Criminal Annals, Part 97 – Buried Gold

In the August 1, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” is found an interesting story about a miner in Trinity County who buried his gold for safe keeping.

“Trinity County Correspondence.

“Weaverville, Trinity County, July 28, 1852.

“Messrs. Editors. – At the request o some of the parties concerned, I take the liberty of giving you an account of a discovery which was made a few days ago in this village, and has since been the subject of conversation in every store, cabin and grocery in the neighborhood. The story has several excellent morals; from it the desponding miner may gather hope, since rich deposits may be overlooked even by those who know, or rather did know where they are hid. The positive may learn how uncertain are all sure things, and above all it teaches the wickedness and folly of suspicion founded upon circumstances.

“In the month of June, ‘51, a miner named Richard Martin, having accumulated an hundred ounces of gold, buried the same for safe keeping in the earth floor of his cabin. On the day following the deposit, Martin returning from his work discovered certain evidences that his cabin had been prospected by some enterprising miner during his absence, the floor being punctured in divers [arch.] places and a pine stick sharpened at the end remaining upon the ground. Martin’s first move of course was to look after his hidden treasure, but he dug in vain, the hard earned wages of a year’s toil in the mines was gone from him in a moment; the poor fellow was reduced to a state of despair, and seemed as if he were insane. For a long time afterwards, whenever his mind was occupied with his loss – indeed it required all the consolation which his friends could bestow to give him heart even to attempt to make it up again. In the fall following this occurrence Dick’s partner left the country for his home, and nothing but the loss of his money prevented Dick from going with him. Strong suspicions were fastened upon a certain individual, based on circumstances; it was considered a moral certainty the this man had the money, and so the matter remained up to this time. In the interval fortune again smiled on Dick and his pile grew apace. However his memory of his lost treasure still haunted him, and it was his habit frequently to visit the old cabin and make further excavations, in the desperate hope that, to use his own language, ‘the fellow’s conscience might force him to bring it back.’ But, as I have said, fortune smiled on Dick, and he started some two months since, to visit his parents in England, with much more money than he would have had, at the time his partner left, including that which was stolen.
“The sequel happened yesterday. when one Thomas Drew went into the same cabin for the purpose of digging up some dust which he had deposited near the same place some two months past. In the course of his operations Drew struck a bag in a decayed state which did not belong to him. The gold which was in a loose condition, was soon panned out, and has since been fully identified as Dick’s by his old partner, who returned here a few days ago. I leave the envious to conjecture whether or not the fellow’s conscience forced him to bring it back.
“It will gratify Dick to learn that his money is in safe hands, and it is a curious chain for those who like to study the circumstances which control the fortunes of men. The man unfortunately suspected is now as fully vindicated before all men as he was before in his own conscience.

“[signed] F. H.”

The following edition of the newspaper has a story from the “Sonoma Bulletin” (June 1852 – June 1855) regarding the violent death of an Indian named Pedro and a problem with a horse thief.

“The Sonoma Bulletin of Thursday last, has been received. We learn from it that the dead body of an Indian, named Pedro, was found on Monday afternoon last, in the rear of the Mission church of Sonoma. He was killed in the morning of that day by another Indian, known as Raphael, who, when charged with and arrested for the crime, confessed that he killed Pedro, but in self-defense. He stated, (there being no witness) that he and deceased being drunk, a quarrel had arisen between them, and that they agreed to fight until one should die by the hands of the other, and that in the struggle he struck Pedro in the forehead with a stone, and then strangled him by means of a handkerchief which was around his neck at the time. The prisoner was committed to await trial. An inquest was held upon the body by Justice Campbell, and a verdict rendered that the deceased came to his death by strangulation and by a wound inflicted with a stone by the hands of Raphael, then in custody.

“An old offender, according to report, calling himself Antonio Vear, was examined on the 25th inst., before Justice Campbell, on a charge of horse stealing. He is a native of Los Angeles; a low, thick set man, broad face and prominent cheek bones, and about 25 years of age. He stole a horse from a Mr. Rich, of Marin county, which he sold in Napa; but being detected, he was arrested and sent back to Marin for trial. He is said to have committed a daring robbery upon a senorita at Napa, the particulars of which we have not learned.

This is followed by a story regarding the unfortunate beating of an old woman as the result of a mistake by the local committee of vigilance.

“INFAMOUS OUTRAGE. – An outrage far worse than the hanging of the woman at Downieville, was committed at Columbia a few days ago. A poor creature, about seventy years of age, and said to be crazy, was charged by the Vigilance Committee with having stolen $1200. The resolved to hang her, but finally thought they would extort a confession with lashes. They stripped her and gave her a hundred [lashes], and followed this up with other villainous outrages. It was afterwards proved that the poor woman was innocent. The authorities fined the offenders $120. – San Joaquin Republican.”

Note: The hanging of a woman in Downieville: According to a number of sources on July 4, 1851 in Downieville a drunken miner by the name of Fredrick Cannon showed up at the door of a young Mexican girl by the name of Juanita, harassing her and calling her a prostitute. She chased him away. The next day he returned and Juanita fatally stabbed him.

A lynch mob formed and held a mock trial. She was then hanged on the Jersey bridge. It is said that before she was hung, she said,”Adios Señores.” She is considered to be the first woman hanged in California.

Note 2.: the “San Joaquin Republican” was a Democratic newspaper that started in May of 1851 and ended publication in 1873. For a time it alternated publication with another Democratic Stockton newspaper, the “Argus.”



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