Criminal Annals, Part 53 – Indian Troubles

Following the discussion of the “El Dorado Indian War of 1850-1851″ in Paolo Sioli’s 1883 “Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County, California with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men & Pioneers,” are several more articles on “Indian Troubles,” which has been previously pointed out was a significant problem to the early settlers.


“On Christmas day, 1850, a young man from Pilot Hill, by the name of Avery, took his rifle and went out to kill a deer ; but about a quarter of a mile from Bayley’s [Alcander John Bayley’s Oak Valley House which was destroyed by fire in 1861. Today’s Bayley House was built after that] he was murdered by Indians for his gun, which they carried off. The camp became alarmed at his not returning and some went out to look after him, but not finding any trace of the missing man, returned and gave the report that in their belief Avery had been killed by Indians. A meeting was held in the evening and A. L. Parker, once a Texas ranger, was appointed captain of a company, which at daylight sallied forth for the Indian camp, surrounded it and captured the chief and five others ; but no threatening whatever could move them to confess what they had done with Avery, notwithstanding his rifle was found in searching the camp. The prisoners, one of them being a boy 12 years old and the son of the chief, were taken to Pilot Hill. One of the party understanding the Indian language took the boy aside and after promising him that he should be sent to the Eastern States for his safety, and to be educated, he took them to the spot where Avery’s body had been secreted under a pile of leaves and sticks. He had been shot three times and his brains were beaten out; most all his clothing were taken away also. The body was brought to Pilot Hill, but no coroner being present, an inquest was not held, but the Indians put on trial. J. D. Galbraith was elected Judge [in 1857 he was elected to California Assembly] , and he empaneled a jury, and five Indians started for court; one of them broke and ran, but at his third jump he fell down dead, five balls had pierced his heart. After a speedy trial the jury found a verdict of murder against the remaining four, and the Judge sentenced them to an immediate execution. They were placed on a wagon and by this means carried under a tree and by removing the wagon, Pico, chief of Piutes, and three of his braves, were launched into eternity.”

“At a public meeting held at American Flat, on August 26th, 1854, to take into consideration the best means of suppressing the supply of spirituous liquors to Indians, either by gift or sale, the following preamble and resolutions were adopted :
“Whereas, We believe that most of the scenes of violence and bloodshed enacted in our midst by Indians residing among us, originate in the excessive use of intoxicating liquors; and whereas, from the best information we can obtain, such seems to have been the cause of the recent unfortunate disturbance in which several of these Indians lost their lives. Therefore, be it
“Resolved, That every man who sells intoxicating liquors to Indians, endangers the safety of the community, degrades his own character, and outrages the feelings of humanity.
“Resolved, That we do know there are such men in this neighborhood, and we hereby pledge ourselves to use the utmost vigilance to ferret them out and bring them to justice, and that we will not fail to observe that Indians go to certain houses sober, and leave those houses drunk.
“Resolved, That henceforth we will denounce and discountenance every person, white or black, who shall furnish Indians with liquors, under any pretense or for any purpose whatever, and more particularly those who are in the habit of buying liquors at the stores and conveying them stealthily to Indian ranches for vile and sinister purposes.
“Resolved, That a copy of these proceedings be posted at this place (American Flat), Columbia, Irish Creek, and other places in the neighborhood, and also be published, etc.
“J. E. Sill, Chairman.
“Pitman S. Price, Secretary.”

“May 14, 1855, was an exciting day among the Diggers. Difficulties had existed among the different bands in this vicinity for some time past. A Diamond Spring Indian had taken unto himself a Hangtown squaw, and perhaps, finding her a great deal worse than he anticipated, took occasion to chastise her for some real or imaginary offense. Whereupon her brother, ‘Pueblo Jim,’ no doubt admiring and fully endorsing the sentiment, that ‘He who lays his hand upon a woman, save in the way of kindness, is a wretch whom it were base flattery to call a coward,’ with a chivalry worthy of imitation, sought out the ungallant husband and inflicted upon him severe corporal punishment. He afterwards attacked Jim with a knife, inflicting upon him several severe wounds. Jim recovered, killed his antagonist, and was finally himself slain by a relative of his victim. On the above stated date the Diggers were assembled for a ‘big cry’ in memory of their departed friend, on a hill in the immediate vicinity of Placerville, when a fight growing out of the circumstances above narrated occurred, in which one squaw was killed and two Indians mortally wounded.”
NOTE: “Digger Indian” was a term indiscriminately applied to many Native Americans of the central plateau region of western North America, including tribes in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and central California. The name is supposedly derived from the fact that they dug roots for food. It has no ethnological significance and was a term of scorn.
In the Mother Lode they were considered by many of the miners to be the lowest of the low and treated as such.
The common grey-blue, multi branched pine tree of the lower Sierra Foothills and California Costal Range, Pinus sabiniana, was once commonly referred to as the Digger Pine, since the nuts found in the cones were often a food source for the local tribes. A number of years ago that name was dropped in favor of the more politically correct Gray Pine.


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