Posts Tagged ‘Burras’

Squatters Riot-Sacramento City-1850

April 14, 2009
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The Pacific News gives the following particulars of the riot at Sacramento City.
A terrible excitement pervades the City of Sacramento. The issue is between the squatters and settlers, holding property under the Sutter titles. Several persons are already killed and wounded on both sides.

The history of the affair thus far is briefly this: Large tracts of ground, covering the city and vicinity of Sacramento are held by grants from Capt. Sutter. The settlers hold that this Spanish grant is not valid and that the land belongs to the government. Several moved in and erected buildings, and a detainer was brought against them, and was decided in favor of the plaintiffs and a writ of restitution issued, but the officer who attempted to execute it was met by a body of armed squatters who resisted him on this occasion, Saturday, the 10th. Prior to this an appeal to the county court had been made by the attorney for the squatters, Judge Willis presiding, when the right of appeal was denied, which exasperated the party thus seeking redress, and meetings were held and resolutions passed to resist the law.

Nothing more was done by legal means from Saturday till Thursday, when some six or eight persons were arrested for resisting the officers in their duty, and in default of bail, two were incarcerated in the prison brig. When a body of squatters repaired to the brig to release their companions, they met Sherif McKinney and Major Bigelow with a possee, who drove them from the ground, but no force was used until they had retreated some distance from the river, when they were overtaken by the sherif and possee — they then turned, when the conflict occurred, an account of which has already been published.

At the time the Caroline left, 50 U.S. soldiers had left Benicia for Sacramento, and two volunteer companies at San Francisco had volunteered their services to maintain order.

The stoppage of Barton Lee at San Francisco of the heave sum of $1,100,000, produced great excitement both at Sac-ramento and San Francisco.

The Philiadelphia did not brings the mails.

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Sep 23, 1950


Arrival of the Philadelphia — One Million more Gold — Squatter Riot at Sacramento — Failure for $1,100,000

New York, Sept. 20.
Steamship Philadelphia left Chagres the 9th inst., and arrived at New York this afternoon. She brings California dates to the 15th August. She brings $800,000 gold dust in freight, and $300,000 in hands of passengers. The Georgia is to bring the mail.

From the San Francisco Herald it appears that on the day previous to the sailing of the steamer, a great squatter riot had taken place in Sacramento City, by an attempt to liberate some squatter prisoners. The mayor was shot thro’ the arm, and Capt. Woodland, city assessor, was mortally wounded. The fighting was continued. Four or five reported killed; large forces were being raised to repel the riot. Martial law is proclaimed, and every citizen commanded to enrol his name at the City Hotel. The captain of the squatters, named Maloney, is dead. They threaten to burn the city.

The outbreak commenced on Monday, the 12th, when an armed body of the squatters were proceeding to the prison to release two of the party who were confined on board. They were confronted by Mayor Bigelow and members of the corporation. An affray soon after commenced, and the city was aroused to arms.

Mayor Bigelow was shot, and died in 15 minutes*. J.W. Woodland, city assessor, was shot and dead, and several other citizens were killed and wounded. Dr. Robinson and a man named Mahoney, two leaders of the squatters, were shot dead, as were several others of the party.

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The squatter force soon swelled from 60 to between 700 or 800 armed men.

The keepers of the gambling houses and sporting men generally, were with the citizens and Real Estate owners. A tremendous force soon assembled. Lt. Gov. McDougal returned to the city as soon as he heard of the affray. —

The steamer McKim was despatched to Venecia, and the Senator to San Francisco for arms and men to use them.

The above is the substance of the news as published in the San Francisco papers, but as the steamer was getting under way, a despatch was received on board from the Pacific News office, stating that an express had arrived with the intelligence that Sacramento City had been reduced to ashes, and that the Squatters were receiving reinforcement from the mines.

News from the mines is very encouraging.

Barton Lee has stopped payment in Sacramento City for $1,100,000.

*Mayor Bigelow survived, but died later. See link above.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Sep 24, 1850


From the Washington National Intelligencer.

