Bernal History Project

Bernal Heights is a hilltop village, tucked away in the southern part of San Francisco. Freeways and urban thoroughfares now bound a neighborhood once defined by the swamps and creeks of the original Mexican land grant. From the 1860s legend of Widow O'Brien's cow to the current fight over the preservation of the branch library's murals, residents have tirelessly guarded and recorded their environment. Bernal is diverse, vibrant, and still evolving.


Bernal Heights from 26th and Fair Oaks 1921 - David Gallagher

This site aims to provide a solid basis in researching the neighborhood. Browse the links, subscribe to our newsletter, and contact us if you want to know more about anything Bernal-related not shown here.

Historic Bernal News
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  • Sad Climax Of A Series Of Misfortunes In A Family June 6, 1898 San Francisco Chronicle
    Six Children Are Left Motherless and in Need of Many of the Necessaries of Life.

    Mrs. Catherine Chessman who was so seriously scalded last Friday, died yesterday in the County Hospital. For two years past the family of E.E. Chessman have struggled along at their home at 101 Wool street on Bernal Heights, the father, a shoemaker by occupation, obtaining occasional jobs from which he received barely enough to purchase the absolute necessities for his wife and six children. They were held in high esteem by their neighbors and many times would have been assisted by some kindly friend, but, though poor, their sturdy American pride would not admit of accepting anything that savored of charity.

    On Tuesday last Mr. Chessman obtained work that promised to be permanent and the future looked brighter in the little home than it had for many months. The hard fate which had so long pursued them was still hovering near, however, for on Friday, about noon, as she was engaged in attending to the family washing Mrs. Chessman attempted to lift a boiler full of scalding water from the kitchen stove. As she stepped backward holding the boiler before her she caught her heel in a defective place in the floor and fell, striking on the back of her head, the boiling water pouring over her.

    In an agony of pain she struggled to her feet and screamed for her nearest neighbor, who came hurrying to her assistance. The lady was unable to alone render much assistance and was compelled to call in others, with whose help she removed the clothing of the sufferer and did all possible to ease the pain.

    About 1:30 o'clock a physician was sent for, who dressed the wounds, and toward evening telephoned for an ambulance, in which Mrs. Chessman was taken to the Receiving Hospital, arriving there at 8:45 p.m. Dr. Prentice attended the case at the hospital, and the next morning at 11 o'clock had the patient sent to the City and County Hospital, where for a time she seemed to be easier, but yesterday at noon she died from the effect of the burns she received Friday.

    Mrs. Catherine Chessman was a native of New York and about 45 years of age. She leaves six children, the youngest of whom is but 4 and the eldest a girl of 17 years of age. An inquest has been waived.

    The neighbors, as well as Father Brady of St. Mary's, have done all they can to assist the family since the accident, but the plight of the half-crazed father and motherless children is pitiful, and the desperate financial straits to which they have been reduced through the father's long enforced idleness is apparent.