The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1976, Volume 22, Number 1
James E. Moss, Editor

By Leland E. Bibb

Warner's Pass from San Felipe The Pauma Massacre and the Garra Revolt are among the most interesting and most often discussed episodes of those years when California first came under the control of the Unites States. William Marshall figured in both events and was hanged by the citizens of San Diego on December 13, 1851, on the charge of high treason for his role in the Garra Revolt. Since his death, historians consistently have pictured him as a great villain and instigator of the revolt. His villainy is viewed as beyond doubt, his implication complete.1 However, thorough study of contemporary documents offers another picture of Marshall.

While Marshall was implicated in the Pauma Massacre, in which eleven Californians were killed by the Luiseño Indians a few days after the battle of San Pasqual in December, 1846, there is some evidence that he played no part at all in the killings. Further, it appears that his guilt in the Garra Revolt stemmed from being a man caught between two cultures and unable to actively support one against the other, rather than from any active participation.

William Marshall, the son of Joel and Hannah Marshall,2 was born in Providence, Rhode Island about the year 1827. Nothing is known of his childhood. He apparently came to San Diego aboard the ship Hope in 1844 when he was about seventeen years old.3 His arrival has not been verified other than by his own statement. Two whalers named Hope were in Hawaii in the fall of 1844. One, a ship of 316 tons, sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts on December 18, 1843. The other, a ship of 471 tons, departed Providence, Rhode Island on September 15, 1842.4 Marshall does not appear on the crew list of either ship.5 Crew lists are prepared at the time of sailing, and since Marshall said only that he arrived at San Diego on the Hope, his absence from the lists is inconclusive. The typical itinerary of a whaler in the Pacific during this period was to spend the summer whaling in the northwest Pacific, call at Hawaii in the fall for supplies and refitting, and proceed to the California coast for trading during the winter.6 Since both ships were in Hawaii in the fall, they seem to be following that itinerary, but here the record ends. Since there was often a large number of seamen in Hawaii due to either sickness or desertion, it is possible that Marshall joined one of these ships there.7 No further evidence has been found that either Hope reached San Diego.

One other possibility must be considered. Bancroft claims8 that Marshall was a deserter from the Hopewell, a whaler of 413 tons which sailed from Warren, Rhode Island on August 1, 18449 and arrived at San Diego in 1845. Upon what authority Bancroft makes his claim is not known. A crew list for Hopewell has not been found in the National Archives. It should be noted, however, that years later one of San Diego’s American pioneers, Philip Crosthwaite,10 stated that he had come to San Diego on Hopewell with a companion named Rhead. They deserted and hid until the ship left and then flipped a coin to see which would get the only berth on another ship returning to the United States. Crosthwaite lost the toss and remained at San Diego. In his reminiscences he does not mention Marshall. Had they come on the same ship it seems likely that Crosthwaite would have mentioned it. It is possible that the two men were somehow confused by Bancroft, or that he confused the Hope with the Hopewell.

Consequently, the only evidence of Marshall’s arrival is his own statement. By whatever means he arrived, Marshall elected to stay at San Diego. During this period much trading was carried on along the California coast and San Diego was a principal port. It was possible for a seaman to find work at the hide houses at La Playa, the anchorage on Point Loma, and if one wished to sever his connections with the sea, he had only to walk across the flats three or four miles to the little village of San Diego.

The Hot Springs, with Agua Caliente village in the background In 1846 Marshall located at Agua Caliente (Warner Springs),11 possibly for health reasons, since the hot springs had a reputation for medicinal value even then. If Marshall had become debilitated during his time at sea or while at La Playa it would be natural to go to such a place to recuperate.

It is likely, however, that Marshall went to Agua Caliente to work for Juan Jose Warner. Agua Caliente was within the limits of a rancho, Valle de San Jose, which had been granted to Warner in late 1844.12 Warner and his family moved to the ranch about 1845, living in an adobe near the hot springs.13

In May, 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico, and a few months later warships of the United States Navy occupied San Diego Bay. In the fall of that year a United States reconnaissance patrol visited Warner’s Ranch and arrested Warner when it was felt he was not loyal to the United States. He was confined at San Diego. Within days, General Stephen W. Kearny arrived at Warner’s Ranch with about 100 men after an overland march from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Lt. William H. Emory, a member of this force, reported that he found the ranch


was in charge of a young fellow from New Hampshire [sic] named Marshall. We ascertained from him that his employer was a prisoner to the Americans at San Diego, that the Mexicans were still in possession of the whole country except that port, San Francisco and Monterey; that we were near the heart of the enemy’s stronghold, whence he drew his supplies of men, cattle and horses, and that we were now in possession of the great pass to Sonora. . .

Marshall spoke of a Mr. Stokes, an Englishman, who lived fifteen miles distant, on the road to San Diego. The general at once despatched Marshall to him, and in three hours he appeared at our camp… He confirmed all that Marshall had said.14

In contrast to Warner, Marshall appears to have been completely cooperative with the American forces. He provided what information he had on California affairs, but was of little use otherwise to General Kearny. It may be that he was too young to be trusted with dispatches for San Diego, since Stokes took them. Other possibilities are that Marshall was suspect since his employer was incarcerated, or that with Warner gone Marshall was needed at the ranch to care for Mrs. Warner and her children. Four days later General Kearny’s force, together with a detachment from San Diego which had met him, fought with the Californians at San Pasqual.

