San Francisco 1906 Earthquake Marriage Project

Charles Hayes Stewart
Charles Hayes Stewart (04 Mar 1877-27 Feb 1954) and
Rose Ellen Robbins (07 Apr 1879-31 Dec 1957)

Married: 09 June1906, San Francisco

Rose Ellen Robbins Stewart

Charles Hayes Stewart was born in San Francisco, the fifth of seven children born to the recent immigrants George Stewart and Olivia M. Jones Stewart.  He attended the old Lincoln School where he played football and basketball. In 1895, he got his first job as a stock-boy, cash-boy, and delivery helper with Verdier & Company, soon renamed the City of Paris Dry Goods Company.  In these early years, he became fast friends and a lifetime co-worker with a recent transplant from France whose first job was running the store’s old mahogany hydraulic elevator – Paul Verdier, the son of the store’s owner and future President of the City of Paris.

Rose Ellen Robbins was born in Sacramento, the fourth child of Joseph M. Robbins (an early New Helvetia/Sacramento settler from Vermont) and his wife Ellen Helen McGrath who had emigrated from Ireland.  In 1900, Rose's mother sold her Sacramento home. Rose, her mother and younger half-siblings, Helen and Peter Callander, moved to the City. Rose found work as a bookkeeper and lived at 1114 McAllister Street. The rest of the family lived at 1432 Mission street.

During the early 1900s, Charlie and Rose met.  Their friendship slowly evolved into a formal courtship, but the easy pace of their relationship instantly changed with the 1906 earthquake.  Rose’s boarding house collapsed in those early hours and she recalled a third floor lodger who simply stepped out of her room onto the street level and was in such shock that her hair turned white!  Within hours Charlie came to Rose’s rescue; he helped move her and her fellow lodgers, the Woodburns, first to safety in Golden Gate Park, and then later to the Stewart’s family home at 278 Collingwood Street.  One can imagine how crowded the three-story house must have been with Charles' family, his siblings, their families, intendeds and their families, and friends all under one roof!

Beverly Rose and Audrey Helen Stewart
Audrey Helen and Beverly Rose Stewart
Charles and Rose Stewart
Within the next two months, Charlie and Rose rapidly planned their marriage and obtained their marriage license on Saturday, 9 June 1906, and marrying the following Thursday, 14 Jun 1906. They soon moved to 3423 20th Street and on 10 June 1907 they celebrated the birth of their first daughter, Beverly Rose. Ten years later, on 26 April 1917, they welcomed their second daughter Audrey Helen into the family.

Always the athlete, prior to 1906 as a member of the Olympic Club, Charlie Stewart set a U.S. record in mat diving (a gymnastics competition later dropped when the sport was deemed ‘too dangerous’), and in 1908 he was featured in an article about the Siaplamat Braves as “Professor Charles Stewart”. Charlie was also an active member of the Elks BPOE Lodge #3, the Pacific Parlor #10 of the Native Sons of the Golden West, and was a member of the 1938 San Francisco Grand Jury.

City of Paris, San Francisco, CaliforniaBecause of the quake, the City of Paris closed for just one day as it relocated into a mansion on Van Ness avenue. With less wares to sell, the staff worked shorter hours and dedicated their efforts to assisting with the City’s recovery. Charlie was tasked with helping to clear out the collapsed structures in Chinatown in order to provide the residents with alternative shelter, food, and medical care. Although it was a tragic and traumatic time for  many, Charlie was always able to relate stories about the strength and resilience of the people he met and the rewarding work they performed in helping the community recover.

Within three years of the quake, the City of Paris returned to its location at Geary and Stockton and Charlie continued his rise through the ranks as Merchandise Manager, Credit Manager, Office Manager, and by 1914 to Secretary-Treasurer. The only bleak spot in his career was during the years of 1926-1932 when new investors took control and relegated him to a store manager role. However, as a shareholder with an intimate knowledge of the books, Charlie aided the Verdier interests in legitimately regaining control and on 20 October 1932 he resumed his role of Secretary-Treasurer/Controller and was voted onto the Board of Directors.

Charles Hayes Stewart quietly died on the train to work on 27 Feb 1954 at the age of 76, ending 59 years with his only employer, the City of Paris. His widow, Rose, missed him greatly and passed just a few years later on 31 December 1957. They are both interred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Colma.

Credits: Story and pictures were provided by and used by permission of Harriet Girdley, daughter of Audrey Stewart.
Charles and Rose Stewart
Charles and Rose Stewart.

15 August 2010; updated: 19 October 2011, 19 September 2010; Copyright © 2010-2011 SFgenealogy. All rights reserved.