Monthly Archives: January 2016

Criminal Annals, Part 14 – The Placer Times: The Cholera

vol1no17p1 headAlthough crime of all sorts was becoming a problem in parts of California’s gold mining area, something was being done about it through the creation of a civilian government. At the same time, there was something of greater concern, something about which they could really do nothing: cholera.

This deadly disease had run rampant throughout Europe and had come to the United States, probably with the immigrants. Now it was slowly coming to California overland and by ship. Although the number of cases in Europe were by this time declining, within a couple of years it would be the major killer of immigrants on their way to California, some families being almost completely wiped out on the plains. Later newspapers would estimate the death rate among immigrants in the early 1850s to be as high as 50 percent.

Medicine and the ideas about contagious diseases being what they were at the time, some immigrants believed that if they moved their wagons and families away from the populated areas rapidly, they would be okay. Unfortunately, the disease travelled with them and many hundreds of miles into their trips they came down with it.

The September 1 issue of the “Placer Times” describes what it has learned from the newspapers brought by ship from various ports around the world:

“The Cholera. – The ravages which this disease is making at this moment in nearly every part of the civilized world, (as appears from the European news, added to the most recent communications from various sections of the Union,) present the most awful and imposing spectacle of which the human mind can conceive. The great Œumenic pestilence of the nineteenth century has become a topic whose interest to ‘all living’ transcends the of even the stupendous Revolutions now in progress. Political events lost their interest to men in view of death.

“The cholera at New York on Thursday (5th) had 54 cases and 26 deaths. In Philadelphia on Wednesday, 47 cases and 19 deaths. In Cincinnati on Thursday there were 137 deaths of cholera, and 33 of other diseases.

“At St. Louis on the 29th June, there were 131 interments, with 93 deaths from cholera. On the 39th June and 1st July, although no accurate returns had been made, still the impression was that the disease was decreasing. The papers state that nearly or quite three-fourths of the deaths occur among newly arrived immigrants, and the establishment of some quarantine regulations is strongly insisted upon.

“In New York City on the 30th June, there ere 39 new cases and 18 deaths by cholera.

“In Philadelphia, June 28, 40 new cases and 13 deaths occurred.

“Albany generally continues healthy, and no cases of cholera have as yet been reported.

“The cholera is fearfully increasing in Cincinnati. The weather is wet and the atmosphere oppressive. The Total number of deaths for the day ending at noon on the 24th June was reported at 150, of which 130 were foreigners, mostly German and Irish. On the 25the, the interments for the twenty-four hours ending at noon, where of cholera 98 and other diseases 38 – not including 6 cemeteries from which reports had not been received.

“The remains of one of the victims of cholera in Cincinnati was placed in the vault of a graveyard, where it remained about 24 hours, when in the presence of friends and relatives it was taken out for burial, and, awful to behold, the features of the corpse were found to be hideously distorted, his shroud torn, and his fingers – which were between his teeth – bitten and gnawed to the very bone.

“At St. Louis, June 26, eight cemeteries reported yesterday 118 interments, of which 88 were deaths by cholera. The full report of the previous week’s interments is not yet made up, but they will doubtless be over 700 from cholera alone.

“A tremendous meeting of the citizens was held on the 25th, for the purpose of adopting measures for the mitigation of the cholera.”

In the September 22 issue of the Placer Times is a small, front page article pointing out how very seriously everyone was taking the problem of the epidemic:

“Proclamation of President Taylor. – The President of the United Sates has issued a proclamation recommending that the first Friday in August be observed by the people of the United States as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to avert the ravages of the pestilence that is now threatening to sweep throughout the land.”


Criminal Annals, Part 13 – The Placer Times: Arrests, Trial and Execution

vol1no15p1 headThe August 18, 1849 issue of the “Placer Times” contains the following article based on a story in the San Francisco “Alta California.” It tells of a hanging in Stockton of a member of the “Hounds,” one of several gangs in existence at the time of the Gold Rush.

