Criminal Annals

Criminal Annals, Part 127 – Recontre

Continuing with the September 25, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find under “From the Interior” some information from Nevada County, by way of the “Nevada Journal.”

“RENCONTRE.— Our town has been not a little excited for a day or two past, by a rencontre between a very well known and respected Methodist preacher located in this city, and another gentleman, who thought himself injured by some allusions in the pulpit to a habit of his of playing ‘poker’ during service hours instead of attending church The parties chanced to meet, when the aggrieved gentleman demanded of the preacher if he was the one alluded to, and ascertaining that he was, used high words, and the minister finally lost self control and threw his antagonist to the ground, saying that no one should curse him with impunity.

“The case came up for trial on Wednesday, and was conducted by an assemblage of the talent of the Nevada Bar, but the legal gentlemen were so deep in their disquisitions that the jury looked several ways for the right, and couldn’t agree.
“The circumstance will not probably be considered serious enough to get a re-examination, and will be a good lesson to all parties. It shows how necessary is self-control under all circumstances, and how easily the best of us may make work for repentance.”

This is followed by a note from the “San Francisco Journal” regarding crew problems on a ship.

“We learn from Captain Williams, of the brig Francisco, just arrived from Oregon, that a difficulty occurred on board the bark Charles Devans, between the officers and crew. He states that the chief mate was badly wounded in the affray, having been stabbed in five places by one of the seaman. – The fellow was arrested and imprisoned. The wounds inflicted upon the mate, were of such a nature, that little hope was entertained of his recovery. – S. F. Jour.”

The September 27, 1852 edition has a short article regarding a coroner’s inquest in Yolo County.

“CORONER’S INQUEST. Coroner Van Arnam, of Yolo county, held an inquest on Friday last, on the body of a man named John Filger, found dead on the bank of the river about twenty miles below Washington, Verdict— Death from intemperance. Deceased was a German by birth.”

Continuing with small articles inserted into the massive amount of political articles (1852 is a presidential election year) we find where a young lady accidentally caught her clothes on fire at home, something very common where all light and heat are by fire. Many kitchens were detached from the main living space to protect them.
“NARROW ESCAPE.— A daughter of Mrs. Woodland, Miss Eliza Woodland, came near losing her life yesterday evening, by the taking fire of her clothes. Just as the family were about seating themselves at the dinner table, she stepped into the kitchen for something, and while there, her clothes took fire from coming in contact with the stove. She instantly started into the house and rushed into the room where the family were seated, completely enveloped in flames. She was instantly seized by Mr. Skinner, who boards with her mother, thrown upon the floor, and wrapped in the carpet. This smothered the fire, and Miss W. escaped with slight burns on the arms and shoulders, though her clothes were pretty much destroyed by the fire. Mr. Skinner had his hand badly burned, and Mr. Shober, who went to his assistance, was also slightly burned. But for the presence of mind of Mr. S., the young lady would doubtless have lost her life.”

This is followed by an article regarding a young miner anxiously waiting for mail.

“A DECIDED TAKE IN.— Since the arrival at this place of the mails by the [steamship] ‘Panama,’ almost the entire street leading to the post office has been blocked up during office hours, by anxious expectants of letters from home. A large proportion of these is miners, many of whom have not been blessed with a letter for long and wearisome months, and whose hearts are yearning for information from friends, wives, parents and sweethearts. A long line is formed, and as each new comer arrives he drops into place, and squeezes himself along with the slow moving current towards the window of delivery. A belated youth on Saturday, observing the hundreds who preceded him, and impatient to peruse the love teeming billet doux of his far off languishing beauty, purchased the position of an indifferent individual who had arrived almost within speaking distance of the clerk— paid the demanded price, one dollar, fell into rank, and was rendered thrice happy by his good fortune. The complacent smile which lit up his countenance, inspired hopeful emotions in the hearts of those surrounding. The window was soon reached, the name announced, and the letter handed over. With trembling fingers he tore open the seal, hurried through its brief contents, and found it to be a dun for a small amount which he had neglected to pay previous to sailing for California.”

Following this is an article from San Francisco regarding concerns about the Chinese.

