Criminal Annals, Part 72 – Lynchings at Drytown and Mud Springs

Continuing with the early copies of Sacramento’s first daily newspaper, “The Daily Union,” we go first to the April 30, 1851 edition where there is a story about a murder in the area south of Shingle Springs.

“MURDER. – An account was given us yesterday of the finding of the body of a man who was murdered about two miles from Mock’s trading post in the Big Cañon, about seven miles south-east of the Shingle Machine on the Weber Creek road. The body when found was partially covered with leaves and dirt, and upon examination several marks of violence were discovered. The head had been cut off and the skull split with an axe, which was found buried at a short distance. In the camp near by were found some mining tools, blankets, two pairs of new boots and a double barreled shot gun. From the accounts and papers left by the deceased, his name was supposed to be Linch or Length, and from the language and character of the writing it is inferred that he was an illiterate German or Swiss. From appearance he was supposed to have been a young man, about twenty-five years of age. It is also thought from the memoranda found that he had been messing with a person named Daniel Matz, who probably was the murderer. The body, after examination, was decently buried.”

Note: The exact location of Mock’s Trading Post is unknown. We do know that Big Canyon Creek flows from just south of the town of El Dorado to the Cosumnes River and that the Oro Fino, or Big Canyon gold mine is located near Big Canyon Creek, about four miles south of Shingle Springs.

In the January 15, 1852 edition of the Daily Union is a story regarding another “lynching,” this time in Drytown, which at the time was right on the El Dorado-Calaveras county border (Amador County was not created until 1854).

“LYNCHING. – Three Sydney ducks went into Drytown a few days ago, and having plead poverty, were taken by one of the the residents to his house., where they were accommodated with lodging and their meals. The ungrateful dogs on leaving, the next morning, stole a number of articles from their host, which they sold in the village. Upon the theft being discovered, the rascals were overhauled, tied up, and given each, as his well-merited punishment, five (!) lashes. On being let go, the manner in which they thrust their tongues into their cheeks, indicated very plainly that the whipping was not felt, much less cared for, by them.”
Note: It was very common in those years to offer food and lodging to anyone who asked. During the winter, when mining was difficult due to high water, miners would often walk long distances to visit friends, stopping along the way at stranger’s cabins, where they were fed and housed for the night.

Sydney Ducks was the name given to many of the Australians who arrived during the Gold Rush. Because Australia had become the place where the British sent their criminals, once the United States had gained its independence, Australians were all suspect. Their alleged crimes were the catalyst for the formation of San Francisco’s Vigilance Committee of 1851. In reality, a majority of the Australians who arrived in California were not British criminals, but farmers, laborers or sailors, many of whom had left Ireland for Australia during the “Potato Famine” of the 1840s.

In the June 7, 1852 edition there is a very short story regarding a lynching at Mud Springs as the result of a problem between some Indians and Chinese.

“LYNCHING AT MUD SPRINGS. – On Friday last, a party of Chinese and Indians got into a difficulty, at Mud Springs., El Dorado County. In the fracas, one of the Chinese was killed by one of the Indians. The Americans there then arrested the Indian, and turned him over to the Chinese, who hung him on the spot.”

Note: Although the townsite of El Dorado was one of the first mining camps in the County, it was not always known by this very appropriate name meaning “The Gilded One.” Up until 1855 it was called Mud Springs because the thousands of immigrants traveling through there heading westward towards Shingle Springs and Sacramento and southward towards the southern mines, watered their livestock at the once clear springs that flowed, muddying the surrounding land and the water itself. To distinguish these springs from those much clearer, two miles further up the immigrant trail at Diamond Springs, the immigrants simply referred to this place as Mud Springs and the name stuck.

In the same edition of the Daily Union is an interesting story regarding a sermon preached in Sacramento, the subject of which pretty well relates to the problems of the times.

“The Rev. Mr. Benton preached a discourse on Sunday morning on Gambling, Horse-Racing, Licentiousness, Fighting, and pretty much all the rest of the evils with which society in California is contaminated. The Rev. clergyman is a man who speaks boldly the word of God whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.”



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