Criminal Annals, Part 20 – The Placer Times: The Disturbance at the Mines

vol1no36p1 head 1 19There was no January 12, 1850 issue of the “Placer Times,” due to the major flooding in Sacramento. The January 19, 1850 issue devotes about one-half of the front page to a story titled, “The Disturbance at the Mines.” Although this article refers to an occurrence in the “Southern Mines,” similar problems are occurring throughout the mining area.

“The Disturbance at the Mines. We copy the following account of the disturbance in the San Joaquin Valley from the correspondence of the “Alta California.” [The major San Francisco newspaper]

“Stockton, December 31, 1849. It appears that a number of American had, at the commencement of the rainy season, selected a place on the Calaveras River, where they erected log cabins, and made preparations to winter. This was a place in which “dry blowing” for gold was carried on, last summer by Chileans or other foreigners. Soon after the Americans settled, a number of Chileans arrived, and went to work in the neighborhood; and shortly afterwards, a public meeting was held by the Americans, and a Judge and Military Captain were elected. Notice was then given to all who were not American citizens, to leave within fifteen days. A body of Chileans still remained at their old place, about eight miles from the ‘Iowa Log Cabins,’ (the American Camp) and abused and drove off three or four Americans, who attempted to dig in the neighborhood. At the expiration of the time specified for the Chileans to leave, they were brought before the Judge, (Collier,) and fined one ounce each, and notified to leave by the 25th inst. Little notice was taken of them down to the 25th inst. as it was supposed they would leave. At this time but few of them remained, and those were apparently making preparations to move. On the night of the 27th instant, at about 8 o’clock, a descent was made upon the ‘Iowa Log Cabins’ by about 80 armed Chileans, who went from cabin to cabin, seizing the inmates, most of whom were in bed, and binding them with ropes, using the most abusive language, and threatening to shoot them, if they resisted or made the least noise. It should be remarked that none of the Chileans spoke in English, nor did they show any authority for the arrest of the Americans. Having bound the inmates of the ‘Iowa Log Cabins,’ and tied some of them to trees, they left them under guard, and proceeded to some other cabins and tents in the neighborhood. In one of these cabins there was a light, and some five or six persons playing cards. This cabin they charged upon, broke open the door, and attacked the inmates with pistols, guns and knives, killing two Americans, one of the own party, and wounding four others. The two men who were killed were aged, one of them leaving a wife and ten children in the States, and the other a wife and five children. I have been unable to ascertain their names in full. One of them is called Starr, originally from New York, but lately from Texas. The Chileans then bound with ropes all the Americans in this camp, even those who were wounded and hurried them off – some without blankets or even coats – and joining the others, whom they had previously taken, marched the whole sixteen in number, a distance of eight miles on the road toward Stanislaus, to the tent of an Alcalde [Justice of the Peace] named Scullion, who they said, would accompany them to Stockton. This Alcalde refused to see them, or to have any thing to do with them; and after a delay of about an hour, which was spent in endeavoring to hunt up the Alcalde, they marched back to their own camp, a distance of fifteen miles. In passing an American tent, they threatened to shoot the first man who uttered a word. At about 7 or 8 o’clock next morning, they arrived at the Six-Mile Tent, ten miles this side of the Double Springs. Here the Chileans had breakfast, and the Americans got a little cold coffee only. They then marched twelve miles farther toward Stockton, and at the tent, late Lemons’, had a biscuit each and some cheese. Here they heard that friends were coming to rescue them. Further on the road, at about three o’clock, an American rode by with a gun, who remarked ‘take care of yourself, boys.’ None of the Chileans appeared to understand English, and only one of the American understood Spanish; but the former suspected something and leaving the road to Stockton, they marched and countermarched, through mud and water, thickets and plains, over mountains and gulches, until ten o’clock at night, when, completely exhausted from cold, hunger and fatigue, they rested for two hours. During this time some of the Americans untied their arms, and some of the Chileans, it was afterwards found out, had either given out or vamosed. It was evident that the greasers had suffered more from the march than their prisoners, and being somewhat afraid of an attempt at rescue, they were willing to come to an understanding with the Americans, and agreed to loosen their arms, and proceed by the regular road to Stockton, provided they would intercede for them in case of an attempt at rescue by other Americans.

“They struck the road at a tent, about ten miles from Stockton, at daybreak. It so happened that this tent was full of Americans who were soon up in arms, and arrested the Chileans. The latter, whose numbers had been reduced to eleven, were then tied and had proceeded a short distance on the road towards Stockton, when a number of Americans from the Calaveras arrived and took them from the former prisoners, determined on marching them back to the ‘Iowa Log Cabins.’ The Americans who had been taken prisoners arrived in Stockton day before yesterday, and gave themselves up to the authorities. The latter informed them that they did not know whether they were the persons for whose arrest they had issued a writ; for it appears that the Judge of First Instance and Prefect of this place had issued a writ of arrest for the Judge (Collier) and other Americans who had warned off and extorted money from the Chileans, the latter having lodged a complaint against the former, accusing them of robbery, &c. [archaic ‘etc.’] It appears that the authorities here endeavored to get American to execute the writ, but failing in the endeavor, it fell into the hands of Chileans, who, I must say, relied from the beginning, upon others for assistance.

“It was rumored in town yesterday evening that the eleven Chilean prisoners, unable from exhaustion to proceed to the Calaveras, were hung upon the road. I give this as a rumor. It is thought that the Chileans who remain on the Calaveras will fare badly.”

MORE ON THIS STORY IN PART 21

 

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