Criminal Annals

Criminal Annals, Part 103 – Diamond Springs

Continuing with the August 16, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” we find a column titled El Dorado County Correspondence. It is actually a letter, as were most of the stories, in this case from Diamond Springs, and covers a number of subjects.

“El Dorado County Correspondence.

“Statistics of Diamond Springs – The Immigration – Two Chinamen Killed – Blocks of marble for National Monument. &c, &c.

“Diamond Springs, August 11, 1852.

Our citizens are very anxious for the establishment of a Post Office at this point, and some months since forwarded a petition numerously signed, to the Post Office Agent for California, but up to this time it has not been heard from. Post Offices were established last year at Ringold [Ringgold], three miles east of us, and at Mud Springs, two miles west, which are supplied with a weekly mail, generally carried in by a teamster’s wagon. These are unimportant points compared to this, being greatly inferior in business population. Probably no mining town in the State located in dry diggings, is improving as rapidly as Diamond Springs, and no town within my knowledge, presents as many evidences of permanency.

“Being located 45 miles from Sacramento City, on the dividing ridge between Weber and Mythenis [Martinez] creeks and immediately on the stage road to Placerville, it is also the main immigrant route from Carson Valley to Sacramento. It contains about 130 houses of all descriptions, including nine hotels and boarding houses, ten stores, four saloons, one silversmith shop, two wagon-makers shops, three blacksmith shops, one painter’s shop, two bakeries and a steam saw mill, which cuts, on an average, 4000 feet of lumber per day. Four fine two-story houses have recently been competed; three more are now being built, besides several one-story buildings also under way and several old buildings have also been newly covered and weather-boarded, and I hardly know how many have had new fronts added.

“The population is probably between three and four hundred now, but by next winter it will be nearing several thousand. Immigrants are stopping around us nearly every day, thus adding to our numbers and industry. This rapid increase is mainly caused by the confidence reposed in the completion of the two ditches by Messrs. Bradley, Burdan & Co. and Jones, Furman & Co., which are to bring water from the Cosumnes for the use of miners in this section. When these enterprises are completed, as they are sure to be this fall, Diamond Springs will offer to the miner advantages for a regular paying business, possessed but by few points in the State. There are acres of ground, probably hundreds of them, within five miles of this point, which, with plenty of water, will pay from five to twenty dollars per day for years. From this description it will be perceived that Diamond Springs presents strong claims for a Post Office, and a mail as often as semi-weekly.

“The three blocks of marble for the Washington monument, quarried and worked into shape ready to be presented to his Excellency, by Messrs. Colburn and McBride, left here yesterday for your city. They weigh about 2700 pounds each, and will be found to be as fine every way, if not finer, than those contributed by any other State in the Union. They will be found worthy an examination by every man who feels interested in the reputation of the Eureka State.”

Note: The marble came from the mine on Quarry Road, east of Diamond Springs. It was sent to replace the gold-bearing quartz block that was sent earlier as the contribution by California for the monument. Unfortunately, the quartz block was rejected as unworthy and disappeared shortly thereafter.
Of the three marble blocks, two were destroyed in Sacramento in the Great Fire of November, 1852. The third arrived in Washington, D. C. in 1854 and is in the monument.

The article continues: “Two Chinamen were accidentally killed this morning on Weber creek, about one mile from here. They were at work in a claim where it was necessary to drift and incautiously left a large stone so much without support, that it fell and caught two of them – producing death immediately.
“The immigration continues to flow in daily, and so far, present every evidence of health and successful journey. No one is found to confirm, to any extent, the reports of great suffering which have obtained circulation in your city. As for the grass on the Humboldt, they testify that it is inexhaustible; the great difficulty is the want of good wholesome water. We are encouraged to hope that the scenes of sufferings in 1850 will not be re-enacted in 1852.
[signed] WEBER

In spite of the previous comments, the August 17 edition of the paper has an article that again speaks to the problems faced by those on their way to California. It is also the first real count of the number of wagons, people and animals that are on the trail. Remember that this count is only those passing Fort Kearny during a single two-week period.

