Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Rancheria Massacre- Amador County, CA (Part 1)


History has proven that many times innocent people were killed for crimes they did not commit. In the story you are about to read, you will hear of innocent people being killed, a hero dying  in the name of justice and a criminal getting what he deserves.  When researching this story, I found that some authors have blamed Joaquin Murieta for this massacre in Rancheria, Amador County.  This is completely false. Anyone who claims this, is not speaking of true historical accuracy, and merely speaking out of fantasy.  Yes, the culprits were Mexican banditos, but not of Murieta’s gang.  I hope this article sets the record straight for the final time and sheds light on the truth once and for all.


It was August 5th of 1855, and the weather was hot.   A group of bandits decided to make camp near a spot known as “Hacalitas,” not far from the Q Ranch in Amador County.  The next day, August 6th, the group of Mexican men left their camp and moved towards Drytown.  While traveling onward they decided to rob a Chinese camp, leaving one of the Chinese men bound.  While leaving the camp, they passed a group of Americans without causing a scene.  Later they set up camp just outside of Rancheria (just southeast of Drytown). 

A local tax collector by the name of George Durham was traveling the same route and discovered that each Chinese camp he would go through, had been robbed.  Each time he spoke to the victims they described the same men, The Mexican vaquero type and about 12 in all.  

When travelling through Rancheria, he visited Eugene Francis’ store and spoke to him about these robbers who he believed may have robbed another store in Tuolumne County. He warned Francis that these men may come back and rob him as well.  After bidding Francis adieu, Durham travelled onward to Drytown where he actually passed these bandits on the road.

As he was passing them, they were on the side of the road bickering. Two of the men were about to have an all out brawl when a tall, thin Mexican man broke the fight up. It was obvious he was their leader.  Durham continued onward towards Drytown and realized that two of the men from the group of Mexicans were tailing him.  After a distance of being followed, it seemed as if the two men let off and went back towards Rancheria.

Once Durham reached Drytown, he went to pay a visit to Constable Cross and asked him to help in collecting taxes from the Chinese men at Milton’s Ranch. By the time Durham and Cross made it back to Drytown the sun had already set.  Finally, they went to Mizener’s Store.

(photo: shooterforums.com)
While everyone was at the store, Judge Curtis came in talking about a Spanish lady who had come into his office that day to warn him that the town was going to be robbed by bandits.  She told the Judge where they were and that the town was full of criminals.  Judge Curtis, Durham and Cross decided then to confront these men back at their camp. When they weren't there they decided to go to Chile Flat, the "mexican" section of the town to see if they could find them at one of the homes that they had been told the suspects were hiding. When they approached the home, a Mexican lady came to the door and said that no one was there, all the while she very carefully lifted the curtain up to the doorway just enough to show the Sheriff dark shadowy figures of men in the back of the house attempting to escape.

Immediately, the Sheriff and his men went after the suspects, pistols in hand.
As they approached them, the Mexicans drew their weapons.  In an instant,  both parties had pulled their guns out and began shooting back and forth in the dark.  Eventually, the Mexicans withdrew their weapons and fled into the night. It appeared as if they were headed back to Rancheria.

The residents in Drytown grew scared that it was a trick, that if all the men went off into the night chasing after the bandits that it would leave their town vulnerable for a vicious attack. Either way, one of the towns would fall prey to the bandits, Rancheria or Drytown.

Robert Cosner, a local resident volunteered to go on ahead and try to make it to Rancheria before the bandits to warn the residents. While the rest of the men stayed back in Drytown, just in case of an attack.  Cosner went up another trail, through Rattlesnake Gultch in order to make it to Rancheria quickly and evade the bandits on the road.

By the time Cosner and his companion made it to Rancheria, they could feel that something just wasn’t right. In the distance they saw the bandits leaving on the opposite side of the hill across town.  The town was eerily silent and no lights were visible, only the light of moon directed the two brave men.  Finally, one of the men called out, to no reply. After awhile they heard a man calling out.  A man known as David Wilson had screamed out to the two men.

My God! The whole town is slaughtered. My brother Sam was killed and I don’t know how many more!”

Photo of Rancheria: c/o J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Upon reaching Francis’ store they found Dan Hutchins, his clerk dead behind the counter along with Sam Wilson, David Wilson’s brother. Outside, they discovered Francis crawling on two broken legs, severely wounded. He had been shot several times and his legs butchered with an axe. He claimed that when they were attacked that he fought until he couldn’t handle it anymore and attempted to get out through the back door on the “stumps of his legs.”  Sadly, Eugene Francis passed away the next day.

As the men kept their search for survivors, they found more dead. A Native-American man was found dead just outside the hotel. The victims were:  Mrs. Mary Dynan (wife of Hotel Owner, Michael Dynan), Sam Wilson, Eugene Francis, Uriah Michener, An unidentified Native-American man and Daniel Hutchins.  

When Cosner located the Hotel owner, Dynan told them that they had been playing cards and had company over when the bandits attacked. It was realized that Mary Dynan (his wife)  had died when she attempted to help her child escape through an open window.  The safe at the Hotel was blown open and reports claim anywhere in upwards of $800 to $20,000 was stolen, more than likely most of it was money being held for the miners. All together 6 people were murdered (5 men and 1 woman).  One of the surviving  guests, a man known as Foster was later found hiding underneath the tablecloth of a table. He had somehow found a place to hide undetected during the attack.


By 9 a.m. the next morning there were at least five hundred people present, swarming the town.  Madly enraged and hell bent for justice, they demanded that ALL the Mexicans in the town be strung up and hung. 

(Copyright 2011-2013- J'aime Rubio via Dreaming Casually Publications)

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