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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 18: SON OF THE DEVIL

In 1833 a change was in the wind. The Missions continued to be independent of the new Mexican Government. The church had acquired enormous power over the natives and the Missions still owned most of the land in California. There had to be change. The trigger event of the change was caused by a bad priest; Father Jose Mercado.

The ‘Mission problem’ came to a head in November 1833. Governor Figueroa wished to make peace with the Native Americans. He persuaded a delegation of fifteen Native Americans to come to a meeting at the San Rafael Mission. The Indian’s leader was a man named Toribo. At that same time, the previous priest died, and a new priest replaced him; Father Mercado.

Mercado was soon hated and despised by all for his cruelty and ruthlessness. His hatred of the Indians was plain, and he demonstrated this with harsh punishments for the native’s least infraction. Father Jose Mercado became to be known as the ‘Son of the Devil.’

When Toribo and his friends came to the mission, Father Mercado used his church authority over the troops at hand and threw the Peace Delegation in jail on a trumped up charge of ‘robbery.

Forty-one Indians escaped their prison and Mercado sent troops after them. In the capture twenty-one Indians were killed, and another twenty were made prisoner. When news of the imprisonment and the bloody fight reached the Governor, he went ballistic.

“Mercado has wrecked my Peace Summit,” he raged.

 Apoplectic with fury he sent for Mariano Vallejo.

“Place Mercado under arrest,” he ordered Vallejo. “Do what you can to apologize to the Indians. I must have my Peace Mission.”

Mercado’s mass-murder changed many things. Vallejo made peace with Toribo, and the Indians and the Missions were placed under civil control. As his reward, the Governor gave Mariano Vallejo a portion of Southwestern Sonoma County as his own private ranch. With the Governor’s gift of lands in his pocket, Mariano Vallejo sent brother Salvador to scout the area around Clear Lake.

“Find out if the land is a good place to bring cattle,” he told his brother.

Lake County and Clear Lake was a good place for his herds, and he sent brother Salvador to Lake County with a large herd of long-horned cattle. The land near Lower Lake, in Bachelor Valley, and all around Clear Lake had good pasture and water.

Not only was it good pasture, they liked it so well in 1839 Salvador and a third Vallejo brother applied for a land grant. The huge block of land was known as the Laguna Lupyoma Land Grant. Mariano’s high-flown plans as a land baron were not to be. Mexican courts declared the grant to be illegal. Despite the defeat, Salvador continued to move several hundred long-horned cattle into the land around Clear Lake for the good pasture.

The Major Domo of the cowmen and ten Vaqueros, who had herded the cattle from Sonoma for Vallejo, set to work. They built two corrals with stockades in Big Valley. One stockade was between the Dudley Rickabaugh and the Fred Collins ranches and the second stockade, built later, was between the Big Valley Club House and Levy Slough.

The men in charge of the cattle herd, by this time and with experience, had seen the advantage of friendliness toward the Pomo. Built with the labor of captive Indians, construction was quickly completed. 

Chief Solano, caught kidnapping the children of other tribes to replenish those of his tribe that had died of disease, and been arrested by Vallejo, was released from prison. The rift between Solano and Vallejo was mended, and Solano was given charge of Vallejo’s garrison.

 Mariano Vallejo took advantage of Mexican law, which allowed forced conscription into military service for the Mexican Government. The Natives he had decided to use were Indians that had been ‘civilized’ and were friendly to the Mexicans.

In April, some of Vallejo’s Indian guards, sent press-gangs to the Pomo tribes to force the Indians into military service. With not a sliver of enthusiasm for the idea and with no interest in fighting for the Whites against their tribal brothers, they plotted to anticipate the order and attack the Solano Garrison. The arrangement was not exactly what the Indians had meant when peace had been declared earlier. They had agreed not to fight the Mexicans. They did not mean they were willing to fight for the Mexicans. They decided to revolt.

Next Week: Prelude to Massacre. 

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Website: genepaleno.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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