Criminal Annals, Part 134: From Salmon Falls doctor to legislator

GWspring2004The October 4, 1852 edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union,” opens with a front page devoted mostly to advertisements and politics. In a column of odds and ends, is found one very interesting article from Canada.

“ANNEXATION OF CANADA TO THE UNITED STATES. — Mr. Papineau, who has just been elected to the Canadian Parliament by an extraordinary majority, has published a long address, in which he declares he is in favor of annexing Canada to the United States.”

Note: Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871) supported the Montreal Annexation Manifesto that called for Canada to join the United States of America. He was a leader of the reformist Patriote movement, a political movement that existed in Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) from the beginning of the 19th century to the Patriote Rebellion of 1837 and 1838 and the subsequent Act of Union of 1840. The movement was a liberal reaction against colonial control of the government of Lower Canada, and a more general nationalistic reaction against British presence and domination over what had previously been an exclusively French territory.

Following an increasing  number of political articles is one simply entitled, “Placerville.”

“The prompt messenger of Hunter & Co.’s Express laid the El Dorado News [Coloma 1851, ultimately becoming the “Mountain Democrat”] on our table yesterday, at an early hour. We cull from it the following items:

“The stock of the South Fork Canal Company has been all taken and the books closed. This work, the News says, ‘is truly one of the most gigantic of any age or country, and certainly surpasses, in magnitude and importance, anything of the kind ever undertaken and accomplished by private individuals.”

“Dr. S. A. McMeans had written a letter explaining his course on the ‘cooley bill’ [Foreign Miner’s License Tax of May 1852]of the last Legislature. The Doctor explains why he voted for the bill. He is a candidate for reelection to the next Legislature.

Note: Dr. Selden Allen McMeans (1808-1876) was born in Knoxville, Tenn., served in the Mexican War and arrived in California around 1849. He was one of the first doctors at Salmon Falls, El Dorado County. He was elected to the California State Assembly in 1851, and again in 1852. In 1853 he was elected to the position of State Treasurer, a position he held until 1856.

In 1859, he moved to Virginia City, Nevada, after the Comstock Lode silver strike. When the news of the firing on Fort Sumter reached Virginia City in 1861, he announced that he, and a group called the Knights of the Golden Circle, would capture Fort Churchill for the Confederacy. But when they received news of a detachment of Union soldiers heading to Virginia City, they changed their mind. After the Civil War, he organized the Democratic Party in Nevada and became its first chairman. He finally moved his practice to Reno, where he died 1876.

Continuing with the article, “ FUGITIVE SLAVE CASE. –  A woman was arrested in this place, on Tuesday last, on the plea of being the property of Amelia Raymon, who brought her to this country in 1850. The case was tried before Thomas Wallace, Esq., who, we understand, discharged the woman, on the ground that the complaint did not state that she was to be taken back to Louisiana. She was subsequently arrested, to be tried before Judge Hall, on Thursday evening; but before the hour of trial arrived, however, a compromise wise was effected, and the woman discharged.

“RAIN. –  Just before our paper went to press this morning, it clouded up very suddenly, and in a few minutes we were favored with a refreshing shower of rain, which seemed to betoken, in the miners’s faces, the ‘good time coming.’ The shower was accompanied by repeated flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, which is something unusual; and we think the probability is that the weather, as well as the country, is becoming Americanized.”

Under the heading “From the Interior” are articles from Shasta, Sonoma and San Jose.


“We have received copies of the Shasta Courier [1852-1872], Marysville Herald [1850-1858] and Miner’s Advocate[Coloma 1852-Diamond Springs 1855], for which we are indebted to Adams & Co.’s Express. We make such selections from these as are of a general interest to our readers. We clip the following from the Courier:

“IMPORTANT FROM YREKA. –  Mr. Rains, of Cram, Rogers & Co.’s Express, furnished us with the sad news which we give below. Mr. Strawbridge forwarded. his letter to Mr. Rains after he left Yreka, and we are consequently in possession of no particulars except those contained in it:

“Yreka, Sept. 28, 1852.

“Dear Rains: Since you left yesterday a detachment from Ben Wright’s party beyond the Butte has reached here, conducting an imigrant [sic] train; they report that twelve miles from the trail the bodies of three men, one woman, and two children have been found, butchered by the Indians.

