History of San Diego, 1542-1908

PART TWO: CHAPTER 7: The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers

The relations of the Indian population with the Mission Fathers have been sketched in earlier chapters, but we have still to study the natives as they appeared to the people of Old San Diego. The general observations made upon the Indian character hold good in both cases, and we must never forget that the course of local history might have been very different if the natives of this region had possessed the warlike traits and organizing genius of their brothers in most other parts of North America. In that case, San Diego could not have been settled at the time and in the manner it was. It Would have taken more than a handful of indifferent soldiers to hold it against such pressure from without.

The Indians of this locality belonged to a number of tribes, varying somewhat in language and customs. Those living around the bay furnished most of the mission converts, and proved far more tractable than the hill tribes. The latter were “rounded up” and brought in by force occasionally, but had a habit of escaping at the first opportunity. The destruction of the Mission in 1775 was due to these half-wild Indians, and they also provided the Spanish and Mexican soldiers with their excuse for being, in the brief intervals between their own petty revolutions. But the Indians were slow to give up their own language, much as it has been derided. It is of record that the friars failed utterly for several years to teach them Spanish, and had to resort to the expedient of learning the Indian dialect, themselves. Some of them became somewhat expert and able to preach to the Indians in their own language. An interesting relic of this circumstance exists in the shape of the Lord’s Prayer done into Dieguino, as follows:

“Nagua anall amai tacaguach naguanetuuxp mamamulpo cuyuaca amaibo mamatam meyayam, cannaao amat amaibo quexuic echasau naguagui nanacachon naquin nipil meneque pao echeyuchapo nagua quexuic naguaich nacaguaihpo, namachamelan upchuch-guelich-cuiapo. Nacuiuchpampcuchlich cuitponamat. Nepeuja.”

In Bartlett’s Personal Narrative, is a brief account of his struggle with this language, while here in 1852:

“No event that is worthy of mention occurred, except a visit from a band of Diegueno Indians. The chief and several of his tribe were sent to me at my request by a Californian gentleman. They were a miserable, ill-looking set, with dark-brown complexions and emaciated bodies; and, though the weather was cold, they were but slightly clad. Articles of old and cast-off clothing, such as a tattered shirt and pantaloons, were all that the best could boast of. One, I think the chief, had a piece of horse-blanket around his cadaverous-looking body. I managed to get from them a vocabulary of their language; though I must confess that, with the exception of the Apache, I never found one so difficult to express, in consequence of the gutturals and nasals with which it abounded. I finally got the words so correct, that the Indians could recognize them, and give me the Spanish equivalents. I tried to write down some short sentences, but was obliged to give up the attempt as unsuccessful. I could not combine the words so as to be understood, in a single instance. These Indians occupy the coast for some fifty miles above, and about the same distance below San Diego, and extend about a hundred miles into the interior. They are the same who were known to the first settlers as the Comeya tribe.”

Dana has also left his opinion on record, which is worth reproducing: “The language of these people . . . is the most brutish, without any exception, that I ever heard, or that could be conceived of. It is a complete slabber. The words fall off at the ends of their tongues, and a continual slabbering sound is made in the cheeks outside the teeth.”

Not only had they no written language of their own, but they were provided with no facilities for acquiring one from their new masters. The friars were not merely indifferent to the education of the Indians—they were inflexibly opposed to it. Not even their favorite neophytes were permitted to learn to read, and their servants learned only such things as would aid them in providing for their masters’ comfort. At a time when the territorial governors were utterly unable to provide for the education of the gente de razor, it was scarcely to be expected that they could do anything for the Indians, who were under the especial care and jurisdiction of the missionaries. To the soldiers, the Indians were despised foes; to the citizens, they were inefficient and troublesome servants.

The employment of Indians as house servants was general, for they were very cheap. They were held under a strict discipline and not infrequently thrashed, as it was claimed that in many cases they would not work without their regular castigation. While Wm. H. Davis and Captain Paty were dining with Captain Thomas W. Robbins at Santa Barbara in 1842, he told them about an Indian cook whom he had had in his employ for years, but who had to be soundly thrashed about twice a year to keep him in order the rest of the time. To prove this to his incredulous guests, he called the cook, a man weighing 200 pounds or more, who laughingly confessed the truth of the statement. It is related that Philip Crosthwaite had a number of Indians working for him, and sometimes they grew lazy and refused to work. Then he tied them up one at a time, and gave them a good whipping, whereupon they went to work again. They did not appear to resent such treatment, but acquiesced in its necessity. It seems to have been the custom to beat them for other causes, without “due process of law,” in earlier days. In 1843, a San Diego man was fined fifty dollars because his wife had severely beaten an Indian servant. The missionaries did not hesitate to punish them for a variety of trivial offenses. Solitary confinement was a favorite form of discipline, but sometimes the good fathers would take them across their knees and administer the sort of castigation that is supposed to be the exclusive perquisite of small boys. In a few instances, the mission discipline was so severe as to lead to bloody rebellions, but nothing of this kind occurred at San Diego.

The story of the Indian, since known to white men, is largely a story of insurrections, crimes, and executions. There were men of good character among them, but they were “as two grains of wheat hid in a bushel of chaff.” The story of these early troubles can only be briefly sketched.

Their first raid on the Mission seems to have been inspired by a desire to plunder, coupled with profound ignorance of the white man’s methods of warfare.

The destruction of the first mission, in 1775, was followed by an aftermath of troubles of various kinds. An Indian called Carlos, who had been a leader in the revolt, professed repentance and took refuge in the Presidio church. General Rivera ordered Father Fuster to deny the fugitive the right of asylum, and upon his refusal, forcibly entered the church and carried the Indian off. Fuster thereupon excommunicated Rivera and was sustained by Serra when the matter came to his attention at Monterey. An excommunication was a very serious thing, in those days, even with the military, and Rivera was finally obliged to submit and return the Indian to Fuster.

Four Pamo chiefs concerned in this uprising, named Aaaran, Aalcuirin, Aachil, and Taguagui, were convicted but pardoned upon promise of good behavior. Two years later, at the time of an Indian scare, when it was reported that the hill tribes were making arrows with the intention of again attacking the whites, Commandant Ortega sent a message of warning, and Aaaran defiantly invited him to send his soldiers into the hills to be slain. Eight soldiers went forth, surprised the savages at Pamo, killed two of them, burned a few more, and flogged the rest. The four chiefs were taken to San Diego for trial, along with 80 bows, 1500 arrows, and a large number of clubs. The men were condemned to death and executed by shooting on the 11th day of April, 1778—the first public execution in California. It turned out that this first execution was illegal, Ortega having no right to inflict the death penalty without the approval of the governor.

VIEW OF OLD SAN DIEGO. Panorama of Old town from Presidio Hill, taken soon after the fire of 1872, showing the river running into San Diego Bay.

After this, matters seem to have been quiet for several years. On October 30, 1824, an Indian was executed by shooting, his offense not being disclosed by the records. Two years later, Lieutenant Ybarra, with a small force of Mazatlan men, had a battle with the Indians and lost three men, while killing twenty-eight of the foe. After the barbarous custom of the time, he sent in twenty pairs of ears. On April 23rd of this year, an Indian who was an accomplice to the killing of three soldiers and a neophyte was publicly executed. There was also a battle between the Indians of San Felipe Valley and gentiles from the surrounding rancherías, in which eighteen of the hill Indians were killed and their ears cut off.

The troubles and petty wars with the Indians during these years were chiefly due to their raids on the missions and ranchos for the purpose of stealing horses and cattle. Occasionally some of their number who had been at the missions returned to their old haunts and led these raids. The rancheros got together after such a raid, and went into the hills in parties of ten or twelve, well armed, to punish the thieves and recover the live stock. They were usually successful in recovering the stolen property, but often had fierce fights in which as many as eight or ten of the Indians were killed, as well as an occasional ranchero. After the secularization of the missions, the condition of the Indians became very miserable, and while large numbers of them continued to live in rancherías and to practice the rude arts which they had learned of the missionaries, others were forced by want, and doubtless also led by inclination, to get their living by joining in these raids. When Alfred Robinson was here in January, 1832, they were in a miserable condition and daily reports were received of robberies and murders. >From February to June of the following year there was much excitement due to rumors of a plot on the part of the Indians to unite and seize the mission property. A corporal was sent with a small force to El Cajon, where he seized Chief Jajochi and other malcontents, who were sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

Between the years 1836 and 1840, nearly all the ranchos in the country were plundered, at one time or another, and agriculture fell to a very low ebb. In the spring of 1836, there were loud complaints and the soldiers could furnish no protection, being without arms and ammunition. Juan María Marron was attacked in January, on the Cueros de Venado rancho, but the hostiles were driven off with the help of friendly Indians, and several of them killed. The savages became so bold that they even made raids into the town. An unsuccessful effort was made to have a garrison established at Santa Ysabel. In March, Don Sylvestre Portilla proposed to conquer the Indians at his own expense, on condition that he be allowed to keep those made prisoner, for servants.

he year 1837 was one of great anxiety for the San Diego people—a year of blood and terror. One of the best accounts of some of these disturbances is that in Davis’s book, his wife having resided here as a girl at the time of their occurrence. It gives us such a vivid picture of the life of the times that it is worth quoting:

“About the year 1837 there was an Indian outbreak in what is now San Diego county. A family by the name of Ydarra, consisting of the father, the mother, two young daughters, and a son about twelve years of age lived at the rancho San Ysidro. They had in their employ an old Indian woman, who had been christianized at the Mission, a very faithful and good woman, a comadre to her mistress, the godmother of one of the Indian woman’s children. This relation was frequently assumed by the California ladies, it being a mandate of the Catholic church everywhere, that any child that is christened shall be attended by a godfather and a godmother, and the Californians performed this religious duty toward the children of the poorer classes, including the Indians. The serving woman got information of an attack on the rancho which had been planned by Indians in the mountains, and a week before the occurrences here mentioned she warned the family of their approach. She urged and begged that they at once remove to the Presidio of San Diego for protection. Her mistress was anxious to follow the advice, but Ybarra himself disregarded it. He did not believe that the Indians contemplated a movement. The Californians were a brave people, especially in opposition to the Indians, whether they went out in pursuit of them to recover stolen horses, or otherwise. They were always prepared to resist an attack by them in their own homes, and did not fear them, but considered that three or four, or eight or ten of their number were sufficient to vanquish ten times that many Indians. Ybarra had with him two vaqueros on the ranch, and did not think it necessary to pay heed to the statement of the woman, who, the night before the attack, repeated, with emphasis, her advice for the family to leave, saying the next day the Indians would surely be there and carry out their plans.

