Henry Mayo Newhall

Born: 1825

Died: 1882   – He was 56 years old when he died.

It isn’t often that you start the beginning of a journey at the end, but I thought it was important for you to get a sense of who Henry Mayo Newhall really was right from the beginning.   From everything I ever read about him, he was truly the definition of a gentleman in every way.

Ruth Newhall writes in her book, “A California Legend”, about the eulogies written about him after his death at such a young age as being “flowery and abundant.”  Simply put he was a man of integrity in so many areas of his life.  He was a devoted to his family, a great husband, a great father, a great business man, an adventurer and a man of true charity.

But, with all that said, he was also a fierce competitor and was never to be under estimated.  He was focused and driven.  Being a true visionary, he was a self-made millionaire in his 30’s.  So, let’s look at the reality of that number.  If you compare a million dollars in 1850 dollars to dollars of today, that is roughly 30 million dollars he was worth at the age of 35 starting from 0 at the age of 20.

In everything I read about him while doing my research, I got a sense of wanting to really know this man.  He was truly extraordinary.  As silly as it sounds, I have a bit of angst as I write this that I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him and really get to know him.    So, I will have to settle for continuing my research into his legacy and passing along his amazing story to people, who like me, are interested in truly unique men and women of history.

The Estates of Henry Mayo Newhall

334 Beale Street

San Francisco, CA

Built 1852

1299 Van Ness Avenue

San Francisco, CA

Built 1862

 Sarah Ann White Newhall

Born: 1829

Died: 1858  –  She was 29 years old when she died.

When Henry moved his company, Newhall and Baker, Auctioneers, to Nashville, TN from Pulaski, GA he met and shortly thereafter, married Sarah Ann White from Clarksville, TN. Within just a few weeks of being married, Henry left Sarah Ann at home with her family and went off to find his fortune in the gold rush of 1850.

Two years later, in 1852 missing her husband, the brave Sarah Ann decided on her own, unbeknownst to Henry, to embark upon the same journey via Panama to get to San Francisco where Henry was living.

At the exact same time, which I find to be amazing, Henry, missing his wife, left Henry Gregory, his right-hand man, in charge of all his business enterprises and decided to return to TN to get her and bring her to the new magnificent home he built at 334 Beale St in San Francisco.

While they were in Panama, just by happenstance, the ran into each other, not having any idea the other was there. That was pure luck! I really found that to be incredible for a lot of reasons, one that they actually found each other and how brave Sarah Ann had to be to venture out, on her own, in that day and age! Wow… is all I can say!

Henry, instead of going back to San Francisco, decided that he wanted to take Sarah Ann to meet his family in Saugus, MA. From there they went to New York. Henry made connections with vendors to supply goods to his Auction business in San Francisco. Then the two of them traveled back through Panama to get to their new home in  San Francisco.

In 1853 Sarah’s family, including her mother Jane, father William and 2 sisters, Margery and Margaret were invited out by Henry and Sarah Ann to join them in the luxury Henry was able to provide.  They left their home in TN and went to live permanently with the Newhall’s in their new home. They arrived just in time to be there when Henry and Sarah’s first son, Henry Gregory Newhall was born.

Two years after that, in 1855 their second son, William Mayo Newhall was born. One year later, in 1856, their third son, Edwin White Newhall was born. With the family getting larger, Henry built a new home to accommodate them all at 1299 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

Tragically, in 1858 at the age of 29, Sarah Ann, pregnant with her fourth child, died along with her newborn son in childbirth. They were buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco.

Sarah, along with the rest of the family were moved to Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma when Laurel Hill Cemetery was closed.

Margaret Jane White Newhall

Born: 1831

Died: 1900  –  She was 69 years old when she died.

Margaret was Sarah Ann White Newhall’s younger sister. Sarah invited her family to come live with them when she moved to San Francisco with Henry in 1852. Margaret helped Sarah with the children until Sarah’s untimely death at the age of 29. Margaret then took over complete care of her sister’s 3 boys. A year later, in 1859 Henry and Margaret were married.

In 1860, Margaret presented Henry with his 4th son, Walter Scott Newhall and then in 1863 his 5th son, George Almer Newhall.

Margaret enjoyed a very comfortable life in “high society” with Henry until his death in 1882. He left her a very rich widow. Margaret never remarried. She lived in the palatial estate Henry built at 1299 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco until the time of her death in 1900 at the age of 69.

When she died, her estate was set up in the White Investment Company and equal stock was issued to each of the five sons.