Days later, in mid-December, there occurred one of the two incidents in Marshall’s life for which he is best known. This was the so-called Pauma Massacre: the murder of eleven Californians by the Luiseño Indians. The incident has figured as a popular one for modern authors, yet little was said of it when it occurred or subsequently, until 1906, when Millard Hudson wrote of it, using the reminiscences of relatives of the dead men as his chief sources.15 It is not the intention to tell the whole story of the Pauma Massacre here, but since it is thought that Marshall played a prominent part in it, some discussion is warranted.

The earliest references to the Pauma Massacre state only that the Indians had killed a number of Californians who had been at the Pauma Rancho. Each account offers its own reason for the presence of these Californians.16 It was in 1878, over thirty years after the event, that Marshall was first linked to the Pauma Massacre, when Juana Machado Wrightington dictated her reminiscences to Thomas Savage, who was collecting historical information for H. H. Bancroft.17 Since Mrs. Wrightington’s account is the earliest reference in which Marshall is implicated, it is important to report what she said:

A few days before this San Pasqual battle eleven Californians were murdered by the Indians on this side of Agua Caliente in the Arroyo de los Alamos. They had retired there with their few belongings, in order not to take part in the war between the Americans and the inhabitants of the country. I believe the occurrence was in November.

The Indians took 12 from the house at Pauma ranch (property of Jose Antonio Serrano) land] took them to the Valle de San Jose. Nearby is the place where they killed eleven, sparing the other because he was one of their Indians.

The chief of these Indians who captured them was Manuel, who turned them over to Antonio Berras, another Indian chief, captain of the Agua Caliente tribe. Manuel was captain of Pauma.

A certain Juan Garras (or Garra) and a Bill Marshall had joined these Indians, and advised

the Indians to kill these prisoners, telling them that General Kearny had authorized the Indians (who were complaining that they came with the intention of robbing) to kill those who would come. This was a falsehood, because General Kearny did not issue such authority, and disapproved the conduct of these Indians.

Juan Garras and Bill Marshall were some years later hanged here in San Diego for this and other crimes.

That Mrs. Wrightington confused a number of points in this account is understandable after the passage of thirty years. First, by all contemporary accounts the event occurred after the Battle of San Pasqual, that is, in December rather than November.18 Further, there is a confusion of names: Juan Berra, actually Juan Verdugo, was involved in the Garra Revolt five years later and according to testimony at that time had been around Agua Caliente only about a year. He was a Californian and a close friend of Marshall.19 Antonio Garra, chief of the Agua Caliente Indians (now called Cupeno), had occasionally boasted of his leadership at the Pauma Massacre and his contemporaries believed him to have been involved. Later, he was the instigator of the Garra Revolt.20 Another point of confusion is the statement that “Juan Garras and Bill Marshall were some years later hanged here in San Diego for this and other crimes.” In truth, Marshall and Juan Verdugo were hanged only for their part in the Garra Revolt. Antonio Garra was executed by a firing squad for his part in the Garra Revolt. Nowhere in the documents concerning the trials of all three is there any reference to the Pauma Massacre.21 It would appear that Mrs. Wrightington confused the two events in her mind, and that this has led to the idea that Marshall was a participant in the Pauma Massacre.

Bancroft relies on Mrs. Wrightington’s statement and claims that Marshall “was an instigator of the Pauma Massacre, for which crime he was hanged in ’51”22 From these brief, confused statements, a large body of writings has emerged which portrays Marshall as the “Wickedest Man in California,”23 However, primary sources fail to provide a shred of evidence of his participation.

A reason often advanced to support the contention that Marshall advised the Indians to kill the Californians in the Pauma Massacre is that soon after he arrived at San Diego he courted Lugarda Dionisia Osuna, but that she rejected him, and he then left and went to Agua Caliente to live. The story continues that Lugarda later married Jose Maria Alvarado who was captured by the Indians at the Pauma rancho, and that Marshall ordered him killed to even the score for winning Lugarda.24 This hypothesis is not supportable in light of existing records, nor does it explain the deaths of the others, including Lugarda’s brother, Santiago. Lugarda Dionisia Osuna was born at Mission San Juan Capistrano in 182225 and was about five years older than Marshall. She had married Alvarado on February 22, 1841,26 four years before Marshall arrived in San Diego, so he could not have courted her. Perhaps the story was fabricated to explain Lugarda’s role in Marshall’s baptism just before he was hanged in 1851. At that time she acted as his madrina (godmother), but why she stood for him rather than someone else is unknown. It is alleged that at that time Marshall asked her to forgive him for his role in her first husband’s death. Certainly such a revelation would have been newsworthy, but no such story appears in the accounts of his execution.27 It can only be concluded that Marshall took no part in the Pauma Massacre.

During the next three and a half years, until statehood was granted in September, 1850, California was under United States military rule and in each district there was an appointed alcalde, a mayor who had judicial powers and functions as well as administrative. In “Index: Spanish and Mexican Documents of San Diego County…”28 there is an entry for April 23, 1847: “Trial of Wm Marshall, before H. D. Fitch, on charges of stealing etc. presented by J. J. Warner.” That entry, quoted by Bancroft,29 is another example of those items which have been used over the years to demonstrate Marshall’s villainy, but that brief notice says nothing of the circumstances of the trial or its outcome.

Warner had accused Marshall of stealing some mules, horses, and other items. Marshall had acknowledged several of the charges, but due to unknown circumstances Alcalde Fitch found Marshall innocent and ordered Warner to pay all costs. Warner refused, however, so Fitch wrote to the governor, General Kearny, for instructions. Kearny replied to Fitch that he

regretted to learn that Mr. Warner refuses obedience to your decree. If he remains refractory, you are authorized to call upon the military officer most convenient to you for men to enforce your decree.31

On the same day Kearny wrote to Warner:

Your communication of April 16 has been received. You will obey the order of the alcalde at San Diego with regard to the property in your possession. You will return to the owners all the property you may have, and which was taken by the Indians.32

Once again it is Warner rather than Marshall who appears uncooperative and at odds with the authorities. Marshall seems to have been helping the Indians in a dispute with Warner.

