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San Francisco Schuetzen Verein
The San Francisco Schuetzen Verein was one of the many ethnic-based citizens social and paramilitary groups formed in California in the aftermath of the Gold Rush. Such groups functioned as social clubs, as well as a form of milita or public safety committees. The Schuetzen Verein was organized in 1859 by German-speaking citizens of San Francisco. The group’s program for its fiftieth anniversary tells of how it helped protect San Francisco following the assassination of President Lincoln.

As soon as the society had been organized, the members arranged to hold a three days’ shooting tournament and German Volksfest in Russ Garden, Folsom and Second streets. The arrangements were readily completed, and within a few weeks the San Francisco Schuetzen Verein made its first appearance in public, and created a most favorable impression. The members were well known and prominent in the young town, and their first appearance in public, attired in uniforms, elicited much favorable comment and many cheers from the population. On its march to the garden where the festival was to be held, the column halted at the corner of Kearny and Post streets, where Miss Katherine Meyer, now Mrs. Jacob Knell, on behalf of the ladies of San Francisco, presented the Verein with a magnificent banner.

General Winfield Scott, who was sojourning in San Francisco at the time, viewed the parade consisting of thirty-five men in uniform, and publicly expressed his highest admiration and unstinted praise for the members, as to their military bearing and discipline. Through these incidents and the unqualified success achieved by the Verein at the first festival, the San Francisco Schuetzen Verein bounded into public favor at its first venture, and has been held in high esteem ever since. Its roster increased and the most prominent citizens of German birth joined the organization. Membership in the San Francisco Schuetzen Verein was a matter of which leading business and professional men were proud of. At the following festival the Verein had sixty uniformed members in its column.

Regular target practice was inaugurated in February, 1861, in Hayes Park, located in Hayes Valley in the vicinity of Hayes and Grove streets, then a mere sandy desert. The first eagle-king shoot in California was held in that park in September of the same year, and was one of the notable events of San Francisco’s pioneer days.

The following year, 1862, witnessed important changes. Captain Seidenstricker relinquished command of the company and enlisted in the Federal Army. Several members followed his example. John Wulzen, then Lieutenant, was chosen Captain and assumed command of the company, which he held for twenty-six years.

When in 1865 the sad news reached San Francisco that President Lincoln had been foully assassinated, feeling in this then far-away city ran high. People were wrought up over the atrocious murder, and the city authorities feared mob violence, which was liable to break out at any moment. It was at that critical time that Captain Wulzen, without waiting for orders, placed his company at the service of the civic authorities of San Francisco. His company being the only independent organization of citizen-soldiers in San Francisco, the offer was eagerly accepted. The order to report for duty was given on the same night, and at 7 o’clock on the following morning fifty-eight out of a total membership of sixty-five had reported and were in duty in the headquarters, Platt’s Hall, Bush and Montgomery streets. The seven absent members were accounted for, either being out of the city or sick.

The then Chief of Police Burke, who was in charge of the situation, covered the points most likely to be attacked by a frenzied mob, and the loyal and resolute Schuetzen Verein Company was assigned to duty near its headquarters, to be within easy distance of the storm center, should an attack be made upon the buildings occupied by newspapers then located on California street, near Kearny, and within one or two squares of Platt’s Hall, about which an angry mob had assembled and assumed a threatening attitude.

The company remained on duty for two days and nights; perilous days and nights they were, when a company of Federal troops relieved the citizen-soldiers. By a peculiar coincidence the Captain commanding the Military Company was an ex-member of the Schuetzen Verein, and Captain Wulzen, on turning over the headquarters, feelingly referred to that additional proof of the loyalty of the German citizens to their adopted country. This is but one of many occasion in which the San Francisco Schuetzen Verein and its members, quietly and without ostentation, served the city, State and nation, to protect life and property, guard against mob violence and other disturbances by turbulent or lawless elements, as voluntary guardians of peace, in time of peril, brave, resolute, fearless, perfecting disciplined and trained, men of excellent judgment and experts in the handling of firearms.

When peace once more hovered over the land, and the brave sons of California returned to their homes and peaceful pursuits, the ranks of the Schuetzen Verein increased. Hayes Valley became gradually inhabited, and some of the homes were uncomfortably near the shooting range, or in a line with the targets, and the Schuetzen Verein transferred its target practice to Alameda county, acquired its own park and range in that county. The history of the Schuetzen Verein from that time until the present is one of honor and triumph, as a leader in German affairs in California, an ardent and most efficient exponent of the noble art of defending home and country, whether by chance of birth or from choice and adoption; and achieved many triumphs in social and other public functions.

IN:Fiftieth Anniversary Golden Jubilee and Shooting Festival of the San Francisco Schuetzen Verein at Shell Mound Park, Berkeley from Sunday, August 29, to Sunday, September 5, 1909

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