Thursday, August 29, 2019

Charles Campbell (1838-1890): Oakland mayor who fought waterfront monopoly

Oakland's disputed waterfront in the 1850's
Charles Campbell was Oakland’s second mayor. His term began on March 5, 1855 and ended March 2, 1856. He was the Know Nothing party candidate for the “Anti-Squatters,” which ran on a promise to break Horace Carpentier’s hold on the Oakland waterfront.

Campbell was born in Kentucky and came to California during the Gold Rush. He studied law and was also a minister with the Methodist chruch in Kentucky before arriving in San Francisco.

On May 4, 1852, New York transplant Horace Carpentier persuaded the new California State Legislature to incorporate Oakland as a town. He became Oakland's first mayor under allegation of fraud and promptly persuaded the new town's trustees to pass an ordinance "for the disposal of the waterfront belonging to the town of Oakland." That ordinance gave Carpentier complete control of Oakland's waterfront, which was situated on prime real estate. Oakland's citizens were outraged by the transaction and he was ousted and replaced by Charles Campbell, who became Mayor on March 5, 1855.

During his time as mayor, Campbell signed two pieces of legislation that began the fight against Horace Carpentier's monopoly of the waterfront, which city officials deemed was obtained illegally.

Oakland's committee on streets and buildings then advertised for proposals to build a large wharf at the foot of Bay Street. The action placed the city firmly in opposition to the claims of the Carpentier interests.

After decades of legal wrangling over control of the waterfront, Carpentier returned to New York, where he became a trustee and major donor of Columbia University.

Shortly after serving as Oakland's mayor, Campbell moved to Stockton where he was elected  District Attorney (aka Prosecuting Attorney) of San Joaquin County as a Lecompton candidate, who were pro-slavery Democrats determined to have Kansas enter the union as a slave state. He eventually moved to Yolo County and retired in 1862. After that, there is little record of Charles Campbell.

Sources: Oakland Wiki, Wikipedia, Oakland Tribune, Past and Present of Alameda County by Joseph Eugene Baker, Bay Crossings, NY Times, Sacramento Daily Union.

No comments: