Religion is the foundation of civilization, and far in advance of civilization we find the banner bearers of the cross. They were with Balboa (1519) when he first saw the Pacific, and with Cortez, Viscaino, Cabrillo and Ferrello when first they saw the land, bays and islands of the far west. The Jesuits settled Lower California, the Franciscans built up Alta California, and in the rush of '49 there came ministers of God to found churches, schools and societies in every town and mountain camp.
To the Episcopal denomination belongs the honor of the first Protestant representative upon the coast, Chaplain Fletcher of the Sir Francis Drake expedition holding serve in 1579. Again the Episcopalians led in 1847. In that year (April 12th) the ship Brutus arrived at San Francisco. Her chaplain, Rev. Thomas M. Levenworth, had a two-fold position. He was the acting surgeon and ordained rector, he having letters from the Bishop of New York to found an Episcopal church in California. His sermon in Yerba Buena on May 12, 1847, was the first Protestant sermon preached on the coast. Dr. Levenworth built a frame house of worship. No parish was organized until the arrival of F. S. Mines, July 8, 1849. Then July 22nd, Trinity church was organized and October 8th the rector preached his first sermon. In 1852 the rector died. His body now lies in a vault of the present place of worship.
In 1853 Leonidas Kip, a rector of New York, then forty-two years of age, was consecrated as Bishop of California. In December of that year he arrived and for nearly forty years he filled the position. Old in years and nearly blind, he was succeeded by Bishop Nichols, and died in April, 1893. The first Episcopal church was in a sheet iron building on Pine, between Montgomery and Kearny, now California Market. Purchasing a lot at the corner of Powell and Post streets for $30,000, they erected a handsome brick church, which was dedicated in September, 1867. The lot was sold for $243,850 in 1890 and Trinity was removed to Bush and Gough streets and the handsome stone edifice, costing $90,000, was dedicated in September, 1891. It was outside of the great fire zone. There is now in process of building at the corner of California and Jones streets the magnificent Grace cathedral. It will be complete in 1920. It stands on the mansion location sites of Charles and William Crocker, the lots being a gift from the heirs after the fire that swept away the mansions.
The first Protestant missionary was Walter Colton, a Presbyterian minister. He preched no sermon so far as known nor organized no church. The Rev. John C. Damon, seaman's chaplain at Honolulu, arrived and visited San Francisco in July, 1848, and held services. Then sailing to Stockton, July 12th, he delivered a sermon on board the vessel. In November, 1848, the American Board of Missions sent several young theological students to California, among them the Congregationalist, Samuel H. Willy, and the Presbyterians, Sylvester Woodbridge, Thomas Douglas, Albert Williams and James Woods, and the Baptists sent O. C. Wheeler.
The Rev. Woodbridge going to Benicia, April 18, 1849, founded the first church society. The first San Francisco church was organized May 20, 1849. Its first pstor was Albert Williams. The second church in theorder of time was the First Baptist. It was organized July 6th by O. C. Wheeler. In August they built "a meeting house" and October 21st the first baptism took place at North Beach.
Early in the summer of 1849 St. Francis church on Vallejo street was founded by two Jesuit priests from Oregon. Two years later St. Patrick's church was founded by Archbishop Gonzales. Father Joseph S. Alemany, living in Rome, was consecrated Archbishop of California in 1850, he being thirty-six years of age. He labored faithfully in the work until seventy-one years old. Then returning to Spain, his birthplace, Patrict W. Riordan assumed the duties of the office.
Archbishop riordan died in San Francisco December 27, 1914, aged 74 years. During his thirty years in California he performed a valuable work, not alone for the church, but for the state.
The little wooden church, St. Francis, was called the cathedral until 1854. At that time St. Mary's church, corner of Grant avenue and California street, was erected. The Archbishop then changed his residence to "Old St. May's," as it is now called. It was destroyed in the fire. The walls stood intact, however, and the building was rebuilt for worship. The corner stone of St. Mary's cathedral, corner of Van Ness and O'Farrell streets, was laid in 1887. The building was completed January 11, 1891, at a cost of nearly $2,000,000.
