Frederick Bee

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Frederick Bee
A black-and-white, head-and-shoulders photographic portrait of an elderly Caucasian gentleman with greying hair and white mutton chop sideburns. He is smartly dressed in a dark suit jacket and white shirt with a Gladstone collar and Kentucky-style bowtie.
Frederick Bee photographed between 1879 and 1888
Frederick Alonzo Bee

(1825-09-09)September 9, 1825
DiedMay 26, 1892(1892-05-26) (aged 66)
SpouseCatherine Maxwell
  • Frank M. Bee
  • Willie Howard Bee

Frederick Alonzo Bee (傅列秘) was an early opponent of Anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States. He was a California Gold Rush pioneer, miner, merchant, manager of the Pony Express, builder of the telegraph over the Sierras, developer of Sausalito, California, lobbyist for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, official at the Chinese Consulate, and vineyardist near Martinez, California. Bee Street in Sausalito was named after him.[1] Bee was appointed as Consul by the Chinese government after he effectively represented the interests of the Chinese community in front of a Congressional committee and settled disputes in Chinatown. Bee acted in an official capacity to represent the interests of Chinese immigrants,[2] and appeared in federal court cases;[3] his efforts to preserve harmony were recognized by the Emperor of China.[4] October, 2015 Sierra Heritage magazine featured Frederick Bee in a 4-page article written by Lj Bottjer. Sherri Bergmann wrote an article for the January 22, 2018, Mountain Democrat.[5]

California Assemblymember Marc Levine authored a resolution to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of Frederick A. Bee.[6] New York Assembly member Ken Blankenbush authored a proclamation to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of Frederick A. Bee.[7]

Early life[edit]

Bee was one of eight children born in Clinton, Oneida County, New York, to John Bee and Mary (Wilson) Bee on September 9, 1825. Frederick Bee's parents had emigrated from Northumberland, England.

Family life[edit]

Bee's wife, Catherine Maxwell, was born on March 7, 1828, in Ballston Spa, NY, and died on August 18, 1889, in San Francisco, CA.[8][9]

Bee and his wife had two sons. Frank M. Bee was born on August 11, 1851, in New York, and died on June 22, 1895, in San Francisco.[9][10] Willie Howard Bee was born on December 20, 1853, in Placerville, California, and died on November 10, 1855, in Placerville.[11]

California Gold Rush[edit]

In late 1855, Bee had a successful mining operation employing 20 Chinese workers on Ledge Bar.[12]

Bee received 2,767 votes as an American Party candidate to be a member of the Assembly for El Dorado County in the election of 1856 but did not win the election.[13]

Telegraph and Pony Express[edit]

The Grapevine[edit]

In May, 1858, the Placerville and Humboldt Telegraph Company was formed, with Bee as one of the incorporators. The mission of the company was to build a telegraph from Placerville, California, to Carson Valley, Nevada Territory, to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.[14]

In September, 1858 the Placerville and Humboldt Telegraph Company incorporated and elected Bee as president.[15] George Chorpenning and his brother were the largest shareholders; Frederick Bee, his wife Catherine Bee, and his brother Albert W. Bee, Sr., were also shareholders.[16] On November 30, 1858, Bee wrote to William M. Gwin to encourage a government subsidy to complete the telegraph to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.[17] Legislative Assembly of Utah Territory approved the incorporation of Placerville, Humboldt and Salt Lake Telegraph Company on January 21, 1859.[18]
Bee announced the impending completion of the telegraph line in San Francisco in August, 1859.[19]

This initial telegraph came to be known as the "Grapevine", and would spawn the modern expression "heard it through the grapevine":[20][21]

That curious and vivid Western phrase, "grapevine telegraph," originated in 1859. Colonel Bee constructed a telegraph line between Placerville and Virginia City, attaching the wire to the trees; their swaying stretched it until it lay in loops on the ground, resembling the trailing California grapevines. Frequent breaks occurred from falling trees and avalanches, till the line became almost useless, being sometimes beaten into Sacramento by the Pony Express. California and Nevada newspapers took it up, and whenever a journalist wished to cast doubts on the freshness of his opponent's news he forthwith accused him of running a grapevine telegraph. But in the spring of 1861 the Overland Company pushed into the Sierras and successfully connected Virginia City with Sacramento by a modern telegraph wire on poles.

