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William Benitz
Raid on Fort Ross

In late July, 1845, while William was absent from Fort Ross, a group of rancheros from Sonoma and Marin counties raided the fort and the neighboring Indian village.  Following the complaints of Capistrano Juarez and William Benitz, the Mexican court at Sonoma reacted quickly — in August of the same year.

Per the rancheros own callous testimony in court, they were brutal.  A number of them raided the Indian villages of Locaya and Fort Ross.  They took by armed force about 150 Indians to serve as forced labor (i.e., slaves); they killed, raped, and beat any who resisted.  They broke into William’s home at Fort Ross, stole his property, gang-raped his Indian women, and then abducted them.  However, the court did little more than set the Indians free.  The rancheros were hardly punished — if at all; there is no record of them having undergone any form of punishment or censure.  Not surprising, given that all the key protagonists were rancheros: judge, plaintiffs, and raiders.  Essentially, the judge treated the incident as a squabble amongst the rancheros over who would have the Indians.  The renown historian of early California, Hubert Howard Bancroft, held the same opinion:

“... North of the bay we read of a raid from Sonoma to the region of Ross, made by rancheros with a view to obtain Indian laborers, and brought to light in the local courts on account of a quarrel about the division of spoils.64 ...

64 August, proceedings before the judge, Dept. Sl. Pap., Ben., MS., v. 383-94. Several Indians were killed and 150 were captured.  Antonio Castro and Rafael García are named as the leaders.  Wm Benitz complained of outrages committed at his rancho.  Two women were outraged there.

“The Works of Hubert Howard Bancroft, vol. 21 - History of California”, page 544.

None of the native Indians, the victims of the raid, were identified by name in the court proceedings.  The Indian women taken from William’s attic could have been part Russian, left as caretakers at the fort by the Russians when they departed in 1842.  It is almost certain they were kept by William and Charles T. Meyer, his partner in the rental of the fort; both men had children with native Indian women.

Had the raid occurred a year later, in July of 1846, Josephine Kolmer could have been the target of the rancheros’ brutality.  Whether they would have gang-raped a European woman is unknown, but they clearly held William in disdain and believed themselves sufficiently remote at Fort Ross to be beyond the reach of the law and censure of civilized society.

Indian Slavery

Spanish/Mexican:  Though the Mexican constitution of 1824 declared native Indians to be citizens with the right to vote and hold public office, they continued to be considered chattel, a concept embraced by the Mexican landowners of California, adopting it from the Spanish missions that had preceded them.  The Spanish missionaries, though well intentioned to civilize (Europeanize) the natives, had in practice restricted them to living on and working for a particular mission; though not held for profit, the practice had been a form of slavery.

Anglo-European:  During the first two years of the Gold Rush (i.e. prior to 1850), the land-hungry miners killed an estimated 100,000 native Indians, or about 23 of the native population of California.  Though California joined the Union in 1850, it denied native Indians citizenship, the right to give testimony in court, and enacted laws legalizing their slavery.  One such law allowed a system of indenture which evolved into a practice of killing the parents so their orphaned children could be taken into indentured service, essentially as slaves until age 25 or 30, female or male, respectively.  The law was repealed in 1863.

Mexican Court Transcript, Benicia, August, 1845:

The court records of the case were summarized in hand-written colloquial Spanish.  It reads as if the person writing it was in a rush with no time to correct grammar and verify the spelling of people’s names.  The summary is now in the “Archives of California” at the Bancroft Library, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley.  The following is our transcription and translation of that summary: C-A 39 Tomo V, pages 384-395.

Español Mexicano: Transcribido tal cual, sin modificación alguna.  Al fondo incluimos una lista de las abreviaturas con nuestras interpretaciones de ellas.

English: In the translation, we have attempted to retain the same run-on sentences and awkward structures, but without the abbreviations used in the Spanish text. We corrected the spelling of Benitz (i.e., was Benitez).

