Jack Powers whose real name was John A. Power, (1827 – November 1860), was an Irish born immigrant who came to New York as a child, who became a soldier in the Mexican American War, in the garrison of Santa Barbara, California. During the California Gold Rush a well known professional gambler and a famed horseman, known as Jack Powers, in San Francisco and later in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. He had two brushes with the law in San Francisco in 1849 in Santa Barbara in 1853. He had difficulties with the vigilantes of San Francisco in 1856 and at Los Angeles in 1857. Long known for his skills as a horseman, on May 2, 1858, his skills were demonstrated in a 150-mile time over distance race for $5,000. At that time he was described in the Daily Alta California: “He is a spare built man, with full sunburnt face, heavy hair and whiskers, and a keen eye.”
Soon after this race he was accused by San Luis Obispo vigilantes of complicity in the 1857 murder of two men, and of being the head of the bandit gang, that plagued the southern central coastal region of California, along the El Camino Real with robberies and murders in San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County between 1853 and 1858. This gang was later named the Jack Powers Gang in 1883, by Jesse D. Mason in his History of Santa Barbara County California.:99
Born in Ireland in 1827, as John Power, he came to the United States with his parents in 1836, and settled with them in New York City.
When the Mexican-American War commenced in 1846, John at 19 years of age when he and his older brother Edward joined Company G of the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers with many of his friends from New York, and went west to be a soldier. His brother was made a corporal. His brother in law, Charles Heffernan, enlisted in Company F, accompanied by his wife, John's sister. The New York Volunteers was a unit organized by Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson to occupy and settle California, and men in the unit were promised land in the region should the war be successful.:Clark,39,42 
His Early years in CaliforniaEdit
In San Francisco John Power and his brother transferred to Company F under Captain Francis J. Lippitt, one of three companies of the 1st New York Volunteers which were then sent to Santa Barbara, California. The two other companies were soon sent to occupy towns in the southern part of Baja California Territory, where they saw some action before the end of the war. Power and his company remained there as a garrison, in relative idleness until the disbanding of the Regiment in September 1848, some months after the beginning of the California Gold Rush. Jack Powers remained in the town as a gambler until late in the year when he left for the mines with his brother in law in a party of other men of his regiment.:266 One of those men, James Lynch, later wrote an account of that journey to the goldfields and of their return to San Francisco for the winter of 1848 in his 1882 book, With Stevenson to California, 1846-1848.:Lynch, 5–65
When John Power went to San Francisco for the winter, he became a gambler there and also became associated with the San Francisco Society of Regulators. Powers was accused of being one of The Hounds by the popular vigilante movement organized to rid the city of them after a particularly violent episode against a Chilean settlement in the city during the summer of 1849. On Monday, July 23, 1849, the vigilantes arrested and made prisoners of 20 of the "Hounds", including John Powers, who were then arraigned on charges of conspiracy, riot, robbery, and assault with intent to kill, and all plead "Not guilty." While several others were convicted of various charges, John Powers, was found not guilty on all the charges.
Despite being acquitted of all the charges in a trial, Powers subsequently left San Francisco for the gold fields. There he was said to have had some success. That fall he then went to Stockton, the gateway to the southern mines, where, in a spectacular run of luck, he broke the bank of several large gambling establishments acquiring a fortune variously said to be $50,000 or $175,000,:267 sufficient to make him a wealthy man. He intended a return by steamboat to San Francisco, then take steamships to New York, to take care of his widowed mother who had remained there when he and his brother had left for California. However, persuaded to attempt to make his fortune larger by gambling, he lost most of it, and never left for New York.:266–267 Instead he became a noted gambler and horseman at San Francisco and at the resort of Mission Dolores between late 1849 and 1851. By this time he had become known as Jack Powers, and was well known to influential people in the city and in state politics.
William Redmond Ryan, describes meeting him returning from the Mission Dolores in 1849:
... Jack Power, one of the sporting characters of the country. Jack had been a volunteer; and, on the disbanding of the regiment, becoming infected with the excitement and adventurous character of the wild life which he had led since his arrival in the country, had devoted himself entirely to gambling and horsemanship, in both of which accomplishments he greatly excelled.
