Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)


Lt 9, 1880

White, James

Oakland, California

March 11, 1880

Previously unpublished.

Dear Husband,

Yesterday we received your welcome letters. There had been no mail the day before in consequence of snows blocking the track; cars were delayed. The mail which should have come Monday did not reach us till Wednesday, delayed forty-eight hours. There has been one of the greatest winds ever known in California. 3LtMs, Lt 9, 1880, par. 1

Monday night the alarm was sounded for fire. The heavens were illuminated with pillars of fire and smoke. The wind was blowing a most fearful gale. The fire started in the Grand Hotel. It was entirely consumed and the entire block was burned. The hotel was three hundred feet long, one hundred feet deep and four stories high. Willie and Mary went to the fire, [as well as] many more. We visited the scene in the morning, but what desolation. The morning was as mild as a beautiful summer’s day. Three steam engines were still at work and these faithful engineers and the fireman had done noble duty or the houses in the vicinity could not have been saved. 3LtMs, Lt 9, 1880, par. 2

One gentleman on Seventh Street left his wife sick in bed and six children to go to the fire, and when he returned his house was consumed and he went searching the neighborhood to see if he had any wife and children spared. No lives were lost but nothing was saved. The neighbors had taken in his family. A burning brand was carried by the wind five blocks off and accomplished the work of destruction. The wife and children had no clothing, nothing but their night clothes. There were beside these, thirteen fires in different parts of the city remote from one another. 3LtMs, Lt 9, 1880, par. 3

The thought is that the Kerneyites have been attempting to execute their threats. They set a man up for mayor and openly threatened [that] if he were not elected they would burn Oakland. He was defeated. It is thought the purpose was of starting fires in different places, calling the engines all over from San Francisco, and then burning the city. But the authorities refused to let the engines go to Oakland. There is a vigilante committee organized in San Francisco. Coleman stands at the head of the committee—the man who officiated on the old committee years ago. He has told Kalloch if he made any more incendiary speeches, he would be in danger; that he and Kerney were watched and there was a company [who] would take matters in their own hands. And it would not be their poor dupes who would be taken care of, but you leaders that would be strung up without judge or jury and you, Kalloch, will be the first man. That put a quietus on the matter for a time, but he has now come out worse than ever and there will be some determined action before long. 3LtMs, Lt 9, 1880, par. 4

In the morning after the fire, it looked sad indeed to see in almost every street piles of the most splendid furniture and a solitary woman sitting amid the remnant of her property, guarding it. Mattresses that had been removed a block away were still burning in yards. Brands were carried for and near. The only wonder is that all surrounding buildings were not consumed. 3LtMs, Lt 9, 1880, par. 5

I had some very serious reflections. I thought of the day of God, when buildings would be burning, and what distracted efforts would be made by the people to arrest the fire and how futile their efforts would be. I felt most thankful that the blessed hope would then sustain Christ’s followers. The protecting hand of God would shield His people. They would be hid as in the secret of His pavilion. There is no safety for us, any of us, only in God. Every day we need to hide in Him, every day to bring Him nearer and nearer to ourselves by living faith. I have had at times great sadness of spirits, and yet I work on as though it were not so with me. I am greatly blessed in speaking to the people and there seems to be an unusual interest to hear. 3LtMs, Lt 9, 1880, par. 6