Sunday, January 15, 2017

Georgia Fisher's Monument of Love

Monument for Georgia Fisher (J.Rubio)
This monument sits at one of the higher points of the Historic Sacramento City Cemetery. Facing east on the northern section close to the Broadway entrance, it's ornate tile design is what caught my eye the very first time I walked by it.  The sheer beauty of the monument is equally matched with the sudden feeling of sadness upon closer examination. It isn't just a sadness solely because of the tragic back story of the grave itself, but also the painful realization knowing how horribly this grave has been treated over the years. If we could have only seen the monument in its full splendor back when it was constructed, then we would be able to fully realize the love and craftsmanship -- literally blood, sweat and tears, it took to create such a masterpiece.

The monument was built for Georgia Fisher, a young lady, only 19 years old at the time of her death. The man who built her beautiful memorial was none other than her devastated groom-to be, Martin Bergman. The couple were to be wed on New Year's Day in 1876, but Georgia passed away just days before the wedding, on December 27, 1875.

Georgia's Story

Georgia Fisher, or "Georgie" as she was sometimes called, was the only daughter of George Fisher and Narcissus Tucker. Born on February 25, 1856, in Louisiana, it appears that Narcissus brought Georgia with her to Arkansas at some point shortly after her birth, as the Tucker family: William Tucker and Paulina Adelina Humphrey-Tucker (Narcissus' parents), all traveled together in an ox-team of settlers across the plains from Arkansas to California around 1857-1858. Although I could find no records of a divorce or death, I believe George Fisher more than likely died, leaving Narcissus a young widow.

It was after getting to California that Narcissus, a young single parent with an infant child to raise, married Thomas Kirtlan, a Blacksmith by trade. Their marriage date is estimated at around 1858, when Georgia was 2 years old. Kirtlan had originally been born in England, but came to the United States with his parents across the Atlantic as an infant. He was raised in Ohio, and there he learned his trade. By the time he was 19 years old, he traveled to California, via the Isthmus of Panama and settled in Jenny Lind (Calaveras County). He would remain there until 1869, when he moved his family to Sacramento to set up his new shop on Twelfth and K Streets. Eventually the family moved again, this time to Freeport, just south of Sacramento, along the Delta, near the other small towns of Clarksburg, Locke and Walnut Grove.

Georgia was the eldest half sister of nine children born between Narcissus and Thomas Kirtlan. Around the age of 17 (1873-74), Georgia left home and went to work as a hired domestic for the Bergman family in Sacramento. Other records state that she had only been in the employ of the Bergman's for five months before her death, which would mean she came to work at the household at the age of 19. It is uncertain the exact date that she came to be employed in the Bergman household, but the fact remains that by 1875, she was working there.

The Bergman sons, Johann and Martin, had came to California from their native Sweden in the late 1860s, after having been so impressed by a sample of California clay they had seen in Stockholm. The two potters were convinced that their future was in America, so they left everything behind to start a new life. The journey was long, crossing the Atlantic and then walking the Isthmus only to board another steamer to San Francisco, but their determination was unshakable.

After settling in Sacramento, the two brothers set out to buy out their competition, Sacramento Pottery. The Bergman's began prospecting, not for gold, but for clay, finding a rich deep pocket of the best clay at Michigan Bar and Cook's Bar in Sacramento County (near Rancho Murieta). In fact, according to The History of Sacramento County, California, by G. Walter Reed, Michigan Bar was thought to be "the best bank of clay for pottery" in the entire state. The Bergman brothers became so successful that they paid for their parents and siblings come to California from Sweden.

Georgia Fisher and Martin Bergman 
The monument as it looked Circa 1930
Their Love Story

According to an article from the Sacramento City Cemetery's website,  Georgia was hired by Mrs. Bergman, Martin's mother. Their home was located at 30th and N. Streets in Sacramento.  It appeared that Martin Bergman fell for the young lady while she worked in their household, and although he was much older than her, Georgia reciprocated the feelings.  According to a quote within the article, from a Bergman descendant, Pat Pors, it appeared that the family was quite happy with the union of the two, and they were preparing for the holidays and the upcoming nuptials said to have been scheduled at the Presbyterian Church (13th & N Streets) on New Year's Day.

At some point during the hustle and bustle of getting so much done to prepare for the festivities, Georgia fell ill. Some say she died from typhoid pneumonia, while another genealogical report by Charles Wm. Berberich, another Bergman descendant, listed her cause of death as diphtheria or brain congestion/meningitis.  I could not find any death record for Georgia, so I am undecided on which cause of death is certain. Either way, we know she fell ill and passed on December 27, 1875.

Martin was devastated at the loss of his beloved Georgia, and so in his final act of everlasting love, he chose to construct for her the finest monument, made from the best materials, by his own hand. It was said that he worked tirelessly with tears streaming down his face to create a memorial worthy of Georgia, who undoubtedly was the love of his life.

The plaque erected by the Old City Cemetery Committee in 2010, sits in front of the monument and summarizes the tragic love story for passersby to learn while strolling through the cemetery.

