Criminal Annals, Part 18 – The Placer Times: California has a Constitution

vol1no28p1 head 11 17For most of the month of November, 1849, the “Placer Times” published the results of the recent election.

The Constitution for the State of California was approved overwhelmingly, Peter H. Burnett was elected Governor (one of his famous opponents, John Sutter would finish way behind him), John McDougal was elected Lieutenant Governor and various gentlemen were elected to serve in the California State Legislature. A short while later the when the legislature met, they would select to serve in the U.S. Senate, William M. Gwinn and John C. Fremont.

Upon California becoming a state in September of 1850, Mr. Burnett would step down and McDougal would become governor, Mr. Burnett having some differences of opinion with some parts of the new Constitution.

At the same time the paper would also publish the newly enacted ordinances for the City of Sacramento, most of which were designed to raise monies to operate the government.

With it being a very wet winter, most of the mining operations in the foothills have ceased, thus crime has dropped there. However, the City of Sacramento, problems still continue.

The November 17, 1849 issue of the Placer Times has a story regarding theft of goods which were being unloaded in large quantity along the banks of the Sacramento River by the many boats making the run from San Francisco to the new city.

“Thieves. — There has be some rather large operations in the thieving line during the past week. Goods to a large amount have been missed from various places in town, and no clue to them could be obtained until two or three evenings since, when Mr. Stevens, the auctioneer, discovered a couple of fellows carrying off a keg of butter. Mr. S. arrested the gentlemen in their operations, when upon investigation, the principal operator proved to be a man calling himself James Collins, from Missouri, who has made it his business to employ persons to remove goods from one part of the city to another, and selling them at somewhat reduced prices. Subsequently, other persons have become convinced that the same individual had ordered a lot of their goods to be taken away, and entered a complaint accordingly. Collins was immediately arrested and confined to the hold of a vessel, but soon got bail in a trifling amount, and was permitted to ‘go his way rejoicing,’ The firm entering the complaint had to pay sixteen dollars in the way of a fee, have lost some hundreds of dollars in goods, and now have the satisfaction of knowing that the thief is prepared to renew operations on the first fine evening. Now we undertake to say, if we have been correctly informed, that there is a screw loose somewhere in this business, and we advise our citizens to keep an eye on this Mr. Collins, who has been flourishing about the city sometime, and will probably commence business again in a few days.

“Another scoundrel undertook to get Dr. Crane’s change box the other night, by cutting through the canvass and reaching to the place where it was usually kept. Luckily for the Doctor, the box had been removed to a different locality, hence the gentleman made nothing by taking the ‘bearings’ in the day time.

“We can conceive of no excuse for stealing in this country, where any man, by a slight effort can obtain a competence, and we trust the next fellow that is caught pilfering will be made an example of, either by the authorities or the citizens themselves.”

In the November 24, 1849 issue of the Placer Times there is a story regarding more thieving and two about people taking justice into their own hands. It is interesting to note in the first story that the newspaper, which has been preaching against firearms for some time, has somewhat changed its opinion.

“More Thieving. — The store of R. J. Watson on J Street [Sacramento], was entered a few nights since and the safe taken as far as the door before the burglars were discovered. Of course they immediately fled, and before a shot could be had at them, were out of harm’s way. It is now a ‘fixed fact’ that we have a gang of villains among us who intend to make robbery their business, and we advise every one to have his revolver under his pillow, and to use it whenever certain emergencies exist.”

The second story involves some kind of a gambling misunderstanding:

“Affray. — A quarrel took place the other evening between two men named Cheeks and Lundy, in consequence of some misunderstanding in regard to a fiscal operation performed on a monte [a popular gambling game at the time] table. During the first part of the rencontre Lundy fired two shots at Cheeks, one taking effect in the hand and the other in the foot. Although there were thirty or forty persons in the room, no one else was injured by the shots discharged. Notwithstanding the wounds he had received, Cheeks challenged Lundy to fight him on the spot, when a ring was made, and the two gentlemen ’went in’ on scientific principles. We understand that Lundy was severely punished so much so that he has not been able to get about much since.”

Finally, a thief meets his match:

“Served him Right. — A fellow who has been vagabonding about town for some time, occasionally helping himself to whatever might suit his fancy from goods and chattels belonging to others, was caught on Thursday appropriating a buffalo robe to his own use. Mr. Reynolds caught him soon afterward and gave him an elaborate and luxurious bath in a mud-hole opposite our office. The thief will undoubtedly remember the circumstance some days, if not longer.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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