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Sea Captains: San Francisco 1800s

John Berrian Montgomery

On July 8, 1846, Captain John B. Montgomery, commander of the U.S. Sloop Portsmouth received orders from Commodore Sloat to take possession of Yerba Buena and the northern frontier. Sloat advised Montgomery of his action at Monterey and enclosed him copies of his proclamation, in English and Spanish, instructing him to hoist the flag in Yerba Buena within reach of his guns and post the proclamation in both languages.

American Naval Traditions.Captains of the Old Steam Navy. Makers of teh American Naval Tradition. 1840 to 1880. James C. Bradford. About eight o'clock on the morning of July 9th, Montgomery landed with seventy men at the foot of Clay street, marched to the music of fife and drum up Clay to Kearny, thence to the plaza, where he hoisted the American flag on the pole in front of the custom house. There was no Mexican flag on the pole to haul down, for the receptor de la aduana (receiver of customs), Don Rafael Pinto, had departed to join Castro and had taken the flag and placed it with his official papers in a trunk which he left with William Leidesdorff for safe keeping.

Montgomery's force consisted of a company of marines under Lieutenant Henry B. Watson and a few sailors under Lieutenant John S. Misroon. There was not a Mexican official in town from whom to demand a surrender. Sub-prefect Guerrero had retired to his rancho; Francisco Sanchez, acting commander of San Francisco, had sent all his available militiamen to Castro, and, having no force to oppose the American commander, avoided the mortification of a surrender by retiring to his rancho.

Port-captain Ridley was a prisoner in the hands of the Bears, and Receptor Pinto was with Castro.

Captain Montgomery and the ship's Marines, established the post at Punta del Embarcadero (Clark's Point) in what is now downtown San Francisco.

Lieutenant Misroon landed a party of blue jackets and marines from the Portsmouth and constructed a battery the point, actually called "the battery," which gave the name to Battery Street, whose lines intersect it at Broadway.

The work was begun about July 17th. High on the steep bluff facing the bay Misroon excavated a terrace whereon he mounted five guns, two brass pieces from the old Spanish fort; two from Sonoma, and one brass twelve pounder dug up at the Presidio where it had been buried. On July 20, the captain reported that they were progressing with the new fort . . . and a block house also, in a position to overlook the fort and command the town and hills.

(Although there are archival references to the fort, abandoned in 1847, there is no indication that it was ever officially designated Fort Montgomery. One historical chronologist places the fort's site in Portsmouth Square at Washington and Kearny streets. The Society of California Pioneers believes the site to be near the intersection of present Broadway and the Embarcadero.)

January 30, 1847, California Star

To Capt. J. B. Hull, Governor of the Northern District of California

SIR -- The undersigned having been appointed by you, a committee of examination and inquiry into the state of the accounts in the Alcaldes office, and the manner of the appropriation of the funds of the office, in order to ascertain if there has been any misappropriaticn of the town funds by W. A. Bartlett during his administration of the chief magistracy of the town and district of San Francisco, (see paper A hereunto annexed) have the honor to address you the following report of our proceedings and examination.

On calling upon Mr. Bartlett, we found him both desirous and anxious that it be conducted by us in the most thorough manner, so that if any funds hail been misappropriated by hirn, it should be shown, and if not the tongue of slander for ever silenced. On the examination of the books of the office, we find the whole amount of receipts credited in the Alcaldes office, from the fifteenth of August to the eleventh of December, 1846, to be seven hundred and forty seven dollars ($747.00) of which the sum of two hundred and forty six dollars and seventy five cents, was transfered from the office of the collector and superintendent of the port, to the general fund for contingent expenses. $246.75.

$500.25: The surn of five hundred dollars and twenty five cents, being the actual receipts of the municipal funds from August 15th, to Dec. 11th both inclusive. By authority of Capt. J. B. Montgomery, the late commander of the district, Mr. Bartlett performed the duties of collector of the U.S. Revenue for the district of San Francisco and superintendent of the port -- from the 20th of August to the 17th of Nov. 1846, during which period by direction of Capt. Montgomery, he raised a port fund of the above named amount after paying all the expenses of collecting the revenue, including office expenses, and paid over to his successor Capt. Richardson, all the duties on importation and tonnage dues collected.

