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The Final Decree






Final decree is the laconic inscription on the massive tombstone of Silas W. Sanderson left (1824-1886), Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of California and subsequently chief counselor of the Southern Pacific Company for many years.  Sibyl Sanderson was his eldest daughter.  Born in Sacramento, California, in 1865, she studied with La Grange and Massenet in Paris, and made a successful debut at the Opera-Comique in 1889; ten years later she sang at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.


Judge Sanderson was Chief Justice of California from 1864 to 1866.  Following him John Currey (1814-1912), a pioneer of forty-nine, was Chief Justice for the next two years.  The names of four well-known families appear on four plots at Laurel Hill, making a quadrangle: Scott, Cheesman, Decker, Currey.  All are related.  Judge Currey's wife was a daughter of Matthew Scott, who died in Japan.  His monument was erected "by authority of His Imperial Japanese Majesty to commemorate the high respect and esteem in which Matthew Scott was held by the Imperial Government and the appreciation of his valuable services to the Customs Department of Hiogo, from 1872 to 1879."



Born In Chazy, Clinton County, New York

February 6, 1822

Died in Hiogo, Japan, November 15, 1879


Judge Lorenzo Sawyer (1820-1891) followed Judge John Currey as Chief Justice for the next two years.  Born on a farm in New York State, he crossed the plains to California in 1850, was Justice of the Supreme Court of California in 1863, and in 1870 was appointed by President Grant Judge of United States Circuit Court.  When Governor Stanford laid the cornerstone of Stanford University at Palo Alto, May 14, 1887, Judge Sawyer, as president of the board of trustees, delivered the address.  On the front of his stately marble vault at Laurel Hill are the words, "Born at LeRay, New York..." It would be "LeRoy."  His son Houghton Sawyer was an architect in San Francisco.


Following Lorenzo Sawyer, Augustus L. Rhodes of Santa Clara County, who died October 23, 1918, past ninety years of age, was Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court from January 1, 1870, to January 1, 1872.


The massive tombstone of G. Frank Smith, who died in 1891, stands near Judge Sawyer's vault.  A daughter, Mrs. Leroy Harvey, resided in San Francisco; another daughter, Mrs. Charlemagne Tower, widow of the former ambassador to Russia, resided for many years in Philadelphia, making frequent visits to California with her son or her grandchildren.


James McMillan Shafter was one of the trustees named in the founding grant of Stanford University, November 11, 1885.  As judge of the Superior Court of San Francisco, in 1889-1890, he rendered the final judgment of the Sharon case.  Oscar Lovell Shafter, who died in Florence, Italy, in 1873, was his brother.  Both were prominent in law and politics in California's early days.  The old Shafter residence, with garden surrounded by cypress trees, on Russian Hill, has long been a landmark.  Judge Shafter was born in Vermont, May 27, 1816; he died in San Francisco, August 29, 1892, and was buried at Laurel Hill.


Near the Shafter family plot is a large plot numbered 1540, on Woodland Avenue and Violet Path, which was purchased in early days by Henry H. Haight, tenth Governor of California.  There sleeps his father, Fletcher M. Haight, for whom Haight Street was named.  For a number of years after his arrival in California in 1854, Fletcher M. Haight practiced law in San Francisco with his son.  He was subsequently appointed United States Judge for the Southern District of California.  He was born in 1799, and died February 25, 1866.  The plot at Laurel Hill now stands in the names of Samuel Knight and Cameron H. King.


Henry Huntly Haight was born at Rochester, New York, May 25, 1825, graduated from Yale, came to California in 1850, and engaged in the practice of law until the year of his nomination for Governor.  He was elected in 1867 by a War Democrat.  During his administration California was a supporter of President Andrew Johnson, rather than of Congress.  The bill under which the University of California was established was signed by Governor Haight on March 23, 1868, and the College of California then became the State University, located at Berkeley.


Governor Haight was one of the founders of Cavalry Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, but later transferred his membership to Presbyterian Church in Oakland.  He died in Oakland September 2, 1878.  His son Louis M. Haight, a graduate of Yale and of the Cooper Medical College, practiced medicine in Stockton, California.


Governor Frederick F. Low preceded Governor Haight.  He was elected on the Union ticket.  For more than twenty-five years his residence was at the corner of Sutter and Gough streets, until his death in 1894.


When Peter Burnett, first Governor of California, resigned from his office in January 9, 1851, John McDougal became Governor for the unexpired term.  Born in Ohio, in 1818, son of Hon. John McDougal, a member of the Ohio Legislature, young John McDougal had served in the Black Hawk War and in the War with Mexico, and came to the gold mines of California in 1849.  From a Sutter County he was elected a delegate to Constitutional Convention, which sat at Monterey.  He took an active part in the debates on the question of California's boundary.  He was a fine-looking man, invariably appearing in a ruffled shirt-front.  He died March 30, 1866, and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in the plot of his brother David McDougal (afterward Rear-Admiral, United States Navy), on Jessamine Path.  There is no monument to mark his grave.


Commodore David McDougal arrived in San Francisco on the Golden Age, March 9, 1865, to take command of the Comanche, which was built at the Union Iron Works.



Leader of the California Bar

Learned   Able   Eloquent

A Fearless Advocate

A Courteous Foe


This inscription appears on the base of the bronze statue of Hall McAllister, by Robert Aitken.  It stands at the McAllister Street entrance to the City Hall in San Francisco's Civic Center.  Hall McAllister came to California in June, 1849.  McAllister Street was named for him.  His headstone stands in the center of his large family plot at Laurel Hill Cemetery; his father's grave is also there:



Born at Savannah, February 9, 1826

Died at Ross, California, December 1, 1888




First Judge of the U.S. Circuit Court for California


Headstones also mark the graves of other members of their family, notably Cutler McAllister (1832-1879), and his son Julian McAllister (1858-1880).  The descendants of Julian McAllister (1823-1887), U. S. A., brother of Cutler, live in New York City.  Another son of Judge Matthew Hall McAllister who attained distinction in his own way was Ward McAllister of New York who coined the term the "Four Hundred," to indicate Society.


A new headstone in this plot, where lie representatives of four generations, marks the resting place of a grandson's ashes:



May 14, 1896-October 24, 1927

In Service of Humanity


In the plot adjoining the greensward of the McAllister family towers a slender shaft which marks the grave of Thomas H. Williams of the old law firm Williams & Bixler.  The ashes of Thomas H. Williams, Jr., who died November 15, 1915, are there.  Hon. Sherrod Williams of Kentucky; Sherrod Williams who was born at Coloma, and names of members of their families may be seen on smaller headstones.


Among the notable names at Lone Mountain of men who served as representatives in the United States Congress, there is honorable Aaron Harlan, who died January 8, 1868, in his sixty-eight-sixth year.  The name Harlan is cut in the coping which surrounds plot 1683, where he rests beside his wife Amanda (1820-1868).


Thomas Bowles Shannon, born in Pennsylvania, September 21, 1821, was a Representative in Congress from California from 1863 to 1865.  He was surveyor at the Port of San Francisco from 1865 to 1869; after serving in the State Assembly, he became collector of customs at San Francisco in 1872, which office he held for eight years.  He died February 21, 1897, and was buried in Masonic Cemetery.


The large corner plot of Colonel Joseph P. Hoge, who died August 14, 1891, at eighty years of age, is located on the hill near Dr. Elias S. Cooper's tall monument.  It is numbered on the map, 943.  Colonel Hoge sister married a brother of Samuel M. Wilson.  Three years before his death, Colonel Hoge was elected on the Democratic ticket a judge of the Superior Court of San Francisco, but he continued to be known as "Colonel."  His daughter Pauline married Delphin M. Delmas, who died at Santa Monica in 1928, eighty-four years of age.


Attorney Alexander P. L. Crittenden (1816-1870), who drafted many of the statutes passed at the first session of the California State Legislature, was at Laurel Hill.  The story of his tragic death appeared in a semi-historical novel in titled "The Golconda Bonanza."  Born in Kentucky, a graduate of West Point Military Academy, Crittenden came to California in 1849.  After practicing law at Los Angeles, San Jose, and other places, he came from Virginia City to San Francisco in 1866, and formed a partnership with Samuel M. Wilson.  The firm of Wilson & Crittenden continued until Crittenden' s death.  He was shot on an Oakland ferry by Laura D. Fair.  Mrs. Fair was defended by Elisha Cook (1823-1871)), who is also buried at Laurel Hill.  Harry Byrne was the district attorney who prosecuted the case.  She was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged; but the Supreme Court reversed the judgment and ordered a new trial.


Byrne died soon after the expiration of his fourth term as district attorney, on March 1, 1872, when forty-eight years of age.  At the new trial Laura D. Fair was acquitted on the ground of insanity.


Judge Selden S. Wright (March 7, 1822-February 26, 1893), came to San Francisco in 1860.  For four years he served as probate judge, and before him the celebrated case of the will of Horace Hawes was tried.  Both men were buried at Laurel Hill.


Horace Hawes (1813-1871) was the author of the Consolidation Act, which kept San Francisco out of debt for some forty years.  He drew an elaborate will establishing a "Chamber of Industry."  But his will was broken, and his large estate was distributed in accordance with the provisions of the California Code for this succession of estates of those who died intestate.  Beside Horace Hawes at Laurel Hill lies his wife Caroline (1823-1895).  In the same plot a monument marks the grave of Alfred Robinson (1807-1895); his wife was one of the de la Guerra family of Santa Barbara.  James Robinson, their son, married the daughter of Horace Hawes.  Alfred Robinson came to California from Massachusetts, in 1829; his "Life in California" is an interesting narrative of life here before the annexation of California to the United States.  His eldest daughter, Anna M. Robinson, died in San Francisco February 11, 1860, when twenty-two years of age.  She was buried in a crypt beneath the altar of Old St. Mary' s Church.  Three tombs are there.


Frederick Palmer Tracy (1815-1860) arrived in San Francisco August 18, 1849, on the same steamer with Judge John Currey (1814-1912) and Annis Merrill (1810-1905).  He was city attorney of San Francisco from 1857 to 1859.  He had stumped the state for his party, and then went East to attend Lincoln's inauguration, where he died.  His funeral services were held at Platt's Hall, and he was buried at Lone Mountain, where his friends erected a monument.


Robert Paul Hastings, who was born at Benicia, March 21, 1855, and died in San Francisco, October 5, 1890, was a son of S. Clinton Hastings, who founded Hastings College of the Law, and was Chief Justice from December 22, 1849, to January 1, 1852.  Robert P. Hastings was the husband of Mamie Coghill, who died in England.  She was famous for her beauty.  Her mother married Reverend John Hemphill, D. D., who died at Los Gatos.  Representatives of three generations rests in the family plot at Laurel Hill, which stands in the name of Mrs. Lizzie Coghill.


Samuel Cowles (1823-1880) was one of the prominent lawyers of the early days whose deed to his cemetery plot was recorded in the city’s archives.  In the "Index to Books of Deeds" it appears: "Laurel Hill to Samuel Cowles, recorded January 13, 1871."  On the modest headstone of his son-in-law Judge Timothy H. Rearden (1839-1892) one reads simply the words "34th Ohio Infantry."  Judge Rearden will be remembered in San Francisco as a contributor to Bret Harte’s Overland Monthly.  "Life's Fevered Date Declines" is one of his poems, which is often quoted.


A deed from Lone Mountain Cemetery to William S. Clark, dated May 4, 1858, was recorded in Liber 77 of Deeds, page 211.  These deeds conveyed title which the City of San Francisco is bound to respect.


In 1869 a deed was recorded from Laurel Hill to R. H. Lloyd.  No names appear inscribed on the massive stone which covers the Lloyd plot, Number 2500, in the shape of a cross extended on the ground.  Reuben H. Lloyd (1836-1909) was a prominent Mason and a distinguished attorney.  He never held to any public office.  He never married, and lived nearly all his life in his old home on Folsom Street, near Sixth.  As a boy he entered the law offices of Solomon A. Sharp, and James A. McDougall, who afterward became United States Senator from California.  For many years Solomon A. Sharp and his family resided at the corner of Clay and Jones streets, where his son, Sol A. Sharp, Jr., was born.  The magnificent view of the bay and Contra Costa shore is still unintercepted by buildings, and this property now belongs to the William Pierce Johnson estate.


The deed for plot 1867 was recorded May 1, 1872: "Laurel Hill to Lewis Pierce and Henry Pierce."  On this plot was placed a shaft bearing the names of Henry Pierce, Lewis Pierce, William Pierce, and Ira Pierce.  William Pierce Johnson, who was born July 27, 1859, and died in Paris, August 24, 1926, was a member of this family.


The most conspicuous monument in Laurel Hill Cemetery is probably the tall shaft which marks the grave of Senator David C. Broderick.


The most grandiose monument is Senator Fairs miniature reproduction of the Gothic Sainte Chapelle.


The most imposing monument at Laurel Hill is that of the William B. Bourn family.  It stands on a hill, looking toward the ocean; at its base descends a sheer cliff—an ancient quarry.  From this point you can see the ships come in from far out at sea.  The monument is a pyramid--that form which in Egypt has four centuries defied the sand storms sweeping from the Libyan desert, and which has even more successfully defied the vandal hand of man.


The most laconic epitaph at Laurel Hill is that inscribed on Judge Sanderson's massive tomb:





In the winter of 1850, when the city had no money, a pestilence came upon San Francisco.  As there were no public hospitals at the time San Francisco made a contract with one, Peter Smith, to care for her sick poor at the rate of four dollars per day, per person, and she paid Dr. Smith in scrip.  When the contract amounted to $64,431 Peter Smith presented a bill.  But the city did not pay the bill, and there were attempts to repudiate the debt.


Then Peter Smith brought suit against the city and got judgment; he levied execution.  "Execution," says the old legal maxim, "is the fruit of the judgment and the endof the lawing."  But the execution which Peter Smith levied on San Francisco turned out to be only the beginning of the lawing.  The sheriff duly advertised the sale of San Francisco's beach and water lots.


The sale took place, but the contempt expressed by the city for Mr. Smith's execution sale was so frank and open that prices under the sale ruled extremely low, and Peter Smith did not get satisfaction for his judgment.  In short, the City of San Francisco cheated him out of his just dues.  But the City of San Francisco also cheated herself.


The whirligig of time brings it just revenge.  The cheated Peter passed away.  Years rolled by, and Peter Smith title slowly filtered through the courts.  At last the highest court held that the Peter Smith title was good.  San Francisco paid dearly for her attempt to defraud.  These speculators with "slugs," the gamblers with their "little fliers" won, and for more than half a century the real estate titles of San Francisco were clouded by the claims of Peter Smith.  Long after Peter Smith was reposing in his grave his ghost still haunted the corridors of San Francisco courts and squeaked and gibbered through San Francisco's streets.





© 2003 Nancy Pratt Melton

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