Item #List2440 A Long Account of a Violent Attempt to Occupy Land in Chihuahua by a Canadian Citizen Working for a Plumas County-Based Mining Company, 1883. Mexico - Land Schemes - Mining - California - Misdeeds, Unknown Author.
A Long Account of a Violent Attempt to Occupy Land in Chihuahua by a Canadian Citizen Working for a Plumas County-Based Mining Company, 1883.
A Long Account of a Violent Attempt to Occupy Land in Chihuahua by a Canadian Citizen Working for a Plumas County-Based Mining Company, 1883.
[Mexico - Land Schemes - Mining - California - Misdeeds] Unknown Author

A Long Account of a Violent Attempt to Occupy Land in Chihuahua by a Canadian Citizen Working for a Plumas County-Based Mining Company, 1883.

Quincy: 1883. 8 x 6 inches. Twenty page letter by an unknown author written to his mother. Some tears, quite legible, very good overall. Very Good. Item #List2440

[Warning - this description contains violent content and racist language]

A long, highly unusual and and descriptive letter written by an employee of a mining company based in Quincy who leaves San Francisco for Guaymas before heading into the mountains on a very violent journey in which he attempts to occupy land in the hills outside of Guaymas based on an incorrect assumption that his Canadian citizenship will allow him to circumvent Mexican laws regarding American seizure of land. After getting arrested and possibly extorted by Mexican forces, he is eventually freed when a British captain finds him and persuades the Governor to formally charge him with a crime. He is acquitted in court in Chihuahua, and closes the letter by lamenting the lack of opportunity in California and the United States more broadly, as he is eventually sent back to California unsuccessful in his endeavors.

He begins the letter by describing his employment by a Plumas County-based company, which we are unable to identify, before describing his arrival in Guaymas and the trip into the mountains. He writes, “I hired a couple ‘hard cases’ to take charge and look after the greasers - I had 20 of them - as a guard. Of al. the incorrigible lot of thieves and cutthroats commend me to the average Mexican for the first three days out we had to keep watch… to prevent the scoundrels from deserting with the whole train and goods, but after we got them in the mountains we had more control over them, particuarly after Maxwell one of my white desperadoes caught “Jesus” (every other Lousy Indians named ‘Jesus’ or after some other saint) trying to sneak off the fifth night with his mustang and two pack mules, for he took a short way of stopping him, which was simply shooting him. This had a good effect on the other fellows.”

After he arrives at his destination in the mountains - in an unnamed town, he then describes building a “fort or hacienda… so that in case of attack I could make a good fight or ‘hold the fort.’” After sending notice of his arrival to Guaymas, a brigade of soldiers arrives to arrest him based on charges of “[taking] possession of Mexican soil, [building] a fort and [holding] it with armed men.” He is then imprisoned in his house and put under guard, and though he thinks he could have bribed any of the guards and escaped to Guaymas and back home, he does not due to the three thousand dollars of the company’s money deposited at the “German bankers” in Guaymas. Choosing to stay, he writes a letter to the agent at Quincy, which is burned by the guard. He writes another letter, puts it in a bottle with directions for a carrier, and positions his hammock at the edge of his fort, waiting to pass the letter to someone outside the walls. His chance comes when a number of British ships enter the port and he is able to pass his note to a commander of the HMS Comus while visiting the town square with his captors. The captain of the ship, possibly James East, eventually has a meal with the author and his captors, making inquiry into the author’s detention a the hands of the Governor. He writes, “ the captain gentrly requested a little explanation from his Excellency as to my detention for months without a charge being made against me… his excellency of course was much astonisthed that my letters had never reached their destination, that was the only reason that I had been detained (of course the old rascal did not hint at the $3000 which he had hoped I would have given him long ago…).”

The Captain is successful in securing the author’s freedom, at which point the author returns to Guaymas and eventually takes up residence in the house of the banker, a Mr. Goldberg, who is holding the company’s funds. He writes to his company in California, and awaits formal charges from ‘Don Cavallo,’ which eventually arrive. He leaves for Chihuahua and is “met with quite a crowd of English-American and Californians, who were quite ready to back [him] in anything [he] wished…” He is charged with illegal seizure of land, and states in the letter that he had been under the impression he had allowed to take it as he was not a resident of the United States but instead “had sworn allegiance to Victoria (it is later revealed that he is Canadian). It becomes clear that the company had attempted to use him in this land grab plot due to his not being a US citizen. The court dismisses his case and returns his money, stating that he had been ignorant of the law, after which he returns to California and explains the situation to his bosses, who put him on a different case involving a quartz mine. He is saddened by his inability to make money and relates this to his mother, stating “I am getting used to failure to make money, after all I do desire great riches for myself as my tastes are simple enough if I became a California Banana King tomorrow I would probably be in the interior of Africa in six months, I would like to get some money for you though…”

The letter ends with talk of friends and family back home in Canada. The author offers the following advice to a family member considering coming to California, “if he has not money sufficient to start in some business, or to take him out of the country again he will be sorry that he ever came. If he wishes to waste a dozen years of his life in learning a totally new way of living let him come. But let him go to Montana he will bet all he wants of a new country there. California is fearfully overcrowded with fellows from the east allured by stores of sudden acquired wealth, where one succeeds 1000 fail. California is after all a poor country.” He signs the letter as John.

Overall a fascinating account of a failed attempt at a land grab by a Canadian citizen working for a California mining company in Plumas County - unusual in its detail and scope.

Price: $1,500.00