San Francisco History

Chambliss' Diary

Chapter XXV.

FRIDAY, October 30, 1891. Left San Francisco at 7 P. M. on the east-bound overland, via Ogden, for a trip through the North, East, and South.

Saturday, 31st. The section opposite to mine in the Pullman car was occupied last night by a lady and two small children, one of which would neither go to sleep nor let anybody else in the car sleep. It insisted on keeping up a continuous bawling all night, until we reached Reno, where the noisy brat and the rest of its family got off.

Sunday, November 1. Arrived at Ogden, Utah, at 8.30 A. M. Changed cars for Salt Lake City, and arrived at the great Mormon metropolis at 10.30. Attended services in the famous Mormon Tabernacle, and visited Camp Douglas this afternoon. Am stopping at the Knutsford Hotel. Salt Lake City is an enterprising place. While I am opposed to the Mormon so-called religion, which allows men to have as many wives as they can get, I am obliged to admit that this barbarous social custom seems to have had but little effect on the advancement of other branches of what is called modern civilization. For instance, they have their politicians, political bosses, hoodlums, "toughs," and street-corner orators. They have their "tenderloin" district (all over the city). The saloons and disorderly houses that have no faro den attachments advertised in the official guide lose their social prestige.

But are there not plenty of men in other cities who are not satisfied with one wife? (I don't mean Meldas, Quack-Nut, Toad, Fair, Flood, Huntington, Crocker, or Vanderbilt.) A beautifully laid out city, nice clean streets, and good hotel accommodations may be mentioned among Salt Lake City's attractions. The city has as good a system of street railways as I have ever seen, outside of San Francisco. It has various places of amusement, beside the regular disorderly resorts, including Garfield Beach, the "fashionable" summer resort and watering-place on the Great Salt Lake.

Monday, November 2. On board Rio Grande Western Mail and Express. Sorry I could not remain longer in Salt Lake, but I must be getting on East. Left Salt Lake at 10 o'clock this morning.

Tuesday, 3d. Passed through the famous Royal Gorge this morning. The scenery through the Rocky Mountains, for barren grandeur, positively defies a pen description that would do it justice. It must be seen to be appreciated. Many years ago, when the railroad was being built through here, a great battle was fought between the forces of the Denver and Rio Grande and the Sante Fe Railroad Companies for the possession of the Royal Gorge. Each company claimed the right of way. The discussion ended in a pitched battle between several thousand railroad laborers on each side, fully equipped for fighting the Indians. This engagement resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, and a decisive victory for the Denver and Rio Grande. The army of the Santa Fe was outgeneraled, routed, and completely overthrown, after which the victorious Denver and Rio Grandes completed their road, which forms a part of the Burlington system which Tom McKay of Jefferson County, Miss., represents at San Francisco.*

[*Note: Mr. Mckay is at Yokohama at the present time (June, 1895), representing the Pacific Mail passenger department.]

Arrived at Denver at 6.30 P.M., and left two hours later.

Wednesday, 4th. There is a little fifteen-year-old girl in the same Pullman car. She got on the train at Denver last night. She appears to be very much depressed over something. She refuses to eat anything; has not taken a mouthful of anything since she left Denver. Says the motion of the train makes her sick. She seemed very lonely and low-spirited when I spoke to her this forenoon, and she appeared to be afraid of everyone.

I gave her a copy of the Wasp to read, and Mr. Tom Flynn's funny jokes and San Francisco society cartoons very soon put her in a talkative humor, and she told me her little story. Her name is Josie Gerahty, and she came from Leadville, Col. Her father and mother were engaged in mining. She has an aunt living in New York, who had sent out to Leadville for here to come on to New York to live with her and go to school. Her aunt had sent her a first-class ticket, and she had started from home with funds enough to defray all of her incidental expenses, including meals and Pullman fare. She had arrived in Denver in the morning, and, while waiting for the 8.30 P.M. train, she walked uptown, where some thieving villain picked her pocket of every cent that she had. Fortunately the thief did not get her ticket, so she thought she was all right after all. She seemed to have overlooked the fact that it took several days to go to New York, for she would not allow anyone to pay for her meals.

