My Seventy Years In California, 1857-1927, by J.A. Graves, President Farmers & Merchants National Bank of Los Angeles. Published by The Times-Mirror Press, 1927. Los Angeles. (SF lawyers listed in these chapters, 1873-5.)
SPENT MY VACATIONS AT HARD WORK GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. BEGAN THE STUDY OF LAW IN SAN FRANCISCO.
During the time that I was attending both the San Francisco High School and St. Mary's College, while many of my wealthy schoolmates spent their vacations gloriously, with trips to the mountains or to the seashore, or on short ocean voyages, I put in my time helping out the family larder.
When I was seventeen I was a good husky boy and could drive a team and haul freight. Where we lived it was the fashion to hitch up five-horse instead of six-horse teams. We put three horses abreast on the end of the wagon tongue in front of the wheelers. Five horses, so arranged, will pull just as big a load as would six horses, hitched the old way. Some of our neighbors did not have horses enough to move all of their crops. I would take a five-horse team and haul four tons of produce to San Francisco, and get $4.00 per ton for doing the work, or $16.00 per day--good wages for the service rendered. By starting early, I got in one trip a day for weeks at a time.
What an appetite that work gave me! I did not need a movie, or any other form of amusement, at night. My bed, at quite an early hour, was very alluring. I never turned over, from the time I went to sleep until I was ready to get up next morning.
My earnings in this manner helped out considerably. My mother used to say that I helped make the family living from the time I was six years old.
The summer I was nineteen, I went into the San Joaquin Valley for a neighbor of ours, who was farming extensively there, and received $7.50 a day for running a header in a grain field. I worked sixty-three successive days, never stopping for Sundays. Eight hours was not then a fashionable working day. We began at sun-up and quit at sun-down. At the end of the sixty-three days I had to return to college. I will never forget those days. I drew my pay for the entire sixty-three days at one time. The weather was frightfully hot. I had two pairs of overalls and two jumpers, and wore no underclothing. I wore brogans on my feet, without socks. With socks on, barley beards would get into them and they were most uncomfortable. My bare feet soon got tough, and I could have my shoes full of barley beards and chaff, and not feel them. I would wash out a jumper and a pair of overalls two or three times a week, hang them in the sun, and they would be dry in ten minutes. This was the worst job I ever had in my life, but youth, when in perfect health, can stand anything.
As stated in a previous chapter, I took my degree as Master of Arts at St. Mary's in 1873. The graduating exercises were at Platt's Hall in San Francisco and were largely attended. The next day I rigged up two good mowing machines each carrying a five-foot blade, hired a Mexican to run one of them, hooked up four good horses, two to each machine, and went around cutting hay at $1.25 per acre. There was an immense crop in the neighborhood at the time. By working long hours, each machine averaged ten acres a day. In addition to the $1.25 per acre, we and our teams were boarded by our employers.
My father took orders for us, and before a job was finished he would tell us where to move to. He also collected for the work. The hay cutting was finished by July first. After paying the Mexican his wages and paying for some new mowing machine knives, we had $820.00 left. I got $410.00 of it for my share. I never cost my parents one cent from that time on.
On July 8th, 1873, I entered the office of Eastman & Neumann, Attorneys at Law, in San Francisco, as clerk and student. Their office was over Donahue & Kelly's Bank, at the southeast corner of Sacramento and Montgomery streets. I rented a room on the top floor of the Stevenson Building, corner of California and Montgomery streets, for a reasonable sum. Living in San Francisco--that is, one's meals--was extremely cheap. I deposited my money with an old notary public, named Philip Mahler, who had an office in a semi-basement under the Donahue & Kelly Bank. He had a large safe, and would dole the money out to me as I needed it.
Two weeks after I went into the office, the firm had a disagreement with their head clerk and they dismissed him. That left the entire work of the office on my shoulders. I was, of course, a green hand. It staggered me at first, but I overcame it, as I learned rapidly, and satisfied my employers. I read law in the office every night until at least eleven o'clock.
My funds were running exceedingly low and I had to purchase some clothing. I had made a little money out of collections which the firm turned over to me. Nothing had been said about my remuneration. When I had been with the firm five months, Mr. Eastman one day gave me a check for one thousand dollars on a near-by bank and told me to bring in the money in twenty-dollar gold-pieces.
