|Map of Downtown Sacramento
One sign advertises William H. Thomas who was born in New York in 1816. He was in
practice in Sacramento at 61 J St. by 1850. Later in 1860, he married the widow
Charlotte Rebard of New Orleans, some 15 years his junior. She had two surviving
children of her first marriage to hatter Justin Rebard, a native of France, Anthony who
was born in New Orleans about 1856 (and who was deaf) and Pauline, who was born
in California in about 1858. Together they had at least two more children -- William H.
born about 1861 and Alfred born in 1863.
William was on the tax list in Sacramento in 1852. He was married after 1860 to the
widow Charlotte Revard from New Orleans and had two children and two steps in
1870. William was dead by 1880 and son, Albert, worked with a rival dentist.
Charlotte was still alive in 1900 in San Francisco, living with her daughter, showing 6
children, only 2 alive. Still alive in 1910, her only living child, daughter Pauline. Still
alive in 1920, age 87. Not found in 1930.
Searches for floods in cities made me aware of how common and costly a problem this
was in the 1800’s just as it is today. Persisting in this type of search led me to images
depicting the problems faced by towns located in the watershed of the Sacramento
River, California. This particular scene faces in an eastern direction along J Street of
Sacramento Cal. (away from the river).The flooding was done during Dec. 1861 and
remained through Jan. 1862. I understand a levee had been built along the banks of the
Sacramento River hoping to solve the flooding problem which happened about 10 years
earlier. Difficulty on this occasion was that the water overflowed the levee, which in
turn trapped water in the town. Don Draper
This photograph, looking east, of a deluged J Street near Fourth Street captures the
scale of the flood of December 1861. In the foreground is a sign for dentist W.H.
Thomas, and the dry goods store of Patrick O'Connell and Jonathon Ryan. Just across
the street is the St. George Drugstore. 1861/1862 saw two different levee breaks for
Sacramento, one at Thirty-first Street on December 9 and one at Rabel's tannery on the
American River a month later. In 1863, the city's business district was raised it 18 feet
to avoid further flooding. I did not use Tineye but it did require a lot of time.
I didn't assume the sign on the street and the sign on the building belonged to the same
dentist. The hardest part was translating the semi-gibberish of the old OCR'd
newspaper. Google didn't produce an image, just the OCR version, which was quite
Methodology: Googled "O'Connell, Ryan & Co" to find likely town was Sac. and that
showed newspapers from 1859-66 that listed the dentists, too. Googled "Sac. floods"
and found the big one was in 1861. The rest is deductive. Collier Smith
The dentist's sign with the words "New York" on it was quite the red herring! I finally
found the pic by Googling "O'Connell, Ryan & Co" to get the city of Sacramento and
then Googled "St. George Drugstore + Sacramento" to get the location of J Street".
I...can't find a picture of the buildings at that time in Sacramento so not sure what
rooftop that photo could have been taken from but I did find this link in Google Maps to
a building in modern-day Sacramento that could have served as a substitute for the
rooftop where the photo had been taken: maps.google.com/maps?q=38.58318....
Hopefully the link works and I at least have the location correct - could not match up
the buildings to the drugstore building in the photo but I hope I am close!
Okay QG: I thought I was so right with Evansville, IND. In frustration I did go to
tintype; but I then did use search words 19th century flood daguerreotype US city to
get to a photographer reference: Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, a biographical
dictionary 1840 to 1865. (Palmquist and Klaiborn)there was a Charles Weed who took a
photo of K Street of Sacramento Flood of 1861 - 1862.
To line up your floating ducks --- downtown Sacramento, California is bounded on the
West by the Sacramento River and on the North/East by the American River. Circa
Dec. 9, 1861. (The Street grid is A to W ((north to south) and 1st to 30th (east to
West)). First St. begins at Sacramento River on the West. The Am. River broke
through the Levee On North End at 30th Street. Today City of Sacramento is
sufficiently protected from flooding. North on I5 across the Sacramento River it is not
really: Sacramento airport, Arco Arena and a bunch of new housing construction. Not
so long ago this flood plain land was used for rice paddies. Mike Dalton
records that her father was from Switzerland and mother from Maryland.
