The University of California Magazine, April 1899
Vol. 5, No. 3
Excerpt from "The First Benefactors"

pp. 101-117

Portrait of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, by Boye and Habenicht, circa 1899. Courtesy of University Archives, The Bancroft Library
The First Benefactors.

Edward Tompkins | Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst

After the birth of the State, a period of thirty years was required to develop a public feeling, friendly to institutions of higher education and the advanced thought of older communities, which culminated in the passage of the "Morrill Act" of 1862, by which the general government set aside lands for the endowment of state colleges, one of the conditions of the Act being that within five years from its passage at least one college should be founded by the State accepting the grant, in default of which, the grant should lapse.

Thus, in 1867, California would have lost this grant of 150,000 acres if Congress had not granted an extension of five years, from March 31st, 1864, the date on which the California Legislature accepted the gift of the general government, thus extending the time to March 31st, 1869.

The Legislature endeavored to comply with the Act of Congress, and in 1865 and 1866, passed special acts for this purpose, which, unfortunately, were unconstitutional, and were, in fact, ineffective, as no funds were provided for carrying such acts into operation.

Public opinion was slow in grasping the situation and the old feeling antagonistic to the maintenance of institutions of higher education by the State still existed; even the bait of 150,000 acres of land was unable to overcome it, nor was the popular title of the act to establish an Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College sufficient to create enthusiasm in the minds of the representatives of the people.

But inexorable time moved on and Congress very justly did not favor any further extension of time. The fate of the future "University of California" was held in the balance, and among those who by foresight, education, or sympathy, were able to look into the dim future, there was for a while the oppressive silence of breathless suspense.

There existed at this time, in Oakland, the "College of California," the oldest of such rank in the State, with valuable college buildings, educational staff, etc., and a tract of 160 acres of land at Berkeley, managed by a Board of Trustees, the Chairman of which fully appreciated and realized the critical condition of the situation.

F. F. Low was the Governor and the head of a Commission to locate the college, which every town in the State wanted. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the "College of California," Rev. Horatio Stebbins, a distinguished scholar and a man of liberal and progressive ideas, who had come to the State within three years, solicited Governor Low not to proceed with the locating, and briefly outlined to him his plan to deed to the State the property of the "College of California," the true value of which the Governor at once realized and suspended further investigation, pending the maturing of the plans of the Chairman. Although the trustees of the College were not at first unanimous in their opinions, eventually affairs shaped themselves in a manner favorable to the project.

In 1867, Henry Huntley Haight was elected Governor; fortunately, he was a man of broad culture, a graduate of Yale, in 1844, and he at once realized the importance and generosity of the offer of the trustees of the "College of California," and as the necessity of prompt action was evident if the federal land grant was to be saved, he enlisted the most distinguished men in both houses of the Legislature in the cause, among them Edward Tompkins and John W. Dwinelle.

The only condition which the "College of California" attached to its gift was that the "UNIVERSITY of California" should be reared on its foundations, and in order to carry out the spirit and intention of the donors, the Legislature passed what is known as the "Organic Act," being an act to create and organize the "University of California," to be under the control of a Board of Directors, to be known as the "Regents" of the "University of California," which Act was approved on the 23d of March, 1868, by Governor Haight.

On the 12th of February, 1868, the "College of California" had deeded to the State the Berkeley tract, and after the creation and organization of the Board of Regents, it, in due time, deeded to the "Regents" for the State, all the other property.

The "Regents" on April 5th, 1869, accepted the donation from the "College of California," and expressed themselves in part, as follows:

"The Board of Regents take this occasion to repeat the expression of their profound appreciation of the far-seeing public spirit, devotion to learning and the good of the commonwealth, manifested by the Trustees of the "College of California." Thus was the 150,000 acres and the University saved to the State.

I have given some emphasis to the acts of the general government and of the "College of California," as constituting the first benefactions.

It would not be in keeping with the scope of this paper to refer further to the early history of the University, or its struggles, which, perhaps, are best preserved only in the musty archives of the past.

The writer in a brief paper (for the preparation of which his notice was short), looks back over a period of thirty-one years of intimate connection with the government of the University, call only refer to some of those whose voluntary service, the best that God and nature gave, has been dedicated to the noblest institution of this State.

The "College of California" was fortunate in having at the head of its trustees a man of great strength of mind, clear preception, broad ideas and culture, and impressive eloquence, and who was for many years an influential Regent of the "University," and it is nothing more than justice to place Dr. Horatio Stebbins at the head of the benefactors of the "University."

It is not improbable that if Governor Low had continued in the gubernatorial chair, he would have continued to do effective work for the "University," in carrying into effect the foundation of the great institution of learning. His services must not be overlooked, and probably next to Dr. Stebbins, he helped to give directions to the course which his successor carried out.

The genial nature and high character of Governor H. H. Haight stood the embryo "University" in good stead in the Legislature, where his faculty of persuasion and good, honest sense carried the act of foundation safely into the cradle of his official nursery. Occupying, as he did, the highest official position in the State, his influence with Democrats and Republicans alike was thrown in the cause of education and progress; lack of interest or opposition would have killed the bill without his being its actual executioner. I think, without any disparagement to the many friends of the "University," Henry Huntly Haight may be placed in the front rank as one of its benefactors.

The same good judgment was shown in his selection of the eight appointed members of the "Board of Regents," viz.: Samuel Merrill, John T. Doyle, Richard P. Hammond, John W. Dwinelle, Horatio Stebbins, Lawrence Archer, William Watt, and S. B. McKee, and as a result, eight men of equal standing were elected on the 9th of June, 1868, in Governor Haight's office, 510 Jackson street, San Francisco, by the ex-officio and appointed members, viz.: Louis Sachs, Edward Tompkins, J. Mora Moss, S. F. Butterworth, John S. Hager, N. J. Bowie, Wm. C. Ralston, and John B. Felton.

Each of these men occupied his own position of influence and standing in the community, and somewhat distinct from the other, and some of them of extraordinary learning, ability, and acumen, and by their faithful attendance at the meetings, and in committee, showed their earnestness in the work and faith in the future, which inspired and gave confidence to the other members.

It was during those first days that the dignity and erudition of Dr. Horatio Stebbins; the wit and enthusiasm of John B. Felton; the eloquence and earnestness of Edward Tompkins; the faithfulness and efficiency of John W. Dwinelle; the impulsiveness and generosity of Wm. C. Ralston; the caution of John S. Hager; the legal penetration of John T. Doyle, and the faithful and hearty coöperation of the other "Regents" gave impulse and direction to the building of the "University," strength and concreteness to its foundations.



During the year 1866-7 the Trustees of the College of California agreed to convey their property at Berkeley, then unnamed, to the State, if the State would establish there an university equal in the range of its studies to eastern universities, and including an Agricultural department founded upon the Congressional grant of fifty thousand acres of land for the purpose of an Agricultural College. This proposition from the Trustees of the College of California was received by many citizens with cordial approval and by some with strenuous objections. Frederick F. Low, then Governor of the State and Chairman of the Commission appointed to establish the Agricultural College under the Congressional grant, was one of the first to approve the measure. He suspended all attempts to locate the Agricultural College until the issue could be determined. Governor Low went out of office in 1867. In his concluding report of his administration to the Legislature he recommended forcibly and earnestly the establishment of the University on terms proposed by the Trustees of the College of California. His successor, Governor H. H. Haight, adopted the measure with intelligent public spirit and foresight. One of the most important actions of the Legislature at that time was the drafting and passage of a Bill to establish the University. After much discussion the Act was finally passed on the 23d of March, 1868. Among those who took an important part in the discussion of what was called the Charter, the late Edward Tompkins, was active and efficient.

He united intelligence, good learning, and dialectic skill in a more than usual degree. He brought to the discussion a wide range of knowledge concerning university life, experience, and influence to show that the higher education is the real means of improving the lower, and that an university was the best conservator of public opinion and civic virtue. He also set forth with force and ability the influence of education to set religion free from sectarian provincialism and relegate it to the common thought and common sense of men. It was said by some that the University would be a political machine, and by others that it would be a Godless realm where knowledge and philosophy would air their conceit. To these objections he replied that the only remedy for misguided learning was more learning, and that random thought could only be brought into the orbit of truth by more thought. His success, united with the effort of others, intelligent and public-spirited, was complete, and the date of the passage of the Act has been made a red letter day in the history of California.

It is not to be denied that in the opinion of some the tendency of law-making to be overdone was too manifest, but there were prejudices to be assuaged or overcome, concessions to be made to this or that such as are often and almost always required in the action of large bodies of men. To the objection that there was "too muchness" in almost all law making, an active and efficient member of the legislature replied, "a tub to the whale."

Mr. Tompkins was a sagacious man and understood well the mixed motives under which men act, but he did not throw "the tub."

In after years he founded the Agassiz Professorship of Oriental Language and Literature with almost a prophetic insight of the relations of our country to the vast populations of Eastern Asia, and his name will thus be associated with an important epoch in our history.



To Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who, born and bred near where the Missouri joins the Mississippi, represents better than any one else I know the very flower and crown of the Great Valley,--the life and character of its noblest women,--this volume is inscribed by the author.

In these words the Rev. Dr. W. H. Milburn dedicates his book entitled: "The Lance, Cross and Canoe in the Mississippi Valley."

Phoebe Elizabeth Apperson was born in southeastern Missouri, on December 3, 1843. Her father is Randolph Walker Apperson, son of a physician in Virginia, and her mother, Drusilla Whitmire, of a South Carolina family. Mr. Apperson was ambitious to have his daughter receive the best education obtainable. She attended boarding-school and had competent instructors. She acquitted herself so well in her studies that even as a young girl she taught school for a while in the neighborhood of her home.

The venerable Mr. and Mrs. Apperson still survive to enjoy all the success that has come to their daughter and all the good that she has dispensed to the world. They live the peaceful, quiet life that they love in their home in Santa Clara County.

In 1861 a pleasant romance was enacted in the Missouri home when George Hearst returned from California, the foundations of his material fortune made, to seek the love of a beautiful young lady whom he had not seen since she was a mere child. I cannot tell the tale of that courtship, but George Hearst was successful here and won a bride not only to fill his own life with constancy and love, but to extend and magnify its influence, and after his death to honor and perpetuate its memory.

George Hearst was born in Franklin County, Missouri, September 3, 1820. His father, William G. Hearst, was of Scotch descent, a native of South Carolina, who moved to Missouri in 1808. His mother, whom he cherished with devoted affection, was Elizabeth Collins, of Georgia. George Hearst received a public school education, including elementary instruction in mining. His early manhood was spent on the farm of his father, who died in 1846. In 1850 his ambitious mind led him across the continent to California, in one of those memorably painful and disastrous expeditions, which few of his party survived. It was not till 1859, in Nevada, that his perseverance in mining brought him substantial and lasting success. As soon as that was secured he returned to Missouri to win the partner of a larger fortune. He returned with his wife to California, where one son was born, the well-known William R. Hearst.

The life of George Hearst was chiefly spent in large and various business enterprises. He accumulated immense mining properties, his large experience, close observation and natural intuition leading him to a quick and successful estimate of mining ventures. He was regarded as the most expert prospector and judge of mines on the Pacific Coast. He owned ranches which were among the largest and most productive in California. His business life not only resulted in the accumulation of wealth, but in bringing employment and comfort into thousands of homes, and in introducing new methods of quartz and other kinds of mining.

[photograph of the Music Room at Hacienda del Poso de Verona]

He was a member of the California legislature in 1865-1866. In 1882 he was a candidate for Governor of California, but was defeated by General Stoneman, who, as Governor, appointed him, in 1886, Senator to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator John F. Miller. In 1887 he was elected by the State legislature to a full term in the United States Senate. He died in Washington, February 28, 1891.

There are no differing thoughts among his friends, who were numbered by thousands from the humblest to the highest, as to the intrinsic worth of Senator Hearst's character. In private and in public life he was a man of scrupulous integrity. He was a faithful friend. He was without pretense or presumption of any kind. "His home, whether the rude shanty in the mining camp, on Sutter's Fork, or the Yuba, or that modern Pactolus, Feather River, or in a mansion on the hills of San Francisco, or an elegant residence in the national capital, that home, however humble or palatial, was the emblem of hospitality, and 'welcome' was the password."

Mr. Hearst was a man of strong common sense. He was simple, genial, companionable. He had a lively vein of humor. He was hopeful and courageous. His heart was kindly, forgiving, humane. He was an excellent judge of character, readily detecting the true from the counterfeit. In physique he was tall and striking in appearance. His energy, thrift and success, his integrity, manliness and unostentation, mark him out as a representative American.

"The spot," said a United States Senator, "on which our late colleague has final repose is just outside the corporate environs of San Francisco, the city of his pride and his home. It is a romantic hilltop, warmed by a California sun, cooled by the sea breeze, and

'Where the woodbine spices are wafted abroad And the musk of the roses blows.'

"It overlooks the Golden Gate, through which the unresting tide of the Pacific ebbs and flows. It is a fitting place for the final rest of an old 'Forty-niner,' who began his life with pick and spade, and ended it in the Senate of the United States."

Of Mrs. Hearst may I say that my own first knowledge was shortly after her arrival as a bride in California, lovely in person and charming in manner, when she would come to bring flowers to my aged grandmother? That is the only touch I have with the young life of Mrs. Hearst, but it is a sweet and beautiful one to cherish and remember.

Unfortunately, too, the data that I have at hand for a biography are scanty. This is the more regrettable, because my readers would rather be informed as to the incidents and acts of her life than hear from me the words of appreciation which resound in their own hearts. However, such data as I have I shall strive to weave together in this tentative sketch. Others will later, out of their greater fullness of knowledge, and with better right to such a privilege, supply my deficiencies, correct my errors, and give to the world the full biography which it will desire.

Mrs. Hearst's life from the time of her marriage has been a singularly active one. It has been her aim to give other people vacations, yet she has had scarcely one herself in many years. To provide rest and pleasure for relatives, friends, employees and dependents has been to her an unceasing task. Even when going on a trip, to the country, across the continent, or to Europe, she has so unselfishly shared her pleasure that her unremitting attention to her company has left no space for her own rest.

Upon Mr. Hearst's and her arrival in California in 1862 they took up their permanent residence in San Francisco. The only other residence she has had has been the one in Washington, which she occupied after Mr. Hearst's election to the Senate, until she built her home near Pleasanton, La Hacienda del Pozo de Verona. In the early days she would visit Virginia City occasionally; she made a number of trips to her old home in Missouri; and she has visited all parts of the United States and Europe at various times.

In San Francisco she entered fully into its better social life, and has never remitted any of her duties in that connection. These have grown enormously, of course. In Washington she was necessarily a prominent leader, and her home has been open for all the functions incumbent upon a woman of her position. Her home was not only thronged daily by visitors, for the hour or longer space, but was available for many charitable purposes. The reciprocal duties of a social leader are of a magnitude incomprehensible to a man. The University people well know the delightfulness of her hospitality from the entertainments given at the Hacienda last April and May.

She has taken an active part in the organization and promotion of women's clubs. She was the first President of the Century Club of San Francisco, formed in 1888. She is a charter member of the San Francisco Sorosis, a member of the New York Sorosis, a member of the Washington Woman's Club, honorary member of the Town and Gown, Berkeley, and of Laurel Hall, San Francisco, and I know not of what else beside.

Mrs. Hearst has a large acquaintance in England and France as well as in America. A trip abroad means attention to social duties, she being lavishly entertained wherever she goes. With Ambassador Bayard she has attended the Queen's Drawing-Room. In 1892, in the regal celebration of the Discovery of America she was an honored guest of the Court at Madrid. Her visit to Mexico a year ago was seized upon by President Diaz for a magnificent demonstration in her honor. For President Diaz not only wished to show respect to her, but also to Mr. Hearst, who while Senator had helped to direct this government into lines of generous treatment of Mexico. On her visit to Antwerp last fall, the burgomaster and civic officials gave her a banquet and showered upon her all the honors in their power.

Then there has been the philanthropic side of her activity. Mr. Hearst left all that work practically in her hands, and she has not awaited solicitation, but has spontaneously given assistance and relief and has bethought herself of avenues in which good might be done. I do not know, nor would it would it be justice to her, if I did know, to tell of the unnumbered directions in which her help has been extended.

Her thought has for a long time been occupied with schemes of educational work, both personal and institutional. It is many a student, especially artists and musicians, to whom she has given a foreign education. She has contributed to the Golden Gate Kindergarten Society, the Hearst Kindergartens in San Francisco, the five Hearst Kindergartens in Washington City, one being for colored children, and one a kindergarten training school. She has thus greatly extended and enhanced the value of the kindergarten system, both educational and charitable as it is.

She has aided the Boys' Home in Washington, under the direction of the Brothers of Nazareth, an Episcopal order. This home has been beautifully furnished by its patroness. The boys are not kept apart, but sent to the public schools where they come in contact with other boys and do not form a class by themselves. In the summer they are taken to a country place to get health and exercise. She has donated substantial sums for the Phoebe Hearst School for Girls in Washington. The San Francisco Polyclinic and the University Settlement, of which she is now President, have felt the benefit of her bounty. The Mothers' Club in San Francisco has known her help, as well as the First National Congress of Mothers held in Washington City in 1897, of which she was First Vice-President.

These interests indicate some of the directions in which her mind and heart are led. Her friends know, and these enterprises testify to the same effect, how warmly her affections turn to children. To see them, to hear them, to do for them, to bring sunshine into their lives, is an absorbing passion. Akin to this is her love for animals, for dogs and horses, especially. Dogs she always has about her, beautiful, highbred creatures. Many of my readers have had the pleasure of seeing her kennels of collies and setters at Verona, as well as the pet dogs at the Hacienda.

Above and beyond these more general interests, she has an insatiable desire to help girls get an education. A longing for an education came to her herself when a girl, which was then only partially gratified. That she got a sound foundation in school instruction and in teaching we have seen before. And, while her early marriage ended what is called a systematic education, her whole life has been educational. Refined and high-minded by nature, through her extraordinary acquaintance and contact with the world, her thoroughly ordered and well-balanced intellect has gained an education that schools and colleges could not give. Think of the training which the very consideration of the schemes her mind has evolved, the organization and direction of a hundred enterprises, the control of great funds invested in mining and other properties, must have given her. A vast correspondence, much of it written by her own hand, and time made for the perusal of books and current literature, have both formed and trained her intellect.

Nevertheless she wants girls to have the opportunity to store their own minds, and is happy if she can be the agency for gratifying their desires. Hence her great interest in the girls' school in Washington and in the scholarships for young women at the University of California. These are a source of pride and pleasure to her.

And, again, along the educational line, she has interested herself in the movement for the National University. She has contributed to the work of the University of Pennsylvania, especially in the Central American Pepper-Hearst expedition. She has done and is doing much work in collecting antiquities, which we may expect to see enrich our own museums. She has built and helps maintain the Hearst Free Library at Anaconda, Montana, which was dedicated last June. And at Lead, South Dakota, there is a free library of 5000 volumes, the gift of Mrs. Hearst.

She is an active member of the National Geographical Society, a Regent of Mt. Vernon and a Director of the Museum of Pennsylvania, and connected with many learned organizations either as an active or honorary member.

And now, with this utterly incomplete account of this woman's life, for I have not said all I know and I know but small part of it all, we will turn for a brief space to the interest she has manifested in the University of California. The first direct contribution to its greater usefulness was in 1891, in the form of scholarships, which the Board of Regents named the Phoebe Hearst scholarships. She has given many relatively smaller sums, as, for the purchase of the Wilmerding school site, for lighting the library, for furnishing the young ladies' rooms, for the Lick Observatory, and other University departments. She has given a large sum for an addition to the mining building and for its expensive equipment.

Mrs. Hearst is defraying the entire expense connected with the University Architectural Competition. This is an enterprise of magnificent proportions and of corresponding cost. I do not know how great the actual expense will be, nor would I mention it if I did; for it would not be just to its patroness, nor to the idea itself. The expense will not be too great for the results that are to be obtained. My readers ought to know by this time what is meant by and what is involved in this world-famous enterprise. They must know that after great expenditure of time and thought, after one visit by Mr. Reinstein to the Eastern States, after another to Europe, after a voyage by Mr. Maybeck, and after an enormous correspondence, the Programme of the Phoebe Hearst Architectural Plan, printed in English, French, and German, was on December 3, 1897, published and sent to the architects, architectural societies, United States embassies and consulates, all over the world, accompanied by maps and views of the University grounds. They know that previously to this a Prospectus, likewise in three languages, had been similarly distributed. They know that the Programme invited the architects to prepare a plan for the University buildings and grounds, that would ensure a complete, harmonious and beautiful home for the University forever, befitting at once its matchless site, the grandeur desired for our University, and the splendid future of California. They know that one hundred and five plans were submitted, and that a jury of the most eminent architects selected eleven of these plans unanimously and rewarded their authors with prizes. They know that the authors of these plans are now recompeting among themselves, and that they have been visiting California at intervals since last November, at Mrs. Hearst's expense, and studying the site with earnestness, eagerness and enthusiasm. Many of my readers have felt the inspiring influence of these great artists, as they have passed to and fro on the University grounds. They know these architects will soon submit their final plans and that the same jury that met at Antwerp will assemble next September in the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art to make a final award. They know that the realization of a new era for the University is at hand through the prescience and bounty of Mrs. Hearst.

Determined, as Harper's Weekly has said, to leave the world more beautiful than she found it, she has also espoused the project for securing a plan for the improvement and embellishment of the City of San Francisco.

In recognition of her noble services to the University a reception was given to Mrs. Hearst, at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, on October 9, 1897, and on her birthday, December 3, 1897, the battalion of University Cadets were reviewed in her honor. And, not so much in appreciation of her bountiful interest, but because the benefit of her excellent judgment, clearness of mind and broad views, were desired in directing the policy of the University, Governor Budd appointed her to the first vacancy occurring in the Board of Regents.

Inasmuch as this term would have expired in a few years, Governor Gage withdrew the appointment and as a delicate tribute reappointed her for a full term as Regent of the University.

With this inadequate sketch, I venture to close with the words which I spoke in response to a toast at the annual Alumni banquet in 1897.

FELLOW GRADUATES: The spirit of woman, the most beneficent influence wrought by God for the uplifting of mankind and the exaltation of human institutions, has come to reside with the destinies of the University of California. This is the chief significance of the benefactions of which I am invited to speak,--the chief benefaction itself,--benefaction and benediction. A sublimation of purpose is given to the University through the presence of this spirit, both while it lives and moves and has its being amongst us, and afterwards when it shall have become a sanctifying and ennobling memory.

In the next place, the benefactions that we have already received have this essential and fruitful principle, that they embody an idea and are potential of its realization. They have already raised the plane of our thoughts, broadened the horizon of our views, mellowed the tone of our life, refined the aim and ideal of our aspirations. These are the undesigned and intangible, but abiding and fruitful, effects of these benefactions.

What vision, we may ask, was it that the woman of whom my words are instinct had of the City of Learning, which she would help us build? She saw not merely stately structures of sightly and enduring stone. Not merely the possibility of facilities of educational expansion. Not merely an example and incentive and object for creative genius in art. Not merely these, good and lovely as these are, but the enlargement and ennoblement of our life, as individuals and as a community, the goodliness and godliness, and ever increasing spiritualization of the generations to come. She saw knowledge and wisdom, purified into generous action by the beauty and sincerity of noble surroundings, spreading its influence through the world.

Fellow-graduates: In our festivities to-night, in this hour of gratulation for the confidence and interest and aid which the State and its private citizens have shown the University, of which it is our pride to be the sons and daughters, we pause here to pay homage to her, who, as the blind preacher Milburn has reminded us, was born near the confluence of the two great rivers of the American continent, the Missouri and the Mississippi. The bounties of Nature seem to flow together and pour themselves into her lap. And she, like these great waters, sends forth again in one full stream an ever-living flood of life-engendering good. Broad and deep and strong, like these combined rivers, are her character and life. Steadfast of purpose, sane and wise of mind, catholic in sympathy and interest, the elements of her nature combine the purity and sublimity of the mountain sources of the Missouri, the richness and abundance, the softness and sweetness and beauty of the plains and valleys that the river waters and nourishes.

May her life be long! May satisfaction and contentment and peace flow back to her from the untold blessings she has conferred. May she find success in those whom she has enabled to be successful! May she see the seed she has planted in California soil begin to grow and bear fruit worthy of itself, its soil and its planter! Friends: The health of Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst!


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