Bay Farm Pioneer Invested in East End Homes

Benajah Benedict

Alameda pioneer Benajah Benedict lived on Bay Farm Island — where he cultivated crops — for almost 50 years. He invested some of his profits in real estate. He had three homes built on Jackson Street — including one currently on the market. According to Alameda Museum Curator George Gunn, records do not reflect the names of the architects or builders for these Queen Anne-style, high-basement homes. Gunn writes that the home at 2853 Jackson St. was known to be standing in 1888 and that Benedict had the home at 2857 built in 1895; and the home currently on the market at 2855, in 1896. 

Benedict was a New Englander, born in Addison, Vt., in 1825. His family moved to New York when he was a youngster. At age 27, he decided to try his luck in California’s fabled gold fields. He sailed around Cape Horn aboard the barkentine Southerner and arrived in San Francisco on Oct. 22, 1852. He enjoyed little success mining gold and returned to San Francisco, where he stayed until Jan. 11, 1853. Benedict first moved to Union City where he took up farming. He then decided to move to Bay Farm Island and by October was farming land he leased from fellow Vermonter Asoph Cleveland.

Benedict settled in and made his living growing asparagus and hops. On Feb. 19, 1857, he married the widow Persis Hamlin. The couple raised the children from her first marriage, Ralph and Annie.  Records taken in 1876 list Benajah as one of the largest property owners in Alameda County. The 1880 federal census shows the couple still living on Bay Farm Island. 

Sometime in 1882, Benajah sat down with the publishers of the History of Alameda County. The book was published the following year with his biography and his portrait, a sketch of his likeness. In 1888 and again in 1895 and 1896, Persis and Benajah invested in the three homes on Jackson Street. 

Persis passed away in January 1900. Benajah followed her two years later. They both rest in San Lorenzo Pioneer Memorial Park.

Gunn informs us that a second person of some interest also invested his money in property on the 2800 block of Jackson Street. Washburne R. Andrus, who served as Oakland’s mayor from 1878 to 1880, owned two homes just across Jackson Street from the Benedicts’ investment property. 

Andrus suffered from blindness at the end of his life and likely lived out his days at either 2850 or 2852 Jackson St. He rests at Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery.

For more on the home for sale, call Guy Blume at 846-4687.