In 1920, Charlotte was 87 and lived in San Francisco as a ‘Lodger”. I noticed that all
names on the page were listed alphabetically as if they were taken from a register. In
my response I assumed she died in San Francisco but since then noticed that the
Sacramento cemetery record places her death in “LA”. If this was true I don’t know
why or how she would end up in Los Angeles . On this same census she indicated that
she had 6 children - 2 still living. So who were they?
Buried in the same area (P.124, Lot 71) of Sacramento City Cemetery are:
1. A. - stillborn (23Oct1900) Was this a later burial for Charlotte ’s child
it would take only a couple of days of rain to destroy their operations and bankrupt their
finances. In a natural desire to protect their property, people who made their homes
along California's rivers constructed earthen levees along many riverbanks in an effort
hold back the warers. From rhe early 1850s to 1861, more rhan $1.5 million was spent
on building and improving the levee system in and around Sacramento. Adjusted to
today's dollars, that is almost $30 million.
The Deluge Although extremely wet weather in California is sometimes associated with
an El-Nifio weather pattern, the definitive paper on historic El Nii'ios, written in 1992 by
Oregon State Climatologist Victor Neal and William Quinn, an oceanographer at Oregon
State University, determined that the synoptic weather panern during the December
1861-January 1862 flooding event was non-EI Nino.
The Signal Corps network of weather stations would not be established on the West
Coast for another 10 years, but there were a number of Army observers and private
To put the issue in context, the December 2005 rainfall event in San Francisco
recorded a little more than 11 inches, followed by 3.5 more inches in January 2006.
Compare this to nearly 10 inches for San Francisco in December 1861, followed by an
unprecedented 24 inches in January 1862. And unlike the winter 2005-2006 storms, the
1861-1862 storms caused record or near~record flooding events across the state, from
Eureka and Humboldt counties in the northwest, all the way to Orange and San Diego
counties in the south.
A State Dependent on Its Rivers To better understand the concern over river flooding
and the levee system in California, one must first understand the geography of
California's Central Valley. Composed of the Sacramento Valley from Redding to
Sacramento, and the San Joaquin Valley from Modesto to Bakersfield, the terrain is
generally flat and surrounded on all sides by mountains. The Coast Ranges lie to the
west and the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east. When rain falls on these mountains,
it runs into creeks that flow down the mountains into streams and rivers and into the
Central Valley. From there it flows toward the only sea-level outlet to the ocean, the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and on out through the San Francisco Bay. In the
Sacramento Valley, the American, Feather, and Sacramento rivers all rush through the
Sacramento area and then toward the delta. In the San Joaquin Valley, the San Joaquin,
When the first storms of the winter season
arrived in California in December 2005,
they were initially a welcome sign that the
state's long dry season was finally over.
But as 2006 began, rivers were pushed
over their banks as heavy rains prevailed
across the northern third of the Golden
State. For many Californians, the localized
flooding that occurred in the towns of
Healdsburg, Guerneville, and Sacramento
seemed near Biblical proportions, and there
was a great gnashing of teeth and fear for
the California levee system. Although the
2005-2006 season was alarming, many
people likely would have been surprised to
know that their Civil Warera ancestors
faced a much larger crisis in 1862, as a
record-setting rainy season prompted the
construction of that same levee system
and threatened to rain destruction on the
many budding communities in the young
|Slide Show of Great Flood of 1862
|It's happened before – Sacramento
residents cruised K Street in rowboats
early in 1862 after a prolonged storm
deluged Northern California. Gov.-elect
Leland Stanford took a rowboat to his
inauguration. Click here.
|The St. George Hotel was on this
corner with the main entrance on
The following ad ran on March
19, 1860 in the Sacramento
The undersigned wishes to hire
ten or a dozen men, familiar with
the management of horses, as
hostlers or riders on the
Overland Express Route via Salt
Lake City. Wages, $50 per month
I read dentist, New York and started by searching New York. I found
a flood of 1972 in Corning, New York, but the buildings were wrong.
