Criminal Annals, Part 44 – The Placer Times: Imported Goods

Just beyond the discussion about the problem with fire in early California in the Wednesday, May 29, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times, there is a very small article pertaining to the newspaper itself. This may be the reason that the editor gave so much space to the story.

“Several hundred exchanges, received by the last mail from the States, were destroyed by the fire in our office on Sunday night. We intended to have taken a list of them, but shall now have to abide a second instalment. Letters, communications and other dispensations shared the same fate; indeed, save our bed, blankets and tables, nothing combustible escaped.”

With the continuing arrival of thousands of good seekers monthly, tons of goods had to be constantly brought in to supply their needs. Fresh produce was brought in from the Sandwich Islands (Hawai’i), Oregon and Mexico. Eggs came from the bird nests on the islands off the coast of San Francisco and oysters came from San Francisco Bay. Cattle were common everywhere, since the major trade between Mexican California and the United States had been hides and tallow.

An advertisement on page three of the same edition of the newspaper lists items available for sale and indicates that there was no shortage of alcohol, which may account for some of the problems that are occurring.

“BURNELL, STOUT & CO., Auctioneers, Commission and Wholesale Merchants, Have for sale at their stores on Front street, near M –
“300 sacks Mexican flour, 200 pieces red and green flannels, 50 pieces cassimeres and thin goods for linings, 800 doz. Scheidam [Dutch] gin, in jugs, 400 cases Scheidam gin in glass, 225 cases old Scotch whiskey, 25 cases liqueur gin, 100 cases superior Otard [French Cognac company] brandy, 50 doz. brandy, packed in casks, 40 cases Madeira wine, 20 baskets champagne wine, 25 bbls [barrels at about 31.5 gallons each for wine, 53 for whiskey] French brandy, 75 pipes [about 120 gallons in a pipe], half-pipes and bbls old Jamaican rum, 25 bbls pure St. Croix rum, 10 kegs pure St. Croix rum, 100 demijohns Aguadente [liquor made from cane sugar], 50,000 cigars, 20 sets single and double harness, 1000 rolls paper hangings, 5 cases elegant arm chairs, 50 casks [variable measurement] porter and ale, 25 bales salt fish, 20 cans spirits turpentine, 100 lbs pure white lead, 60,000 feet lumber, dressed and 10,000 feet scantling [miscellaneous dimension lumber].”
In the Friday, May 31, 1850 edition of the paper, amongst the many advertisements for goods, land, loans, offers to buy gold, Sheriff’s sales, ships and transportation, is found the following notice placed by the citizens of Pilot Hill.

“For the apprehension and detention of Charles C. Cooper, who, according to a coroner’s jury, inflicted a blow with a spade upon the person of John McAllister, which was the cause of said McAllister’s death in a few hours. The above reward will be paid for the arrest of said Charles C. Cooper. Said Cooper is about the middling size, has light hair, sandy whiskers, blue eyes, rather sharp features, and is about 27 or 28 years of age. He has also the marks of a bullet would under the right shoulder. The case is considered an aggravated one by the people of Pilot Hill. The above reward will be paid by the residents of Pilot Hill. Pilot Hill, May 28, 1850.”

A search of various history books from that era does not show anything more about this incident. There is a slight possibility that the Pilot Hill mentioned may be a mining camp that existed in Calaveras County.

On the following page is a very short note regarding Indian problems.

“FULL OF HORRORS. – The Transcript [“Sacramento Transcript” newspaper, (1850-1851)] yesterday had accounts of four Indian massacrers, and two bloody murders.”

The Monday, June 3 issue of the newspaper also has a story about Indian problems in the form of a letter to the editor.


“Strafford Bar, North Fork [American River – Placer County], May 25, 1850.

“On Saturday last I wrote you that the weather was very hot and river high. The past week has been much cooler, and the water has been falling since Sunday, and is now quite low, yet not sufficiently so as to allow the miners to go on with their work to any advantage.
“On Wednesday a party of men were out some five or six miles from the river in search of deer, when they suddenly came upon a body of Indians, 200 in number, they say. They made the best of their way back to camp, without being seen by the; and the next morning they, with some others, went in search, intending to give them battle. They spent most of the day without seeing any of them, and they separated. On their way home, five of them came upon a few Indians, and fired upon them before they were seen. The Indians ran, leaving five dead upon the field and one squaw, who was too much frightened to run, She, with a year old boy, were taken prisoners and brought into camp at about sundown. The squaw seemed quite contented with her condition, no doubt thinking it preferable to being shot, as her companions were. She is the worst looking specimen of human nature that I have seen yet – far worse that the same tribe in the southern mines – her hair filled with pitch and sand and nearly naked, covered only with a piece of blanket. The party who captured her removed her to their tent, fed her well and gave her a blanket. The next morning she asked if she might ‘vamos.’ They told her yes, and she backed her boy and made tracks over the hill in a very quiet, sober way, as if she had entirely overcome her fear of the white men. I fear there will be trouble yet in this quarter of a serious nature, for the Indians and the white man cannot well live together; they seem to be, at least in this part of the country, sworn foes, [and] kill each other wherever they meet. I suppose this will prove quite a long enough letter from this quarter. J.C.W.”

The newspapers often had correspondents that would, now and then, send stories like this one and sign them with either a “nom de plume” or only with initials. Some of these correspondents were well known to the readers, others were not.



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