Part 1 Hale Ranch. Presented by Richard Johnson

Part 2 From Russian Hill to Los Altos Hills, the Catton House.

Presented by John Ralston
--Click here for a separate file

On Sunday, February 26th, John Ralston and Richard Johnson will give an illustrated program on the Catton House, with remarks on Russian Hill, at the general meeting of the Los Altos Hills Historical Society, Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Road. The meeting will begin at 3:00 p.m. and will conclude with hors d'oeuvres.

From Russian Hill to Los Altos Hills.
The Catton House.

Among the early settlers who flocked to San Francisco when the United States claimed California in 1846 were two brothers from Utica, New York, Moses Charles Ellis and Alfred J. Ellis.

Alfred J. arrived San Francisco in 1847 and established a boarding house. According to family lore, as his boarders slept he took off the blankets he had rented for 50 cents and charged $5.00 in the morning for "losing" them. He was also a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1849, an alderman, and sheriff.

When surveyor Jasper O'Farrell laid out a new downtown grid in 1848, he named one of the new east-west streets after Ellis. Ellis Street runs today from Market out through the Western Addition.

Alfred J. also had a link with San Francisco's picturesque Russian Hill, on which today's Hyde Street Cable Car passes. When boarders complained of bad-tasting whiskey, Alfred J. said to check the well water with which it was mixed. In the well was the dead body of a Russian sailor. Alfred J. had the body buried on the hill behind his property, which was called Russian Hill for being the burial spot of Russian sailors and soldiers before the Gold Rush (the story is questionable, however).

Alfred J. brought his brother Moses Charles out west. Moses Charles prospered, growing and processing wheat, running a steamboat line on the Sacramento River, establishing Santa Clara County's first commercial fruit-drying operation the Sunnyvale Fruit Drying Company, and incidentally fathering 17 children. He was a member of San Francisco's Committee of Vigilance ("Vigilantes"), organized to deal with criminals whom the legal authorities were unable or unwilling to prosecute.

A great-grandson of Moses Charles was Dr. Joseph Catton, a psychiatrist and medical legal expert who testified in notable California criminal trials. A son of Dr. Joseph Catton was Moses Charles Ellis Catton - named for his great-great grandfather. In 1952 Ellis, as he was called, purchased a parcel off Magdalena Avenue, Los Altos Hills, which had been part of the Hale Ranch, an enormous property settled by Joseph Hale in the late 19th century.

Hale built a house and barn - or carriage house - for a caretaker named Wright. When Ellis Catton bought the property, he remodeled the barn into a home for his family. Eliminating a stairway and groom's loft, he added a bay window, changed the tack room into a bedroom, and remodeled a horse stall for a bedroom. He removed the thick redwood boards from the carriage floor and installed them in the ceiling, which is angled to give a cathedral effect.

For more information please call Lana at 650-776-9226.








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