We validated our translation with, and included some local terms and spelling of people’s names from: “Two Accounts of Raids for Indian slaves at Yocarya and Fort Ross in 1845”, by Glenn J. Farris, Ph.D., Associate State Archeologist Archeology Lab, DPR, an unpublished manuscript in possession of the author.  At the foot of the table, we include a list of names and details about the people taken from the same work.  We thank Dr. Farris for his generous assistance.

 Español MexicanoEnglish
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+ 1845 = Sonoma

Proceso contra Anto. Castro y sócios acusados de haber extraido á mano armada una porcion de Indios Gentiles.

Este proceso comenzó á instruirse en 6 de Agosto de 1845 por el Juez So. de Sonoma, José de la Rosa, en consecuencia de haberselé presentado el Ciudo. Capistrano Suarez,

+ 1845 = Sonoma

Proceedings against Antonio Castro and associates accused of having taken by force of arms a group of pagan Indians.

This case was begun on the 6th of August of 1845 by the Supreme Judge of Sonoma, José de la Rosa, as a result of Capistrano Suarez coming before him

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pidiendole auxilio pa. “quitar una porcion de indios Gentiles que se había extraido el Co. Anto. Castro de la tribu de Locaya, en cuyo paraje se hallaban dthas. indios, en trabajos rurales.”

Declaracíones de testigos

José María Treviño dijo que el fué contratado por Rafael García pa. qe. les enseñara los parajes en donde habia indios, y como renumeracion se le ofreció una muda de ropa que se le deberia ser entregada por Dn. Anto. Castro, quien se titulaba Teniente y Comte. de la partida de órden del Gobierno, y que el declarante se resistia para ir, pero obligado por varios servicios personales que habia recibido de García, accedió.  Salió con ellos de Sta. Rosa para el molino de Juan Cooper, allí tomó sus armas (el testigo) y salieron al oscurecer, caminando toda la noche y al día siguiente acamparon en el rancho de Capistrano Suarez de donde sacaron dos intérpretes qe. las condujeron á donde estaban los indios á 2 leguas de distancia del Rancho.  Allí dispuso Castro qe. se retirase la partida para

requesting his assistance to “retrieve a group of pagan Indians that Antonio Castro had taken from the Locaya tribe, the neighborhood in which the said Indians were living as farm workers.”

Witness Testimonies

José María Treviño said that he was hired by Rafael García to show them the places where there were Indians, and as payment he was offered a change of clothes which would be given to him by Don Antonio Castro, who by order of the Government called himself Lieutenant and Commander of the party, and that the witness hesitated going, but obliged by the several personal services he had received from Garcia, he consented.  He left Santa Rosa with them for Juan Cooper’s mill, there he picked up his weapons (the witness) and they left at dark, walking all night and next day they camped on Capistrano Suarez’s [Juárez (G.Farris)] ranch from where they took two interpreters that they led to where the Indians were, two leagues from the Ranch.  There Castro ordered that the party retreat to

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sorprender la rancheria al amanecer; pero que habiendo sido sentidos por los indios por el relincho de un caballo salió el Capitan de dtha. rancheria y otros indias qe. lo acompañaba y encontrandose con Rafael García, los sorprendió, dando voces a los de espedicion para qe. se reuniesen lo que verificado cayeron de golpe sobre la rancheria qe. inerme: y sin antecedente alguno de guerra, se mantenía la paz á consecuencia de las promesas de Dn. Cayetano Juares; qe. serían como las ocho de la noche cuando sorprendieron la rancheria y arrancandola con violencia de sus hogares, la condujeron con familias á un llano inmediato en donde pasaron la noche; qe. al dia siquiente de regreso llegaron al rancho de Fernando Felix en cuyo paraje se separó una parte de los empresarios pa. ir a caer á otra rancheria con el objeto de sacar mas gente; qe. estando inmediatos ya á la rancheria, Desiderio Briones disparó un tiro á un benado y habiéndose oído por los indios estas huyeron; pero luego que vieron estas los interesados, apresuraron la marcha lo qe. hizo