My Sketch of Georgia
According to the plaque, "Shortly after Georgia's death, Martin, together with his father and brother, created this monument on her grave site. Martin, a Swedish immigrant sculptor, constructed the ornately tiled base. His father, John Bergman, added a statue of the angel Gabriel. Martin's brother, John, created an equally beautiful column. Together, they built an ornamented clay pedestal fence around the plot. 

Georgia's picture, in repose, was placed on the monument beneath the angel. Over the years, vandalism, theft and natural forces have taken their toll on the monument, leaving only a shadow of its original beauty."---

 According to the online records posted by Charles Wm. Berberich, he quotes a letter that Georgia had written but never had a chance to send that described Martin in her own words, "a gentleman in every shape and manner...honest and of good principles....He is in business with his brother and another man, but it is good business and pays pretty good. It is the pottery business...he is not rich neither is he well off but he has good health and understands his trade well. He is about 31 years of age and his name is Martin L. Bergman. He weighs about 160 lbs and has long dark beard and dark hair and blue eyes." ---

Martin waited nearly 20 years before allowing himself to marry, in the 1890s. But even so, it appears that he and his wife became estranged over the years. When Martin died in Spokane, Washington, in 1920, he left all his estate to his only daughter, and nothing to his wife. Martin Bergman was a very prominent potter and sculptor who truly made a name for himself in his lifetime.

To date, the only known photo of Georgia Fisher is the one that was taken after her death. In an attempt to see what she may have looked like alive and full of love and happiness, I made my best effort to sketch her portrait, based on the dimensions of her face. I am no Van Gogh, but I took a shot at the task. It may not be exactly what she looked like, but I take comfort in the thought that I tried to give her a we could imagine her in life, not only in death.

Rest In Peace, Georgia.

(Copyright 2017, J'aime Rubio-

Photos at cemetery by: J'aime Rubio
Sketch by: J'aime Rubio
Photos of Martin Bergman and Georgia Fisher and monument from the Sacramento City Cemetery plaque.
"A Monumental Love Story" by Marilyn Demas -(Published June 2005)
via Sacramento City Cemetery website;
Rootsweb post by Helen Fingado (2004)
History of Sacramento County, G. Walter Reed;
Individual Report for Martin Laurentius Bergman, by Charles Wm. Berberich.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered


It's been four years in the making, but it is now complete. What once was just an idea, now has finally came to fruition with the publishing of my latest book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered." 

In this book you will find some of my favorite investigations. Although some of the stories were originally published on my blog over the years, this book will give a fresh take on each and every one of those chosen stories, adding much more detailed information, citing all sources and revealing even more than ever before. Besides that, I have interviewed many people along the way, as well as adding several new stories that I have never been published before.

Come travel back in time with me to explore the stories of the forgotten. From suicides to drownings, accidents and natural deaths to unsolved murders, these fatalities occurred under the most bizarre and mysterious circumstances. From chapter to chapter, you will delve into each story with their own tumultuous twists and turns. Find out what really happened to Octavia Hatcher and Julia Legare, both rumored to have been buried alive. Read the details of the three equally mysterious drownings of Alida Ghirardelli, Ella Newton, and Agnes Jaycoax. Be shocked by the story of Rose De Fabrizio, the young bride who collapsed while walking up the steps of the church to be married. Find out the truth behind Savannah’s own mystery encircling the life and death of Corinne Elliott Lawton.  In San Diego County, let me show you the facts surrounding the Hotel Del Coronado’s “Beautiful Stranger,” as well as the puzzling account of Emma LeDoux, the infamous Black Widow of Amador County, and many more.  

Besides these narratives, I have covered many popular urban legends known throughout the country. See how I reveal the truth behind Burrillville, Rhode Island’s more recent folklore encompassing the tale of Bathsheba Sherman. Take a closer look at the origins of other urban legends within Niles Canyon, located near Fremont, California.  In each case, I present to you a thoroughly researched accounting of every story, allowing you to draw your own conclusions, and also learn where many of their graves can be found in cemeteries within the United States.

Learn the true stories of:

Enid Rimpau - In 1915, a beautiful young bride, who had just started a new life and married the man she loved, was found poisoned in her home in Anaheim, California. Did she kill herself or was she murdered?

Elna Zimmerman - Learn about the tragic suicide of Elna Zimmerman, and see what events happened in her life that led up to her suicide jump off a skyscraper in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Cora Casey- Another tragic suicide, this time inside one of the fanciest hotels in Tucson, Arizona. Learn all about her life and what transpired before her demise. 

Ella Newton- It was a cold, winter day in December of 1892, when the body of Ella Newton was found drowned in the creek of Mt. Vernon, New York. Who killed her? And most importantly, why? 

Agnes Jaycoax- A young teacher from Sacramento, California, with her whole life ahead of her takes one wrong step on the rocks at Cypress Point in Monterey, California, and loses everything.

Alice Curtis- The daughter of a well known Sacramento politician, Alice was found with a gunshot wound to the chest, but still alive. Upon questioning Alice refused to tell her secret: who really shot her?

Octavia Hatcher- A famous urban legend surrounding Pikeville, Kentucky, Octavia's story is investigated with a fine tooth comb to tell you whether or not she was truly buried alive.

