Joseph L. Folsom fights squatters 1854

In 1854 squatters took possession of a lot in San Francisco at the corner of Third and Mission that belonged to Captain Joseph L. Folsom and there they built a squatter’s shanty that had three inch planks lining the interior walls. Because of their heavy fortifications Folsom decided it more prudent to buy them off rather than fight. Immediately after receiving money for leaving one of Folsom’s lots the group promptly moved onto another property belonging to him at the corner of First and Howard Streets where they brought in a ships galley that they called “Fort Larkin” after one of their members.

San Francisco from above - 1854

San Francisco from above – 1854

They presumed Folsom was scared and would pay off again, but they were terribly mistaken. As a man of determination and unflinching character, Folsom did not hesitate to act. Several fights took place and in one, on June 4, George Smith, an employee of Folsom, was killed and two squatters, John Larkin and James McNabb, were seriously wounded. The lawbreakers were driven off the lot and received far less for their time than a regular job would have paid them.

San Francisco 1854

San Francisco 1854

The incident at Fort Larkin and the death of George Smith caused so much consternation that the prominent citizens promptly called a meeting and on June 6 an anti-squatter league known as an association for the protection of property and the maintenance of order was formed. A thousand determined men joined and pledged to put an end to the lawlessness that had gotten so out of hand. For a time, with the support of the police, they stopped squatter troubles in San Francisco.

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