Criminal Annals

Criminal Annals, Part 115 – Grand Larceny

Continuing in the September 14, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find an article regarding a bit of larceny in Sacramento, the use of inmates to do work and the status of Mr. Collins, who was shot the previous day.

“COMMITTED ON A CHARGE OF GRAND LARCENY. – Henry Howard was examined before the Recorder yesterday, on a charge of Grand Larceny, alleged to have been committed by stealing the sum of $350 in slugs [$50 gold pieces], a gold watch and a pocket book from Anthony White about two weeks ago, at a Hotel at the corner of Seventh and I streets, and held to answer, at the Court of Sessions. His bail was fixed at $2000, and he failing to procure the same, was committed to the county prison.”

“THE NEW LEVEE has been fairly commenced. The Chain Gang were employed yesterday near the Court House in cutting stakes for the Surveyor, and in preparing the way for the foundation of the embankment. There is little doubt that the entire work will be completed before the rainy season sets in.”
Note: Flooding in Sacramento was a serious problem, being that much of the old part of town was at or below river level during high tide or storms. Ultimately a part of the city would be raised about 10 feet with dirt to reduce the problem.

“THOMAS COLLINS who was shot on Sunday night in a street fight by Joseph Stokes, still lives, but his friends have no hope of his recovery.”

In the same edition, under the “FROM THE INTERIOR” heading is a story about an unfortunate drowning in the Marysville area.



“The subjoined item is from the California Express [1851-1863] of Monday, delivered to us by Adams & Co. and Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Expresses.

“DROWNED. – A man was drowned in the Yuba river on Saturday afternoon, just below “Billy’s Baths,” whither he had gone to bathe. He could not swim, and the force of the current – which at this point runs very swift – carrying him beyond his depth, he was drowned before assistance could I be rendered him.

“Up to a late hour his body had not been found. We understand he had been engaged in the culinary department of a restaurant on I street, but were unable to learn his name. The sum of $10, we also understand, was found in his pantaloons pocket.

“P. S. – Since writing the above, we learn the body was fished up yesterday morning about a hundred yards below where he was last seen.”

The edition of September 15, 1852, has an interesting, and somewhat comical article regarding a trip to the mines. It is written by one Baron Vieux, whose name shows up in different places. He, or she, will write similar articles for the paper over the next few years.


“A Trip to the Mines.

“Baron, said my friends, why do you not go to the mines, and see the sources of Eureka’s wealth? On a day, no matter when it was, I did go to the mines.

“Should any one bent upon mineralogical or upon any other sort of discoveries, desire to be enlightened, we would commend that they should visit, as we did, a spot known as Sandy Bar. The first person singular – Murray – is vulgar, hence we adopt the we.

“On our mule we left Greenwood Valley – we would not mention aught touching our staging en route to the above mentioned villa, it is enough that the stage driver apologized for dropping us at that enchanting? town.

“Beefsteaks are supposed to be located in some part of the frame of a quadruped. It is a fallacy; they, who travel will learn that a tender loin extends from. the horn to the hoof.

“On a mule taking a cross cut over the mountains, we passed over ten miles without meeting the first symptom of humanity! and then it commenced raining and hailing, and we were sore alarmed. Finally, we came to a hill bearing the name of Hope Mount, from the fact, we infer, that everybody hopes to be from it as soon as possible.

“From this Hope Hill, we went to Sandy Bar, and it is useless for us to attempt describing our feelings in going, down said hill. Imagine a rope attached to a mule for pulling it on, and the mule expressing an inclination to go any but the route we were going – (sensible beast.)

“With toil and labor with the summer heat pouring upon us – with a desire for refreshing drinks – with a desire to turn back, with a mule who wouldn’t and who couldn’t, for want of space, we arrived at Sandy Bar, saw sporting men ‘doing’ the miners, doctors drawing teeth, ‘hombres’ fluming, people making pumps to dry up, the soil, heard musicians on various instruments, fed our mule on crackers and water, tried to sleep and couldn’t, imbibed various drinks, lost three fifties playing all- fours with a miner who turned up three jacks and never gave me a deal – waited until morning, found our animal and took to the hill – and if ever you catch us in that section of the country, again, what little wardrobe we have is yours.

