David C. Broderick was born in Washington D.C. on February 4, 1820. His father, a stone mason, immigrated from Ireland to work on the Capital building. When his work there was completed the family moved to New York. When his father died, Broderick supported his mother and family by being a stone mason. His social life revolved around his membership in the volunteer fire company, Howard Engine Co. No. 24, later becoming its foreman. Also, he joined the Democratic Party and ran unsuccessful campaign for congress in 1846. In 1849 he traveled to California going overland through Panama. Once in San Francisco he went into a business partnership of fellow New Yorkers, Jonathan Stevenson and Frederick Kohler and established a private mint producing gold coins.
Upon the organizing of the SFFD, David Broderick gathered together other New York firemen and formed the Empire Engine Company, taking the moniker of their home state. Broderick already had a political career established in his new city and had enough power to also receive the coveted No. 1 for his fire company. He was elected the company's first foreman.
This company first used one of the small hand engines that were rushed to the December 24, 1849 fire. The company had the honor to place into service the first fire engine built in California, an 1856 Worth of San Francisco. This engine is still in existence and is on display in the lobby of the headquarters of the Firemen's Fund Company in Novato.
Broderick was elected to the State Senate in 1850 serving for two years. In 1857 he was elected to the US Senate, serving until his death in 1859. During his political career he took the anti-slavery stance. His fellow California democratic Senator, William Gwin, was a pro-slavery advocate who wanted to deliver California to the developing confederacy. They came to hate each other and Broderick challenge him to a duel. Gwin declined but David Terry, a member of the State Supreme Court and southern sympathizer, did challenge him. The duel between the two, the most famous in California, if not national history, was held at Lake Merced, in the southwest area of the City, on September 13, 1859. Broderick's gun misfired; Terry's did not badly wounding Broderick who died three days later.
After David Broderick's death, the Empire Company No. 1 changed their name to Broderick Engine Company No. 1 in honor to their late foreman.
Death of Broderick
Turn back the page to Terry's speech and you will find the remark that led to the Broderick-Terry duel, the effect of which did much to keep California in the Union during the Civil War. Briefly will I review the great duel, which is not only of county but state and national history, involving as it did a United States senator and an ex-judge of the Supreme Court of California. Terry resigned from office a few days before the duel took place. The exact cause of the duel, and the exact details of it have never yet been fully explained, although the writer has read everything relating to it that came his way during the past thirty years. Broderick was a Northern man, opposed strongly to slavery. He had become the leader of his party, overriding the leadership of Terry and Gwin, and he was fast destroying the plans of the Southern leaders. This angered the party and they were determined to get rid of Broderick. But how? There was but one way, the way that many Southern men disposed of their enemy, "on the field of honor." Who was to be the gentleman to do the honor? Why, Terry, the blustering leader of the southern wing of the party and the hero of the Vigilance Committee.
Broderick was sitting in the International Hotel, San Francisco, June 26, 1859, eating breakfast. On the opposite side of the table sat D. W. Perley, a former Stockton lawyer and a friend of Terry. Broderick said to Perley, "I see your friend has been abusing me. I have hitherto spoken of him as the only honest man on the bench of a corrupt Supreme Court. He is just as bad as the others." Perley then and there challenged Broderick, willing to die if needs be for this insult to his friend Terry. Broderick refused to accept the challenge on the ground that various attempts had been made to keep him out of the campaign. Not having this excuse after the election, the following day Terry sent him a challenge. Broderick accepted it. Some of Broderick's friends attempted to stop the duel, knowing that he was tired out from the strenuous campaign. Other friends knowing that Broderick was a dead shot said, "The duel has got to come some time; it might as well come now." Terry, who was an expert with the bowie knife, now began derringer practice. The pistols belonged to Dr. Aylett, then physician of Stockton State Asylum, who lived on the north side of Park Street between California and American. Terry practiced in the back part of his yard shooting at a mark on an oak tree until he was able to hit the bull's eye every shot. The duel was to take place September 12, near Lake Merced, San Mateo County. About sixty persons were present, but the chief of police of San Francisco appeared and stopped the duel. Secret arrangements were made and the parties met about two and a half miles southeast of the lake. "As the duelists took their places about ten paces apart," says James O'Meara, an eyewitness, "Broderick appeared nervous, and, straining his nerves to the utmost tension stood stiff and unnatural. His opponent, cool and calculating, stood erect, and firm, and in an easy position awaiting the command to fire." The pistols used were Aylett's pistols, with which Terry had been practicing. Broderick had never seen them until the fatal day. They were made especially for dueling, and the trigger was such that it could be made to pull hard or be fired at the touch of the finger by turning or loosening a little screw. Some witnesses stated that Terry was seen to place the pistol behind him just before the word to fire was given. According to the arrangements the second was to repeat the words, "Fire—One, two,” Neither duelist was to raise his pistol before the word fire nor discharge it after the speaking of the word "two." The second repeated the words "Fire—one, and Broderick's pistol was discharged, the ball striking the earth about nine feet in front of Terry, just before "two" was spoken. Terry fired, his ball penetrating Broderick's right breast, piercing the lung. He slowly sank to the earth and died September 17. Was this a deliberate murder? Terry, turning to his second, said, "The shot is not mortal, I have struck two inches to the right." Broderick is reported to have said, "They have killed me because I was opposed to the extension of slavery and a corrupt administration."
Dueling in California was prohibited by law and so they went through the farcical performance of trying Judge Terry for murder. The friends of Broderick wanted Terry tried in San Francisco, but Terry's friends wanted it tried in another county. The place of trial was finally presented before the Supreme Court, and they declaring that to kill another person in a duel was not murder, and the case might be tried in any county. It was then transferred to Marin County and nicely jobbed. The county court was held at San Rafael. The judges very considerately stepped aside and Judge J. H. Hardy of Mokelumne Hill, a close friend of Terry, was appointed to try the case. The trial was set for July 6, 1860, and the witnesses were summoned to appear at 10 o'clock promptly on that day. As 10 o'clock drew near, some person, accidentally of course, set the clock one hour ahead. At 10 o'clock clock time, and 9 o'clock sun time, the jury was in their seats and the judge upon the bench. The judge then asked the prosecuting attorney, "Are you ready?" "All ready, your honor," he replied. The names of the prosecuting witness were then called. Not one answered. They were then in a sailboat crossing San Francisco Bay, to arrive shortly before the true opening hour of court. No witnesses appearing the counsel for Terry moved that the case be given to the jury. The judge gave his charge to the jury. And without so much as leaving their seats they rendered a verdict of "not guilty." Judge Terry walked from that court room a free man; throughout his life, however, he was branded as the murderer of Broderick.
History of San Joaquin County, California with Biographical Sketches - Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA - 1923
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Broderick, David C.; pioneer of June 13, 1849; State Senator, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sessions; President State Senate, 1851; U.S. Senator, March 4, 1857 to Sept. 16, 1859, when he died from a wound received in a duel with Supreme Judge David S. Terry near Lake Merced, S. F.; his alleged will, with John A. McGlynn and A. J. Butler as executors, was admitted to probate by Judge M. C. Blake, after a severe contest, Oct. 8, 1860. His estate was by order of the Court sold at public sale, by Cobb, Sinton & Bond, auctioneers, and realized $170,350.
Broderick Monument, in Lone Mountain Cemetery, work was begun on Sept. 24, 1862; corner stone laid by Gov. Stanford, Feb. 22, 1863.
From the San Joaquin County Histories Index Page
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