Rose De Fabrizio- Walking up the steps of the church on her wedding day, Rose De Fabrizio collapsed just feet away from her groom. Learn the tragic story behind this heartbreaking tale.

The Ghirardelli Grandchildren - Not one, not two, but three of Domingo Ghirardelli's grandchildren died in tragic and mysterious ways. Learn the stories of Aurelia Mangini, Alida Ghirardelli and Edwin Ghirardelli, and find out the odd origins behind their family crypt at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

Mabel Steele - Killed by her sister in an act of "mercy," learn the details behind Mabel and her daughter, Nadine's deaths. Although both killings took place decades apart, each included eerie similarities. 

Euphemia Hill- Claimed to be the inspiration for Barbara Stanwyck's character in the hit television show, "The Big Valley," learn the story of Euphemia Hill of the Hill Ranch in Camanche, California. The town no longer exists, as it is buried deep below Lake Camanche, but now her story, and the tragic story of her husband, Hugh Lawson White Hill's death has finally surfaced from the deep.

Lottie Bernard (Hotel Del Coronado's "Beautiful Stranger") -
Who died on the north steps of the Hotel Del Coronado that November night in 1892? Was it Kate Morgan? Lizzie Wylie? Or was it really Lottie Bernard? Go with me through all the documented records and decide for yourself: who was the beautiful stranger?

Louise Catalano- A woman juggling a secret love affair and a husband, along with maintaining a home and four young children, it was only a matter of time before her secrets were revealed. Read all the details of this gruesome murder that rocked the town of Roseville, California in 1921. 

Elizabeth Griffith- A spirited 17 year old from Louisville, Kentucky, Elizabeth Griffith was found dead on Christmas Eve of 1919, in the doctor's office where she was employed. To make matters worse, the gun used to kill her belonged to the doctor, who she had also been previously engaged to marry. Find out the details of her suspicious death and much more. 

Corinne Elliott Lawton- Buried in the historic Bonaventure Cemetery located in Savannah, Georgia, the tale of Corinne has enamored thousands who visit her grave. Learn the true story behind her life and death, and see new photos and information that has never been published before, revealing the identity of the man she was engaged to marry shortly before her death. 

Julia Legare- Rumored to have been locked in the Legare crypt while in a coma like state, literally sealed in alive, the story of Julia Legare is one you won't forget. Journey with me as I sift through the facts of this story that haunts Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Bathsheba Sherman- Infamously known as the evil entity or "witch" from the film, The Conjuring, come with me to Burrillville, Rhode Island, where I show you documented evidence clearing her name once and for all. I also delve into the history of the Old Arnold Estate, all the alleged deaths on the property and reveal where and who may have originally started this whole "ghost story" after all. 

The Urban Legends of Niles Canyon- Two eerie stories surround the area near Fremont, California, known as Niles Canyon. The "Lady in White" who appears on the side of the road or near the creek, and the "Vanishing Hitchhiker" who hitches a ride and disappears soon after crossing the Dumbarton Bridge. Learn the origins to these stories as well as true accounts of accidents and tragic deaths in the area. 

Emma LeDoux- The woman convicted for the "1906 Trunk Murder" of her husband, Albert McVicar in Stockton, California. Although eventually caught for this murder, it wasn't the first time she had been suspected of killing one of her husbands. Mrs. Emma LeDoux's story, with all its twists and turns, is one you will never forget. From her early beginnings through her scandalous adulthood and leading up to her death, read the most in depth account available regarding this calculating black widow.

(Copyright, J'aime Rubio - 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Flora Somerton - Nob Hill's Famously False Urban Legend

A few nights ago when I was driving my son home from work, and happened to be switching radio stations, I heard the mention of a "lady in white" frequently sighted in Nob Hill, San Francisco. The name of this alleged specter was presumed to be Flora Somerton.

The story relayed over the airwaves was brief but mentioned that the young lady mysteriously disappeared from a ball one night in 1876, only to be discovered 50 years later, dead in the same dress she had been seen wearing the night she vanished. The DJ was not very clear about what had happened to Flora during those 50 years. Was she dead all that time and they only discovered her body 50 years later? Or did she die 50 years later? I was intrigued by this story, even the just the small tidbits I heard over the radio, so I decided to go home and see if there was any truth to this story or not.

First, I searched her name and every variation of it: Flora Somerton, Flora Sommerton and Flora Summerton. Besides the many links to websites mentioning the story in almost a scripted, (copied and pasted) regurgitation of the same story, there was not one website that cited any concrete sources of where they got their information. It appears that each person copied from the other person, and so on, leaving the internet inundated with sites mentioning her story, but not really detailing facts.

Several "paranormal" authors mention her story as fact in their books, claiming that she was a real person who really disappeared in 1876. They go on to state that she was engaged to be married to someone her parents set up (basically betrothed), and that at her "coming out" ball she took off and disappeared. Several writers claim that her family were socialites in San Francisco's high society and that they offered large rewards for any information leading to Flora. There are mentions of $250,000.00 being offered as a reward from her family, as well as noting that the newspapers all over the country published this mystery.  Then the story goes on that nearly 50 years later, an indigent woman going by the name "Mrs. Butler" dies in Butte, Montana, and that when her body is discovered, she is found with the dress and newspaper clippings about Flora's disappearance in 1876. Allegedly the authorities put two-and-two together, leading to the conclusion Mrs. Butler is actually Flora Somerton and she is brought back to her family plot to be buried.