I did so, and stacked it up on his desk. He was drawing a complaint at the time. He looked up and said:
"How long have you been here?"
I told him, "Five months."
"Have you had any money from us in that time?"
I told him, "No."
There was a newspaper lying in front of him, on his desk. He picked up some of the twenty-dollar gold-pieces and dropped them onto the paper, counting as he did so. He stopped at $200.
"Take that," he said, "and hereafter your pay will be $60.00 a month, and you see that you get it."
I thanked him and gathered up the money. My heart was going like a trip-hammer. I have made a few dollars since, sometimes in large sums, but that $200.00 looked bigger to me than any sum I have ever seen since. The next day was Sunday, and I took that money home with me to show to my mother, and I gave her forty dollars of it. The remainder I needed.
The days and weeks, and even the months, sped by rapidly. I was acquiring knowledge, not only of law but of men, every minute of the day. I was getting practice which the books cannot teach one. Among Mr. Paul Neumann's clients (he was the other member of the firm of Eastman & Neumann) were some of the wealthiest business houses, mostly wholesale, then in San Francisco. I had to go to their private offices frequently. One thing made a deep impression on me. In nearly every office I went into, on one of the walls thereof was a framed lithograph picture of a large prosperous-looking man of Jewish persuasion, with
heavy flowing side-whiskers, a big cigar in his mouth, large diamond in his shirt-front, rings on his fingers, his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, and a very pleased expression on his face. Printed beneath the picture, in large letters, were these words: "I sold and repented." On the opposite wall would be another lithograph, the same size and frame, of the most distressed-looking Hebrew one ever saw. He was close-shaven and his head was sunk between his shoulders, his hands tightly clenched together, and, take it all in all, he had the most woe-begone expression imaginable. Beneath the picture was printed, in letters of the same size, "I didn't sell."
I have frequently sold and repented. My good old friend, Mr. I. W. Hellman, told me one time, after I had related this story to him, that the reason I had accumulated something was because I "sold and repented." As he put it, "the man who wants the last drop in the bucket usually gets left." I have always believed that if one sells and makes a reasonable profit, even if what he sells goes still higher, one should not complain, but buy something else and take a profit on it when the opportunity offers.
THE SAN FRANCISCO BAR BETWEEN 1870-1880.
In the decade from 1870 to 1880, San Francisco had a very able Bar, one that would compare with that of any city in America. The gold rush brought educated young men to California, lawyers, physicians, engineers and scholars, and California developed all of them. Some of the lawyers mined for a short time and then took up the practice of their profession, and the leaders of the bar drifted to San Francisco.
In 1873, when I entered Eastman & Neumann's office, McAllister & Bergin were the acknowledged leaders of the San Francisco Bar. However, as far as grandeur of character, legal learning and ability, and general standing were concerned, Samuel M. Wilson was the peer of any lawyer there. In mentioning the great lawyers of the day, John B. Felton, who also had great literary and oratorical ability, must not be overlooked. Then there were General Joseph P. Hoge, Wm. H. Patterson, Creed Haymond, Alexander Campbell, I. N. Thorne, Nathaniel Bennett, W. C. Burnett, Walter Van Dyke (who spent many of the latter years of his life in Los Angeles), Harry I. Thornton, Thomas R. Bishop, John Garber, John H. Boalt, Col. W. H. L. Barnes, the Dwinelle brothers, John W. and Samuel H., Solomon Sharp, Reuben H. Lloyd, Wm. S. Wood, Clarence R. Greathouse, whose firm was Greathouse, Blanding & Tevis--all of whom were able men, well deserving a prominent place in the niche of fame with the great lawyers of America.
The first time I met Mr. Wm. H. Herrin, lately deceased, who soon became one of San Francisco's foremost attorneys, was in the office of Clarence Greathouse. He was a law student and clerk there, and had just come to San Francisco from Oregon. John M. Coghlan, a former congressman, was at that time located in San Francisco, and had an excellent standing and reputation. So also did N. Greene Curtis, whose home
was in Sacramento, but who also practiced in the Bay City.
Sidney F. Smith was a lawyer of high standing, as was also Hon. W. W. Morrow (still living), who for many years was judge of the United States Circuit Court and the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the San Francisco District; likewise his partner and father-in-law, Judge Latimer.
