San Francisco 1906 Earthquake Marriage Project

Herbert Guy ROOT (01 Jan 1875-23 Sep 1945)
Sophia L. SCHEEL (29 May 1879-30 Nov 1966)
Married: 14 May 1906, San Francisco

Herbert Guy Root met Sophia Scheel on the day of the earthquake. Herbert was working for the San Francisco Fire Department taking care of their horses. He was driving a horse drawn wagon out to the Presidio Heights area loaded with supplies for earthquake victims and Sophia was sitting on the front porch of the house where she worked as a domestic servant.. He stopped his wagon and yelled at her "Do you know how to cook?" When she said yes, he told her to get on the wagon and they went out to join in the efforts to help the refugees. They were married shortly after on May 14, by F. H. Kerrigan, in the Jewish Synogogue, on California and Webster, which was serving as a temporary City Hall. This was his second marriage and her first. At some point after the earthquake, Herbert became an expressman and was in the moving/draying business as owner of Arcade Furniture. (Pictured left: Herbert Root and daughter, Avis, circa 1908; pictured right: Presidio Refugee Camp, Apr 1906)

Herbert Root's father, Elliot M. Root (pictured right) arrived for the gold rush in California in October 1849. He lived in Marysville and married Rebecca Hopkins. They moved to San Francisco in 1864.  He became a prominent businessman in the wholesale grocery business (Root & Sanderson) with George Sanderson (Mayor of San Francisco from 1891-1892). He was Director of the Society of California Pioneers for seven years and was President in 1901. He was born in Springfield, New York in 1826 and died in San Francisco in 1913.

Sophia Scheel's parents both came from Prussia. Sophia was born in 1879, and her brother Harry was born a year later. Her mother, also a Sophia Scheel, died soon after. Her father was a teamster and a representative of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. They lived on 138 Henry Street and 122 Henry Street.

Herbert and Sophia had three children. Avis Root McMahon was the oldest and was born on 03 June 1908. She went to Commerce High School and graduated from University of California Berkeley in 1930 with a degree in English. She eventually met Earl Thomas McMahon and married him in 1931. She was a junior high school teacher and counselor in San Francisco (at Presidio and Roosevelt, 1948-1973).  She died at the age of 97 on 03 December 2005.  The other two children were her brothers Guy Mallory Root (26 July 1910-10 July 1999) and Elliot Loren Root (02 May 1917-27 April 1994).  Guy retired from the California Highway Patrol and Elliot was in the automotive repair business and also a truck driver. Avis was a lifelong San Franciscan and Guy and Elliot always lived in the Bay Area. (Pictured left: Earl and Avis McMahon, Sophia Scheel Root, Jerry and Earl Jr. "Tom" McMahon.)

Herbert and Sophia Root had six grandchildren: Michael, James, Guy, Pati, and Avis' two boys, Earl Thomas Jr. "Tom" and Jerry McMahon. Tom McMahon worked with Pacbell in San Francisco for thirty-three (33) years.

Jerry McMahon began his career in the Marine Corps. He was one of those infamous soldiers that were in the trenches during above-ground atom bomb testing in the Nevada desert in the 1950s. He eventually left the Marines, graduated from San Francisco State, and became one of California's first Peace Corp. volunteers which resulted in meeting President John F. Kennedy in Washington, D.C. He later met his wife, another Peace Corp. volunteer, in Columbia, South America. They have two grown children.

Credits: Story and family pictures graciously supplied by Jerry McMahon, grandson of Herbert and Sophia Root.

Presidio Refugee Camp courtesy of the National Archives (ARC Identifier: 524412). Presidio / Tennessee Hollow photo courtesy of National Archives (ARC 531029). Peace Corps logo courtesy of Peace Corps.

Pictured left: Jerry McMahon, February 2006. Photograph by Ron Filion.

Presidio / Tennessee Hollow, 1906

27 February 2006 | copyright © 2006 Ron Filion and Pamela Storm. All rights reserved.