Another two years passed. The war with Mexico ended and gold was discovered in northern California. The Gold Rush brought a flood of emigrants over the Gila Trail into California, and Warner’s Ranch was the first outpost of civilization. It is probable that Warner employed Marshall in one form or another from the time of their arrival at Agua Caliente, and it appears that both were content to remain at the ranch rather than participate in the uncertainty of prospecting. Marshall tried to deceive emigrants, however, by telling them that he was James Marshall, discoverer of gold at Sutter’s mill.33

One emigrant, George Evans, left a brief description of Agua Caliente on September 11, 1849: “We are now at Warner’s old rancho, and near the adobe and thatch-covered dwelling of his agent are the hot springs.” This agent was Marshall, who kept the store at the springs for Warner, and lived within the Indian village.34 He had cemented his relationship with the tribe through his marriage to the daughter of Jose Nocar (or “Noca”), a village leader. By referring to “Warner’s old rancho,” Evans implies that there was a “new” rancho.35 If so, then even at that early date Warner had moved four miles away from the hot spring and Indian village to where the Emigrant Road forked, one branch going to Los Angeles and the other to San Diego.

The most famous of the emigrant diarists was Benjamin Hayes, who spent several days in the vicinity of Agua Caliente in January, 1850. His camp was over one and a half miles from the village.

I went to the store. It is kept by an American, by the name of Marshall . . .visited the hot spring, following down the cold water creek that leads to it from the store.36

Hayes also gives a good picture of storekeeper Marshall and his establishment. The store was

pretty well stocked with articles suited to this ‘market.’ The goods came from San Francisco.

The store-keeper at the village has brought up some emigrant wagons, thinks they will soon bear a good price.

We found quite a number of the inhabitants [of the village]. . . in a state of high intoxication from the liquor with which the store-keeper plies them at a dollar a pint, or 10 cents a drink.37

Hayes further commented upon the “extraordinary passion” of the Indians for gambling, that the captain of a neighboring rancheria had pawned his horse for $15 and that this was “an example of ‘Anglo-Saxon progress’ through its ‘pioneers,’ the storekeepers, etc.”Women of the village washing clothes on the rocks38 Thus Marshall’s store was also a saloon and pawn shop.

While California was first included in a United States Census in 1850, the policy of the census takers was not to enumerate Indians living in villages so that Agua Caliente was not included, although Warner’s Ranch was. Thus Marshall is omitted while Warner and his household are included.39

Although California was admitted into the Union on September 9, 1850, the state government had organized earlier in the year and Warner was elected as a senator from San Diego County. Marshall was not a voter in the first county elections.40 This formation of local government was destined to affect Marshall and the Indians greatly, however, for one of the greatest needs of the new county government was revenue. Taxes were assessed against all property owners and “Guillermo Marchall” [sic] was among the first taxpayers of San Diego County, having personal property worth $300 and a capitation tax of $8.41 Marshall’s role of taxpayer would seem to repudiate the notion that he lived as an outlaw or renegade. Prior to the outbreak of the Garra Revolt he appears to have been at all times within the law. Also, during the first year of statehood, the San Diego County Sheriff reported that “Indians were taxed by the Assessor, and tax collected by the treasurer, without a murmur or complaint from the Indians — something like $600 I think.”42 Those Indians who were taxed were those considered “Christianized” who lived in villages and had ranches in the more settled portions of the county. Perhaps they did not complain openly but their resentment ran deep. There were others who shared the ill feelings of the Indians, for it was noted that “There has also been great dissatisfaction amongst the Californians at the heavy taxes.”43 But it was the Indians who were really disturbed:

We have all sorts of rumors concerning our Indian neighbors, and we must confess that they are of a character to produce uneasiness in the minds of the Americans residing in this country. That the Indians are in a disturbed state, is an undoubted fact.44

Throughout November, 1851 rumors of impending Indian attacks and uprisings were widespread in southern California. They were not without substance, for Antonio Garra, the chief of Agua Caliente, had been trying to arrange a union of tribes from as far away as the Central Valley of California, Baja California, and the Colorado River with the hope of driving all the Americans from Southern California. In early November he accompanied the Yumas in the killing of several sheep herders near the Colorado River and the theft of their several thousand sheep. Despite this cooperation, he failed to gain the support of the Yumas, nor had other tribes pledged their support when he determined that the time had come to commence the war against the Americans. As the time to attack drew near, Garra claimed he was sick and remained behind. Those Indians who participated were Cahuillas of the mountains near Warner’s Ranch and the Cupeno of Agua Caliente.

On the night of November 21 Marshall was at his house at Agua Caliente together with his wife and their infant son. Living with them was a friend, Juan Verdugo. Marshall related what occurred:

About 12 o’clock myself and Juan Bero [Verdugo] received a message from Antonio that he was about to commence a war against the whites and that unless we joined him he would kill us. We consented to do so. I was in the same house with three of the Americans [invalids visiting the hot springs],45 I did not notify them of the intentions of the Indians. The Indians arrived at our house about 2 o’clock in the morning. Antonino the son of Antonio commanded the Indians. The three Americans with me were taken and tied and carried off to the burying ground and killed. I did not see it done but remained in the house. Antonino sent to Jose Nocar’s house captured Manning46 and killed him, part of the Indians then went up the mountains, myself and Juan Bero accompanying them…47

Joining the Indians was a very serious move. Marshall later explained his actions

I dared not inform… the Americans at Agua Caliente of the promise I had made to join Antonio or let them know that any danger was at hand. I was afraid to do so.

