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Biography of Fremont Older
by Mrs. Fremont Older

Cora Miranda Baggerly Older (1875-1968) was a well-known author and novelist from the the early part of the century until publication of her last book in 1961. This biographic sketch of her husband, Fremont Older (1856-1935), covers his life from about 1900 to his death in 1935.

Fremont Older was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and came to California in 1873. He became one of the state’s most controversial newspapermen in his work at the San Francisco “Call” and “Bulletin.” He became managing editor of the struggling “Bulletin” in 1895.

Mrs. Older was 80 when she wrote this sketch for the 1955 centenary edition of the “San Francisco Call-Bulletin.”

Related Museum Links
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“Rejoice at the Fall of Schmitz...,” by James D. Phelan

1909 Report on Municipal Corruption

Fremont Older Wants Abe Ruef Released from Prison

Fremont Older Open Space Preserve – Santa Clara County

Restoration of the Fremont Older Home

When Fremont Older became editor of The Bulletin it had a circulation of about 9,000 and was losing $3,000 a month.

The owners expected the paper to be out of the red within a year, and so the staff was cut to five or six.

I was dramatic critic, society editor, literary editor, special writer, reporter.

I knew nothing about reporting, nothing about dramatic criticism and, being a newcomer, nothing about society. I had a desk, but no salary. Others of the staff were trained newspapermen.

I dreaded interviewing; it seemed impertinent to ask even bandit Chris Evans’ daughter about her father’s crimes.

Soon, however, I interviewed such celebrities as John L. Sullivan who modestly said, “I was Number One my class, and I guess if I had gone into the army, I would have been a fellow like Napoleon.”

“Knew” Bard

Riding on a cable car down the California street hill with the Theosophist leader, gray- haired Anna Besant, who believed in reincarnation, I heard her say as she looked at me with her steel-gray eyes:

“I know Shakespeare. He’s a friend of mine.”

What a scoop for the Bulletin! Eagerly, I asked: “Where does he live?”

“Oh, that I couldn’t reveal. It would be misunderstood.”

Tall, handsome, bearded, heel-clicking Prince Francis Joseph, of Battenburg (Mountbatten), great-uncle of queen Elizabeth’s consort, Prince Philip, stopped at the Occidental Hotel, treated me like royalty, thanked me for coming, sent greetings to my husband.

“Divine Sarah”

One interview that I shall never forget was with Sarah Bernhardt, who was coming, with Coquelin on her special train from New York.

By this time The Bulletin had shot ahead of its competitors, the Report and Evening, Post, and Fremont planned to scoop the other papers with my interview.

Fortunately, I could speak a little French. Through her manager. Fremont arranged to have me board her train at Cheyenne and interview her even before the morning papers did.

Bidden To Dinner

One bleak, winter day I boarded her train at Cheyenne and spent the afternoon talking with her beauty doctor, traveling with her.

About seven word came that “Madame Sarah Bernhardt” would receive me at dinner. Her entourage always spoke of her as “Madame Sarah Bernhardt.”

Already Coquelin was standing by the dinner table when Madame Sarah Bernhardt swept in with an aureole of honey-colored hair, wearing a loose trailing white satin gown, with décolletage filled in with cream lace, covering flesh-tinted chiffon, that extended up to her chin and had high points almost touching her ears.

She explained to me that she was happy in white satin, always wore it, had the material especially made for her. She showed me a piece of it, heavy as broadcloth.

Comic Was Dour

Coquelin, the comedian, seemed rather dour. I recall that he remarked that Napoleon’s Marie Louise was an imbecile.

Evidently, Madame Sarah Bernhardt was displeased with her manager, Mark Grau, because during dinner, several times she jabbed the table cover, addressing it angrily as she struck it with her fork, “MarCUS. MarCUS!”

Had Mark Grau been present, Madame Sarah Bernhardt might have jabbed him with that fork.

When good-nights were said about 9 I asked if I might sit at the table and write my article for The Bulletin. Madame Sarah Bernhardt was amazed.

