The Rise & Fall of Joaquin Murieta, and Tiburcio Vasquez
Story by Thomas Duke, 1910
“Celebrated Criminal Cases of America”
Part II: Pacific Coast Cases
Joaquin “Murieta,” the first and most notorious of the Mexican bandits who operated in California after the close of the Mexican war, was born in the Province of Sonora in 1830. His parents were highly respected and Joaquin, who was very light complexioned for a Mexican, grew up to be an athletic and handsome young man. He was studious, of a mild disposition and had friends galore. “Murieta’s” true name was Carrillo.
A very pretty sixteen-year-old Mexican girl named Rosita Feliz, also known as Mariana Higuera, lived with her parents near Murieta’s home, and the two young folks became lovers. The girl’s father became convinced that the relationship between his daughter and the handsome young Murieta was not what it should be. A violent quarrel ensued which resulted in Murieta and his pretty sweetheart eloping to California in the spring of 1850. At this time Murieta was 19 years of age and Rosita was 17. They proceeded to the mines in Stanislaus County, where Murieta secured work and became a general favorite among his associates.
There was a gang of American ruffians in this camp who pretended to believe that because the Mexicans had been defeated in the war just concluded with the United States, that they had no right to seek employment in American enterprises. They went in a body to Murieta’s home and informed him that “no damned Mexican had a right to work in an American mine.” Murieta protested against the conduct of this gang in his own home and they then bound and beat him and outraged Rosita in his presence.
Joaquin and Rosita then went to Calaveras County, where they settled on a small piece of land. They were just beginning to get along nicely when they were again visited by a band of men, calling themselves Americans, and informed that their presence was not needed. The couple having a lively recollection of their previous experience with “Americans,” decided to move to Murphy’s diggings in the same county, where Murieta again worked as a miner. This was in April, 1850. As he had some difficulty with his employer he soon left this position and became a gambler.
About this time his half-brother arrived from Mexico and rented a piece of land near where Joaquin was living. One day, the latter visited his half brother, who loaned him a horse on which to ride back to town. It transpired that this horse had been stolen and then sold to Murieta’s half-brother. While riding to town, Joaquin met the rightful owner, who recognized his horse and accused the young Mexican of having stolen it.
Joaquin protested his innocence, but a crowd gathered and it was decided to lynch him then and there. He finally persuaded them to accompany him back to his half brother, whom he felt confident would be able to give a satisfactory explanation as to how he gained possession of the animal.
The half-brother stated that he purchased the horse from a man, but being a stranger in the country he could not give his name. The crowd considered this sufficient evidence to justify them in lynching the man, and after doing so they stripped Murieta and horsewhipped him until his body was covered with blood.
After they departed, Joaquin cut down his brother’s body, and according to a statement made by Rosita years afterwards, this last outrage caused Murieta to kneel over the body of his murdered brother and with uplifted dagger he swore that he would devote the remainder of his life to slaughtering Americans, whom he regarded as the foremost enemies of his race.
Shortly after this, the terribly mutilated body of an American miner was found near Murphy’s diggings, and it proved to be the body of one of the men who participated in the lynching of Joaquin’s brother. Joaquin, knowing that he would be suspected of this and numerous other murders which he contemplated committing, kept out of sight.
A few weeks later, a doctor, who also had a hand in the lynching, was walking along the road one night when a bullet pierced his hat. After the doctor’s experience, the remainder of the lynching party became panic-stricken, but with the cunning of a fox and the patience of an ox, Murieta succeeded in killing all of those who remained in that part of the country—several having departed between two days.
A band of Mexican desperadoes was then organized, and they committed the most atrocious murders in connection with their robberies. This gang varied in numbers from twenty to fifty, but it was some time before the identity of any of its members was ascertained. Finally it was learned that Murieta, who was then in his twentieth year, was the leader, and Manuel Garcia, alias “Three-fingered Jack,” probably the most fiendish cutthroat of all the Mexican bandits, was his lieutenant. Garcia lost one of his fingers while serving as a Mexican guerrilla during the war with Americans. Among the members of the gang were Reyes Feliz, a brother of Joaquin’s sweetheart; Joaquin Valencia, who served under the famous Mexican guerrilla chief, Padre Jurata, and Pedro Gonzales. Many of the bandits were accompanied by their mistresses, who frequently wore men’s clothing.
