1912: Road Rage over the hill in San Mateo (2)

I wrote this in 2001.

Prominent oil executive’s son collides with irate chauffeur

After hearing testimony fro Captain Barneson, his son, Harold, and Gallois, chauffeur James Irving pled guilty to speeding within the city limits and was fined $15 by San Mateo’s City Recorder.

But James Irving had countercharged Harold Barneson with breaking the county’s speed laws, and this case was tried before a jury in Justice of the Peace H.W. Lampkin’s Redwood City courtroom.

The socially prominent Barneson and Gallois families attracted many local spectators to the legal proceeding. There was no shortage of stylish young ladies in the audience whose loyalties to Harold were evident.

Enlivening the proceedings was the testimony of Captain Barneson, who described the chauffeur as a “pinhead,” but was quickly admonished by Justice Lampkin, who advised the witness to hold his opinions and simply answer the questions.

The packed courtroom buzzed with excitement, then fell silent as the jury’s verdict was read. Harol Barneson was acquitted and the courtroom exploded with applause.

But the case was not over for the chauffeur. He pled guilty to going around corners without regard to the rules of the road. Justice Lampkin, displaying remarkable judicial restraint, suspended the additional fine, remarking that many had been guilty of similar offenses.

The final accounting showed that Captain Barneson, besides landing the big upper cut, was instrumental in having Irving fined $15 for speeding and $5 for not following the rules of the road in going around a corner. Captain Barneson also scored a technical victory in the acquittal of his son on the speeding charge.

1912 was a very good year for Captain Barneson. By then, he had earned the reputation as one of the largest–if not the largest–individual owners of oil properties in California.

Although his varied business interests were rooted on dry land, Captain Barneson would much sooner have been at sea. He was established as one of the country’s leading yachtsmen. While in New York he purchased the handsome 85-foot schooner, Edris, outfitted with a Craig engine that enabled the vessel to move at about eight knots.

Bringing the Edris to her home berth in San Francisco required sailing around the Horn–a dangerous and challenging voyage.

Arriving in San Francisco safe and sound, Captain Barneson made a wager with a man named Commodore Mitchell that he could beat the commodore’s Yankee Girl in a race from Long Beach to Coronado Beach, with the loser paying for a $1000 dinner at the Hotel Del Coronado.

On the day of the yacht race, a 20 -mph breeze churned the sea. Following the yachts along the seashore were several automobiles filled with the socially prominent from the Peninsula and Los Angeles. One of the automobiles was equipped with a wireless apparatus enabling the occupants to communicate with the yachts throughout the race.

While Commodore Mitchell chose to stick close to the shore, seaman’s luck was with Captain Barneson, who took an outside course and won the race by half-an-hour.

A year later, now commodore of the old San Francisco Yacht Club, Barneson took over responsibility for major yacht races, including the Presidential Cup featured at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

(Part 3 coming)

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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