Criminal Annals, Part 36 – The Placer Times: Unique or Improbable?

Continuing with the May 3, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times,” on page three there is a short series of articles which were obviously picked up from other newspapers. Although they are really not a part of any criminal activity, they are a bit “unique” and, in some cases, maybe even improbable.

“The schr. [schooner] Enterprise, Capt. Vandyke, cleared at New Orleans on the 20th Feb. for San Francisco. She is only 5 and 62-100 tons burden and carries seven men. The E. will proceed to Chagres [Atlantic Panama port], from which place she will be hauled across the Isthmus, launched in the Pacific and pursue her voyage.”

“The schr. Teolinda left Panama 4th December for this port, having been purchased there by a company, at a cost of $12,000. After a four month’s cruize [archaic], she put into San Diego in distress, and was sold there for the sum of $450. Two of the passengers have arrived at this port. [Alt. Cal. 27th”

“A balloon to carry three thousand people is said to be in process of erection in Paris, and to be propelled on the bird-wing principle.”

“It is stated that Mr. Fessenden, of Boston, has invented a pocket-filter, by means of which the traveler may suck up pure water from the ponds and streams, or even the puddles, which he may encounter on his way.”

Unfortunately, there are no existing copies of the Monday, May 6, 1850 edition of the Placer Times available, so continuing on to the May 8 edition, on page three are found two stories regarding crime in the Sacramento area.

“BOLD ROBBERIES. – On Monday afternoon several of the lodging rooms over the auction store of J. B. Starr & Co. were opened by some thieving rascals, who broke into a number of trunks and carried off all their valuable contents. The same night, a trunk was broken open in one of the rooms, but the thief was not lucky enough to find the ore in it, before (for some reason best know to himself) he vamosed. We have frequently cautioned the public against the depredations of these scoundrels, as they become more numerous it is requisite to keep one’s eye peeled all the time. There are two ore three genteel swindlers operating about town, whose names we shall publish the moment we are a little better satisfied of their intentions.

“STILL ANOTHER. – The third victim to the bogus operations presented himself yesterday. – Two hundred and twenty-four dollars was the amount of his misplaced confidence.”
In the next column is another mention of problems between the Indians and the miners.

“INDIAN OUTRAGE. – We have learned from a letter dated near Barnes’ Bar, on the North Fork [American River], some further particulars of the death of Mr. Joseph G. Stone. He was conversing with two other men beside a camp fire, in from of Mr. Richard Smythe’s tent, when he was instantly killed by two arrows piercing his heart. The Indians fled immediately down the river to within half a mile of the Oregon Bar, where they stole a quantity of provisions, and shot a man from the west – one arrow entering the calf of his right leg and the other his left thigh; not dangerously, however. They committed other depredations on their way. After the funeral of Mr. Stone a party of forty-five put off after the Indians, but we are not advised of their success. Mr. Stone is supposed to be from Cambridge, near Boston, and it is the desire of his friends that this intelligence may reach his family.”

At the bottom of page four of the same edition are two lines of interest to single men in California:

“Woo gently. It is not fashionable for
young ladies to take ardent spirits.”

In the May 8 and May 10 editions of the newspaper are two notices of stolen property.
“ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD. Lost or stolen on the 24th ult., from the Steamer Senator, a russet leather travelling trunk containing a gold watch, jewelry, two Chinese shawls, a quantity of lady’s wearing apparel, &c. The above reward will be paid on delivery of the trunk and contents to Mr. McKnight at the Sutter House.”

“$50 REWARD. Stolen from the steamer Senator on Wednesday morning, May 8, a large black leather Trunk, containing gentlemen and ladies’ wearing apparel. The trunk had no mark upon it. The above reward will be paid by returning it to HENRY B. LYMAN, at the Mansion House.”

At this point in time, ships are arriving in San Francisco by the dozens each day, carrying supplies and a significant amount of lumber, bricks and other building supplies. Many of these are from ports in Maine and Massachusetts and have travelled for around six months to reach California. Since they also bring the newspapers the Placer Times is very full of east coast news and a minimum amount of local news.
Continually advertised on the front page of each edition are opportunities to buy shares in wonderfully described new cities that have been layed out. They include: Plumas City “10 miles above Nicolaus and 5 from Elizaville on high ground above the Feather River,” Featherton City “15 to 20 miles above Marysville” and El Dorado City, which is apparently also near Marysville.

Like many towns of that era, it appears that all of them flourished for a short time and then vanished, probably with the investor’s money.
The May 13 edition has a small article on page two regarding the problems of leaving money lying around.

“POCKETS. – Two gentlemen were relieved of their funds on Friday night, at the Sutter House. The amount was but $200, but enough to caution them and others against leaving money about on chairs, and in other exposed situations, depending upon the poor security of a lock and key. A noted hotel thief is in town, known and watched.”


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