Criminal Annals, Part 66 – Coroner’s Inquests

Continuing with stories from the pages of 19th Century editions of the “Mountain Democrat,” in the March 31, 1860 edition are found several stories on one page regarding inquests, crimes and even a mining accident.

“INQUESTS. – On the 8th of March, Coroner [ Joseph] Todd held an inquest on the body of Edwin J. Drake, at Volcanoville [a mining camp northeast of Georgetown]. He was killed by the caving of the bank while sluicing on the 7th inst. He was from Belknap county, New Hampshire and 26 years of age.

“On the 21st inst., Coroner Todd held an inquest on the body of a Chinaman, at Rich Flat [probably the Rich; bar, flat, west of Georgetown shown on only one 1853 map], which has been found suspended in a tree by a scarf. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased came to his death by his own act.

“On the 7th inst. Mr. Todd held an inquest at El Dorado, on the body of Abram Miller, a negro, who had died the evening before, very suddenly. The jury found that his death was caused by hemorrhage of the lungs – that he was from Missouri, and aged about fifty years.”

“CHINAMAN KILLED.”– On Sunday last, in Georgetown, a young man named Fountain Williams, got into a row with some Chinamen, in which he shot one through the breast, killing him almost instantly. Here is Williams’ statement: ‘I went down to the Chinamen’s house to collect some money that was due me. When I got down there and told the Chinaman what I wanted, he said he wouldn’t pay it. I took him by the tail or hair [a queue, or braided “pony tail” worn my Chinese men at that time] and told him if he did not pay I would whip him. An other Chinaman pitched in and commenced throwing bowls and one thing or another, and then drew a stick on me, and I was afraid of his hurting me.’ He was committed to jail on the charge of murder.”

“INQUESTS.– Recently several inquests have been held by Justices of the Peace, in this county. It may interest Justices to know that they will receive no pay for such services unless the Coroner be absent from the county, or for other reasons unable to perform that duty. Such is the fact. The coroner should be promptly notified whenever his services are required, by those persons cognizant of the fact.”

“PAINFUL ACCIDENT. – Last Friday week, says the Hydraulic Press of the 24th, Mr. S. Howe of the Eureka claims, entered a blacksmith shop on his diggings where stood a keg of blasting powder and on it an open vessel also containing powder. Ignorant of this fact, he went to work at the forge. While striking a heated piece of iron, a spark flew into the pan of powder, exploding it and the keg beneath with a great noise. Mr. Howe was luckily not standing very near the keg, and escaped with no more serious injury than a painful burning of his face and hands. His eyes were protected by a slouch hat.”

Note: There were at least six mines or mining areas in El Dorado County named Eureka. They stretched from north of Georgetown to south of the town of El Dorado.

“SERIOUS AFFRAY. – On Saturday 1st, in Coloma, two men named James Hannum and Toon Martin, got into a quarrel over a game of cribbage, which resulted in the latter being stabbed through the bowels. He is in a very precarious situation and his recovery will be deemed a miracle.”

“HELD TO ANSWER. – On the 24th instant, John Bacher was held to answer to the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, in the sum of five hundred dollars, by Justice Frazier of Cosumnes township. He is charged with having snapped a Colt’s revolver at one Jacob Smith.”

The July 16, 1864 edition has an interesting story about some highwaymen who were very active in the Indian Diggings mining area, in spite of there being very little mining going on and very little money for them to take.

HIGHWAYMEN. – A correspondent at Indian Diggings [southeast of Fair Play and south of Omo Ranch], writing under date of the 12th, says: ‘It is hot, dry and dusty. Mining operations are almost suspended in consequence of the scarcity of water; the ditches being almost dry. But little work is being done on the copper leads in this neighborhood. Times are hard, business dull, and money scarce, but we hope matters will improve in the fall. A man named Hall was stopped by two highwaymen between this place and Fairplay, a few days ago, and relieved of a few dollars – all the money he had. A man whose name I could not learn, was also stopped by the same scoundrels it is supposed, on the 10th, between Fairplay and Fiddletown. He was flat broke and, of course, the robbers got nothing from him. This is a poor neighborhood for robbers to operate in, if they wish to make a raise; the only advantages it possesses are excellent hiding places. The robbers are Greasers [derogatory name for Mexicans and Latin Americans], and it is believed they belong to a large and well organized band, whose field of operations extend from the San Joaquin to Virginia City.”



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