Criminal Annals, Part 99 – Sink or Swim

Edward Gilbert

Although the newspapers are beginning to fill up with more and more articles and commentary regarding the upcoming Presidential election in November of 1852, there is still a bit of space for local news. In the August 3, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” there is a short article from Nevada county, followed by series of short articles from El Dorado county, starting with a progress report on the South Fork Canal.

“Nevada County.

“On Sunday evening week, a miner named Henry Thompson, an Irishman, was drowned in the South Yuba, having fallen from the rocks while crossing the river. On Monday afternoon, a Swede named Edward Johnson, while crossing some rapids below Jefferson Flat on a raft, was drowned, the raft having parted and he being unable to swim.”

Note: Swimming was not the sport it is now and many people could not swim at all, especially Americans.
When the Hawaiians (Kanakas) that crewed Sutter’s ship from the then Sandwich Islands showed up at the rivers, they swam to the middle and dove down to pick up loose nuggets. The Americans and other miners, who had to move the river to get at the gold in the middle, immediately decided they were no better than the local Native Americans and treated them as such.

“El Dorado

“We have received the [El Dorado] News of Saturday, from which we clip the following:

“SOUTH FORK CANAL. – Mr. Binney, the enterprising Engineer for this work, informs us that it is progressing rapidly – even beyond his expectations. Two-thirds of the contracts are already graded, and it will require but a limited time to complete this portion of the labor. In addition to the grading, there has been placed already a considerable quantity of lumber on portions of the line, and on which workmen are now employed. As soon as the facilities, which are now on foot are consummated, the work will necessarily progress a great deal faster than heretofore, and will no doubt be completed in a less time than the contracts require.

“There are, we understand, six or eight excellent saw mills now in course of construction on various portions of the work. Three of these are nearly completed, and will be ready to saw lumber in ten or twelve days.

“HAND CART TRAIN. – Nine men arrived at this place on Saturday last, who brought their provisions and traps to Carson river in three hand carts, and there threw them away. They made the trip in seventy-five days from St. Joseph to this place. – They experienced no difficulty on account of the shortness of the grass. They are all well and hearty.

“A gentleman informed us yesterday, that he passed a drove of fifteen hundred turkeys, a short distance this side of the Missouri river, bound for California. We are informed that they will make better time traveling than sheep.”

Note: On can only imagine the image of fifteen hundred turkeys being herded across the prairie and over the Sierra Nevada. Fortunately, turkeys tend to move as a group, which is why such a group if often called a “raft.” Unfortunately, there appears to be no record of them making it to California.

The turkey is one of the few animals to be domesticated in the New World and its history has proven to be elusive. In part because the turkey is so well-traveled. The Spaniards took the bird from America to Europe in the early 16th century and then brought it back 100 years later as a food source. It is believed by many that decedents of these returnees are what we find in grocery stores today.

Two days later, in the August 5, 1852 edition of the paper, there is an article regarding the funeral of the late Edward Gilbert, the newspaper editor who died in the duel with Senator Denver.

“Funeral Ceremonies in Honor of Mr. Gilbert.

“The mortal remains of the late and deeply lamented Edward Gilbert were yesterday removed from this city to San Francisco, where they will be finally interred to-day. The body was deposited at the residence of Alderman Nevett, on Monday evening, where it remained until yesterday. At 12 ½ o’clock a large number of our most prominent citizens, the Governor’s Guards and Sutter Light Infantry assembled at Mr. Nevitt’s paying the last tribute of respect to a distinguished citizen by accompanying his remains in procession to the steamer. Divine service, most solemn and impressive, was performed by Rev. O. C. Wheeler, an old and intimate friend of the deceased. The Sutter Light Infantry and Governor’s Guards in full uniform, constituting a battalion under command of Capt. Fry, headed the procession. The hearse followed, accompanied by Messrs. G. B. Tingley, T. P. Robb, D. O. Mills, H. A. Robinson, Dr. Spalding and Alderman Forshee, as pall bearers. Rev. Messrs. Wheeler and Benton followed the hearse. Then came the personal friends of the deceased, followed by the members of the press in mourning, the Mayor and other city officials and citizens in regular order. The procession moved up Fourth street to J, down J to Front, and thence to the steamer Antelope, which conveyed the remains to San Francisco.

“And thus ended the sad duties of the day, and thus departed an esteemed friend and distinguished gentleman, who, but a few days since arrived in our midst in the full enjoyment of life and health. The remains will be interred to-day with civic and military honors.”



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