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1906 earthquake surprised Madera’s sheriff

For The Madera Tribune

Madera County Sheriff John Jones had a ringside view of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.


Sheriff John Jones fought Madera County’s criminals with the best of them. He chased the killer of Jim Bethel. He caught Jack Sweet, the stage coach bandit, and he put Madera County’s first treasurer, William Amer, in jail for embezzlement.

None of these cases, however, raised his blood pressure as much as that sheriffs’ convention in San Jose in 1906. As fate would have it, his attendance there put him right in the middle of the San Francisco earthquake at 5:00 on the morning of April 18.

Sheriff Jones traveled to the convention with Sheriff Swan of Merced County and Sheriff Graves of Calaveras County. The convention was held in the St. James Hotel, and the three lawmen were sharing a room there. On Wednesday morning at five o’clock, they were rolled out of their beds by waving walls. As Jones put it, “I saw the bricks falling, and I told Sheriff Swan that if we went outside we would be killed, and he advised that we stay where we were.”


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