I got Tineye and found the picture on the Sacramento Press website.
There was no identification of the picture. I did realize that we were
looking at one of the Sacramento 1850. 1952 or 1862 floods. A
historical webpage talked about a talk and tour of the Sacramento
Undergound passages created when the city was raised 10 to 14 feet
in 1864. The terrible flood of 1862 spurred the activity. The picture
was one of fourteen displayed on the site. I assumed they were
showing the 1862 flood to go with the tour. Googling "O'Connell..."
got me the California Digital Newspaper Collection, cdnc.ucr.edu and
The Sacramento Daily Union. I searched "O'Connell, Ryan & Co" and
found ads from 1859 to 1869. Searching "Thomas dentist" gave me
ads for Dr. W H Thomas from New York from 1856 to 1866. Both
businesses were on J St between 3rd and 4th Ave. Since neither were
there in 1850 or 1852, this must be the 1862 flood. I feel stupid that I
didn't recognize Sacramento flooding first thing. The Newspaper
Collection was a great find, as it allows me to search for Sacramento
articles in early Sacramento about some of my genealogy local
I wondered about my approach, so made a test. O'Connell's address
was 93 J St. In CDNC I searched for that address. The City Shoe
Store was there in 1861, and the Phoenix Shoe Store in 1863. Picture
1. What event is depicted?
2. What was the name of the dentist whose office is shown in the foreground?
3. Name a possible location from where the picture was taken?
TinEye Alert: You can find this photograph using TinEye if you try.
However it is much more fun if you solve the puzzle on your own.
|Answer to Quiz #310
June 17, 2011
1. The Sacramento, CA flood of 1861
2. William Hemry Thomas
3. Northwest corner of J and 2nd, Sacramento, CA
|Idea for this quiz came from a suggestion submitted by Quizmaster Emeritus Susan Fortune.
|Comments from Our Readers
On a side note, I found it interesting that a piece of music called
the California Flood Mazurka was composed by Max Zorer to
commemorate the event and that its cover art resembles the quiz
photo. Again, you have probably already seen the Weatherwise
magazine article showing the piece of music, but I’ve attached it
anyway in case you haven't. Another great
quiz! Daniel E. Jolley
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Collier Smith Marilyn Hamill
Jim Kiser Don Draper
Joshua Kreitzer Nicole Blank
Mike Dalton Donna Jolley
Stephen Jolley Margaret Paxton
Robert W. Steinmann, Jr. Diane Burkett
Jim Baker Milene Rawlinson Harold Atchison
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the Forensic Genealogy book.
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
Beginning on December 24, 1861, and
lasting for 45 days, the largest flood in
California's recorded history was created,
reaching full flood stage in different areas
between January 9-12, 1862. The entire
Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were
inundated for an extent of 300 miles (480
km), averaging 20 miles (32 km) in
breadth. State government was forced to
relocate from the capital in Sacramento
for 18 months in San Francisco. The rain
created an inland sea in Orange County,
lasting about three weeks with water
standing 4 feet (1.2 m) deep up to 4 miles (6 km) from the river. The Los Angeles
basin was flooded from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, at
varible depths, excluding the higher lands which became islands until the waters
receded. The Los Angeles basin lost 200,000 cattle by way of drowning, as well as
homes, ranches, farm crops & vineyards being swept-away. During a catastrophic
flash flood in 1825, the Los Angeles River was diverted from following Ballona Creek
and emptying into the ocean just south of Santa Monica. Its course presently goes to
the San Pedro-Long Beach access to the Pacific Ocean.
