Criminal Annals

Criminal Annals, Part 135 – Heavy Robbery

Continuing with the October 4, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we return to the “From the Interior” articles from Shasta, Sonoma and San Jose.

“SHASTA.

HEAVY ROBBERY. – It has been reported that Mr. L. H. Sanborn, of Sanborn’s ranch. Was robbed a few nights since of $4000. His house was entered about ten o’clock at night and the money was taken from beneath his pillow. We have seldom heard of such a bold and daring robbery.”

“SONOMA.

“ The Bulletin, speaking of the improvements in that delightful region, says that Gen. Vallejo has completed a beautiful cottage on what is known as the “spring property.” The spring from which the bath-house is supplied furnishes from 20 to 30 gallons of water per minute, irrigating a fine garden and vineyard of about 30 acres. The willows around the spring afford a pleasant retreat in warm weather, and is much visited by citizens and strangers.”
Note: General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (1807-1890) was the Mexican military commander of northern California in 1846, when a group of Americans showed up at his home and, after devouring most of his food and wine, took him prisoner. This was the famous “Bear Flag Revolt,” in Sonoma which took place on June 14, 1846. Once the United States defeated Mexico in the war, Vallejo proved his allegiance to his new country by persuading wealthy Californios to accept American rule. An influential member of the state’s Constitutional Convention, he was elected as a member of the first session of the State Senate in 1850.

The Vallejo Estate in Sonoma, also known as Lachryma Montis (crying mountain), is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park. The Rancho Petaluma Adobe, the largest example of the Monterey Colonial style of architecture in the United States, is part of the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. Due to financial restraints, both of this parks have limited hours of operation.

“A panther weighing 200 pounds was killed last Saturday at Mr. Spence’s farm, about two miles from Sonoma. He had been prowling in that neighborhood for some time, and it is supposed killed several colts belonging to Mr. Spence.”

“SAN JOSE.

“From the Santa Clara Register [1852-1853, San Jose. Preceded by the Visitor, 1851-1852, and ultimately became part of the San Jose Mercury News] of Thursday, we extract the following:

“STABBED. – Last Sunday night, about ten o’clock, an Indian was found on Market street, near the Plaza, with a dangerous knife wound in the left side, and several other severe cuts in other parts of the body. It is not known by whom the deed was committed, the Indian being too drunk to give any account of the affair.

“On Monday morning last, the body of an Indian was found on a vacant lot on the south side of Santa Clara street, in a shockingly mutilated state. It is supposed that the Indian was killed on Sunday night, but as yet we have no clue to the murderer.

“An American, name unknown, was killed on Tuesday night, two miles above this city, near the Townsend House. Particulars not known at present.

“A man by the name of Porter was shot by the guard of the county jail on the night of the 19th inst. It seems that Porter had gone near the guard and upon being hailed several times and failing to answer, the guard very naturally suspected his motives and fired upon him. We are pleased to state that the wound though severe is not dangerous, and that the unfortunate man is now convalescent. It was only through Porter’s inadvertency in failing to answer when hailed, that he was shot.

“On Monday morning, a Pennsylvanian by the name of James Blair, was found murdered in the south-eastern portion of San Jose.”

Following this article is the usual, but often entertaining report from the Recorder’s Court.

“Recorder’s Court. – Before Judge McGrew. Saturday, Oct. 2

“Attendance slimmer than usual this morning and not so many colors to variegate the scene.

“Jonathan Harold, for assault and battery on the person of Levi Welber. Found guilty and fined $10 and costs – in all $30.

“Harry, from Bombay, for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. This was Harry’s first offense, and didn’t amount to anything, at that; so he was permitted to vamos [Spanish – leave hurriedly. Anglicized to “vamoose.”]

“James Hinnessy, for threats made against the person of Blanch Ellis, one of the frail daughters of Eve. Found guilty, and bound over in the sum of $500 to keep the peace for three months.”

Amongst the advertisements in the latter pages of the paper is an article entitled, “From the South,” meaning information from southern California. It starts with the hearings on the claims for land issued by the Spanish and Mexican governments, but then adds additional information.

“We are indebted to the Alta [Alta California, San Francisco, 1849-1891. Descended from the California Star, 1847-1849] for the following summary:

“LATER FROM THE SOUTH. – The steamer Sea Bird, arrived here yesterday evening after a passage of three days from San Diego. Hon. G. W. Cooley, U. S Law Agent, and several members of this bar who attended the sittings of the Commission were among the passengers.

