Governor tried for squatter vote

Due to the large amount of interest associated with squatters, politicians such as Governor John Bigler, tried to gain their vote. In a message to the legislature on January 4, 1854, Bigler referred to squatters as bona fide settlers, an enterprising and useful portion of the population and called legislation in their favor as just, necessary and proper. Where settlement had been made in good faith with no indication that any title other than that of the government existed—which might include … [Read more...]

Joseph L. Folsom fights squatters 1854

In 1854 squatters took possession of a lot in San Francisco at the corner of Third and Mission that belonged to Captain Joseph L. Folsom and there they built a squatter’s shanty that had three inch planks lining the interior walls. Because of their heavy fortifications Folsom decided it more prudent to buy them off rather than fight. Immediately after receiving money for leaving one of Folsom’s lots the group promptly moved onto another property belonging to him at the corner of First and Howard … [Read more...]

1853 San Francisco squatting dangerous

By 1853 squatting in San Francisco had become much more dangerous and far more frequent than ever before due to an extraordinary rise in real estate prices. While it never became as threatening as in Sacramento, where violent riots had occurred earlier, there were a number of bloody fights, some fatal. One of those deadly battles took place on July 20 when Redmond McCarty was ejected from a Mission Street lot that belonged to Rodman Price. After Deputy Sheriff John Freaner was sent to execute a … [Read more...]

Squatting settled by the courts

Squatting began early in San Francisco and continued vigorously until land titles became substantially settled by the decisions of the court in favor of the old Mexican pueblo system and the subsequent acts of congress of 1864 and 1866 which granted to the city and county of San Francisco all lands included in such pueblo limits in trust for the lot holders and occupants on such terms as might be prescribed by the state legislature. There was hardly any part of the city and county that had not … [Read more...]

Squatting became lucrative

In San Francisco squatting became a trade and in some cases a very lucrative one. An early belief held that most Mexican grants covering parts of the city were forgeries or fraudulent. This proved correct. Some claimed, and the courts later agreed, that there had existed either at the Presidio, the Mission Delores or the village of Yerba Buena a municipality known to the Spanish and Mexican laws as a pueblo or town and was entitled as such to four square leagues of land in which all inhabitants … [Read more...]

Restless miners sought richer diggings

Miners were, even in the early days of the gold rush, a restless bunch. Almost always discontented they longed for what they termed “big strikes” even though they could make as much in a single month as they could in a year with their former work. Thus they constantly sought new and richer diggings. When word of ground that prospected, or “panned out,” better than usual arrived, a rush to that location would follow. The manner in which the adventurers would come together and jostle each other … [Read more...]

Squatters in other parts of California

All around the San Francisco Bay, as well as in other parts of California where there were Mexican or Spanish land grants, squatters and squatter claims existed. In some cases the squatters were right while in others they were not intentionally wrong. The United States government encouraged and invited settlement on public lands and when there was a fair presumption that the lands settled on had not been part of a land grant there was some justification for the squatters to take possession. The … [Read more...]

Squatter claims in San Francisco

In a case where there could be no reasonable question as to the validity of John Sutter’s title, the claim of a squatter  in Sacramento would not be more extravagant than one made in other parts of the state, especially San Francisco. Except for the built-up portions of the city squatting became, and for years continued to be, a very normal method for acquiring and holding land. Not only did men squat for themselves but they would actually squat on property for others. For twenty years a number … [Read more...]

Sheriff in search of squatters

The day after the gunfight with squatters in the streets of Sacramento Sheriff McKinney and about twenty men left town in search of squatters involved in the gun battle. They proceeded out past Sutter’s Fort and the Five Mile House to the Pavilion where they learned squatters were at a roadside drinking house two miles further called Allen’s. McKinney divided his men into six squads and ordered them to approach the saloon from different directions. When McKinney’s group arrived he dismounted … [Read more...]

Sacramento Squatters arrested

On August 13, 1849 James McClatchy was arrested with a man named Michael Moran for interfering with the sheriff in the attempt to execute a judgment of forcible entry and retainer from the Sacramento County Court against certain squatters. A justice of the peace ordered them held over to answer the charge and since they did not have the two thousand dollars bail they were jailed in the prison ship off Sacramento’s Embarcadero. The next morning as the sheriff executed another writ on Second … [Read more...]

Squatter resistance to Sutter

A squatter meeting was held at the Herkimer House on 4th Street on the evening of July 1st with the object of raising funds to make a combined resistance to all lawsuits brought to enforce the title of John Sutter to the land around Sacramento. Dr. Charles Robinson was chairman and he was particularly bitter against the city council, called the common council then, which he accused of legislating in favor of Sutter’s claim to the land which Robinson thought they clearly had no right to do. … [Read more...]

A squatter open to reason

Occasionally a squatter could be found who was open to reason as to who the land he had taken over really belonged. Much of the ground squatted on had been cultivated by John Sutter until his workmen left him in 1848 to mine for gold. A few days after the excitement engendered by the recent destruction of squatters’ shanties in Sacramento one man, working ground that had once been farmed by Sutter, was asked by what authority he expected to hold the land he was on. “By preoccupation and … [Read more...]

Squatter meetings continue

From that December 4th 1849 meeting until well near the end of summer in 1850 squatter meetings continued to be held in Sacramento and the squatters themselves grew more violent and angry. At first these meetings were considered as mere boasting but in time they began to have an effect. Sam Brannan owned a store on John Sutter’s land and as one of the most active and influential men of the day, along with many other capitalists and politicians, he was on the side of Sutter’s grant. Because of … [Read more...]

Destruction of squatter homes

On Saturday evening that December 1, 1849 a meeting was held in Sacramento where much indignation was expressed toward the actions of city officials in the destruction of squatter homes. The opposition held a so called “law and order” meeting the following Tuesday. A speaker stand was made of dry goods boxes piled against the side of a saloon and bowling alley on K Street called “The Gem” and the crowd was large. Resolutions were presented saying the squatters acted lawlessly and in order to … [Read more...]

Early Sacramento and John Sutter

Early Sacramento was laid out on a Mexican land grant given to John Sutter by Governor Alvarado on June 18th, 1841. With the discovery of gold in January 1848 great crowds of miners converged at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers where John Sutter’s fort was located. The embarcadero along the Sacramento River became a lively place and a town was laid out and took the name of the river, Sacramento. At first it was a town of tents, travelers and merchandise on the way to the … [Read more...]