THEN AND NOW, OR EIGHTEEN HUNDRED FORTY-NINE AND NINETEEN HUNDRED AND ONE
Triangular Section of San Francisco—Clay Banks, Mud and Rats in 1849—Streets at That Time—Desperate Characters—Gambling Houses—Thirst for Gold—Saloons and Sirens—The Bella Union—The Leaven of the Church—Robbers’ Dens and Justice in Mining Camps—The Vigilance Committee and What It Did—San Francisco Well Governed Now—Highway Robbers and the Courts—Chief of Police Wittman and His Men—A Visit to Police Headquarters—The Cells—A Murderer—A Chinese Woman in Tears—A Hardened Offender.
The traveller to the City of the Golden Gate, as he approaches it, having crossed the great bay from Oakland, notices that the hundreds of streets which greet his gaze run from east to west, and cross each other at right angles, except a triangular section of this metropolis of the west. This part of the city may be compared to a great wedge with the broad end on the bay. It begins at the Market Street Ferry house and runs south as far as South Street at the lower end of China Basin. This triangle is bounded on the north by Market Street, which follows a line west by southwest, and on the south by Channel and Ridley Streets, the latter crossing Market Street at the sharp end of the wedge-shaped section. The portion of the city within the triangle embraces in its water-front the Mission, Howard, Folsom, Stewart, Spear, Fremont, and Merrimac Piers, together with Mail and Hay Docks. Here you may see steamships and sailing vessels from all parts of the world moored at their piers, while others are riding at anchor a little way out from the land. The whole scene is at once picturesque and animated and suggests great activity. We must remember, however, that where now are these massive piers with their richly laden ships and noble argosies, as far back only as 1849 there were no stable docks, no properly constructed wharfs, no convenient landing places. Here only were clay banks, which gave no promise of the great future with its commercial grandeur, and everything was insecure and unsatisfactory, especially in rainy weather, which began in November and continued with more or less interruption until April. The new comer, not cautious to secure a sure footing would sometimes sink deep in the soft mud or even disappear in the spongy earth. With the ships too came not only the gold-seekers from many lands, but rats also as if they had a right and title to the rising city. These swarmed along the primitive wharfs, and at times they would invade the houses and tents of the people and go up on their beds or find a lodging-place in vessels and cup-boards. Some of these rodents which followed in the wake of the new civilisation were from China and Japan, while others, gray and black, came in ships from Europe and from American cities on the Atlantic seaboard. Even wells had to be closed except at the time of the drawing of water, in order to keep out these pests which made the life of many a householder well nigh intolerable.