“Jeronimo [Geronimo], the celebrated chief of the Yumas, was killed at Santa Isabel by the Indians living in that neighborhood. He was enticed there and then treacherously murdered according to the usages of Indian warfare. His scalp and one ear were sent to the American authorities.

“A correspondent who has crossed the plains writes to the Star [Los Angeles, 1851-1879] that the Camanches, Yumas or Shacos, did not show their faces either in the day or night, and not an animal was stolen from their train. Some of the emigrant trains have met the fate of the careless and unconcerned. The southern route is far better for horses and mules than oxen, and the Santa Fe route is the best for those coming to California.

“Nicholas Blair, for several years a resident of Los Angeles, committed suicide on Saturday evening. Mr. Blair came to California as a member of Col. Stevenson’s regiment [New York Volunteers who fought in the Mexican War], and married a native if the country. He was a native of Hungary.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Criminal Annals, Part 134 – Annexation of Canada?

The October 4, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” opens with a front page devoted mostly to advertisements and politics. In a column of odds and ends, is found one very interesting article from Canada.

ANNEXATION OF CANADA TO THE UNITED STATES. — Mr. Papineau, who has just been elected to the Canadian Parliament by an extraordinary majority, has published a long address, in which he declares he is in favor of annexing Canada to the United States.”
Note: Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871) supported the Montreal Annexation Manifesto that called for Canada to join the United States of America. He was a leader of the reformist Patriote movement, a political movement that existed in Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) from the beginning of the 19th century to the Patriote Rebellion of 1837 and 1838 and the subsequent Act of Union of 1840. The movement was a liberal reaction against colonial control of the government of Lower Canada, and a more general nationalistic reaction against British presence and domination over what had previously been an exclusively French territory.

Following an increasing number of political articles is one simply entitled, “Placerville.”

“The prompt messenger of Hunter & Co.’s Express laid the El Dorado News [Coloma 1851, ultimately becoming the “Mountain Democrat”] on our table yesterday, at an early hour. We cull from it the following items:

“The stock of the South Fork Canal Company has been all taken and the books closed. This work, the News says, ‘is truly one of the most I gigantic of any age or country, and certainly surpasses, in magnitude and importance, anything of the kind ever undertaken and accomplished by private individuals.”

“Dr. S. A. McMeans had written a letter explaining his course on the ‘cooley bill’ [Foreign Miner’s License Tax of May 1852]of the last Legislature. The Doctor explains why he voted for the bill. He is a candidate for reelection to the next Legislature.

Note: Dr. Selden Allen McMeans (1808-1876) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, served in the Mexican War and arrived in California around 1849. He was one of the first doctors at Salmon Falls, El Dorado County. He was elected to the California State Assembly in 1851, and again in 1852. In 1853 he was elected to the position of State Treasurer, a position he held until 1856.

In 1859, he moved to Virginia City, Nevada after the Comstock Lode silver strike. When the news of the firing on Fort Sumter reached Virginia City in 1861, he announced that he, and a group called the Knights of the Golden Circle, would capture Fort Churchill for the Confederacy. But when they received news of a detachment of Union soldiers heading to Virginia City, they changed their mind. After the Civil War, he organized the Democratic Party in Nevada and became its first chairman. He finally moved his practice to Reno, where he died 1876.

Continuing with the article, “ FUGITIVE SLAVE CASE. – A woman was arrested in this place, on Tuesday last, on the plea of being the property of Amelia Raymon, who brought her to this country in 1850. The case was tried before Thomas Wallace, Esq., who, we understand, discharged the woman, on the ground that the complaint did not state that she was to be taken back to Louisiana. She was subsequently arrested, to be tried before Judge Hall, on Thursday evening; but before the hour of trial arrived, however, a compromise wise was effected, and the woman discharged.

“RAIN. – Just before our paper went to press this morning, it clouded up very suddenly, and in a few minutes we were favored with a refreshing shower of rain, which seemed to betoken, in the miners’s faces, the ‘good time coming.’ The shower was accompanied by repeated flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, which is something unusual; and we think the probability is that the weather, as well as the country, is becoming Americanized.”

Under the heading “From the Interior” are articles from Shasta, Sonoma and San Jose.

“SHASTA.

