Joaquin Murrieta, one of California's most legendary people, is alleged to have committed all sorts of crimes from petty larceny, to horse and cattle theft, to bank robbery, rape and murder. His headquarters and the hideout for his "gang" was in central California at Arroyo Cantua and Joaquin Rocks.
His alleged crime spree became so bad that, on May 11, 1853, California Governor John Bigler signed a legislative act authorizing the organization of a band of California Rangers under the command of Captain Harry Love. Their purpose, to capture or kill a "party or gang of robbers commanded by the five Joaquin's," specified as Joaquin Botellier, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Murrieta, Joaquin Ocomorenia, and Joaquin Valenzuela. These men were believed to be responsible for the majority of all cattle rustling, robberies, and murders perpetrated in the Mother Lode region since 1850.
In July of 1853, a group of Love's rangers came across a group of Mexican men at the mouth of Cantua Creek. A confrontation occurred, and two of the Mexicans were killed. The rangers cut off the hand of one and the head of the other, and later placed them in jars of alcohol to preserve them. They claimed the badly mutilated hand to be that of the notorious "Three-fingered Jack," and the head to be that of Joaquin Murieta.
Despite the fact that no positive identification was ever made--and despite the fact that only one Joaquín was alleged to have been killed, the governor paid a reward of $1000 to Captain Love, and the matter was considered settled. (Later, apparently for no logical reason, the legislature approved an additional $5000 bonus.)
We'll never know the real truth about Joaquin Murieta. He never got his day court, but was instead judged with frontier justice by a group of men who needed a dead Mexican to called Joaquin in order to collect a reward.
John R. Ridge, also known as Yellow Bird, romanticized Joaquin Murieta's criminal career with his 1854 publication of The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta. Yellow Bird is our nation's first Native American novelist and his book is California's first novel.
Please note: Spanish orthography suggest the proper spelling of this name is "Murieta." However other spellings also include Murrieta and Murietta. This section begins with the spelling "Murrieta" because this rendition was popularized by the extensive research conducted by Frank Latta, documented in his book Joaquín Murrieta and his Horse Gangs. However, the spelling "Murieta" is used beyond that context. Interestingly there is new research suggesting a possibility that the name may be the an anglo misinturpertation of the Mexican mispronounciation of a phonically similar name. (This is independent research and we do not have permission to discuss the name.)
Visit the Idria for more information about Joaquín Murrieta.
|Copyright ©, 2005 Three Rocks Research. Updated August 08, 2007|