This is the third and final part of “The Cosumnes Tragedy,” which was in the July 3, 1852 edition of Sacramento’s “The Daily Union,”
On trial was a Frenchman who was accused of killing a “Chinaman” at Big Bar, a mining camp on the Cosumnes River in El Dorado County. The “citizens and miners,” as they are called in the article, have gone through a lengthy process to make sure that the accused obtained a fair trial and have prepared a statement for the newspaper, showing that they did just that. This story is their statement.
We are now at the point where the jury has come back and found the Frenchman guilty of murder. After quite a fuss, the citizens of the area voted to hang him rather than turn him over to the civil authorities.
Following the announcement of the decisions, the prisoner first asked for an hour’s delay which was granted. Then he asked that he be shot by a firing squad of ten men, each with a fully loaded rifle, rather than hung. That request was turned down because none of those present would do it. Then he asked that the firing squad be made up of “Chinamen,” which was also turned down. Finally he asked for the rope and some soap to “soap the rope,” so that it would slide easily when the hangman’s knot was tied.
THE COSUMNES TRAGEDY (CONTINUED).
“An elderly gentleman present then asked him if he felt no concern for this soul, and if he was prepared to go into eternity and meet his God to answer for his deeds done in this world. He very coolly replied that he had his own religion, and that required no preparation, but wished to know if the half hour had been granted him; that they need not think it lost time, as he said before, for if it was agreeable he would relate a funny story, one that would make everybody laugh; but receiving no reply, he said never mind, I will tell it when I get to the place of execution. The half hour was allowed him, which he spent in vainly endeavoring to draw those about him into conversation. When the time had expired he was taken to the place of execution, on the banks of the river, where a large fire had been kindled. That is right, gentlemen, I like to see a good fire on the occasion, but you will allow me a little time to speak before you pull me up. He was asked how much time he wished; he said half an hour. He was allowed fifteen minutes. He then stated that he came to California, across the Plains, in 1850; that he had worked in Drytown and at Moquelumne [Mokelumne] Hill, and at several other places; that he came to California to make his fortune, and he lost his life. Some of you, said he, may call this good diggings, but I hope some of may not find the same kind of diggings I have. It was thought he would give some information of himself, as no person knew anything about him, but when asked to give his name, he answered that he had papers to show his name when it was necessary to give it. –
“When first brought to trial, afer much solicitation, he stated that he was known in Drytown by the name of Rogers, but that was not his name; that his proper name was Raymon. He was know on the Bar as Monsieur, or the Frenchman. He inquired how much time was left him, and was answered 9 ½ minutes. Well, said he, I have 9 ½ minutes more, gentlemen. He then requested to have his arms untied, that he might himself adjust the rope and tie the handkerchief over his face; but this was not permitted, as it was supposed he intended to plunge into the river, he having made one attempt to escape during the evening. He said no more, but counted the time to the last half minute. When the handkerchief was drawn over his face, he said, allow me, gentlemen, a moment more to say my prayers, which was granted; when he said, I am ready, and was immediately drawn up, a party was dispatched to dig the grave, and after hanging forty minutes he was taken down, examined, and pronounced dead by a physician, and the body decently interred.
“P.S. About 12 M. Monday, June 28, a Frenchman presented himself at the public house, giving his name as Charles Raymond, and said that the deceased was his brother; that he knew nothing of the transaction until he arrived at French Canon, the night previous (Sunday). He was informed on his arrival at the Bar that the deceased denied having any relative near that could be sent for; that perhaps there might be some mistake; but he described him very accurately, and said he thought the reason he did not send for him, was that he did not wish to disgrace him, but that he certainly was his brother, and would not deny it. He had made inquiry of the Spaniards concerning the transaction, and afterwards had the case stated to him in the presence of a number of miners and citizens, and he declared himself satisfied. He believed he had a fair and impartial trial, and merited his punishment.
“These we believe are the main facts and circumstances concerning the case.”
Note: In this case the person being hanged was not put on a horse and the horse whipped to get it to drop him, or put in a wagon and the wagon drawn away, as seen in the movies. The noose was put around his neck, the rope thrown over a branch and he was simply pulled up and left there until he died. That may be another reason he soaped the rope, to assure a rapid strangulation.
TO BE CONTINUED