Monday, August 6, 2018

Erastus Volney Joice (1810-1891): Commissioner of Deeds; SF Street named for him

Plot of Erastus Joice (Photo: Michael Colbruno)

Erastus Volney Joice, who went by "E.V.", was an attorney, San Francisco Commissioner of Deeds, early member of the Democratic Party in California, "land grabber", and Vice President of the 1851 Committee on Vigilance. He is remembered today for having Joice Street in San Francisco named after him, which is located at the edge of Chinatown, bordered by Powell, Pine, Stockton and Clay Street.

Joice was born in New York in 1810 to Reverend Stephen and Ann Joice. At age 23 he was working as an attorney in New York and later as Commissioner of Deeds in Albany. For unknown reasons, he filed for bankruptcy by age 33 and ended up in California at age 39, just as the Gold Rush Era was kicking off in January 1849.

Joice Street in San Francisco
Ten months after arriving in San Franicsco, he was elected as Vice President of the nascent Democratic Party, which was tasked with setting up State elections. A month later he bought his first home from Alcalde John W. Geary, which led to a career in grabbing land opportunities, including property at Humboldt Harbor, becoming a partner in the Union Hotel owning a ranch near Suisin Bay, and buying a home near Portsmouth Square.

In June 1850 he helped establish a volunteer fire department called the St. Francis Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1, who had to fight the constant scourge of wood buildings burning down, which was complicated by the difficulty of getting water to the fires. Concerned about a group of thugs starting fires and terrorizing local residents, he became the VP of the 1851 Committee on Vigilance.

By 1870, he was selling insurance and working as Commissioner of Deeds for California. After his wife's death, he moved to East Oakland, where he died in 1891.

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