Archives for November 2011

A toll road for San Francisco

While work was going on to repair the streets of San Francisco, paid for partly from city funds and partly by the property owners, an enterprising man named Charles L. Wilson proposed to build a plank road at his own expense out to the Mission Delores. Wilson proposed to build the road from California by way of Kearny to Third and Mission Streets and out to Sixteenth Street, a distance of a little over two and a half miles on the condition that he be allowed the exclusive right to collect a toll … [Read more...]

The deplorable streets of 1849 San Francisco

The winter of 1849-50 had been an unusually wet one and so far, in all the short history of San Francisco, there had been no effort to improve the horrible condition of the streets. When the rains came it was impossible for a wagon to make way and even unladen and unharnessed horses and mules had difficulty. Quantities of brushwood cut from the surrounding hills and tossed into the worst locations proved only a limited and temporary fix. For most of the winter the streets were impassable. … [Read more...]

Gold rush ships under San Francisco

Captain Joseph L. Folsom filled in the first water lot in San Francisco. Located north of California and west of Sansome it had been an expensive undertaking, but the property values went up so fast that it proved a good investment and others soon followed Folsom’s example. Meanwhile the wharves were being extended far out into the bay and cross streets built on piles between them, thus shutting in the hulks of many ships that had been drawn up onto the mud flats and converted to businesses of … [Read more...]

Filling Yerba Buena Cove

At the time of statehood San Francisco had about twenty-five thousand people. Growth, mostly due to the gold rush, had been phenomenal. The tents and shanties from 1848-49 were gone from the business section of town and many of the ramshackle frame buildings, with walls lined with cotton sheeting or paper, had been replaced. However a number of frail, flimsy houses still remained along the outskirts, but both the population and business was growing rapidly, extraordinary improvements were being … [Read more...]

San Francisco officially celebrates statehood

Even as Governor Burnett and Jared Crandell raced south to San Jose with the news of California’s admission into the union, preparations were underway for a grand celebration in San Francisco. It took place eleven days after the news arrived, on October 29, 1850, and was a tremendous event. Buildings were adorned with festive decorations and ships in the harbor covered in flags and streamers. There was a procession of all the town’s public figures, both civil and military, accompanied by … [Read more...]

News of statehood spreads

As it happened, Peter H. Burnett, then Governor of California, was in San Francisco when the SS Oregon arrived with the news the state had been admitted to the union and was present at the mass meeting at Portsmouth Square. The next morning he left for San Jose, then the state capital. Two stagecoach lines ran between the two cities, about fifty miles apart, and they were intense rivals. Burnett rode on a stage owned by Jared Crandall, an experienced coachman who personally drove the team that … [Read more...]

California admitted to the Union

October 18, 1850. The Pacific Mail Steamship Oregon burst through the golden gate with bunting flying and firing it’s cannon. It ran along the waterfront to Rincon Point then turned back to Clark Point and anchored in the stream where it landed it’s passengers. It brought news that California had been admitted into the union, and great excitement and rejoicing coursed through the city. That night a large meeting was held at Portsmouth Square with many speeches. After the meeting the true … [Read more...]

California forms a government

From the end of the War with Mexico in 1846 until entry into the union in 1850, California differed from every other territory of the United States. In the beginning, while the war continued, it was ruled by the military as conquered territory. Then, after the cessation of hostilities and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it became an integral part of the public domain and subject to the rule of congress. But congress failed to act and the president, because of the rapidly growing … [Read more...]

The Governor interferes with the vigilantes

So far the legal authorities had not interfered with the work of the Committee of Vigilance, whose numbers continued to swell indicating the approval and support of the people. With the exception of one rarely read newspaper the press stood behind them, as did the clergy who, if they discussed the matter at all, expressed satisfaction. The hangings of Jenkins and Stuart had put terror into the hearts of the criminal element and little remained to be done, except for the disposition of two … [Read more...]

The execution of James Stuart

One of the many suspicious characters arrested by the Committee of Vigilance was an Englishman who had been sent to prison in Australia at an early age for forgery. There he had escaped his confinement and made his way to San Francisco where, during his short stay, he had committed more atrocious crimes than any scoundrel yet unhanged. Bold and reckless and in spite of the committee, he had thought himself to be invulnerable to arrest and punishment due to the corruption in the city. But … [Read more...]