Arriving in San Diego in the mid-1890s, Mary Munroe surveyed the scene. Some people lived north of the train station in a village called Old Town, while others lived near the harbor at New San Diego, where business was conducted.

People of color were beginning to move into Sherman Heights and Golden Hill. There were colored Civil War veterans who lived in Golden Hill — Robert Tillman and Alexander Luckett and his family. There was another colored man who owned the Palm Nursery. Many colored people lived downtown — particularly the longshoremen, washerwomen, day laborers, teamsters, barbers, and grocers. A colored watchmaker from Georgia named Meadows was planning a store on Fifth Avenue.

Then there was the East End. It was the area adjacent to where her brother had gone to live and where Solomon Johnson had moved with his family. The East End was considered one of the better areas to live, not only because it was close to the business center of New San Diego, but because people took care to construct homes that would last.

Mary Munroe decided to go into service and worked for Colonel Kastle, who lived in the East End at 35 18th Street. After she worked for him for a year, she saved enough money to rent a cottage farther out. It was on Main, between 30th and 31st.

In the summer of 1897, Mary Munroe, 75 years old, retired to her cottage on Main Street. She could not hear well now and relied on her vision. But she became more and more desperate after she left employment. Her brother, George, was nearby, and she asked him for money, for she was unable to feed herself. He explained to her that he could not help.

On November 14, as she was walking along National Avenue, she started to step out over the electric-car tracks when she was struck with a great force from behind. She lived on for a few moments, but then the darkness descended, and her troubles were over.


The following is a partial transcript of Coroner’s Inquest No. 524. (In official records and newspaper articles, Mary Munroe’s name is sometimes spelled “Monroe.”) The inquest was conducted on November 16, 1897. Ten jurors were present. The coroner, Theo. F. Johnson, asked the jurors to view the body, after which questioning of the witnesses began.

THE CORONER: Now if you will just come this way and view the body.

You see the left leg is severed at the knee. This hip (left) has been struck; evidently the car struck her hip. There is no other injury that I find, above that.

J. D. ROGERS, being first duly sworn by the coroner, testifies.

BY THE CORONER:

Q. What is your name?

A. Rogers, — J. D.

Q. What is your occupation?

A. I am a motorman.

Q. By whom are you employed?

A. The San Diego Electric Railway.

Q. Were you so employed last Sunday?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Employed by them — you were in their employ?

A. Yes sir.

Q. How long have you been in their employ?

A. About seven months.

Q. Have you occupied the position of motorman all that time?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Have you ever acted as a motorman before that time?

A. Yes sir.

Q. How long have you had experience as a motorman?

A. It is between thirteen and fourteen months that I have run a car altogether.

Q. Where were you employed before working for them?

A. For the Citizens Traction Company.

Q. In this city?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Have you had any experience in running an electric car, except as motorman?

A. No sir, only as motorman.

Q. Have you ever had an accident previous to this one that you had Sunday?

A. No sir, I never did.

Q. What is your line now, from where do you run and to where?

A. I am an extra, you see, I run on any line that there is a place open for me. I was on Fifth and H that day. I have been running on Fifth and H now every day this month; that is on the night run, make my noon relief and then go on at 5:30 at Fifth and D streets.

Q. You go on at Fifth and D streets?

A. Yes sir.

Q. From where does that car run and to where?

A. It runs from upper Fifth to 31st street.

Q. What is the distance between those two points?

A. Well, I think it is about five miles.

Q. What is your time for making the run?

A. Forty minutes, an hour and twenty minutes the round trip.

Q. At what time did you go on on Sunday?

A. At 5:30.

Q. This was your first run for the day?

A. Yes sir.

Q. You had an accident that run?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Where did that accident occur?

A. Well, it was about 85 or 90 feet, between 85 and 90 feet on the other side of 30th street.

Q. On what street?

A. On National Avenue.

Q. Will you tell the jury about the accident?

A. Well, just before I got to 30th street I sounded my gong. I shut my current off, I was expecting to stop for a passenger; we had some seven or eight passengers, and it is something we hardly ever do is to pass 30th street without making a stop. Just as soon as I saw I didn’t get no bell I turned my current on, just as soon as I passed 30th street. This lady was just in the act of stepping over the rail when I seen her. She was kind of going the way I was, coming up to the track, and just stepped right in and made three steps when I struck her. Just as soon as I seen her I hollered at her, grabbed my handle, reversed my car, and just as I reversed I struck her.

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