By Amy O’Hair
With research contributed by Kathleen Laderman
An eight-year-old firebrand of a girl stands before the camera, knowing perhaps that she is leaving an indelible mark on the public record. She exudes a strong sense of self and an unaffected sense of style. Form follows function, and for climbing the rocks and hills around the Point Conception Lighthouse, for stalking prey in the untamed brush like a ninja, only trousers and a sweater could ever do.
She proudly wears her unconventional attire for an official photograph; those shiny curls and that fancy hat are down to the women at the lighthouse. It’s a bargain, and she struck it. Lillie is a force majeure, even at eight, and if she is determined to wear trousers, perhaps the best the women around her can hope for is to get her hair into some sort of girlish shape for the camera.
Lillie Young had come to the lighthouse on the coast of Santa Barbara County to live with her foster father, Edward Young, who worked as one of the keepers. A photographer from the US Coast Guard had arrived that week, hefting his bulky camera, in order to record the facility and some of its occupants.
It was January 1894, a few years before San Francisco would be treated to stories about this remarkable girl who defied the strictures of late Victorian womanhood, venturing where she pleased in the open land and wild hills around Ocean View and boasting all the requisite skills of any boy her age. The photograph was taken at the midpoint of the best and wildest year of her childhood. It was not the last time she attracted wonder and awe—and surely disapproval—before she seemingly disappeared from view, a bold flame extinguished.
Reflecting on her year at the lighthouse, Lillie later said:
“You bet it was fun. That’s where I learned to shoot. Papa Young gave me a rifle and we used to climb over the rocks and hunt all day. We’d fish, too….Sometimes I guess I’d like to be back an’ having some more fun with him. He’s dead now.”
‘I give ‘em what they need’
Papa Young also taught Lillie how to box—with gloves or bareknuckle—and that came in handy back in Ocean View as a teenager living with her foster mother, Annie Young. The boys in the neighborhood provoked and harassed her as she went where she pleased, doing what she pleased, dressed in a sweater, heavy boots, and a skirt too short to sweep the ground. But she only fought to defend herself.
“I ain’t going to have people think I’m a fighter. I don’t hit anybody that don’t hit me first. They yell at me and I have to hit ‘em….Don’t see why they should yell at me just because I [run loose]….They yell ‘tomboy’, and they run after me….I give ‘em what they need when they get too fresh….I ain’t rough. They say a lot of things about me that ain’t so. I lick ‘em if they say I’m rough.”
Her statements are a tangle of cause-and-effect, surely, but what shines through is that Lillie embraces an ideal—the ethical notion that one does not go around picking fights—while also living in the real world where taunting boys exasperate her beyond bearing, and damage her dignity if she offers no reply. It is not hypocrisy, but a philosophically sound basis for life; she knows what virtue is, even if she must compromise it at times.
In another newspaper feature, a journalist who came out to the Youngs’ house in Ocean View in December 1899, put it in more refined phrasing: “Lillie Young does not deny that can ‘put up her hands’ with any boy in the neighborhood, but she spurns the imputation that she is quarrelsome, and declares that she merely defends herself when persecutions become intolerable.”
This reporter, schooled it would seem in the classics, called Lillie ‘Diana of Ocean View’ after the Roman goddess—called Artemis by the Greeks—who was patron of the countryside and hunting, and uninterested in men, home, or hearth.
Lover of Animals
Even if Lillie caught fish and shot ducks for the family table, she loved animals. “The neighbors tell of her kindness to animals, and she is said to be always taking home injured dogs and sick cats to doctor back to health.” When her dog Dickson was hurt, she said, “He’s got a pretty bad foot, but I know how to take care of it.” She may have learned a few things from her foster mother, Annie Young, who was a trained nurse.
Even her hunting had an ethical core. Of the declining prospects for ducks around the district, she told another journalist in January 1900:
“The ducks don’t fly, an’ I don’t shoot unless they do. Sometimes it’s pretty good over to Lake Merced, but not now. Lake Merced’s back here just a little way, you know. That’s the only place I go to shoot.”
Although she shunned indoor chores, she earnestly strove to help her foster mother in other ways.
“I don’t want to set the table. Didn’t I tell you I have to dig that post hole? I can’t bother about tables….Who’ll do it, I’d like to know, if I don’t? You can’t get your new gate hung till the post holes are dug, can you?”
Undaunted in her pursuit of skills of physical prowess, nothing was off limits for Lillie. Annie bragged, “She can jump a horse that’s runnin’ in the field an’ ride off bareback on it. She’s known how to lasso anything from pigs to horses ever since she was born.”
Lillie was known for rejecting conventional feminine attire, preferring a “bicycle sweater,” comfortable and flexible enough to suit her activities. When asked about whether she could ride a bicycle, Annie said, “She can, but she hasn’t got one….You’d ride a wheel if you had one, wouldn’t you, Lillie?”
“What do you s’pose I’d do? Stand it up in the corner of the parlor to look at?”
Lillie in the Sunday Paper
These intimate quotes from Lillie and her foster mother come down to us in part because someone called for help, someone who thought Lillie should have more supervision and control than her liberal foster mother Annie exerted over her. Sometime shortly before December 1899, a representative of the California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was contacted about fourteen-year-old Lillie’s wild and free ways—perhaps by some nosy but well-meaning neighbor.
A San Francisco Chronicle reporter came out to the house to see what the situation was. He wrote up a short piece, accompanied by a stock photo of a pleasant looking, neatly dressed pre-teen child—who was very likely not Lillie at all—and said that an officer of the Society was seeking a home for the child.