May They Rest In Peace

Newhall Family Headstones

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park

Newhall Family Burial Site - 2

Henry Mayo Newhall

Sarah Ann White Newhall

Margaret Jane White Newhall

Margaret's Tombstone

Henry Gregory Newhall

William Mayo Newhall

Edwin White Newhall

Walter Scott Newhall

George Almer Newhall

A Bit of Hidden History

The Story of Laurel Hill Cemetery

Upon the death of Henry’s first wife, Sarah Ann, he chose the Laurel Hill Cemetery to bury her.  He also set up burial sites for his entire family which included Sarah Ann’s mother, father and two sisters. 

Laurel Hill Cemetery was established in 1854.  It was originally called Lone Mountain Cemetery.  Because it was beautiful with its rolling hills, rambling pathways, grassy knolls and spectacular gardens, before the creation of Golden Gate Park, Laurel Hill was a favorite spot for picnics, and family get togethers. In 1867 the name was changed to Laurel Hill, after the famous first “garden” cemetery in Philadelphia “Laurel Hill”.  Laurel Hill was known for its prestigious burials including civic and military leaders, inventors, artists and eleven United States Senators.

 In 1900, because of overcrowding and vandalism, Mayor James D. Phelan, the 25th Mayor of San Francisco, signed an order prohibiting the burial of the dead within city limits.  Also, as development expanded in the city, the Inner Richmond area where the cemetery was located, was seen as prime real estate for housing.

In 1913 the Board of Supervisors ordered all cemeteries closed and the bodies removed, but the city voters overturned the orders.  Eventually the Supervisors successfully passed the ordinance in 1937. 

Upon its closing, the relocation site for the cemetery was Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, CA.  Inside Cypress Lawn there was a special section called Laurel Hill Mound.  Anyone who wanted to preserve their loved ones could re-create their sites on Laurel Hill Mound.   

The vast majority of the bodies that went unclaimed were moved into mass gravesites.   The monuments and tombstones left behind after 90 days were used for sea wall construction at Aquatic Park, creating a breakwater at the Marina and erosion control at Ocean Beach. 

Today, a building that was built upon the cemetery in 1953 for the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company is used as the Laurel Hill campus for the University of California at San Francisco.  Also located on the site is Kaiser Permanente Hospital.  

The Newhall family recreated their family plot in a lovely setting at Cypress Lawn’s Laurel Hill Mound.  The entire first and second generation Newhall’s are buried on the site.

Henry Mayo Newhall


California Spirit of the Times and Underwriters’ Journal (newspaper)
San Francisco, CA  |  Saturday, March 18, 1882

H.M. NEWHALL, one of San Francisco’s oldest and most respected citizens, died in this city on Monday last, and was buried on Wednesday. He was in the 57th year of his age, was born in Saugus, Mass., May 23, 1825[1].

When thirteen years of age he left Saugus to seek his fortune. He first went to sea; and in the capacity of a ship’s boy, he sailed to the East Indies. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he found work in one of the largest auction houses of that city, Myers, Claghorn & Co. From there he removed to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was engaged in the auction business until 1849, when he came to California July 6th, 1850.

After his arrival, he went to the mines, but subsequently returned to this city and entered into the auction business, locating his place on Jackson Street, with A. J. Hall, under the name of Newhall & Hall. The firm subsequently changed to Newhall, Gregory & Co., then Newhall, Gregory & Claghorn, and then H. M. Newhall & Co.

Mr. Newhall was prominently brought before the public in 1865, when he became interested in the San Francisco and San Jose Railroad Company, which at that time was in a state of financial confusion. He threw all his energy into the work, and brought the work to a successful conclusion. He was elected President of the Board of Directors, which position he filled for four years, when the road was sold to its present owners. While President of the Board, he caused the extension of the road to Gilroy.

After retiring from the railroad business, Mr. Newhall turned his attention to ranches, and raising stock, and became one of largest land-owners in the State, owning the Piejo and San Magualito ranches in Monterey County, the Suey ranch in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and the San Francisco ranch in Los Angeles County. The town of Newhall, which is twenty-six miles from Los Angeles, was laid out on the latter ranch. Mr. Newhall left three sons by his first wife and two sons by his second wife.

On the first of January, 1881, Mr. Newhall retired from the firm in favor of his sons, H.G. Newhall and Edward W. Newhall, who associated with P. Van Pelt under the firm of Newhall’s Sons & Co.

The deceased was a member of the California Commandery, Knights Templar, and Oriental Lodge, No. 144, F. A. M.; also a member of the Territorial Pioneers, the Academy of Sciences and the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. Mr. Newhall, during his life, was esteemed for his many kind qualities of hand and heart. There was none so ready to relieve distress nor more seriously generously open to the deserving needy. His character commanded respect equally as a useful citizen or a good man.

This article is courtesy of SCV Historical Society.

1. H.M. Newhall’s birth date is commonly listed as May 13, 1825.


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