“We have received copies of the Shasta Courier [1852-1872], Marysville Herald [1850-1858] and Miner’s Advocate [Coloma 1852-Diamond Springs 1855], for which we are indebted to Adams & Co.’s Express. We make such selections from these as are of a general interest to our readers. We clip the following from the Courier:

“IMPORTANT FROM YREKA. – Mr. Rains, of Cram, Rogers & Co.’s Express, furnished us with the sad news which we give below. Mr. Strawbridge forwarded. his letter to Mr. Rains after he left Yreka, and we are consequently in possession of no particulars except those contained in it:
“Yreka, Sept. 28, 1852.

“Dear Rains: Since you left yesterday a detachment from Ben Wright’s party beyond the Butte has reached here, conducting an imigrant [sic] train; they report that twelve miles from the trail the bodies of three men, one woman, and two children have been found, butchered by the Indians.

“You will recollect a short time since (about the time Coats was killed) Ben found a quantity of children’s clothing in an Indian camp. This was probably the property of this last murdered party, who, it is supposed, constituted one family. Some papers which may lead to a knowledge of their identity are in possession of D. D. Cotton, Esq.

“ All quiet here as you left us. ‘ Yours, truly, Jas. Strawbridge.”

“TROOPS FOR THE NORTH. — It is reported that a company of dragoons are now at Reading’s ranch. They departed from Benicia some weeks ago. It will be seen, therefore, that the progress of this body of troops towards the place where they are expected to do important service is rapid – expeditious – very. At this rate of travel they will probably reach their place of destination in the course of a month or two. In the meantime we have published the name of many who have been murdered. In another column it will be found that six more victims have been added to the list. We will not insult the common understanding and virtuous impulses of our readers with a single word of comment – the facts speak for themselves.”

“INDIAN HUNTING. – Owing to some depredations recently committed on Clear Creek [Shasta county] by the Indians, Capt. Larabee organize a small party and gave them chase. The party returned a few days since, bringing with them a number of squaws and children. During their absence on the scout they killed fifteen Indians. We are not furnished with a full account of the work done by this volunteer and independent company of frontier soldiers. It is probable that this wholesome and impromptu chastisement will eventually check the serious depredations which had lately become alarmingly frequent on Clear and Cottonwood Creeks. Should the Indians, however, still continue troublesome we are assured that this timely castigation will be repeated, and prosecuted even to a greater length, by the same company or another similarly organized.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Criminal Annals, Part 133 – Recorder’s Court

Continuing with the October 2, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we again find the most interesting of the articles listed under the doings in the Recorder’s Court, where minor criminals, many of whom seem to be there most of the time for various and continuing incidents, face Judge McGrew.

“RECORDER’S COURT. – Before Judge McGrew. Friday October1, 1852

“The morning fawned bright and beautiful, and the birds, if there had been any in the streets, would certainly have greeted it with their most joyful matins [a service of morning prayer]. Even the nightingales, whose songs and pipings rendered the air vocal, previous to their lighting down in the Station House, had a just appreciation of out-door loveliness, and looked pleased at the prospect of regaining immediate liberty. It is from contrasts alone that we derive the sweets of life. Those who have never been hungered, know little of the enjoyments of appetite – so, those who have never been locked up in a prison, can form but an indefinite idea of the bliss derived from freedom – freedom, too, when the glorious sun, the softly tempered breeze, and the shady watercourses, all invite to the abandonment of recreation.

“In the case of William O’Rourke, judgment was rendered in a fine of $40 and costs. Not having that small amount on hand—being at the conclusion of a ‘big spree,’ in which his money circulated freely – William was sent up for ten days. Before leaving, he took occasion to address the court as follows: ‘Your Honor, I did not make any defence, for I knew your Honor would punish me, whether guilty or not.’

“John Blake, for assault and battery upon the person of Philip Smith, found guilty, and fined $20 and costs— in default five days imprisonment. The whole costs amounted to $40, which the defendant concluded he would rather go to prison than pay. While the warrant was being made out, however, he changed his determination and forked over.

“Joseph H. Wheelwright, for petit larceny, found not guilty and discharged.

“Matthew Rice, for assault and battery. This is the same individual who manifested such delight yesterday morning at escaping the infliction of the law ‘once more’ – the same that the Judge rebuked – ‘once more’ in the law’s clutches, from which he now found escape more difficult. All the crocodile evidences of contrition exhibited by Mr. Rice, had no effect in modifying the stern decision of justice. He was found guilty – $50 and costs – in default of paying which, he was sent to prison ten days.

“John Turner, for disorderly conduct, flourishing a knife, and threatening to ‘carve’ people’s hearts out. As the prisoner was on a spree, and said a good deal more than he had any intention of executing, and in consideration of his general good character, he was fined only $[figure missing] and costs.