Although the reporter discloses that Lillie shuns school, and defends herself with her fists against local harassment, he also says she is “merely an active, honest, plucky unconventional kind-hearted girl, whom people do not understand…..Lillie’s face is finely molded…She is modest in dress and manner,” lest any prospective foster parent worry about any licentious leanings. No one came forward to take Lillie in response to the Chronicle item.
Sarah Comstock, Cub Reporter
The best reporting on Lillie was to come. The following month, in January 1900, a rising young journalist at the SF Call took up the story, and came out to Ocean View, complaining good-naturedly about the long blocks in this far outpost of the city, and vast vegetable fields that stood between the streetcar stop and the Youngs’ house.
The journalist, a recent Stanford graduate named Sarah Comstock, was just beginning her writing career in San Francisco; soon she would be a prolific stalwart of the Call Sunday Pages, writing long pieces on interesting characters in the city. Lillie was the subject of one of her first long features. In a couple of years, Comstock would be off to New York City for a long career publishing books and magazine articles, often about interesting women, both fiction and history. When she died in 1960, she left a legacy to Stanford, the Comstock Scholarship, which is still awarded to support women at the university. Read her New York Times obituary here.
At the moment when Comstock trudged out to the modest white house on Capitol Avenue, and into the trim little front parlor with family photos on the marble-topped table, she was a 25-year-old cub reporter. She had a good nose for a story, and Lillie was gold. Rather than rely on clichés and her own summary of the situation, like the Chronicle reporter who preceded her, she recorded the quotes from Lillie herself that opened this post.
Annie was honest about her desire not to crush Lillie’s spirit. “She used to like school pretty well, thought. She was smart in school, but when she got through sixth grade she quit. She likes to run outdoors, an’ I hate to check her.”
This was not merely to avoid obvious conflict with Lillie, or out of laziness; Annie had given it thought.
“I say there’s worse things she might be doin’. There‘s Lola, Mr Templeford’s only child, mind you; she went clear through the eighth grade an’ now she’s slingin’ beer in a dive. So there’s worse things than runnin’ loose outdoors.”
Comstock saw an essential good within Lillie’s rough exterior. Instead of making of her feature a kind of classified ad selling questionable goods, Comstock described Lillie’s qualities with frank admiration and appreciation. She was “taller already by half a head than the timid toddling little foster mother, and there is time to grow more. She is long and spare and sinuous, firm footed and clear eyed and ruddy cheeked with Saxon ruddiness.”
Comstock also recognized Lillie had an uncompliant, even unfriendly edge. All her life Comstock would work to have a good rapport with her subjects, but here she was forced to acknowledge she might be defeated.
Lillie “stood before me in a mood of lurking mutiny, and said ‘Yes, ma’am,’ in the voice of an angry convict. But I did not ask her how old she was nor whether she had any little brothers and sisters nor even what she got for Christmas. If conditions had been a little more favorable I think she and I might have got along in time.”
Maybe. Lillie sounds less than enthralled by social exchanges of any sort.
Sarah Comstock, Champion of the Untamed Spirit
During her career as an author, Comstock showed a strong interest in stories that lauded strength and self-reliance. In a 1915 book she wrote on mothering, something that she did not experience herself, she opens with a short plea from “The Baby,” about what mothers should not do, centering on avoiding the constrictions so common in the previous century.
“Don’t pin me down so closely in the bed, or bind my little growing body with such tight clothing, or pinch my enterprising feet with such badly shaped shoes….Don’t swathe me and bundle me…till I long to be a little savage.” It sounds like a serious warning for any parent of a child as spirited as Lillie. Like many women of the Progressive Era, Comstock cared passionately about what changes were needed in society for the vulnerable to have greater self-determination, health, and well-being. She dedicated the book to Thomas Denison Wood, a contemporary advocate for physical education and natural routes to health.
Comstock closed her first piece of journalism, a feature on a wild olive species in 1898, with this telling statement:
“The possibilities look immense, and all from a little bush that most people wouldn’t have looked at twice. Which is the way of the world.”
It is a sentiment she seems to have also felt in the presence of Lillie Young, a wild species of girl.
Lillie’s Birth Story
The reference in Comstock’s article to “Saxon ruddiness” shows that, outside of the scope of the article, she was told by Annie about Lillie’s origin. Annie Young was Irish-born as was her husband, but Lillie’s birthmother was a German immigrant girl named Laura Brandt, who had come to the US from Saxony, Germany, as a child. In February 1885, when she gave birth to Lillie, she was just fourteen.
The pressure on an unwed mother to give up a baby was a historical fact of that time, and long into the twentieth century. I was touched by a recent story on the BBC where the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, apologized on behalf of the government to women who’d been forced only a half century ago to give up their babies. Lillie’s birth took place a century before that. It is possible to forget how much more difficult it was for such women then, how few choices they had and how little support they were given.
Laura Brandt, who was likely to have been subjected to rape while in service, and became pregnant quite against her will, may have been ostracized by her family—left to the mercy of others. Annie Young was a trained nurse, and may have been present at the birth. With her generous nature, and love of children and family, Annie surely did what she could to help Laura, and then, when Lillie was four months old, took on the baby girl. Annie was already 43 years old. Lillie knew no other mother.
Laura was later married to a prosperous butcher, and lived the rest of her life in Eureka, having two more children. She knew where Lillie was, but she only contacted Annie once, and never sent money for Lillie’s support. The whole episode was likely so painful to recall, and she was so relieved to be shut of it, that she blocked it from her mind and heart, erased it from her own history.
Lillie knew she was adopted by the Youngs; she called her foster father ‘Papa Young’ and may have called Annie Young ‘Auntie.’ Given Annie’s openness of nature, it is likely that by the time Lillie was a teen, she knew most of the details of her own origin story.
For such a determined and strong-willed person, a champion of wounded dogs who chose to withstand the abuse of local boys rather than compromise an inch of her own freedom, to know she was given up by her mother must have cut to her heart.
Dark Secrets and Karmic Virtue
What Annie would not have told the journalist was that she had her own past shame regarding a child born out of wedlock, a child whose birth disrupted her family life, and from whom she had to be separated. She knew the pain that Laura Brandt had suffered.
When Annie was sixteen, she and 21-year-old Edward W Young were married in Boston in 1859; she was so young she needed her mother’s permission. Both of them had immigrated to the US from Ireland as children. They had two sons who survived to adulthood, but also two daughters who died in infancy. Edward got a taste for the military life during the Civil War, and at some point they began to live separately.
Then, in the 1870s, Annie became pregnant by another man. She still had her two sons, Henry, 12 and Edward, 10, to care for, but her desire for a bigger family and a greater sense of connection led her to become attached to another man’s family, a huge sprawling clan in Iowa, headed by Mathew H Chance, a man who fathered a lot of children. How she came to be in Iowa—as she had been in New York City for the 1870 US Census—we were not able to find.
In January 1873, Annie gave birth to a boy she named Frederick Chance Young, in Hampton Iowa, giving him her married surname, and his natural father’s surname as a middle name. She lived in the same town, maybe the same house, as the Chance family.
In Boston, her husband got wind of what happened. Annie obtained divorce from him in Iowa in 1875. Then or soon after, Annie gave little Fred to Mathew Chance and his wife to raise, along with their other seven children. The occasion for this change seems to have been the when the Chance family moved away from Iowa, to Ohio. By using an orphanage in Ohio as the go-between, the link between the families was obscured. No one in the small Iowa town where the drama had played out would have been fooled by this fiction; Mathew Chance adopting Fred would have only confirmed what everyone suspected, that he was Mathew’s son.
Yet there was no open animosity, it seems. Annie remained in touch with the family for years. There is a letter written by Mrs Chance to one of her children, datable to about April 1879, in which the news from “Mrs Young” is mentioned.
Reunion in San Francisco
Annie and her husband Edward would eventually remarry, eight years after divorcing. They did this just after moving to San Francisco in 1882, when Edward, now well into his many decades of Navy service, was transferred to Mare Island Naval Station. In mid-1885, the couple bought property on the corner of Capitol and Minerva in Ocean View—at the same time that Annie took in baby Lillie.
Edward continued to serve in the Navy until 1892, and thus be absent from home, but now Annie had a daughter to raise. Lillie kept Annie company and gave her life a focus and purpose. To have Lillie to raise would have meant assuaging of some of the guilt and pain of having given Fred up years before, and also would have finally given her a daughter after losing two baby girls long ago.
Wild Ocean View
Situated just north of the San Francisco-San Mateo county line, Ocean View had been a city unto itself since the 1870s, first called San Miguel. In 1886, the post office there changed its name to Ocean View, following what had become the custom of the residents. The Southern Pacific steam train stopped at the depot there on its way to San Jose. In the years before the streetcar came down to the county line, this was one way to get back and forth to that north-eastern portion of the county then understood to be the City of San Francisco. A visitor to a San Francisco hotel would as easily write “Ocean View” on the ledger as “San Jose” or “Eureka”. The people in Ocean View had a sense of independence and community; there was a lot of open land in all directions.
This United States Geological Survey map from 1896 gives a sense of the sparsely settled southern part of San Francisco County then. Structures are marked, and only the roads that were actually built appear on the map—unlike other maps of the time, which were filled in with streets that were planned but not yet constructed.
Just above the county line, Ocean View is a clear cluster of development, prominently labeled.
(Google Maps, in all their ahistorical wisdom, says this is where Ocean View is now.)
Another Gender Rebel, Murdered
Lillie Young wasn’t the first to take the wildness of Ocean View as an opportunity to throw off female social constraints. One famous habitué of the area was “the little Frog-Catcher” Jennie Bonnet, who loved women openly, and was arrested many times in the City for wearing men’s clothing. The swampy pond at the foot of Plymouth Street in Ocean View was one of their prime spots for harvesting frogs to supply the ‘French’ restaurants of the city, which were largely elaborate, multi-tiered brothels. (In 1896, the local residents got the frog pond, generally considered a noxious hazard, filled in.)
Bonnet was a friend and aid to women, a champion helping them resist the pull of prostitution, and its attendant tyranny of pimping men, in a city that offered little else in the way of profitable occupations for women. After they formed a strong bond with a woman named Blanche Beunon, the two were staying in one of the boardinghouses near Ocean View station, in part to escape the threats of Beunon’s ex-lover who did not like the snub. He got a friend to seek out the two, shooting Jennie dead as they lounged on a bed in the hotel, even though it was later determined that Blanche had been the target. No one was caught and punished for the murder. Several years ago, novelist Emma Donohue wrote Frog Music, a fictional telling of Bonnet’s story.
The location of the Ocean View frog pond, according to the 1869 Goddard map of San Francisco.