We are indebted to the Hon. WM. M. GWIN, Senator in Congress from California, for the subjoined copy of a letter from the lieutenant governor of that state, giving an authentic account of the late riot at Sacramento City, betwxen the squatters and landholders.

Aug. 14, 1850 — P.M.}

MY DEAR SIR: I am now on my way to Benicia, to solicit of Gen. Smith the aid of his troops to quell a large lawless mob, who are threatening the destruction of the lives and property of the citizens of Sacramento City; and as the steamer leaves for Panama to-morrow I avail myself of the opportunity of a friend who is going to the states, to write and give you the details of the horrible massacre that is now going on in this city.

For some time past the squatters have taken possession of a large portion of the town lots belonging to various persons, who have bought and paid for their property, and the excitement consequent thereon has been increasing gradually, and to-day the crisis broke forth. Some two days since a large meeting of the squatters took place, and they resolved that as the state was not admitted, the laws created by the Legislature were of no force, and that they would resist until death any mandate coming from any of our courts. On yesterday the sherif ejected some of them from the property of Mr. Rodgers, and several resisted his authority; two of them were brought before the county judge for thus acting, and were committed to the jail or prison-ship*.

The following is from A Memorial and biographical history of Northern California p.201; Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1891.

The first ship ever used in the state of California as a “prison brig” was the bark Stafford/Strafford, which was moored in the Sacramento River opposite the foot of I street. It was brought here from New York in 1849. While lying at the foot of O street it was sold at auction by J.B. Starr, and, though it had cost $50,000, it was knocked down to C.C. Hayden for $3,750! Immediately the latter sold three-quarters of his interest to Charles Morrill, Captain Isaac Derby and Mr. Whiting. In March, 1850, they rented the vessel to the county for a “prison brig.” May 25, 1850, the others sold out their interests to Charles Morrill, who intended the bark for a trader between San Francisco and Panama. It was loaded at the levee, but in so poor a manner that she nearly capsized on reaching the Bay of San Francisco. It was readjusted and taken on to the sea, but was never brought back.

Back to the original article:

This morning they organized to the number of one or two hundred, who had muskets and small arms, and aided by a large number ready to assist them, all armed, they marched through the streets in regular military style, their leader on horseback, with sword; went to several places from which they had been ejected and took possession; and then wended their way to the prison-ship, to release the two of their number that were imprisoned on yesterday. When near the ship they were met by the mayor (Bigelow,) who was on horseback, endeavoring to rally a posse to disperse them. At this instant a general firing commenced; the firing became general in I,K, and Fourth streets, the citizens running to and fro in every direction.

The sherif, a noble fellow mounted his horse and did all in his power to assemble a posse; but the panic was too great; none were prepared for what had come upon them. I did all I could to assemble a force and before I left issued a call for all to assemble in front of the City Hotel; had the cannon drawn up and loaded, and runners sent for all the arms that could be found. Issued, also, a notice for all non-combattants to keep out of the streets; and, after accomplishing this I started for the steamer Senator, which I had detained to wait orders, and immediately put out to get troops from Gen. SMITH. I left at the solicitation of a large number of the citizens who thought that I could exert a greater influence to get the troops here. When I left the firing was still going on, and the great consternation prevailed. I will be up with the troops by one o’clock to-night. — As the steamer left there was a cry to fire the town, and God only knows what will be done before I get back. I left Mayor Bigelow badly wounded. Mr. WOODLAND, and two others that I saw were lying dead, and several wounded. The leader of the mob was shot dead from his horse.

I will meet the steamer Gold Hunter in Suison bay, take her back and get the troops, provided Gen. Smith will let them go, which I have some fear of. He has acted very strangely in the difficulties that we have had to preserve law and order. If he refuses I will advise you before the steamer leaves to-morrow.

This is one of the results of our non-admission. A fearful crisis is at hand should Congress refuse us admission at this session. The only protection to our lives and property is to take possession of the customs.
In hast, very truly yours,

The Daily Sanduskian (Sandusky, Ohio) Sep 30, 1850


From California.