|How Arthur Solved the Puzzle
|The Central and Northern
California River Systems
|Many Clues in the Picture
|W. H. Thomas
Googling on the names on these signs should lead you to the website of the California
Digital Newspaper Collection where you would discover city directories indicating that
these establishments were located in Sacramento, CA. You will also find ads for these
establishments if you search Google Books on some of the names. Once you know the
location is Sacramento, it is not to difficult to find information on the great flood of
|Mears 1863-1864 Sacramento City Directory
|D. S. Cutter & Co. 1860 Sacramento City Directory
|St. George Hotel
|Undated Picture of St. George Hotel
This undated photo is half of a
stereographic view of the St. George Hotel
in Sacramento, from the University of
|The 'Big One' Might be a Flood
by Matt Weiser
January 14, 2011
By 1960 the St. George had become The
Morris Hotel, and was much changed in
appearance from its former glory days. If
one looks closely at the upper corner of the
building facing the viewer, one can make
out the former name of the hotel, painted
over, albeit ineffectively. The building
disappeared not too long after this picture
was taken, as the whole area was
Dedicated March 19, 2005
First Northern Bank
The Firehouse Restaurant
Rotary Club of Sacramento
Burnett & Sons Planing Mill
and Lumber Co. – Since 1869
Chamber of Commerce
Pony Express Trail Association
|and food. I may be found at the St. George Hotel during Sunday,
Monday and Tuesday. William W. Finney”
This was the only ad ever run for Pony Express riders. On March
20, the Sacramento Union reported “We understand that about
200 men have responded to the advertisement of the agent, Mr.
Finney, for Post Riders on the Overland Express. The requisite
number have been engaged. A list of donors is at the bottom of
The photo may have been taken from the roof of, or out a window of
the Cresent City Hotel located at 71 J Street. It could also have been
taken from a location within Hooker & Company (importers &
wholesalers in hardware, iron, steel, & coal also located at the same
address between 3rd & 4th, opposite the Read's Bldg). Another
possibility is a building at 77 J Street which housed an importer and
dealer of clothing named R. T. Brown & Company.
|Dr. William H. Thomas, D.D.S.
I had great fun finding information related to
the dentist. His name was William H.
Thomas. The “New York” on his sign
indicates, as do census records, that he
came from New York. My guess is that at
this time period, the more established dental training facilities would be in the older
cities of eastern N. America. It would be brave of him to venture that far from home
sometime before 1850. He was born about 1817 and died 12Feb1876. Burial records
are available online for the Sacramento City Cemetery where he is buried along with his
wife Charlotte. Charlotte’ s DOB was 14July1832 - in New Orleans. 2 children listed on
the 1870 census, Antony and Pauline Revard indicate that she was previously married.
She died in San Francisco 11Mar1922. In 1900 she lived in San Francisco (age 67)
with her daughter Pauline Bullard - also a widow. I wondered if Dr. Thomas specialized
in doing GOLD fillings.
The 1862 Mears Sacramento City Directory shows that P.J.O’Connell, John Ryan and
|Example of an "atmospheric river"
(popularly known as a "Pineapple
Express") that draws moisture from the
Pacific Ocean near the equator and
transports it to the U.S. West Coast with
firehose-like ferocity. This one originated
over the central Pacific on February 16,
2004, indicated by high (green) vertically
integrated water-vapor contents (in grams
per square centimeter of water vapor) in
the atmosphere extending from around
Hawai‘i to the California coast near the
town of Cazadero (CZD).
|California State Railroad Museum
Old Sacramento Historic State Park
Pony Express Terminal
Kern, Stanislaus, and Merced rivers
also flow to the delta before heading
out into the San Francisco Bay and
into the Pacific Ocean.
