Albert Elam "Chris" Christian
Born January 17, 1907, Ratcliff, Texas
Died October 27, 1971, San Diego, California

Front Row, left to right: Father James E., Sister Ann, Mother Julia Ann
Back Row, left to right: Broher Charlie, Sister Flora, Brother John,
Sister Mildred, Albert Elam, Brother Newman

[From the San Diego Police Department Weekly Newsletter, "Flash", July 12, 1941]

My Dad and Mother started married life about fifty-two years ago by homesteading a quarter section of wilderness land on Pedro Creek in East Texas. With his axe Dad chopped down trees and used the logs to build a one-room log cabin in the clearing. The cabin had a clay and dirt floor and a rock and mud fire place. Dad, with the aid of a sturdy team of oxen, “Buck” and “Baldy”, cleared land on the homestead, raised crops and added a number of rooms to the log cabin.

In 1906 Dad sold the homestead and bought a farm near the small sawmill town of Ratcliff*, Texas. I first made my appearance at that place on January 18, 1907. My youngest sister was born there nine years later — making a total of four boys and three girls in our family. At the age of seven I started to school, and in the same year I saw my first automobile. It was during my second year in school that a “great event” transpired in my life. One day at school during the noon hour a number of us boys were playing the game of “deer and dog”. I was selected to be the “man” in charge of the dogs. The school’s tough kid had a corn cob pipe in which he smoked home grown tobacco. It was the duty of the “man” in charge of the dogs to smoke the pipe. I did it with great gusto. Needless to say, I spent the rest of that day in bed — a very sick boy.

At the age of eleven I moved with my family to a farm just out of Conroe, Texas. Dad and I made the trip which was about 125 miles in a covered wagon. It required three days and nights to make the journey. Two of the three days we had to buy water for the horses. One night we made camp beside a small water hole. Before we could obtain water to make coffee, we had to chase a pig from the puddle, strain and boil the water. The coffee, as I recall, was very tasty.

I did a lot of cow punching in and around Conroe — that is when I was not attending school; and incidentally, I only worked at cow punching when I could not get out of it. During the summer of my twelfth year I helped a horse trader wrangle a herd of mules for which I was paid one dollar a day — a lot of dough in those days in that country.

I quit school at the age of sixteen when I was in the 9th grade and started work at a saw mill. While at work one day, a piece of green lumber thrown out of the mill by the saws hit me on the head. It made me very sick; I sat down and cried. When I felt better I decided milling was not my kind of work. The next day I quit and enrolled in the Tyler Commercial College at Tyler, Texas.

I believe I learned more in commercial college in six months than in all the rest of my school years. Upon finishing, I obtained employment for a time as stenographer and bookkeeper. Later I joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and spent a year at Kelly Field, Texas.

I came to San Diego in 1927 and spent the next ten years working at many different jobs, a few of which were office work, shoe salesman, filling station operator and auto mechanic.

It was while I was a mechanic for Hertz Drivurself Stations that I met THE girl — Pearl Mitrovich — who has made the last four and a half years the happiest of my life. And now, Shirley Ann, age two years and nine months is doing her part to make life even happier.

After taking four exams and spending about seven years on the eligible list, I finally landed on the San Diego Police Department, on February 23, 1938, and after a short time on the department, I realized I was working with a swell bunch of men. I knew that I had at last found my life’s work.


The following summary was submitted to the Mayor of San Diego for a special service award presentation in the Council Chambers on Tuesday, February 15, 1958:

Lt. Albert E. Christian joined the Police Department February 28, 1938. He was immediately assigned to the downtown section to control traffic as a foot patrolman.

As befits a true Texas, it was less than three months before he joined the mounted police downtown. He rode horses until the time he traded his sturdy steed for an iron horse in the form of a motorcycle. He is the last active member of our Police Department to have ridden a horse downtown.

His twenty years have almost all been spent in traffic control, with the exception of short periods of assignment to various other divisions for relief or vacations. He made sergeant in 1944 and has been a lieutenant for a little over ten years.

Lt. Christian is in charge of the enforcement section of the traffic division and among other things, has become the department's expert on parades and special events. One of his many duties is to coordinate activities and arrange for traffic control at all special events in the City of San Diego.

Lt. Christian has seen San Diego grow from a city of less thn 200,000 to a city of over half a million. He has also seen our concept of a busy road grow from 10,000 cars a day to 70,000 cars a day. In this period he has not only kept pace with the changing conditions, but has always been progressive, which is a major factor in having San Diego receive awards for our traffic supervision efforts.

Best of all, I think by now we can truly say he is more San Diegan than Texan.



Chris and Pearl on their Honeymoon at Boulder Dam, 1937


* Ratcliff, Texas, founded by Jesse H. Ratcliff (June 22, 1844 - January 1, 1920)

Some 32 wagons moved through Alabama travelling west out of Georgia in 1875. One of those making that trip was Jesse H. Ratcliff. Ratcliff, Confederate veteran, had served with Co. G. 2 Ark. Inf., C.S.A. Their settlement was a mile and half from the present State Highway 7 in virgin pine country near the Neches River. It is referred to as Old Ratcliff today.

J.H. Ratcliff recognized the timber value and opened a small sawmill around 1885. Ratcliff purchased land from H.W. Payne on which to build it. A postoffice was established February 6, 1889, and was called Ratcliff after Jesse H., first postmaster.

Ratcliff sold his sawmill and the land around it to the Louisiana and Texas Lumber Company on January 10, 1901. With this purchase, the Four C (Central Coal and Coke Company), a lumber and mining firm operating from central offices in Kansas City, Mo., began development of one of the largest sawmills at the turn of the century.

J.H. Ratcliff's early settled area moved toward the sawmill which was built three-quarters of a mile to the south. His daughter named Jessie Belle had married Gary Mahoney and the couple had opened and were operating a general merchandise store in the New Ratcliff. [Chris' brother, Charles, worked in Mahoney's Dry Goods Store, pictured below]

Jesse Ratcliff died on January 1, 1920, the year that the Four C Mill and the Eastern Texan Railroad wound up. He was a Mason and Masonic graveside rites were conducted at Mt. Vernon Cemetery.

By: Eliza Bishop
"History of Houston County, Texas 1687-1979"

Historicial Development: Jesse T. Ratcliff's sawmill in Houston County appeared in an 1880 Chicago lumber publication. By 1884, Ratcliff added a shingle mill and planing mill, and all three mills were listed in Rand McNally and Company's 1884 directory of lumber mills. The mills were situated in the town known as Coltharp. (J. M. Smith also owned a sawmill at Coltharp during this time). Bob Bowman recorded that Jesse Ratcliff came to Houston County in 1875 from Georgia. Ratcliff's daughter married Gary Mahoney, a local mercantile owner. She recalled that her father sold the land to 4-C for its mill at Kennard, and that his small mill continued to cut lumber for 4-C for some time after the erection of the large mill.