San Francisco History

Yerba Buena Walk

An Hour's Walk Through
The Town that existed for eleven years, seven months
and five days, then became
San Francisco
by Douglas S. Watson

Obliterate all that is familiar, do away in imagination with the streets, buildings and people in that area of downtown San Francisco bounded by Pine street on the south, Broadway on the north, Leidesdorff street on the east and Stockton street on the west; cover its uneven terrain with lupin, sagebrush and wild mint—the plant the Mexicans called Yerba Buena—and you would have the prospect Captain William Antonio Richardson had before him on the afternoon of June 25, 1835, when, with his wife, Maria Antonia Martinez, and their three children, he unloaded his pack animals on the slope of the hills rising from the cove that nestled at the base of Loma Alta—the height we call today, Telegraph Hill.

Yerba Buena Walk map - click for a larger viewArmed with a map of the projected settlement and the approval of Governor Figueroa, Richardson's first concern was to shelter his family, and this he did by erecting a tent fashioned from an old sail. The town-founder knew the climate, for, following his arrival in San Francisco bay as mate of the British whaler "Orion" in 1822, and his marriage with the daughter of Lieutenant Ignacio Martinez in 1825, he had lived a number of years at the Presidio. To protect his household from the storms of winter the tent was insufficient, and in October he built a rough board shack to take the place of his first habitation. It was this crude building that Richard Henry Dana, Jr., saw and described in "Two Years Before the Mast," the epic of California's pastoral era.

Richardson laid out a one-street town, calling its thoroughfare, "Calle de la Fundacion,"—Founding street—an angling road which joined the trail to the Mission near today's crossing of Kearny and California streets, and that leading to the Presidio near the junction of Pacific and Stockton streets. For a whole year Richardson's family lived in lonesome seclusion, but in July, 1836, the town's second settler—Jacob Primer Leese—made his appearance, put up a board shack on the lot adjoining on the south, and celebrated the occasion by inviting the whole countryside to a glorious Fourth of July party at which the guests ate, danced and drank for three days while both the Mexican national emblem and the Stars and Stripes floated overhead.

We have set the scene. Let it serve as a background while we direct our steps through the busy streets of the San Francisco of today, stopping from time to time to call on, in fancy, the more prominent personages who created the town from which our city grew.

Our walk begins at the southwest corner of Montgomery and California streets where the Clunie Building now stands. Here in early 1840's a cockney by the name of Robert Ridley built a cottage. Ridley could have qualified for membership in any liars' club—he was a teller of tall tales, besides being Yerba Buena's champion two-fisted drinker. One morning, meeting William Heath Davis, he casually asked the merchant known far and wide as "Kanaka" Davis—the nickname was due to his partial Polynesian ancestry—how many "London Docks" he imagined the speaker had downed before breakfast that day. Davis hazarded, "Five or six." Such a small quantity was an insult; it challenged Ridley's capacity. "Why, I've gotten away with twenty-three, and I think I'll take another before I eat just to whet my appetite." Ridley had married Presentacion Miranda, the daughter of the famous Juana Briones Miranda who kept cows and lived on her small ranch at Powell and Filbert streets at North Beach. Thomes, who wrote of his experiences under the title of "On Land and Sea," tells of Juana and her milk and the difficulty of finding a receptacle in which to carry some back to the Ship.  Juana solved the problem but shocked the lad serving before the mast, for, assuring him that she had just washed it thoroughly and demanding that it be returned muy pronto, she poured fresh milk into a white china utensil, the only one in the house, which in those days was wont to repose in privacy under her bed. Ridley worked as a clerk for the Hudson's Bay people, and in 1846 sold his cottage which had the only flower garden in the town to William Alexander Leidesdorff, a part-Negro Dane from the town of Saint Croix in the West Indies who came here in 1841 as master of the schooner "Julia Ann."