I…only agreed to join them to save my own life.

I solemnly swear that it was not my intention to take any part in the war, that I joined solely to save my life and left them at the first opportunity.48

Marshall’s statements were corroborated by two variant confessions of Antonio Garra, both dated December 13, 1851. The first states: “The American named Bill Marshall, and Juan Bera [Verdugo], Californian, had nothing to do with the transaction [the attack on Warner’s Ranch].”49 The other is more detailed:

The two men named Bill Marshall and Juan Verde, had nothing to do with the transaction [italics in the original]. I concealed them (the plans] on purpose to keep them from the knowledge of it. Neither have those men taken any part in the hostilities practiced towards the Americans. — They were entirely ignorant of what has been done.50

Antonio Garra made another statement at his trial several weeks later:

I told Bill Marshall that if he did not join us I would kill him. Bill M. said that it was all good that he had been then a long time. [sic] B.M. was at this time at the Coyotes. I would not have killed B.M. if he had not joined us. What for?51

At the present time there is no satisfactory explanation for Marshall’s actions. All that is known is that he feared for his life and submitted to the Indians as a result. Despite his residence in the village, his relationships with all the Indians need not have been good. Thus he was the one to know best just how the Indians would act. Neither flight nor alerting the other Americans and together fighting the Indians seems to have been a realistic alternative to him. His reaction to this incident was apparently to look out for himself at the expense of the other Americans. Further, it is not known whether Marshall’s wife and child might also have suffered if he had resisted. Only a few Indians took part in the murders, yet they jeopardized the whole village. There was no attempt by others to stop them. Ironically, some of the Indians who participated in the killings later said they did so because they feared Antonio Garra.52

At sunrise on November 22 another group of Indians attacked Warner’s Ranch. Warner had been warned the day before to expect trouble and had sent his wife and children to safety. Following an exchange of gunfire, Warner escaped, and the Indians plundered and burned his store and house and drove off his stock.53

The Indians gathered at the village of Los Coyotes, deep in Coyote Canyon just north of Borrego Valley, where they apparently thought they were secure from attack. Marshall and Verdugo reached Los Coyotes the same day as the raid on Warner’s, and before nightfall those who had raided the ranch also came in.

It was that same evening that Warner reached San Diego with word of the attack. The community was thrown into great excitement. People deserted the surrounding ranches, seeking the safety of the town. Many Indians, loyal to the Americans, declined to join Garra and indicated their willingness to join and aid the whites.54

The citizens of San Diego were quick to declare martial law and organize a volunteer company, known as Fitzgerald’s Volunteers. Sentries were placed around the town and the preparation of defenses was commenced. A volunteer company was also organized at Los Angeles, while at the new settlement of San Bernardino the Mormons began to erect a stockade for their protection. In addition, appeals for assistance were made to the governor and the military authorities.55 According to Marshall, at Los Coyotes during these days “Indians were arriving and departing daily. Most of them armed with bows and arrows, a few of them had lances and guns.”56 He later claimed he was a prisoner, and remained only as long as the Indians detained him. Since the Indians had no quarrel with him, he was not harmed as long as he did not attempt to escape. In later testimony Santos Luna, Warner’s servant offered this view:

Juan Verdugo and Bill were loose and free, it is true they told me they were prisoners but they were not tied.57

However, Jose Nocar stated:

I saw Bill along with prisoner [Verdugo] the day after the murder — they were both tied — I saw a tent, lived close to the tent about 5 yards distant — Bill slept in the tent — J. Verdugo did not. . . 58

Marshall and Verdugo seem to have been held in a form of house arrest.

Marshall stated that he “intended to leave the Indians at the first opportunity.”59 This was confirmed by Santos Luna, who heard Marshall say “that when the people [Indians] were out of the way, he would join the Americans, that he was not in favor of the Indians.” Further, “Bill said that if the Americans arrived there he would join them.”60

Antonio Garra still hoped to effect a combination of tribes. He had hoped particularly for the support of Juan Antonio, chief of the Cahuillas. Thus when a messenger came in from him asking Garra to meet him at Razon’s rancheria in the Coachella Valley, Garra complied. After his arrival there, however, Juan Antonio captured Garra and took him to San Gorgonio. Garra then sent for his son, Antonino, and several other leaders of the revolt and they turned themselves in at San Gorgonio also. Juan Antonio turned them over to the volunteer company from Los Angeles. The revolt was now leaderless, and when word of Garra’s capture reached Los Coyotes the encampment disbanded. An Indian then told Marshall and Verdugo to leave or they would be killed, so they left for San Diego accompanied by Warner’s servant, Santos Luna, and Marshall’s father-in-law, Jose Nocar.61

On November 27, the Fitzgerald Volunteers left San Diego for Agua Caliente, where they thought the Indians were assembled.62 The volunteers moved cautiously, and it took them five days to cover the sixty miles. The place was deserted, so the volunteers burned the village and buried the remains of the dead Americans. They were returning to San Diego when, at Santa Maria (present-day Ramona), they heard that Marshall and his party were at Santa Ysabel. Sheriff Haraszthy and twelve men returned there and

captured the notorious Bill Marshall, who is said to have ordered the murder of Mr. Slack and the three others at Agua Caliente.[He] is believed to be the chief agent in banding together these hostile tribes of Indians.63

The feeling that these men were working with Garra was now widespread. According to the Los Angeles Star


Major Fitzgerald [United States Army, but proclaimed captain of the volunteers], suspecting that Marshall, Bera [Verdugo] and Noca [Nocar] had constituted a part of Garra’s band, and had acted with them in plunder and murder, made them prisoners, and would take them to San Diego.64

Apparently the Americans now believed Marshall and Verdugo to be participants in the revolt because they had been unharmed by the Indians and later released. Perhaps they believed Marshall to be the instigator because they did not think that Indians could independently conceive and organize such a threat to the small American population. Marshall’s success at survival when with the Indians seemed to be evidence of his guilt. No motive for Marshall’s alleged participation has been found. It appears that he had nothing to gain from such participation.

