Today, we are going to delve into a couple of the deaths that took place at the area known as Jackson Gate. Many years ago, I had stumbled across an old newspaper clipping mentioning that in the early days, several people had died from cholera after drinking in the creek near the Gate after something had been contaminating it. As it turns out, when I went back recently to research that, I couldn't find the clipping, so as of right now, I am still trying to find that specific reference. When I do find it, that will be cited for reference with more details. For now, that is part of the lore at The Gate.
Well, this memory of finding that clipping is what led me to the interest in learning more about the history of that specific spot known to locals as "The Gate," or Jackson Gate, and if anyone else had died in that general area.
After more research, I found a couple of documented deaths, and so I wanted to share them with my readers.
One of the stories that I dug up during my research into the history of the old hangman's tree on Main Street in Jackson was the murder at Squaw Gulch.
In 1851, two Frenchmen were butchered in Squaw Gulch which was "near Jackson Gate." As the history of Amador County states "One was stabbed with a long bowie-knife thirteen times, dying immediately. The other, though cut five or six times, lived for several days."According to Larry Cenotto's research records, "Monsieur Pontanier and an unknown French "companion" on May 20, 1852, were attacked while they slept in their tent in Squaw Gulch near the Gate." The men had been stabbed to death. The deaths of these two men was what led up to the formation of the Jackson Vigilance Committee. The committee offered a $300 reward to anyone who helped apprehend or deliver the murderer(s).
Initially, another man Gregorio Soberano was arrested while at a bistro in downtown Jackson, but he was later exonerated. Later on, another man was brought on charges. His name was Cheverino. He had been examined and sent to the "log jail," to be held until he could stand trial, but that night a mob of people (let me make this clear it was NOT the Vigilance Committee) broke into the jail and dragged Cheverino out to the oak tree on Main Street.
The first of two hangings took place around 8:30 p.m. on the evening of June 10th, 1852. He would be the 3rd execution by way of the hanging tree in Jackson.
According to records, the rope was put around his neck and he was pulled up while his hands were free. So, he began clenching onto the rope around his neck, struggling to survive. This allegedly went on for about ten minutes before they dropped the rope, and tied his hands behind his back and then raised the rope again. It was said that Cheverino had admitted guilt in the murder of Pontanier.
His accomplice, Cruz Flores had been found out by chance when another Mexican, Mariano, who had been arrested for horse theft in Sacramento, implicated Cruz Flores, as the other man who murdered a Frenchman near Jackson Gate, or "The Gate."
Flores, the 4th man to be one of the Hanging Tree's executions, was hanged the next day on June 11th, 1852.
Their newfound happiness would end in tragedy though, as young Billy died at the age of 2 years old on June 8, 1888. The couple would go on to have two more children, daughters Della and Amelia, born in 1888 and 1892. These two would grow up into their adulthood.