Leidesdorrff moved in and his pretty half-cast Alaskan-Russian housekeeper helped him entertain and keep up the dignity of being United states vice-consul. As a merchant Leidesdorff succeeded and acquired real estate including the Natomas grant on the American River. At the time of his death in May, 1848, he was land poor and practically bankrupt, which made it possible for Captain Joseph L. Folsom to purchase the entire holdings for less than One Hundred Thousand Dollars, and consequently become the city's wealthiest citizen.

Across California street, on the site now occupied by the San Francisco Bank (now occupied by First Western Bank), lived Jack Fuller with his Mexican wife and children. He, like Richardson and Ridley, was an Englishman; and was Yerba Buena's outstanding man of all trades. Laundryman, cook and butcher were the usual trades he turned his hand to, while for a time he served the town as its sindico or treasurer. Juan was the first man to spend the community's money on street improvement, a matter of ten dollars for clipping off the overhanging boughs of trees endangering passengers on the trail to the Mission. But Fuller's fame rests upon a much more secure foundation; he it was who was responsible for changing the name of Yerba Buena Island to Goat Island. In 1842 Captain Gorham H. Nye sailed the "Fama" into San Francisco bay. Fuller discovered that Nye had goats, billies and nannies, on board. To Nathan Spear, merchant and the best-liked man in town, he proposed a purchase of the livestock. Lack of fences decided the buyers to place the animals on the island where they multiplied exceedingly. Spear was cajoled into the business by Fuller's description of roasted kid to relieve the monotonous beef diet to which the Yerba Buenans were condemned.

The Trust Department of the American Trust Company on the northwest corner of California and Leidesdorff streets marks the spot where Leidesdorff had his hide warehouse. Small draught schooners could come alongside and there the hides gathered from the rancheros about the bay were stored until sold to Boston ships for transportation to the Atlantic seaboard. Where Sacramento street crosses Leidesdorff the Indian crew of Richardson's schooner maintained a temescal or sweat house. Here was a sweet water lagoon fed by a rivulet that coursed down today's Sacramento street. Into this fresh water lake in the beach the Indians would plunge after their torrid stays in the temescal.

Mention has been made of the coming to Yerba Buena of Jacob Primer Leese. He was an American and in his merchandising venture he had two partners, William Sturgis Hinckley and Nathan Spear, both of whom were American born. A quarrel over profits with his absent partners—Spear was at Monterey and Hinckley was at sea as captain of the "Corsair"—led to a dissolution and the coming of Spear and Hinckley to Yerba Buena. From Governor Alvarado Leese obtained the easterly two-thirds of the block now bounded by Montgomery, Clay, Kearny and Sacramento streets and there built a combined house and place of business. Having married Rosalia Vallejo, the General's sister, he sold out in 1841 to the Hudson's Bay Company and removed to Sonoma where his brother-in-law ruled with unquestioned authority over countless acres of land and herds of cattle without number. The main building stood fronting what was to become in later years Montgomery street. A hide warehouse occupied more than half of what is now Sacramento street. Here the great H. B. trading establishment went about its avowed purpose of seizing the entire California business of barter. William Glen Rae was the factor in charge. His wife Eloise, the half-breed daughter of the great Dr. John McLoughlin who ruled the destinies of the company at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia river, kept house and entertained the important personages who called upon her hard-drinking husband. An error of judgment led Rae to back the wrong horse in the struggle of Governor Micheltorena against Castro and Alvarado. This and drink were responsible for Rae's suicide when Micheltorena lost. He was buried in the orchard in the back of the house. Years later when a sewer was placed in Commercial street, which now runs through the block, Rae's coffin was unearthed. With Rae's death the Hudson's Bay Company withdrew from Yerba Buena, selling the property to two Boston men who had grown to manhood in the hide and tallow business in California, Henry Mellus and William Davis Merry Howard, whose firm name was Mellus and Howard and who afterward became the most important merchants in the town.

