Commentary by John Vonderlin
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The 1883 book, “San Mateo County, California, Geography, Topography, Geology, Climatography, and Description,” has only a few short sections about the Coastside. Strangely, the most extensive part about the Coastside deals with Pescadero and most of that deals with local crimes and the punishments dealt out for their commission. Here’s an interesting example of how crime was dealt with in the earliest days in this region, where there were no police to arrest someone and no jail to put them in even. A little “Frontier Justice” was in order.
In 1853 Alexander Moore came to Pescadero, arriving here March 15th. John Tuffy drove a yoke of cattle into the county for Moore, but did not permanently reside there until several years later. In the same year (1853) Lafayette Chandler came to Pescadero, and is still a resident of the place. With Alexander Moore also came a man named John Daly, an Irishman, whom he employed to drive swine from Santa Cruz to the ranch. Daly remained here until early in the year 1855. The bent of his genius is revealed in the following circumstance, which also explains the cause of him afterwards seeking a more congenial neighborhood. In 1855 the sloop Sea Bird, was at Pigeon Point with a party engaged in recovering what was to be got from the wreck of the “Carrier Pigeon,” previously lost at the Point. The Sea Bird sprung a leak and was beached at the south side of New Year’s Point. Some of the coal she had on board was washed ashore. Before this, the indications of the existence of coal in this vicinity had created considerable excitement. Daly found on the beach some lumps from the Sea Bird’s cargo, and a brilliant project struck him. To him money was valuable mainly as a medium in obtaining whiskey. To secure his grog was the grand ultimatum of every enterprise. Here was coal, coal was cash, and cash was convertible at any bar. Collecting a few lumps, he proceeded to Santa Cruz, where he exhibited it to Bill Butler, Eli Moore, Sam. Drannan, and Captain Drannan, representing to them that he had discovered a coal mine on Gazos Creek, and that these were specimens of the coal. He proposed to sell his lucky strike to them, provided they would advance a small amount of money to him on the spot. This they agreed to, and the coin was duly paid over to Daly, with the understanding that he was to conduct them to the place and point out the mine to them at once. Daly took them to the creek, and arriving at a point on the banks, told Drannan, Moore, and Butler to remain there while he and Captain Brannan followed the bed of the creek a little further up, to find the place the coal had cropped out. Brannan was a fleshy man, and Daly counted on his ability to get away from him as soon as they were out of sight of the rest of the party. He made the essay, endeavoring by some ruse to beguile the Captain entirely away from a suspicion of his design, and at the same time to place such a distance between them as would give him a start that would ensure his escape. Captain Brannan had just enough confidence in Daly to forbid him trusting him even one inch, so he kept close to the Irishman’s heels, and at length being fully satisfied that his guide was trying to get away from him, brought him to a halt, and made him confess the whole trick. Brannan was armed–Daly was not. This gave the Captain an advantage in the argument, which his antagonist recognized the force of, and the latter obediently marched back to the place the oother men had been left to wait: a brief council was held–a sort of drum-head court martial– and it was decided Daly should be summarily punished for his rascality. The sentence was that he should be tied, face down, to four stakes driven in the ground, and he should be whipped on the bare back. Captain Brannan was appointed executioner, and Daly having been secured in position, according to the sentence, the lash was laid on with an earnestness that left no room in his mind that he had made a grievous mistake. Upon being released Daly skulked away and left the country.
I have some thoughts of why the author included this story in his book, but will save those for the end of this series about “Crimes in Pescadero.” Enjoy. John