Personal Reminiscences of Early Days in California with Other Sketches; To Which Is Added the Story of His Attempted Assassination by a Former Associate on the Supreme Bench of the State
by Stephen Field; George C. Gorham
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Copyright, 1893, by STEPHEN J. FIELD.

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The following sketches were taken down by a stenographer in the summer of 1877, at San Francisco, from the narrative of Judge Field. They are printed at the request of a few friends, to whom they have an interest which they could not excite in others.

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Why and how I came to California.

First experiences in San Francisco.—Visit to Marysville, and elected First Alcalde of that District.

Experiences as Alcalde.

The Turner Controversy.

Running for the Legislature.

The Turner Controversy continued.

Life in the Legislature.

Friendship for David C. Broderick.

Legislation secured and beginning a new life.

The Barbour Difficulty.

Removal from Marysville.—Life on the Supreme Bench.—End of Judge Turner.

Career on the Supreme Bench of California, as described by Judge Baldwin.


Rosy views of judicial life gradually vanishing.—Unsettled land titles of the State.—Asserted ownership by the State of gold and silver found in the soil.—Present of a Torpedo.

Hostility to the Supreme Court after the Civil War.—The Scofield Resolution.

The Moulin Vexation.

The Hastings Malignity.


Ex. A.—Notice of departure from New York for California, November 13, 1849.

Ex. B.—Aid at election of Alcalde by Wm. H. Parks.—A sketch of my opponent.

Ex. C.—Oath of office as Alcalde.

Ex. D.—Order of District Court imprisoning and fining me for alleged contempt of court; also Order expelling Messrs. Goodwin and Mulford and myself from the Bar; and Order imprisoning and fining Judge Haun for releasing me from imprisonment upon a writ of habeas corpus, and directing that the order to imprison me be enforced.

Ex. E.—Record of Proceedings in the Court of Sessions, when attempt was made to arrest its presiding Judge; and the testimony of the Clerk of the District Court in reference to its proceedings relating to myself and Judge Haun.

Ex. F.—Petition of Citizens of Marysville to the Governor to suspend Judge Turner from office 249.

Ex. G.—Letters of Ira A. Eaton and A.M. Winn.

Ex. H, No. I.—Letters from Surviving Members of the Legislature of 1851, who voted to indefinitely postpone the proceedings for the impeachment of Judge Turner.

Ex. H, No. II.—Letter of Judge Mott on the difficulty with Judge Barbour.

Ex. I.—Letter of L. Martin, the friend of Judge Barbour in his street attack.

Ex. J.—Sections 4, 5, and 7 of the act of July 1, 1864, to expedite the settlement of titles to lands in California; and the act of March 8, 1866, to quiet the title to certain lands in San Francisco.

Ex. K.—Letter of Judge Lake giving an account of the Torpedo.

Ex. L.—Extract from the Report of the Register and Receiver of the Land-Office in the matter of the contests for lands on the Soscol Ranch

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CHAPTER I The Sharon-Hill-Terry Litigation.

CHAPTER II Proceedings in the Superior Court of the State.

CHAPTER III Proceedings in the United States Circuit Court.

[Transcriber's note: there is no Chapter IV]

CHAPTER V Decision of the Case in the Federal Court.

CHAPTER VI The Marriage of Terry and Miss Hill.

CHAPTER VII The Bill of Revivor.

CHAPTER VIII The Terrys Imprisoned for Contempt.

CHAPTER IX Terry's Petition to the Circuit Court for a Release—Its Refusal—He Appeals to the Supreme Court—Unanimous Decision against Him there.

CHAPTER X President Cleveland refuses to Pardon Terry—False Statements of Terry Refuted.

CHAPTER XI Terry's continued Threats to Kill Justice Field—Return of the Latter to California in 1889.

CHAPTER XII Further Proceedings in the State Court.—Judge Sullivan's Decision Reversed.

CHAPTER XIII Attempted Assassination of Justice Field, Resulting in Terry's own Death at the Hands of a Deputy United States Marshal.

CHAPTER XIV Sarah Althea Terry Charges Justice Field and Deputy Marshal Neagle with Murder.

CHAPTER XV Justice Field's Arrest and Petition for Release on Habeas Corpus.

CHAPTER XVI Judge Terry's Funeral—Refusal of the Supreme Court of California to Adjourn on the Occasion.

CHAPTER XVII Habeas Corpus Proceedings in Justice Field's Case.

CHAPTER XVIII Habeas Corpus Proceedings in Neagle's Case.

CHAPTER XIX Expressions of Public Opinion.

CHAPTER XX The Appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Second Trial of Sarah Althea's Divorce Case.

CHAPTER XXI Concluding Observations.

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Some months previous to the Mexican War, my brother David Dudley Field, of New York City, wrote two articles for the Democratic Review upon the subject of the Northwestern Boundary between the territory of the United States and the British Possessions. One of these appeared in the June, and the other in the November number of the Review for 1845.[1] While writing these articles he had occasion to examine several works on Oregon and California, and, among others, that of Greenhow, then recently published, and thus became familiar with the geography and political history of the Pacific Coast. The next Spring, and soon after the war broke out, in the course of a conversation upon its probable results, he remarked, that if he were a young man, he would go to San Francisco; that he was satisfied peace would never be concluded without our acquiring the harbor upon which it was situated; that there was no other good harbor on the coast, and that, in his opinion, that town would, at no distant day, become a great city. He also remarked that if I would go he would furnish the means, not only for the journey, but also for the purchase of land at San Francisco and in its vicinity. This conversation was the first germ of my project of coming to California.

Some months afterwards, and while Col. Stevenson's regiment was preparing to start from New York for California, my brother again referred to the same subject and suggested the idea of my going out with the regiment. We had at that time a clerk in the office by the name of Sluyter, for whom I had great regard. With him I talked the matter over, it being my intention, if I should go at all, to induce him if possible to accompany me. But he wished to get married, and I wished to go to Europe. The result of our conference was, that the California project was deferred, with the understanding, however, that after my return from Europe we should give it further consideration. But the idea of going to California thus suggested, made a powerful impression upon my mind. It pleased me. There was a smack of adventure in it. The going to a country comparatively unknown and taking a part in fashioning its institutions, was an attractive subject of contemplation. I had always thought that the most desirable fame a man could acquire was that of being the founder of a State, or of exerting a powerful influence for good upon its destinies; and the more I thought of the new territory about to fall into our hands beyond the Sierra Nevada, the more I was fascinated with the idea of settling there and growing up with it.

But I was anxious first to visit, or rather to revisit, Europe. I was not able, however, to make the necessary arrangements to do so until the Summer of 1848. On the first of May of that year, I dissolved partnership with my brother, and in June started for Europe. In the following December, while at Galignani's News Room in Paris, I read in the New York Herald the message of President Polk, which confirmed previous reports, that gold had been discovered in California, then recently acquired. It is difficult to describe the effect which that message produced upon my mind. I read and re-read it, and the suggestion of my brother to go to that country recurred to me, and I felt some regret that I had not followed it. I remained in Europe, however, and carried out my original plan of seeing its most interesting cities, and returned to the United States in 1849, arriving at New York on the 1st of October of that year.

There was already at that early period a steamer leaving that city once or twice every month for Chagres. It went crowded every trip. The impulse which had been started in me by my brother in 1846, strengthened by the message of President Polk, had now become irresistible. I joined the throng, and on November 13th, 1849, took passage on the "Crescent City;" and in about a week's time, in company with many others, I found myself at the little old Spanish-American town of Chagres, on the Isthmus of Panama. There we took small boats and were poled up the river by Indians to Cruces, at which place we mounted mules and rode over the mountain to Panama. There I found a crowd of persons in every degree of excitement, waiting for passage to California. There were thousands of them. Those who came on the "Crescent City" had engaged passage on the Pacific side also; but such was the demand among the multitude at Panama for the means of transportation, that some of the steerage passengers sold their tickets from that place to San Francisco for $750 apiece and took their chances of getting on cheaper. These sales, notwithstanding they appeared at the time to be great bargains, proved, in most cases, to be very unfortunate transactions; for the poor fellows who thus sold their tickets, besides losing their time, exposed themselves to the malaria of an unhealthy coast. There was in fact a good deal of sickness already among those on the Isthmus, and many deaths afterwards occurred; and among those who survived there was much suffering before they could get away.

The vessel that conveyed us, and by "us" I mean the passengers of the "Crescent City," and as many others as could by any possibility procure passage from Panama to San Francisco was the old steamer "California." She was about one thousand tons burden; but probably no ship of two thousand ever carried a greater number of passengers on a long voyage. When we came to get under way, there did not seem to be any spare space from stem to stern. There were over twelve hundred persons on board, as I was informed.[2] Unfortunately many of them carried with them the seeds of disease. The infection contracted under a tropical sun, being aggravated by hardships, insufficient food, and the crowded condition of the steamer, developed as the voyage proceeded. Panama fever in its worst form broke out; and it was not long before the main deck was literally covered with the sick. There was a physician attached to the ship; but unfortunately he was also prostrated. The condition of things was very sad and painful.