The corner of Leidesdorff and Clay streets recalls many happenings of the past. Here the low cliff which went by the Spanish name of "cantil" reached its maximum height of ten feet. North and south from this point it gradually lessened. Between it and the waters of the bay was a strip of sandy beach and here Juan Fuller erected his washhouse, close to an "ojo de agua" or spring which gushed forth from the cantil with a plentiful supply of water. Here, too, was a tiny wharf where ship's boats could land at high tide and on the solid ground above Juan Fuller had put up a gallows-frame where as butcher he slaughtered cattle for the town's use. And here, on the memorable July 9, 1846, Captain John B. Montgomery landed his seventy sailors and marines to march to the Plaza, to take possession in the name of the United States of America and to raise the Stars and Stripes.

When the Leese, Spear and Hinckley firm dissolved, Nathan Spear wished to locate as near his former partner Jacob as possible. Land could only be granted to Mexican citizens. Spear would not change his allegiance. Here was a barrier to his desires but he got around it by having a friend receive the grant and then transfer the land to him. His holding is today the northwest corner of Clay and Montgomery streets and here he landed a ship's house he had bought from the captain of the bark "Kent." All through the years this building was known as "Kent Hall." Immediately adjoining it on the north he built a house. When Spear retired from active business he rented his place to his nephew, William Heath Davis, previously mentioned. Kent Hall was the gathering spot in Yerba Buena for all choice spirits, and there many a ship's captain was entertained. At these feasts Juan Fuller presided in his capacity as cook, for it was conceded that Juan was the "cordon bleu" of California.

The Hinckley house, which stood where the southwest corner of Montgomery and Merchant streets is today, was Yerba Buena first City Hall under the American regime. Captain Montgomery of the U. S. sloop-of-war "Portsmouth" appointed Washington A. Bartlett, one of his lieutenants, as Chief Magistrate or Alcalde. Hinckley had died, but Bartlett rented the old home from Susana, the widow, a daughter of old Ignacio Martinez, and moved in to govern the town.

Clay street between Montgomery and Kearny is replete with memories of the past and with tales of Yerba Buena's early inhabitants. Behind Kent Hall and his store, Nathan Spear built a mulepower grist mill. It was half way up the block and it was run by an old mountaineer and blacksmith whose place of business, when not working for Spear, was on the corner of Kearny and Washington streets. This man was Daniel Sill, who had a reputation for being a marvelous shot. To Davis when time hung heavy on their hands, old Dan would say, "Willie, get the old white horse, the deer horse, and we'll go out and shoot a buck." Davis relates that their hunting ground was about where the Bay Bridge terminal now is and that they never failed to find their game browsing on the oak-covered hillsides of what later was known as Rincon Hill. In this grist mill wheat from the ranchos about the bay was ground, and here, after the coming of the ship "Brooklyn" with Sam Brannan and his two hundred-odd Mormons on July 31, 1846, Edward Cleveland Kemble, the town's first printer, a non-Mormon but one of the company, set up the press Brannan had brought. In the old mill the first printing in the town was done; notices for the Alcalde and some very ornate blue satin badges for the welcoming committee appointed to greet Commodore Stockton upon his arrival on October 5, 1846.

Across the way lived the man who gave his name to Jones street. Albert P. Jones passed as doctor, an editor, and a hotel keeper, with real estate as a side line. His activities are so intermingled with others more important than himself that his story will be revealed when mention is made of John Henry Brown and Sam Brannan. But now is the time to correct a possibly erroneous impression since it has been stated that Jones gave his name to a street. Yerba Buena's streets went without names until early in 1847 when Jasper O'Farrell mapped them. Until then there was no need for designations, for the population of the town was small. Before Sam Brannan's Mormons crowded into the settlement, there were seventy-three Mexican and Indian inhabitants and forty-eight persons of Anglo-American and non-Spanish descent.

