“One day last week James B. Robinson who occupies the late James J. Gross farm in the southwestern part of the town, went to Fox Ridge, where he bought a pair of steers, driving them to Auburn, a distance of fourteen miles in one day, and the next day driving them home, where he is now using them in plowing and doing other farm work. His journey through Auburn attracted much attention, a yoke of cattle being a rare sight these days in city streets, or farm roads, either. Mr. Robinson is nearly 84 years old, but is a vigorous and active man.”
Auburnians F. D. Burleigh and his wife Clara L. Stockwell wrote a letter home to her father recounting their ordeal in San Francisco having survived the great earthquake.
“We escaped San Francisco yesterday with what little baggage we could carry by hand. Last night we were taken in temporarily by acquaintances here and are trying to find a way to reach Los Angeles. Dean and Mr. Pyre represent a company with $35, 000, 000 in capital but cannot get in communication with them and we are almost penniless. Oakland banks are all closed, fearing a run, and no one here seems to be able to give us any help financially. If we can reach Los Angeles, money and telegraphic communications will be easier to obtain we hope. And, too, smallpox has broken out in San Francisco, it will soon be quarantined and in that case this place will be infected, too. The fire is out and our flat was saved.”
Mrs. Burleigh tells that the fire did not damage their household goods but she lost a valuable watch at a jeweler’s. Continuing she says: “The weather has turned cold and the suffering and sickness will no doubt be doubled. We have cause to be grateful that our lives were spared and our household goods saved. But no one who was not there can ever get even the faintest idea of the horror of the hours since 5:15 last Wednesday morning. I have to stop and study before I can name a day that anything happened, for every hour seemed a day and ever day was nameless.”
Her letter told of fear and death and desolation during those first dreadful hours. “The house rocked back and forth and rose and sank all at once, together with an awful roaring and rambling and the noise of falling bricks and breaking crockery. I got to the door just as soon as the floor was quiet enough to let me walk and by even that time the first column of smoke was rising in the south. Little did we think that it was signal of a horror worse than the earthquake.”
“Thousands camped as thick as grass blades with no shelter except some kind devised from their small store of baggage; women fainting in the road and carried by the loads to the United States hospital.”
Amidst the charming tale of cattle being driven down Genesee Street and the harrowing recount of Mrs. Burleigh’s earthquake experience in the May 15th Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal, sits the brief death notice of my 87 year old, great great grandfather, Daniel J. Jennings.
“JENNINGS – At the residence of his daughter Mrs. John J. Trowbridge, East Orange, N.J., Thursday, May 10, 1906. Daniel Jennings (formerly of Auburn) in the 87th year of his age. Remains will arrive in Auburn via N.Y.C & H. R. R. Sunday morning, May 14 at 6:46 o’clock. Funeral services at the residence of his son, W. H. Jennings, No 9 Easterly avenue, in the afternoon at 3:00 o’clock. Burial at North Street Cemetery.”
A Note to My Readers: Life is a constantly moving stream of events. Large and small. Comical and quaint. Devastating and Tragic. Reading old newspapers -front to back- illustrates that fact like no other experience. In Daniel’s hometown of Auburn, the excitement of old Jim Robinson’s cattle drive through town…kicking up dust and causing a ruckus…made as newsworthy an event as did the complete destruction of one of the nation’s largest cities. Within all of that drama an old man’s body made its way home to be lifted from the train and carried by horse and wagon to North Street Cemetery where the Jennings laid him to rest with only a hymn disturbing the air to mark the occasion.
Deborah J. Martin-Plugh
Author, Contributing Writer and Genealogical Researcher