The ghost story surrounding Flora claims that she haunts California Street, between Jones and Powell Streets, where she once lived. This is close to the Fairmount Hotel. She is known as the "Ghost Bride of Nob Hill" or the "Lady in White."

In theory the alleged history of this woman's story sounds interesting, but I could not find any facts to substantiate any of these claims. Although these previous writers claim there were newspaper articles laying out the entire story from her disappearance to the discovery of her body half a century later, none of these writers ever cite the sources they used to base their conclusions on.

I diligently searched every archive database I could find and came up with no newspaper articles of that time period showing that any woman named Flora Somerton had been missing, nor were there any records in Butte, Montana, showing her death, or the death of this "Mrs. Butler," in 1926.

In reality, it appears that there was no Flora Somerton (spelled any way you try)....and if there had been, she did not live in San Francisco. There are no records of birth, death, census records, voting registries, nothing with Flora's name or anything that remotely comes close to it. The only newspapers that mention her at all are ones that mention the legend, the ghost stories, not the events that supposedly took place in 1876.

In my research I did find one family with that name, although they spelled their last name as Summerton. They also lived in San Francisco. The 1880 Census shows the father's name was George Summerton, and his wife, Matilda. George had two daughters from his first wife, Susan. Their names were Amelia and Elizabeth; however, neither one of the daughters disappeared. Another thing to note, the family did live in Nob Hill, but not on California Street. The Summerton's residence was located at 1417 Hyde Street, in between Jackson and Washington Streets, but again, these young ladies did not go missing.

I hate to rain on anyone's parade but there are no records or documented facts that prove Nob Hill's infamous "lady in white" was this woman Flora Somerton. Again, it is highly unlikely this woman "Flora" ever existed at all.  The "lady in white" stories go back centuries, leading us back into ancient folklore from Europe, such as France's "Les Dames Blanches." This tale is among the most popular in urban legend folklore that I have found in my research and writing. It appears every region has their own story of a mysterious "lady in white."

So in ending....whatever is roaming California Street in the dark of night and whatever you choose to believe it to be, one thing is for sure: it isn't Flora Somerton.

(Copyright 2016 -- J'aime Rubio

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ettie Humphreys And Her Forgotten Headstone

Nina Etta "Ettie" Russell Humphreys (photo: J. Rubio)
Ione, California is famously known for it's archaic structure that towers above the small town, up on the top of the hillside known as Preston Castle. Years ago, I wrote a book on some of the famous and infamous events that took place at that castle as well as early history that had been long forgotten.

Well, it turns out that the castle isn't the only thing in town made from that dark red sandstone, which is the same color of the red clay hills that surround the area. There is one headstone in the Ione Public Cemetery that bears the same color and stone to that which Preston Castle is best known for.

The stone was a mystery to many who would visit the cemetery. At first glance it appears that either time and the elements had washed away grooves into the stone, wiping the name and dates etched in the marker. It also appears that this could have been done by a person, too, but I hope that was not the case. Nevertheless, the identity of this grave had elluded many searching for it.

It was a hard thing, the first letters of the first name appear to be "ET" while the last letters of the last name read "WS" (or so we thought!) One thing clearly visible was the year of death, 1906.  I searched the death records for Amador County based on the year, to no avail. I even did a search in the Find-a-grave database for the cemetery and the cemetery index for any person whose name matched those letters, in both first and last names. Still nothing.

It was after posting the photo above on Facebook that a few of my friends got involved to help me figure out this  mystery.  Robert Mitchell, who is a historical researcher out of Louisville, was able to figure out that her name was Ettie Humphreys (although the cemetery had it under the name Humphries). I almost kicked myself when I saw the name, as I had come across that memorial on Find-a-grave during my search and disregarded it based on her last name not matching the letters on the headstone.  Upon further research into the archived newspapers, the May 11, 1906 edition of the Amador Ledger reveals her tragic story.

Amador Ledger, 5/11/1906
Nina Etta "Ettie" Russell was born on February 21, 1870, in Ohio. When she was just a baby, her parents moved to California, near Buena Vista. Later they moved to Chico and remained until 1880, when her mother passed away.  After the death of her mother, nine-year-old Ettie was moved from home to home, first living with Mrs. William Cook in Buena Vista, and then Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Norris, where she remained until she was married.

Ettie married George Humphreys in Amador County on February 23, 1890. She was 19 years old and he was 31. George had two sons from his previous marriage, Miles and Jimmy, (both were born in 1882 and 1884). By 1900, the Humphreys' were living in the Consumnes Township of El Dorado County, and her legal name was stated as "Nina E. Humphreys."  It is unknown when she moved back to Amador County.

According to the Amador Ledger article, Ettie was a "noble woman, always ready and willing to led a helping hand to those in need, and a loving mother, her first thought being of her boys."  This is very telling, especially since the two boys were not her biological children. Her heart must have been extremely loving and open, because she died on her way to help those who were affected in the Great Earthquake of 1906. In fact, it was only three days after the earthquake that left the bay area devastated with destruction, that she was determined to go and help locate friends and family who were displaced after their homes were destroyed.