Matthew McGinley, Henry Davidson and John Carroll, for an assault and robbery upon the person of James H. Marsh. Case continued.

In the same edition is an article about an event called a “A Mike Fink Exploit,” referring to the a semi-legendary brawler and boatman, Mike Fink (1770/1780-1823) who exemplified the tough and hard-drinking men who ran keel-boats up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Apparently there had been some confusing publicity in San Francisco about a shooting between two men who knew each other, one of whom was a former friend of Mr. Fink.

“The ‘Mike Fink Exploit.’ – We give Mr. Taylor the full benefit of our columns to place himself right in reference to this affair. Our information was derived from a respectable gentleman of this place, and whose veracity we had no reason to doubt. We copy his communication to the S. F. Whig [May 1853 – February 1853, then continued under other names], preceded by the editor’s remarks :

“THE MIKE FINK AFFAIR AT MARTINEZ.– Below will be found a communication from Capt. Taylor, which sufficiently explains itself. We had the pleasure of a visit from him yesterday, and we are glad to find him enthusiastic in the support of Scott and Graham [Whig candidates for President and Vice President in 1852]. Capt. T. is a full cousin of the late President Taylor – is 63 years of age, was taken prisoner by the British during the war of 1812, was through the whole Texan war of Independence, was one of the Texas Rangers, was with Gen. Taylor during the war with Mexico, and took an active part in every fight Gen. Taylor had in Mexico:

“Editor. Daily Whig: – In your paper of the 27th inst., you publish an account, under the head of ‘A Mike Fink Exploit,’ (copied from the Sacramento Union) of an occurrence which took place at Martinez, on Tuesday of last week, which is incorrect in some particulars, and which I trust you will allow me the space in your columns to correct. On that day I had a law-suit with a man named John Marsh, known as a doctor, in which I was the successful party, he is a man of whose character 1 will say nothing at present, but simply state that we have been at variance for some time past.

Note: “Doctor” John Marsh (1799-1856) was an early pioneer and settler in California (1836), and although he did not have a medical degree, is often regarded as the first person to practice medicine in California. His historic stone house will be part of the Cowell/John Marsh Property State Historic Park in Contra Costa County.

Continuing with the story; “In the evening after the suit, while sitting in the store of Mr. Sturges, of Martinez, I was attacked or menaced by a man whose name I cannot now recollect, and with whom 1 never had a difficulty, when off my guard, with a Bowie knife, from which I escaped without injury, and the would-be assassin fled. I have many old Texas friends in that neighborhood, and among the number, Col. Wm. Smith, (who, 1 believe, is well known in your city). Hearing of the murderous attack upon me, they made efforts to find the man who had made the attempt upon my life, but could not find him. We afterwards got together and spent a pleasant hour, during which time, the subject of our former exploits in Texas and elsewhere, were fully discussed; and it being known that the Celebrated Mike Fink and myself were old associates, and that we had many a time fired at bottles placed on each other’s heads, some bantering took place as to who was the best shot. Finally without any hesitation on my part or Col. Smith’s, a bottle was placed on my head, and fired at by the Colonel, with a revolving pistol, at the distance of thirty-five or forty feet. The firing was after dark and by candle light, and was done at the word. I knew him to be an excellent shot, but at the time, thought he was aiming a little too low, and so told him. Unfortunately my prediction was true, and the hall passed under one side of the bottom of the bottle, knocking it off without breaking it, and knocking out a piece of my skull bone about three inches long, and the depth and width of the ball, and yet without knocking me down.

“The above are the facts of the case. The statement that I called Col. Smith a coward and forced him to fire, and the further statement that he fled across the river, is entirely untrue. He is too brave a man for that, I have many friends in your city, and to satisfy them that I am not dangerously wounded, can inform them that I write this here, being down on business.

“Yours. &c., John H. Taylor. San Francisco. Sept 29, 1852.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Criminal Annals, Part 132 – Miners Convention

The October 1, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” contains an article regarding who should or should not have the rights to the mining lands of California. It shows that nearly 160 years ago, things were not much different from today. The language is a bit crude, and perhaps racist by today’s standards, but it shows the mind of the American miner at that time.

“MINER’S CONVENTION.

“This convention, which assembled at Jamestown, Tuolumne county, on the 18th inst., recommended the holding of a State Convention of miners at Sacramento, on the 10th of November next, to memorialize Congress for the adoption of such measures as will protect native and citizen miners against foreign emigration, and also for a general system for the government of the public lands.

