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Earthquake Account by Ah Wing

Ah Wing was a butler at the Stanfords' house in San Francisco. Following is a transcript of the type-written translation that accompanies the above document.

"Earthquake of the 32nd. Year of the Reign of Emperor Kwong-Hau.

About five o'clock on the 26th Day of the 3rd Moon of the 32nd Reign of Kwong-Hau, the earthquake began. It lasted for about one-half minute. Awaken by the tremor, I found that I could not stand steadily. Looking out through the window of my room, I saw all the smoke stacks tumbling down. After the quake, I went out and first looked toward southeast and saw the fire started at First and Second Street. Another fire started at Fourth and Fifth Street. All the way to the Oakland Wharf (Ferry Building) was brightened. I looked toward the Northwest. A fire was started at about Sixteenth Street. I watched for about half an hour, and saw that it was getting bigger. By this time the fire at Second and Fourth Street was connected. I could hear the bumps of blasting and dynamiting (the firemen trying to block the paths of the fire). About eight o'clock guards arrived at Kearney Street. Up to twelve o'clock the fire was still raging around us furiously in a crescent form like that of a new moon. About six or seven o'clock the guards told us to leave the place, for men are allowed to stay within three blocks of the fire. About eleven or twelve o'clock in the night, the fire reached Chinatown. The wind blowing from Market Street drove the fire toward us like a tiger. The fire lasted throughout the night. About twelve o'clock noon on the next day, Mr. Hopkin's house on the south side, along Mason Street, caught fire. I went out, looked around, but could no one to help me to move out the valuables. I locked the door and went out. At Jones Street, I looked back and found that the Stanford House was in flame. At this moment I thought of all the valuables in the house that were so pitifully destroyed. I came to a laundry where I found my friends Mr. Yee Ching Wo Chock Buc who accompanied me to a nearby vegetable garden. While there I was stricken with a little sickness. We lived there for three days. On the first Day of the Fourth Moon, we walked to Valencia Street Railroad station, from where we departed for Menlo Park by the eight o'clock train. That night I came to Miss Hopkins, told her of the earthquake and fire in San Francisco; and she asked me to stay in the old house (Stanford Residence at Palo Alto) for three or four months. I was afterwards employed in the Stanford Museum with the same salary as before. This was certainly a very kind treatment that I shall never forget.

My former employers (referring to the whole Stanford family) were gone. Their house at San Francisco was completely burned. There was only one-half of the old house (house at Palo Alto) left. All these were too great a blow to me. I could not stay here in this country any longer to entertain such awful thoughts. I left here for my country to see my mother. I left here a few words that others might know of my state.

I was from the Old Wang Kwong (Crooked Stream) Village in the District of Sun Ning, Province of Kwong Tung. I worked for Stanford for the last twenty-three or twenty-four years, having been with him since the tenth year of the Reign of Emperor Kwong-Hau. When Mrs. Stanford died, she willed me one thousand dollars. As a token remembrance of her, I brought to her tomb a bouquet of flowers on the morning of my leaving for China. Confucius said, 'Remember one dead as if living is a filial duty.'

May the university be prosperous; the trustees be guided with wisdom and strength, that the name of Stanford may live forever throughout the world. May the Stanfords find everlasting pleasures and gladness in heaven."


Ah Wing wrote a second account. Following is the translation of his addition:

"After the quake, I went all over upstairs, and found all walls uninjured. All the statues and vases were on the floor, broken. The pictures hanging on the walls were unhurt. The chimney seemed to have stood the quake well. I cooked my morning and evening meals in the house. The fire was raging all over the City throughout the day and night. About one o'clock in the night Ah Young went out and left me alone in the house. About three o'clock, he came back, and asked me to leave the house. But I was unwilling. I went out and called the watchman and gardener in to watch the house with me. I saw a fire started up in the Art Gallery, and called the watchman to put it out. About half an hour later, a place over the front door again caught fire. I was in the house. The gardener, John, rang the bell and called me to go out. I told him that there was a fire upstairs, and I called the watchman to put it out. The watchman said that there was no water all over town. I told him that there were three buckets of water up stairs. It was put out in ten minutes. By this time the fire had reached Pine Street and was coming up Mason. An engine with more than ten men was directing its streams of water to save Mr. Hopkins' house. The fire had not yet reached California Street; but Mr. Hopkins' house was in flame. The firemen packed the hose and went off with the engine. The watchman told me that Mr. Hopkins' house was on fire. As Mr. Hopkins' house was on the leeward side, I thought that our house with all the things inside could not be saved. Instantly, tears came to my eyes. Packed up a few of my belongings, closed the door, I left. I was very sad and melancholy on the way, and unwilling to look back. At Jones Street I looked back, and adding much to my sorrow, I found the house in flame. At that place, I met a friend Mr. Yee Ching Wo. We went to a vegetable garden near the barracks where we stayed for three days. On account of rain it was very hard for us to get along. At one o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, we left that place and walked to Valencia Street Railroad station. We reached there four o'clock. We took the eight o'clock train and arrived Menlo Park ten o'clock. All well."