[Signed] “Baron Vieux.”

In the same column with this story is short note about the immigrants arriving in the El Dorado County area.

“ PLEASANT.– Since the emigration has commenced to arrive from the plains, our town has received an accession of not less than fifty good families, and we may expect many more in the course of the next six weeks. We can now boast of having more ladies and children in our town than any other in the interior of the State. – El Dorado News.



Criminal Annals, Part 114 – Shooting Affray

Continuing in the September 13, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find an article regarding another shooting in Sacramento.

“SHOOTING AFFRAY – A MAN DANGEROUSLY WOUNDED. – About 8 o’clock last evening, a disturbance took place in a saloon on J street, between two men named Joseph Stokes and Thos. Collins, occasioned by some old grudge between the parties, which resulted in Stokes receiving a blow over the mouth from a tumbler thrown by his adversary. Soon after the parties adjourned to the street with their friends, closely watched by Marshal McDowell, who soon perceived Collins with a cocked pistol in his hand. He immediately ordered him to put up his weapon, and retire. The Marshal then instantly rushed up to Stokes, who had commenced firing, and seized him, but not until after he had discharged three shots, two of which took effect upon the person of Collins, the one entering and passing through his neck, and another shattering his left arm near the elbow. The wound in the neck will probably prove mortal, although he was living at a late hour last night.

“This affray occurred on the corner of J and Second streets, in the most crowded thoroughfare of the city, and it is wonderful that innocent parties were not injured by the shots which were flying in every direction.

“This sort of reckless shooting has grown into an alarming evil in this community and it is high time that the severest punishment the law inflicts should be meted out to all persons connected with such dangerous transactions.”

On the next page of the same edition of the newspaper is information from the mining areas under the usual heading, “From the Interior.”



“SUICIDE. – A man by the name of Jim Rhino, a member of the Indiana Bar company on the North Fork of Feather river, committed suicide on Saturday last by jumping into the flume and being crushed by the wheel. Our informant states that he had expended about $600, and that the work not yielding equal to his expectation, he threatened to put an end to his life. He was a native of Tennessee. Insanity, growing out of his disappointments, is believed to have been the cause of the rash act.”

“LYNCHING. – On Monday night last a negro was arrested at Beall’s Bar, for stealing a watch. A people’s jury was empaneled, the theft confessed, and thirty-nine lashes duly administered.”


“We shall give in to-morrow’s paper a list of the deaths on the Plains the present season ; also the arrivals at Placerville during the present week.

Mining has pretty much ceased in this vicinity, owing to the scarcity of water. There are a number of Chinese at work in the creek, with the pan and rocker, and we learn that in some instances they are doing well. – News.

“The Coloma Bar Company have been engaged, since the falling of the river, so that the bar can be worked. They have succeeded in turning the main stream, and now only have to pump out the holes, when it is expected that a rich yield will be returned for their labors. – Ib.”


“PAINFUL NEWS FROM YREKA. – We are grieved to learn by M. Cram of the death of Honorable Thomas H. Coats. He was one of the party. who went out from Yreka under Capt. McDermitt to protect the immigrants and was killed by the Indians on Rush Creek, some 130 miles [from] Yreka, on the emigrant trail. A gentleman by the name of Long, and two others, were killed in the same fight. We have no particulars. Mr. Coats was a member of the last Legislature from Klamath county, and is a brother of Jas. M. Coats, Esq., of this place. — Courier.[Shasta Courier (1852-1872)]”

The edition of September 14, 1852 reports on a new crime in Santa Clara and gives the results of the examination into the shooting mentioned the previous edition.

“ROBBERIES IN SANTA CLARA. – The last number of the Register [Santa Clara Register published in San Jose 1852-1853] states that on the Monday previous, a Mexican named Ramva Moreno was arrested at the farm of the County Clerk. On Sunday, an unsuccessful attempt had been made to take the life of Manuel Joy, living down the valley, and from the number and appearance of the party, they are supposed to be the same who attacked the house of the clerk. The latter had heard that a party was in the neighborhood, and so he was ready when they came. The party halted close to the house of Mr. M. and enquired for the road, when Mr. McClure came out, and afterwards Mr. M., when the party discharged several shots in the direction they stood, and then put spurs to their horses. Mr. M. pursued, and in a few yards came up to Moreno, who had became entangled in the brush in his hurry to escape, and was captured and brought in next morning, as above stated. After his arrest, he was recognized by a young man – a Chilean – as one of a party who had robbed his house the day before of all that was valuable, and taken a horse from the same place.”

“EXAMINATION AND DISCHARGE. — William Barr, charged with shooting at Joseph Stokes on Sunday night with intent to commit murder, was examined before Justice Sackett yesterday and discharged, on the ground that the charge against him wis not sustained by the evidence.

“Joseph Stokes was also examined for shooting Thomas Collins with the like intent, and discharged, the testimony showing that he had been on two previous occasions, maltreated and struck by Collins without redress, and that in this instance he acted in self defence, Collins being the assailing party and firing the first shot.”

“FAILURE OF DAMMING COMPANIES. We regret to learn, that owing to the incapacity of several of the flumes on the rivers to contain the body of the water of channel, and the frail and insecure manner in which others have been constructed, that many of the companies have been compelled to abandon their claims as worthless, or to suspend operations until another season. This is the more to be regretted, as the ground attempted to be drained by several of these companies, is known to be very rich.”



Criminal Annals, Part 113 – From the Interior

The September 11, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union” has an article regarding the killing of a Chilean, followed by numerous articles regarding local news around the area.

“Through Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express, we have received the Stockton Journal [1850-1854] of Friday. We clip from that paper the subjoined items:

“CHILENO KILLED. – From a gentleman who arrived in town yesterday, we learn that a Chileno was killed at a camp named Sutter [Creek], about eight miles from Mokelumne Hill, under the following circumstances: A Portuguese kept a stand at Sutter, and on Saturday last several Mexicans and Chilenos got drunk and became so outrageous that he declined selling them any more whiskey, and accordingly shut up shop. The Chileno who was killed, attempted to force the door, and was warned to desist. This he refused to do, and continuing his efforts to enter, the owner shot him through the door, which was of canvas, the ball entering the breast and killing him instantly. We understand that great excitement grew out of the deed, and a general fight was apprehended at one time, the Chilenos demanding that the Portuguese gentleman be submitted to a summary trial and execution at the hands of Judge Lynch. Threats were very freely made by the Chilenos that if the officers did not hang the culprit, they would; but as there is no news of his untimely strangulation, we conclude that they considered better of their duty as good Chilenos.”

“UNCERTAINTY – Flour was offering in our market on Saturday just at $30 per barrel, and on Monday morning, holders had advanced to $35. Bread is bread, now-a-days, but beans will make an excellent substitute before long. The disciples of Graham are in the ascendency at present.”

“There are six ‘fandango houses’ in successful operation in this city, at present. Bad wines and adulterated whiskey are in demand.”

“Our market is well supplied with water melons at present. They range from $50 to $75 per hundred.”

“THE RELIEF TRAIN. – We understand that Gen. Raines packed and sent off yesterday 24 mules to ‘Union Station,’ a post established this side of the Great Desert in July last. This locality is on Carson River, two hundred and fifty miles east of Sacramento. The supplies consist of a general assortment of provisions, medicines, &c. Gen. Raines commands the train in person, and after his arrival at the Station, it is said that he will immediately proceed to Capt. Bodley’s station on the Truckee route, where he will examine into the truth of the charges of corruption against that officer. The people of this State will look to the action of Gen. Raines with great interest, and while we hope he may have the independence necessary for the faithful performance of his duty, and in properly preventing and exposing the corruption that may exist, we shall if necessity requires be as severe in condemnation as we have been lavish in commendation.”

