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At 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon 50 representative citzens of San Francisco met the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the United States Military authorities in the police office in the basement of the Hall of Justice. They had been summoned thither by Mayor Schmitz early in the forenoon, the fearful possibilities of the situation having forced themselves upon him immediately after the shock of earthquake in the morning, and the news which at once reached him of the completeness of the disaster. He lost no time in making out a list of citizens from whom to seek advice and assistance, and in summoning them tothe conference. It was called at the Hall of Justice, as virtually the first news which reached the Mayor regarding the extent of the disaster was that of the ruin of the City Hall. He did not realize that even while the conference was to be going on cornices would be crashing down and windows falling in fragments in the Hall of Justice also, and that before sunset desperate efforts would be made to blow the structure up in the vain endeavor by this means to check the advance of the flames in the northern section of the downtown district.

All, or nearly all of the citizens summoned to the conference responded. Among those promptly on hand were Hartley and Herbert Law, capitalists, the brothers Magee of Thomas Magee & Sons, real estate men J. Downey Harvey of the Ocean Shore Railway Company; ex-Mayor James D. Phelan, Garrett McEnerney, the prominent attorney; ex-Judge C.W. Slack, W.H. Leary, manager of the Tivoli Opera House; J.T. Howell, of Baldwin & Howell, real estate men; former City Attorney Franklin K. Lane, also many others.

No time was lost at the meeting, and almost the first words spoken by the Mayor breathed strongly of the grimness of the disaster and its accompaniments.

“Let it be given out,” said the Mayor sternly, “that three men have already been shot down without mercy for looting. Let it also be understood that the order has been given to all soldiers and policemen to do likewise without hesitation in the cases of any and all miscreants who may seek to take advantage of the city’s awful misfortune. I will ask the Chief of Police and the representatives of the Federal military authorities here present if I do not echo their sentiments in this?”

The uniformed officials to whom the Mayor turned as he spoke signified their acquiescence, and Chief Dinan stated also he would undertake the distribution thoughout the city of printed proclamations making public the order.

Then the Mayor told those present of what had already been done to lighten the effects of the disaster. For one thing he had secured 2400 tents which were already in process of erection in Jefferson Square, Golden Gate Park and on the Presidio grounds, for the accommodation of the homeless.

Garrett McEnerney, moved, and the large group of other prominent citizens present unanimously voted that the Mayor be authorized to draw checks for any amount for the relief of the suffering, all of the gentlemen present pledging themselves to make such checks good. Ex-Mayor Phelan was appointed chairman of a Relief Finance Committee with full authority to select his associates.

The Mayor announced that orders had already been given forbidding the burning of either gas or electric currents, even where possible. During the fire citizens must get along with other light, as no chances could be taken for a renewed outbreak of flames. Police Chief Dinan stated that he had also instructed his men to announce all over the city that no fires were to be lighted in stoves or grates anywhere lest the chimneys should be defective as a result of the earthquake.

Then the statement was made that expressmen were charging $30 a load to haul goods—a rate which was prohibitive to poor people. The announcement provoked great indignation, and an immediate order from Mayor Schmitz, in which Dinan heartily concurred.

“Tell your men,” said the Mayor, “to seize the wagons of all such would-be extortionists, and make use of them for the public good. The question of recompense will be seen to later.”

Then a further notice was order distributed as widely as possibly thoughout the city instructing all householders to remain at home at night for protection of their families and property during the continuance of the trouble and excitement.

It was at this point that the explosion of a heavy charge of dynamite used in blowing up a building a block away brought glass and cornice work in the Hall of Justice crashing down. At once W.H. Leary and J. Downey Harvey urged that the Mayor at least immediately remove from the building. “Your life is to valuable, Mayor," said Mr. Harvey, “at this dreadful juncture for any unnecessary risk to be taken.”

To this all present conceded, and a few moments later an adjournment was taken to the center of Portsmouth Square, across Kearny street. There, in close and dangerous proximity to a great pile of dynamite, brought thither to be used for the necessary destruction of buildings the Mayor and his officials continued for some time longer to discuss the situation. When they finally separated it was with the agreement to meet again this morning at 10 o’clock at the Fairmont.

The Call=Chronicle=Examiner
April 19, 1906

Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.