“My child, you’re not going to write an article tonight?”

“Oh, I must. My husband sent me here to write it and telegraph it tonight.”

“Impossible! That is cruel. Telegraph your husband that you have a headache!”

Wanted A Scoop

Had I sent that telegram of excuse instead of an article, I WOULD have had a headache. I explained that my husband wished to have the article before any other paper. She then gave me permission to write at her table.

During the entire evening Coquelin’s valet stood watching write his sole remark being: “I wish I were a journalist, Madame.”

During the night I got [off] the train, in the midst of a Nevada storm, telegraphed two columns to The Bulletin.

Fremont was delighted and wired immediately for me to send another article, which I did.

Warned of Wrinkles

Madame Sarah Bernhardt’s beauty doctor told me I shouldn’t wear such high collars, they’d wrinkle my neck. I replied: “But Madame Sarah Bernhardt wears them.”

“Yes, Madame, but you’re young and she is old. She wears them to conceal her wrinkled neck.”

Back in San Francisco, Fremont and I had a dramatic feast, attending every Bernhardt and Coquelin performance.

When Frances Jolliffe became our dramatic critic, she went to interview Caruso, who spoke neither French nor English.

He Bored Older

Fremont sent me along to act as interpreter because I spoke a little Italian.

Frances and I went up to Sacramento to meet Caruso on his first visit to San Francisco. At this time we lived at the Palace Hotel, always dining at 6. Caruso also had an early dinner, to rest before the opera, and so he came and sat at our table. Fat, clumsy and good-natured, he bored Fremont, who said that his I.Q. was about like that of Jim Jeffries, the prizefighter. He had a derby hat, but instead of putting it on straight, he liked to place it from ear to ear across his head­a 10-year-old boy.

He did caricatures of himself on the menus, gave them to us or the waiters, or anyone who happened along.

Irked By Delay

He was completely unspoiled and because of his divine voice, women wanted to meet him.

I asked some friends to join us after the opera. I hesitated about mentioning it to Fremont until we were in the carriage going to the Opera House. He grunted displeasure.

After the opera the women lingered in our room chatting and prettying up. When we arrived at our reserved table in the Palace courtyard Caruso had already come.

Seated opposite him was Fremont glaring murder because we had left him with that “Jim Jeffries,” who couldn’t speak a word of English.

Our guests, however, had a good time and they were delighted with the Caruso caricatures.

I enjoyed first nights at the theaters–the Baldwin, Columbia, and California.

It seems to me that aside from Bernhardt, the most memorable first night was when Nance O’Neil, a San Francisco girl, first, appeared on the stage a star.

Born Gertrude Lamson, her religious father, an, auctioneer, denounced, his daughter in church, for going on the stage, and asked the congregation to pray for her.

She drifted away under the management of McKee Rankin, who made her, a star in Australia. London also acclaimed her before she returned to her home town. When she rushed onto stage in “Leah the Forsaken,” wild-eyed, hair disheveled, fleeing from her pursuers, it seemed to me that I was looking at Siddons or Ristori. Indeed, she wore Ristori’s jewels.

Critics Lukewarm

Nance had genius that made all other actresses, except Bernhardt, seem second rate.

The small audience, gave her curtain call after curtain call. Next morning I was surprised to find all the critics lukewarm. I said to Fremont: “I don’t know what to write.”

He replied: “Pay no attention to the other critics. Write just as you feel.”

So I wrote that the San Francisco girl was a genius.

She changed her program every night and I attended each performance. For a week she didn’t draw, and then suddenly the theater was crowded.

Later, she appeared under David Belasco, but she was too long with Rankin to fulfill the promise that she gave.

Turned to Home

After The Bulletin began making a profit I gave up my jobs and remained home, which was always the California, Palace or Fairmont Hotel, with the Hotel Rafael in summer.

Here I read and tried to write books. I read every word of Fremont’s favorites, Dickens, Thackeray and Scott.

I believe that Fremont Older knew more about Dickens than anyone who ever lived. Not a day passed but he mentioned something from Dickens. When he read a book he seemed to devour it and it went into his bloodstream.