“CALIFORNIA EMIGRANTS – CHOLERA – Accounts from Independence [Missouri], to June 12th, received by the St. Louis Republican, give sad accounts of the ravages of the cholera among the emigrants bound to California via Fort Kearney. The following is an account of the living things which have passed the fort between May 29th and June 11th; There had gone over the roads 16,362 men, 3242 women, 4266 children, 5325 wagons, 6538 horses, 4606 mules, 1 hog, 59,392 cattle, 10,523 sheep, from 100 to 150 turkeys, 4 ducks and 2 Guinea fowls. Besides this number of living beings on the road, it is known that very many more were on the routes North. The companies are represented as well fitted out generally, but much afflicted with sickness, supposed to be cholera. It is thought that beyond Forts Kearny and Laramie, the sickness will subside.”

Note: Cholera (often called “Asiatic Cholera”) has an incubation period of from a few hours to five days, according to the literature. Transmission occurs through ingestion of contaminated water and food. Sudden large outbreaks are usually caused by a contaminated water supply. Direct person to person contact is rare. In untreated cases, death may occur in a few hours and the case fatality rate may exceed 50 percent. Controlling dehydration can reduce the fatality rate to a much lower number.



Criminal Annals, Part 102 – From the Interior

The August 16, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” has stories about about both El Dorado and Calaveras counties, under their regular heading of “From the Interior.”


“El Dorado.

“The El Dorado News says that James R. Pile, formerly of Placerville, has purchased a press, and designs establishing a Democratic paper at Coloma.”
Note: James R. Pile was one of several people who established the “Miners’ Advocate” newspaper in Coloma on September 25, 1852. It moved to to Diamond Springs in October of 1853. Another of its founders was Daniel Webster Gelwicks, who, along with William A. January, would establish the “Mountain Democrat” in Placerville on February 25, 1854.

The story continues: “CARSON VALLEY. – Gen. Estill and Col Wilkes, arrived here on Thursday last from Carson Valley in excellent health, where they have been superintending the distribution of the relief fund. The report a large number of emigrants having arrived at the valley, generally in good health.

“The accounts we have from the emigration farther back, are not so favorable, and some of which are indeed deplorable.

“We stated last week that the cholera had made its appearance at Ash Hollow. The news we now have, confirms that statement. A gentleman just arrived from the plains, states that he saw forty persons burried [sic.] in one grave at that place. Another person, also just arrived, states that he counted about 100 [copy damaged, could be 1000] new graves on the Platt [Platte] river. We hope, however, that these accounts are greatly exaggerated.”

Note: Ash Hollow was a major campsite along the Overland Trail because it had good water, grass and wood. It is now part of the 1000 plus acre Ash Hollow State Historic Park near Lewellen, Nebraska. Ruts made by the wheels of the wagons, sliding down the 25 degree slope of Windlass Hill, are still evident at this location.

The story continues: “SOUTH FORK CANAL. – This work is now entirely graded, and all that is wanting to secure its speedy completion, is the lumber, which will be furnished as soon as the saw mills, that are being constructed, get fairly under way.


“The Chronicle was handed us yesterday by Adams & Co.’s messenger.

“We condense the news as follows:

“ROBBERY. – A robbery of $867 was committed on Thursday night last, at Sutter’s creek, from the house of Thomas H. Rioton. The robbers, among whom was a Mexican woman, are named Maria Ramos, Thomaso, Angeles, and another Mexican, rejoicing in the sobriquet of John Doe. They came to the Hill [shortened name for Mokelumne Hill] on Friday morning, and hired horses to go to Butte City, as they stated. They were, however, observed to take a different direction. Mr. Rioton chased them to the Hill and got out a warrant for their arrest, which was given into the hands of an officer, who pursued and overtook them at Kelsoe’s ranch, on the Stockton road. When they were pursued they threw away the gold dust, amounting to some thirty-one ounces, which was afterwards recovered. The were brought back to the Hill, and retained for trial.

“OVERLAND IMMIGRATION. – On Monday last, a company of immigrants consisting of twenty-three persons, arrived at Jackson, via the Volcano route. The brought with them twenty-three head of cattle and two horses, and made the journey in 103 days from Independence [Missouri]. They lost three of their party at Goose creek, near the Humboldt.