And now we come to the heart of the community, the Portsmouth House. Here every notable was certain to be found if he were in Yerba Buena, but the story behind this first of California hotels must be related in detail so that a proper appreciation of the importance of what went on within its portals may be had. The first picture we have of Yerba Buena, the town of 1837 with its two houses, was from the hands of a Swiss sea captain, the master of the Ecuadorian bark "Delmira"; one Jean Jacques Vioget, a man of parts if ever there was one. He was many things besides being a mariner. He played the violin, he painted, he was an engineer and surveyor, and the town voted him a jolly good fellow when he decided to leave the sea and keep a saloon, This house of public entertainment that he built on the south side of Clay street about seventy feet east of Kearny possessed the only billiard table when it was open for business. After Rae's death and Bob Ridley was out of a job he induced Vioget to rent the place to him and it was there that John Henry Brown began his career of catering to the public as assistant barkeeper.

The Bear Flag revolt at Sonoma occurred June 14, 1846. One of its leaders was Doctor Robert Semple, a Kentucky dentist, and more besides. During Semple's early California career he published with Walter Colton at Monterey California's first newspaper, "The Californian." He traded horses, dealt in real estate and was ferryman at Benicia. Immediately after Sonoma was seized, Semple appeared in Yerba Buena and arrested Bob Ridley, for Ridley was a Mexican official, the Captain of the Port of San Francisco. That left John Henry Brown with a saloon on his hands while Ridley was marched off to prison at Sutter's Fort. Brown was a man of resource. A hotel was needed. Good. He would create one and with the help of Mormon carpenters he made beds, chairs, and all the fittings for a first class frontier hostelry. For Semple an especially long bed was constructed, for the Doctor held the reputation of being the tallest man in California. Some averred that the lanky Kentuckian was a full seven feet in his stockings. The morning after Semple had spent the night on the couch Brown had made extra long for the Doctor's convenience the bonif ace greeted his guest with: "Sleep all right? Bed comfortable? Long enough?" Semple grinned. "Why, Brown, my feet stuck out over the foot so far that my legs could have provided roosting for a dozen chickens."

But before Brown's day, before Ridley's in fact; when Jean Jacques Vioget himself presided over the destinies of Yerba Buena's foremost house of public entertainment, it was the scene of one of the most extraordinary encounters that ever took place in the town; the gastronomic duel between Vioget, short and round, and his tall Russian friend Andres Hoeppner, whom General Vallejo had hired to teach his children music. Stephen Smith had brought three pianos in his ship from Baltimore. The General had bought one, but there was no one in the Vallejo household in Sonoma who could play it; hence Hoeppner's employment. The two friends boasted of their gastronomic capacities until Nathan Spear and the other leaders of the town were tired of hearing the same old argument every time Hoeppner dropped into Yerba Buena to seek respite from his musical duties. "Why don't you fight it out and decide the matter for all time?" demanded Don Nathan, and so the challenge was given and accepted. The time was set, Juan Fuller was engaged to prepare the viands and on the appointed day all Yerba Buena gathered at Vioget's to witness the titanic struggle from which one or the other would emerge as Yerba Buena's champion eater.

For fear that a recital of what took place would seem to verge upon the unbelievable it is better to rely upon an eyewitness account. Fortunately William Heath Davis has left us a description of what took place:

"When the trial commenced pancakes were brought on, plate after plate, and speedily devoured. Hoeppner was one plate ahead. The next course was beefsteaks, all of which disappeared as rapidly as had the other, Hoeppner led a little on the steaks. Next was gisado, a meat stew in the Spanish style—a delicious dish, several plates of which were consumed. Next came asado, or beef broiled on the spit, many plates. Hoeppner was a little ahead. After this beans, Spanish style, large quantities of which were disposed of; succeeded by tamales, each contestant eating at least a dozen. An immense pudding then appeared, followed by pies of various kinds. All the food had been prepared in the nicest manner, and made inviting by skilled cooks — old Jack Fuller and assistant. The wind up was black coffee, but during the meal no drink was taken. Vioget gave out on the pies. Hoeppner, still eating, was declared the winner. All were astonished at the quantity of viands that went down the throats of those two men. After concluding the repast they got up and moved around, smoked, drank a little wine, played billiards, and appeared to suffer no inconvenience from the meal each had consumed."

Brown was indebted to the warrant officers of the U.S.S. Portsmouth for the naming of his hotel. They called upon him when he announced that he was about to give the town its first hostelry and agreed to make him an up-to-the-minute signboard if he would call his establishment after their ship. Business was so good from the day the house opened that John Henry saw possibilities in expansion. Vice-Consul Leidesdorff had just built a two-story structure on what is today the southwest corner of Kearny and Clay streets. Brown rented it and converted it into "Brown's Hotel," sold the Portsmouth to Elbert P. Jones, who in order to be certain that his culinary department would be run properly, forthwith married Sarah Kittleman the cook, and henceforth Yerba Buena had two hotels.

Across the way from the Portsmouth House, Captain John Paty built himself an adobe for use when he was not at sea in command of the "Don Quixote." During his lifetime, Paty claimed that he had made more trips between the Hawaiian Islands and California than any man alive. He was a jolly soul whom everybody liked. As we end our tramp through the Yerba Buena that was we shall have occasion to speak again of "the senior commodore of the Royal Hawaiian Navy."

After Brown blossomed out as the proprietor of the hotel bearing his name, so many things happened that it is difficult to select one from among the many to show how life was lived in the community during its very interesting early days. South of the hotel on the west side of Kearny street, Vioget had built himself a small house, and a block farther to the southward Bob Ridley lived after he had sold his cottage to Leidesdorff. Beyond Ridley's place all was solitude through which the trail to the Mission led, but in the Plaza, bounded as it is today by Clay, Kearny and Washington streets, with Brenham Place to the west, there stood the former Mexican Custom House; a one-story adobe, roofed with tile and having a covered porch facing the east. Here after American occupation Captain Harry Watson and his marine guard were stationed. Watson owned a case bottle from which he drew consolation during the cold hours of rainy or foggy nights. It was his practice to rap on the shutter of Brown's sleeping room when going on duty. Brown would take the bottle and fill it, but in order to be certain that the genial boniface would not rise needlessly from his bed, a password had been agreed upon: "The Spaniards are in the brush." Only after this magic "open sesame would Brown respond to Watson's knocks.

There came a night when Brown was more tired than usual. The knocks were ineffectual to rouse him. His pillowed ear was deaf to: "The Spaniards are in the brush." Watson became impatient, and after knocking more loudly, he shouted the password, punctuating his utterance with shots from his navy pistol. The sentry at the Custom House heard his cries, heard the shots and went into action. He discharged his rifle and called out the guard. The long roll was beaten. Out in the bay the Portsmouth responded with an answering shot. Boats were lowered and the crew was hastily rowed ashore. The homeguard of militia sprang into action. The Mormons seized their guns and deployed over the vacant hills. Every able man in Yerba Buena was pressed into service and all during the remainder of that cold, foggy night the hills echoed the discharges of death-dealing weapons. But when dawn lighted up the scene of the night battle it was found that the suspicious and shadowy forms at which the armed forces had discharged their weapons were branches of the low-growing oaks that the wind had moved to and fro.

Watson buttonholed Brown. "John Henry," he said, "if you ever open your mouth to reveal the reason for all this rumpus, I'll—well, I'll beat you to a pulp." For forty long years Brown kept his lips tight shut, but as an old man he could not refrain from telling the yarn to admiring friends.

While Yerba Buena was still Yerba Buena and before it had become San Francisco, the Plaza was a bare clay area, devoid of trees and grass, a mudhole in winter and the source of the dust that the summer winds blew about. Nor were the streets much better. After the raising of the American flag, the Plaza took on a new name: Portsmouth Square. This is but an example of the consistent endeavor of the officers of the armed forces of the United States to obliterate all Spanish designations. Fortunately the old names have persisted, so that we still have San Jose instead of St. Joseph, San Juan instead of St. John and Los Angeles in place of Angels, though in their reports and letters the officials mentioned consistently used the translated designations.