"On the evening of her death, Ettie, as she was known by all her friends, was accompanying a friend to East Oakland that they might obtain a pass to San Francisco, to locate relatives who had lost their homes during the disaster, but as she neared her destination she rose from her seat on the outside of the car while in motion, and was thrown to the sidewalk, striking her head on the pavement, which resulted in almost instant death."--

The "car" as it is mentioned must have been a street car or trolley of some sort. The article goes on the state that her body was brought to Ione, California for interment to be next to her mother, Eliza Jane Russell.  The Rev. Hinkson of the Presbyterian Church conducted the services.

What is really neat about Ettie's grave, despite the fact that it is worn so badly you cannot read it, is that hers is the only red sandstone marker in the entire cemetery. Not only that, but in all the years I have been roaming cemeteries I have never come across a red sandstone marker like hers. That alone is a truly unique thing!

Ettie is buried next to her mother, Eliza Jane Russell (photo: J. Rubio)
In ending, let us remember Mrs. Ettie Humphreys, a kind and caring woman who died on her way to help others. She was only 36 years old, and a mother of two boys. After learning of her life and death, I felt that I could relate to her in many ways, as I am about her age and also a mother of two boys. I can only imagine that her last thoughts were of her husband and those two boys.

To Ettie Humphreys, may you never be forgotten, ever again!

(Copyright 9/14/2016-- J'aime Rubio,

Thank you Rob Mitchell!

1900 Census, Amador County
Amador Ledger, May 11, 1906
California, Amador County Marriages 1850-1952

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Possible Mystery Solved in Niles Canyon

I am a huge fan of urban legends, and when I first heard of the "White Witch of Niles Canyon" or the "Vanishing Hitchhiker"  tale I was very intrigued about how it all originated. If you have read my first blog on the subject, which I wrote nearly three years ago, you would see I never did find any documentation of a lady dying out in Niles Canyon. The only thing I found were more legends, and one death of a gentleman who worked on the railroads named William Harris who died after falling from a trestle on May 23, 1906.

Although I am sure there have been many car accidents up that winding canyon road, and more than likely many deaths over the years, I still could never find that one story that would tie to the "origins" of this urban legend that has circulated each generation in Niles and the surrounding areas.

One day when I was visiting Sunol, Niles and Pleasanton, a friend of mine told me to look up Lucinda Lowery, and that he had been told by an old caretaker at the cemetery in Pleasanton that she had died many years ago after being run over by cars.  When I got home I started a search, sure enough I found in the Pleasanton Memorial Gardens Cemetery index a "Lucinda Lowery" who purchased deed # 61, in Lot: 178 at the cemetery on September 24, 1895. It also showed that either the date of death or date of burial was September 24, 1895, the same day she purchased the plot. Something else stood out in the index, the wording, "killed by cars." After further research I found that the asterisk near her name on the list meant that cemetery employees added her name to the "deceased" years later. This meant her first name was not in the original book, it only showed Lucinda as the purchaser of the plot, not necessarily the one buried there, meaning that the person buried there may not be Lucinda after all. Still, I wanted to know for sure.

I started doing some online research and found several people literally copying and pasting verbatim the story from a "Halloween" themed article claiming that a lady with the last name "Lowery" had been on her way to a wedding and that the horses pulling her carriage were spooked by two of the first automobiles in town, and that she was thrown off the carriage, and run over by one of the cars.

That sounded interesting enough, right? I mean, it seemed so detailed...but did this actually happen?

For the record, besides the cemetery plot/deed index mentioning Lucinda Lowery's name and a "death by cars" noted under it, I had not found any records that show a lady with the last name Lowery (Lowerey, Lowrie, Lawry, etc) being killed.  Let me add though that just because I haven't found it, doesn't mean it didn't happen, but the likelihood of two people with the same last name having a similar tragedy in the same local area sounds a bit far fetched.

So who was Ms. or Mrs. Lowery? Well, I kept trying to search for her in Alameda County records, to no avail.  Then I found a Mr. John Lowrie (spelled different) who had a huge house and ranch near Niles in the mid 1850s.  He was a prominent man who had a lot of farm land in Niles, Centerville and Newark. He was so rich he paid to have a drawing of his home put in the 1878 Atlas of Alameda County. Interestingly, he and a business partner Samuel Marston, took their ship "Lady Anne" up to Alaska in 1882, where they struck gold while mining. Unfortunately on their way home their ship sank, taking not only their newfound treasure, but also their lives. According to historical write-ups, they were never heard from again.

John Lowrie's House (Atlas of Alameda, 1878)
When I saw the drawing of Mr. Lowrie's home I was instantly pulled into the picture. I imagined perhaps this girl in the urban legends, "Ms. Lowery", could have lived there. Maybe she was his daughter? Maybe she was the girl standing on the porch in this picture? Sorry to disappoint but she wasn't. According to records, John didn't have a daughter named Lucinda.

