Samuel Heywood and sons: lumber and politics

Daniella Thompson

21 October 2008

Samuel Heywood and family pose in front of their home at 812 Delaware Street. (Heywood family collection)

Samuel Heywood (1833–1903) was Zimri Brewer Heywood’s fourth son, the first Heywood to have settled in Berkeley, and the one most closely associated with the family’s West Berkeley lumber yard.

He first appeared here around 1868 to run his father’s lumber business with Captain James H. Jacobs, living with Jacobs and his large family in the wilds of Ocean View (the Oakland directory variously gave the address as “west of San Pablo Road,” “five miles north Broadway R.R. station,” and “five miles north City Hall”). Jacobs, who was born in Denmark, tended to hire Scandinavians as lumber-yard laborers, and some of them also lived with the family.

When Jacobs retired around 1876, Sam Heywood took over as sole manager. For a number of years he lived on the east side of Second Street between Delaware and Bristol, within the lumber yard property. His 1874 marriage to Emma Frances Dingley would produce five children, and in 1880, the U.S. census recorded Emma’s mother and two teenaged sisters in the household.

Samuel Heywood’s household in the 1880s (detail, Heywood family collection)

It was time to provide ampler quarters for the growing family. Samuel responded by building a large, two-story house on a double lot at 812 Delaware Street. The Heywood lived here until 1897, when they moved to a turreted Queen Anne house at 1929 Grove Street (current location of KPFA). They continued to own the Delaware St. house until 1907, when it was purchased by Fritz A. Bruns, a young cigar merchant from Germany who kept a shop on the southwest corner of University and San Pablo Avenues.

Samuel Heywood’s home at 1929 Grove Street (Heywood family collection)

The Delaware Street house survived until 1956, when it was demolished by its owner, a physician. In the 1980s, following the designation of the 800 block of Delaware as the city’s first historic district, the street was rehabilitated. To fill the gap left by the Samuel Heywood house, a very similar two-story structure was moved onto the site from 815 Hearst Avenue.

The current building at 812–814 Delaware St. was moved to this location from 815 Hearst Avenue. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008)

While living on Delaware Street, Samuel Heywood had a respite from selling lumber. As long as the Heywoods’ lumber yard was leased to Henry W. Taylor, Samuel’s occupation was listed as ’capitalist’ in the city directories. During the 1880s, he served as director of the Berkeley Board of Education and as a member of the town’s Board of Trustees (the equivalent of today’s city council), being elected president of the latter in 1890. Four years later, he was plying the grocer’s trade with his eldest son, Frank Brewer Heywood (1875–1935), on the corner of Delaware and Fifth Street. This business was short lived; in 1896, Frank was listed as trimmer at the Berkeley Electric Lighting Co., and two years later he became one of Berkeley’s first letter carriers.

It wasn’t until Henry W. Taylor moved his lumber yard to the foot of Folger Avenue in 1900 that Sam Heywood reentered the lumber business. He incorporated as West Berkeley Lumber Company, acting as president, with Thomas Richardson as secretary and manager. Richardson’s wife, Mary Curtis, was a well-known impressionist painter often compared to Mary Cassatt. “In portraiture, the tender feeling, the warm coloring and free handling of mother and child pictures has won a circle of enthusiastic admirers for Mary Curtis Richardson,” wrote Charles Keeler in his 1902 book, San Francisco and Thereabout.

Sam’s younger son, Charles Dingley Heywood (1881–1957), had worked for Taylor during the latter’s final year at the West Berkeley Lumber Yard, and now he was promoted to foreman. His sister Amy (1876–1940) was the lumber company’s bookkeeper until she married Captain John Roscoe Oakley, master of the bay steamer Resolute and a widower.

