6. The Reaction In Livermore To
The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

By 1900, Livermore, a town of 1500 people, was a socially conscious and culturally progressive community. Substantial homes were being built, and efforts were being made to improve the appearance of the community. Brick buildings were replacing the wooden structures along First Street that had been constructed 25 years before. That social conscience can be no better illustrated than by the town's reaction to news of the San Francisco Earthquake on Wednesday, April 18, 1906.

Although damage caused by the earthquake in the town was minimal (the railroad water tank collapsed; several chimneys came down; merchandise in the commercial section fell off the shelves), the primary concern among Livermore's citizens was "what about the homeless in San Francisco."

In less than 36 hours after the earthquake, Mayor Thomas E. Knox called a meeting of local businessmen to discuss local relief measures. He appointed a committee of three, D. J. Murphy, John Sweeney and A. L. Henry, to canvas the community for contributions. Almost immediately local bakeries sent 250 loaves of bread to the Relief Committee in Oakland "which was supplemented by as many more from the ladies of the town." Several cases of hard-boiled eggs were donated, all sent out on the afternoon train.

A mass meeting of local citizens was held on Friday afternoon, April 20. At this time, within 60 hours after the earthquake, the committee reported it had subscriptions from almost 100 individuals and businesses of $1773, ranging from $.50 to $50.00. The women of the community had already banded together to sew clothing for infants and children. The Herald later reported, "The layettes made by the local ladies have been in great demand at the maternity homes, and several hundred infants received their first wardrobe from packages sent from Livermore." The committee also had offers from the townspeople to house and feed up to500 homeless.

By the end of the following week, an additional $500 had been subscribed, Wells Fargo reported it had shipped out 2600 loaves of bread, 2500 dozen hard-boiled eggs, 700 pounds of butter and 50 pounds of cooked meat. The refugees who came to Livermore received 100 loaves of bread, 100 dozen eggs, 250 pounds of fresh meat, 3 sacks of potatoes and a large amount of miscellaneous groceries.

By early September, 1906, it appeared that most needs had been fulfilled. The Livermore Relief Committee was ready to be discharged of its responsibilities. In addition to contributions of food and clothing, the committee had disbursed $1243 of the $2495.60 subscribed by the citizens of Livermore. It was agreed that the balance was to be left in a trust fund and carried separately on the town's books. What happened to it? - well, that's another story.

 

 

June 29, 1999