Criminal Annals, Part 10: The Placer Times – Inhuman Murder

vol1no02p1aSince the days of the Gold Rush the English language and the proper spelling of words has changed. In order to keep everything as original as possible, the words are being retained in these articles. If a word has a spelling different from today, the note [sic], Latin for “thus,” “so,” or “just as that, ” has been placed following the word to indicate that an incorrect or unusual spelling has been reproduced verbatim from the quoted original and is not a transcription error.

Continuing through the issues of the “Placer Times,” Sacramento’s first newspaper, we find the following regarding a serious crime in the Coloma area:

“Placer Times, May 5, 1849

“Inhuman Murder – A man named Doyle was murdered near the Columa [sic] mines a few weeks since, and nothing has been revealed as to the circumstances under which, or by whom, the deed was committed. His body was found secreted by the wayside, shockingly disfigured, his heart taken out, and skull fractured in several places. The prevailing impression among the miners of Columa [sic] appeared to be that this murder had been committed by white men, and every item of evidence seemed to justify this conclusion. Doyle had with him, when last seen, about $2000 of which his person was found plundered, and it it supposed the manner of death, and gross mutilation of the remains, had been resorted to to convey the impression that Indians had committed the deed. The black-hearted fiends who, from beneath a white skin, boast a mental superiority, and claim the sphere of our race their daily walk.”

Later in the same issue we find an article regarding something that was bound to happen, the creation of fake gold:
“Imitation Gold – beware of fraud! – The Alta California of April 19 contains the following extract of a letter from one of the principle houses in the city of Mexico.

“‘We have just been made acquainted by attaches to two of the embassies to this government, that they had recently received positive information, that from several ports in the United States packages of worthless metal, worked to imitate the gold found in the Placer of Alta California, had been shipped for the ports on that coast; we therefore advise you to exercise great caution in your future purchase of this kind of bullion.’”

“In addition to which we publish from the N. Y. Tribune of February 1, as follows – ‘We were shown a sample of the prepared spelter – the villainous counterfeit got up to cheat the greedy adventurer. It is in small grains and pieces resembling scales, mixed with black sand, and would readily be taken by the inexperienced, for the genuine metal. When mixed with a proportion of the true gold washings, it would e difficult to discover the cheat. We are told that a manufacturer in this city has received an order for 700 lbs. of this worthless compound, for the San Francisco market.”

In the advertising and public notice of this same issue is found first a “Notice to Squatters” by John Sutter, Jr. describing his extensive holdings and indicating that he will not allow trespassers on his land, a significant problem faced by all of the land owners that held property prior to the discovery of gold. A column later is also the following, which indicates another common problem in California at the time:
“200 Dollars Reward.

“Stolen on Monday night last, from before the office of the undersigned in Sutter’s Fort, two saddle horses, the one a sorrel and the other a light yellow color; both bearing the well known iron of the subscriber. The above reward will be paid, upon application, to any person who will give such information as will lead to their recovery, and the apprehension of the thief or thieves. J. A. Sutter, Sacramento City, Apr. 20, 1849.”
The next issue of the Placer Times, dated May 12, 1849, contains the complete letter by William Daylor regarding the killing of the Native Americans that was in the previous issue. Under the title “Correct dead of the massacre of the Indians on the Cosumne [sic] river,” it states that according to Mr. Daylor, he buried 16 Native American bodies, Mr. Rhodes buried another two and that the “party of armed white men” had killed another 27 along the way to Daylor’s place. Still missing are the women and children taken prisoner.

The May 19, 1849 issue of the Placer Times indicates that the government has a concern about the problems in California and is bringing in soldiers, but with some unique concerns.

“Troops for this valley – We understand that three companies of U.S. troops have been ordered to this section, and are now on their way here. Where they are to be stationed we are not advised, probably in or near the principal gold washings. The danger of desertion is not so great here as in the south we are inclined to think. Between this place and the various washings the country is much traveled and it would be difficult for a deserter to elude observation, and if proper measures are resorted to, subsequent detection. We apprehend no great difficulty in tracing out a runaway should he seek shelter in any of the washings between which and this place communication every day is held, and it is not probable he would prefer a mountain retreat and the vicinity of the hostile Indians. Perhaps to post them at the washings would do away with all fears on the subject of desertion.”

An entry in the advertisement and public notice section of the same issue includes a notice showing that people are becoming extremely concerned about the safety of their mining locations and are letting the public know that they will not allow trespassing:

“Notice is hereby given that he residents at the junction of the North and South Forks having formed themselves into a company for the purpose of daming [sic] and turning the river from its original bed, this is to caution all persons from trespassing upon their claim, as they are determined to defend it with their lives.

“By order of the company, Benjamin I. Fairfield, Pres., G. W. Huff, Secretary. May 10th, 1849.

TO BE CONTINUED

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