San Francisco History

My Own Story


WHEN the streetcar strike had successfully been engineered and broken, Bowling, the secretary-treasurer of the Carmen's Union, was placed on the payroll of the United Railroads. However, after Calhoun had been indicted, Bowling became dissatisfied with the amount of money he was getting. He must have felt that he had been unfairly treated by Calhoun, or, perhaps, he endeavored to get more than Calhoun was willing to pay. At any rate, he finally came to Burns and offered, for $10,000, to give us the evidence that Calhoun, Schmitz and he had planned and caused the streetcar strike.

Burns, being employed by the District Attorney, was not in a position to negotiate with him directly, and sent him to me. He sketched roughly this story of the making and breaking of the carmen's strike, and offered to put himself on record, to make an affidavit to it, for $10,000. Burns got him to finally agree to $6000. I consented to this, and arranged to meet him the following day.

Next day I met Mr. Bowling in an office in the Spreckels Building, with a stenographer. I had arranged for the $6000. Bowling had with him a man who had participated with him in the deal with Calhoun. The stenographer was ready, waiting. I said, "Go ahead. Everything is arranged. Tell your story."

He said, "Well, we met at Calhoun's house."

I said, "Go on. Who was present? Calhoun? Schmitz?"

There was a long silence. He turned white. Finally he stammered that he couldn't go on.

"Why? Don't you want the money?"

"Yes," he said. Then he said, desperately, "But they—they'll kill me!" He meant the carmen he had betrayed.

I said, "All right. Good day." Bowling left the room.

Burns bitterly reproached me for this action later. He said I should have coaxed him along, given him a little money, played him from day to day until he was ready to talk. But I was not experienced in such matters.

Next morning there appeared in one of the morning papers a story, backed by an affidavit by Bowling, charging me with attempting to bribe him with a sum of money to tell a lie against Calhoun. Then he proceeded to tell the story of the sack of money I had taken to union headquarters to support the strike. Thereupon the whole powerful part of the town became violently prejudiced against me because I helped to uphold the strike, and because I was attacking Calhoun, who in their opinion had crushed the strike and saved San Francisco from ruin.

I had in fact first attempted to prevent the strike that Calhoun had ordered, and then I had helped to hold the men steady by paying their benefit money, which was afterward repaid to me, in the hope that if they held together they could save something from the ruin in which Calhoun had involved them.

But in the eyes of the powerful people of the city I was branded as a dangerous agitator, plotting against the city's peace, while Calhoun was surrounded by a halo. I had no recourse except to continue as best I could to help in uncovering the truth in the courts.

Tirey L. Ford had been indicted with Calhoun. He was chief counsel for the United Railroads and was the man who had passed the $200,000 from Calhoun to Ruef for bribing the supervisors. He was placed on the calendar for trial before Calhoun, in the hope that if he were convicted he might come through with some confession involving Calhoun, in return for some leniency in his sentence.

While these cases were pending, and San Francisco people in general were absorbed with their own personal affairs, the city became filled with armed detectives, employed either by Burns or by Calhoun. To one who knew the inside facts, the very air of the streets became tense. Every few feet one met a man who was working for one side or the other, and many men of prominence were constantly shadowed by both sides, and even the men who were following them were also followed and watched.

Shortly after Calhoun's indictment he sent a mutual friend to see me to ask me to name my price to quit the fight. I replied, "Tell Mr. Calhoun that I have no price, that nothing will stop me until he has been convicted and sent to the penitentiary."

In my relentless pursuit of him I stopped at nothing. I learned of a suit that a maiden sister had brought against him for having fleeced her out of $60,000. Calhoun had settled the case quickly when he found that Heney was working out here, but there was a court record in Atlanta, Georgia, and I went back to Atlanta personally to get it.

On this trip I spent my own money, $700, saved out of my salary. I had a transcript made of the case and certified to by the county clerk in Atlanta, and when the county clerk handed it to me and I paid his fee, he said:

"I don't know what you are going to do with this, but I imagine that you are going to take it to San Francisco to use against Patrick Calhoun. Let me tell you something. He's a desperate man. He's a man who would not hesitate to blow up a whole theater full of people to get just one man that he hated."

From the time I returned to San Francisco I was never without a shadow. I never left my office that one or two men did not follow me to my hotel, which was the Fairmont. All sorts of traps were set to catch me. Women would call me upon the telephone and tell me that if I would come to such and such a room, in such and such an apartment house, I could get some very valuable information.

I avoided all these traps. The stress was very great and I was living under great excitement and worry. In the midst of this Mrs. Older and I were ostracised by many who had formerly been our friends.

After the indictment of Calhoun—who was a descendant of Patrick Henry, a Southern gentleman with a great deal of social prestige in the East, and necessarily here as well, pampered in our best clubs, entertained by our "best people," a man, moreover, who had "saved" San Francisco's business interests when they were endangered by the car strike—local sentiment toward the graft prosecution changed overnight.

People who had known me quite intimately stopped speaking to me. Labor fell away from us because Eugene E. Schmitz was labor's mayor and they did not like to see him discredited by a group of men whom they considered to be hostile to labor. The wealthy people fell away from us because we were attacking one of their own class, Calhoun. So we were left between the two.

Up to this time I had been a fairly popular member of the Bohemian Club and used to greatly enjoy going there; but after we touched Calhoun there was hardly any one in the club who would speak to me. The ostracism became so acute that I finally resigned.

Mrs. Older and I had known and liked quite a few members of what is known as "society" in San Francisco, and they, of course, dropped us. One of the women called on Mrs. Older and told her that many of her friends liked her very much and would like to continue their friendship, but that they could not stand for the attitude of her husband.

Mrs. Older replied that she did not care for their friendship in that case; that she was perfectly willing to be ostracised with me; that she believed me to be right, and that was the only thing to be considered.

In the stress and strain of those days Mrs. Older and I tried to escape from it all every evening by going to the beach, where we had a tiny car-house attached to a restaurant managed by Mrs. Gunn. It was our one pleasure, just about sunset, to go for a swim in the ocean, return to our car-house and then dine with Mrs. Gunn.

One evening, as I came from the office and crossed the sidewalk to the machine where Mrs. Older was waiting, a very good friend of mine, who had deep connections in the underworld, passed by me, and said warningly: "Keep away from the beach."

He did not stop to be questioned, but went quickly past me, as though he had not spoken to me.

The following letter has been received from Mr. John S. Irby, surveyor of customs, in the federal service here:

Mr. Fremont Older, Editor The Call—Dear Mr. Older: If your "My Own Story," which I am reading with avid interest as the most informing narration of my experience, is to be published in book form, may I not invite your attention to an error. You stated that Patrick Calhoun is related to Patrick Henry, the orator and patriot of our revolution, one of the early governors of Virginia. I am sure it was a lapsus calami.

While a man is not responsible for his relatives, only his friends, as a Virginian I am loath to allow Patrick Henry's memory to be thus impugned. Patrick Calhoun is related to John C. Calhoun, the South Carolina senator who died in 1850, known as "the great nullifier" because of his advocacy of the nullification act.

John C. Calhoun's father was named Patrick Calhoun. Thus the man who figures so prominently in your histories is named for the father of the South Carolina Senator. Very truly yours.


San Francisco, Nov. 8, 1918.

Patrick Calhoun often made the statement that he was related to Patrick Henry, and I based the statement in my story on Calhoun's assertion.



THIS warning, "Keep away from the beach," I knew to be important. The man who had given it to me was my friend, and a man who was not given to false alarms.

But I was very angry at the thought of giving up my one pleasure, that daily swim in the surf with Mrs. Older and our quiet little dinner later in Mrs. Gunn's small restaurant. I determined that I would continue to have it.

So I secure two plain clothes men from the police department and went to the beach as usual, leaving the two officers sitting in the machine on the beach, watching. Nothing happened. Still I knew that the warning was not without significance, and so each day I took the plain clothes men with me, and never while we were at the beach allowed them to get out of sight.

Later I learned that Calhoun's men had employed a half-breed Mexican gunfighter to come from Arizona to San Francisco to "get" me. The day before my friend warned me, this Mexican was standing opposite the Bulletin office in front of the Phelan building, which was then in course of construction, when another well known gun fighter, who knew him very well, came along. He asked: "What are you doing here?"

The Mexican answered: "I'm waiting to see Older when he comes down."

"What's the idea?"

"Well, I am supposed to get him. They want me to go up into the Phelan building and shoot him through his window in the Bulletin office. They told me the noise of the steam riveters would sound so much like a rifle shot that it wouldn't be distinguished, but I'm leary of that. If it didn't, I wouldn't have any chance to get away. So I'm going out to get him at the beach, where he dines every night with his wife."

"What are you staying here for, then?"

"Well, I don't know him. I am waiting here till he comes down. There's a man over there who will lift his hat when Older comes through the door, and that will give me the signal who he is."

The man to whom the Mexican confided was a friend of the man who warned me. I had done favors for both of them and they didn't want any harm to come to me. So the warning was given me, and that plan was thwarted by the two plain clothes men who guarded us whenever we were at the beach.

It was some years later that I heard from Peter Claudianos, now doing life in San Quentin for dynamiting the house of one of our star witnesses, Gallagher, of another plan which was spoiled by the plain clothes men. He told me that when plans were made for dynamiting Gallagher they thought they might as well dynamite me at the same time. So Felix Padauveris, who was in charge of the job, rented the cottage just below mine at the beach, and stored in the basement of it fifteen pounds of dynamite.

He and Claudianos visited the beach, breakfasted in Mrs. Gunn's restaurant, looked the situation over, and made all their plans for placing the dynamite. But the presence of the two plain clothes men frightened them and they abandoned the idea.

These things seem so melodramatic that it is almost incredible that they could have occurred in a peaceful city, whose people, most of them, were going about their ordinary routine affairs, and who, when they read of the graft prosecution, saw only the surface facts that were printed and were probably bored by them long before the fight ended. But the plots and counter plots of that time were innumerable.

Calhoun's detectives filled the city. Calhoun was desperate. He saw the penitentiary doors opening before him, in spite of his utmost efforts, and he stopped at nothing to save himself or to get revenge upon his implacable enemies.

After Roy had become friendly with me we all felt very grateful to him and used to dine or lunch in his restaurant as often as we could. The restaurant was on Van Ness avenue near Sutter street, Van Ness avenue being at that time the center of the city, since downtown San Francisco was not yet rebuilt.

One morning about 11 o'clock I dropped into Roy's restaurant for breakfast. I always wanted to have a chat with him, and, not seeing him, I asked the waiter where he was. The waiter said: "He's over there in the corner. Don't you see him?"

Roy was sitting with his back to me, talking to a strange man. After a moment he rose, and, coming over to me, handed me an envelope, with an affable smile, saying: "Look at this. Pretend. As soon as that man goes out I have something to tell you."

He went back. When the man went out Roy came over and told me that he was Luther Brown, whom Calhoun had brought from Los Angeles to head his force of detectives.

He had come to Roy and said: "Roy, we want you with us, and we want you to name your price."

Roy asked: "What do you want me to do?"

"We want you to be with us."

"Well, in that case I want to see Calhoun. I want to talk to him."

"All right. I'll see him tomorrow and make the appointment."

Roy reported this to Burns, as well as to me, and Burns suggested that he keep the appointment, which he did. He called at Calhoun's house and found Calhoun out in his garden, picking roses. He met Roy very cordially and asked him into the house, where he took him into a room and closed the doors.

Roy said: "Well, what is it?"

"Roy, I want you to ship with me for the whole trip."

"Well, what do you want me to do?"

"I want you to name your price for testifying that Spreckels is to pay Older $15,000 and Heney $15,000 the day that I am convicted; that Spreckels also offered you $15,000, and $10,000 each to Gallagher and one or two of the other supervisors for testifying that I had bribed them.

Roy said: "What about my friends?"

Calhoun replied: "I'll take care of your friends. You mean Dr. Poheim and Frank Maestretti. I'll take care of Poheim, and Maestretti is all right because Herrin is handling him. At any rate, I want to see you tomorrow. If you will take a certain boat, go to Oakland, you will find an automobile waiting at a certain place. Get in that automobile, and you will be driven out to where I am. I am going to handle this thing, Roy. I don't want any more Fords handling my affairs. From now on I'm going to handle this myself."


ROY was by this time sincerely devoted to the graft prosecution and in entire sympathy with our purposes. If coercion had been necessary at first to bring him into line—and I do not know that it was necessary; I only know that I used it—persuasion of that kind was no longer necessary to keep him with us.

He reported to us his conversation with Calhoun, and with Burns' advice he followed the instructions that had been given him.

Next morning, with Dr. Poheim, he took the ferry Calhoun had suggested, found an automobile waiting for them in Oakland, and got into it.

The machine took them to Luther Brown's father in law's house, near San Leandro. In the yard were Calhoun, with several of his attorneys, Luther Brown and some of Brown's detectives.

Roy said, "Well, Calhoun, I am not going to allow any Tirey L. Ford to handle my affairs either. I'm not going to talk before all these people."

Calhoun said, "Come upstairs and we will talk alone. He took Roy into an upstairs bedroom, and they sat down on the edge of the bed. Calhoun said, quietly, "Roy, what do you want?"

"Well," Roy said. "I've got to be made whole on my investments in San Francisco. I'm connected with some pretty big people, and if I throw them down San Francisco will be no place for me. I'll have to leave town."

"All right. What are your investments?"

"Well, there's my restaurant."

"What does that stand you?"

"Thirty-two thousand," said Roy.

"I'll take care of that," said Calhoun. "What else have you got?"

"A skating rink."

"What does that amount to?"

"Twenty thousand."

"I'll take care of that. Anything else?"

Ray enumerated various interests that had to be covered. In all, they amounted to $80,000. Calhoun agreed to pay him that amount. In return Roy was to go on the stand and testify that Rudolph Spreckels had promised to pay me $15,000. Heney $15,000 and Gallagher $10,000 on the day that Calhoun was convicted. Calhoun's purpose was to make it appear that he was being persecuted by Spreckels because they were financial rivals.

"Well," said Calhoun, "we've got to arrange this thing in some way so that it won't be subornation of perjury. But that can be arranged. That's only a matter of detail. Now as to Poheim."

It was agreed that Poheim was to have $25,000.

All this Roy immediately reported to us. But a few days later he met Calhoun, and Calhoun said, "There's a little hitch in this plan of mine. I told it to John Garber, and he told me we were heading for the penitentiary on this stuff. It rattled me a little, what he said. Still, I'm convinced that I'm right, and I'm going ahead with it. But I want a little time to think it over."

John Garber was a very famous lawyer here. His advice undoubtedly disturbed Calhoun. Later, Roy learned that he had acquainted others of his attorneys with the negotiations thus far, and they had told him it was undoubtedly a Burns trap, so the matter hung fire for some time before Calhoun reopened it.

Meanwhile, we were hammering at Ruef and Schmitz in the courts. The Bulletin was printing all that it dared to print of the truth, and San Francisco was divided into two violently opposing camps, one believing that we were pure white crusaders, endeavoring to rid the city of evil men, and the other declaring that we were henchmen of Spreckels, persecuting the man who had saved the city from ruin at the hands of the unions.

We had brought Schmitz back from Europe, arrested him and tried him, while he was still Mayor of San Francisco. He stood in the dock as Mayor of San Francisco, and he went out from the dock to the Mayor's office and conducted the affairs of the city as a suspected criminal. He was proved guilty of bribery in the French restaurant cases and sentenced to San Quentin for five years. After his conviction he was taken to the Ingleside jail, and proceedings were brought to remove him from the Mayor's chair.

The city was then without a Mayor. It fell to us to choose one, because the man to fill the empty place was to be chosen by the Board of Supervisors, and we held eighteen of them in the hollow of our hands on account of their confessions.

The matter hung fire for some time while we tried to decide who should be Mayor of San Francisco. Spreckels, Heney, Langdon and I were busy trying to find a suitable man, one that would satisfy the city and be sympathetic with our fight against the grafters.

The first name suggested was that of Dr. Gallwey, a very popular physician here. Some one went down to Santa Barbara, where he was staying, to ask him if he would be Mayor. He refused.

Other names were mentioned, but we could not all agree upon one. E. J. Livernash was at that time working with me. He was a writer on the Bulletin, and I had him as my adviser in all my activities in the graft prosecution. One day he said to me that Phelan ought to be appointed. I agreed. Livernash said: "Of course, labor has been against him, but that can be arranged. I think we can induce labor to accept him."

With this idea in mind, we drove out to Phelan's residence, where Rudolph Spreckels was dining. Just as we stopped in front of the house, Phelan and Spreckels came out together and walked toward our automobile. Livernash said: "We have decided that Phelan is the man for Mayor."

Spreckels said instantly: "I won't stand for him." That angered us both. I said: "Why not?"

Spreckels replied: "Because he is too close to me." He meant, of course, that Phelan was so closely associated with him that his appointment would make it appear that Spreckels was choosing the Mayor.

Livernash became very angry and said: "Well, then, I'm done with the whole thing. I'll have nothing more to do with it!"

We drove away in a huff. We were both so angry that it appeared that there was a split between the few men in whose hands the selection of a Mayor lay. But San Francisco was without a Mayor, and something had to be done.


ON THE following morning Livernash and I met as usual. A night's sleep had cooled us both. Livernash said it was a pity to quarrel with Spreckels at such a critical time. I agreed with him and hastened away to find Spreckels. I met him at Heney's office and assured him that we would continue to co-operate with him and try to find a suitable man for Mayor. All along Livernash had been strong for Michael Casey, president of the Teamsters' Union. At that time Casey was a big figure with the labor men. He and Andrew Furuseth had fought Bowling's crowd in the Carmen's Union, trying to defeat Calhoun's movement to bring on a strike. They knew that Calhoun had his strike-breakers here ready to break the strike, so that Calhoun might gain the applause of the powerful people of the city. But Spreckels would not stand for Casey. He did not share the confidence that Furuseth, Livernash and I had in him. And we were compelled to abandon him.

After leaving Spreckels I returned to Livernash's office and together we searched our minds for the name of a man that the people would accept. I remembered the old Board of Freeholders that had framed the Phelan charter, and it occurred to me that perhaps some of those names would do. I asked Livernash if he had a copy of the charter which contained the names of the Board of Freeholders, most of whom we had forgotten.

He said he didn't know. He had moved to temporary quarters after the fire, his books were disturbed, and if he had one he didn't know where it was. He went over to a corner of his office, where a lot of pamphlets and odds and ends of papers had been dumped, and pawed them over. He finally found a ragged copy of the charter, knocked the dust from it against a corner of his desk and handed it to me.

I looked over the names of the freeholders, and when I came to E. R. Taylor I said: "Dr. Taylor is the man."

"Wonderful," said Livernash. "But he's dead."

I said: "No! Is he? He can't be! I saw him in a Sutter street car not over a month ago."

"Then," said Livernash, "he's the man, by all means."

We both reasoned that Dr. Taylor was eminently respectable. He was a lawyer and a physician and a poet, and, so far as we knew, he had never done anything that could be held against him by any one. He was just the man for the situation. I went hurriedly up to the Red House. Spreckels was there.

I said: "Dr. Taylor is the man."

"Just the man!" he said.

He called Langdon on the telephone within a minute and said: "Dr. Taylor."

Langdon said: "Just the man!" Every one agreed.

That night the puppet Board of Supervisors met and Dr. Taylor was made mayor of San Francisco. He was an admirable mayor for our purposes, eminently just and inoffensive to every one. The city seemed fairly well pleased with the selection. He took office immediately.

Meanwhile we continued our fight against the grafters. We had the confessions of the eighteen supervisors, and of Ruef. We had promised the supervisors immunity, because we knew that behind them were Ruef and Schmitz and Ford. We had promised to let Ruef off with one year's sentence, because we knew that behind him were men still higher up, Calhoun and others, more influential and thus infinitely more dangerous. These were the men we wanted to get.

But while we were engaged in tracking down Calhoun, Calhoun and his hired force of detectives were not idle.

One day a man called at my office and told me that he had been in the employ of the Pinkertons, but had been dismissed. The reason he gave was that a number of Pinkerton detectives had organized, demanded more money, and struck. The local manager, in retaliation, had reported these men to the Eastern headquarters as having falsified their reports, and the men were dismissed.

My informant said that he had then gone to work as a Pullman conductor on the Southern Pacific. Knowing that Pinkertons were doing work for the Southern Pacific, he had put in a knock against them with the superintendent in San Francisco, and this had resulted in his being discharged by the railroad company.

"Those—Pinkertons have got me fired twice," he said bitterly. "Now, Mr. Older, I don't want any money for the service that I can render you. I just want to get evened up with the Pinkertons.

"There is a prominent labor leader, affiliated with the Water Front Federation of Labor, who is a Pinkerton spy, employed by Pinkerton to betray labor. He makes it a business to keep watch on the docks, and whenever he hears any one advocating higher wages or shorter hours, or in any way objecting to the present condition of affairs, he reports that man to the Pinkerton agency, which reports him to his employers.

"Now, I can get the originals of those reports, and I'll be glad to do it for you. I want to show those Pinkertons that they can't ruin a man like me without any comeback."

His statement was so startling that I wanted time to think it over. If it were true, and he could obtain those reports for me, it would be one of the biggest labor stories that had ever been published in San Francisco. All my newspaper instincts were aroused. I asked the man to call again next day at 12 o'clock.


THE next day the Pinkerton man called, bringing another man with him. I had also asked a man, a friend of mine, to be present during the interview.

The detective introduced the man he brought as "Mr. So-and-So, who is still employed by Pinkerton. But he is as sore at them as I am." He said: "This man can get those reports for you."

They both went over the statement he had made to me the day before. A prominent labor leader was betraying his followers to the Pinkertons, his reports were obtainable, and these men could get them for me, and would.

I said: "How?"

He replied: "By opening the safe after office hours and taking them."

I said: "Do you know the combination of the safe? Are you sure you can get them?" I knew this would be a tremendous story for the Bulletin.

The two men explained how they would get the reports, the original reports, signed by this man who was betraying labor. But while they talked the friend that I had asked into the room looked at me, caught my eye, and I saw in his face that he suspected a trap. I got the two men out of my office as best I could, saying as little as possible.

After they had gone, I sent for Detective Burns and told him what had happened. He said: "My God, you had a narrow escape. Were you thinking of taking those documents and printing them?"

I said: "I had in mind that he had a big newspaper story in his possession, and I hadn't stopped to consider any further than that."

He said: "Well, this is what would have happened if you had gone on with it. The safe in the Pinkerton office would have been blown. You wouldn't have known that until after you had printed the documents.

"Then you would have been arrested for burglary. The two men who called on you would testify that you had employed them to burglarize the safe in the Pinkerton office. They would testify that they had only carried out your orders. They would have turned state's evidence on you, and you would have gone to San Quentin."

It was the narrowest escape from the penitentiary that I ever had.

Ruef had been tried, the jury had disagreed, and we were holding him for his second trial. Calhoun's turn was approaching. Again Calhoun sent for Roy.

Luther Brown came to see him, and took him to Calhoun. Calhoun said: "Now, Roy, I want you with me in this trial. I can make you a rich man without leaving this chair. I can manipulate common stock of the United Railroads so that you can make $150,000 easily. I will fix up Poheim, too. Now I want an affidavit from you, testifying to the bribery of Older, Burns and Heney by Spreckels."

