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Tiburcio Vasquez

The Capture of Tiburcio Vasquez

I was living in Calaveras county when Joaquin Murietta and his band of cut-throats filled the public mind with horror at the atrocious crimes they were committing in that and the adjoining counties. Notwithstanding the State offered tempting rewards for the capture of this bandit, and the sheriffs and peace officers throughout the Southern mines were on the alert to capture him, he succeeded in eluding and deluding them. At length Harry Love, an old scout and mountaineer, raised a company of picked men to run him down. He was brought to bay, and Jim Burns, who was Love's lieutenant, dispatched him and cut off his head. But I doubt if the terror inspired by Joaquin throughout the Southern mines was nearly as great as that inspired by Tiburcio Vasquez twenty odd years later among the people of the rural counties of California, reaching from Santa Clara to San Diego. He was at the head of a band of blood-thirsty ruffians who committed depredations, robberies and murders with seeming impunity for years. After having “held up” small isolated towns and hamlets, and leaving a murderous trail behind them in the counties of San Benito, Santa Clara and Monterey, they suddenly made their appearance in the lower counties, and from an almost inaccessible stronghold in the vicinity of Tejon made raids upon the farmers and settlers in isolated places in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Wm. R. Rowland was the Sheriff of Los Angeles county at the time, and this brave and efficient officer organized parties at various times to hunt down the bandits. But they were too secure in their retreat to be caught. H. M. Mitchell, who was afterwards elected Sheriff, accompanied these parties, and so keen was his desire to capture Vasquez that he would go alone to the Point of Rocks, at the mouth of the canyon in the mazes of which the bandits encamped, and watch for days at a time the trails they would be likely to pass. At length Vasquez, emboldened by his success in eluding the officers, emerged from his stronghold, and transferred his field of operations to Los Angeles valley.

Early one morning he appeared with his band in front of the house of a rich sheep man named Repetto, who lived but a few miles from town, and seizing the latter, he compelled him to write out a check for a large amount and send his son to the city to get it cashed. The boy was told that they would kill his father unless he returned at a given time with the money. The boy went to the bank, but the suspicion that all was not right caused the teller to closely question the trembling lad, and he elicited from him all the facts. Sheriff Rowland was sent for, and he organized a party who at once, well armed and mounted, started for Repetto's ranch. They were, however, descried by the scouts of Vasquez, and the bandits made their escape up the Arroyo Seco. That afternoon Charles E. Miles arrived in Los Angeles and reported that whilst he was surveying in the Arroyo Seco the fugitive bandits had robbed him of what money he had and a fine gold watch that had been presented him by the fire department. The Sheriff's party chased the robbers up the canyon, but they successfully effected their escape across the Sierra Madre.

A few days afterwards the Sheriff got word that Vasquez had an appointment at a certain time with a woman at the house of Greek George, on the Cahuenga road, near the Encino. A party was forthwith organized to capture the bandit. This party included H. M. Mitchell, A. J. Johnson, Emil Harris and George Beers, a newspaper writer. When they got within a mile or so of Greek George's they intercepted a Mexican caretta driven by a native boy, got into it and instructed the boy to drive on slowly. On reaching the house, they all jumped out and surrounded it. Two of the party went inside and found Vasquez in one of the rooms. He sprang through the window and tried to make his escape on the side where Harris was stationed; but the latter fired at him, and three or four other shots were discharged at the same time, and Vasquez fell. He was found to be severely but not mortally wounded. When he was brought to the city, the officers had a serious task to land him in the jail so great was the excitement of the populace. On the person of Vasquez was found Miles's repeater, which that gentleman was very glad to recover. He was taken to Santa Clara county and there tried for one of the many murders he had committed, and in due time executed.

Sheriff Rowland, who had planned the “campaign of capture,” deservedly received great credit for it, and the posse who so successfully carried out the plan were greatly praised for their coolness, adroitness and daring. They had relieved the State of a monster who had become a terror to the people of thirteen counties, and whose raids were traced in the blood of helpless victims from San José to Los Angeles.

Sheriff Rowland still lives on his splendid patrimonial estate at the Puente, dispensing with generous hand a lavish hospitality which recalls the golden days of old California when the hacienda of every ranchero was an open house where the stranger as well as the paisano were sure to be received with open arms and made to feel a welcome as hearty and sincere as if each of them had come to his father's house after many weary years of absence.

Poor Mitchell, as true a friend and brave a gentleman as ever wore spurs, met with a melancholy fate a few years ago. Whilst out hunting he was mistaken by his companion for a deer and shot through the heart.

George Beers was a young newspaper man of unusual brilliancy, and notwithstanding his irregularities, Charles De Young, of the San Francisco Chronicle , had so high an appreciation of his talents that he always retained a desk for him in the reporters' room. He wrote the “Life of Vasquez” for a New York publishing house, and the book sold well; poor Beers, however, realized only a mere pittance out of the venture. He wandered into Texas and fell upon hard lines in that State, perhaps through his own fault; but managed to return to California, where for a few years he led a checkered existence, until death ended his troubles in Ventura county in 1890. Had poor Beers been able to exercise judicious control over the vagaries which beset him, he would have adorned society by the brightness of his intellect and his rare accomplishment as a graphic writer for the press.

Albert J. Johnson was the younger brother of Captain George Johnson, one of the notable triumvirate who established the California Steam Navigation Company, which for many years controlled the passenger and freight traffic between San Francisco and Sacramento. When the Central Pacific railroad had made its railway connection with the bay, the steamers of the company were transferred to the Colorado river, and the triumvirate retired with large fortunes. Albert Johnson was Rowland's Under Sheriff, and deserves to participate with his chief in the credit of ridding California of the notorious Vasquez and his band. He was a very popular young man, and had an aptitude for affairs which gained for him the confidence of business men. He went to Colorado when the mines of that State were beginning to develop their wonderful wealth. He was successful in his business ventures and on the highroad to fortune when he was seized with an illness which terminated fatally. His untimely death could not have been more sincerely deplored in Colorado than it was by all his old friends in California.


from;

Gold and sunshine, reminiscences of early California

By James J. Ayers

The capture of Tiburcio Vasquez, the noted bandit and murderer--a clever and successful ruse.


Vasquez Rocks


Carreta

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