“The next morning at nine o’clock, while Ybarra and his vaqueros were at the corral, about 150 yards from the house, engaged in lassoing horses, with the intention of starting for San Diego, the Indians stealthily approached, to the number of 75 or 100. The three men in the corral, seeing them very near, immediately ran toward the house to secure arms. This design, however, was thwarted by a little Indian boy employed in the family, who, seeing them coming as they neared the house, shut and barred the door and prevented them from entering. He must have had knowledge of the designs of the Indians, and been in complicity with them, as by this act of the little villain, the three unarmed men were left outside at the mercy of the miscreant savages, and were speedily killed. The Indians then broke into the house, and made a movement immediately to kill Doña Juana, the mistress, but the old Indian woman defended her at the peril of her own life; interceded with the Indians and supplicated them to spare her mistress. This they did. The two daughters were also captured by the Indians and made prisoners. All the houses of the rancho were also burned. The mother was ordered by the savages to leave the house, and go on foot to San Diego. She set forth entirely disrobed. On approaching San Diego Mission she was clothed by a friendly woman who came out and met her. In proceeding through a wheat field on the rancho she met her little son, who had gone out in the morning and had not encountered the savages. He now learned from his mother of the murder of his father and the two vaqueros, and the capture of his sisters. He was sent ahead to give information of the attack to the first Californian he might meet.

“News of what had happened was immediately communicated to the Rancho Tia Juana, owned and occupied by Don Santiago Argüello, a beautiful piece of land having a fine stream of living water running through it. At that time several California families were encamped there, spending a portion of the summer; the Bandinis, Alvarados and others. There were also several young ladies and girls, one of them Miss Estudillo.

“At the Rancho Tia Juana the intelligence created much consternation, and the camps of the several families were immediately broken up. They proceeded to San Diego, accompanied by the Argüello family, who took with them as many of their horses as they conveniently could. The Indians shortly after reached the place, burned the houses, and secured the stock which the owner had left behind in the fields.

“The third night the Indians intended to fall upon the Rancho Jesus María, occupied by Don José Lopez with his wife and two daughters. News of the Indian outbreak reaching San Diego, it was resolved to send out a force for his protection and to rescue, if possible, the two girls captured at San Ysidro.

“Don José Lopez bad a large vineyard and manufactured wine, of which he occasionally imbibed more than was consistent with a well-regulated head. On the evening when the Indians were to attack him he was filled with wine, which led him to some extraordinary demonstrations. He went out and built a number of large bonfires in the vicinity of his house, and then commenced shouting vociferously, making a great noise for his own entertainment only. As the Indians approached the place they sent out a spy in advance to reconnoitre and ascertain if everything was favorable for attack. The spy seeing the fires burning, and hearing this loud and continued shouting, concluded that the Californians were there in force, and so reported to the main body of Indians, who deemed it prudent to retire. . . The next day the force arrived, and Lopez and family were escorted to San Diego, the main body of the troops going in pursuit of the Indians.

“Ybarra, at the time he was murdered, had in San Diego two sons, who joined the company in pursuit as they were anxious to learn everything possible regarding the fate of their sisters. They were soon informed by a captured spy that two of the chiefs had made them their wives. The company followed into the mountains, until they reached a rugged and broken country wholly inaccessible to horses, and were obliged to stop, the narrow defiles affording innumerable hiding places for Indians and giving them an advantage over the approaching enemy. Had the Californians attempted to advance on foot they would have met with certain death, for the Indians swarmed in force, knew the region intimately, and would have picked the troops off one by one. The two brothers Ybarra, however, urged on by desire to rescue their sisters, advanced further into the mountains than the rest of the company, actually saw the girls in the midst of the savages, and got within a short distance of them, but were so badly wounded by the arrows showered upon them that they were compelled to return. After that, up to the time Miss Estudillo left San Diego in 1842, nothing further was heard of the two girls.

“Opposite the house where she was living with her aunt was the residence of Ybarra’s two sons and their families. Doña Juana, the mother, lived with them in San Diego up to the time of her death, which occurred about a year after her husband was murdered; this terrible occurrence and the loss of her daughters also, proving too great a blow for her. During this time she never ceased to lament their sad fate. It was heartrending to listen to her expressions of grief, weeping and wailing for the loss of her husband and children, like Rachel refusing to be comforted. Her distress often made the people weep who heard her lamentations.”

Prior to this occurrence, the hostile Indians had made several attacks upon San Diego for plunder and the capture of women, but without success. They now began to grow still bolder, and to plan their enterprises upon a large scale, and soon after formed a plan for the reduction of the settlement. Again the clearest account is contained in Davis’s book:

“One of the daughters of the Alvarado family married Captain Snook. After her marriage two of her younger sisters resided with her a part of the time. One of them had acquired considerable knowledge of the Indian language. Several of these families had Indian men for cooks. One evening after supper, the young lady just mentioned, Doña Guadalupe Alvarado, overheard the cooks in earnest conversation in the Indian language. As soon as the words were caught by her ear she was startled and surprised, and drawing nearer heard all that was said. She discovered that the Indian cooks from the different families had gathered in the kitchen of the house and were discussing a plan of attack upon the town by members of their tribe. It appeared that arrangements had been completed for the capture of the town the following night, and that the cooks in the several families were to lend their aid.