Having toiled up Clay street from the site of "Brown's Hotel" we may take our stand on what today is the southeast corner of that thoroughfare and Grant avenue. To all San Franciscans this is sacred ground, for here within a hundred feet of us is the cradle of a great city. Richardson's Founding street crossed the intersection before us and the site of his tent, his rough board shack and his great adobe built in 1837, called the Casa Grande, is now occupied by the stores of Chinese merchants whose quarters line the western side of Grant avenue north of Clay street.

The southwest corner, across from us, is where Jacob Primer Leese built Yerba Buena's second house in 1836, though the plaque fastened to the present building would have you believe that Leese was the first to build a habitation in the new town. But the misinformation does not stop there, for it tells that the first white child to be born in the city of San Francisco saw the light of day at this spot. While it is true that Rosalia Leese was the first white child to be born in Yerba Buena, yet 59 years before her advent children of white Spanish parents were born and baptised at the Mission of San Francisco de Asis, which today lies within the city limits. The only statement on the plaque that cannot be challenged is that the American flag was displayed here for the first time on that glorious Fourth of July, 1836.

And now we will walk north one block to Washington street and down it to the right until we reach the China Exchange, the delightful oriental building housing the telephone company's plant that serves our Chinatown. Here stood the pretentious white house of Captain Stephen Smith, who brought California her first pianos.

Sam Brannan, when he left New York with his Mormons in the ship "Brooklyn" on the 4th of February, 1846, had, prior to sailing, prepared everything necessary for the publication of a newspaper in the far-off land of California. Even the name of the journal had been chosen and a stereotype had been made of the masthead to adorn the paper's front page. "The California Star" did not shine in the promised land until five months after the party landed, and in the meantime Printer Kemble went off to the war in the southern region about Los Angeles as a member of Fremont's California Battalion. Brannan needed quarters for himself and his activities as Mormon elder. He rented Stephen Smith's house and after moving in erected a small adobe building in the back yard in which to house his printing plant. The press was removed from Spear's grist mill and all was ready for a start as New Year's Day, 1847, drew near. Dr. Elbert P. Jones was engaged as editor. He was short, bilious and wore green glasses. His pen flowed clotted eloquence, and his opinion of his capabilities may be judged by the pompous language he used in describing the attributes of his office. To him what he sat on was not an editor's chair—oh, no: it was the editorial tripod. While the press was still housed in the grist mill Kemble had run off a prospectus in advance of publication, but in no sense can this be deemed a beginning of The California Star's career. The date printed on this notice was October 24, 1846, but Yerba Buena had to wait for January 9, 1847, before seeing its first hometown paper. Many years later while Kemble was on the staff of the Sacramento Union he wrote an amusing account of The Star's early days, the days when Editor Jones girded his loins for combat with Doc. Semple, whose Californian, printed in Monterey, scoffed at the upstart Star: The Californian, first issued August 15, 1846, took itself very seriously, for it was the first in California. In his editorial addressed TO THE PUBLIC, Jones explained that "the absence of the gentleman employed as permanent editor, and my own convictions of the propriety and necessity of commencing it without further delay, have induced me temporarily to take charge of the editorial department. . . . While on the editorial tripod, all private pique, personal feeling and jealousy will be laid aside..."

Down at Monterey Semple looked over the first two issues of The California Star and then took up his editorial pen. Under the heading: THE PRESS, he wrote, "We have received the first two numbers of a new paper just commenced at Yirba Buena. It is issued upon a small but very neet (sic) sheet, at six dollars per annum. It is published and owned by S. Brannan, the leader of the Mormons, who was brought up by Joe Smith himself, and is consequently well qualified to unfold and impress the tenets of his sect."

