Steppin’ Out

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.

“FROM THE INTERIOR
“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.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Criminal Annals, Part 75 – The Cosumnes Tragedy (Final Part)

This is the third and final part of “The Cosumnes Tragedy,” which was in the July 3, 1852 edition of Sacramento’s “The Daily Union,”

On trial was a Frenchman who was accused of killing a “Chinaman” at Big Bar, a mining camp on the Cosumnes River in El Dorado County. The “citizens and miners,” as they are called in the article, have gone through a lengthy process to make sure that the accused obtained a fair trial and have prepared a statement for the newspaper, showing that they did just that. This story is their statement.

We are now at the point where the jury has come back and found the Frenchman guilty of murder. After quite a fuss, the citizens of the area voted to hang him rather than turn him over to the civil authorities.

Following the announcement of the decisions, the prisoner first asked for an hour’s delay which was granted. Then he asked that he be shot by a firing squad of ten men, each with a fully loaded rifle, rather than hung. That request was turned down because none of those present would do it. Then he asked that the firing squad be made up of “Chinamen,” which was also turned down. Finally he asked for the rope and some soap to “soap the rope,” so that it would slide easily when the hangman’s knot was tied.

THE COSUMNES TRAGEDY (CONTINUED).

“An elderly gentleman present then asked him if he felt no concern for this soul, and if he was prepared to go into eternity and meet his God to answer for his deeds done in this world. He very coolly replied that he had his own religion, and that required no preparation, but wished to know if the half hour had been granted him; that they need not think it lost time, as he said before, for if it was agreeable he would relate a funny story, one that would make everybody laugh; but receiving no reply, he said never mind, I will tell it when I get to the place of execution. The half hour was allowed him, which he spent in vainly endeavoring to draw those about him into conversation. When the time had expired he was taken to the place of execution, on the banks of the river, where a large fire had been kindled. That is right, gentlemen, I like to see a good fire on the occasion, but you will allow me a little time to speak before you pull me up. He was asked how much time he wished; he said half an hour. He was allowed fifteen minutes. He then stated that he came to California, across the Plains, in 1850; that he had worked in Drytown and at Moquelumne [Mokelumne] Hill, and at several other places; that he came to California to make his fortune, and he lost his life. Some of you, said he, may call this good diggings, but I hope some of may not find the same kind of diggings I have. It was thought he would give some information of himself, as no person knew anything about him, but when asked to give his name, he answered that he had papers to show his name when it was necessary to give it. –

“When first brought to trial, afer much solicitation, he stated that he was known in Drytown by the name of Rogers, but that was not his name; that his proper name was Raymon. He was know on the Bar as Monsieur, or the Frenchman. He inquired how much time was left him, and was answered 9 ½ minutes. Well, said he, I have 9 ½ minutes more, gentlemen. He then requested to have his arms untied, that he might himself adjust the rope and tie the handkerchief over his face; but this was not permitted, as it was supposed he intended to plunge into the river, he having made one attempt to escape during the evening. He said no more, but counted the time to the last half minute. When the handkerchief was drawn over his face, he said, allow me, gentlemen, a moment more to say my prayers, which was granted; when he said, I am ready, and was immediately drawn up, a party was dispatched to dig the grave, and after hanging forty minutes he was taken down, examined, and pronounced dead by a physician, and the body decently interred.

“P.S. About 12 M. Monday, June 28, a Frenchman presented himself at the public house, giving his name as Charles Raymond, and said that the deceased was his brother; that he knew nothing of the transaction until he arrived at French Canon, the night previous (Sunday). He was informed on his arrival at the Bar that the deceased denied having any relative near that could be sent for; that perhaps there might be some mistake; but he described him very accurately, and said he thought the reason he did not send for him, was that he did not wish to disgrace him, but that he certainly was his brother, and would not deny it. He had made inquiry of the Spaniards concerning the transaction, and afterwards had the case stated to him in the presence of a number of miners and citizens, and he declared himself satisfied. He believed he had a fair and impartial trial, and merited his punishment.

“These we believe are the main facts and circumstances concerning the case.”

Note: In this case the person being hanged was not put on a horse and the horse whipped to get it to drop him, or put in a wagon and the wagon drawn away, as seen in the movies. The noose was put around his neck, the rope thrown over a branch and he was simply pulled up and left there until he died. That may be another reason he soaped the rope, to assure a rapid strangulation.

