Monday, August 30, 2021

Attack At the Maze Hotel - Modesto History

The Ross House, as seen in the book "One Hundred Years"-

In my line of work, over the years I have had to debunk many television program's so-called facts, in order to set a story or two straight, when certain paranormal programs have literally shared false history or inaccurate history of a certain person, place or thing. In a recent episode of "The Dead Files" the program featured a certain costume shop in Modesto that is purported to be haunted. I have known the owner of this shop, Dana Walters for almost a decade, and I have been friends with Eva Foreman, an employee at that shop for just as long, so naturally, when I heard about the upcoming episode I wanted to see what it was all about and just what the "show" was going to say about the location.

Again, I am not a fan of paranormal shows in general, because I can see through the smoke and mirrors, to view it for what it is: blatant sensationalism. Time and time again, as I stated above, I have literally debunked or "fact checked" many of these types of shows over the years, only to reveal the actual stories that they either told completely wrong, or set stories straight when various stories had been fabricated and hadn't even taken place to begin with. So, when the episode brought local history into the mix, I was intrigued to see if the television show actually got it right. (Which in 99% of the cases, they don't).

After watching the episode, and after having taken extensive notes, I went deep diving into the archives in search for the facts behind one particular story that the tv show mentioned regarding Andrew Sorensen. Sorensen was said to be the man who allegedly attacked his wife with a butcher knife and then slit his throat in the Maze Hotel in Modesto. According to this television program, that event was a "possible" cause for what could be the dark energy haunting the shop, since the stars of the show claimed this particular location where this horrific story had occurred was literally within feet of the costume shop itself.

After lengthy research, I have found that although some of the story they told was accurate (to an extent), there was a huge piece of information that was completely inaccurate: 

The Maze Hotel was not even remotely close to the costume shop!

The costume shop is on 7th Street, between L and M Streets, whereas the incidents that took place in 1910 involving the Sorensen's at the Maze Hotel, was located on the corner of 9th and I Street. 

Now that I have cleared up the misinformation that this event in history DID NOT actually take place anywhere near the costume shop, now I am going to give you the history of the Maze Hotel and share with you all the particulars surrounding the incident that took place on December 30, 1910.

History of the Maze Hotel

Originally, the first structure on the corner of 9th and I Streets was The Ross House, which was "for many years Modesto's leading hotel, and the scene of the town's big social soirees. It was built originally in Paradise City by Frank Ross, the man who gave it his name. In 1869, realizing that its days were numbered with the arrival of the railroad in Modesto, Ross sold out to James Cole, who formerly ran a stage station on the way to Sonora." -(A Hundred Years, Modesto 1870-1970)

As the book goes on, it mentions that Cole had the building moved to Modesto on November 20, 1870.  It was moved in two sections, with the second part arriving the following week. 

"The Maze Hotel, mentioned in the Modesto Irrigation Jubilee of 1904 as the headquarters of Governor and Mrs. Pardee and their party, was the name then given to the old Ross House at Ninth and I on the present site of the Claremont Hotel." -- (The Claremont is no more, and it appears that later the site was Mead's Bakery & Restaurant, and even later, it is now a parking lot on the southeast corner, across from McDonald's.)

Google Street View (looking East on I Street/9th Intersection)

The Maze Hotel was owned by none other than the Maze family, a prominent family in Modesto. When they purchased the property and changed the name from the Ross House is unknown to me. I couldn't find that in any of the records I searched. I did however find that the Sweet family managed the property around 1908, before Marie Sorensen decided to jump into the hospitality business and took up as the proprietor of the hotel sometime around 1909.

From the looks of everything I could find in records, newspaper clippings and census records, it appears that Marie Sorensen was very much the social butterfly, and (in my opinion) I believe she was more than likely the dominant one in the relationship. The newspapers noted she was "lively and vivacious", but what really gave it away was the 1910 census record. 

When the census taker listed the couple, they listed Marie as the "Head" of the household. That was not common for that time period. In fact, unless a woman was alone, such as a widow with children she wasn't listed as the head. The husband, or whatever man in the family was always listed as the head of the household, at least back during that time period, anyway. And in this case, Mr. Sorensen took the #2 slot on the census list for their "household." 

This listing alone gave me the impression that Mrs. Sorensen was a very independent person, and didn't think conventionally as the subservient sort of wife. All the newspaper clippings I could find relating to Andrew Sorensen spoke of him as the more quiet, reserved type. Although a later article threw in the idea that he was of the "jealous disposition." 

Marie came from one of Modesto's more prominent families, being the daughter of W. S. Stone. While Andrew also came from another prominent family, his father being M.I. Sorensen, the late Deputy County Recorder. 

Andrew Sorensen, was financially invested in the grocery business, having been working in that field for well over 10 years. By 1909, he was one of the owners of the A. Stiefvater & Co. Store, but sold his interest in it, as well as his interest in the Diamond Grocery Company, in order to help his wife manage the Maze Hotel.

It seems that perhaps they were having some sort of financial troubles, because by August of 1910, Marie Sorensen had decided to tell her landlady, Mrs. Maze that she was no longer going to keep the Maze Hotel open for customers, and instead was planning on running the Plato Hotel which was literally behind the Maze on the other side of the city block on 10th Street. Apparently, Mrs. Maze, the landlady had decided to raise the rent and Mrs. Sorensen decided that she did not want to continue managing the hotel. Still, by December, the Sorensen's were still there, going back and forth between the Maze Hotel and the Plato Hotel, literally having had an "annex" put in between the two properties that connected back to back. 

Interestingly, the Plato Hotel (823 10th Street) was once just an Opera House that was on the 2nd floor of the Plato's Menswear building on 10th Street (just south of I Street). In 1910, Marie Sorensen somehow managed to get proprietorship of this spot when the old hall was converted to a lodging house which consisted of 13 rooms.

It was on December 30, 1910, when the unthinkable occurred. 

According to the Modesto Bee, dated 12/30/1910 it stated:

“While Temporarily Insane Sorensen Makes Murderous Attack Upon His Wife and Then Cuts His Own Throat; Wife in a Critical Condition

Modesto was shocked out of all reason shortly after two o’clock this afternoon by one of the most ghastly tragedies which ever happened in this state, when Andrew Sorensen, one of the best known and most respected business men of this city, after a fiendish attack upon his wife, in which she was seriously wounded, slashed his own throat from ear to ear with a butcher knife, dying a few moments later.........

Undoubtedly Deranged

Sorensen, who was undoubtedly temporarily deranged, has been acting rather strangely for the past few days, but had shown no signs of violence before, so far as has been learned. Today, however, his mind appears to have been upset, through some little disagreement with his wife; but the attack this afternoon came without the slightest warning.

The assault occurred at the head of the stairs of the Maze Hotel. Mrs. Sorensen was met at the head of the stairs by her husband, who struck her several times, hitting her on the head and arms, using the large carving knife which he had taken from the kitchen. The act was witnessed by carpenters who were working nearby, and whose cries served to stay the assault. The screams of Mrs. Sorensen attracted others about the house, who appeared upon the scene immediately, and directed their attention to her.....

When Deputy Sheriff’s Dallas and Swatzel came to the door of his room they found it locked. The door was quickly opened by the men, and they entered the room to find Sorensen lying on the end of the bed in a pool of blood and still alive. Dr. F.R. DeLappe arrived at this moment, and an effort was made to get Sorensen to talk, but he was unable to do so, as his windpipe had been completely severed, the larynx being in plain sight. He died as he was lifted from the bed by Deputy Sheriff Swatzel and others.

 Head Almost Severed

From the position of the body on the bed, and the marks of his bloodstained hands on the foot and head of the bed, it was evident that Sorensen had made three slashes with the large carving knife, the blade of which was over 12 inches long. While he was still alive when the officers arrived on the scene, and probably conscious, he was unable to make any sound, and sank very rapidly."---

According to an even more detailed account by the Modesto Morning Herald, dated January 5, 1911, more pieces to the puzzle came to light.  According to Edith Simon, of Stockton (who happened to be Andrew Sorensen's cousin), Miss Simon stated that Andrew had just come back from the post office when he began choking his wife. Miss Simon struggled with Andrew to let her go, and he did, and walked away.  Mrs. Sorenson, being terrified of what just happened, locked the door to the room she was in and left out another exit to the hallway towards the room of Mrs. Leiter. At this point Andrew Sorensen had went to the kitchen to get the 12 inch butcher knife. As Mrs. Sorensen was standing at the head of the stairs that led from the street, her husband grabbed her at the waist and started slashing at her head.

Her screams immediately got the attention of Mr. Tucker and Mr. Dawes who were working on repairs in the hotel. Dawes grabbed hold of Andrew Sorensen and attempted to restrain him, while the latter attempted to raise the knife at him. Tucker yelled, and Andrew Sorensen was able to break away and run out the back towards the Plato Hotel "Annex" which connected through the back yard of the hotel. 

This was when Mr. Gullickson, a 33 year old Carpenter from Norway, who was working in the yard in the back of the hotel heard the commotion and rushed up the stairs of the hotel. According to the newspaper Mr. Sorensen retreated to the upstairs of the Plato, more than likely where the couple were actually staying, as the other newspaper accounts claim it was "his room."

This is where the story gets very strange. The inquest and all newspaper accounts claim that when Sorensen was found, in a locked room at the Plato Hotel, that he had slit his throat from ear to ear, and that the cut was so deep, he had nearly decapitated himself. 

According to Sheriff Deputy Swatzel, he knocked on Sorensen's door, and found that it was locked. He stated that he climbed up onto the transom (it is a small window that is above the door, usually used to allow air and light into the room) he could see that Sorensen was "kneeling at the side of the bed with blood gushing from his throat.....I tried again to gain entrance through the door, but failing in that, I forced an 'inside" window and entered the room. He was beyond all hope, however, as an examination disclosed that his head was almost completely severed from his body. Death must have been instantaneous, although I felt of Sorensen's pulse and detected a feeble action, which Dr. De Lappe, who arrived soon after I did, said was not unusual in a death of this nature."

As the newspapers started to report the story, and the inquest came out, more and more speculation arose. Was Andrew a jealous man who went suddenly insane? Or did he have an inherited condition that left him mentally deranged?

"It has been known to his family and friends for some time that Mr. Sorensen was mentally deranged, but as the spells were merely temporary, it was not believed that he would do any harm and his wife refused to have committed to an institution as was advised by some of her friends. To this state of mind can be attributed the tragedy on Friday. On two previous occasions, Mr. Sorensen attacked his wife, choking and otherwise maltreating her, but as soon as the spell passed he was full of remorse. He is said to have stated recently that should he harm his wife during one of these spells he would take his own life. Their four years of married life had been most congenial and Mr. Sorensen was greatly devoted to his wife.

A few weeks ago Mr. Sorensen's mother, Mrs. Anna Sorensen, took her son to the well known specialist Dr. Moffat of San Francisco. The latter told the mother that Andrew was suffering from paralysis of the brain and that it was doubtful if he would live more than two months. The physician also stated, it is said, that the nature of the disease would render him incapable of harming anyone. His father, who died some years ago, was a victim of the same malady."

Even with all of this information, the idea that Andrew Sorensen had the physical ability to slice his throat so deeply that it was nearly severed from his body made me want to dig deeper.

The medical report "Homicidal Cut Throat: The Forensic Perspective," details the differences between suicidal, accidental and homicidal cut throat deaths. It explains how in homicidal cases, when the assailant is behind the victim and restraining the head, that is how the deep penetrating gash would be possible. In a suicide, the person would not have the strength to penetrate as deeply, and a lot of the time they will have a spasm where they die with the knife in their hands. This did not happen with Andrew.

Although the newspapers claimed Sorensen had made 3 deep gashes and slit his own throat from ear to ear nearly severing his head from his body, this does not equate to the type of wound that would be self-inflicted. Like the medical journal reported, in order to have such a deep wound that literally nearly severs a head from its body, you would need sheer force of two hands, one holding the neck still while the other uses brute force to slash. A person, even in a fit of insanity, would have died long before he was able to inflict himself with such a deep wound (again, remember, this isn't a standard run of the mill throat cutting....all the reports say his head was nearly severed off!). 

This story just didn't sit well with me, and that is why I had to go back.....back to the story.

Now, normally I am not one for speculating, as I am always the one seeking facts. But in this story, we cannot bring Andrew back to ask him what happened. However, the physical evidence that was made available to the public was there to review all along. 

****It is the author's personal "educated guess" that one of the men that was working at the hotel that day, in a selfless act of defending Mrs. Sorensen after what had just happened to her, this person went back to where Andrew Sorensen was at the Plato Hotel (upstairs) and fought with him, held him down on the bed from behind and slit this throat. The person could have walked away, locking the door behind him without any blood on him, and even so, he could have easily stated it was Mrs. Sorensen's blood from coming to her rescue. By the time the Deputy Sheriff arrived, he found Andrew bleeding to death. With a gashed throat he would have never been able to tell him what happened, and so he died there on the bed.****

I believe that any question of what happened to Andrew, if they had initially suspected someone had attacked him in his room, was swiftly dismissed given the circumstances of what happened to Mrs. Sorensen, and since the perpetrator of the initial incident was now dead the coroner could rule it a suicide and be done with the matter. 

After the attack, Mrs. Sorensen was quickly sent to Evans Hospital where she was treated for cuts to her head and neck. She also had a severe wound to her wrist. Both the bone and tendons had been cut so badly, she nearly lost her hand, a severed finger, and she had two "split" fingers. She was listed in critical condition, but within a day the newspapers stated that she would survive. 

Saturday morning the inquest was held and it was determined that Andrew Sorensen's death was "caused by a knife wound inflicted while in a state of insanity." It was revealed that a note was found in Sorensen's room which was addressed to his mother. It consisted of two lines, which the coroner claimed was "illegible." 

Mrs. Sorensen was notified of her husband's death while she was convalescing at Evan's Hospital. The newspaper stated, "Although greatly shocked and grieved, she bore up bravely and showed a fortitude that was remarkable in view of her condition." 

Mr. Sorensen's body was held at Bowker & Wood, where a private service was held and officiated by Reverend J.J. White. The pall bearers were Native Sons and the Knights of the Pythias, where he was a member of both lodges. He was taken to the Odd Fellows Section of the Modesto Pioneer Cemetery where he was buried and forgotten.

Moving forward with her life, Mrs. Sorensen continued in her work as the proprietor of the Plato Hotel (despite the fact her husband died there, which is sort of creepy if you ask me!) She went on to travel with friends to Honolulu in 1913, attended weddings and events with friends over the years, and later went on to become a nurse. She ended up moving to Napa, where she worked as a head nurse for four years at the Napa State Hospital, where she met Thomas Carroll Foley, who worked as an Attendant at the hospital. The two were married in 1921. 

Sadly, Marie only lived four more years, dying on December 29, 1925. Ironically, her obituary was published on December 30, 1925, exactly 15 years to the day that her first husband had attempted to end her life. Marie was buried at Acacia Memorial Park which is in the same vicinity of where Andrew Sorensen is buried in the Odd Fellows Section. You see, there are several cemeteries that are combined on Scenic Drive in Modesto, so it is like one huge cemetery in all. 

Going back to the story

Sadly, I believe that something terrible was afflicting Andrew that caused him to attack his wife that day. Do I believe it was an evil entity that was influencing Andrew? Absolutely not! I believe it was something medical. Especially since it was within his own family history to have been afflicted with mental illness. I also do not believe that he is haunting the costume shop, as the television program insinuated.

Based solely on his injuries alone, I do not for one second believe that Andrew Sorensen
killed himself. Despite the fact that Andrew went off the rails and attacked his wife, which was ghastly to say the least, I do believe that someone killed Andrew Sorensen and it was covered up as a suicide.

What he did to his wife was wrong, absolutely. Still, the idea that all these years he has been labeled as having committing suicide feels wrong to me because the evidence says otherwise. I guess, though, we will never know who else was involved in this heinous incident in 1910. 

Just as I believe in sharing the stories of all the forgotten, I also believe in making sure each story is told accurately, and if I find something that doesn't fit, I will question it and ponder over it until I find a reasonable conclusion.  I have reached mine.

The grave of Andrew Sorensen

Happy History Hunting!

(Copyright 2021- J'aime Rubio,


Modesto Bee, 8/1/1908

Modesto Bee, 12/30/1910

San Francisco Call, 12/31/1910

Stockton Independent, 12/31/1910

Modesto Morning Herald,  1/5/1911

Modesto Morning Herald, 8/3/1921.

Modesto Bee, 8/8/1911

Modesto Bee, 6/9/1920

A big "Thank You" to Roland Boulware for allowing me the use of your book for photos and information: 

"One Hundred Years: Modesto, 1870-1970" by Jeanette Gould Maino, 1970.

Polk's Directory Co's Modesto, Volume 6 - 1915

"Modesto"- by Carl P. Baggese, Page 33

Census records, 1900,1910,1920.

Death records, 1910,1925.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Bodie Cemetery - A Place Frozen In Time


Two weekends ago, my love and I traveled east over the Sierras on a little road trip. We stopped first in Bridgeport (the same place where the Murder of Poker Tom occurred), and then we traveled onward to Bodie State Historic Park. Bodie is a ghost town that has been preserved forever frozen in time.  The stores shelves are still filled with items that were there the last time anyone ever lived there. 

Bodie itself was founded by Waterman S. Bodey, when he discovered gold nearby in 1875. By 1877, the Standard Mining Company had begun mining and before anyone could say "pay dirt" the town of Bodie had arrived. By 1915, the town had dwindled in population, and that is when it was first referred to has a "ghost town." There were still people living here well into the 1930's and 40's but very few. The last resident of Bodie, the caretaker Cecil Birks died in 1961.

The buildings were left in a state of what they call "arrested decay." The town itself, well, what is left of it, after time, the elements and even some fires got to it, is what you see today.

There are three cemeteries in Bodie but they are all adjacent to one another.  Many of the graves are unmarked so it is hard to tell exactly how many people are buried there. Some of those who died by horrible accidents are buried here. I am going to share with you just a couple of those stories today. 

Charles Benson and George Watson

I could find no trace of their graves while there. So I have to assume theirs is either unmarked or one of the many wooden markers with no name on it. Charles Benson, George Watson and another man named Snibley,  were killed in a fatal gun powder explosion in the tunnel of the Great Sierra Mining Company, on October 2, 1883. Snibley's family had his remains shipped to San Mateo for burial, while Benson and Watson were buried in the cemetery here. 

 Anthony Thumann

One grave that actually was there, and I missed it (which drives me crazy!) was the small obelisk of Anthony Thumann (the newspapers called him Thurman). His death was also mine related, when he fell down the pump shaft of the Standard Mine on November 14, 1883.

David McKinney

McKinney was crushed to death by a falling casting that was being moved from the freight wagon. It crushed his upper body and head. Sadly, the newspapers reported that it took seven minutes for him to pass. Again, like Watson and Benson, I could find no trace of McKinney's grave. 

There were many other accidents, I am sure, but those were just a few of those I found that are recorded to be buried within the cemeteries boundaries. Last but not least it the little girl who has become infamously known as the Angel of Bodie, Evelyn Myers.

(Photo: Roland Boulware)

Evelyn Myers

The Angel of Bodie, as the April 16, 1897 edition of the Daily Appeal (Carson City) called her, was killed accidentally on April 5, 1897, when she leaned over the railing of the porch of her home, when a hired worker, an Indian man, was using a pickaxe to cut a drainage ditch around the house to make way for the melting ice. During the hired man's back swing, his axe hit the crown of little Evelyn's head. She lived for two hours, until the bleeding stopped and she perished. 

People have flocked to Evelyn's grave for many years, and the fact that she has such a beautiful marker probably draws even more attention to her story. In fact, Evelyn's headstone is probably one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest in all of Bodie. Don't forget to stop by and pay your respects to those forgotten in time at the cemetery, if you ever make the trek to Bodie. 

(Copyright 2021 - J'aime Rubio.

Photos by: J'aime Rubio  & Roland Boulware

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Exposing A Very Poorly Researched "Ghost Story": The Lady in Burgundy

Credit: Some Rise, Some Set (Findagrave)

First and foremost, I originally learned about a particular website known as several years ago, when I found out that one of my photos from my own blog not only had been used by them (without permission), but that the writer of the website decided to fabricate a slanderous backstory on the subject: Dr. Aden Hart.