This band declared that they would never harm but always protect any one who befriended them. They also gave warning that death would invariably be the penalty to those who betrayed them, and as they gave abundant evidence of their sincerity, many persons who trembled at the mention of Murieta’s name, did all in their power to creep into his favor, and the result was that he had no difficulty in procuring provisions, ammunition and information regarding the movements of the authorities.
It would require a volume to relate the crimes of this band. Travelers were dragged from their horses, their throats cut and pockets rifled. Farm houses were entered and the inmates robbed and murdered and the houses burned.
In the fall of 1851 this gang operated in the country adjacent to Marysville, Cal., and as a result seven murders were committed in twelve days.
One day, two men who were traveling along a road by the Feather River, near Honcut, looked ahead and saw four Mexicans dragging a man along the road at the end of a lariat which was around the victim’s neck. The two men hastened back and notified the authorities, and a search resulted in the finding of the bodies of four men in the vicinity, all having rope marks around the necks.
Murieta’s gang then changed the scene of their operations to the foot of Mt. Shasta; arriving in November, 1851. Here they resumed operations by stealing horses and murdering prospectors.
One day, Reyes Feliz of this gang, rode into the town of Hamilton. He was a handsome fellow, and when he met the voluptuous wife of a packer named Carmelita, she fell in love with him at first sight, and after he confided to her who he was, she agreed to accompany him to the camp of the bandits.
Residing near Hamilton was a hunter and trapper commonly known as “Pete.” He was half Indian and half French, and had two pretty daughters aged 16 and 18 years respectively. One day, two of Murieta’s gang met the youngest daughter while she was out hunting and they bound her with a lariat with the intention of committing an assault upon her, but Murieta was attracted to the scene by the girl’s cries, and immediately ordered that she be released and permitted to go her way unharmed.
In the spring of 1852, Murieta’s band stole 300 head of horses, which they drove from the mountains through the southern part of the State and disposed of them in the Province of Sonora. In a few weeks, they returned to the State and made their headquarters at the Arroyo Cantoova, a tract of 8000 acres of rich pasture land lying between the Coast Range and Tulare Lake. The gang now consisted of seventy men.
On April 20, 1852, Murieta divided his band into three parties, and sent them in different directions to steal horses and cattle, while he and Rosita, disguised as a man, went to visit some Mexican friends at Mokelumne Hill, in Calaveras County. Murieta wore a disguise and people in the little town never dreamed that the notorious bandit was in their midst until an incident occurred in a saloon one evening.
Murieta was sitting in the bar room reading, when a man standing at the bar with a party of friends began telling what he would do to Murieta if he met him. The bandit’s love for something sensational seemed to outweigh his discretion, and he jumped upon a chair, tore off his false mustache, and drawing two pistols, proclaimed his identity. When he saw the consternation he had brought about, he laughed and strode majestically from the place. That night, he and Rosita departed for Arroyo Cantoova. Here they met Reyes Feliz, Rosita’s brother, and his sweetheart, Carmelita, also disguised as a man.
They stole twenty horses from Ovis Timbers and drove them down into the country of the Tejon Indians. Timbers trailed them and informed Sapatorra, the Indian chief, of the presence of the Mexican horse thieves on his land, but the identity of the thieves was not known. For the purpose of seizing the horses the chief surrounded Murieta and his party, and being taken unawares, they were forced to surrender with-out a struggle.
Sapatorra then notified the Los Angeles authorities that he had captured some Mexican horse thieves, but the authorities little thinking that the notorious Murieta was in the party, sent word back to release them. The chief then relieved the entire party of all their clothing, and after whipping the men, turned them all loose.
The next day Feliz was attacked by a bear and almost killed. Carmelita stayed with him while Murieta and Rosita started out in search of food and clothing. Fortunately, for them, they met an American friend known as Mountain Jim, and after the American had a hearty laugh at their predicament, he took them into his cabin and set out to procure clothing, food and arms, not only for them but for the wounded Feliz and Carmelita, who were still in the woods. As soon as Murieta was clothed, he and Jim started to the rescue of Feliz and his sweetheart, and found them so weak from exposure and hunger that they had to carry them to the cabin on their horses.
After a short rest the party proceeded in the direction of San Gabriel Mission, where they met one of Murieta’s gangs. From the numerous depredations recently committed by this gang they were well supplied with money and horses.
They rested in this neighborhood for two weeks, and one day Gonzales and another desperado known as Juan, of this gang, went into Los Angeles and became intoxicated. Gonzales was taken into custody by Deputy Sheriff Love but Juan escaped and returned to the camp to relate the fate of Gonzales. Murieta and several of his band hurriedly saddled up their horses and started for the place of detention. Love saw them approaching and divining their intentions, he shot Gonzales dead, mounted a horse and galloped away.
About this time Deputy Sheriff Wilson of Santa Barbara County was in Los Angeles, and did considerable boasting regarding what he would do to Murieta. The latter heard of this, but as he did not know Wilson, he disguised himself and accompanied by a member of his gang who did know him, he proceeded into Los Angeles to locate the deputy sheriff. When they entered the main street, Wilson was standing among a group of men who were arguing, and Murieta rode up into the group, leaned over and whispered in Wilson’s ear, and before the latter could reply or move, the bandit drew a revolver, shot him through the head and fled to his camp.
A few days after this occurrence Murieta and “Three-fingered Jack” found two Chinamen asleep on the roadside, and after robbing them and turning their pockets inside out, “Jack” cut their throats.
About this time Major-General Joshua H. Bean of the militia began to organize a large posse to exterminate this gang. Murieta and “Jack” heard of it and one night in July, 1852, they waylaid the General, and after dragging him from his horse, stabbed him to death. Immediately after this murder, Murieta collected his whole band and proceeded to Calaveras County, committing numerous outrages en route.
In August 1852, Murieta was in the town of Jackson, Amador County, where he was recognized by a man named Joe Lake, who knew the bandit when he was a miner. Lake promised Murieta that he would not reveal the latter’s identity, but the bandit’s back was scarcely turned before Lake went to the town of Hornitas and notified the authorities. The next day, Murieta, disguised with a beard, rode into Hornitas, and seeing Lake in front of a saloon, he rode up, tore off his disguise, and shot Lake dead. The next day, the whole band, with the exception of Carmelito and Feliz, who was still in poor health from exposure and his experience with the bear, departed for the mountains.
Feliz and Carmelito then returned to the neighborhood of Los Angeles. One night they attended a fandango in Los Angeles and Feliz was arrested on the charge of having participated in the murder of General Bean. Although he did not take part in the crime he was hanged, and Carmelito wandered away into the country and shortly afterward died from grief.
Murieta soon became dissatisfied with the quiet life in the mountains and proceeded with his gang to San Luis Obispo. He had been there but a short time when a party of thirty-five Americans was organized for the purpose of capturing the outlaws. One of Murieta’s numerous spies informed him of the time that this party would leave the Rancho Los Cozatos and he and his gang concealed themselves in the brush near the road and as the party passed they opened a deadly fire from ambush. About twenty men were killed on each side and the attacking posse retired. Murieta and several of his men who were wounded sought seclusion until they recuperated from their wounds.
On December 1, 1852, Murieta and all that was left of his gang started for Mariposa County. Near the Merced River they met a party consisting of four Frenchmen, six Germans and three Americans. These men were ordered to stop, but on showing resistance six were instantly killed and $15,000.00 in gold dust was taken from the party.
Immediately after this occurrence they met a Chinaman whom they robbed, and after scaring him nearly to death, permitted him to go his way. The next evening, they arrived at the ferry of the Tuolumne River and found the ferryman asleep in bed. They rode up to the house, broke in the door and Murieta pointed a pistol at the ferryman’s head and ordered him to hand over his money. The ferryman produced about $100.00 but begged the bandits not to take it, as it was all he had in the world and he was growing old and feeble. This plea touched the tender spot in Murieta’s heart, for he returned the money and paid the regular fare for his men who were carried across the river.
Two days afterwards the gang was camped near Stockton and Murieta provided himself with a supply of new clothes. On the next Sunday Murieta donned his best clothes, rode into Stockton on a beautiful horse, and at once attracted attention because of his handsome appearance and his exhibition of horsemanship. Finally he saw a notice on a post which read:
“Five thousand dollars will be paid for Joaquin Murieta, dead or alive.”
He laughed, dismounted and wrote underneath the notice : “I will pay ten thousand. Joaquin Murieta.” He then rode away and those who had been observing him, went to see what he had written. Their astonishment on learning the identity of the dashing horseman can be better imagined than described.
