Criminal Annals, Part 24 – The Placer Times: Problems with the Legislature

vol1no40p1 head 2 16With most of the flooding from the heavy rains of the winter of 1849-1850 having subsided, a lot of the space in the “Placer Times,” Sacramento’s major newspaper, is devoted to articles regarding the improving the levee system. Additional space is devoted to continuing problems with the squatters on land to which someone holds a Spanish or Mexican land grant, along with questions and letters concerning what they are calling the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. There is also an interesting issue that the people of Sacramento are having with the new legislature which is meeting in San Jose.

In late 1849 the voters of Sacramento approved a charter for the city and forwarded it to the state legislature for their approval. The legislature, which was only elected in November of 1849, took it upon themselves to make revisions to the charter which the voters believe they cannot do. Already the voters are questioning California’s new constitution and wondering about the people they elected.

In the February 16 issue of the Placer Times is an article regarding some difficulties in San Francisco as reported in the “Alta California.”

“Attempt to Shoot an Officer. – Yesterday morning an altercation took place in Pacific street between two men, one named John S. Banks, and the other Oliver H. Dewey, barkeeper of the El Dorado. The latter knocked Banks down with a billy, whereupon officer Bachman interfered and arrested Dewey; but on his way to the Police office, he made his escape from the officer, who pursued him into the El Dorado, when Dewey procured a pistol and fired it at the officer, somewhat injuring him in the face. The doors of the house were immediately closed. The officer, in consequence of the injury he had received, finding it impossible to proceed farther alone, immediately proceeded to the Police office for assistance, and when he again returned was refused admission. Here the affair rested until about 8 o’clock, when the officer again proceeded to the house, but Dewey was not to be found. The whole transaction was laid before his Honor Judge Geary, who immediately summoned the proprietors of the El Dorado to appear before him, and upon examination they denied all knowledge of the affair. It was finally ascertained that Dewey had secreted himself in a room in a house in Washington street, whereupon the officers proceeded to search of him; and when they asked if such a person was there, were told that ‘a lady slept in the room.’ The officers, not satisfied, proceeded to the room and burst open the door, and found Dewey quietly reposing in bed. He made no resistance, but proceeded with the officers to the Police office. After an examination before Judge Geary, he was admitted to bail in the sum of $10,000. The proprietors of the El Dorado were also held to bail to keep the peace, in the sum of $5,000 each. [Alta California]”

For the rest of February the Placer Times focused on the aforementioned problems with levees, squatters, railroads and the legislature.
In the March 2, 1850 issue there are a few notes taken from papers arriving from the “States” under the heading, “Interesting Items:”

“We find the following ‘news’ paragraphs in papers just received from the States. We will venture to say that California correspondents can ‘lie’ with greater ‘Volubility,’ than any set of men in existence.

“Chinese Slaves in California. – The Baltimore Sun asserts, on the authority of its private correspondent, that the number of Chinese arriving in California is enormous. They are brought in cargoes by English vessels, and sold as servants to the highest bidder, on the Cooley system, a shade less than absolute slavery. This is a species of trade that will soon get its quietus from the State government.

“The Temperance Test in California. – The New York Tribune, in speaking of the late election in California, says that Capt. Sutter, one of the candidates for Governor, was effectively opposed because he was a ‘drinking’ man. If this be so, it speaks well for California, and places her considerably in advance of some of the older states.”

This item is followed by a note that could easily be found it any of today’s newspapers:

“The Streets. – Efforts are being made to improve the streets, all necessary improvements in which could be made in a few days, were not certain gentlemen very fearful of its costing them a few paltry dollars.”

Among the notices and advertisements, which usually appear on pages three and four is one regarding the crime of cattle rustling and the how it is being handled:

“Criminal Court of Sacramento District.

“At a term of this court held for the District of Sacramento, at Marysville, upon the Yuba, this twenty-eighth day of January, 1850 – present, R.A. Wilson, Judge of the Criminal Court of said District:

“It having been made to appear to this court that there was a combination of cattle thieves, with extensive ramifications through this District; and it farther appearing to this Court that certain evil-disposed persons have industriously circulated the report that it is lawful to kill unmarked cattle upon the ranches, as well as upon the public lands, and that thereby many misguided persons have been led to the commission of a felony; and that the Grand Jury of said District having upon their oaths found true bills for grand larceny against Samuel Hicks, Michael Watson, Nelson Gill and James Nicholson for cattle stealing: It is ordered by the Court, that the Clerk give public notice warning all persons that may have been misled by such misrepresentations, of the consequence of farther commission of such crime – that the stealing of beef cattle, whether branded or unbranded, is an infamous offense, within the meaning of the Constitution, and any person convicted of said offense is deprived of all the rights of citizenship in California, and liable to be sentenced to two years’ confinement in the chain gang; and that in conducting the administration of justice, when necessary, the Court is authorized to call upon the Commandant of the United States troops stationed at Johnson’s ranch.

“STEPHEN J. FIELD, Clerk of said Court and Alcalde of Marysville.”


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