|Joaquin Murrietta - 1830-1853|
|Joaquin Murrietta, California bandit, was
first fast-draw artist, although he used the old model French
large bore pistol which he wore for quick use in his sash.
This swarthy Mexican came to California when he was not yet twenty years of age, and with him he brought along a pretty wife, Antonia Molinera, who was raped by the miners of the Mother Lode country while Joaquin was away at work dealing monte in one of the saloons. This criminal act almost drove Joaquin out of his mind and started him on a career of gun slinging robbery which has never been equaled. His small '49 gold claim was forgotten in Stanislaus as he took to nursing his bitterness by small holdups of indi vidual miners and then larger ones. He became impli cated in horse stealing and was beaten with a thonged bullwhip. The bleeding Joaquin became a gringo-hater from that moment on.
He organized a band of desperadoes, and each man had to be fast and deadly with a gun, and his wife was dressed as a man and also trained to slip a weapon speedily from its sash and shoot to kill with a single shot. With some 80 men at his back, the gunfighting Mexican swooped down upon stage coaches to rob and loot them and called to a halt lone riders from whom he took all goods and left them afoot. He robbed for gold and dust, up and down the mining camps of the High Sierra, and to add to his already growing fame, he tied Chinamen together by their queues, made them dance to the tune of a pistol, then shot their eyes out.
It is said that Joaquin lured a Sacramento River schooner to the beach to take his band aboard. In the lonely reaches of the river where they boarded it, they killed and made off with more than twenty thousand dollars in gold and dust. On another occasion, Joaquin offered a thousand dollars for his own capture and arrest and then told the sheriff who he was and killed him. Again, he is said to have stolen 50 fine-blooded horses from the estate of the old California governor and run them off into Mexico.
But like Robinhood, Joaquin was secretly loved by many of the rancheros who, it is said, he helped with money and many kindnesses.
The end came when Captain Harry Love, a noted Los Angeles gunfighter, with 20 men, rode down upon the bandit, surprising him at a campfire near Lake Tulare. His head was severed and carried back by Billy Hender son to the sheriff's office, where it was auctioned off and sold for thirty-five dollars.
Dr. Allan Thomson, once the doctor of Jack London, saw Murrietta's head in a large jar of alcohol in the old Gordon Museum on Market Street, in San Francisco, and the sum of twenty-five cents gained him admission. Dr. Thomson tells us that Joaquin was a swarthy Mexi can, "about like Mr. McCarty has painted him", and that the place was crowded with visitors. "The earth quake of 1906 rocked the jar from its foundation and the head of Murrietta was lost forever."