Criminal Annals

Criminal Annals, Part 95 – Hanging at Murphy’s Camp

The August 2, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” reports in depth on the hanging of a man convicted of murder at Murphy’s Camp, in Calaveras county. As mentioned before, prior to the creation of Amador county in 1854, Calaveras county was our neighbor to the south.

“EXECUTION OF SAMUEL GREENE. – We have received through Adams & Co.’s Express, a copy of the Calaveras Chronicle extra, dated Saturday, 31st July, giving the particulars of the execution of Samuel Greene, convicted of the wilful murder of Wm. Lang, at Murphy’s Camp, on the 20th June last. Greene was born in Harrison county, Va., and was twenty-five years of age at the time of his death. He served under Col. Jack Hayes throughout the Mexican war, and emigrated to this State in 1848. The Chronicle thus details the closing scene:

“At 3 o’clock the Calaveras Guards, Capt. A. C. Lewis, in command, were drawn up outside the building in which he had been confined. The prisoner was conducted by the Sheriff of the county, B. F. Marshall, Esq., and his deputy, A. McFarlan, to the wagon which bore his coffin, on which he was placed. The Guards closed around with fixed bayonets, and the solemn procession moved towards the place of execution at the base of French Hill. Arrived on the ground, the Rev. I. B. Fish addressed the assembled multitude in a solemn and appropriate manner, and offered up a prayer, commending to God the soul of the unfortunate man.

“Greene then stood up and said – ‘Fellow citizens, I wish to make a few remarks before my death. I have to thank the Sheriff and the officers who have attended upon me during my imprisonment, for their kindness and attention. I attribute no blame to the jury who tried me they decided according to the law and evidence. I am myself alone to blame; what has happened has all been my own fault. I should have had my witnesses there at the proper time, but I did not expect to be tried so soon. As for myself, I have no fear, for I am confident God will forgive me.’

“A chair was placed on the scaffold, on which Greene took his seat, when the rope was placed around his neck and the Sheriff read the warrant of execution. The upright was then dragged by mules from under the scaffold, and the unfortunate man was launched into eternity. He fell full seven feet, and life became immediately extinct, as he never gave a struggle.”

In the following edition, August 3, 1852, there is quite a lot of information on what was going on in El Dorado county. It is in the form of a letter from Diamond Springs, from someone named Weber. This person is possibly a very early (1841) California pioneer named Charles M. Weber. Besides naming the creek he settled and named Weberville, a large active mining town located between Placerville and Diamond Springs. However, he is best known for developing and marketing the City of Stockton.

“El Dorado County Correspondence.

“Diamond Springs, Aug. 1, 1852

“Reception of the Whig Nominations – Ratification Meeting – Cattle – Emigrants – Camp Meeting, &c., &c.

“The Nomination of [General Winfield] SCOTT and [William Alexander] GRAHAM was received in this section with the highest degree of satisfaction, and the Platform adopted by the Convention has justified their expectations and meets their full endorsement and approbation. The great Whig party of the Union, through the action of this late Convention, has placed itself on the broadest and soundest National union principles, and the people will approve and sustain them by their values.

“The Whig Convention, unlike the Democratic, adopted a Platform first by an overwhelming vote by States, and then placed their men upon it, and thus present them before the people of the United States, who, on the first of November next, will be sure to say – all right.

“The Whigs hold a ratification meeting in this place to-morrow (Monday) night, and one in Weaverville [probably Weberville, just north of Diamond Springs, since Weaverville is in Trinity county and was barely a town in 1852] on Wednesday night, and they will be numerously attended by Whigs anxious for the day to arrive upon which they will be permitted to deposite [sic] their votes for old ‘Cherubusco’ [Churubusco].

Note: General Winfield Scott received this nickname because he was the commander at the Battle of Churubusco, which took place on August 20, 1847 during the Mexican-American War. After defeating the Mexican army at Churubusco, the U.S. Army was only 5 miles away from Mexico City. A month later, the U.S. forces defeated those at Mexico City and the war was over.

Franklin Pierce, who was a general in the U.S. Army and also present at Churubusco, was the “dark horse” Democratic candidate for President in 1852. He and his running mate, William R. King, would soundly defeat Scott and Graham. After the 1852 election the Whig Party quickly collapsed, and the members of that party did not even nominate a candidate for the next presidential race. The new Republican Party soon replaced it the Democratic Party’s primary opposition, nominating John C. Fremont in 1856 and Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

The article continues: “A large drove of cattle, some 350, from Salt Lake, passed through our town to-day, most of them in remarkably good condition – some of them even fine beef. A dealer in cattle remarked, as they passed, that they would bring $40,000 to the owners in California. They belonged to Messrs. Holliday & Ward, who have two more droves but a few miles in the rear.

“Emigrants are passing nearly every hour, and generally look to be in fine health and their teams in excellent order, considering the length of time they have been on the road.

“A sad and fatal accident happened to the wife of an emigrant, in Pleasant Valley, on Friday last. In putting her husband’s rifle into the waggon [archaic], it was accidently discharged, the ball taking effect in her right side, killing her almost instantly. She left a husband and one child to mourn her sudden death. She was buried here yesterday. I did not learn their names.

“The steam mill of Messrs. Lagrange & Luke at Ringold [Ringgold] was consumed by fire to-day. Loss about six thousand dollars. I have not heard how the fire occurred. It is a heavy blow to the enterprising owners, and almost an irreparable loss to the town and vicinity.

“A Methodist Camp Meeting is in progress about a half mile from our town, with some six or eight preachers in attendance, including Bishop Owen of San Francisco. It convened yesterday. To-day the Sacrament was administered, and three very good sermons preached to as quiet, orderly and attentive an audience of about two hundred persons as I ever saw in the States. There were between twenty and thirty ladies present.
[signed] “Weber.”




Criminal Annals, Part 94 – Excitement in El Dorado County.

Jumping ahead a couple of months to the July 28, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find an interesting article taken from the “El Dorado News,” regarding “Excitement in El Dorado County.”

“EXCITEMENT IN EL DORADO COUNTY – DASTARDLY OUTRAGE – ARRESTS, &c. – We are indebted to Mr. [Thomas A.] Springer, of the El Dorado News, for the following intelligence: – – – On Thursday last an ox was stolen from ‘Jimmie’s Ranch’ and tracked to a Mexican camp on Indian Creek, where a part of the animal was found hanging in the house of two Mexicans. By this time they, the Mexicans, had decamped but the party in pursuit took four or five of the most respectable Mexicans in the camp, men of good character, who had resided there for two years, and detained them as prisoners. They protested their innocence and demanded their release, and also informed the ranch party at which the beef was found, that they were innocent, still they refused to release them. In the mean time the sheriff of the county, Mr. Buchan, came for the purpose of taking the five men into custody, but when he arrived on the ground a large number of persons had assembled, who refused to deliver up the Mexicans, and abused and insulted the sheriff. They moreover informed him that if he did not leave in fifteen minutes, his person would not be respected. The sheriff then left, being unprepared to parley with the crowd. Immediately afterwards the party whipped two of the Mexicans and then turned them loose. Mr. Buchan came immediately on to this place [Coloma] and Diamond Springs, and raised a posse of about one hundred men, and left soon after for the scene of disturbance, for the purpose of arresting some of he ringleaders of the ranch party. A portion of the sheriff’s party returned here this evening about 10 o’clock, having arrested two or three of them. A portion of the posse, headed by the sheriff, are still in pursuit of the others.”

The following edition of the newspaper, July 29, 1852, has a followup story with a different view of things, in the form of a letter from a local citizen.

“El Dorado County Correspondence.

“Discharge of the Sheriff’s Prisoners – Mexican Insolency – Chinese – Whig Nominations, &c.

“Diamond Springs, July 27th.

“To the account sent you yesterday of our late Sheriff excitement, I add the subjoined particulars.

“The two men brought here were discharged, the prosecutor being unable to find any statutory provision which met the case. In fact, the Sheriff failed to show that they had violated the statute in such manner as to authorize the Justice to bind them over, notwithstanding he was very desirous to sustain the Sheriff and vindicate the law.

