PIERRE LIGDA Male View treeBorn: 1897-10-17Died: 1912

Pete was born October 17, 1879 in Paris at his family’s home on Rue Lecourse between Rue Peolet & Rue de L’Amiral.  We have no record of his early years.  He probably had some formal education in France before coming to the United States with his family in 1889 when he was 9 years old.

After his family settled in San Francisco, Pete was probably apprenticed to a printer.  The 1894 directory (when he was 14) lists him as a compositor living at 1139 Howard Street (which was not his parents’ address).  The 1895 directory lists his as a printer.  Directories for 1896 thru 1899, after the family moved to Oakland, list Pete as living at home while working as a printer for E. R. Ormsby & Co. in San Francisco thru 1897, Riordan & Co. of San Francisco in 1898, and Red Seal Printing & Publishing Co. in San Francisco in 1899.  So as a teenager, Pete lived with his parents and commuted by ferry to and from work across the bay.

According to Val, his younger sister, Pete did not attend the public schools.  There is no record of him as a student in the Oakland schools.  Val says he attended Healds Business College.  He is listed in the 1900 and 1901 directories as a student.  Val says Pete left Healds when he was hired by an English company and sent abroad. Pete spoke French and Russian.  He was friendly and outgoing.  He would have made a good representative despite his youth.    He applied for a passport that was issued on February 28, 1901 1.  We know he returned from Pt. Arthur aboard the SS Peru sailing from Kobe on September 8, 1902, stopping in Honolulu on September 30, 1902, en route to San Francisco.  We do not know the exact nature of his work, but he listed his occupation as a clerk on his passport application and on the ship’s manifest and listed his mailing address as 308 California Street in San Francisco.

After his father’s death in November, Pete lived with his mother at 675 33rd Street in Oakland where he is listed in the Oakland directories from thru 1910 as a boarder.  He is shown as President of Smithson Development Co., a company for which his older brother Paul worked as Manager.  This Company went out of business.  It was probably the initial family enterprise organized to manufacture and sell the broiler compound for which Paul  had the formula.

Pete was significantly involved in sales of broiler compound for California Engineers Supply, the family business.  Because the business did not produce enough income to support all of the brothers, Paul and Victor took other work leaving the business in the hands of Pete and Alec.  Alec supervised the manufacturing.  Pete sold the compound.  We have a good idea of the success of the operation from letters between Pete and Paul.  On 9/22/06, Pete wrote:

“I expect that in about a month or two, we will be quite independent of anybody as we are almost able now to get along without owing anybody, or running any bills.

“I shipped 3 bbls to H Hackfeld & Co., Honolulu, and expect in about a month or two to ship them a carload.

“The compound is working fine with the North Shore & the Scofield Construction Co. ordered 3 more barrels and things look fine for the near future.”

On 11/10/06, he wrote:

“Compound going to beat the band.  We will pass the 100 bbl mark this month by a large margin.  The C & R Dept. have put in a requisition for 12 bbl, the Steam Engine Dept. for 25 bbl – maybe 30.  The “Saturn” for 50 cases, the “Boston” will get a 6 month supply, etc.

“I am as busy as an owl and I will be well pleased when you get back.  I just waste 4 hours per day every I go to San Rafael . . .”

On 11/22/06, he wrote:

“Up to the 21, the sales amounted to over $1,350 and we expect any day now a requisition for 12 bbl for the Construction Dept., 50 cases for the U. S. Cruiser “Saturn” and maybe 100 cases for the “Charleston.”  This is not speculation either.

“I expect to make another contract for the sale of the compound with Pacific Distributing Co. (Alexander & Baldwin) of Honolulu.  They to sell “Noscale” Boiler Compound for 8 cents per lb., Grossmayer gets $5 per bbl commission & we the rest, a little over $21 per bbl.  Will let you know how things will come out in a few days.  However, I can tell you in advance there are no free samples.  These people expect to sell one car load per month & they can do it for they control 5 plantations.