This foolish act made it necessary for Murieta to again change the locality of his camp the next day. But before moving he ascertained that a schooner would go down the slough early on Monday morning and that there would be considerable gold dust aboard. Murieta and four of his men procured a skiff and remained concealed in the tules until the schooner was opposite them. They then went alongside and boarding the vessel, began firing at once. The two men who were managing the vessel were killed instantly, and two miners who were in the hold seized shotguns and came up on deck, and while they were both killed, they succeeded in killing two of Murieta’s men. The bandit and his two remaining companions then robbed the vessel of $20,000.00 worth of gold dust, and after setting it on fire, returned to their camp. It was estimated that the gang then had about $50,000.00, with which they returned to Arroyo Cantoova, where they remained until December. At this time there were about ninety desperadoes in the gang, and about twenty-five women, nearly all of whom habitually wore men’s attire.
On December 10, 1852, Murieta detailed twenty men under command of Guerra to operate in the country where they were located, and he proceeded to Calaveras County with seventy men, leaving all the women behind.
Three days after the departure of the chief, Guerra was killed by his mistress, Margarita, who immediately took another bandit of the party named Coneja as her mate.
Murieta and his forces reached Calaveras about Christmas. Here he again divided his forces, detailing twenty-five men under command of a bandit named Reis, a like number in charge of Vulvia, and he took the remaining twenty men to a mining camp located near the south fork of the Mokolumne River. Here he was recognized by a man named Jim Boyce, for whose bravery Murieta had great respect. He immediately left the place with his gang and a few days afterwards learned that Boyce had organized a posse of twenty-five men to hunt for Murieta. He at once set spies to work and, locating the posse, the bandits trailed them until they went into camp one night, and then swarmed down upon them when they were preparing to retire and killed twenty-two, Boyce and two others escaping.
After this Murieta’s gangs were again divided into small parties of five and six men, and they killed nearly every person who crossed their paths. In the middle of February, 1853, Murieta and “Three-fingered Jack” met two Americans and a German who were en route from Murphy’s diggings to San Francisco, and after relieving them of their gold dust, they murdered the three men and threw their bodies into an abandoned shaft. The same day they met six Chinamen, and after relieving them of their valuables, the fiends tied their queues together and killed them all by cutting their throats.
On February 19, a mass meeting was held in Jackson and it was resolved that a posse should be formed immediately under command of Undersheriff Charles A. Clark. The first day out they captured the bandit “Juan” and another member of the gang and hanged them to a tree.
On February 22, Captain Ellis and posse learned that Murieta and six men were at a place called Freeman’s Camp, and when they arrived they found the bodies of three Chinese who had just been murdered and five others who were dying. One of these unfortunates was still conscious and informed the posse that Murieta had just robbed them of $3000.00. The Chinese in this neighborhood then became terror-stricken and flocked to the larger towns for protection.
On the night of April 1 it was learned that Murieta and six other Mexicans were asleep in a shack located on the outskirts of the little town of Hornitas. J. Prescott and a posse of fifteen men proceeded to the place and surrounded the shanty. Prescott lighted a candle and entered, but as he did so he received a bullet in the chest. He fell and the light went out. The bandits then fled through different doors. As it was dark and the posse was so stationed that they were afraid of shooting each other, the desperadoes again escaped.
Murieta’s ability to gather information was marvelous. It was thought that only a few members of the posse knew who gave the information regarding Murieta’s presence in the cabin, yet the next morning the informant’s body was found hanging to a tree.
On May 17, 1853, the Legislature passed a bill which was signed by Governor John Bigler, authorizing Captain Harry Love to organize a company of Mounted Rangers. It provided for twenty men at $150.00 per month for three months, and their duty was to kill Murieta.
On July 1, Murieta and seventy of his men reassembled at Arroyo Cantoova with 1500 head of horses, in addition to the gold they had stolen. Captain Love learned of this move and he went to the bandits’ camp with his posse, but when he arrived and saw seventy men against his twenty, he stated that he was a government official procuring the names of Mexicans employed in rounding up wild horses. This explanation seemed to satisfy the bandits for the moment, but the posse had only traveled a few miles when Murieta received information which caused him to break camp, and after dividing his gang into several small parties, he sent them in different directions. Love learned of this move and also learned the road that Murieta would probably take with his party.