After their return to San Diego a court martial was ordered to be held on Marshall, Verdugo and Nocar, the charges being high treason, murder, and robbery.65

Since the local authorities at San Diego had declared martial law, the trials were courts martial conducted by the Fitzgerald Volunteers. Neither city nor county authorities played official roles, but, since some were members of the volunteer company, they still participated. The United States Army commanders in the region, Major Samuel Heintzelman and Lt. Col. John Bankhead Magruder, did not take part in the courts martial; however, counsel for Marshall and the other prisoners was Major Justus McKinstry, U.S. Army. The jury and prosecution were all members of the volunteers.66

The extant records of the courts martial are fragmentary and scattered. The known testimony and statements of J.J. Warner deal only with the attack on his ranch and nowhere does he mention Marshall. Considering that he probably knew Marshall better than any other white man, this omission is odd and unfortunate. The only persons who may have had knowledge of the activities of Marshall and Verdugo during the revolt were Indians. As a consequence, Indians were the pimary witnesses against them. Historian Smythe states that Marshall’s mother-in-law had given the most damaging evidence against him.67 Because state law held that “in no case shall a white man be convicted of any offense upon the testimony of an Indian,” the legality of the trials was questioned by some.68

Marshall’s court martial began on December 9. The statement of sentencing was as follows:

It was ordered (on the ninth day of December 1851) by Captn Cave I. Couts Commander of the San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers that a court martial be held upon William Marshall, and the following members were appointed to attend and sit on the trial: A. Haraszthy, D. B. Kurtz, G. P. Tebbets, J. A. Estudillo, L. A. Franklin, C H. Brinley, R. D. Israel, Chas. Fletcher, C. P. Noell, M. M. Saxton, H. Adams, C. Wasson, G. H. Davis and J. W. Robinson as judge advocate.

Upon which the court met on the same day pursuant to order, and the members of said court duly sworn before the prisoner Marshall, and-furthermore that, he was asked whether he had any objections to any member detailed for this trial, to which he replied — none.

Which upon investigation of the different witnesses and final hearing of the Prisoner’s defense the court found a Verdict of Guilty on the first charge of High Treason against William Marshall and sentenced him accordingly to be hung by the neck until dead. Upon the second charge of being accessory to robbery committed on the property of J. J. Warner — the court found a Verdict of not guilty.

Upon the third charge of being accessory to the murder of four citizens of the U. States — the court found a Verdict of Not Guilty.69

The confession of William Marshall has been a major source for a reconstruction of the events which marked the commencement of the Garra Revolt. Later statements by Indians generally corroborate what Marshall said. In addition to relating his role, Marshall described the various plans of Antonio Garra to unite with the Californians and kill or expel the Americans from southern California. The confession is undated but would appear to have been written on December 9 or 10. Witnesses to the confession were his counsel, Major Justus McKinstry, Lt. Col. John Bankhead Magruder and Philip Crosthwaite. On December 11 Marshall made an additional statement in the presence of his counsel and several others in which he reiterated the truth of his previous testimony. He felt that even “if Antonio was killed the Indians were determined to carry on the war until they [Indians or Americans?] were exterminated.”70 The Indians did not do this, however. Marshall also claimed that certain Californians had instigated the revolt, and that if the Cahuillas joined the revolt, they expected the support of the Mormons at San Bernardino. These charges were later strongly denied. Finally, he claimed that Manuelito, a leading chief of the Luiseno, was in league with Garra, but pretended to support the Americans until the right moment to strike. Marshall stated:

I expect to die and my only object is to atone for my errors as far as lies in my power by telling all I know and putting the Americans on their guard.71

On December 12 the trials were concluded. Both Marshall and Verdugo were found innocent of murder and robbery but guilty of high treason and were ordered to be hanged. Jose Nocar was found to have played no role and was released. Santos Luna perjured himself during the trials and was given twenty-five lashes for it. The next morning, December 13, 1851, it was announced on the plaza that Marshall and Verdugo would be executed at 2 o’clock. A gallows was constructed near the Catholic burying ground and graves dug.72

Father Holbein had been with Marshall and Verdugo most of the morning, during which time Marshall was baptized. Philip Crosthwaite stood as his godfather and Lugarda Dionisia Osuna de Machado as his godmother.73

As the hour of the execution approached people began to congregate in the plaza. Fitzgerald’s Volunteers assembled to escort the prisoners to the gallows. The Herald’s account of the executions is as follows:

(Father Holbein] accompanied them to the gallows, where they received final absolution. They were then informed that a short time would be allowed them, if they wished to make any remarks. Marshall was the first to speak. He said that he was prepared to die and he hoped that his friends, and the people around him, would forgive him, that he trusted in God’s mercy, and hoped to be pardoned for his many transgressions. He still insisted that he was innocent of the crime for which he was about to die. This was about the substance of his remarks, as near as we could learn from those who stood near the scaffold.

