: “I have fished the Purissima Creek now for many years and I think that it should be closed down certainly until May 1. It is really a shame to take out some of the trout which I have seen landed in the early spring. Owing to the peculiarity of the waters of the creek not uniting with the ocean so as to allow salmon or any kind of salmon trout to ascend or descend and spawn, the fish therein, all, therefore, spawn very late in the season.

“If the creek is still allowed to be fished as heretofore it will be altogether depleted and will cost the Fish Commissioners a lot of money to restock the creek and consequently, also a loss of time to fishermen who follow their pastime at the creek. I and a friend fished there the latter part of last April one evening. I caught 25 trout through spawning, and a like proportion of my friend’s catch were in the same condition. We thereupon stopped fishing and rode over to Lobitos Creek, where we found that all the fish we caught had already spawned. The conditions, therefore, of the Purissima Creek render it essential that it should be closed down forthwith before sportsmanlike anglers begin to commit their annual depredations.”

John Vonderlin: This is “La Purissima,” 1891

From John Vonderlin
Email John ([email protected])
La Purissima
I found this article in the San Francisco “Morning Call,” April 8th, 1891 edition. It fills in very well what was going on in Purissima in its heydays. The OCR version of this had hundreds of errors, but I think I got most of them. To think the stream had already been fished out and polluted by oil wells in 1891 is amazing. It seems like the falls were higher then or he was using fishermen’s measurements. I’ll research some of the folks mentioned in the article and send it along soon. I never knew why they called them anglers, but now I know thanks to this article. Enjoy. John
A   Favorite   Resort   of   Old-
Time   Anglers.
The   Beautiful   Brook   in   the   Daytime.
The   Comfortable   Inn   at
This   is   the   season   for   the   angler.   Every
nook   and   stream   within   mi!es of   San   Fran – 
cisco   where   by   any   chance   a   trout   has
been   permited   to   lurk   till   the   Ist   of   April
is   now   eagerly   sought   and   industriously
fished   by   old   as   well   as   young   Waltonians.
“We   may   say   of   angling   as   Dr.   Boteler
said   of   strawberries,”   writes   old   lsaak   in
“The   Complete   Angler.”   “Doubtless   God
could   have   made   a   better   berry,   but
doubtless   God   never   did.   and   so,   if   I
might   be   judge,   God   never   did   make   a
more   calm,   quiet,   innocent   recreation   than
Alexander   Pope   comes   very   near   de – 
scribing   the   situation   in   California   at   this
season   of   the   year,   when   he   sings   in   his
poem   of   “Windsor   Forest”:
ln   genial   spring,   beneath   the   quivering   shade
When   cooling   vapors   breathe   along   the   mead,
The   patient   fisher  takes   his   silent   stand.
Intent,   his   angle   trembling   in   his   hand,
With   looks   unmoved,   he   hopes   the   scaly   breed
And   eyes   the   dangling   ash   and   bending   reed.
Pope   could   not   have   better   pictured   one
particular   place   in   San   Mateo   County   if
he   had   had   it   in   his   mind   when   he   wrote
those   lines,   and   to   which   the   thoughts   of
many   an   old   angler   in   .San   Francisco   re – 
vert   when   the   open   season   arrives.   It   is
a   bright,   sparkling   little   stream,   between
Spanishtown   (Jim   Denison’s   theater  of action
 in  his  lifetime)  and   Pescadero,
about   thirty-eight   miles   from   the   city,
called   by   the   Spanish   name,   La   Puri – 
sima,   which   as   everybody   knows   means
“the   purest.”   The   name   was   well   applied
to   its   limpid   water’s   thirty   years   or   more
ago.   but   can   hardly   be   so   now   on   account
of   several   abandoned   oilwells   that   con – 
taminate   the   stream   and   impart;   a   dis – 
agreeable   flavor   to   fish   caught   near   and
below   them.
La   Purisima   was   a   famous   trout   stream
in   its   early   days.   Fish   were   found   there
in   great   numbers   and   of   a   kind   not   known
elsewhere   in   California;   they   were   pecu – 
liar   to   the   brook   itself.   This   creek   was
the   favorite   resort   of   anglers   from   San
Francisco,   and   when   the   April   winds   grew
soft   you   might   find   parties   of   them   at   Buz – 
zell’s—as   it   was   known   then—now   Dough – 
.   erty’s   comfortable   little   inn,   past   which
the   waters   of   La   Purisima   coursed.   Good
 fellows   always,   and   jolly   enough   to   in – 
spire   an   American   Shenstone   to   write   in
 praise   of   the   inn   and   its   tenants.   Rising
in   the   Gabilan   Sierra   Moreno,   now   known
as   the   Santa   Cruz   range,   this   creek   has   but
a   short   distance   to   run   oceanward.   Within
a   few   hundred   yards   of   the   inn   the   waters
fall   into   ttie   vast   Pacific’s   arms   over   a   ledge
