Criminal Annals Part 70 – Hanging and a Lynching

Between the date of the last issue of the “Placer Times” in 1850 and the publication of the first issue of the “Mountain Democrat” in 1854, much of the Sacramento area news was printed in various small newspapers, copies of which have mostly disappeared. Then on April 7, 1851 the Daily Union began publication in Sacramento and for many years it was the major source for local news. Fortunately, copies of most every issue of this newspaper have been preserved in one form or another.

Our library has microfilm of several early years of this newspaper that continued publication until 1994.

The first edition of the Daily Union, on April 7, 1851 has an interesting story of an El Dorado County hanging and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek one regarding the “borrowing” of boats at night on the Sacramento River.


“Lynch law has again been carried into effect, and another murderer sent to his last account.

“On Saturday, at Brown’s Bar on Weber Creek [where Weber Creek empties into the South Fork of the American River], Andrew Scott, of St. Genevieve, Mo., without the least provocation, further than a slight misunderstanding, murdered Mr. Baker, his partner, inflicting five severe stabs with his knife, any one of which would have caused death.

“Scott was taken into custody; and though the excitement occasioned by the dreadful act was intense, he was allowed trial by a jury of twelve men. After a fair representation of the whole case the jury found him guilty, and sentenced the criminal to be hung, which verdict was immediately put into execution.

“Mr. Baker is said to have been a gentleman in every respect; while his murderer, beyond all doubt, was a most ferocious villain, this being the third or fourth time that he has stained his hands with the blood of his fellow man. One of his victims was Dr. McManus of St. Genevieve. This narrow escape from the gallows on that occasion, instead of acting as a salutary warning, and making him a better man, only served to harden his heart, as is too often the case with the vicious man when the law, in mercy, fails to execute its judgements upon him; and now he has reaped the terrible fruits of his own sowing.

“We understand he is most respectably connected at home.”

“NOTICE. – We are requested by a gentleman to say to those who steal whale boats, that he is very thankful to them for leaving his boat in a eddy below town after they had got done using it. But he would prefer that they tie it when they next steal it, as an eddy might not be secure enough at all times. He further states that his boat is at the service of any one that has business after midnight on the river, and that he will be peculiarly happy in accommodating any that wish a pleasure trip at that time. But it would afford him more pleasure to convey such gentleman out to the Lagrange, where a continued ride night and day would be afforded them.”

Note: The 259 ton brig La Grange came to California during the Gold Rush and rather than letting it rot like hundreds of other ships that arrived and were abandoned, the owners stripped it of anything valuable and sold the hull to the County of Sacramento for $2,500. It was then converted by the county for use as a floating jail.

During the flood of 1859 it started taking on water, so the prisoners were removed to another place on dry ground. After anything of value was removed, it was allowed to sink at its location and forgotten.

In the 1970s divers located scattered relics in the area and, finally, the anchor of the La Grange and one of the locks used to secure the prisoners. At one time there were thoughts of raising it and making it into a historical display.

A month later in the May 12, 1851 edition of the Daily Union, is an interesting article on a horse thief who was caught, sentenced, attempted escape, sentenced again and punished at Beal’s Bar. Beal’s Bar, like Mississippi Bar, which is also mentioned in the story, is on the American River near Folsom, just a few miles west of our county line.

The newspaper calls this a “lynching,” even though the punishment was lashing and the criminal was let live and banished from the area. This is a different use of the word “lynching,” which in its dictionary definition, is used to denote that someone was killed for an alleged offense without a legal trial, usually by hanging.

“LYNCHING AT BEAL’S BAR. – On Friday 2nd inst., a horse was stolen from a gentleman at Mississippi Bar. The Monday subsequent it was recognized at Beal’s Bar, in the possession of an individual who, failing to give a satisfactory account thereof, was arrested and put upon trial before a jury of miners. After a full and impartial examination, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty and he was accordingly sentenced to receive fifteen lashes upon the bare back. He received the announcement of the sentence with the utmost composure, requesting the privilege of eating his dinner before suffering the execution of his sentence. This was granted. But it would seem the request was only a ruse on the part of the prisoner to gain time and opportunity to effect his escape, for when an apparently opportune moment occurred, he made a desperate effort to take ‘French leave.’ In this, however, he was foiled by the vigilance and superior fleetness of his opponents; and upon being recaptured was sentenced to receive thirty lashes instead of fifteen. After their bestowal he was ordered to leave, with the promise of one hundred lashes, ‘well laid on as the law directs,’ if he were found within 25 miles of the Bar. We are sorry that we could not ascertain the delinquent’s name.”



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