Once I asked him to recite the names of Dickens’ characters. I counted up to 50 and grew tired.

Many a time he woke me to listen to something from Dickens at 3 or 4 in the morning.

“I want to sleep.”

“You can sleep any time. This is great.”

So, I was forcibly fed Dickens. He’d also read a great deal about Napoleon. But Napoleon was no longer Fremont’s hero. I spent a year, however, reading nothing but books about Napoleon, his wars and his family. In Europe I never failed to visit a house where a Bonaparte lived and I would still like to go to Corsica.

Discovered Plato

I had read Plato at Syracuse University but knew nothing about him. Fremont discovered Plato at 50 and read him as if he were a whodunit. Fremont had little tracts with quotations from Plato, struck off in the printing office and distributed them among his friends commanding, “Read the greatest thing ever written.” Pauline Jacobson nick-named Fremont “Socrates.”

Once at the Hotel Rafael Fremont called me out of the dining room where I was lingering after dinner to chat with friends. Then he read to me Plato’s “Cave.”

A friend asked me what Fremont wanted that was so, important. When, I told her, she said, “I’d get a divorce from a man like that.” Montaigne he read as avidly as Plato, with excitement and enthusiasm.

Fremont was the first editor of a metropolitan newspaper to employ a woman as city editor. She was Virginia Brastow, a small, frail spinster. She had endless ambition and was determined to have a job.

Day after day she sat in The Bulletin office waiting to be employed, but was ignored.

Bright Future

One day a big story broke and there was no other reporter in the office. Fremont sent her out and she did the story so well that she not only had a job but was soon city editor. Her strength, however, gave out, and she faded away

The Bulletin’s editorial writer, Eustace Cullinan, later had a fine career as a lawyer. Ex-Congressman E. J. Livernash also wrote editorials. Another member of the staff was John Coghlin, who became a lawyer, and recently retired as vice president of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Once Fremont appeared at the Fairmont Hotel with tall, slender, pale, dark-eyed young man, John Francis Neylan, whom he had just employed for the paper. They stayed only a few minutes and left.

At dinner that night he said “What did you think of Neylan?”

I replied “I think he’s going to do something remarkable.”

“I think so too,” he said.

“I brought him up to see what you thought of him.” I was greatly flattered that he cared.

Ida Tarbell told Fremont about Robert Duffus, then at Stanford, who became one of the editors of the New York Times. Duffus brought Maxwell Anderson, who became a distinguished playwright.

Bruce Bliven of the New Republic, author of several scientific books, was another Stanford man who became a member of the staff.

Covered Murder

My brother, Hiland Baggerly, came out from Union College and joined the staff.

One, of his first assignments was the Durrant murder mystery and I recall how, on Easter morning, he came to our rooms at the California Hotel and said:

“The body of the second murdered girl has just been discovered in the belfry of the Baptist Church, where the other girl was found.”

My brother employed Robert Ripley, a Santa Rosa boy, for the sports department. Ripley afterwards created “Believe It or Not,” which became a part. of the language. Cartoonist “Tad” Dorgan was another of his finds.

Pauline Jacobson wrote a letter to the paper which was so brilliant that Fremont replied by asking her to come to the office and take a job.

Played Santa

Bessie Beatty was a popular member of the staff, with her “Happyland” girls’ camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains and her organization to distribute Christmas stockings.

People who wanted gifts wrote to the paper and she sent me, as well as others, to investigate the requests.

I’ll never forget that two days before Christmas I visited a prosperous house in the Mission and found a woman who said:

“I don’t care what you bring so long as it is a Christmas present. I’ve been married to a mean man for 40 years and he never gave me a gift. I’d like anything.”

At a house in the sand dunes near the park I fond a woman and their four children all barefoot. They had neither clothing or food. They needed a truckload of things.

As I made the list, a little 7-year-old boy said, “Mama, I told you, Santa Claus would come.”

The woman showed me a branch of a tree, decorated with little strips of newspaper. The boy had broken off the branch from a tree in the park.

The mother said: “We went over this morning, got this Christmas tree and decorated it. He has been saying all day that Santa Claus would come.”

Barry Joins Staff

Sculptor Benny Bufano with is bust of Fremont Older

Harvard graduate John D. Barry was an established writer from the East who joined the staff and became popular as a public speaker and lecturer.

Rose Wilder Lane, who had been selling real estate in Santa Clara County, wrote several serials and later became a magazine writer, as well as a novelist. She is now in New York.

Fremont asked Sophie Treadwell, daughter of Judge Treadwell, to disguise herself as a prostitute, go from church to church, and see how she, as an outcast, would be treated.

Sophie burst into tears, but afterwards, wrote “An Outcast at the Christian Door.”

She married Bill McGeehan, who invented the expression “higher-ups,” and later became editor for the New York Herald Tribune. Sophie had several plays produced and lives in New York.

Idea For Serial

Sophie’s story attracted much attention and gave Fremont the idea for a serial concerned with the life of a woman of the underworld. Ernest Hopkins ghosted the story of Alice Smith “A Voice from the Underworld.”

Today the serial wouldn’t have been a shocker, but at that time women’s clubs “whereased” against it.

Immediately, Fremont brought out “The Healing of Sam Leake,” which probably had the widest influence of any serial he ever published.

Of a good family, Leake had been a prominent publisher, but had lost his paper and position’ through drink.

His friends thought he was a down-and-outer who couldn’t live long, when he met a woman, Dr. Lomax, a Christian Science practitioner, who performed what seemed the impossible, the cure of Sam Leake.

Terrific Impact

Fremont persuaded Leake to relate his story for publication in The Bulletin.

The impact was terrific. Alcoholics crowded The Bulletin office, brought by wives and mothers, begging Leake to heal them. He gave them aid and ended by becoming a healer himself.’ His widely published story has been translated into several languages.

Our life did not become turbulent until Fremont entered political battles. Election night we never dreamed of dining. We sat in the office trying to figure out whether our candidate would win. Almost invariably we lost.

Backed Phelan

One success was when Fremont brought about the candidacy for mayor of James D. Phelan, who probably did, more for San Francisco than any mayor of the city ever had.

It was he who planned the Civic Center and it was he who took the first steps toward bringing the $300,000,000 Hetch Hetchy water system into the city.

Phelan was followed by Eugene Schmitz, with over-smart Abraham Ruef as boss. Soon, Fremont said he could “smell graft” in San Francisco.

Bribers and bribe takers were everywhere. French restaurants, houses of prostitution, gambling establishments, even shoeshine stands, paid tribute to the boss.

Fremont determined to do something about the wholesale corruption and daily he attacked the mayor and Ruef. He tried to defeat Schmitz at the polls but failed.

At that time Francis J. Heney, who was prosecuting land frauds for the federal government in Oregon, said in a speech: “If you want me to, I’ll come back and put Abe Ruef in prison.”

Fremont went to Washington and met Heney who agreed to come if Detective William J. Burns could also come. President Theodore Roosevelt agreed to release Henry and Burns to clean up San Francisco.

Got Confessions

Back in town, Fremont, enlisted the financial support of Phelan and Rudolph Spreckels. Spreckels gave most of the money.

Skillfully, Burns trapped supervisors into confessions that indicted the mayor and several capitalists, including Patrick Calhoun, president of the United Railways.

Of course, the guilty fought back. Fremont was threatened with warnings. He was told to keep away from the beach.

Planted Bomb

Our recreation at that time was going on a streetcar to the park entrance and walking rapidly, three miles to the ocean for a dip, after which we had dinner at Mrs. Gunn’s home cooking place, adjoining our car house.

After Fremont’s life was threatened, he had a special officer come to the beach while we dined. This saved our lives because a man afterwards confessed that he had placed a bomb under our car to blow us up.

Violence followed violence. During Ruef’s trial the house of one of the supervisors, who had turned state’s evidence, was dynamited, and Heney was shot down in the courtroom by a juror when the latter was revealed as an ex-convict. The man afterwards killed himself.