Among the passengers taken sick were two by the name of Gregory Yale and Stephen Smith; and I turned myself into a nurse and took care of them. Mr. Yale, a gentleman of high attainments, and who afterwards occupied a prominent place at the bar of the State, was for a portion of the time dangerously ill, and I believe that but for my attentions he would have died. He himself was of this opinion, and afterwards expressed his appreciation of my attention in every way he could. In the many years I knew him he never failed to do me a kindness whenever an opportunity presented. Finally, on the evening of December 28, 1849, after a passage of twenty-two days from Panama, we reached San Francisco, and landed between eight and nine o'clock that night.

[1] The first article was entitled "The Oregon Question," and the second "The Edinburgh and Foreign Quarterly on the Oregon Question."

[2] NOTE.—The number of passengers reported to the journals of San Francisco on the arrival of the steamer was much less than this, probably to avoid drawing attention to the violation of the statute which restricted the number.


Upon landing from the steamer, my baggage consisted of two trunks, and I had only the sum of ten dollars in my pocket. I might, perhaps, have carried one trunk, but I could not manage two; so I was compelled to pay out seven of my ten dollars to have them taken to a room in an old adobe building on the west side of what is now known as Portsmouth Square. This room was about ten feet long by eight feet wide, and had a bed in it. For its occupation the sum of $35 a week was charged. Two of my fellow-passengers and myself engaged it. They took the bed, and I took the floor. I do not think they had much the advantage on the score of comfort.

The next morning I started out early with three dollars in my pocket. I hunted, up a restaurant and ordered the cheapest breakfast I could get. It cost me two dollars. A solitary dollar was, therefore, all the money in the world I had left, but I was in no respect despondent over my financial condition. It was a beautiful day, much like an Indian Summer day in the East, but finer. There was something exhilarating and exciting in the atmosphere which made everybody cheerful and buoyant. As I walked along the streets, I met a great many persons I had known in New York, and they all seemed to be in the highest spirits. Every one in greeting me, said "It is a glorious country," or "Isn't it a glorious country?" or "Did you ever see a more glorious country?" or something to that effect. In every case the word "glorious" was sure to come out. There was something infectious in the use of the word, or rather in the feeling, which made its use natural. I had not been out many hours that morning before I caught the infection; and though I had but a single dollar in my pocket and no business whatever, and did not know where I was to get the next meal, I found myself saying to everybody I met, "It is a glorious country." The city presented an appearance which, to me, who had witnessed some curious scenes in the course of my travels, was singularly strange and wild. The Bay then washed what is now the east side of Montgomery street, between Jackson and Sacramento streets; and the sides of the hills sloping back from the water were covered with buildings of various kinds, some just begun, a few completed,—all, however, of the rudest sort, the greater number being merely canvas sheds. The locality then called Happy Valley, where Mission and Howard streets now are, between Market and Folsom streets, was occupied in a similar way. The streets were filled with people, it seemed to me, from every nation under Heaven, all wearing their peculiar costumes. The majority of them were from the States; and each State had furnished specimens of every type within its borders. Every country of Europe had its representatives; and wanderers without a country were there in great numbers. There were also Chilians, Sonorians, Kanakas from the Sandwich Islands, and Chinese from Canton and Hong Kong. All seemed, in hurrying to and fro, to be busily occupied and in a state of pleasurable excitement. Everything needed for their wants; food, clothing, and lodging-quarters, and everything required for transportation and mining, were in urgent demand and obtained extravagant prices. Yet no one seemed to complain of the charges made. There was an apparent disdain of all attempts to cheapen articles and reduce prices. News from the East was eagerly sought from all new comers. Newspapers from New York were sold at a dollar apiece. I had a bundle of them, and seeing the price paid for such papers, I gave them to a fellow-passenger, telling him he might have half he could get for them. There were sixty-four numbers, if I recollect aright, and the third day after our arrival, to my astonishment he handed me thirty-two dollars, stating that he had sold them all at a dollar apiece. Nearly everything else brought a similarly extravagant price. And this reminds me of an experience of my own with some chamois skins. Before I left New York, I purchased a lot of stationery and the usual accompaniments of a writing-table, as I intended to practise my profession in California. The stationer, learning from some remark made by my brother Cyrus, who was with me at the time, that I intended to go to California, said that I ought to buy some chamois skins in which to wrap the stationery, as they would be needed there to make bags for carrying gold-dust. Upon this suggestion, I bought a dozen skins for ten dollars. On unpacking my trunk, in Marysville, these chamois skins were of course exposed, and a gentleman calling at the tent, which I then occupied, asked me what I would take for them. I answered by inquiring what he would give for them. He replied at once, an ounce apiece. My astonishment nearly choked me, for an ounce was taken for sixteen dollars; at the mint, it often yielded eighteen or nineteen dollars in coin. I, of course, let the skins go, and blessed the hunter who brought the chamois down. The purchaser made bags of the skins, and the profit to him from their sale amounted to two ounces on each skin. From this transaction, the story arose that I had sold porte-monnaies in Marysville before practising law, which is reported in the interesting book of Messrs. Barry and Patten, entitled "Men and Memories of San Francisco in the Spring of 1850." The story has no other foundation.

But I am digressing from the narrative of my first experience in San Francisco. After taking my breakfast, as already stated, the first thing I noticed was a small building in the Plaza, near which a crowd was gathered. Upon inquiry, I was told it was the court-house. I at once started for the building, and on entering it, found that Judge Almond, of the San Francisco District, was holding what was known as the Court of First Instance, and that a case was on trial. To my astonishment I saw two of my fellow-passengers, who had landed the night before, sitting on the jury. This seemed so strange that I waited till the case was over, and then inquired how it happened they were there. They said that they had been attracted to the building by the crowd, just as I had been, and that while looking on the proceedings of the court the sheriff had summoned them. They replied to the summons, that they had only just arrived in the country. But he said that fact made no difference; nobody had been in the country three months. They added that they had received eight dollars each for their services. At this piece of news I thought of my solitary dollar, and wondered if similar good fortune might not happen to me. So I lingered in the court-room, placing myself near the sheriff in the hope that on another jury he might summon me. But it was not my good luck. So I left the temple of justice and strolled around the busy city, enjoying myself with the novelty of everything. Passing down Clay street, and near Kearney street, my attention was attracted by a sign in large letters, "Jonathan D. Stevenson, Gold Dust Bought and Sold Here." As I saw this inscription I exclaimed, "Hallo, here is good luck," for I suddenly recollected that when I left New York my brother Dudley had handed me a note against Stevenson for $350 or $400; stating that he understood the Colonel had become rich in California, and telling me, that if such were the case, to ask him to pay the note. I had put the paper in my pocket-book and thought no more of it until the sight of the sign brought it to my recollection, and also reminded me of my solitary dollar. Of course I immediately entered the office to see the Colonel. He had known me very well in New York, and was apparently delighted to see me, for he gave me a most cordial greeting. After some inquiries about friends in New York, he commenced talking about the country. "Ah," he continued, "it is a glorious country. I have made two hundred thousand dollars." This was more than I could stand. I had already given him a long shake of the hand but I could not resist the impulse to shake his hand again, thinking all the time of my financial condition. So I seized his hand again and shook it vigorously, assuring him that I was delighted to hear of his good luck. We talked over the matter, and in my enthusiasm I shook his hand a third time, expressing my satisfaction at his good fortune. We passed a long time together, he dilating all the while upon the fine country it was in which to make money. At length I pulled out the note and presented it to him. I shall never forget the sudden change, from wreaths of smiles to an elongation of physiognomy, expressive of mingled surprise and disgust, which came over his features on seeing that note. He took it in his hands and examined it carefully; he turned it over and looked at its back, and then at its face again, and then, as it were, at both sides at once. At last he said in a sharp tone, "That's my signature," and began to calculate the interest; that ascertained, he paid me the full amount due. If I remember rightly he paid me $440 in Spanish doubloons, but some of it may have been in gold dust. If it had not been for this lucky incident, I should have been penniless before night.

The good fortune which the Colonel then enjoyed has not always attended him since. The greater part of his property he lost some years afterwards, but he has always retained, and now in his seventy-eighth year[1] still retains, great energy and vigor of mind, and a manly independence of character, which have made him warm friends. In all the changes of my life his name is pleasantly associated with the payment of the note, and the timely assistance which he thus gave me. His career as commander of the well-known regiment of New York volunteers which arrived in California in March, 1847, and subsequently in the State, are matters of public history.

