Criminal Annals, Part 83 – Who Was Jim Ugly?

There was a story about a hanging of a man named Jim Ugly at Yankee Jim’s, in Placer County, in the April 9, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” that was included in this column several weeks ago. He was found guilty of murder and hanged by the citizens. In the April 13, 1852 edition of the same paper was a previously missed letter received from a resident clarifying what had happened and giving a bit of news about the area.

“Yankee Jim’s, Placer County, April 10th, 1852.

“Messrs. Editors: I have noticed that this place has been much neglected in your correspondence, and the first attention paid to it was a paragraph contained in a recent number of your valuable journal mentioning one Jim Ugly. As that appears to be an introduction between us, perhaps a few observations upon it may not be out of place.

“The person hung was named James Edmonson, from Hopkins County, Ky. An affray occurred between him and Samuel Chamberlain, the barkeeper at the ‘Indian Queen,’ a house of ill fame in this place, in which the latter was stabbed in the lower abdomen, and of which wound he died. It appears that Edmonson wanted liquor, which Chamberlain refused. Words and blows ensued, in which Chamberlain struck the other several times with a club, and finally knocked him down, and while thus Edmonson inflicted the wound. Edmonson went to the place where he was lodging, and after a short time, duly authorized parties proceeded to arrest him. After he was in the hands of the officers, he received a stab in the back which penetrated the cellular cavities of the left lung, and of which wound he was confined to his bed and unable to rise.
“When Chamberlain died, a coroner’s inquest was held, and a judicial examination made into the case. The evidence produced developed the facts before related; but the populace was greatly excited, and immediately a crowd assembled and decided that Edmonson should die. The decision was straightway put into effect. Had he been left alone, two or three days at most would have closed his career, for he was nearly dead when hung. I make no comment on the matter, but simply state the facts.

“A word about this place and vicinity may not be amiss. There is her a mining region of great extent and richness; they are ‘dry diggings,’ and only partially worked from the scarcity of water. This difficulty, however, we hope, will soon be overcome, as a company composed of Messrs. Lovell, Peak and Fagin are vigorously prosecuting the construction of a canal from Shirt-tail Canon of sufficient capacity to supply at least two hundred sluices. If the weather holds good, the work will be completed within two to three weeks.

“This place has grown rapidly, is improving very fast, and when the enterprise of which I have spoken shall have been completed, I should not be surprised if it should rival, if not surpass, and of our mountain towns, Placerville or Nevada City not excepted.

“[signed] X.”

Note: Dry diggings refers to an area where gold was deposited in the soil by a stream or river, which has long since moved or cut deeper into the earth. Placerville, formerly Old Dry Diggings, was one. Gold bearing dirt was found on the hillsides and had to be brought down to the creek for washing.

Returning to the late April issues of the Daily Union in the April 26, 1852 edition is quite a bit of information on El Dorado County, good and bad, all taken from the “El Dorado News.”

“EL DORADO. – Through Hunter’s Express we have received the “News” of Saturday. We make the following compilation of news from that journal: –

“LATER FROM CARSON VALLEY. – Mr. Bonnard arrived at Placerville on Friday morning, after a trip of three days and a half. Mr. B. and his party left the Mormon Station [near Genoa, NV] and came by the new route [Carson Pass to Mormon Emigrant Trail, then across a new route near Sly Park to what is now Highway 50], and he speaks of it in the most glowing terms. He states that there will be no difficulty in bringing wagons heavily laden the entire distance. There is plenty of good feed and water from the time they leave the valley until they arrive at the settlements on this side [of] the mountains.

“The Indians in the valley are quiet.

“Mr. Bonnard also informs the News that there is no difficulty in making the through trip by the new route, in two days and a half on foot!

“”SCHOOLS. – A school is now in successful operation at Placerville, under the superintendence of Mr. G. W. Jones. The average number of pupils in attendance is 25.

“A Sabbath school, with good and efficient teachers, has also been established, which numbers fifty pupils.

“Divine service is held at the M. E. [Methodist Episcopal] Church in that place every Sunday.

“WHITE ROCK. – The miners at this place receive a supply of water from the White Rock Ditch. The ditch cost $8000 and paid for itself in less than one month.

“BIG LUMP. – The editors of the News have been shown a beautiful specimen of native gold, weighing seven pounds. It was dug at Spanish Flat.

“CRIM. CON. – A Frenchman who has a wife in Placerville went out on Monday morning to attend to his usual avocations, but returned shortly after to his house, when he found his better half and another Frenchman together under very suspicious circumstances. After a knock-down fight, the guilty Madame was compelled to evacuate the town.

“CHINESE DRIVEN OFF. – a miners’ meeting was held on New York Bar last week, and all the Chinamen at work there were driven off.

“DISGRACEFUL. – The lady of one of the most respectable citizens of Placerville was grossly insulted by a ruffian who was standing on the sidewalk.

“NEW EMIGRANT ROAD. – The new emigrant road from Johnson’s Ranch to Carson Valley, via the pass through the mountains discovered by Johnson, is progressing rapidly towards completion. About fourteen miles of the road has already been graded and a substantial bridge constructed across Brush Canon. The timbers for the bridge across the South Fork have nearly all been hewn out and otherwise prepared, and they will be erected in the course of eight or ten days.

“The Indians of El Dorado Co. held a grand fandango on Weber Creek, a few days since.

“THE WEATHER. – The weather throughout El Dorado Co. is very disagreeable. It commenced raining at Placerville, on Thursday morning, and continued raining and snowing incessantly up to the time that the News went to press”



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