Monday, March 1, 2010

NOPA VELO Reaches Duel Site at Lake Merced

A perfect day for a duel-to-the-death ride. On Sunday morning the skies cleared, the sun shone, and 35 cyclists gathered for the second monthly spin of NOPA VELO, the North Panhandle's new bicycling group for neighbors and friends. Jason and Lauren, owners of Matching Half Cafe at McAllister and Baker, helped riders power up with coffee, tea, and morning munchies. And then they were off -- first to Broderick Street with a nod to its namesake, U.S. Senator David Broderick, and on to the Panhandle, Golden Gate Park, the Great Highway, and Lake Merced.

At the site of the infamous duel between Senator Broderick and California Supreme Court Justice David S. Terry, NOPA VELO re-enacted the deadly dispute. (A just-as-nice return ride ended at Bistro Gambrinus on Fulton Street where riders reviewed the ride and watched Canada score the gold for hockey).

Why a Duel-to-the-Death? A brief re-telling of events:

The year is 1859 and the talk of civil war swirls across the nation, splitting political parties, families, and friends. Two of these friends are David C. Broderick, US Senator from California, and David. S. Terry, California Supreme Court Justice

In an election that same year, Justice Terry lost his seat on the court. He felt he was the victim of a political faction led by Senator Broderick. Indeed, the two men represented different segments of the Democratic Party: Broderick wanted California to enter the Union as a state free of slavery while Terry wanted California to become a slave state.

When Terry lost his election, he criticized the Broderick political faction in public. Broderick responded, castigating the reputation of Justice Terry. Terry demanded a duel. In the 1850s dueling was evidently a proper way to settle disputes even though the state constitution outlawed the practice.

On Monday, Sept. 12, 1859 Broderick and Terry met on the shores of Lake Merced, but were promptly arrested for planning to engage in a duel. A judge released them on bail. The very next day, in true San Francisco style, the two men returned to Lake Merced, along with their their assistants, known as “seconds.”

The seconds tossed coins. Terry won his toss and chose which pistols to use. Broderick won the second toss and decided to stand with his back to the sun. They stepped ten paces, the seconds gave the final count “1, 2, 3” and the two men stood ready to shoot. Broderick’s pistol fired prematurely and lodged in the soil. Terry didn’t hesitate. He shot and hit Broderick in the chest and punctured a lung.

Broderick was mortally wounded; his allies took him to a house at Fort Mason, then called “Black Point”, an enclave for wealthy, anti-slavery San Franciscans. Broderick died three days after the duel. On his deathbed, Broderick had his legacy in mind; he reportedly said, “They killed me because I was opposed to the extension of slavery and the corruption of justice.” The current resident in the house where Broderick died believes the slain Senator still walks the rooms and hallways.

Broderick had a very well attended funeral. He was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery and the city erected a monument to him there. City leaders also named a street for him. Terry was tried for manslaughter and acquitted in Marin County. Broderick became a martyr to the cause, but Terry became a hated figure in San Francisco – so much so that he was forced to leave the city and settle in ... Stockton.


Next NOPA VELO ride: Sunday, March 28th. For news & updates: join the NOPA VELO Google Group here and check BIKE NOPA.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for helping to put together such a fun ride. I went somewhere I hadn't been in 61 years in San Francisco, met lots of nice folks, made a new friend, and reconnected with someone I haven't seen in 10 years. Not bad for a morning spin to the beach.