Criminal Annals, Part 108 – Shasta County Correspondence

The August 26, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” has some correspondence from Shasta County regarding immigrants, prices, mining, an election, the killing of some Indians and comments about that and Fort Reading.

“Shasta County Correspondence.

“Arrival of Immigrants – Business Prospects – Local Election – Indians Killed – Fort Reading, &c.

“Shasta, Aug. 23d. 1852.

“Messrs. Editors: Our little town here in the mountains is to-day the scene of unusual activity. On Saturday, nine wagons arrived. being the first in from the Plains via Nobles’ route, to this place. On yesterday and to-day about twenty more have come in, the first nine being horse and mule teams, and the others ox teams. Ten families, as near as I could learn, are with them. All are looking well and in good spirits, with extravagant expectations of sudden fortunes.”

Note: In 1851, William Nobles discovered this route, which was first used by emigrants in 1852. This easy wagon route ran off the Applegate/Lassen Trail from the Boiling Spring at Black Rock to Shasta City via Smoke Creek Desert and Lassen Peak.

The article continues: “Business, within a few days, has much improved, and the elongated countenance of our merchants have suddenly assumed a more reasonable and benignant length. Provisions and merchandise bear high prices, with ready sales.

“Miners in this region, are in better spirits, and I have noticed within a few days the return to this place, of large numbers of Kanakas [Hawaiians]. To-day, we had an election for Justice of the Peace and two Constables. Mr. Bonnifield was elected Justice, and Messrs. Holmes and Lean, Constables. It was a perfect scrub-race without regard to politics, and of very little interest to the community apparently.

“ Last evening, Capt. W. Weatherton killed two Indians. The circumstances were, that a little before sunset he left town to go to Spring Lake Farm, and had crossed the river gone about six miles on the other side, when an arrow was shot at him, which passed through his saddle blankets and lodged in his horse’s shoulder. Capt. W. immediately gave chase to the Indian, and shot him with his pistol, when another Indian coming in sight, he was pursued and shot also. Capt. W. having now discharged his pistol and being defenceless [archaic], left the scene without delay – being surrounded by Indians – and pushed for home, four miles distant. The Indians were of the Pitt river tribe, and the surrounding country is filled with them, committing their depredations unchecked and undisturbed. When will these things be understood and attended to by our military authorities?

“By the way, Mr. Officer will receive no notice from me for the whole affair is so contemptible, and there is such a mingled mass of stupidity and ignorance, completely covered by self-conceited nonsense, connected with Fort Reading, that it is beneath the notice of any one. It is sufficient for me to say, that every charge which I made in a previous letter, is strictly true, and ten times more might have been charged with justness. Certain it is that the whole community here look upon it as a perfect humbug, without a redeeming feature, of no use to any but those who had an interest in having the fort placed near the ranches to increase the value of their property, consume their vegetables and guard their squaws, for it is a notorious fact that the only Indians south of Pitt river, are a few squaws and a less number of Sanops [a word said to have been used in Massachusetts for an Indian married man] or Bucks, living with and wholly dependent upon the whites for support, being perfectly peaceable, their greatest depredation being to steal cast-off clothing, or some equally valueless property. I am done with Fort Reading, until it becomes more worthy of notice.


Note: Fort Reading was established on May 26,1852 and named for Major Pierson Barton Reading, a pioneer settler and paymaster of the California Volunteers during the Mexican war. The post’s objective was to protect the mining district from Indian attacks.

It once included barracks, a guardhouse, officers’ quarters, a storehouse, carpentry shop, a hospital and several other buildings. It often flooded during the rainy season and the troops were withdrawn in April, 1856, but the buildings were intermittently occupied by the army until the site was completely abandoned in April, 1870. Today, there is nothing left of the original site except a marker about 12 miles northeast of the city of Redding.

The city of Redding was named by the Southern Pacific for railroad man Benjamin B. Redding. The town was re-christened “Reading” in 1874, to honor Pierson B. Reading. However, the railroad would not recognize the change, and the original name, Redding, was restored in 1880.

The edition of August 30,1852 contains a number a articles from El Dorado County under the usual heading, “From the Interior.”

“El Dorado.

“To Adams & Co., we are indebted for the El Dorado News of the 28th inst. We extract the following items:

“SOUTH FORK CANAL.– This work is still progressing in that manner which has ever characterized it since its commencement. The grading has been completed some time since; and we are informed that nearly all the timber has been delivered on the ground and a portion of it laid down.

“We see nothing now but what indicates a speedy completion of this important work. The stockholders, so far, have pretty generally paid their assessments promptly, and if they will but come to the ‘scratch’ in future, it will be finished at least at soon, if not before the time specified in the contracts.

“MAN MISSING. – Thomas Southworth, formerly of Fall River, Massachusetts, but recently a resident of this place, disappeared very mysteriously about the 11th inst., since which time nothing has been seen or heard of him, and it is feared by his friends that he has been assassinated by some unknown person. Previous to his disappearance, he had been sleeping in the stack of hay in the rear of our office, and was known to have had over $400 in his possession.”

“The News learns that a man by the name of James Dean, from North Bend, Indiana, was murdered near Leak Springs, on Monday of last week. He was engaged in trading on the emigrant road, and is supposed to have had some $3000 or $4000 in his possession. He took dinner at Leak Springs not more than fifteen minutes before he was shot. Only $280 was found upon his person.”



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