about   eighty   feet   high.   In   the   rainy   sea – 
son   this   fall   is   a   cascade,   in   the   dry   sum – 
mer   months   the   stream,   shrunken   in
volume,   spreads   over   the   rocks   like   a   veil
hiding   their   ruggedness,   and   with   a   musi – 
cal   tinkling   that   is   pleasant   to   the   ear.
The   usual   plan   adopted   by   the   stalwart
fisherman   who   had   made   up   his   mind   for   a
day’s   sport   in   the   creek   was   to   leave   tbe
Dougherty   inn—the   name   “inn,”   or,   as
the   country   pnople   had   it,   “tavern,”   is   to
be   preferred   because   thirty   years   ago   the
place   had   not   attained   the   dignity   of   a
modern   hotel—in   the   cool   gray   of   the
early   morning   and   walk   up   the   valley,
“brushing   with   hasty   steps   the   dews
away,”   like   the   young   man   in   Gray’s
Elegy,   a   distance   of   about   four   miles   to
where   ex-Supervisor   Lane,   one   of   the   City
Fathers   who   in   the   sixties   looked   after
the   municipal   interests   of   San   Francisco,
had   erected   a   sawmill.   Some   who   loved
their   ease   made   the   distance   by   a   vehicle,
but   your   true-spirited   angler   always   footed
it.   The   walk   was   just   far   enough
to   warm   a   vigorous   man   up   for
the   creek   work   to   follow.   Lane’s   mill
was   at   the   base   of   the   Santa   Cruz   range,
among   the   redwood,   from   which   the
creek   emerges   and   goes   on   its   way   down
through   the  meadows   to   tbe   sea.   Here’s
where   a   fisherman   out   for   a   day’s   work
always   began   it,   facing   toward   his   point
of   departure   In   the   morning.   If   you   went
up   beyond   the   sawmill   into   the   redwoods,
you   had   hard   climhing,   besides   a   compara – 
tively   slender   thread   of   water   and   only
fingerlings   to   reward   the   toil.   One   of   the
desirable   features   as   a   fishing-place   of   the
Purislnia   is,   by   the   way,   the   location   of
Dougherty’s   inn,   in   relation   to   the   route
the   angler   has   to   traverse.   Starting   in   at
the   old   sawmill,   and   fishing   down   stream,
he   has   tbe   satisfaction   of   knowing   that
every   step   takes   him   nearer   his   hostelry,
and   by   the   time   be   has   made   his   last   cast,
when   the   sun   is   westering   behind   the
Gabilan   mountain,   and   his   creol   has   be – 
come   heavy—wlich  was   more   often   the
case   in   the   days   of   which   I   write,   when
the   fish   were   plenty   and   tbe   fishers   few,
than   at   present—it   does   not   need   a   walk   of
more   than   100   yards   to   make   the   Inn,   to
 disembarrass   himself   of   the   pleasing   load,
which   the   angler   of   average   industry
nearly   always   bears   in   the   shape   of   a   well – 
filled   basket,   and   rest   from   their   whole-
some   tire   his   strong   and   sinewy   limbs.
One   of   the   most   skillful   and   at   the   same
time   most   ardent   anglers   of   tlie   period   and
 the   place   was   Harlow S.   Love,   father   of
 John   Lord   Love,   ex-Attoruey-General   of
this   State.   Mr.   Love   often   made   Dough – 
erty’s   cozy   little   inn   on   the   banks   of   the
Purisima   his   home   for   a   month   or   two   in
the   open   season.   He   was   a   lawyer   of
much   reputation   in   that   day,   as   his   son   is
at   present,   and   conducted   The   Call   as
the  earliest   legal   adviser   of   its   then   pro-
prietors   through   many   perplexing   and
tortuous   lawsuits.   Mr.   Love   in   his   Wal – 
tonlan   pursuit   treated   the   elusive   trout
pretty   much   as   in   court   he   did   the
wary   witnesses   he   examined—he   had   them
in   the   creel,   as   the   Scotchman   calls   our
trout-basket,   almost   before   they   felt   they
were   hooked.   It   was   a   sight   to   see   this
lover   of   rod   and   reel,   in   his   fishing   equip – 
ment,   pushing   on   through   clumps   of
shrubbery,   regardless   of   poison   oak   or   any
other   baneful   plant,   to   reach   a   quiet   pool
under   a   gnarled   root   that   jutted   out   over
 tne   stream   from   an   ancient   redwood,   and
where   he   generally   basketed   a   couple   of
pounders.   He   was   a   model   American   dis – 
ciple   of   old   lzaak,   fully   able   to   cope   with
the   rougher   conditions   under   which   the
“gentle   art”   has   to   be   plied   in   California.
Gideon   J.   Denny,   the   painter,   was
 another   of   those   sport-loving   cits   who   was
often   beside   this   stream;   but   much   as   he
loved   trout-fishing   he   loved   his   pictorial
art   more.   Like   Alfred   Jingle,   the   poet,
who,   when   hunting,   varied   his   banging   of
the   fieldpiece   by   twanging   the   lyre,   “Gid,”
as   his   familiars   used   to   call   him,   dropped
his   rod   for   a sketch   when   a   good   bit   of   land – 