Shortly after sunrise on July 25, 1853, Love and his posse located Murieta’s camp and made a rush at the bandits before they could procure their weapons. Murieta was in the act of washing his beautiful bay mare from a tin basin. Realizing that he was at last cornered, he hesitated a moment to collect his thoughts, and then called to his companions to save themselves, at the same time mounting his mare and attempting to dash through the posse. He had only proceeded a short distance when his mare was killed and Murieta was thrown to the ground. He arose and attempted to run, but was riddled with bullets. He did not fall instantly, but turned toward the posse, threw up his hands and cried, “Don’t shoot any more boys, the work is done.” A deadly pallor then came aver his countenance, but he tried to remain on his feet. His knees began to shake and he fell to the ground and died without uttering another word.
“Three-fingered Jack” succeeded in procuring his pistol and horse and the portion of the posse which followed him had a running battle for five miles, but they finally killed their man, cut off his left hand on which were only three fingers and brought it back to prove that the desperado had not escaped them.
Captain Love desired to offer proof other than his word that he had killed Murieta and as he could not carry the body any distance with his facilities, he cut off the head of the dead bandit, and brought it back as evidence.
Several affidavits were procured from persons who knew Murieta and identified the head, one affidavit being sworn to before Justice of the Peace A. C. Bain by Rev. Father Dominic Blaine on August 11, 1853.
It was subsequently learned that at the time Captain Love disturbed Murieta at Arroyo Cantoova, the bandit had already perfected plans for a raid that would have made all of his previous deeds appear insignificant.
Steps had been taken to increase the gang to five hundred men, many of the new members being then en route from Mexico. When they arrived, the whole gang intended to proceed to Mount Shasta and then sweep down through the State, stealing everything worth while and slaughtering all who opposed them or had at any time antagonized them. They would then go into Mexico and disband.
On May 15, 1854, the Legislature passed a bill allowing Captain Love $6000.00 for his services in ridding the State of Murieta.
The bandit’s head was afterward placed on exhibition at “King’s” saloon on the corner of Sansome and Halleck Streets in San Francisco, but the mere possession of it seemed to bring bad luck to the possessor.
Shortly after obtaining it, King became insolvent and the head was sold at auction by Deputy Sheriff Harrison to one Natchez, a gunsmith. Harrison committed suicide and Natchez was killed by the accidental discharge of a pistol.
The killing of Murieta caused the remainder of his gang to become discouraged and the majority of them returned to Mexico.
When Murieta left Arroyo Cantoova on his last trip north with his force of seventy men, Rosita, whom he left behind, united her fortunes with one Charles Baker. When Murieta returned and learned of her unfaithfulness, he located Baker’s cabin and finding his former sweetheart, shot her in the arm and cut her across the face and breast, leaving her for dead. He then burned the cabin.
In 1872, about eighteen years after Murieta’s death, Rosita met Sheriff Harry Morse of Alameda and Sheriff Tom Cunningham of Stockton in San Benito County and showed them the scars from the wounds she received on that occasion. Sheriff Morse stated that she was still a fine-looking woman.
The Story of Bandidos Juan Soto, Noratto Ponce, Narciso Bojorques, Antonio Garcia, Cleovara Chevez, and Tiburcio Vasquez
After the extermination of this gang, Juan Soto, Noratto Ponce, Narciso Bojorques, Antonio Garcia, Tiburcio Vasquez and Cleovara Chevez were at different times the leader of the gang of bandits which operated throughout the lower half of the State from 1860 to 1875.
After committing a series of crimes in the southern part of the State, Bojorques arrived in Alameda in 1863, and after murdering Mr. and Mrs. Golding and child, he stole their property and burned their cabin.
A few months afterward, he and another Mexican named Quarte, stole a band of cattle, but when the time came to divide the proceeds, Bojorques murdered his partner in crime. He then fled to Los Angeles, but in 1865 Sheriff Harry Morse located him near San Jose and after a pistol duel with the sheriff, during which the bandit was shot in the body, he escaped, only to be killed five months afterward in a saloon at Copperopolis by an American bandit called “One-eyed Jack.”
In 1865, Ponce shot and killed an old man named Joy in the town of Haywards, and then mounting his horse, he escaped.
Sheriff Morse started in pursuit and a few evenings afterward as it was growing dark, the sheriff met Ponce. Both men began firing simultaneously.
Morse shot Ponce’s horse and the bandit fell to the ground, but jumped up and escaped in the darkness. The next day Morse found Ponce’s coat saturated with blood, and six weeks afterward he learned that the wounded desperado was being nursed back to health at the home of Jose Rojos, in Contra Costa County.
Morse proceeded to the place, and as he came in sight of the house, he saw Ponce slipping off into the brush. Both men then opened fire, but Morse was again victorious, for the bandit fell dead from a bullet through the head.