TO BE CONTINUED

Criminal Annals, Part 66 – Coroner’s Inquests

Continuing with stories from the pages of 19th Century editions of the “Mountain Democrat,” in the March 31, 1860 edition are found several stories on one page regarding inquests, crimes and even a mining accident.

“INQUESTS. – On the 8th of March, Coroner [ Joseph] Todd held an inquest on the body of Edwin J. Drake, at Volcanoville [a mining camp northeast of Georgetown]. He was killed by the caving of the bank while sluicing on the 7th inst. He was from Belknap county, New Hampshire and 26 years of age.

“On the 21st inst., Coroner Todd held an inquest on the body of a Chinaman, at Rich Flat [probably the Rich; bar, flat, west of Georgetown shown on only one 1853 map], which has been found suspended in a tree by a scarf. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased came to his death by his own act.

“On the 7th inst. Mr. Todd held an inquest at El Dorado, on the body of Abram Miller, a negro, who had died the evening before, very suddenly. The jury found that his death was caused by hemorrhage of the lungs – that he was from Missouri, and aged about fifty years.”

“CHINAMAN KILLED.”– On Sunday last, in Georgetown, a young man named Fountain Williams, got into a row with some Chinamen, in which he shot one through the breast, killing him almost instantly. Here is Williams’ statement: ‘I went down to the Chinamen’s house to collect some money that was due me. When I got down there and told the Chinaman what I wanted, he said he wouldn’t pay it. I took him by the tail or hair [a queue, or braided “pony tail” worn my Chinese men at that time] and told him if he did not pay I would whip him. An other Chinaman pitched in and commenced throwing bowls and one thing or another, and then drew a stick on me, and I was afraid of his hurting me.’ He was committed to jail on the charge of murder.”

“INQUESTS.– Recently several inquests have been held by Justices of the Peace, in this county. It may interest Justices to know that they will receive no pay for such services unless the Coroner be absent from the county, or for other reasons unable to perform that duty. Such is the fact. The coroner should be promptly notified whenever his services are required, by those persons cognizant of the fact.”

“PAINFUL ACCIDENT. – Last Friday week, says the Hydraulic Press of the 24th, Mr. S. Howe of the Eureka claims, entered a blacksmith shop on his diggings where stood a keg of blasting powder and on it an open vessel also containing powder. Ignorant of this fact, he went to work at the forge. While striking a heated piece of iron, a spark flew into the pan of powder, exploding it and the keg beneath with a great noise. Mr. Howe was luckily not standing very near the keg, and escaped with no more serious injury than a painful burning of his face and hands. His eyes were protected by a slouch hat.”

Note: There were at least six mines or mining areas in El Dorado County named Eureka. They stretched from north of Georgetown to south of the town of El Dorado.

“SERIOUS AFFRAY. – On Saturday 1st, in Coloma, two men named James Hannum and Toon Martin, got into a quarrel over a game of cribbage, which resulted in the latter being stabbed through the bowels. He is in a very precarious situation and his recovery will be deemed a miracle.”

“HELD TO ANSWER. – On the 24th instant, John Bacher was held to answer to the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, in the sum of five hundred dollars, by Justice Frazier of Cosumnes township. He is charged with having snapped a Colt’s revolver at one Jacob Smith.”

The July 16, 1864 edition has an interesting story about some highwaymen who were very active in the Indian Diggings mining area, in spite of there being very little mining going on and very little money for them to take.

HIGHWAYMEN. – A correspondent at Indian Diggings [southeast of Fair Play and south of Omo Ranch], writing under date of the 12th, says: ‘It is hot, dry and dusty. Mining operations are almost suspended in consequence of the scarcity of water; the ditches being almost dry. But little work is being done on the copper leads in this neighborhood. Times are hard, business dull, and money scarce, but we hope matters will improve in the fall. A man named Hall was stopped by two highwaymen between this place and Fairplay, a few days ago, and relieved of a few dollars – all the money he had. A man whose name I could not learn, was also stopped by the same scoundrels it is supposed, on the 10th, between Fairplay and Fiddletown. He was flat broke and, of course, the robbers got nothing from him. This is a poor neighborhood for robbers to operate in, if they wish to make a raise; the only advantages it possesses are excellent hiding places. The robbers are Greasers [derogatory name for Mexicans and Latin Americans], and it is believed they belong to a large and well organized band, whose field of operations extend from the San Joaquin to Virginia City.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED