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May 22d, the day of King's funeral, while the immense procession was passing through Montgomery street, Casey and Cora were hanged. Two projecting beams had been rigged from the roof of the building on Sacramento street, occupied by the Committee, for the purpose. Out of two of the windows of the second story, immediately under these beams two stout planks, sixteen inches wide, were extended over the street to an equal distance. At the outer end of each plank, on the under side, were stout hinges connecting the traps upon which the two men were placed, with the ropes about their necks, suspended from the beams. Two other ropes held the traps even with the planks. The two men were led out upon the traps. Permission was given to them to speak their last words. Casey availed himself of the privilege and spoke a few minutes in clear loud voice, in somewhat excited manner, denying his guilt of murder and vindicating his action. Cora stood all the while as motionless as a statue. Not a tremor or quiver was perceptible. The white cap covered his head and face to below the chin. At the conclusion of Casey's brief speech, the cap was drawn over his face, and as the hangman pulled it down he whispered in his ear something that made the doomed man start as if to break the bands which held his arms. In an instant the signal was given, the traps sprung, by the two men on the roof cutting the ropes which upheld them, and Casey and Cora were launched for the death to quickly come. Casey struggled for a few moments; Cora showed no sign of pain or life. After death the bodies were cut down, and shortly afterward were delivered to friends who had provided for their burial. The hangman of Casey was Sterling Hopkins, a notorious character, with whom Casey once had a difficulty. He had begged the Committee to officiate in the event of Casey's condemnation to death by the rope, and the whispered words he hissed in Casey's ear, as he subsequently boasted, were of exultation over his opportunity of revenge, and of brutish import respecting the powerless victim, Casey had been foreman of Crescent Engine Company, No. 10, located on Pacific street, below Front. Cora's remains were given quiet interment. The Sunday following the execution Casey was buried. A very large procession followed his remains to the Mission Dolores Cemetery, in which a monument was in due time erected to his memory. Upon it is inscribed the manner of his death.
Governor Johnson had at first played into the hands of the Committee. He had come down from Sacramento to San Francisco, in the middle of May, and virtually caused the surrender of the county jail to the Vigilantes, for the capture of Casey and Cora. At the instance of the leading men of the Law and Order organization, he subsequently changed his course, and endeavored to undo that which he had done. It was too late. The Committee had already become the master of the situation. It was the supreme power in San Francisco, and it had erected such harmony of spirit with it in Sacramento, Marysville, Stockton, San Jose and other interior cities and towns, that it was the paramount local authority and formidable generally throughout the State. General Wool was at that time in command of this Federal military department. The Federal Arsenal was at Benicia. For the want of authority from the Federal government at Washington, neither the military nor the naval forces could interfere, and the hands of General Wool, the same of Commodore Farragut, were practically tied, The only way in which the Federal authority could be invoked was by due process of constitutional law. This required that the Governor should convene the Legislature, that that body should call out the State militia to quell the insurgent or rebellious Vigilantes; and, these being insufficient for that purpose, then the call for the aid of the Federal forces would be in order. It would take months to do all this. Prompt action was the imperative necessity. Governor Johnson did not act with promptitude. He sent on a committee of citizens to Washington. President Pierce could do nothing under the circumstances. He must first be satisfied that the Powers of the State had been inadequate to overcome the trouble. This had not been done; and it was of first importance before the strong arm of the Federal authority could be ordered.
Meantime an incident occurred which helped to fortify the Committee and to impair the power of the State, in the popular estimation. Upon order of Governor Johnson, six cases of muskets were delivered to Jas. R. Maloney, at Benicia arsenal, put aboard the schooner Julia, to be delivered at San Francisco, to the Law and Order organization. The Vigilance Committee Executive had been apprised of the transaction, and adopted means to get possession of the arms. Accordingly, on June 21st, as the Julia was on her way down from Benicia, she was boarded in San Francisco Bay by C. E. Rand and John L. Durkee, in the employ of the Committee, and the two captured the schooner, took possession of the muskets, and delivered them into the keeping of the Committee. The six cases contained 113 muskets. Action was brought against Rand and Durkee for piracy, in the United States Circuit Court, Judge M. Hall McAllister presiding, and Judge Ogden Hoffman sitting as associate. The trial came off September, 1856, and on the 23d of that month the jury returned a verdict of acquittal. Adjutant-General Kibbe, of the State militia, meantime made unavailing demand upon the Executive Committee for the arms. They were not returned to the State until after the Committee had disbanded.