— Charles Howard Shinn, The Story of the Mine (1896)[22]

Colonel Bee's Grapevine soon became proverbial for dubious communication.[23] In September 1864, during the Civil War, a contributor to the Quarterly Review of Danville, Kentucky, wrote that though men of the South had moved their families north and taken the oath of allegiance to the Union, many had returned to fight for the South at their pleasure despite their oaths: "Thousands of rebel men have left their wives and children behind, among us, to enjoy all the plenty and protection of the land, who are in constant intercourse by the public mails, as well as by the grapevine, with them, and publicly and secretly doing all they can to give aid to the rebel movements."[24] Reflecting on the Civil War thirty years later, author Martha McCulloch Williams wrote in 1893 that in conquered territories, "The only news came over the 'grapevine telegraph,' which ran from Nowhere into Space—and, it is safe to say, recorded more marvels than ever went over a wire."[25]

The Pacific Telegraph[edit]

Theodore Judah, William M. Gwin, Albert W. Bee,Sr., George Chorpening, Manuel M. Noah and Frederick Bee were sojourning in Washington, D.C., in March, 1860.[26] Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860 was approved on June 16, 1860.
Hiram Sibley, of Rochester, NY, was awarded the contract to construct the Pacific Telegraph in September,1860”[27] In May, 1861 Pacific Telegraph Company formed in Rochester, NY and Albert W. Bee, Sr. was elected as a director.[28]
At 10 pm on October 26, 1861, this message from San Francisco was received by Cyrus W. Field in New York, “The Pacific telegraph calls the Atlantic cable AW Bee”.[29] In November, 1861 Albert W. Bee, Sr. resigned from Pacific Telegraph Company.[30]
Albert W. Bee, Sr.died in November, 1863 in Austin, Nevada Territory. Albert Bee was engaged in silver mining in Reese River Valley.[31]

The Pony Express[edit]

“Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express, the organizers of the Pony Express applied for articles of incorporation by the legislature of Kansas territory, which were passed by that body and approved by Gov. S. Medary on February 13, 1860. Besides the three original members of the firm the incorporators included General Superintendent BF Ficklin together with FA Bee ,WW Finney and John S Jones, all tried and trustworthy stage employees ,who were retained on account of their wide experience in the overland traffic business."[32] "The first Westbound Pony Express trip left St. Joseph on April 3, 1860 and arrived ten days later in San Francisco, California, on April 14."[33] The Pony Express ended on October 26, 1861.

Railroads and steamships[edit]

In 1865, Bee testified in front of the Committee on Railroads, Nevada Legislature. He indicated he was involved in railroad construction.[34] Bee advertised for laborers to build the San Francisco and Humboldt Railroad in Sausalito, CA in April, 1868.[35] The Sausalito Land and Ferry Company sold lots in Sausalito in June, 1868. This advertisement referred readers to contact Bee about the prospects and conditions of the San Francisco and Humboldt Railroad.[36] Bee sued the San Francisco and Humboldt Railroad for $39,050 in February, 1870 for expenditures and money supplied to the railroad.[37] Bee won his lawsuit against San Francisco and Humboldt Railroad in July, 1873.[38]

Bee, managing agent of the New York and San Francisco Steamship Line, met with the President in May, 1870 to discuss a subsidy for steamships to run between San Francisco and Australia.[39] In December, 1870 the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce appointed Bee to lobby Congress for a subsidy to run steamships from San Francisco to Australia.[40] The subsidy was denied.[41]

Central Polynesia Land and Commercial Company was formed in December, 1871 to build coal stations and to lease and to cultivate land in Samoa. Bee was a trustee.[42] The activities of the Central Polynesia Land and Commercial Company were more complex than outlined in their articles of incorporation.[43] The Central Polynesia Land and Commercial Company went bankrupt in October, 1873.[44][45] Samoan Commercial and Land Company formed in March, 1874. Frederick Bee was a shareholder.[46] The Samoan Commercial and Land Company went bankrupt in late 1876.[47]