scape   caught   his   eye,   a   pretty   swirl   in   the
water   of   the   creek,   or   a   knot   of   cattle   ofl
in   the   meadow   that   reminded   him   of   a
Cuyp   he   had   seen   somewhere.   He   was   a
marine   painter,   as   a   general   proposition,
and   many of   his   sea   pictures   are   yet   on
the   walls   of   private   dwellings   and   public
places   in   this   city,   but   he   had   a   painter’s
eye   for   the   beautiful   in   nature   on   land   as
well   as   on   sea.   He   never   made   a   good
 showing   as   an   angler;   he   was   not   indus – 
trious enough.   Where   he  shone   brightest
was   in   the   great   room   of   the   Dougherty
inn   when   the   “ev’en   had   brought   it’   hame,”
and   the   anglers,   the   flagellants   of   the
brook,   narrated   their   adventures   of   a   day.
Gid   never   boasted   of   his   basket,   nor
mentioned   any   striking   work   by   the
brookside;   but   he   had   experiences   in   other
directions   that   were   equally   interesting,
and   he   told   them   racily,   like   the   man   of
the   world   he   was.
On   one   occasion   a   member   of   the   fishing
party   caught   a   three-pound   trout—said   to
 be   the   largest   fish   taken   out   of   the   Puri – 
sima’s   waters   since   the   American   occupa – 
tion,   or   in   the   memory   of   the   oldest   in – 
habitant.   There   was   a   howl   of   disgust
wheu   the   fortunate   angler   exhibited   his
prize   to   the   assembled   fishermen   in   the
evening,   and   decided   doubts   were   ex – 
pressed   that   it   was   ever   caught   by   a.   hook
and   line.
“Some   chap   has   a   trout   preserve   on   the
creek,   and   that   fish   was   caught   with   a
silver   hook.   How   much   did   you   pay   for
it?”   Such   was   the   kind   of   chaffing   that
parsed   round   the   circle.
Gid   saw   a   chance   for   his   pencil.   The
big   trout   was   laid   out   to   the   best   advan – 
tage,   and   measured   18   inches   from   tip   to
tip;   then   be   made   a   handsome   drawing   of
it,   which   was   hung   up   in   the   barroom   of
the   inn.   with   all   the   data   connected   with
its   capture.   Everybody   living   in   the   coun – 
tryside   round   about   came   to   see   the   pic – 
ture   of   the   great   trout,   to   talk   about
it   in   a   way   more   or   less   nonsensical.   The
main   point   was   that   there   was   a   good   deal
of   whisky   drunk   by   the   visitors   during
the   debate,   and   it   is   said   the   landlord   de – 
rived   enough   money   from   this   source   to
pay   his   taxes   for   that   year.   It   is   needless
to   say   Gid   was   made   free   of   the   bar   while
his   picture   was   on   exhibition.   The   fish   it – 
self   was   speedily   transferred   to   the   hand
of   the   best   cook   in   San   Francisco,   who
served   it   up   au   gratin,   the   mushrooms   and
truffles   plentiful,   and   it   was   discussed   in   a
more   material   way   by   two   or   three   epi – 
cures   of   the   fishing   party,   who   bathed   its
firm,   pinky   flakes   in   choice   sauterne.
Many   other   names   occur   to   the   writer,
and   he   turns   with   a   sigh   from   the   recollec – 
tion,   for   they   are   all   dead,   while   La   Pu – 
risima   is   still   singing   Tennyson’s   song   of
the   brook,   “Men   may   come   and   men   may
go,   but   I   go   on   forever.”
There   are   several   mesa-like   islets   lying
a   short   distance   off   shore   in   the   vicinity
of   Dougherty’s   inn   that   were   objects   of
great   interest   to   visitors   thirty   years   ago,
and   are   so   yet,   probably.   When   evening
drew   on   all   the   space   on   their   surface,
many   acres   in   area,   was   covered   by   enor – 
mous   sea-lions,   packed   as   closely   together
as   sardines   are   in   a   box,   and   they   fought
for   their   respective   places   all   the   live – 
long   night   and   roared   so   loudly   that   the
combined   noise   reached   the   inmates   of   the
inn   like   the   “sound   of   many   waters”   or   of
a   Niagara   in   the   distance.   At   one   time
these   animals   were   killed   for   their   oil,   and
the   beach   would   be   lined   with   monstrous
specimens   of   dead   phocae,   some   weighing
upward   of   a   thousand   pounds.   The   slaugh – 
ter,   however,   proved   unprofitable   and
was   finally   discontinued.
The   pursuit   of   the   California   black   fish
was   also   made   a   business   by   Buzzell,   the
predecessor   of   Dougherty.   It   was   hazard – 
ous   and   he   lost   his   life   by  it.   He   didn’t
happen   to   have   a   good   boat-steerer   with
him   at   the   time   he   was   fastened   to   a
fish,   and   when   it   fluked   and   stove   the   boat
in   the   old   man,   even   while   his   people   were
looking   on   from   the   shore,   sank   out   of
sight   into   the   ocean   witn   a   bubbling groan.