Roy pretended to agree, and as he was going out of the room Luther Brown handed him $3000, carelessly, as a sort of token of good will. Roy brought this money to Burns, and Burns told him to go on with the negotiations.

A few days later Brown sent for Roy. When Roy entered Brown had just finished an affidavit on the typewriter. This affidavit implicated Burns, Heney, Gallagher and myself as having been bribed by Spreckels.

To gain time, Roy said: "This is an affidavit, a pretty serious thing. I'm liable to be caught up for perjury in an affidavit. Make it in the form of a statement. Give me a copy of it and let me think it over."

Brown gave him the copy, and Roy brought it right down to me. I made a copy of it instantly and put it in Phelan's safe. It is still there. I did this to protect myself.

Roy went back, under instructions from Burns, and put over a very clever move. He said: "Now this is not to be used unless I give my consent. Is that right?"

Brown replied: "Yes, I'll agree to that."

"Very well, then, just write that down on the bottom there and sign it," said Roy, and Brown wrote it in his own handwriting and signed his name to it. Roy carried this away with him and we put it in Heney's safe.

A little later Brown said to Roy: "Some one has peached on us."

Roy said: "I don't think so. What do you mean?"

"`Well,' said Calhoun to me: `Some one is leaking in your camp.' I asked him what he meant. He said: `Well, now here's something. You haven't told anybody that you signed your name to a statement of Roy's, have you?' I told him no. He said: `Well, you did, didn't you?' I said yes. Calhoun came back at me: `Well, you see, I know it. How do I know it if somebody hasn't leaked?'"

"That stumped me," said Brown. "Somebody is leaking. Who do you suppose it is?"

Roy said: "I can't imagine."

Brown was furious, because this leak had destroyed the whole scheme. He had arranged to get $150,000 from Calhoun for Roy and $50,000 for Poheim. Brown was to have half of these sums, or $100,000 for himself, out of the deal. He had counted on making a cleanup. Now this leak had wrecked the whole thing.

Roy came to Burns and me about this. Burns immediately said: "Didn't you show that affidavit to your lawyer?" Roy said that he had. "Well," Burns said, "he's the one that told Calhoun."

According to Roy, Brown blamed his failure to one of Calhoun's attorneys. "He's got a nerve," Roy quoted Brown as saying, "to queer my game, when he came near putting ropes around all our necks." Roy assumed that Brown was referring to the dynamiting of Gallagher's house.

This will give an idea of the web of plot and counterplot in which we were struggling. In spite of our effort to keep the one issue clear before the people, they were confused by the multitude of persons involved, the innumerable conflicting stories set afloat.

The prominent people of San Francisco had deserted us when we attacked their savior, Calhoun. Now, through the long delays of the courts, and the confusion, a general weariness was beginning to spread through the city. People were tired of hearing about the graft prosecution. We encountered apathy on one hand and on the other the relentless determination of powerful men who were fighting for their lives.

The United Railroads people had tried innumerable plans to get me out of their way. By this time they had become desperate. We were trying Ford, and Calhoun's turn was approaching. At this juncture, inadvertently, I turned Luther Brown's hatred of me into a murderous rage.

The United Railroads were making an attempt to involve Supervisor Tom Lonergan with a woman, in order to break him down as a witness in the Ford trial. In uncovering the story, one of the Bulletin reporters in writing it made the mistake of using Luther Brown's name instead of that of another Brown, who was also a detective in the employ of Calhoun. The following day I corrected the error and forgot the incident.

A few days later I was waiting for Rudolph Spreckels in Heney's office. I was talking with Charley Cobb, Heney's partner, when the telephone rang. I lifted the receiver. A voice said: "Is Mr. Older there?"

"I am Mr. Older."

"I am Mr. Stapleton, Mr. Older. If you'll come to the Savoy Hotel on Van Ness avenue I will give you some very important information."

I asked him if he could not come to Heney's office. He said it was impossible. He was being watched, and it would not be safe.

I said: "Very well. I'll come to the Savoy Hotel."

The voice insisted that I come immediately, and I agreed.

Before leaving the office I turned to Charley Cobb and said: "This may be a trap. If I am not back in half an hour, you may be sure that it is. Tell this to Spreckels."

Then I went out and started toward Van Ness avenue.


I WALKED direct down to Van Ness avenue from Franklin, and turned down Van Ness.

As I turned I noticed an automobile with four men in it that looked to me like pretty tough characters. They were all looking at me, and the machine seemed to be hovering along close to the sidewalk as I walked. Suddenly it stopped and two men jumped out.

One of them stepped up to me. He was very pale and nervous; his hands trembled as he pulled out of his pocket a paper which he said was a warrant for my arrest on a charge of criminal libel. He said the warrant was issued in Los Angeles. He then showed me a constable's star and told me to get into the machine and go with him.

I told him that I wanted to see my lawyer and arrange bail.

He said: "We will go to Judge Cook's chambers. Judge Cook has vised this warrant, and you can get out an order for bail through him."

I said: "Very well, I'll go." But I was very apprehensive.

As I stepped into the machine one of the men that was on the sidewalk rubbed his hands over my hips, obviously to see whether I was carrying firearms. This made me still more suspicious.

I sat in the machine on the right hand side of the tonneau. Next to me was a young man who had not got out of the car when it stopped. Next to him on the left sat one of the men who had got out. The constable sat in the front seat with the chauffeur. The car started down Van Ness at great speed.

This was after the fire, when the various departments of the Superior Court were scattered, and I had no accurate knowledge of the location of Judge Cook's court. But when the car swung out Golden Gate avenue I noticed Luther Brown, Calhoun's chief detective, and Porter Ashe, one of Calhoun's lawyers, in a car, leading the way. They were looking back.

I became greatly excited. When we got to Fillmore street I said: "Where are Judge Cook's chambers?"

The man in the front seat turned and said: "We are not going to his chambers. We are going to his residence."

Then I knew that it was a trap. The car was speeding faster and faster out Golden Gate avenue toward the park. I started to rise, looking sharply up and down the street to catch the eye of someone I knew or to attract the attention of a policeman.

As I arose the man next to me pressed against my side a pistol that he had in his right hand coat pocket. He said: "If you make any attempt to escape I'll shoot you."

I could not possibly have been more frightened than I was then. I felt quite sure that they were going to take me out to some lonely spot on the beach or in the San Bruno hills and murder me. The car kept on, following the Luther Brown car, and I knew that Luther Brown had planned the expedition and that he was capable of almost anything.

I began trying to summon what philosophy I could. I felt that I was going to die very soon. My only hope was that death would be quick. I feared, however, that they might torture me, in order to get some kind of statement from me before killing me.

However, being an inveterate cigar smoker, I took a cigar out of my pocket and lighted it. My lips were dry, my tongue was parched; but I made a fairly good effort at a careless air, and said to the dark man on the front seat:

"This is a job put up by the United Railroads. I don't blame them for fighting me. It is quite natural that they should. I have been fighting them pretty hard. But this kind of a deal isn't fair. It isn't sportsmanlike. They are dealing the cards from under the table."

I noticed a slight expression in the corner of the dark man's eye that gave me a little hope. He looked like a sport. I thought perhaps my appeal had struck home.

On we went down the road, past San Bruno, past the Fourteen Mile House, on down through Burlingame and San Mateo, at fully forty miles an hour. After we had passed Belmont it grew too dark to travel without lights. Both cars stopped. Luther Brown's car perhaps 200 feet in advance. The chauffeur got out and lighted the headlamps, and we went on to Redwood City.

Both cars stopped a little distance from the station, in the shadow of the freight shed, and waited. When the Los Angeles Lark stopped I was asked to get out, and was taken into the train and into a stateroom that had been previously provided in San Francisco. Only the two constables accompanied me. The chauffeur and the gunman did not join us.

Dinner was being served. After an interval they took me to the diner. We three sat at one table. During the dinner I thought I would follow up what I deemed to be a slight impression I had made upon the dark man. I said:

"I don't care a damn about myself. I am quite well along in years and have lived a pretty full life. But I am concerned about Mrs. Older. She will be in a terrible state of mind over my disappearance. She undoubtedly is in that condition now, because this is just about the time that we were to be together at a little dinner party at the Francisco cafe on Van Ness avenue. By this time the news of my disappearance has spread and no doubt the police department is looking for me. She will think I have been murdered. I don't ask any mercy from the United Railroads for myself, but I don't think it is quite fair to make her suffer, too."

The dark man said: "By God, you write a telegram to her or to any one you like, and I'll file it at San Jose. I won't stand for this thing unless you are allowed to communicate with your friends!"

He pushed a telegraph blank over to me, and sitting at the table in the diner I wrote a telegram to Rudolph Spreckels to this effect:

"I'm being spirited away on a south bound coast train. I don't know where I am going or what is going to happen. It is a United Railroads job."

The dark man said he would file this dispatch at San Jose.

He got off the train at San Jose, was gone two or three minutes and came back, saying the telegram would go within an hour. There was a telegraphers' strike on, and there might be some delay.

I did not know whether or not to believe him. It was not until later that I learned that Luther Brown had taken the message from him, read it, and torn it up.

After dinner we returned to the stateroom, talked until midnight, and went to bed, the two constables in the lower berth and I in the upper.


THE train was nearing Santa Barbara when the constables rose in the morning. We went into the diner for breakfast and returned to the stateroom. A little later the train stopped at Santa Barbara, and looking out of the window I thought that all of Santa Barbara was there at the station.

