Archives for June 2012

Most liquor banned at vigilante headquarters

As soon as the death of Yankee Sullivan became known, William Coleman called an extra session of the executive committee. Already there was a rumor, put forth by enemies of the vigilantes, that they had killed Sullivan, but after reflection the executive committee decided that it was unnecessary to take any action on the matter. Yet the issue of alcohol and the depression the lack of it caused among prisoners was deemed to be a problem and, in order to prevent a recurrence of the Sullivan … [Read more...]

The vigilantes and the death of Yankee Sullivan

The men from the black list arrested and convicted by the Committee of Vigilance were kept in small rooms on the second floor of the headquarters. They were allowed visitors but no alcohol, which had a depressing effect on some of them. Perhaps the worst of these was Yankee Sullivan, whose real name seems to have been Francis Murray but he was also known as James Sullivan. Born in Ireland he’d lived mostly in England until he’d been shipped off to Australia for larceny. He then made his way to … [Read more...]

Vigilantes find illegal ballot box

At about the same time as the arrest of Wooley Kearney, a double back action ballot box, used to insure the outcome of San Francisco elections, was found in a saloon on First Street near Mission by Captain Isaiah Lees of the regular police. While only one of many it was a good example of how the criminal element in San Francisco operated. The Committee of Vigilance got custody of it and displayed it at their headquarters. Here it exerted great influence through its powerful yet silent testimony … [Read more...]

The vigilantes replace the police chief

On the same Wednesday as the arrest of Billy Carr, a plan was adopted for the reorganization of the vigilante police department. The executive committee would elect a chief and he would then nominate a lieutenant and five officers, all to receive salaries. A large majority chose James F. Curtis over current chief William Oscar Smith. The next day an unhappy Smith appeared before the committee to ask why he had been replaced. The committee decided then to rename Curtis as Director of Police, but … [Read more...]

The first black list arrests by the vigilantes

On Monday, May 26th, before work on the black list began, the executive committee ordered that all documents and notices from the Committee of Vigilance should bear the official seal. This was a stamp with an open eye, denoting sleepless vigilance, over which was written “Committee” and below the Latin words “Fiat Justitia Ruat Coeleum, no creed, no party, no sectional issues. It was also resolved that no prisoner could be released without a two-thirds vote of the executive committee and that no … [Read more...]

The vigilante constitution

At an evening session that same Sunday of May 25th, when a resolution passed the committee to arrest Billy Mulligan and five others on the black list, Clancy J. Dempster, chairman of the committee on by-laws and known as the Thomas Jefferson of the vigilance committee, announced the draft of a constitution for the committee. After it was read and some slight amendments made it was adopted. In the preamble the constitution stated that under the existing law there was no security for either life … [Read more...]

The vigilantes adopt rules on home searches

While the Committee of Vigilance searched in vain for Edward McGowan and Peter Wrightman, and especially during the hunt for McGowan, unauthorized members of the committee entered certain houses more or less by force and at times displayed insolence. When the executive committee heard of this matter it decreed that no searches or arrests be made without a written order, except in cases of overt crime, and William Oscar Smith, the committee’s chief of police, was notified of this decision. Since … [Read more...]

The Committee of Vigilance black list

After the hanging of James Casey and Charles Cora the Committee of Vigilance, recognizing that they had assumed the highest functions of the law, set about to purge it’s roles of certain less than desirable characters that had joined the organization. Each company was instructed to scour it own membership and report to the executive committee on May twenty-third. Another matter deemed fit for immediate attention was the willingness of members to listen to idle stories and thus they were told to … [Read more...]

The vigilantes hang Casey and Cora

Just after one o’clock on the same afternoon as the funeral for James King of William, Charles Cora and James Casey were brought to the windows on the second floor of vigilante headquarters that had been prepared for them earlier and walked out on the platforms suspended there. Their arms were tied and each man appeared under control and was accompanied by a priest. When given an opportunity to speak Casey again stated how he was not a murderer. He spoke about how the newspapers shouldn’t … [Read more...]

The vigilantes prepare to hang Cora and Casey

Preparations for the execution of Charles Cora and James Casey were simple. Wooden platforms, each equipped with hinges at the building line, were extended about three feet from two windows on the second floor of vigilante headquarters facing Sacramento Street. Ropes that passed over horizontal beams protruding from the roof, which then went to the top of the building and out of sight, held up the end of the platforms. From these same beams hung the fatal ropes with nooses affixed. While these … [Read more...]