1897: Wealthy Pioneer G.R. Borden lived in the Purissima

Story from John Vonderlin
Email John ([email protected])
Hi June,
Here’s a story from the July 24th, 1897 issue of the San Francisco Call about the death of the supposed first “white” settler in the Half Moon Bay area, G.R. Borden.  Enjoy. John

G.   R.   Borden   Passes   Away   at   His   Home
in   Purissima
REDWOOD   CITY,   Cal.,   July   23.—   G.   R.
Borden,   a   wealthy   pioneer   resident   of   this
county,   died   at   his   home   at   Purissima,   on
the   coast   side,   yesterday.   Borden   landed
in   this   section   in   1853,   locating   near   Half –
moon   Bay,   and   had   the   distinction   of
being   the   first   white   man   to   cross   the
Santa   Cruz   range   of   mountains   and   make
his   home   in   that   place.   Tie   late   James
Peace,   who   deserted   his   vessel   in   San
Francisco   Bay   some   years   previous,   was
undoubtedly   the   first   white   resident.
Borden   was   born   near   L.ttie   Falls,
N.   V.,   in   1812,   and   during   bis   boynood
was   a   schoolmate   and   intimate   friend   of
the   late   Senator   Stanford.   Borden   was
one   of   the   builders   of   the   Erie   canal,   hav –
ing   had   charge   of   the   construction   of   fifty
miles   near   Utica   City.
The   deceased   was   extensively   engaged
in   the   manufacture   of   shingles   and   was
associated   with   G.   P.   Hartley   of   this   city,
forming   one   co-partnership,   and   with
R.   H.   Hatch of   the   coast   side   in   a   similar
enterprise.   His   real   property   consists
of   a   valuable   tract   ol   timber   land   in
Purissima   Canyon   which   is   worth   $100,000.
He   leaves   one   son.   The   burial   took   place
today   at   Halfmoon   Bay,   under   the   aus –
pices   of   the   Masonic   fraternity.

