Lizzie Wienke’s Story (5) Conclusion!

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie and George Kneese became a formidable duo, winning elections, and wielding political power in the county for a decade. But the power came at a price as each day brought skirmishes with political foes.

1n 1929, the “10 years war” came to the surface, a fight over the allocation of funds between Elizabeth Kneese and J.J. Shields, the county auditor. It flared into the open when Shields refused to honor a $172 claim “for services rendered” by Elizabeth Kneese.

On the surface it seemed petty but the underlying struggle was deadly serious.

Approved by the board of supervisors, Mrs. Kneese’s invoice was for delivering election supplies to 172 precincts in the county for the 1928 presidential election. District Attorney Franklin Swart weighed in, asserting that “the claim was not property itemized.”

“The Kneeses have been bleeding the county right along,” charged Auditor Shields. “My investigation revealed that at least two bunches of those supplies were delivered by Kneese to Pescadero in a county automobile, propelled by county gasoline. I want to know how, and by whom, the other 170 packages were delivered.”

The auditor’s war on Elizabeth Kneese continued. “According to law, the amount paid for such service is left to the judgment of the Auditor, and I intend to know the details.”

Under attack, Elizabeth Kneese, the seasoned politician, brushed it off. “Just the old personal squabble,” she said. “Shields has been warring with my husband, who is county engineer, and me, ever since we took office ten years ago. I delivered practically all of those election supplies myself in our automobile, not because I wanted the money, but so I would be sure they were properly delivered. A dollar a trip to each precinct is cheap enough. Anyway, the Board of Supervisors thought so.”

The voters made their choice at the ballot box, opting not to re-elect the powerful team of Elizabeth and George Kneese.

The precocious Coastside youngster, who became “the most popular teacher” and then one of the County’s powerful women, retired from politics.

Elizabeth Kneese cared for her mom, Meta, until her death in 1935. Two years later Lizzie died at age 54. George Kneese remained active in civic and business affairs, passing away at age 79 in 1964.

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (4)

I wrote this in 1999.

[Do you have a photo of Elizabeth Wienke? of Joe Nash? Please contact me: ([email protected])

Lizzie Wienke Nash was 35- years-old when she was appointed to serve out her deceased husband’s term, the first woman in California to hold the important office of county clerk. Voters enthusiastically returned her to office in the next election.

Lizzie’s aging parents, Jurgen and Meta, moved into the Redwood City home, and a year after Joe’s death, her father passed away and was buried in famous St. John’s Cemetery in San Mateo.

A few years later, Lizzie became romantically linked with County Surveyor George Kneese, a widower. They had much in common. Born in San Francisco in 1885, George Kneese was the son of German parents, as was Lizzie. Six years later, the Kneese family, then operators of a San Francisco hotel, moved to South San Francisco where they opened a grocery store.

After attending local schools, George Kneese studied civil engineering in Germany. Returning to the U.S., he joined a San Francisco engineering firm.

Later he surveyed and platted the town of South City, becoming its city engineer and superintendent of streets. Reportedly, he held the same positions in Daly City, San Bruno, Hillsborough, Atherton, San Carlos, Belmont and Colma.

Committed to improving the county’s roadways, George Kneese was appointed County Surveyor in 1918, while still engaging in private practice.

At the county courthouse in Redwood City, Lizzie and George had adjoining offices; in the course of routine business their romance blossomed, culminating in a marriage proposal. County residents enjoyed her sense of humor when Lizzie announced she would be issuing herself the marriage license.

(Next Part 5)

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (4)

Lizzie and Joe Nash’s Short Life Together & Some Things Never Change

After the 1906 earthquake and fire, bids were put out for repairs to the damaged Redwood City Courthouse. The board of supervisors awarded the contract to the J.J. O’Brien Construction Co. at a total cost of $165,000, an impressive amount at the time.

The scandal started when Nash discovered the minutes of a Board of Supervisor’s meeting which mysteriously appeared on his desk, authorizing additional expenses for the courthouse dome. Nash knew no such meeting had taken place.

Under great pressure, Nash revealed the true facts to P.P. McEvoy, the new supervisor who brought it to the attention of the Grand Jury, sparking an official investigation leading to a dramatic shakeup in county government.

Joe Nash emerged from the controversy with a solid reputation for honesty, courage and integrity. All the while Lizzie had a front row view of the County’s rough and tumble politics.

Joe and Lizzie breathed politics, and he considered running for the state senate. But tragedy struck: Joe fell ill and died during the 1919 influenza pandemic.

(next Part 5)

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (3)

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie Wienke, the most popular teacher in San Mateo County, meets Joe Nash, the well-liked County Clerk.

