Christina Dern Slinkey
Born: July 15, 1843 in Nieder-Weisel, Hessen, Germany.
Married: October 13, 1868 in San Francisco, California, USA to John E. Slinkey by Justice Oscar T. Shuck.
Died: January 13, 1899 in San Francisco, California, USA.
In many ways I suspect Christina Dern Slinkey was responsible for the success of the family as "hoteliers," as the newspapers called the profession. She was running a boarding house when she met John E. Slinkey. Sadly, it is a difficult thing to research a woman who lived in the nineteenth century when any business success was credited to the men. From her photos she seems to have been attentive to fashion and the numerous photos of her daughter show how much she wished to elevate her in society.
In the 1890s there are newspaper reports of her suffering from "nervous prostration," and after her suicide in 1899 there are references to her "melancholia," her threats to do away with herself, and the need to keep an eye on her when out. She may have suffered from depression her whole life, or it could have simply been despondancy at the reversal of finances the family experienced.
1865: (Langley's 1865-66 San Francisco Directory, published December 1865): "Dern, Christina Mrs. dwl. 1016 Stockton."
1867: (Langley's 1867-68 San Francisco Directory, published Apr 1867): "Dern, Christina (widow) furnished rooms, NE corner Washington & Dupont."
These first two San Francisco locations for Christina, while in the heart of the city, were not very respectable. As a letter writer to the Daily Alta observed of the block between Washington, Jackson, Dupont (Grant), and Montgomery in 1863: "The obscenity, nightly carousals, profanity, and utter want of decency in that alley are frightful to hear or contemplate. [...] Ladies and children, also, as they pass up Washington street, cannot but receive occular demonstrations of a species of degredation that the innocent and pure-minded should never look upon." ("An Abominable Nuisance," Daily Alta California, November 8, 1863, pg. 1.)
October 13, 1868: Married to John Slinkey by Justice Oscar T. Shuck in San Francisco. Notice appears in the Daily Evening Bulletin on October 15.
1869: (Langley's 1869-70 San Francisco Directory, published December 1869): "Slinkey, C. Mrs, furnished rooms, 783 Market; Slinkey, John E. (Regan & Corbett), dwl 783 Market."
November 1, 1883: Is gifted the deed to the entire El Monte Hotel property from husband (in an attempt to keep it from creditors, perhaps?).
June 6, 1885: Attends "hop" at El Monte Hotel with husband and daughter, according to Sausalito News of June 11, 1885.
June 20, 1885: Attends party aboard the ship J.T. Barry with husband, according to Sausalito News of June 25, 1885.
July 18, 1885: Attends party aboard the ship Imberhorn with husband and daughter. Also goes to a private picnic at Old Mill on Throckmorton ranch according to Sausalito News of July 23, 1885.
August 5, 1885: Husband acts as Master of Ceremonies at a party on the ship Honolulu. Christina listed as attending; music and dancing lasted until midnight. (Sausalito News August 6, 1885.)
August 29, 1885: J. E., Christina, Dan, and Lillie Slinkey host a "Domino Party" (masked ball) at the El Monte Hotel: "The initial domino party of Sausalito was held at the 'El Monte' Saturday evening. The dining room was cleared for the dance hall by a committee of arrangements, and the guests were given full possession of it and the parlor for their ball room, and by 9 o'clock the merry dance commenced. A large number of maskers participated and as many more were present as spectators and all equally enjoyed the evening's merriment. A splendid supper was served by Col. Slinkey at 11 o'clock at which time the masks had been removed, and after the pleasures of the festal board on with the dance again." (Sausalito News, September 3, 1885, page 3, column 2.)
October 4, 1885: Over 100 ladies & gents attended the Bull's Head Breakfast with six bulls' heads and one lamb being served. An all-day affair, the festivities began around ten in the morning, with dinner being served at 2:00 p.m. At this breakfast of the Society of True Friends "[a]n additional attraction at the feast was the participation of the ladies, a treat enjoyed for the first time by most of them present." The "breakfast was concluded and washed down with plenty of Slinkey's good cheer in half-pint bottles." Colonel and Mrs. Slinkey listed in attendance with Miss Slinkey. (Sausalito News, October 15, 1885.)
December 31, 1885: At the social hop at the El Monte Hotel on New Year's Eve, Col. & Mrs. Slinkey, and Miss Lillie, were listed in attendance. (Sausalito News, January 7, 1886.)