So I was at square one again.--

I kept digging and in another index of deaths in Alameda, I came across another Lowery who died in September 4, 1895. Could this be a coincidence? I think not! According to records Samuel Lowery (also spelled Lowry) was killed by the 91 train near Pleasanton. He was run over by the rail cars. According to the September 7, 1895, issue of the San Francisco Call, it stated that he was working as a farm hand for John D. Smith. The next issue of the San Francisco Call answered some more questions.

"The Coroner's jury in the case of Samuel Lowery, the man killed by a train near Pleasanton, were unable to determine whether it was a case of suicide or not. Coroner Baldwin has received a dispatch from the wife of the deceased, who is at Ballard, Washington., stating that she has no money and asking that the remains be buried here."--- 9/8/1895- S.F. Call

What I think happened was either (a) the town buried Samuel in a grave at Pleasanton Memorial Gardens and put Lucinda's name as the deed holder, or (b) she had to pay directly or even perhaps travel down to California and purchase the plot herself, thus the gap in time between Samuel's death and his burial.

I had wondered if maybe she had traveled to Pleasanton and purchased the plot, immediately taking her own life in order to be with him. (Trust me, it has been done). Of course the notion is a bit silly, sad, and morbidly romantic....but not the case.  In reality Lucinda didn't meet her demise in Niles Canyon, Pleasanton, Sunol or anywhere else in Alameda.

When Samuel died, Lucinda was pregnant with her first and only child. I believe that Samuel had come to California to work, perhaps in order to save for his pending family. Unfortunately, he was never able to see his son born or be reunited with his wife. Lucinda was now a 28 year old, penniless widow with a baby on the way. I can only imagine the fear, grief and shock she must have felt to be put in that position at such a time in her life, and during that era. As the years went by, city directories show her living at a boarding house on 3rd Avenue (corner of Shilshole) in Ballard, Washington. (1897 & 1899/ Seattle City Directory)

The 1910 Census shows her working as a cook, raising her son Alfred, who by that time is now a young man. By 1920, she is still a cook and Alfred is now working as a logger, helping to contribute to the household. On July 11, 1924, at the age of 57 years, Lucinda Lowry, left this world and passed on. She was buried in Section 6; Lot 38; Grave 7-A, at Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington.

So in ending, do I think that Lucinda Lowery is the girl everyone has been talking about over the years? Has her story and that of her husbands been seriously mixed up and turned into something completely different than the actual events that took place? More than likely I would say so, but now we know she didn't die in Niles or even in California for that matter.

Just as in my past article about the "Vanishing Hitchhiker," there has been many stories surrounding Niles Canyon and Sunol for many years, even going back into the 1920s, 30s and 40s teenagers have passed this story around over and over for so long. Who knows where the real story stopped and a new urban legend began, there is no way to tell.

Is it possible that another girl with the same last name died out on the road near Sunol and Niles? Anything is possible. However, as I always say, until I see evidence that proves this, I will have to just take this urban legend with a grain of salt and enjoy the fact it is a creepy story to tell your friends when you are driving through Niles Canyon on a dark night.

My biggest question now would be what happened to Samuel? Did he commit suicide, was it an accident, or was he murdered? Also, whereabouts on the train tracks did he die? That is a death you know for certain happened in the canyon on its way to Pleasanton, just like the death of William Harris who fell from the trestle in the canyon.  Next time you go out there, please think of  the real Lucinda Lowery, and the tragedy she experienced losing her husband. Also, don't forget about the real victims of Niles, Samuel Lowery and William Harris, and the tragic end they both faced along that treacherous track in Alameda County.

To learn more about all the urban legends surrounding Niles Canyon, as well as many more mysterious and bizarre tales, please purchase your copy of "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" today on Amazon! 


(Copyright- J'aime Rubio 2015)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The History of Aden C. Hart (Hart Mansion History)

It's that time of year again, when people start looking online for creepy, haunted houses to go drive by or explore. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that one of my earlier blogs Hart Mansion Secrets, which went in depth about the history of the home at 2131 H Street in Sacramento, would get so much traffic over time. What is sad to me though, is that despite the fact I have debunked the whole "haunted" theories that have circulated the internet (and even news segments on television), the public just seems to love to ignore facts and instead believes pure fabrication. It is a disgrace not only to the history of the home, but to its inhabitants over the years.

The man who had the gem of a manor constructed was Aden Cavins Hart. He hired Alden Campbell to design the home, which if you really take a good look at, has a very interesting and seemingly intentional off-plumb design. Facing the home you see that the front door and porch is not even with the pillars, nor is the steps going up. Upstairs porch has a few windows that are not evenly aligned with the home, making the exterior quite unique. Naturally, everyone is used to things being symetrical to look normal, thus the reason perhaps people get an odd feeling when staring at the home is because their brain sees the
asymetry, and subconsciously thinks it looks a bit "off." Personally, I find the home quite gorgeous and if given the chance I would love to live in it!

The current owners, the Amoruso family, have held this home in their family estate for over 60 years. They are the second owners of the home, after the original owners, Aden and Alice Hart.  I have spoke with Peter Amoruso for several years about this property. The home is NOT HAUNTED and is NOT called the Martinez House.

This beautiful, stately manor is the Amoruso family home, and one that they love and plan on keeping. From my research online I see there has been a lot of busy-body nuisances within Sacramento who have tried their best to cause problems for the Amoruso family, claiming the home is an eye sore, that it is unsafe, neglected, abandoned or downright in "danger of demolition." If you ask me, it is a bunch of nosy people unecessarily involving themselves in other peoples business with too many rules and regulations for homeowners.

The home is not structurally unsound, nor is it a danger to anyone. It just needs some TLC to maintain it's beauty for another 100 years. But of course there always has to be someone out there making a stink about something.  Bottom line is that the home is lovely and is a historic part of Sacramento, and one that belongs to the Amoruso family and no one else. I stopped by there yesterday and took some photos, and it appears the Amoruso's have been busy working on the home, and it is looking terrific so far! With that being said, I strongly suggest anyone who wants to view the exterior of the home, to show respect when driving by or stopping to take photos.

History of the Original Owners

Aden Cavins Hart was born on May 7, 1868, in Colusa County, California, to parents James Hart and Sarah Owen Cavins. His older brother, E. C. Hart, grew up to become a Judge on the Third District Court of Appeal and Senator. Aden was not new to the Judicial System, it was in his blood. His two uncles were judges in Indiana,  Chief Justice Rhoades and Judge A. G. Cavins, as well as his grandfather, S.K. Cavins who was a prominent Attorney in the same state. It seemed though Aden had other career plans in mind. His heart was in medicine.  Hart attended and graduated from Stanford University of Medicine (Cooper Medical School) and returned to Colusa to start his practice. He married Alice Harvey-Chase and took in her son (from previous marriage) as his own, Lloyd Chase. The two never had any biological children of their own.

Before 1900 he moved the family to Sacramento and went on to become one of the most prominent of surgeons in the area. Besides his work as a surgeon and physician, he worked diligently helping to form and organize various medical groups which preceded the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement, to which he was President.

Hart did not solely rely on the education earned at Stanford, but took the opportunity to travel the country and abroad to continue his education by way of real experience in the field. He was close friends with the Mayo brothers who founded the Mayo Clinic, as well as being strongly associated with Johns Hopkins Hospital.

By 1926, Hart was elected an honorary member of the American College of Surgeons, in recognition for all his services over the years. Besides the work he did around Sacramento County, he always found time to help charities as well as being a member of several fraternal orders such as: Sacramento Commandery No. 2 Knights Templar, Union Lodge of Masons No. 58, the Ben Ali Temple of the Shrine, and Sacramenton Chapter No.3 Royal Arch Masons.

When Dr. Hart retired, he and his wife, Alice moved to San Francisco to be closer to their son Lloyd, and his family. Dr. Hart passed away in the bay area on August 27, 1954. Alice died a few years later in 1957 and both were interred at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento.

Honoring a Pioneer

Section 6; Lot 22 @ Eastlawn Memorial Cemetery
When I do a simple "Google" search on this home once a year, I always find post after post about the home being haunted. Not only that but I find so many times that people are disrespecting the memory of Dr.Hart and his family. There have been many lies spread about Dr. Hart, claiming that he was a murderer, that he did experiments in his basement, killed his family, etc. Not one single bit of any of those preposterous stories is true. I am thoroughly disgusted with people who continue to spread such erroneous and slanderous information about a man who was pioneer in Sacramento history.

When looking into the history of this home, please show respect. Dr. Hart and his family were decent, upstanding people of this state and should be remembered as such. Dr. Hart did so much in his life, spending most of his life helping others. He was one of the original founders of Sutter Hospital and gave a lot of time helping charitable organizations. He was not an evil, murderous, mad scientist as some of these unbelievable internet sites claim.  As I always tell people, do not believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Fact is always better than fiction, and it is important that when telling the history of a person, place or thing, that you actually do the research before regurgitating the same old information blindly. You owe it to the person you are speaking about to tell their story correctly, and with respect.

To Read More About the Hart Mansion: CLICK HERE-- HART MANSION SECRETS

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)

All photos are the property of J'aime Rubio-- copyright protected.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Petra Johnston's Traveling Headstone

Petra de Jara Johnston
Several months ago, I  traveled to Half Moon Bay, California, to visit the famous Moss Beach Distillery. On my way there, I noticed two cemeteries that were right along the main road, side by side. Both looked forgotten and neglected, as if life and time had continued to move forward around it. That little speck of land confined within the fencelines remained a part of the past, forgotten and neglected. The first cemetery I passed was the Odd Fellows Cemetery, while the second was named Pilarcitos Cemetery. After finding a parking spot nearby, I walked up the sidewalk to the entrance of the abandoned cemetery and curiously opened the gate to enter this "forgotten land."

Wandering around the cemetery, among the dry overgrowth of weeds, it appeared the ground was cracking and splitting all around the area. Cement plots were broken in half, probably due to uneven earth underneath, while monuments had either fallen or been broken on purpose by vandals.  Trash along the backside of the fenceline along with a tent farther back showed signs of homeless making camp in this forgotten place. I took several photos of the headstones and graves at both cemeteries and eventually went on my way to Moss Beach for the evening.

