San Francisco History

The Annals of San Francisco



JULY 15th, et seq.—The affair of the “hounds” came to an end. This was an association of young men for the declared purpose of assisting each other in sickness, or when peril of any kind threatened any of the members. It had been imperfectly organized in the beginning of the year, and was virtually a gang of public robbers. The members assumed a kind of military discipline, under the guidance of regular leaders, who wore a uniform, and occasionally, but only on Sundays, paraded the streets with flags displayed and drum and fife playing. They attacked the tents of inoffensive people, chiefly foreigners, and if they could not extort money from the owners or inmates by threats, tore them down to the ground, and stole or destroyed money, jewels, and every thing valuable on the premises. These outrages, perpetrated usually at night, when the more peaceable citizens had retired to rest, were so frequent that the “hounds” became a terror to all well-disposed people of the town. They invaded the stores, taverns, and houses of Americans themselves, and rudely demanded whatever they desired. They could not be refused, for their numbers were so great, while they were well armed, that nobody durst resist them. The town was paralyzed with terror, and the “hounds,” who latterly adopted the name of “regulators,” committed the most violent and cruel outrages in open defiance of the law and common humanity. A series of the most barbarous, destructive, and daring attacks, were perpetrated by those desperadoes on Sunday, the 15th of July, which at last effectually roused the community to a determined counteraction. They formed themselves into a police force, and proceeded to measure their strength against the rioters. They were successful, and immediately afterwards some twenty of the offenders were put upon trial. At this time San Francisco had no proper municipal organization, while neither was there an efficient State government to which the citizens could appeal for protection. They therefore had to do every thing for themselves. They accordingly appointed judges and counsel for both prosecution and defence, and at once proceeded with the trial of the rioters, or conspirators, as they were charged with being. A jury found them guilty of conspiracy, riot, robbery, and assault, with intent to kill. Nine were convicted and sentenced to various periods of imprisonment and considerable fines, and the town was purged for a while of the more violent ruffians that had infested it. A full account of these proceedings will be found in the Third Part of this work.

AUGUST 1st.—The elections ordered by Governor Riley took place in a spirited, though orderly manner. The candidates were numerous, and the following parties were elected: —

Judge of the Supreme Court.
Peter H. Burnett, who had 1298 votes in San Francisco, and 76 at San José.

Horace Hawes, 913 votes.

Francis Guerrero, 1503 votes.
Joseph R. Curtis, 1399 votes.

First Alcalde.
John W. Geary, 1516 votes.

Second Alcalde.
Frank Turk, 1055 votes.

Ayuntamiento, or Town Council.
Talbot H. Green, 1510 votes.
Henry A. Harrison, 1491 votes.
Alfred J. Ellis, 1354 votes.
Stephen C. Harris, 1323 votes.
Thos. B. Winton, 1052 votes.
John Townsend, 1052 votes.
Rodman M Price, 840 votes.
Wm. H. Davis, 835 votes.
Bezer Simmons, 825 votes.
Samuel Brannan, 823 votes.
Wm. M. Stewart, 815 votes.
Gabriel B. Post, 691 votes.

Delegates to Convention.
Edward Gilbert, 1512 votes.
Myron Norton, 1436 votes.
Wm. M. Gwin, 1073 votes.
Joseph Hobson, 839 votes.
Wm. M. Stewart, 833 votes.

Supernumerary Delegates.
Wm. D. M. Howard, 876 votes.
Francis J. Lippitt, 874 votes.
Alfred J. Ellis, 872 votes.
Francisco Sanchez, 872 votes.
Rodman M. Price, 871 votes.