In calling the roll of the San Francisco attorneys of that era, I have no intention of omitting Solomon Hydenfeldt, Judge J. D. Thornton, John F. Swift, E. B. Mastick, Oliver P. Evans, Senator Eugene Casserly, Henry E. Highton, James M. Shafter, A. A. Cohen, W. W. Foote, Eugene Duprey, Wymans & Belknap, Pringle & Pringle, Jarboe & Harrison, Elisha Cook, Leander Quint, Judge Delos Lake, Benjamin F. Brooks, Joseph Phelan and Sid Baldwin, both of whom were in Patterson's office. Then there was Geo. W. Tyler, brilliant, but in character and standing not to be included in the foregoing lists.
There were many able judges there, including E. D. Wheeler, E. B. McKinistry, Wm. T. Wallace, Judge Morrison, Samuel Bell McKee, Judge Ogden Hoffman of the U. S. District Court. A firm of wide reputation and excellent standing was Naphthaly, Friedenrich & Ackerman. Their business was largely commercial.
The most beloved of all the lawyers there was dear old Paul Neumann, of Eastman & Neumann. He was so constituted that he took life and the law as a joke, and made the most of it along those lines. His maxim was, "Never do anything today which you can put off until tomorrow." Then, when tomorrow came, he would endeavor to put it off for a month.
The following story will illustrate his diplomacy in getting favors from opposing counsel. He had appeared and demurred for a defendant in a case. The demurrer was overruled. The attorney for the plaintiff had given him three different extensions of twenty days each, sixty days in all, and the time was getting short. Whenever Paul wanted a man to do him a favor, instead of going to the man, he sent for him to come over to his office, that he wanted to see him on some particular business. On this occasion he sent for the attorney for the plaintiff, who came over. Paul plead for more time. The attorney said:
"Paul, I would like to accommodate you, but my client wants this matter settled, and I simply cannot give you any more time. Now, you must answer."
They parted good-naturedly. Paul immediately drew an order giving him twenty days more within which to answer. He told me to go up to Judge McKee's court room, he being judge of the third district. His court room was on the top floor of the Mercantile Library Building, on Post Street, between Montgomery and Kearny. Paul cautioned me that if there was any proceeding on, I should not bother the judge but sit still until he was unoccupied, and then present him the stipulation, telling him that he, Mr. Neumann, was very anxious for him to sign it.
When I reached the court room there was an action in ejectment on trial. Hall McAllister, Ben Brooks and W. H. Patterson represented the plaintiff; Sam Wilson and two or three other able attorneys the defendants. It was quite a valuable piece of property, down on Brannen Street. The defendant relied for title to a portion of the property solely on the statute of limitations, and considerable evidence had been introduced as to occupation at an early date. Just as I came into the court room they called a witness to the stand who said his name was Mike Kelly. Asked his occupation, he said he was a hostler at McCord & Malone's Livery Stable, which was not far from the court room, and he looked the part. He was asked when he came to California, and he said in 1850. Asked what he had done in the meantime, he said he had been a hostler ever since he came to California. In response to further questions, he testified that in 1851 or 1852, I forget which, he was working in a livery stable on Brannen Street. There was a map on the wall, and the particular land in question was shown to him. He recognized the streets, recognized the property, and they asked him when a fence was built there. He answered, giving the day of the month, in 1852. Asked how he fixed the date, he said he had a memorandum book in his pocket which fixed it. He was called upon to produce it. It was a ragged-looking old book, about the size of an ordinary bank deposit book, showing age and wear and tear. After considerable wrangling, he was allowed to refer to the memorandum that fixed his date. He turned to a certain page, and then testified that he had the first thoroughbred female terrier that ever came to San Francisco, and that on the day that he had testified that the fence was built he had mated her with a male terrier dog of high pedigree; that as he took his animal to where the other dog was housed, the posts had been erected and they were nailing on the boards; that he knew the man doing the work and stopped and talked with him; that the man had admired his dog and he, Kelly, had asked the man who he was building the fence for, and he gave him the name, which he remembered.
The defense here turned the witness over to the plaintiff's attorney. In my experience, I have seen few cross-examinations that were of any value. Mr. Hall McAllister took Mike in hand, and, I am sure, did not help his case any. He traced Mike's career through various livery stables in San Francisco, and then, evidently to show that he was a worthless fellow, asked him what he had done with his earnings. Objection was made to the question, but Judge McKee finally allowed it in, and Mike answered, with a brogue:
"Oh, I saved it, and the priest told me to buy real estate."
McAllister asked him if he still had it. He replied that he owned block so and so, up on Kearny Street, and he mentioned three or four other properties, which would put him in almost the millionaire class. McAllister finally dropped him and Mike started from the witness stand. Judge McKee, who had been taking notes of the testimony (he always talked with his teeth closed), after Mike left the stand, looked up and said:
"Hold on, Mike."
Mike stopped in the aisle. The judge finished making a note and then, looking up at Mike, said:
"Mike, did the bitch have pups?"
Mike replied, "She did. Siven of 'em."
After the laugh that followed subsided, the court adjourned. I presented my order to Judge McKee and he signed it.
Paul Neumann came nearer taking life as a joke than any other man I ever met. He seemed to have no idea of financial responsibility. He had no objections to being dunned, would jolly the collectors and put them off in as many languages as were spoken in San Francisco, according to their respective nationalities, he being a great linguist. One day I heard him tell a collector:
"Oh, Billy, come in a week from Friday and I will pay that bill."
"Well, Paul," Billy said, "you told me that two weeks ago."
"Did I?" he replied. "Then come three weeks from Friday."
Then, reaching for his hat and cane, he put his arm around Billy's shoulders and said:
"Now, Billy, if you have a quarter in your clothes, we will go and take a drink."
One rainy Saturday he wrote a note to Mr. David Cahn, who was then in charge of the London & Paris Bank, several blocks from us, and told me he hated to send me out, but there was a note that must be delivered, and asked me to wait for a reply. I asked for Mr. Cahn and they showed me to his private office. There were several of the bank officials with him. I handed him the note. He read it to himself, then burst out laughing and read it aloud to his companions. I could not help hearing the contents. The note ran about as follows:
Enclosed find my note for $500. Please send me the money by the bearer. I expect in a short time to be able to pay you all I owe you."
They all laughed heartily. I have no idea what he owed the bank at the time, but Mr. Cahn sent for the money, gave it to me in gold, had me receipt for it at the bottom of Neumann's note, and I returned to the office through one of the heaviest rains in my experience. When I got there, dripping, and shaking the water off of myself and my umbrella, I handed the money to Paul, who again apologized for sending me out and handed me twenty dollars.
"This is not on salary. This is for sending you out on a day like this," he said.
Taking his hat, coat and umbrella, he said:
"Now I am going to the Verein (a fashionable German club) and play a little poker."
He had a most estimable wife. Her mother was pure Castilian and her father was a German physician, and she was one of the most beautiful women in San Francisco. They had several small children.
Returning home quite late one night, hoping to get to bed without Mrs. Neumann hearing him, and having no light, he stumbled over a chair. She awoke in fright and said:
"Is that you, Paul?"
He replied, "My dear madam, whom else would you expect at this time of night?"
On another occasion he had come in pretty late and she called to him sleepily:
"What time is it, Paul?"
"A quarter of twelve," he answered.
Just then the clock boomed out three heavy strokes.
"Yes," said Mrs. Neumann, "that's a nice quarter of twelve."
"My dear," he replied, "since when was it that three was not a quarter of twelve?"
Paul subsequently was appointed Attorney General for the Sandwich Islands, through the influence of Mr. Claus Spreckels. He remained there and made quite a large amount of money, which, however, he did not keep. On one occasion Mr. J. M. Griffith, my father-in-law, and Mrs. Griffith were going to Honolulu. Paul had been in San Francisco and was returning on the same steamer. They got acquainted, and he asked them if they knew a young lawyer in Los Angeles named Graves. They told him that I was their son-in-law. Of course he was delighted, and during the rest of the voyage and during their stay in the islands, nothing was
too good for Mr. and Mrs. Griffith. He showered them with attentions.
He had a peculiarly bright brain, and with application would have made a very profound lawyer.
The lawyers I have mentioned as the leaders of the San Francisco Bar would have done credit to the Bar in any city in America. Every last one of them, except Judge Morrow, if I am not mistaken, has passed to his eternal reward. Let us hope it was just and ample.