“In the council of the cooks, it came out that each on the following night was to communicate with a spy from the main body of the Indians, and take stations for this purpose on top of the hill overlooking the town, where the old Presidio and first garrison quarters of the Spaniards in California formerly stood. They were to inform the spies of the condition of each family, whether or not it was sufficiently off guard at the time to warrant an attack. There happened to be present in the house Don Pio Pico and Don Andrés Pico, who were making a friendly call on the family. They were a good deal startled at the statement made by the young lady, and represented that they would give the conspiracy immediate attention. The people of San Diego at that period had their houses well supplied with arms and were always on the watch for Indian movements. Accordingly, during the night they organized a company of citizens and arranged that at daylight each house should be visited and the cook secured. This was successfully accomplished. As each of the conspirators came out of the house in the early morning he was lassoed, and all were taken a little distance from town, where it was proposed to shoot them. They expressed a desire to be allowed to die as Christians, to confess to the priest, and receive the sacrament. This request was granted; the priest heard the confessions of each, and administered the rites of the church. A trench of suitable depth was then dug, and the Indians made to kneel close beside it. Then on being shot, each fell into the ditch, where he was buried. Eight or ten Indians were executed at this time.

“While these proceedings were taking place a messenger was sent to one of the Boston hide-ships lying in port, requesting that a cannon might be loaned to the town, to assist in its defense. The cannon was sent over, with a suitable supply of ammunition. At night a party of citizens visited the spot where the Indian spy was to appear, and succeeded in capturing him. He steadily refused to confess, though assured that he would soon die, as his friends had done before him. One of his ears was cut off, and he was given to understand that the other one would follow, and that he would be mutilated little by little until he made the statement required of him; whereupon, his resolution gave way, and he made a confession indicating where the Indians were encamped, and telling all that he knew. . . .

“After the spy had divulged all he knew, he was shot without further ceremony, he being an unconverted Indian and not desiring the services of a priest.

“The next day the citizens went out in force, found and surprised the Indians, and engaged them in battle; numbers of them were killed, but none of the Californians.”

In December, 1846, soon after the battle of San Pasqual, eleven men were killed in an Indian uprising at Pauma. Their names were: Sergeant Francisco Basualdo, José M. Alvarado, Manuel Serrano , Ramon Aguilar, an old man known as “Dominguito” but whose name was Dominguez , Santiago Osuna, José Lopez, Santos Alipás, Estaquio Ruiz, Juan de la Cruz, and a New Mexican whose name is not known.

These men were Mexican rangers and they were taken prisoners by the Pauma Indians, whose chief, at the time, was Manuelito. It is not known why the Indians captured them, but it is possible they had some grievance on account of past ill treatment. The Indians were at first in doubt what to do with their prisoners; then came Bill Marshall, a white man living with a neighboring tribe, who will be mentioned again later, and told the Indians that, since the Mexicans and Americans were at war, it would please the latter if they would execute these prisoners. This bad advice was taken and the men put to death. Manuelito later became general over nearly all the Indians living in San Diego county. He was a man of fine character and had many friends, among the warmest of whom were some of the relatives of the murdered Spaniards.

Antonio Garra, a San Luis Rey Indian, received a fair education at the San Luis Rey Mission. He was a man of energy, determination, and influence. He was chief of the tribe residing in the neighborhood of Warner’s Ranch, i. e., the Cupeños, and had large herds of cattle and horses.

The first sheriff of San Diego County, Agostin Haraszthy, conceived it to be his duty to collect taxes on the live stock of the Indians, and in his effort to do so came into conflict with Garra. The Indians also claimed the whites were settling on their lands and trying to take the hot springs away from them. Living with Garra’s tribe at this time was one William Marshall, a renegade sailor from Providence, R. I., who had deserted from a whale ship at San Diego in 1844, taken up his habitation with the Indians, and married the daughter of a chief. This man took an active part in the subsequent proceedings, and was hanged for his pains, as we shall see. It was also believed that he was in a large measure responsible for filling the head of Garra with the dreams of destiny which proved his undoing.


Within the circumference of a circle having a radius of 150 miles, with Warner’s Ranch as its center, there were supposed to be then living about ten thousand Indians. The numbers were formidable enough, but the thing was, to unite them. Garra quickly grasped this point and set about making his preparations accordingly. But the Americans were on the alert, and when he left for a tour among the neighboring tribes, his movements were watched. Besides rumors of trouble on the Colorado river, word came from Bandini’s ranch (the Tecate, in Lower California), that the Indians there had been invited to join in a movement for the annihilation of the whites. In consequence of these rumors and of warnings from friendly Indians, Colonel Warner employed Judge Sackett, who was then stopping at his ranch, to make a tour among the tribes with two Indians, in the disguise of a trader, and to report upon conditions. This party was out ten days and on their return reported themselves unable to discover any evidences of an intended uprising. Warnings continued to come in, however, and about ten days after Sackett’s return three messengers reached Warner’s in one day, all sent by Chief Lazaro, of Santa Ysabel, by different routes, that the Indians would surely make an attack on the following morning.

Warner was still incredulous, but concluded to send his family away to San Diego. They departed on November 21st, a little after midnight, together with all the white servants and some visitors, leaving only Colonel Warner, an Indian boy about sixteen years old, and a mulatto boy who had been sent there to be treated for rheumatism—the servant of an army officer of San Diego. Nothing happened the following day, but in the evening four Americans, invalids and others who were stopping at the hot springs on the rancho, were murdered. These were Levi Slack (E. W. Morse’s partner), Joseph Manning, Ridgley and Fiddler. They were surprised, mutilated, and butchered in cold blood—a work in which Bill Marshall is said to have been a leader.

That night Colonel Warner slept, not knowing what had occurred; but the next morning at sunrise he was awakened by the yells of an attacking party, which had already killed the Indian boy when he went out to milk the cows. Upon rising, he found the house surrounded by a large party of Indians, part in the rear of the house and others at the corral. A flight of arrows was shot at him, and he narrowly escaped injury. He was an excellent marksman and quickly killed three Indians with as many shots. In the panic caused by this fusillade, he got the invalid boy out of the house, mounted a horse, placed the boy on another, rode off unharmed and heavily armed, and safely reached the ranchería of San José, where his vaqueros had taken refuge. Here he left the boy, and, after instructing his vaqueros about gathering up the cattle, rode back to his house which the Indians were busy plundering. Here he met an Indian who tried to shoot him, and only Warner’s superior quickness saved him. Convinced that he could not save his property, he rode away for San Diego, and left his rancho to its fate.

The arrival of the Warner refugees at San Diego, coming as they did about the same time as rumors from the Colorado river and Bandini’s ranch, caused intense excitement. A letter from Antonio Garra to José Antonio Estudillo, clearly showing that the Indian chieftain expected the help of the Californians in the uprising, was also made public and added to the excitement. A translation of this letter follows:

“Mr. José Antonio Estudillo —
I salute you. Some time past, I told you what I thought, and now the blow has been struck. If I live I will come and help you because all the Indians are invited in all parts. Perhaps the San Bernardinos are now rising and have a man named Juan Berns. He tells that the white people waited for me. For that reason I gave them my word, and be all ready by Tuesday to leave this for the Pueblo. You will arrange with the white people and the Indians, and send me your word. Nothing more.

The people of San Diego at once held a mass meeting, proclaimed martial law, with the aid of Major Samuel P. Heintzelman, who was in command of the district, and began the organization of a volunteer company to go on a punitive expedition. Sentinels were posted to guard every approach to the town and a strict watch kept. Deputy Sheriff Joseph Reiner was sent out as a scout and found the hostiles in force at Agua Caliente, three miles beyond Warner’s. In the meantime, the town filled with refugees from the country. The Indians at Temécula, after refusing to join Garra, came in for protection. The white residents of the various ranchos did likewise, many of them abandoning their household goods. Many citizens rendered important services at this time. Don Joaquin Ortega, owner of the Santa María rancho, offered to donate horses for the use of the volunteers, and Philip Crosthwaite undertook togo after them. With him went Albert B. Smith, Enos A. Wall, John C. Stewart, and Dr. Ogden. They made the trip in safety and returned with the horses, although it was considered a hazardous service. Don José Antonio Estudillo also furnished horses and mules from his El Cajon rancho.

The volunteer company was known as the “Fitzgerald Volunteers,” in honor of Major G. B. Fitzgerald, an army officer, who was given the command. Two or three other army officers, who were in San Diego for their health, also volunteered and served as privates. Cave J. Couts was made captain, Agostin Haraszthy first lieutenant, Lewis A. Franklin second lieutenant, Robert D. Israel first sergeant, Jack Hinton second sergeant, Philip Crosthwaite third sergeant, Henry Clayton fourth sergeant, and George P. Tebbetts ensign. The single men only were allowed to go, leaving the married men, under the command of Sergeant Hinton, to guard the town. Those who went were forty in number, all mounted.

The line of march was by way of the Soledad, Peñasquitas, San Pasqual, Santa María, and Santa Ysabel. They arrived at Warner’s Ranch without meeting any Indians, and found the place entirely ruined. Advancing to Agua Calieute, they found the ranchería deserted. The bones of the murdered white men at this place were gathered up and buried and the village burned. No Indians were seen, and the next day the return march began. A scouting party captured Bill Marshall and two Indians, who were taken along as prisoners. The company was detained two or three days at Santa Ysabel by rain and snow, and arrived at San Diego and was disbanded, early in December, after an absence of two weeks. The campaign was a failure, from a number of causes. Garra was away in the San Bernardino mountains, trying to rally the Indians in that region to his aid. It was the policy of the Indians to avoid an open engagement, and when the troops approached they scattered in the mountains. The men were also chiefly armed with condemned army muskets loaned by Colonel Magruder, and an inspection of arms was not held, by some strange oversight, until they arrived at Agana Caliente, when it was discovered that only about one fourth of the guns could be fired.

Colonel J. Bankhead Magruder, in command of the troops at the Mission, did everything in his power to help, but was much hampered by the lack of men and arms. A company of infantry was sent to Yuma, for the relief of the garrison there, which was thought to be in danger. On December 11th two companies of troops arrived and immediately went out under Lieutenant Patterson. Knowing the Indians would avoid an engagement with his troops, he took them out some distance and then brought them back on the Yuma road, disguised as a wagon-train of emigrants. The Indians took the bait, charged upon the wagons which, to their dismay, proved to be full of soldiers, and a bloody skirmish ensued in which they lost many killed. Patterson then led his men on to Agua Caliente, where they went into camp; in the night, however, leaving their camp fires burning, they went over the mountains to Los Coyotes, whither the Indians had fled, and surrounded their camp. A large number of Indians were killed and captured, and those who escaped were subdued. A drum-head court-martial was held at once and the following prisoners, known to have been active in the murders, were shot: Francisco Mocate, chief of the San Ysidro; Luis, Indian alcalde of Agua Caliente; Jacobo, or Ono-Sil; and Juan Bautista, or Coton. The regulars returned to San Diego early in January and, everything being quiet once more, the refugees returned to their homes.

Bill Marshall and the two Indians confined in the San Diego jail were promptly tried by court-martial. One of these Indians was José Lacano, Marshall’s father-in-law, an old man. As it appeared that, while he knew of the uprising, he had taken no part in it, he was discharged. Marshall’s mother-in-law gave testimony against him. An Indian boy who had been a servant of Warner’s was convicted of giving false testimony during the trial and punished with twenty-five lashes on his bare back.

