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Historical Review:

Proceedings Of The Town Council With Regard to the Eection Of Health Officer
for the Port of San Francisco

San Francisco, Dec 24, 1849.

On motion of Col. Steuart, chairman of the committee of health and police to whom was referred the reporting of ordinances for the government of the health officer for the Port of San Francisco the following ordinance as adopted:

In relation to the duties of a Health Officer, and prescribing the powers, by the Ayuntamiento of San Francisco, in Town Council assembled.

Be it ordained:

Section 1st. A health officer shall be annually appointed for the port of  San Francisco, whose powers and duties shall be as hereinafter enumerated, until further provided for by enactments of the State Legislature, the laws of the Congress of the United States, or ordinances of the Ayuntamiento or Corporation of San Francisco.

Section 2d. It shall be the duty of the health officer, to board every vessel which has entered the harbor of San Francisco since the 31st day of December, 1849. And every vessel which may hereafter arrive in said port, and make strict enquiry and examination into the health of her officers, crew and passengers and into the state and condition of the vessel and cargo.

In the performance of said duties the health officer may require say person on board to answer under oath or affirmation, such questions as he the said health officer, may deem necessary and proper.

Section 3d. The health officer shall ascertain whether there be any person or persons on board of any vessel, affected with any contagious, pestilential or malignant disorder and should such be the case, he shall immediately report the facts to the board of health, who, if they deem it advisable and necessary, shall order the vessel into quarantine, for such length of time and under such regulations, may be deemed expedient and proper.

Section 4th. The master of any vessel or any person or persons on board, refusing to answer such questions as the health officer is herein and hereby authorized to put, or refusing or neglecting to comply with such directions as, he health officer shall give, or refusing or neglecting forthwith to go into quarantine, or refusing or neglecting to comply with, and strictly observe the regulations made and given by the board of health, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and be subject to a fine of not less than one hundred dollars, or more than five thousand dollars, for refusing to answer ; or, for every twenty-four hours' refusal or neglect to comply with such directions and regulations, as aforesaid. Said fine to be sued for and recovered before the Alcalde or chief magistrate of the Town of San Francisco, and be paid over for the support of the Marine Hospital, hereafter to be established.

Section 5th. It shall be the duty the health officer to collect and receive all monies appropriated for the erection and support of a Marine Hospital, and shall render to the board of health, a monthly account of his receipts : and shall, after deducting his salary, as herein and hereby allowed, pay over to said board, or to their order, ail money received by him under this ordinance, be held and expended under the direction of said board, in the establishment of a Marine Hospital, and the relief and rapport of sick and disabled seamen.

Section 6th. The health officer, in discharge of his official duties, shall be entitled to demand and receive, and in case of refusal to pay, shall be authorized to sue for and recover before the Alcalde or chief magistrate, as aforesaid, the following sums, viz.

From the master of every vessel from a foreign port:
For the master, and each mate and cabin passenger, - - - - - - - - $1.00
For each steerage passenger, sailor or marine, - - - - - - - - - - - - -  .50
From the master of every vessel from any port of the United States:
For the master, and each mate and cabin passenger, - - - - - - - - -$0.50
For each steerage passenger, sailor or marine, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - .25

Section 7th. The health officer shall be entitled to receive and retain out of the money received, under and by virtue of the preceding section, an annual salary of five thousand dollars, in quarterly payments.

Section 8th. Until otherwise ordered or directed by competent authority, the quarantine ground shall be leward of the port, as near to Yerba Buena Island as practicable.

Section 9th. Until otherwise ordered and directed by competent authority, the committee on health and police, shall constitute the board of health, of which the health officer, by rights of office, shall be a member.

Section 10th. Before entering on the duties of his office, the health officer shall give a bond, in the penal sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, conditioned for the faithful , performance of his duties and the trusts herein and hereby created.

Section 11th. This ordinance shall take effect from the date of the passage thereof.

JNO. W. GEARY. President.
H. L. Dodge, Secretary.
January 2d, 1850


At a meeting of the Town Council, December 21, 1849, Colonel Steuart from the committee on health and police made the following report which was read and accepted: 

The committee on health and police in accordance with the instructions of the Ayuntamiento, have invited the attention of the collector of the port and of the commander-in-chief of the United States naval forces on the Pacific station, to the necessity of the immediate appointment of a health officer, and are highly gratified in having received from Colonel Collier and Commodore Jones assurances of prompt and efficient aid in carrying into effect a measure so loudly called for by every consideration of benevolent humanity at well as public policy.

The committee beg leave to submit the correspondence had with the above named gentleman as part of their report, and respectfully recommend that the necessary ordinances be passed by the Ayuntamiento, as early as possible.

W.M. STEUART, A. J. ELLIS,  Committee.

The following communications relating to the election of health officer, were read and ordered to be printed:
San Francisco, Dec. 17th, 1849.

To Commodore Thomas Ap. C. Jones, Commander-in-chief United States Naval Forces, Pacific Ocean:

Sir: It has been represented to the Ayuntamiento of San Francisco, by several physicians of high standing, that many diseases now prevalent have been introduced by passengers arriving from foreign ports. Under such circumstances, and especially to guard as far as possible by human meant, against the approach of that dreaded scourge, the cholera, the immediate appointment of a health officer, invested with authority to board every merchant vessel now in the harbor, or which may hereafter arrive, is deemed absolutely necessary. Such appointment will therefore be made, subject to the approval and confirmation of the executive of California.

Before proceeding, however, to pass the necessary ordinances, the committee on health and police have been instructed to invite your concurrence, and to solicit whatever aid and facilities you can afford in carrying a measure so salutary fully into effect.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
for the committee on health and police.

San Francisco, Dec. 29th, 1849.
Col. Wm. M. Steuart, chairman of the committee on Health,

Sir : Your letter of the 17th instant, "for the commit on health and police," has this day been received, and in answer thereto 1 hasten to say that 1 entirely concur in the views of the Ayuntamiento, as regards the importance and necessity of establishing sanitary laws for preventing as far as may be practicable, the introduction of contagious diseases, as well as to guard against their extent to different parts of the country. In your letter above referred to, you speak of the visits of the health officer to "merchant vessels." 1 beg leave to say that ships of war are in no country with which I am acquainted, exempted from such visits, nor from the rigid enforcement of the quarantine laws, until the health officer of the port is satisfied that there is no danger of contagion from such ship or vessel of war.

I shall take pleasure in aiding, as far as I can, the Ayuntamionto in its humane efforts to preserve health and avert the justly dreaded horrors of malignant disease, should cholera or the like break out in this crowded and illy accommodated community.

I am sir, with much respect, your obedient servant,
Commander-in-chief, Pacific Squadron.

Custom House, San Francisco, Dec. 19, 1849.
W. M. Steuart, Esq., on behalf of the Board of Health and Police for San Francisco :

Sir : I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th. In reply, permit me to say, that 1 will most cordially co-operate with you and the city authorities in the proposed measures for the protection and preservation of the health of the city. The health officer proposed to be appointed to visit vessels arriving in the bay, may at all times avail himself of the boat now used by the boarding officer of the customs, and instructions will be given to that effect. Should you prefer having a boat exclusively under your control, I will provide one suitable for that purpose, the crew to be shipped by the city authorities. The former, however, will be attended with no expense. Be assured that I shall take great pleasure in rendering any aid in my power, in furtherance of the laudable object you propose.   

Very respectfully,

[Communication to Dr. S. H. Gerry]
San Francisco, Dec. 22, 1849.

Dear Sir,— l have the honor to inform you of your election to the office of health officer for the port of San Francisco by the unanimous vote of the Ayuntamiento, at their meeting on the 21st instant.

Very respectfully, your ob't servant,
H. L. DODGE, Secy. of Ayuntamitnto.

[Communication from Dr. S. R. Gerry.]

To the Hon. the Town Council of San Francisco
Gentlemen,— having been informed of my appointment as health officer for the port of San Francisco, by your honorable body, 1 hereby accept the same, tendering you my sincere thanks for the confluence you have placed in me. I will endeavor to discharge the duties of the to the best of my ability.

Very respectfully, your ob't. servant,
S. R. GERRY, M. D.

Source: Daily Alta California, Volume 1, Number 13, 7 January 1850 — Correspondence and proceedings of the Town Council with regard to the Election of Health Officer for the Port of San Francisco. [ARTICLE]

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