When we stopped at Omaha, Neb., this afternoon, Miss Cora Sears of Chicago, a relative of Lieutenant Sears of the navy, got on the train, and I called her attention to the penniless, but high-spirited, little traveler. Miss Sears tried to induce her to dine with us, but it was no use.

Thursday, November 5. Arrived in Chicago at 9.30 A.M. Shortly before the Burlington train pulled into the Union Depot Miss Sears, Mr. Stein, of the clothing firm of Ederheimer, Stein & Co., and the author, made up a small purse and offered it to little Josie, but it was a long time before Miss Sears could induce her to accept it, even as a loan until she reached New York. Finally we took her to the Erie Depot, got her a section in a Pullman car, "tipped" the porter, and saw her off on her journey, after having telegraphed to her aunt, Miss Josie Cullen, 156 East 115th Street, New York, to meet her niece at the Jersey City ferry.

Friday, 6th. I am stopping at the Grand Pacific Hotel while in Chicago. Have visited Jackson Park, the World's Fair site, and other places of interest in the great city by the lake. This is my first visit to Chicago. If an individual opinion, founded on a two days' ramble through the business part of the city, amounts to anything, New York has a very dangerous rival here for first place in the list of large cities.

Some of the buildings have a grander and more imposing appearance on the outside than any of New York's mammoth structures. The bustle and flurry of the multitudes indicate that Chicago is determined to keep pace with the times.

Saturday, 7th. Left Chicago at 2 P.M., on the Illinois Central Fast Mail for the South.

Sunday, 8th. Arrived in Jackson, Miss., at 1.30 P.M. I was robbed while asleep on the train last night. I was the only passenger in the Pullman car Feronia, except two others in the stateroom . When I went to bed the conductor, the negro porter, and the buffet man were "shooting craps." When I woke up this morning and missed forty dollars in gold that I had in my pocket, I came to the conclusion that some one of the crap shooters must have played in hard luck and replenished his funds from my pocket.

Will have to wait here until 6.30 to-morrow morning for the "Little Jay" train. Am stopping at the Lawrence House. I hope the people of Jackson will wake up soon and build a decent first-class hotel for their visitors. This old, dilapidated, rattle-trap hotel is not fit for negro ex-slaves to stop in. The fare is actually worse than that of a San Francisco fifteen cent Third Street or East Street hash house. The hotel people conduct it on a starvation basis, and charge their guests two dollars a day for letting them go hungry, while the fleas and mosquitoes relieve them of any surplus blood that they may have. I should like to caution my friends and the public at large to steer well clear of the Lawrence House poker sharps. These rowdies are not Mississippians. They belong to the carpet-bag element which invaded the South from the tenderloin districts of Cincinnati, New York, Boston, and other large cities, after the close of the War of Secession. They are a curse to the South. They never were decent citizens of any place. About a dozen of those who make their headquarters around the Lawrence House--when they are not in jail--form a combination that rivals the Sutter Street fruitpickers of San Francisco, and the Thorne-Conan-Williams "compound" of bunko steerers of Yohohama.

But let me say once for all, that vultures like those are not allowed to enter society in the South under any pretext whatever.

Southern society draws the line on gamblers, bunko steerers, wine peddlers, bar-keepers, sure-tip horse-racers, quacks, shysters, political bosses, street-corner orators, fakirs, parvenus, disreputable women, and all other malodorous pests, just the same as it does the color line.

The war deprived the better elements of Southern society of their wealth and, in many instances, their homes. Grant, with his overwhelming numbers, laid waste the beautiful Valley of the Mississippi, and his soldiers plundered the vanquished citizens of all their possessions. But all the Grants, Shermans, and Farraguts, with all the powerful armies and navies and foraging parties of foreigners that they could command, could never deprive the Southern lady or gentleman of her or his natural inheritance of courtesy and hospitality. Grant recognized this fact, and he acknowledged it on many occasions, including the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. He thereby gained the respect and esteem of those whom he had conquered by means of superior numbers of imported thirteen-dollars-per-month "patriots."

The most unfortunate mistake ever made by the South was the hauling down of its own flag.

The Stars and Stripes belonged to no one if not to the Mother State, and all the other States had equal rights under it. The flag had been handed down to us by our forefathers, with their blessing. It was ours by legitimate inheritance, and under its immortal colors we should have lived or died.