In marrying Amy Heywood, Oakley made a match that enabled him to establish the Berkeley Transportation Company, which for several years would control the freight shipping between West Berkeley and San Francisco. Working as captains in this business were Oakley’s sons Harry and Alfred. In 1909, Harry would also marry into a lumber family when he wed Hannah Niehaus, daughter of the late Otto Niehaus, proprietor of the West Berkeley Planing Mill.

The charred remains of the Niehaus Brothers’ West Berkeley Planing Mill, destroyed in 1901 (Heywood family collection)

The Niehaus mill was no longer in existence by then. On 15 August 1901, at 10 pm, fire broke out in its engine room and spread quickly, wiping out three acres of buildings, lumber piles, machinery, and finished products, including 6,000 doors in the door-and-sash factory. The Niehaus mill had seven private hydrants for which it paid a regular fee to the Contra Costa Water Co., but during the fire the hydrants produced meager streams that reached no farther than ten feet. The mill’s loss amounted to well over $100,000, while its insurance covered a mere $16,500. Over 100 workers lost their jobs. The lawsuit of Niehaus Bros v. Contra Costa Water Co. made its lengthy voyage through the courts, and in 1911 the California Supreme Court found for the defendants, determining that the contract between Niehaus and the water company did not impose on the latter an obligation to supply water specifically for fire protection.

The Heywood lumber yard, located a block away, suffered a relatively minor loss of $1,000. By 1903, the Heywoods had taken over the name West Berkeley Planing Mill, previously used by Niehaus Bros.

Three years prior to Samuel’s death, the family left its 1929 Grove Street home and moved to a rented house at 1307 Shattuck Avenue, current site of the Live Oak Park playground. They returned just as suddenly as they had left, for the newspapers reported that Samuel died at 1929 Grove. Charles D. Heywood succeeded his father as president and manager of the West Berkeley Lumber Company. Gertrude Heywood (1880–1927) followed her sister Amy as bookkeeper, and Frank returned to the fold as corporate secretary.

Frank, who had married Annie Turner in 1898, was the first to leave the parental home. The 1900 directory listed him at 1842 University Avenue, next door to the lot where his uncle William would build a three-story apartment building in 1909. Charles married Ethel Voss Rose in 1905. The bride was a neighbor who resided at 1909 Grove Street. Her brother, Burton J. Rose, worked as a clerk at the West Berkeley Lumber Co. and had married Samuel’s middle daughter, Henrietta Mae Heywood (1879–1910), in 1903.

Emma Heywood built these flats at 1917–19 Grove St. in 1909. She lived here until her death in 1945. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008)

The Roses settled down at 1929 Grove with Emma and Gertrude. In 1909, Emma constructed a pair of Colonial Revival flats at 1917–19 Grove, on the corner of Berkeley Way. This building, which sports an impressive arched Neoclassical canopy over the twin front doors, must have been quite elegant before it gained asbestos shingle cladding and lost its original windows for aluminum horrors. It still stands on the northeast corner of Berkeley Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, looking mysterious.

1911 Cedar St., where Charles and Ethel lived shortly after they were married. (Heywood family collection)

Emma and Gertrude moved to the new house, leaving 1929 Grove Street to the Roses and the Oakleys. For their part, Charles and Ethel moved from one rented domicile to another. They spent a couple of years in a shingled cottage at 1911 Cedar Street, then another at 1508 Le Roy Avenue. After uncle William erected the apartments at 1846 University Avenue, they moved into one of them. Charles was active in civic affairs, serving as president of the Berkeley Manufacturers’ Association and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce before running for mayor in the spring of 1913. He defeated fellow Republican and neighbor Charles H. Spear, who lived at 1905 Grove Street. At 32, Charles Heywood was the youngest mayor Berkeley had ever elected. Brother Frank was elected to the Board of Education.

