Criminal Annals 116 – Relief Train Swindle

Governor John Bigler

The September 15, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” has quite an article on the problems with the Relief Train, a group of state agents who were supposed to take donated water and food to the suffering immigrants in the Nevada desert. This is followed by a short article regarding the return of the Daily Union’s editor who was attacked in Los Angeles and again, an update on the status of Mr. Collins, who was shot two days previous.

As you read this, remember that the Daily Union is a Whig paper that has very little love for the Democratic California Governor, John Bigler.
Because of Governor Bigler’s involvement in rescuing immigrants, the lake we now know as Lake Tahoe was named after him, a fact that was overlooked until the middle of the 20th Century, when it officially became Lake Tahoe.

“The Relief Train Again – Bodley Swindle – Testimony of a Sufferer.

“The following plain, unvarnished statement of an emigrant, who has been the victim of the peculations of a State Government Agent of California, but confirms the accounts heretofore published of the enormous extortions and rascality practiced by these benevolent servants of suffering humanity.
The Marysville Herald, from which we take the extract, states that ‘the communication is accompanied by a responsible name, and the facts detailed may be relied on as only too true.’

“Col. Taylor : In your paper of Thursday last, I find a communication giving an account of an indignation meeting held [at] Indian Bar, August 27th, at which the conduct of Messrs. Bodley & Co. of the State Relief Train, sent but by the notorious personage. Hon. John Bigler, Governor, received his just deserts [sic], for using the property of the State, intended for the relief of the emigration, for his own private purposes.

“Being, myself, one of the emigrants who arrived in this country this year via the Truckee route, and believing it a duty due the people of the State of California, who so generously donated their money for the relief of the suffering emigration, that the conduct of their agents should be known, I propose to give you briefly a statement of matters and things that I saw myself.

“About the 5th day of August last, myself and company crossed the Desert, between the Sink of Humboldt river and Truckee river. About eight miles distant from Truckee river, we found a water station, kept by Bodley’s son, and was told that we could have water for ten cents per pint, or one dollar per bucket, for drinking purposes only.

“My cattle being in a famishing condition, I offered him three dollars for three buckets full of water, which he refused; and in consequence of this refusal, I was forced to sell two of my cows at $16, which would have brought me $200 could I have driven them through. These cows I sold to one of Bodley’s men.

“At this station, kept by a son of Bodley’s, provision was distributed at the following rates to the suffering emigration: Bacon, 40 cents per pound; flour, 25; fresh beef, 30; dried apples and peaches, 35; tobacco, $1 per quarter pound; sugar, 40 cents per lb.; coffee, 50 cents; whisky, $8 per gallon; pies, $1 each; meals, $1each.

“The above articles constituted the entire stock in trade, except the water, of which I have already spoken.

“Men, who were without money and in a starving condition, were refused; even a drink of water could not be had without, pay. People were told, that an ox or a horse would be taken in exchange for provision ; and many a sufferer was compelled to part with his team to raise means to procure the necessaries of life.

“I saw, myself, ten or a dozen wagons left on the Desert, in consequence of the cattle and horses failing for want of water; and when, applied to for assistance, Bodley and company would answer, ‘I will buy your oxen at $10 each, and haul you through in the bargain.’

“Bodley and company have runners out all over the Desert, buying up stock at a mere pittance, and keep men and animals constantly engaged in hauling water and hay to such stock as they purchase; and when the same was recruited, they were driven in to their depot and branded. I saw, myself, a large number of cattle thus purchased and driven in branded with the letter V.

“No notices were posted up at any point on the Desert, notifying the emigration that a government relief train was in the neighborhood; nor, until we arrived in the settlements, were we informed that Bodley & Co.’s station was a government station, or that any supplies had been sent to us.

“One thing is very certain – no relief was afforded us except what we paid for, and that too, at a tremendous rate.”

“FROM THE SOUTH. – The steamer Sea Bird arrived below on Saturday evening, from San Diego, with a number of passengers, and a large quantity of fruit. We condense her news from the Evening Journal [a Whig paper in San Francisco (1852-1856)]:

“Among the passengers was A. C. Russell, Esq., of the Sacramento Union, upon whom the vile and cowardly attempt at assassination was recently made at Los Angeles, by Wm. A. Cornwall, private secretary to Gov. Bigler, because Mr. Russell, exercising his privilege as an American citizen, had chosen to write a political article, reflecting upon the political and official conduct of the Governor; and the which, Cornwall fancied, applied to himself, even after Mr. Russell, had disavowed it to be his intention to reflect personally upon him. A full account of the affair is given in the Los Angeles Star. Society has arrived at a pretty state indeed, that a man cannot express his honest sentiments on political affairs and official conduct, without subjecting himself to the hazard of being cut down in the streets with a Bowie knife for it. Mr. Russell is how at the Niantic Hotel, confined to his bed by weakness occasioned by an affection of the lungs, aggravated by Cornwall jumping upon his breast as he lay upon the ground, bleeding and helpless.”

“’THOMAS” COLLINS, shot in the rencounter of Sunday evening, still lives, and last evening the symptoms of his wound assumed rather a more favorable aspect.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.