“You will recollect a short time since (about the time Coats was killed) Ben found a quantity of children’s clothing in an Indian camp. This was probably the property of this last murdered party, who, it is supposed, constituted one family. Some papers which may lead to a knowledge of their identity are in possession of D.D. Cotton, Esq.

“ All quiet here as you left us. ‘ Yours, truly, Jas. Strawbridge.”

“TROOPS FOR THE NORTH. — It is reported that a company of dragoons are now at Reading’s ranch. They departed from Benicia some weeks ago. It will be seen, therefore, that the progress of this body of troops towards the place where they are expected to do important service is rapid –  expeditious –  very. At this rate of travel they will probably reach their place of destination in the course of a month or two. In the meantime we have published the name of many who have been murdered. In another column it will be found that six more victims have been added to the list. We will not insult the common understanding and virtuous impulses of our readers with a single word of comment –  the facts speak for themselves.”

“INDIAN HUNTING. –  Owing to some depredations recently committed on Clear Creek [Shasta county] by the Indians, Capt. Larabee organize a small party and gave them chase. The party returned a few days since, bringing with them a number of squaws and children. During their absence on the scout they killed fifteen Indians. We are not furnished with a full account of the work done by this volunteer and independent company of frontier soldiers. It is probable that this wholesome and impromptu chastisement will eventually check the serious depredations which had lately become alarmingly frequent on Clear and Cottonwood Creeks. Should the Indians, however, still continue troublesome we are assured that this timely castigation will be repeated, and prosecuted even to a greater length, by the same company or another similarly organized.”


Remarkable Career of “Black Bart” by James E. Rice


Remarkable Career of “Black Bart”
by James E. Rice
Manager, Filing Department, [Bank of Italy] Head Office
Former Wells Fargo & Company Agent


During many years of service with Wells Fargo & Company and intimate contact with various types of humanity, one of the most interesting personalities with which I became familiar was that of Black Bart, the accomplished road agent of most original methods. Though the courtesy of Sheriff Riecks of Stockton, I haveucceeded in obtaining a photograph of Black Bart and a resume of his career.

This party’s real name is said to C.E. Bolton and he was a resident of [37 Second St. room 40] San Francisco. His practice was to leave his home in the bay city and take the evening boat for Stockton, arriving in the river town the following morning. Being a wonderful pedestrian, he would usually walk forty miles into the mountains by night time. The next day he would rob a stage and the only evidence he would leave would be a “poem” in which there was some humor andoccasionally a vulgar line. He was therefore known as the poetic robber.

In the period from 1875 to 1883, when he was finally captured, he robbed many stages, particularly in the mountainous part of California, and Sheriff Tom Cunningham of San Joaquin County was always at the scene of the robbery as soonas possible in an endeavor to locate evidence.

Cunningham’s staying qualities were finally rewarded after Black Bart’s holdup of the stage from Sonora to Milton on November 3, 1883. Arriving at the point where the stage was robbed, the sheriff examined the ground very closely.  Suddenly he reached down and picked up a handkerchief, which incident marked the end of Bart’s career. Cunningham examined the handkerchief very closely and the officers who were with him eagerly waited to see what he would say. “At last we have a clew,” he said and directed his associates’ attention to the laundry mark “FX07.”

Bart’s Capture

The handkerchief was taken to San Francisco and after a long search similar marks were found on other linen in a laundry, by Harry Morse, head of the Morse Patrol and Detective Agency of San Francisco. While Morse was in the office of the laundry investigating the marks on the handkerchief, he was told by the proprietor that the gentleman who owned that particular handkerchief was a respected customer, having mining interests in California, and he occasionally called at the laundry.

By a rather remarkable coincidence, the “owner” of the linen walked into the building while Morse was there and the detective immediately engaged him in a conversation by stating he understood he was interested in mines. Incidentally Morse told him he had some property he would like to submit for his consideration and that he would be glad to show him sample of ore as well as give him other details of the mining prospect. Bart apparently “fell” for what his newly made acquaintance had to offer and agreed to accompany him to the latter’s office on Montgomery street. When Bart entered and took in the surroundings, he was satisfied he had been trapped for he threw up his hands and exclaimed, “Gentlemen, I pass.”

