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Via Press Release
07/26/2014 6:46 PM
Photo courtesy to the Amador Ledger Dispatch

Photo courtesy to the Amador Ledger Dispatch

The 1850’s came alive recently, when Andrew Smalldon portrayed a miner from the rough-and-tumble early days of Amador County. Smalldon, who owns Smalldon Americana in Amador City, donated his time and historical knowledge in a one-man storytelling act to raise funds for the city’s Amador Whitney Museum.

Dressed in worn jeans, corduroy jacket, battered leather hat and Woolrich shirt, he came with his gold-panning equipment, pickaxe and a mandolin and spun yarns about how gold was discovered in 1848 in Coloma; how the gold-bearing quartz veins in the hills around Amador City were mined; and a story of how, in 1851, some ministers joined with other miners to create Spring Hill Company 1. The place where the ministers established their claim was not far from where city and county namesake Jose Maria Amador panned for gold, near the intersection of present-day Amador Creek and Turner roads.

Picking at the mandolin, pausing thoughtfully and sounding all the while as if he was actually present when the events took place, he transported the assembled audience of about 35 to the year 1855, and then he told perhaps his most poignant and unsettling story.

In August of that year occurred the Rancheria Massacre, perhaps the county’s best-known and most violent criminal incident.

“Bad things were goin’ on, ‘Argonaut,’” Andrew said. “Yes, sir, on the sixth of that month, things changed. Bandits raided a hotel/tavern … killed six people … yes, sir … great sadness … one woman was hacked, an Indian who was sleeping was shot and killed.”

Rancheria was an area between Drytown and Amador City. One resident, Alfred Doten, kept a diary, which is one of the primary sources of the details of the event. George Durham was a tax-collector and sheriff’s deputy when he happened into the Dry Creek area, trying to collect a tax, when he noticed some of the Chinese miners had been recently robbed and a few were still tied up. A correspondent for the Sacramento Union wrote, “For several days past, a party of Mexicans have been robbing the Chinese up and down Dry Creek.”

Approximately nine bandits rushed in with guns blazing into the Rancheria motel, killing six people in the process. Store proprietor Eugene Francis was assaulted with an axe and left for dead. He was also shot. He barely made it out on what w left of his legs, and he died later that night.

You would think that was the end of the massacre; however, what followed was an orgy of revenge of such magnitude that it can be said innocent men were unfairly put to death.

“How many Mexicans have been caught and hung is an impossibility to say,” wrote the Sacramento Union correspondent.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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