“Just got another order from the North Shore for two bbl for the Steamer “Tamalpais” and expect orders from other steamers as well.  We have them all right now, and all the engineers are tickled with the stuff.  Grossmayer is now after the locomotives.

“We now have 2 or 3 choppers who understand how to cut trees on top & who are experienced in that line.  We have a new foreman to whom we pay $2.50 per day & he is the best one I think we’ve ever had.  He used to be a section foreman for the Railroad & understands just how to the men to work.  He is an extremely powerful man & all the fellows around here are afraid of him.  Where the Russian would cut enough leaves for 3 or 4 boilers per day, this new man with the same force cuts enough leaves for 8 or 9 boilers.  We have no oil on hand, just as soon as it is manufactured it is shipped and sold.  This helps quite a little itself.”

On 6/7/07, Pete opined: “if we get the S. F. Gas and Electric there will be lots of work in San Rafael and we need not worry about the future.”

Pete’s optimism lured Paul back to the business in June from Las Vegas, where he had been working.  By October, it was clear the business was still not successful enough to support all three brothers.  Paul returned to his work in Las Vegas in October.  His letters reflect a hope things would improve.  On 11/7/07, he wrote: “Pete . . . wrote a hard luck story abt. money.  The compound business would have trouble to support me now.”

Shortly thereafter, things seemed to improve.  On 11/13/07, Paul wrote:

“Pete writes that the compound business is very good, and is satisfied with the amount of work done at the shop, besides the reduction in expenses caused by my absence.”

Things looked better three days later:

“Pete writes that everything is ok.  The compound has worked marvelously at the S. F. Gas & Electric & we are sure to get all their business, a little matter of 40-50 barrels per month for which we get net about $27 per barrel.  This alone would pay dividends.  He says that we sold about $1,000 worth since the 1st.”

Pete did get the S. F. Gas & Electric account.  Edith wrote about it on 12/4/07, saying: “Pete went over to the city at once and made sure that it was so.”  Business improved.  By 1909, the brothers decided to sell stock.  They assigned all their rights to the process by which their compound was made to California Engineers Supply Company.  For that process, they took back controlling stock in the company and sold the rest.  Paul wrote about the sale of some stock in December, 1909.  Pete continued selling the compound.  He sent post cards from Coalinga and Taft where he obtained orders for the compound.

On December 14, 1910, Pete married Agnes C. Magneson. 2  He was then 32; she 22.  Both were residents of Oakland.  His Sister Val, and her fiancee, Dr. George W. Hillegass, were witnesses to the ceremony.  The couple took a honeymoon to Southern California (post cards from Taft and Los Angeles).  Their first home was at 2712 College Avenue in Berkeley, property in which her mother had an interest.  In 1911 Directory, they moved to 588 Apgar.  Their only child, Agnes Christine Ligda, was born December 11, 1911.

Toward the end of 1911, the business suffered some reverses.  A contributing cause was the steady conversion of ships from coal energy to oil burning, the first of which was done in 1908 on the U.S.S. Wyoming at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.  Oil burning ships didn’t use the broiler compound the business was producing.  To help raise needed capital, Pete and Paul put their 5,000 shares of company stock into a voting trust with a George E. Bennett, who held 2,200 shares.  The trustee, H. P. Jacobson, had to vote as directed by the majority, i.e., any two of the three shareholders.  On January 15, 1912, Pete and Paul removed Jacobson and substituted Paul as trustee.

Pete’s marriage was deteriorating with the business.  According to Agnes, he was gambling, spending what money he was making from the business on himself, and coming home under the influence of alcohol almost daily.  It is perhaps ironic that Olga, Pete’s older sister, wrote from Russia on May 9, 1912: “How are Pete and Agnes?  I suppose she is a happy mother at this time.”

On May 10, 1912, Pete left for Los Angeles.  Val says he left after a fight with Agnes in which she threw a plate at him after he came home a little drunk.  Val says Pete was spending the business into bankruptcy.  His nephew, Ted, says he had oversold the stock in the company.

Agnes says she heard from Pete for 4 or 5 months during which he sent her about $50 in support.  His attitude was reflected somewhat in a letter of 10/20/12 from his brother, Paul, to his wife:

“After the way Agnes treated him and wrote to him he is not likely to deprive himself just for the sake of supporting her especially when she’s being supported by her mother . . . I don’t approve of Pete’s way of handling whatever money he gets ahold of but I can read between the lines.  When & if I get to L. A., I will make him send her some money.”

Pete’s niece, Barbara, said it was well known that Pete simply deserted his wife and five month old daughter. 3  Edith Ligda felt so strongly about Pete’s desertion of his family that his name was simply not mentioned in her presence.  Agnes last heard from Pete toward the end of 1912.  He is last mentioned in a letter from Paul of 11/26/12 in which he says that he: ” . . . received a letter from Pete which was nothing but a sample of their new stock with no writing enclosed.”  On 12/5/12, Paul wrote:

“I have not received any telegram from Pete nor do I expect any for quite awhile.  I think that he will find it harder than he thinks to raise money by proxy.   I wrote to him to that effect & told him to depend more on his own exertions and less on promises from strangers . . .”

Agnes filed for divorce in 1916.  In her pleadings, she said his brother told her Pete was in Salt Lake City. 4  In 1926, at the time of his mother’s death, he is listed as “whereabouts unknown.”  On 11/2/28, Edith wrote: “Peter Ligda has not been heard from for 16 years.”

Pete’s nephew, Ted, says there was regular correspondence between Peter and Paul right up to Paul’s death in 1932, but the letters were sent to Paul’s school address because of the strong feelings Edith had after Pete abandoned his wife and child.  Ted claims he found the letters in a drawer of his father’s desk at McClymonds High School and destroyed them to prevent his mother from knowing Paul had corresponded with Pete all those years.  He says the last correspondence from Pete was from Seattle.  His sister, Val, says Pete died in New York.  I was unable to find a listing for Pete in the Directories for Oakland, Los Angeles or Seattle for 1912 thru 1914; or the Salt Lake City Directories for 1913 or 1917.  I was also unable to locate a death certificate in New York or Seattle or in the National Archives.


  1. Pete applied for the passport in the name of Paul Victor Ligda.  The Clerk who took the information for the passport noted Pete was 5”8” tall with an oval face.
  2. Agnes was born July 14, 1888 in Connecticut.
  3. I was unable to learn what happened to Agnes Christine.  Barbara said she probably went to Berkeley High School.  In a letter of 12/11/61, Edith said her son, Victor, knew her while at college.  This would have likely been around 1928 or 1930.  She is listed in the 1930 Oakland Directory living with her mother at 2712 1/2 College Ave. in Berkeley.  Edith says she married, but did not know her married name.  She was evidently single when her grandmother died on 3/30/31, as she is listed in the obituary as Agnes C. Ligda.  Ted says she lived in Berkeley.
  4. Pete was not served with the divorce complaint.  The final decree was granted July 31, 1917 in Alameda County.  The case number is 48467.  Edith recalls that Agnes worked for the Telephone Co. in Berkeley for many years.  The 1928 Directory listing shows her as working for P. T. & T Co.  She apparently never remarried.  She is shown as living at 2712 ½ College Avenue, Berkeley  with her parents, Olaf and Christina, and working as an operatior with the telephone company in the 1930 census.  She is listed as Agnes E. Ligda in her mother’s obituary on 3/30/31.  She is listed as Ligda in the Oakland City Directories from 1923 thru 1940 living at 2712 1/2 College Ave., Berkeley.  The 1940 census shows her as the owner of the home.  There is a 1967 listing at 407 Vernon St., apt. 202, Oakland.  I was unable to locate her.  She died on October 29, 1985.  Her death certificate listed her usual residence as 21 Inverness Court in San Ramon, California.