Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

The Capture of Tiburcio Vasquez
The New York Times (newspaper) | New York, NY

Sunday, May 24, 1874

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The telegraph brought the readers of THE TIMES, a few days ago, news of the capture of the notorious bandit, Vasquez, with two of his gang, in Cahuengo Canon, near Beal's Ranch, about fifteen miles from Los Angeles, Cal. The mails have since brought, in our California exchanges, long and detailed accounts of the incidents connected with the capture. A reward of $8,000 had been offered for him if taken alive, and $6,000 for his dead body while $15,000 was offered for the entire gang. The capture was made by Under-Sheriff Johnson, of Los Angeles County, assisted by Officer Harris, and Messrs. Mitchell, Beers, and other residents of that county. They had received on Wednesday, 13th inst., information tbat Vasquez, with some of his party, would call at the house of "Greek George," in Cahuengo Canon, and accordingly they started for the locality, and took favorable positions in the vicinity, where they obtained a full view of Greek George's place. During the evening, Vasquez, with two of his men, were seen to enter. The correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle, who was of the pursuing company, continues the story as follows:

About 9 o'clock two young Mexicans rode into the canon with a wagon and were halted, the traces of the leaders of the team unhitched, and they were directed to remain stationary until further orders, the object being simply to prevent their reporting the presence of an armed party in the cañon. The party of observation returned from their position on the hill, and the following plan was adopted: Mitchell, with D. K. Smith, were to pursue the trail of a man resembling Vasquez, who had ridden away on a white horse, and the rest of our party, under Johnson, were to attack the house of Greek George. The house is in the form of the letter L. The stem of the L Is built of adobe, and the L proper of boards. The house is surrounded by a dense thicket of mustard, averaging generally six feet In height, and affording an intricate retreat. Near the house was a thicket of willows, in which several horses were concealed. The mountain side is about a quarter of a mile distant, and is rather destitute of chapparal. It was evidently impossible for our party to get near the house on horseback without being seen. It was believed that, even if Vasquez himself was not at the house, several of his men were there, and that we would have a desperate fight against the odds of men equally well-armed and lying concealed in the mustard thicket. Johnson immediately determined to utilize the unoffending Mexicans whom we had stopped In the canon. They were compelled to turn their team around and move to the rear of the mouth of the canon. There we left our horses, and Johnson, Harris, Hartley, Sam Bryant, Rodgers, and myself packed ourselves in the wagon-box and the Mexicans were directed to drive the wagon directly to Greek George's. They were informed that the slightest disposition shown by them to give a signal or do anything contrary to orders would result in instant death. It is unnecessary to say that they were docile. It was about the most unpleasant ride I ever took. The sides of the wagon-box not being very high, it was with great difficulty we could jam ourselves down so as to be concealed from view. Arriving at a point about 100 yards from the house, and close to Vasquez's white horse—so near it that it was evident to our leaders and all of us that we could get to the horse before any one from the house could—we suddenly threw ourselves from the wagon-box and started for the house. The party, without formal orders, spread out right and left like skirmishers, and, with heads bowed low, plunged into the mustard thicket and moved rapidly and as silently as possible toward the house. Sam Bryant was about the centre of the line, and I hastened to his side, pushing through