In October, 1910, I delivered, in Los Angeles, an address before the State Bar Association of California, entitled, "Reminiscences of the San Francisco Bar." In it I distinctly stated that I confined my remarks to the men whom I personally knew. It was printed in full in the West Coast Magazine, in April, 1911. Every lawyer in San Francisco and Los Angeles was presented with a copy of it, and it was very highly commended. In the address, in speaking of conditions in San Francisco in 1873, I said:
"No city of its size in the world had an abler bar than San Francisco in 1873. She had just come into her commercial supremacy. The wholesale trade of the entire coast was hers. The boom inaugurated by the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, a few years before, had not yet subsided. The bonanza kings, Flood, O'Brien, Mackey and Fair, were spending their wealth in that city with a prodigality confined to the newly rich. They reared palaces on Nob Hill for their personal use. They erected commercial palaces on the leading business streets. They inaugurated new industries to find an outlet for their wealth. Gambling in mining stocks, as then conducted through the San Francisco Stock Exchange, drew money from every commercial center of the universe. The brokers made money easily. They spent it freely. They simply reveled in their easy earnings. The big four, Stanford, Crocker, Huntington and Hopkins, followed by innumerable satellites of lesser magnitude, vied with the bonanza kings in lavish
expenditures. They, too, adorned Nob Hill with palatial residences. The picture galleries of the world were searched and despoiled to gratify their taste in art. Knights of the pick and shovel of a short time before were millionaires and shining lights of club and social life. Ralston and his companions were building the Palace Hotel. Ralston maintained a home at Belmont, San Mateo County, 25 miles away. He drove to San Francisco daily, with relays of double teams, and all animals owned by him were able to go out on the road and trot a 2:20 gait. The city hall, the construction of which was attended with much municipal scandal, was in course of erection.
"Beautiful edifices, with gilded domes and lacquered walls, were reared in which to worship God. Almost in their shadows, palaces of sin flourished. On the one hand was Christianity, on the other the heathenism of an extensive Chinese colony; here religion, there atheism; here piety, there irreverence; here virtue, there vice; here assembled the followers of the meek and lowly Son of God; there gathered the scoffers at all things Divine. Wealthy men in high life set at naught the laws of God and man, and wallowed in debauchery. The tongues of scandal wrecked homes, blasted reputations, separated families and scarred the lives of innocent children. Common-law wives were more numerous that penitents at the cross. It became a regular thing for the will of a wealthy man to recite that the testator had but one wife, and that if any woman should prove to the contrary she should have but one dollar for her portion.
"Notwithstanding their palatial city homes, captains of industry who had reaped fortunes in prosperous enterprises, built expensive country homes within a radius of from 20 to 50 miles of the city. Money was in active circulation. Labor was freely employed at good wages. It was "on with the dance, let joy be unconfined," everywhere. Financial caution was thrown to the winds in the wild whirlwind of speculation. The failure of the Bank of California in 1875, the death of Ralston, the collapse of fortunes, the sweeping aside of vast accumulations, brought temporary disaster to the business world. A new order of things
evolved from the wreck. The financial ship righted itself, and a bigger, better, more substantial city grew out of the soberer, sounder financial conditions which followed, only to be destroyed in the great catastrophe of 1906.
"Out of all this mad whirl, the bar flourished. The building up of the city until it had attained the position I have described, afforded business of a legal nature, which attracted to San Francisco the best-equipped minds of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that the picture I have drawn of conditions in San Francisco at that time is a true one, there were hosts of noble men and women residing there. The wildly profligate ones were the exceptions."
San Francisco was at that time very prosperous. The wealth of the Comstock lode, including millions and millions of dollars derived from stock speculations on the San Francisco stock exchange, had been poured into her lap. The foundations of the old Palace Hotel were just being laid. The excavations made for it formed a most stupendous hole, and in the bottom of it they made a solid concrete mat which, if I remember rightly, was sixteen feet thick. Very often, very early in the morning, I used to see W. T.
Ralston come down Market Street on horseback, at a furious pace. He would dismount, turn his horse over to a colored man who was standing there waiting for him, and then from that time until the Bank of California opened, he was much in evidence in the work there.
Kearny and Montgomery streets were the leading retail streets and were quite well built up with four and five-story buildings, none of which had elevators. All the courts, and there were many of them, appeared to me to be located upon the top floor of some building recently constructed, and many were the weary trips that I had to make to them. The wholesale business was from Sansome down to the water-front. The brokers who operated on the San Francisco exchange made a great deal of money and spent it freely. Times were good and prosperity universal.
Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton.