Albert William ("A.W.") Burrell (1820 – December 9, 1893) may have been the silent fourth partner to Oakland’s founding trio: Horace Carpentier, Edson Adams and Andrew J. Moon. Burrell served on the 1852 Board of Trustees, which existed before the first City Council in 1854. 1

NB: Oakland: The Story of a City says Alfred, but that was his son.
NB: Some early records list his name as Barrell, and his obituary says the family name was originally Borel, then changed to Barrell, then to Burrell. 2,3

Albert Burrell was born in Vermont in 1820. After some time in Pennsylvania, he came to California in 1851 seeking (what else?) gold. He first arrived in San Francisco but moved to Oakland (can you blame him?). Oakland then consisted of 3 wooden buildings at the foot of Broadway. He built a hotel on Second Street between Washington and Clay in 1854; it was apparently called the City Hotel. 1 (Some sources refer to this as Oakland's first hotel, which is inconsistent with the fact that Mr. Burrell is credited with building Oakland House for A.D. Eames in 1851.)   In 1859 he quit the hotel and bought 160 acres “at Claremont” and turned it into a ranch. He worked at this until 1863 when he moved back to town (312 Third Street) and worked at, you guessed it, real estate.

The 1884-1885 lists him working as part of Burrell and (Jay M.) Frantz with an office at 476 - 8th Street. 6


Burrell was married twice, first to Sarah Lavinia Hammond (Burrell). Albert and Sarah had 3 children: Ellen Burrell (d'Apery), Henry Hammond Burrell, and Alfred William Burrell. Sarah died in 1870.

In 1873, Albert married Johanna Kalaher (Breen) (Burrell). She died in 1892. 4

Although he was 73 years old, he was apparently engaged to be married for a third time at the time of his death in 1893. 5

Pages tagged “Burrell family”

Add new "Burrell family"

Horace Carpentier connections

Horace Carpentier, a friend of Burrell’s, liked to stay at the City Hotel. Rumor has it that Burrell once foiled an assassination attempt on Carpentier that was to have taken place behind a lumber pile on First Street. Another time, Burrell warned Carpentier that he was at risk of being drowned. When Carpentier was taken out on a boat he was prepared when the boat capsized in a creek. It wasn’t just Carpentier that Burrell was friendly with — he also could soothe angry tempers on the waterfront, but it seems we have him to thank for Carpentier’s survival.

We also have Burrell to thank for bestowing the waterfront on Carpentier: on May 7th, 1852, only 5 days after Oakland’s first incorporation, Burrell introduced an ordinance that would grant Carpentier the whole waterfront in exchange for a schoolhouse and a wharf(!) (some sources say 3 small wharves.) And Carpentier didn’t even build the schoolhouse. The Board of Trustees suspended the rules and rushed the ordinance through. It passed unanimously. 2

Burrell didn’t make out like a bandit, though. Oakland: The Story of a City says ”Reportedly, he owned a fourth share equal to those of the famous three, but lost it through naivete, poor management, or bad luck.” 1

Ellen Burrell / Helen d'Apery

[ probably should be its own page ]

Burrell’s daughter Ellen arrived in Oakland on August 27, 1852 with her mother. She became a world traveler and journalist who, writing under the pen name, Olive Harper, produced a prolific collection of poetry, plays, dime novels as well as newspaper and magazine articles that appeared in publications across the U.S. She wrote a manuscript called The Stormy Petrel, and indicates her father fell behind on taxes (besides the ranch at Claremont, he had more property along Telegraph, too) and gave away much of the land. She married Telemaque Eli d'Apery and seems to have started using the first name Helen.

Bagwell says Ellen's writings are indexed at the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library under "Helen [sic] Burrell D'Apery" (name from her second marriage), while an excerpt available at the Oakland History Center is under "Ellen Burrell Gibson" (name from her first marriage). It appears the former index has been fixed.

Links and References

  1. Oakland: The Story of a City. by Beth Bagwell. Oakland Heritage Alliance: 2012
  2. Death of A. W. Burrell, an Old Pioneer – He Saved Carpentier’s Life Twice San Francisco Chronicle December 10, 1893
  3. A Pioneer of Oakland San Francisco Examiner December 10, 1893

  4. Death This Morning of Mrs. A.W. Burrell Oakland Tribune October 10, 1892
  5. Oakland Councilman Refuse to Pay Honor to Burrell's Memory San Francisco Chronicle December 15, 1893

  6. Husted's 1884-1885 Oakland Directory


  1. The Stormy Petrel by Ellen D'Apery, at UC Berkeley Bancroft Library