Dedication of the Southern Pacific station at University Ave. & Third Street (Oakland Tribune, 17 Aug. 1913)
Left: Mayor Heywood presides over the dedication in full regalia. (Heywood family collection)

Also in 1913, the Heywoods sold their lumber operations to the Tilden Lumber Company. Frank remained there as secretary for one year before joining the Berkeley Fire Department as an engineer, a position he kept for the rest of his life. Frank and his family lived at 1905 McGee Avenue from 1915 or so until the 1920s, when they moved north to 1703 San Lorenzo Avenue. In 1913, Charles purchased a home at 2932 Linden Avenue that had been constructed by the Barry Building Company.

2932 Linden Avenue (Heywood family collection)

The same house today (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2008)

Once his two-year mayoral stint was over, Charles became a council member. During this time he also returned to the lumber business at his old location—Third St. and Hearst Avenue. In April 1918, he was appointed by the State of California as Berkeley’s wartime food administrator.

Berkeley Gazette columnist Hal Johnson credited Heywood with originating the subscription financing scheme for Memorial Stadium, writing on 28 September 1940:

Charles D. Heywood, former Mayor, commissioner of public safety and postmaster, was the first to suggest the building of a California stadium to be financed by 10,000 subscribers advancing $100 each. It was his idea to have the loan paid back in football tickets.

It was in the fall of 1920. Old California Field almost every Saturday afternoon looked like a sardine can before the contents were removed. The way the University was growing it was evident that in a few years only the student body and C.R. (“Brick”) Morse would be able to see games.

The Berkeley 21 Club had just been formed and met five noons per week in Carpenter’s Caf´┐Ż, located just beyond where the American Trust Company Building now stands as Berkeley’s nearest structure to a “skyscraper.” One noon, Heywood let go his bright idea. E.F. Louideck gave it the “O.K.” Then it was tried out on Lester W. Hink and Bill Whitecotton who a short time before had taken the name of Shattuck off the leading downtown hotel and given it his.

[...] Heywood’s plan for financing the Stadium was sanctioned by University authorities unofficially on Dec. 15, 1920. The project was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturer’s Association the same week.

Soon after that the University committee, headed by the late Dean Frank H. Probert, started work with the alumni and then the downtown and college groups joined into one large committee. The board of regents approved the plan of financing on April 22, 1921. It was originally planned to place the Stadium where Edwards Field is now, but later the Strawberry Canyon site was approved.

Johnson omitted to mention that the Strawberry Canyon site was approved by the U.C. Regents but strongly opposed by the community, including Charles Heywood in his capacity as city council member and Commissioner of Public Health and Safety. In August 1922, he proposed an ordinance that would force the university to pay the city a license fee of $1,000 per game, or at least $10,000 annually, since a stadium in Strawberry Canyon “would prove a fire menace to the adjoining portions of the city” and “fully 100 extra policemen would be needed to enforce traffic regulations, handle the crowds and protect property in the vicinity.” As usual, U.C. got its way.

Charles D. and Ethel V. Heywood with their younger daughter, Bernice, 1920s (Heywood family collection)

In 1925, Charles Heywood was appointed as Berkeley’s postmaster by President Calvin Coolidge and served in this position for eight years, until Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed a Democrat to replace him. In 1934 Heywood ran for Congress but was defeated. The same year, his wife, Ethel, committed suicide by hanging herself in her bedroom closet, there to be discovered by 20-year-old Bernice Heywood, the younger of the couple’s two daughters. Charles remarried a year later and worked as a real estate broker until his retirement. He spent the last two years of his life in San Francisco.

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Heywood family.

Part 1: Zimri Brewer Heywood: Separating Fact From Myth

Part 2: On the Trail of Zimri Brewer Heywood’s Residence

Part 3: Will the Real William Heywood Stand Up?

Addendum: Zimri Brewer Heywood’s Wives and Children

The author is indebted to Jerry Sulliger and Jean Darnall for their many valuable contributions.

A shorter version of this article was published in the Berkeley Daily Planet on 23 October 2008.


Copyright © 2008–2022 Daniella Thompson. All rights reserved.