Criminal Annals, Part 12: The Placer Times – Foreigners

vol1no10p1aFollowing the June 30, 1849 article in the “Placer Times” regarding a group calling themselves the “Americans” forcing out Spanish speaking miners, we find a secondary article in the July 7, 1849 edition.

“The Mines – No important intelligence from the mine since our last. The movement to drive away foreigners from the Placer has been successful, so far as the region is concerned beyond the Mills. Already some scores of Mexicans and Chilians [sic] have re-crossed the river, and at the latest accounts were quietly encamped at Coloma. We have understood that the gold had been taken away from some of the foreigners before they left the mines, but we very much doubt the rumor. Unless great caution should be exercised, naturalized American citizens will suffer from this rigorous movement, hence it is to be hoped the United States authorities will take some immediate steps to investigate the affair.

“Since the above was in type we have seen several Spaniards from the mines who complain bitterly of the summary manner with which they were treated by the Americans and others. Only three or four hours’ notice were allowed them to depart accompanied with the threat that in case of noncompliance their tents and all their effects would be destroyed.”
On July 21, 1849 the Placer Times printed this somewhat “tongue-in-cheek” appeal to the citizenry regarding the discharge of firearms:

“Prompt measures should be taken to stop the discharging of fire-arms in our midst. – Balls hitting those ‘brave old oaks’ glance in every direction: a man was killed this other day by this process. People come here ‘loaded’ with revolvers and don’t seem satisfied until they shoot somebody, somehow.”

This was followed, in a later edition with the following:

“Another man came within six inches of being shot yesterday. Blaze away, ye miserable triflers with human life! Startle the sick and dying, it may be your turn to experience this annoyance anon.”

The lack of a strong government in California was not going unnoticed by those who had been put in charge. Brevet Major General Bennett C. Riley (1790 – 1853), the seventh and last military governor of Upper California, issued a directive to establish a civilian government on June 3, 1849. The July 28, 1849 edition of the Placer Times indicates that in response to this directive there was a mass meeting in Sacramento on July 5, 1949, where a committee was formed to create precincts for the Sacramento region and nominate candidates to a constitutional convention in Monterey, which would commence on September 1, 1849. The following gentlemen were nominated: John Bidwell, Capt. Shannon, Jacob R. Snyder, M.M. McCarver, John Sutter, L. W. Hastings, W. S. Sherwood, C.E. Pickett, John McDougal and John S. Fowler. the committee also established polling places, one of which was Coloma.

In the July 28 edition of the Placer Times is the following front page story:

“At a meeting of the citizens of Coloma and vicinity, held on Wednesday, the 18th July at the residence of Dr. Dye, for the purpose of taking into consideration the nominations made by the mass meeting held in Sacramento city on the 5th inst., the following business was transacted:
“On motion, Mr. Dye was called to the chair and L. W. Hastings appointed secretary.

“The chair not being fully advised as to the object of the meeting, called upon Mr. Shannon, who stated the object of the meeting as above, and read the proceedings of the mass meeting in Sacramento city; after which he addressed the meeting at some length, urging the necessity of extending further notice to the citizens at the different ‘diggings’ in this vicinity, for the election of local officers of this precinct, such as 1st and 2d alcalde (Justice of the Peace), sheriff, etc.

“On motion, a committee of five, consisting of Messrs. Shannon, Gordon, Bennett, Anthony and Monroe was appointed to draw up and present resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting, and to nominate local officers for this precinct.
“This committee, having retired a few minutes, reported the following resolutions and suggestions:

“1. Resolved, That we approve of the nominations of delegates, made by the mass meeting of Sacrament city, and that we approve of the general action of that meeting; but that we set more in accordance with the Proclamation of Governor Riley.

“2. Resolved, That from the want of all legal authority, it becomes necessary to elect, on the 1st of August next, the local officers for this precinct, such as the 1st and 2d alcalde, or justice of the peace, one sheriff as well as one judge of the superior court, for the northern district – Your committee respectfully suggest the names of L. W. Hastings for the office of 1st alcalde, that of Elisha Packwood for 2d alcalde, and that of A. J. More for the office of sub prefect or sheriff.

“And your committee further suggest that it be submitted to this meeting, whether the present corresponding committee shall be continued as such.

“On motion, the report of the committee was unanimously adopted.

“L. W. Hastings having stated his objections to accepting the nomination as 1st alcalde, and having proposed to be excused by the meeting, whereupon, Capt. W. E. Shannon was nominated for the office of 1st alcalde.

“On motion, the corresponding committed appointed for this precinct, by the mass meeting of Sacramento city, was continued as such.

“On motion, the corresponding committee was instructed to use their utmost endeavor to have the coming election in August next conducted conformably to the Proclamation of Gov. Riley.

“When, on motion, the meeting adjourned.

“Clarkson Dye, Chairman, L. W. Hastings, secretary. Coloma, July 20th, 1849.”

Note: L. W. Hastings is the same Lansford W. Hastings, an attorney, who arrived in Oregon in 1842 and wrote “The Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California.” He later encouraged wagon trains to take his “Hastings Cut-off” as a shorter route to California. The Donner party was one group that followed his advice.

TO BE CONTINUED

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