Like Lizzie, Joe Nash was a “true Coastsider.” Although born in San Rafael, Joe and his family moved to Half Moon Bay, where he attended the local schools. His father served on the board of education, and before turning to politics, Joe taught school. He met a wide variety of people, helping build his political base, while working for Levy Bros. at their string of general stores in Pescadero, San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay and San Mateo.

Elected County Clerk in 1906, Joe Nash quickly became highly regarded as a public servant. On one occasion, a couple anxious to “tie the knot” woke him up at midnight seeking his signature on their marriage license. Nash graciously complied and even served as the best man for the spontaneous ceremony.

A year later, Lizzie Wienke and Joe Nash themselves were wed at the Moss Beach Hotel, with only relatives present.

After the nuptials, the newlyweds departed for San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel aboard the Ocean Shore Railroad, reportedly the first bridal couple to travel over the breathtaking scenic route.

A six-week honeymoon took the Nashs to the East Coast and Toronto, Canada, where Joe represented California at the Independent Order of Foresters’ convention. Upon their return to San Mateo County, Lizzie and Joe settled down in a Redwood City home constructed on the lot Lizzie won two years earlier in the popularity contest.

The honeymoon was barely over when Joe Nash became a central figure in the worst political scandal in San Mateo County’s history.

(Part 4 coming next)

Lizzie Wienke’s Story (2)

Lizzie Wienke’s first job was teaching at the Montara Point School. The position earner her local celebrity status, and in the early 1900s she was invited to read the Declaration of Independence at an annual Fourth of July celebration held in Half Moon Bay.

But there were bigger things in store for Lizzie. When she was 23-years-old, Lizzie’s name was entered in a highly publicized contest, sponsored by the San Mateo Times, to determine the most popular teacher in the county.

The Times acknowledged the contest was a promotion to boost circulation. Anyone wishing to cast a vote for their favorite teacher had to first subscribe to the paper.

As the early votes were tallied, Miss Agnes Gilligan of San Mateo, appeared to be a shoo-in, with more than 11,000 votes. Miss Victoria E. Roussell of Belmont, her closest competitor, amassed but 4,000 votes.

And then the competition evolved into an exciting horse race, with the results uncertain. Thirty minutes before the contest officially closed, Lizzie Wienke’s friends rallied, and the votes poured in non-stop for the Montara Point schoolteacher.

At the final count, it was a landslide. With more than 40,000 votes cast for Lizzie, she now proudly wore the mantle of “the most popular teacher in San Mateo County.” Her prize was a building lot in Redwood City’s Wellesley Park, valued at $700.

It seemed fitting the congenial Miss Wienke would fall in love with a man equally well-liked. The lucky fellow was San Mateo County Clerk John Nash.

[Next Part 3]

Lizzie Wienke’s Story: From Coastside Teacher to County Politician (1)

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie Wienke followed in the footsteps of her dad, the “mayor” of Moss Beach

In the 1890s the guests came from all over to enjoy the Moss Beach Hotel, and they were enchanted by Elizabeth Wienke,  the resort owner’s precocious daughter. Later, Elizabeth used her positive impact on people in the bare-knuckle world of San Mateo County politics.

Called “Lizzie,” she was born in 1883, the only child of Meta and Jurgen F. Wienke, proprietors of the Moss Beach Hotel on the San Mateo County Coastside. The resort’s extraordinary location near the crashing surf allowed the child to wander on the nearby unique beach, playing among the exposed reefs at low tide. Looking back at the sea cliffs through the mist, she could barely make out the roofline of her family’s hotel, which resembled a large home.

On her way to and from school, Lizzie walked along the cypress tree lined avenue, planted by her father, and called Wienke Way in his honor.

As a young man, Jurgen Wienke worked as a gardener, landscaping estates in Germany, the place of his birth. On the Coastside, hotel owner Jurgen Wienke was so highly regarded that he was called the “mayor” of Moss Beach.

In the 1880s, the Wienke’s hotel was so remote passengers arrived by stagecoach. The coming of the Ocean Shore Railroad changed that, bringing guests from San Francisco and beyond. A tidy stone and wood train station, just steps away from a small commercial sign, directed passengers to the cypress tree-lined lane leading to the Wienke’s popular resort.

Some guests came tor relax in the refreshing climate, renting a rowboat at the Reefs, a seafood cafe situated on the sandy dunes. Others, like Stanford President David Starr Jordan, whose interest was marine biology, studied the varied and abundant sea life.

Whether lured by the crashing surf or the isolated beaches, coves and caves, all agreed you dare not miss the abalone, eel and fried chicken dinners prepared by Meta Wienke, assisted by her capable daughter Lizzie.

Part 2 next