PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA

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Criminal annals, part 110: Smallpox and rattlesnakes

By From page A8 | March 8, 2011

The Sept. 2, 1852, edition of the Sacramento “Daily Union” has a story regarding a strange discovery in Sacramento by some boys who were out playing.

“CORONER’S INQUEST – The Coroner was called yesterday morning to hold an inquest on the body of a man found dead in the bushes on the levee, near Second street. Some boys who were playing near the spot discovered him. They had noticed him lying there for three or four days, but supposed he was watching a quantity of melons that were lying near. Beside him lay the rind of several melons that he had probably eaten. He was about 45 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches in height, gray hairs, striped cotton shirt, gray pants, and cotton socks; in his pocket was some soap, a razor, needles, combs, and 124 cents in money–  also, a part of a letter, directed to Joseph Christian, Sacramento, dated at Marlborough, St. John’s Wood, April 17th, 1852; also, a slip of paper, with John L. Lemon, care of Tallant & Wilde, Bankers, San Francisco, Cal., on it. Verdict of the Jury, died from exposure.

“Under the same cover of the bushes where the man was lying dead, the Coroner found a man apparently dying. He was entirely naked, and was just able to state that he had been lying there four days very sick. He gave hie name as William Bryant, of Boston; said he had just arrived in the country; feeling sick, and having no money, he had laid down in the bushes. Remedies were immediately used to revive him; and, with such success that, in the course of an hour, he was able to be removed to the Hospital, and hopes are entertained of his recovery, he would probably have died had he remained unnoticed an hour longer.”

Continuing with the same edition of a paper, we find a couple of articles from San Joaquin County, one regarding a larceny, the other discussing smallpox and the local Indians.

“San Joaquin.

“GRAND LARCENY. – A man named Michael Fullman, was brought before Justice Anderson on Wednesday last, charged with stealing $600, from Mr. Kittredge of the American Market. Mr. Kittredge had placed the money for safety beneath a plank of the floor. Fullman, as he confessed on examination, discovered the money in cleaning up the market, and took possession of it. He said he had not used any of the money, and told where it could be found. He was held to answer at the next term of the Court of Sessions, October 4th. He has a family in the States.”

“SMALL POX. – The small pox is prevailing extensively among the Indian tribes in the region, and the mortality is considerable. Many of the females that pass through this city have their heads in mourning, (i.e.) covered with a mixture of pine gum and powdered charcoal – which they wear till it wears off – about a year – in memory of the dead. The Indians seem generally very low spirited in consequence of the sickness among them.”

In the Sept. 4, 1852, edition of the paper are three articles from Nevada County: an encounter with snakes, a riot in Grass Valley and the capture of a repeat offender.

“Nevada.

“The Journal [Nevada City Journal 1851- ?] of Friday was first handed us by Adams & Co.

“Rattlesnakes. — Mr. John R. Wilson killed on Saturday last, eleven rattlesnakes in a nest of fifteen. The slaughter took place at Phillip’s ranch, on Wolf creek, about two miles from this city. The ‘critters’ had from six to twelve rattles each.”

“RIOT AT GRASS VALLEY. Several cases of excitement have occurred in Grass Valley during the past week, caused by disputes as to a right to some coyote claims. A Jew named Heyman, and several others, have held and worked for some weeks, some claims on the new lead. These claims were jumped by a man named Moore, and some others. A suit brought for the recovery of the claims was decided on Friday last, and a writ of restitution issued.– Heyman and his party were put in possession of his claims by Constable Humison. On the same day Moore and others went to the claims, knocked down Heyman, considerably bruising him on the face and breast, and again took possession. A new writ of restitution was issued and placed in the hands of the Sheriff on Wednesday last, and the Sheriff put Heyman’s party again in possession. Moore was also arrested on a charge of riot. While the Sheriff and his prisoner were taking dinner at Beatty’s, preparatory to starting for Nevada [City], a party of twenty or thirty men came in and seized the prisoner, and spirited him off before anybody was aware of their intentions. The Sheriff instantly summoned a posse and started in pursuit, but the bird had flown. We believe no blame is attached to the Sheriff on the score of carelessness, as he did not anticipate a surprise, and would have kept his prisoner had he known the attempt was to be made.”

“Henry Dobbins has been committed at Grass Valley, for horse stealing. On his back were found the marks of an old whipping.”

The Sept. 6, 1852, edition of the paper has more articles from El Dorado County, all about the Relief Train and immigration.

“El Dorado – The following items are from the News of Saturday:

“RELIEF TRAIN. – Gen. Rains arrived here yesterday with the mules belonging to the Relief Train, for the purpose of packing more provisions to Carson Valley and the sink of the Humboldt River.

“The General informs us that they have disposed of all the provisions in their possession, and he now revisits Sacramento for the purpose of taking over a further supply.

“They have established an hospital for the relief of sick immigrants about four miles from the southern edge of the Desert. At this time there are about ten patients in it, and all of them in a fair way of recovery.

“FOR THE LAST TWO DAYS but very few emigrants have arrived in this place, but we hear from Mr. Moulton that about Monday next we may look for thousands of them. Mr. M. left Monroe, Wisconsin on the 15th of May, and arrived here on Thursday, and reports that from the best information he could obtain, not one-third of the emigration have arrived at Carson Valley.

“WE LEARN from Gen. Rains that very little sickness prevails in Carson Valley, although there are a great many immigrants stopping there for the purpose of recruiting their broken down stock.

“A PARTY, consisting of five families, arrived in this place on Thursday, from Oskaloosa, Iowa – They are all in good health, and design settling in this vicinity.”

Note: General James Spencer Rains (1817-1880) was born in Tennessee, came to California as a “Forty-Niner” and served as a general in the California State Militia. Prior to arriving in California he had served as a judge and a member of the state Legislature in Missouri. He returned to Missouri from California and served in the state Senate from 1854-1861. In 1861 he was appointed brigadier general in the 8th Division of the Missouri State Guard and served in the Confederate States Army throughout the Civil War. After the war he moved to Texas where he died.

(To be continued.)

Doug Noble

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