Scope and Content
Title: San Francisco Committee of Vigilance
Collection Number: mssVigilancecommittee
Creator OR Collector:
San Francisco Committee of Vigilance
The Huntington Library,
Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Abstract: This collection contains letters and documents related to the
San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856, a vigilante group that formed in San Francisco, California, and functioned
for five months.
The letters and documents are related to individuals making charges or giving information about suspects or prisoners
to the group.
Language of Material: The records are in English.
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material,
nor does it charge fees for such activities.
The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with
[Identification of item]. San Francisco Committee of Vigilance Records, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Purchased from Augustin S. MacDonald in 1916 and Sigurd Frederickson in 1931.
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. More
specifically the collection contains material related to the murders of James King,
the assault of Sterling Hopkins by Judge David S. Terry, abstracts from the files of
the Recorders Court and Court of Sessions, showing the most important arrests by the
city police, 1853 to 1856, and Report by the Grand Jury on county affairs for the
term ending June 1, 1856
Although the collection has been sorted, it essentially remains uncataloged. It
includes 10 boxes, six bound volumes, and 1 rolled item.
Coleman, William Tell,
Terry, David Smith,
San Francisco Committee
of Vigilance of 1856
Vigilance committees -- California --
San Francisco -- History -- Sources
Vigilants -- California -- San Francisco
-- History -- Sources
San Francisco -- History
-- 19th century
San Francisco --
Politics and government -- 19th century
Application forms -- California -- 19th
Documents -- California -- 19th