to surprise the village at day-break; but having been heard by the Indians due to a horse’s whiny the Chief of the said village left accompanied by other Indians they happened upon Rafael García, he surprised them shouting to the expedition that they gather, once ready they fell suddenly upon the unarmed village: without any prior reason for war, peace was kept as a consequence of the promises of Don Cayetano Juares [Juárez (G.Farris)]; it was about eight o’clock at night when they surprised the village and dragged them violently from their homes, they led the families to a nearby plain where they spent the night; that on return next day they reached the ranch of Fernando Felix where a group of the landowners separated to go fall upon another village with the intent of taking more people; and being already right next to the village, Desiderio Briones shot at a deer and having been heard by the Indians these fled; but after seeing them those concerned, hastened their pace that meant

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qe. encontraran á los indios dispersos y los fueron tomando en los montes sin defenza: qe. el qe. decalara entregó los indios qe. conducía a los demás compañeros, y se unían con Pablo Briones pa. regresarse a entrar por segda. vez en la dtha. rancheria por ver sí encontraban á la demas gente qe. habia huído.  Que habiendo entrado á la rancheria encontraron solamente dos ancianos qe. por su inutilidad los habían dejado libres: que entonces retrocedieron pa. unirse á sus compañeros, y habiendo salido fuera del monte se encontraron un indio mortalmente herido de un balaso qe. le quitó el carrillo izquierdo de la cara, una puñalada debajo de la arca, y abierta la cabeza de un machetaso en la frente son los cesos de fuera: qe. Pablo Briones dijo, al qe. declara “si hubiera agua en estas cercanías lo bautizaría pa. qe. no muriera gentil”, y como hubo esta dificultad, dijo el segundo al primero, qe. pa. qe. no padeciera mas el moríbundo lo acabaría de matar, lo qe. verificó tirandóle un riflazo: qe. el qe. declara con su compañero Briones, se dijieron al molino del Sor. Cooper donde los aguardaban sus

they came upon the Indians while scattered and caught them defenseless in the woods: that the witness handed over the Indians he was escorting to the other partners, and they joined Pablo Briones to return for a second time to said village to see if they could find the rest of the people who had fled.  That entering the village they only found two old men that, because of their uselessness, had been left free: that they then turned back to join their colleagues, and once out of the woods they came upon a mortally wounded Indian, a bullet-shot had taken off the left cheek of his face, a stab below the chest, and the head opened by a machete slash to the forehead exposed the brains: that Pablo Briones said, to the witness “if there were water hereabouts he’d baptize him so he would not die a pagan”, and there being this difficulty, the second said to the first, so that the dying man would not suffer any more, he would finish killing him, which he did shooting him with a rifle: that the witness with his colleage Briones, headed to Mr. Cooper’s mill where

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compañeros; qe. esto sucedió el dia 29 de Julio pa.po.

Pregdo Sí sabe quien hirió al indio moribundo, qe. encontraron él y Pablo Briones.

Repondió _ qe. sabe lo hirió Seberiano Castro pr. qe. el mismo lo dijo, al qe. declara en presencia de Pablo Briones, Desiderio Briones, y Mariano Castro, Vitorico García y un Francés Tuerto, qe. no conoce de nombe.

Pregdo Sí sabia qe. hallan matado otros indios, en este caso diga lo qe. sobre el asunto sepa.

Respondió: qe. Sebariano Castro contó delante de los mismos individuos referidos, haber matado un anciano qe. encontró en el campo: qe. Mariano Castro refirió así mismo haber matado otro indio en un arroyo; qe. la causa fué por qe. el tal Castro se sacaba por fuerza una mujer qe. se encontró en el mismo arroyo, y qe. un indio salió á defenderla tirándole jarazos y qe. por esa razón lo mató, según contó el mismo Mariano Castro, manifestando el puñal lleno de sangre y aun él mismo.

