Criminal Annals, Part 65 – Wells Fargo & Co. Robbed

Now that the trial, sentencing and execution of the sentence on James K. Page is finished, we will go back to reviewing some of the crimes found in the early pages of the “Mountain Democrat.”

The first story comes for the February 14, 1857 edition of the newspaper and is about the recovery of cash stolen from the Fiddletown (originally in El Dorado County) office of Wells, Fargo & Co. It also paints a dark picture of the crime rate in the State of California during those years.

It is interesting to note that the editors of those years often editorialized within the news stories rather than limiting their comments to a specific page or column, as is normally done today.

“RECOVERED. – It will be recollected that the Express office of Wells, Fargo & Co., in Fiddletown, was broken open not long since, and $8,000 in cash stolen therefrom. One of the officers of the Company informs us that some of the robbers have been arrested and all of the money recovered. Swindling, stealing, robbing and murdering are such common occurrences now-a-days, that they are scarcely noticed. Our whole State seems to be swarming with professional thieves and escaped convicts, who deem it beneath their dignity to work for a living. Col Rowe, the President of the Pacific Express Company, a remarkably sensitive gentleman, Dr. Bates, the State Treasurer, and the very respectable firm of Palmer, Cook & Co., have operated on a large scale, and the smaller, bolder but less respectable and skillful knaves are following their example. Poor California is victimized on every turn. Judge Hall’s bill for a company of rangers should be acted upon at once. Such a company is greatly needed at present. With great propriety it might be stationed in Sacramento until the day before the sailing of the steamer, when its services might be required in San Francisco, to prevent certain eccentric gentlemen from taking a pleasure trip to the Atlantic States. At this juncture we cannot afford to lose the services of adroit financiers. Go ahead, Judge, and put your bill through! If you can’t give us ‘indemnity for the past,’ at least give us ‘security for the future.’”

It is interesting to note that a small story next to this one mentions that the State intends to reduce, not increase the salaries of judges.

“SALARY OF THE COUNTY JUDGE. – The bill to reduce the salary of the County Judge of this county from $4,000 to $3,000, passed the Senate on Tuesday. It does not take effect during the term of the present incumbent.”

The August 18, 1859 edition of the newspaper has several stories listed under one heading, “Chapter of Crimes.” The last one shows that travel on the roads in those years was often dangerous, even the in the more populated areas.

“CHAPTER OF CRIMES. – Last Saturday, at Rich Flat [probably the Rich; bar, flat west of Georgetown shown on only one 1853 map], a dispute arose between two colored men named Quinn and Elliot, about some trifling matter. From words they proceeded to blows, and ere they could be separated Elliot stabbed Quinn, and threatened to use his knife on the many who should attempt to arrest him. Quinn died the following morning. He was a quiet and industrious man – his murderer a quarrelsome and idle fellow, so we are informed by persons acquainted with both. Elliott was arrested, examined and committed to jail on Tuesday.

“On Monday morning, John Kenzel, of the firm of Tracy & Kenzel [an express company], of Aurum city [near the town of El Dorado], whilst packing a load of provisions to the mines, was shot by an Indian and stripped of his clothing. He was severely, but not dangerously wounded. The weapon used was a Derringer pistol.

“On Wednesday morning, between 8 and 9 o’clock, almost within sight of Buckeye Flat [Buckeye School is in Buckeye Flat, which was a commercial center before Shingle Springs developed] , on the public road, two men armed to the teeth, their faces covered with black handkerchiefs, hailed a teamster and his companion and ordered them to stop or they would shoot them. Startled at the unwelcome summons, the teamster was too excited and agitated to check his horsed instantly, and the robbers, taking deliberate aim, fired, shooting him in the arm. Frightened at the report of the pistols, the horsed became unmanageable and started at a furious pace down the hill, and ee stopped at the tool house. The wounded man was taken out of the wagon and properly cared for. Mr. James E. Bowe, Deputy Collector, passing along soon after, learned the particulars an immediately returned to Mud Springs [Town of El Dorado] and telegraphed the facts to Sheriff [Edgar] Bogardus, who instantly dispatched Under Sheriff [W. J.] Burwell and Deputy [Frederick] Baker in pursuit of the scoundrels. They have not yet been arrested, it being almost impossible to detect them on account of their disguises. It was a daring attempt at robbery, perhaps murder. It behooves persons traveling to go prepared for such a dangerous company.”

Finally, following this is a small story regarding scoundrel in Sutter County.

“W. P. Wilkins, who decoyed Miss May from her home in Sutter county and seduced her, was shot by her father, while he was addressing a meeting at Yuba City., He has since died. He was District Attorney of the county, a young man of a family, highly educated and possessed of more than ordinary talents. A sad fate for one so young, so accomplished and with such bright prospects before him.


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