Marshall was found guilty and condemned to death, as was also the second Indian prisoner. His name was Juan Bero or Berus. He appears to have been the man named as a leader in Garra’s letter to Estudillo. The trial was concluded on December 10th and the men were hanged at two o’clock, December 13th. The Indian acknowledged his guilt, but Marshall insisted he was innocent. A scaffold was erected near the old Catholic cemetery, the men placed in a wagon, the ropes adjusted about their necks, and the wagon moved on, leaving them to strangle to death.

What the course of events would have been had Garra been personally present with his warriors, can only be conjectured. His misfortunes were not yet at an end. The Cahuilla chief whom he hoped to win over proved loyal to the whites, and while they sat discussing the matter, he caused his men to slip up behind Garra and seize and bind him, and delivered him to the authorities at Los Angeles. He was brought to San Diego under guard on January 8th, and a court-martial was assembled for his trial on the charges of treason, murder, and theft. The board consisted of General Joshua H. Bean, of Los Angeles,. Major Myra Weston, Lieutenant George F. Hooper, Major M. Norton, Captain T. Tilghman, and Major Santiago E. Argüello. Cave J. Couts was judge advocate, Major McKinstry counsel for the prisoner, and J. J. Warner interpreter.

In the course of the trial it was brought out that Garra had expected aid from a number of Californians, but this was doubtless a mere fancy of his own. The court-martial took occasion to publish a signed statement that nothing whatever had been brought out at the trial reflecting upon the men, accused. Captain Israel says:

“I never understood Garra very well. With his education, he ought to have known he would have no chance in fighting the Americans. He had told the Indians he would turn the bullets into water, and it looked as though he himself believed he could do this, as he certainly was not afraid of them. While he was in jail here he told me about an Indian chief, somewhere off in the San Bernardino mountains, who, he said, had promised to send him three hundred warriors. He also accused Argüello and Ortega of promising to help him. If Argüello ever made any promises of that kind, it must have been when old Antonio had him scared—Argüello’s explanation was that he was trying to find out what the Indians were up to and that he never promised them any help.”

At three o’clock on January 10, 1852, it was announced to Garra that he must die. Father Juan Holbein remained with him from that hour until the end. At half past four, the firing squad of ten men paraded before the cell, the provost marshal, Robert D. Israel, informed Garra that his hour had come, and the march to the grave was begun. Garra’s bearing was cool and he showed a determination to die like a man. The priest thought his conduct unbecoming, and tried to insist upon his praying all the way. Garra refused to do this, saying “What is the use? That is of no account!” The priest stopped the procession and stood quarrelling with Garra about it, until he gave in and began to pray. “Then,” says Israel, “we found that Garra knew more Latin than the priest did.” This by-play continued all the way, the priest continually insisting upon Garra’s praying and Garra refusing and declaring there was no use in it, but muttering a prayer now and then to rid himself of his importunities.

Arriving at the open grave, Garra took his station at its head, and then a new difficulty rose. Father Juan commanded him to ask the pardon of the people assembled; Garra at first refused, and only after repeated commands and entreaties did he lift his eyes and say, calmly and with a contemptuous smile “Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for all my offenses, and expect yours in return.” When a soldier advanced to tie a handkerchief over his eyes, he laughingly refused to permit it but at Father Juan’s request he again yielded and allowed his eyes to be bandaged. The provost quickly gave the command: “Ready! Aim! Fire!” and Antonio Garra fell into his grave. He actually died laughing. His firmness was real, lacking all bravado, and excited the admiration of all who witnessed it. Editor Ames said: “In an instant the soul of a truly `brave’ winged its flight to the regions of eternity, accompanied by the melancholy howling of dogs, who seemed to be aware of the solemnity of the occasion,—casting a gloom over the assembled hundreds, who while acknowledging the justness of Antonio’s fate, felt the need to drop a tear o’er the grave of a brave man and once powerful chieftain.” But notwithstanding Ames’s real admiration for Garra’s courage, he could not refrain from indulging his propensity to joke, and, in the next issue of his paper, under the head of “Departures,” inserted the following: “Antonio Garra, Tierra Caliente” (literally, for a hot country, i. e., hell). A large number of Indians witnessed the execution and were doubtless duly impressed; at any rate, there was never another Indian uprising, of like proportions, in the South.

COL. J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER. In command of the troops at the Mission at the time of the Garra uprising.

But although there were no more Indian “wars,” occasional murders, robberies, and pillaging still occurred. A large number of Indians lived in and near San Diego all through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and even far into the 80’s, and there was an encampment in Switzer’s Canyon for many years. In 1876, an effort which had been going on for some time to have the Indians settled upon reservations, took definite form in an executive order by President Grant, setting apart a large area of lands in San Diego County “for the permanent use and occupancy of the Mission Indians of Lower California.” A copy of this order, giving a description of the lands set apart, is given at the end of this chapter. This was the foundation of the present Indian reservations.

One of the customs of the Mission Indians in early days was to camp on the seashore near Ocean Beach, about the time of Lent, and remain till Easter, drying mussels, clams, and fish. They formed the principal resource of the white population for laborers, and were tolerably satisfactory so long as they did not get drunk. While Lieutenant Derby was turning the San Diego river, in 1853, he employed a large number of Indian laborers. He found it necessary, however, to offer a reward for the apprehension of any person selling liquor to the Indians. During the 50’s there was something like a reign of terror in Old San Diego, due to the lawless acts of drunken Indians. Severe measures were taken, but without very much effect. There was an Indian alcalde who had a sort of authority over these Indians, and occasionally punished offenders by tying them up to the old cannon which then stood muzzle downward in the ground in front of a store at Old San Diego and was used for a hitching post, and whipping them with a blacksnake whip.

During the years from 1853 to 1860, stabbing affrays were of nightly occurrence, and very little effort was made to apprehend or punish the offenders. Editor Ames waxed by turns indignant and grimly humorous over the matter. On one occasion, “our able district attorney, instead of subjecting the county to about a thousand dollars expense by having the stabber sentenced to the state prison, had a ball and chain put to him and ‘farmed him out’ to the highest bidder for cash.” A short time afterward:

“Since the opening of the new meat market, the Indians about town have gone into the butchering business on quite an extensive scale—killing about one a week. An Indian boy, belonging to Mrs. Evans, walked up to another Indian boy on Saturday night last, and with a long knife ripped him open as quietly as if he were cutting a watermelon. Who comes next?”

Sometimes the whites suffered. In August, 1857, John Minturn was severely cut in the arm by an Indian, whom, however, he succeeded in “knocking out” with a stick of stovewood. On April 10, 1858, the Herald declares:

“There must be something done to “clean out” the cattle thieves in this county. Whipping has got to be of small account in deterring the Indians from thieving, and we have come to the conclusion that the delectable and efficacious remedy of hanging is about the best, after all. One fellow whom they whipped out at Santa Ysabel, got so mad about it that he just walked off a hundred yards and laid down and died! . . .It has been ascertained that there have been 311 head of cattle stolen in this vicinity, Ramon Carrillo alone, having lost 108 of that number.”

That the citizens endured this state of affairs as long and patiently as they did, may well excite wonder. Only one incident of vigilante work in San Diego proper has come to light. There was a poor old tailor in the town who used to get drunk quite often. One day, having borrowed a dollar from a friend, on the plea that he was suffering from want of food, he was soon seen in an intoxicated condition. The next morning, his body was found lying on the side of the hill just above the town. He had been beaten to death with stones and the jawbone of a bullock, stripped naked, and left lying there. The manner of his death and the fact that he was known to be poor and had evidently been killed for his clothes, gave rise to the belief that it was the work of Indians. A search of the ground near the body resulted in the finding of a knife which was known to belong to an Indian called Manteca [fat, or tallow], and with this clew the names of a number of Indians who had been seen with the tailor on the evening of his death, were soon discovered. The murderers had decamped, but about six months afterward some of them ventured back to town, and with the aid of other Indians, three of them were arrested and lodged in jail.

ROBERT D. ISRAEL. One of the oldest living pioneers and participants in Indian troubles.

The citizens now thought it time to act, and also that it was just as well to save the county the expense and trouble of legal proceedings. The vigilante party consisted of Robert D. Israel, E. W. Morse, John Van Alst, and one other man whose name has not been learned. These four men went to the jail and took the three Indians out with the intention of hanging them. Israel, who was a veteran of the Mexican war and knew something of military affairs, protested that the party was too small to handle the Indians all at once, and suggested that they be dealt with one at a time. He was overruled, however, and the result was that as soon as the Indians learned the intention of the party, they began to fight hard and two of them succeeded in getting away. One of these two escaped and was never recaptured, and the other would have done so had not Mr. Morse shot him and broke his leg. They then hanged one of them in a vacant building which had belonged to Agostin Haraszthy, and the other in an old adobe building built by Crosthwaite near the American cemetery. Mrs. Carson says that on looking out the next morning, she saw the body hanging in the Haraszthy house, mistook it for an effigy and called to her husband that the Spanish had been “hanging Judas” again.

Mrs. Carson tells many interesting stories about the Indians of San Diego in early days. They kept an Indian servant who one day was missing, and after two days was found in the bottom of a dry well. He was taken out, very much bruised, his wounds dressed, and an Indian employed to nurse him. He improved and was thought to be out of danger; but one day the nurse went away and left a blind Indian in charge of the patient, who thereupon crawled out of bed and proceeded to treat himself by the Indian method. This consisted of taking a brand from the fireplace and scorching himself on the side with it, to set up a counter irritation by burning. He burned himself so severely that he only lived a few hours afterward.

Thomas Whaley bought an Indian girl from her parents, giving them something like $100 worth of goods from his store in exchange for their consent for the girl to live in his family. The girl stayed about a month and then disappeared and returned to her parents. When Mr. Whaley went after her they were willing to let her go, but wanted to be paid over again, and this continued as long as the kind-hearted merchant would allow himself to be “worked,” the girl running away as often, as her parents felt the need of supplies from the store.

There was an Indian ranchería near the palm trees in Old Town where they were accustomed to hold dances. “It was like an old-fashioned spelling bee,” says Mrs. Whaley; “the Indians would stand up in two long rows and dance, and the one of each opposite pair that could dance best won the other’s clothes. I dressed this girl well, but she would go to those dances and always came home in rags, having lost the clothes I gave her, at the dance.”

On May 26, 1869, the Union contained this item: “We noticed a half dozen or more of the Lo family parading the streets last week, dressed after the fashion of Adam and Eve before they left the garden of Eden. If there is an old clothes society in this part of the moral vineyard, we would suggest to its members that these children of the forest receive a little of their attention.”

This was a common occurrence for many years before and after. Mrs. Morse speaks of “wild Indians, nude, with the exception of a cloth about the loins,” who, “stalked majestically across the plaza, their long hair streaming in the wind, or, if in mourning, plastered up with paste made of grease and ashes. The rings in their noses, were equally as useful and ornamental as the rings in the ears of white ladies.”