Coastside Creeks: “I have fished almost all of them…”

Story by John Schmale

Email John ([email protected])

Hello June,

I read some posts on your site about fishing for trout in the coastal streams. I have fished almost all of them and have fond memories of picnics among the redwoods and the a camp fire at dusk. That reminds me of an old, true, family story of fishing in Purisssima Creek back in about 1949. My uncle Lyle who lived in San Francisco and worked at Stanford University spent a  great day fishing in Purissima creek and had scored a limit of trout. I belive it was 15 fish then. He was at the family home cleaning his catch when his brother Robert (Uncle Bun to us, as he was born on easter) came to admire the efforts of a day on the creek. Bragging about the big one that got away “right under the old log bridge” and stating “WOW, it muust have been 14 inches”, poor uncle Lyle bragged a little too much, for the very next afternoon, in the very same sink, stretched out next to a metal tape measure was “Big Ned” as Uncle Bun named the wily giant that eluded Lyle the previous day. Uncle Bun jokingly teased Lyle, who pretended to be happy that someone caught the fish, by stating “just for the record Big Ned was only 13 inches.”
These were some of the best memories of my life.
John Schmale

Backstories on Ocean Shore Railway Investors

Hello, June. I found an article a while back in TIME online***. It originally appeared 7/5/37 and is titled: New Road Old. It tells of the dreams of two men. One was Dr.John Lorenzo Dow  Roberts  (an interesting tale in itself), who successfully fought to get a paved road from Carmel to the Hearst Ranch so he could better serve his patients. The other was J. Downey Harvey, president of the Ocean Shore Railroad, who dreamt of a passenger line from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. (Of course, we know that nightmare!)  Had I known in 1937 that Mr. Downey was still living in 1937 in my youthful naivete and enthusiasm that the Ocean Shore was soon to be rebuilt, I undoubtedly would have attempted to contact Mr. Harvey. From the tone of the interviewer’s article, I think my reception would have been doubtful…

Incidentally, when J. Harvey Downey was in So. Cal. before the Ocean Shore days he was involved with removing an Indian tribe he regarded as squatters on his property. The Indians claimed long-held rights to the land. Finally, a CA Supreme Court decision bolstered later by the U.S. Supreme Court found for Mr. Harvey.  A good Old California story for you there, June.   Angelo Misthos

June to Angelo: Do you know which California tribe?

June, the tribe was the Cupenos. Even Wikipedia has an article on it, but if you look under J. Downey Harvey and Cupeno Indians I’m sure you’ll find plenty of info.
The doctor whose dream came true was John Lorenzo Dow Roberts (aka John L. D. Roberts); you may look him up under that name. Angelo


Downey Harvey was president of the Ocean Shore Railway

Downey Harvey was president of the Ocean Shore Railway

By June Morrall

In 1906, the rolling hills of San Mateo seemed an unlikely site for an English fox hunt, replete with traditional riding regalia, fine horses and a full complement of hounds. All that was missing was the fox. This did not deter the resourceful Peninsula aristocrats. If local foxes were scarce, coyotes weren’t.

From a distance, the men and women astride galloping horses looked like specks of red and black, impressionistic figures on the San Mateo landscape. Attired in red hunting jackets, white breeches and black caps, they were members of the San Mateo County Hunt Club.

As “master of the San Mateo Hounds,” John Downey Harvey, the 46-year-old president of the Ocean Shore Railway, gathered around him the “regulars.” Thesemembers included Harvey’s daughters, Anita and Genevive, his friend, attorney Francis Carolan, banker Richard Tobin and polo players Captain Seymour and Walter Hobart. The Burlingame Country Club was the meeting place for the “drag hunt,” which resembled a fox hunt, except the hounds were trained to follow an artificial scent.

As the riders and their hounds nervously awaited the start of the meet covering 15 miles, none of them dreamed that a month later, the San Francisco earthquake and fire would change many of their lives. The Peninsula’s great water mains would collapse as San Mateo County sustained wide quake damage.

On the Coastside, boulders would tumble over Devil’s Slide into the foaming surf, followed by the twisted remains of the Ocean Shore Railroad’s freshly laid track and expensive rolling stock.

As owner of 13,000 shares of the railway, Downey Harvey was the driving force behind the first railroad to promote a 5 ½ – hour trip as a moving picture ride down the San Mateo County Coastside, featuring views of cliffs, bluffs, beaches, rocks, redwoods and marine scenery.

