|In 1849, Joaquín Murrieta and his family arrived in Alta California from Villa San Rafael de los Alamitos, Distrito de Altar, Sonora, México. They were Mexican 49ers seeking their fortune in the Mother Lode. |
Joaquín and his family were claim-jumped twice. The second time, his older brother was lynched; his wife was gang raped by the same mob; and he was tied to an oak tree, horsewhipped, and left for dead. He went to the county sheriff to file charges against the mobsters and was informed that in California it was not illegal for Whites to rape Mexican women or for Whites to kill Mexicans. He was advised to "forgive and forget." Disillusioned with the authorities' response, the Murrietas and their friends decided to seek their own justice. They captured and killed 41 of the 42 villains, and the law labeled them outlaws.
As outlaws they robbed and killed people in the Mother Lode area and in the San Joaquín Valley. In the three years Joaquín lived in California, he committed the following: stole and herded to México more than 10,000 horses, killed the 41 rapists who victimized his wife, stole over $1,500,000 in gold, and killed and robbed scores of people. How many? We may never know.
Two separate companies of California Rangers (the first in 1851; the second in 1853) were enacted to halt Joaquín's criminal activities; but he was never captured, killed, or tried as a criminal. The second company of California Rangers claimed they killed him and lied to the State of California to collect the reward money.