Mayor Van Ness fails to quell the unrest

Soon after James King’s brother, Thomas, left the county jail in San Francisco where James Casey was essentially hiding under the protection of the law, rumors of a vigilance committee forming in town had created an expectation that justice was soon to come. When a party of armed men approached the jail many expected them to be an advance guard of that committee and cheered loudly. They soon learned this was a company of citizens who had volunteered to defend the jail and the cheers turned to hisses and boos. Then, somewhere around 6:30, James Van Ness, the mayor, appeared among the officers on the bank in front of the jail. When he took off his hat as if he was going to give a speech the crowd hooted and howled, but at last quiet was restored, though it was clear that the people were ill disposed to hear him.

Mayor James Van Ness

James Van Ness

Mayor Van Ness told them that the excitement they were creating would lead to occurrences that would take years to wipe out and advised them to quietly disperse. He assured them the prisoner was safe and told them that if they would only let the law run its course then justice would be done. But these words were no sooner out of his mouth than he was met with another loud chorus of howls. Cries such as, “Look at poor Richardson, where is the justice for him?” And shouts of, “Where is Cora now, damn such justice,” drowned out the mayor and he put on his hat and retired. Soon after a second armed group marched up to defend the jail. Someone in the crowd threw a dirt clod that hit a man and for a time it looked as if there would be a fight, but this was averted. Yet during the evening more guards continued to arrive until men were stationed throughout the jail, on its roof and all around the building.




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