The naval chaplain, Timothy dwight Hunt, a Congregationalist, reached San Francisco from Honolulu in November, 1848. He was appointed town chaplain and until July 29, 1849, he held services in the little school house on Portsmouth square. No Congragational society was organized until September 1849. In February, 1850, the denomination erected a house of worship.
The Methodists claim that they are the oldest Protestant denomination in California because of the fact that the Rev. Roberts in 1846, then on his way to oregon, organized a "Methodist class" in San Francisco. He was followed in 1847 by that masterful preacher, Father William Taylor. He held services in a tent and preached to crowds of people on the street corners. Not until October 7, 1849, was the first Methodist church built. It was a little wood building about 25 x 40 feet in size.
The first Unitarian church society was organized October 20, 1850, in a hall on Commercial street. Their first church was dedicated July 19, 1853, by the Rev. Charles A. Farley. The building was on Stockton, between Clay and Sacramento. The Rev. Thomas Starr King, a very eloquent preacher and lecturer, accepted a call to this church in April, 1860. Two years later they erected for him a costly stone building on Geary street, between Stockton and Grant. Starr King died March 4, 1864, after his valuable services for the union. His remains were buried in the front of the church. He was succeeded in September, 1864, by the Rev. Horatio Stebbins, another scholarly pastor, who at once took high rank in the scholastic circles of the state. In 1887 the building was removed stone by stone and it became a part of a larger and handsomer edifice on Geary and Franklin streets. There now rest the bodies of Thomas Starr King and Horatio Stebbins.
The Rev. J. C. Simmons, a pioneer pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church (South) denomination, said, "Church services were held under trees, in miners' cabins, bar-rooms, ten-pin alleys, and gambling houses, and many times he preached while standing behind a bar-room counter, with bottles and barrels, bowie knives and pistols around him."
The first San Jose Congregational service was in a carpenter shop, rough seats being mde of boards. Rev. Woods preached in Sonora in a hall. the room below was filled with gamblers engaged in card playing, drinking and smoking. Preaching in Stockton in a temperance store, a blacksmith was shoeing a horse in the back part of the store during service. The following Sunday he hired a less noisy place. After the sermon he learned that his congregation had been sitting on barrels filled with whiskey.
Father Arden built St. Bridget's church, San Francisco. Eli Corwin, a carpenter and preacher, assisted in the erection of the First Methodist church, San Jose. William Taylor, first preaching in a tent, later went into the forst and, cutting his own timber, built a church. The first building in California erected for church services only was built at Stockton. The Rev. James Woods, obtaining a lot, obtained a bag of gold by subscription and erected a building at a cost of $4,000. The head carpenter, John M. Buffington, received $16.00 a day. Four years later he was mayor of the town. The building was completed in ten weeks and dedicated March 5, 1850. One of the choir singers in this church, Maggie Kroh, later Mrs. Blake Alverson, became the leading contralto of the coast.
The Rev. Woodbridge slept in a sailor's hammock in the school room, taught school six days in the week and preached on Sunday. Mr. Simmond was first sent to Grass Valley and says he slept on "Irish feathers" mowed from the field with a scythe, "with pillows of the same luxurious mateiral." He was prepared for this, as the Bishop said to him before leaving New York, "If you cannot sleep on bear skins and eat bear's meat, you are not fit for a missionary." Rev. Anthony, Methodist, going to Vallejo in 1854 found that the former pastor had been sleeping in a hole cut in the pulpit floor. John B. Hill, Methodist, arriving in California in 1852, was given a charge at Weaverville, Trinity county. From Sacramento he was compelled to walk the entire distance. The Rev. W. G. Cnders, a bachelor, taught school five days in the week, delivered sermons twice each Sunday, and lodged and cooked his own meals in the back part of the church. The Rev. James Woods was more fortunate. He was married; his wife was sickly, however, and often he cooked the food, washed the dishes, nursed his wife, preached twice each Sunday, taught school, visited the sick, buried the dead, and married those fortunate enough to find single maids. Many of these pastors were men rough in manners, ungrammatical in speech, and very severe in their condemnation of the sinner. They were, however, honest, enthusiastic, and energetic in their work and accomplished much in the building up of Calfiornia's moral and spiritual life.