“CLEARANCES FOR CALIFORNIA. The Clearances from various American ports for California, during the first seven months of the present year, were 119 ships, 33 barks, 7 brigs, 1 schooner, and 7 steamers.; From foreign ports, 98 ships, 5 barks and 1 brig had cleared in the same time. The total number of clearances from Boston were 41, from New York 107, and from other American ports: 19.”

“LIST OF LETTERS. – A slip containing a complete list of the letters remaining in the Post Office in this city on the 1st inst., can be obtained at this office.”
Note: Letters sent to the mines were addressed to the person and a post office near where the sender believed the recipient might be. Since most mail came by sea, it took months and the person may have moved on to another location or even died. Newspapers would regularly list the uncollected mail at a given post office by name, when space allowed. In the mining areas riders would go to the major towns, such as Sacramento, and pick up miner’s mail for a price.

“THE IMMIGRATION. – A train of nine wagons arrived in town on Friday, and another of three wagons on yesterday. The vehicles were filled with women and children, and the teams were in remarkably good condition. Nearly all the stock now arriving is taken across the the river [Sacramento River] to recruit their exhausted frames upon the green grass of Cache and Putah creeks.”

“The Weekly Union. – We beg the indulgence of our readers for the non-appearance of the Weekly Union for the present week, but owing to the scarcity of paper, it has been impossible for us to supply our subscribers. We hope, however, to be relieved from our embarrassment within a very few days.”

In the edition of September 13, 1852 is found an article regarding sickness in the mining areas.

“SICKNESS IN THE MINES. – There has been during the last few days, and is now, considerable anxiety felt by many having friends in the mines, as to the health of various localities which have been reported sickly. From careful inquiry, we are convinced that accounts of the unhealthiness of the mines have been greatly exaggerated. As far as we can learn the mortality at Barton’s Bar, in Yuba county, is greatly on the decrease. At Salmon Falls, El Dorado County, there has been considerable sickness during the last ten days, and twenty or twenty-five persons have been suddenly swept away by a disease greatly resembling cholera, and pronounced such by some of the physicians of that place.

“There has also been a number of cases of congestive [usually malaria] and other fevers at Newcastle, Rosenkrans and other precincts of Placer county, but few of these have terminated fatally. With these exceptions we believe the general health in the mines is excellent.”



Criminal Annals, 112 – Where is Col J. L Freaner?

The September 7, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union” has several small articles relating to issues affecting Californians both here and elsewhere.

“THE FATE OF COL. FREANER. — A correspondent of the Cal. Express [Marysville, 1851-1866] writing from Yreka, under date of August 30th, says: Nothing farther has been learned of the fate of Col J. L Freaner: his brother Capt. John Freaner, has been in town the but few days gathering what information he could respecting him. He has also endeavored to raise a company, to go in search of his remains, but he could accomplish nothing, owing to the companies already out having drained our town.”

Note: Some time before, Col. Freaner had left Yreka for the Democratic State convention, but had not been seen since. He was a highly respected person in California, but apparently had a temper. At a similar convention in February, had gotten into a fight with the State Senator Broderick, where upon being accosted by Broderick with a bottle, Freaner had struck him with an inkstand, cutting a deep gash in his cheek.

“ATTEMPTED SUICIDE. — Yesterday afternoon a Mexican, while laboring under insanity, caused by a severe attack of brain fever, cut his throat with a razor, inflicting a ghastly wound. He was still alive last evening, but with little prospect of recovering from the effects of his rash act.”

“NINETY-NINE DEATHS occurred in San Francisco during the week ending Sept. 4th, eight of which were attributed to cholera.”

“CALIFORNIANS ROBBED. – the Whig [San Francisco 1852-1853] states that Hon. Frank Soule, Geo. N. Shaw, D. M. Chauncy, Lieut. Gov. [Samuel] Purdy and Maj. [George C,] Sibley had their trunks broken open while crossing the Isthmus, and robbed of the most valuable portion of the contents.”

