Criminal Annals, Part 38 – The Placer Times: Who Has My Purse?

On page two of the May 17, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times,” there is a somewhat confusing, but interesting, article regarding four men who found that drinking and money do not mix.

“SERVED THEM RIGHT FOR COMPOUNDING A FELONY. – A company of four on the main ravine near Auburn had scraped together some $2900. – They had to have a frolic, and get gloriously drunk; and first deposited the purse in a ranch near by. Mr. Murphy and another of the ‘hombres’ went to bed insensible. The next morning the purse was found in possession of Mr. Andrews and Mr. Wiley, his partner. The former was known to be advised of where it was put. – They returned most of the money and gave a note at 90 days for $500, which they had appropriated. As this was coming due soon, they concluded to change the scene of their industry and moved off – whereupon the injured party advertises them, offering $100 reward, which benefitted us just $12, besides affording the matter of this interesting paragraph. P.S: – One of the chaps was picked up in town yesterday.”

Page three of the same edition has an article regarding damage to two shade trees that the newspaper calls “an act of vandalism.”
“DESECRATION. – Two of the elegant shade sycamores in front of the Sutter Hotel were yesterday ruthlessly mutilated by one Ormsby, a contractor, we learn, engaged by private parties to grade and improve K st. We express the public sentiment of unmitigated contempt for the mean and selfish spirit that characterizes such an act of vandalism.”

The May 20 issue of the Placer Times full of news, but only one story regarding any problems. It discusses some issues with the local Indians and the involvement of the California State Militia, which will later become the California National Guard.

“THE INDIANS. – Brigadier General A. M. Winn has received a letter from Major Gen. Thomas J. Green, 1st Div. Cal. Militia, forwarded by Brigadier Gen. Eastland, and enclosing one to his Excellency Peter H. Burnett, Governor of California. We have been favored with the perusal of these letters. They are dated at Oro, the head quarters, at present, of Gen. Green.”

Note: Proclaimed by Senator Thomas J. Green to be ‘a noble city of broad streets, imposing buildings, and splendid public squares,’ he convinced the state to declare the town of Oro, on land he had bought from John Sutter three miles above the mouth of the Bear River, as the County Seat of Sutter County. However, Senator Green neglected to mention that the grand town of Oro existed only on paper and, really consisted of one 20 by 20 foot building.

Oro is now part of Placer County. The County Seat of Sutter County was changed from Oro to Nicolaus and later Yuba City.

“Serious Indian troubles are announced on that frontier. A volunteer company, under command of Capt. Nicolaus Algier, had prepared to march against the savages, and other parties were being formed. The Indians are reported to number several hundred and to be headed by white men and some Chilians. An engagement is said to have taken place on Deer Creek a few days before, in which four whites and fifteen Indians were killed. Gen. Green has very wisely determined to take the field, both for the protection of the citizens and to prevent excesses on their part. He recommends that the Adjutant General should be ordered to his headquarters, with instructions and authority to make a further call upon the militia and U.S. troops, should the emergency require it.

“We are further advised that some 200 Indians were seen near Johnson’s Ranch [in Yuba County and the first settlement reached by the immigrants after crossing the Sierra Nevada by the Donner Pass route of the California Trail], on Friday. A party of 30 went out from Nicolaus and killed four of them one of the party being slightly wounded in the forehead. A teamster from Nicolaus was found dead in the neighborhood with 14 arrows in him. His wagon and merchandize [archaic] had been burnt up and four pair of oxen killed.

“The repeated outrages in every direction will induce a more general militia organization throughout this part of the State. We learn that a volunteer company of young men is being now formed in Sacramento City. They will be the first to tender their aid should future developments require the further call upon the militia which is anticipated in the above correspondence.”

A second story relating to the issue of the militia and what they should be protecting shows up on page two of the May 22 issue of the newspaper. It is a story of a land owner who cannot build on his property because of squatters and the fact that he is unprotected.

“Initiation fee for a course of squatterism $15 – stakes and surveys extra. Greenhorns put through in good style. A friend informs us that the owner of a lot just out on one of the principal streets was about getting up some lumber to build thereon, a day or two since. He was forbid to unload it, and assured that it would be burnt if he deposited in on the squatter premises. To avoid disturbance, the owner of the lot offered the claimant quite a sum to quit, but to no avail. If we are to be drafted in the militia, we prefer a certain service nearer home, than to protect the frontiers of Oro from Indian depredations.”

In addition to the continuing problem with people discharging their pistols randomly in towns, Sacramento has a new problem with people riding their horses too fast along the streets, endangering pedestrians.

“BAD TASTE. – The disposition of hombres who ‘vamos about on caballos,’ to try how near they can come to running over the quiet pedestrians, whom the limited accommodations of side-walks compel often to take the streets. The headlong California style of rushing the thing so much, is a very questionable improvement as applied to horsemanship, especially in crowded thoroughfares. We have had to say so much about humanity, charity, and Christian virtues generally, that we will leave them out of the account at present.”


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