In 1871, Thomas Scott, an ex-assemblyman, conducted a store at Sunol, Alameda County, and on the evening of January 10, three Mexicans entered the store, shot and killed the clerk, Otto Ludovici, and after ransacking the place, made their escape.
Sheriff Morse ascertained that a veritable Hercules named Juan Soto was the leader of this gang. The very appearance of this bandit would strike terror to the average heart.
He was of Mexican and Indian parentage, and had long black hair, fierce black eyes and a cruel mouth only partially concealed by a stubby mustache and beard. He stood 6 feet 3 inches in height, weighed 220 pounds and had the strength, activity and ferocity of a tiger.
Morse learned that this gang had a rendezvous in the Panoche mountains, about 50 miles from Gilroy. When the posse approached the house it was agreed that the members should be divided into squads for the purpose of surrounding the building, and Morse and a deputy sheriff named Winchell entered the house where they found Soto surrounded by several companions, but not known thieves.
Morse pointed his revolver at Soto and commanded him to surrender, but the bandit ignored the order, and his friends attempted to overpower Morse.
The “brave” Winchell then ran from the building, leaving the sheriff to fight against this gang. Morse finally freed himself and ran out of the house after Soto, who had in the meantime escaped from the building.
When Morse got outside he indulged in a duel with the bandit. One of the sheriff’s bullets struck Soto’s pistol, disabling it, and the latter ran back into the house for another weapon.
Presently Morse observed him while attempting to escape from a rear entrance.
The sheriff fired at the fleeing desperado, the bullet striking him in the shoulder. The wounded and enraged bandit then turned like a cornered tiger and started toward Morse, but the latter fired one more shot which crashed through the bandit’s brain and he dropped dead.
Tiburcio Vasquez, the most notorious of the Mexican bandits since the days of Murieta, was born in Monterey, Cal., in 1835.
His parents were respectable Mexicans and gave Tiburcio a fair education, but he preferred companions of questionable character, and among them was a notorious bandit named Antonio Garcia.
One evening, Vasquez, Garcia and one Jose Guerra were attending a fandango in Monterey.
A quarrel arose between Garcia and Guerra, during which a constable named Hardimount appeared upon the scene and endeavored to exercise his authority. The combatants immediately turned their attention to him and he was shot through the heart.
A vigilance committee was then operating in Monterey and Guerra was hanged the next day. Garcia fled to Los Angeles, but he was subsequently hanged for this murder.
Although Vasquez was not prosecuted, his criminal career began about this time.
He left Monterey and began operating as a horse thief in Santa Clara, Merced and Fresno Counties.
In 1857 he and an old compadre were arrested for horse dealing. His companion turned State’s evidence and Vasquez was sent to San Quentin prison for five years on August 26, 1857.
On June 25, 1859, he escaped with several other prisoners, after overpowering the guard and obtaining the keys.
Vasquez made his way to Jackson, Amador County, where he was arrested for stealing two horses, and on August 17 he was again in San Quentin, where he remained until August 13, 1863.
In 1864 an Italian butcher was murdered at a place called Enriquita. Vasquez was in the town at the time, but it was not then suspected that he committed the crime.
As there were several Italian witnesses to be examined and as Vasquez was the only person in the town who could speak both Italian and English fluently, he acted as interpreter.
Vasquez departed immediately after the coroner’s investigation, which shed no light on the mystery, but it was subsequently learned that he was the murderer.
Shortly afterward, while riding a horse near Mt. Diablo, the animal stumbled, throwing Vasquez to the ground and breaking his arm.
This accident was witnessed by a wealthy Mexican rancher whose home was near by, and although Vasquez was unknown to this gentleman, he kindly took him to his home.
The bandit, who had rather pleasing manners and an oily tongue, stated that his name was Rafael Moreno ; that he had just arrived from Mexico, and was without funds.
This gentleman invited him to stay at his home until he had recovered, but his recovery was very slow, due to the fact that his host had a pretty young daughter named Anita, who fell in love with the slippery bandit.
One morning Anita and Vasquez were missing and the enraged father mounted his fleetest horse and started in pursuit.
He got close enough to Vasquez to fire a shot, which struck the ingrate’s arm, but the daughter was rescued and returned to her home.
On January 18, 1867, Vasquez was again sent to San Quentin for stealing cattle in Sonora County, and was discharged on June 4, 1871.
