Santa Cruz County History - Crime & Public Safety

"Charole"-- Part 2
by Phil Reader


When the grand jury convened in early February, 1860, an indictment for assault with a deadly weapon was found against him. The Lorenzana family hired the redoubtable Joe Skirm to represent Faustino in court. The flamboyant attorney picked apart the indictment, claiming that when it was drawn up the defendant's Christian name was incorrectly given, the place where the crime was supposedly committed was not stated, nor was the weapon used in the alleged assault described. After these technical points were raised, the court had no other option but to dismiss the charges. Lorenzana was a free man and he would never again see the inside of a jail.

He then joined a band of horse thieves and cattle rustlers who were working the Monterey Bay area. Their number included his cousin Tiburcio Vasquez, who had recently emerged from San Quentin where he served a term for grand larceny. They drove their herds of stolen stock down to the southern counties where they were sold, and during the return trip they would steal horses and cattle along the way and peddle them here. This was to become Lorenzana's trade mark.

The year 1864 found Faustino and Vasquez in the Santa Clara Valley trying their hand at gambling and other petty crimes among the miners at the New Almaden mines. On the night of June 4, 1864, they sat in a saloon playing cards when Joseph Pelligrini, a butcher doing business at the Enriquita Mine, walked into the place. The two men could see that the Italian was flush, so when he left the place they followed him home.

It was about 11 o'clock, while Pelligrini was preparing to retire for the night when Lorenzana and Vasquez broke into the house. A terrible struggle ensued during which the butcher was shot and stabbed several times. They robbed him of $400 and hurriedly left.

The following morning the murder was discovered and Santa Clara County Sheriff John Hicks Adams was called in. Adams, a very competent lawman, called for an inquest. At the hearing he found that he needed an interpreter because none of those to be questioned could speak English. The only people around who were bi-lingual, were none other than Faustino Lorenzana and Tiburcio Vasquez, who they were called upon to interpret.

Photograph of John Hicks Adams
John Hicks Adams

Needless to say the inquest found that "the deceased came to his death from a pistol bullet fired by some person or persons unknown." A few days later, Sheriff Adams received information which led him to the conclusion that the murder had been committed by Lorenzana and Vasquez. But he did not deem the evidence sufficient to warrant an arrest and by then Vasquez had moved on to Sonoma County and Lorenzana returned to Santa Cruz.

Back home, Faustino divided his time between Branciforte and Whisky Hill, getting by as best he could. On Wednesday, February 8, 1865, a fandango was held at the Juan Perez adobe which was located at the end of Garfield Street on the east bank of the San Lorenzo River (near the present site of the County Government Center). Among those attending the festivities were the Lorenzana and Rodriguez boys from the pueblo. Also there was 25 year old Juan Arana, who lived in the Live Oak district above the gulch which now bears the family name.

During the evening a fight broke out between Lorenzana and Arana. The latter pulled out a knife and slashed Faustino across the shoulder and arm. Being unarmed, he wisely withdrew vowing revenge upon Arana.

However, he did not have to wait very long to carry out his threat because on the evening of Saturday, February 11, he and two other men - his nephew Pedro Lorenzana, and Jose Rodriguez, a neighbor - rode out to Arana Gulch and stationed themselves in a grove of trees next to the bridge at the bottom of the gulch. Their plan was to ambush Juan Arana as he returned home after working in the woods.

Pedro was the 18 year old son of Jose Jesus Lorenzana, Faustino's eldest brother. He was a luckless boy who would blindly follow his uncle anywhere and on any adventure. At 15, he had stolen a neighbor's horse to attend a dance at Monterey and was subsequently arrested for grand larceny. But Pedro was freed when the neighbor refused to press charges.

The other man who rode with them that night was Jose Rodriguez, son of Facundo and Guadalupe Rodriguez and a grandson of Don Alejandro Rodriguez of Rancho Encinalito. At 18 he was already a handsome, strapping lad standing well over six feet tall and weighing about two hundred pounds. He was both strong and smart, and in his belt he carried two pistols.

At sometime between 8 and 9 o'clock they heard the clatter of horses' hoofs starting across the wooden bridge. Peering out from behind their shelter, they were disappointed to see that it was not Juan Arana, but two yankees who were passing by. So they pulled back and waited. The two riders were John W. Towne, County Supervisor from the Soquel district, and his brother-in-law, Jack Sloan. As they were crossing the bridge their horses were startled upon glimpsing the men in the trees.

"Who the hell are you?", Sloan demanded of the three men.

At this Faustino emerged from the trees, drew his revolver, and fired a warning shot into the air. The report of the pistol sent the American's horses galloping up the hill and out of the gulch.

The Californios, realizing that they had now missed their chance at revenge, started back towards Branciforte. After they had ridden about one hundred and fifty yards they heard a horseman behind them. It was Jack Sloan.

When Towne and Sloan had finally recovered control over their mounts, they were near the rim of the gulch where the lower road to Soquel Landing branched off. Then quite unexpectedly, Jack Sloan, a veteran of the Mexican War, who was unarmed, decided to return. Towne, knowing that his companion was a foul-tempered man, tried to persuade him from doing such a rash thing. But Sloan could not be swayed and returned to the gulch alone.

Upon seeing the three men moving along the bottom of the creek bed, Sloan rode up and demanded to know who they were. Getting no response, he began beating them with a coiled lariat, demanding that they identify themselves.

Finally Faustino turned around with his revolver drawn and replied,

"You son of a bitch, I'll kill you anyhow."

But Sloan grabbed his arm, preventing him from firing.

"Help me boys!", shouted Lorenzana.

Jose Rodriguez was the first one into action. He rode over and shot Sloan twice, once in the chest and once in the arm. The American fell from his horse freeing Lorenzana, who immediately fired a bullet into Sloan's groin. It was a mortal wound and within fifteen minutes he bled to death. The assailants dashed back up the hill towards Branciforte.

Charole, Part 3.

From: It Is Not My Intention to Be Captured. Copyright 1991 Phil Reader. Reproduced with the permission of Phil Reader. Photographs courtesy of Phil Reader.

View similarly tagged articles:

Arana Gulch, Branciforte, criminals, murder, trials, vigilantes


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