Passengers at the Port of San Francisco: 1800s

John Geary

Arrived in San Francisco on the SS Oregon, April 1, 1849

Last Alcalde and First Mayor of San Francisco

John W. Geary was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

He received the attention of the U.S. Government through his military skill in the war with the Mexican States. As a result, President Polk, on January 22, 1849, appointed Colonel Geary postmaster of San Francisco, with powers to create postoffices, appoint postmasters, establish mail routes, and make contracts for carrying the mails throughout California.

The story of their journey across Panama was well-detailed in the The Annals of San FranciscoShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports., 1966, compiled by Dorothy H. Huggins (works first published in 1855 and 1939).

Panama City c. 1800s
Panama City: Viewed across the Water

On February 1, 1849, with his wife and child, he left New York for Chagres in the steamer Falcon on her second trip. Their grueling crossing of the Isthmus took several days. At Panama, they waited more than two weeks for Pacific Mail Line?s Oregon, which was rounding the horn, having left New York on December 2, 1848. The Oregon put into Panama on February 23, 1849, where more than 1200 passengers, all bound for California gold mines, were waiting to board her. She left Panama March 13, 1849 with 250 additional passengers, and reached San Francisco on April 1, 1849.

The Colonel secured a room at Montgomery and Washington for post office purposes. And began to distribute the 5,000 letters that had already arrived. He performed most of the work himself as laborers were getting about $16 a day.

Because of the primitive, unsafe nature of San Francisco during its early years, he sent his family home, including his newly born son. He opened an auction and commission business: Geary, Van Vorhees and Sutton. Against his protestations, popular vote elected him First Alcalde on August 1, 1849. He immediately established a police force, established order in the theretofore unrestrained city, and even established a chain-gang whose were used to improve public streets. The first City Charter was adopted May 1, 1850, and Colonel Geary was elected mayor by a large vote.

Daily Alta California, July 13, 1855



Before Judge McAllister.

Pardon G. Seabury el. el. vs. L. IV. Patchin et al.

This was an action of ejectment to recover Water Lot No. 458, in the block bounded by Clay and Washington, Front and Davis streets. The trial was commenced on Tuesday and is just concluded by a verdict for plaintiffs.

On the trial the plaintiffs gave in evidence a deed to Thomas Sprague from John M. Geary, Alcalde, dated January 3d, 1850, made at the town sale of that date, pursuant to the terms of the Kearny gran : followed by deed of conveyance from Sprague to plaintiffs. After showing that the lot was included within the limits of the Kearny grant, and within the limits of the lands described in the first section of the Water Lot Act, plaintiffs rested.

The defendants gave in evidence a petition of W. C. Parker to T. M. Leavenworth, Alcade, for the block above described, and a grant in pursuance thereof, from Alcalde Leavenworth to Parker, dated the 25th of September, 1343, for the consideration of $25; and a deed from Parker back to Leavenworth, dated September 26th, 1848; and a deed from Parker to Wright, dated December Ist. 1849, for the consideration of $5000; and a deed from Wright to Field, under which the defendants hold by lease.

The defendants also gave in evidence a book of the Alcalde's records, wherein appears a certificate signed by T. M. Leavenworth, Alcalde, showing that the grant was made at its date; also a book of Alcalde Geary's records, in which their petition and grant are recorded at length, except that by this record the grant appears to bear date September 25th, 1849. The defendants also read incidence, that two resolutions of the Town Council, bearing dates respectively October 11th, 1848, and April 1st, 1849, confirming all grants made by Alcalde Leavenworth.

In rebuttal, the plaintiffs read in evidence a resolution of the Council, dated October, 1847, declaring that in future all sales of town lots, both on land and in the water, should only he made at public auction; also a resolution of the Council dated Oct. 3d, 1849, declaring all grants made of water lots by the Alcalde without three months' notice, as required by the Kearny grant, to be illegal, and that the town would still claim the same.

The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants' grant was not so recorded as to bring it within the terms of the 2nd section of the act of the Legislature of the 26th March, 1831, and that the confirmatory resolutions of the Counoil did not in their terms or spirit include water lots.

The Court charged the Jury that neither the deed from Geary under the Kearny grant nor the grant from Alcalde Leavenworth gave either grantee the least shadow of a title; but that when California was admitted as a State, she became the owner of the land in question; that the passage of the water lot act gave the only title which either party might have; that, the plaintiffs' title coming within the terms of the act, they were entitled to recover, unless the defendant had shown that their grant had been confirmed by the Council, and also recorded prior to April 3, 1850.

