Knowing the work required to maintain a Ranchero and the gold-seeking that lay ahead for all of them, Ben Kelsey reminded his friends of their task.

“We ain’t gonna get either one by digging in the ground like dogs. The first thing we got to do is get more men to work for us.”

Kelsey’s remembered statement was no empty promise. The brothers were hard men; ruffians of the worse sort. The men were uneducated, vicious, and intolerant of anything and anyone who stood in their way. To a man, they knew what they had to do.

 “The best place to get men to work our holdings and build us a house is right in those villages nearby along the edge of the lake,” brother Andrew suggested.

With the labor of enslaved Pomo, Rancho Lupyomi was built on edge of Clear Lake, where Kelseyville now stands. Kelsey’s’ headquarters was conveniently situated between two of the native villages; the Kulanapo and the Habenapo tribes. To make the ranch complete with better living quarters and prison to hold their Native American slaves, the Kelsey’s forced the Indians to build a large, rambling two-story adobe structure. With a larger ranch house, a virtual prison for their captives, and a corral for the animals, they were ready to raise cattle and horses to supply the hungry Gold seekers and the miners with horseflesh and beef.

With their partner, Charles Stone, the brothers set out to fill that need and enlist the help they needed. They persuaded all the Native Americans from Ukiah, Potter Valley, and the tribes at the head of the Lake to come to their ranch. Of the group that gathered, they chose twenty-six strong young Native Americans. Gathering provisions, they took the twenty-six workers and headed to the Gold mines along the Feather River.

Chief Augustine, a tribal leader, had been chosen to act as interpreter. He understood some Spanish and English. Once in the Gold Fields and settled on their claim, the Natives began to work the mine with good success. In one month, they gathered a bag of gold for their employers ‘as long as your arm’. When summer was over, and the work was finished, Kelsey paid his workers with a pair of overalls each, a hickory-stained shirt, and a red handkerchief. Then the party started for Clear Lake and home.

Chief Augustine later told others about Kelsey and Stone’s treatment of the Pomo.

“Stone and Kelsey tied up the Native Americans if they found them hunting on the ranch. They abused them. They whipped them with strong withes that came from the mountain sides. The withes were kept about the house for that purpose. The Native Americans worked well and did not complain.”

When a more permanent dwelling for the Kelsey Ranch buildings had to be made, Stone and Kelsey gathered all the young men they could find, four or five hundred, to build a big Rancheria near Clear Lake. The Native Americans worked for two months building the adobe quarters, enlisting men and women of the tribes. An example of the penurious of their masters, for all this large number of people, only one beef was killed each day to feed them. They had no bread or anything else to eat except the meat. Kelsey continued his abuse for the least offense. Native Americans were whipped for visiting friends, tied up in the sweat house, and kept standing for a week.

The captive’s lot was harsh and their white masters were not gentle. It grew worse. The Mexicans had abused them earlier and now the Gringos made their lives unbearable. They applied the most brutal and repressive measures to get the last ounce of work from their captives. Using starvation, beatings and murder, the Native Americans were forced to do the work demanded of them under pain of the lash or other abuse. The captives were maltreated with terrible whippings on the slightest excuse.

They raped the Indian’s wives and daughters and continued the abuse in other ways. To while away the time on Rancho Lupyomi, the record tells us that the three men took pot shots with their rifles at their workmen to entertain themselves and their visitors.

“Dance, damn you,” Ben was quoted as saying at such merrymaking.

The shooting was to make them dance about to avoid having a bullet in the legs or feet.

Next Episode: Unbearable Treatment

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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