There were some ten or a dozen different tickets at this election, upon all of which the name of Col. John W. Geary appeared for the office of First Alcalde. He consequently received the whole number of votes polled. This decided evidence of public confidence was deserved and appreciated. At the first meeting of the ayuntamiento, the newly elected alcalde presented the following address. It is a document worthy of preservation, being well written, and giving a faithful account of the gloomy aspect of public affairs in San Francisco at that period, and much useful advice to those having the interests of the city in charge:—

Gentlemen of the City Councils:—Having been called by the unanimous voice of my fellow-citizens to the office of chief magistrate of the city of San Francisco, I find it impossible to convey to them by words the feelings excited by this decided manifestation of their confidence and approbation. Profoundly sensible that the honor and trust which have heen conferred upon me far transcend my deserts, I can make no other return, than a heartfelt declaration of my gratitude, accompanied by the assurance, that to the extent of my power, I will with zeal and fidelity cause the observance of every law and ordinance made for the good of this city.

“The citizens of San Francisco, appreciating the importance of the present crisis in the territorial history of California, and particularly the high and important destiny of their city, have conferred upon you, gentlemen, the onerous duty, yet high honor, of legislating for their future welfare and prosperity.

“As your presiding officer, I deem it my duty to call your attention to the situation of the city, and to ask your co-operation in making it, in point of order and security, what it must shortly be in wealth and importance, the first city, and great commercial and moneyed emporium of the Pacific. To effect this, gentlemen, it will require of you great devotion to your duties, as well as great diligence and a liberal supply of funds for municipal purposes.

“Economy in the expenditure of the public money is at all times desirable and necessary; but situated as we are here, without any superior body to legislate for us, the people of the city will, of necessity, be called upon to assume a responsibility in the enactment of laws, and in the expenditure of money for public purposes, not usual under ordinary circumstances. Of this every citizen of San Francisco is fully aware, and all who desire the prosperity and good government of the city will stand ready to sustain you in whatever you may do for its permanent improvement and benefit.

“At this time we are without a dollar in the public treasury, and it is to be feared the city is greatly in debt. You have neither an office for your magistrate, nor any other public edifice. You are without a single police officer or watchman, and have not the means of confining a prisoner for an hour; neither have you a place to shelter, while living, sick and unfortunate strangers who may be cast upon our shores, or to bury them when dead. Public improvements are unknown in San Francisco. In short, you are without a single requisite necessary for the promotion of prosperity, for the protection of property, or for the maintenance of order.

“I therefore repeat, that the present exigency in public affairs requires the utmost diligence on your part, in the performance of all your duties, as well as a liberal supply of funds, to provide for the security of life and property in San Francisco.

“There is perhaps no city upon the earth where a tax for the support of its municipal government can be more justly imposed than here. Real estate, both improved and unimproved, within a short space of time has increased in value in many instances a thousand-fold, and even at its present high rates, will produce in the shape of rents the largest average income upon record. Yet notwithstanding this unprecedented increased value of real estate, the burdens of government should not be borne by a tax upon that species of property alone; each and every kind of business carried on within the limits of the district should bear its just and proper share of taxation. Equal justice to all should be your guide, and if strictly followed, none will have just cause of complaint.

“The charters of most cities in the United States, granted by the Legislatures, give the corporation the right to levy and collect a tax, as well to defray the expenses of its municipal government as for public improvements; and it is usual to submit a tax bill to the Legislature for its confirmation. This Is done to prevent abuses. Yet I do not know of an instance where the tax imposed has been reduced by the Legislature. In towns not incorporated there is no resort to be had to the Legislature for a confirmation of the tax laws. The town officers, chosen by the people, impose the taxes, and collect a sufficient revenue by common consent; and their right to do so is never questioned. That you have a right to levy and collect a reasonable and proper tax, for the support of your municipal government, cannot, in my judgment, for a moment be questioned. In the absence of State legislative authority, you, as the representatives of the people, are supreme in this district, and your acts, so long as you confine them strictly to the legitimate sphere of your duty, will not only be sanctioned and approved by the present worthy Executive of our government in California, but will be most promptly confirmed by the Legislature, whenever one shall be assembled either for the Territory or State.

