Zimri Brewer Heywood: separating
fact from myth
2 September 2008
Heywood & Jacobs lumber wharf, c. 1868 (BAHA archives, from Louis L. Stein collection)
As Planet Berkeley hurtles away from its past, the figures who dominated its early days, having accumulated a comet-like tail of stories and quasi-histories, take on the burnish of legend. Enshrined in books and articles, these stories have been repeated long enough to be taken for fact.
But what are we to believe when the stories carry conflicting dates, names, and locations?
Most people who are interested in Berkeleys history will have heard the name of Zimri Brewer Heywood. He is best known as the owner of the towns earliest lumber yard, partner of Captain James H. Jacobs in Berkeleys first wharf, and the father of thirteen children, including two mayors and a California Assembly member.
When did Zimri Heywood come to Berkeley? When was his business established here? Where did the Heywoods live in their first years out west? The answers to these questions are many and varied, depending on the source you choose to read. A great many of the accounts were published in the 20th century, relying on word of mouth or on other 20th-century sources. But what picture emerges when the Heywoods odyssey is reconstructed exclusively from 19th-century records and documents?
Zimri Brewer Heywood at the age of 72 (Heywood family collection)
Zimri Brewer Heywood was born on May 24, 1803 in Winslow, Maine. Prior to his arrival in California, he lived at times in Calais, ME, at others in St. Stephen or St. James, New Brunswick. His frequent cross-border moves had nothing to do with globetrotting. It happens that Calais and St. Stephen are practically one community, bisected by the St. Croix River, while St. James lies a mere ten miles north of St. Stephen.
While living between Maine and New Brunswick, Zimri Heywood married four women within a span of 22 years, the first three wives dying at the age of 30, 29, and 26, in that order (see a table listing Zimris wives and their children). The U.S. census of 1840 found Zimri in Calais, heading a large household that included two males under five (sons Franklin and Albert); three males aged 5 to 10 (sons William B., Charles, and Samuel); one female aged 15 to 20; one male aged 20 to 30; two females aged 20 to 30 (one of them his second wife, Jane Scott); three males aged 30 to 40 (including himself); and one female aged 30 to 40; 13 persons in all.
During the 1840s, Zimri was involved in at least three lawsuitseither as plaintiff or defendantinvolving property rights or debt. On 24 July 1850, the Heywood household, now reduced to nine persons, was still residing in Calais and included the fourth wife, Ann Bullock, and seven children from all four marriages. Zimris occupation was recorded as millman, his estate was worth $5,000, and his sons Charles, 18, and Samuel, 16, worked for him as laborers.
If youve read any of the accounts relating how the Heywoods set out for California in September 1849, sailing around Cape Horn and arriving in San Francisco in early April 1850, you might be wondering how they accomplished this feat only to return home less than four months later. One possible answer is that Zimri went on a scouting expedition ahead of the family, in which case he couldnt have stayed long and had to hightail it on the way back.
San Francisco Municipal Register, 1859 (sfgenealogy.com)
Its been claimed in several books that Zimri Heywood established his West Berkeley lumber yard in 1856. If this is the case, no record has been found to substantiate the date. The Heywoods did arrive in California some time in the 1850s, for several records exist that place them in the Bay Area by 1860. One of these is the San Francisco Municipal Register of 1859, listing the firm of Haywood [sic] & Harmon, California St., among the citys lumber dealers. Zimris partner was Samuel H. Harmon (18261907), another Maine native.
The 1860 U.S. census recorded Zimri and Ann Heywood in San Francisco with three young children and the 22-year-old Franklin. Zimri was listed as a lumber merchant with $3,000-worth of real estate, and Franklin was a clerk, presumably at Heywood & Harmon.
Also in 1860, Zimris oldest living son, William Brewer Heywood (b. 1830), was a brick mason living in San Francisco with his bride of two years, Salome. Of his two full brothers, Charles Warren (b. 1831) and Samuel (b. 1833), there is no record that year. According to Past and Present of Alameda County California, Vol. II, published in 1914, Charles engaged in the sheep business in the Napa valley for many years, driving his sheep to market from Napa to Oakland. (The 1870 census listed Charles as a dairyman in Oakland.) Samuel reportedly made his home for a while in the Gold Rush town of Camptonville.
Ann Bullock Heywood, 1887 (Heywood family collection)
The Steuart Street wharf, San Francisco, 1866 (Society of California Pioneers)
By 1863, both William and Franklin were working as clerks at Heywood & Harmon, then located at 43 Steuart Street, on Pier 4. In 1866, Franklin registered to vote as a lumber dealer and William as a bookkeeper. Both lived on Polk Street between Sacramento and California, while their father resided at 1121 Kearny Street. Two years later, William lost his wife in the Oakland Ferry Disaster of 4 July 1868. Salome was one of the holiday makers about to return to San Francisco on the ferry El Capitan after a day of festivities in Oakland. While transferring from the train to the ferry, the gangplank connecting ship to shore gave way, hurtling at least ten passengers to their death. William was left with two small sons to raise.
Already in 1860, and perhaps earlierbefore any Heywood lived in BerkeleyZimri Heywood thought it wise to invest here. He acquired a tract of 2,900 acres in the Berkeley Hills, east of La Loma Park and about a mile north of the proposed campus of the College of California, and occupied (although did not reside in) a part of it known as the Ramsey Ranch. On 4 September 1860,