Pregdo Sí pelearon con alga. rancheria de indios, respondió: qe. con ninguna, qe. al contrario estaban de paz, y no habían hecho daño alguno á Dn. Anto. Castro ni á

their colleagues were waiting for them: that this happened on the 29th day of July past.

Asked: Did he know who wounded the dying Indian, that he and Pablo Briones found.

Answered: He knows Seberiano Castro had wounded him because he said so himself, to the witness in the presence of Pablo Briones, Desiderio Briones, and Mariano Castro, Vitorico García and a One-Eyed Frenchman, whom he didn’t know by name.

Asked: Did he know if they had killed other Indians, in which case tell what he knew on the subject.

Answered: That Seberiano Castro described, in the presence of the same individuals mentioned, having killed an old man whom he found in the fields: that Mariano Castro referred to himself as having killed another Indian in a creek; the reason was that the said Castro was forcibly removing a woman he had found in the same creek, and that an Indian came out to defend her throwing wooden spears and for that reason he killed him, as told by the same Mariano Castro, showing the dagger covered in blood and even himself.

Asked: Had they fought with any Indian village, replied: that with none, that on the contrary they were at peace, and they had not inflicted any harm upon Don Antonio Castro nor upon

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la partida: qe. el qe. declara está seguro de qe. sí los indios hubieran querido hubieran acabado con toda la partida pr. qe. hay allí miles, miles y miles de hombres

Pregdo Quienes son los individuos qe. marcharon con la partida; Respondió: que Dn. Anto. Castro, Dn. Rafael García, el que declara, Pablo Briones, Desiderio Briones, Mars. Castro, Seberiano Castro, Paquico, el Francés Tuerta, Vitorico García, un joven Mesa y algs. indios del otro lado: qe. en el molino suscitó una disputa por que los indivs. de la partida querían se les repartiese la gente qe. le tocaba á cada uno, y no habiendo querido Dn. Anto. hacerlo resultó una pendencia y golpes: qe. a Rafael García le dio Castro 12 ó 13 hombres con sus familias, que el declarante condujo al rancho de dtho García, y qe. Castro se llevó la demás gente qe. serian como 150 personas por el rumbo de Sn. Rafael, y una indita qe. la mandó a Dn. Luis Leecs, una familia pa. Dr. Victor Prudon; qe. el qe. declara se regresó del rancho de García, después qe. dejó allí los indios por la laguna de Sr. Anto. en donde lo encontró Dn. Cayetano Suarez, qe. le intimó á nombre del Sr. Comandte.

the party: that the witness is sure that if the Indians had wanted to they could have finished off the entire party because there are there thousands, thousands and thousands of men.

Asked: Who are the persons who went with the party; Answered: that Don Antonio Castro, Don Rafael García, the witness, Pablo Briones, Desiderio Briones, Mariano [(G.Farris)] Castro, Seberiano Castro, Paquico, the One-Eyed Frenchman, Vitorico García, a Mesa youth and some Indians from the other side: that at the mill there ensued an argument because the party members wanted to receive their allotted shares of the people, and as Don Antonio didn’t want to there was a quarrel and blows: that Castro gave to Rafael García 12 or 13 men with their families, whom the witness escorted to the ranch of said Garcia, and that Castro took the remaining people that would be about 150 individuals in the direction of San Rafael, and a little Indian girl that he sent to Don Luis Leecs [Jacob P. Leese (G.Farris)], a family for Doctor Victor Prudon; that the witness returned to Garcia’s ranch, after leaving the Indians there near the laguna of Señor Antonio, where Don Cayetano Suarez [Juárez (G.Farris)] found him, who in the name of the Señor Comandante advised him

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se presentase inmediatamente en Sonoma

El 15 de Agto. de 1845 se examinó al testigo Nazario Sais y dijo: que el día 3 llegó Dn. Anto. Castro, Rafael García, Sebero Alviso, Manuel Saís, y el Tuerto Francés, al rancho del qe. declara inmediato á Ross): qe. de allí se reunieron el declarante y Mariano Elizaldi por órden de Dn. Anto. Castro y se dirijieron á Ross: qe. su objeto era llevar alguna gente pa. sus trabajos, y algunos lepes ó huérfanos qe. habiendo llegado, la indiada arrancó al monte y quedaron unicamente en las rancherias inmediatas á la plaza, dos Capitanes qe. fueron amarrados, el primo. por Rafael Garcia dandole muchos golpes con la culata del fusil; y el segundo arrancó y Dn. Anto. Castro mandó al declarante qe. lo siguiese y agarrase, lo qe. verificó en violencia de la carrera de su caballo tomándolo del malote del pelo de la cabeza: qe. al alcanzarlo se pasó la bestia y cayó el indio: qe. entonces llegó Dn. Anto. Castro y le dio varias golpes con la espada qe. llevaba en la cinta: qe. fueron mancornada los dos Capitanes y les dijo Dn. Anto. Castro, qe. si entregaban

to appear immediately in Sonoma.

On the 15th of August of 1845 the witness Nazario Sais was questioned and said: that on the 3rd Don Antonio Castro, Rafael García, Sebero Alviso, Manuel Saís, and the One-Eyed Frenchman arrived at the witness’s ranch right next to Ross: that they were joined by the witness and Mariano Elizalde by order of Don Antonio Castro and they headed to Ross: their goal was to take some people as workers, and some lepe [homeless (G.Farris)] or orphans that having arrived, the Indians ran into the woods and the only ones left in the villages next to the plaza were two Chiefs who were tied up, the first by Rafael Garcia who struck him many times with the stock of his rifle; and the second ran and Don Antonio Castro told the witness to chase and catch him, which he did the violent charge of his horse he grabbed him by the top-knot [(G.Farris)] of hair on his head: that on reaching him the beast ran him over and the Indian fell: that then Don Antonio Castro arrived and hit him several times with the sword he carried on his belt: that the two Chiefs were tied together and Don Antonio Castro told them, that if they handed over

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a su gente los soltaría; pero qe. sino, los llevarían hta. Monterey presos pr. picaros: qe. en efecto prometieron los indios que traerían la rancheria y fueron sueltos no volviendo mas: qe. se dispuso por Dn. Anto. Castro salir á la sierra á seguir á los indios; pero qe. no pudiendo encontrala se pusieron á jugar mantilla con Rafael García, Sebero y Manl. Sais, en la loma: qe. el qe. declara se fué al monte y se embarcó hta. muy tarde; qe. cuando volvió, encontró a Rafael García durmiendo en la casa de Mr. Benitez con una torta de pan á su lado, y qe. el tuerto Francés le convido: que Anto. Castro llegó tras del declarante y empezó á comer pan pues entraron juntos y preguntó de donde, y el francés tuerto respondió, qe. el habia abierto con una barita el candado del cuarto de Benitez: qe. entonces vió García una puerta hacia arriba del tapanco, y mandó al declarante á registrar, lo qe. verificó y despues de algun trabajo vió un brazo de una mujer india muy coyotita, y se le abalanzó tomándola pr. la cintura; qe. en esto estaba cuando llegó Rafael García y comenzó á hablar

their people he would let them go; otherwise he would take them prisoner to Monterey for being brazen: that the Indians basically promised they would bring the village and they were let loose not returning: that Don Antonio Castro decided to go into the hills to follow the Indians; but not being able to find them they set about playing mantilla [tossing cow-chips, frisbee (G.Farris)] with Rafael García, Sebero and Manuel Sais, on the hill: that the witness went into the woods and toiled until very late; that when he returned, he found Rafael García sleeping in Mr. Benitz’s house with a loaf of bread at his side, and that the one-eyed Frenchman offered him some: that Antonio Castro arrived after the witness and began eating bread but they entered together and he asked from where, and the one-eyed Frenchman replied, that he had used a small bar to open the padlock to Benitz’s room: then García saw a door to the loft above, and he sent the witness to check it out, that he did and after endeavoring a while he saw the arm of a very pretty [muy coyotita] Indian woman, and he threw himself on her grabbing her about the waist; that he was in the midst of this when Rafael García arrived and began talking

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con la indita de Mr. Benitez.  tratandola luego del asunto, y qe. ya se la iba á soplar cuando el declarante se bajó pa. abajo para no estar presente; y qe. García siguió gran rato con ella hta. qe. se atascó; qe. habiendo bajádo la mujer dijo: Anto. Castro, haber qe. gallo se lleva esta polla, Maro. Elizalde la tomó de la mano y se salió con ella para una pieza inmediata en donde se la sopló él primero, Manl. Sais despues, Anto. Castro despues de Sais, despues el declarante, y al fin Sebero qe. la habia tocado muchó; qe. todavia Anto. Castro se quería apalancar, y vió á un indio vaquero qe. fornicaba con la indita, y lo regañó diciéndole: bote de aquí tu eres indio y no has de coger junto con la gente de razon: qe. entonces la misma indita dijo qe. allí estaba otra mujer qe. la trajeran lo qe. se verificó, metiéndola Anto. Castro á un cuarto, diciendo Sres. aquí vá á entrar el registro: qe. registró á la nueva y se la sopló mucho rato, pr. qe. la anterior ya estaba muy aguada con la soplada de Sebero.  Que en las rancherías de los indios andaban Sebero, Elizaldí, García y el francés tuerto; y qe. este último saqueó como 50 chicotes

to Mr. Benitz’s Indian girl.  Discussing the situation with her, and he was about to screw her when the witness went downstairs to not be present; and that García was with her a long time until he wore himself out; that having taken the woman downstairs said: Antonio Castro, let’s see the cock that will have this chick, Mario Elizalde took her by the hand and left with her to a room next-door where he screwed her first, then Manuel Sais, then Antonio Castro after Sais, then the witness, and finally Sebero had a long turn with her, that Antonio Castro still wanted to poke, and seeing an Indian cowboy fornicating with the Indian girl, he scolded him saying: get out of here you are an Indian and you can’t fuck alongside civilized people: then the same Indian girl said there was another woman there that they should bring and that was done, Antonio Castro stuck her in a room, saying Gentlemen, this is going in the record books: that he liked the new girl and screwed her a long while, because the first girl was already very sloppy from Sebero’s screwing.  That Sebero, Elizaldí, García and the one-eyed Frenchman were in the Indian village; and the latter looted some 50 cigars

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qe. el declarante vió y qe. no vió otras cosas menudas, y Sebero una cora [basquet G.Farris)]; qe. no vió mas entonces, hta. qe. al regreso habíendose traído las inditas al rancho del declarante, una durmió con Elizaldí, la otra con Manuel Sais y una porcion con Rafael Garcia: qe. Dn. Anto. Castro no sabe si durmió con alguna, pero qe. es muy regular qe. había cojído alguna pr. qe. estaba endemonádo al hombre: qe. la indita dijo á Dn. Anto. Castro qe. queria estar en el rancho del declarante y no con Mr. Benitez, por que le tenía miedo.