As soon as I found myself in funds I hired a room as an office at the corner of Montgomery and Clay streets for one month for $300, payable in advance. It was a small room, about fifteen feet by twenty. I then put out my shingle as attorney and counsellor-at-law, and waited for clients; but none came. One day a fellow-passenger requested me to draw a deed, for which I charged him an ounce. He thought that too much, so I compromised and took half an ounce. For two weeks this was the only call I had upon my professional abilities. But I was in no way discouraged. To tell the truth I was hardly fit for business. I was too much excited by the stirring life around me. There was so much to hear and see that I spent half my time in the streets and saloons talking with people from the mines, in which I was greatly interested. I felt sure that there would soon be occasion in that quarter for my services.

Whilst I was excited over the news which was daily brought from the mines in the interior of the State, and particularly from the northern part, an incident occurred which determined my future career in California. I had brought from New York several letters of introduction to persons who had preceded me to the new country, and among them one to the mercantile firm of Simmons, Hutchinson & Co., of San Francisco, upon whom I called. They received me cordially, and inquired particularly of my intentions as to residence and business. They stated that there was a town at the head of river navigation, at the junction of Sacramento and Feather Rivers, which offered inducements to a young lawyer. They called it Vernon, and said they owned some lots in it which they would sell to me. I replied that I had no money. That made no difference, they said; they would let me have them on credit; they desired to build up the town and would let the lots go cheap to encourage its settlement. They added that they owned the steamer "McKim," going the next day to Sacramento, and they offered me a ticket in her for that place, which they represented to be not far from Vernon. Accordingly I took the ticket, and on January 12th, 1850, left for Sacramento, where I arrived the next morning. It was the time of the great flood of that year, and the entire upper country seemed to be under water. Upon reaching the landing place at Sacramento, we took a small boat and rowed to the hotel. There I found a great crowd of earnest and enthusiastic people, all talking about California, and in the highest spirits. In fact I did not meet with any one who did not speak in glowing terms of the country and anticipate a sudden acquisition of fortune. I had already caught the infection myself, and these new crowds and their enthusiasm increased my excitement. The exuberance of my spirits was marvelous. The next day I took the little steamer "Lawrence," for Vernon, which was so heavily laden as to be only eighteen inches out of water; and the passengers, who amounted to a large number, were requested not to move about the deck, but to keep as quiet as possible. In three or four hours after leaving Sacramento, the Captain suddenly cried out with great energy, "Stop her! stop her!"; and with some difficulty the boat escaped running into what seemed to be a solitary house standing in a vast lake of water. I asked what place that was, and was answered, "Vernon,"—the town where I had been advised to settle as affording a good opening for a young lawyer. I turned to the Captain and said, I believed I would not put out my shingle at Vernon just yet, but would go further on. The next place we stopped at was Nicolaus, and the following day we arrived at a place called Nye's Ranch, near the junction of Feather and Yuba Rivers.

No sooner had the vessel struck the landing at Nye's Ranch than all the passengers, some forty or fifty in number, as if moved by a common impulse, started for an old adobe building, which stood upon the bank of the river, and near which were numerous tents. Judging by the number of the tents, there must have been from five hundred to a thousand people there. When we reached the adobe and entered the principal room, we saw a map spread out upon the counter, containing the plan of a town, which was called "Yubaville," and a man standing behind it, crying out, "Gentlemen, put your names down; put your names down, all you that want lots." He seemed to address himself to me, and I asked the price of the lots. He answered, "Two hundred and fifty dollars each for lots 80 by 160 feet." I replied, "But, suppose a man puts his name down and afterwards don't want the lots?" He rejoined, "Oh, you need not take them if you don't want them: put your names down, gentlemen, you that want lots." I took him at his word and wrote my name down for sixty-five lots, aggregating in all $16,250. This produced a great sensation. To the best of my recollection I had only about twenty dollars left of what Col. Stevenson had paid me; but it was immediately noised about that a great capitalist had come up from San Francisco to invest in lots in the rising town. The consequence was that the proprietors of the place waited upon me and showed me great attention.

Two of the proprietors were French gentlemen, named Covillaud and Sicard. They were delighted when they found I could speak French and insisted on showing me the town site. It was a beautiful spot, covered with live-oak trees that reminded me of the oak parks in England, and the neighborhood was lovely. I saw at once that the place, from its position at the head of practical river navigation, was destined to become an important depot for the neighboring mines, and that its beauty and salubrity would render it a pleasant place for residence. In return for the civilities shown me by Mr. Covillaud, and learning that he read English, I handed him some New York papers I had with me, and among them a copy of the New York "Evening Post" of November 13th, 1849, which happened to contain a notice of my departure for California with an expression of good wishes for my success.[2] The next day Mr. Covillaud came to me and in an excited manner said: "Ah, Monsieur, are you the Monsieur Field, the lawyer from New York, mentioned in this paper?" I took the paper and looked at the notice with apparent surprise that it was marked, though I had myself drawn a pencil line around it, and replied, meekly and modestly, that I believed I was. "Well, then," he said, "we must have a deed drawn for our land." Upon making inquiries I found that the proprietors had purchased the tract upon which the town was laid out, and several leagues of land adjoining, of General—then Captain—John A. Sutter, but had not yet received a conveyance of the property. I answered that I would draw the necessary deed; and they immediately dispatched a couple of vaqueros for Captain Sutter, who lived at Hock Farm, six miles below, on Feather River. When he arrived the deed was ready for signature. It was for some leagues of land; a considerably larger tract than I had ever before put into a conveyance. But when it was signed there was no officer to take the acknowledgment of the grantor, nor an office in which it could be recorded, nearer than Sacramento.

I suggested to those present on the occasion, that in a place of such fine prospects, and where there was likely in a short time to be much business and many transactions in real property, there ought to be an officer to take acknowledgments and record deeds, and a magistrate for the preservation of order and the settlement of disputes. It happened that a new house, the frame of which was brought in the steamer, was put up that day; and it was suggested by Mr. Covillaud that we should meet there that evening and celebrate the execution of the deed, and take into consideration the subject of organizing a town by the election of magistrates. When evening came the house was filled. It is true it had no floor, but the sides were boarded up and a roof was overhead, and we improvised seats out of spare planks. The proprietors sent around to the tents for something to give cheer to the meeting, and, strange as it may seem, they found two baskets of champagne. These they secured, and their contents were joyously disposed of. When the wine passed around, I was called upon and made a speech. I started out by predicting in glowing colors the prosperity of the new town, and spoke of its advantageous situation on the Feather and Yuba Rivers; how it was the most accessible point for vessels coming up from the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, and must in time become the depot for all the trade with the northern mines. I pronounced the auriferous region lying east of the Feather River and north of the Yuba the finest and richest in the country; and I felt certain that its commerce must concentrate at the junction of those rivers. But, said I, to avail ourselves of all these advantages we must organize and establish a government, and the first thing to be done is to call an election and choose magistrates and a town council. These remarks met with general favor, and it was resolved that a public meeting should be held in front of the Adobe house the next morning, and if it approved of the project, that an election should be held at once.

Accordingly, on the following morning, which was the 18th of January, 1850, a public meeting of citizens was there held, and it was resolved that a town government should be established and that there should be elected an Ayuntamiento or town council, a first and second Alcalde, (the latter to act in the absence or sickness of the former,) and a Marshal. The Alcalde was a judicial officer under the Spanish and Mexican laws, having a jurisdiction something like that of a Justice of the Peace; but in the anomalous condition of affairs in California at that time, he, as a matter of necessity, assumed and exercised very great powers. The election ordered took place in the afternoon of the same day. I had modestly whispered to different persons at the meeting in the new house the night before, that my name was mentioned by my friends for the office of Alcalde; and my nomination followed. But I was not to have the office without a struggle; an opposition candidate appeared, and an exciting election ensued. The main objection urged against me was that I was a new comer. I had been there only three days; my opponent had been there six. I beat him, however, by nine votes.[3]

On the evening of the election, there was a general gathering of people at the Adobe house, the principal building of the place, to hear the official announcement of the result of the election. When this was made, some one proposed that a name should be adopted for the new town. One man suggested "Yubafield," because of its situation on the Yuba River; and another, "Yubaville," for the same reason. A third, urged the name "Circumdoro," (surrounded with gold, as he translated the word,) because there were mines in every direction round about. But there was a fourth, a solid and substantial old man, evidently of kindly domestic affections, who had come out to California to better his fortunes. He now rose and remarked that there was an American lady in the place, the wife of one of the proprietors; that her name was Mary; and that, in his opinion, her name ought to be given to the town, and it should be called, in her honor, "Marysville." No sooner had he made the suggestion, than the meeting broke out into loud hurrahs; every hat made a circle around its owner's head, and we christened the new town "Marysville," without a dissenting voice. For a few days afterwards, the town was called both Yubaville and Marysville, but the latter name was soon generally adopted, and the place is so called to this day. The lady, in whose honor it was named was Mrs. Covillaud. She was one of the survivors of the Donner party, which suffered so frightfully while crossing the Sierra Nevadas in the winter of 1846-7, and had been living in the country ever since that terrible time.