The September 10, 1852 edition of the newspaper has a short an article on problems reportedly encountered by immigrants seeking assistance from the Relief Train. Following it are several other articles about minor crimes, some written is a humorous way.


“The citizens and miners residing on the North Fork of Feather River, have, by petition of nearly one hundred citizens, etc., asked the Governor to remove one Bodley and his attendants, for gross neglect of duty, saying that he has sold water at ten cents per cup, or one dollar per gallon, for the purpose of relieving the emigrants (of their money). If this be true, it should meet the indignation of every good man, as well as the Governor, who has promptly ordered Gen. Raines to the supposed point of corruption, and there to ‘adopt such measures as will insure the most searching , investigation into the official conduct of the agents of the State and should the charges be substantiated, he is to immediately remove Mr. Bodley and every person in the train who has acted in violation of law and the instructions issued from the State Department, and appoint such persons in their stead as will ensure their faithful execution.”

“Gen. Raines leaves here to-day. He has proved himself a faithful public agent, of which we will have more to say in future. Capt. Wm. Byrne, the celebrated Indian fighter, will accompany the General on his journey.

GREAT CRY BUT LITTLE WOOL. – Last evening, in company with nearly all of the inhabitants of the lower part of our city, we were attracted to the corner of 2d and J streets, by the vociferous cries of a person apparently suffering greatly from physical pain. On reaching the spot, we found a crowd of at least five hundred persons collected, none of whom seemed to be aware of the exact nature of the difficulty. After a time, it leaked out that a tobacconist of the city had been struck over the head with a cane, wielded by a member of the medical profession – cause assigned – personal insult. The sequel showed that the tobacconist was ‘not up to snuff’ in that he failed to dodge the blow aimed at his cranium. The whole affair soon ended in smoke, as it appeared the vender of the weed was more frightened than hurt.”

“Some five or six persons were arrested during the afternoon of yesterday for fighting, and lodged in the Station House. They will be dealt with this morning.”

“SENTENCED. – Ramon Alamos, the Mexican who was convicted a few days ago for stealing a Spanish saddle from Messrs. Marshall & Stanley, has been sentenced by the Recorder to six month’s imprisonment in the County Jail.”

“A FOWL DEED – Peter Gilbert, of Sutter county, laid a complaint before the Recorder on yesterday, charging Charles Hamilton with having committed the crime of petit larceny, by ‘feloniously stealing and carrying away’ the poultry of complainant, to wit : two chickens of the value of $14. A warrant of arrest was issued for the accused.”

“VAGRANCY. – John Zook, who has for sometime been a great annoyance to the officers of police has at length been convicted of being a common vagrant, and his case is to be passed upon by the Recorder this morning.”

“A NUMBER of drunken Sydney ducks were arrested yesterday evening, and are now in durance vile.”

Note: The Sydney Ducks was the name given to immigrants from Australia during the mid-19th century. Because of the prevalent nativism in the United States at the time, along with the well-known British penal colonies in Australia, these immigrants were stereotyped as criminals, and were blamed for phenomena such as an 1849 fire that devastated the heart of San Francisco, as well as the rampant crime in the city at the time.”

“U.S. COAST SURVEY. – The S. F. Herald states that the party at Cape Flattery have encountered much difficulty in the prosecution of their work. The party at one time were threatened by over two hundred armed Indians, who anchored their canoes to the reef, and lay before their camp a whole night.
“The astronomical work has proceeded with great success.”

Note: Even before 1852 it became very obvious that to aid shipping, there needed to be more information about the Pacific coastline and that lighthouses needed to be erected for the safety of the ships, their cargo and passengers. In many cases the coastal tribes, being very possessive of their fishing grounds, initially felt invaded by the survey teams, but later helped build the lighthouses.

Cape Flattery is in the State of Washington and the most northwestern point in the lower 48 states. Only a few years after this story a lighthouse was erected to aid ships entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca.