Dr. Rector Elisha Cole (November 20, 1819 - October 15, 1890) was the 4th dentist to practice in Oakland, California, the first President of the Oakland Board of Education, Oakland City Council member, and donated the land for Cole Elementary School.

Born in Madison, Granger County, Ohio, in 1829 the family of nine children moved for better educational opportunities to Oberlin. 

Cole met his future wife Mary Philanda Finney in Oberlin, and the two married on October 6, 1847 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Together, the couple had three sons. 

Following the death of his beloved sister, and due to his own poor health, Cole move to the warmer climate of New Orleans, Louisiana.  Cole worked in a dental office for two years in the capacity of both assistant and student, having previously read several practical works on dentistry. 

Cole secured a job as assistant assayer in San Francisco in 1849, and to there he traveled on the steamer Galveston.  The voyage took 54 to cross the Isthmus, reaching Panama in April, 1849.  From there Cole traveled on the Humboldt, leaving Panama on May 20th and arriving at Acapulco, Mexico, where he disembarked to care for a sick companion.  Following the death of his friend, in October Cole found passage on the English ship, Unicorn, arriving in San Francisco on October 10, 1849. 

Arriving in the Bay Area Cole resumed his former profession, opening a dental practice on Clay Street.  The couple lived in San Francisco for seven years before settling in Oakland, California in July 1858.

Mary Finney Cole was very active in Oakland's social, religious and philanthropic worlds.

Poor health lead Cole to visit the eastern United States in 1871, and after a brief stay he returned to Oakland and continued his dental practice.

Cole was elected one of the members of the newly formed Oakland Board of Education in 1869, where as one of its most efficient members, Cole was elected President in 1873.  He served on the Board from 1866 to 1881, and was President of the Board for eleven years.

Cole Elementary School was named in his honor, in grateful recognition for all his years of service.   A generous man, Cole lived on 10 acres at 10th and Adeline Streets, which he donated for the construction of the school. 

Cole assisted in the organization of California Lodge of F. and A.M. in 1849, serving three years as master, and was also a member of the State Grand Lodge.  A long time of the Congregational Church, Cole was one of the organizers of the Congregational Church in Oakland, moderator of the church's Board and served seven years as Superintendent of the church Sunday school. 

A Republican, Cole a member of the first Republican Convention held in California. 3

In 1860 Cole was elected to the Oakland City Council.  He was also original officer of the Oakland Bank of Savings.Cole Street in East Oakland was named in his honor.

The Ohio College of Dental Surgery, at Cincinnati, conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1860.  He also received an honorary degree from the Associated Alumni of the Pacific Coast. 1

Links & References

  1. Oration, Poem, and Speeches Delivered at the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Associated Alumni of the Pacific Coast. The Association: 1867.
  2. Wood, MW. History of Alameda County, California, Vol. 2. MW Wood: 1883.
  3. "Republican Primary Election in Oakland." The Daily Morning Chronicle: Feb 14, 1869.
  4. "ACROSS THE BAY: Notes from Terminopolis THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF OAKLAND." San Francisco Chronicle: Jan 19, 1873.

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