Founder at KinkBNB. Writer of fiction and nonfiction. https://www.patreon.com/tjcrowley

Chapter Thirteen

Image for post
Image for post
Miner’s Exchange on Montgomery, 1855 courtesy of OpenSFHistory.org

May 15th, 1855

Norton read the paperwork with a grim look on his face. Nearly three years of legal wranglings had led to this moment. He paused for a second, and looked around the room.

He was sitting in William T. Sherman’s office at Lucas, Turner and Co. bank. The angry looking man watched him as he read the document, making him all the more nervous.

Hall McAllister’s best arguments were all for naught, and the judge decided against Norton. He was on the hook for twenty thousand dollars. The years of fighting the contract in court had…


Chapter Twelve

Image for post
Image for post
Chinese New Year in San Francisco, 1875 courtesy University of California

January 29th, 1854

Norton and Sawyer sidestepped their way past a crowd a Chinese men clustered outside the Macao and Woosung restaurant. The smell of gunpowder filled the air, and the street in front of the restaurant was thick with expended firecracker paper. Smoke wafted and the loud pop-pop-pop of explosions reverberated off the buildings.

“Good heavens, what is all this?” asked Norton.

“I have no idea,” said Sawyer.

At the entrance to the restaurant stood Norman Asing, beaming proudly. The pair walked up to the door, intent on getting their weekly meal there.

“I say, Norman, what is with…


Chapter Eleven

Image for post
Image for post
Meigg’s Wharf, as seen from Telegraph Hill in 1870. Courtesy OpenSFHistory.Org

May 16th, 1853

Norton stood in the crowd at the foot of Honest Harry Meigg’s new wharf and marveled at it.

It was the sheer size of the thing. Harry was proud of boasting that it went 2000 feet out into the bay. This was certainly believable. He’d taken giant redwood trees that he’d fashioned into piles and driven them into the bay mud up to sixty feet deep. Then he’d poured sand between the piles and built an extension of Powell Street out into the bay. …


Chapter Ten

Image for post
Image for post
“Sherman’s Bank”, Lucas, Turner & Company building (center) in 1906.

January 15th, 1853

Norton threw the newspaper down on his roll-top desk in exasperation.

It was a month since he’d negotiated a contract for two hundred tons of rice at twelve cents a pound. The day after he had signed that contract, another boatload of unmilled rice came in and was sold for eleven cents a pound. Norton expected that someone bought it in speculation to ship to China.

The day after that, another boatload of rice came in, except this was two hundred thousand pounds of unmilled rice and five hundred thousand of milled rice.

Every day…


Chapter Nine

Image for post
Image for post
USGS Coastal Survey Map of San Francisco and Mission Bay, February 1852. Courtesy FoundSF.org

November 22, 1851

Norton looked around at his guests at the large round table in the newly rebuilt dining room at Macao and Woosung, and then back at the large bowl of rice on the table nearest him. The ubiquity of the grain obsessed him, and he struggled to think of an analogue from growing up. Potatoes were surely a good example, but could you make flour from potatoes? The versatility of the grain caught his imagination in idle moments like these. Suddenly he realized it was not such an idle moment after all. …


Image for post
Image for post

I started this article right before the election in a rage. I’m not an advocate for the death penalty — quite the opposite, I believe it should be outlawed. But there are few people in the United States these days who have inspired such hatred, such vitriol, and enough violence to kill Officer Brian Sicknick of the Capitol Police. THAT is one direct murder that we can tie directly to Donald Trump no matter how you slice it.

I just wanted to write something that would keep him from getting elected. I eventually calmed down and realized there were much…


Chapter Eight

Image for post
Image for post
Hanging of John Jenkins by the first Vigilance Committee, courtesy of the Museum of the City of San Francisco.

June 10th, 1851

Norton closed up the office near the Genesee at the end of the day on Tuesday and steeled himself for the walk to Brannan’s warehouse. He checked his pistols and walked up First Street. He paused at the corner of First and Mission, but it looked like the Union Foundry was closed up today — only the guard was on duty and he tipped his hat at Norton.

Norton dodged horses and wagon wheels in the treacherous crossing of Market Street. Once across Market, he veered onto Battery Street until he got to California. The…


Digital Vigilantes scour online clues to help the FBI and police find criminals.

The symbol of the committee of vigilance, an all seeing eye with “committee of vigilance San Francisco” and mottos.
The symbol of the committee of vigilance, an all seeing eye with “committee of vigilance San Francisco” and mottos.
The badge of the Committee of Vigilance of 1856 in San Francisco. This is where we get the word ‘vigilante’ from.

This week as I watched the images pouring in from the Capitol Riots of January 6th, I was struck by one thing. It was the desire of my fellow online citizens to help law enforcement catch people that they could plainly see were breaking the law. It reminded me a lot of the Committee of Vigilance.

In 1847 San Francisco was a sleepy village of about one thousand people. It had recently had an influx of settlers trying to get away from the government in the form…


Chapter Seven

Image for post
Image for post
Advertisement for the Jenny Lind Theater from the Daily Alta California June 20th, 1851.

June 9th, 1851, 7:30 PM

Norton and Eastland walked up to the large open doors of the Jenny Lind Theater. Outside, Portsmouth Square bustled with all manner of men running to and fro. Just because it was a Monday night didn’t mean that the gambling halls or theaters were quiet. The stage or the gambling table was likely the only place most of the men would be able to see women at all, and there was not a single one that was going to pass up the chance if they could help it. …


Chapter Six

Image for post
Image for post
The photograph of Joshua Norton taken upon his inductance into the Committee of Vigilance, courtesy the Emperor Norton Trust.

May 15th, 1851

Norton moved all operations to an office at First and Howard in the wake of the fire. Business was brisk in the days after, and he had extended credit to innumerable fellow businessmen to alleviate some of the suffering they’d endured from the terrible fire. The hotel emerged with merely a blistering of paint on the outside, protected by the mud and sweat and blood of the volunteer fire department. Norton had a few drinks since the fire with Mr. …

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store