El testigo Rafael García dijo: qe. el dia 4 estuvo en el Presidio Ruso en compañía de Dn. Anto. Castro y otros; y qe. habiendo llegado Castro mandó a un indio abrir la puerta de la plaza la cual estaba cerrada y puso allí á un frances tuerto qe. llevaba: qe. el declarante despues de regresar de la sierra se metió en una sala de Mr. Benitez en donde estaba el frances comiendo pan y carne que convidó al declarante y luego se acostó á dormir en un cajón qe. había allí mismo: qe. cuando recordó oyó gritar arriba

that the witness saw and that he didn’t see anything else useful, and Sebero a cora [basket (G.Farris)]; that he then didn’t see anything more, until the return having taken the Indian girls to the witness’s ranch, one slept with Elizaldí, the other with Manuel Sais and a bit with Rafael Garcia; that he doesn’t know if Don Antonio Castro slept with one of them, but it is very likely he had had one of them because he was crazy that man: that the Indian girl told Don Antonio Castro that she wanted to stay at the witness’s ranch and not with Mr. Benitz because she was afraid of him.

The witness Rafael García said: that on the 4th he was at the Russian Fort in the company of Don Antonio Castro and others; and that having arrived Castro sent an Indian to open the gate to the courtyard which was closed and he left there a one-eyed Frenchman whom he had brought: that the witness after returning from the hills entered Mr. Benitz’s living-room where the Frenchman was eating bread and meat that he offered the witness and he later lay down to sleep on a box that was there: that when he awoke he heard yells from

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del tapanco y subió á ver, y encontró á Nazaro Sais con la mujer de Mr. Benitez; y el qe. declara se la quitó é hizo de ella lo qe. quiso por su gusto, y que despues se bajó á dormir á donde mismo estuvo ántes durmiendo: que despues supo que todos los demás habían gozado de la mujer del Inglés; pero que él no los vió

Pregdo Sí sabe qe. hayan robado la casa del Inglés Benitez y las rancherías de los indios: dijo qe. no sabe nada mas, que robaron algunos cueros de venados y chicotes, de trampas, y un cora [basquet G.Farris] qe. trajo Severo.

Pregdo por qe. golpearon y amarraron á los indios capitanes. dijo: qe. pr. ordenes espresas de Dn. Anto. Castro qe. era el Comte. de la partida.  qe. en cuanto al total de la expedicion, el declarante obraba por ordenes de Castro y no mas……”

(Con fha 6 de Agto – 1845 – Mr Benetz – dirigió á Mr. Murphy la siguiente carta en el Presidio de Ross)

Mr. Murphy,

  While absent from the Presidio

the loft above and he went up to see, and found Nazaro Sais with Mr. Benitz’s woman; and that the witness states he took her from him and he did with her as he pleased, and that he then came down to sleep where he had been sleeping before: that he later knew all the others had enjoyed the Englishman’s woman; but that he hadn’t seen them.

Asked: Did he know what they had stolen from the Englishman Benitz’s house and the Indian villages: he said that he didn’t know anything more, that they had stolen some deer skins and cigars, traps, and Severo took a cora [basquet (G.Farris)].

Asked why they beat and tied up the Indian chiefs. he said: at the express orders of Don Antonio Castro who was the party’s leader.  that in regard to the entire expedition, the witness was working under the orders of Castro and nothing more…”

(Dated August 6 – 1845 – Mr Benitz – wrote to Mr. Murphy the following letter from the Presidio de Ross)

Mr. Murphy,

  While absent from the Presidio

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the other day on business, Anto. Castro, Rafael García, Mariano Smith, Steward Sebaro, Manl. & Nasario Sais, came to the presidio, broke open my house, they have abused the Indians which I kept in charge, and have nearly killed the chief, they have stolen a number of things from me and have plundered the Indian Village

  The Saises have threatened to shoot me, I am afraid to leave this place to come and see you.  I should have been in San Rafael.

  I wish you would try to prevent any more molestation from those rascals and you will oblige.

   Your Truly
    Wm. Benetz.

[Timothy Murphy era un Juez de Paz (G.Farris)]

the other day on business, Anto. Castro, Rafael García, Mariano Smith [Mariano Elizardi (G.Farris)], Steward Sebaro [Severo Alviso (G.Farris)], Manl. & Nasario Sais, came to the presidio, broke open my house, they have abused the Indians which I kept in charge, and have nearly killed the chief, they have stolen a number of things from me and have plundered the Indian Village

  The Saises have threatened to shoot me, I am afraid to leave this place to come and see you.  I should have been in San Rafael.