While the San Mateo County Hunt Club met, Downey Harvey didn’t have earthquakes or any dark thoughts on his mind as his horse “Fawn” jumped the five-foot fences. On the contrary, the railway president felt a burst of energy as the small pack of hounds led the hunters at a galloping speed across familiar terrain: fields bordering banker W.H. Crocker’s home called “New Place;” millionaire executive and future Hillsborough mayor Robert Hooker’s estate; the gate of Francis and Harriet Carolan’s Crossways Farm; the back of the Tevis place, later Jennie Crocker’s home; the golf links of the Burlingame Country Club and the shade trees of “Howard’s Woods.”

Born in Los Angeles on April 17, 1860, J. Downey Harvey was the son of Colonel Walter and Eleanor Harvey. His uncle, John G. Downey, was the seventh governor of California, later a business partner of Alvinza Hayward, whose mansion once stood near Ninth Avenue in San Mateo.

When Downey was 10-years-old, his father, Harvey, died. With his mother, Eleanor, who had married banker Edward Martin, Downey moved to San Francisco. Dubbed “Queen” Eleanor, Downey’s mom became the undisputed leader of San Francisco society for decades, and her home was known as a “fortress of respectability.”

As a youngster, Downey Harvey displayed a “genius” for acquiring friends. In school, he befriended the son of Pio Pico, the last governor of Alta California, who, with his family chose to reside in Los Angeles. Harvey also knew John C. Fremont, a popular, nationally known figure, and a promoter of railroad projects in the West.

In 1883, 23-year-old Downey Harvey married Sophie Cutter; the couple raised two daughters, Anita and Genevive. Sophie Harvey loved music and a full social calendar, yet she managed to run her large household with efficiency.

Along the way, Downey collected all types of friends. from artists and entertainers to business and military men. His aspiration was to become a “clubman.”

By 1895, Downey, an avid sportsman, reportedly laid out Northern California’s first golf course for the San Francisco Golf and Country Club. When he learned that San Mateo County, because of its “undulating pasture without pebbles,” was the best terrain for the hunt, he focused his efforts on helping develop the San Mateo County Hunt Club.

Polo player Walter Hobart had a place in the hunt club’s lore. In 1897, he purchased 38 foxhounds, shipping them from New York to San Mateo for the first “authentic” chase. The San Mateo County Hunt Club members pursued Hobart’s hounds across the fields in a “drag hunt,” the animals chasing a sack of anise seed, a flavoring used in alcoholic drinks called “cordials.” The hunt ended when the hounds surrounded the aromatic sack. Disappointed that their quarry was not alive, the hounds had to be rewarded with stewed beef.  As for the hunt club members, they rode back to the Burlingame Country Club for cocktails and dinner, followed by a big party.

Their aristocratic English fox-hunting cousins would have found many deficiencies in the San Mateo club’s version of the hunt. One one occasion the “clever huntsman”  Jerry Keating unleashed a large pack of hounds, so many that they were in every field, in every direction.

Making matters worse (or perhaps more exciting),  so-called “unauthorized horsemen” (folks who “just” enjoyed riding) put themselves between the hunters and the dogs. Foiling the scent with their steaming horses, they tested the patience of the master of the hunt, ruining the chase.

Ocean Shore Railway President J. Downey Harvey learned from Jerry Keating’s mistakes, and he never brought along too many hounds.

Harvey also did not like to be called by his official title, “master of the San Mateo Hounds.”

“His democratic ideas,” explained a friend, “coupled with his modesty and his kindliness will not allow him to bear the honorable title which means so much to European sportsmen.”

Harvey had always displayed an interest in horses, as did his close friend San Francisco attorney Francis Carolan. Married to Harriet Pullman, heiress to the railroad car fortune, Carolan loved his equine friends, but it was more than just a hobby. Offered top dollar for Vidette, one of the best jumpers in the country, the attorney repeatedly refused to sell his favorite hunting horse at any price.

Upon completion of the Carolan’s Crossways Farm, a Burlingame residence with stables and a private polo field, the couple celebrated with a spectacular party held inside the stables. Flower-draped chartered Pullman cars carried guests–the men attired in red hunting jackets–from San Francisco to the Burlingame farm. Thousands of Japanese lanterns (perhaps to show support for Japan, then at war with Russia) and electric lights lit up the grounds, and a multi-colored chandelier had been installed in the stables, according to the archives of the San Mateo County History Museum. To get a powerful boost of illumination, including a string of lights outlining the house, wires were strung all the way from Burlingame to Redwood City.

