Violence on San Francisco streets

Early on that same Saturday afternoon of June 21st after the Julia arrived in San Francisco with the commandeered arms of the law and order party, the executive committee of the vigilantes decided to order the arrest of Maloney and Phillips, who had been released that morning at the docks. Sterling A. Hopkins, a committee policeman was charged with this duty. Unfortunately he seems to have been one of those undesirable people who had not yet been purged from the committee’s roles and now he was in position to do much harm and would do so in a way that forced the committee to support his actions. Hopkins, with several associates, went to the building that housed Palmer, Cook & Co. on the corner of Kearny and Washington Streets and where Maloney could presently be found in the second floor offices of Dr. Richard Ashe, a captain of the law and order forces.

Sacramento Street, San Francisco, 1855

Sacramento Street, San Francisco c. 1855

Hopkins found Maloney in Dr. Ashe’s office but several other men were also present, including David S. Terry who announced he was a justice of the state supreme court and, by virtue of his position as a peace officer, he forbade the arrest of Terry by vigilantes in his presence. Hopkins then left the building; perhaps feeling outnumbered, and called for more men to assist him. He soon returned with a larger force, intent on making the arrest. Meanwhile, Ashe, Maloney, Terry, Hamilton Bowie, Edwin Rowe and James McNabb, realizing that the Committee of Vigilance, if they truly wanted to arrest Maloney, would not long be deterred by the objections of a supreme court justice and decided to move to the protection afforded by the San Francisco Blues in their armory at the corner of Dupont—today’s Grant—and Jackson Streets. Several of them, including Terry, were armed.

Opera house in San Francisco

Maguire’s Opera House

The men protecting Maloney had made it about halfway from Kearney Street to Dupont, and not far from the firehouse of the Pennsylvania Engine Company No. 12, when Hopkins, now with some eight to ten men with him, approached and attempted to seize Maloney. Terry pulled out his gun. Hopkins grabbed it and they struggled. Terry then drew a large knife and stabbed Hopkins in the neck about four inches from his left ear, inflicting a bloody if not fatal wound. Hopkins turned away and was carried to the firehouse for assistance while Terry, Maloney and their associates ran to the armory where they found a number of law and order forces. Word spread through the neighborhood in a flash and the streets filled with people. In the face of the crowd the doors to the armory closed. Word was quickly passed to vigilante headquarters where it was decided that Terry should also be arrested.


  1. Talk about a cliffhanger, John! I hope you post the rest of the story tomorrow, because I won’t be online over the weekend to read it. The law and order forces were anything but, weren’t they?

    The Montana Vigilantes didn’t have to fight an entrenched ruling oligarchy, if that’s not too strong a word. They just had to uncover a widespread criminal conspiracy among unknown armed robbers and murderers.


    • It is a heck of a story, Carol, but it goes on for a while. The vigilantes have two more men to hang and the Governor won’t give up until his last hope is gone.

      Like in Montana it was a wide spread but looose conspiracy, except these guy weren’t unknown, most of them were elected. I’m betting that some of them contributed heavily into Governor Johnson’s pension fund too.

      If you miss a story on Facebook you can go back. Above the story title are two titles in smaller print. The one on the left takes you back and the one on the right goes forward. Thanks for reading. I certainly appreciate your interest.

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