The springtime weather of 1852 brought out the miners in the Mother Lode who had been cooped up for the winter when the water was too high and too cold for mining. But that is not the only people it brought out, it also brought out those looking for more than a bit of excitement or an excuse to increase their bankroll through other than legitimate dealings.
The April 13, 1852 edition of Sacramento’s “Daily Union” newspaper contains a number of small articles about various activities in El Dorado County, placed together as “From the Interior.”
“ROW AT GEORGETOWN – We are informed by the editor of the El Dorado News, that a sailor named Jack Smith, was killed on Sunday last, in an affray with a Spaniard [a general term for anyone, except Mexicans, who spoke Spanish]. When our informant left there, there was a great excitement manifested among the citizens, and the probabilities were that the Spaniard would be hung by the populace.
“In consequence of the bad conduct of the prostitutes in Placerville, the citizens, at a public meeting held on Wednesday last, decided that they should all leave that town within 48 hours. On Friday, they were compelled to vamoose, with strict injunctions not to return to that place.”
Note: This action to “cleanse” Placerville happened over and over, yet the “ladies” continued to be a part of Placerville and all other mining towns, many into the mid-20th century. Another story similar to this said that they were escorted to the top of Sacramento Hill and told not to come back. That time they made it back before the escorts returned.
“The miners in the vicinity of Placerville, are doing uncommonly well.
“Our correspondent, the Post Master of Georgetown [possibly William T. Gibbs], writes us that the rumors prevalent of the ravages of the small pox at that place, are totally unfounded, and that but one death from that disease has occurred in the town. The name of this person was Peter Valery, Jr, aged 35 years.
“The largest saw mill ever built in the county of El Dorado, is in the process of erection by Messrs. Bidwell & Co., at the Georgia Slide, near Georgetown.”
The April 15, 1852 edition has a letter regarding the someone who was lost during the recent action between the citizen army and the local Indians.
“PLACER COUNTY CORRESPONDENCE [A common error to this day due to the confusion between Placer County and Placerville].
“Placerville, April 10th, 1852.
“Messrs. Editors: – I notice a card in the Pacific, requesting information concerning Mr. James Craig, of Oneida county, New York. He enlisted on the 12th May last, in Company B, Capt. Wm. Graham, Second Bat. Cal. Vol., commanded by Maj. William Rogers. He was drowned on the 28th May, at the time the troops were endeavoring to cross the South Fork of the American river to attack the Indians, 15 miles above Johnson’s rancho.
“His body was subsequently found by Mr. Jno. [John] Andrews, of this place, who has articles in his possession belonging to deceased.
Farther information can be had by addressing the undersigned.
“Signed: ALBERT W. BEE.”
Note: Albert Wilson Bee (1821-1863) arrived in California in June 1849. In 1858 he and Frederick A. Bee organized the Placerville, Humboldt and Salt Lake Telegraph Co. Frank Bell, later governor of Nevada, built the pioneer line over the Sierra which connected in Placerville with the lines of the Alta Telegraph Co. in Sacramento. The line, called the “Bee Line,” was strung on trees, and teamsters often took the wire to mend the harness of horses and tie loads on wagons.
The April 15, 1852 edition also has quite a story about an execution in Mokelumne Hill, a mining town in Calaveras County.
“MURDER AND SUMMARY EXECUTION OF THE MURDERER. – Mokelumne Hill, April 12, 1852. – A gentleman from San Andreas has just furnished me with the details of a bloody and fatal affray which occurred at a dance house in that place last Thursday night.
“The perpetrator of the brutal murder was a Mexican by the name of Flores, a fine looking youth, only about eighteen years of age. Only a short time since he was arrested by the Vigilance Committee of this place on suspicion of having been connected with the murder of Michael Hughuez, but the evidence against him not being conclusive enough to warrant the Committee in inflicting corporeal punishment on him, he was sentenced to leave the Hill in twelve hours and not return again under penalty of death.
“On Thursday night he was at a dance house in San Andreas, where some difficulty occurred between himself and another Mexican who was tending the bar. Flores was flourishing his knife in a threatening manner, and the Mexican attempted to make his escape by retreating behind the bar, when Flores drew his pistol and commenced firing at him. He succeeded in making his escape from the house and ran to an American tent and aroused its inmates. They went to the house and found, weltering in his blood, a Mexican who had been brutally murdered by being stabbed. He had been pierced with seven mortal wounds, three in his right side and one in his neck. He was lying on the floor by the side of a table upon which he was sleeping at the time the murderous assault was made upon him. A person in a room overhead heard the unfortunate victim exclaim: ‘Why are you murdering me?’ The reply was ‘Down upon your knees, G – d d– n you, and let me finish you!’
“Flores was arrested, and having been pronounced guilty of murder was sentenced to be hung. Objections were made to the summary mode of proceeding, and an attempt was made to have him turned over to the civil authorities and held in Jackson [The county seat, since Amador County had not been created at that time], but it did not succeed. He was told that if he requested it, a priest should be sent for to administer the comforts of religion; but he refused to have one called, and begged that he might be shot by one of his own countrymen, instead of being hung.
“A countryman volunteered to shoot him, and he was tied to a tree, when an attempt was made to rescue him; but several undaunted miners rushed into the melee with drawn pistols, and swore that the murderer should be hung, at the peril of their lives.
“A rope was adjusted around his neck and thrown over a limb of the tree. he was placed on a barrel, and at the word the barrel was knocked from under him, and he was dangling in the air. The knife used to murder his victim, is supposed to be the same used to murder Miguel Hughuez.”
TO BE CONTINUED