With my notions of law, I did not attach much importance to the election, but I had a certificate of election made out and signed by the Inspectors, stating that at a meeting of the residents of the District of Yubaville, on the day named, an election for officers had been held, and designating the Inspectors who were appointed, the number of votes that had been cast for the office of Alcalde, and the number received by myself, and the number received by my opponent, and that as I had received a majority of all the votes cast, I was elected to that office. It was made out with all possible formality, and when completed, was sent to the Prefect of the District. This officer, a Mr. E.O. Crosby, afterwards Minister to one of the South American Republics, wrote back approving my election, and advising me to act. His advice, under the circumstances, was a matter of some moment. The new Constitution of the State had gone into effect, though it was still uncertain whether it would be recognized by Congress. Mr. Crosby, therefore, thought it best for me to procure, in addition to my commission as Alcalde, an appointment as Justice of the Peace; and through his kind offices, I obtained from Governor Burnett the proper document bearing his official seal. After my election, I went to Sacramento, and on the 22d of January, 1850, was sworn into office as first Alcalde of Yubaville, by the Judge of the Court of First Instance, as that was the name of the district in the certificate of election; but I was always designated, after the name of the town had been adopted, as First Alcalde of Marysville.[4]

Captain Sutter, whose deed I had drawn, was a remarkable character. He was about five feet nine inches in height, and was thick-set. He had a large head and an open, manly face, somewhat hardened and bronzed by his life in the open air. His hair was thin and light, and he wore a mustache. He had the appearance of an old officer of the French army, with a dignified and military bearing. I subsequently became well acquainted with him, and learned both to respect and to pity him. I respected him for his intrepid courage, his gentle manners, his large heart, and his unbounded benevolence. I pitied him for his simplicity, which, while suspecting nothing wrong in others, led him to trust all who had a kind word on their lips, and made him the victim of every sharper in the country. He was a native of Switzerland and was an officer in the Swiss Guards, in the service of the King of France, in 1823, and for some years afterwards. In 1834, he emigrated to America, and had varied and strange adventures among the Indians at the West; in the Sandwich Islands, at Fort Vancouver, in Alaska, and along the Pacific Coast. In July, 1839, the vessel which he was aboard of, was stranded in the harbor of San Francisco. He then penetrated into the interior of California and founded the first white settlement in the valley of the Sacramento, on the river of that name, at the mouth of the American River, which settlement he named Helvetia. He built a fort there and gathered around it a large number of native Indians and some white settlers. In 1841, the Mexican government granted to him a tract of land eleven square leagues in extent; and, subsequently, a still larger concession was made to him by the Governor of the Department. But the Governor being afterwards expelled from the country, the concession was held to be invalid. The emigrants arriving in the country after the discovery of gold proved the ruin of his fortunes. They squatted upon his land, denied the validity of his title, cut down his timber, and drove away his cattle. Sharpers robbed him of what the squatters did not take, until at last he was stripped of everything; and, finally, he left the State, and for some years has been living with relatives in Pennsylvania. Even the stipend of $2,500, which the State of California for some years allowed him, has been withdrawn, and now in his advanced years, he is almost destitute. Yet, in his days of prosperity, he was always ready to assist others. His fort was always open to the stranger, and food, to the value of many thousand dollars, was, every year, so long as he had the means, sent out by him for the relief of emigrants crossing the plains. It is a reproach to California that she leaves the pioneer and hero destitute in his old age.

[1] Col. Stevenson was born at the commencement of the century, and is therefore now, 1893, in his ninety-fourth year.

[2] See Exhibit A, in Appendix.

[3] See Exhibit B, in Appendix.

[4] See Exhibit C, in Appendix.


Under the Mexican law, Alcaldes had, as already stated, a very limited jurisdiction. But in the anomalous condition of affairs under the American occupation, they exercised almost unlimited powers. They were, in fact, regarded as magistrates elected by the people for the sake of preserving public order and settling disputes of all kinds. In my own case, and with the approval of the community, I took jurisdiction of every case brought before me. I knew nothing of Mexican laws; did not pretend to know anything of them; but I knew that the people had elected me to act as a magistrate and looked to me for the preservation of order and the settlement of disputes; and I did my best that they should not be disappointed. I let it be known that my election had been approved by the highest authority.

The first case I tried was in the street. Two men came up to me, one of them leading a horse. He said, "Mr. Alcalde, we both claim this horse, and we want you to decide which of us is entitled to it." I turned to the man who had the horse, administered an oath to him, and then examined him as to where he got the horse, of whom and when, whether he had a bill of sale, whether there was any mark or brand on the animal, and, in short, put all those questions which would naturally be asked in such a case to elicit the truth. I then administered an oath to the other man and put him through a similar examination, paying careful attention to what each said. When the examination was completed I at once decided the case. "It is very plain, gentlemen," I said, "that the horse belongs to this man (pointing to one of them) and the other must give him up." "But," said the man who had lost and who held the horse, "the bridle certainly belongs to me, he does not take the bridle, does he?" I said, "Oh no, the bridle is another matter." As soon as I said this the owner of the bridle turned to his adversary and said, "What will you take for the horse?" "Two hundred and fifty dollars," was the instant reply. "Agreed," retorted the first, and then turning to me, he continued: "And now, Mr. Alcalde, I want you to draw me up a bill of sale for this horse which will stick." I, of course, did as he desired. I charged an ounce for trying the case and an ounce for the bill of sale; charges which were promptly paid. Both parties went off perfectly satisfied. I was also well pleased with my first judicial experience.

Soon after my election I went to San Francisco to get my effects; and while there I purchased, on credit, a frame house and several zinc houses, which were at once shipped to Marysville. As soon as the frame house was put up I opened my office in it, and exercised not only the functions of a magistrate and justice, but also of a supervisor of the town. I opened books for the record of deeds and kept a registry of conveyances in the district. I had the banks of the river graded so as to facilitate the landing from vessels. The marshal of my court, elected at the same time with myself, having refused to act, I appointed an active and courageous person in his place, R.B. Buchanan by name, and directed him to see that peace was preserved, and for that purpose to appoint as many deputies as might be necessary. He did so, and order and peace were preserved throughout the district, not only in Marysville, but for miles around.

As a judicial officer, I tried many cases, both civil and criminal, and I dictated the form of process suited to the exigency. Thus, when a complaint was made to me by the owner of a river boat, that the steamer, which plied between Marysville and Sacramento, had run down his boat, by which a part of its cargo was lost, I at once dictated process to the marshal, in which the alleged injury was recited, and he was directed to seize the steamer, and hold it until further orders, unless the captain or owner gave security to appear in the action commenced by the owner of the boat, and pay any judgment that might be recovered therein. Upon service of the process the captain appeared, gave the required security, and the case was immediately tried. Judgment was rendered and paid within five hours after the commission of the injury.

In civil cases, I always called a jury, if the parties desired one; and in criminal cases, when the offence was of a high grade, I went through the form of calling a grand jury, and having an indictment found; and in all cases I appointed an attorney to represent the people, and also the accused, when necessary. The Americans in the country had a general notion of what was required for the preservation of order and the due administration of justice; and as I endeavored to administer justice promptly, but upon a due consideration of the rights of every one, and not rashly, I was sustained with great unanimity by the community.

I have reported a civil case tried before me as Alcalde. I will now give a few criminal prosecutions and their circumstances. One morning, about five o'clock, a man tapped at my window, and cried, "Alcalde, Alcalde, there has been a robbery, and you are wanted." I got up at once, and while I was dressing he told his story. Nearly every one in those days lived in a tent and had his gold dust with him. The man, who proved to be Gildersleeve, the famous runner, upon going to bed the previous evening had placed several pounds of gold dust in his trunk, which was not locked. In the night some one had cut through his tent and taken the gold dust. I asked him if he suspected anybody; and he named two men, and gave such reasons for his suspicion that I immediately dictated a warrant for their arrest; and in a short time the two men were arrested and brought before me. The gold dust was found on one of them. I immediately called a grand jury, by whom he was indicted. I then called a petit jury, and assigned counsel for the prisoner. He was immediately placed upon his trial, and was convicted. The whole proceeding occupied only a part of the day. There was a great crowd and much excitement, and some talk of lynching. Curiously enough, my real trouble did not commence until after the conviction. What was to be done with the prisoner? How was he to be punished? Imposing a fine would not answer; and, if he had been discharged, the crowd would have immediately hung him. When at San Francisco, Mayor Geary, of that place, told me if I would send my convicts to him, with money enough to pay for a ball and chain for each one, he would put them in the chain-gang. But at that time the price of passage by steamer from Marysville to San Francisco was fifty dollars, which, with the expense of an officer to accompany the prisoner, and the price of a ball and chain, would have amounted to a much larger sum than the prosecution could afford; so it was clearly impracticable to think of sending him to San Francisco. Nor is it at all likely that the people would have consented to his removal. Under these circumstances there was but one course to pursue, and, however repugnant it was to my feelings to adopt it, I believe it was the only thing that saved the man's life. I ordered him to be publicly whipped with fifty lashes, and added that if he were found, within the next two years, in the vicinity of Marysville, he should be again whipped. I, however, privately ordered a physician to be present so as to see that no unnecessary severity was practiced. In accordance with this sentence, the fellow was immediately taken out and flogged; and that was the last seen of him in that region. He went off and never came back. The latter part of the sentence, however, was supererogatory; for there was something so degrading in a public whipping, that I have never known a man thus whipped who would stay longer than he could help, or ever desire to return. However this may have been, the sense of justice of the community was satisfied. No blood had been shed; there had been no hanging; yet a severe public example had been given.

