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One of the most interesting of California’s pioneer women was the late Mrs. Deborah K. Crittenden, who lived in California nearly sixty-seven years and who died at San Francisco, March 14, 1920, aged ninety-four years and eight months.

She was born at Waterloo, Seneca County, New York, in 1825. Her father, John Scott, was a graduate of Princeton College, served with the rank of captain in the War of 1812, and he and his family were people of substantial position in business and social affairs. Mrs. Crittenden, therefore, was a real daughter of the Society of the Daughters of 1812. A few years before her death she was made an honorary member of the National Society Daughters of 1812, United States of America.

Mrs. Crittenden’s maternal grandfather, Joseph Lambert, a Quaker, was a close friend of George Washington, and gave much money and other supplies to the soldiers of the Revolution. Lambertsville, New Jersey, was named in his honor. Washington’s headquarters were at the mansion of this sterling patriot the night before he crossed the Delaware. Also in the maternal line Mrs. Crittenden was a grand niece of Commodore Doughty Stockton, in whose honor the City of Stockton, California, was named.

The social position of the Scott family brought Mrs. Crittenden an unusual acquaintance with leading men and women. She frequently recalled how in 1832, at the age of seven, she accompanied her mother on a canal boat to New York City, and in the course of the visit saw many of the notable people of that day. She recalled meeting a number of the Presidents, the first being Martin Van Buren, and later Rutherford B. Hayes, General Grant, Benjamin Harrison and, subsequently, President McKinley.

Mrs. Crittenden in 1848 attended the first convention ever held in the interests of woman’s suffrage, which was held at the Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, New York. The organizer of the convention was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose father, an eminent jurist, was very indignant because of his daughter’s pioneer work in this field. Another member who attended the convention was Mrs. Bloomer, wife of a prominent lawyer, Dexter Bloomer, and for whom was named the Bloomer costume. Mrs. Crittenden saw Elizabeth Cady Stanton dressed in bloomers, made, as she described, in sack fashion, belted in at the waist and coming down halfway between the knee and ankle, below which were the Turkish trousers. Two years prior to this convention another notable visitor at Seneca Falls was the Quakeress, Lucretia Mott, another pioneer of the woman’s suffrage cause. Mrs. Crittenden never lost her interest in woman’s suffrage, and was always an active member in the Susan B. Anthony Club of San Francisco, a club of which Mrs. Mary Austin Sperry was president.

Mrs. Crittenden’s father died in 1846 and her mother in 1850. In the meantime she had become engaged to Charles Peck Crittenden, who in 1850 came to California. In 1853 she also started for the Pacific Coast, on the Tennessee, coming by way of Panama, crossing the Isthmus on train and mule back, and sailing on the John L. Stevens, arrived in San Francisco, October 17, 1853. On the same evening she was married to Mr. Crittenden in a house on Hardy Place, a two-story building, the timbers of which had been brought out from Boston.

Mrs. Crittenden after she and her husband located at San Jose began teaching school there in 1856. She was one of the first educators in the State of California and opened the first school in San Jose, in her own home, there being no public school building at that time. She was one of the first members of the First Presbyterian Church of San Jose, and was an active member for many years. Her children early in life identified themselves with the same church. In addition to looking after home and the rearing of her children she was engaged in teaching for thirty years. After 1890 her home was again in San Francisco.

Mrs. Crittenden was elected vice president of the association of pioneer women of California in 1915, and served one year, having declined the office of president on account of her and failing sight. She had a wonderful memory. After her ninetieth birthday she learned and recited a number of poems for the entertainment of friends and guests of the Pioneer Women in the log cabin in Golden Gate Park. Her favorite poem was “Our Homestead,” by Phoebe Cary. She delighted to recite the twenty-third psalm and quoted many other verses from the Bible. Through the War Service Committee she was invited to be the honored mother on “Mother’s Day” at the Palace of Fine Art Memorial, San Francisco, in May 1918-1919. In May 1920, with the permission of the Golden Gate Park Commissioners the Association of Pioneer Women of California planted a sequoia tree near the log cabin the park in memory of Mrs. Crittenden. Appropriate services were held, observed with prayer, singing and an address by the Hon. Samuel Shortridge, United States senator from California.

To the marriage of Charles Peck and Deborah Katherine Crittenden were born six children, two dying in infancy. Of the four surviving children, all college graduates, Joseph Lambert was a teacher, and by his marriage to Jessie Gordon has a daughter, Charmian. George Baldwin Crittenden, a lawyer, married Ida Zenoma Gray, and was the father of four children: Charles Lambert, who died at the age of nineteen; Doris, who married Maurice Belber; Ethel Katherine, who is the wife of Lucien Rohlick and has a daughter, Patricia; and Eleanor Burnham, who married Mr. Harold Dougherty. Helen, the third child, married Hon. Ralph Andrus Loveland, senator of West Port, New York State, and is a widow, her only son, Crittenden Andrus Loveland, passing away at the age of twenty-four. Miss Mary Lambert Crittenden has been a teacher for many years in San Francisco High School.

The late Mrs. Crittenden was a beautiful character, a woman of unusual intellectual gifts, and she possessed that rare distinction of being able to grow old beautifully and constantly make new friendships as the old ones were closed by death. 

Source: History of the San Francisco Bay Region Vol. 3 page 21-22 by Millard. Published by The American Historical Society, Inc. 1924.


Louise E. Shoemaker Transcriber November 23, 2003


© 2003 Louise E. Shoemaker


California Biography Project


San Francisco County


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