“LEARNING BAD TRICKS.— Lately we have observed several inebriated Chinamen on the streets. The other day a couple were before the Recorder for assault and battery. The San Francisco Journal informs us of another, named ‘Pon Lam,’ who was detected, a few days since, in stealing money from the counter of S. Brannan, of that city. It was his second offence. A day or two before he had succeeded in carrying off slugs to the amount of $500, and had returned to repeat the villany. We are sorry for this, for we had formed a very favorable opinion of the character of the Chinese, from the fact of their uniform inoffensive, upright and industrious nature. Hope the scoundrels among them are few.”
Note: The S. Brannan mentioned in the story is none other than Samuel Brannan, the publisher of the earliest newspaper in San Francisco, the “California Star,” and owner of several businesses in San Francisco, Sacramento and Coloma at one time. Mr. Brannan is credited with having purchased all picks, shovels and pans in the area in early 1848 and then running up and down the streets of San Francisco with a vial of gold in hand, announcing in a loud voice, “Gold in the American River.”


Criminal Annals, Part 126 – Assault and Battery

Moving on to the September 24, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find a couple of interesting cases in Sacramento’s Recorder’s Court, County Recorder and Judge, W. H. McGrew, presiding.

“Recorder’s Court —Before Judge McGrew. September 23, 1852.

“Assault and Battery. — Achoon in this case was the defendant, Choon-Foke plaintiff. The left visual organ of the latter in deep mourning, evinced that a game of gouge, thrust or tumble had been enacted. Achoon averred that he was innocent of the charge, ‘He never fight no man. He give Choon- Poke push, who fall himself, he want Choon-Foke leave, he no leave, he fall.’

“Choon- Poke’s testimony was directly the opposite this: so that the Recorder suspended judgment till this morning, that he might inform himself better of the fact, through the medium of some Chinaman better acquainted with the English language.

“Julia Mason, alias Biddy, vs Mrs. O’Leary, for assault and battery. A large bruise on the right cheek and a cluster of small scabs under the nose imparted to Biddy’s countenance no very agreeable complexion, and showed very plainly that she was more or less of a termagant pugilist. A swinging motion of the right hand when she addressed the court — an affecting application of the same member to her heart, with an occasional long drawn sigh and gesticulation of the cross, were convincing proofs of her high regard for piety and whiskey. ‘Broke your glass, Mrs O’Leary! me broke your glass! Na, na. na, I broke no glass. The Lord forgive her for that.’ A gush of tenderness had nearly overpowered the sensitive heart of the amiable plaintiff, whos [archaic] dreamy gaze fixed itself upon the floor, while she rocked her body backwards and forwards in an agony of grief. An obliviousness of memory incapacitated her from answering the inquiry as to whether she had not been drunk or drinking when she went to Mrs. O’Leary’s house. She ‘did not know — she was then, just as she is now.’ The conclusion from the reply was easy and satisfactory. Biddy was ordered from the court. Her own testimony proved her the aggressor upon an innocent woman. Before reaching the door of egress, she turned a look of withering scorn upon the executors of justice, and was about to accompany it with a volley, when the repeated order in a louder key, caused her to change her determination and hasten from their hated presence. Several other unimportant cases were disposed of.”

Under “Correspondence,” an article dated September 20, 1852 from Sonora, Tuolumne County, there is a discussion of mining and rebuilding after a fire.

The last paragraph brings up an issue that is becoming more and more common in the news, “foreigners.”

“At the Miners’ Convention of Tuolumne county, recently held at Jamestown, it was unanimously resolved that no foreigner should work in the mines of this county. The immense rush of foreigners to this vicinity, has compelled the American miners to take this course, in order to keep the mines from being flooded with foreigners, and give our own people, who are so extensively coming in just now, both by land and sea, a chance.”

By way of the “San Francisco Herald” [1850 – 1863] there is an article regarding another counterfeit coin in circulation:

“Dangerous Counterfeit — We were yesterday shown a dangerous counterfeit, of which we are informed a great many have been palmed off on the public It is a Chilean real, gilt, and having the appearance of a two dollar gold piece. The trading public ought therefore to scrutinize all the small gold coin they receive, or they will be imposed upon. On examination it will be seen that the ‘1 R” signifying one real, is erased. The gilding is very neatly done, and on the whole it is the most perfect counterfeit that has ever made its appearance in this State.”

