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Charles William Frederick "Fred" Perle
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Birth: Jul. 9, 1874
Wisconsin, USA
Death: Mar. 20, 1924
San Francisco County
California, USA

From the San Francisco Bulletin, March 16, 1923:


They Have Found Contentment In Driftwood Home

Stories Of Buried Treasure, San Francisco, With Romances Of Past Days And Remembrances Of Man's Life, Told By Island Dweller


By Dolores Waldorf

A world of many men and many moods has sailed by the windows of Fred Perle's gray driftwood house on the western cliffs of Angel Island. For more than forty years he has lived there, seeing only the beauty of the city across the water; the clang of streetcar and crash of traffic silenced by the booming of the surf on the bay.

A city's contour has changed before his eyes. San Francisco´s skyline, sprawled on its seven hills, has lifted in blocks of wood and brick, vanished in leaping flames, and taken shape again as the skeletons of office buildings and skyscrapers crept up into the air.

The adventurous boy of thirty years ago, tempted by the call of the city, left his father's cattle to roam unwatched on the steep slopes of the island, and hurried to join the gay whirl of the times. The romance of gold led him to foreign lands. But the gray haired man of today sits in the bay window with his wife and their adopted aunt when the day's work is done, content to watch the world go by to the tune of bell and horn and whistle and the sighing of the wind.


"I haven't much, but I envy no man." said Perle, who is a son of James F. Perle, the first settler on Angel Island. "I'm happy here with 'mother' and 'auntie,' and my girl, Emelie. Rockefeller with all his millions could not buy one day from my life. I can sit here and watch the world in all its beauty, although I know how rotten and evil it is underneath."

"Here everything is quiet and happy. Auntie has her chickens and goats. Mother has her garden. Emelie is in school. I have my work at the pumping station. But at night we can all sit down at the window to eat and watch the biggest show of all, a colored moving picture that can't be equaled anywhere."

James Perle was a cattle rancher in the Sonoma country. Forty years ago he left the "big ranch" in charge of the vaqueros and a foreman and brought his family down to Angel Island, where he took squatter's rights. The first ranch house was built on the site of the present East Garrison. It was originally a tiny gray cabin of driftwood, but as the years went by additions and lean-to's were built. About ten years later Perle, the son, moved to the western side of the island and built on the site of the present home. Twenty seven years ago he married "mother," a most contented little woman, who cannot understand why the city folks should talk of loneliness when they find her at her work in the gray house.


Fred Perle, the last of the Angel Island landowners, knows the island as no other man knows it. His brother ran away from home before the family migrated south from the land of the Hoopa Indians, and his sister married soon after they settled on the island. So the boy used to swing onto the back of his little brown cayuse and go riding over the slopes to Mount Ida, the pinnacle of Angel Island. There he would meet the Kershaw boys from Belvedere, the O'Donnells, the Wilsons, and the Muldoons. Their fathers were cattle owners, too, and they had herds to watch. But they found time to hunt deer on Angel Island and do a bit of digging for the buried treasure which was supposed to have been hidden away by the Alcalde Buena Ventura many years before.

According to the story, the city funds were buried on the present site of the quarantine station off Raccoon Straits. The Alcalde evidently expected to reclaim the gold later and continue on his journey south. Whether he did or not has never been discovered. Some say he never buried the money there. At any rate, Perle remembers the great holes left by gold diggers who had burrowed and tunneled into the earth until it was honeycombed.

School was a dreadful place to the boy. He played hooky frequently, but his father saw to it that the flag was run up each morning in time to catch old Captain Levy, who carried jute for San Quentin. Captain Levy had a crew of ex-convicts and piloted the only boat carrying passengers to the bay islands.

"I used to go to Lincoln School." said Perle as he focused the worn field glasses on the blue city beyond. "Guess I wasn't exactly a good scholar. Had a Jewish teacher once, who stayed out for the church holidays. She hired a substitute. I convinced the girl that I never came to school until 11 o'clock in the morning and that I had to leave at 2 in the afternoon. It worked for about three days. Then the regular teacher came back.

"I had a hard time in the courting days. Once when I was young and as foolish as most boys, I fell in love with an actress. She was with Ferris Hartman at the old Tivoli. I used to go to the shows all the time. I'm going again one of these days. It will be like old times. I wanted to be married in style, so I took the actress and some of our friends in a tug out beyond the heads. I had the preacher and everything, but the girl got seasick and didn't care for anything but home. So I got over that attack.

"When I was courting 'mother' I used to take the government boat over to the mainland, but one night I missed the last boat coming back to the island. I had to get back, and it cost me $25 to hire a tug to come across. But I kept on courting."

Angel Island was originally deeded to Antonio Osio by the Mexican governor, Michael Torino, who desired that Osio should rid it of the smugglers and pirates who had made it a haven and headquarters. In 1863, the United States government took it over and built a fort at Point Blunt. Gradually the squatters were ousted, but Perle was allowed to keep the home site on the western slope. He is chief engineer for the island pumping station. But that is his avocation. His vocation in life is to collect relics of wrecks and wars.

The house itself is built of wood that the waves have cast on the beach below. Gray planks and beams that have drifted in, mute relics of shattered ships and storms at sea. Room by room the house has grown. It is long and low. Perle says a body has to take a day's rations to make the journey from the glassed-in back bay to the front door.


Nestled away in the cove facing Alcatraz, the little gray home is protected from the howling winds of the ocean. On stormy nights the light from the bay window casts a warm gleam through the bleak darkness, as Perle and his little family sit by the fire, the silence broken by the wail of fog horns and the sleepy chirping of a colony of canary birds caged in one end of the bay window.

Perle's collection is a story of the man's interests. There are a pair of horns, once the armament of a steer that escaped on the San Francisco docks, dived into the bay, and swam to Angel Island. There is the skull of a baby whale that picked a fight with a ferry boat and never fought again. It was washed ashore, and Perle set the skull in the garden, where it is now framed in clambering ivy. There are bits of printed cloth and charred paper that the hot winds carried to Angel Island when San Francisco was burning. There are the horns of the last deer on the island. Perle lassoed it one day and kept it for a pet until a wandering army doctor took a shot at it and brought sorrow to the gray house in the cove. A Spanish Bible more than 100 years old, a priceless watch set with 187 pearls, bolo knives, (missing word), arrow heads, spears, a shell that was fired from the "Oregon" during the battle at Santiago, and countless other relics are also treasured in the gray house.


But priceless in his mind are the memory pictures stored up as he and "mother" have stood in the bay window. There is the mirage where Lime Point loomed just over the flagpole by Emelie's playhouse, the spectacle of that morning when the exposition seemed to have been moved out opposite Alcatraz, the black night when the Rio De Janeiro went down, the morning they awoke to find a submarine beached below the house, another morning when they found a scow nosed in against the cliff, and the week San Francisco turned to flames and rolling smoke clouds.

Old Shag Rock left the vista in 1900 when it was blown up and wiped from the waters by Alcatraz. Perle misses the rock. In his mind he builds it again as he fills his pipe each evening by the window. As he watches the changing moods of the sunset and lowering night, he visions the vanished day when Alcatraz was not the battleship of stone and cement, when there were sand dunes beyond the ribbon known as Octavia Street, when Belvedere was a cattle ranch and great liners had not entered the bay. And as he watches the lights come on in the blue silhouette across the water, he dreams of the days to come, wondering what they will bring, what sights will be seen by the eyes of his little girl, Emelie, who will watch at the bay window some day just as James Perle did before his boy learned that the city meant far more to him when he could admire it from afar.
Family links: 
  Johan Frederick Perle (1841 - 1928)
  Amelia Perle (1844 - 1910)
  Isabella Brown Lyon Dods Perle (1867 - 1952)*
  Emilie F Perle Clarkson (1907 - 1950)*
  Otto Paul Perle (1866 - 1938)*
  Anna Perle Schilling (1868 - 1937)*
  Charles William Frederick Perle (1874 - 1924)
*Calculated relationship
Woodlawn Memorial Park
San Mateo County
California, USA
Plot: Section E, Lot 300, Grave 3
Created by: Kathleen Clemence
Record added: Oct 25, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 79278345
Charles William Frederick Fred Perle
Added by: Kathleen Clemence
Charles William Frederick Fred Perle
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Deborah L. Hagler Wong
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- J. Dods
 Added: May. 31, 2014

 Added: Oct. 29, 2011

 Added: Oct. 29, 2011
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