Contributed by Oakland Pioneers - No. 56).
THE BLAKE SEMINARY PARTY
By Chas. G. Reed (No. 14).
The Oakland seminary for young ladies, better known as the Blake Seminary was founded in 1858 by Mrs. M. K. Blake, who began her school with four pupils - my older sister Emily, being one of the four - in a room on the east side of Broadway, about midway of the block between Sixth and Seventh streets. In a short time a larger room was obtained on the west side of Broadway just north of Eighth street. The class soon outgrew the new quarters and Mrs. Blake leased the large residence of J. Ross Browne at Fifth and Madison streets and soon filled the building to overflowing with day and boarding pupils, making it necessary for still larger quarters.
She then purchased the entire block between Eleventh and Twelfth, Washington and Clay streets and erected a large building facing Washington street, which was soon filled with young ladies from all parts of California.
At this time (1860) the Oakland college school on Twelfth street, between Franklin and Harrison streets, was the most popular school for young men in the state. Naturally there was a great desire on the part of the young folks of both sexes in these schools to become acquainted, and to some extent they succeeded through church socials and other gatherings, but Mrs. Blake was very strict and allowed but little chance for social intercourse with her pupils
Several young men about town, presuming on their acquaintance with Mrs. Blake, tried to call at the seminary and were .politely but firmly "turned down." Two of them, Thomas W. Newcomb and James Daily, were so offended at the snubbing received that they took means of getting even with Mrs. Blake for refusing them permission to call on the young ladies - at least, what happened afterward was laid to these young men.
As near as I can recall, it was in the early part of the winter of 1861-2 that a very handsome card of invitation to a party to be given at the Blake Seminary was mailed to many prominent citizens of Oakland and vicinity. The older pupils of the college school received invitations, myself included, and on the night set for the party, with about 25 of the boys, all rigged out in our best togs, marched two by two to the seminary.
I was chosen as the leader and I rang the door bell, and when one of the teachers, Miss Huggins, opened the door I presented my invitation, which she read with a broad smile and informed us that there must be some mistake, as no party was to take place.
However, she invited us in and we were lined up around the large front parlor. Presently Mrs. Blake came in and informed us that some one had played a trick on us, that she had not sent out the invitations. Before she was through addressing us quite a number of ladies and gentlemen arrived and soon the two parlors were filled.
The girls upstairs, hearing the noise below, had gathered about the stairway and it took the united efforts of several of the teachers to restrain them in their endeavor to get downstairs. There was some angry talking and weeping and wailing but all of no avail. The guests were soon dismissed and the lights in the parlors extinguished.
Upon getting out into the street the college boys held a consultation and concluded that the parties who had played the trick on us would be somewhere in the neighborhood to see how it had worked, and we thought we might catch them and even things up with them. We college boys had permission to stay out only a limited time, but as we had concluded to patrol the streets until we caught the culprits we were out until nearly midnight.
In the meantime, Mr. Brayton, principal of our school, hearing of the affair, came out in search of the boys. Eleventh street was then unimproved and on this particular winter night was full of pools of muddy water. Mr. Brayton got so near to two of the boys, Myron and Albert Mack, that he tried to stop them and Myron pushed him over full length into one of these mud puddles. He wore a heavy overcoat and a tall hat, and when he got on his feet he was a sight indeed.
Coming around the corner of Clay street, he met me and asked it I knew who the boys were who pushed him over. I said I did, and he urged me to tell him their names, but I would not. I knew too well that the balance of my stay in that school would be anything but pleasant if I betrayed the boys.
I was ordered to appear before the faculty next morning and was again urged to tell on the boys, but would not, though I was threatened with suspension. I was finally told that my case would be taken under advisement, but heard nothing further from it and the whole subject was finally dropped by the school authorities.
The story of the fake party got Into the newspapers and was the subject of much talk and merriment for a long time. No one ever found out to a certainty who sent out the invitations - but Newcomb and Daily were looked upon as the guilty parties.