Monday, July 19, 2010

Tales Of This Old West ! Claudio Feliz and the Raid on the Marsh Rancho

One of the most violent outlaw bands attacking the isolated ranchos of old Contra Costa was led by Claudio Feliz, Joaquin Murrieta’s brother-in-law. Claudio mounted an armed assault on Dr. Marsh’s rancho, Ranch Los Meganos, on December 5, 1850. After spending a pleasant afternoon as a guest of Dr. John Marsh posing as a Argentinean horse trader, Claudio returned that night with a dozen outlaws armed with guns and lances. They overran the rancho, captured Marsh, looted the adobe ranch house, and just for fun, speared to death William Harrington, an unresisting Anglo visitor. His body was found with eight lance wounds and one bullet hole. The bandits escaped with $300, gold watches and guns. However Marsh was luckier than he knew.
Two weeks after the Marsh raid, Claudio’s band made a quick thrust south to San Jose. Attacking the ranch of Digby Smith, they robbed Smith of $1500. After tying his helpless victims to chairs, Claudio Feliz crushed Digby Smith’s skull, split E.G. Barber’s head open with an ax and severed the cook’s head with a knife. Following the massacre, Claudio Feliz burned the ranchhouse to the ground.
Next Claudio attacked the rancho of Anastacio Chabolla a couple of miles from San Jose. But Anastacio and his vaqueros put up a stiff fight and the outlaw gang was driven off. With that defeat the Feliz gang retreated to the Southern Mines where he linked up with his brother, Reyes.
For the next two years Claudio preyed on the Sierra mining camps before returning to the East Bay. In 1852 an alert rancher’s wife on the Kottinger’s Rancho near Pleasanton became suspicious of the strangers. Seeing a knife she screamed and her husband shoved the outlaws out the door and sealed up the ranch house frustrating the attack by Claudio’s gang. After firing a volley of shots into the ranch house in frustration, the gang galloped off.
Shortly afterwards a largely Hispanic posse caught up with Claudio Feliz and his men on a ranch along the Salinas River. In his greed Claudio Feliz had made the fatal mistake of robbing a native Californio instead of his usual prey of Anglo and helpless Chinese miners. Claudio was tracked down and violently killed along with several of his murderous gang in a bloody gun battle. With his violent death, leadership of the outlaw band passed to his brother-in-law, Joaquin Murrieta.   

By William Mero

       

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like most history, a mixture of fact and fiction. A rich man, Marsh was rumored to have a fortune in gold hidden somewhere. It was never found after his murder in Martinez. Buried somewhere near Diablo? The old house still stands ( barely) Money was raised long ago to repair it but what the State did with the funds I don't know. It might be an interesting place for Smokey to go with his camera. I remember it as a fenced off ruin.

lp

Anonymous said...

very interesting. makes ya kinda go... Hmmmm.

Smokey said...

To get in there and take some shots would be a very cool thing but I doubt I could get any closer than I have in the past with out breaking some laws ... It is a long walk from the gate and it would be real hard to go unnoticed ... I have tried ... But I will try again ... I have thought about hopping the gate and walking up the long 1/4 mile drive to the mansion but feared I might be shot at ... Definitely an interesting historical place and It would be an honor to be let in to photograph it ...

Anonymous said...

I think the Marsh House belongs to the State. Yikes! Who would be shooting at Smokey? Three fingered Jack is dead.

lp

Anonymous said...

Where is this place at? it sounds interesting to go out there and take my metal detector. I know where MT Diablo is at but how do I get to the mansion