Criminal Annals, Part 129 – E. Clampus Vitus

Moving to the September 28, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find a note regarding a new, but curious, organization in town, one that exists to this day.

“‘E. CLAMPUS VITUS.’ — Some the San Francisco editors are puzzling their heads, to know what can be the objects or aim of a newly created secret society, bearing this name in that city. Although we are not prepared to say that the association is precisely similar to those we have heretofore known, yet we can state, for the information of the curious, that the term implied a degree of waggery to be practised by the knowing ones upon greenhorns; and that its existence was merely nominal — its meetings being held only when a victim presented himself for initiation, and consequent immolation. The hundred dollars contributed to the fire companies we presume was intended merely to create mystery, and hoax the good citizens of the Bay city. We warn them to keep their eyes about them, and to beware of taking the degree of the ‘Burning Shame.’”

In the same column is a note about a confusing celebration in the Chinese community. I cannot find any Chinese holiday or celebration around that time, so it must have been a local event.

“CELESTIAL EXHIBITION. —Yesterday seems to have been a gala day with them. They seemed to be celebrating the day for some reason, but what we could not learn. Business was pretty much suspended, and just at sundown they commenced firing crackers, and for about half an hour they kept the street and the air nearly filled with them. The ‘noise and confusion’ created were sufficient to cause the collection of some hundred and fifty to two hundred persons, to see what was to pay. The crackers didn’t give a bad imitation of a sham militia fight with muskets. The John’s [a name given to all Chinese, for some reason] seemed to enjoy the fun with as great a relish as so many boys would have done on the fourth of July. It was an innocent ‘fuss,’ and we were sorry to see the police interfere and arrest I some of the ‘long-tails’ [a reference to the men’s pigtail or queue] for violating the ordinance. Let the Celestials have their fun.”
The next item in the same column mentions a recent drowning in the Sacramento River.
DROWNED. — We learn from Dr. May [S. J. May, coroner 1851-1853], who visited the scene of the calamity, that a man, supposed. to be Thomas Fulton, from Socorro, New Mexico, was drowned a short distance below Sutterville, on the Sacramento river. The body was recovered yesterday morning, and these facts, ascertained from a small memorandum book which was found in his pocket. He was dressed in mining costume, and from that fact, is supposed to have been a miner. An inquest was held over the body, and the verdict rendered ‘ accidental drowning.’”

Under the usual heading of “From the Interior,” are some notes from the Sonora area.
“We clip the following items from the Sonora Herald [1850-?]of Sept. 25th:
“SINGULAR CIRCUMSTANCE. — A week or two since. a young man was taken sick in Columbia with symptoms of small pox. He was taken to the public hospital, and every attention was paid him. In a few days his right arm commenced mortifying, when it was ascertained that he had been vaccinated at Stockton with impure matter, and the virus had spread throughout his entire system . His arm became a mass of corruption, and after lingering in the most excruciating pain, he died on Monday morning last. His death was caused alone, we are told by medical gentlemen, by impure vaccine matter.”
“MURDER. — A most atrocious murder was committed in this city on Tuesday morning last, before daylight. The victim was Dr. McGregor; a native of Scotland, aged about 65 years. He was found dead in an alleyway known as Hospital street, which leads to a quarter of our city inhabited by Mexicans and other Spanish American foreigners. He had received but one wound, which was in the right breast, and was apparently inflicted by a long and sharp dirk-knife. A penknife, with the blade open was found in his right hand, the blade directed towards the wound, and having some blood on it. The wound, however, was probed and found to be an inch deeper than the blade of the pen-knife; and therefore the general opinion is, that the penknife was placed in his hand by the assassin after the murder was committed.
“The Doctor was last seen alive by a man from Springfield, who called upon him to attend on a sick person at that place. He went to Springfield, attended upon the patient, and returned about two o’clock, A. M. After that hour nothing further is known of his movements, save that it is supposed he was called out on another professional visit, — and we believe there is evidence to this effect — but by whom he was called out is not known.
The Herald says that a negro named Peter Sykes has been arrested, although no satisfactory evidence Has yet been elicited to prove him the perpetrator of the deed.”

As usual, the information from the Recorder’s Court takes up a long column in this paper.
“Recorder’s Court.- Before Judge McGrew. Monday, Sept. 27, 1852.
“There was a grand haul before the Recorder this morning— evincing a decided fall in the ‘moral thermometer,’ and a corresponding rise of fever heat. Two days having intervened since the holding of the Court, riot ran rampant, and a large liberty of the streets and of privilege was indulged. That particular class of individuals who glory in free institutions, free action and free fights, improved the opportunity so luckily presented. The black eyes, bruised faces and swollen noses which presented themselves, told how bravely the field had been occupied, and how hotly contested. The incense imbibed at the altar of Bacchus was still pregnant of odor, and diffused itself in the plethoric respirations of his dreamily affected votaries. First on the docket came Henry Bently for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Plead guilty, was fined five dollars and costs, or twenty-four hours imprisonment, in default.
“James Nolan, for assault and battery, on the person of John Butler. Plead ‘not guilty.’ The evidence not being satisfactory, the prisoner was discharged.
“David E. Vanalsten and C. H. Farly, for disturbance of peace by fighting. Plead guilty, fined $5 and costs, each, and were discharged.
“Joseph Chesley, for assault and battery— the offence consisting in slapping William Reynolds in the face for depreciating his workmanship as a mechanic, and calling him a liar. The plaintiff denied the statement in toto; he had not called the defendant a liar, but, on the contrary, the opprobrious epithet had been applied to him, with several qualifying adjectives, neither polite nor ornamental. — Prisoner found guilty; fined $5 and costs.


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