San Francisco 1906 Earthquake Marriage Project

Milton Otto SLINKEY (24 May 1883 - 08 January 1953) and
Ethel Sarah NEATE (03 May 1886 - 15 June 1952)
Married: 28 November 1906, San Francisco
My great-grandparents met in the confusion and bewilderment of a refugee camp formed to aid the San Franciscans left homeless by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The couple quickly fell in love and by November they married.” 

Woody LaBounty,“Shaken Up”

IMAGE:Milton and Ethel Slinkey

IMAGE: Refugee Camp and shelters at Ft. Mason, San Francisco, 1906
Refugee Camp at Ft. Mason
Following the 1906 disaster, over 250,000 people (nearly 75% of the City’s population) were left homeless. Many of the refugees immediately fled to surrounding communities, but thousands remained in the City. Some were fortunate enough to find relatives or friends with whom they could stay. But hungry, tired and in various states of shock, the rest had little choice but to sleep wherever they could. Many set up makeshift camps in any open space they could find such as the city’s numerous public parks. IMAGE: Refugee relief camp in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Los Angeles Relief Camp in Golden Gate Park
IMAGE: 1906 Earthquake Refugee Shack, Exterior
Richmond Camp Refugee Shacks
Relief supplies from all over the country began to arrive, but it took time to get it to those who needed it most. The first days were extremely difficult for most of the refugees, trying to make due in conditions that were dirty, crowded and uncomfortable. They endured long lines every day for the simplest needs such as food and water. Relief camps were situated in various locations around the City and began to become more organized as more supplies became available. Distribution of necessary provisions such as tents, food and supplies finally got underway. IMAGE: 1906 Earthquake Refugee Shack, Interior
Richmond Camp Refugee Shack
In late April, the Army built several large barracks in Golden Gate Park that housed about 15,000 refugees. During the fall and winter, thousands of small cottages were built as temporary housing to replace most of the tents, and provided better shelter for another 16,000 people.

Despite the miserable conditions in the refugee camps, some people met and began courtships that later turned into marriages. One such couple were Milton Otto Slinkey and Ethel Sarah Neate.

Milton Otto Slinkey was born 24 May 1883 to John Emil Slinkey, a hotelier and newspaper man (1842 - 1920) and Christina Dern (1843 - 1899). In 1906, he was a carpenter living with his father and older sister Lillian, probably near Van Ness Avenue.

Ethel Sarah Neate was born 3 May 1886, the first child of Luffman A. Neate, a teamster (1865 - 1939) and Ruth Wilway (1856 - 1938). By 1906, Luffman and Ruth had added more children to their family: John, Albert, Arthur, Iris and Nettie. This large family lived on Hawthorne Street at the time of the disaster.

Milton and Ethel met during their time in the refugee camps. Their courtship was a fast one, and they were married on 28 November at St. Stephen’s Protestant Episcopal Church at Fulton and Webster. On 29 July 1913, they welcomed a son whom they named Eugene Dalbert Slinkey. Milton and Ethel spent their entire lives in the San Francisco bay area. Ethel died in 1952, and Milton early in the following year.

One of their descendants is Steve "Woody" LaBounty. The multi-talented LaBounty founded the nonprofit Western Neighborhoods Project in 1999.

His organization is devoted to preserving the history of western San Francisco neighborhoods such as the Richmond, Sunset, Ocean View and Ingleside. He is also very actively involved in efforts to save the few remaining Earthquake Cottages

"My mother and her sisters would talk about the family tales at Thanksgivings and Christmas and I soaked in lots of stories, many of which I thought were just imaginary! There were a few ghost sightings mixed in with true stories of suicides, business failures and romantic courtships, including how Milton and Ethel met in the refugee camps.
"I told my future wife some of these crazy stories one day around 1993 and she said, 'Maybe you should see if there's any truth in them.' We went to the SF public library, started browsing in the public directories, had success . . . soon I was a big-time genealogy nut.
"From that I moved into researching other people's stories, the history of my neighborhood, etc. The last few years my genealogy interest has had to take a back seat to preserving and sharing the history of western San Francisco." 

– Woody LaBounty, 2005

LaBounty, Stephen W., Shaken Up , 2002.
Photographs of Milton & Ethel Slinkey, Slinkey Family and LaBounty family, courtesy Stephen LaBounty.
Photograph of Ft. Mason Refugee Camp - Stereograph #1034, 1906, Private collection.
Photograph of Golden Gate Park Refugee Camp - Stereograph #1033, 1906, Private collection.
Photograph of Earthquake Shack, Interior, 2005, by Pamela Storm.
Photograph of Earthquake Shacks, Exterior, 2005, by Ron Filion.
IMAGE: Milton and Ethel (Neate) Slinkey and their son, Eugene
Milton, Ethel and Eugene Slinkey.

IMAGE: Woody LaBounty and Family
Woody, Nancy and daughter,
Miranda LaBounty.

20 September 2005 | copyright © 2005 Pamela Storm and Ron Filion. All rights reserved.