“It turned out that the Sheriff went into the crowd where they had the five Mexican in custody, and were preparing to give them a trial under the miner’s code, and required those who had them in charge to surrender them to him, as Sheriff of the county. But, as several attempts had been made by the Mexicans in the neighborhood to rescue the prisoners, under the lead of some American hombres who considered themselves favorites with the Mexican women around the camp, and the Sheriff coming up in company with one of them, induced the crowd to doubt his being in reality the Sheriff of the county – he being a stranger – and caused them to treat him with the disrespect they did. They asked to see his authority, but he did not produce any. He really had no proof, and appeared among them merely as a peace officer, made no attempt to serve process – had none – and consequently no charge against the defendants of having resisted process could be sustained under the statute.

“The posse, of some 200 men in all, were summoned to assist the Sheriff to execute process, which, it was alleged had been resisted, when, at the same time, he had no process against either of the offenders; and those brought were arrested with no warrant, except the naked order of the Sheriff.

“It has turned out a rather bunglingly done up affair throughout and caused no small degree of trouble and expense, with no return, except to prove that when called upon to sustain the officers of the county in the discharge of their duties, our citizens are ready and willing instantly to answer. It is vitally important that the law and its officers be sustained in all instances; but, at the same time, it is equally important that those officers take care always to have the law on their side.

“In the section where these difficulties occurred, the Mexicans are reported to be troublesome, dangerous and disagreeable neighbors. They will exercise their thieving propensities, and in this case had stolen a fine ox, killed and were eating it when discovered. Those whipped, were tried by a jury of twelve men and sentenced to be punished upon the testimony and their own admissions. At the very time the Sheriff was present, a party of armed Mexicans made their appearance, and exchanged several shots with a party who went out to meet them – the Mexicans firing first.

“Such collisions are much to be regretted, as they tend to engender a state of feeling among the miners which will e likely to end in the expulsion of foreigners from the mines.

“The Chinese are flocking into the mines daily, but if rices does not fall soon, it is feared a famine will prevail among them.

“We are looking eargerly [sic] for the news of the doings of the Whig Convention, expected now by every stage. Some of the late Locofoco nominations at Benicia, are not so acceptable here among the party as they might have been. The Whigs are hopeful and confident.
[signed] L. C.



Criminal Annals, Part 93 – News from All Over

In the May 29, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,”there are two articles of interest, the first being the result of what appears to have been a duel between two men in the Stockton area, and the second has news about problems regarding the United States obtaining a right of way across Mexico and “Lynch Law” in the gold mines of Australia.

The “Stockton Journal,” from which the first story is taken, was first published in June of 1850. As a side note, in 1854 a difficulty occurred between the publisher at that time, John Tabor, and Joseph Mansfield, the publisher of the “San Joaquin Republican.” Tabor shot and killed Mansfield, for which he was sentenced to death by hanging. Petitions from all over the state and even Tabor’s home state of Texas, caused Governor Bigler to pardon him in 1855. In spite of their names, both papers appear to have been Democrat in their philosophy.

“From the San Joaquin.

“The Journal of Friday is received, for which we are indebted to Gregory’s Express.

“The affray which we have heretofore noticed as having taken place between Mr. Oscar Livingston and Capt. John Carphin, promises to prove more serious in its results than was at first anticipated. The Journal says, both are dangerously, and it is thought, mortally, wounded. Carphin, at the last accounts, was very low. A ball penetrated about two inches below the right nipple, going through the membrane lining the abdomen, and probably lodging in the intestines. He had also a wound on the head. Dr. Langdon has been unremitting in his attention to the unfortunate man. A ball entered Livingston’s breast, passing along under the muscles and fracturing the arm. The wound is about a foot in length. He is in a dangerous condition. Dr. Ryer has done all for him that surgical science can effect. Capt. Carphin is a native of England, and leaves a wife and three children. Mr. Livingston is from Philadelphia. They came to California in 1849.”



“Late from Mexico. Late from Australia.

“The mail steamship Panama arrived at San Francisco on Thursday night, bringing the mail and 550 passengers, including 70 females and as many children.

“By the Panama we have dates [newspapers] from the city of Mexico to the 8th May, twenty-four days later. Embryo revolutions seem to be occupying the attention of Government to the exclusion of every thing else. Many persons suspected of being engaged in revolutionary plots have been arrested. Congress seems to be doing little more than thwarting the wishes and views of Government.

“The question of granting the United States a right of way across to Tehauntepec is engaging a great deal of public attention, and there is a strong probability that the policy indicated by the late annulment of the Garay grant will be reconsidered and abandoned.

Note: In 1849 P. A. Hargous of New York City purchased the Garay grant, made in 1842 by the Mexican government, to open a transit concession across the Isthmus of Tehauntepec, the shortest distance across Mexico between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Mexico nullified this concession in 1851, but in 1853 A. G. Sloo was given an almost identical grant. Both Hargous and Sloo demanded American protection for their concessions. The Gadsden Purchase Treaty (signed in 1853 and ratified by Congress in 1854), which acquired the land which is now the southern part of Arizona and New Mexico, included a provision allowing the U.S. to transport mail and trade goods across the Isthmus of Tehauntepec via a plank road and railroad. The route was later considered as a location for a canal, but it was determined to be unfeasible.
The article continues: “The Commandant General of the State of Vera Cruz has received orders from the supreme government to proceed with some troops to Goatzacoalcos [Coatzacoalcos, a port on the Isthmus] in order to complete the fortifications there commenced. The moving cause of this measure is the fear of an invasion of the Isthmus by the North American ‘pirates,’ who, under the guise of workmen, are preparing, it is purported, to set out from Louisiana to the number of 500.”

“From New South Wales.

“By late arrivals at San Francisco, we have dates from Australia to the 24th of February. It seems our Colonial neighbors are having a repetition of the terrible scenes of crime and violence through with California has gone. – The San Francisco Herald says:

“The accounts from the mining regions are very cheering, as far as the yield of gold is concerned; but in other respects it is gloomy. The miners are suffering with sore eyes, and a horrible state of society prevailed in some places. Murders and robberies were of frequent occurrence. At Fryais creek, a correspondent says quarrels, dissensions, bloodshed and danger of the direst description reigned supreme.

“ ‘The Government is palsied, whilst the ill-doer runs on a career of unchecked crime and rapine, or at the most is checked by an occasional pistol shot, or similar act of summary justice, responded to by a groan; and the effect manifested next morning by blood stains; when a few observations are bandied about from tent to tent that a man was shot, and no more is heard of the matter. A surgeon is called in to attend a wounded man, no questions are asked, the fee is paid, and if the man die, he is disposed of.’

“The Sydney Morning Herald of the 23d February contains the following:

“ The ‘Reign of Terror,’ commenced at the gold fields of Victoria. To quote the words of the Melbourne Argus, ‘Judge Lynch is baring his red hand among them;’ and the same paper, in illustration of this fearful assertion, states, that the troopers, who on the 12th inst., brought down nine prisoners to Melbourne from Mount Alexander, reported that Lynch Law had begun in terrible earnest. The report was that a digger had killed one of his comrades with a pick, and that despite the military and police, the mob seized the aggressor and hung him at once, over the hole where he had committed the murder.”

Note: In 1851, Edward Hargraves discovered a “grain of gold” in a waterhole near Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. Hargraves was convinced that the similarity in geological features between Australia and the California goldfields (from where he had just returned empty-handed) boded well for the search of gold in his homeland. He was proved correct.

New South Wales yielded 26.4 tonnes (850,000 ounces) of gold in 1852. This was a mere drop in the ocean compared to the yield from neighboring Victoria when they joined the rush for gold. In 1852 alone, 370,000 immigrants arrived in Australia and the economy of the nation boomed.



Criminal Annals, Part 92 – Horrid Murders

Continuing with the early issues of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” in the May 24, 1852 we find more information about problems in Calaveras county, our neighboring county to the south at that time. The information comes from the “Calaveras Chronicle,” a newspaper published in Mokelumne Hill starting in 1850.

“From Calaveras

“The Chronicle says that quartz mills are becoming very numerous in Calaveras, and that some companies are meeting with good success.

