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

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.

Section 6; Lot 22 @ Eastlawn Memorial Cemetery

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.