The cause of the South was right. Had it been maintained under our old banner it would have lived, and those who went to war would have lived. The slavery question would have been compromised when the time came, and the negroes would have been sent out of the country instead of being turned loose to relapse into barbarism and thereby force the citizens to establish the lynch code.

From the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Altantic to the Pacific, we have had our lesson written in blood. And all on account of what? A political discussion involving the question as to whether the citizens of several States, including Virginia, the grand old mother State that gave us George Washington, had a right to the possession of several million head of live stock which they had acquired. This live stock had been acquired by the citizens in the same way that all other live stock was, and still is acquired: The citizens had purchased it and bred it.

Although the war resulted in setting this live stock free, it would be as absurd to think that the young men of the North fought with that object in view, as would it be to imagine now that the negro race was ever created to be anything higher than a race of servants.

The native born young men of the North who went to the front say they fought for the preservation of the flag. They deny the charge of having fought to place the African on an equality with themselves.

President Lincoln, yielding to what he believed to be the demands of true "Christianity," and unable to see the ultimate disastrous result that his act was bound to bring upon the slaves that he thought to elevate, issued a proclamation declaring the slaves "free." His advisers went a step further beyond civilized comprehension in essaying to place them on a social equality with Americans.

After thirty years of toleration of the fanatical idea that the negroes are eligible to the society of white people, all civilized America now declares that the freed live stock will never become desirable citizens of any place except Africa, while God controls the universe.

Let those who have not yet learned this lesson lose no more time in that direction. It is as plain as A B C; and what is the use of anyone--except the up-to-date politician, the acknowledged curse to America--attempting to deny the truth.

"Equal rights to all two-legged animals, including one breed which does not even resemble man in color."-- Parvenu Patriotic Methodism, 1861--1865.

The War is a thing of the past. A mere matter of history with the present generation. Grand Army veterans (the real ones) and Confederate colonels alike are being gathered in by old Father Time, and it is only a question of a few years when the last one of those brave old warriors will have disappeared from the face of the earth forever. They will bequeath to us the result of their experiences, for which the chronic bounty jumpers and pension pickers claim all the honors and get most of the money.

We of the rising generation throughout the country know from history how the bona fide soldiers gained their experiences. Therefore, let us not discuss the old battles any more, unless we can do so from a common-sense point of view, and without any excitement. Let us profit by the experiences of our unfortunate ancestors, and improve our American society under the good old reliable flag which has been handed down to us.

Drop the malignant epithets, "Yankee" and "Rebel." Those terms were invented by fanatics and foreigners to aggravate our interstate quarrel.

"Yankee Doodle" and "Marching Through Georgia" are two airs that should be suppressed. They are "played out."

There are no Rebels or Yankees, or any such persons in America, except perhaps a few thousand feeble-minded officer-seekers who are not above agitating an unfortunate question, in the wrong spirit, if they think they can, by such ignoble means, secure a few anarchistic constituents. The average pension picker is more of a rebel than the ex-Confederate veteran ever was.

The Confederate fought for his home, while many of the pensioners never fought at all.

To preserve peace, I would suggest to all good citizens to let the "Star Spangled Banner" be played in waltz and polka time (two, three, and five step, if desired) that we may all of us--Greenway included, this time--dance to its strains. Anything that is legitimate, to preserve national peace and union. But do not forget to keep the color line well defined, North, South, East, West, and all over the country.

It is better to stick to your own color, if you care anything for your social standing. Mulattoes are not considered eligible to membership in polite social organizations in any part of the United States or Canada; and I am very well assured that no lady or gentleman would care to be the mother or father of a child that would have to be branded as an ineligible.

Since the passage of the law--long may it live--prohibiting marriage between blacks and whites, the presence of a mulatto at a cotillion would be liable to give rise to more or less suspicion, in addition to the rank negro odor.

Not that the average mulatto is really any less properly behaved than certain members of Parvenucracy. Possibly he may be more polite, more courteous, in the deceptive outward appearance, and all that, but even then he had been better not begotten at all, because people will say ugly things.

