Originally published as “The Lonesome Vigilante” in an October 1936 edition of Esquire magazine, “The Vigilante” later became the eighth story in Steinbeck's short story collection entitled The Long Valley, which appeared two years later in 1938. Most critics associate the tale with an actual event, a lynching which took place in San Jose, California on November 16, 1933 when two men (John Holmes and Thomas Thurmond) were forcibly dragged from their jail cells and were hung in a public park. Holmes and Thurmond had been accused of killing and mutilating young Brooke Harte, the son of a local businessman, whose body was found in San Francisco Bay after a ransom plan for his safe return failed.
Meyer, Michael J.. "“The Vigilante”". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 16 January 2009
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=25831, accessed 21 February 2017.]