No matter how low the state of his finances, he was never without a good horse, caparisoned in the true Californian fashion; and that on which he was now mounted was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen. It had, however, this striking peculiarity, that it would never gallop straight forward towards any given point, but would advance in a sort of sidelong canter, very pleasing to behold, but requiring great skill on the part of the rider to maintain his seat. In this eccentric movement of the animal Power took great delight, for it afforded him opportunities of displaying his superior horsemanship. In addition to his other accomplishments, he was also an excellent performer on the banjo; and one evening, with three or four others, gave a ... concert in the dining-saloon of the Parker House, which was suitably arranged for the occasion; and, although the tickets for admission were three dollars each, the attraction of our Nimrod's celebrity ensured a numerous attendance.:289–290
In 1873, Powers was described by Barry and Patten, owners of one of the leading saloons in early San Francisco, as among the men they saw when they first knew the Mission Dolores, in 1850:
...Jack Powers, always well mounted, and dashing along to show the merits of his nag. Jack Powers! with black beard and flowing hair — his glittering, restless, omnivagant eye — the worst we ever looked upon in any living creature — a fascinating terror — sure index of the devil, time eventually proved him to be.:29–30
Return to Santa BarbaraEdit
Powers returned to Santa Barbara in 1851. From Santa Barbara, he often traveled to San Francisco, Los Angeles and other places to gamble and race horses. In 1852 he established a rancho along the Arroyo Burro on lands formerly belonging to the Mission Santa Barbara that he claimed were public lands he was entitled to settle by the conditions for his service in Stevenson's Regiment. This same land had been leased by Richard S. Den and Daniel A. Hill from the Mission some years earlier. Den also claimed to have an 1846 grant to these lands from the last Mexican governor. In 1853, a state court case ended with a ruling in Den and Hill's favor. Powers refused to leave his rancho after losing his court case in the state district and supreme courts, and with a group of friends vowed to resist being evicted. He was eventually persuaded to leave his ranch, but only after a bloody clash in the town between some of Power's friends and the sheriff and a posse of 200 who were about to attempt to eject him from his ranch by force. One of Powers friends was killed and two others were wounded, and the Sheriff was badly wounded but managed to kill his assailant, a Californio summoned to serve in the posse.    :267-268
Following his loss of the rancho, Powers continued living in Santa Barbara County, leasing a part of the Rancho Laguna in the Guadalupe Valley, in the north of the county, and living by gambling and racing horses as before.:268 In 1856, he protected and hid the politician Ned McGowan from a posse of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance who came hunting for him in Santa Barbara. This earned Jack Powers the enmity of that movement after McGowen released his book detailing his adventures and Power's role in aiding his escape. It would earn Powers the title of "the notorious" before his name in the San Francisco Bulletin and other newspapers articles from then on.
It would soon lead to him being accused by the Los Angeles vigilantes, (who were also after the Flores Daniel Gang), of being head of a burglary ring that had been plaguing Los Angeles, (a place he often visited to gamble and race horses), in early 1857. Arrested on a warrant from Los Angeles by the Sheriff of Santa Barbara, he made bail but soon fled from Santa Barbara, before a Los Angeles vigilante posse came for him on that charge. That he fled, is understandable when the news came that the posse had summarily lynched two other men, accused of being members of the Flores-Daniel Gang while traveling through the area of the Mission San Buenaventura on their way to arrest Powers. Arrested in San Francisco, Powers fought extradition to Los Angeles while the vigilantes held power there. Eventually he lost the fight in the supreme court and was extradited there, but the court in Los Angeles dismissed his case for lack of any evidence.
