Alice Marsh Camron
William Walker Camron
images source: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
William Walker Camron (1842-1911) served on City Council in 1889.
The Camron name is sometimes spelled "Cameron" in historical documents, but according to Camron-Stanford House the accepted is "Camron". To complicate matters, the main family plot marker and some of the graves at Mountain View Cemetery use "Camron", but at least one uses "Cameron", namely the grave of Alice Marsh Cameron, but her daughter's is Amy G. Camron.
Camron was born in Iowa and came to California in 1849.1 He attended the College of California (later the University of California) in 1862, where he received high awards in a number of subjects, and was one of many student speakers at the 1862 commencement.
In 1876 'W. W. Cameron' was listed in the Oakland City Directory as one of the 'moneyed men of Oakland' who had invested largely in an 'elegant homestead' ranging in cost from $8,000 to $40,000 each.
Like many early residents of Oakland, Camron was involved in real estate and in general capitalist, money-making affairs. Camron is almost as famous for his wife, Alice Marsh (1852-1927) who was the initial source of his wealth. Alice’s parents were Contra Costa pioneers and owned a lot of land near current Brentwood (just past current East Bay). After her mother’s death while she was very young, her father, Dr Marsh, was killed by vaqueros in Contra Costa in the 1860s in a very famous crime. After his death, Alice became very wealthy.7
Camron was one of the first 5 investors in the first bank in Contra Costa.6 He notably purchased land on the eastern side of the Berkeley hills and named it Orinda.8 He also became the vice-President of the Oakland Bank of Savings. He did all of this with Alice’s money.
Unlike many of the early famous residents, his businesses didn’t do very well. In 1875 the Camrons moved to Oakland with their young daughter. They lived in the Camron-Stanford House from 1876-1877. Their tenure as residents was short as their two-year-old daughter, Gracie, died, possibly from food poisoning., shortly after they moved in. The family, including Amy, an older daughter, went on an extended European tour and did not return to live in the house but rented the house out until 1882 when it was sold to Josiah Stanford.
While they had money, the Camrons were very active — he politically and she socially. They were married in Contra Costa, moved to Oakland for many years and at some point s The divorce suit came after they were separated and she cited “desertion” as the cause.4 Alice and Amy moved to a boarding house in San Francisco. Alice never remarried. William retired to his Pleasanton ranch to “protect the remnants of his shattered fortunes.”
GK ... Just found this interesting information on Alice Marsh and William Walker Camron ... not sure if you already had located it, but wanted to share.
"Alice Marsh, the daughter of pioneer John Marsh, inherited half her father's vast holdings. She married William Walker Camron in 1871 who quickly sold her inherited Rancho Los Meganos that same year. During the next two years he built a 22 room mansion in Oakland and started the Bank of Martinez. In 1875, he purchased 500 acres from Miller and Lux and started plans for a toll road to Berkeley. The following year, unable to obtain the needed right of way over the other parcel, he paid $50,000 for the remaining holdings of 2,457 acres. In 1876, K. W. Taylor made a survey for Camron describing his holdings as Orinda Park. In 1882, W Minto and Theodore Wagner did a detailed survey (B) of Orinda Park and Oak View Ranch. Camron was having a series of business problems and by 1881 he lost the mansion in Oakland and was quickly selling off land, cattle, and horses to raise money. He sold parcels to Eugene Sullivan (1879, 215 acres), Solomon E Alden (1879, 612 acres), Herman and Alice Sandow (1880, 360 acres) , W Minto (1881, 72 acres; 1882, 100 acres) (A) , and lliEdward (Elisha) Dubois (1883, all numbered lots in Orinda Park except Lot 2 and 23). In the end, Camron deserted his family and was completely broke." 11
OTHER POSITIONS IN CITY GOVERNMENT
According to one source, Camron served on city council for 3 terms. It’s possible that he was a councilman in another city that was annexed to Oakland.2 Another source says he was the Mayor.3 It is possible that at one point, due to being President of the Council, this is referring to his status as acting Mayor.10 Still another source says he was appointed to a vacancy on the City Council in 1877 but served only a couple of months before one of the Camron’s daughters died and the family left for a jaunt around Europe to lift their spirits.4
- 1880-1881: California State Assembly
- Deputy Sheriff
- Board of Trade
- Bronson, J Rush and Clarence Hunt. “The Grizzly Bear.” Grizzly Bear Publishing: 1911.
- Ross, Harvey Lee. The Early Pioneers and Pioneer Events of the State of Illinois: Including Personal Recollections of the Writer; of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Peter Cartwright, Together with a Brief Autobiography of the Writer . Chicago: Eastman Brothers, 1899.
- ”THE CAMERONS TO SEPARATE: W. W. CAMERON IS CHARGED WITH DESERTION His Wife Files an Action Against Him in San Francisco.” San Francisco Chronicle: Nov 18, 1896.
- California Blue Book. California Secretary of State: 1879.
- ”The Camrons.”
- ”The Camrons.”
- Hoover, Mildred and Douglas Kyle. Historic Spots in California. Stanford University Press, 2002
- ”The Camrons.”
- Western Druggist. Vol 11, 1889.
- History of Orinda Oaks