In 1873, the Indians about new San Diego made themselves so objectionable by petty thieving and nightly brawls, that City Marshal Gassen and José Guadalupe Estudillo were sent to notify them to move their camp out of town. Their old chief, El Capitan, was found in the midst of a harangue, which he broke off to hear the message of the alcaldes, and promised obedience. In the following month he entered an indignant protest against putting out poisoned meat for the purpose of killing dogs, a practice which, it appeared, had led to the death of two of his warriors.

This venerable chief was one of the best of his race, and long an interesting figure about San Diego. The words El Capitan mean simply the captain, or chief, and give no clew to his name. He was once a chief of the Cahuillas. He always wore a “plug” hat and carried a cane, and in his younger days was a manly figure. He exerted considerable influence over his turbulent people, and aided the authorities in keeping them in order. He died in San Diego on December 10, 1875, at an advanced age.

In March, 1880, there was complaint of “too much pistolshooting around town after dark” by Indians. And on May 18, 1886, Constable Rice shot and killed an Indian on lower Fifth street in new San Diego. The Indian was drunk and attacked Officer Kerren with a knife. Rice interfered, whereupon the Indian turned upon him and was shot.

In October, 1883, the only surviving daughter of Chief O’Tay, of the Diegueno Indians, died at Old Town. She was among the first of the Indians converted by the missionaries. Father Ubach thought her to be at least 120 years old. About two years before her death, she cut a third set of teeth. Another of these first converts, a man named “Nevos,” lived to the age of 125, dying at Old Town on January 23, 1887. He was a native of Lower California and was brought to San Diego with the first expedition, in 1769. He bore his age well, was never crippled, and although blind for years could hoe corn and beans, cut wood, and wash dishes, to the last. The characteristic old age of San Diego Indians has been alluded to by Dana:

“Here among the huts, we saw the oldest man that I have ever met with; and, indeed I never supposed a person could retain life and exhibit such marks of age. He was sitting out in the sun, leaning against the side of the hut, and his legs and arms, which were bare, were of a dark red color, the skin withered and shrunken up like burnt leather, and the limbs not larger around than those of a boy of five years. He had a few gray hairs, which were tied together at the back of his head, and he was so feeble that, when we came up to him, he raised his hands slowly to his face and, taking hold of his lids with his fingers, lifted them up to look at us; and, being satisfied, let them drop again. All command over the lids seemed to have gone. I asked his age, but could get no answer but “Quien Babe?” and they probably did not know.”

There is an aged Indian yet living who is one of the landmarks of Old Town—Rafael Mamudes. He is a native of Hermosillo and has led an adventurous life. He was once a baker and followed his trade at Monterey. He also mined in Calaveras County, and made a sea voyage to Guaymas. He claims to be over a hundred years old, but it is not possible to verify this, and his real age is probably less. He came here about fifty years ago, and has supported himself by day labor. He has been married but is now alone, save for an aged sister. He owns the little plot on which the old jail stands.

Return to Books.


Main Page
Author’s Foreword
Introduction: The Historical Pre-Eminence of San Diego

PART ONE:   Period of Discovery and Mission Rule

  1. The Spanish Explorers
  2. Beginning of the Mission Epoch
  3. The Taming of the Indian
  4. The Day of Mission Greatness
  5. The End of Franciscan Rule
    Priests of San Diego Mission

PART TWO:   When Old Town Was San Diego

  1. Life on Presidio Hill Under the Spanish Flag
    List of Spanish and Mexican commandants
  2. Beginnings of Agriculture and Commerce
    List of Ranchos in San Diego County
  3. Political Life in Mexican Days
  4. Early Homes, Visitors and Families
  5. Pleasant Memories of Social Life
  6. Prominent Spanish Families
  7. The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers
    List of Mission Indian Lands
  8. San Diego in the Mexican War
  9. Public Affairs After the War
  10. Accounts of Early Visitors and Settlers
  11. Annals of the Close of Old San Diego
  12. American Families of the Early Time
  13. The Journalism of Old San Diego
  14. Abortive Attempt to Establish New San Diego

PART THREE:   The Horton Period

  1. The Founder of the Modern City
  2. Horton’s Own Story
  3. Early Railroad Efforts, Including the Texas and Pacific
  4. San Diego’s First Boom
  5. Some Aspects of Social Life

PART FOUR:   Period of “The Great Boom”

  1. Coming of the Santa Fe
  2. Phenomena of the The Great Boom
  3. Growth of Public Utilities
  4. Water Development

PART FIVE:   The Last Two Decades

  1. Local Annals, After the Boom
  2. Political Affairs and Municipal Campaigns
  3. Later Journalism and Literature [new material in second edition]
  4. The Disaster to the Bennington
  5. The Twentieth Century Days
  6. John D. Spreckels Solves the Railroad Problem

PART SIX:   Institutions of Civic Life

  1. Churches and Religious Life
  2. Schools and Education
  3. Records of the Bench and Bar
  4. Growth of the Medical Profession
  5. The Public Library
  6. Story of the City Parks
  7. The Chamber of Commerce
  8. Banks and Banking
  9. Secret, Fraternal and Other Societies
  10. Account of the Fire Department

PART SEVEN:   Miscellaneous Topics

  1. History of the San Diego Climate
  2. San Diego Bay, Harbor and River
  3. Governmental Activities
  4. The Suburbs of San Diego

Political Roster, City of San Diego
Political Roster, San Diego County