Roused to the point that he saw red in spite of his green goggles, Jones became vitriolic. "We have received," he cried, "two late numbers of The Californian, a dim, dirty little paper printed at Monterey, on the worn out material of one of the old California war presses. It is published and edited by Walter Colton and Robt. Semple, the one a lying sycophant and the other an overgrown lickspittle."

Thus were the seeds of culture planted in Yerba Buena.

Down Washington street our Yerba Buenan tour now takes us. As we turn north in Kearny street we pass the corner where Dan Sill worked at his forge and where the trail led over the hills through the puerto suelo, today's Pacific street between Taylor and Leavenworth streets, to the Presidio. At Jackson street we turn again, this time to our right, and follow down the south side of that thoroughfare. Before us let us imagine the Laguna Salada, the salt water lagoon, joined by a tidal inlet with Yerba Buena Cove. In fancy let us cross it by the bridge, the first in California, that William Sturgis Hinckley built in 1844 while he was Alcalde of the town. The purpose of this improvement was to permit Yerba Buenans to walk dry-shod to the embarcadero at Clark's Point—Broadway and Battery streets of today—where boats could land at all stages of the tide.

Before us, on the land just beginning to rise to form Loma Alta —our Telegraph Hill— was the saloon and boardinghouse run by Alfred J. Ellis, frequented by both master mariners and sailors, and the locale of an incident of early days which John Henry Brown relates with great gusto. Ellis had a well, twenty-four feet deep, from which he drew his water supply. Brown was a boarder, for he had just closed Brown's Hotel due to a misunderstanding with Leidesdorff, who demanded Three Thousand Dollars a year rent instead of Two Thousand, which Brown says was verbally agreed upon. The night was wet and stormy. Among the ships in the Cove was a Russian barque here to load wheat for Alaska. Ellis banged on Brown's door in the early morning hours, shouting that there was a man in the well. Brown thought it a joke or a hoax, paid no attention, but finally dressed and descended to the bar, where he found a drunken sailor, dripping from his immersion and being plied with whiskey. This sorry individual kept muttering, "The other fellow grunted something awful as we fell in," but no one paid any attention to him. A reward was offered for a Russian sailor said to have deserted from his ship. Two, three, four days elapsed, and then Lo and Behold! the remains of the deserter were found floating in the well. Captain John Paty took to his bed. He had not only qualified his whiskey with Ellis's well water but had taken it as a chaser.

Shortly after The California Star began publication, Doc. Semple and Thomas 0. Larkin, the American Consul for California, had the shock of their lives. They had bargained with General Vallejo to subdivide a part of his holdings on the Straits of Carquinez and were about to give their new town the name of Francisca in honor of the General's wife. Francisca on San Francisco Bay! That was a name to conjure with, one that would put little and unknown Yerba Buena in the shade, for the world around knew the name of the greatest harbor on America's west coast. To Washington A. Bartlett, Alcalde and Yerba Buena's chief magistrate, came news of the subdividers' plans. To let them get away with it would never do. Alcalde Bartlett went into executive session with himself, then with a freshly cut quill he wrote his epochal decision which read as follows, and which forced Larkin and Semple to give Sen'ora Vallejo's second name—Benicia—to their projected metropolis:


Whereas, the local name of Yerba Buena, as applied to the settlement or town of San Francisco, is unknown beyond the district; and has been applied from the local name of the cove, on which the town is built; Therefore, to prevent confusion and mistakes in public documents, and that the town may have the advantage of the name given on the public map, IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED, that the name of SAN FRANCISCO shall hereafter be used in all official communications and public documents, or records appertaining to the town.
Wash'n A. Bartlett,
Chief Magistrate."

This bore the date of January 30, 1847. It brought Yerba Buena's history to a close and heralded the birth of San Francisco.

Source: Watson, Douglas S. An Hour's Walk through Yerba Buena. 1957, 1937: E. Clampus Vitus, Yerba Buena Chapter.

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