Closely connected with religion is the history of schools, for the first pastors and their wives were the pioneers in school work. The first teacher, however, was Mrs. Olive Mann Isabell. A teacher before marriage, she came with her husband to California in 1846 and located at Santa Clara. In December of that year she opened a free school for the children of the pueblo. They had no pencils, slates, paper or blackboard, and only a few books. In April, 1847, the family journeyed to Monterey. That night the trustees of the town engaged her to open a public school. She was to receive $6.00 per pupil for a term of six months. The custom house was fitted up, and before the close of the term Mrs. Isabell had fifty-two pupils. In 1848 O. C. Wheeler arrived on the Oregon and taught school for a few months in Colton Hall.
The Rev Thomas Douglas, who was a graduate of Yale college, taught the first public school in San Francisco. The school trustees built a little house on Portsmouth square. The teacher received a salary of $1,000 a year. The school opened April 3, 1848, with thirty pupils. Mr. Douglas taught school six weeks only. Then the cry of gold scattered his flock. During the excitement John C. Pelton, a Baptist layman, and his wife arrived in San Francisco. The Baptists gave him the use of the church for a school room. He opened his school December 26, 1848, with three pupils. In a short time, assisted by his wife, he taught one hundred and fifty children. The only money they received was voluntary subscriptions and from the sale of school books, they having brought a supply from the eastern states. In June, 1850, Thomas J. Nevin, a philanthropist, opened two public schools and employed teachers. In 1851 he was selected school superintendent. There were then seven schools organized.
The Legislature in 1852 passed its first state school law. It provided a state school fund, but every town was obliged to maintain a public school three months before it could receive any state money. Stockton at once took advantage of this law and February 23, 1853, opened her public schools. The boys and girls were each separately taught. To establish the first school fund each councilman gave $50.00, and $500.00 was collected by subscription. San Jose opened her public schools in March, 1853. Sacramento had a school fund of $1,000.00 in that year, but her public schools were not established until 1854.
The previous year there came to California a young teacher named John Sweet, who is now hailed as the "Father of the Public Schools." First he tried mining on the Feather river. Late in the fall of 1853 he drifted back to San Francisco. He took charge of Rincon Hill school and there acted as teacher and principal until 1862. In that year he was elected Superintendent of Instruction and held the office until 1867. During that time he did splendid work and laid the foundation of our present public school system. He drew up laws and succeeded in causing the Legislature to pass them, appropriated money for a better condition of school buildings, an extended school term, higher standard of teachers, better salary, and other laws improving and elevating the school system. Free school books are now provided to all public school children.
The State Normal School was founded in San Francisco in 1862. It was removed to San Jose in 1871. Charles H. Allen was the principal for fifteen years. The Los Angeles Normal was established in 1881 and the Chico Normal in 1887.
In 1853 Henry Durant, a Congregational minister, opened a school of three pupils in a store in Oakland. The school was a success. Mr. Durant then, concluding to found a college, purchased a block of land for that purpose. A party of squatters tried to drive him off the property, but the bravery of this minister and several friends, armed with Colt's revolvers, won the victory. In that year, 1855, the College of California was founded. In 1867 Mr. Durant deeded the college to the state and the Legislature appropriating $300,000, the state university was established, Henry Durant being its first president. In 1870 the university was removed from Oakland and the new site was named Berkeley.