Edward S. Salomon and Frederick Bee worked for the Olympia Railroad and Coal Mining Company starting in August, 1873.[48] Bee was the manager of the Olympia Railway and Mining Company in 1874.[49] By 1876, Bee described himself as a capitalist, not as a manager, because the Olympia Railroad and Coal Mining Company was not a successful venture for Bee and Edward Salomon.[50]

Opposition to Chinese exclusion[edit]

As anti-Chinese agitation grew in California and across the country, Chinese took action. Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, known as "The Six Companies," took legal action, and Bee joined in their defense. [51] The 1876 Republican National Convention recommended that Congress investigate Chinese immigration.[52] In July, 1876, while the anti-Chinese hysteria was at its height, Congress provided for a joint committee to go to California to investigate. When no attorney agreed to represent the interests of Chinese residents, Senator Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, chairman of the committee, asked Bee to act as attorney for the Chinese, and he agreed.[53] On October 18, the Committee requested the presence of Bee and others.[54] On February 27, 1877, the Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration concluded that the Chinese population had few desirable characteristics.[55]

A group of 3000 Irish workers met in San Francisco in November, 1878 to protest statements Bee made in the Washington Post.[56] Envoys Chen Lanbin and Yung Wing investigated Bee, who had helped the Chinese to settle disputes, and found him worthy of the appointment.[57][58] The Chinese consulate opened in San Francisco in December, 1878 with Bee as a consul.[59] Bee also investigated murders of Chinese residents in the Western United States.[60][61][62] He went to the sites of the Rock Springs massacre in Wyoming to investigate the massacres that had taken place and forced the United States government to pay the Chinese government some US$500,000 in indemnities. He collected the names of the white assailants, but found that the United States attorney had left for Illinois.[63]

Bee wrote to the Senate in 1882 when Congress was debating the Chinese Exclusion Act. He protested the Act, writing that "I believe that the immortal truths of the Declaration of Independence came from the same source with the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount...... As surely as the path on which our fathers entered a hundred years ago led to safety, to strength, to glory, so surely will the path on which we now propose to enter bring us to shame, to weakness, and to peril."[64] He argued that if the American local and central governments ignored the crimes against Chinese in the United States. then Americans in China would be massacred in return.[51]

Bee was appointed a Mandarin of the Blue Button by the Chinese Government in April, 1882.[65]

Huang Zunxian was a poet and diplomat who became Consul General in San Francisco in May, 1882 and wrote a poem about Bee expressing his approval:

"After several years of hardship, I am writing a poem about my comrade;
When someone’s guts are bigger than his body, his spirit is naturally heroic and fearless.
When will the days of chasing after petty gains and losses come to an end?
Even in smiling, he always carried a boot dagger. "[66][67]

One of Bee's duties was to verify the residency status of Chinese passengers, who had petitioned for writs of habeas corpus, so a judge could decide if the petitioners were allowed to remain in the United States.[68]

In July 1885, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors published a report on the condition of Chinese residents.[69] The report concluded that the residents of Chinatown lived in crowded conditions, lacked census data, supported prostitution, and condoned white women living with Chinese men.

In February, 1886, Bee published, "The Other Side of the Chinese Question. To the people of the United States and the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives. Testimony of California's leading citizens. Read and judge", as a response to the Board of Supervisors' report.[70]

Bee testified in front of the Congressional Joint Committee on Immigration and Naturalization on December 6, 1890, in San Francisco, CA in an attempt to refute the "evils" of Chinese immigration.[71] The Geary Act was signed on May 6, 1892, to extend the Chinese Exclusion Act and to remove bail in habeas corpus cases for Chinese immigration cases.


On 15 October 1886, Bee bought 60 acres in Martinez, California.[72] Bee grew 40 acres of Tokay, mixed wine, Rose Peru and Black Hamburg grapes.[73] The Bee Ranch was on the hill between Vine Hill Way and Morello Avenue.