“Arrests, Trial and Execution – A letter from the town of Stockton, dated Aug. 1st, contains the following information. It appears, by such other accounts as we have been enabled to gather, that Stockton has become the scene of excitement the counterpart of which was witnessed in this place a week or two ago. We forbear commenting upon the particulars as presented:

“This afternoon a man was hung in Stockton. His name was Mickey alias Bill Lyon, and he belonged to the fraternity of ‘Hounds’ who have so long prowled about and disturbed the peace. His offence was burglary and theft, and his trial was by jury, his sentence death by hanging. He was executed with the unanimous approval of the people of Stockton.

“A number of men, implicated in offences committed by the same gang, have been arrested and their trial will soon take place. – The prompt action of our citizens in these matters has restored law and order to the place, and we feel more secure now than we have for a six months past.

“Later advices confirm the above account and add the one or more others convicted were punished with a rigid observance of the barbarous forms of Judge Lynch, such as shaving the head, lopping the ears, and other disgraceful mutilations of the person. To his mockery of law and outrage of humanity we trust the citizens of Stockton have not yet resorted. – Alta California.”

Shaving heads and cutting off ears were common punishments for convicted thieves. They were then banished from the community. The thought was that so marked they could then be easily identified by people in other towns as being a problem.

Gold dust was the major form of “money” during the early days of the Gold Rush. However, there was a mix of Mexican, American and other country’s gold and silver coin in circulation, the silver, one-ounce Mexican or Spanish eight Real (dollar) coin being the most common. Because of this mix of money and the lack of knowledge about it by the newly arrived, there was always an opportunity for the unscrupulous to profit.

Along this line, on the second page of the same newspaper noted above is found an interesting counterfeit notice:

“Counterfeit Coin – There is any amount of counterfeit Gold and Silver coin in circulation. Half and quarter ten dollar pieces are easily detected from their light weight. The Peruvian counterfeit dollar contains but 39 cents’ worth of silver, and is detected at a glance. We advise our citizens to discountenance the circulation of this base coin, and use their best efforts to detect the knaves who are instrumental in palming it upon the community.”

The September 1, 1849 issue of the Placer Times again brings up the issue of the treatment of “foreigners.”

“Foreigners. – There is a good dal of prejudice and bad feeling evinced in this community against a large class of citizens who do not happen to be Americans by birth. – Even the native Californian does not escape this mean-spirited and narrow-minded prejudice. We witnessed, a day or two since, a most brutal attack upon an inoffensive native, whose only offence seemed to be the misfortune of being a shade darker than the wretch who attacked him. Without pretending to discuss the right of foreigners to the privilege of digging Gold at the Placers, we will remark that the immigrant has as much right here as an American, and should be protected in his rights by all good citizens. It matters not where one finds his way into this ‘breathing world,’ if he is a Man and a good citizen, we are always ready to extend to him the right hand of fellowship, and assist and protect him to the extent of our humble ability.”

Being the only Sacramento newspaper at the time, the Placer Times provided not only local news, but national and world news gleaned from newspapers brought by sailing ships, along with stories related by recent arrivals, both overland and by ship. When there was a lack of stories, the newspaper often included short jokes or other light reading.

The rush for California was often referred to as an “epidemic,” because people became “infected” with the need to get to the gold camps , not understanding the primitive conditions faced there. In the August 25 edition of the Placer Times is found a story that depicts “typical” living conditions in the gold camps as a “cure” for those who have caught “gold fever.”

“A Remedy for the California Fever – A New Yorker who has seen some service in camp life, offers to those afflicted with the prevailing epidemic the following prescription: 1. Sleep three nights in your woodhouse with the door open and swinging in the wind, during which time let your diet be pork, cooked by yourself at a smoky fire in the garden. 2. Improve all the rainy nights in sleeping between your currant bushes. 3. On the fourth day of your regimen let the diet be chiefly mule steak. 4. Thereafter dispense with all kinds of food save dog meat. If this be followed resolutely, it is confidently believed a permanent cure will be effected.