That was the end of Black Bart’s career in stage robbery and it was brought about by the handkerchief which Sheriff Cunningham found. This sheriff served his county nearly twenty-seven years and died in 1900 with a splendid record for bravery and uncompromising honesty.

Some General Characteristics

Black Bart was a person of great endurance, a thorough mountaineer, who was probably unexcelled in making quick transit over mountains and steep grades. He was comparatively well educated, a general reader and well informed on current topics. He was cool, self-contained, with humorous tendencies, and after his arrest exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances. He was neat and tidy in his dress, highly respectable in appearance, polite in behavior, rather chaste in his language, never used profanity, and was not known to have gambled or to have bought pools in races, or every having dealt in mining stocks.

He was a Civil War veteran, having been affiliated with Company B, 116th Illinois Infantry. He pleaded guilty to the charge of stage robbery, was taken to San Quentin prison on November 21, 1883, and discharged therefrom on January 22, 1888. A short time after his release he disappeared and was never heard from again.

Bankitaly Life
December 1920


Liberating the City of Light


Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) was one of the top correspondents during World War II. Embedded with the American forces in Africa, Italy, France and then the Pacific, his Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated column was published in 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers nationwide. Unfortunately, during the Battle of Okinawa, he was killed by enemy fire. In addition to his columns he wrote several books, including Brave Men and Here is Your War.
Here are some excerpts from one of his lighter and most entertaining columns: “Liberating the City of Light.”

PARIS, August 28, 1944 – I had thought that for me there could never again be any elation in war. But I had reckoned without the liberation of Paris – I had reckoned without remembering that I might be a part of this richly historic day.

We are in Paris – on the first day – one of the great days of all time. This is being written, as other correspondents are writing their pieces, under an emotional tension, a pent-up semi-delirium.

For fifteen minutes we drove through a flat garden-like country under a magnificent bright sun and amidst greenery, with distant banks of smoke pillaring the horizon ahead and to our left. And then we came gradually into the suburbs, and soon into Paris itself and a pandemonium of surely the greatest mass joy that has ever happened.

The streets were lined as by Fourth of July parade crowds at home, only this crowd was almost hysterical. The streets of Paris are very wide, and they were packed on each side. The women were all brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colorful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings. Everybody was throwing flowers, and even serpentine.

As our jeep eased through the crowds, thousands of people crowded up, leaving only a narrow corridor, and frantic men, women and children grabbed us and kissed us and shook our hands and beat on our shoulders and slapped our backs and shouted their joy as we passed.
I was in a jeep with Henry Gorrell of the United Press, Capt. Carl Pergler of Washington, D.C., and Corp. Alexander Belon of Amherst, Massachusetts. We all got kissed until we were literally red in face, and I must say we enjoyed it.

Once when the jeep was simply swamped in human traffic and had to stop, we were swarmed over and hugged and kissed and torn at. Everybody, even beautiful girls, insisted on kissing you on both cheeks. Somehow I got started kissing babies that were held up by their parents, and for a while I looked like a baby-kissing politician going down the street. The fact that I hadn’t shaved for days, and was gray-bearded as well as bald-headed, made no difference. Once when we came to a stop, some Frenchman told us there were still snipers shooting, so we put our steel helmets back on.

The people certainly looked well fed and well dressed. The streets were lined with green trees and modern buildings. All the stores were closed in holiday. Bicycles were so thick I have an idea there have been plenty of accidents today, with tanks and jeeps overrunning the populace.

We entered Paris via Rue Aristide Briand and Rue d’Orléans. We were slightly apprehensive, but decided it was all right to keep going as long as there were crowds. But finally we were stymied by the people in the streets, and then above the din we heard some not-too-distant explosions – the Germans trying to destroy bridges across the Seine. And then the rattling of machine guns up the street, and that old battlefield whine of high-velocity shells just overhead. Some of us veterans ducked, but the Parisians just laughed and continued to carry on.

Source: Ernie’s War: The Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches, edited by David Nichols, pp. 351-54.
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