“I would, therefore, recommend that with all convenient despatch you ascertain, as near as possible, the amount of funds deemed necessary for the support of a proper and efficient municipal government for one year; that when you shall have determined this, you shall proceed to collect a just equitable tax upon real estate and upon sales at auction; and that you require all merchants, traders, storekeepers, &c., to take out a license for the transaction of their business, paying therefor an amount proportionate to the quantity of merchandise vended by them. Also, that all drays, lighters, and boats, used in the transportation of merchandise, and of passengers to or from vessels in the harbor, be licensed.

“There is also another class of business proper to be taxed, which although sometimes prohibited by law, yet in many countries is regulated by law. I recommend you to adopt the latter course. The passion for gaming is universal, even where the severest penalties are imposed to prevent its indulgence. And it is a fact well known and understood whenever gaming tables are licensed and subject to proper police regulations, they are less injurious to the interests and morals of the community than when conducted in defiance of law. In the one case the proprietors are amenable to the law which authorizes them, and are subject to proper control; while on the other hand, if prohibited, the evasion of the law by such means as are usually resorted to, does but increase the evil, and the community is in no way benefited. I would, therefore, recommend, under present circumstances, and until State legislation can be had on the subject, that you license gaming and billiard tables.

“For the collection of each and every tax, the imposition of which I have recommended, you have the example of almost every city in the world. A revenue is necessary for the proper maintenance and support of the municipality,—and it is a maxim everywhere acknowledged, that every citizen should, for the privileges he enjoys, aid in the support of the government under which he lives, and which affords him protection of life, liberty, and property.

“The public documents containing all the muniments of title, &c., for real estate, are not to be found in possession of my predecessor, but in the private keeping of a portion of the citizens.

“As these documents have not been transferred to me in a legal manner by an officer of the law, and as there may be a probability of their being more or less mutilated, I particularly request you to grant me authority to appoint a committee of three respectable and intelligent citizens, who, under oath, shall make an inventory of the said documents, and a schedule of any mutilations, erasures, or interlineations, which may be found on their pages. I feel confident that the importance of this matter has already suggested to you such a measure, inasmuch as the value of titles to real estate might be greatly impaired by failing to adopt it. This course will not only relieve from unjust suspicion the officer to whose charge and safe-keeping those documents are intrusted by the law, but it will also render him responsible for his own acts, and not for those of his predecessor, or of any other person.

“The laws under which we act oblige each officer, without regard to his station, to advance, with his utmost zeal, the cause of education. I, therefore, strongly urge upon you the propriety of adopting measures by which the children of the high, the low, the rich and the poor of this district, can have equal advantages of drinking freely at the fountain of primary knowledge; and it is to be hoped that our territory, which is ere long to be erected into a State, and placed by the side of her elder sisters of the Union, will show to them that she fully appreciates education as the only safeguard of our republican institutions; that the liberties of the people are based upon their intelligence, and that in this respect, as well as in all others, California will present herself to the world a model Republic, without spot or blemish.

First Alcalde of the District of San Francisco. Cal.

Prison-brig Euphemia, and Storeship Apollo.Prefect Hawes also ably addressed the council, chiefly explaining the duties of prefects, which are, he says, “to take care of public order and tranquillity; to publish and circulate, without delay, observe, enforce, and cause to be observed and enforced, the laws, throughout their respective districts; and for the execution of these duties they are clothed with certain powers, which are clearly specified and defined. They are particularly enjoined to attend to the subject of public instruction, and see that common schools be not wanting in any of the towns of their respective districts. They are also required to propose measures for the encouragement of agriculture and all branches of industry, instruction, and public beneficence, and for the execution of new works of public utility and the repair of old ones. They constitute the ordinary channel of communication between the governor and the authorities of the district, and are to cominunicate all representations coming from the latter, accompanied with the necessary information.”

