IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co.

1906 letter about the San Francisco earthquake
Addressed to J. H. Jones, Waukon

April 19, 1906
Oakland, California

Dear Folks,
Well, I suppose that you have heard by this time the offel calamity that has befallen San Francisco. The town is doomed to destruction, so I managed to get out today, thankful that I got out with my life.

I thought I had a pretty narrow escape.

They do not know yet how many people have been killed, but they place it up in the hundreds, probably thousands.

The fire has been burning now for two days and a night and is still raging.

People look for the whole city to be annihilated.

All the business district and a great part of the residential portion has been destroyed.

The worst of it all is that the firemen have no means of fighting it. There is practically no water.

The earthquake shock was the cause of it all. Immediately after the shock, fire broke out in half a dozen different parts of the city. You see that the earth-quake busted and pulled the water mains apart. That way it rendered the city absolutely helpless.

The only thing about the fire-men could do was to dynamite buildings ahead of the fire and raise them to the ground. But that didn't seem to check the flames in the least.

All the people could do was to climb to the hills and watch the fire burn up their homes. It is certainly an offel sight. From here this evening a great bank of smoke is seen hanging over the city which looks like a great black thunder cloud.

People have given up any hope and are fleeing from the city by the thousands. They will all flock in here in a few days and in the rest of the neighboring towns about the bay.

Other towns will have to keep them.

Oakland is doing all she can. There was a shock here but it was not near so severe.

People thought that their time had come. I know that I did.

It took place about 5:10 in the morning before most of the people were out of bed.

Iwas in bed at the time. The first thing I knew the house begin to rock like a cradle. The bed was turned over with me, the dresser came tumbling down. Looking out the window I saw chimneys tumbling over, glass flying around me, expected every minute to go through the floor to the basement. I ran out in my shirt tail.

By the time I got out in the hallway and half way down the stairs it was over.
I went back to the room gathered up my clothes as quick as I could and got out. When I reached the street, fire was started in five or six places.

I was lucky to be in a frame building.

The brick buildings suffered the most. That is where most of the people were killed.

Well, I guess I will close for this time. I will write more in my next. I could write a week about this.

I will send a paper from here.

Idon't know just what I will do yet. They don't any one know yet. Some the people are almost starving, havn't got anything. Only what is on their backs. The rich as well as the poor.

I am lucky to get out without a scratch. I lost about $25 in wages due me and clothes.


~transcribed by the contributor from the original letter; typed exactly as written
~contributed by Jeannie Hegeman for the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb


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