Cocktails and supper were served at tables placed near the brightly lit stables; entertainment included a Japanese ballet and Spanish dancers.

The Carolans became famous for the renowned French chateau they built in Hillsborough in 1915 — abandoned by them seven seven months later — when the rattling windows and other annoyances undermined their shaky marriage, causing them to abruptly leave the Carolans and each other.

As a major shareholder of Ocean Shore Railroad stock, it was natural that Downey Harvey would think about the railroad’s difficult construction near Devil’s Slide, north of Montara on the Coastside. Building a railroad along the coast route from San Francisco to Santa Cruz had been strewn with obstacles.

Forty years earlier in 1865, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company surveyed the possibility of a Coastside railroad, creating an air of excitement in Pescadero and Half Moon Bay. Thousands of workers were slated to fell trees, excavate cuts, string bridges and bore tunnels. Suddenly land prices doubled….but the bubble burst, and the railroad was not built.

Millionaire miner Alvinza Hayward, who built a mansion [later turned into a hotel] in San Mateo, spent $17,000 surveying a railroad, doing some grading and securing rights-of-way. His plans suddenly were dropped because of bad investments.

Other planned railroads failed as well. In 1905 the San Mateo Times, fearing interference from the Western Pacific Railroad, called for their choice, the Southern Pacific Railroad  (SP) to take action.

The San Mateo Times implored the SP to spend money encouraging a Coastside railroad from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. If they did this, the San Mateo Times held, the SP would shut out “dangerous competition and forever make the counties of Santa Cruz, San Mateo and San Francisco the exclusive territory for the construction of the Southern Pacific railroads.”

The SP'[s engineering department responded that a surveying party had begun, and the company was acquiring the rights-of-way. The SP’s efforts came too late, for Downey Harvey and his independent group of Ocean Shore Railway investors had outmaneuvered the competition.

Inviting guests to his new home, San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz  [Image: San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz]schmitz

proudly showed visitors a $1,250 Persian rug–a lavish gift reportedly from Downey Harvey, thus greasing the skids for the Ocean Shore Railway being awarded the coveted San Francisco franchise.

In 1906, a month before the earthquake struck, the San Mateo Hunt Club members, hot on the trail of the hounds disappeared into the tree-lined Howard Woods where a “coyote was liberated and killed by the pack.” The hounds backtracked over the same course while Downey Harvey and the other hunters rode to the Burlingame clubhouse where they enjoyed luncheon on the verandah. The day of sport had not ended for polo players Captain Seymour and Walter Hobart; these men galloped off for a polo match at Francis Carolan’s nearby private polo field.

A month later, on April 18, the San Francisco earthquake struck.

(Image from a book called: “Complete Story of the San Francisco Horror,” Memorial Edition. 1906)


As president of the Ocean Shore Railway, Downey Harvey convinced San Francisco’s mayor to form a Committee of Fifty to provide relief for the homeless, but his own losses were beyond calculation.

Author Gertrude Atherton wrote that her friend Downey Harvey had invested the greater part of his fortune in the Coastside’s scenic railway–but after the earthquake there was little interest in scenic railroads and new resorts.

The Ocean Shore limped for4ward but the Harveys had lost so much money in the railroad they were forced to live in a sort of retirement for awhile. For the Downey Harveys, such a retirement meant living at Del Monte, the exclusive resort built by the Southern Pacific Railroad at Monterey.

Upon his return to San Francisco, Downey Harvey faced lawsuits resulting from the tragic death of an Ocean Shore train conductor. The OSRR finally closed down about 1922.

J. Downey Harvey, whose affiliations included the Bohemian, Pacific Union, Olympic and San Francisco Golf Clubs, was “the most human of human beings,” said a friend after his death in 1947. “He had the wisdom of a fox and honesty of a sunrise.


I wrote this story some years ago.


I Asked Railroad Historian John Schmale

Where did the Auto Stage pick passengers up on the Coastside?