The Great Match Against TimeEdit
A little over a year later Jack Powers rode in a famous time over distance horse race, called by its promoter The Great Match Against Time, held on May 2, 1858, at the Pioneer Race Course south of San Francisco. Here he set a record time of 6 hours and 43 minutes over a distance of 150 miles, with 24 California mustang horses, mostly belonging to him. The Daily Alta California wrote
The farthest any one horse was ridden at a time was 4 miles, and the least distance 1 mile. He ran at top speed the whole distance. On taking a new horse, he would spring from the saddle, run a few steps, to stretch his legs, and immediately vault into the saddle of the animal which awaited him. Attendants sometimes made the rounds with him, tendering him drink, and receiving his orders. 
At the end of the race Powers "publicly offered to bet $5,000 that he would ride 50 miles in 2 hours; and that no other man in California could perform the feat he had just accomplished; and another,that he would accomplish the 150 miles in 5 hours; with English or American stock, to which there was no response. The average time of the race is within a fraction of 23 miles an hour. Powers does not hesitate to assert that he can make much better time than the above."
In late May 1858 shortly after that long distance race, he was again accused of crimes, this time for his alleged role in the activities of Pio Linares and his gang by a committee of San Luis Obispo vigilantes. The gang was exposed by witnesses some of the gang had allowed to live, following the robbery and murder of two Frenchmen and the kidnapping the wife of one of the victims, at Rancho San Juan Capistrano del Camote, and the killing of a witness named Gilkey nearby, in San Luis Obispo County. These accusations against Powers were based on the confession of one of the accused bandits, Jose Antonio Garcia who had been discovered at a nearby rancho by a vigilante posse hunting for the gang. Powers was accused in Garcia's confession of participating with the gang in the killing of two Basque cattlemen in late 1857 on the Nacimiento River near San Miguel.:294–297
The vigilantes also made out Powers as being in secret, the outlaw gang leader, of this group of highway-robbers and murderers of the vicims and witnesses, including Linares, Garcia and others, operating in southern and central California for several years earlier. During the Gold Rush era, from 1849 to 1858, robberies and murders had been committed by bandits on the stretch of El Camino Real through San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County, making it the most dangerous route in the state. :294–295,296,297,302
On the basis of these accusations, on May 31, 1858, Governor John B. Weller issued rewards for the arrests of the gang members still at large:
WHEREAS, IT IS REPRESENTED To me by the citizens of San Luis Obispo that several atrocious murders and robberies have recently been perpetrated at San Miguel, San Juan de Capistrano, and Camate; and that upon the oath, of respectable men, these crimes have been charged upon the following persons, who are still at large, viz:
JACK POWERS, an Irishman, and generally known as a gambler.
PIO LINARES, is a native of this country, has a slightly dark complexion, is slender, has large sleepy eyes, and without beard.
EL HUERO (light or empty headed) RAFEAL is tall, slender, and quite handsome, with a light mustache.
MIGUEL BLANCO, is also of this country; of low stature, about 20 years of age, is handsome very fair, with a bold face and without beard.
DISEDERIO GRIZALYA, is small and slender, has somewhat dark complexion, large eyes, half open like the eyes of a cat, has no beard and is jovial and pleasant in his manners.
JESUS VALENZUELA, is slender; brother to Joaquin Valenzuela; one of the five Joaquins, and is also called Jesus Chiquito.
NIEVES ROBLES alias FLORIAN SERVIN has a round face, somewhat dark complexion is small, and about 23 years of age.
LUCIANO, El Mestino, or Herdsman, is a hunter of the Tulares.
Now, therefore, by virtue of the power vested in me, by Constitution and laws of this State I hereby offer the following REWARDS for their arrest and conviction:
For JACK POWERS, Five Hundred Dollars
For PIO LINARES. Five Hundred Dollars
For RAFEAL MONEY, alias RAFEAL HENADA. alias EL HUERO RAFEAL, Five Hundred Dollars.
For MIGUEL BLANCO, Two Hundred Dollars.
For DESEDERIO GRIZALVA, Two Hundred Dollars.
For NIEYES ROBLES, Two Hundred Dollars.
For JESUS VALENZUELA, alias JESUS CHIQUITO, Two Hundred Dollars.
