The hat, other artifacts and his new book will be for sale at the show
Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, not far from the small town of Cantua Creek, it was inevitable that the Murrieta story was part of my youth. My grandfather had come from Italy circa 1907, after his first years in San Francisco he was hired by Miller & Lux to work on the Santa Rita Ranch near present day Dos Palos. My father, along with my grandfather and uncle, farmed and raised cattle in the shadow of the Coast Range Mountains. Above it all, at the crest of the Coast range Mountains, the centerpiece was Three Rocks. In those days it was still desert from the small town of Three Rocks to the Coast Range Mountains. No Interstate 5 and no San Luis Canal existed, only the small dirt road against the foothills that closely followed the old El Camino Viejo. This old road was the main inland passageway through the west side of the interior valley that had been used since the days of the Padres. Our little Methodist Church from the small farming town of Tranquillity would hold its annual Easter Sunday sunrise service at the old gravel mine on Cantua Creek. This location was just above where the battle of Cantua occurred on July 25rd 1853. I first climbed Three Rocks when I was thirteen on a trip up there with my uncle Larry Sullivan. I etched my name in a hole on the top of the center rock. There are two large holes in the top of the center rock, one called El Tanque,€ť which holds water most of the year and a smaller hole higher up where I left my name circa 1963. In the mid-sixties I stopped into the old gold rush town of Hornitos and went into the old jailhouse museum. I met Frank Salazar the curator who had deep roots in Hornitos with family extending back to the 1850’s. One of the exhibits was a very old sombrero type hat that was said to have belonged to Joaquin Murrieta. When I returned to Hornitos some ten years later the museum was closed and all the artifacts removed. I asked the older Basque lady Manuela€ť at the only open business in town, â€śwhat happened to the museum and Frank? €ť She said he came into the bar for a drink, never had been in the bar before, when she asked him why he said he was going to die. Sadly three days later he died. I asked where the contents of the museum went and she did not know. In the early eighties I read Frank Latta’s book on Joaquin Murrieta, Murrieta and His Horse Gangs. I was hooked, a short time later I proceeded to Santa Cruz on High Street to meet this man with so much knowledge about Joaquin Murrieta. I found his house, knocked on the door but no one was there. I went around back and there were two side by side cottages with a roof and arbor between them. One cottage had a safe combination lock like you would find on an old safe on the door. This was probably where the Bear State Museum items relating to the Murrieta story and collected by Frank Latta were held. Much to my regret I found out that Frank Latta had passed on a short time before. I went as far in the late eighties as to take my boys to Niles Canyon in search of the adobe said to have been used by Joaquin Murrieta, mentioned in Frank Latta’s book Joaquin Murrieta and his Horse Gangs. €ť A few years later I bought a small used pamphlet style book called The Gold of Old Hornitos.€ť written by Frank Salazar, under the guidance of William B. Secrest. It was there I found references and pictures by Secrest to the Murrieta hat that I had seen some fifteen years earlier. To my surprise I found the obituary of Frank Salazar pasted in the inside front cover of the book. As the book was used, someone had obviously pasted the obituary into the inside cover page of the book written by Frank Salazar as a keepsake. After a few months I decided to try to contact the surviving family members as named in the obituary. I wanted to try and track down the contents of the museum, and more specifically the hat. My calls paid off as I found a brother-in-law of Frank Salazar who had received most of the items from the museum. This included many historic items from the old gold rush town of Hornitos, including even the sign in books that were at the door of the museum for many years. Many famous people had been through the museum over the years, including George Lucas who had been filming American Graffiti in nearby Modesto. Most importantly Frank Salazar’s brother-in-law still had the hat, so I asked the story behind it and if it might be for sale. He told me the hat had been given to his son and would remain with the family. Case closed and the hat was forgotten for another twenty some years. In about 2018 I was contacted by a man from Madera who had some old saddles for sale. He was told by the local feed store to contact me as I might be interested. When he called I immediately recognized the name and asked about the hat. He had the hat, it was still in the closet, and still not for sale. He was amazed that I knew about it as it had been in his closet for twenty some years. I said I would look at the saddles but wanted to see the hat again and he agreed. Over the years I had come across many written references to this hat from such authors as Frank Latta, William B. Secrest and Boze Bell. After a few months of negotiations I traded an old Winchester, some money, some gold samples bought from an old miner in Coulterville, and a vintage Catholic last rites box, for the hat. My first outing with the hat was to a Murrieta descendants gathering, to my surprise they knew of the existence of the hat and it was well received. I met many people at the gathering, but only a few with any in depth knowledge of the Joaquin Murrieta story stood out. Over time with those few I have developed a lasting relationship. The old hat has opened quite a few doors. After a showing it at a local antique event, I was invited to dinner by a Stanford professor, he had written a book on Murrieta as well as a movie script. He said he saw my passion for the Murrieta story and asked if I would represent him and his script. I also had been recommended by the Mariposa Museum to a film producer from the bay area to work on a documentary on Murrieta. As I pursued my own investigation I talked daily with the producer for many months trying to unravel the truth as to what really happened concerning the Murrieta story. He was from near the old San Jose Mission and had access to information from that area concerning Murrieta. I was from the San Joaquin valley and being a rancher knew many of the locations and owners we needed to contact. I also had been given the information to research California Newspaper Clippings going back to the 1850’s. Computer searches are a tool that was not available to many previous Murrieta investigators.
My life long curiosity about Murrieta was planted early in life. Our family has also ranched along the San Joaquin River where Rancho de Los Californios once stood. It was a small Mexican town settled somewhere between 1820 and 1830, along with Las Juntas six miles downriver, it was a hangout for the Murrieta gang. The old cemetery for Rancho de Los Californios was shown to me by an old timer who has since passed. He said in the 1960’s when the ranch was developed land levelers hit the old cemetery. He and his father picked up the debris and put it in a box and reburied it at a spot I was shown on the ranch. This cemetery was known to have been the final resting place of some of the Murrieta gang members. The purpose of this book is to document what information I have come across in my research that is new on the subject. I will try to do so without dwelling on information found in twenty or more other books that have been read and analyzed for years. A basic review of versions of the story as it has been told is necessary as a basis from which I want to expand upon and tell my story. After a review of the story and how it evolved my main interest shall focus on from the battle at Cantua to the present. From diaries, newspaper clippings from the period, family histories, descendants, and other sources a most interesting and twisted tale emerges
We are at nearly one-hundred and seventy years after these events took place, obviously first hand and eye witnesses are not available. I will let the articles and stories of the day tell the story that gives a true feel for what those times were like. I will add my comments throughout the book in italics so the reader can differentiate easily. I will also not change the early day spellings of Murrieta and locations as they add to the character and mystery of Murrieta in those long forgotten times. Historians and those with an interest in the Murrieta story will disagree for the next one hundred and seventy-years on what actually happened. Through research, and the strength of the evidence presented, this is an examination of how the story unfolded. So here is The rest of the story.
Jim Casey Show Host firstname.lastname@example.org
The Grass Valley Old West Show, scheduled for May 7 & 8, 2021 has been rescheduled to November 11, 12 & 13, 2021. The 11th is early entry for non table holders $100. We look for ward to seeing you Stay tuned for articles about and artifacts available from our dealers.