On another occasion a complaint was made that a man had stolen fifteen hundred dollars from a woman. He was arrested, brought before me, indicted, tried, and convicted. I had the same compunctions about punishment as before, but, as there was no other course, I ordered him to receive fifty lashes on his back on two successive days, unless he gave up the money, in which case he was to receive only fifty lashes. As soon as the sentence was written down the marshal marched the prisoner out to a tree, made him hug the tree, and in the presence of the crowd that followed, began inflicting the lashes. The man stood it for awhile without flinching, but when he had received the twenty-second lash he cried out, "Stop, for God's sake, and I will tell you where the money is." The marshal stopped and, accompanied by the crowd, took the man to the place indicated, where the money was recovered; and the thief was then made to carry it back to the woman and apologize for stealing it. The marshal then consulted the sentence, and, finding that it prescribed fifty lashes at any rate, he marched the wretch back to the tree and gave him the balance, which was his due.

But the case which made the greatest impression upon the people, and did more to confirm my authority than anything else, was the following: There was a military encampment of United States soldiers on Bear River, about fifteen miles from Marysville, known as "Camp Far West." One day an application was made to me to issue a warrant for the arrest of one of the soldiers for a larceny he had committed. It was stated that a complaint had been laid before the local Alcalde near the camp; but that the officer in charge had refused to give up the soldier unless a warrant for that purpose were issued by me, it being the general impression that I was the only duly commissioned Alcalde in the district above Sacramento. On this showing I issued my warrant, and a lieutenant of the army brought the soldier over. The soldier was indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced to be publicly whipped with the usual number of lashes, and the officer stood by and saw the punishment inflicted. He then took the soldier back to camp, where it was afterwards reported that he received an additional punishment. But before the lieutenant left me that day, and while we were dining together, he took occasion to say that, if at any time I had any trouble in enforcing the law, I had but to send him word and he would order out a company of troops to support me. This offer I permitted to become known through the town; and people said—and with what effect may be imagined—"Why here is an Alcalde that has the troops of the United States at his back."

I have already stated that I had the banks of the Yuba River graded so as to facilitate the landing from vessels. I will now mention another instance of my administration as general supervisor of the town. There were several squatters on the landing at the river, which, according to the plan of the town, was several hundred feet wide. The lots fronting on this landing being the best for business, commanded the highest prices. But on account of the squatters the owners were deprived of the benefit of the open ground of the landing in front of their property, and they complained to me. I called upon the squatters and told them that they must leave, and that if they were not gone by a certain time, I should be compelled to remove them by force, and, if necessary, to call to my aid the troops of the United States. This was enough; the squatters left, the landing was cleared, and business went on smoothly.

In addition to my ordinary duties as a judicial officer and as general supervisor of the town, I acted as arbitrator in a great number of controversies which arose between the citizens. In such cases the parties generally came to my office together and stated that they had agreed to leave the matter in dispute between them to my decision. I immediately heard their respective statements—sometimes under oath, and sometimes without oath—and decided the matter at once. The whole matter was disposed of without any written proceedings, except in some instances I gave to parties a memorandum of my decision. Thus on one occasion a dispute arose as to the rate of wages, between several workmen and their employer; the workmen insisting upon twelve dollars a day and the employer refusing to give more than ten. To settle the dispute they agreed to leave the matter to me. I heard their respective statements, and after stating that both of them ought to suffer a little for not having made a specific contract at the outset, decided that the workingmen should receive eleven dollars a day, with which both appeared to be well satisfied. On another occasion parties disputed as to whether freight on a box of crockery should be charged by measurement or by weight, a specific contract having been made that all articles shipped by the owner should be carried at a fixed price per hundred pounds. They agreed to leave the matter to my determination, and I settled it in five minutes. Again, on one occasion a woman, apparently about fifty-six, rushed into my office under great excitement, exclaiming that she wanted a divorce from her husband, who had treated her shamefully. A few moments afterwards the husband followed, and he also wanted relief from the bonds of matrimony. I heard their respective complaints, and finding that they had children, I persuaded them to make peace, kiss, and forgive; and so they left my office arm-in-arm, each having promised the other never to do so again, amid the applause of the spectators. In this way I carried out my conception of the good Cadi of the village, from which term (Al Cadi) my own official designation, Alcalde, was derived.

To make a long story short, until I was superseded by officers under the State government, I superintended municipal affairs and administered justice in Marysville with success. Whilst there was a large number of residents there of high character and culture, who would have done honor to any city, there were also unfortunately many desperate persons, gamblers, black-legs, thieves, and cut-throats; yet the place was as orderly as a New England village. There were no disturbances at night, no riots, and no lynching. It was the model town of the whole country for peacefulness and respect for law.

And now a word about my speculations. In a short time after going to Marysville and writing my name down for sixty-five town lots, property increased ten-fold in value. Within ninety days I sold over $25,000 worth, and still had most of my lots left. My frame and zinc houses brought me a rental of over $1,000 a month. The emoluments of my office of Alcalde were also large. In criminal cases I received nothing for my services as judge, and in civil cases the fees were small; but as an officer to take acknowledgments and affidavits and record deeds, the fees I received amounted to a large sum. At one time I had $14,000 in gold dust in my safe, besides the rentals and other property.

One day whilst I was Alcalde, a bright-looking lad, with red cheeks and apparently about seventeen years of age, came into the office and asked if I did not want a clerk. I said I did, and would willingly give $200 a month for a good one; but that I had written to Sacramento and was expecting one from there. The young man suggested that perhaps the one from Sacramento would not come or might be delayed, and he would like to take the place in the meanwhile. I replied, very well, if he was willing to act until the other arrived, he might do so. And thereupon he took hold and commenced work. Three days afterwards the man from Sacramento arrived; but in the meanwhile I had become so much pleased with the brightness and quickness of my young clerk that I would not part with him. That young clerk was George C. Gorham, the present Secretary of the United States Senate. I remember him distinctly as he first appeared to me, with red and rosy cheeks. His quickness of comprehension was really wonderful. Give him half an idea of what was wanted, and he would complete it as it were by intuition. I remember on one occasion he wanted to know what was necessary for a marriage settlement. I asked him why. He replied that he had been employed by a French lady to prepare such a settlement, and was to receive twenty-five dollars for the instrument. I gave him some suggestions, but added that he had better let me see the document after he had written it. In a short time afterwards he brought it to me, and I was astonished to find it so nearly perfect. There was only one correction to make. And thus ready I always found him. With the most general directions he would execute everything committed to his charge, and usually with perfect correctness. He remained with me several months, and acted as clerk of my Alcalde court, and years afterwards, at different times was a clerk in my office. When I went upon the bench of the Supreme Court, I appointed him clerk of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, and, with the exception of the period during which he acted as secretary of Gov. Low, he remained as such clerk until he was nominated for the office of governor of the State, when he resigned. Through the twenty-seven years of our acquaintance, from 1850 to the present time, July, 1877, his friendship and esteem have been sincere and cordial, which no personal abuse of me could change and no political differences between us could alienate. His worldly possessions would have been more abundant had he pursued the profession of the law, which I urged him to do; and his success as a public man would have been greater, had he been more conciliatory to those who differed from him in opinion.