His nephew, Frederick Bee Tompkins, inherited his vineyard.[74]


Bee died on of a heart-attack May 26, 1892, in San Francisco.[53] [75] On the day of the funeral, the streets of Chinatown were packed and a group of merchants went to the church where the services were held. White mourners sat on the left side of the aisle, while Chinese sat on the right, one of the few times the two races came together. The Chinese Consulate sent a large heart made of flowers on behalf of the Qing government with an inscription calling him “Our Colonel”. [63]


  1. ^ "Businessman and Advocate" Archived 2013-11-12 at the Wayback Machine Marin History Museum, April, 2012
  2. ^ "Mamie Tape" Daily Alta California, Volume 37, Number 12610, 22 October 1884
  3. ^ "Testimony" Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 13900, 21 September 1887
  4. ^ "Consul Bee's medal" Daily Alta California, San Francisco, CA, 25 June 1886
  5. ^ "Frederick Bee – A true pioneer visionary" January 22, 2018 Mountain Democrat
  6. ^ "California resolution"[permanent dead link] California resolution
  7. ^ "New York proclamation" New York proclamation
  8. ^ "DIED", "Daily Alta California", San Francisco, 21 August 1889.
  9. ^ a b [1] Daughters of the American Revolution under the direction of the Genealogical Records Committee of California (1935). "Records from tombstones in Laurel Hill Cemetery, 1853-1927", page 8
  10. ^ Year: 1880; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: 79; Family History Film: 1254079; Page: 238C; Enumeration District: 212; Image: 0237.
  11. ^ "DIED", "Daily Alta California", San Francisco, 16 November 1855
  12. ^ "South Fork of American River" Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA 27 September 1855
  13. ^ "Official Election Results" Daily Alta California San Francisco, CA 24 November 1856
  14. ^ "Telegraph to Carson Valley" Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA, 10 May 1858
  15. ^ "Matters in Placerville" Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA, 16 September 1858
  16. ^ Placerville and Humboldt Telegraph Company Articles of incorporation
  17. ^ "Letter: to Senator William M. Gwin 1858 Nov 30." Yale University Sterling Memorial Library OCLC Number: 702130366
  18. ^ "Acts and resolutions of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah eighth annual session--for the years 1858-1859. Also memorials to Congress (1859)" Utah Territory, 1858
  19. ^ "Letter to the Citizens of San Francisco" Daily Alta California, 2 August 1859
  20. ^ Culbert, William H. (1941). "Pony Express Telegram". Stamps: A Weekly Magazine of Philately. H. L. Lindquist. p. 15. Frederick A. Bee was one of the most prominent of its organizers and the venture, subsequently, became known as 'Bee's Grapevine Line' because, wherever practical, the wires were strung from tree to tree.
  21. ^ Safire, William (2008). "grapevine". Safire's Political Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-19-534334-2.
  22. ^ Shinn, Charles Howard (1896). The Story of the Mine: As Illustrated by the Great Comstock Lode of Nevada. New York: D. Appleton and Company. p. 72. ISBN 9780598283191.
  23. ^ Palmatier, Robert A. (2000). "hear it through the grapevine". Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 176. ISBN 0-313-31436-5.
  24. ^ "Struggles in Kentucky during Three Years succeeding the First Overthrow of the Secession Conspiracy in 1861". Danville Quarterly Review. Danville, Kentucky: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin. September 1864. p. 430.
  25. ^ Williams, Martha McCulloch (June 17, 1893). "The 'Uncompetent' Oath". The Christian Union. New York: The Christian Union Company. p. 1204.
  26. ^ "California in Washington" Daily Alta California San Francisco, CA , 21 March 1860
  27. ^ Cleveland Morning Leader, Cleveland, Ohio, 24 September 1860
  28. ^ "News of April, 18 - continued" Daily Alta California, 1 May 1861
  29. ^ "Cyrus W. Field, his life and work [1819-1892" Judson, Isabella (Field), Mrs., 1846- [from old catalog], 1896, page 134
  30. ^ "The Pacific Telegraph" New York Times 1 November 1861
  31. ^ Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA 21 November 1863
  32. ^ "Kansas Historical Quarterly - Pike's Peak Express Companies, 4, Part IV - The Platte Route - Concluded" George A. Root and Russell K. Hickman, February 1946 (Vol. 14 No. 1), pages 36 to 92.
  33. ^ Pony Express
  34. ^ "Testimony of F. A. Bee" Railroad Pamphlets
  35. ^ "For Saucelito"Daily Alta California, 27 April 1868
  36. ^ "Miscellaneous"Daily Alta California, 7 June 1868
  37. ^ "Sales of Stocks—The Pilot Suits—Alleged Cruelty ut Sea — Insane—lncorporation—Thc Musical Festival" Sacramento Daily Union, 17 February 1870
  38. ^ [2] American Railway Reports Volume 7 1878, New York : J. Cockcroft & Co., page 504
  39. ^ "THE SAN FRANCISCO AND AUSTRALIA STEAMSHIP SCHEME" Daily Alta California, 28 May 1870
  40. ^ "Chamber of Commerce"Daily Alta California, 11 December 1870
  41. ^ "Editorial Notes"Daily Alta California, 3 March 1871
  42. ^ "Incorporation" Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA, 8 December 1871
  43. ^ "Lagaga: A Short History of Western Samoa" Malama Meleisea, Penelope Schoeffel Meleisea, 1987, page 82
  44. ^ "Bankruptcy" Daily Alta California, Volume 25, Number 8605, 20 October 1873
  46. ^ "Incorporations Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA , 16 March 1874 and Articles of Incorporation
  47. ^ "Auction Sales"Daily Alta California, 7 December 1876
  48. ^ "The Olympia Narrow Gauge Railroad" Washington Historical Quarterly, October, 1925
  49. ^ "The San Francisco directory for the year 1875" Henry G. Langley, 1875, page 120
  50. ^ "Annual directory of the City and County of San Francisco (1877)" D.M. Bishop & Co, 1877, page 168
  51. ^ a b Pomfret (2016), p. 80.
  52. ^ "Proceedings of the Republican national convention, held at Cincinnati, Ohio ...: June 14, 15, and 16, 1876", A. M. Clancy and William Nelson, page 58
  53. ^ a b "Their Old Friend Gone", San Francisco Call, San Francisco, 27 May 1892.
  54. ^ "The Chinese Question" Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 2, Number 205, 19 October 1876
  55. ^ "Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration" United States. Congress. Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, 1877, page VIII
  56. ^ "An Irish Indignation Meeting - A Breezy Affair" Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA 2 November 1878
  57. ^ "Huang chao zhang gu hui bian / Zhang Shouyong deng bian"]
  58. ^ "Translation of report"
  59. ^ "News of the Morning" Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, CA 13 December 1878
  60. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States"
  61. ^ "The Chinese Commission at Rock Springs"[permanent dead link] Harper's Weekly, volume XXIX, 1885, page 676
  62. ^ “Snake River Massacre” Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Volume 1, 1889, page 385
  63. ^ a b Pomfret (2016), p. 80-81.
  64. ^ "A letter from F. A. Bee to the US Senate" American Politics (non-partisan) from the Beginning to Date: Embodying a History of All the Political Parties, with Their Views and Records on All Important Questions. Great Speeches on All Great Issues, and Tabulated History and Chronological Events
  65. ^ "Well-Deserved Honors" San Francisco News Letter, San Francisco, CA April 8, 1882,page 10
  66. ^ "Renjinglu shicao jianzhu人境庐诗草笺注by Huang Zunxian黄遵宪. The commentary is by Qian Zhonglian钱仲联. "
  67. ^ "Translation of poem and story"
  68. ^ "Subpoenaed" Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 13651, 15 January 1887
  69. ^ "Report of the Special Committee of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco" Board of Supervisors. Special Committee on Chinatown, San Francisco, CA July, 1885.
  70. ^ "The Other Side of the Chinese Question" Fred A. Bee, San Francisco, CA 1886
  71. ^ "Chinese Immigration" 51st Congress, 2nd Session, House of Representatives, Report 4018, Statement of Frederick Bee, page 373
  72. ^ "Consul Bee's Ranch" Daily Alta California, San Francisco, CA, 15 October 1886
  73. ^ "Directory of the Grape Growers, Wine Makers and Distillers of California 1891" California. Board of State Viticultural Commissioners, A.J. Johnson, Superintendent state printing, page 24
  74. ^ Contra Costa County Recorder Office
  75. ^ [4], Ann Clark Hart. (1940). "San Francisco's Laurel Hill", page 66

References and further reading[edit]

  • Bee, Fred A. (1886). The Other Side of the Chinese Question: To the People of the United States and the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives, Testimony of California's Leading Citizens, Read and Judge. San Francisco, February, 1886. San Francisco: Woodward & Co., printers San Francisco. Free online at Internet Archive HERE

External links[edit]