The first money appropriated by the ayuntamiento was for the purchase of the brig Euphemia, which was converted into a prison for the confinement of criminals. This was the first jail established in the place where convicted rogues could be kept in custody. We give a correct representation of the Euphemia. The store-ship Apollo, which is seen on the illustration, was anchored in the cove, some distance from the beach. It was subsequently used for a lodging-house and drinking-saloon. As the city improvements progressed, lots were piled, capped, and filled in on the fiat covered by the waters of the bay, far beyond where the Apollo lay; and strangers visiting the city were astonished to see the hull of a large ship located in the very heart of the city, surrounded on all sides with large blocks of substantial stone and brick edifices.

AUGUST 5th.—The first Protestant Church in California was dedicated by the Baptists. At this time the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Methodists, were taking steps to build places of worship for themselves, while most of these denominations had already established sabbath-schools. The Roman Catholics had also erected a church in Vallejo-street, at which divine service was regularly performed on Sundays. The Rev. T. D. Hunt, whose appointment was noticed before, officiated at the chaplaincy; and Mr. Lyman, a Mormon preacher, was holding forth at the Institute, on Portsmouth Square.

AUGUST 6th, 8th, and 11th.—The ayuntamiento meet, take the oaths of office, and organize and distribute themselves into various committees, for the purpose of systematically conducting the affairs of the town. On the 13th, they appointed the following municipal officials:—

Frank Turk, Secretary.
William M. Eddy, City Surveyor.
P. C. Landers, Collector of Taxes.

And on th 20th of the month,
Dr. T. R. Palmer, City Physician.
Jonathan Cade, Sergeant-at-Arms.
Malachi Fallon, Captain of Police.
A. G. Peachy, City Attorney.
John E. Townes, Sheriff.
Benj. Burgoyne, City Treasurer.

View of San Francisco in 1849, from head of California street.AUGUST 27th.—The “Pacific News,” a San Francisco tri-weekly newspaper, published by Messrs. Falkner and Leland, makes its first appearance. This paper was the second in San Francisco at this period, and continued until 1851, when, after having several times changed its proprietors and political complexion, it expired. The only other newspaper in California was the “Placer Times,” published weekly at Sacramento; but which merged into a daily, and was afterwards issued in San Francisco.

The ayuntamiento this day issue an ordinance (subsequently amended and re-issued) for raising a revenue for municipal purposes, chiefly by means of a percentage duty on the sale of merchandise and real estate, and heavy license duties imposed on those engaged in different kinds of business. This was the beginning of those steps by which a very great revenue was afterwards collected.

SEPTEMBER 1st.—The convention of delegates to frame a State Constitution met at Monterey; and on the 4th instant, chose Robert Semple president, and Capt. Wm. G. Marcy secretary. The Constitution was finished and signed by the delegates on the 13th of October.

SEPTEMBER 10th.—The first “Merchants’ Exchange” was projected a short time before this date; and at a public meeting of citizens, held to-day, the scheme was approved of and subscribed to by a considerable number of merchants and others. The undertaking, however, after going on some time, seems to have been dropped; and in November we find Mr. E. E. Dunbar opening a subscription “Merchants’ Exchange and Reading Room” in Washington street, which was patronized by most mercantile people in the town.

OCTOBER 26th.—Steam navigation is beginning to be adopted in the bay and its upper waters. Just two years before this time Wm. A. Leidesdorff had attempted to run a small steamboat, about the size of a ship’s jolly-boat, which had been procured from the Russian settlement at Sitka. But this vessel, in February, 1848, was sunk in one of the severe northers that visit the bay; and no steps had been taken to renew the experiment until some time after the gold discoveries made its success certain. Then speculators sent out many proper vessels from the Atlantic States. The “Pioneer,” a little iron steamer, brought out in pieces from Boston, sailed upon the waters of the Sacramento River about a month before this date; and, being the first that had penetrated so far into the interior, deserves the title she had assumed. On the 9th instant, the small iron steamer “Mint” had a trial trip, which was highly satisfactory. She was intended to ply between San Francisco and the towns on the upper waters. This day the steam-propeller “McKim” left for Sacramento. Before this time voyages across the bay and up the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers were made in schooners and launches. These vessels were often detained a week or ten days in sailing that distance, which a steamer now accomplishes in half a day. Both the steamers mentioned sailed every alternate day from San Francisco, and on the intervening days left Sacramento for the return passage. The fares at first were thirty dollars cabin, and twenty dollars deck. If berths were used, five dollars extra. Meals on board, two dollars each. The well known steamer “Senator” was shortly afterwards placed on the same station, and the little “Mint” withdrawn and placed on another. This was the beginning of a very great increase of the transit trade of the bay. Later years have sent numerous large, well appointed, and beautiful steam-vessels, which have still further developed the interior water traffic, and added immensely to the resources of the country.

