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 slander his name. Whatever his faults, he said, they were the result of his early education where he learned to fight and to resent an injury done him. This was all he had done and he was particularly concerned that his aging mother not hear him called a murderer. He went on about her until he became weak. A priest comforted him and offered the crucifix that Casey kissed several times.

The hanging of James Casey and Charles Cora

Hanging Casey and Cora

While this was going on in the window nearest Davis Street, Cora stood on the platform in the other window unmoved. He was asked if he wanted to speak and he shook his head. Except for kissing the crucifix pressed to his lips by Father Accolti he stood as still as a statue. Then, at twenty-one minutes after one o’clock, when Casey had finished speaking, the legs of both men were tied, a white cap was placed over each man’s head and the ropes were adjusted about their necks. At a signal from somewhere inside the building the cords that held up the platforms were cut and both men fell about six feet. They seemed to die without a struggle and only a slight motion of their extremities was noticed.

The bodies hung for an hour, then they were lowered and taken to the coroner. An inquest was held later. Casey’s body was given to the Crescent Engine Company No. 10 where he had been the foreman. He was buried that Sunday by them and accompanied by friends and others who opposed the committee. He was laid to rest in the old graveyard at Mission Delores. Cora’s remains were given to his widow, Belle Cora, and he was buried in the same cemetery but with less ceremony. Stone monuments were erected over both men. While Cora’s marker only gave his name and the date of his death, Casey’s was more elaborate with emblems of the fire company, a declaration that he was murdered by the Committee of Vigilance and a prayer—which under the circumstances was not sincere on the part of the engine company—that God would forgive his persecutors.



  1. John, when do you write the novels and stories about all this? Can we expect them at some point?


    • Good question, Carol. I’m working on it. I have a book done that happens in the spring of 1849 and a sequel half finished. The first one will hopefully come out soon, but I have a long way to go to get to the 1856 Vigilantes. Still, I might look into a new hero and flash ahead a bit. I already have a good gambler in my pocket. Memphis would fit into some of the vigilante turmoil quite well. It takes me a lot longer to write a book than an article. But I have high hopes that I can come up with a good book for each year from ’48 to ’56. Thanks for the encouragement.

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