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Elk Grove Citizen

A Rare Window into Life of Carmichael Founder

Jul 29, 2020 12:00AM ● By Story by Susan Maxwell Skinner

Attorney Jack Vetter holds an early picture of the home occupied by colony founder Daniel Carmichael. Built in 1898, the residence is now a law office. The old image includes Carmichael's bicycling wife, Myrtie. Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner

A Rare Window into Life of Carmichael Founder [4 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - A recent discovery has unveiled private moments in Carmichael Colony founder Daniel Carmichael’s life.  Snapped by friends and family, candid photo images capture “Bud” Carmichael relaxing in his Sacramento backyard; eating watermelon, cruising in his roadster and enjoying the company of relatives.

The pictures belong to Bay Area resident Sally Rubio, whose great Aunt Maizie Robb was cousin to Carmichael’s wife, Myrtie. While official portraits of Daniel Carmichael immortalize an aloof city hall dignitary, Rubio’s photo cache shows the great man at domestic leisure. The images also document how privileged turn-of-the-century Sacramentans lived.

Born in Georgia, Bud Carmichael came west in the 1890s to make his fortune. He made and lost several fortunes before dying penniless at 70. Rubio’s albums evidence his well-heeled heyday. He’d discovered oil in Bakersfield, served as Sacramento County Treasurer and brokered huge Sacramento and Bay Area property deals.  Home was an elegant Victorian on 21st Street (now a legal office). Carmichael founded and led the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Realtors. He would become City Commissioner and serve as Mayor of Sacramento. In 1909, Carmichael put his name on a 6.5 square mile parcel of the old San Juan Land Grant. This he subdivided and sold as farmlets in a colony named for himself. 

Fabled marketing flair further enriched his “Carmichael Company.” The founder was a pillar of the Sutter Club and – with gold-topped cane and rose boutonnière – a glamorous downtown figure. Living relatives testify that his wife Myrtie “dripped diamonds.” He developed large swathes of residential Sacramento and traded commercial buildings like monopoly pieces. His six-seater roadster chauffeured clients in style. At the height of their fortunes, Bud and Myrtle raised an art-deco home on his Poverty Flats development. The Sacramento Union noted its breathtaking $16,000 price tag. Now a senior residence, the mansion housed Daniel, Myrtle, the Robb in-laws and their daughter Molly in precarious elegance.

By the roaring 20s, Bud’s golden years had roared to an end.  Even before the Depression, he’d lost his own money and the savings of others who believed in him.  Cronies threw a farewell dinner at Sacramento’s Hotel Land and the Carmichaels shuffled sedately off to San Francisco with law suits and bill collectors in pursuit. The impoverished ménage eventually occupied shabby rooms in an O’Farrell Street hotel that Bud had once owned. He died there in 1936, aged 70.  Family lore says Myrtie was too poor to fund interment and scattered his ashes on San Francisco Bay.

She outlived her husband by 25 years; spinster sister Molly died in a nursing home in 1976, at 106. Because she and the Carmichaels were childless, many personal details of Carmichael Colony’s illustrious founder were lost forever.

This historian is thankful that one old photo album provides some insight. Says descendant Sally Rubio: “My grandmother Maizie kept detailed journals. We know that after Bud died, she and other relatives helped Myrtie and Molly. It’s good we have these pictures of much happier days; they show that Dan Carmichael and his family really enjoyed time together.”