History of the McCords and another untimely death, with more to come from this house’s rich history.
One of the most satisfying aspects of exploring old homes is getting to know the descendants of the pioneer residents of Alameda. In the case of 2242 San Antonio Ave., a 131-year-old Alameda Treasure built by Thomas I. Pyne in 1891, I’ve been fortunate to connect with two former residents of the home. Their family history dates back to 1912 at this residence, and they have original documents dating back to E. A. Fargo, who first bought the home in 1892.
Fred Strube, of White Salmon, Washington, is the great-great-grandson of William Peoples McCord, the farmer/rancher who bought the house after the tragic death of Miss Susie Diamond in 1912 (see Part 2 of this story). Fred spent the first years of his life in the backyard of the main house, living with his parents and sister in a converted carriage house — a structure that still stands to this day. They called it the cottage. Fred put me in contact with his sister, Carol Strube Gustaveson, of Redmond, Oregon. As family historian, she has provided a wealth of family photos and memories for this story.
The McCord family buys 2242 San Antonio Ave.
The house changed ownership for only the second time in its history after the untimely death of Mollie A. Fargo’s sister, Susie Diamond, who was hit by a train at Willow Station in Alameda in 1912 while attempting to settle the estate of her late sister. At that time, Miss Diamond’s neighbor in Hanford, California, William Peoples McCord, stepped forward to purchase the San Antonio Avenue home for his son Burnside McCord (1863-1927) and daughter-in-law Catherine McCord (1859-1947), who were living in Alameda at the time. William P. McCord also purchased two other homes on the same block — 2249 and 2250 San Antonio Ave. — for two of his other children who were living in Alameda. Both are significant Victorian-era homes in their own right, and the McCord family connection to all three homes is a nice discovery as part of this story.
William Peoples McCord, the patriarch of this clan, was born in Ohio in 1831. The McCords have Scottish roots, and the American branch of the McCords traces back to immigrants who arrived in America as early as 1720. In 1852, when he was 21 years old, McCord traveled via ship to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama, making his way on foot over the isthmus before hopping on the steamer Winfield Scott to San Francisco, with a six-week stopover on the island of Tobago. He worked in mining and mercantile pursuits in Sacramento, Suisun, and Placerville before returning east to bring out his family in 1856.
McCord married Lois Sofia Crippen (1833-1911) in 1850, two years before heading to California to seek his fortune. He ran a meat market in Vacaville for four years before spending some time in Denver, Colorado, and then heading back to the Golden State. He bought cattle in Los Angeles and drove them to Bakersfield. In 1872, McCord established a ranch near Bakersfield, where he dug irrigation ditches and provided free water to all ranchers in the vicinity. From there, he went to Hanford, where he bought land in 1886. He and his sons raised stock and farmed, and they soon operated on a large scale with over 1,000 acres of alfalfa. In 1908, after many years of hard work, McCord was able to retire from farming, and he sold most of his land. That may explain how he could afford to buy three houses in Alameda for his children.
An untimely end
William’s son Dallas McCord (1857-1891), with whom he had been in business for years, unfortunately met a tragic end in 1891, 17 years before William retired from farming and ranching. On November 7, 1891, Dallas McCord, age 34 and an ex-sheriff of Kern County, was hitching up four young horses to a farming implement called a harrow when the horses suddenly bolted. The harrow was pulled over a large stick and was thrown into the air. While trying to avoid the stick, McCord was thrown onto the sharp revolving blades of the harrow, which caused mortal wounds.
Dr. Duncan of Hanford was called to the scene, but McCord never recovered from the shock to his system, according to Duncan’s statement. Dallas McCord left behind a wife, Nancy Emeline Chapman, and five children, in addition to other close relatives who mourned his loss. He was described as a kind and loving parent, and an upright, honest, and courageous man, beloved by all who knew him.
And so, the history of the people of 2242 San Antonio Ave. — which already included the tragic deaths of the Fargos’ two children in 1873, the 1892 passing of Earl A. Fargo only one year after moving into his new house, and the death-by-train of Mollie Fargo’s sister at Willow Station in 1912 — then included the sorrows of the McCord family, who were about to take ownership of the house for several generations.
More stories yet to be uncovered at 2242 San Antonio Ave.
The story of this house, like any old house, is not just about deaths and tragedies. As we’ve seen, those events are inevitably part of life, but there are so many other stories that are interesting, unique, and uplifting as well. In coming articles, we’ll be exploring more history of the extraordinary residents of 2242 San Antonio Ave. As the story of this house continues, we’ll learn why patriarch William Peoples McCord decided to move from Hanford to Alameda, how a double wedding at the house made the local newspapers, and how the house became a classroom for aspiring artists. All this and more will be revealed as we dig into the history of this Alameda Treasure.
Contributing writer Steve Gorman has been a resident of Alameda since 2000, when he fell in love with the history and architecture of this unique town. Contact him via [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Steve-Gorman.