Edward Carthcart “E. C.” Sessions (January 7, 1836–October 27, 1906) was a leading real estate developer and landowner, as well as president of the Oakland Bank of Savings and publisher of The Real Estate Gazette.
Sessions owned much of the land near Highland Hospital (Highland Terrace and Tuxedo neighborhoods) and also owned and operated a horsecar line, the Highland Park horse Railroad. He created the Fruit Vale Railway Company in 1875 to access the newly subdivided land near Highland Hospital and in the Dimond. 3 In 1890, he patented his own doubledecker streetcar or trolley. This fancy trolley system was taken over by Borax Smith’s Oakland Transit Co in 1898.
In 1869 there is a ‘Sessions Block’ listed as being located between 11th and 12th Streets. His occupation was listed as real estate, with offices at 507 California Street in San Francisco, and residing on the corner of Jefferson and 12th Street in Oakland.
Commencing on November 7, 1868, Sessions began the publication of The Real Estate Gazette, which contained a table of all real estate transactions in the townships of Oakland, Brooklyn and Alameda for the two years’ span ending on November 1, 1868. Sessions also had maps of Oakland (with “E. C. Sessions, Agent for the Sale and Purchase of Real Estate” prominently displayed) printed to help with real estate sales, including a map around 1869. 5
Sessions’ name appears frequently in real estate transactions of the time, selling or supervising sales of everything from empty lots (including one to Flora Wellman, Jack London’s mother) to the former University of California property in downtown.
In 1876 he was listed in the Oakland City Directory as one of the ‘moneyed men of Oakland’ who had invested largely in an ‘elegant homestead’ ranging in cost from $8,000 to $40,000 each.
E. C. Sessions was elected vice-president of the board of directors of the recently-formed California Cotton Mill Company in 1884. 6
Sessions founded and promoted the area around Highland Hospital, but it was hard to sell. He created “a decorative border of alternating eucalyptus and cypress trees” and built a picnic park, all in the attempt to sell more land. 1
Sessions was born in Norwich, New York, one of five children of Reverend John Sessions and Eliza Winne (Sessions). Edward married Mary Drum (Sessions) (May 23, 1846–November 8, 1924) in 1867 and they had four children: Anne Drum Sessions (Cushing) (October 9, 1867–October 18, 1948), Edward Colin Sessions (November 12, 1871–July 5, 1930), George L. Sessions (June 1878–December 14, 1959), and Lt. Harry Coleman Sessions (October 8, 1879–March 26, 1927). Note that Edward Colin is frequently referred to as E. C. Sessions as well, and sometimes referred to to as E. C. Sessions, Jr., although he had a different middle name.
Sessions was on the Board of Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church in 1869.
Edward’s father Rev. John Sessions lived on the south side of 12th Street, between Jefferson and Clay Streets in 1869. According to the 1875 Bishop’s Directory of Oakland, ”E. C. Sessions has built a fine two-story residence at the corner of Eighth and Market streets, at a cost of $10,000.” In the 1880s, the Sessions lived at 910 E 24th Street. In 1900, they were at 320 Durant St. (now 19th Street).
Mary Drum Sessions was a member of the Ebell Society.
Son Edward was an early advocate for building the navy base in Alameda. 4
Death and Burial
Sessions died October 27, 1906 after a brief illness. He’s buried in the E. C. Sessions lot in Plot 2 of Mountain View Cemetery along with Mary, son Harry, and son Edward. Rev. John and Eliza are also buried there, along their other children, Edward’s brother John Winne Sessions and sister Helen Eliza Sessions (Kinney).
Links and References
- Mailman, Erika. Oakland’s Neighborhoods. Oakland: Mailman Press, 2005.
- Pioneer Financier Passes Away San Francisco Call October 28, 1906
- Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States Kenneth T. Jackson
- Wants Naval Station San Francisco Call November 21, 1907
- E. C. Sessions & Co. Daily Alta California April 9, 1875
- Oakland Items Daily Alta California August 20, 1884