from The Beginnings of Oakland by Peter T. Conmy

Moses Chase (July 31, 1806 – February 17, 1891) was the first American citizen to settle in what is now Oakland, and was the founder of the town of Clinton. In 1850 Chase leased a tract of land from one of the four sons of Don Luis Maria Peralta, the Spaniard with the original land grant.

Before arriving in California, Chase was the captain of the sailing ship Capitol which sailed from England to the Indies around Cape Horn.

Chase married Emily Stickney on February 17, 1840 and his first child, George Chase, was born April 17, 1841. Sadly, Emily died on May 11th, 1841.

Hearing of the California Gold Rush, Chase sailed from Boston on January 15, 1849 aboard the Capitol on a 176-day voyage. He hoped to make his fortune panning for gold, then return home to marry Mary Ellen Clinton, his second wife-to-be.

After an unsuccessful attempt at gold mining and illness with what was called ‘mountain fever,’ he returned to the San Francisco area, where he put up a tent at the West Oakland Point, and supported himself by hunting. He later moved his tent to what is now the foot of Broadway, and later to the 4th Avenue and E. 9th Street site of the first wooden frame house which measured 14′ by 24′.

Chase met and formed a partnership with the three Patten brothers, who also leased 640 acres of land from Vicente Peralta in the town of Clinton (now part of Oakland).

According to George Chase’s biography, Moses Chase “… and three Patten brothers leased from Peralta a body of land extending over and beyond what became Clinton. After a few years the land was sold by Peralta subject to their lease, and they obtained “Clinton” in settlement of their claim, which they subdivided into building lots and which was known as Clinton. They also built the first hotel in what is now known as East Oakland, and the largest on this side of the bay. It was called the Clinton House. This was burned during Mr. Chase’s absence in the East in 1853, and proved a total loss, there being no insurance in those days. He returned in 1853 by the Isthmus route, and his son George followed in 1854, in company with his aunt Mary and her husband, James Allen. The mother, Emily (Stickney) Chase, died in Newburyport, May 11, 1841, when George was but three weeks old.”

Moses built his house, the first wooden framed homestead in Oakland, at the corner of East 8th Avenue and 1st Street; his last direct descendant and grandson Albert Boynton Chase still lived in the home 75 years later. 1 Other sources list his home as located at the corner of 4th Avenue and East 10th Street, and being built in 1862. 2 The address of his house was 404 East 8th Street. 2 The house is now gone and the property is now part of Laney College.

When Moses Chase returned home to marry Mary Ellen Clinton, he discovered she had died while he was in California. He returned to Oakland and named landmarks in her honor: the village of Clinton on the eastern shores of Lake Merritt, Clinton Street, Clinton Park and the square block around Clinton Park. 2

Moses Chase house, northeast corner of East 8th Street and 4th Avenue, East Oakland 3 (October 5, 1928)

The above photo of Moses Chase’s home had the following lengthy caption: situated on the northeast corner of ”East Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue, East Oakland, front view. This home was built by Moses Chase in 1849 on part of the 640 acres he bought from [Vincente Peralta], who at the time owned a large part of what is now Alameda County. This lot was later a part of the Township of Clinton. Moses Chase was born in Newburyport, Mass. on July 31, 1806. He was the first white man in Oakland, and he camped at the foot of what is now Broadway in 1849. The rear rooms of this house were built in 1849 of ship’s timbers, driftwood and redwood shakes. Later, in 1856, the front part of the house was added.” 3

Death

Moses Chase died in 1891, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Moses Chase marker
photo CC SA-BY Our Oakland
Another view of Moses Chase’s home (the first house built in Oakland)

The following account of Moses Chase appeared in the Note from the Chase Chronicles - Jan. 1932:

OLD CALIFORNIA CITY

“The site of Oakland, California, was part of the holdings of Don Luis Maria Peralta, who received vast grants from the Spanish crown. In 1842 he divided his lands among his four sons and the two to whom this region fell established themselves on their estates. From one of them in 1850 Moses Chase leased a tract, and he became the founder of the future city. In 1852 the settlement was incorporated as a town and in 1854 it was chartered as a city. The name was suggested by the grove of oaks in which the first houses were built.” (Boston Sunday Post, Jan. 31, 1932)

Chase Chronicle - Oct. 1926:

OLDEST HOUSE RIDICULES TIME

Home of Moses Chase still as sturdy as ever

”Surrounded by a well-kept lawn at the intersection of East 8th-avenue and 1st street, stands proudly and sturdily the first homestead built in Oakland, California.

The old house in its 75th year, was built at the beginning of the gold rush by Moses Chase, the first white man to settle in Oakland.

The residence is now the home of Albert Boynton Chase, a grandson and the last direct descendant of Moses Chase, whose son was the late George Chase, county treasurer of Alameda county for years.

GRANDSON REMINISCENT

Albert Chase is proudly reminiscent of the days when, as a boy, he heard with glowing interest of how his grandfather rounded Cape Horn, the skipper of the sailing ship Capital plying between England and the Indies.

He heard of his grandfather’s desire to quit the life of a sea captain and return to his native home, Newburyport, Mass. Of how, after leaving the call of the sea for the lure of the land, Moses Chase learned of the gold to be found in California. The west then became his objective and upon arriving he joined a band of prospectors and mined in the primitive fashion of the day.

The first California home of the elder Chase was a tent pitched at what is now the foot of 7th-street, where it joins the mole. His only neighbors were the Peraltas, who owned all the land west of San Leandro.

OLD HOME WELL BUILT

The word “home” began to pound itself into the heart and mind of the sea captain and he began building a real house and home, carrying lumber from an old sawmill to the spot on which stands the old Chase home.

Visitors note the fine carpentry work done in the house and especially in the spacious old kitchen, the side walls and ceilings still being held firmly together by the wooden pegs driven in by the erstwhile and ambitious Moses Chase.

An old six-barrel firing piece, a boot-jack and a 100-year-old rug are among the interesting antiques shown by the pioneer’s grandson.” (San Francisco Daily News)

Links and References

  1. Old California City
  2. OMCA Collections
  3. UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library - Image(s) used by permission