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Otis B Moorhead: Early Family History

An abbreviated historical sketch of the Moorhead family of San Francisco, CA ~ Chris Benson, 2018


A child of industry

Emery Clarence Moorhead left Pennsylvania in 1880  at age 18, and made his way to the west coast.

In 1890, he would marry Lona Larson, and they then moved to San Francisco by 1892.

On the 9th of January, 1893, Otis Burnham Moorhead was born in San Francisco, California. 

Moorhead Family Tree (Author: Chris Benson)

I suspect that Otis, who always used his initials, O.B.; was known to his friends as 'Obie'.

Young Obie was just 6yrs old when his father, an accountant of no particular acclaim, died suddenly on 20-Apr-1899. How his father died is unclear, but it was certainly life changing for Obie.

San Francisco was booming at the turn of the century, and in 1900, Lona Moorhead appears remarried to a local printer, Isador Jacobs; and is listed as a 'Milliner'.

It is curious then, to this author, that she is also listed as 'Mrs. Lona Jacobs, Milliner,  417 3rd st., San Francisco' in the 1898 phone directory...remember, Emery didnt die until 1899...this period seems complicated at best.


Machine shop messenger

Obie would grow up with access to machinery, surely in and out of his step-father's printing presses, and later running errands between local businesses in downtown San Francisco. It is with no doubt that we can suggest Obie was a kid 'raised in the wild'.

This independence leads 'Otis B. Moorhead' to be listed, at age 14, in the San Francisco Directory as Messenger, Pacific Hardware & Steel Co. The following year, he is listed there as clerk.

At the time of the 1910 US Federal Census, Obie is a 'Hardware man' still living with his parents at 

2767 McAllister St., one block from Golden Gate park. I've walked this street, and indeed can still feel the spirit of 1910 alive in the architecture. A stoop leads to a basement where I imagine ideas were hatched, plans schemed.

In 1912, O.B. married Barbara Hoffel, and moved to 1719 9th St., Oakland, CA, an address now vanished, the lot lines redrawn, the original house long gone.

1914 would prove to be a huge year for Moorhead, going from 'Engraver' (working for his step-father), to a Radio Inspector, Marconi Wireless working for Major Allen Forbes. 


Many of the early San Francisco radio pioneers were allied to the U.S. Navy efforts on the west coast. This was before anyone was broadcasting more than dots and dashes, and spark coils were king.


Continue to 'Moorhead: Navy Connections'