Criminal Annals, Part 33 – The Placer Times: Lots Going On

Like the previous edition of the “Placer Times,” The April 26, 1850 edition devotes the front page to advertising. From there on it is quite full of news.

The second page is mostly a letter from newly elected Senator William M. Gwin and the text of the document submitted to Congress by he and the other newly elected representatives of the people of California, Senator John C. Fremont and Representatives, George W. Wright and Edward Gilbert. The document the four of them submitted demands and spells out the reasons for the immediate admission of California, in its whole, as a State. That time will come very soon.

Among the other news on page two are two short items regarding problems in the mining areas, one involving a robbery and the other relating to problems with the Indians.

“FROM MORMON ISLAND. – James O’Brien lately broke into the store of Mr. J. L. F. Warren, at Mormon Island, and was caught and whipped at Georgetown. On Monday he made a second attempt to rob the same place, was shot by a spring gun, and has since died. He said he was from Sydney.”

Note: A spring-gun is a gun, often a shotgun, rigged to fire when a string or other triggering device is tripped by contact of sufficient force to “spring” the trigger so that anyone stumbling over or treading on them would discharge it.

“DRY CREEK. – Indian disturbances in the quarter. They killed one Spaniard on Monday. Two Indians fell likewise in the engagement.”

Page three of the same edition has a story relating to additional problems among the miners and the Indians in a column found in most every edition entitled “MINING INTELLIGENCE.”

“A correspondent of the Transcript on the North Fork of the North Fork, Yuba river, gives some rather astonishing items. Flour, pork and mouldy biscuit $5 per pound – plenty of fresh and old snow, altogether about 30 feet deep – Indians stealing every thing and getting two or three of their rancherias burnt down in consequence, whereupon in revenge they murdered one of the boys and then the war commenced. Seven whites and seventy or eighty red skins are supposed to have passed out.”

Note: The “Sacramento Transcript” was “Published for Atlantic States and Oceanica.” according to its publisher, Fitch, Upman and Co. For this reason it was also known as the “Steamer Sacramento Transcript.”

Its first issue was on April 26, 1850 and in 1851 it was merged with the Placer Times and published in San Francisco as the “Placer Times and Transcript.” There it was published by G. K. Fitch and Co. “For circulation in the mines, Oregon, Atlantic states, Europe, and the Sandwich Islands, on the departure of each U.S. Mail steamer.”

Continuing on page three of this same edition of the Placer Times, under the heading “From San Francisco,” are two articles regarding attempted robberies at local hotels.

“ROBBERY – A splendid scheme to rob several trunks at the St. Francis was last night put in execution, but happily proved nearly unsuccessful. The trunks in several rooms were subjected to investigation, but some $50 were the entire spoils of the inspectors.”

“ANOTHER – A gentleman passenger by the Panama [a new steamship running between the Isthmus of Panama and San Francisco] had his trunks broken open yesterday morning at Ford’s Hotel, on Webb street, though not to his detriment, as the thief ransacked in vain for the contained treasure, in the shape of $1,800 in gold, which was securely enclosed in layers of cloth, thus preventing all noise. The rogue will doubtless feel as cheap on reading of his near escape from theft, as the gentleman felt relieved on reading of the safety of the cash.”
Adjacent to this story is another regarding a disagreement over a gambling game.

“NEW WEAPONS OF PERSONAL DEFENCE. – Another one of those little affairs came off on Tuesday, at the Humboldt. A strapping Missourian couldn’t agree with the dealer about the payment of a monte stake [Three Card Monte was looked on by many as more of a swindle than a game of chance]. Words and threats ensued, and a pistol was presented, when the tall man encountered a volley of hard dollars in his face, which served to satisfy him in the way of ‘pay outs’ for the night as he was not seen to ‘come down’ any more.”

Approximately one-third of page four of this edition is devoted to new legislation which will become commonly known as the “Foreign Miner’s Tax.” The editor of this paper and the “Alta California,” are both having difficulty with it.

The act is very lengthy and, according to its preamble, seems to be based on the following: a large portion of the foreign miners are “of desperate character,” are “possessing themselves of the most choice places for gold digging,” are “carrying daily to foreign ports immense treasure, which is rightfully the property equally of the American citizen,” that “frequent conflicts and bloodshed occur between such foreigners and out own citizens, to the disturbance of good order and the security of the public” and that “in the absence of a law of Congress, it is an inalienable right in the citizens of this State, to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to acquire possess, and protect property, and to pursue and obtain safety and happiness.”

The editor of the Placer Times opens his publishing of this new law with the following:

“THE GOLD MINES. The Hon. Mr. Green introduced in the Senate, a bill for the better regulation of the mines and the government of foreign miners, which has passed both branches of the legislature, and received the approval of the Governor. Being of such general interest, we publish it entire. It is to be hoped that some definite action of Congress on the subject at an early period, may supersede the necessity of carrying out the provisions of this law, which threatens to be attended with serious difficulty. The very great urgency which exists, for the speedy application of all our resources to the purpose of raising revenue for the expenses of government, may have induced too precipitate action. In the Alta California the following remarks are added:

‘We question very much whether the State Legislature has any right to pass any such act and are impressed with the belief that riot and bloodshed, instead of being prevented, will ensue from any attempt to enforce it. In many instances it will be merely legalizing the most desperate attacks upon portions of the foreign population, and although a small amount of revenue may probably be derived from this source, it will not be sufficient to counterbalance the many bad effects which will arise from the operation of the act.’”


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