Murder at Dragoon Gulch

After an extraordinary lull of nearly two weeks without the occurrence of a single felony, one of the most diabolical murders in the short history of Tuolumne County happened at Dragoon Gulch near Shaw’s Flat. Three Mexican miners had bought a long tom from Captain George W. Snow and asked him to come by their tent the next morning for payment. Snow normally carried large amounts of money on him and it appears the miners knew this. When he entered their tent he was assaulted and stabbed twice. Nonetheless Snow managed to break free and run about fifteen yards, yelling for help before he fell. He died at midnight.

Long tom

A grave covered in rawhide and blankets was found dug into one corner of the tent where Snow was slain. This news caused a great stir among the population, even perhaps more than the murder. A large reward was offered for the capture of the three killers and early the next day Antonio Cruz and Patricio Janori were arrested in Sonora. And, instead of being turned over to the district court, they were promptly hauled back to Shaw’s Flat for trial before a peoples court. It appears that not one single man spoke out against this action due to the now universal opinion that the type of justice dispensed in the district court would not suffice in a crime so calculated and heinous.

Shaws Flats by JD Borthwick

At Shaw’s Flat a Lynch law court was organized with the participation of many of those who had previously been prominent in upholding the district court. A jury was called together and the two men were tried as fairly and impartially as was possible. It came out during the proceedings that while Antonio, a young, small man, stood at a table weighing out the price of the long tom in gold, Patricio, a large burly man with face said to be marked with the brand of Cain, came up behind Snow and stabbed him in the back. When a feeble attempt to prove an alibi failed the two men were convicted and sentenced to hang, and then to be buried in the same grave they had dug for Snow. They were granted an hour to meet with a priest. Just before the execution Antonio confessed that he did indeed know that the murder was to be committed but pled that he was not a party to it. He added that Patricio, however, had been involved in the murders of other men in the area and, up until that time, had managed to avoid suspicion. After this ropes were placed on their necks and they were hanged from an improvised gallows directly above the grave that they had dug for their victim.


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