We have been permitted to read a letter from A.W. Lee of Bronson, dated at Brighton, California, August 26th 1850. — Mr. Lee had been in ill health most of the time since he had been in that country and was just recovering from severe illness. — He had sold out and in five or six weeks from the date of his letter, designed to return home. He thinks that there has been a change for the worse, in almost everything in California, since last May. Business was then flourishing, but it is now greatly depressed; and the hard times, he believes, have only begun. He advises all his friends at home not to emigrate to California. The Sacramento riot, which had just occurred, was occasioned by the arrest of some squatters in the city, for disorderly conduct. The squatters attempted to rescue them, and marched, armed, into the city — a conflict ensued; three of the squatters and one of the citizens were killed. The Mayor, and a number on both sides were wounded. The squatters retreated — the Sheriff followed them for the purpose of arresting the ringleaders, but was killed in the attempt; two more of the squatters were killed and a number wounded.

Mr. Burras of Fairfield, was to leave for home soon. Ira Seymour was well and engaged in mining. Barton Lee was well and was engaged in closing up his extensive business. Notwithstanding his heavy failure, he hoped to pay off all his liabilities and save some two hundred thousand dollars besides.

The cost of living in California was still very great. Mr. Lee writes that he was paying $30 per week for board.

*Benjamin Lee was Barton Lee‘s father.

We have been favored by Mr. Benjamin Lee*, with the Daily Sacramento Transcript, of August 15th and 16th. They state that the Mayor, although severely wounded in the squatter riot, would probably recover. The leader of the rioters was killed. The Transcript states that the Legislature of the State of Sonora, in Mexico, had prohibited its citizens from leaving the State without passports, in consequence of the great emigration to California, amounting to 5,893 the present year.

Matters were quiet at Sacramento city. Two companies of volunteers had come from San Francisco, and the authorities were busy in ferreting out the rioters.

The intelligence from the mines was favorable. At Carson’s new diggings, on the Stanislaus, a lump of gold, almost wholly free from quart was taken out, weighing  forty pounds.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Oct 22, 1850

A Letter From Hang Town

April 13, 2009
The Yankee House at Hang Town (image from

The Yankee House at Hang Town (image from

California–Letter from Homer J. Austin.

We are permitted to copy the following interesting letter, received a short time since from Mr. H.J. Austin, of Ripley Township, who went to California last spring, by the overland route. It is addressed to his wife, and is dated August 11th, 1850, at Cold Springs, El Dorado Co., California. Mr. Austin writes:

“We arrived at Hang Town, five miles from this place, the 2d inst., safe and sound, after a journey of 95 days from old Fort Kearney, the place of leaving the States. It has been a journey of pleasure rather than hardship, although attended with fatigue and some danger. We left Salt Lake City the 24th of June. From thence we travelled 200 miles to the junction of Ft. Hall road without encountering anything of much interest. There we fell in company with Oliver Orton, of Mo., formerly of Richland Co., Ohio, who was taking through ten men, to work on shares. Dr. Stewart of New Haven, was with them. They strengthened our train and added much to our enjoyment.

Thousand Spring Valley (Photo by Ralph Maughan;

Thousand Spring Valley (Photo by Ralph Maughan;

One hundred miles from there we struck the Thousand Spring Valley, called by some, Warm Spring Valley. It is almost destitute of good water, what there is, being found in natural wells some ten feet deep, and from six to ten feet across, and either warm or alkaline. The Valley is some 100 miles in extent, and the road across it is good, except that the dust which resembles slack lime or ashes, is about 6 inches deep, and renders it very unpleasant for travel, and ruinous to stock.

Humbolt River 1849 (painting by Thomas Evershed;

Humbolt River 1849 (painting by Thomas Evershed;

Proceeding from thence we struck the Humbolt or Mary’s River, (which is called by the emigrants, the Horse Killer,) and followed it 300 miles, to the sink. The river being very high, or some 8 feet higher than last spring, it was impossible to cross it with teams, or to grass our stock on its bottom, in consequence of the mire. The whole distance is one bed of alkali, or saleratus bottom, and perfectly destitute of grass, except in the slews and across the river. We were compelled to swim the river to get grass for our stock which was attended with some dangers even to good swimmers. — The river is some 300 yards across and has a very swift current. Several emigrants were drowned in the river this season. John Parrott came very near drowning; we saved him by throwing him a rope. The banks of the river are perfectly lined with dead horses, mules, and oxen which i was impossible to avoid, and which made it very unpleasant.

In addition to these difficulties it is infested with a tribe of Indians, called Diggers, who live in the mountain cliffs. They steal horses and shoot the passing emigrants for diversion. Our stock had to be guarded day and night, which tried the courage of our men to some degree. One man was shot through the heart with an arrow, on the night of 2d of July, while he was on guard. We were camped about 2 miles back and saw him the next morning. I volunteered several nights, to stand guard at dangerous points, where I was fearful that we should lose our stock, unless well guarded, while grazing on the bluffs at night. We saw but a few Indians, as they keep concealed from the emigrants, altho’ they stole a good deal of stock.

We arrived at the Willow Springs, 20 miles from the Sink, on the 19th of July. We went on to the Willow Meadows and made hay for crossing the Desert. We stayed two days and made about 800 lbs of hay. Leaving one of our horses to recruit 4 weeks and then to be brought through, we started on the 22d at sun down across the Desert. We travelled all night and camped at 10 o’clock the next morning at a salt spring. At 5 P.M., we struck tent and travelled until sunrise the next day, when we arrived at Carson River, a distance of 40 miles, 15 miles being very deep sand next to the river. We had plenty of water for ourselves and most enough for our horses, while many others suffered very much. We counted 160 dead horses and found wagons left too numerous to count, upon the Desert. Our stock stood it well.

At the river we found plenty of pork and flour that had just arrived from California to relieve the emigrants. Those that had money had to pay $2 per pound, the same price for pork and flour. Those that had no money or stock got the same quantity. 3 lbs. of flour and 3 of pork, all that one person could buy or have at any price. I saw many almost starved to death, begging for food, as they arrived at the river. Some had been compelled to eat horseflesh.

Fortunately, we had plenty of food. We concluded to leave our wagons and pack the balance of the way, 200 miles, to Hang Town, which we did without difficulty. I think it would have detained us some 3 or 4 days longer to have got thro’ with wagons, and we might have failed at last. It would have cost us much more than our wagons and harness would have been worth, if we had brought them thro’. Orton hitched on to our wagon, it being better than his, but he was under the necessity of leaving it in the canyon, in Carson Valley. Our provisions lasted until we arrived within 40 miles of Hang Town.

We supplied ourselves at meal time, at the trading posts that we passed every 3 or 4 miles the balance of the way. I have not lost a meal since I left the States, and never enjoyed better health. There has been but little sickness on the plains, this season, but a good deal of suffering from famine.

Miners in Hangtown, William Shew, 1849. (iamge from /

Miners in Hangtown, William Shew, 1849. (image from

We found George Stewart, who informed us that Burras and Seymour were at Cold Springs, so we left for that place, after sending our stock on to a rancho, 8 miles from Sacramento City. We found Burras, and were much pleased to see him. He was mining in company with Seymour, Delano Patrick, and Edward Whyler. Burras wished me to go in company with him, which I concluded to do, a short time at least, as he had become somewhat acquainted with mining, and had plenty of tools. Edward and John Parrott started for the city with Dr. Stewart and George Stewart. I have worked, or partly worked, at mining 5 days, and made about $40. We shall soon leave for the rivers, as the water is getting too low in the dry diggings.

Wages here are $6 per day — on the rivers $8 per day and board; by the month, from $100 to $200. John Parrott engaged at driving team for Gage, formerly of Steam Corners, for $150 per month. Provisions of all kinds are plenty, and cost us about $1 per day, and cook for ourselves. I shall enclose in this a speciman of gold which I washed the third day I worked, worth by weight, 96 cents.

Your affectionate Husband,

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Oct 15, 1850