Criminal Annals, Part 22 – The Placer Times: Rumors of War?

vol1no37p1 head 1 26The January 26, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times” is a newspaper that shows even in those days, there were what are now commonly known as “slow news days.” It wasn’t that nothing was happening, it usually meant that the steamers from San Francisco didn’t bring the newspapers that arrived with the ships from ports on the East Coast, the source for much of the front page news. It did give the Placer Times the opportunity to print small stories that might not have otherwise made the paper.

A story on page two is about a very minor situation between England and the United States that doesn’t often show up in history books, for probably good reason.

“Rumors of War. – A great number of folks seem to think that we are to have war with England very shortly, the trouble having originated out of the Nicaragua question. England, it appears, made a demand for that portion of the Nicaragua coast embracing the mouth of the river San Juan, and which is included in the treaty with the American citizens, and a point at which a ship canal is to be commenced. Without much ado, the United States Minister took possession of the ground claimed by our citizens, and we have news also that the United States flag had since been hauled down by the British squadron off the coast. We have rumor likewise that the steamer California, which sailed from San Francisco on the 15th, has been detained by order of the Commodore at this station, and that the Panama, which arrived on Monday last, would also be detained. The whole business seems to be too much of a gaseous nature to command any serious consideration.”

Below that is a story regarding Eliza Wood Farnham, a notable lady who came to California and in 1856 wrote a book titled “California, In-doors and Out; or How We Farm, Mine and Live Generally in the Golden State.” Her story is further told in a book by the local author JoAnn Levy, titled “Unsettling the West, Eliza Farnham and Georgiana Bruce Kirby in Frontier California.” Farnham’s story is fascinating as is noted in the following which mentions only one of the problems she had on her trip to California.

“Bad Usage. – Mrs. Farnham brought a suit against Capt. Windsor, of the ship Angelique, for a breach of contract to convey her and two children from New York to San Francisco, and for unkind treatment generally, as well as for carrying her children away and leaving her at Valparaiso. We have not yet heard the result of the case, but hope the captain will be made to suffer for his ungentlemanly contact.”
Following that is a story regarding two men in the town of Fremont who had a disagreement:

“Fatal Affray. – We learn that two men at Fremont had a quarrel about some hay last week, and before the affray was over one of the shot the other, who died instantly. The deceased’s name is Bigelow. We are without farther particulars.”

The February 2, 1850 edition of the Placer Times has the following four stories in a row on page 2. The first is regarding some gentlemen in San Francisco who probably have no friends left; the second is about some very clever thieves who figured out how to steal gold dust without opening the container; the third about some serious problems in Marysville and the last regarding a miner’s bad luck. One might immediately question if the offer of a reward of $500 for the return of $4,900 in gold dust would be sufficient, but in that time in California a significant majority of people were very honest and even larger amounts of lost gold dust were found and returned to the proper owner.

“Absconded. – We learn from the Alta California that Russell and Myers, late proprietors of the Ward House, San Francisco, absconded last week, leaving a large amount of debts unpaid. Myers also appropriated to his own use upward of a thousand dollars of the fund for the relief of the sick and poor of the town, it having been entrusted to him as Treasurer of the Relief Association. The Association has offered a reward of $1000 for his arrest; and if he should be caught, we hope he will be made to work the balance of his days, with ‘ball and chain,’ in those awfully muddy streets, which would be too mild a sentence for such a villainous robbery.”

“Stealing Gold Dust. – On opening two boxes of gold dust, one at Philadelphia marked John DeWitt & Co. New York, and the other at Baltimore marked T. D. & S., shipped from San Francisco in November last, it was found that nearly 600 ounces of the dust had been abstracted, by boring the wood of the boxes. A reward of $4,000 is offered for the recovery of the dust and the apprehension and conviction of the thief.”

“Robberies. – It will be seen by some proceedings in to-day’s paper that a number of men have been found guilty of stealing in and about Marysville. We hope the thieving scoundrels about our town will be taken care of shortly; if they are not, they will probably have some cold lead introduced into their rascally carcases.”

“Unlucky. – A man by the name of Parker, who came down in the steamer Lawrence from the Yuba, as he was getting off the boat, dropped a tin box, containing $4,900 in dust, into the river. A reward of $500 has been offered for its recovery.”


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