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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: A Cursed Church and the Chronicle's Bloody Beginnings

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 9:45 AM

click to enlarge RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

The Emmanuel Baptist Church of Capp Street was cursed from the start.

In 1878, the church moved from a rented hall on 22nd and Folsom to more permanent digs at 22nd and Capp. A short time later, the church's first pastor, Rev. Charles Hughes, slashed his own throat with a straight razor. His replacement chose a somewhat less visceral method of suicide and shot himself in the head.

Two ministers, two suicides. You'd think dispirited Mission residents would've burned the place to the ground and called it a day, but the church kept going.

The third pastor, Isaac Milton "I.M." Kalloch, was young and politically connected. His father, Isaac Smith "I.S." Kalloch, a minister himself, was a bigwig in the powerful Workingmen's Party, which had won almost every seat on the Board of Supervisors on the strength of its ugly anti-Chinese campaign. The elder Kalloch was favored to win the mayor's race of 1879.

But Charles and Michael DeYoung, the brothers who founded the San Francisco Chronicle, backed another candidate, and they weren't shy about mudslinging. In August 1879, the Chronicle ran a story "severely animadverting upon the character and moral standing" of I.S. Kalloch's dead father. In other words, the DeYoung brothers smeared a mayoral candidate's dead dad, so the feud was on.  

During a speech at the Metropolitan Hotel, Kalloch responded by calling the DeYoungs "bastard progeny, born in the slums and nursed in the lap of a prostitute."  Now, the whole DeYoungs'-mama-was-a-whore rumor stemmed from an 1874 story in the San Francisco Sun (a competitor newspaper to the Chronicle). Charles DeYoung was having none of it so, naturally, he shot it out with the Sun's editor on Market Street. The newspapermen managed to miss each other, but in the crossfire a young boy was shot in the leg. The Chronicle sent the kid $100 and nobody went to prison. Five years later, Kalloch not only read from the story in a public speech, but threatened to reprint it in the Workingmen's Party's newsletter.

On Aug. 23, 1879, Charles DeYoung rode his carriage to the Metropolitan Church and sent a messenger to get Kalloch. When Kalloch showed up on the sidewalk, DeYoung put one bullet in Kalloch's chest and another in his hip, making this the equivalent of a Victorian era drive-by. A crowd of people overturned DeYoung's carriage and dragged him out.

"He was dreadfully kicked and bruised" according to a wire story, and DeYoung got himself arrested just to survive.

The Chronicle had to station armed guards around its offices to keep outraged mobs from trashing the place. "The city is intensely excited," the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported. "There was never a time when San Francisco was more angry."

Kalloch survived the shooting and won the mayor's race. Charles DeYoung was released on bail and hunkered down back east until things quieted down, but when he returned to San Francisco, he published a pamphlet bashing Kalloch all over again. DeYoung just kept grinding the ax, only this time I.M. Kalloch, the mayor's son and pastor of the cursed church, stormed the Chronicle's office on April 23, 1880, and shot Charles five times — dead.

I.M. Kalloch was acquitted in March 1881 in a trial wherein several witnesses were jailed for perjury. Mayor I.S. Kalloch was indicted for taking bribes in 1882, but beat the case and served out his full term. Charles DeYoung was downplayed in (if not scrubbed entirely from) civic and family histories. His brother Mike opened a museum.

The Emmanuel Baptist Church had three pastors. Two killed themselves and the third murdered somebody. The congregation had suffered a gruesome trifecta, but it endured. The church moved to a building on Bartlett Street between 22nd and 23rd, and things were almost normal for nearly 15 years until they got so much worse.

To be continued...

"Yesterday's Crimes" revisits strange, lurid, eerie, and often forgotten crimes from San Francisco's past.  

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Bob Calhoun

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