It took threatening to sue the owner of the website before he removed my photo of the Hart House from his site. And even after I made him remove it, he had the audacity to email me back and ask if he could have permission to post it again.  Unbelievable!

Over the years, I have seen people on Facebook sharing links from this completely fictitious website. I have tried to warn people that the stories on that site are all fabricated to drive up traffic, but it still seems to fall on deaf ears. Sadly, most people would rather believe the lie, than do research to find the truth.

Anyhow, while researching the history of the City Cemetery in Placerville, I stumbled upon yet another backpackerverse article that really takes the cake this time! Not only is the entire story false, but the writer even fails to cite the correct cemetery! 

So, here I am debunking the story of the "Lady in Burgundy" as posted in the article "A Myriad of Horrors Haunt This Old California Cemetery." 

As you can see, I provided a link to the article. I did so, so that you can go over and read the ridiculous claims for yourself, after reading this blog. So you can see, once and for all, how lazily researched and completely fabricated this "ghost story" is. 

For one, the writer says "Up in the hills of Placerville, lies the Pioneer Cemetery." 

Um, WRONG!!! ---  The cemetery in Placerville is named the City Cemetery, and the fact of the matter  is, this story doesn't take place in the City Cemetery. In fact, it doesn't take place in Placerville at all.

As you read on, it is apparent that they are talking about the Pioneer Cemetery in Coloma, California. But, again, the writer couldn't get their "facts" straight. 

As you scroll down, you see a photo of a child (deguerreotype). This was borrowed from another site, and is NOT anyone mentioned in the article. Just an old unidentified photo.

Now they start talking about this "Lady in Burgundy" and how she haunts the cemetery.

Just so you know, there are no documented accounts of a Lady in Burgundy being seen at that cemetery. Only in recent times have articles been posted (clearly using verbage from the article I am citing), and thus this "ghost story" has picked up steam, proving that just like the game of "telephone" once you tell a story and keep telling it, it can take on a life of its own.

Going back, the article continues on now, speaking about the Scheiffer family. Again, they are saying that they were from Placerville. 


The Scheiffer's were from Coloma, California.  They mention the father, Charles being buried there (he died in 1864) and his daughters Catherine and May. They point out that May died tragically young. 

Catherine died at the age of 54, in San Francisco in 1916, and May died in 1890, at the age of 28. Yes, 28 years old isn't what you would consider a long life lived, but she wasn't a child either.  You have to remember, I have walked cemeteries all over California and the majority of the time you find that people died as young adults. Most children didn't even make it due to childhood diseases. This was how it was back then. Tragic, yes. But as common as you can imagine.

Did May die a tragic death? Well, in my opinion all death is tragic. I mean, they died. I haven't been able to uncover any smoking gun evidence of some very mysterious or terrible ending, but whether she died from sickness (most likely), an accident or at the hands of another person, again, all death is tragic.

But what really got to me was what the story started to insinuate.

In their Sub-Heading "Dark Secrets of the Gold Rush" they start to question who Eliza Taylor was. 

Credit: Some Rise, Some Set (Findagrave)

They even go so far as to say "Historians and townsfolk are undecided as to whether Eliza was a close friend, an illegitimate daughter, or perhaps even a lover." 

I am not sure what "historians" they spoke to, but I truly doubt they contacted anyone about this story.  It took me literally SECONDS to do a search online to determine who Eliza was. She was Charles' wife, and mother to both Catherine and May. No big mystery here folks! And if you were wondering why her name was Taylor, that's because after her husband died, she remarried to William Taylor, thus the new last name. Again, nothing secret about that. 

But this is clearly the typical sensationalism that backpackerverse is known for.

Next, they claim Eliza is the one haunting the cemetery, and they make obscure statements about a family seeing her ghost, yet they fail to quote the witnesses statement, or even give any more details. As usual, it's always very vague. 

So, in ending....Going back to the "haunted cemetery" story, Eliza Taylor died at the age of 62, in San Francisco, and her body was returned back to Coloma to be buried with her children. Nothing scary or mysterious about that either. No one out there can rightfully claim that it is her ghost haunting the cemetery, therefore to take a story and attach it to Eliza is not only wrong but very disrespectful.

If you are a fan of this website, my advise to you is that you need to research the fact before believing ANYTHING that website claims. It is well known that they are notorious for posting ill-researched stories, but also slanderous ones, at that. 

If you don't believe me, I can give you another example. Take a look at the Martinez House blog.....that's the one where they slandered Dr. Aden Hart, whom I mentioned briefly in this article. 

For the record, I know the owners of that house in Sacramento. No one died in the home, and no one was murdered there, no one was evil or wicked, and most importantly, the house is not haunted.

If you would like to read the REAL STORY about Dr. Aden Hart, please click on the link below:

HART MANSION SECRETS ( originally published 6/5/2011 on Dreaming Casually)

and you can read more about it here: THE HISTORY OF ADEN C. HART (published 10/4/2015)

When you write about the dead, you are supposed to do so with respect and integrity that what you are sharing is backed up by documented facts. Otherwise, you are just spinning us a yarn, and many times doing a disservice to the one you are supposedly writing about. Afterall, the historian owes the dead nothing but the truth.

(Copyright 2021 - J'aime Rubio

PHOTO CREDIT: Some Rise, Some Set (Findagrave: 49465871)

Friday, January 1, 2021

Tragedy on the River - Six Deaths in One Day

Have you ever lost a loved one? Most people today can say that they have. Some more than others. But, in reality, how many of us can say that we lost nearly our entire family on the very same day? Sometimes in horrible accidents an entire family may perish, and over the years I have came across some headstones that elude to that. But while visiting the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward, California, I was introduced to one of the saddest, most tragic stories that I am about to share now with you.

I cannot take the credit for finding these graves. No, that has to go to my main squeeze. I was walking around with him at the cemetery when he pointed out the graves to me and said, "look at their death dates. Notice anything strange?"  They were all the same date:  July 9, 1955.

And then, all of a sudden I felt a spark inside. A feeling I had thought that I had almost lost completely. You see, for the past year or so, I hadn't been researching and writing like I used to, and frankly, it was a bit discouraging. I was beginning to think that I had lost that inspiration, that magic I once felt to uncover a mystery and to share the stories of those forgotten ones I have been sharing for the past 15 or so years. But within that very moment, that feeling came raging back to me, and I just had to know what happened to these beautiful people. I had to find their story, so I could share it with the world.

So, when I got home I started digging. Once I uncovered the tragic story, I found myself in tears, and I found myself so very heartbroken for the family who survived to feel the loss of so many loved ones, gone all in one tragic day.

"River Takes Six Lives"

That was the headline in the newspapers dated July 11, 1955.  

So what happened? How did six people die in the river? It seemed so hard to comprehend. 

According to the Madera Tribune, the Villa, Ramirez and Killingsworth families had decided to have a picnic at the river just about 12 miles west of Modesto, at the Maze Bridge along Maze Blvd and the San Joaquin River. 

Clemente Villa, father of  daughters Santo (18), Henrietta (14) and Gloria (7) along with his other daughters Vickie, and Lucy and  Lucy's husband Trino (26), and two grandchildren, Peter (3) and Mary (2) went to the beach area along the river with friends Mrs. Killingsworth and her daughter, Irma (7). The Ramirez family were visiting from Decoto (which was just north of Fremont, California). 

Tragedy struck while Santo Villa was wading in the water while holding onto the children in a chain formation. Everyone was holding onto the other, and when Santo took a step forward she stepped into a deep hole and the current pulled her under. This was when all the children were pulled into the deep water with her.  Immediately Clemente, Trino, Lucy and Mrs,. Killingsworth jumped into the water after the children. 

Clemente was able to save Irma (Mrs. Killingsworth's daughter). Lucy and Mrs. Killingsworth, could not reach anyone, and the newspapers claimed they barely were able to fight their way back to shore. Trino, the father of young Peter and Mary, dove in after them, but never came back up. 

Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene, and eventually began to drag the river to retrieve the bodies of the victims once they realized it would be more of a recovery mission, than a rescue. That afternoon, as the boatmen were pulling Trino's body from the river, his wife Lucy was heard screaming from the beach area, "No! No! No!, That's my Trino!" 

Reverend Fr. William Kennedy arrived to the scene to console the bereaved.  Clemente stood there hugging his other daughter Vickie and praying at the edge of the beach. All but one of the bodies were found that day. On Saturday, the following day, the body of three-year-old Peter Ramirez washed up a quarter of a mile from the area they had went under.

All six of the victims:

Trino Ramirez and his two children, Peter and Mary, and his three sister-in-laws Santos, Henrietta and Gloria were all laid to rest together side by side at the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward. Their dates of birth and dates of death say nothing about the life they led, nor the way that they died. 

However, the death dates matching is an indication that something tragic happened that day on July 9, 1955.

                                                        Trino Ramirez ( 6/12/1927 -7/9/1955)

                                                         Peter Ramirez (3/3/1952-7/9/1955)

                                                        Mary Ramirez (3/2/1953-7/9/1955)

                                                        Santos Villa (4/2/1937 -7/9/1955)


                                                         Henrietta Villa (7/15/1940-7/9/1955)


                                                         Gloria Villa ( 9/19/1947-7/9/1955)

Let us remember this tragedy with love and respect, and let us walk away from this story with the thought that life is very short. This poor family lost not one, not two, but six of their family members in the blink of an eye. I cannot fathom to imagine how Clemente felt, losing three daughters, a son-in-law and two beautiful grandbabies. How Lucy could go on living after watching her two babies and the love of her life disappear into that fast moving water. It breaks my heart just thinking about it.

Let us take this story and learn from it. Let us learn that we never know how much time we have with those around us. Remember to tell those whom you love, that you love them. Never let a day go by without letting them know how much they mean to you. Because we never know what is just around the corner. 

Rest in Peace Villa-Ramirez family.

(Copyright 2021-- J'aime Rubio,

Monday, November 30, 2020

The Mystery on Zeyn Street - The Death of Enid Rimpau


"Chapter 1--

Nestled in the quaint historic district of Anaheim, sits a majestic home originally constructed for a member of the Rimpau family, one of Anaheim’s earliest families.  Designed in 1915, by architect, Charles Trudeau, the home was a wedding gift from Theodore “Robert”  Rimpau to his new bride, Enid. Their love story has been shrouded in just about as much mystery as the tragic events that took place in the home itself. 

 “Robert,” as he was best known, was born on October 11, 1882, to parents Adolph Rimpau and Natalia Carillo. His legal name was Theodore R. Rimpau, no doubt named after his paternal grandfather,  an Anaheim pioneer.  Enid Williams was born in Pueblo, Colorado, sometime in February of 1892, to parents William S. Williams and Catherine Ferguson.  Enid’s father was originally from Boston, Massachusetts, while her mother was a native of Ohio. 

             Some point after the turn of the 20th century, the Williams family moved to California, settling in Los Angeles.  Enid’s mother, Catharine eventually separated from her husband after the move to California. The 1910 Census shows that Catharine and Enid were listed as one household. Enid, who was barely 18 years of age, was listed as “single,” while her mother was listed as a “widow.”

Why Catharine listed herself as a widow we will never know for certain.  More than likely Catharine did not want to explain why she was still married but living alone, given the time period. Although the census did not show Enid as having any occupation, her mother was listed as a “promoter” for a mining company.

It appears that Enid wouldn’t stay with her mother for very long, as records indicate that she married Charles Stone of Glendale, at the courthouse in Santa Ana, on September 21, 1910.  Some newspapers of the time state that the couple lived in Long Beach during their marriage. Within a year, Enid could see that she had made a huge mistake.  Charles’ “intemperate habits” were cause enough for Enid to file for a divorce in 1913, when she finally left.

Enid wanted a fresh start, as far away from Charles as she could travel.  Given the fact that she watched her own mother show strength and independence by leaving her own husband during the early part of the 20th century, must have given Enid the gumption to venture out into the world on her own, knowing she could do it, too.  But where would young Enid go?

On July 31, 1914, Enid’s divorce decree was finalized, and she became a free woman again. The small, newly settled town of Anaheim, famous for their citrus trees and walnuts, seemed to be just what Enid needed to start over.  Once she settled in, she took on two jobs to support herself.

First, she worked at Weber’s bookstore and then also at the millinery store, which designed hats.  It is unknown when exactly she met Robert Rimpau, but I assume she must have crossed his path at some point during a visit to Miles Grocery store, where he worked as head clerk.

Enid was thought of as attractive, with a “sunny disposition and pleasing manners,” and one who easily became friends with anyone that she met.  It didn’t take long before Robert wished to court Enid and propose marriage.  As a gift to his future bride, Robert Rimpau hired architect Charles Trudeau to design “one of the finest dwellings” in Anaheim, according to an archived newspaper clipping provided to me by long time Anaheim resident and history enthusiast, John Marshall. The house, located at 503 N. Zeyn Street, reportedly cost Robert Rimpau $3,000.00 to construct.

The pair were married on July 5, 1915, in Anaheim, and moved into their beautiful new home shortly thereafter.  Its grand décor and impeccable design was built to please Enid. From the exquisitely constructed staircase and ornate light fixtures in the entry way, to the built in bookcases and romantic fireplace in the sitting room, every detail showed that Robert Rimpau spared no expense to make his new bride happy. 

             A shocking event took place on Sunday, October 17, 1915. Enid and Robert Rimpau attended mass at St. Boniface church, where they then departed separately after the services. Robert claimed he had some errands to run, so Enid went home by herself.  After returning home within an hour, Robert stated that he came to find his wife dying from poison.  He called several doctors to the home, and the first to arrive was Dr. Truxaw. 

 The doctor believed that she was already too far gone from cyanide poisoning and there was nothing that he could do to reverse the effects, and so Enid passed away. Dr. Truxaw ascertained that the vial used to poison Enid was still quite full, enough to kill several more people. 

According to the Santa Ana Register, Enid was found in an upstairs bedroom, along with a suicide note that read, “I am a failure. God forgive me and bless you.”   There was no “official”  inquest done on her death, therefore no one verified as to whether or not the alleged suicide note was even written in Enid’s own hand.                                                                                              

 The newspapers reported her death according to Coroner Winbigler’s statement, ruling it a suicide without allowing a proper investigation into her death, and virtually smearing her name as having gone “temporarily insane.”   The Santa Ana Register stated that for several weeks Enid had shown signs of despondency and melancholia leading up to her death.  The Anaheim Gazette  also claimed that Enid’s friends stated that “at times she had been morbid and melancholy without any known cause, consequently it is supposed that she was mentally unbalanced.”    

Interestingly though, the same article then goes on to say, “the friends with whom she lived, declared she was always even tempered, independent and self-reliant, and never showed any signs of a diseased mind.”

 It also stated, “friends who saw her in the store Saturday night observed no difference in her demeanor, and many who talked to her after the Sunday morning service declared that she was in her usual spirits at the time.”

Enid was a very independent woman, and even after marrying Robert, she still worked at Weber’s bookstore.  Yes, she had made remarks that she was alone a lot and that she would rather be working than be alone at the house, meaning that her husband was not spending much time with her. That didn’t necessarily mean she was suicidal. It just meant she was lonely at home, and perhaps she missed her husband.

An insurance man by the name Al Nowotny came forward claiming that just days before Enid died, she had asked him if a life insurance policy would pay out in the event of a suicide. He explained that it would not pay out unless an entire year had lapsed.

If such a conversation had taken place, why would she have decided to go through with the act of killing herself, especially if more than likely any insurance policy she may have had might not have covered her suicide?  There was never any mention as to whether or not Enid even had a life insurance policy to begin with. This tidbit of information published in the newspapers seemed even more strange.

             After Enid died, her body was taken to Backs and Terry’s Undertaking to be prepared for burial.  Her body was brought over to her father-in-law’s home at 412 E. Center Street, for her viewing.  On Tuesday, October 19, 1915, Enid’s funeral took place at St. Boniface Church, and the eulogy was given by Father Dubbel, the same person who officiated over her wedding just three months earlier.   The Knights of Columbus were in attendance and acted as pall bearers; E.E. Brus, Leo Sheridan, L.B. Webber, Al Erikson and Ben Dauser.

                After the services, Enid was laid to rest in a crypt inside the Anaheim Community Mausoleum at the Anaheim Cemetery, on Sycamore Street. 

        Enid Rimpau is not interred in the Rimpau family crypt as most would assume. The Rimpau family crypt is a private crypt on the grounds of the cemetery.  The Community Mausoleum, where she is interred, is the oldest public mausoleum in the State of California and located at the other end of the cemetery.

                 If you visit Enid’s wall crypt you will find that  the marker on her crypt has the wrong year of birth. You see, Enid fibbed when she married Robert. She was not twenty-two years old, but in fact she was twenty-three. When Enid married Charles Stone, she claimed to be nineteen years old, although she really was eighteen. The census records from 1900 and 1910 verify that she was born in February of 1892, therefore when she died  her age was in fact twenty-three years and eight months.

                 So the question remains, how did Enid meet her demise? Yes, we could believe that she was just so miserable in her life that the only way she could escape was to end it. Unfortunately, I have always had a hard time believing this. Her very character, which was long since established in the community along with her past actions in life, prove that she was not a quitter.

                 She left an abusive husband and started a new life on her own. She worked two jobs to support herself and yet always kept a kind and humble demeanor, making friends with just about everyone she met.  Does that really sound like someone who would just give up? If she was unhappy with her marriage to Robert, what was stopping her from leaving him?

Considering the theory that Enid didn’t kill herself,  then who poisoned her? I have often wondered what the Rimpau family thought of Enid. Could it have been someone within in the Rimpau family, who may not have approved of Robert marrying a divorcée ? Maybe it was even her own husband, Robert Rimpau. Another thought, possibly it wasn’t the Rimpau’s at all, but perhaps her ex-husband Charles who may have caused her death?

Had someone poisoned her, then how was it done?  Was she forced to swallow the cyanide or did she drink unknowingly, such as from a glass laced with poison? If she was poisoned that way, the killer would have probably taken the small vial of poison and conveniently placed it near her along with a “suicide note,”  to make the scene believable as to not draw suspicion. 

            If Enid was truly suicidal, wouldn’t she have downed the entire vial, to guarantee her death was sure and fast? But instead she lingered, and died in a most horrible way.

            Another possibility is that when attempting to commit suicide, after tasting  the foul poison on her palate, she found that she couldn’t compel herself to drink any more, leaving the vial still quite full, but having ingested enough to be a fatal dose. I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to know for certain what exactly happened that day in 1915. Enid took those answers with her to the grave.

            The current owners of the house, Tracey Drennan and Thomas Gaul, came across the history of home while searching the address on the internet. They had looked at over 40 houses on the market before they came across the Rimpau House. After doing a search on Google, they came across my original blog on Enid’s story.  The couple later made contact with me. They revealed that it was Enid’s story that intrigued them even more and consequently convinced them that the house was the perfect home for them!

“The house was in bad shape,”  Drennan recalled.  “It had such a sad character about it. It had been neglected and damaged by the previous owners, but it was love at first sight for us. We knew there had to be a lot of restoration involved, but we appreciated the history behind the home and saw the potential in what it could become again. We closed in December of 2013, and moved in March of 2014.” 

Although a great portion of the home had been neglected for so many years, Tracey mentioned that parts of the home were still intact, such as the closet under her staircase which still has the home’s original wallpaper.

             Tracey and her husband, Thomas bought the home through Anaheim’s famed realtor Meghan Shigo, who specializes in the town’s historic homes. Keeping the homes  historically accurate and preserved is part of the Mills Act Program which Megan is very passionate about. Through the Mills Act, the current owners have restored the Rimpau house to its original grandeur, once again breathing life back into this beautiful home.

                I remember seeing the house on Zeyn Street many times while riding in the backseat of my mother’s Oldsmobile when I was just a child. Even just in a passing glance on a trip to the park, the house seemed to lure me in, though I never knew there was a story to discover hidden behind its very walls.  It wasn’t until I was an adult, and a mother myself, that I noticed the house again on a trip with my children to Pearson Park.

              I felt that yearning to explore the home once again. I asked my grandfather, George Mac Laren, about it and he directed me to the Anaheim Library to do some investigating. It was there that I satisfied my curiosity and unraveled a mystery. I fell in love with the home, just the same as the current owners. There is a certain air of mystery and familiarity that has always drawn me to the Rimpau home.

Enid’s death was my very first in-depth historical investigation which spiraled me into the world of historical investigative writing that I am known for today. In many ways,  Enid is responsible for pushing me in that very direction. Although she never knew that her life, or tragic death, would in turn, change someone else’s life so many years later.

          The desire that ignited inside of me and the drive that fueled my tenacity to research, all started as one tiny spark that lit into a flame. That spark started when I became enamored by the home at 503 N. Zeyn Street and grew as I learned of the tragedy of Enid Rimpau’s mysterious death.  With that in mind, I felt it was only right that Enid’s story be my very first chapter in my book, so that she no longer remains one of the “forgotten.”---

From the book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," by J'aime Rubio (Copyright 2016).  

To Purchase your copy on Amazon click here:


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The History of Hangtown - Fact vs. Fiction

Archived Photo "Hangtown"- Placerville, Ca

So, lately there has been some commotion about the origins of the name "Hangtown," which was a nickname given to the town during the Gold Rush. There's even a sign in the heart of old Placerville that commemorates Placerville's earlier namesake, as well as an old dummy hanging from a noose in front of a local business in downtown Placerville where the historic hangman's tree once stood.

This push to remove the sign originated with someone named Camille Lloyd who started a petition on to asking (or demanding) that City Council remove the "Welcome to Placerville "Old Hangtown" sign because as she claims, "This moniker glorifies and celebrates a violent and racist history......The name "Hangtown" is outdated and offensive, and suggests that racial hate crimes are acceptable." Oh there's more. Then she has to mention George Floyd's recent death, which by the way, I didn't know he had anything to do with a gold rush town in Northern California, when his death took place in Minnesota, but hey, she just throws that one in there for good measure. The problem with Ms. Lloyd's petition is that none of her accusations are based on facts relating to Placerville history.

Well, I am here to set some things straight, since I am firm believer in FACTS. Just because you want something to be so, doesn't mean that it is. Just because you claim something is one way, unless you have cited sources and facts to back up your claim, then you might as well be trying to sell us a fairy tale. Do you still believe in Santa Claus, too Ms. Lloyd?

But this push to change, edit or downright erase history isn't new. In fact, I see it a lot these days. In my line of work, I have been seeing this happening for many years now. It's just that in the past 10 years or so, I have been seeing it at a more accelerated rate.

For one, if you do research in any area within California, you might notice every once in a while a person will pop up basically out of the blue claiming some event, person or landmark in that particular area was racist.  The person will try to push their "history" and even do so very adamantly, to the point that many people will actually believe it. They will demand something be changed, some money donated or some marker to be erected to force their side of history, but, when you actually look into their "research" you will see that they cite no sources, or refuse to cite them when you request to see their sources. That is a huge red flag. They push downright false stories that they have absolutely no records to back up their claims which are completely fabricated stories, and still they seem to get the media's attention to push it.

A good example, a woman a few years back was trying to change the state seal of California by claiming that California was named after a fictional black figure named Calafia. Well, I could really get into that debate on here, but I already wrote a blog about it years ago, so if you are interested in my in depth debunking of that tale, check that one out here:

Another example was a gentleman who approached not just one news outlet, but several including the Stockton Record who all jumped on a story that a section in the Stockton Rural Cemetery was "segregated." I also proved that to be false. You can read about that here:

That very same gentleman went back to the Stockton Record again and reporter Michael Fitzgerald wrote a piece on one of the African-American pioneers buried at Stockton Rural Cemetery based on this persons "facts," taking them solely at face value, and not having him cite his sources. The story ran in the paper and was full of huge errors. Basically, there was only one or two things that were accurate in the entire piece, and the rest was completely fabricated.

When I approached Mr. Fitzgerald and asked him how he could publish false history, he admitted that he didn't ask for sources and took him at his word. After I provided him with facts to disprove his original article, he admitted that it was a mistake and would never use this person for historical content in anymore of his articles moving forward.   You can read about that, too, here:

The point I am making here is that there is a movement to change our history going on right before our eyes. When someone isn't trying to rewrite it, they are trying to erase it all together.

Going back to Placerville:

Anyone who knows the history up here in the gold country, knows that Placerville did not lynch or hang people because of racism. Yes, once in a while you'll find a story of a Black, Hispanic or Chinese person being hanged, but you'll also find 10 times that amount of Whites hanged as well. Trust me, if you broke the law, murdered someone, stole a horse or committed a depredation among the community resulting in harm or destruction, you would be punished for it no matter the color of your skin. Sorry if that upsets some of your delicate sensibilities but we cannot erase history just to appease a few people who are offended by the past.

Dry Diggins (Placerville) earned it's nickname "Hangtown" because of one thing: Crime!
There was nothing racist about that. You broke the law, you paid the consequences for it, and sometimes that meant with your life. That's the wild west for you, take it or leave it. When I learned about this ridiculous petition, which was mentioned in a few articles in various local news outlets, it bothered me. For one, as a historical journalist and author, I believe that our history should be preserved, the good and bad. You cannot sugar coat the past. We have to take it all or none.

Now, without further adieu, let's revisit the history of Hangtown by way of actual documented accounts.

According to Sacramento Daily Union, dated April 21, 1880, it states:

"Early Days-How Placerville Came to be Known as Hangtown;."

"The soubriquet of Hangtown, by which this city was at one time only known, and which is now not unfrequently applied to it, had its origin in the hanging by a mob in October, 1850, of a desperado named Richard Crone, but known to the community by the nom de plume of Irish Dick.

The fellow was but a boy, hardly more than twenty-one years of age, and came across the plains from St. Louis, in one of the very first trains in the capacity of a cook. He was of small stature and more noticeable because of his outre attire, a wide and peculiar mouth, and large protruding teeth.  

He took to gambling as a profession, and showed, by his skill and pluck, that he was not unsuited for a business which, especially at the time, was a most hazardous calling. Like his fellows, he never went unarmed, and like them would not hesitate to use his weapons when he thought it would aid his cause to do so.

He soon made himself well known throughout the camps now included in El Dorado county, but the honored "Hangtown" most generally with  his presence. One night, while in the El Dorado saloon, where now stands the Cary House, he stabbed and almost instantly killed an emigrant just arrived, mistaking him, it is said, for someone else who he designed murdering for some fancied wrong. 

The murdered man had a brother in town, who resolved that "Irish Dick" should die. In this determination the town concurred. Dick was taken from the place where the officers of the law had stationed him, into the main street, and tried by a jury of citizens, in the presence of excited thousands, who had collected together from the surrounding country.