John Schmale says:

Hi June,

The Ocean Shore Auto Stage company’s route was from Tunitas, in San Mateo County, to Swanton in Santa Cruz County. The franchise for the route was granted to them by the  State Railroad Commission to connect the railheads and bridge the 26 mile “Gap.” The buses (two 12- passenger “Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagons” with convertible tops) ran to San Francisco only when the Ocean Shore Railroad was shut down by mud slides and washouts, which was fairly often. When the two Steamers operated to San Francisco and towns other than their assigned route they were really in violation of their franchise. However, the Railroad Commission looked the other way. Beginning in about 1914 several auto jitney and bus lines began competing with the Ocean Shore Railroad including the “Coastside Transportation Company” and the “Red Star Stage Line” which operated along the coast in San Mateo County. They used  conventional gas-powered vehicles and served Moss Beach, Marine View, Salada, Vallemar, Rockaway, San Pedro, Montara, Half Moon Bay, and other towns. The Coastside Transportation Company had its northern terminal in San Francisco. The Red Star line traveled along Market Street in San Francisco and went as far as Pescadero. The Photo is the Red Star Stage Line Bus at the Moss Beach Hotel.


Railroad historians John and Kristina Schmale’s new book published by Arcadia is called The Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway.

Email John Schmale: [email protected]

Spirit of the Road: History of the California State Auto Assn

The Spirit Of The Road : One Hundreds Years of the California State Automobile Association by Tom Turner & John Sparks. Coffee table book. Great photos.



A Love Affair with the Automobile
by June Morrall

Seeking to promote the exhilaration that comes with motoring, automobile club enthusiasts drove a fleet of horseless carriages from San Francisco to the San Mateo County countryside in 1902.

After a hearty luncheon, the caravan of more than two dozen strange-looking vehicles putt-putted along scenic Crystal Springs Road, leaving spectators aghast. The memories of the magical trip were captured forever on film as they paused for photographs in the beautiful setting.

It was a historic moment. The pioneering motorists demonstrated that they could move about the countryside at their own pace with no need to feed any horses or check the Southern Pacific railroad’s schedule.

The automobile rally at Crystal Springs was a smashing success, but it was 1902, and the horse was still king. The many critics of the motorized vehicle denounced them as highly unreliable, noisy and smelly “Whizz-wagons” with no future, just a passing fad.

One hundred years ago the owner of a new motor car was considered an adventurous type, but he still required a book of instructions to operate the vehicle.

“It won’t start,” was a common complaint.

Automobiles had to be hand-started, a frustrating process that involved checking the gears, the brakes, the switch-plug, and making adjustments to the spark and throttle. While three to five cranks were usually needed to start the car, the risk of a backfiring engine could send the crank handle spinning around counter-clockwise, bruising or breaking the automobilist’s bones.

There were other lessons quickly learned, or you suffered the consequences.

Motorists had to remember not to accidentally fill the gasoline tank with water or to strike a match when inspecting the carburetor. When driving after dark, the vehicle had to be stopped to turn on the headlamp, another procedure that could easily go haywire.

Mud on the primitive roads was a constant problem, as were blowouts of the weak, fabric tires then in use. Automobile breakdowns plagued almost every sojourn, and stranded motorists had little assurance that help was on the way. They could only hope that a fellow automobilist would happen by and rescue them.

The automobile was gaining popularity, and the problems screamed out for solutions. It was not surprising that the trials and tribulations of motoring motivated the rugged early pioneers to seek out one another.

In March 1900, 25 motorists met at the Cliff House in San Francisco. The historic outcome of the meeting was that 11 of those present formed the Auto Club of San Francisco, which later evolved into the California State Automobile Club (CSAA). Continue reading “Spirit of the Road: History of the California State Auto Assn”

Railroad Author John Schmale: Did you ride the Ocean Shore Auto Stage?

Email John Schmale ([email protected])

Hi June,

Thanks for posting the Stanley Steamer article. Your readers my have knowledge of the “Ocean Shore Auto Stage” bus line that operated beginning in 1914 and continued even after the railroad folded. I would be most interested in hearing form anyone with more information.  There may still be some people who remember seeing the steamers. Folks who remember the Ocean Shore Railroad or the April 18, 1906 Earthquake are few. During the 1970’s, when  I started my quest for Ocean Shore Railroad history, I interviewed several people who recalled riding the railroad. Some were in grammar school when the whole class rode the train to San Francisco and toured the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition.
Thanks again, John [Schmale]
June: Here’s the Half Moon Bay Auto Stage that ran between Half Moon Bay and San Mateo in 1910. At the wheel is Tony Marsh. The stage car “lamps” used acetylene gas. The bumpy ride took two hours with a stop at Burns Store near the present day site of  Skylawn Memorial Gardens (Lifemark)