Criminal Annals, Part 50 – White Rock Jack

Still continuing with excerpts from Paolo Sioli’s 1883 “Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County, California with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men & Pioneers,” under the heading “Criminal Annals,” we find three stories about a fairly famous scoundrel, White Rock Jack.


“Joseph F. Rowland, a Frenchman, about 45 years of age, and a miner by occupation, was found dead in the bed of Weber creek, one-half mile above Webertown [also known as Weberville and located between Placerville and Diamond Springs], and two hundred yards below his cabin, on the morning of January 16, 1868. He had been dead evidently several days, and had, no doubt, been murdered with some sharp instrument, as his skull was found fractured in several places; this, with other accompanying circumstances, led the Sheriff to the conclusion that the murder had been committed by Indians, and Under-Sheriff [James B.] Hume and [Deputy John] Cartheche were sent out to arrest a lame Indian, who was able to talk English, and was supposed to know something about the affair. While in search of him, passing along a trail between the American river and the main road, in the vicinity of the Nine Mile House [east of Camino], they suddenly rode up on to three Indians, armed with rifles, who, as, soon as they saw themselves discovered, leveled their rifles cocked at the officers. The recognition was so unexpected that the latter had no chance to draw their revolvers from underneath their overcoats and gumcoats [raincoats], which were buttoned all up, as it was exceedingly cold. They consequently remained stationary on their horses, as it would have been certain death to attack the Indians, having neither shotgun nor rifles with them, and three well armed Indians but a few feet from them. The latter meanwhile backed off with their rifles leveled at the officers until they had passed out of range. Hume and Cartheche on reaching Sportsman’s Hall telegraphed for an additional force, properly armed, and with their help they succeeded in securing the lame Indian and arresting some others. The Indians who confronted them with their rifles proved to have been White Rock Jack and two of his accomplices; the lame Indian acknowledged to having been in their company, a party of four who committed the murder, and his testimony was corroborated by the circumstantial evidence in the case. He as well as the two others, who were subsequently caught, were tried and sent to San Quentin; but Jack could not be apprehended at the time.”

“The Indians of the vicinity of American and Columbia Flats had a “big eating” [feast] on Irish creek, on Wednesday, July 27, 1870, and it seems that White Rock Jack could not withstand the temptation of being present and participating. He accordingly left his mountain hiding place and repaired to the place of feasting, where, in all probability, he would not be recognized by anyone but friends. The Indians, in some way, had procured liquor, and Jack’s appetite again getting the better of him, he got beastly drunk. Two Indians then came to the storekeeper of Columbia Flat, a Mr. Anderson, informing him that Jack was near by and in what condition ; they also accompanied Anderson to the spot, and did not stop with pointing out the Indian brigand, but helped to bind him; whereupon he was brought to Placerville, and delivered into jail by Messrs. Anderson, Breeze, and a third gentleman. Thus, after a long series of plots, setting traps, etc., by the officers of the county, this savage desperado, for whose capture the Supervisors of El Dorado county had offered a reward of $500, with an additional $300 by Governor [Henry Huntly] Haight [Governor of California 1867-1871], had been secured. His trial came up in the District Court on March 3, 1871, he pleaded guilty of murder in the second degree, and was sentenced by Judge Adams to hard labor in the State Prison for the term of his natural life. Jack received his sentence with the characteristic Indian stolidity, but, it is said, when reaching his cell, he wept at the cheerless and hopeless future of a lifelong incarceration within the walls of San Quentin. Jack was then 23 years of age and a superior specimen of the Digger Indian.”

“A man by the name of Jesse Hendricks, an employee of the South Fork canal company, mysteriously disappeared from his section on the canal, some eight miles above Placerville, about May 25, 1870, and notwithstanding the most careful search by a large number of men, no traces could be found; and the general supposition ran that the man had been murdered by Indians, [the ditch tender on that same section, Judge Withrow, had been killed in 1860] and suspicion rested upon White Rock Jack, the notorious Indian desperado. On December 19, 1876, a deer hunter discovered on the South Fork of the American river, about seven miles above Placerville, two sections of a human skull, one of which he found near the bank of the river, the other about 50 feet higher up, on top of a bluff. Coroner [Frederick] Collins, after being informed of these facts went up with a party to investigate the locality, on December 21st. They went to the big flume on the old Jack Johnson ranch [Camino area], and thence directly down to the river; near the river they found the two pieces of skull and a miner’s shovel. Further up they discovered a boot containing the bones of a human foot, and still further up another boot containing the bones of a foot and the leg from the knee down. Continuing their search still further up an abrupt swail [sic], most difficult to climb, at various intervals, other fragments of a human skeleton were found, including quite a number under a tree near the flume; here and there also particles of clothing attached to or near some of the bones were found, and at a point, where it appeared very likely the body had originally lain, by digging away the dead leaves and rubbish, a pocket-book and a few half and quarter dollars, amounting in all to $2.25, were discovered. The pocket knife and some strips of a woolen shirt were identified as having belonged to Jesse Hendricks, the ditch tender, whose mysterious disappearance in June, 1870, caused quite some little excitement. No doubt he had been murdered; by whom, however, never has come to light up to this day; but the theory that he had been killed by Indians, as strongly was suspected, seems to be disproved by the discovery of his knife and money, which excluded robbery, something the Indians always will connect with the killing of a person.”



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