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The Humburg Family, Pioneers of Alamo

Sometimes early American pioneers get lost when people write about community beginnings. Much has been written about the Jones and Stones in Alamo, the Baldwins, Loves, and Woods in Danville and the Norris, Harlan and Glass families in San Ramon.

What about the Humburgs of Alamo? The first Contra Costa County history book in 1882 even misspelled the name as Hamburg. The Humburgs owned 700 acres in Alamo, including much of today’s downtown. Property at Alamo Square Drive and along Stone Valley Road continues to be in Humburg descendant hands. The family has been an important part of Alamo history since the 1850s, both as property owners and leaders.

Frederick Lorenz Humburg, born in Kessel, Germany in 1824 emigrated from Germany to New York in 1850, arrived via Panama for the gold fields and came to Alamo in 1858. A skilled harness maker, Humburg first worked the mines with the hope of instant riches as did all of California’s first adventurers. Then, he looked around and saw the possibility of a new life in the young state. From Germany, Maria Kornmann (1837-1918) came to Alamo to visit her sister who was married to Henry Hoffman, owner of the San Ramon (later Henry) Hotel in Alamo. We can imagine their meeting, both speaking German and both appreciating the lovely Alamo weather and many opportunities.

Maria and Frederick were married in Alamo in 1863 where he owned a harness-making business. After living in Alamo for 13 years, they returned to Germany. In 1879, the family came back, purchased a large ranch and settled here for good. Their children were August and Frederick L. Jr., both born in Alamo.

It was a small community and the Humburg family was linked in marriage to other well-known families, including the Stones from Alamo and the Olssons from San Ramon. Their son August (1870-1925) and Annie Alice Stone (1868-1939) were wed in 1893. August and Annie had two children: Friederiche (1894-1973) and Lorenz (1896-1945). Lorenz married Astrid Olsson (1896-1983) and the couple had two daughters, Norma (later Anderson) and Betty (later Overholtzer and Dunlap). Astrid’s brother Oscar was the County Supervisor for several years.

One classic Alamo “grandmother” picture, taken in 1910, shows Mary Ann Smith Jones, Maria Kornmann Humburg and Martha Smith Stone who, at the time of the picture, had outlived their respective spouses by many years: Mary Ann by 40 years {John Jones, d. 1870}, Maria by 24 years {Friederick Humburg, d. 1886} and Martha by 20 years {Albert Stone, d. 1890}.

The Humburg Family

August Humburg was a rancher and, in 1917, served as a trustee for the San Ramon Valley High School. His future daughter-in-law Astrid Olsson was in the first high school graduating class of 1914. After getting her teaching credential, Astrid taught in several locations and at Alamo

Grammar School. August enjoyed riding horseback and racing his trotting horse “Humburg Belle” at the track in Diablo. When he passed in 1925, the Daily Gazette praised him as “one of the influential and prominent farmers of that district.”

August built three homes near the center of downtown Alamo, one for him and his wife in 1893, one for his mother in 1897, and a second for his family in 1920 on a knoll along Highway 21 (razed in 1967 and replaced by the first Safeway). The knoll once belonged to John and Mary Ann Jones and had been the site of the first Alamo post office during the 1850s.

Annie Stone Humburg with children in front of their 1893 home

Annie Stone Humburg with children in front of their 1893 home

Rancher Lorenz Humburg became one of the County’s five squirrel inspectors and, as such, was well known to all of the ranchers and farmers in the San Ramon, Sycamore and Tassajara Valleys.  We may think they are cute today but, in the 1870s, a state law was passed declaring the ground squirrel a “public nuisance.”  Squirrel eradication was a major goal of the new California Granges in 1873 since all owners of property had to work together to control squirrel infestations.  One report in 1918 said that 3 pairs could, in three breeding seasons, produce 640 squirrels.

Here’s a Friederiche Humburg Jackson story. During World War II when soldiers came to the Henry Hotel for dances and were stationed at Camps Parks, San Ramon and Stoneman, Friederiche had an open invitation for soldiers to come to dinner. On Christmas Day 1943, her daughters picked up two officers who were hitchhiking and brought them back for Christmas dinner. The men were teachers at Camp San Ramon where courses were taught for young soldiers who needed literacy and other training. Both of them returned and wooed the sisters. Doris Jackson married Fred Kjelland in 1946 and Alice Jackson married Ken Hasbrouck in 1948.

Betty, Astrid, Norma and Lorenz Humburg, 1937

Betty, Astrid, Norma and Lorenz Humburg, 1937


The family owned property at the end of Miranda/Livorna Road (now Stonegate), around Stone Valley Road and in downtown Alamo on the east side of today’s Danville Blvd.  Part of the property was sold to change San Ramon Creek and new Stone Valley Road alignments when the I-680 freeway rights of way were acquired.  In 1962, the creek grading revealed a Native American presence of over 5000 years and a major archaeological dig (CCo-308) led by Dr. David Fredrickson took place. When the knoll was taken down, Indian remains and artifacts were also found (CCo-311).

Alamo’s Humburgs were involved in all aspects of the community, from being school trustees, ranchers, teachers, members of the Women of Woodcraft, the Alamo Women’s Club, and the Odd Fellows fraternal order (I.O.O.F.). They were active at the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches and founders of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. Descendants still live here today –a family worth remembering.