January 2, 1886: Christina deeds the El Monte property back to her husband: "in consideration of the love and affection which the said party of the first part has and bears unto the said party of the second part as, also for the better maintenance, support, protection and livelihood of the said party of the second part." Likely J.E Slinkey needed it in his name as collatoral for a little wheeling and dealing?
May 25, 1890: Christina's father, Heinrich Dern, aged 76, arrives from Germany "to spend the balance of his life with his family in Sausalito." (Sausalito News, May 30, 1890, page 2, column 4.)
October 26, 1890: Attends Bull's Head Breakfast at Hotel Sausalito with husband. (Sausalito News, October 31, 1890.)
October 30, 1891: "Mrs. J.E. Slinkey has been laid up for the last week with a case of nervous prostration, but is now getting a little better again." (Sausalito News, page 3, column 1.)
November 26, 1896: A musicale and social dance given Thanksgiving evening by Mr. & Mrs. J.E. Slinkey at their hotel in San Francisco, 501 Geary Street, "branch of El Monte, Sausalito." (Sausalito News, November 28, 1896, page 3, column 3.)
December 31, 1896: A musicale given New Year's Eve evening by Mr. & Mrs. J.E. Slinkey at their hotel in San Francisco. (Sausalito News, December 26, 1896, page 3, column 1.)
May 22, 1897: "Mrs. J.E. Slinkey, who has been seriously indisposed for some time by nervous prostration, is getting a little better." (Sausalito News, page 3, column 1.)
May 29, 1897: Christina is apparently recovered enough to travel. Or perhaps the thought is a change of scenery might help: "Mrs. J.E. Slinkey has gone to Rio Vista on the Sacramento River." (Sausalito News, page 3, column 1.)
August 21, 1897: Christina returns with company? Or maybe she had returned earlier and these people were simply returning the favor of her visit in May: "Mrs. A.T. Spirey and son of Rio Vista were the guests this week of Mrs. J.E. Slinkey on Sausalito." (Sausalito News, page 3, column 1.)
San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, January 14, 1899:
WORRY DRIVES MRS. SLINKEY TO SUICIDE
Mrs. John Slinkey, wife of the proprietor of the Sausalito House, at 110 Ellis Street, and until recently proprietor of El Monte Hotel in Sausalito, committed suicide yesterday morning by hanging herself in a room at the Sausalito House. Mrs. Slinkey had not been in good health for some time, and the worry caused by her husband's recent financial reverses unbalanced her mind. She had often expressed a wish that she were dead, and upon one occasion questioned her physician, Dr. Hughes, concerning the pain attendant upon different methods of suicide. It is thought that she planned the act which ended her life several days ago, when her husband lost his Sausalito property, worth something like $100,000.
Slinkey saw his wife alive for the last time at midnight, just before retiring, when she said that she would keep the late watch in the office. He awoke at 6 o'clock yesterday morning, and not finding his wife, made a search for her. He found the door of room 2 locked, and upon effecting an entrance found her hanging in the clothes closet. She had apparently been dead for some time. She had driven four large nails into the doorfacing and tied a stout cord around them. Doubling the cord around her neck, she swung from a chair and strangled to death. The desperate woman took every precaution to make her attempt upon her life successful. She had tied a woolen cloth over the heads of the nails to prevent the cord from slipping off when the strain came.
Mrs. Slinkey leaves a husband, two sons and a daughter. The eldest son and the daughter are at present in New York, the daughter being on her way home from Italy, where she has been for several years engaged in the study of music. Mrs. Slinkey was a native of Germany and was 54 years of age.
San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday January 18, 1899:
DECLARES IT WAS MURDER
Unknown Letter-Writer on Mrs. Slinkey's Death.
SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE KILLED HERSELF.
CORONER HILL HAS DECIDED TO HAVE THE BODY EXHUMED TO-DAY.
The Police Have Been Appealed To, and Detectives Are Now Investigating the Case.
At noon to-day Coroner Hill, accompanied by a number of physicians and officers from the Police Department, will go to the Laurel Hill Cemetery and exhume the body of Mrs. Christine Slinkey, who was found hanging, dead, in a clothes closet of the Sausalito House at 110 Ellis street last Friday. The purpose of the exhumation is to investigate the charge---made in an anonymous letter, of which the Coroner, the Chief of Police and other persons received copies Sunday---that the woman did not commit suicide, as concluded by a Coroner's jury, but was murdered.
Mrs. Slinkey was the wife of John E. Slinkey, proprietor of the Sausalito House. She was 54 years old at the time of her death. According to testimony given at the inquest, she had been in ill health for sometime and despondent over financial reverses sustained by her husband. Slinkey testified that when he went to bed Thursday night he left his wife sitting in her room, apparently cheerful. He awoke at 6 o'clock the next morning and found that she had not been in bed. He searched for her and found her body hanging in an adjoining room. He then ran for an undertaker. The undertaker notified Coroner Hill, who went to the room, cut the body down, removed it to the Morgue, ordered an autopsy and held an inquest. The jury's verdict was to the effect that Mrs. Slinkey had killed herself while suffering from melancholia.
Sunday the Coroner received this letter:
"City, Jan'y 14, '99
"Dr. E. Hill. Mrs. Slinkey's death; inquest this date was not suicide as she was an invalid for over a year and at the time of death could not move or lift even a pin. She could not under any circumstances have committed self-destruction unless she had taken poison. As she did not do such then others hastened her end. This demands investigation for the Common wealth. I have also written to the Chief of Police and journals of this city and will when occasion offers present myself with evidence. Living at his (Mr. Slinkey's) house I know all. Kindly investigate as I am the only Friend his wife had.
"He has declared if his wife was dead he would be all right. This is not written in Malice but in spirit and also Justice.
In addition to this the letter accused Mr. Slinkey of being fond of a woman other than his wife. It was written on cheap note paper, in what appears to be a disguised hand. When the Coroner got the letter he communicated with the police and found that they had received one like it. Captain of Detectives Bohen detailed Detective Dillon and other officers to investigate the case. Last night he said he did not believe the unknown writer's charge was well-founded.
Yesterday afternoon Coroner Hill sent for Slinkey and showed him the letter.
"When he had read the letter over slowly and carefully," said the Coroner afterward, "he declared it was the work of an enemy, a woman. He said he was perfectly willing to have the body of his wife exhumed, and added that he was willing to be punished if he were guilty of any crime, which he said he was not. I then went to see Dr. Jerome Hughes, who was Mrs. Slinkey's physician, and who testified at the inquest that he was satisfied death was due to strangulation. Dr. Hughes told me, when I informed him of the purport of the anonymous communication that he was not certain that death was due to strangulation: that he was not sure the lungs were sufficiently congested to conclusively prove strangulation.
"Thereupon I determined to exhume the woman's body, although I am satisfied in my own mind that she hanged herself. I cut her body down and when I did so I noticed that the eyes and tongue protruded. Had she been murdered and then hanged to avert suspicion the eyes and tongue certainly could not have protruded as they did. I also found that one of her feet had caught in the bottom of a cane-bottomed chair which she had seemingly stood on and attempted to kick from under her. Dr. Zabala, autopsy physician in my office, conducted the autopsy, but he did not examine the stomach. The object of the exhumation is to secure the viscera and subject them to a chemical analysis. In this way we may be able to determine whether poison was administered, although the body has been embalmed and the fluid may hinder the examination."
J.E. Slinkey, the husband of the dead woman, said last night that he had no suspicion as to the identity of the anonymous letter-writer.
"The statements in the letter received by Coroner Hill," he said, "are utterly false, as a number of persons can testify. My wife was strong enough to do all the cooking for the family for days before her untimely death, but her mind became affected by worry over financial troubles. Whoever wrote this letter must have been seeking notoriety or had some purely malicious motive in making such an accusation against me. I will be only to glad if he will appear to-day, as he says he will, at the examination. I court the fullest investigation of the case, as the surest means of securing a complete vindication."
A brother of the dead woman scouted the theory of murder. He said his sister had not been the helpless invalid described in the anonymous letter, but on the contrary had been able to be up and to work about the house up to the time of her death. He declared she had been despondent and had threatened to kill herself, and that when she went out she had been constantly watched.
Coroner Hill, Dr. John A. Zabala, Dr. Jerome Hughes, Dr. A.P. O'Brian, City Health Commissioner, Detective Dillon and probably representatives of Mrs. Slinkey's family will compose the party which is to go to the cemetery to-day. Captain Bohen said last night that his officers had not yet made an effort to discover the identity of the author of the letters.
Images of Christina Dern Slinkey: