Truckee to the rescue in 06 quake
April 6, 2006
With the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake this month, well take a look at how Truckee reacted and performed in the aftermath of the temblor and fire that destroyed much of the city.Truckees relationship to San Francisco in 1906 was tight. A great deal of Truckees business affairs went through San Francisco. The city had the banks, the wholesale warehouses, the headquarters of Southern Pacific Railroad, Truckee Lumber Company, Sierra Nevada Wood & Lumber Company, and the Union & National Ice companies. These were Truckees primary employers at the time.The rolling shock waves of the earthquake reached Truckee between 5:12 and 5:17 a.m., which is when the clocks at the three leading hotels stopped. The earth moved heavily at Blue Canyon, but diminished by the time it got to the summit. Truckee residents woke up, just as hundreds of thousands of other Northern Californians did. The quake caused no significant damage, but residents were certain that damage had occurred elsewhere. They waited for word from the west to see where the quake had hit. It wasnt until 11 a.m. that the news of the early quake damage to the city reached Truckee.
By the 20th, after the great fire destroyed more of the city, the need for the citys assistance became clear, and Truckee responded by wiring $400 to Sacramento for relief efforts. The towns bakeries combined to bake and ship out 1,500 loaves of bread on the S.P. to Oakland.Many Truckee people had family, relatives, and friends in the city, and word slowly came by telegraph of the condition of the survivors. A few Truckee residents, such as Mrs. J.G. Booth and her children, were there and survived. Mrs. Booth had just picked up a new Rambler auto and was anxious to return home. Her photo in the Rambler had appeared in the Examiner the Sunday before the quake.Mrs. Pomp Franzini and her daughter Stella were in the city where she had undergone surgery. She managed to make her way to Oakland and took a train to Truckee, as did other Truckee residents.Meanwhile other people who had families in San Francisco took trains into the devastation to find their families. Truckee dentist Dr. Kelly and George and Frank Rutherford were among some of the men who went to view the damage for themselves. Those in the California National Guard reported to the Nevada City armory, and were then sent to San Francisco.Truckee was in a frenzy for a few days. The Truckee Republican newspaper urged the citizens to remain calm, and not to add to the panic. Business came to a standstill around the area.
Not only did Truckee send food for survivors, but also fed the refugees who streamed out of the Bay Area on free train tickets provided by S.P. Within two days, passenger train loads of starving, injured, and homeless refugees came to Truckee. Truckee was the first place that passengers could get off the train and seek help.Truckee held a mass meeting, formed a relief committee and got to work. Food was brought in from Reno, Floriston, Hobart Mills and Grass Valley. Crews of men, women and children worked around the clock to prepare the food and feed each trainload of displaced San Franciscans. More money was raised and clothing was gathered and given to the evacuees.Those who had some money with them were given discounted meals at Truckee restaurants. Rumors circulated in Reno that Truckee merchants were gouging the refugees, but the opposite was true. The caring and kindness given to desperate people fleeing the quake and fire-ravaged city resulted in letters of appreciation sent to Truckee in the following weeks.While crime was not much of an immediate concern, the chaos around Truckee was visible. As a result, Constable Gus Schlumpf appointed five special deputies to keep order around the train depot and town. A benefit dance at Hurds Capital Opera House was put on by the Eagle Band, and more money was raised for relief.
The Southern Pacific Railroad began running dozens of special fast freight trains full of food and supplies to the city from the Midwest and East free of charge, adding to the confusion in Truckees railyard. Railroad men worked around the clock to keep everything moving in both directions. Their paychecks were delayed a week due to the destruction of the S.P. offices in San Francisco.Truckees benevolent societies, such as the Knights of Pythias led by Charles McGlashan, contributed to a $400,000 fund. McGlashan and others went to Oakland to administer their own relief funds to their members in the Bay Area.Truckee merchants were required to pay cash when doing business with San Francisco wholesalers as cash was hard to find. Banks throughout Northern California, closed after the quake, re-opening within three to four weeks, freeing up the cash crunch. People thought lost in the chaos turned up safe and sound.Truckee was credited with feeding greater than 6,000 refugees, but the real count was thought to be higher. The cost to Truckee was never fully calculated, but cost the small town tens of thousands of dollars. The state of emergency lasted well more than two weeks in Truckee, slowly becoming more manageable by the day.
The longer lasting effects included a sharp increase in people in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. Many summer residents came early for the summer, brought more guests with them and stayed longer at their summer homes. Some came to stay and never left. Business for the local lumber mills increased for the next two years as lumber was needed to rebuild the city. Large cracks in the earth were discovered a few weeks later near Verdi that hadnt been there before the quake.Business in the Truckee courts and jail increased as jobless men, down on their luck joined the throngs of the usual hobos and tramps riding the freight trains across the country. Many stopped in Truckee for a short time to see what opportunities for petty crime were, but Constable Schlumpf and Deputy Lyman Goetchius kept them moving down the line.Fire insurance rates went up in Truckee as the companies tried to recoup their losses in San Francisco. Truckeeites such as Morrie Franzini, who was in the city during the quake, relived the shaking every time a heavy freight train rumbled through town in the middle of the night. Resorts at Lake Tahoe benefitted by seeing immediate increased reservations. The Lake Tahoe Railroad cleared its tracks of snow between Truckee and Tahoe City to move supplies to the lake early. The resorts opened earlier than normal to house those who did not want to spend another day in the city. Continued aftershocks, disease and a lack of services caused many to stay away until the fall. Even Mrs. Booth finally got her brand new Rambler up the mountain, even though it needed a new paint job.Truckee gained a lot of goodwill among the evacuees, and for years, people stopping by thanked the merchants and citizens for their kindness in the time of tragedy.Gordon Richards is the president and research historian for the Truckee Donner Historical Society. Comments and history information are always welcome. Please visit the Truckee Donner Historical Society Web site at http://truckeehistory.tripod.com. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You may leave a message at 582-0893. Past articles by Gordon Richards are available at sierrasun.com in the archives.