|The Green Flat Diggings Murders|
On July 10, 1850 a little more than a month after the Foreign Miners Tax had gone into
effecta mob gathered at the Sonora home of Justice Barry, demanding action on reports that
two murders had been committed at Green Flat Diggings, about eight miles from Sonora.
Barry arraigned the prisoners, three Mexican Indians and a Mexican. Witnesses told of finding the prisoners engaged in the act of burning a tent and the bodies of two men. The prisoners claimed that their custom was to burn the dead and that the bodies, which had been dead several days, had begun to smell.
The mob insisted on an immediate trial, and neither Sheriff George Work nor Judge Marvin could persuade them otherwise. The mob elected a judge, empaneled a jury, and a rope was placed around the neck of each defendent. The defendents were then led to a hill near Sonora where they were tried, judged to be guilty, and sentenced to be hung.
The first up was the Mexican, who was given a few moments to pray. At this time, Judges Marvin, Tuttle, and Radcliffe, together with the County Clerk, arrived and flung themselves into the crowd as a diversion. Sheriff's deputies then grabbed the prisoners and took them to jail. A trial was set for a few days later.
On the day of the trial a mob, armed with shotguns, rifles, revolvers, knives, and lances arrived at the Courthouse, all highly excited, and demanded immediate action. That evening hundreds more came, making the mob nearly two thousand armed men.
During the arraignment, a guard dropped his gun, which fired. Many men then drew their guns or brandished their bowie knives. Guns were fired, accidentally or otherwise. There was a mad rush to get out of the courtroom. The proceedings were postponed.
Two days later, the trial was held and, there being no real evidence against the prisoners, they were acquitted and released.
Although the murders were seemingly real, the belief that these particular defendents were responsible and the desire to quickly hang them had apparently been created only by a general feeling of insecurity and a distrust of Mexicans among the Americans.
(Based on the account in H.O. Lang, A History of Tuolumne County, California, B.F. Alley, San Francisco, 1882. Reprinted 2000 by the Tuolumne County Historical Society.)