A Fledging Must Sometime Fly
To return to Lillie’s story. Despite the newspaper appeals, no one came forth to offer Lillie Young a home, an apprenticeship, or appropriate schooling, and so she stayed with her aging foster mother Annie. In June 1900, the US Census taker recorded her presence in the house. But Annie knew that something had to be done to help Lillie find her place in the world. Lillie had been working, doing cleaning in local homes in the district, and by September of that year, she had left Annie, going to work and live at Ingleside House, a prominent local saloon and lodging establishment. Annie did not then understand the nature of the venue, and later when she did, she tried to get Lillie back, which I’ll return to soon.
Notorious Ingleside House
Just five years before, that road house, situated on the southeast corner of Ocean Avenue and the present Junipero Serra Boulevard, had been the site of the brutal murder of its well-loved proprietor, Cornelius Stagg. Stagg kept a fine resort, which in its heyday saw the well-heeled of the city making the trek out to this far-flung spot to sample his special dishes, such as squab pie, for which he kept a dove cote to raise the birds. Along with a mushroom coil and a terrapin cellar for turtle soup, it was a nineteenth-century version of locavore dining.
On a slow Saturday night, two men stormed in by a side door, and one shot Stagg dead as he cried for mercy. The robbers took the few dollars in the till and got away.
(Listen to an entertaining podcast about the Ingleside House murder, including the details of the bicycle getaway, hosted by Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher.)
Lillie at Ingleside House
After Stagg’s death, the road house was taken over by a couple, Harry Hans and Lillie Alice Lorentzen. The exploits of this couple never quite rose to the level of Bonnie and Clyde, but they clearly had a taste for shady dealing of various sorts. Mrs Lorentzen often used her previous name, Mrs Bishop, in order to better facilitate compartmentalizing their various enterprises, like real estate and fraud, although for the purposes of this account, I’ll call her Mrs Lorentzen.
Lillie went to work for Mrs Lorentzen, doing I imagine whatever needed doing around the road house. She had made herself useful at home, digging post holes and shooting ducks out at Lake Merced for the family table. Here she could be paid for such chores. There were horses to care for, as she knew horses, and cleaning to be done in lodgers’ rooms, which she might not like but do anyway. She probably lived at the road house during these years.
Boxers’ Training Ground
What did Lillie see while at Ingleside House? In the 1890s and early 1900s, the resort was a popular spot for boxers in training to stay, as it offered the space for practice fights and long rural roads for strengthening runs. I asked Catherine Johnson about the boxing life of Ingleside House. Catherine is currently writing a groundbreaking account of the life and death of Frankie Campbell, who was raised in and around Sunnyside, and who died after a brutal fight in 1930. She said:
“Lillie’s plucky confidence perhaps saw her among kindred spirits when she worked at Ingleside House. The resort was a favorite training spot for pugilists, who then fought before upwards of 10,000 screaming spectators in bouts that have since become legendary for the levels of injury, blood, and gore, at Mechanic’s Pavilion and Woodward’s Gardens. San Francisco was once known as ‘The Cradle of Fistic Stars’ for the number of prizefighters that lived or fought here. Those currently in charge politically, and whether they enjoyed a violent tussle between manly men, largely determined whether a bout was technically legal or illegal; most fights proceeded with a nudge, a wink and an eye on the door for the constable.
“During Lillie’s short time at the road house, forty-round bare-knuckle boxing in the city had given way to gloved twenty-round contests. When San Francisco darling, ‘Chrysanthemum Joe’ Choynski trained at Ingleside House in early 1899 for a match with ‘Kid’ McCoy, their agreement stated the opponents had the option to agree to bare-knuckles or linen hand wraps. By the time the ‘Baltimore Demon’ Young Peter Jackson jogged along the nearby farm roads hacked out of the forest off Ocean Road, in preparation for a bout in 1900 with ‘Philadelphia’ Jack O’Brien, five-ounce gloves were becoming the norm. Lillie might have trod those same dusty byways to pick up horse shoes with George Gardner; a superstitious fellow who believed so strongly in good luck charms, that as he trained for a World Featherweight Title fight against Jack Moffatt in 1901, the training quarters at Ingleside House took on the appearance of a blacksmith shop.” 
Featherweight Frank Erne also stayed at Ingleside, training for his upcoming bout with ‘Terrible Teddy’ McGovern, which took place in July 1901 at Madison Square Garden. (McGovern won.) While covering the training regime, sport editor John Craig fell one night on the stairs up to his room, fracturing his skull, which caused his death soon after.
Lillie may or may not have enjoyed the sport for itself—as she used her own boxing skills only in the service of protecting her freedom and honor. But the use of Ingleside House as a training base for nationally famous boxers during her years working there meant it was very much a part of her experience.
It was the roughness of the world of professional boxing, combined with the general notion current in the city that that road house was an far-flung spot where people came to do bad things they didn’t want seen, that became the reasons why later Annie tried to retrieve Lillie from the place.
Burned to the Ground
Just after Frank Erne ended his training stint at Ingleside House in 1901, a fire gutted the road house. “No resort in the city is better known than the Ingleside House,” the Examiner noted when reporting on the fire, and mentioning “Mrs Bishop”—that is Mrs Lorentzen—by name as the well-known proprietor. Mrs Lorentzen wasn’t present when the fire broke out, but lost all her personal belongings in the blaze. There is no mention of Lillie as being present when the fire occurred. The Lorentzens had recently built a house in Ocean View on Montana Street, and perhaps Lillie stayed there.
The Ingleside House was rebuilt, and carried on serving drinks and lodging guests for many years after this. Just after the 1906 Quake, Mrs Lorentzen, along with hundreds of other saloon keepers of the city, applied for permission to restart liquor sales after the post-Quake ban on alcohol. Later, Prohibition put a dent in business, obviously, but SF was a pretty wet town, and the Lorentzens were caught at least once selling whiskey for a pricey 75¢ a glass during the 1920s.
Searching for Lillie
From the fire at Ingleside House onward, I do not know where Lillie went. Perhaps she had a shack out at Lake Merced, shooting ducks for dinner, and staying out of the newspapers. Perhaps she changed her gender presentation, her name, and/or her location; any combination of those would render her invisible to an historian’s eye.
At one point in the course of my searches, I found a notice about a Lillian Young who had bought a bit of property in La Honda, a rural spot in San Mateo County, which was famous much later for being the refuge of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. I thought I had found her, age 36, having saved up for several years, and getting herself settled on a bit of land to call her own. A place for good life of self-sufficiency, dinners on the wing, and a lot of open space.
But it was not my Lillie—it was just another of my many dead-end Lillies. This one was born Lillie Wyatt in the Mission District, and she married a John Young. Buying land in La Honda was their retirement dream.
So many Lillies. One of the right age died in Santa Cruz County in 1960, whose mother’s maiden name was listed tantalizingly in the California Death Index as “Bradt”—one typo away from my Lillie’s birthmother Laura’s name “Brandt”. I thought it might be her, dying at the end of a long quiet life in a rural idyll. After a lot of digging, I pieced together the history of a woman who had an interesting and adventurous life, but it was not my Lillie.
In hopes of some small lead, I have combed the 1910 US Census for San Francisco many times, thinking that at age 25, my Lillie would not stray too far from the places she knew. By then the management of Ingleside House had long been turned over to others, so she was not there. The Lorentzens were living a semi-respectable life in the heart of Ocean View, having adopted a baby girl in 1904, and owning several properties, but Lillie was not there.
I found an “L. Young” of the right age in a boarding house South of Market, a man about whom the proprietor knew little to tell the census taker, and I thought it could be her. But there is not enough there to take the clue forward, to discern whether it really is Lillie in a new life with a new gender, or just another Louis or Leonard or Larry.
Gender presentation aside, Lillie may have found little in either of her names to remain attached to. The Youngs took good care of her, but she appears to have cut ties. Would she still feel that surname was really her own? “Lillian” is likely to have been the name her birthmother gave her—it was then quite common in German families—but did Lillie retain any sense of connection the woman who gave birth to her and then abandoned her? Lillie may have started a new life with a new name altogether, and by doing so cut ties with a past that did not serve her future at all.
Mrs Young Testifies in Court
In December 1902, there is a slim clue about Lillie after she left Annie’s house, which crops up during the trial of a shady human trafficker, Frank Kane. He was accused of trying to steer a young Chinese-born girl, Sow Jun, into a brothel in San Francisco, for cash, according to the women who ran a Methodist home for saving girls such as Sow Jun. (Never mind that those women also took money for placing Chinese girls into marriages.) In the course of the hearings, Annie Young comes forward to tell a story which filled out a bit of Lillie’s fate.
Annie said that she approached Kane for help in Fall 1900, as he was then heading up the Society for the Prevention of Vice (while also perpetrating some vice on the side). Annie told how she had come to understand that Ingleside House was far from a respectable establishment, not an appropriate place for a young girl, and so she had asked Kane to investigate Lillie’s situation under Mrs Lorentzen’s care there. Kane did nothing on Lillie’s behalf. When Annie came to him again in December 1900 to follow up, he had then asked for money to file papers of guardianship for Lillie, money which he (or maybe his assistant) kept, and yet still nothing had been done about Lillie’s living arrangement at Ingleside House. Annie’s testimony added weight to the case for Kane’s corruption as a protector of the vulnerable.
In the course of the trial, in January 1903, the Examiner stated that Lillie Young was still “in the care of” Mrs Lorentzen at Ingleside House. But even that statement at that date is doubtful, as it describes Lillie’s age as 16, when by then she would be on the cusp of 18, her birthday being in February.
Where had Lillie gone? What became of her relationship with her foster mother? How could such a bond have dissolved? Did she never come to visit the only woman she had ever known as mother?
Back to the Drama on Minerva Street
At the point of the 1910 US Census, Annie Young still lived in one of the Ocean View houses that she had built with her husband back in the 1880s, with just a lodger to keep her company. Lillie was apparently long gone from her life. Annie was 68 then. Many years before, after her husband’s death in 1895, she had described herself like this:
“I am a cripple and an invalid and cannot work and have to rely on the charity of friends for the common necessaries of life.”
Annie’s life was just about to take an unexpected turn. In 1911, the out-of-wedlock son she had given birth to in 1873 in Iowa, Fred Chance Young, arrived in San Francisco, and suddenly became a part of Annie’s life again. By then he was a man in his forties with a wife and children. Annie was welcoming. The two sons Annie had had with her husband had not been much a part of her life for many years. Annie was an aging and emotionally vulnerable woman, cherishing and depending on others, and Fred was obliging.
Fred moved into the house next to hers, which she owned and rented out. His own life had been one of scraping along, working as a printer in the Midwest. At some point, as this photo of him as a young man indicated, he appears to have performed in a circus. He was a musician, who later managed some sort of small orchestra in San Francisco. He was in as much need of aid as she was.
In early April 1912, Annie decided to make gifts of her three remaining Ocean View properties—one to Fred, along with one to each of the sons she had with her husband Edward. Then something happened to upset this decision, involving her sister-in-law, Annie Eliza Hickey, Edward’s younger sister. Mrs Hickey had recently moved from Boston to San Francisco, coming to live with Annie Young. She was newly widowed, and apparently very persuasive.
Three weeks after taking the actions needed to give over the properties to her three sons, Annie Young changed her mind, apparently under the spell of Mrs Hickey’s arguments against such a move. It was at that point that Annie filed her McEnerney action to reclaim title to her property, as property owners had to do after the Great Fire burned most records at City Hall.
During that court case, Fred C Young, suddenly being stripped of the property that he counted on as his nest egg, came forward to assert his claim to the property Annie had gifted him a few weeks earlier. But Fred lost his case, and Annie’s ownership of the property, and her right to dispose of it as she wished, stood. She then wrote a fresh will in which she turned everything over to her sister-in-law, Mrs Hickey.
Lillie was nowhere mentioned in Annie’s will.
Annie Young was committed to Napa State Mental Hospital about 1917, though for what reason I do not know, as records of patients there have not survived. She died there in 1920. In the end, Annie Young’s change of mind did not matter, as Fred became Mrs Hickey’s “favorite nephew” even though they shared no blood ties, and he administered the will. Mrs Hickey gave him everything in the end, before she herself died in 1922. Fred’s wife died young a few years later, and then Fred himself ended up dying in Napa, likely also at the mental hospital there. In the end none of the family held onto the two little 1880s houses on Minerva Street that Annie Young and her husband Edward built. Here they are today.
Coda for a Lost Lillie
In all of that drama—a sad story surely—I still don’t know where Lillie went or what she did. During the last several months of sifting through the census records, death records, marriage records, and newspapers—not to mention reviewing 30,000 San Francisco mugshots—I have found no lead that did not eventually reveal someone else’s story, someone else’s life, and not my Lillie’s. I’m rather determined myself, and not at all happy to be brought the point of giving up a search.
I find myself feeling sad, much more than I would have if I had discovered she had died young by some accident or disease. Not to know what had become of her weighs on my heart. The universe put forth a bold and remarkable girl, and for entirely irrational reasons, I feel owed an account of where and how she found a place for herself in the world. What happened to her when the realities of adult life fell like doom onto her shoulders—the world outside the accommodating cocoon of those two loving foster parents who chose to care for her in such a supportive fashion.
I wanted to find her making something surprising out of the limited options presented to her, to see her become something that only California could bring forth, finding something more for herself than anyone else imagined—something no one had thought of before.
It likely I will never know what Lillie’s fate was, but I am very glad to have known her.
For this article I am deeply indebted to the assistance that researcher Kathleen Laderman extended to me over many months. Her experience with a very wide array of online resources, and her very thorough-going methods, allowed me to say a great deal more about Lillie Young, and the people in her life, than I would otherwise have been able to do.
Like me, she knows what it is to search long hours, to find something you hope is a key fact, and to discover it is a false lead—then to walk away with empty hands.
Working together, over an extended period of time with our various and complimentary skills and experience, we could not find Lillie. That fact more than anything suggests to me that Lillie did not want to be found.
My thanks also to Tim Wilson at the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, for a helpful chat at a frustrating interlude.
To Seventeen, a tip of the battered derby for the redeeming notion of a coda for an unfound object, à la True Grit.
Dedicated to Andrew, who likes his girl bold, and excels himself in supporting her, always.
Ancestry family trees, which include biographical details and references
Ancestry.com is a subscription service, but offers free trials. It is also available free through the San Francisco Public Library: https://sfpl.org/articles-databases > A > Ancestry Library Edition (ProQuest) > [sign in with your library card to use].
- Lillie Young (1885-unknown), including her foster family, Annie and Edward Young:
- Lillie Alice Goodenough (Mrs Lorentzen) (1866-1949), proprietor of the Ingleside House, 1896-1920s:
- Lillie Young’s birth mother, Laura Brandt Weiss (1870-1945):
- Mathew H Chance, Frederick Chance Young’s likely biological father:
- Sarah Comstock, journalist and author (1875-1960):
Regarding the photograph of Lillie Young in 1894 at Point Conception Lighthouse:
I have identified the child in the 1894 photograph taken at Point Conception Lighthouse to be Lillie Young, age eight, soon to be nine. I did this through a number of means, starting with Lillie’s own account of the year she spent at the lighthouse; she even refers to a photograph that was taken of her at the lighthouse when she was there. (Sarah Comstock, “The Remarkable Life of Lillie Young,” SF Call, 14 Jan 1900.)
Staffing for the lighthouse involved having four men and their families living on site, so I began by identifying the four men assigned to the lighthouse at that time, and then looking at records to see what other children may have been present.
In January 1894, when the US Coast Guard photographer came to Point Conception to do a series of photos, the Principal Keeper was Thomas Longworth Perry (1829-1934), the First Assistant Keeper was John William Little (1865-1935), Second Assistant was Edward Wilson Young (1838-1895), and Third Assistant was Irby Holt Engels (1872-1934). This information is gleaned from the keeper records on The J Candace Clifford Lighthouse Research Catalog https://archives.uslhs.org/, as well as genealogical records at Ancestry.com.
Lillie’s foster father Edward W Young had been appointed Third Assistant Lighthouse Keeper in June 1893 (SF Call, 11 Jun 1893, p2). He was promoted to Second Assistant Keeper in August, when Fred H Boie left. Irby Holt Engels took over as Third Assistant (Arroyo Grande Herald, Arroyo Grande CA, 5 Aug 1893).
Besides Lillie, there were no other children near the right age among the four families at the Lighthouse. Keeper John W Little was 28 years old, married, and had a son 2 ½ years old and a daughter 3 months old. Keeper Irby H Engels was 21, married and had a daughter 5 months old. Keeper Thomas L Perry was approaching 65 years old—the older man on the right side of the image. His wife Mary was 48, the woman on the left of the group of four adults. I do not know who the two younger women are between Perry and his wife, but one of the two may be their daughter, Rachel Perry, who would be 28 years old then. In short, of all the families present, Lillie Young is the only candidate for the child pictured.
Edward W Young—and presumably Lillie, although she may have gone back earlier—left Point Conception to return to San Francisco in either August 1894, when his US pension was increased (SF Call, 4 Aug 1894, p4) or in October, when Henry Rosendale, the Second Assistant Keeper to follow Young, was transferred from Oakland Harbor (“Lighthouse Appointments,” SF Examiner, 24 Oct 1894, p4.)
Comparing the faces of the girl in the Point Conception photo (at about age nine) with the drawing of Lillie Young in 1900 (at about age fifteen), it is easy to see the resemblance—the broad face, the short nose, the square-set eyes, the firm mouth—it is the same determined expression.
In 2013, Lillie Young was misidentified as a boy in the photograph when it was reproduced in this historical account of Point Conception Lighthouse in The J Candace Clifford Lighthouse Research Catalog (click PDF). This is the only place I’ve found the image used where an identification is attempted. No name for the child is given.
Another point in favor of it being Lillie is that, in January, any other well-behaving child of eight or nine in a family stationed there would have been boarding in Lompoc and going to school—as did Harry Weeks, who was raised at this lighthouse some ten years later. He recounts how deeply disappointing it was when he was sent off to board at Lompoc during the school term, detailed in this reminiscence (click PDF).
But Lillie was known to shun school, as later accounts bear out.
- I am the first to identify the child in this photograph. In support of my supposition, at the end of the post and just above the Endnotes, is a detailed description of how I arrived at the identification, “Regarding the photograph of Lillie Young in 1894 at Point Conception Lighthouse.” All the Point Conception Lighthouse photographs from January 1894 can be viewed at the National Archives at this link: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/45701163 ↑
- Sarah Comstock, “The Remarkable Life of Lillie Young,” SF Call, 14 Jan 1900, p16, Sunday Magazine pages. ↑
- Sarah Comstock, “The Remarkable Life of Lillie Young,” SF Call, 14 Jan 1900, p16, Sunday Magazine pages. ↑
- Quoting Lillie Young: “Diana of Ocean View not to be Put under Restraint,” SF Chronicle, 14 Dec 1899, p5. ↑
- “Diana of Ocean View not to be Put under Restraint,” SF Chronicle, 14 Dec 1899, p5. ↑
- Sarah Comstock, “The Remarkable Life of Lillie Young,” SF Call, 14 Jan 1900, p16, Sunday Magazine pages. ↑
- It may well have been Annie’s own sister, Grace Bolton Amsler (1845-1926), who contacted the authorities about Lillie. Unbelievably; three years earlier, that woman had felt called upon to rat her sister Annie Young out to the US Navy for collecting payments on her husband Edward’s pension. Grace declared that Annie and Edward had been divorced, and that therefore Annie did not deserve the payments. They had divorced long ago, but had subsequently remarried, something Grace did not know—or ignored. The official taking Grace Amsler’s statement noted how vindictive she was about her sister Annie. This is part of the story revealed by the Fold3 pension documents, see Note 19 below for citation. ↑
- “Diana of Ocean View not to be Put under Restraint,” SF Chronicle, 14 Dec 1899, p5. ↑
- “A Growing Bequest Supports Scholarships for Women,” “Remember Stanford: Creating a Legacy,” (PDF). Office of Planning and Giving, Stanford University, Summer 2007. http://pgnet.stanford.edu/get/file/g2sdoc/RememberStanford06.pdf Accessed 2023-03-24. ↑
- Annie Young, quoted in: Sarah Comstock, “The Remarkable Life of Lillie Young,” SF Call, 14 Jan 1900, p16, Sunday Magazine pages. ↑
- Comstock, Sarah. Mothercraft. United States: Hearst’s international library Company, 1915. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Mothercraft/2JBAAQAAIAAJ ↑
- Sarah Comstock, “The Wonderful Possibilities of a new Wild Olive,” SF Call, 30 Jan 1898, p23. My thanks to Kathleen Laderman for finding and connecting this quote to Lillie’s story. ↑
- The clues that lead to revealing who Lillie’s birth mother was came from the first article about Lillie: “Diana of Ocean View not to be Put under Restraint,” SF Chronicle, 14 Dec 1899, p5. At the end of that piece, to address the obvious question as to where the real parents were, two names were given, a supposed father named Brandt, and the mother, who wrote to Annie once, who signed her letter “Mrs Joseph Wise” of Eureka, California.Working with Kathleen Laderman, we found a woman with the maiden name Brandt who married Joseph Weiss. This revealed that she was 14 when Lillie was born, and not likely to be married. ↑
- Details about Lillie’s adoption and parentage in: “Diana of Ocean View not to be Put under Restraint,” SF Chronicle, 14 Dec 1899, p5. ↑
- Annie Young is referred to as “Auntie” in Sara Comstock’s article. Sarah Comstock, “The Remarkable Life of Lillie Young,” SF Call, 14 Jan 1900, p16, Sunday Magazine pages. ↑
- The lives of the Youngs we pieced together from census and directory records, along with testimony about the divorce that was recorded in Edward Young’s pension file; see Note 19 below. ↑
- The details of this very intimate story come from the documents that were filed during a pension dispute with the US Navy, after Edward died in 1895, and Annie’s sister, vindictive for reasons now lost to history, came forward to tell the Navy that Annie and Edward were in fact not married. She was wrong, but that was not established before a great many personal details about their lives were disclosed for the file, and firmed by the fact that Fred C Young reappeared in Annie’s life later and she accepted him as a son. Edward W Young pension file in Fold3 records:“Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans (Navy Widows’ Certificates), 1861-1910,” digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 24 March 2023); [Annie Young, widow of Edward W. Young (machinist, USS Ranger)] certificate #11053, p. 8; imaged from Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans (Navy Widows’ Certificates), 1861-1910, M1279 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives).https://www.fold3.com/image/27338226 Pages 8-9.Fold3 records available through San Francisco Public Library: https://sfpl.org/articles-databases > F > Fold3 Library Edition (ProQuest) > [sign in with SFPL card] ↑
- In the 1880 US Census, Fred C Young is living with the Chance family in Fostoria, Ohio, where to describe their relationship to the boy, they don’t say “Son”, they say “Taken to raise”. FamilySearch.org is free but you must sign up.”United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M8SP-5VQ : 14 January 2022), Frederick Young in household of Mathew Chance, Fostoria, Seneca, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district , sheet , NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm . ↑
- The letter by Sarah Bear Chance, wife of Mathew H Chance, was attached to an Ancestry family tree (user pauleverettld), and appears to be genuine. I was able to date the letter to April 1879 using the mention of a funeral of a family member in the letter. I’ve attached a copy of this letter in my own tree for the Chances. See list of Ancestry family trees at the end of the post, above. ↑
- A date of 13 Oct 1883 for the remarriage in San Francisco was found in the Navy pension case file for Edward W Young. CITATION fold3 ↑
- Daily Alta California, 7 Aug 1885. ↑
- Historic topographic maps of California San Francisco Bay Region https://digicoll.lib.berkeley.edu/record/59124#?xywh=-12041%2C-1%2C37854%2C16072&cv=94 Inside the Viewer, choose “San Mateo 15-minute Quadrangle – 1896 of -“ from the lists in Contents on the left-hand side, then zoom in to the portion above the SF-SM county lines. ↑
- “Ocean View Complaints,” SF Call, 21 Aug 1896. ↑
- A diagram in the SF Bulletin, 15 Sep 1876 (“A Foul Murder”) indicates the hotel was located where the present church hall building at 1 Plymouth Avenue is situated, which was built in the 1920s when the old structure was torn down to allow for the widening of San Jose Avenue there. ↑
- “Shot to Death at the Ingleside,” SF Examiner, 17 Mar 1895, p1-2. ↑
- According to an account of Annie Young’s testimony during the trail of Frank Kane. “Kane is Appointed on Payment of Money,” SF Examiner, 10 Jan 1903. ↑
- SF Call, 22 Jun 1901. ↑
- “Succumbs to Injuries,” SF Chronicle, 22 Apr 1901, p9. ↑
- “Ingleside House Burned Down,” SF Chronicle, 8 Sep 1901, p13. ↑
- “Barbary Coast People Given Liquor Licenses: Famous Resort Owners Ask for Permission to Return to Old Stands,” SF Call, 30 Jun 1906, p11. ↑
- “Dry Agents Ask Inn Abatement,” Oakland Tribune, 25 Jun 1922, p10. ↑
- Notice in The Enterprise and South San Francisco Journal, 28 Oct 1921, p2. Newspapers.com. ↑
- The story is told in six news items: “Witness Scores Frank J Kane,” SF Call, 20 Dec 1902; “Witness Grills Kane in Court,” SF Chronicle, 20 Dec 1902; “Admits Home Gets Coin for its Brides,” SF Examiner, 20 Dec 1902; “Kane’s Methods Inquired Into,” SF Call, 10 Jan 1903; Kane Attempts A Vindication,” SF Chronicle, 10 Jan 1903; and “Kane is Appointed on Payment of Money,” SF Examiner, 10 Jan 1903. ↑
- “Kane is Appointed on Payment of Money,” SF Examiner, 10 Jan 1903, p6. ↑
- In an affidavit submitted in 1896 in regard to her husband Edward W Young’s pension, Annie stated she was a cripple dependent on friends. This is on page 103 of the pension file.“Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans (Navy Widows’ Certificates), 1861-1910,” digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 24 March 2023); [Annie Young, widow of Edward W. Young (machinist, USS Ranger)] certificate #11053, p. 103; imaged from Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans (Navy Widows’ Certificates), 1861-1910, M1279 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives).https://www.fold3.com/image/27338349?xid=1945 Page 103.Fold3 records available through San Francisco Public Library: https://sfpl.org/articles-databases > F > Fold3 Library Edition (ProQuest) > [sign in with SFPL card] ↑
- Letterhead paper Fred C Young used during the pension problems (Fold3 document cited above, page 135) in the wake of Annie’s death in 1920 say “Angelo-Young Orchestra – Violin – Clarinet – Cornet – ‘Cello – Flute – Harp – FC Young, Mgr.” at the top, with a stylized Greek harp graphic. Aspirational, perhaps, as I found no references to any performances by this group in any California newspaper. ↑
- McEnerney Court, case papers for Anna Young Ocean View properties, 1912. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSB9-KSZ3-Z?i=463&cat=216858 (Sign-in required; accounts are free.) ↑