OCTOBER 21st.—Mr. Nathan Spear died of a disease of the heart. He was forty-seven years of age, and one of the oldest inhabitants of the place. This gentleman was partner to Mr. Jacob P. Leese, who built the first house and formed the first mercantile establishment in Yerba Buena. The death of Mr. Spear was much regretted by the citizens, and the flags of the ships in the bay were hung at half mast when it was announced.

OCTOBER 25th.—The first Democratic Meeting ever held in California assembled this evening at Dennison’s Exchange. The attendance was so large that the meeting was compelled to adjourn to the public square. The officers chosen were:—President, Col. John W. Geary; Vice-Presidents, Dr. McMillan and Messrs. O. P. Sutton, E. V. Joyce, Thomas J. Agnew, John McVickar, Annis Merrill, and W. H. Jones; Secretaries, Messrs. Joseph T. Downey, J. Ross Brown, Daniel Cronin, and John A. McGlynn. Hon. Wm. VanVorhies delivered a spirited address, and a long series of resolutions expressive of democratic principles were adopted. The chief object of the assembly was to effect a party organization previous to the approaching State elections.

OCTOBER 29th.—Rowe’s Olympic Circus, which was in a large tent, opened to a numerous attendance of spectators. This was the first public announcement of the dramatic or spectacle kind in San Francisco. The “house” could hold from twelve to fifteen hundred; and the prices of admission were, three dollars to the pit, five dollars to the boxes, and fifty-five dollars for a private box. Two theatres had some time previously been announced, and were at this time in course of formation.

NOVEMBER 13th.—Ballot taken on the Constitution, and election for State officers. Party politics were beginning to influence voters in the choice of candidates. The election, however, was conducted in a quiet and orderly manner. In San Francisco two thousand and fifty-one voted for the Constitution, and five against it. Over the whole country the votes were twelve thousand and sixty-four for, and eight hundred and eleven against. These numbers were much below what had been anticipated, partly on account of a mistake in the voting tickets at San Francisco, and partly from the heavy rains over the country, which prevented many voters from attending the polling places. Perhaps, also, after the first excitement was over, when the convention closed, the people became indifferent on the subject, and neglected the duty of voting. The following is a list of the State officers, senators, and representatives in Congress, first elected under the Constitution; also, the members of the first Legislature of California (to meet at San José), elected by the citizens of San Francisco.

Peter H. Burnett.

Lieutenant Governor.
John McDougal.

United States Senators.
John C. Fremont,
Wm. M. Gwin.

Representatives in Congress.
George W. Wright,
Edward Gilbert.

Secretary of State.
Wm. Van Vorhies.

Richard Roman.

J. S. Houston.

Attorney General.
Edward J. C. Kewen.

Surveyor General.
Charles J. Whiting.

Chief Justice.
S. C. Hastings.

Associate Justices.
J. A. Lyon,
Nathaniel Bennett.

State Senators.
Gabriel B. Post,
Nathaniel Bennett.

Wm. Van Vorhies,
Edmund Randolph,
Levi Stowell,
J. H. Watson,
J. A. Patterson.

