Can you tell me about Mayor James P. Van ness? : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

Can you please tell me more about James P. Van ness?

-- Vanessa Chan (, October 06, 2002


Gladys Hansen in her "San Francisco Almanac" 1995 gives the following sketch.

James Van Ness (1808-1872)

Born in Burlingron Vermont. Arrived in San Francisco in 1851. Elected Mayor in 1855. Moved to San Lluis Obispo in the 1860s. Died 1872. Gave his name to Van Ness Avenue.

Good luck in your research.

-- Kurt Iversen (, October 06, 2002.

A couple other important things that you failed to mention are that James Van Ness was an attorney and his father was the Governor of Vermont which is why you will find the Van Ness name in places in Vermont. Also, James Van Ness also became a senator from the San Luis Obispo county area.

There was nothing really all that significant that I can remember about his term as mayor except that it began around the time of the vigilantes and that he tried to do something weird like change the name of the city council to the board of supervisors which was accepted. He also changed the name of the Mayor to the President of the Board of Supervisors which was soon found to be unacceptable and changed back to Mayor.

Oh yeah, now I remember. That was part of the Consolidation Act which combined the governments of the city and county into one to save a bundle of money. The consolidation act also organized the city into 12 districts with a name for each district in which a supervisor was elected from each district. The purpose of this was to give more power to the people rather than just the mayor. Yeah, that's why we have a board of supervisors and not a city council. Yeah, that was his big achievement, the Consolidation Act.

-- Harry Murphy (harrymurphy*, October 18, 2002.

His influence stretched far and wide. There is also a Van Ness Avenue in Ferndale, CA and in Ashland Oregon

-- Phyllis Buck (, July 11, 2004.

James Van Ness was 3rd Mayor of San Francisco, and according to family lore was one of the organizers of the original Vigilantes. The city was pretty wild in those days - lots of crime. He was indeed a lawyer, had graduated from Yale at age 15, and studied law with a prominent lawyer in Virginia. His father was Governor of Vermont and he was one of 6 or 8 children, may have been the youngest which is the main reason he came to San Francisco, there was nothing left for him to inherit. He came by ship around Cape Horn to California. In San Francisco National Cemetery there is a larger than life statue of him. According to his obituaries he was well-thought of by many; and all Van Ness Avenues in California are indeed named for him. There's one in Ashland, too??

-- Cat Van Ness (, December 16, 2004.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