Whether the defendants' grant had been so confirmed and recorded were questions for the Jury. If decided in the affirmative, then the defendants' title was of equal validity with that of plaintiffs', and, the defendants being in possession, the plaintiffs could not recover without showing a better legal title.


The Annals of San FranciscoThe Annals of San Francico 1855.
Frank Soule, John H. Gihon, Jim Nisbet. 1855.
Written by three journalists who were witnesses to and participants in the extraordinary events they describe. The Annals of San Francisco is both an essential record for historians and a fascinating narrative for general readers. Over 100 historical engravings are included. Partial Contents: Expeditions of Viscaino; Conduct of the Fathers towards the natives; Pious Fund of California; Colonel John C. Fremont; Insurrection of the Californians; Description of the Golden Gate; The Presidio of San Francisco; Removal of the Hudson's Bay Company; Resolutions concerning gambling; General Effects of the Gold Discoveries; Third Great Fire; Immigration diminished; The Chinese in California; Clipper Ships; Increase of population; and Commercial depression.

Crowley Maritime.Crowley Maritime, San Francisco.Two Men at the Helm: The First 100 Years of Crowley Maritime Corporation, 1892-1992Crowley Maritime Corporation.
Jean Gilbertson.
Crowley Maritime started as a one-man operation, with nothing more than one 18-foot Whitehall rowboat to provide transportation of personnel and stores to ships anchored on San Francisco Bay. In the mid-1800s, the business was incorporated under the name Thomas Crowley and Brothers. Withing a few years, services grew to include bay towing and ship-assist services. By the turn of the century, Crowley's expansion continued by operating small barges to transport steel to Oakland and barrels of oil, ice, and other supplies to ships in San Francisco Bay. In July 1902, the San Francisco Call reported "The new launch Guide, owned by Thomas Crowley & Bros., made her first trip yesterday to the Farallon Islands and carried out her builders' highest anticipations. By 1912, Crowley had built a marine railway, dock and woodworking mill. Growth continues to this day.

A History of CaliforniaThe History of California.
Franklin Tuthill.
This comprehensive 19th century history of California, from its early times up to the Gold Rush was written "because there seemed to be a demand for a History of California which should sketch the main events of the country from its discovery to the present time. Beginning with Spanish priests, who enslaved indigenous tribes, millions rushed in and claimed the land after the Gold Rush. The material is abundant: log-books of ancient mariners; archives of the Government while the territory was under Spanish or Mexican rule; official reports and Congressional documents about the transfer to the United States; files of newspapers; scores of books of intelligent travellers; the oral evidence of natives, and early immigrants." These sources were the base materials for this publication.

When America First Met China:
An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail
When America First Met China.
Eric Jay Dolin.
Amazon.comAncient China collides with America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships. Brilliantly illuminating one of the least-understood areas of American history, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin traces our relationship with China back to its roots: the nineteenth-century seas that separated a rising naval power from a ancient empire. The furious trade in furs, opium, and bĂȘche-de-mer -- a rare sea cucumber delicacy -- might have catalyzed America's emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe. Peopled with fascinating characters -- from Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution Robert Morris, Financier of the American Revolution. to the The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong: Splendors of China's Forbidden City, who considered foreigners inferior beings -- this saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines becomes a must-read for any fan of Nathaniel Philbrick's MayflowerMayflower. or Mark Kurlansky's Cod.Cod, the fish that changed the world. Two maps, 16 pages of color, 83 black-and-white illustrations.

Atlantis: The Antediluvian World
Ignatius Donnelly.
The author and politician Ignatius Donnelly was born in Philadelphia on 3 November 1831. He was educated in the public schools of his native city, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and practiced. He went to Minnesota in 1857, was elected lieutenant governor in 1859, and again in 1861, and was then elected to Congress as a Republican, serving from 7 December 1863 until 3 March 1869. Besides doing journalistic work he has written an Essay on the Sonnets of Shakespeare, and his most enduring work, Atlantis, the Antediluvian World (New York, 1882), in which he attempts to demonstrate that there once existed in the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the straits of Gibraltar, a large island, known to the ancients as "Atlantis"; and Ragnarok (1883), in which he tries to prove that the deposits of clay, gravel, and decomposed rocks, characteristic of the drift age, were the result of contact between the earth and a comet.

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Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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