Lawlessness in 1859-60,
politics ran high in San Bernardino County. There was a strong secessionist
element, to oppose which John Brown rode over the country convoking the Union
men thereof to rally at the old school-house " to form a political organization.
There were present at the first meeting John Brown, Charles G. Hill, William
Heap, Moses Martin, and one other man and two ladies, Mrs. Highmoor and Mrs.
Blackburn. The meeting was interrupted by the advent of nineteen roughs, armed
with various weapons, from clubs to cheese-knives and guns, who cursed the
speaker and made other violent demonstrations, but who were finally persuaded to
desist by the eloquence of John Brown, and their departure left the meeting free
to continue. The Union League presently attained considerable power, and to its
endeavors, in all probability, was due the local result of the presidential
election, which showed a plurality of eighty-three for Lincoln-the first success
of the party in the county. "Uncle George" Lord, now a veteran eighty-seven
years old, was the president of the league, and the Mrs. Highmoor, mentioned as
attending the first meeting, played the bass drum at the rallies.
At this period a strict watch was kept in this county and in Arizona along the route to be pursued, in order to prevent from passing through the country armed bands in sympathy with, and going to the assistance of, the Confederate forces. A regular organization for this purpose existed in Holcomb valley, being connected with similar leagues extending northward along the Sierra Nevada. The conditions of the section, largely populated by an immigration attracted by the gold mines, were peculiarly fitted to protect and foster enterprises of this character.
From political differences also arose a due in 1861, between Mr. Shoalwater and C. W. Piercy, who had been elected the preceding year to represent San Bernardino County in the Assembly. Mr. Piercy was killed in this combat.
In 1861 there was so large a population gathered at the mines in Holcomb valley that the precinct, at the general election, polled a vote of 230, which was nearly as much as all the rest of the county.
The position of San Bernardino as a frontier county, and the heterogeneous elements attracted by the mines, contributed greatly to local lawlessness and disorder. Not a few of the county offices having been captured by representatives of a desperado class attracted thither by the opportunity for crime and spoil, it became necessary to take protectionary measures; and there fore the best citizens united into a party pledged to support the law and maintain order. The county was almost bankrupted during the sea-son of misrule, which lasted about four years. In those days, and indeed, for about twelve years, no attention was paid to Whigs, Democratic or Republican proclivities in politics, men being nominated for office by their friends, irrespective of party. As an instance of the little respect shown to " the majesty of the law" by the community at large, the following episode may be related: A man belonging to one clan or clique, stabbed to death a member of another clan, near Holcomb valley, and he was indicted and placed on trial at San Bernardino. Soon after the case opened fifteen men entered the courtroom, heavily armed, and without removing their hats, they seated themselves near the jury. Judge Boren recognized them as friends of the accused, and read their purpose in their demeanor, their hard, determined faces, and their resolution in having marched forty miles for the occasion. Not a word spoke the intruders, paying the closest attention to the proceedings. After a time, these somber visitors adjourned to a source of liquid refreshment, and the magistrate also adjourned court until the afternoon. During the recess, the authorities had time for deliberation, and the jury, under-standing that conviction of the prisoner would entail an outbreak and bloodshed, decided to acquit him, and did so.
About this time it was that J. M. Greenwade, who held the combined offices of County Clerk, Recorder and Auditor, became dissatisfied with the mode of procedure of the board of supervisors in the transaction of county business, drew his six-shooter and cleared the room of all those functionaries. Shortly after this, the same man, while intoxicated, met Judge Boren unarmed on the street, and, putting a pistol to the Judge's breast with one hand, with the other struck the Judge with a stick. Judge Boren retreated to where he could procure a gun, but was then prevented by the outsiders from shooting his county clerk, for which, as he has often expressed himself, he since feels profoundly content.
The winter of 1861-'62 was characterized by excessive rains, and in January 1862, a heavy flood inundated the settlement of Agua Mansa, and the people barely escaped with their lives, fleeing homeless and beggared to the hills, while the angry waters swept away their homes, their stock, their fields and orchards, leaving a waste of sand-beds in place of the fruitful colony.
In 1862 John Brown, Sr., established a ferry across
the Colorado River.
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