NOVEMBER 26th.—The first habitation on Rincon Point, erected by Dr. John H. Gihon. It was an India-rubber tent, and occupied the site of the present U. S. Marine Hospital. The entire hill was covered with gnarled oaks and thick underbrush. There were at that time but several buildings between the Rincon and California street, while the waters of the bay washed the foot of precipitous sand-hills the greater portion of the distance, which rendered it necessary for the pedestrian, when the tide was in, to wade up to his waist in the water in passing from the city to the point, he being compelled to follow the line of the beach. Those hills have since been transplanted into the cove, and made substantial building lots, where large vessels were then anchored.

NOVEMBER 29th.—The governor had appointed this as a day of solemn thanksgiving and prayer for the new State of California, and as such it was very generally observed.

DECEMBER 12th.—Some time previous to this date, the business of the alcalde had so greatly increased, as to render necessary the establishment, of another court; and upon application made to the governor, he authorized William B. Almond, Esq., to open and hold a Court of First Instance, with civil jurisdiction only, and that in cases involving sums exceeding one hundred dollars. Judge Almond accordingly organized his court in the old school-house on the plaza; and the novel and summary manner in which he conducted his business and disposed of sometimes very important cases, was a source of as much merriment to some and mortification to others as any thing else then transpiring in the town. Many a wag who was fond of fun, and had nothing better to do, would spend an hour in the court-room to enjoy the satisfaction of observing the chagrin of upstart attorneys, toward whose oratorical eloquence and legal knowledge the judge was wont to exhibit the most mortifying indifference. His Honor, at whose expense many a good anecdote has been told, had a sovereign contempt for Buncombe speeches, legal technicalities, learned opinions, and triumphantly cited precedents. He was a man of quick discernment and clear judgment; and his opinion once formed, and that sometimes occurred before even the first witness was fully heard, his decision was made. Nothing further need be said. His mind was as unalterable as were the laws of the Medes and Persians. Jury trials were then of rare occurrence, and the judge decided the cases that came before him; and there can be no reason to doubt, that his decisions generally were far more just and equitable than those more recently given in courts claiming greater legal knowledge, where learned judges gravely occupy the bench, and tampered juries are influenced more by bribes than testimony. On this day a case was tried in which a physician had sued the captain of a ship for medical attendance upon sick sailors during a voyage around Cape Horn. The prosecutor claimed five hundred dollars. A number of witnesses were called on both sides. The judge sat upon a rickety old chair, with his feet perched higher than his head upon a small mantel over the fire-place, in which a few damp sticks of wood were keeping each other warm by the aid of a very limited supply of burning coals. His Honor employed himself in paring his corns, or scraping his nails, while the “learned counsel” briefly presented the case, and called the first witness, whom the judge instructed, without changing his position, to tell all he knew about the matter, in as few words and as quickly as possible,— at the same time charging the lawyers not to interrupt him with questions. This witness was no sooner done, and he had but little to say, when the counsel called another; but His Honor informed him that it was unnecessary to pursue the inquiry farther—the witness had told a plain, straightforward story—the court understood the merits of the matter, and its mind was made up. “But,” says a lawyer, “you will at least hear us speak to the points of law?“ “That would be a great waste of time, which is very precious,” replied the judge; “I award the plaintiff one hundred and fifty dollars. Mr. Clerk, what is the next case?“ Thus in less than fifteen minutes a case was equitably disposed of, which in an ordinary court of law might have occupied at least as many days; and in the course of the day, as much business was despatched in the same summary manner, as would occupy most courts an ordinary quarterly term. In the instance related the counsel for the plaintiff pocketed seventy-five dollars of the award, giving his client the balance, who was thus well paid for all the services he had rendered. Young lawyers, however, were not pleased with this summary method of disposing of business. To these the opportunity of making a speech, the tendency of which is usually to render a clear case obscure, though it doubtless serves to display the extent of their wisdom and intelligence, is of quite as much consequence as meat and drink to other people. They could not live without it. Hence, Judge Almond, who deprived them of this exquisite enjoyment, was no favorite with them. On one occasion after a case had been decided, in the usual way, the defeated attorney commenced reading aloud from a book he held in his hand. The judge abruptly turned round, and reminded him that judgment had been rendered, and all further remarks were useless. “I am aware of that,” said the sprightly lawyer; “but I thought I would simply read a passage or two to convince you what an old fool Blackstone was.” The anecdote was not bad, whether well applied or not, and even though it lacked originality.

The greater part of the business of Judge Almond’s court was of a similar character, viz., the settling of claims against owners and masters of ships, instituted by their passengers or crews; and as the decisions were generally against the defendants, it was often maliciously remarked that the judgments of the court were always given against those who were best able to pay the costs. This might have been true, though not in the sense intended; for in these cases, the parties most competent to pay were almost invariably the parties at fault. It was a well-known fact, that during the first great rush of emigration to California, the most shameless impositions were practised upon passengers by shipping merchants and their agents. Vessels that had long been considered unseaworthy were hastily fitted up, without proper accommodations or provisions, and sent on a most dangerous voyage, without even a reasonable expectation in some instances of their reaching their place of destination, with passengers who had been solemnly promised every needed comfort. And, when at sea, they first discovered how they had been deceived, and began to proclaim their grievances, they were merely laughed and scoffed at by the brutal officers appointed (because of their peculiar qualifications for that purpose) to carry out the designs of their employers. These men had practised similar impositions with impunity often before; for how or where could a poor sailor or emigrant passenger obtain satisfaction for wrongs suffered at sea, when the courts, even if appealed to, were so tardy in their movements that the witnesses disappeared before an investigation could take place, or the complainant was subjected to expenses which he had no possible means to defray? Owners and masters of vessels never supposed that in California, where every thing was in a rude and unsettled condition, they would be punished for offences which had been winked at, if not sanctioned, by the legal authorities in the oldest and best regulated communities; hence, they were more reckless, bold and insolent than ever in sending their almost worthless ships around Cape Horn. But they were mistaken. Suits, well founded, were constantly brought against them by the passengers and crews of vessels arriving at San Francisco, and heavy fines and costs imposed for the practice of mean impositions and tyrannical abuses; until at length, Judge Almond’s court became such a terror to merchants and captains of ships, that they would sooner compromise, even at a sacrifice, a disputed point with a sailor or passenger, than submit the case to the judgment of His Honor.

DECEMBER 14th.—An edition of the “Alta California” is published tri-weekly; the old weekly issue being also continued.

Dennison's Exchange, and Parker House, before the fire, December, 1849.DECEMBER 24th.—This morning, about six o’clock, the awful cry of fire was raised in the city, and in a few hours property valued at more than a million of dlollars was totally destroyed. The fire began in Dennison’s Exchange, about the middle of the eastern side of the plaza, and spreading both ways, consumed nearly all that side of the square, and the whole line of buildings on the south side of Washington street, between Montgomery and Kearny streets. This was the first of the great fires which devastated San Francisco; and it was speedily to be followed by still more extensive and disastrous occurrences of a similar character. Something of the kind had long been anticipated by those who considered the light, combustible materials of which the whole town was constructed. That the flames did not spread further was in a great measure owing to the judicious steps early taken by the municipal authorities in pulling down, or blowing up with gunpowder, the houses at the extremity of the conflagration. Scarcely were the ashes cold when preparations were made to erect new buildings on the old sites; and in several cases within a few days, and in all, within a few weeks, the place was covered as densely as before with houses of every kind. These, like those that had just been destroyed, and like nearly all around, were chiefly composed of wood and canvas, and presented fresh fuel to the great coming conflagrations.

The first fire of any consequence that had previously occurred in the place broke out in January of this year, when the “Shades Hotel” was destroyed. In June following, the ship “Philadelphia” was burned in the harbor, as preparations were being made for her sailing to the Sandwich Islands.

Source: Frank Soulé, John H. Gihon, M.D., and James Nisbet. The Annals of San Francisco. 1855: San Francisco.

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