Towards the end of May, 1850, William E. Turner, who had been appointed Judge of the Eighth Judicial District of the State by the first Legislature which convened under the Constitution, made his appearance and announced that he intended to open the District Court at Marysville on the first Monday of the next month. We were all pleased with the prospect of having a regular court and endeavored, as far as lay in our power, to make the stay of the Judge with us agreeable. I had been in the habit of receiving a package of New York newspapers by every steamer, and among them came copies of the New York "Evening Post," which was at that time the organ of the so-called Free-soil party. When Judge Turner arrived, I waited on him to pay my respects, and sent him the various newspapers I had received. He had lived for years in Texas, and, as it proved, was a man of narrow mind and bitter prejudices. He seems to have had a special prejudice against New Yorkers and regarded a Free-soiler as an abomination. I have been told, and I believe such to be the fact, that my sending him these newspapers, and particularly the "Evening Post," led him to believe that I was an "Abolitionist"—a person held in special abhorrence in those days by gentlemen from the South. At any rate he conceived a violent dislike of me, which was destined in a short time to show itself and cause me great annoyance. What was intended on my part as an act of courtesy, turned out to be the beginning of a long, bitter, and on his part, ferocious quarrel. At that time my affairs were in a very prosperous condition, as I have already stated. I had $14,000 in gold dust, a rental of over a thousand dollars a month, and a large amount of city property constantly increasing in value. Such being the case, I thought I would go East on a visit, and accordingly began making arrangements to leave. But shortly before the opening of the June term of the District Court, Captain Sutter came to me and told me he had been sued by a man named Cameron, and wished me to appear as his counsel. I answered that I was making arrangements to go East and he had better retain some one else. He replied that I ought to remain long enough to appear for him and assist his attorney, and begged of me as an act of friendship to do so. I finally consented, and deferred my departure.

Soon after the opening of the court, some time during the first week, the case of Captain Sutter was called. A preliminary motion, made by his attorney, was decided against him. Mr. Jesse O. Goodwin, a member of the bar, sitting near, said to me that the practice act, passed at the recent session of the Legislature, contained a section bearing upon the question; and at the same time handed me the act. I immediately rose, and addressing the court, remarked that I was informed there was a statutory provision applicable to the point, and begged permission to read it; and commenced turning over the pages of the act in search of it, when Judge Turner, addressing me and apparently irritated, said in a petulant manner;—"The court knows the law—the mind of the court is made up—take your seat, sir." I was amazed at hearing such language; but in a respectful and quiet manner stated that I excepted to the decision, and appealed, or would appeal from the order. The Judge instantly replied, in a loud and boisterous manner, "Fine that gentleman two hundred dollars." I replied quietly, "Very well," or "Well, sir." He immediately added, in an angry tone, "I fine him three hundred dollars, and commit him to the custody of the sheriff eight hours." I again replied, "Very well." He instantly exclaimed, in the same violent manner, "I fine him four hundred dollars and commit him twelve hours." I then said that it was my right by statute to appeal from any order of his honor, and that it was no contempt of court to give notice of an exception or an appeal, and asked the members of the bar present if it could be so regarded. But the Judge, being very ignorant of the practice of the law, regarded an exception to his decision as an impeachment of his judgment, and, therefore, something like a personal affront. And so, upon my statement, he flew into a perfect rage, and in a loud and boisterous tone cried out, "I fine him five hundred dollars and commit him twenty-four hours—forty-eight hours—turn him out of court—subpoena a posse—subpoena me." I then left the court-room. The attorney in the case accompanied me, and we were followed by the deputy sheriff. After going a few steps we met the coroner, to whom the deputy sheriff transferred me; and the coroner accompanied me to my office, and after remaining there a few moments left me to myself. On the way an incident occurred, which probably inflamed Judge Turner against me more than anything else that could have happened. The attorney, who was much exasperated at the conduct of the Judge, said to me as we met the coroner, "Never mind what the Judge does; he is an old fool." I replied, "Yes, he is an old jackass." This was said in an ordinary conversational tone; but a man by the name of Captain Powers, with whom Turner boarded, happened to overhear it, and running to the court-house, and opening the door, he hallooed out, "Judge Turner! oh, Judge Turner! Judge Field says you are an old jackass." A shout followed, and the Judge seemed puzzled whether or not he should send an officer after me, or punish his excitable friend for repeating my language.

I remained in my office the remainder of the day, and many people who were present in court, or heard of what had occurred, called to see me. I immediately wrote out a full statement of everything that happened in the court-room, and had it verified by a number of persons who were eye and ear witnesses of the affair. Towards evening the deputy sheriff met the Judge, who asked him what he had done with me. The deputy answered that I had gone to my office and was still there. The Judge said, "Go and put him under lock and key, and, if necessary, put him in irons." The deputy came to me and said, "The Judge has sent me to put you under lock and key; let me turn the key upon you in your own office." At this I became indignant, and asked for his warrant or commitment to hold me. He replied that he had none, that only a verbal order was given to him by the Judge in the street. I then told him he must go away from me and leave me alone. He replied that, "as he was acting by the orders of the sheriff, whose deputy he was, in obeying the Judge, he must do as he had been directed." He added, "I will lock the door anyway," and doing so he went off. I immediately sued out a writ of habeas corpus returnable before Henry P. Haun, the County Judge. The writ was executed forthwith, and the same evening I was taken before the Judge. There was a great crowd present. I called the sheriff to the stand and asked him if he had any writ, process, commitment, or order by which he held me in custody. He replied that he had none. I then put on the stand Samuel B. Mulford and Jesse O. Goodwin and several others, who were present in the District Court where the scenes narrated had occurred, and they testified that there was nothing disrespectful in my language or manner; that I had not used an expression at which anybody could justly take offence; and that they had been utterly surprised at the conduct of the Judge, which was violent and tyrannical; and that they saw no possible excuse for it. This testimony was of course of no consequence on the question presented by the habeas corpus; because, as there was no order or warrant for my arrest in the possession of the officer, I could not, under any circumstances, be held; but I wished to show my friends, who had not been present in the court-room, the facts of the case.

I was of course at once discharged. But the matter did not end there. An excited crowd was present, and as I left the court-room they cheered enthusiastically. I thereupon invited them to the Covillaud House, a public house in the town, and directed the keeper to dispense to them the good things of his bar. The champagne was accordingly uncorked without stint, and the best Havana boxes were soon emptied of their most fragrant cigars. A bill of $290 paid the next day settled the account. Whilst the boys were thus enjoying themselves, Judge Turner, who was not far off, entered the Covillaud House, perfectly furious, and applied obscene and vile epithets to the County Judge, declaring with an oath that he would teach "that fellow" that he was an inferior judge, and that the witnesses before him were a set of "perjured scoundrels" who should be expelled from the bar. Similar threats were made by him in different saloons in the town, to the disgust of every one. That evening he was burned in effigy in the public plaza. I had nothing to do with that act, and did not approve of it. I did not know then, and do not know to this day who were engaged in it. He attributed it to me, however, and his exasperation towards me in consequence became a malignant fury.

On the Monday following, June 10th, which was the first day on which the court was held after the scenes narrated, Judge Turner, on the opening of the court, before the minutes of the previous session were read, and without notice to the parties, or any hearing of them, although they were present at the time, ordered that Judge Haun be fined fifty dollars and be imprisoned forty-eight hours for his judicial act in discharging me from arrest, under some pretence that the order of the court had been thus obstructed by him. At the same time he ordered that I should be re-imprisoned, and that Mr. Mulford, Mr. Goodwin, and myself should be expelled from the bar; myself for suing out the writ, and those two gentlemen for being witnesses on its return, under the pretence that we had "vilified the court and denounced its proceedings." Judge Haun paid his fine and left the court-room, and I was again taken into custody by the sheriff.[1]

It happened to be the day appointed by law for the opening of the Court of Sessions of the county, over which the County Judge presided. Judge Haun proceeded from the District Court to the room engaged for the Court of Sessions, and there, in connection with an associate justice, opened that court. Immediately afterwards I sued out another writ of habeas corpus, returnable forthwith, and whilst before the court arguing for my discharge under the writ, the sheriff entered and declared his intention of taking me out of the room, and of taking Judge Haun from the bench and putting us in confinement, pursuant to the order of Judge Turner. Judge Haun told the sheriff that the Court of Sessions was holding its regular term; that he was violating the law, and that the court must not be disturbed in its proceedings. Judge Turner was then informed that the Court of Sessions was sitting; that Judge Haun was on the bench, and that I was arguing before the court on a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Turner immediately ordered a posse to be summoned and appealed to gentlemen in the court-room to serve on it, and directed the sheriff to take Judge Haun and myself into custody by force, notwithstanding Judge Haun was on the bench, and I was arguing my case; and if necessary to put Judge Haun in irons—to handcuff him. Soon afterwards the sheriff, with a posse, entered the room of the Court of Sessions, and forced me out of it, and was proceeding to seize Judge Haun on the bench, when the Judge stepped to a closet and drew from it a navy revolver, cocked it, and, pointing it towards the sheriff, informed him in a stern manner that he was violating the law; that whilst on the bench he, the Judge, could not be arrested, and that if the sheriff attempted to do so he would kill him. At the same time he fined the sheriff for contempt of court $200, and appointed a temporary bailiff to act, and directed him to clear the court-room of the disturbers. The new bailiff summoned all the bystanders, who instantly responded, and the court-room was immediately cleared. Judge Haun then laid his revolver on a drawer before him, and inquired if there was any business ready; for if so the court would hear it. There being none, the court adjourned.