Steppin’ Out – Wild Bill’s Cheesesteaks & Grill, Folsom

Wild billsA couple of friends had eaten at Wild Bill’s and told me it was very good. I checked on line and found that there were also a few people who didn’t think it was that good, too expensive and complained about the service. Ah, a controversy, my bread and butter.

I called Russ and we picked the Saturday after New Year’s Day to meet up and head down the hill to give it a try.

Wild Bill’s Cheesesteaks and Grill is located at 2770 E. Bidwell St. Suite 400, in Folsom. That puts it across the parking lot from Bel Air, near Rubio’s if you are not familiar with the area.

The menu is on a board on the wall (again, no paper menus, but it is on line), so we took a few minutes to look it over. Finally, without immediately noticing the line forming behind us, we ordered a large Original Philly sandwich, with Provolone cheese, and a Chicago Dog, asking for them both to be cut in two.

You have your choice of two and four person tables and a long, higher group table for seating. Russ picked a small table and I went to see what they had at their condiment bar.

I brought back to the table small cups of both sweet peppers and hot peppers to try with our meal

A few minutes later they brought our food to the table.

The sandwiches looked good and we both started with the Chicago Dog. Russ really liked the roll it came on, but thought the dog was a bit salty. I also liked their roll, but all hot dogs are salty to me. It is how they dress it that makes the difference.

According to most authorities, a Chicago Dog is an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt
As a Chicago Dog it probably rated 7 out of 10 since it had neither relish nor a dill pickle spear and no celery salt. It did have pickles on it and, as I mentioned, it was on a good roll without poppy seeds. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10 for authenticity and 8 out of 10 for taste. Not a bad start.

The Original Philly came on the same roll, with lots and lots of delicious meat, the cheese and grilled onions. Often it also has grilled peppers and even mushrooms on it, but their’s didn’t. Both Russ and I added the sweet and/or hot peppers to the sandwich to make up for them.

Both of us liked it and commented on the amount of grilled meat. Again, I would have preferred it with grilled peppers, but the peppers were a good substitute (I’ll order one with them next time).

White American cheese is the most authentic cheese for this sandwich, but Provolone is right up there with it, according to the afficionados in Philadelphia.

As I later found out both sandwiches were served on an Amoroso roll, the proper roll for a Philly sandwich. Amoroso’s Baking Co. is in Philadelphia, if you are wondering.

Overall the food was very good and the service likewise.

Their menu includes a number of variations on the Philly sandwich and a lot more. You can choose Philly sandwiches with double meat, bacon, mushrooms, garlic, lettuce and tomato, spinach, barbecue sauce, peppers and onions (#9, the Cali), au jus, Frank’s Hot sauce, pizza sauce, pepperoni and pizza sauce and more. There are 15 Philly sandwiches to choose from.

They also serve burgers, hot wings, fish and chips, hot dogs, Cheesesteak nachos and a beefsteak salad. In addition, there are specialty sandwiches like the Guido, hot pastrami with lettuce, tomato and more (Why?), pulled pork, a Vegi and grilled ham and cheese.

For sides the have steak fries, Bill’s Chips, tater tots, twister fries, onion rings, fried pickles, garlic fries, cheese fries, chili cheese fries, jalapeno poppers, Mozzarella sticks, Mac N Cheese minis and calamari sticks. Oh, yes, there is also a kid’s menu and extras you can add to your sandwich.

Soft drinks (canned and fountain) and beer served. People recommend PBR with their sandwiches.

Most the sandwiches cost $7.99 for a 7 inch and $11.99 for a 12 inch.

