My dad came across this letter written by his Grandmother, Georgie McCormick née Bevell (my Great Grandmother), about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Today is the 110th anniversary of the earthquake so I decided to share it. There are some shocking similarities to today’s San Francisco that remind me that we can all be hit by the big one and left to shoulder the damage together.
San Francisco – April 26th 1906
Joe received your letter today & asked me to answer it. I suppose you received the letter he sent you & also the telegram.
I am happy to say that we are all safe so do not worry. We have had some narrow escapes. Joe lost everything & was not insured so he will have to begin all over again. I had to run from the fire three times but Millie & I saved my trunks & sewing machine. I consider myself very fortunate.
If you could only see this City – it presents an awful sight not a house in all this City that has not been damaged to some extent by the earthquake but Oh: the dreadful fire it looked like Judgement Day had come upon us. Houses collapsed . I lived near two Hospitals & it was dreadful to see all the people they took in there maimed & bleeding &some dead but considering the terrible disaster there has been comparatively few deaths – the papers claim that one thousand people have been killed. The thing to be thankful for is that it happened at a good time in the day and it was at 5:15 in the morning & also in the year. The weather is pleasant so there is little suffering from exposure.
The government has been very prompt in coming to our aid &the whole country is a friend in need. We grew so prosperous we thought of nothing else & in a few moments every thing was wiped away. All the Business Houses Wholesale & Retail – the New Hall of Justice, the City Hall, all south of Market St, all of North Beach, in fact the Whole City – except the out skirts near Golden Gate Park. Everything else is a laid waste – a heap of ruins.
San Francisco was a beautiful city – you would not had known it if you had come here two weeks ago. Such imposing buildings and now nothing.but a memory of them
It is hard to keep the tears back when one goes around & sees the destruction. It is a strange sight to see the people standing in line three & four blocks long waiting for hours for clothing & food at the different locations throughout the city. Joe is in the Relief committee of The Knight of Columbus so we get plenty of food. The Millionaires & the Laborers stand side by side waiting for food. We are all equal now. We see such strange sights – some funny & some very sad. The men are all pressed into service unless they have a permit. Joe had to play. Tuiman & Willie had to load a wagon with bricks & a neighbor of ours who is very rich had to clean up Market St . The Martial Law was very severe & the Citizens are all glad it is taken off – they were killing our prominent men & even women were killed by them such indignities as one had to suffer at their hands. They were the National Guards. I came very near being shot for having a candle lit. They would hardly give me time to put it out. They ran a bayonet through the door five times & threatened to shoot up the stairway & I was alone in the house. If you are ever where there is Martial Law for God’s sake do as they tell you at once. We have had an awful dose of it.
I think it will take a quarter of a century to build up again and no one I know will live to see it. Nobody seems to know just what they are going to do. We have no water to speak of. No gas & we have to cook in the streets. Not a street-car in the whole city is running. No telephones. When one stops to think of it – it is dreadful every where destruction. But we must be up and doing with a heart for any fate.
There is an old saying that misery likes company & we certainly have plenty of it – money & promises are forming in here in great guaranteed so I guess we will get along. Of course some people will get rich while some other suffer. Well I will have to bring this to a close as it is getting late – candles have to be out at 10 PM.
So Goodbye love to all & write soon.
We are staying with Georgies’ sister at 137 Divisadero St. C/o Mrs Williams.