Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sherrif Morse,George Swain and The Black Hills Of Contra Costa

George Swain was one of the best Contra Costa lawman during its bloody, frontier era. As a young man, he began his turbulent career fighting the rustlers preying on the thousands of cattle roaming the vast John Marsh rancho. Swain could outshoot, outride and out rope most of the native born Californios. Sheriff Morse described him as " a brave and thoroughly reliable officer,…always be depended upon to do his full duty when in a tight place."
In 1866 one famous episode clearly shows George Swain’s courage and pluck. One of the nastiest cattle thieves in the East Bay was Eduardo Gallego. He boasted that that "no white man could take him." Tipped off that the fugitive could be found in a jacal at the foot of Mount Diablo, George Swain and his brother David met up with Sheriff Morse in Dublin. The bandits, Pancho Caravantes and Pancho Ruiz, another escapee from the Contra Costa County jail, were also rumored to be hiding with Gallego. Boldly plunging deep into the Contra Costa wilderness of the Black Hills, the tiny posse unexpectedly stumbled on a band of 30 heavily armed vaqueros mounting up to go on another raid. Spotting Gallego among them, the quick thinking George Swain made use of the element of surprise. He galloped out of the brush, put a six gun to Gallego’s head, and disarmed him of his knife and Navy Colt revolver. Suddenly handcuffed and shackled to his horse, Gallego was quickly whisked away before his companions could react.

In July 1866 George Swain again had the opportunity to prove his mettle. Tracking two outlaws and cattle rustlers, Juan Robles and Jesus Cruz, to a hideout in the Black Hills near Mount Diablo, Swain surprised them sitting around a camp fire. Instantly George covered them with his Winchester while Sheriff Morse slapped handcuffs on them. The cattle were recovered and returned to their Contra Costa owner.

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