Hiram W. Johnson stepped into Heney’s place, laying the foundation for his career as governor and United States senator.

Found Guilty

Ruef was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in San Quentin. Schmitz was also found guilty but, escaped through a technicality.

At that time the graft prosecution was applauded, but after the indictment of Calhoun on a charge of giving a $200,000 bribe, only the valiant stood by the prosecutor. It was then that Fremont nearly lost his life.

We were giving a dinner at a restaurant for some sympathizers with the prosecution, but Fremont didn’t appear. I was anxious because his life was always being threatened. Why didn’t he telephone?

Husband Missing

I returned to the Fairmont Hotel where we lived. No husband. Troubled and fearful, I went to bed. It was difficult to sleep.

At 2 o’clock in the morning Eustace Cullinan rapped, on my door. “Mr. Older is all right.”

Eustace told me what had happened. Fremont was in Heney’s office talking with his partner, Charlie Cobb, when he was called to the telephone and asked to come to a hotel on Van Ness avenue for important information on Calhoun.

In leaving Fremont said to Cobb: “This may be a trap. If don’t come back, tell Spreckels.”

When Fremont reached Van Ness avenue, two men sprang from an automobile. One presented a paper­“a Los Angeles warrant for your arrest on a criminal libel charge.”

“Take me to Judge Cook’s court” said, Fremont.


A gun was placed against Fremont’s side and he was driven, not to Judge Cook’s court, but down the peninsula followed by a car in which were Luther Brown, Calhoun’s chief detective and Porter Ashe, the Calhoun lawyer.


Fremont was told he would be shot if he made any attempt to escape. At Redwood City he was put on the Los Angeles train with four of the men, including the detective.

Fremont tried to send a telegram to Spreckels, but it never arrived.

His life was saved by a stranger, a young San Francisco lawyer, who overheard conversations among the men that made him suspicious that the editor was to be taken off the train at San Luis Obispo, driven through the mountains and shot “while attempting to escape.”

The lawyer, who never wanted his name revealed, got off the train at Salinas, and telegraphed The Call. Next morning the Call screamed: “OLDER KIDNAPPED!”

Immediately, the San Francisco lawyers telegraphed Santa Barbara and editor Thomas W. Storke and Franklin K. Lane obtained a writ of habeas corpus for Fremont’s release. An excited crowd appeared at the station.

Hero For A Day

Fremont returned to San Francisco a hero for a day only. Soon he was charged with hurting business and was so ostracized at the Bohemian Club that he resigned. Society was divided into two classes, pro-graft prosecution and against.

We weren’t unhappy about ostracism, for we sustained by certainty that we were doing the, right thing.

Only Ruef was punished. Fremont’s kidnapers and the alleged bribe-givers all went free. Fremont thought this was a mockery of justice and spent many years working for the release of Ruef, but was unable to reduce his sentence even one day.

Victory At Last

We’d had so many defeats that we could hardly believe victory was ours when Hiram W. Johnson, as an independent candidate of the Lincoln Roosevelt League, was elected governor.

Johnson campaigned in a car, driven by his son, Hiram Jr., speaking from his car, saying in his organ-like voice: “We’ll kick the Southern Pacific out of politics.” And he did. That night, I recall, we all went to Johnson’s office and hugged him. While Fremont visited Ruef at San Quentin, he became interested in the stories of Donald Lowrie, an alcoholic burglar, from a respectable New York family, who was serving a sentence.

Fremont obtained Lowrie’s parole from San Quentin so that he could write his serial “My Life in Prison.”

Moved To Hills

By this time we had moved to our ranch in the Saratoga hills and Lowrie finished his story there.

I came up to town for some hardware for our new house.

“Go right back to the Ranch,” said Fremont, “and see that Lowrie doesn’t get drunk. What will become of his serial?”

Fremont had to stop in town that night, and when I heard something like rocks falling in the hall, it was Lowrie.

Our houseman who sometimes got drunk himself, appeared, but he disdained. helping Lowrie I, a teetotaler, had to guide the alcoholic to his room.


Lowrie’s “My Life in Prison” was a best seller, and Thomas Mott Osborne, millionaire warden of Sing Sing, urged him to come east as an assistant. He sent $500 for Lowrie’s expenses.

En route, Lowrie left the train and telegraphed for another $500. But he finally arrived, and worked with Osborne for a year or two.

Lowrie was soon back in a Pennsylvania penitentiary. He wrote another serial, “Back in Prison, Why?”

Lowrie had writing genius. Under a different name he sent out stories from prison and sold them.

Again released, he married and had a child, but liquor sent him back to prison in Arizona., He was writing another serial for The Call-Bulletin when he died.

The, last chapter was finished by Evelyn Wells, whom Fremont sent down to take notes while he was dying.

Haven For Cons

Lowrie was one of several prisoners who came to the ranch, living in the old-fashioned ranch house. Our new house, was up the hill.

Fremont had many paroled men, always’ paid at current labor prices. Everyones favorite was a stage robber, Charlie Dorsey, 7O, who had served 20 years in San Quentin for killing a deputy sheriff during a holdup. Wells-Fargo, has his picture in their Museum Under the name of Charles Thorne, “the most desperate man they ever captured.”

With Quantrell

Charlie was tall, wrinkled, white-haired, with big nose and chin and a black felt hat always tilted a bit. He had been one of Quantrell’s raiders in the Civil War.

Charlie was from Missouri, and he thought he had done nothing when he had cut a cord of Wood a day.

Charlie’s friend, bandit Buck English, ill and dying, came to visit Charlie. All of Buck’s brothers had either gone to San Quentin or had been 1ynched.

One day Buck looked at Charlie and said: “Charlie, take off that hat. You look like a sheriff.”

Hill plowing was too hard for 70-year-old Charlie, and after a year or two Fremont got him a job in Golden Gate Park where he was a favorite of John McLaren.

Saving his money, he bought a little place near Los Angeles, brought out his niece from the Middle West, made her his heir, and died respected.

Jack Black was another ranch favorite. He also was from Missouri. “You Can’t Win” appeared as a serial in The Call-Bulletin, was one of MacMillan’s best sellers, has been translated into Russian, Swedish and French, as, one of the best crime books.

After it appeared, for several years he lectured at women’s clubs, but lived in New York. Summers, he occupied our little adobe house by the swimming pool.

MacMillan asked him for another book, but he was too weak even to swim, and he didn’t write it.

Reform Futile

He returned to New York and Fremont thought Jack did what he always said any down-and-outer should do, “fill his pockets with rocks and take a header into the bay.” Jack’s body was never found.

Our experience was that bandits and highway robbers were dependable. Alcoholics, forgers and sex offenders were repeaters.

In his last days Fremont said, “You can’t make people over. All we can do is be kind to them.”

Often, I’ve been asked, “Weren’t you afraid to have paroled men at the ranch.”

I never was but once, and that was when our housekeeper and her husband had gone to San Francisco to stop overnight.

I never learned to cook, and our housekeeper left chicken and vegetables for the men.

Fremont was in town that night, and up from the old ranch house came Lowrie and Frank Ballard, another highwayman, for dinner.

In a few minutes there was a rap on the kitchen door.’ Frank answered and returned saying, “There’s a man outside who hasn’t had anything to eat in two days.”

“Bring him in,” I replied.

In came an unprepossessing man about 40. I asked him to be seated and served the men food.

I was surprised that the stranger didn’t eat his chicken, and something in the manner of all three, men made me suspect that they had met before.

When they said goodnight and went down the hill to the ranch house, I was nervous because I couldn’t understand their secrecy.

Here I was alone with two holdup men and a mysterious stranger. I took my dog, went to my room, locked the door and piled all the furniture against it.

Next morning the stranger appeared at breakfast with the other two men. They revealed that they had met him in Cupertino the day before, recognized him as an ex- convict and invited him over for the night.

“Mr. Fix-It”

The stranger was a regular Mr. Fix-it, and he remained three months doing odd jobs.

In the midst of making a terrace in the garden he quit, saying, “The St. Francis Hotel sent for me to be their chef.” Within a week he was back in the San Jose jail, San Quentin-bound. Yet, for three months he had worked skillfully.

After Fremont became editor of The Call he came from the office one day jubilant. “I found a writer! She can do serials.”

He asked me to read three or four paragraphs in the paper written by Eleanor Meberin.

She wrote “Chickie” and many widely read serials that were syndicated throughout the United States and filmed at Hollywood.

Elsie Joins Call

Elsie Robinson had been writing in Oakland, but she moved over to The Call office with “Listen, World,” a column that brought her national fame and an income of $30,000 a year.

Evelyn Wells came to Fremont with a letter from the divorced wife of the famous economist, Stanford’s Thorstein Veblen.

Fremont thought Evelyn was just a pretty brown-eyed 18-year-old girl, and he didn’t want to be bothered with her.

Trying to get rid of her, he gave her what he thought was an, impossible task. “Write a story about an 18-year-old girl.”

He hadn’t got rid of her. Back she came in a month with a story about an 18-year-old girl that he couldn’t resist.

Fremont’s last crusade was to free Tom Mooney. He had been sentenced to death for alleged participation in bombing the Preparedness Day parade, but his sentence had been commuted by President Woodrow Wilson.

For several years Fremont devoted much energy to collecting evidence that Mooney was innocence.

Sometimes Fremont was discouraged about Mooney’s unpleasant letters from prison, but he never showed them to me. “If I were imprisoned for a crime I hadn’t committed,” he said “I suppose I’d be bitter too.”

It wasn’t until Evelyn Wells wrote Fremont’s biography after his death that I knew what Mooney’s letters contained: “If you had kept your old nose out of my business, I’d been out of here long ago.”

Two or three years before Fremont died William Randolph Hearst asked him to write his biography, but he tried to avoid the assignment. He didn’t like to explain that he had angina pectoris.

Mr. Hearst insisted by telephone and letter and Fremont said that I must do it.

I told him that I couldn’t. It would be like writing the biography of Napoleon or Caesar in their lifetime and expect them to be pleased with it.

I’d written several novels, but the Hearst biography scared me to death. The book, however, had to be written and I had to do it. Writing “William Randolph Hearst, American” was a great experience. We went to San Simeon, stood on the terrace, looked at sea and mountains, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

At dinner I usually sat next to Mr. Hearst, plying him with questions about his life.

Although I did this many times I never felt that I understood more than one facet of that complex genius, and I don’t believe anyone else did.

I was assisted in writing the San Simeon chapters by architect Julia Morgan, who built the castle and guest house.

Devoted To Pet

One of Fremont’s great devotions was to his dog, Friend, a puppy from the pond, with blazing black eyes, a white face and mischievous wagging bob tail.

We all fed Friend except Fremont and yet the dog’s supreme devotion was to his master.

When about 9 years old, he went down to the valley for his last fight. Returning, he walked around the dining room and dropped dead.

Fremont said Friend’s death was his greatest sorrow since his mother’s passing.

Until then, he had wished to be cremated, but after we buried Friend in the forest, he said he would like to be placed near him.

There he was laid after we attended a camellia show at Sacramento. While waiting for us to see the camellias he had half- completed an article on Montaigne.

Driving home, angina pectoris attacked and Fremont slumped at the wheel.

Montaigne’s work, one page torn out by the puppy, lies atop his set of Dickens on his bedside table and they have been undisturbed for 20 years.

No formal headstone marks his resting place, but roses have been brought by friends from all over the world to decorate his grave.

When I flew to London for the Coronation, the last thing I did before enplaning for home was to drive down to Dickens’ Gadshill, near Rochester, sit in Dickens’ chair, and pick up a rock in the garden, to place with the others bordering Fremont’s grave.

San Francisco, October 10, 1955

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