Santa Cruz County History - Crime & Public Safety

"Charole"-- Part 3
by Phil Reader


Word of the killing spread quickly through Santa Cruz and before long there was a large posse in the saddle led by Sheriff Ambrose Calderwood and his deputies Albert Jones and Charlie Lincoln. They went out to Arana Gulch, located the body and sent it back to town while they questioned some of the Californios in the Live Oak district. From a farmer living along the Soquel Road, they learned the names of Jose Rodriguez, Faustino Lorenzana, and Pedro Lorenzana.

Photograph of Ambrose Calderwood
Ambrose Calderwood

In the darkness of night, the posse, by now over a hundred men strong - heavily armed and carrying lanterns - rode through Branciforte and stopped at the Rodriguez adobe. The angry group was met at the door by Guadalupe Rodriguez. Her husband Facundo was away working in the Santa Clara Valley at the time. Behind her stood six small children, including her three sons, Narciso, Garcia, and Philadelphia. She was well known to the members of the posse. Her maiden name had been Robles. She was a daughter of Jose Antonio Robles, one of the first settlers of Branciforte and sister to Avelino and Fulgencio Robles, wild young men who had met their deaths at the end of a gun during an earlier decade. She was a fiercely protective mother who had always pampered her handsome son, Jose.

She disliked "gringos" and on this night she made no attempt to hide it. When they pushed their way into her home, she charged them screaming, swinging, and kicking. Her young children also joined in the assault. Guadalupe was bound and carried away to be tried later for attempted murder. Jose, found hiding in the back of the house, was also taken and placed in a cell with his mother. It was a sight that the other children would long remember.

Then the posse went next door to the home of Bernarda Juarez y Lorenzana and searched the adobe for the two Lorenzanas. Not able find them there, they arrested Bernarda's son Pedro Juarez on the charge of being an accessory to murder, claiming that he had helped the men escape.

They then continued on up into Blackburn Gulch to the ranch of Mattias Lorenzana just off of Vine Hill Road. Mattias, a brother of Faustino's, was married to Maria Concepcion Rodriguez, eldest daughter of Facundo and Guadalupe Rodriguez. Both were also arrested and hauled away, leaving five small children unattended. But no sign of the two killers was found so the posse went back to town.

Most of the mob was still milling around the plaza when word was received that Faustino and Pedro Lorenzana had been seen heading out across country towards the beach at San Andreas. Within minutes Calderwood and Jones with a dozen hand-picked men were galloping along the Soquel Road in pursuit.

A short time later they were following the Lorenzana's trail up the beach for about a mile until it veered northward, striking out across the farmlands. It quickly became obvious that the pair were heading towards Whiskey Hill, so the posse hurried on. Later that afternoon they found Pedro Lorenzana hiding in an old adobe near Corralitos. He surrendered without a fight and made a full confession on the spot. He was then handcuffed and taken back to Santa Cruz where he joined the others in jail.

Photograph of Deputy Albert Jones
Deputy Albert Jones

Deputy Jones was dispatched to Whiskey Hill in an attempt to apprehend the other outlaw, but he received no cooperation from the residents of the village. Meanwhile Faustino had stolen a another horse and on this fresh mount sped further ahead of his pursuer, so all that Jones got for his trouble was a glimpse of him as he made his escape into the Santa Cruz Mountains.

There were seven prisoners now crowding into the small wooden jail up on Mission Hill. Sheriff Calderwood began to hear all kinds of rumors. Some said that an attempt would be made by the local Californios to free the prisoners, while others claimed that the Americans were planning to march on the jail and lynch Rodriguez and Lorenzana. To prevent either of these from occurring, the sheriff decided to separate the killers. Jose Rodriguez was sent over to the Santa Clara County jail where he would remain until his trial.

For the next few months emotions ran high around Santa Cruz County. The local newspapers printed the usual number of bigoted articles which only served to fan the flames of vigilantism by pointing the finger of suspicion at all "greasers" and urging the citizens to do what was necessary to rid the community of "undesirable" elements. A vigilance committee under the leadership of Watsonville resident Matt Tarpy prowled unchecked about the area terrorizing any poor Spaniard who happened to fall into their hands.

One day they caught Juan Arana on the Soquel Road and hauled him off of his horse and surrounded him with guns drawn.

"You're a god damn horse thief!", growled Tarpy.

He looked around at his men and then continued,

"He don't look much like the fellow we're after, boys, but let's string him up on general principles anyhow, so if anymore horses are stolen nobody can say that this greaser did it, an if he should steal a horse after we let him go we'd be blamed for it. What d'ye say, boys?"

Arana got down on his knees and begged for his life. In the back of the crowd he spied a man he had known from childhood. The man implored his fellows to spare the young Spaniard, reasoning that nothing would be gained by taking his life. Finally the vigilantes agreed to let him go.

Lawmen from up and down the State were on the lookout for Faustino Lorenzana. On March 18, California Governor Frederick Low authorized a $500 reward for his capture and the County of Santa Cruz upped the ante by offering a $300 bounty of its own. The $800 total made him the most sought-after bandit in the State at the time.

The Rodriguez and Lorenzana families languished in jail for almost three months before their trials were finally held during the May Session of the County Court. The first action taken by the jury was to indict Faustino Lorenzana, Jose Rodriguez, and Pedro Lorenzana for the murder of Jack Sloan. Then Guadalupe Rodriguez was tried for assault with intent to commit murder. The Jury found her not guilty after being out for only fifteen minutes. Next, Pedro Juarez, charged as an accessory to murder, was tried and acquitted, but an indictment for grand larceny was lodged against him when he was unable to produce a bill of sale for a horse found in his possession when arrested. The panel declared him guilty and he was sentenced to a term of three years at San Quentin. Finally all of the indictments against Mattias and Concepcion Lorenzana were dismissed on a motion by District Attorney Edmund Pew.

Meanwhile, Pedro Lorenzana sat in his cell and waited as his lawyers were granted one postponement after another. On the night of June 1, 1865, he and another prisoner, a slippery character named "Jim Bones" Allen escaped from jail by sawing through the bars on the door. Lorenzana escorted Allen safely to the San Jose Road (Graham Hill Road) before he returned willingly to jail.

About two weeks later, the jailor who was sleeping in a small room attached to the jail, was awakened by Pedro, who was heard rattling the door to his cell and shouting that the jail was on fire. Upon investigation, it was found that indeed the building was burning and the deputy had just enough time to release the frightened inmate before the flames completely consumed the old jail. Sheriff Calderwood suspected arson although he was never able to find any evidence to support that belief.

Pedro, who was the only prisoner at the time, was locked up in a room on the second floor of the Hugo Hihn flat-iron building which was then being used as a temporary courthouse, and an armed guard was posted in front of his door. One of those who was stationed there was Uriah Sloan, brother of the murdered man.

A few nights later during Sloan's shift a group of hooded men surged up the stairs and overpowered the guard - who put up no resistance. The mob broke into Lorenzana's makeshift cell and dragged him down Willow Street to the wharf. They tied a weight to his legs and threw him into the Bay. It was a clean operation, no witnesses and no body.

Charole, Part 4.

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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