In the mid-1880s, California had a significant population of itinerant farm laborers drawn from the population of recent immigrants (Chinese and European), from unemployed urban laborers, and from farmers who had lost their lands to bankruptcy and drought. As the railroad hub of an agricultural community, Pleasanton saw its share of transients come through town--and not everyone trusted them, certainly not the editors of the Pleasanton Star:
A SOCIAL CRISIS
There is no doubt but that we are on the verge of a crisis, that will require the united efforts of our citizens, and law to keep within bounds. Within ten days the warehouses at Niles and Milpitas have been burned down by tramps. About the same time an organized attempt was made to fire San Jose. We have four warehouses in Pleasanton either of which is liable to be fired any night. We have no protection of any kind. All four could be set on fire at the same time. Thousands of dollars worth of property is thus at the mercy of the fire fiends. That there is an organized band of those fellows there is no doubt. If caught the red tape of the law will never punish them; or will be so slow about it that the crime will be forgotten ere the wretches are brought to justice. Under such circumstances we believe if these human vampires were caught at their devilish work, Judge Lynch should speedily dispose of them. Hanging is too good for such wretches. [6/6/1885]
In the San Jose incident mentioned, the Pacific Rural Press of June 13 noted that
The wretched incendiary captured at San Jose has confessed the kindling of the then in that vicinity upon which we commented last week. He states that his motive was just that which we surmised would actuate such deeds, and that is an outcast's discontent, wrought to desperation by the communistic oratory of a demagogue.
It is not clear whether the arsonist in the San Jose case was ever linked to an organized band of anarchists threatening the property-holders of the Santa Clara and Amador-Livermore Valley. Readers with further information are invited to reveal their findings in the comments.