“HORRID MURDERS. – As we go [to] press we learn that two Frenchmen, while asleep in their tent near Jackson, were assaulted by certain Mexicans, who killed one on the spot and left the other for dead, and then robbed the tent of ever thing valuable. The wounded man is still living, and has described the murderers, so that it is to be hoped they will be recognized and captured. This is the fourth murder committed within a few weeks, in this same vicinity, and probably by the same gang. – Chronicle, 22d.

“HORSES. – During the past week, large droves of wild horses have arrived in the vicinity of Butte City from the ranchos of Gen. Vallejo. Some of them have sold as high as $35 per head. – Ib. [Ibid, or from the same place] “Henry R. Mann, P.M. [Postmaster] at Jackson, died at that place on Thursday last.”

Two days later the May 26, 1852 edition expands on the murder and postmaster stories and adds a bit about a vigilante committee and politics.

“CALAVERAS CORRESPONDENCE, Death of Henry R. Mann – Murders – Stabbing – Vigilance Committee, &c. [archaic etc.]

“Messrs. Editors.: – Our town and county has just suffered a great loss in the sudden death of Henry R. Mann, Postmaster at this place, which occurred on the 20th inst. [this month] He was one of the oldest residents of this county – one of the pioneers of Jackson, and by his numerous good qualities had become deservedly popular with our citizens. A few days before his death he had received intelligence that his family were en route to California, to join him at this place, which renders the event still more deplorable.

“On Thursday night, at about 12 o’clock, a most brutal murder was perpetrated near this town, which has caused a great deal of excitement. Two Frenchmen were assaulted while sleeping in their tent, by three Mexicans, with knives, and one of them killed, and the other dangerously and probably mortally wounded. The murderers are well known, and our citizens have offered a reward of $300 for their apprehension. They have not yet been captured.

“Last night an Irishman, named Hensley stabbed an American by the name of Russell, wounding him severely though not dangerously. Judge Lynch took the affair in hand, and to-day Hensley received fifty lashes, had his head shaved, and was banished from this place.”

Note: Judge Lynch, as you have probably figured out, is citizen justice. Hanging was not always the result and different crimes brought about different punishment. Lashes to the back by a leather whip was common, the number based on the seriousness of the crime. Shaving the head or, in some more serious cases, cutting off one ear, gave a message to the next town that the person was a convicted criminal.

Continuing with the article: “The citizens of Jackson, in view of the inefficiency of our laws to protect life and property, or punish offenders, have organized a Vigilance Committee on the San Francisco plan; and hereafter crime will meet with a speedy retribution.”

Note: The “San Francisco plan,” is the way their Committee of Vigilance was created in 1851 and was later followed by many other California communities. Their statement was:

“WHEREAS it has become apparent to the citizens of San Francisco, that there is no security for life and property, either under the regulations of society as it at present exists, or under the law as now administered; Therefore the citizens, whose names are hereunto attached, do unite themselves into an association for the maintenance of the peace and good order of society, and the preservation of the lives and property of the citizens of San Francisco, and do bind ourselves, each unto the other, to do and perform every lawful act for the maintenance of law and order, and to sustain the laws when faithfully and properly administered; but we are determined that no thief, burglar, incendiary or assassin, shall escape punishment, either by the quibbles of the law, the insecurity of prisons. the carelessness or corruption of the police, or a laxity of those who pretend to administer justice.”

Continuing again with the article: “The Whigs of this County are awakening from their lethargy, and as they feel the disgrace of living in the ‘Banner County’ of Locofocoism, they are determined to show a different state of things next fall. We are nearly all Webster [Daniel Webster, a Whig candidate] men here, but will cordially support the nominee of the National Convention. [signed] S. N.”

Note: The Locofocos were a radical faction of the Democrat Party that existed from 1835 until the mid-1840s. The term was often applied to the entire Democrat Party by members of the Whig Party in a derogatory manner. In general, Locofocos supported Andrew Jackson and Van Buren, and were for free trade, greater circulation of money, legal protections for labor unions and against paper money, financial speculation, and state banks.

At that time the Democrats substantially outnumbered the Whigs in California and controlled the state government. Due to a series of internal conflicts which weakened the party, in 1856 J. (John) Neely Johnson, a member of the Know-Nothing Party, was elected governor and Know-Nothings made considerable gains in the state legislature.