“The following resolutions embrace the spirit of the platform adopted by the convention:

“That it is the interest of this State and of the whole Union to take such measures as will preserve to California for the longest possible period, its present position as a bountiful and happy home for the immigrant from the older States.

“That the rich reward which labor commands in this State, and the proportionate profits which the tradesman and the merchant likewise enjoy, being the source from which we derive the rich stream of emigration from the older States, which is now flowing westward towards this country, are not circumstances which we who are favored should alone cherish and commend, but are rich National blessings, which should be fostered and not destroyed.

“That the mineral lands of California, being of limited extent, and of unsurpassed richness, and having been purchased with the blood and treasure of the American people, should rightfully be set apart by the General Government for the exclusive benefit of American citizens, and persons eligible for citizenship who shall have declared their intentions of becoming such.

“That we are in favor of the present Naturalization Laws of the United States, and recognize in them the proper and just means to carry out the principles for which Washington and our revolutionary fathers fought and bled.

“That we do not recognize either the legality or the justice of extending the benefit of those naturalization laws beyond the intention of their framers, and of the fathers of the American Union, so as to include the motly races of foreigners from Asia, Polynesia and South America.

“That although we have reason to believe that the well known and often declared will of the laboring classes of this State in relation to the introduction of any peon or cooly system of labor will forever prevent the legalization of any such system, yet we daily see around us the evidences of an insidious policy heretofore characterizing the government of this State, by which whole hordes of degraded, dark colored and worthless laborers, of mongrel race and barbarous education, are allowed, and even invited to come hither merely to rob the rightful owner of this dearly bought heritage.

“That it is the duty of the Legislature of this State to pass such laws as are constitutional and proper (such as a tax of $5 for hospital purposes upon each such emigrant, or in any other way that they may see-fit.) in order to impede and obstruct the emigration of the last mentioned class of foreigners into this State.

“That as Congress has made no provision to protect the mining interest in California, it becomes the duty of the people to take measures themselves to save the State from the effects of the ruinous immigration of foreigners who threaten to overwhelm the whole land with the vast hordes which are daily arriving upon our shores, and as a natural consequence to seize upon the rich treasures of the State, which rightfully and properly belong only to the citizens of the Union, who have purchased the country, and whose representatives the citizens of California this time may justly and properly be considered.

“That our representatives, when elected, be requested to use their utmost endeavors to accomplish the repeal any act of the Legislature of this State, authorizing or licensing the working of foreigners in the mineral lands.”

In 1852 the Official California State Animal, the California grizzly bear, still existed in the wild. Hunters often went after them, but were not always successful in their hunt. An article in the October 2, 1852 edition of the paper relates a story of one hunt.

“BEWARE OF GRIZZLIES. – We saw an old hunter yesterday, named Hopper, with his arm in a sling, and upon inquiring the cause, he related to us the following particulars:

“Accompanied by his son and another individual, in Aug. last, all armed with good rifles, he went into the mountains to hunt bear. They had not proceeded far till they divided off, keeping within hearing of each other’s voices, as is usual with hunters in time of danger. His attention was arrested by his son, who called to him that three grizzlies were in sight, at the distance of perhaps three hundred yards. The old gentleman cocked his rifle, with the intention of stealing upon them for a shot. In descending the point of a hill for that purpose, he rounded a clump of chapperel [sic], when, to his horror, he found himself directly upon a huge bear, lying down, which had not been previously discovered. The savage monster sprang up immediately, and made an attack. Being too close to discharge his piece, Hopper sought to save himself by prostrating himself on the ground. The bear caught him by the wrist of the right arm, and bit it through, at the same time wrenching it in such a manner as to break it at the elbow. He then retired a short distance, when Hopper, anxious to avenge himself by the animal’s death, made a motion to possess his rifle. The monster turned upon him a second time. Again he prostrated himself with his face to the earth, but the expedient did not save him. The bear seized him by either hip, biting out huge mouthfuls of the solid flesh. It then knawed [sic] him on the back, and left him. Beyond this Hopper’s memory is indistinct, as his wounds were so severe as partially to deprive him of reason.

“His son and the man accompanying him, became frightened when they first beheld the attack, and took safety by climbing a tree.

“The old gentleman says he is determined to have his revenge yet, but the next time he goes in pursuit of grizzlies, he will be careful to have one of Colt’s six-shooters with him in addition to his rifle.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED