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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 19: PRELUDE TO MASSACRE

In April of 1840, some of Vallejo’s Indian guards sent press-gangs to the Pomo tribes to force the Indians into military service. 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.

Before the Indians could act, the plans for the revolt were overheard by a young Californio boy, who understood the Pomo language. The spy alerted Solano’s garrison to the impending attack and Chief Solano and his soldiers were ready when it came; the rebel Indians were defeated.

After a drum-head courts-martial, Chief Solano pronounced sentence. He made an example of the ringleaders. Eleven of the conspirators were executed by firing squad in the Sonoma town square; the opening round on the blood-letting to follow, a prelude to the Temescal Massacre.

The Temescal Massacre stands out from other crimes against the Native Americans for wanton cruelty and viciousness. What you are about to read, an account of the Temescal Massacre, is a combination of several, supposedly, eye-witnesses accounts. In the same way, the author tried to do for the reports of the Bloody Island Massacre and the Cache Creek War, this report is based on the best and most likely combination of stories from the four persons and witnesses, who told this tale.

There were four narrators; Juan Bourges, T. Hittall, Charles Brown, and E. A. Sherman. Brown and Bourges said they were there. Hittall was a historian, and we do not know from where he received his information. Although E.A. Sherman claimed to be an eye-witness, but this is not certain.

The most credible data comes from Bourges and Brown. Both rode with Vallejo during the five days of the expedition. Juan Bourges, who was thirty-six at the time, served many years at the San Francisco Presidio and later assisted Salvador Vallejo as his right-hand man. Brown fought as a member of the Vallejo expedition.

The author saw a photograph of Salvador Vallejo. Vallejo is the perfect picture of a well-dressed Spaniard or Mexican official of the times complete with high collar and cravat. He was, at that time, about forty-five or fifty. His hair is thick, curly and black with sideburns that grew nearly to his chin. His eyes are dark, his brows are thick, his mouth is wide with lips that are thin. His fleshy face has a ski-jump nose and strong chin. Along with his seated position, as he holds up one finger in the photo to emphasize some point, Salvador completes the picture of a man completely sure of himself.

The summer of 1841 ushered in the events of the fighting and the massacre that followed. Salvador Vallejo, then a captain in the Mexican Army in California, owned two large Rancheros. One was in the Napa Valley (A southern part of Lake County near Clear Lake) and that ranch, which had grown a large crop of wheat and barley, was ready for harvest. The tool used to harvest grain was a cutting sickle made of an oxen’s dried rib-bone. The bone was sharpened to an edge and nicked to become a fine-toothed saw. He had a waiting harvest; he had the tools for the harvest, all that remained to complete a good harvest were the workers. That became a problem.

Vallejo also owned a second large Ranchero near Lower Lake. This spread of land was where he kept most of his horses and cattle. From that Ranchero, Vallejo sent messengers into the Clear Lake Valley, where there were several Native tribal villages, to ask the Indians to help him harvest his grain. The Indians refused. They wanted no part of the operation. 

Next, he sent a detachment of Mexican troops; about eighty Native American Auxiliaries and about eighty armed ranch owners that had ranches in Northern California and around Sonoma. Vallejo’s intention was firm. He decided to bring the Indians back by force to his and the other ranches to harvest the crops.

Next Week: A Place of Death. 

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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