“CONVICTED. – On Tuesday last, James Clark, four guilty of an assault upon the person of Wm. Frazier, with intent to kill, on the 21st of December last, was sentenced by the Court of Sessions to five years imprisonment in the State Prison. The sentence was accompanied with serious and good advice from his honor Judge Campbell.

Note: The Court of Sessions system was introduced in each county of California shortly after the attainment of statehood in 1850. The Court of Sessions was largely a provisional device for governing California counties prior to the first election of boards of supervisors. Thus its powers extended beyond the purely judicial, and included executive and legislative functions. It was presided over by an elected County Judge and two appointed associated judges. The Court of Sessions in each county was disbanded upon the election of a Board of Supervisors.

The column ends with this interesting bit: “TURNIPS. – Mr. John Edwards, of Ione Valley, has sent us a mammoth turnip. weighing twelve and a half pounds. This is the largest we have ever seen of this species of vegetable. It is entirely sound, and was raised on Mr. E.’s ranch at the valley.”

The following story, which is also in the August 16, 1852 edition of the paper, relates a far too common story of a person heading back to his home in the east and being robbed.

“DARING ROBBERY. – On Thursday last Mr. O. H. Young, a carpenter of this city, and one of the firm of Young & Drew, left for San Francisco for his home in the east. After paying for his passage ticket, he had remaining the sum of $2200 in two bags, which he thoughtlessly placed in his coat pockets. On Saturday morning he took from one bag a fifty-dollar gold piece for the purpose of defraying his expenses across the Isthmus [of Panama], and immediately afterward had it changed. In a very short time he missed both bags, some dexterous pick-pocket having abstracted them, probably, which he was getting his ‘slug’ [common name for a $50 gold piece] changed. No traces, however, of the thief or money have yet been obtained. Mr. Young, notwithstanding his loss, intended sailing in the Panama which was to have left on Sunday morning.”

This is followed by a short article regarding the piloting, or lack of same, of steamboats along the route between Sacramento and San Francisco.

“ACCIDENT. – On Saturday evening, while the ‘Antelope’ was lying below the wharf at Benicia, waiting for the ‘Confidence’ to push out into the stream, the ‘Urilda’ came puffing and blowing up the straits, and by some unexplained manoeuver or gross carelessness, managed to run into the stern of the Antelope, carrying away the railing, seats, etc., but doing little damage. The Urilda was also somewhat injured.”



Criminal Annals, Part 101 – Mixed Information

In the August 7, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” is found a column heading called “From the Interior.” Under this heading are stories first from Marysville and then Placerville.


“ We are indebted to Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express for the Express [California Express 1851-?]of Friday.
“Wednesday next has been named as the day to celebrate the funereal obsequies of Henry Clay, by a committee of the City Council and citizens. Chas. H. Bryan has been appointed to deliver the oration. The Rev. Mr. Brayton has been appointed officiating clergyman, and Col. R. H. Taylor Marshal of the day, with W. E. Rust, Charles E. Filkins, J. F. Halsey, H. S. Hoblitzel, and S. Pixley as Aides.

“It is stated in the Express that a project is on foot to carry the waters of Rash Creek and the North Fork of the Trinity River into Weaverville.

“We are informed by Mr. Jones of Jones & Co.’s Express, that a duel came off at Indian Bar, Feather river, on Tuesday last, between John D. Morrison and William Leggitt. The latter was killed on the third fire.

“We understand that W. S. Speak, Esq., and Jno. [John] Kelly, two Downievillians, met the other morning to settle their difficulties before breakfast. Three rounds, nobody hurt. Result: shaking of hands, and toddies for all.

“Placerville Correspondence.

Fire–The Emigration–Stock Market–Theatricals.

“PLACERVILLE, August 5, 1852

“Messrs. Editors: About five o’clock this morning, our town was startled by the alarming cry of fire, which was found to proceed from the rear of the South Fork Saloon, upon Main street, the roof of the cooking house having taken fire from a defect in the stovepipe. The fire department were immediately on hand, and by their active exertions, assisted by those of the citizens generally, succeeded in extinguishing what might otherwise have proved a serious conflagration for our prosperous and flourishing town.

“The emigration continues coming in. The stock is generally in fair condition.

“Our stock [animals] market presents a lively and animated appearance; and fair prices have as yet been sustained.

“Our Theater is in full operation, and the able company of Mr. and Mrs. Baker continue to draw good houses nightly. – In haste, yours, HUNTER & CO.

The August 9, 1852 edition of the newspaper has some information regarding a coroner’s inquest in Calaveras county.



“CORONER’S INQUEST. – A Coroner’s inquest was held near Sampson’s Ranch, on the North Fork of the Calaveras, on Tuesday last, by S. D. Ball, J. P. [Justice of the Peace]. Mr. Badger, while prospecting his claim, saw something resembling a flannel shirt in the water, and suspecting it to be a man’s clothing, pursued his investigations, which resulted in his discovering what he supposed to be parts of a human skeleton. A coroner’s jury was summoned, and accompanied by Dr. Teall, proceeded to the spot, and continued the search, finding bones which were pronounced by the doctor to be parts of a human skeleton. The bones, although divested entirely of flesh, were in a high state of preservation, and supposed by the surgeon to have been in the water some two months. The jury found a verdict in accordance with the facts – “That the deceased, whose name is unknown, came to his death by means unknown to the jury, and they believe, some two months ago.” This affair is wrapped in much mystery, and produced a most astounding effect on all the jury.

“Funeral obsequies in honor of the memory of Mr. Clay, are to be observed at “the Hill.” – The Chronicle [Calaveras Chronicle 1851- ?] publishes the programme of the Committee of Arrangements, which, however, omits to state the day of the week or month on which the ceremonies are to take place.”
This somewhat snide comment by the Daily Union regarding the Calaveras Chronicle, is followed by an interesting note about mining.

“SPRUCE GULCH – The bed of this stream has been well worked over this season, and the result has been gratifying to the men employed. The miners were about leaving considering that it was exhausted when some one proposed to try the banks. This at first was treated lightly, but some one having struck in, others followed the example, when it was found that the banks of the gulch abounded in coarse gold, and would pay better than the bed of the stream. The men are now busily employed in prosecuting their discoveries.”

In the same column is a note regarding an attempt to get businesses in Nevada county to close on Sunday.

“A meeting was held on Sunday evening, to adopt means for the better observance of the Sabbath. The following resolution, which we trust meets with the approval of every member of the community to which it is particularly applicable, was among others adopted at the meeting:

“Resolved, That we respectfully request the merchants and other business men of Nevada, to close their doors on the Sabbath, and the we pledge ourselves to support those only who do so, other things being equal.”
This is followed by a note from El Dorado county regarding a terrible accident to one of its citizens.

“ACCIDENT. – Our esteemed fellow citizen, Mr. Bruce Herrick, met with a very severe misfortune on Tuesday last. He was engaged at the time in hauling lumber from the Excelsior saw mill, and was thrown from the wagon by the turning of a plank. Not being able to gain his equilibrium in time. one of the hind wheels of the wagon ran over his left leg below the knee, and severed the larger bone the whole width of the tire.”

Note: Bruce Herrick arrived in Placerville in 1849 or 1850 and was the owner of the Placer Hotel, also know as the “Jackass Inn,” and the “Hangtree Inn,” at the corner of Main and Coloma (now Center) streets. In 1853 he tore down the wooden building and cut down the Hangman’s Tree to build the 40 by 60 foot brick “Herrick Building,” which still stands at that location.



Criminal Annals, Part 100 – Senator Henry Clay Passes

Senator Henry Clay

On June 29, 1852 Senator Henry Clay passed away. He and Senator Thomas Hart Benton, the father-in-law of John C. Fremont, were the two strongest proponents of statehood for California and westward expansion. Clay was also popular with the rest of the country for many reasons and was named by a congressional committee in 1957 as one of the five greatest senators in United States history.

The information did not reach California until early August of that year. Major newspapers in California immediately “ruled” their pages by putting vertical black lines between the columns, an indication of mourning. Edward Kemble, the editor of the “Alta California,” commented that even though his editor partner, Edward Gilbert, had died in the duel with Senator Denver, that his own newspaper the “Alta California,” because of the death of Henry Clay, “carried in a few words, only the statement of the facts.”

State funerals, complete with processions and even a draped empty casket were held for him in San Francisco, Sacramento and many other California cities, as had been earlier done in major cities on the east coast. Church and government office bells were mournfully tolled, military salutes were fired, flags were flown at half-staff and even stores closed.

An example of one of many of the articles regarding Senator Clay shows up in the August 5, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union.”

“OBSEQUIES IN HONOR OF MR. CLAY. – We call particular attention to the subjoined circular from a Committee of Common Council, who were appointed to co-operate with the citizens to make arrangements to do honor to the illustrious dead. The circular clearly expresses its object, and need we urge upon the citizens of Sacramento, the solemn obligations they are under to unite in paying the last tribute of respect to the memory of America’s most renowned statesman:

“The undersigned Committee appointed by the Common Council [City Council] to co-operate with the citizens in appropriate ceremonies of respect due to the memory of HENRY CLAY, would respectfully request the citizens to assemble in mass meeting at the Orleans Hotel TODAY, Thursday, 5th August, at 12 ½ P.M. to appoint a committee, and take such other action as may be deemed proper.

“They would also request that such committee, together with committees from the different military and civic societies, assemble at the Orleans Hotel the same (Thursday) evening, at 8 o’clock, to make suitable arrangements for the occasion.

“August 4, 1852, J. H. Nevett, C. H. Barker, Thos. P. Rose.”

The August 7, 1852 edition of the paper has quite an article on problems being faced by the immigrants still out on the plains. Movies often show the trip west as a wonderful, carefree event, but it wasn’t in most cases.


“Reported suffering among the Immigrants. War with the Indians, &c., &c.

“A portion of the party that went out to Carson Valley with government stores for the relief of the immigrants, returned to the city yesterday. To Mr. Griffiths, one of the party, we are indebted for valuable and interesting information.

“Some of the immigrants are getting along very well, and enduring but slight hardship and suffering, while the larger portion are in a deplorable state of destitution. The women and children, we learn, are subjected in a great many instances, to incredible degrees of hardship and suffering – frequently abandoned on the road without any assistance or protection, and left to get forward as best they may.

“Stations have been established by the government party on Carson river, Truckie [sic] river and the Sink of the Humboldt. At the latter point, east of the desert, supplies are furnished to the more destitute, sufficient to take them across the desert, there they are further assisted as much as possible by the other stations. But the means at the command of this party are totally inadequate to the proper relief of the people.

“The grass on Humboldt is holding out much better than was anticipated, but the alkaline waters met at different points, is proving extremely destructive to the stock, especially mules and horses. Whole teams are destroyed and parties left in a condition bordering upon actual helplessness.
Mr. Greenwood, well known in this vicinity, was shot about ten days ago, thirty-five miles above the sink of the Humboldt, by the Indians. He was searching for stock that had been stolen from him by the Indians, when the savages came upon him and shot him with arrows. He was mortally wounded.”
Note: Caleb Greenwood, after whom a school is named in Sacramento and the El Dorado county town of Greenwood is named (he and his sons, Britain and John, established a trading post there), would have been around 90 in 1852. He was a well known fur-trapper and trail guide. His date of death is listed as “circa 1850,” so this may or may not have been him.

The story continues: “A new route has been lately discovered from “the meadows” on the Humboldt to Carson river, by which the distance across the desert is reduced to fifteen miles. At the second sink of Carson’s river, the exploring party met with about fifteen hundred Indians, who had a large quantity of American stock in their possession, which they stated was stolen from the immigrants two years ago. They professed friendship for the people of California, but declared their purpose to continue their depredations upon the immigrants. A party of forty-five men under the command of Capt. Burns, an old mountaineer, had started out to whip the Indians. It was expected they would meet them on Tuesday last.

“The stock of provisions on had at the stations will be exhausted before the train returns.”

Note: In regards to the Humboldt river where it begins to sink into the Nevada desert, a marker along the California Trail has a quote from the journal of Eleazar Stillman Ingalls that says: “July 28, 1850. The Humboldt is the burying ground for horses and oxen. The river is nothing but animal broth seasoned with alkali & salt.” If that wasn’t bad enough, the very last part of the trail before reaching the Sierra Nevada and fresh water, is what is called the “Forty Mile Desert.” It is a barren stretch of water-less, alkali wasteland and the most dreaded section of the California Trail.