Vigilantes free Terry

The vigilance committee’s board of delegates was called together on the Friday following the guilty verdicts in the trial of David Terry to give their approval of those decisions. Feelings ran high and the meeting room was full. The doors were ordered closed right after roll call and no other member would be admitted until the Terry issue had been decided. After the indictment and verdict of the executive committee were read a motion was made to accept it but this was voted down at once. Each of … [Read more...]

The Committee of Vigilance forms again

The rumors of the formation of a vigilance committee, which had given hope of real justice and helped prevent violence at the vigils over the shooting of James King of William on the night before, proved to be premature. Some members of the old committee had, in fact, met that night at the store of Gabriel B. Post at Front and Green Streets. Soon after a call for a meeting the following morning, purportedly issued by the executive committee of thirty, was sent to several newspapers for their … [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...]

Refinement in the gold mines

The California gold rush attracted men of all stripes from all across the world, the poor man and the rich, the uneducated as well as the scholar, the simple farm hand and the man of taste and refinement. Yet, in general, highly accomplished men hid their achievements, for in the raw gold country hard work and sweat were the qualities that mattered most. But on certain rare occasions the refinements of these men shone bright, almost in spite of themselves. One good example of this happened in … [Read more...]

Wild gold rush drinking sprees

In 1849, while there was a lot of drinking among the miners, it was noted that there were very few regular drunks as yet. Confirmed sots from the east were not able to make the hard journey west and the men who were here had not had time yet to develop a strong dependency. The great majority of drinking was what the miners called treating where if a man was asked to join a friend in some drinks he was expected to return the favor the next time they met. But a natural outgrowth of treating was … [Read more...]

Drinking and gambling in the gold rush

Perhaps nowhere else in the world was there as much drinking as in California. While not everyone drank or gambled so many did, and the public houses were so well patronized, that it seemed to many that almost everyone was addicted to these vices. Throughout the entire country, wherever miners were, there would always be some place to drink and gamble. Even in the most remote camps the mule trains that kept the men supplied with food and equipment also brought liquor and cards in large amounts. … [Read more...]

Gambling in the Gold Rush

Mark Twain first heard the story of Jim Smiley and his jumping frog in the Angels Hotel. Smiley would bet on anything every time he could, and in Smiley Twain captured the passion that powered the California Gold Rush—the deeply rooted desire of man for quick, easy wealth. Starting from the first traveling grog shops at Sutter Creek to the bawdy pleasure palaces of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast alcohol, gambling and women with loose romantic affections were intrinsically interwoven. Miners often … [Read more...]

Gold rush women, the soiled doves

Belle Ryan, a preacher’s daughter, provided the most beautiful girls to wealthy San Francisco gentlemen from her place on Dupont Street—Grant Street today. In 1855 while at the American Theater with her lover, the gambler Charles Cora, William Richardson, the U.S. Marshal, demanded that Belle be ejected because of her occupation. Richardson and Cora argued and several days later Cora shot Richardson dead. Cora was soon tried and acquitted. James King of William, a newspaperman, accused Belle of … [Read more...]

Mark Twain in California

In 1861, with his brother Orion, Samuel Clemens set out for the west. They traveled by stagecoach across the prairie and the Rocky Mountains, visited Salt Lake City and then went on to the new silver mines around Virginia City, Nevada. Here Clemens first tried his hand at prospecting but soon wound up working for the Territorial Enterprise where he first used the pen name by which he is remembered to this day, Mark Twain. In 1864 he moved to San Francisco and met such writers as Bret Harte, … [Read more...]

Bret Harte in California

He was born Francis Brett Hart in Albany, New York on August 25, 1836. His father soon changed the spelling of the family name to Harte and the young Francis changed the spelling of his middle name, which he preferred, to Bret. In 1849 his formal schooling ended at age 13 and by 1854 young Bret had arrived in California by steamship. He made his way to the Southern mines in 1855, just after most of the easy placer gold had been found and the gold rush was beginning to unwind. He wandered around … [Read more...]