Thursday, April 26, 2018

Brilsford Pease Flint (1842-1906)

Portrait from Fifty Years of Masonry in California, Vol. II, 1898.

  Long a leading Mason in San Francisco, California, Brilsford Pease Flint was a native Mainer who, following a few year's residence in Ohio, migrated to the Sunshine State in the late 1860s. Following his resettlement on the west coast, Flint became a successful sheep rancher and wool merchant, a vocation he continued to follow for a number of years. Flint earns a spot here on the site due to his 1879 Republican candidacy for Mayor of San Francisco. Born in North Anson, Maine on September 19, 1842, Brilsford Pease Flint was the son of two-term state senator William Reed (1796-1887) and Electa (Weston) Flint (1802-1885).
  Flint's early life in Maine saw him work the family farm, gain a "first-class common school education" and while in his late teens began teaching in a district school during the winter months. After attaining maturity Flint left Maine for Ohio, and following his settling in Chillicothe was retained as a clerk and deputy in the Ross County Treasurer's office from 1863-65. In 1866 Flint caught wind of the discovery of oil in West Virginia, and soon removed to that state to seek his fortune. This proved to be an unwise decision, and following his resettlement in that state saw:
"In common with others, his capital was swamped in the oleaginous vortex, and he was, financially, totally ruined."
 Left in a state of financial precariousness, Flint took stock of his losses and after finding employment secured enough money to return to Maine by late 1866. In February of the following year, he went to sea, booking passage on a steamer bound for California. Brilsford's two older brothers, Benjamin and Thomas, had both migrated to California some years previously, with Thomas later being elected to a term in the state senate from Monterey County.
  After reaching San Francisco, Brilsford Flint joined his brothers in the firm of Flint, Bixby & Co., where he would be employed as a foreman of a large sheep ranch. Flint's tenure as foreman extended three years, and, having seen a bright future for himself in the wool industry, branched out on his own in the early 1870s, establishing the B.P. Flint & Co., a purchasing and wool shipping enterprise. Following a brief return to Maine, Flint married in Chillicothe, Ohio in March 1871 to Gertrude Gilmore (1845-1910), to whom he was wed until his death. The couple would have four children, Electa (died in infancy in 1872), Anna, Agnes (died 1907) and Brilsford Pease Jr.
  Throughout the succeeding years, Flint saw his wool business continue to expand, with the Daily Alta California noting that the "commission business alone amounting to three or four million pounds annually, on account of Eastern manufacturers.  Flint would also branch out into San Francisco civic affairs, serving as city school director and a director of the city's Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


Brilsford Flint (with fancy Masonic hat), from the L.A. Herald, September 6, 1904.

  Brilsford Flint's status as a prominent Mason in California is an integral part of his life story. He first entered that order in April 1876 in the Occidental Lodge of Masons in San Francisco and by January of the following year had reached the degree of Master Mason of that lodge. From 1878-79 he was that lodge's Junior Warden and was made Worshipful Master in 1880. A following is a list of the Masonic titles Flint was awarded through the remainder of his life:

  • 1877: Sublime Degree of Royal Arch Mason in California Chapter No. 5, at San Francisco.
  • 1881: Awarded the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross in August of that year and in September was created a "Knight Templar and a Knight of Malta" in California Commandery No. 1 in San Francisco.
  • 1883: Appointed Standard Bearer.
  • 1885: Appointed Senior Warden.
  • 1886: Appointed Captain-General.
  • 1887-1888: Appointed Generalissimo in 1887 and in the year following named as Eminent Commander.
  • 1898: Appointed Grand Warder of the Grand Commandery. 
   A lifelong Republican, Flint refrained from pursuing political office but was an acknowledged voice in Republican circles in San Francisco, being a member of the Tax Payer's city convention of 1877 that nominated city councilman Monroe Ashbury (1815-1880) for mayor. In 1879 he was urged by Republican leaders in the city to accept their nomination for Mayor of San Francisco, and in August of that year received the nomination at the city Republican convention. Flint's opponent that year was Isaac Smith Kalloch (1832-1887), a Baptist Minister and candidate of the Workingman's Party


From the Daily Alta California, August 8, 1879.

