1 Hale Ranch.
2 From Russian Hill to Los Altos Hills, the Catton House. --Click
here for a separate file
the early settlers who flocked to San Francisco when the United
States claimed California in 1846 were two brothers from Utica,
New York, Moses Charles Ellis and Alfred J. Ellis.
Alfred J. arrived San Francisco in 1847 and established a boarding
house. According to family lore, as his boarders slept he took
off the blankets he had rented for 50 cents and charged $5.00
in the morning for "losing" them. He was also a member
of the State Constitutional Convention of 1849, an alderman, and
When surveyor Jasper O'Farrell laid out a new downtown grid in
1848, he named one of the new east-west streets after Ellis. Ellis
Street runs today from Market out through the Western Addition.
Alfred J. also had a link with San Francisco's picturesque Russian
Hill, on which today's Hyde Street Cable Car passes. When boarders
complained of bad-tasting whiskey, Alfred J. said to check the
well water with which it was mixed. In the well was the dead body
of a Russian sailor. Alfred J. had the body buried on the hill
behind his property, which was called Russian Hill for being the
burial spot of Russian sailors and soldiers before the Gold Rush
(the story is questionable, however).
Alfred J. brought his brother Moses Charles out west. Moses Charles
prospered, growing and processing wheat, running a steamboat line
on the Sacramento River, establishing Santa Clara County's first
commercial fruit-drying operation the Sunnyvale Fruit Drying Company,
and incidentally fathering 17 children. He was a member of San
Francisco's Committee of Vigilance ("Vigilantes"), organized
to deal with criminals whom the legal authorities were unable
or unwilling to prosecute.
A great-grandson of Moses Charles was Dr. Joseph Catton, a psychiatrist
and medical legal expert who testified in notable California criminal
trials. A son of Dr. Joseph Catton was Moses Charles Ellis Catton
- named for his great-great grandfather. In 1952 Ellis, as he
was called, purchased a parcel off Magdalena Avenue, Los Altos
Hills, which had been part of the Hale Ranch, an enormous property
settled by Joseph Hale in the late 19th century.
Hale built a house and barn - or carriage house - for a caretaker
named Wright. When Ellis Catton bought the property, he remodeled
the barn into a home for his family. Eliminating a stairway and
groom's loft, he added a bay window, changed the tack room into
a bedroom, and remodeled a horse stall for a bedroom. He removed
the thick redwood boards from the carriage floor and installed
them in the ceiling, which is angled to give a cathedral effect.
For more information please call Lana at 650-776-9226.