the weeds toward the house. Reaching the house, Bryant asked me to remain at the north-west angle and guard the two north windows and the west side of the house. I cannot just now give every man's position, as at that particular juncture I was regarding those two windows and the west side of the house with very particular interest. A few moments elapsed, and I heard the sound of a door burst in; a second later a rifle or pistol shot and my interest in the affair became intense. I knew I could hear any approach to the two windows, and divining that any attempt to escape in the direction of the white horse would probably be undertaken by the west side of the house, I took a stop to the right, and the moment I did so discovered a bareheaded Mexican in the act of bounding toward me. I fired upon him. I saw him throw up his hands, and those of our party to the right and from behind rushed upon him, and two or three other shots were fired. I confined my immediate attention to preparing for another shot, expecting a general fight, and thinking proper to maintain the position I held and still watch the windows. A few moments later it seemed probable that we had no more enemies to contend with, and I moved around to the east side, and Vasquez and Lebrado, sometimes called Corova, were there, Vasquez bleeding, smiling, and expostulating in a gentlemanly and unexcited manner. Harris it seems, burst in the door, which had been shut by Greek George's wife. Vasquez was eating his dinner, wholly unarmed, and there was no way for him to reach his arms without leaving the room by the very door Harris was entering. He sprang like a panther through an open window, only about eighteen inches square, and alighted on his feet, intending to flee toward the willow thicket; but, discovering his enemies springing toward him from that direction, he hurried up the west side, as before stated to get his horse. Vasquez is a remarkable man. While looking for his wounds I placed my hand over his heart and found its pulsations gave no indication of excitement. His eye was bright, and there was a pleasant smile on his face, and no tremor in his voice. He was polite, and thankful for every attention. Supposing that he was fatally hurt, I at first confined my attention entirely to assisting the women to bathe and bandage his wounds, and therefore took little note of his expressions. Although he thought and said that he was about to die—'gone up,' as he expressed it—his expression of countenance was one of admiration of our determined attack, and our good luck. 'You are good men—good men.' Someone said; 'We are sorry to have had to wound you so, but it could not be helped.' 'It was not your fault,' he replied; I do not blame you. It is my own fault, and there is no one to blame. I should not have attempted to escape.' When first brought around the house, after the shooting, before I left my guard of the windows, I am informed that he claimed to be waiting for linen to bind up his wounds. I found a dagger sticking in the floor, on the left side of his bed, near the head; and about two feet from the foot, standing muzzle downward, a most beautiful rifle, of the latest and best pattern; also a neat memorandum-hook, containing in one of the pockets a likeness of a little girl and a lock of silken hair. Everything about his arms and person was in neat and perfect order. His hair is jet black, without a sprinkling of gray, and there are none of the wrinkles on his face one might expect to find after the life he has led. Vasquez was wounded in the head, also in the calf of the leg, in each arm, and in the thumb. Dr. Lyford informed me that the body wound and those in the arms and leg were buckshot wounds; those on the heal and thumb might have been caused by Henry rifle cartridges. While his wounds were being probed and dressed he maintained the same calm demeanor he had displayed at first. He is being carefully guarded. Vasquez stated to me that within four hours from the time of his capture be should have started on another raid."


