Criminal Annals, Part 107 – The Relief Train

The August 24, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” has an article about the Relief Train, the supplies that are being sent eastward by wagon to aid people who, for one reason or another, are without adequate supplies to complete their trip to California. There have been several articles prior to this one lauding the generosity of the people of the State of California for approving the donation of the supplies and those who are carrying them to the unfortunates. This story is a bit different and shows the possible darker side of some people.

“The Relief Train.

“The enterprise of assisting the distressed immigrants arriving from the plains is in itself one of the most noble and benevolent that was ever devised or undertaken, in this State. Members of every political party coincided in its expediency, and only differed as to the mode that should be adopted for best securing the desired end. This result may be most satisfactorily attained by the means that have been employed, but as yet we have to learn that any great good has been accomplished. If there are any speculators connected with this expedition who are defrauding the public treasury and enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and starving emigrant, we want the people of this State to know it; and even if there is no speculation, but a squandering, reckless extravagance manifested by those who have the management of this public property, we want the people of this State to be acquainted with that fact also; and to demand of the parties a strict account of their stewardship. We are induced to make the above remarks at this time from having just perused a paragraph in the Calaveras Chronicle of Saturday, which we insert below:

‘We had the pleasure of seeing on Monday. Mr. Christian Myers, an old resident of Calaveras co., who has just returned by way of the plains. He left Farmington, Iowa, with an ox team and made the trip to this place in ninety days. He corroborates the statement in our last, in regard to the relief train, viz: ‘ that it is not known from any other set of wagons,’ and states that provisions are held by speculators at enormous rates. All sorts of schemes are resorted to, to ‘swap’ the poor immigrants out of their stock, and means devised to lead them astray.”

Note: Elsewhere in newspapers there were reports of water being sold for $1 a bucket to immigrants. That would be about $28 today (Consumer Price Index calculation).

This is followed by a short article regarding another shooting in Sacramento.
It is well known that trials were often held in saloons, and now we find out that funerals are also held there.

“Dead. – James McArdle, who was shot yesterday morning by J. Newberg, died from the effect of the wound at 8 o’clock last night. His funeral will be attended at 4 o’clock to-day at the Auction Saloon, under the Sutter Hotel, where his friends and those of Mr. Winkle, his late partner, are invited to attend.”

The issue of August 26, 1852 has articles regarding the immigrants, followed by a shooting and an a coroner’s inquest into a murder that has been previously mentioned.

“Later from the Plains – Arrival of Kentuckians &c. A party of thirty-five Kentuckians, residents of Madison and Clark counties, arrived in town yesterday, having left Fort Independence on the 6th May. They started with seven wagons and thirty mules, all of which were brought through in good order. There was considerable cholera prevailing among the trains, but they suffered no loss by this disease. A daughter of Dr. Cooper, who was one of the party, was buried at Fort Kearny. The emigrants on the way appear to be suffering more from sickness than from scarcity of provisions, as nearly all of the companies this year have an abundant supply of the necessaries of life. This party found grass very scant for about forty miles up Carson river, but on the Humboldt there was sufficient for their stock. There have been numerous rumors here of the great destruction of stock upon the Humboldt, but we are informed by this company that they saw but two or three dead animals on the desert, and that the stock generally along the entire route were in good condition. From observation and information, this party are of the opinion that their train was in the middle of the emigration of the present year, nearly the same number of teams having arrived as were left in their rear. The train came through ‘Sublitt’s Cut-Off,’ and arrived at Carson Valley a week ago last Monday. They met the relief train at Carson River Canon, and from it obtained some provisions.”

“ANOTHER SHOOTING AFFAIR – ONE MAN DANGEROUSLY WOUNDED – We are compelled to record still another affray in which two men have been shot, one of whom has received a wound which may prove mortal. Last evening while a Chileno named Don Amiguel, who is the proprietor of a dancehouse on Fifth street, was attending the door of his establishment, an American applied for admission, and was charged the usual fee, which he refused to pay. He was of course debarred admittance. Whereupon he drew a pistol and fired. The ball entered the left side of the Chileno below the lung, and passing entirely through his body, struck another American standing near on the wrist, and lodged between the bones. The wound of the former is pronounced serious, but as the lung seems not to be affected, there is a prospect of his recovery. The ball which had done this double execution was extracted from the wrist of the injured man, who is not severely hurt. The American who fired the pistol had not at a late hour last evening been arrested.”
“CORONER’S INQUEST. – We published a few days since a brief account of the murder of a man at Drytown, by some person or persons unknown. Through the politeness of Jeremiah Burgess, Esq., foreman of the coroner’s jury, we have been put in possession of the following additional particulars, brought out on examination before the jury. A man by the name of Jonathan C. Whitehouse, a resident of Drytown, Calaveras county, was found murdered between that place and the Cosumnes and Willow Springs Company’s Ditch, in El Dorado county, whither he had been to get some blankets, &c. A Coroner’s jury was formed from among some gentleman of both counties, and the following facts were elicited at the trial:

“That the said Jonathan C. Whitehouse came to his death by a ball shot from a rifle or pistol, and blow upon or about the head, given by some person; or persons to the jury unknown.

“He was seen returning on the eve on which he was killed, and had got within one and a half miles of his home when he was foully murdered.”


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