Criminal Annals, Part 105 – Murder at Jones’ Flat

The August 21, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” has a story from the Stockton area regarding a murder after an argument over four dollars.




“The following items are from the [Stockton] Journal:

“MURDER AT JONES’ FLAT ON THE MERCED RIVER. – We are indebted to Todd’s Express for the following particulars of a desperate affray that occurred at Jones’ Flat on the Merced River, on Saturday evening last. A dispute occurred between two men, named J. W. Marsh, and Peter Stout, about a debt of four dollars, due from the former to the latter. – Stout threatened to kill Marsh if he did not pay the money; but the latter told him he did not have the means, but would settle as soon as he could earn sufficient. Stout then assaulted him in the store of Mr. Morton, but the fight was stopped by the proprietor, who told him he would allow no fighting in the house. As they left the store, Stout again struck Marsh, knocking him down, and on rising, he was struck again. He then seized a knife and stabbed Stout in the left breast. Stout was living at eight o’clock on Tuesday morning, but it was thought he would not survive the day. Marsh fled, but his friends say he is willing to stand his trial when it is necessary. The miners think he acted right as Stout was a very bad man.”

This is followed by a note regarding the cattle industry, which was the major industry in California even before statehood (hides and tallow for the eastern United States).

“CATTLE. – We are told that the number of beef cattle being brought up from Los Angeles at present is quite large, though the prices remain as high as ever. Four hundred sold a week or two since at $25 per head. A drove arrived last week, under the charge of a Mexican, who purchased them in Lower California, two hundred miles below San Diego. Good horses in the lower country command prices equally as high as they do about Stockton; and the driving of large herds of California horses to this market has been almost entirely suspended. Untamed Mexican horses in this market do not bring prices that will pay for the trouble of bringing them up from Los Angeles.

“Two milch [archaic] cows, that arrived across the plains last week in poor condition, sold for $60 a piece at French Camp.

Note: $60 in1852 would be $1,720 today using the Consumer Price Index.

The August 23, 1852 edition has two unrelated stories, one about an apparent suicide in Sacramento and the other about a murder in what was then El Dorado County, but now is Amador.

“ANOTHER SUICIDE. – The body of a man named D. C. Parkhurst, was found yesterday morning about six o’clock in an outbuilding in the rear of the Howard House on Front Street. The deceased arrived in this city a few days since. He was a passenger on the ship Staffordshire, from Boston, and was observed to be deranged by the proprietors of the hotel where he lodged. His insanity increasing, arrangements were made for conveying him to the Stockton Hospital, and he was to have left in the stage yesterday morning, but at that hour was nowhere to be found. After considerable search, his body was found in the privy with the marks of a penknife wound in the neck, and another wound in the side. The latter, which caused his death, was a frightful gash, a square piece of flesh three or four inches deep having been cut out of his side near the heart. The unfortunate man was a native of Boston, married, and about 35 years of age. He left no visible effects, with the exception of his chests of clothing.”

“HORRIBLE MURDER. – We learn through Burt & Co.s’ Express, that Mr. Jonathan C. Whitehouse [also shows up as Whitehead in another article], formerly of Maine, was on Saturday evening found dead about two miles from Drytown, on the trail from that place to the Drytown and Moscosumne [Cosumnes] Canal. A musket ball had passed through his body, and his skull was fractured. Mr. Whitehouse was a most inoffensive citizen, and the bloody deed must have ben perpetrated for the purpose of robbing him, as his pockets were completely rifled of all their contents. He was twenty-one years of age. Great excitement exists in Drytown in consequence of this daring outrage.”
Note: The Cosumnes river was known by at least a dozen names and spellings until 1909, when the Geographic Board decided it was Cosumnes, at least on all future maps. However the State of California had a sign on Highway 49 that said “CONSUMNES” untill the 1990s

The same edition of the paper has an interesting story from the Sacramento court system.

“Recorder’s Court. – Before Judge McGrew. Saturday, August 21.

“Grand Larceny. – William Nicholas, alias Coyote Charley, the man who on Friday was implicated with Robert Selby, in feloniously obtaining from William Frazier the sum of $175, at an A B C [an old game of chance] table, at the Horse Market, was arrested and brought before his honor for examination. It appeared from the testimony,, that Frazier went up to the table for the purpose of getting in change $20 pieces for other coin, and being informed by Charley that Selby would change the money, drew his purse and emptied his money on the table – one piece dropped, and while Frazier was looking for it, Charley pushed up the balance on one of the letters, when Selby raised the box and the money (of course) was won by the bank. Frazier testified that the bet was made without his knowledge or consent, and tht the money was changed in a manner not at all conformable to business transactions. Charley endeavored to show by way of defence, that Frazier had engaged him to bet the money, but no such justification could be shown. His honor in delivering his decision, remarked that he considered the evidence as having disclosed a clear case of grand larceny, and he would, therefore, hold the defendant to answer the charge at the Court of Sessions, and would furthermore order him to be committed to the County Prison without bail – the same order that was made in Selby’s case on Friday.”


Note: According to the “Pacific Reporter,” Vol. 26 (1891) The Recorder’s Courts had jurisdiction, concurrently with the justice courts, on all actions and proceedings criminal and civil arising within the corporate limits of the city, in this case Sacramento. The city recorder was the judge in the Recorder’s Court and had all the powers and performed the duties of a magistrate.


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