Criminal Annals, Part 80 – The Calaveras Tragedy

Several people have asked me why I use the Sacramento “Daily Union” for my source for these stories. It was the major newspaper of the area in the early 1850s and provides the best coverage of the news from the mining area, including El Dorado County, from 1851-1854, when the “Mountain Democrat,” under that name, started. Best of all, copies of nearly all editions were preserved and microfilmed. Our main library has copies on microfilm from 1851 through 1854.

The April 13, 1852 edition has an interesting story about stolen horses and gunplay in Calaveras County. At that time Calaveras County bordered us on the south, Amador County not having been created until 1854.

The story is actually an attempt to correct a story that had earlier run in the “Alta California,” an early San Francisco newspaper.


“Messrs, Editors: – In the Alta is a statement of an affray which took place at Mokelumne Hill, which is entirely incorrect. The affair took place at the Willow Springs, about ten miles from Daylor’s ranch. The three Spaniards were taking dinner when the owner of the stolen horses came up. Mr Clark, the proprietor of the house, went in, and told one of the Spaniards that he was his prisoner. The Spaniard on the opposite side of the table then rose, and fried a revolver at Mr. Clark, missing him. Mr. B. F. Moore then came in, and the Spaniard fired at him, but missed. He then took up a rifle and fired at about five inches’ distance, blowing off the top of the Spaniard’s head. When the firing commenced, the cook, (a German,) a Portuguese boy, and the owner of he horses, ran away, leaving Clark and Moore (Americans) to fight. Clark went outside of the building, and was shot dead by one of the Spaniards from behind a tree. Mr. Moore then rushed out of the building, with his rifle. The Spaniard came at him with a large knife. Moore struck him on the shoulder with the rifle, so that his arm dropped, and the knife fell from his hand. Moore then went into the house, took the dead man’s revolver, and shot the Spaniard in the back, knocking him off his horse, which he had mounted. His companion, afer firing the rest of his shots at Moore, assisted him to mount his horse. Moore then waited at the corner of the house for the Spaniard, who was endeavoring to lasso him. He did not come near enough for Moore to shoot. Had the other men shown the bravery displayed by Moore, the Spaniards would both have been caught. Moore having acted in such a manner, it is due to him to make a correct statement of the facts. A large party on the Cosumnes went out in pursuit of these men, but could not find them.

[signed] “Wm. R. G.”

Note: The “Daylor ranch” referred to was the home of William Daylor, who lived near Sloughhouse. He, his brother-in-law, Jared Sheldon and Perry McCoon are credited as being the first white men to discover gold in Hangtown Creek, thereby starting the settlement that would become Placerville.

Three days later, the April 16, 1852 edition of the Daily Union had a short story on a problem in Georgetown.


“DESPERATE AFFRAY AND EXTENSIVE ROBBERY IN EL DORADO CO. – The Post Master of Georgetown, writes us that on the morning of the 11th Inst., a severe fight took place between a party of Americans and Mexicans, in which two of the former were dangerously wounded. One of the them was stabbed in the chest, and the other struck on the head by a pick in the hands of a Mexican. One of the latter also, was so severely beaten that his recovery is doubtful.

“The same correspondent also informs us that the Columbia House, near Peru, was robbed of $5,000 on Sunday night. No further particulars are given.”

Note: Peru is a town that was located on Irish Creek, just south of Garden Valley.

In the same edition of the newspaper is article regarding the block of gold-bearing quartz that was sent to Washington, D.C. for placement in the Washington Monument as California’s gift to that edifice.

“CALIFORNIA MARBLE. – We perceive from a Washington paper, that the quartz rock which was sent on to be placed in the great National Monument to General Washington, cannot be used. The texture of this rock is such as to make it impossible to dress it properly. This being the case, why will not our Legislature take immediate steps to have a marble slab quarried, and sent as a representative of the geological beauties with which our State abounds? There is a gentleman now here, Lieut. J. Sherwood, who will guarantee its safe transportation and delivery to the hands of the Monument Committee, as soon as it can be taken from the ledge. Lieut. S., who came to California with Col. Stevenson, and who distinguished himself as a soldier and a gentleman, would be an appropriate man to be the bearer of such a useful and ornamental memento. We do hope the Legislature will provide the marble.”

Note: Lieut. J. Sherwood was a member of the New York Volunteers, a group of volunteer soldiers under the command of Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson. They arrived in California in 1847 for two purposes: first, to help fight in the war with Mexico and, second, to be discharged in California to increase the American presence, should another country, such as England, try to obtain California. Many of the Mexican officials at that time were afraid of the United States having California and were considering finding another country to “hold” it. Several other famous early Californians were a part of the unit, including Joseph L. Folsom who founded the city by that name.

The gold-bearing quartz rock that could not be properly dressed, “mysteriously” disappeared shortly after it arrived in Washington, D. C. The marble block from California that finally became part of the Washington Monument came from the limestone mine on Quarry Road, just south of Placerville.



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