Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This old west RE: Three Fingers Jack

After receiving an interesting comment from a reader known only as lp , I became curious about a man called "Three Fingers Jack" and found this interesting piece at a site called Wandering Lizard...
The legend continues with Joaquin tracking down and killing the five men who had raped and murdered his wife and then swearing that he would take revenge on all Americans. He formed a bandit group and began a life of robbery and murder that allegedly spanned the length and breadth of the Mother Lode Region of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Murrieta's right hand man was Three Finger Jack (Manuel Garcia) who played a minor, if grisly, role in the Bear Flag revolt and is credited with numerous atrocious murders. Virtually every community in the Sierra foothills has one or more stories of Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack during the three years from 1850 to 1853.
The nature of Joaquin Murrieta's character depends on who is telling the story. Lawmen of the day considered him to be one of the worst banditos ever to appear in California. Many others saw him as a kind of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Allegedly he had a vast and loyal following among Mexicans living in California who saw him as an avenger of the wrongs being committed against them by the newly arrived Anglo-American interlopers. All seem to agree that Murrieta and his band were accomplished cattle and horse thieves, inveterate robbers, and ruthless killers.
In July 1853 it was announced that, on order of California Governor Bigler, a specially formed company of State Rangers led by Captain Harry Love had killed both Joaquin Murrieta and Three Fingered Jack at Ponoche Pass in Tulare Valley. In order to prove their deaths, Murrieta was decapitated and three Fingered Jack's hand was amputated. These items were then placed in bottles, embalmed in alcohol, and taken back to the State Capitol where a reward was paid to Love. Official announcements were made proclaiming Murrieta's death and the gruesome bottles went on tour through the state.
In spite of the official proclamations, rumor quickly spread that Love had not killed Joaquin Murrieta but rather another man named Joaquin. Sightings of Joaquin were reported in various places and people who claimed to have known him declared that the head in the bottle was not his. One story has it that he retired to Mexico. Another has him reappearing in Hornitos, California, to reclaim a fortune in gold that he had buried there. Whatever the truth of the matter, there is no question but that his name has, for some political activists at least, symbolized resistance against Anglo-American economic and cultural domination in California.

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