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  • Charles James Brenham was the second and fourth mayor of San Francisco in 1851 and from 1852–53. Brenham was born in Frankfort, Kentucky. At an early age, he left home to work on riverboats on the Mississippi. By age twenty, he ran his own steamship. He learned the hard lessons of self-reliance and endurance after seeing other ships sink and burn. In 1849, he moved to California, where he ferried passengers between San Francisco and Sacramento. Not long thereafter, he was asked by the Whig party to run for mayor of San Francisco. He refused at first, but later acquiesced on the condition that he not leave his ship to campaign and that if he won, his duties as mayor did not interfere with his ferry business. He lost to John W. Geary in the 1850 election but ran again in 1851 at the Whigs' insistence. He won the 1851 election and became mayor on May 5 of that year. During Geary's term the city went into massive debt and violent crime became an epidemic in the city. While a new city charter allowed the city to issue bonds to pay off the debt, the crime rate skyrocketed to such a point that the citizens began forming squads called Committees of Vigilance.

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