Guide to the John T. Doyle Papers, 1855-1905

Processed by California Historical Society staff; supplementary encoding and revision supplied by Xiuzhi Zhou.
California Historical Society
North Baker Research Library
678 Mission Street
San Francisco, California 94105-4014
Phone: (415) 357-1848, ext. 220
Fax: (415) 357-1850
© 2000
California Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Guide to the John T. Doyle Papers, 1855-1905

Collection number: MS 760

California Historical Society

North Baker Research Library

San Francisco, California

Contact Information:

  • California Historical Society
  • North Baker Research Library
  • 678 Mission Street
  • San Francisco, California 94105-4014
  • Phone: (415) 357-1848, ext. 220
  • Fax: (415) 357-1850
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
California Historical Society staff
Date Completed:
May 1980
© 2000 California Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: John T. Doyle Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1855-1905
Collection number: MS 760
Creator: Doyle, John T. (John Thomas), 1819-1906
Extent: Linear feet: 2

Number of items: ca. 2000
Repository: California Historical Society, North Baker Library
San Francisco, California 94105-4014
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) Identification Number:
NUCMC 82-372
Language: English.

Administrative Information


The records of John T. Doyle are of uncertain origin. It is possible that they were given by June Foster to California Historical Society Library Manuscript Department. The date of their donation is also unknown.


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The North Baker Research Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Library Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The North Baker Research Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], John T. Doyle Papers. MS 760, California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library.


John T. Doyle was born in New York City on November 26, 1819, the son of John Doyle and Frances Glinden Doyle. In 1838, he graduated as valedictorian from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Obtaining an A.M. in 1840, he began practicing law in New York two years later and continued until 1851. Then, on a vacation in Nicaragua, he met "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnate, who was trying to fulfill his dream of a canal linking the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean. Inspired by the tycoon's vision, Doyle rushed back to New York, resigned his position, and returned to Nicaragua as general agent for Vanderbilt's American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company. He spent a year making plans, none of which came to fruition because the "Commodore" could not raise the money needed for construction costs. Doyle finally gave up and headed for San Francisco. In 1853, he was admitted to the San Francisco bar, where he remained until 1888 as an active attorney. It was not until 1889 that he received his L.L.D.
Doyle sought no public office, though he was appointed to two during his career. In 1868, he became one of the first members of the board of regents of the University of California. A few years later, Governor Irwin made him a member of the Board of Commissioners of Transportation. This was more to his liking, for he felt keenly the general resentment of the discriminatory and onerous rates that the railroads charged. He became a crusader for thorough reform in railroad legislation. The Commissioners agreed with his recommendations, but the corporations were less tractable. As he later recalled, "The railroads scented the danger afar, and rallied their lobby to the defense of their prerogative of plunder." The House amended a reform bill so that it legislated the Commissioners out of their jobs. A single Commissioner replaced them, but he too was superseded when the Constitution of 1879 created a Board of Railroad Commissioners. This change did not please Doyle; he claimed that the state was so apportioned that two of the three members of the board would remain under company control.
It was, however, as a legal advocate that Doyle was famed. He went through a succession of partnerships: Janes, Doyle, Barber & Boyd; Doyle & Barber; Doyle, Barber & Scripture; Doyle, Galpin, Barber & Scripture; Doyle, Galpin & Scripture; Doyle, Galpin & Ziegler; and after his retirement around 1890 (sources disagree as to the exact date) set up a practice on his own. It was then that he won his greatest victory. In 1876, he had recovered from the Mexican government a judgment of $904,000 for interest and capital held by Mexico for the Catholic Church in California. The case dragged on until 1902, when Doyle pleaded it before the International Tribunal in the Hague -- the first case argued before it. The Court awarded the Church $1,426,000 which included accruing interest. It decreed that henceforth Mexico must pay the church $43,000 a year forever.
In May, 1863, Doyle married Miss Antonia Pons, the daughter of a silk manufacturer in Lyons, France. They had eight children: five sons and three daughters. Doyle himself was able to read Latin, French, Spanish and Italian -- an advantage in his profession -- and in his spare time wrote a treatise explaining how consistent was the trial in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice with legal customs of the time. He was a founder of the Ethno-Historical Society in 1866, a precursor of California Historical Society and he served two terms as first president of the latter, in 1887 and 1888.
At home "among his books and vines and fruit trees" in Menlo Park, a contemporary account commented, he spent a happy old age. "Though impatient and irascible," it added, "he is good-natured at heart, and has materially aided many young members of the profession, who have been indebted to him for encouragement, opportunity and guidance."
Doyle died at age 86 in 1906.

