Criminal Annals, Part 85 – Horrible Murder

Continuing down the page of the April 28, 1852 edition of the “Daily Union” there is another story about criminal activity, this time concerning a captain of a ship in San Francisco.

“ROBBERY AND DEATH.– We learn from the San Francisco Herald, that the flags of the shipping in the harbor were flying at half-mast on Sunday, in token of respect for Capt. David Ritchie of the bark Wm. Watson, who expired on Saturday last, in consequence of injuries inflicted upon him by persons unknown. It appeared on examination that he had been attached on his way to the shop by two men, one of whom knocked him down, kicked him, and attempted to rob him. A Coroner’s inquest was holden, and rendered a verdict that the deceased came to his death by congestion of the lungs and brain, caused by injuries received while on shore, at the had or hands of persons unknown. Deceased was buried with Masonic honors.”

In the May 1, 1852 edition of the Union is another story from San Francisco regarding a murder on the wharfs on that city.

“We find in the Herald, the following account of a murder committed at San Francisco on the morning of the 30th ult:

“HORRIBLE MURDER. – A man was discovered lying drunk on Long Wharf, about half-past two o’clock last night. A special policeman passing along about a half-hour afterwards, went up to him and found him in a pool of blood dead, but yet warm. On examination, sixteen horrible wounds were found upon his person – in the face, back, beast and shoulders – inflicted apparently with a dagger. Four persons – three youths not over fifteen years of age, were arrested yesterday, on suspicion of being connected with the transaction.

“Justice Shepherd held an inquest upon the body; and the verdict was that the deceased came to his death by wounds inflicted with a sharp instrument in the hands of a person or persons unknown. The name of the deceased was Joaquin, and he was a native of Old Spain”
For some reason the editors put stories about the same general subject together, so this story is immediately followed by this bit of of other “seagoing” information:

“The P. M. S. (Packet Mail Ship) Columbia, will leave San Francisco for Panama, on Monday next, with the mails.”

The May 3, 1852 edition of the Union has a followup story about the Mr. Anderson who was reported to have been found outside of Weaverville, Trinity County, with a dozen arrows in him and his throat cut.

“Through Gregory’s Express, we have received the Shasta Courier, from which we extract the following information:

“Death of Mr. Anderson ! – One Hundred and forty-eight Indians killed ! !

“WEAVERVILLE, Trinity county, Sunday, April 25, 1852.

“Quite an excitement was created here some ten days since, in consequence of the disappearance and probable murder of a much esteemed citizen, Mr. Anderson, who was supposed to have been attacked by Indians while driving some cattle from his ranch, some twelve miles distant, to this place; his horse having come in riderless, and the saddle being much broken and stained with blood.

“A company of twenty-five, under command of Captain Dixon, started in pursuit of the Indians and in search of the body of Mr. Anderson, which was discovered in a cluster of bushes near the spot where he had been attacked. the body was entirely stripped and horribly mutilated. There were some seventeen or eighteen arrow wounds in different parts of the body, the arrows still remaining in many of them.

“On Thursday afternoon, the 22d, the scouts discovered the rancheria, in a small valley at the base of three mountains on the south side of the South Fork of Trinity River. At midnight the company started from their encampment, Captain Dixon having divided his force into three parties, so as to come upon the Indians from different quarters and surround them. When the day broke all the parties were in the desired positions, and on the signal being given the attack commenced. Each rifle marked its victim with unerring precision – the pistol and the knife completed the work of destruction and revenge, and in a few brief moments all was over. Of the one hundred and fifty Indians that constituted the rancheria, only two or three escaped, and those were supposed to be dangerously wounded; so that probably not one of these engaged in the murder of the unfortunate Anderson now remains alive. Men, women and children all shared the same fate – none were spared except one woman and two children who were brought back prisoners.

“It may seem barbarous and cruel to some that the helpless women and the innocent children should be thus sacrificed. But I am informed that the Indians when attacked placed the women and children in front and shot at their assailants from behind them as from behind a barricade, so that it was necessary to shoot the women in order to get at the men.”

The Trinity County Chamber of Commerce online Visitor’s Guide has a somewhat different version of the story:


“In 1852, a well-known citizen of Weaverville, J. R. Anderson, was killed and a small herd of his cattle were driven off by a band of Wintu Indians. A few hours later, Sheriff Dixon and a number of men were in pursuit.

“After several days of tracking through the rugged mountains, Dixon’s party set up camp on Hayfork Creek while scouts were sent out to locate the Indians.

“Late that afternoon, a scout reported sighting an Indian Rancheria a few miles from Dixon’s camp. From a vantage point on Natural Bridge, the scout could see smoke from their campfires a short distance upstream, and even described children playing.

“Under cover of darkness, the party quietly made their way up the narrow draw known as Bridge Gulch and surrounded the encampment. When the morning sun broke through the trees, the camp began to stir. As men, women and children of the tribe gathered to hear their leader speak, a shot rang out and he dropped to the ground. Chaos broke out as Sheriff Dixon’s men began firing at anyone they could line up in their gun sights.

“Soon, however, the shooting ended as Dixon’s men ran out of targets. When all was quiet, the party cautiously made their way down the mountainside and into the Wintu camp where smoke from burning tepees curled toward the sky and the smell of gunpowder hung in the morning air. All that remained of the 150 Wintus were three children (accounts vary).

“The band that had killed Mr. Anderson and driven off his cattle were not among those who had died in the camp.”

Note: The Massacre (sacred) site and Natural Bridge are administered by the Hayfork Ranger District of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.



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