Saturday, April 18, 2009

Califronia Outlaws

I promised you an article on California outlaws, especially the ones operating near Coulterville, California so here we are. Two of the most famous or would it be infamous, are Joaquin Murrieta and his buddy Three Fingered Jack. I wonder which three fingers it was?

Between 1852 and 1853 Joaquin Murrieta and ol’ Three Fingers found the Chinese miners relatively easy pickings for gold. Murrieta, Three Fingers and the rest of the gang found that the Chinese didn’t put up much of a fight and made a living off of the gold the Chinese were taking out of the ground.

It is said that Murrieta and his gang had several different hideouts, all in caves in the mountains around Coulterville, California and that they stashed away some gold at most if not all of these caves. How many is “several” caves? I haven’t got a clue but I would think it would have to be more than three and probably less than ten.

You’re probably wondering why Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack only robbed the Chinese for a year or two? You did notice that didn’t you? It would seem that Joaquin and his cohort Jack upset the balance in the gang somehow and the seven other members of the gang chose to ambush the two men to get rid of them. The ambush didn’t go so well and Murrieta and Jack escaped and began to plot their revenge on the gang.

Somehow, and the story I read doesn’t say how, Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack were able to lure the rest of the gang to a cave in the mountains above Penon Blanco Ridge near Coulterville and poison them. Murrieta’s and Jack’s plan worked better than the gangs ambush and all seven men died in the cave. Murrieta and Jack took a large cache of stolen gold from the cave and buried just outside of the entrance.

Unfortunately for Three Fingers and Joaquin, they were gunned down on Cantua Creek in 1853 leaving this treasure and a few others behind for some lucky treasure hunters.

As with a lot of treasure stories there seems to be a discrepency as to where this particular cave was. Even though history puts Joaquin Murrieta in several caves around Coulterville there was a report in the 1920’s about a cave being found with seven skeletons in it.

A Mexican railroad worker happened upon a cave while wondering in the mountains and inside this cave were the seven skeletons along with rotted saddles, old guns, spurs and various “cowboy” type items. The Mexican reported his find to the local sheriff and the sheriff was able to relocate the cave based on the instructions given by the Mexican. The Mexican later disappeared, some say because finding the skeletons scared him so bad he left the area.

This cave was supposed to be located off the Merced River below what was Benton Mills, also known as Bagby. The bad news? The town no longer exists and the spot where it once stood may be under water. The town disappeared when the Exchequer Dam was built.

Do you want something that may be a little easier to find? How about digging up a street? How hard could that be? This also takes place in Coulterville, California (just so you don’t have to go too far from the other caches). I know how you hate to walk.

Many, many years ago the main street of Coulterville was in poor shape and needed some repair. There also happened to be an old adobe building in the town that wasn’t in use so they tore down the adobe building and used the bricks from the building to patch the street. One day a big rain came along and the adobe bricks began to break apart. One lucky person living in Coulterville at the time happened to walk down the street after the rain and found a gold coin protruding out of one of the adobe bricks. As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before the streets needed repair again because the whole town was out digging up the adobe bricks looking for gold coins. Several more coins were found before the search stopped but no one knows for sure if all of the coins were found or how many there were to start with.

The town folk speculated that the old man that once owned the adobe building used it as his own personal bank and never retrieved his gold before dying.

I wonder if anyone would stare at you funny if you walked down the middle of main street in Coulterville swinging a detector? I’d love to see those photos!

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