Verdugo spoke in Spanish. He acknowledged his guilt and admitted the justness of the sentence passed upon him; said he was ready and willing to yield up his life as a forfeit for his crimes and wickedness. The ropes were then adjusted — the priest approached them for the last time — said some consoling words to them — repeated a final prayer — extended the crucifix, which each kissed several times, when he descended from the wagon, which immediately moved out, leaving the poor unfortunate wretches suspended about five feet from the ground. The fall could not have been more than a foot, at the most, for their necks were not dislocated. Marshall struggled considerably, but the Sonorian [sic] scarcely moved a muscle. Both of them were in their shirt-sleeves, and neither of them hood-winked. Marshall was quite a small sized man, with regular and rather agreeable features, and a head, indicating, phrenologi-cally, great determination. The other was much stouter, with a frame apparently of great power. He was a shade darker than the average of Californians, and had a most brutish countenance. Their arms were pinioned behind. They vibrated slightly when the cart was driven from under them, but after that not a convulsive movement could be seen, although the physician said that they were not dead for some three quarters of an hour after.

After being suspended about an hour and a half, the bodies were cut down and interred in the Catholic burying ground.74

Following the hanging of Marshall and Verdugo, Antonino Garra and other Indians were tried and executed at Rancho del Chino in late December by the volunteers from Los Angeles. At this time an expedition commanded by Major Heintzelman was in the field with over a hundred men. They marched over the mountains through severe winter weather and attacked the Indians at Los Coyotes. The battle was brief and afterwards those Indians present who were believed to have taken part in the attack on Warner’s Ranch and the murder of the Americans at Agua Caliente were tried by a Council of War and executed. The Army force then marched through the heart of the Cahuillas’ high country to Temecula where the headmen and chiefs of the Cahuilla, Serrano, and Luiseno had been ordered to assemble. On January 5, 1852, Dr. O. M. Wozencraft, United States Indian Commissioner, concluded a treaty with them. A few days later Wozencraft also met with the Diegueno leaders at Santa Ysabel and concluded another treaty with them. Neither treaty was subsequently ratified by the United States Senate. Antonio Garra had been taken from Rancho del Chino to San Diego and was tried there in early January. He was found guilty and executed by firing squad. The death of Antonio Garra was the final act of the Garra Revolt. The Indians of southern California never again attempted unified resistance against the Americans.

The story of William Marshall would not be complete without also tracing the lives of his wife and son. In his confession he made the brief statement:75

I have lived with the daughter of Jose Nocar’s as an Indian belonging to Antonino’s [sic] tribe for five years [since 1846]. She has one child by me that is now alive.

Nowhere among the documents concerning the Garra Revolt or elsewhere is Marshall’s wife named. The only child of Jose Nocar mentioned is his daughter, Dominga, but since her son, Jose, was old enough to have been a witness to the murders at Agua Caliente she probably was not Marshall’s wife. Also mentioned in the documents was Francisco, the son-in-law of Jose Nocar, who was probably the husband of Dominga.

Marshall’s wife must be admired for her action during the battle at Los Coyotes. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the Indians fled up the mountainside with the troops in pursuit. As Major Heintzelman described it,

[I] sent a party in pursuit, when the widow of Bill Marshall with a child in her arms came down the side of the mountain asking for a parley, stating that there were two parties and if we would quit firing they would come in.76

The incident was also described by a correspondent of the Los Angeles Star

the pursuit was arrested by the intrepidity of Marshall’s wife; who, amidst a shower of balls, advanced with her child in her arms, crying in Spanish, “Don’t fire!” and promising that her people would all come in if they were pursued no farther, a promise which was made good to the letter.77

Singlehandedly this woman halted the battle and may have saved the lives of many Indians. After this incident, no further reference to her has been found. A little more is known of Marshall’s son, Manuel, however.

In 1852 a Special United States Census for California78 was held in which every possible resident of the state was sought out and counted, this time including Indians. The final entry for San Diego County, following several pages of Indians, is Manuel Marshall, listed as a one year old Creole, which supposedly means “half-breed.” Nothing further is known of this boy’s life except that in 1860 his name appeared in the United States Census returns for San Diego Township.79 At that time he was listed as a nine year old Indian and as a member of the household of Philip Crosthwaite!

The names of Marshall and Crosthwaite have been interlocked several times during this period: the question of arrival in San Diego, as witness to Marshall’s confession, and as his godfather. Were these random incidents, or was Crosthwaite one of those friends Marshall referred to from the gallows? There seems to be no way to determine this now. It is possible that they were friends when Marshall resided in San Diego before going to Agua Caliente. Crosthwaite was two years older than Marshall, and was reputedly very generous. Also in his household in 1860 was Anna Freeman, the orphaned twelve year old daughter of Richard Freeman, an otter hunter. Crosthwaite owned a ranch in Poway Valley at that time, but in 1861 he relocated to San Miguel Ranch near Ensenada, Baja California. He remained there until 1868 when he returned to San Diego, although he kept the ranch. There is no record of whether Manuel Marshall accompanied the Crosthwaite family to Baja California, nor has any further record of him been found.