Note: The real (re-AL) coin came in a number of sizes, the most well known being the eight real. Silver eight real coins were sometime broken or cut into four or eight pieces for convenience, creating “pieces of eight.” Since they had about the same amount of silver as a silver dollar and a silver peso, twenty-five cents became known as “two bits,” fifty cents “four bits,” etc.

Moving on to the September 25, 1852 edition of the paper we find under “Calaveras Correspondence,” some problems in that county which, at that time was our southern boundary, Amador County not existing until 1854. Jackson was the county seat of Calaveras County.

“Calaveras Correspondence. Jackson, Sept. 23, 1852.

“Homicide by a Chinaman—Spaniard Shot.

“Messrs. Editors: — cases of homicide have occurred in this vicinity since yesterday morning and strange to say, the perpetrator of one is a Chinaman. A quarrel took place between two of the Celestials yesterday, on the river near this place, in relation to the ownership of a mining claim, which resulted in one of them administering to the other so many blows over the head with a crowbar that his spirit departed from his body this morning. A number of his countrymen repaired to this place and procured a warrant and the services of an officer, who arrested the guilty ‘John.’ He is now undergoing in examination before Justice Dunham, and will probably be committed for trial. This is, I believe, one of the first instances on record in California, of a Chinaman having taken the life of another. His countrymen seem to be much shocked at the affair, and appear desirous that he should suffer a severe punishment for his offence.

“A Spaniard was killed last evening at Butte City, about two miles from this place, by a gambler named Van Allstine. The latter immediately fled, and his whereabouts is at present unknown. I have not learned the full particulars of the affair, but the general impression seems to be that it was an unnecessary if not an unjustifiable act on the part of the gambler.”

Note: Butte City, which is located adjacent to Highway 49, a few miles south of Jackson, is a mining ghost town and now in Amador County. Only one structure remains, the Ginocchio or Butte Store.



Criminal Annals,Part 125 – The Lost Found

Jumping to the September 23, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find a number of interesting stories, including one that solves a disappearance that was reported just a few days before.

“THE LOST FOUND.— Mr. Patrick Venable, whose wife was in the city last Monday in search of him, we are happy to learn on account of his distressed wife, has turned out to be above ground. He missed his road, as was suspected, and after traveling several miles longer, he found out his mistake, jumped on the stage as it came along, and came to the city, leaving his almost distracted wife to conclude he had been murdered. Mr. Venable arrived at the Missouri Hotel yesterday evening, and expects his wife from Shingle Springs in the Placerville stage to-day. When he arrives she should pull his ears well, for having thoughtlessly caused her so much mental pain and distress.”

“Recorders Court— Before Judge McGrew. September 22, 1852.

“William O’Rourke was arraigned for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. The family of O’Rourkes have been distinguished from the days of the “Dead Boxer” [?] till the present period, and William proves no exception to the rule.

“‘Of what am I accused, yer honor’ said he, in he true Hibernian accent. ‘Drunkenness and disorderly conduct,’ answered the Recorder.

“‘It is false,’ replied Mr. O’Rourke. with indignation. ‘May I speak, yer honor?’

“That privilege was granted to the prisoner, who entered into a very spirited defence of his conduct; asserting that he was taking a quiet cup of coffee about nine o’clock the evening previous, when he found himself confronted by a man in black whiskers, who practised upon him various impositions. ‘I’m not eloquent nor learned,’ said he, ‘but this is God’s truth that I’m telling yer honor.’

“A witness summoned to the stand showed a slight anachronism committed by Mr. O’Rourke, inasmuch as his arrest took place between the hours of two and three, a. m., the time at which he was accused of being disorderly; but William scorned to be particular about trifles, and let the error pass without comment.

“In consideration of Mr. O’Rourke’s frequent asseverations that he would do right in future, and because the charge of disorderly conduct was not regarded as clearly proven by the Recorder, he was dismissed with the admonition to carry himself straight in the future.”

“Justice [of the Peace] Sackett’s [Charles C. Sackett] Court.

“Patch and Wickersham vs. Captain and Owners Steamer Antelope.

“This was an action brought to recover the value of a lot of grapes shipped by plaintiffs on steamer Antelope at San Francisco, consigned to one of the firm in this city, and never received by consignee; also, a lot of sweet potatoes, alleged to be short of the quantity shipped.

“It was shown by the plaintiffs that the grapes were shipped on the 2d inst., and demanded on the morning of the 4th inst., when it was found they had been sold on that morning at auction, for about eight cents per pound, and without further advertisement than the placard in front of the sales-room; that they had been sent to the auction house on the night of the 3d inst., for the purpose of sale on the following day. The value of grapes was shown to be about 15 cents per pound. The published notice of the agent of the steamer to consigners, whs also introduced by plaintiff. No satisfactory evidence was introduced of the quantity of potatoes shipped.

“The testimony introduced by defendant, showed that the grapes were delivered on the levee on the 3d inst., and remained there until night, and were then sent to Mr. Perkins with instructions to sell them next morning —which was Saturday —at the latter part of his public sale, as they were a perishable article in a decaying condition; that they were sold in divided lots, and brought a net sum of $46.75, after deducting expenses and freight, which amount had been duly tendered. It was also showned [sic] that one of the plaintiffs saw the grapes on the levee on the morning of the 3d inst., but failed to recognise them, as they were marked differently from the usual shipments of his house.

“It was held by the Court that carriers cannot sell cargo at the post of destination, otherwise than as prescribed by law. Judgment for plaintiff for 583 pounds of grapes at 15 cents per pound, less the freight and drayage.

“Sanders and Tweed for plaintiff, A. C Monson for defendant.”

“DEATH BY DROWNING. — Three men were amusing themselves yesterday afternoon, in a small sail boat, when one of them was struck by the boom while going about, and knocked overboard and drowned. His name could not be ascertained, nor was his body recovered last night at 8 o’clock. This accident occurred alongside the steamer Senator, on the opposite side of the river.”

“PRIZE FIGHT.— A prize fight is advertised in the Auburn Herald [Placer Herald 1852-present], to come off at that place on Sunday, 26th inst., between Thomas Mitchell, of Illinois, and Louis Irons, of Ohio, for $250 a side— S. F. Whig [1852-1853].

“It is to be hoped that both the bullies will receive a sound thrashing, for so vile a desecration of the Lord’s day.”

“LOOK OUT FOR BURGLARS.— Oriental Hotel was entered on Tuesday night and robbed of several articles, principally Chinaware.”



Criminal Annals, Part 124 – Recorders Court. – Before Justice McGrew

Continuing with the September 21, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find under Sacramento “Recorders Court. – Before Justice McGrew.” a bit of justice being handed out.

“Petit Larceny – McAdams was brought up on a charge of petit larceny. The evidence not being sufficient for conviction, a restitution of the property was ordered, and the prisoner released.

“Frederick Heacht, having amused himself during a leisurely perambulation of the city and its precincts, with a profound contemplation of that versatility of genius which gives to matter its symmetry of proportion and glorious tintings of color, grew thirsty and fatigued. A happy concurrence of ideas stimulated him to the examination of decanters. In these he found that embodied feature of spirituality which occupied so large a portion of his imaginings. The perfection of the mechanic arts, which imparts to glass a great diversity of beauty, led him to an intoxicating admiration of their contents. He tasted, he drank, became hallucinated, and forthwith cut the air with sundry classical gestures accompanied by shouts, intended for eloquence; but which alas! produced no other effect upon the obdurate hearts of his auditory than to occasion his arrest as a disorderly individual. Finding himself before the Recorder yesterday morning, he was taught a sad lesson of the stern reality of human events, by paying a small stipend of $25, in the shape of fine, costs, &c, and being remanded for 48 hours imprisonment.

“ Phil Humphrey having been arrested for disturbing the peace, gave security, paid $25, and left.
For a similar cause, Lewis Green was mustered before the bar, and gave bonds for his appearance. Fined $5 and costs.
Assault and Battery.—Augustus Stinegar, committed an assault and battery upon the person of Charles Pierce, and plead guilty to the charge. Judgement was rendered, the prisoner paid his fine like a man, and was discharged.”