The verdict was "guilty," and so soon as it was pronounced the condemned was pushed from the platform whereon he and the Sheriff and the extemporized Court had sat, and hurried along with the crowd towards the plaza, where the preparations were made for his execution.

At this point the mob were told that a sick man was in a house nearby, and that the uproar seriously troubled him. The crowd at one returned down Main Street, and up to what is now Coloma Street, to a large oak, near where is now the Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, Sheriff "Bill" Rogers, and Alex. Hunter and John Clark, Constables of the town, fought desperately for the possession of the prisoner, but against the determined multitude, they were powerless. 

Throughout the terrible ordeal "Dick," with a  physical courage truly wonderful, conducted himself with the utmost coolness. When placed under the tree, with the rope around his neck, he begged the privilege of climbing upon the tree and leaping from the fatal branch. But this was denied him, and he was jerked up by strong and willing hands, and was soon a dangling corpse."--

Did you read that? In this account, not only did the Sheriff and both Constables try to save "Irish Dick's" life to try him for his crimes the right way, through the long arm of the law, but they fought to the bitter end to stop the crowd from enacting their own justice. Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful.

Now, why on earth would Ms. Lloyd bring up George Floyd's death in her petition, as if it somehow fit in with this argument?  Especially when one of the earliest origins of Hangtown's nickname is clearly documented going back over 170 years ago stating that the law enforcement of the area actually did the opposite of what happened in Minnesota?

Look, throughout history, all over the United States and every country abroad has stories like these. Stories where criminals committed heinous acts and the townspeople took the law into their own hands. It has been going on since the beginning of time. Sometimes in the past it was necessary, and sometimes it wasn't, but it happened, and we cannot go back and erase that.

In all the years I have been researching and writing about our history, I have found more stories of white men (American or European immigrants) than any other race who were hanged here in California and within the country (in my research). Lynching was not something that was solely specific to people of color. The sooner people realize that, the better. In Placerville, it had nothing to do with race or culture. Period. It had to do with breaking the law.

Here's another "origins" claim was printed back in May of 1880, in the Sacramento Daily Union in response to the original article above. In this piece the following account comes from a man known as John Breen, one of the founding fathers of Placerville who was a survivor of the ill-fated Donner Party, and lived in California before the discovery of gold at Sutter's mill. His story claims that Hangtown got its name a little earlier than "Irish Dick's" death. Still, no blacks or "minorities" were mentioned in this story either, because if these men were, their nationality would have been mentioned, the newspapers always mentioned where you came from or if you were colored or ethnic.

"I read in your last issue an account of the Placerville came to be called Hangtown, which is a mistake. During the winter of 1848-49, I lived at the place now called Placerville, engaged in mining. Sometime in January, 1849, three men were charged with stealing a quantity of gold dust from a miner's house. They were arrested by a vigilance committee, tried and sentenced to be flogged on the bare back with a 'riata.' This punishment they received, but were not set at liberty. 

Shortly after they were retried and sentenced to be hanged, and the sentence was immediately executed by hanging two of them to the limb of an oak tree which stood near the center of the small valley where Placerville now stands.

The third man, for some reason, was to be hanged the next day, but during the night James Doyle and Patrick Friry, while on guard, turned the man loose and he made his escape. This I was told the next morning by Doyle and Friry as a secret, they being my companions in the cabin where we lived during the winter of '48-49.

Next morning but few miners collected, who, when told that the man had got away, said that it was all right. From the time those men were hanged, and for many years, the place was known as "Hangtown."--- John Breen, 1880.

Besides "Irish Dick" and the two unnamed men in John Breen's story,  there were others hanged on that tree over time. And each account they had committed a crime from theft to murder. I couldn't find any stories of any blacks being hanged out of racism in any case in Placerville's history.

 According to the "History of El Dorado County" by Paolo Sioli it states:

 "The record of crimes committed inside the borderlines of El Dorado county, commencing from the earliest times, has become quite a volume of history in itself. The enormous influx of adventurous men of different nationalities to this very spot of land, the New El Dorado, undoubtedly had brought a good many daring and desperate characters, who had come for gain, in the easiest and least troublesome manner, but for gain under all eventualities. There were others whose intention had been to make an honest living and they started it accordingly; but the weakness of mind and body, together with the bad examples they frequently saw, led them astray, to make fortune in an easier way than with pick and shovel. So, we find as early as 1848 and 1849 already organized bands of desperadoes, with signs, passwords and grips, with chiefs and lieutenants, who would lay in wait in and around the mining camps. The people endeavoring to put a stop to those crimes were often enough compelled to take the law into their own hands, as may be seen out of the case which originated the sobriquet of Hangtown for the village of Placerville." 

In conclusion, I have to disagree with Ms. Lloyd's petition about her idea of the history of Hangtown. She seems to think by retaining the nickname "Hangtown" all they are doing is promoting a negative tone for the town's history.  On the contrary, in order for us to properly honor and respect the town's history I believe we must hold on to the stories, both good and bad.

Besides its infamy for dealing with criminals the old fashioned way, it was also a place where people settled to live their lives. Some good, some bad. A place where so many moved there to start a life such as eager and desperate miners seeking to strike it rich and merchants risking it all to open a business and thrive in the Motherlode. It was also a place that drew in a more dangerous crowd at times: fugitives, thieves, murderers and desperadoes.

Hundreds of people lived there during the Gold Rush, and by 1854, it was the third largest city in California, just after San Francisco and Sacramento. It suffered great losses when a fire nearly destroyed the entire city on July 6, 1856, but being a place that was home to so many hard-working and resilient people, they rebuilt and made it better than it was before. It went from being a hub for gold mining to a place where agriculture, manufacturing and the lumber industry thrived. While many other mining towns disappeared forever, Placerville continued to survive.

There is absolutely no reason to remove a sign that commemorates part of Placerville's past. There have been groups in the past going back to 1914 and also in the 1930's who have tried to petition to either remove the Hangtown name all together or have the town's name switched back to Hangtown, neither of them got too far.

I hope that for the sake of Placerville's history that they do not allow some person who has absolutely no knowledge of El Dorado County history to come in and push her weight around to get City Council and other lawmakers in the county to kowtow to her demands. There is a saying that I live by as a historical journalist and I strongly suggest that the City of Placerville really think about this before they go changing anything, Marcus Tullius Cicero once stated, " It is the first law of history that the writer should neither dare to advance what is false, nor suppress what is true.” 

Leave the sign as it is. It is a part of Placerville history. You cannot change it, and by removing it you are ignoring and omitting that part of history. It is a part of California history. Do not allow these history revisionists to get you to buckle under the pressure to change our history to appease them. They will continue to complain about something else and something else after that. You give them an inch and they will keep going. It will never be enough.

(Copyright 2020, J'aime Rubio,