Apropos of the effect that the War of 1861-65 had on American society, the idea that it will be fought over again some day on similar lines is too absurd to be worthy of ridicule. However, it is not hard to understand that persons who lost their friends and property through the struggle can retain sectional feelings and considerable bitterness and still be sane. But when it comes to fighting it over again, that is another proposition entirely.

THE AMERICAN DECISION AFTER THIRTY YEARS OF TOLERATION.   In order to avoid another civil war it will be necessary to ship a few millions of niggers back to where the New England blackbirders brought them from."-- Uncle Sam's Common Sense View, 1895.

That any American citizen outside of the Methodist Church or an insane asylum dreams that civilized America will ever again listen to fanaticism, and allow it to uproot society in this country with another interstate war, I doubt.

But, on the other hand, that American society will free itself some day from this slothful, personized Satanophany, this personified black plague, which Harriet Beecher Stowe and other fanatics induced President Lincoln to liberate in our midst, I doubt not.

When this inevitable reform movement begins, we can say that a step in the right direction has been taken.

The only way to get rid of an evil is by removing its foundation.

There is plenty of room in Africa for the black race.

I mention this fact for the good of society, and nothing else.

Who doubts my sincerity in this particular may call on me or write to me, and I will produce my authority for saying that it is a common thing throughout the Southern part of our country to see from one to an unlimited number of unmarried negresses, in almost every village, town, or settlement, raising up illegitimate offspring just like cattle.

Just fancy from one to three females, with from one to three whelps each,--I refuse to say children,--all living in one house with some aged negress whom they call "Granny," and not a sign of a husband, nor even so much as a contract marriage certificate, in the entire kennel. The whelpage comprising all the different shades between the greasy, shiny African black, and sunburned, malarial white, peculiar to the semi-acclimated carpet-bagger.

"God's children" (?).* BAH!

[*Note: God never begot but one Son on this planet. That Son founded The Church, but there were no negroes among his Apostles, nor is there any evidence to prove that He ever regarded the negro as a human.]

Here religion is dragged into the lowest depths and "free dumps" of degradation and hideous mockery. Fancy a negro "preacher," the father of a dozen or more of illegitimate whelps, getting up and declaring that the Lord has come down from heaven and commanded him personally to preach the gospel. His hearers listen to him with about the same degree of attention as that which is usually bestowed by a herd of cattle upon a new bellowing, fighting bullock.

At the conclusion of the "sermon"--which is usually at night--the "brethern" and "sisters" proceed to ransack all the barnyards, hen roosts, and watermelon and potato patches in the vicinity.

And all this, bear in mind, gentle reader, having developed itself since the Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation. When they were slaves they were certainly as well housed and fed, by their owners, as is your horse. Such debauchery as exists among them now never could have developed when they were slaves, except in the fanatical mind of the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," for then they had to work. Now that they are "freed" they interpret freedom to mean license to steal from white people--their former lawful owners. The bucks think they have a license to assault and butcher every white woman and child that they can catch unprotected.

How many of those fanatics who ask you and me to admit the negro into our homes on a basis of "social equality" would like to have negro husbands or sons-in-law?

That some Methodists may be found who could stomach the African odor, I doubt not. My observations of curious forms of unnatural depravity have been extensive, and it takes a good deal to astonish me.

Methodist Preacher I. J. Lansing, who, in order to get his name in the papers, slandered the President of the United States.

Talk about Fred Douglass and his great political "pull"! Bah! The mere presence in the political field of an ordinary man born out of wedlock ought to be sufficient to disgust a decent person with "modern politics."

What of it if Douglass did have ability to talk? Was he the only eligible person in New York?

Because he posed as the illegitimate evolution of a she slave who formed an intrigue with some depraved white wretch; because he inherited brain from his mother's self-degraded paramour, and used it to a good advantage to himself, among certain members of the white race who possessed less common sense than he, is that any reason why he should have been given a position in the diplomatic corps, and afterward "canonized"?

That many of the world's smart talkers, stubborn fighters, and perfidious rulers were born out of wedlock is true. That some of them accomplished historical feats and extraordinary objects, no less so.

William the Conqueror was the illegitimate son, as every schoolboy ought to know, of a wild Norman prince, of the Collonna or Poniatowski class, very likely. His mother was a poor peasant girl.

William conquered Britain, and then instituted the Feudal System, which gave to the landlords, like Huntington, Sage, Gould, Vanderbilt, and Crocker, the "honeymoon" privileges with all the brides among their tenants, employees, and hired help.

But I fail to see that that is any reason why Douglass should not be the patron saint of the Parvenucracy. Canonize him. Put him up as a mulatto Jesus, and pray to him, you idiotic dudes and dudines; build statues of him to show that you consider marriage unnecessary and the present marriage law a failure. Let the vulgar "new woman" mount her "wheel" and make pilgrimages to "Saint Douglass'" tomb, to show that she approves of the manner in which he was begotten.

Brazilla, Miss., November 9, 1891. I left Jackson on the 6.30 train this morning, and reached Fayette about ten o'clock. Lunched at Mrs. Guilminot's, attended to some little business matters, and started up the road for Tillman on the afternoon train.

While changing cars at Harriston I saw my uncle, Mr. Calvin Chambliss, and his son-in-law, Mr. Willie C. Starnes, standing in the depot. Of course they did not recognize me until I told them who I was, for I had not seen them in over ten years. I had only a few moments at my disposal at Harriston before the train pulled out, but in that time Uncle Calvin and Will took me over to their house, a short distance away, to meet a houseful of my cousins, whom I had never seen. Those were Cousin Drucilla (Mrs. Starnes), Miss Drucy Starnes, Miss Callie Starnes, Willie C. Starnes, Jr., and Lillie, the "baby." While I was being interviewed by this happy family Uncle Calvin decided to go up the road with me. Promising my pretty cousins to come back to see them soon, I left in company with my uncle and arrived at Tillman Station at about sunset.

My brother, Quitman, having heard, by some means or other, that I was coming, was at the depot in his buggy to meet me. The distance from Tillman up to Brazilla, my mother's old cotton plantation, is only two miles; just a nice walk for an appetizer. So we put Uncle Calvin into the buggy, and Quitman and I walked on up.

During this half hour's walk "Buddy" gave me an outline of what had happened since I left home. When we reached the house mother was standing in the door waiting for us. How natural she looked, in her black dress, with her almost snow-white hair, dressed in the old time Southern fashion. The same sweet mother that she always was. It was just before nightfall, and the sight of my mother standing there, holding a little child by the hand, reminded me of the days when I could not get along without her. The pretty little tot is mother's favorite grandchild, brother Quitman's daughter, and my niece. Her name is Miss Nellie, but, on account of her clear complexion and angelic appearance, mother calls her "the doll baby."

There are other nieces and nephews besides little Nellie--both of my brothers, Alex and Quitman, and also my only sister, Elizabeth, are married. They were all single when I left this dear old home in 1883, but many changes have taken place during the eight years that I have been away. Six or seven years ago Quitman, the eldest son, led off in the matrimonial line by marrying Miss Leanora Sharbrough, a daughter of the late Rev. Mr. Sharbrough, whose name is as well-known in Mississippi as the name of the State capital. His son, the Rev. Maloki Sharbrough, is now the presiding elder of some church in Ukiah, Cal. Sister Elizabeth soon followed suit by marrying Mr. Frank W. Sharbrough of Campbellsville, a brother of Leanora. There are two or three in that branch of the family who call me Uncle Will. One of those is a namesake, William Chambliss Sharbrough. Brother Alex fell in line only a short time ago. So now mother says that I am the only single one left. She says she has seen stories in the papers and heard rumors to the effect that I am not liable to remain single very much longer, but I tell her that I am not well enough established in business to settle down yet awhile. And besides this, I am young enough to stand a few years more of "single blessedness," and in the meantime I can gather a little more experience with the world.

At home, Tuesday, November 10. I had a curious dream last night, or rather this morining before I woke up. I dreamed that I was transformed into a two-year old boy again, and that mother was teaching me to talk. Everything about the old home was exactly as I remembered it twenty-two years ago. The ten-acre grove of old oaks, tall hickories, picans, black gums, pines, elms, beeches, and the cedars, live oaks, and other evergreens were all white with snow. Out around the barn the cows were lowing, the horses neighing, and the hens cackling; and away off in the fields I could hear the old hounds barking, as if chasing a rabbit or a fox, with some healthy voices of hunters following them. To all this pleasant mixture of old familiar sounds the robins and wax-wings in the trees around the house added their early morning chirps, while they were having a fine breakfast of frozen chinaberries and huckleberries.

"Missus say get up for breakfast," said a healthy, clear voice, with a strong colored accent. I woke up to find that "General," the colored boy, had made up a fire in my room before calling me. (Colored society is peculiarly adapted to fill some positions about the house.) He had placed my clothes and shoes before the fire to warm, so that they would not freeze me when I jumped into them. He had warm water and everything all ready for me, for it had turned very cold during the night. Everything was exactly as I had dreamed it, except myself.

All the different sounds that I had heard were realities.

It was just about sunrise, and everybody and everything about the old farm were wide awake, except me. The voice that I heard in the next room, teaching the child to talk, was mother's voice all right enough, but the child was her little granddaughter, Nellie, who was just learning to say "grandma."

After breakfast I put on my rubbers and took a stroll around the place with my two brothers.

It was snowing just a little. Everything around the old house looked as natural as it did when I was a small boy. The barn, the stables, the cotton-houses, the corn-houses, the garden, the orchard, and in fact the whole place seems so familiar that it would not require much stretching of imagination to fancy that I have only been away a few weeks, when, in reality, I have been away eight long years.

Wednesday, November 11. Had several invitations from old friends for the evening. Dined with Senator John McC. Martin at his beautiful home in Port Gibson. Met a great many old friends, including the Mason brothers, Captain Arch Jones, Charlie Wheelis, Hon. Evon M. Barber, Dr. John W. Barber, Dr. W. D. Redus, Mr. Wm. St. John Parker, Mr. J. W. Person, Mr. Austin Wharton, Messrs. John and Charles Gordon, Messrs. Bryon and Charles Levy, the Bernheimer brothers, Tommy Nesmith, Mr. J. H. Danjean, Mr. Kaufman, and others; spent the evening with Mr. William Morris and family in Port Gibson. Mr. Morris has several charming daughters, some of whom have grown up and come out since I left home. Am the guest of my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. John G. Hastings, while in town.

Thursday, November 12. Received an invitation from Dr. and Mrs. J. W. Davenport; called and spent the day and dined with them. Miss Kate is just as pretty and a little more charming than she ever was. Miss Ruth, the eldest daughter, is to be married soon, and Miss Lou, the youngest, is also engaged, but Miss Kate says that she intends remaining single for a while.

Friday, 13th. Attended a charity entertainment in Port Gibson, with my cousin, Miss Hastings. Met representatives there of nearly all the old families of this section.

Sunday, 15th. My twenty-sixth birthday. Will remember the occasion for the rest of my life. My mother had the whole family here to dinner, except sister, who missed her train.

The dinner itself was one of those Southern home dinners, which must be partaken of before any description that I could give would convey any reasonable idea of what one is like. This one in particular was served in the old home where I was born and raised.

Mother sat at the head of the very same old walnut table that had been used in the family since she and father commenced housekeeping. The rest of us were given the same places that we were accustomed to occupy after we got big enough to sit at the table with company, with the exception that my father's chair, vacant since December 31, 1879, was occupied by Quitman.

Sunday, 22d. Went to Cousin Mattie Wilkinson's birthday dinner party at the Old Chambliss Castle, as the house is called on account of its ancient style of architecture. This is the home of my grandfather, erected over one hundred ago. Providence is the name of the plantation, and it is just a mile from Tillman Station. If the reader should ever happen to pass that way, and should like to have a look at an original Southern home, I am quite sure that my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Wilkinson, and their boys, John, Robert, Sam, and Len, would be pleased to show him the old castle. Cousin Mattie's guests were the Misses Andrews of Flower Hill; Miss Kate Futch of Raymond; Miss Rollins, Mr. Tommy Rowan, her three big brothers, Mr. Sam Price, and several others.

Source: Chambliss, William H. Chambliss' Diary; Or, Society As It Really Is. 1895: New York.  Library of Congress, "California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900.


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