There were many automobiles filled with people, ladies with their parasols, chauffeurs, boys and men crowding the platform. It was a gay looking party. I thought they must be seeing a wedding party off to Los Angeles. I did not relate the crowd to myself at all.

Suddenly there was a loud rap on the stateroom door. The constable opened it, and a man appeared and served them both with subpenas and told me to go with him. The dark man accompanied us. The other man disappeared.

We were driven to the sheriff's office in the courthouse, and I learned that a writ of habeas corpus had been issued by the judge of the Superior Court in Santa Barbara, upon the telephonic request of Rudolph Spreckels and Francis J. Heney. The legal point was that I had asked for bail in San Francisco and had not been given a chance to obtain it, and the taking me out of the city and county of San Francisco was a felony. Spreckels had employed a Santa Barbara lawyer to look after the case.

The case was called immediately upon the arrival of the judge. I took the witness stand and told my story. The United Railroads had employed a lawyer, and the legal point was threshed out by the two attorneys. During my testimony I saw the United Railroads lawyer talking to the dark man and saw him shaking his head. The judge saw this, too. He looked at the attorney and said:

"I see in the courtroom the constable who accompanied Mr. Older, who has not been called to testify. Unless he takes the stand and denies that Mr. Older asked for bail in San Francisco I shall release Mr. Older on bail."

There was another whispered conversation between the attorney and the dark man, and another shaking of the dark man's head. The attorney said: "There is no evidence. We have no witnesses."

The judge thereupon released me on bail. There were a number of men present ready to provide the bail, among them Franklin K. Lane, who happened to be in Santa Barbara at the time.

After being released I joined the dark man and walked out of the courtroom with him, and he said: "You remember the remark you made in the automobile, that it wasn't sportsmanlike?"

I said: "Yes."

"Well, that kind of got me, and so when it came to the point of testifying to a lie, to have you held, I refused to do it."

I thanked him very cordially for what he had done.

I did not realize till later in the day what a shock it had all been to me. Lane and I went out to the beach and had a swim and everything around me seemed queer. I couldn't realize anything very definitely. I was stunned, and I must have been very much more alarmed than I had seemed to be when I was in the greatest danger.

I learned later that the only reason why I am now alive to tell my story is due to the lack of nerve of the man who sat next to me with the gun. He was told, so he has since informed the chauffeur of the car, that he would be paid $10,000 if he killed me on the trip. The plan was that I should be taken from the train at San Luis Obispo, taken through the mountains in an automobile, and killed there.

They were relying on the evidence of the constables and the gun man and the chauffeur that I tried to escape while under arrest, and was killed in an attempt to prevent my succeeding. Luther Brown was from Los Angeles, and he had got a friendly justice of the peace to issue a secret warrant for me, so that they would have acted under a color of law. But the gunman said that he lost his nerve.

I was still in the dark as to how the warning had been given my friends. After I returned to San Francisco I learned that a young lawyer was in the diner when I was sitting there, next to the table where Porter Ashe and Luther Brown were. He overheard Porter Ashe's conversation, and it led him to believe that something unusual was happening, that they had someone on the train who was important, and were spiriting away.

He followed Ashe outside the diner and asked, "Who have you got?" Ashe said, "We've got Fremont Older."

This young man had overheard in the diner something about taking me from the train at San Luis Obispo and giving me a run through the mountains, and he surmised that if that happened I would probably never be seen alive again. He was very much alarmed, and though he had intended to go on to Los Angeles, he got off the train at Salinas at 1 o'clock in the morning, rang up The San Francisco Call and told them what he feared.

This was the first news my friends had of what was happening. They busied themselves preparing the writ of habeas corpus, which was telephoned to Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara morning papers had the story, and that was why the crowd had assembled at the station. All the trainmen were placed under arrest, and the train searched for me.

This young lawyer would not let his name appear in the affair, either then or later.

The two constables turned state's evidence before the grand jury, and the grand jury indicted both Ashe and Brown for felony. Both of the chauffeurs disappeared, and also the man with the gun. Luther Brown was tried in Judge Dunne's court, not by Dunne, but by a visiting country judge, and was acquitted, which was an indication of how unpopular the graft prosecution had become.

The story of this affair spread around the world, and the London Times printed a two column story about it. Sometime later I met a member of the English Parliament. I asked him if he had ever been in San Francisco before.

He said, "No. It's a very interesting city. I've read some very strange stories about you people, but the incredible one I read in the London Times, a paper that I had always regarded as a truthful journal."

"What was the story?"

"It was an amazing story," he said. "It was a story of the kidnaping in broad daylight of an editor. He was carried away in an automobile at the point of a pistol."

And I said, "Why, that's a true story. I'm the editor."


Source: Library of Congress. California As I Saw It, 1849-1900. Vol. 194. [database online] Washington: Library of Congress, 2000. Older, Fremont. My Own Story. San Francisco, CA: The Call Publishing Co., 1919.

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