After returning home from my trip, I continued to think about that cemetery and all the forgotten people buried there. I started to do some research on the interments at the Pilarcitos Cemetery when I came across this haunting photograph of a woman, Petra de Jara Johnston.  The story surrounding Petra seemed to be something out of a mystery novel, intriguing me even more. Years ago, her headstone was vandalized or broken in half, and the top portion literally disappeared. For years it seemed that no one knew where or why it was taken, until recently.


Petra de Jara was born on October 23, 1833, in Mexico, but at some point moved to the Bay Area of Northern California. By the time Petra was 19 years old she became the young bride of successful San Francisco saloon proprietor, James Johnston on April 10, 1852.

A native of Melrose, Scotland, Johnston was born on October 7, 1813, and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1818. After first moving to Pittsburgh, PA, the family later settled in Gallopolis, Ohio, where James would be raised.  By the time the Mexican-American war had begun, James enlisted. He later traveled to California to start a new life in San Francisco, being one of the millions of "49'ers."

Photo Credit: Maude
It is stated that James went into the mining industry at first, and after striking it rich he found himself co-owner of the El Dorado Saloon in San Francisco, quickly making a name for himself. He eventually started investing in various properties including his purchase of 1,162 acres of the Miramontes Rancho de San Benito land grant that he purchased from the heirs of Juan Jose Candelario Miramontes. He later convinced his brothers to join him in the area, thus the Johnston family name soon became familiar in the Half Moon Bay areas history.

It was on that land that James had the beautiful saltbox styled house constructed that would soon become the family home, now known as The James Johnston House or The White House of Half Moon Bay. Construction on the house began around 1853 but was not completed until 1855, when the family finally moved in. The young family of four consisted of James, Petra, James Jr. (1852), and Alice (1854). While living in the home Petra gave birth to three more children, John (1856), Francis (1859) and Adelaida (1861).

Sadly, on November 16, 1858, their eldest daughter Alice passed away at the age of four years. It is unclear what ailed the young girl, but she was laid to rest at the Pilarcitos Cemetery. I can imagine that Petra never fully recovered from the loss of her child. In 1861, while giving birth to her 5th and final child, Petra suffered complications. The baby, Adelaida, passed away either during birth or a short time after. Petra followed soonafter as well, and both were buried next to Alice at the Pilarcitos Cemetery.

It seems that the loss of his wife was too hard to bear, so James left the children in the care of Petra's mother, Ursula. James then moved back to San Francisco for the remainder of his life, and his children were raised by their grandmother at the home in Half Moon Bay. The 1860 Census had shown James to be one of the wealthiest in the County, having a value of over $100,000 in real estate and personal property at the time.

Not even twenty years later, James had managed to lose his fortune completely, while his brothers seemed to find success and go on to prosper within the area. Sad and indigent, he chose to take his life in a hotel room on October 2, 1879. He was buried in his family plot at the Odd Fellows Cemetery which is literally separated by a fence, adjacent to the Pilarcitos Cemetery.

Part of the Mystery Solved

Photo Credit: RCH
Last October, a contributor who goes by the name "RCH" on Findagrave, posted a remarkable photo on Petra's memorial. It was the missing piece of Petra's headstone! It ended up at the Green Valley Cemetery in Sonoma County, a whole 100 miles away!  How he found it and the answers as to who put it there is still unknown. I had reached out to "RCH" but received no reply. I spoke briefly through email correspondence to "Maude" the person who originally posted Petra's memorial but was unable to reach her to do an interview on this matter.

I really wanted to see that Petra's headstone be brought back to where it belongs, at Petra's grave site. I made a few emails to the Sonoma County Historical Society, where I was finally able to contact Mr. Jeremy Nichols. Thankfully he was able to get in touch with the cemetery and make plans to return the headstone back to Half Moon Bay.

Recent Plans!

After speaking to Dave Cresson with the Half Moon Bay History Association, who was happy to hear from me, it seems apparent that the effort to bring back Petra's headstone may be able to happen after all. Hopefully with the combined effort of Mr. Cresson and Mr. Nichols, along with the Half Moon Bay Review, and quite possibly the Johnston House Foundation, they will be able to save, restore and preserve this piece of local history once more. I have had a blast researching the life of this woman, and trying so very hard to get the right people in touch with one another to make sure that Petra can have her headstone back in one piece again. It would be such a lovely thing if this also could bring the community together and possibly inspire others to make an effort to restore the Pilarcitos Cemetery alltogether. It is such a beautiful, small cemetery and it is such a shame to see it in the condition it's in today.

I will keep everyone posted on any updates and if and when Petra's headstone makes it way back home!

UPDATE:  The Half Moon Bay Review did an amazing piece "THE MYSTERY OF PETRA'S GRAVESTONE" on this story in their paper on August 5, 2015. (CLICK HERE TO GO THAT ARTICLE)

Thank you to Dave Cressom (Half Moon Bay History Association), Jeremy Nichols (Sonoma County Historical Society) Clay Lambert (Half Moon Bay Review), John Ryan at the James Johnston House (Johnston House Foundation), "Maude" (Dayna) and "RCH" on Findagrave.

Photos: from Findagrave (Maude & RCH)

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)