Tucked away in a small park behind a golf course are two pillars marked with the names “Broderick” and “Terry.” The pillars are exactly 10 paces apart and stand atop the site of one of the final legally sanctioned duels on American soil, often called the the “last notable American duel.”
The Broderick-Terry duel took place on September 13, 1859, and involved United States Senator David C. Broderick of California and ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California David S. Terry. Both men identified as members of the Democratic Party and were once friends and allies in politics.
But disagreements over the topic of slavery (Terry being pro-slavery and Broderick being against it) drove a wedge between the two men. Political and personal tensions continued mounting, ultimately culminating in Terry challenging Broderick to a duel.
After police thwarted their first attempt to duel, they rescheduled the face-off and decided to hold it in a more secluded spot. During the course of the duel Terry seriously wounded Broderick, who succumbed to his injuries and died three days later. The slain Broderick then became a martyr for the anti-slavery movement of the era.
On June 1st, 1932, the markers were erected in Daly City as a registered California landmark. There’s also a directional marker pointing visitors to the actual site of the ravine where the duel took place and a plaque briefly explaining the significance of the event.
On February 22, 1917, the Native Sons of the Golden West erected two granite shafts on the spots where the combatants stood, and a bronze plaque commemorating the duel and explaining the significance of the event. On June 1, 1932, the site was registered as California Historical Landmark. Sometime in the years since, the Native Sons’ plaque has been lost, but in 1949 a California Historical Landmark plaque was dedicated in its stead. There is also directional marker pointing visitors to the site.
Visitors are welcome to visit the duel site. Many have been known to conduct modern-day duels of their own with nerf guns.
Know Before You Go
The entrance to the duel site is located in a small parking lot near a clutch of private residences. Visitors should be respectful of those that live in the area. A small lawn area contains a few picnic tables and an obelisk marker pointing visitors farther into the park towards the duel markers.
The site can be visited most days of the year but be aware of the wildlife in the area, coyotes can sometimes be seen in the park so it may be best to visit in a group.
Nerf guns are welcome, but please pay attention to where the darts end up as they may be easily lost in the foliage that grows around the monuments (you may even come home with a few extras in different colors lost by past duelers!).