   As a candidate on which "no spot or blemish of a public or private nature can be found", Flint hit the stump and in a lengthy write-up on his candidacy published in the August 19th Daily Alta California outlined his principles and political platform, including his stance on the then important topic of Chinese immigration in California. In this address Flint stated:
"At present, I can only say that I am in sympathy most thoroughly with the retrenchment and reform measures demanded by the people of this city. I am under obligations to no man, or set of men, for my nomination, and no pledges of any sort have been expected of me. I am, therefore, perfectly independent, in the broadest sense, and if elected, shall run the mayor's office solely in the interest of the public. As a businessman, I am opposed to exhorbitant gas contracts, and the binding of the city to them, and as Mayor I should observe the same rules as in my business. Of course I should not have been a resident of San Francisco nine years without seeing the evil that results from the residence here of Chinese, and am in favor of legal methods of removing that cause of social disorder, and of stopping the immigration. I have never employed a Chinaman in my business or encouraged them in any other way, nor do I intend to."
  The 1879 campaign for Mayor of San Francisco can certainly be considered one of the dirtiest elections on record and makes the 2016 Presidential race tame by comparison. While Flint (his negative opinion of Asian immigrants notwithstanding) remained above board during the campaign, the same cannot be said of the men centering in Isaac Kalloch's campaign. The fracas began when Kalloch (the Workingman's Party nominee) was defamed by Charles de Young, a founder and editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. de Young (who had backed another candidate, Denis Kearney), came out as firmly anti-Kalloch, with the Chronicle referring to him as a"tainted preacher" and brought up old allegations of adultery on Kalloch's part


Isaac Kalloch and Charles de Young.

  Understandably indignant over assaults on his character, Kalloch hit back at de Young with some very un-ministerly remarks, slandering de Young's mother as the operator of a brothel and repeating an earlier statement calling de Young "the bastard progeny of a whore." This proved to be too much for de Young, and on August 23, 1879, he took a carriage to Kalloch's office at the Metropolitan Temple. Through false pretenses de Young managed to get Kalloch to come down to the street, and as Kalloch neared de Young's location de Young fired a pistol and hit Kalloch twice, severely wounding him. A crowd of angry people soon formed and after a few well-placed kicks from the townspeople, de Young was taken to jail.
   Despite his wounds, Kalloch was taken to his study and for the next several days was kept under guard by militiamen. As election day dawned, many San Franciscans went to the polls and made sympathetic votes for Kalloch, and on September 4, 1879, he was elected mayor, besting Brilsford P. Flint by a narrow margin, 20, 069 votes to 19, 550. Interestingly, following his victory, Kalloch made a "speedy recovery" from his wounds. The nastiness of the campaign didn't end with Kalloch's victory, however. Charles de Young, who had been released on bail following the shooting, laid low for a few months but was soon up to his old tricks and tasked some of the staff of the Chronicle to further slander Kalloch, the end result being a sixty-page pamphlet that excoriated the new mayor. Kalloch's son, Isaac Milton Kalloch (1852-1930), soon had vengeance on his mind, and on April 3, 1880, made his way inside the Chronicle building with a pistol, intent on killing de Young. After a brief chase between the two men through the first floor of the building, Kalloch fired several shots and hit de Young at least once, killing him. Kalloch would later be tried for the murder of de Young, but was ultimately found not guilty by a jury. Following the trial, Kalloch would turn to law studies and became an attorney in Oakland, where he died in 1930 at age 77.
   Having been on the sidelines during the Kalloch-de Young fracas, it is unknown as to what Brilsford Flint thought of this intriguing election. Following his mayoral loss, he continued to attain high rank in the Masonic fraternity and from 1889-90 held a seat on the San Francisco Board of Education. A former president of the Olympic Club in San Francisco and a past potentate of the Islam Temple in that city, Flint would serve as Grand Commander of the Knights Templar of California until his death, which occurred at his home on November 11, 1906. He was survived by his wife Gertrude, and following her death in 1910 was interred alongside her husband at the famed Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California. 

Flint's obituary from the San Francisco Call, November 12, 1906.

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