In the mid-1800s there were no
interstate highways crisscrossing the
state. The major highways of that era
were the rivers, so life in California
developed along its banks. The Gold
Rush in the 1850s had resulted in an
impressive influx of people whose
livelihoods were tied to the rivers of
California as commerce flowed along
their waters. Meanwhile,
scores of farmers had settled along the
banks of the rivers, where the most
fertile farmland could be found in the
low-lying, flood-prone areas. But the
promise of rich cropland along rhe
banks of the rivers came at a high risk.
Farmers gambled their life savings on
crops and livestock, and residents of
burgeoning urban areas near the rivers
lived with the constant knowledge that
W. H. Thomas & Family
John Henebery were Dry Goods
merchants at 83 J Street. W. H. Thomas
had his dental practice at 79 J St. (81 J St,
in 1878). Building numbers get larger
away from the river which told me the
direction of the photo (faces ESE). I read
that when Dr. Thomas began his practice
it was in the “oldest establishment” in the
town at the time.
I also became interested in Charlotte - her
origins and how it was that she ended up
in Sacramento . The city’s historical
website points out that at the time of the
gold rush, there were very few women or
children in Sacramento . I believe she
married Mr. Revard in New Orleans and
they had 2 children - Ant(h)ony - born
1856 ( New Orleans ) and Pauline - born
1858 ( Sacramento ). I cannot imagine her
travelling without her husband to
Sacramento . I could find no record for
him in the Sacramento City Cemetery . A
New Orleans birth record for Anthony
would be of interest as well as one for
Charlotte . She indicated on census
|Two listings in the 1910 Census for
Charlotte Thomas in San Francisco.
Top: 16 January 1920; Bottom:
Supplemental census, 21 July 1920
2. Anthony Reb(v)ard Thomas (23June1874)
Drowned at age 19yr6m20d
3. Dr. Alfred John Thomas (9Oct1905) He was a
dentist and was 42 when he died. In 1880, he and his
mother lived at 317 J St . - the home of a dentist, W.
T. Wood. Perhaps Alfred served an apprenticeship
here. The census confirms he worked in dentistry.
I know of two other children:
1. Wm. H Thomas is on the 1870 census as 8 yrs.
2. Pauline who married a Mr. Bullard
If there were 6, I cannot account for them. Thanks
for the interesting challenge.
weather observers in place when the 1862 floods
occurred. According to these stations'
records in December 1861, the polar jet stream was
to the north as the Pacific Northwest experienced a
mild rainy pattern for the fin;[ half of the month. The
jet stream slid south, and on Christmas Day 1861 the
Oregon stations reported freezing conditions. Heavy
rainfall began falling in California as the longwave
trough moved south over the state. This trough
remained nearly stationary over California through
the end of January 1862, allowing heavy rains to fall
statewide just shy of the proverbial
40 days and 40 nights. Eventually, the polar jet slid
even farther south, allowing several inches of snow
to accumulate in the Central Valley and adjacent
mountain ranges. Daily rainfall was reported in the
Sacramento Union, the Lo, Angeie5 Star, and the
During the period from December 24, 1861-January
21, 1862, rain occurred in the state on 28 out of the
30 days. San Francisco recorded nearly 34 inches of
rain between December and January. Sacramento
tallied over 37 inches for the 2 months, with a
one~day maximum of 4 inches. Nevada City, in the
lower reaches of the Sierra Nevada mountains
reported snowfall equivalent to 115 inches of rain for
the storm. At Red Dog, also in Nevada County, the
24~hour maximum rainfall was reported at 11
inches. Also in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the
Tuolumne County mining town of Sonora reported
over 102 inches of rainfall in December and January. In Southern California, flooding in
Los Angeles was among the worst on record following nearly 35 inches of rainfall. San
Diego also suffered the effects of the storms, recording over 7 inches of rain-300
percent of the January normal at the time! The San Diego River floodplain also suffered
severe flooding as the tide backed its waters into the city, eventually cutting a new
channel into the bay. Read more.
|K St from 4th during Great Flood of 1862