The Hearst Family

A club rich in history. 

George and Phoebe Hearst purchased part of the old Bernal Rancho located southwest of Pleasanton, which also contained the Alisal Rancheria with about 125 Ohlone Indians still residing there. The Hearsts chose the property for its beautiful setting, views, climate, and as a place to escape the cold and foggy summers of San Francisco. In 1886 the Hearsts moved to Washington D.C. when George became one of California's Senators. After his death in 1891, Phoebe moved back to the Bay Area to be near her son who was now running the Daily (later, San Francisco) Examiner that his father acquired in 1880. William had begun building a mansion at Castlewood without notifying his mother. When she discovered what he was doing, she took over the project and commissioned architect Julia Hunt Morgan to complete her Hacienda. (Ms. Morgan later became the architect for the Hearst Castle at San Simeon. The Hacienda was a 53-room palatial mansion of Mediterranean and California Mission architecture, which she named La Hacienda del Pozo de Verona. (see the link above for a full description of the mansion.)

Western Pacific railroad also built "Verona Station," a train stop in the valley so that the victorian elite and other guests could visit with Mrs. Hearst at the Hacienda. she would frequently host groups of 40 or 50 friends for a weekend. Over the years the list of guests included royalty from Europe, famous artists and composers, presidents, and movie stars. Phoebe was kind and generous to her Pleasanton neighbors, and hired many locals to work at the ranch.

After her death in 1919, her son, William Randolph Hearst, maintained the property for a few years, then sold it in 1924 to a group of businessmen who turned into a Country Club and added two golf courses, one on the hillside in 1926, then one on the valley in 1948. At that time, the acreage became known as Castlewood Country Club and lots in the area were sold primarily as second homes for wealthy residents of San Francisco and Oakland. Today, homes on "The Hill" are considered some of the prime real estate in the Pleasanton area.

The Hacienda served as the Castlewood Clubhouse from 1925 until it was destroyed by fire in 1969. A new clubhouse, built in the style of Mrs. Hearst’s Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, stands on the same spot preserving some of the original steps. Two other buildings on the estate still remain. The dressing rooms at the swimming pool and a two story structure were once used as apartments.

  • Phoebe Apperson Hearst
    • "California's Most Beloved Hostess"

      From her modest upbringing in Missouri, Phoebe Apperson Hearst (1843-1919) rose to millionaire status and was truly one of America's major female figures. Her wealth was amassed from the abilities of her husband, George Hearst, to understand the potentials of mines and to invest heavily in those he assessed would produce results. At his death on February 28, 1891, her wealth was estimated at $250 million, a staggering sum in those days. George, who was 20 years her senior, was also from Missouri. In 1850 he went off to the gold mining fields in California and eventually made it big. He came home to Missouri in 1862 to care for his dying mother, dated and married Phoebe Apperson and returned to California. Phoebe raised her son William Randolph Hearst, took care of her grandchildren, and in her spare time funded and supported the University of California and Mills College.

      In her paper, "Phoebe Apperson Hearst's 'Gospel of wealth,' 1883-1901," Alexandra M. Nickless, a member of the Department of Social Science at City College of San Francisco, reports that the U.S. Senate recognized Phoebe Hearst and Andrew Carnegie as "exemplars of American Philanthropy." Senator Johathan Prentiss Dolliver of Iowa declared that Hearst was "a new kind of millionaire," interested in the "good words and works of charity in the community in which she lived, and throughout all the cities of California." During this period in US History some call "Age of the Moguls," there was no IRS; no Federal Income Tax. Many of this country's wealthy lavished in "conspicuous consumption" and others focused philanthropic issues. Some could do both. Phoebe's "gospel" was to help build a foundation of education to ensure the future of the country.

      Her accomplishments and contributions included:
      • First woman appointed to the Board of Regents, University of California.
      • Provided Scholarships for University of California Women students.
      • Set up a seamstress business in Berkeley to house and provide jobs for University female students.
      • A major factor in the foundation of what is now the PTA.
      • Established the California Model Kindergarten.
      • She funded and built Kindergarten buildings in San Francisco.
      • Established the Pacific Model Training School for Kindergartners.
      • Established three independent Kindergartens in Washington D.C.
      • Provided homes for teachers, assistants, and students.
      • Established a training school for African American Kindergarten teachers in Washington D.C.
      • Established "free" libraries in mining cities.
      • Funded the installation of electricity at Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello.
  • George Hearst
    • George Hearst was born in 1821 to pioneer farmers in Franklin County, Missouri. Farm life was hard and demanded most of the families efforts to be focused on the production of food. He received very little formal schooling but was an avid reader and quick learner. In 1846, when George was just 25, his father died leaving him responsible for the $10,000 debt, ($236,000 in 2005 dollars) his family had accumulated. George improved the profitability of the farm, opened a store in town, and leased two lead mines.[i]
      His interest in mining was aroused as a 15 year old. Always helping his father around the farm, they used to drive hogs down to some Frenchmen who were operating a smelter near them. As George writes in his autobiography, "The Frenchmen used to mine in the little shallow diggings and as soon as they got out a few hundred pounds of ore they would sell it... We had tables, and beds and chairs and that was about all, but these people had things which they brought from France which was very beautiful I thought... I naturally saw that they had a good deal of money. I think that was what induced me to go into mining."[ii]

      His knack for mining and success in mining production lead to the local native American’s bestowing on him the name, “the boy the earth talked to.” By January, 1848 George had paid off the entire debt and was now running a profitable operation. That same year, George Marshall discovered gold at Coloma, California.

      When he was satisfied his mother and sister were financially secure, in 1849 George headed to California with his cousins the Clarks to try their luck at gold mining. At first they had little success, but when they moved up to the Grass Valley where a quartz strike at Gold Hill was made they hit a gold bearing quartz ledge. Because of his experience in lead mining, George understood how to extract the gold efficiently from the quartz giving him an edge over other miners. Very quickly they became the experts at mining in the gold rush era and discovered mines then sold them for a quick profit. In 1857 they located the rich La Compton mine near Nevada City.

      In 1859 word came around that silver was discovered in Nevada, then called the western Utah Territory. Hearst sold his interest in the Compton mine an purchased 1/6th interest in the Opher Mine. Opher later became Silver City, then Virginia City. Hearst focused his interests on developing a process to separate silver from gold. The mine became very productive setting off the “Washoe Rush.” With gold becoming scarce in California miners literally closed up shop and headed for Nevada for the “Comstock Lode.” Stock in the mine sold for as high as $1,200 per share, or about $30,000 in today’s money.

      The following year, 1860, George, still single and now 39 years old, headed back to Missouri to be by the bedside of his ailing mother who later died. While in Missouri, he became more closely acquainted with a young neighbor girl, Phoebe Elizabeth Apperson who was 20 years his junior and a woman who would later be described by Alexander M. Nickless as, “The Most Powerful Woman in California,”[iii]. Her father, Randolph Walker Apperson was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and instilled in his daughter ambition and reverence for the Bible and a purpose “to do.” These early lessons would follow Phoebe the rest of her life.

      To the displeasure of Phoebe’s family, the couple eloped and married before moving to California where George continued to pursue his mining interests. His investments in mines extended from California to Nevada, Utah, South Dakota and even Mexico. In the Black Hills of South Dakota he purchased the Homestake Mine in 1877 and applied his skills at extracting its ore. The mine became the leading producer of gold in the United States.

      In 1880, Hearst acquired what was once the Daily Democrat Press but had changed its name to The Examiner after it had been the target of rampaging citizens when Abraham Lincoln was assasinated. The paper's liberal views were thought to have been part of the effort to oust the President. There is no documentation on how Mr. Hearst purchased the paper and there has been much lore that he won it as pay off of a gambling debt. How or why he acquired it is unknown. However, his son William Randolph, then a student at Harvard, pleaded with his father to allow him to run it. In 1887 he gave the paper to William Randolph to operate and his success in journalism has consumed hundreds of pages of text and was the subject of the motion picture, Citizen Kane.

      [i] Wandering Lizard, On line Magazine
      [ii] Judith Robinson, "The Hearst's, An American Dynasty" pp 35-37
      [iii] Alexander M. Nickless, “Phoebe Apperson Hearst: The most Powerful Woman in California” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Davis, 1994)

  • William Randolph Hearst
    • William Randolph Hearst was born on April 29, 1863, in San Francisco, California, as the only child of George Hearst, a self-made multimillionaire miner and rancher, and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. In 1887, at 23, he became "Proprietor" of the San Francisco Examiner which his father, George Hearst, accepted as payment for a gambling debt. In 1903, Mr. Hearst married Millicent Willson in New York City. The couple had five sons together during their marriage: George, William Randolph Jr., John and twins Randolph and David. Hearst died in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Aug. 14, 1951, at age 88. He is interred at the Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California.