After being liberated, he became a constant visitor at the home of Abelardo Salazar in San Juan, but it was not until Salazar’s buxom young wife disappeared with Vasquez that Salazar understood the object of the bandit’s frequent visits. Vasquez soon grew tired of his companion and deserted her.
Shortly afterward he met Salazar in San Juan and after a bitter quarrel both men drew their pistols and fired, but the only damage done was a wound in Vasquez’s neck.
As soon as this wound healed, Vasquez with two other Mexicans named Bassinez and Rodriquez, held up a stage at San Felipe. The six passengers were bound and robbed and left helpless on the road. The three bandits then started toward San Juan, but on the road they met Thomas McMahon, the treasurer of San Benito County and robbed him of several hundred dollars.
Rodriquez was captured and sent to San Quentin prison for ten years, where he died.
A posse started in pursuit of Vasquez and Bassinez, and overtook them near Santa Cruz. A desperate battle occurred during which Bassinez was killed and Vasquez and a constable were seriously wounded.
Notwithstanding his injuries, Vasquez mounted his horse and escaped. He remained in seclusion until his wounds healed. In the fall of 1871, his niece, Concepcion Espinosa, was living with one Jose Castro, who conducted a saloon about twenty-five miles from Hollister, California.
Vasquez visited them and induced Castro to assist him to hold up the San Benito stage about ten miles from Castro’s place, and a considerable amount of money was stolen. A posse was organized and Castro was captured and lynched, but Vasquez again escaped.
In January, 1873, Vasquez became the guest of Abdon Leiva and wife at their home at Cantua Creek. Here a new gang was organized consisting of Vasquez, Clodovea Chavez, Leiva, Moreno and Gonzalez.
They committed several unimportant holdups, but on August 26, 1873, they planned and executed a raid on Snyder’s general merchandise store and saloon at Tres Pinos, San Benito County. Levia and Gonzalez preceded the gang to the store and spent their time at the bar until their companions arrived—the other three being delayed as they stopped and robbed the New Idria stage, which they chanced to meet on the road.
C. Smith, a blacksmith, Andrew Snyder, the proprietor of the store, John Utzerath, a clerk, and three others were in the store at the time the first two bandits arrived, and when the gang was reinforced by the other three, pistols were drawn and the victims ordered to lie down while one of the bandits bound each one.
At this moment, a sheep-herder named Barney Bihury entered the store and Gonzalez pointed a pistol at his head and ordered him to lie down.
He ignored the command and started to run away, but a bullet from Moreno’s pistol crashed through his brain, killing him instantly.
The little son of L. C. Smith chanced to pass the store at this time and started to run when he heard the shot. Chavez gave chase, and after knocking the boy down with a blow from his pistol, dragged him back to the store.
As Chavez was about to enter the store with the boy, a teamster named George Redford drove up. Chavez pointed his pistol at him and ordered him to come in the store, but the man was slightly deaf and not hearing the command, started to run, but was shot dead by Chavez.
Leander Davidson and wife who conducted a hotel nearby, came to their front door at the sound of the shots and Leiva ordered them to go inside. They proceeded to do so, but as they were closing the door behind them, Vasquez dashed out of the store and fired a bullet which passed through the door and killed Davidson instantly.
After looting Snyder’s store, he was released and taken to his home by Leiva, where several hundred dollars were found.
They then took about eight horses, and after packing provisions on the back of each, they departed, Chavez, Vasquez and Leiva proceeding toward Los Angeles, the latter’s wife joining them.
While camping at a place called Elizabeth Lake, Vasquez sent Leiva on an errand, but the latter returned unexpectedly and found his wife and Vasquez in each other’s embrace.
Leiva drew his pistol but he was overpowered by Chavez.
Vasquez refused to fight a duel with Leiva and the latter took his wife and decided to surrender to the authorities.
In the meantime, a posse headed by Sheriff J. H. Adams was organized and valuable information was obtained from Leiva. But while the latter was assisting the posse, Vasquez located Leiva’s wife, who deserted her two children to go with him.
They traveled through the country together for several months, but realizing the additional risk he ran by having a woman with him, he deserted her in the mountains and when she finally reached the home of a farmer, she was almost dead from exhaustion and starvation.
Moreno was captured, found guilty of the murder of Bihury and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the meantime, Vasquez, Chavez and Androtio joined forces, and on November 4, 1873, Androtio and Chavez visited the cabin of a sheep-herder in the Cholame valley. After this man had prepared a meal for them, they killed him and took $200.00 which he had saved to enable him to visit his aged mother in the East.