William Marshall seems to have been hanged for a crime he did not commit, then transformed by later writers into “the Wickedest Man in California.” No entirely satisfactory explanation for the hanging of Marshall is likely to emerge, but some possible explanations seem plausible. Marshall may have been a victim of prejudices because of his marriage with an Indian woman and his life in an Indian village. It appears that in 1851 Marshall was unique in this respect, although within a decade such marriages had become commonplace in the back country of San Diego County. Thus Marshall was culturally separated from other Americans in the region. This separation, together with his close relationship with the Indians, apparently made the Americans suspect him of collusion with the warring Indians. Certainly his survival during the revolt was particularly condemning. Further, the revolt was an extraordinary event. Not since 1775 had southern California Indians achieved sufficient unity to resist the white intruders effectively. We may assume that the Americans, far outnumbered by Indians in the county, would want to place responsibility for the revolt on someone other than the Indians because the Americans could not admit to themselves that the Indians had the capacity to plan and initiate such a movement. Once the charges had been made, the burden was placed on Marshall to prove his innocence. Because of his relative isolation from the American community this was virtually impossible. If Warner had come forward and supported Marshall, he would not have been hanged. Consequently, Warner’s silence was to a great extent responsible for Marshall’s conviction and death.


Western Portion of San Deigo County - 1851



1. Those who have contributed most directly include:

a. Hubert H. Bancroft, History of California. (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), Vol V, p. 567.
b. Millard F. Hudson, “The Pauma Massacre,” Annual Publication of Historical Society of Southern California. (Los Angeles, 1906).
c. William E. Smythe, History of San Diego. 1542-1907. (San Diego: The History Company, 1907), pp. 186-191.
d. James Jasper, “The Wickedest Man in California,” Los Angeles Times Magazine, August 2, 1931.
e. Lorrin L. Morrison, Warner: The Man and the Ranch. (Los Angeles: published by the author, 1962), pp. 27-36, pp. 47-49.
f. Richard F. Pourade, The Silver Dons. (San Diego: Union-Tribune Publishing Company, 1963), pp. 115-116, pp. 178-182.
g. Thomas Hudson, Three Paths Along a River. (Palm Desert: Desert-Southwest Publishers, 1964), p. 89, pp. 113-115.
h. William E. Evans, “The Garra Uprising: Conflict Between San Diego Indians and Settlers in 1851,” California Historical Society Quarterly, December, 1966, p. 342.

2. “Record Book of Mission San Diego de Alcala — Book II,” (Baptisms: baptism of William Marshall December 13, 1851), MS, San Diego Diocesan Office for Apostolic Ministry, Alcala Park, San Diego.

3. “Confession of William Marshall,” in two parts, the first undated, the other dated December 11, 1851. MS, Beattie Collection, Huntington Library, San Marino. Original in Hayes Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley.

4. Alexander Starbuck, History of the American Whale Fishery. (New York: Argosy-Antiquarian Ltd., 1964).

5. Crew list of ship Hope, December 15, 1843, New Bedford custom records, National Archives, Washington, D. C. Crew list of ship Hope, September 12, 1842, Providence customs records, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence.

6. Harold Bradley, The American Frontier in Hawaii: The Pioneers: 1789-1843. (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1942).

7. Ibid. Consular records relating to the relief of seamen at Honolulu and Lahaina do not list William Marshall. National Archives, Washington, D. C.

8. Bancroft, History of California, Vol. IV, p. 731.

9. Starbuck, History of the American Whale Fishery, p. 414.

10. San Diego Union, October 21, 1880. Pamela Tamplain, “Philip Crosthwaite: San Diego Pioneer and Public Servant,” Journal of San Diego History, Summer, 1975, p. 43.

11. “Confession of William Marshall,” Beattie Collection, Huntington Library. Marshall stated, “I have been residing at Agua Caliente since the year ’46,” and, “I have lived with the daughter of Jose Nocar’s as an Indian belonging to Antonio’s tribe for five years [since 1846].”

12. Juan Jose Warner was born Jonathan Trumbull Warner at Lyme, New London County, Connecticut on November 20, 1807. He moved westward for his health, being a trader, trapper, otter hunter, and later, a storekeeper at Los Angeles.

13. Letter, J.J. Warner to T. O. Larkin, June 16, 1846. George P. Hammond, ed., The Larkin Papers. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953), Vol 5, p. 32.

14. William H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego, 30 Congress, 1st Session, House Executive Document No. 41, (Washington: Wendell & Van Benthuysen, 1848), p. 106. The reference to Marshall being a native of New Hampshire is unexplained. Curiously, Warner was listed as a native of New Hampshire in the United States Census of 1850.

15. Hudson, “The Pauma Massacre,” op. cit.


a. John S. Griffin, A Doctor Comes to California, (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1953), p. 52.
b. Helen Pruitt Beattie, “Vida de Un Ranchero,” by Don Jose del Carmen Lugo as told to Thomas Savage 1877. San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 1961, pp. 16-17.
c. Marjorie Tisdale Wolcott, Pioneer Notes from the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, 1849 to 1875. (Los Angeles: Privately printed, 1929), p. 285.

17. “Times Gone By in Alta California,” Recollections of Juana Machado Wrightington, Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, Vol. XLI, No. 3, 1959.

18. Wolcott, Pioneer Notes…, p. 285. Also see Griffin, A Doctor Comes to California, p. 52.

19. Juan Verdugo’s name has contributed a fair share of the confusion involving personalities during the Garra Revolt. Some, such as Mrs. Wrightington, confused him with Antonio Garra. In documents pertaining to the Garra Revolt Juan Verdugo is referred to as Berno, Bera, Berro, Berra, and even Verde. Yet significantly, he was correctly called Verdugo at his court martial. Hudson (p. 18) spoke of Marshall’s companion as Iguera, phonetically very close to the others. It is generally accepted that Verdugo was a Californian, but at times was referred to as a Sonoran or Indian.