The Leland Stanford, Jr., university at Palo Alto, south of San Francisco, is a university magnificent in all its parts, buildings, courses and objects. A friendly rival to the state university, it was founded under peculiar circumstances. Leland Stanford and wife, accompanied by their only child, a boy sixteen years old, were traveling in Italy for the benefit of the boy's education. While in Florence, 1884, the son caught the typhoid fever and died. The parents worshipped the boy and now that he was dead they had no object in life. Wealth to them now had no value; it was as dross. While sitting at the bedside of the boy, the father, worn out by constant watching, fell asleep and dreamed. The dream took the thought of his conscious mind, that if the boy died he "had nothing to live for." The boy replied, "Live for humanity, father." whether or not the tory of the dream be true, the father put the tought into results, "live for humanity." As the son loved learning for itself alone, he resolved to found a Leland Stanford, Jr., university, where all alike, rich and poor, male or female, might acquire an education that would fit them for any station in life. The university buildings were erected at Palo Alto of Moorish design, in marble and sandstone. The buildings cost over $3,000,000 and were badly damaged by the great earthquake. The magnificent chapel was completely destroyed. The best professors in the United States were selected as instructors, with Dr. David Starr Jordan as president. To support the institution, Stanford deeded to the university all of his lands, of the estimated value of $20,000,000. The university was opened in the fall of 1891. Leland Stanford died at Palo Alto, June 21, 1893, and father, son and wife now rest in a handsome marble mausoleum in the Arboretun. A marble statue memorial stands in the center of the quandrangle of buildings. Mrs. Stanford died in Honolulu in 1905 and willed her entire property to the univeristy.
California in its newspaper and magazine circulation leads the world. There are today published, monthly, 907 periodicals; this includes 167 daily and 557 weekly newspapers. The twenty-four hour circulation of the twelve leading daily newspapers is 635,853 copies, over 19,000,000 copies per month. As the voting population, men and women, over twenty-one years of age "as registered," is 1,944,000, and the entire population is 2,379,549, it may be readily seen that Californians are a reading people.
These silent moulders of public opinion had their origin in the little two-column sheet, the Californian, first published at Monterey August 15, 1846. The entire plant was purchased from the Mexican government by Commodore Stockton for the purpose of publishing government orders and news. Walter Colton, chaplain of the Portsmouth, was editor and two soldiers of Stevenson's regiment, John R. Gould and B. P. Kooser, did duty as compositors, pressmen, foremen, devil and bookkeeper. A crowd anxiously awaited the first issue. So numerous was the Spanish population that several columns of each issue were printed in Spanish. Mr. Kooser, who was a good Spanish scholar, acted as editor. Colton sold his interest to Robert Semple, his partner, in 1847. The paper was then removed to Yerba Buena and reappeared May 22nd.
Semple in removing to the pueblo found a strong rival in Samuel Brannan's paper, the Star. It was brought from New York, as we have recorded, and January 17, 1847, the first copy was issued. Its size, 12 x 15 inches, was a little larger than the Californian. At that time there were only six printers in the territory. On arrival of Stevenson's regiment, Brannan, hastening to the beach, found thirteen printers. They were immediately set to work and Brannan printed a small special edition of 2,000 copies of the Star. They were printed for circulation in the eastern states and gave a graphic account of the "vast resources of California." April 1, 1848, the first California expressman started overland on horseback, carrying the Star and letters. He expected to rech Independence, Missouri, in sixty days.
In September, 1848, the Californian and the Star were purchased by E. C. Kemble and Edward Gilbert. The two papers were consolidated and January 1, 1849, the Alta California appeared (a). It was the first daily paper and was Whig in politics, changing in 1856 to Republican. It passed through various hands until 1883. At that time it was purchased by a syndicate, and advocating Chief Justice Stephen J. Field for President, became Democratic in politics. From the first issue it lost money. An "old granny," the Alta struggled along until June, 1891, and then gave up the ghost.
The first power press in the state was used in publishing the Pacific News, first issued August 27, 1849. In the spring of 1850 several papers were started in San Francisco. They were all destroyed in the fire of May 4th save the Alta. The printers, packing suchmaterial as they had saved from the fire on the backs of mules, scattered in every direction. They started papers anew in all parts of the state from Shasta to San Diego. So fast did they multiply, the San Jose Journal, issued in March, 1851, became the sixteenth newspaper then published in the state.
The editors of the early press were men of strong convictions, and forcibly expressing their opinions, were often called to account on the "field of honor." Many of these scribes were southern born, hot headed, quick to resent an insult and ready to accept a challenge. If they refused to fight they were branded as cowards. The editors of the north were also bold and outspoken in their editorials and they also were ready to fight. If they refused they also would lose their influence as editors and leaders of thought.
Hence before the Civil war duels were very common, and not alone editors, but judges, senators, lawyers, politicians and physicians engaged in the "code of honor." A state law prohibited dueling. It was a state prison offense to challenge or accept a duel. Probably three or four hundred duels were fought within the time mentioned. Some were amusing in their results; in others the parties were crippled for life, while frequently they were fatal. The press duels were in most cases between the editor and some party who had a grievance. Occasionally editors would fight and that fact caused the Republican scribe to write, "Editors have enough to do nowadays to defend themselves against the outside world without quarreling among themselves."
One of the first duels was that of Edward Gilbert, United States Representative and editor of the Alta. Elected to Congress in 1850, he bitterly denounced the immigration laws as swindling schemes. John W. Denver, their author, took offense and challenged Gilbert. The young editor, who had been a lieutenant in Stevenson's regiment, accepted the challenge. The parties fought with rifles August 2, 1852, at sunrise, near Oak grove, Sacramento. At the first fire both duelists missed their mark. The rifles were again loaded. Again they fired and Gilbert was shot in the abdomen and fell mortally wounded. He died in a few minutes.
A duel at Stockton was that between John Mansfield of the San Joaquin Republican, then the State Democratic organ, and John Taber of the Stockton Journal, a Whig paper. They had been writing very abusive articles of each other regarding the city printing. Taber, suddenly meeting Mansfield on the morning of June 22, 1854, drew a revolver and shot Mansfield. He died the following day.
As this was not a pre-arranged murder, as duels are always premeditated, Taber was arrested and tried for murder. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. The case was now made a party question. A petition of nearly 100,000 names, including senators, assemblymen, lawyers, judges and citizens, was sent to Governor Bigler praying him to pardon Taber. Prayers were offered in the church that the Governor might temper mercy with justice, and the Legislature of Texas, his native state, sent a petition asking a reprieve. Unde the immense pressure and fearing that it would be used against him in the ensuing election if he permitted Taber's execution, on March 9, 1855, he signed the pardon.
In March, 1854, ten shots were exhcanged between B. F. Washington of the Times and Transcript and C. F. Washburn, then editor of th San Francisco Herald. Washington, taking offense at some of the articles in the Herald, challenged its editor. Washington shot to kill. His second shot passed through the rim of Washburn's hat. His third bullet struck his antagonist in the shoulder. This ended the duel.
The San Francisco Herald had a regular fighting editor named John Nugent. He was engaged in several duels. One of his duels, that of June 11, 1853, was with John C. Hays, then sheriff of San Francisco. Hays resigned from his office to fight this duel. They fought on the Ridley ranch near the bay shore. As Hays was the party challenged, he chose rifles as the weapons. At the second shot Hays' ball shattered the bone of Nugent's arm from the shoulder to elbow.
George Penn Johnson, editor, shot and killed Senator William Furguson. They had trouble over a young lady. They fought on Angel island, San Francisco bay, August 2, 1855. They used revolvers and standing ten paces apart, they each fired three shots without any effect. Then moving forward six paces they again began shooting. At the fourth shot Furguson was struck in the thigh, shattering the bone. He refused to have the leg amputated and, suffering great pain, he died September 14th. After the duel Johnson became a changed man. Remorse took possession of him and he lived secluded and alone. He died March 9, 1884, at the time editor of the Examiner.