They then mutilated his face and threw his body in a ditch. Two men saw them disposing of the body, and the murderers seeing this, ran for their horses. Chavez mounted his horse and escaped, but Androtio’s horse became frightened and ran away. The two men who saw the crime committed gave the alarm and a posse captured Androtio who confessed and was hanged.
On November 13, 1873, Vasquez and Chavez entered a store conducted by a man named Jones about two miles from Millerton, in Fresno County, and after binding the occupants, obtained six hundred dollars and escaped.
On the night of December 26, 1873, these two bandits with several others, entered the town of Kingston, Fresno County, and dividing into gangs, simultaneously robbed the two principal stores after they had tied the inmates hand and foot. On this occasion they obtained $2000.00 and a supply of clothing and provisions.
Governor Booth became aroused and the legislature passed a bill empowering the governor to expend any part of $15,000.00 in an effort to capture Vasquez.
Afterward, a reward of $8000.00 was offered for Vasquez if captured alive and $6000.00 for his dead body.
On the afternoon of February 26, 1874, Vasquez and Chavez proceeded to Coyote Hole station on the Los Angeles and Owens River stage road. When near the building they met a Mr. Raymond and to prevent him from giving an alarm they bound him to a tree. They then approached the building and ordered everybody out.
Vasquez and Chavez covered them with rifles and forced an old Mexican to do the searching. The party were then placed on a hillside nearby and ordered not to leave the spot or death would be the penalty.
The bandits then waited for the stage and ordered Davis, the driver, to throw up his hands. Mr. Belshaw, one of the owners of the Cerro Gordo mines, and several other passengers were robbed and several hundred dollars were taken from Wells Fargo’s box.
On the next day, February 27, they stopped the Los Angeles stage between Mill Station and Soledad and robbed the passengers of about $300.00.
As Vasquez and Chavez knew that Sheriff Morse from Alameda County had a posse in that neighborhood disguised as surveyors, they remained in seclusion during the month of April, but when Morse left they resumed operations.
On May 6, the desperadoes proceeded to the house of Alexander Repetto, near the Old Mission, in Los Angeles, and after tying him to a tree demanded $800.00 as a ransom. Repetto sent a boy to Los Angeles for the money, but the lad notified Sheriff Rowland instead. A posse was formed and arrived at the house in time to see the bandits make their escape.
Within a few hours after this occurrence, they met Charles Miles, John Osborne, Pat Cone and J. Rhodes riding in a buggy and relieved them of their valuables.
On May 14, 1874, it was learned that Vasquez was at the home of a man named “Greek George,” near Los Angeles. A posse from Los Angeles, consisting of Sheriff Rowland, Undersheriff Johnson, Major H. M. Mitchell and G. A. Beers, special correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, procured a wood wagon and instructed the driver to proceed to George’s house. The posse was concealed in the bed of the wagon and when they arrived at the house they jumped out and surrounded the building. A woman opened the door and then gave the alarm to Vasquez, who jumped through a window. He was confronted by several armed men, but instead of surrendering, he attempted to escape and was shot eight times. He then surrendered, but it was thought that he would die from his wounds. He recovered, however, and was indicted for the murders committed at Tres Pinos in San Benito County.
On January 5, 1875, his trial began in the District Court at San Jose. On January 10 he was found guilty and on March 19, 1875, he was hanged.
While Vasquez was in custody, Chavez, who was still enjoying his liberty, addressed a communication to the authorities in which he threatened to kill every one who in any manner assisted in the prosecution of Vasquez. The condemned man heard of this and caused a message to Chavez to be published, in which he disapproved of the action contemplated and advised his former companion to change his course of life, lest he, too, die on the gallows.
Vasquez’ word was the only law which Chavez recognized, and he not only abandoned this plan but proceeded to Arizona, where he procured legitimate employment at Baker’s Rancho, sixty miles from Yuma. He was recognized by Louis Raggio, a former cattle-herder in California, who informed C. S. Calvig and Harry Roberts of the bandit’s presence. As a reward was offered for Chavez, dead or alive, these two men went to the ranch and on meeting Chavez, ordered him to throw up his hands. Instead of complying with the order, the former bandit started to run, whereupon Calvig poured the contents of a shotgun into his back and he died without uttering a word.
This was the end of the Mexican bandits.