Hugh (E or McColl?) Craig
The Piedmont Post April 21, 2021:
Hugh Craig was born in Sydney, Australia in 1841 to Scottish parents. He grew up in New Zealand before moving to Oakland. In 1874, he began working for the New Zealand Insurance Company and opened an office in San Francisco where he worked in the fire and marine insurance busi- ness from 1875 until his death in 1919.
Hugh Craig married Inez Gilcrest in 1875, and they raised six children in Piedmont: Evelyn, Roy, Margery, Jessie, Colin, and Eric. In 1954, Evelyn Craig Pattiani published her memoir, Queen of the Hills, about growing up in Piedmont. Craig hired Samuel Bugbee in 1879 to build a house on his acreage on Vernal Avenue (now Highland Avenue) for $5,000. Architect Bug- bee designed the house as a Stick Italianate. It is completely built of redwood with square window bays, vertical siding, and tall narrow windows. Until 1912, the house faced Vernal Avenue and was surrounded by lawns, flower beds, and fruit trees – peach, apricot, plum, and cherry. The water tower had a windmill that pumped the water 50-feet up to the tank to provide water pressure for the house. There was a stable for horses, a barn for cows, and pens for chickens, turkeys, and pigs. It was essentially a self-sustaining farm, as were all the houses in Piedmont in the 1880s.
Craig commuted to his insurance office in San Francisco by horsecar and ferry. He said that on a good day, it took 11⁄2 hours to get to the office. The ferry rides were a great opportunity for businessmen to catch up on the news and to network with one another.
Hugh and Inez Craig lived in Piedmont until his death in 1919. She died the following year. Family members continued to live in the Craig house until 1938.
California Historical Society quarterly, by California Historical Society, Publication date 1922:
Hugh Craig who came to San Francisco from Australia in the early 1870's, entered the insurance business, and built one of the early homes in the Piedmont hills, moving into it in 1880... Hugh Craig was largely responsible for the compiling of the present city charter of Piedmont and served as mayor of that city for seven years.
The Wave (July-Dec. 1891):
Hugh Craig, agent of the New Zealand Insurance Co., is one of the most energetically pious men in the community. • He is not merely good in observing the Sabbath, but conforms as strictly to the spirit of the law as to its letter. Prayer he has frequent recourse to, and considers that in merely appealing for the assistance of the Almighty in theological matters, he performs but half his duty. He asks for direction and aid in purely mundane affairs. Quite recently he went to Denver to appoint an agent to represent the New Zealand Insurance Co. there. After finding the proper man, a proceeding of considerable difficulty,for Mr. Craig is critical to a fault, he proceeded to install him m state. The equipment consisted of a fine office, a horse and buggy, ornate signs, and other splendid underwriting details. Kveryone re-1 garded the venture as admirably started, the agent was congratulated on being found by Mr. Craig, and Mr. Craig on the liberal scale of his expenditures.
The Journal of Electricity Power and Gas
San Francisco Chronicle - Thu - Mar. 1, 1894
San Francisco Chronicle - Sun - Aug. 6, 1911
San Francisco Chronicle - Fri - Jul. 12, 1912
When Craig and his wife settled in Piedmont in 1880 it was a sparsely populated patch of unincorporated forest and farmland. The indigenous Ohlone tribe had been mostly driven out by Spanish missionaries by the early 19th century, or killed by state-sponsored militias after California joined the union in 1850. By the 1880s, at least in the upper hills, Piedmont was already a “rich man’s town,” even though it wasn’t a town yet, according to Ann Swift, a Piedmont historian who served as city clerk for 25 years.
Compared to those residents — mining millionaires like Henry Butters and Isaac Requa, and James Gamble, the man who brought the telegraph to California — Craig hovered closer to earth. Although he was a successful businessman, at home he grew barley and oats for his horses. His commute to San Francisco, by street car and ferry, brought him closer to his neighbors, fostering an appreciation for their tranquil, family-centered lifestyle in the hills.
“The middle class lived near the street car lines,” said Gail Lombardi, an architectural historian for the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey and member of the Piedmont Historical Society. “They would have had a sense of community.”
Craig quickly grew attached to his way of life in the Piedmont hills. He entered local politics in 1883, when he appeared before the county board of supervisors to stop construction of a rail line that would have cut through his property. He similarly bristled at disruptions to the broader community.
Ever since Oakland hotelier William Plitt had taken over management of the Piedmont Springs Hotel (located in what is now Piedmont Park), Craig felt the hotel cared less about attracting homebuyers from San Francisco with its supposedly curative, pink-water hot spring, and more on tempting scoundrels with the saloon. Craig petitioned the county to revoke the hotel’s liquor license, but was denied.
So, on November 17, 1892, when the hotel collapsed in a fire, Craig’s “surprise was tempered by elation over this providential removal of the blot on the center of the otherwise ideal home district,” writes Pattiani.
He also invested in the community. In 1897 Craig and other family-oriented residents built a new schoolhouse with $16,000 raised in bonds, up the hill from the Oakland side of the present-day intersection of Piedmont and Pleasant Valley Avenues. Like Piedmont, this land was unincorporated. Oakland, in the midst of an extended growth spurt, annexed the land and starting charging Piedmonters a hefty fee to use the school.
Los Angeles Express - Tue - Oct. 7, 1913
The Sacramento Star - Wed - Jan. 28, 1914
The Sacramento Star - Wed - Jan. 28, 1914
Oakland Tribune - Tue - Apr. 21, 1914
Sausalito News, Volume 36, Number 47, 20 November 1920:
HUGH CRAIG, 79, PASSES AWAY
Pioneer San Francisco Insurance Man Closes Last Chapter of Active Career
San Francisco.- Hugh Craig, first Mayor of Piedmont, twice bolder of that office, one of the first five Piedmont settlers, twice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, widely known San Francisco insurance man and prominent Oakland Mason, died at 1 1 a. m.. November 11. at his family home. 56 Craig avenue. Piedmont, at the age of 79 years. The funeral was held from that address at 2 p. m. November 13, under the auspices of Oakland Lodge. F, and A. M . and was private.
Craig's death was unexpected. though he had been ailing for some considerable time.
A native of New Zealand, Craig's thoughts were turned toward California when he was but 9 years old; his father, Thomas Craig, a Scot, who had settled in New Zealand, coming to the Golden Gate in 1850 in an unsuccessful effort to sell portable houses to San Francisco settlers. A few years later young Hugh shipped as purser on the Nebraska, one of the first steam packet ships running across the Pacific. Preferring business life and seeing in San Francisco a city of great opportunities, Craig left the Nebraska, and after a short career as a bookkeeper and a bank clerk, started the San Francisco agency of the New Zealand Insurance Company. Here he built up a firm business that led eventually to his being accepted as a commercial leader. He became a prominent figure on California street, and when he dropped from view there a few years ago to retire to private life, it was realized fa landmark of thirty years' ding had gone from that business was during the Spanish-American war that Craig held his two consecutive terms as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Few presidents of that body have served beyond OHC term. In club life he was best known as a Commercial Club Identity. In 1875 Craig married Miss Inez Gilcrest, a member of an early Alameda county family. The Craig home §on Myrtle street, Oakland, but in 9 it was moved to Piedmont, re Craig's name has been given to street on which the home stands. .
Craig died of influenza last year. I The surviving children are Mrs. William L. Pattiani of Piedmont, wife of Vice-President Pattiani of the Langley & Michaels Company; Mrs. Arthur j Kelly of Denver; Miss Jessie Craig of Piedmont; Roy Craig of St. Paul, Minn., and Eric Craig, a mining engineer in South America. There are also four grandchildren.