I regret to be compelled to add, that notwithstanding the manly and courageous conduct which Judge Haun had thus shown, no sooner was the court adjourned than he was persuaded to make a qualified apology to the District Court for discharging me, by sending a communication to it, stating "that if he was guilty of obstructing the order of the court in releasing Field, he did it ignorantly, not intending any contempt by so doing;" and thereupon the District Court ordered that he be released from confinement, and that his fine be remitted.[2]

Of course there was great excitement through the town as soon as these proceedings became known. That night nearly all Marysville came to my office. I made a speech to the people. Afterwards some of them passed in front of Turner's house, and gave him three groans. They then dispersed, and in returning home some of them fired off their pistols as a sort of finale to the proceedings of the evening. The firing was not within three hundred yards of Turner's house; but he seized hold of the fact of firing, and stated that he had been attacked in his house by an armed mob. He also charged that I had instigated the crowd to attack him, but the facts are as I have stated them. There was a great deal of feeling on the part of the people, who generally sided with me; but I did nothing to induce them to violate the law or disturb the peace. Even if I wished to do so, prudence and policy counselled otherwise.

When Turner caused the names of Mulford, Goodwin, and myself, to be stricken from the roll of attorneys, we, of course, could no longer appear as counsel in his court. I at once prepared the necessary papers, and applied to the Supreme Court of the State for a mandamus to compel him to vacate the order and reinstate us. I took the ground that an attorney and counsellor, by his admission to the bar, acquired rights of which he could not be arbitrarily deprived; that he could not, under any circumstances, be expelled from the bar without charges being preferred against him and an opportunity afforded to be heard in his defence; that the proceedings of Judge Turner being ex-parte, without charges preferred, and without notice, were void; and that a mandate, directing him to vacate the order of expulsion and restore us to the bar, ought to be issued immediately.

In addition, to this application, I also moved for a mandamus to him to vacate the order imposing a fine and imprisonment upon me for the alleged contempt of his court, or for such other order in the premises as might be just. I took the ground, that as the order did not show any act committed which could constitute a contempt of court, it was void on its face, and should be so declared. My old friend, Gregory Yale, assisted me in the presentation of these motions. In deciding them, the court delivered two opinions, in which these positions were sustained. They are reported under the titles of People, ex rel. Mulford et al., vs. Turner, 1 Cal., 143; and People, ex rel. Field vs. Turner, 1 Cal., 152. In the first case, a peremptory writ of mandamus was issued, directed to Judge Turner, ordering him to reinstate us as attorneys; in the second, a writ of certiorari was issued to bring up the order imposing a fine, which was subsequently reversed and vacated, as shown in Ex-parte Field, 1 Cal., 187. The opinions referred to were delivered by Judge Bennett, and are models of their kind. Many years afterwards, when a somewhat similar question came before the Supreme Court of the United States, I was called upon to announce its judgment; and in doing so, I followed these opinions, as may be seen by reference to the case of Ex-parte Robinson, 19 Wallace, 510. I there repeated substantially the doctrine of Judge Bennett, which is the only doctrine that will protect an attorney and counsellor from the tyranny of an arbitrary and capricious officer, and preserve to him his self-respect and independence.

When the order for our restoration came down from the Supreme Court, Turner refused to obey it; and wrote a scurrilous "Address to the Public" about us, which he published in one of the newspapers. We replied in a sharp and bitter article, signed by ourselves and five other gentlemen; and at the same time we published a petition to the Governor, signed by all the prominent citizens of Marysville, asking for Judge Turner's removal. There was a general impression in those days that Judges appointed before the admission of the State into the Union held their offices subject to removal by the Governor. I hardly know how this impression originated, but probably in some vague notions about the powers of Mexican Governors. However this may be, such was the general notion, and in accordance with it, a petition for Turner's removal was started, and, as I have said, was very generally signed.[3] The matter had by this time assumed such a serious character, and the Judge's conduct was so atrocious, that the people became alarmed and with great unanimity demanded his deposition from office.

In the article referred to as published by us, we said, after setting forth the facts, that "Judge Turner is a man of depraved tastes, of vulgar habits, of an ungovernable temper, reckless of truth when his passions are excited, and grossly incompetent to discharge the duties of his office." Unfortunately the statement was perfectly true. He refused to obey the mandate of the Supreme Court, even talked of setting that court at defiance, and went around saying that every one who had signed an affidavit against him was a "perjured villain," and that as to Goodwin, Mulford, and Field, he would "cut their ears off." He frequented the gambling saloons, associated with disreputable characters, and was addicted to habits of the most disgusting intoxication. Besides being abusive in his language, he threatened violence, and gave out that he intended to insult me publicly the first time we met, and that, if I resented his conduct, he would shoot me down on the spot. This being reported to me by various persons, I went to San Francisco and consulted Judge Bennett as to what course I ought to pursue. Judge Bennett asked if I were certain that he had made such a threat. I replied I was. "Well," said the Judge, "I will not give you any advice; but if it were my case, I think I should get a shot-gun and stand on the street, and see that I had the first shot." I replied that "I could not do that; that I would act only in self-defence." He replied, "That would be acting in self-defence." When I came to California, I came with all those notions, in respect to acts of violence, which are instilled into New England youth; if a man were rude, I would turn away from him. But I soon found that men in California were likely to take very great liberties with a person who acted in such a manner, and that the only way to get along was to hold every man responsible, and resent every trespass upon one's rights. Though I was not prepared to follow Judge Bennett's suggestion, I did purchase a pair of revolvers and had a sack-coat made with pockets in which the barrels could lie, and be discharged; and I began to practice firing the pistols from the pockets. In time I acquired considerable skill, and was able to hit a small object across the street. An object so large as a man I could have hit without difficulty. I had come to the conclusion that if I had to give up my independence; if I had to avoid a man because I was afraid he would attack me; if I had to cross the street every time I saw him coming, life itself was not worth having.

Having determined neither to seek him nor to shun him, I asked a friend to carry a message to him, and to make sure that it would reach him, I told different parties what I had sent, and I was confident that they would repeat it to him. "Tell him from me," I said, "that I do not want any collision with him; that I desire to avoid all personal difficulties; but that I shall not attempt to avoid him; that I shall not cross the street on his account, nor go a step out of my way for him; that I have heard of his threats, and that if he attacks me or comes at me in a threatening manner I will kill him."[4] I acted on my plan. I often met him in the streets and in saloons, and whenever I drew near him I dropped my hand into my pocket and cocked my pistols to be ready for any emergency. People warned me to look out for him; to beware of being taken at a disadvantage; and I was constantly on my guard. I felt that I was in great danger; but after awhile this sense of danger had a sort of fascination, and I often went to places where he was, to which I would not otherwise have gone. Whenever I met him I kept my eye on him, and whenever I passed him on the street I turned around and narrowly watched him until he had gone some distance. I am persuaded if I had taken any other course, I should have been killed. I do not say Turner would have deliberately shot me down, or that he would have attempted anything against me in his sober moments; but when excited with drink, and particularly when in the presence of the lawless crowds who heard his threats, it would have taken but little to urge him on. As it turned out, however, he never interfered with me, perhaps because he knew I was armed and believed that, if I were attacked, somebody, and perhaps more than one, would be badly hurt. I have been often assured by citizens of Marysville that it was only the seeming recklessness of my conduct, and the determination I showed not to avoid him or go out of his way, that saved me. But at the same time my business was ruined. Not only was I prevented, by his refusal to obey the mandate of the Supreme Court, from appearing as an advocate, but I could not, on account of the relation I occupied towards him, practice at all; nor could I, under the circumstances, leave Marysville and make my intended visit East. Having nothing else to do, I went into speculations which failed, and in a short time—a much shorter time than it took to make my money—I lost nearly all I had acquired and became involved in debt.

[1] See Exhibit D, in Appendix.

[2] See Exhibit E, in Appendix.

[3] See Exhibit F, in Appendix.

[4] See Exhibit G, in Appendix.


One morning about this time I unexpectedly found myself in the newspapers, nominated by my friends as a candidate for the lower house of the Legislature. Who the friends were that named me I did not know; but the nomination opened a new field and suggested new ideas. I immediately accepted the candidacy. Judge Turner had threatened, among other things, to drive me into the Yuba River. I now turned upon him, and gave out that my object in wishing to go to the Legislature was to reform the judiciary, and, among other things, to remove him from the district. I canvassed the county thoroughly and was not backward in portraying him in his true colors. He and his associates spared no efforts to defeat me. Their great reliance consisted in creating the belief that I was an abolitionist. If that character could have been fastened upon me it would have been fatal to my hopes, for it was a term of great reproach. Yuba County then comprised the present county of that name, and also what are now Nevada and Sierra Counties. It was over a hundred miles in length and about fifty in width, and had a population of twenty-five thousand people, being the most populous mining region in the State. I visited nearly every precinct and spoke whenever I could get an audience. An incident of the canvass may not be uninteresting. I went to the town of Nevada a little more than a week before the election. As I was riding through its main street a gentleman whom I had long known, General John Anderson, hailed me, and, after passing a few words, said, "Field, you won't get fifty votes here." I asked, "Why not?" He replied, "Because everybody is for McCarty, your opponent." I said, somewhat sharply, "Anderson, I have come here to fight my own battle and I intend to carry Nevada." He laughed and I rode on. The first man I met after reaching the hotel was Captain Morgan, who afterwards commanded a steamer on the Bay of San Francisco. After talking for some time on general topics, he asked me about a story in circulation that I was an abolitionist. I saw at once the work of enemies, and I now understood the meaning of General Anderson's remark. I assured Morgan that the story was entirely false, and added; "To-morrow will be Sunday; everybody will be in town; I will then make a speech and show the people what kind of a man I am, and what my sentiments are on this and other subjects." Accordingly, the next day, in the afternoon, when the miners from the country were in town and had nothing else to do than to be amused, I mounted a platform erected for the purpose in the main street, and commenced speaking. I soon had a crowd of listeners. I began about my candidacy, and stated what I expected to do if elected. I referred to the necessity of giving greater jurisdiction to the local magistrates, in order that contests of miners respecting their claims might be tried in their vicinity. As things then existed the right to a mule could not be litigated without going to the county seat, at a cost greater than the value of the animal. I was in favor of legislation which would protect miners in their claims, and exempt their tents, rockers, and utensils used in mining from forced sale. I was in favor of dividing the county, and making Nevada the seat of the new county. I had heard of numerous measures they wanted, and I told them how many of these measures I advocated. Having got their attention and excited their interest, I referred to the charge made against me of being an abolitionist, and denounced it as a base calumny. In proof of the charge I was told that I had a brother in New York who was a free-soiler. So I had, I replied, and a noble fellow he is—God bless him wherever he may be. But I added, I have another brother who is a slaveholder in Tennessee, and with which one, I asked, in the name of all that is good, were they going to place me. I wondered if these "honorable" men, who sought by such littleness to defeat me, did not find out whether I did not have some other relatives,—women, perhaps, who believed in things unearthly and spiritual,—whose opinions they could quote to defeat me. Shame on such tactics, I said, and the crowd answered by loud cheering. I then went on to give my views of our government, of the relation between the general government of the Union and the government of the States, to show that the former was created for national purposes which the States could not well accomplish—that we might have uniformity of commercial regulations, one army and one navy, a common currency, and the same postal system, and present ourselves as one nation to foreign countries—but that all matters of domestic concern were under the control and management of the States, with which outsiders could not interfere; that slavery was a domestic institution which each State must regulate for itself, without question or interference from others. In other words, I made a speech in favor of State Rights, which went home to my hearers, who were in great numbers from the South. I closed with a picture of the future of California, and of the glories of a country bounded by two oceans. When I left the platform the cheers which followed showed that I had carried the people with me. McCarty, my opponent, followed, but his speech fell flat. Half his audience left before he had concluded.

The election took place a week from the following Monday. I remained in Nevada until it was over. At the precinct in town where I had spoken, I had between three and four hundred majority, and in another precinct in the outskirts I had a majority of two to one. In the county generally I ran well, and was elected, notwithstanding the fact that I was not the nominee of any convention or the candidate of any party. The morning following the election, as I was leaving Nevada, I rode by the store of General Anderson, and hailing him, inquired what he thought now of my getting fifty votes in the town. "Well," he replied, "it was that Sunday speech of yours which did the business. McCarty could not answer it."

There was one thing in the election which I regretted, and that was that I did not carry Marysville; a majority of the votes of its citizens was cast for my opponent. It is true that there the greater number of gamblers and low characters of the county were gathered, but the better class predominated in numbers, and I looked with confidence to its support. My regret, however, was sensibly diminished when I learned the cause of the failure of a portion of the people to give me their votes. Some few weeks previous to the day of election a man was killed in the street by a person by the name of Keiger, who was immediately arrested. The person killed was about leaving the State, and owed a small debt to Keiger, which he refused either to pay or to give security for its payment. Exasperated by his refusal, Keiger drew a pistol and shot him. I was sent for by an acquaintance of Keiger to attend his examination before the local magistrate, by whom he was held for the action of the grand jury. In the afternoon of the same day a large crowd assembled in the streets, with the purpose of proceeding to the summary execution of Keiger. Whilst the people were in a great state of excitement I made a speech to them, begging them not to resort to violence and thus cast reproach upon the good name of Marysville, but to let the law take its course, assuring them that justice would certainly be administered by the courts. My remarks were received with evident displeasure, and I am inclined to think that violence would have been resorted to had not the prisoner been secretly removed from the city and taken to Sacramento. The exasperation of a large number, at this escape of their intended victim, vented itself on me, and cost me at least a hundred votes in the city. I would not have acted otherwise had I known beforehand that such would be the result of my conduct. When the civil tribunals are open and in the undisturbed exercise of their jurisdiction, a resort to violence can never be approved or excused.

I witnessed some strange scenes during the campaign, which well illustrated the anomalous condition of society in the county. I will mention one of them. As I approached Grass Valley, then a beautiful spot among the hills, occupied principally by Mr. Walsh, a name since become familiar to Californians, I came to a building by the wayside, a small lodging-house and drinking-saloon, opposite to which a Lynch jury were sitting, trying a man upon a charge of stealing gold dust. I stopped and watched for awhile the progress of the trial. On an occasion of some little delay in the proceedings, I mentioned to those present, the jury included, that I was a candidate for the Legislature, and that I would be glad if they would join me in a glass in the saloon, an invitation which was seldom declined in those days. It was at once accepted, and leaving the accused in the hands of an improvised constable, the jury entered the house and partook of the drinks which its bar afforded. I had discovered, or imagined from the appearance of the prisoner, that he had been familiar in other days with a very different life from that of California, and my sympathies were moved towards him. So, after the jurors had taken their drinks and were talking pleasantly together, I slipped out of the building and approaching the man, said to him, "What is the case against you? Can I help you?" The poor fellow looked up to me and his eyes filled with great globules of tears as he replied. "I am innocent of all I am charged with. I have never stolen anything nor cheated any one; but I have no one here to befriend me." That was enough for me. Those eyes, filled as they were, touched my heart. I hurried back to the saloon; and as the jurors were standing about chatting with each other I exclaimed, "How is this? you have not had your cigars? Mr. bar-keeper, please give the gentlemen the best you have; and, besides, I added, let us have another 'smile'—it is not often you have a candidate for the Legislature among you." A laugh followed, and a ready acceptance was given to the invitation. In the meantime my eyes rested upon a benevolent-looking man among the jury, and I singled him out for conversation. I managed to draw him aside and inquired what State he came from. He replied, from Connecticut. I then asked if his parents lived there. He answered, with a faltering voice, "My father is dead; my mother and sister are there." I then said, "Your thoughts, I dare say, go out constantly to them; and you often write to them, of course." His eyes glistened, and I saw pearl-like dew-drops gathering in them; his thoughts were carried over the mountains to his old home. "Ah, my good friend," I added "how their hearts must rejoice to hear from you." Then, after a short pause, I remarked, "What is the case against your prisoner? He, too, perhaps, may have a mother and sister in the East, thinking of him as your mother and sister do of you, and wondering when he will come back. For God's sake remember this." The heart of the good man responded in a voice which, even to this day—now nearly twenty-seven years past—sounds like a delicious melody in my ears: "I will do so." Passing from him I went to the other jurors, and, finding they were about to go back to the trial, I exclaimed, "Don't be in a hurry, gentlemen, let us take another glass." They again acceded to my request, and seeing that they were a little mellowed by their indulgence, I ventured to speak about the trial. I told them that the courts of the state were organized, and there was no necessity or justification now for Lynch juries; that the prisoner appeared to be without friends, and I appealed to them, as men of large hearts, to think how they would feel if they were accused of crime where they had no counsel and no friends. "Better send him, gentlemen, to Marysville for trial, and keep your own hands free from stain." A pause ensued; their hearts were softened; and, fortunately, a man going to Marysville with a wagon coming up at this moment, I prevailed upon them to put the prisoner in his charge to be taken there. The owner of the wagon consenting, they swore him to take the prisoner to that place and deliver him over to the sheriff; and to make sure that he would keep the oath, I handed him a "slug," a local coin of octagonal form of the value of fifty dollars, issued at that time by assayers in San Francisco. We soon afterwards separated. As I moved away on my horse my head swam a little, but my heart was joyous. Of all things which I can recall of the past, this is one of the most pleasant. I believe I saved the prisoner's life; for in those days there was seldom any escape for a person tried by a Lynch jury.

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