San Francisco County
JAMES KING of WILLIAM
JAMES KING of WILLIAM is a name dear to every lover of the State of California, as the bearer is inseparably connected with its early history. He was born in the District of Columbia, January 28, 1822. His ancestors removed from Scotland to Ireland, and his great-grandfather was born in county Armagh, Ireland, in 1721; his name was Tobias King; his son, Francis King, was born June 30, 1747, and he emigrated to the colony of Pennsylvania in 1774. At that time his son, William King, was three years of age, having been born in Ireland, September 29, 1771. After the Revolution the family removed to Georgetown, District of Columbia, and resided there until the death of the father. James King, the subject of this biography, was the seventh son of William King, whence he received the name, James King of William, as there were seven other James Kings in his native town. He was at one time a clerk in the postoffice of Georgetown, and was connected with the Washington Globe. Later he was with the banking house of Cochran & Riggs. Influenced by the brilliant accounts of California which his brother, Henry King, had brought from the Pacific coast, he decided to come here. Accordingly, in May, 1848, he sailed from New York for Cartagena. He crossed over to Panama and from there he sailed for Callao, chartered a vessel here and arrived in San Francisco, bringing with him several Chilians to work in the mines. All but six of these, however, deserted him, and his mining operations were conducted with varied success. He afterwards removed to Sacramento and became interested in the firm of Hensley, Redding & Co., and afterwards returned to San Francisco, where he engaged in banking, the firm being James King of William & Co. In the May fire of 1851 he barely escaped with his life. Major Snyder, his partner in the banking establishment, retired from business, and he continued alone until 1854. During the business embarrassment of Adams & Co. he rendered them valuable assistance, and in 1855 he started a safe-deposit business, but it was premature for the times.
In October, 1855, he associated himself with C. O. Gerberding for the purpose of establishing the Bulletin. Through this publication he was instrumental in exposing the election frauds at that time, and stood as a champion of honest government. He also started his own death knell ringing. While crossing Montgomery street at five o’clock on the afternoon of May 14, 1856, he was assassinated by Casey. The city became intensely excited. Mr. King survived but six days, his death occurring May 20, 1856. This event aroused the best element of the city, and the Vigilance Committee, five thousand strong, surrounded the jail, seized the criminal, with another named Cora, and after a fair trial, hung them from the windows of the rooms of the Vigilance Committee on the day Mr. King was buried. His death resulted in the victory of the principles of which he was so stanch an advocate, and from that time the political and social atmosphere of San Francisco was cleansed. It was, indeed, a royal sacrifice, but the results were a fitting triumph. See pages 238-240.
There survives in the city of San Francisco, Charles J. King, a son of James King of William, a worthy representative of his noble sire. He was born in Washington, District of Columbia, in 1844, and arrived in San Francisco with his mother, May 20, 1851. He acquired his education under Mr. Provost and at the San Francisco College, of which John Chittenden was then principal. His father was always of great assistance to him in his studies, and would frequently leave important work to correct his Latin exercises. In 1860 he began his business career by entering the mercantile house of Ross, Dempster & Co., where he remained five years. In 1865 he became assistant bookkeeper in the house of John Sime & Co., continuing there five years. During this time he was Treasurer of the Capital Homestead Association, Director of the Land Purchase Association, President of the Oakland Prospect Homestead Association, and President of the Regent Street Homestead Association. In 1870 he became a member of the canning firm of P. D. Code & Co., withdrew in 1873 to form a co-partnership with Theodore F. Ragg and Joseph Brook, under the firm name of C. James King of William & Co. This relationship lasted five years. Three years later the latter firm incorporated, but upon the death of Dr. H. P. Coon, their operation ceased.
In 1885 Mr. King was elected Secretary of the Pacific Vinegar and Pickle Works, a position which he now holds. From his early years he has been a valued contributor to the press. In 1860 he wrote for juvenile papers, and was afterwards the editor of the Social Voice, published by the young people of the First Congregational church of San Francisco. In later year he has been a contributor to the daily press and to the Pacific and Overland Monthlies.
He is a life member of the Society of Pioneers, belongs to the Y. M. C. A., is Past Master of Pacific Lodge of Masons, Scribe of San Francisco Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, is a member of the I. O. O. F. and is Grand Treasurer of the United Endowment Associates. He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and Treasurer of the Sons of the American Revolution. He is a man of sterling traits of character, a high sense of honor, and excellent business qualifications. He has taken a deep interest in the progress and growth of the city and State, and is in every way worthy of the space that has been accorded him in this record of the leading men of San Francisco.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, Pages 637-638, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.
© 2008 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.