In this amount of $246.75, is included, all the fees of the collector of the district, which would have been retained by any civilian in charge of these offices. The above sum Capt. Montgomery directed to be expended in paying the general contingent expenses of the garrison and public buildings.

To carry out this order, Mr. Bartlett transfered the said amount of the municipal fund, and called in the bills against the public offices, including the bills for fitting up the prison and maintainence of prisoners; and on the approval of Lieut. Watson, commanding the garrison and guard -- of such bills as he bad been directed to contract, they were paid or accepted. The amount of bills chargeable to the general contingent, and intended to be paid by the two hundred aud forty six dollars and seventy five cents transfered as above, were as follows: Viz.

W. A. Leidesdoff's bill for wood and stationary furnished to the garrison 41.62
W. A. Leidesdoff's bill for furniture furnishing the garrison 22.00
S. Brannan & Co's. bill for materials and building of chimney and work on cook house attached to the barracks 41.07
One horse brush for use of public stable 1.00
Two latches for doors of the barracks 2.00
All of which are paid, add $107.09
John Sullivan's bill for wood and lumber, (yet unpaid) 112.67
Balance of the port fund which will remain unexpended, or in the municipal funds after paying the above bills. 26.38
Original amount of port funds. 246.75
Total amounts of receipts in the Alcalde's office ot Dec. 11th including the port fund. 747.00
Municipal bills, contingent expenses of the Alcaldes office, prison bills, and bills for the maintainence of prisoners, printing, stationery, etc. paid by Mr. Bartlett and the proper vouchers exhibited and passed by us, as chargeable to the municipal funds amounting to 632.82
Amount of bill spaid as above out of port funds 107.69
Balances of funds unexpended, and on hand December 11, 1846 6.48

Fom the above exhibit, it cearly appears that Mr. Bartlett in managing the funds of the important offices commited to his charge by Capt. Montgomery, the late commander of the district, and approved by his excellency Governor Stockton, so far from being misappropriated the funds of the city, has actually added to the amount, the sum of twenty six dollars and thirty eight cents, unless that amount is absorbed by bills not yet rendered after having paid the contingent expenses of the garrison, etc. as aforesaid, from the 9th July to 30th of Nov. the dates of the bills rendered at which last date a full and satisfactory exhibit of all receipts and expenditures were made by Mr. Bartless to Capt. Montgomery with the statement of the bills unpaid on that day.

Of the whole amonnt of funds received in the Alcaldes office by Mr. Bartlett, only $124.62 have been received on account of lots unoccupied or taken up in Yerba Buena, while not a cent has been taken from the people in the shape of taxes, except the licence fee of $10.00 per annum from the retail venders of liquors.

It should also be observed that all the funds thus raised by Mr. Bartlett, for the payment of the contingent expenses of the public office and the municipal expenses generally, are the result of his own labor, and the business done in his office, and that every cent of the office fees thus received has been accounted for by him and placed to the public credit, which would not be the case were a civilian exercising tho duties of the office of chief magistrate; all of which is highly creditable to Mr. Bartlett as a public officer.

All of which is respectfully submitted. 
W. D. v. HOWARD. 
Yerba Buena, July 16th, 1847.

October 7, 1848, Californian

For the Californian.

San Francisco Bay. 1899.

Topographic Map. San Francisco Bay. 1899.

Mr. Editor. Every one desiring the prosperity of San Francisco, must admit that it is highly necessary to have all the sreets of ihe town made passable, especially Montgomery, which is one of the principal. The hill on Montgomery street, near the house of the late Capt. Leidesdorff, is at present impassable for wagons or horses. The importance of having this street rendered passable will be more fully understood when it is known that its course will intersect the bay considerably to the east of the mouth of Mission Creek, and the only good road to the Pueblo de San Jose, must pass by that way, the grading of which will be greatly facilitated by the completion of Montgomery street, I hope therefore, the inhabitants of San Francisco will reflect for a moment on this most important matter, and before the expiration of many weeks will have removed the hill which is the great preventive of the improvement of our town.


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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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