Under “From the Interior” is an item that shows mining by oneself was not a safe occupation.


“SAD CALAMITY. – Mr. Yelverton, just in from Sandy Bar, reports the death of John Shortness, at that place, under the following melancholy circumstances. He was engaged in working a shaft, when the earth and machinery from above caved in upon him, burying him alive. This accident occurred o the morning of Saturday last, and although the most energetic efforts were exerted to disentomb the unfortunate man, his friends did not succeed in their object till noon. He was standing upright when reached, but perfectly dead. The deceased was about twenty-five years of age and from the State of Ohio.”

The edition of September 22, 1852, under “From the Interior,” includes some information from Downieville, including a “cowhiding affair.” Note: Cowhiding means: beating with a strong, flexible whip.

“Downieville. The Mountain Echo (1852-1854) of the 18th instant, boasts of the rapid improvement of Downieville,’ and says that in that neighborhood they have the richest general average mining region in the State.

“The Tunnel Mining Company of Downieville, says the Echo, took out last week, $50 per day. This week they have taken out $1,200. Nine men are engaged in the company. Last week, the sailor boys at Gold Bluff, two miles from Downieville, took out 180 ounces; and this week, a lump of pure gold, weighing 27 lbs.

“The fluming company (eight men) just above Craycroft & Co.’s mill, have been doing very well. Some days they have taken out from $300 to $600.

The Echo also gives a very flittering account of the prospects of quartz mining in the region of Downieville. The Eureka Quartz Company are selling shares at from $800 to $1000.

“A cowhiding affair came off in Downieville on Monday of last week. The punishment was inflicted by a woman, on the person of a man named Getzler. Getzler holding the brother of the lady responsible, attacked him in the street, striking him several times with a cane over the head. The conflict promised to be serious, when a spectator caught the brother by a leg and tripped him up, injuring him severely. Getzler left immediately, and although pursued by officers, was not overtaken.

“We clip the following item from the Marysville Herald (1850-1858):

“Fire. —On Saturday morning, last, a fire broke out in the tules near Dragoon Camp on Dry Creek, and after burning over a large extent of country, consumed between 800 and 1000 bushels of barley, the property of Messrs. G. W. Bandy and James Wood.”

Also in the edition of September 22, 1852 is found an article from the San Francisco “Alta California” regarding a problem in one of their jails and another one of the “stories” that makes the 19th century so interesting.

“AN AMAZONIAN WAR. — The tenants of one small cell in the station-house are Mrs. Mary Holt, Susannah and Black Lize, the respective female representatives of the Saxon, the Mexican and the African races. A chivalrous and gallant son of France, who was released but a day or two ago from the institution, could not resist his generous impulse to mollify the hardships of their imprisonment by supplying them with a bottle of ardent spirits. The consequence was a celebration and a combat, in which Saxony succumbed early with the tooth-ache, and Africa having bitten a mouthful out of Mexico’s arm, was cast into chains, and presented a dark picture of African bondage. France was yesterday brought before the Recorder for thus violating the temperance rules of the institution, and was sentence to ten days more confinement within its walls. – Alta

EXTRAORDINARY DISCOVERY. – PERPETUAL LIGHT.– A most curious and interesting discovery has just been made at Langres, France, which we have no doubt will cause a searching scientific inquiry as to the material and properties of the perpetually burning lamps, said to have been in use by the ancients. Workmen were recently excavating for a foundation for a new building, in a debris evidently the remains of a Gallic-Roman erection, when they came to the roof of an underground sort of cave, which time had rendered almost of metallic hardness. An opening was however, effected, when one of the workmen instantly exclaimed that there was a light at the bottom of the cavern. The parties present entered, when they found a bronze sepulchral lamp of remarkable workmanship, suspended from the roof by chains of the same metal. It was entirely filled with a combustible substance, which did not appear to have diminished, although the probability is the combustion has been going on for ages. This discovery will, we trust, throw some light on a question which has caused so many disputes among learned antiquaries, although it is stated that one was discovered at Viterbo [Italy] in 1540, from which, however, no fresh information was afforded on the subject.”