San Francisco History

Events of 1856

October 1, 1856—The first paper mill in California was put in operation. It is situated near Tomales Bay, about ten miles above Bolinas, and was erected by Messrs. V. B. POST and SAMUEL B. TAYLOR. The experiment proved very successful, and the paper made at this mill has since been used by the San Francisco publishers in preference to the imported.

October 7—An attempt was made to sink the new steamer ORIZABA, while lying at the wharf, foot of Washington street. Some malicious person went on board through one of the ports, and opened the fire-room valves, or stops. Water flowed in with great rapidity, and when discovered in the morning, the steamer was aground with several feet of water in the hold. She was soon pumped out, and the valves secured. Had the water at the landing been very deep, the damage would have been considerable.

October 22—The Attorney General of the State of California commenced a suit in the Twelfth District Court, claiming the steamships UNCLE SAM, CORTES, PACIFIC and BROTHER JONATHAN, and the storeships ARK and ROWLAND, as having escheated to the State, on the ground that the corporation of the “ACCESSORY TRANSIT COMPANY,” owners of said property, had been abolished and dissolved by the government of Nicaragua.

November 5—JAMES KENNOVAN, an American by birth, aged 43 years, accomplished the feat of walking 106 consecutive hours on a platform. This was considered the greatest feat on record, but he exceeded it by several hours a few months afterwards in this city.

November 13 and 14—The great real estate sale of the FOLSOM property took place. The total amount of prices for which the lots were sold, was $423,135, and the aggregate prices realized exceeded the appraised value of the property by about $18,000. The purchasers generally were not speculators, but those who soon after improved their property. The Union Theatre on Commercial Street brought $8,000; and the Custom House Block sold for $47,000.

November 15—The newly elected Police Judge, H.P. COON, took his seat and commenced the duties of his office. On the Monday following, JAMES F. CURTIS, the new Chief of Police, went into office. At the same time the new Board of Supervisors held their first meeting; there was no business transacted after the election of the Board and Police Clerk.

November 22—In the U.S. District Court, in the case of the United States vs. the executors of J.L. FOLSOM, deceased—suit brought to settle up the accounts of CAPT. FOLSOM, as Quartermaster—the Jury rendered a verdict in favor of the United States for the sum of $186,658, with interest from November 14, 1855, and costs of suit.

December 1—The official votes of the State, (the counties of Plumas and Colusi excepted, as the returns had not been received) were counted by the Secretary of State and showed the following result:

For Buchanan—51,925
For Filmore—35,113
For Fremont—20,339

Geo. FREANER, one of the Presidential electors, was chosen as Messenger to carry the electoral vote to Washington.

The Legislature of the State it was ascertained stood: Senate—Democratic, 28; Republicans, 5; Americans, 2. Assembly—Democrats, 67; Republicans, 9; Americans, 4; giving the Democrats in joint ballot, a majority of 75 over both the other parties.

The Fire Department held an election for officers, when FRANK E. R. WHITNEY was elected Chief Engineer, and W.G. SMITH, D. T. VAN ORDEN, and C. S. SIMPSON, Assistants.

December 3—Complete changes were made in the Police Department. Four new captains and a number of policemen were sworn in, very few of the old force were retained.

December 5—MAGUIRE’S new Opera House was commenced on the 15th of October and finished this date. The first performance was given on the evening of the 6th.

December 10—JOSE Y. LIMANTOUR arrested, under an indictment found against him for presenting a fraudulent claim (which was confirmed), to the Land Commission, involving a large portion of the City of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, and other property. There was a great excitement in certain quarters in consequence of the arrest. He gave $30,000 bail for his appearance.

December 15—An entertainment in compliment to Mons. P. DILLON, late Consul of France at this port, was given at the International Hotel on the evening of this date. It was a farewell testimonial previous to his departure from California, and was numerously attended.

The San Francisco Gas Company removed the lanterns from almost all the gas posts in this city, with the exception of one at the intersection of each cross street. This reduction of light was the result of the action on the part of the Board of Supervisors in refusing to pay the price charged for gas by the Company.

December 22—Forefathers’ Day, celebrated at the International Hotel by a grand dinner, which was principally partaken of by gentlemen from the New England States. It was well attended, and altogether, was a very happy affair. A great many addresses were made on the occasion by different gentlemen, most of them worthy of doing honor to the Pilgrim fathers.

December 31—The San Francisco Divorce Calendar for the year 1856, shows that 110 divorce suits were instituted in the Fourth and Twelfth District Court. In 39 of these cases, decrees of divorce were granted, previous to the expiration of the year. In 1855, there were 72 suits commenced in the city, and decrees dissolving marriage were rendered in all of them.

During the year 1856, there were 146 applications in insolvency, in which, 42 were made in the Fourth District Court, and 104 in the Twelfth District Court. The total amounts were as follows:

Assets, as given—$637,908
Balance of failure—$2,763,134

In the year 1855, the number of applications were 197, and the failures much larger, as follows:

Balance of failure—$6,858,652

The passenger statistics show that in 1856, the arrivals and departures by sea, were as follows:

Total arrivals—29,630
Total departures—22,747
Excess of arrivals—6,883

Showing a net gain of population from arrivals at sea of only 6,883, which is a very unfavorable exhibit. About 8,000 were added to the population by the overland route, and it is estimated they brought with them from 25,000 to 30,000 head of horned cattle.

The following is a comparative statement of the exports from San Francisco for the years 1885 and 1856.

—1855 —1856
Treasure—$43,080,211 —$48,887,543
Merchandise, Produce, Quicksilver—$4,189,611 —$4,270,515

The exports of gold alone from California from 1848 to January, 1856, amounted to about $330,000,000. This amount does not include the sums taken or sent away without record, by passengers—this it would be difficult to ascertain, but the estimate of $180,000,000, would be too low, which would make the total exportation of gold amount to over five hundred million dollars. (See State Register for 1857, p. 219)

The operations in the Branch Mint at San Francisco during the year 1857 were as follows:

Gold, ounces—$1,645,655 50
Silver, ounces—$69,873 68

Gold coin—$25,146,700 00
Gold bars—$3,547,001 30
Gold bars, refined—$122,136 65
Silver coin—$184,000 00
Silver bars—$25,843 30

The City Sexton reported the whole number of deaths in the City and County of San Francisco, during the year 1856, at 1346, being 54 more than during the preceding year, and 359 less than during the year 1854. The deaths are classed as follows: men, 292; boys, 460; women, 119; girls, 262; still-born, 133. Of the number 23 were colored persons. During the year 15 persons were killed or murdered; 4 hanged by the Vigilance Committee; 1 by the civil authorities; 62 were drowned and 49 committed suicide. 622 were natives of the United States and 724 were born in other countries.

Source: Langley, Henry G. The San Francisco Directory; Chronological History of Principal Events. 1858.

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