The next who suffered death at the hands of the Committee were Hetherington and Brace. Hetherington was an Englishman, a man of considerable wealth. He was six feet stature, of heavy form, strong in muscular power, equally so in will and purpose; and he was overbearing in his nature, violent in his passions. He was possessed of valuable city property. In a difficulty over a lot toward North Beach, a few years before, he had shot dead Dr. Baldwin, who had located upon it and claimed it as his own. He was tried and acquitted. Hetherington had had money transactions with Dr. Randall, formerly Collector of Monterey, and owner of a large tract of land in Butte County. He had loaned a large sum of money to Randall, which Randall seemed indisposed to pay. There was some irregularity in the note or in the mortgage bond. Randall contended that these were made at the instance of Hetherington himself, and insisted upon the theory that no man can take advantage of a fault of his own; that every man was bound to do exactly that to which the law held him, and equally bound not to do anything to which the law did not bind him. Consequently, inasmuch as the fault was Hetherington's, he was therefore absolved from the payment of the note. One afternoon, Dr. Randall took quarters in the St. Nicholas hotel, on Sansome street, west side, between Sacramento and Commercial streets, kept by Colonel Armstrong, and sat in the office room, in conversation with Colonel W. W. Gift. Hetherington happened in, accosted Randall and abruptly demanded the payment of the note. Randall responded evasively. Hetherington's choler rose, and he came upon Randall in threatening manner. Randall ran behind the office small counter. Hetherington pursued him, caught him by his long beard, reaching to the middle of his breast, and threw him upon the floor. As Randall rose, Hetherington drew his pistol and fired. The shot was instantly fatal. In brief time, Hetherington was arrested by an officer of the law. A force of vigilance officers demanded his surrender, took him and hurried him to the Committee rooms. Through this action the lawful authorities were forcibly prevented passing upon his case.
Brace was a young man, almost a boy. He had killed a man miles away from the City, but within the county. I have forgotten the circumstances of the crime. The Committee had custody of him, however, and condemned him, as well as Hetherington. Notice was publicly given that the two would be hanged the afternoon Of July 29th. The gallows was erected on a vacant half block on Front street, as I remember, between California and Sacramento streets, west side. It was at least twenty feet high, with a ladder from the ground to the platform. From the top cross-beam dangled the ropes. The platform afforded standing space for half a dozen men. A large crowd had gathered to witness the execution. From a cart on the California corner, B. B. Redding and myself were onlookers. The condemned men were brought to the place under strong guard. Each of them mounted to the scaffold. Brace with quick-step; Hetherington with composure. The hangman, named Dixon, was dressed in long black gown; a black hood completely concealed his face; a clergyman, and two or three of the Vigilance officers or guards followed. A strong guard under arms was stationed about the foot of the gallows. Permission was given the two to say anything they wished. Brace broke forth in a loud rant, profane and obscene, and danced about like one demented. The clergyman felt obliged to stop his blasphemous harangue by cramming his handkerchief over his mouth. He broke away, nevertheless, and again poured forth a tirade, declaring that he was being murdered. At length he became exhausted and ceased speaking. All this time - and it was fully five minutes - Hetherington stood composed and with dignified mien, looking down upon the immense crowd, occasionally glancing at Bruce, who was to his right, and manifested horror at his ravings. When Bruce became silent he spoke. His manner was deliberate and his voice low, clear and firm. He protested against the action of he Committee in his case; in taking his life they were more guilty of murder than he was, for it was in violation of the law. He asserted that he had not committed murder. Then declaring he should die without malice or enmity toward any, he courteously bowed and indicated to the officers that he was ready for the ordeal. The nooses were adjusted, the caps drawn over their heads, the signal given. The hangman cut the rope which held the traps in place, and down plunged the pinioned bodies of the pair. Bruce writhed and struggled a few moments; then hung as lifeless until his body was taken down. He was of medium stature, slight figure and light in weight. Hetherington's body swayed, but there was no perceptible motion of his limbs. He met death with placid firmness, without bravado. Henry H. Haight, his attorney for years, stated that he was one of the most upright and honorable men in his dealings and general conduct that he had ever known. These were the last that suffered death by sentence of the Vigilance Committee.
It is now appropriate to relate some facts in relation to James King of William. He had been a clerk in a banking house in Washington, and came to California in the early years of the gold hunting. He established a bank in San Francisco, corner of Montgomery and Commercial streets, across from Davidson's. In a year or more Jacob R. Snyder became partner in the bank; but withdrew after about a year. King afterwards merged his bank in that of Adams & Co., of which J. C. Woods was manager. His name was James King. He had suffixed the "of William" to be distinguished from others of his name - as John Randolph used to sign himself "of Roanoke."
Mr. King continued with Adams & Co. as manager of the bank until the failure of that Company, He then became involved in trouble with the Company. The bank failed one afternoon. Up to noon that day King had received deposits. It was known to other banking houses in the city that the bank would be obliged to close as it did. The word had got out, and some of the depositors became alarmed, and a number withdrew their deposits, notwithstanding Mr. King's assurance that the bank was solvent and solid. Others took his word for it, allowed their deposits to remain, and lost all they had in the bank. There was some mysterious handling of the large amount of money known to be in the bank at the time of the failure. The parties in charge refused to allow Mr. King any part in their transactions as to the disposition of this money - reported to be considerably more than $100,000 in gold coin. He demanded $20,000 as his share. This was refused. He then published a statement reflecting upon the persons in charge. This was responded to by a scathing statement, published in the Alta, in which Mr. King was held up for public condemnation as a dishonest man, guilty of faithlessness and fraud. He was also accused of having swindled Page, Bacon & Co. of $400,000, by the sale of bogus gold dust as genuine.
The popular sentiment at the time was that the charges were sustained, and the feeling was strong against him. He was without means and out of business. He conceived the project of going into the newspaper business, of starting a daily evening paper, and obtained a loan of $250 for that purpose from R. D. Sinton, of the real estate and auctioneer firm of Selover & Sinton, then the leading firm in that line in the city. He started the Evening Bulletin, a small sheet, and rented the small brick building in Merchant street for the publication office. The Daily Chronicle, published by Frank Soule and William H. Newall, had taken side against the Committee, and soon afterwards ceased publication. Employed on it as a writer was James Nesbitt, an Englishman, of superior journalistic ability. King employed Nesbitt to assist him on the Bulletin. It was made the medium of attack and animadversion upon State and county and city officials, and some of its attacks were as justifiable as are the attacks of the STAR upon rascals in high places now, while others were actuated by personal spite.
The paper prospered. The multitude enjoyed its sharp, short, stinging paragraphs; its vim and vehemence. At length its columns were turned against Major Selover with unrestrained virulence. He had no equal means of reply or defence at his command, but he had at last uttered threats of personal nature, and published King as a liar, a swindler and a coward. To all this Mr. King responded in his Bulletin, by stating in that paper that he defied Selover; and he went on to state the place of his residence; the time he left home to go to his office in the morning; the route thither he usually took: and also the same details of his customary way home every afternoon. Selover, or any other person who felt aggrieved on account of anything which appeared in the Bulletin was similarly apprised, and thus dared or invited to encounter him on the street. To all of which was added the significant remark for the consideration of Selover particularly, and all others generally: "God have mercy upon my assailant." There was no mistaking this language. And the common opinion was that whatever else would be said of James King of William, he was a game and fearless man. Casey's own statement of the deplorable affair - made in his cell to a friend who had been permitted to visit him in his four by eight feet cell, the day before his death, in the presence and hearing of the guard then on duty, was substantially as follows: that after all Mr. King had said in his paper, any one who attacked him should be well prepared against the worst to himself; that, accordingly, after he had called early that afternoon upon Mr. King, in his office, and told him what would be the consequence in case the Bulletin should publish the matter against him, and it was published, he very naturally expected that King would be prepared for the encounter. But as he did not wish to take first advantage of him, but to allow him fair chance, he cried out to him to prepare, and then fired. He expected Mr. King to return the fire. He did not know whether the ball had hit King or not, because King's loose talina covered his upper body and prevented him from seeing its effect. That - to use Casey's own words - "seeing he did not fire, and believing him a dung-hill,' I did not shoot again, but turned to walk away, when I saw him falling; then I knew that I must have hit him, and I went to the City Hall to surrender myself."
To the same person, on the occasion first above referred to - and Casey knew then that his death was certain at the hands of the Committee - he remarked that he had no fear of death; that he would meet it with composure, although he did not deserve it; that which troubled him was that his aged mother should be told that her son was a murderer. This pained him. She lived in New York. He had regularly remitted money to her to maintain her in comfort in her old age; and now she must suffer privation and misery, with the great burden of the knowledge of the manner of his death to weigh her down to the grave. He wished to say something of a confidential nature to his visitor, but the guard refused to permit this, and said that he must hear everything that was uttered. He stood close to Casey all the time, and maintained the utmost severity of demeanor, the most inexorable nature, during the brief time allowed for the visit.