Tiburcio Vasquez Is a native of California, about thirty-five years of age, is 5 feet 5 3/4 inches in height, dark complexion, dark eyes, and black hair. He has a scar on the left breast, a scar on the left fore-finger, a small scar on the joint of the same finger, and three scars on the left thumb. At the age of nineteen years he was convicted of grand larceny in Los Angeles, and on the 25th of August, 1857, he was sent to the State Prison for five years. He escaped from prison on the 28th of June, 1859, and was recaptured on the 17th of August, 1859. In August, 1863, he was sent to the State Prison for one year from Amador County for grand larceny. On the 18th of January; 1867, he was again sent to the State Prison for a term of four years from Sonoma County for grand larceny, being at that time twenty-eight years of age. On being released from San Quentin he at once entered upon a new career of crime, becoming the associate of the most noted and daring bandits of the State. He was the associate and companion of Precopio, Juan Soto, and others of that stamp. On the evening of the 26th of August, Vasquez, with seven native Californians, rode up to the store of A. J Snyder, twelve miles from Hollister, at the cross-road from Tres Pinos to San Benito River. Here they compelled three men to lie down on the floor, tied their arms behind their backs and pinioned their legs. The assassins then went outside and saw three men who refused to obey the commands to lie down, and were shot in cold blood. The first shot was a Portuguese sheep herder. L. Davidson. proprietor of the hotel adjoining, started out on hearing the report. He had been told to go back, and was in the act of closing the door, when he was shot through the heart. A teamster named Redford was the third man killed. They then went into Snyder's house demanded of Mrs. Snyder all her money and jewelry, which was delivered up. Snyder was next told that he would be released if he gave up all his money, which he promptly did, amounting to over $500. The house was completely ransacked, after which they left, taking with them all the horses and saddles in the vicinity. After this horrible triple murder, the gang fled from one point to another, committing various depredations on their travels to the southern part of the State. The principal robbery perpetrated by them was the virtual capture of the village of Kingston, in Fresno County, in the latter part of December last, Vasquez, with eight "greasers," two Americans, and a negro, tied their horses on the bank of the river, opposite Kingston, crossed a bridge on foot, and took possession of a hotel and two stores on the main street. Thirty-five men were bound by the gang, and relieved of their money and valuables. The safes and drawers were also robbed of their contents. In this raid they obtained $2 000 in coin, besides watches and jewelry. The citizens of the village, on hearing of the robbery, armed themselves and opened fire on the bandits from the opposite side of the street, and the fire was returned. Vasquez himself was armed on that occasion with four navy revolvers, and though hotly followed up the gang managed to make good their escape, and fled in different directions. The citizens followed in close pursuit, and two days afterward one of the bandits was captured. On Wednesday evening, Feb. 26, Vasquez and one man of his gang committed a most wonderfully daring robbery at Coyote Holes, eighty miles south of Independence, in Inyo County. After capturing the station with six inmates, and shooting "Old Tex," one of them, through the thigh, he watched patiently for two hours for the a appearance of the stage from the south, which, as it drove up to the door of the station, was received by Vasquez and his companion with two Henry rifles and four six-shooters in reserve. The travelers and driver, numbering four persons were ordered to get off the stage and sit in a row, which order was obeyed. A large amount of money and different articles of value were taken from the party, amounting in the aggregate to $300, besides watches, &c.; and two heavy teams driving up to the station the drivers were taken in hand and relieved of their valuables. Thus twelve persons were successfully captured, robbed and kept in complete subjection by Vasquez and his one assistant. Toward evening the two daring robbers, after taking six fine horses out of the stable, rode off with their booty. The last daring raid by Vasquez was on the night of the 15th of April. With four of his gang be called at the residence of Alexander Reppeto, a rich Italian sheep-owner at the old Mission San Gabriel, about six miles from Los Angeles. They pretended to be looking for employment, and after a brief conversation with the old man and his son they demanded his money, pinioning his hands behind him and pointing pistols at him. The old man only had $80 in the house, which was given them and then he drew a check on his bankers for $500. This was given to his son who at once went to the bank to draw the money, Vasquez remaining in the house. At the bank the boy's action created suspicion, and after some conversation with the banker, Sheriff Rowland was sent for. The story was revealed to him, and he at once organized a party of sixteen who started for the ranch. As they approached Vasquez, with his men took to their horses and flew across the mesa toward the San Pasqual ranch. Near Arroyo Seco they stopped C. E. Mills, Jno. Osborne, and two others, from whom they took $300 in coin and a gold watch. From Arroyo Seco the bandits made their way to Tejunga and thence to Soledad. Sheriff Rowland and party continued on their hunt, while Sheriff Morse and party, who were out at that time looking for them, were coming from another direction. The trails and passes of the Tejunga mountains are but little known or traveled, and many supposed that his escape was impossible. He, however, succeeded, and found his way over to San Fernando Valley. During the Winter he is supposed to have camped In Tejunga canon, which lies east and west twenty miles distant from Los Angeles, and parallel with Soledad. The country about there is a wilderness sparsely inhabited by Tejon Indians and wild animals. Through this wilderness the Sheriff’s posse hunted him, and with difficulty they worked their way through the chaparral, climbing and walking the curving trails. Vasquez, however, eluded them all; he made his way over the mountains and gulches, and finally reached San Fernando Valley, the officers in the meantime having returned to Los Angeles.

AL2093: 9600 dpi jpeg from original newspaper, collection of Alan Pollack.
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