Scope and Content

The John T. Doyle papers touch on law cases in which Doyle or his partner -- or partners they successively adopted -- concerned themselves. Most of the documents touch on civil disputes in the San Francisco Bay Area, though some are connected to other places in California, notably Placerville, and other documents discuss mining claims and companies in Nevada.
Scholars curious about legal practice in the late nineteenth century would find the material especially interesting. Here may be found documents and official forms of every kind: papers on the process of probate, guardianship, damage suits, legal arguments. Researchers fascinated with official forms used in the courts would find a study of the collection rewarding. Those interested in politics, social and cultural history, economics, or stirring events, would not. Those curious about Doyle's adventures in Nicaragua, his personal life, or his lawsuits in support of the Catholic church of California would also be disappointed, for none of these are covered in the documents--though a few papers relate to William Walker, the filibuster who tried to establish a personal empire in Nicaragua. None of the papers, however, discuss his ambitions or intentions.
The personal correspondence includes discussions of domestic finance and the difficulties in arguing certain law cases. There are occasional remarks on family matters and comments on farming conditions. J.L. Moffett, for example, notes of the Wabash River counties in Indiana, "Those who live on the 'bottoms' along that stream look like ripe pumpkins after a time...." Others discuss premonitionary dreams, crop failures, and the Presidential election of 1884 in Illinois. "The Germans are out for Cleveland," W.G. Griffith comments, "and the Irish he loses can be put in the ye of that needle which the Camel could nearly pass through."
Most papers touch on legal cases, which is how the collection is assembled. One may find estates and probate cases, suits for freight costs, actions to prevent the extension of Montgomery Street, account books, death certificates, explanations of express rates, spare leaves from old ledgers, subpoenas, judgments, legal arguments, promissory notes, discussions of mine speculations, writs of attachment, and legal forms. One such case is the Friedlander estate case. It has terms of indenture, insurance premiums, IOU's, balance sheets, contracts, letters to the Bank of California negotiating a loan, sales receipts, probate court orders, official charges, letters of guardianship, an inventory of cattle sold, with prices attached, announcements of land sales, and summonses.
Other indexes included with this study will afford an explanation of both the chronology and characteristics of each case.

Chronological Arrangement

? Fenon vs. Barque Emily Banning, Folder Number 21)
? Mariposa Land and Mining Company v. Brumagin (Folder Number 45)
? Van Bokkelen (George) v. Botts (Folder Number 63)
1855 Botts (Charles T.) v. Endicott (Samuel B.) (Folder Number 4)
1855 Gross (Elisha S. v. Parrott (John) (Folder Number 33)
1855-1857 Treadwell v. Payne (Folder Number 62)
1856 Gauley v. City and County of San Francisco (Folder Number 28)
1856 Starr to Goodale (Folder Number 59)
1856 William Walker (Folder Number 64)
1857 Keip v. Martin (Folder Number 37)
1858 Fox v. Brisac (Folder Number 22)
1858 MacDonald v. Garrison (Folder Number 42)
1858-1861 Chadwick v. Gauntlet (ship) (Folder Number 7)
1858-1861 San Francisco (miscellaneous) (Folder Number 57)
1859 Ruis v. Lequelle (Folder Number 56)
1859 Gaven v. Hagen (Folder Number 29)
1859, 1876 Janes, Horace P. (estate) (Folder Number 35)
1860 Levison et als. v. Glen (Folder Number 41)
1860 Goodsell v. California Steam Navigation (Folder Number 32)
1860 Mead v. Figel (Folder Number 46)
1860-1861 Polhemus v. Maldonado (Folder Number 54)
1861-1863 Rancho Tenescal (Folder Number 55)
1862 Bushnell (Catherine Hayes) v. Brenham (Charles) (Folder Number 5)
1863 Taylor v. 45 Boxes (Folder Number 60)
1863-1864 Belloc (Benjamin) v. Eldredge (Albert S.) et a. (Folder Number 2)
1863 People v. Pico (Folder Number 53)
1864 Wheelwright v. Fletcher (Folder Number 66)
1865-1866 Donahue v. Rochester Consolidated Gold and Silver Mining Company (Folder Number 16)
1865 Goldstein v. Page et als. (Folder Number 31)
1867 Montgomery Street Extension, no. 1 (Folder Number 48)
1868 Montgomery Street Extension, no. 2 (Folder Number 49. 50)
1868-1871 Donahue, W.E. and Mary Ann (estates) (Folder Number 14)
1868-1871 Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 1 b (Folder Number 23)
1870-1871 Ellis v. Imperial Fire Insurance Company (Folder Number 19)
1870-1871 Slattery, James D. (estate) (Folder Number 57)
1870-1874 Curry v. Alvarado (Folder Number 9)
1872-1879 Make, Gustave (estate) (Folder Number 44)
1872 Geary v. Billings (Folder Number 30)
1872-1879 Donohue v. et als. (Folder Number 17)
1872-1905 El Dorado county (Folder Number 18)
1873 California v. New York and Eldorado Mining Co. (Folder Number 6)
1873 Hoeber, Frederick (estate) (Folder Number 34)
1873 Latour, Pierre (estate) (Folder Number 41)
1874-1877 Dibble v. Douglass (Folder Number 12)
1874 Merchants Exchange Bank v. Gilbert (Folder Number 47)
1875 Curtis v. Rosseter (Folder Number 10)
1875 Diggins v. Roper (Folder Number 13)
1876 Townsend v. Adams (Folder Number 61)
1877-1882 Donahue, W.E., and Mary Ann (estate), no. 2 (Folder Number 15)
1878 Kugler v. Peterson (Folder Number 39)
1878 Knox, William (estate) (Folder Number 38)
1878 Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 2 (Folder Number 24)
1878-1880 Ellis v. Imperial Fire Insurance Company (Folder Number 20)
1879 Bent (Edward F.) v. London and San Francisco Bank (Folder Number 3)
1879 Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 3 (Folder Number 25)
1879 Kelly (Eugene) v. Daly (James) (Folder Number 36)
1880 Clark, Margaret Teresa (estate) (Folder Number 8)
1880 Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 4 (Folder Number 26)
1880-1892 Nevada (state) (Folder Number 52)
1881 Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 5 (Folder Number 27)
1883 McGongale v. Hutchinson (Folder Number 43)
1885 Smith v. Presidio and Ferris Railroad Company (Folder Number 58)
1888 Desmarchais, Mrs. A. B. (Folder Number 11)
1890 Wenden, John (estate) (Folder Number 66)
1897 Murphy, Grant and Company v. Heald (Folder Number 51)

Container List

Box 1, Folder 1

Doyle, John T. -- personal information

Folder 2

Belloc, Benjamin vs. Eldredge, Albert S. et als.

Folder 3

Bent, Edward F. vs. London and San Francisco Bank

Folder 4

Botts, Charles T. vs. Endicott, Samuel B.

Folder 5

Bushnell, Catherine Hays vs. Brenham, Charles J. et als.

Folder 6

California vs. New York and Eldorado Mining Co.

Folder 7

Chadwick vs. Gauntlet (ship)

Folder 8

Clark, Margaret Teresa (estate)

Folder 9

Curry vs. Alvarado

Folder 10

Curtis vs. Rossiter

Folder 11

Desmarchais, Mrs. A.B. (estate)

Folder 12

Dibble vs. Douglass

Folder 13

Diggins vs. Roper

Folder 14

Donahue, W.E. and Mary Ann (estate), no. 1

Folder 15

Donahue, W.E. and Mary Ann (estate), no. 2

Folder 16

Donahue vs. Rochester Consolidated Gold and Silver Mining Company

Folder 17

Donohue vs. et als.

Box 2, Folder 18

El Dorado County

Folder 19

Ellis vs. Imperial Fire Insurance Company, no. 1

Folder 20

Ellis vs. Imperial Fire Insurance Company, no. 2

Folder 21

Fenon vs. Barque Emily Banning

Folder 22

Fox vs. Brisac

Folder 23

Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 1

Folder 24

Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 2

Folder 25

Friedlander, Isaac (estate) no. 3

Folder 26

Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 4

Folder 27

Friedlander, Isaac (estate), no. 5

Box 3, Folder 28

Gauley vs. City and County of San Francisco

Folder 29

Gaven vs. Hagan

Folder 30

Geary vs. Billings

Folder 31

Goldstein vs. Page et als.

Folder 32

Goodsell vs. California Steam Navigation

Folder 33

Gross, Elisha S. vs. Parrott

Folder 34

Hoeber, Frederick (estate)

Folder 35

Janes, Horace P. (estate)

Folder 36

Kelly, Eugene vs. Daly, James

Folder 37

Kemp vs. Martin

Folder 38

Knox, William (estate)

Folder 39

Kugeler vs. Peterson

Folder 40

Latours, Pierre (estate)

Folder 41

Lewiston et als. vs. Glen

Folder 42

Macdonald vs. Garrison

Folder 43

McGongale vs. Hutchinson

Folder 44

Make, Gustave (estate)

Folder 45

Mariposa Land and Mining Company vs. Brumagin

Folder 46

Mead vs. Nigel

Folder 47

Merchants' Exchange Bank vs. Gilbert

Folder 48

Montgomery Street extension, no. 1

Folder 49

Montgomery Street extension, no. 2

Box 4, Folder 50

Montgomery Street extension, no. 3

Folder 51

Murphy, Grant anc Co. vs. Heald

Folder 52

Nevada (state)

Folder 53

People vs. Pico

Folder 54

Polhemus vs. Maldonado

Folder 55

Rancho Tenescal

Folder 56

Ruis vs. Lequelles

Folder 57

San Francisco (miscellaneous)

Folder 58

Slattery, James D. (estate)

Folder 59

Smith, Annie vs. Presidio and Ferries Railroad Company

Folder 60

Starr, Thomas N. to Goodale, Samuel Page

Folder 61

Taylor vs. 45 Boxes

Folder 62

Townsend vs. Adams

Folder 63

Treadwell vs. Payne

Folder 64

Van Bokkellen, George vs. Botts

Folder 64-65

Walker, William

Folder 66

Wenden, John (estate)

Folder 67

Wheelwright, john vs. the Bark Thomas Fletcher