Wild Bill’s Cheesesteaks & Grill is open daily from 11 until 8:30 and can be reached at (916) 817-2468. You can also read their menu, with prices, at

Steppin’ Out – El Pollo Loco, Folsom

epl_logos_4color-1A few of the times that I have visited my son, Steve, in San Jose, I have enjoyed the food at El Pollo Loco. The one we go to there is located in an area that is predominantly Hispanic, so it has to compete with some really good Mexican restaurants and does quite well.

A few weeks ago I contacted Russ Salazar and asked if he wanted to try the El Pollo Loco in Folsom, which is located at 654 E. Bidwell St, on the north side, between Glenn and Wales drives (the building was originally a KFC). We decided to do just that the following Tuesday.

The first thing you notice at this El Pollo Loco is huge grills with a lot of chickens spread-eagled on them…I mean a LOT of chickens.

It was around 12:30 or so, and the restaurant was fairly busy.

We first looked at the menu board and then the gentleman at the counter handed us some menus so we could sit down and decide what we wanted. Since booths are notoriously too narrow for us, I picked one of the high tables with stools. I like them best if restaurants have them.

Russ decided we should get four pieces of chicken to try, which came with two sides and a drink. I added an avocado stuffed chicken quesadilla (cheese, avocado, cabbage, pico de gallo and cilantro dressing) and a poblano avocado chicken burrito (avocado, rice, pinto beans, corn, cilantro, diced onions, melted jack cheese and poblano salsa). For sides we chose pinto beans and rice, the true test of a Mexican restaurant.

Since I had joined their club a couple of days before, we received as a gift a small bag of chips and some excellent, chunky guacamole.
Russ, who doesn’t like cilantro, figured he could handle the dressing, but we asked for no cilantro in any of the dishes (to some people, cilantro has an off taste. It is genetic).

While we waited for our food, we went to the salsa bar and picked up samples of their several salsas to try with our food. They have a fresh salsa that they make daily from fresh tomatoes. Russ really liked it. I thought it was a bit fizzy.

The first thing to arrive was the chicken: wing, thigh, breast and leg. Along with it came a large bag of chips, my small bag of chips and the guacamole. The chips were fresh and, as I mentioned before, the guacamole was excellent.

They marinate the chicken in citrus, spices and garlic before fire grilling and it had nice color, was crisp on the outside and tasted good, although I thought it was a bit dry.

We had asked for the quesadilla and burrito to be cut in two so we could share them, but instead they gave us a plastic knife to use. A pocket knife would have done a better job.

The burrito had lots of chicken and was flavorful and quite good. Even though it wasn’t supposed to have cilantro in it, Russ found some in his half and frowned at me about it.

The quesadilla was an unexpected surprise. They had left out everything but the chicken. I took it back and they made us a new one with everything in it. They put it in a hot press after they made it, so it had a nice toast to the outside, which adds flavor.

I liked the quesadilla. It was flavorful and had lots of chicken in it. I dipped it in their salsas and really liked it with all of them: mild to hot. Russ fished out the cilantro (which wasn’t in the list of ingredients but seemed to be only in his half), frowning at me again. Without the cilantro, he thought it was very good.

The sides were a bit skimpy (nothing ever looks like or is the size of the pictures). The beans we both decided were blah without added salsa and the rice was not only blah, but dry. I think next time I will try their macaroni and cheese as a side (macaroni and cheese, wait a minute, isn’t this a Mexican restaurant?).

The food was overall, good, but the presentation was so-so.

The menu includes lots of chicken choices, salads and bowls, several more burritos, four kinds of tacos, a large list of “Under 500 Calories” dishes, a tortilla roll, churros and even chicken tortilla soup.

In addition to the pinto beans, rice and macaroni and cheese, the list of sides includes black beans, cole slaw, corn, broccoli, a Loco side salad and mashed potatoes and gravy.

Apparently a big part of their business is catering. From the size of their grills, I will bet they can handle any crowd.

This El Pollo Loco is open seven days a week from 10 until 10. The drive-through stays open until a half-hour later.

For more information you can call them at (916) 986-9660 or visit their webpage at