Auspicious Beginnings for Ursula

Ursula's parents' wedding announcement

Ursula’s parents, Clara Uphoff and Alfred D. Cheshire, wed on December 27, 1899

Granfather Uphoff's signature on mining certificate

A cancelled certificate from the Yosemite Quartz Mining Company, showing the signature of Ursula’s grandfather, Herman Uphoff (lower left)

Wow! I decided to look up Ursula’s mother, né Clara Uphoff, and found this great announcement of her impending marriage to Alfred D. Cheshire, Ursula’s father. Published in the San Francisco Call, it gives us several clues about Ursula’s family.

Her mother hailed from Grass Valley, a northern Californian city born of the California Gold Rush. It is home to the Empire Mine, “one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California,” according to California State Parks, of which it is now part. The wedding announcement tells us Clara’s father, Herman Uphoff—Ursula’s grandfather—was a mine owner and merchant. In fact, he was a director and served as president of the Yosemite Quartz Mining Company, incorporated in 1883. He also owned a saloon at one time, as I learned from an 1885 article in the Daily Alta California about a robbery there.

The wedding announcement doesn’t tell us much about Ursula’s father, Alfred, but I discovered a newspaper clipping about him in the antique album. According to this article, about which I will reveal more in a later post, Alfred was born in Hamilton, Canada and, “when a mere youth,” immigrated to the United States, first locating in Michigan. He then:

“…learned the trade of cabinet maker, becoming an expert. He located in San Francisco twenty-three years ago [1890], soon thereafter engaging in the undertaking business. He built up a big business through painstaking attention to duty and about 10 years ago [1903] sold out in splendid advantage.”

This newspaper ad appeared in the "San Francisco Call" in 1893. By 1899, Ursula's father was not just manager, but also president of the California Undertaking Company. He sold the business in 1903 at "splendid advantage."

This newspaper ad appeared in the “San Francisco Call” in 1893. By 1899, Ursula’s father was not just manager, but also president of the California Undertaking Company. He sold the business in 1903 at “splendid advantage.”

At that time, Ursula would have been between 6 months and 18 months old. (Yes, I found out her birth date! Will share in the next post.) With her mother’s family’s probable wealth and her father’s profits from the sale of his business, it would seem Ursula started life with certain financial advantages that would later allow her to attend the Egan School of Drama and pursue her studies in acting, dancing, singing and fencing.