The finding aid of the E.W. McKinstry Reminiscences C058759

John Davis
Society of California Pioneers
101 Montgomery Street, Suite 150
Presidio of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94129


B-V-8f / B001632

Contributing Institution: Society of California Pioneers
Title: E. W. McKinstry Reminiscences
Creator: McKinstry, Elisha Williams, Judge, 1825-1901
Identifier/Call Number: C058759
Physical Description: 1 folder 1 bound notebook Handwritten in ink on 21 pages
Date: 1901
Abstract: This file contains a hard bound leger styler journal which has been used to write the reminiscence of Mr. Ellisha Williams McKinstry. The hand writing is in ink and is hard to read throughout. Included and glued to the front, inside cover, is a letter describing it's creation and donation. The book is in good physical condition overall. Included in the file is a printout from the California Bar Associations published obituary, "Cal Reports. Vol. 141" and a photograph of him from the "California Supreme Court Historical Association's" website.
Language of Material: English .

Scope and Contents

McKinstry's Reminiscences cover early family history back to his Mayflower anticedents and a rambling description of his life, family and schooling in Detroit. The single page enclosure begins to a reference to being in San Francisco in 1850 and contains a brief description of his legal career in California and Nevada

Biographical / Historical

E.W. "McKinstry was born April 10, 1824, in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Kinderhook, New York, read law and in 1847 was admitted to the New York bar. In 1849, McKinstry came to California on the "Steamship Panama" and was a member of the first California State Assembly representing Sacramento. In 1851, he opened a law practice in Napa, and was elected in 1852 as judge of the Seventh Judicial District Court for a term of six years, and in 1858 was re-elected. In August 1860, he visited Paris, France, returning to California the following month. On November 13, 1862, he resigned from the district court. In January 1863, he moved to Mono County, California, and practiced law. In August 1863, during the American Civil War, he was nominated for Lieutenant Governor by the Copperhead Democratic Party, but lost the election. Afterwards, he moved Nevada, where he practiced law and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Nevada Supreme Court. In October 1864, he attended the Copperhead Democratic convention held in Carson, Nevada. In October 1867, having returned to California, he was elected San Francisco county judge for a term of four years, but before his term expired he was elected as an independent candidate as a judge of the 12th District Court. In October 1867, during the election, a Catholic priest accused McKinstry of leading the Aurora Vigilance Committee, a quasi-lynch mob, in 1863 in Esmeralda County, Nevada, and refusing to accommodate the request for last rites by four men who were condemned to hang. In September 1873, he was nominated by the People's Independent Party and elected on October 15, 1873, to the California Supreme Court, where he served from January 1874 to October 1, 1888. McKinstry filled the seat of former Chief Justice Royal Sprague, who died in office, and whose appointed successor, Isaac S. Belcher, did not run for election. In 1879, when adoption of a new constitution required elections for all seats on the Supreme Court, McKinstry was nominated by both the Democratic Party and Workingman's Party and was re-elected. The newly elected judges drew lots to determine the length of term, and McKinstry drew an 11-year term. His notable cases include Lux v. Haggin, holding riparian rights prevailed in California. He resigned from the court on October 1, 1888. After stepping down from the bench, from 1888 to 1895 he was a professor of law at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. He also engaged in private practice with his son, James C. McKinstry, and later with John A. Stanly and H. W. Bradley in the firm of Stanly, McKinstry, Bradley & McKinstry.McKinstry died on November 1, 1901, in San Jose, California." McKinstry was also the President of the Society of California Pioneers for a period of time having originally joined on Feb. 7th, 1870. (

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Charles H McKinstry, Santa Barbara, Oct 29, 1945

Existence and Location of Originals

The Society of California Pioneers, 101 Montgomery St., Suite 150 The Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco CA, 94129

Conditions Governing Access

Collection open for research

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on access

Preferred Citation

EW McKinstry Reminiscences, The Society of California Pioneers

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Society of California Pioneers
California -- San Francisco (county) -- San Francisco
Pioneers -- California
Frontier and pioneer life – California
Law - History - 19th century
California. Supreme Court--Biography.
Law (California) - Cases
Panama (Ship)
Voyages to the Pacific coast
California - Politics and Government - 1846-1850
Vigilance committees--California--Aurora