The San Francisco Committees of Vigilance of 1851 and 1856 were formed when crime became widespread in the city of San Francisco in the wake of the Gold Rush. In 1856, the murder of James King of William sparked the reactivation of vigilante activities. King, a San Francisco newspaper editor, was shot by James. P. Casey, a corrupt official, after King attacked Casey in the columns of his paper. Immediately 10,000 men hastened to join the vigilantes, and William T. Coleman was again chosen as leader. Opposition to the vigilance committee was led by California Supreme Court Justice David S. Terry, but the efforts of his group were largely ineffective. The "Great Committee" of the vigilantes functioned for five months, then surrendered its powers to a regularly constituted civil authority.
Scope and Content
The collection contains letters and documents related to individuals making charges or giving information about suspects or prisoners to the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856. It also contains completed applications for membership, lists of members and members of the executive committee, and financial documents.