20. Antonio Garra said: “I am a San Luis Indian; was baptized at the Mission of San Luis Rey and from my earliest recollections have lived with, and been connected with the San Luis Indians, have had authority over only a portion of the San Luis Rey Indians . .was appointed by General Kearny, Commander in Chief of the San Luis Rey Indians some time in 1847. . . ” See, “Confession of Antonio Garra . .,” December 13, 1851 at Rancho del Chino. Enclosure letter of Captain Lovell to Headquarters, Pacific Division, December 20, 1851. National Archives, Washington, D. C.

21. “San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers,” Couts Collection, MS, Huntington Library, San Marino. Also see San Diego Herald, December 11, 1851, December 18, 1851, and January 17, 1852.

22. Bancroft, History of California, Vol IV, p. 731.

23. Jasper, “The Wickedest Man in California,” op. cit.

24. Hudson, “The Pauma Massacre,” op. cit., pp. 18 and 21.

25. “Old Mission San Juan Capistrano: Birth Registry: 1776-1824,” Misison San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, California.

26. “Record Book of Mission San Diego de Alcala — Book I,” (Marriages), MS, San Diego Diocesan Office for Apostolic Ministry.

27. San Diego Herald, December 18, 1851.

28. “Index: Spanish and Mexican Documents of San Diego County, now in the Surveyor General’s office,” San Diego History Center, Serra Museum, San Diego. The documents were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906.

29. Bancroft, History of California, Vol. IV, p. 731.

30. Griffin, A Doctor Comes to California, p. 82.

31. General Kearny, Governor of California, to Henry Fitch, Alcalde of San Diego, April 27, 1847. California and New Mexico, 31 Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Document No. 18, p. 291.

32. General Kearny, Governor of California, to J.J. Warner, April 27, 1847, Ibid.

33. Benjamin B. Harris, The Gila Trail. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960), pp. 95.

34. See Note 11.

35. George W. B. Evans, The Mexican Gold Trail. (San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1945), pp. 170-171.

36. Wolcott, Pioneer Notes. . ., pp. 52-53.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. United States Census, 1850. San Diego History Center. .

40. Smythe, The History of San Diego, p. 232.

41. “First Assessment San Diego County (1850).” MS, San Diego Historical Society.

42. Letter from Agostin Haraszthy, Sheriff of San Diego County, to ‘Messrs Lewis and Rand,’ owners of “Los Angeles Star,” December 22, 1851. Los Angeles Star, December 20, 1851 [sic], Beattie Collection, Huntington Library. Original in Hayes Collection, Bancroft Library.

43. Letter from Major Heintzelman to Headquarters, Pacific Division, November 28, 1851. National Archives.

44. Los Angeles Star, November 22, 1851. Beattie Collection, Huntington Library. Original in Hayes Collection, Bancroft Library.

45. Levi Slack, Fiddler, and Ridgeley.

46. Joseph Manning, living at Agua Caliente, had been employed by Warner as his ranch overseer. He was from Missouri and about 22 years old. See United States Census, 1850. San Diego History Center.

47. “Confession of William Marshall.” Beattie Collection, Huntington Library.

48. Ibid.

49. “Confession of Antonio Garra,” National Archives.

50. San Diego Herald, December 18, 1851.

51. Testimony of Antonio Garra, January 10-17, 1852, “San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers,” Couts Collection, MS, Huntington Library.

52. “Proceedings of a Council of War convened in the valley Los Coyotes, December 23, 1851.” Enclosure in letter Major Heintzelman to Headquarters, Pacific Division, January 11, 1852. National Archives.

53. Letter Sheriff Haraszthy to Governor McDougal, November 26, 1851. Published in Alta California, December 3, 1851.

54. Letter Major Heintzelman to Headquarters, Pacific Division, November 28, 1851. National Archives. Also see San Diego Herald, November 27, 1851.

55. Alta California, December 3, 1851.

56. “Confession of William Marshall”

57. Testimony of Santos Luna at Court Martial of Juan Verdugo, December 12, 1851, “San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers.”

58. Testimony of Jose Nocar at Court Martial of Juan Verdugo.

59. “Confession of William Marshall”

60. Testimony of Santos Luna at Court Martial of Juan Verdugo.

61. Testimony of Jose Nocar at Court Martial of Juan Verdugo.

62. San Diego Herald, December 11, 1851.

63. Ibid.

64. Los Angeles Star, December 13, 1851, Beattie Collection, Huntington Library. Original in Hayes Collection, Bancroft Library.

65. “San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers.”

66. Ibid. Also see San Diego Herald, December 11, 1851.

67. Smythe, The History of San Diego, p. 186.

68. Robert F. Heizer and Alan Almquist, The Other Californians. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), p. 213.

69. “San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers.”

70. “Confession of William Marshall.”

71. Ibid.

72. San Diego Herald, December 18, 1851.

73. “Record Book of Mission San Diego de Alcala — Book II,” (Baptisms).

74. San Diego Herald, December 18, 1851.

75. “Confession of William Marshall.”

76. Major Heintzelman to Headquarters, Pacific Division, December 21, 1851. National Archives.

77. Los Angeles Star, January 24, 1852. Beattie Collection, Huntington Library. Original in Hayes Collection, Bancroft Library.

78. Microfilm copy in San Diego Public Library.

79. United States Census, 1860. San Diego History Center.

Leland E. Bibb received his A. A. degree (1969) from Grossmont College, a B.A. degree in Asian Studies (1971) and a M.A. degree in Public Administration (1973) from San Diego State University. His article published here was an award-winning paper presented at the San Diego History Center’s 1974 Institute of History. His article entitled “The Location of the Indian Village of Temecula” appeared in this journal in the Summer, 1972, issue.