Today, the California Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin provides insights into the culture of the western frontier 164 years ago.
Two California newspapers on 4 August 1851 included commentary about financial difficulties and the results of eavesdropping.
Sacramento Daily Union
Personal.— Mr. Samuel Brannan publishes a Card in the San Francisco papers of Saturday, in which he states that Gen. Douglass proclaimed lately in a public house in that city, that he, Mr. Brannan, had declared in the presence of several gentlemen of Sacramento, that Mr. M H. McAllister had swindled Mr. Albert Priest out of the sum of $26,000, previous to his leaving for the Atlantic States.
This remark of Gen. Douglass called out H. McAllister, Esq., a son of the former, who assaulted Mr. Brannan in a public saloon, in San Francisco. Gen. Douglass furnished the names of several gentlemen of this city, whom he supposed were those who overheard the remark said to have been made.
These gentlemen, Messrs. Morrison, Briarly, Warner, Cornwell, Curtis and Schoolcraft, however, publish cards denying that they ever heard Mr. Brannan make any remark in the least degree derogatory to the character of Mr. McAllister.
Gen Douglass, we understand, will shortly publish cards from other persons, certifying that they overheard the remark which has given rise to the difficulty between Messrs. Brannan and McAllister.
Daily Alta California
San Francisco, Aug. 4, 1851
Messrs. Editors — I beg to remind the public through your columns, that on Saturday I published certificates from all the gentlemen named by Mr. David F. Douglass as his authority for the statement that I had accused Mr. M. H. McAllister of swindling Mr. Albert Priest of $26,000.
Yesterday Mr. Norval Douglass, the brother of Mr. David Douglass, published in your paper, cards from other parties than those at first named, namely, Messrs C. C. Sackett, D. J. Lisle and N. A. H. Ball, to the effect following :
Mr. Sackett states, that in conversations at the Orleans House, he heard Mr. Brannan allude to some matters of Mr. Albert Priest, with which Mr. McAllister had been connected, and animadvert in pretty strong terms upon the course which the latter had pursued, and expressing an earnest wish that they could be opened, intimating that such exposure would not be creditable to Mr. McAllister. He adds: ” I cannot undertake to give the words used or their exact connection.”
Mr. Lisle has heard it reported that Mr. Brannan had made the statement that Mr. McAllister, while acting as attorney for Albert Priest, Esq., swindled him, and thinks he beard Mr. Brannan himself make the accusation. All that Mr. Ball can remember is, that he heard “Mr. Brannan say that he had $5000, and be knew three more persons in San Francisco who had $5000 more, and they would spend the last dollar if the charges were true, but they would rip up the whole damned transaction.”
The occasion to which those gentlemen refer I remember perfectly. I was sitting with some gentlemen in front of the Orleans Hotel in Sacramento, when Mr. Warner, with whom Mr. Priest resided during his stay in Sacramento, taking a seat by me, asked me if I had seen Mr. Priest previous to his departure.
I replied that I had merely met him in the street and bade him goodbye. Mr. Warner said he was exceedingly sorry for the old man — that he had left the country poor, not having had money to pay his passage.
I expressed my surprise, remarking that it was generally understood that Mr. Priest was to buy in his property himself. Mr. Warner stated he believed the property was all sold, and repeated that the old gentleman had not sufficient to pay his passage home.
After much conversation on the subject, Mr. Warner stated that he did not believe Mr. Priest had been fairly dealt with; whereupon I remarked, that it that was the case, I would give $5,000, and I knew others in San Francisco who would give an equal amount, to investigate the matter.
The only mention made of Mr. McAllister’s name was an observation made, either by myself or somebody else present— so little importance did I attach to it at the time, I do not now remember — to the effect that Mr. McAllister had acted as Mr. Priest’s attorney in foreclosing the mortgage; and it was not until several days afterwards that I learned, in a conversation in Mr. Howard’s house in San Francisco, that the management of Mr. Priest’s estate, subsequent to the foreclosure of the mortgage, was in the hands of that gentleman.
Previous to this conversation, which occurred several days after my return from Sacramento, I had never known that Mr. McAllister had any connection with Mr. Priest’s monetary affairs further than acting at attorney for the foreclosure of a mortgage on his property.
Whatever remarks might have been made to the effect that Mr. Priest had been unfairly dealt with, might have been mutually applied to Mr. McAllister by those present, who knew that he had control of his property; but by me, who was at that time in entire ignorance of this fact, could not have been made, that Mr. Priest had been swindled by Mr. McAllister.
Mr. Warner, to whom my remarks in connection with Mr. Priest were mostly addressed, and who was present during the entire conversation, states emphatically that he has never heard me accuse Mr. McAllister, and no such impression was ever made on his mind by the conversation above referred to or any other.
Your obedient servant, Samuel Brannan.
The California Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows against a view of Sacramento, circa 1852, including the first frame house built by Sam Brannan in January 1849.