  I wish you would try to prevent any more molestation from those rascals and you will oblige.

   Your Truly
    Wm. Benitz.

[Timothy Murphy was a Justice of the Peace (G.Farris)]

PersonsInterpretación de las Abreviaturas Unknown Terms
  • —————— Raiders ——————
  • Alviso, Sebero - possibly an Indian vaquero: José Maria Severo Alviso
  • Briones, Pablo - from Marin & Sonoma counties
  • Briones, Desiderio - “juez de campo”, San José
  • Castro, Antonio - José Antonio Castro, San Antonio rancho (Marin co.); Lomas Muertas (San Benito co.) & Estanislao ranchos
  • Castro, Mariano - son of Antonio Castro, San Antonio rancho (Marin co.)
  • Castro, Seberiano - unidentified
  • Elizaldí, Mariano - “labrador” - i.e., farmer/rancher
  • García, Rafael - Tamales & Baulinas ranchos (Marin co.), & land in Mendocino, north of Ross
  • García, Vitorico - unidentified
  • Francés Tuerto - unidentified
  • Mesa, joven - probably Ramon Mesa, Soulajulle rancho (Marin co.)
  • Paquico - unidentified
  • Saíz, Manuel - José Manuel Sáez; Manuel & Nazario were sons of Juan Maria Sais/Sainz, who in 1843 had petitioned to use “rancho de Muniny” (Muniz - i.e., Fort Ross)
  • Saíz, Nazario - José Nazario Justo Sáez, employed by ranchos in Sonoma & Marin cos.
  • Treviño, José Maria - possibly an employee of Juan Cooper
  • —————— Others ——————
  • Benitez, Inglés/Mr/Señor - William Benitz, Fort Ross, Muniz rancho (Mendocino/Somoma co.)
  • Cooper, Juan - Temascal rancho (Marin or Mendocino cos.)
  • de la Rosa, José - “Juez Supremo de Sonoma”; Ulpinas rancho
  • Felix, Fernando - Novato (Marin co.) & Sanel (Mendocino co.) ranchos
  • Leecs, Luis - possibly Jacob P. Leese
  • Murphy, Mr. - Timothy Murphy, Irish, “Juez de Paz” (Justice of the Peace), Murphy / Santa Margarita rancho (Marin co.)
  • Prudon, Dr. Victor - Frenchman, Sac. Isl. & Laguna ranchos (Yolo co.)
  • Suarez, Capistrano - Capistrano Juárez,
  • Suarez, Cayetano - Cayetano Juárez, 1845: Alcalde at Sonoma; Tulucay (Napa valley) & Yukya (Ukiah) ranchos
Agto. — Agosto
alga. — alguna
algs. — algunos
Anto. / Anto. — Antonio
Ciudo. — Ciudadano
Co. — Ciudadano
Comandte. — Comandante
Comte. — Comandante
Dn. — Don
Dr. — Doctor
dtha. — dicha
dthas. — dichas
dtho. — dicho
fha. — fecha
hta. — hasta
indivs. — individuos
Manl. — Manuel
Maro. — Mariano
Mars. — Mariano
nombe. — nombre
pa. — para
pa.po. — pasado (?)
primo. — primero
pr. — por
Pregdo. — Preguntado
qe. — que
segda. — segunda
Sn. — San
So. — Supremo
Sr. — Señor
Sor. — Señor
Sta. — Santa
  • cora — basket (per G. Farris), (p.393, 394)
  • coyotita — per context: attractive, pretty, (p.391)
  • lepe — homeless (per G. Farris), (p.390)
  • mantilla — a game played with a head-scarf? (p.391); per G. Farris: a game of tossing cow chips (cow-patty frisbie?).

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)