For LUCIANO, El Mestino, Two Hundred Dollars.
Done at Sacramento, California, this 31st day of May, A. D., One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-Eight.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and affixed the Great Seal of the State. JOHN B. WELLER.
Attest: Ferris Forman, Secretary of State.
(reformated from continuous text for easier reading)
After the state governor issued this $500 reward for him on May 31, Powers, fearing arrest and delivery to vigilante justice in San Luis Obispo, was aided by friends in San Francisco, who hid him from the police, until he could flee the state on June 3, 1858. The August 27, 1858, Daily Alta California would later report:
The Elizabeth Owens sailed from San Francisco on the 3d of June, for the mouth of the Colorado, but was obliged to put into Guaymas for water. ... The notorious Jack Powers went down on the schooner from San Francisco to Guaymas, and was still there when the vessel left, notwithstanding the reports that he has lately been seen in Lower California.
Garcia, the one witness that placed Powers at the scene of one of the gangs crimes., was hung by the vigilantes at San Luis Obispo, Tuesday June 8, 1858, instead of being held as a witness for a trial of Powers, five days after Powers had left San Francisco for Mexico.:297
Exile in Sonora and DeathEdit
From the Los Angeles Star, in October 9, 1858 came word from Jack Powers:
- The notorious Jack Powers is in Hermosillo. He has plenty of money, and is enjoying himself as it nothing had happened. He says that in two years he intends to return to San Francisco.
In June 1859, from Sonora, in the Guaymas correspondence of the San Francisco Herald came the following:
Jack Powers, about whom so much has been said, has located himself at Hermosillo, where ho has opened a fine hotel. Jack is in high feather with the Peiquiera Government and the Mexicans generally, and in consequence is able to render great assistance to Americans traveling through the country, who are free to stop at Hermosillo. And to his credit be it said, that he has in all cases where it has come under his notice aided them. I know two parties myself, who left free, that took letters to Jack. Jack says he is no friend to filibusters, as the Mexicans have treated him kindly, but will aid his countrymen whenever and wherever he can, who are peaceably traveling through the country or pursuing a legitimate calling in it. He says in a short time he will again visit California and face his enemies.
From the September 30, 1860 Daily Alta California:
Jack Powers left, a short time ago, for Arizona. He has, I believe, purchased a ranch a few miles from Tucson, on which he intends to keep some horses he bought to sell the government. He also has a contract for making brick for a new fort about to be put up by the United States. Powers has many friends in Sonora and friends who would perhaps do as much for him as any he ever had in California. And of his whole conduct since he has been here has been most quiet and inoffensive, but little attention is paid to what is said of him in California.
However the truth was that after two years, gambling and running a ranch in the Mexican state of Sonora, in 1860, he drove a herd northward into New Mexico Territory to sell it in Mowry City, a new mining boom town on the Mimbres River. However he found this boom was only a rumor upon reaching the Territory.
Then on November 2, 1860:
[Special Dispatch to the Alta California.]
[Per Pacific and Atlantic Line.]
Los Angeles, Nov. 2.
Murder of Jack Powers.
We learn from Mr. R. O. Cossett, who passed here on the Overland mail stage to-day, that the notorious Jack Powers was murdered on his ranch a little south of Tubac, Arizona, by his Mexican peons. He had some seven or eight hundred head of stock on his ranch when he was murdered.
On November 16, 1860, the Daily Evening Bulletin, published a letter from its Arizona correspondent at Fort Buchanan, Arizona, dated October 31, 1860.
Additional Particulars of the Murder of Jack Powers
Some three months ago Jack Powers came up from Sonora with 500 head of cattle, also a lot of sheep and horses. He first stopped on what is known as the Potrero ranch, 4 miles north of the Line. Wishing to find better grass, he moved to the Babacomari ranch (deserted some 40 years ago on account of the Apaches, and belonging to the Spanish family Elias.) Jack came up with 30 Yaqui Indians , who deserted him for fear of the Apaches. While at the Babacomari ranch Capt. Ewell sent him some dragoons until he could get peons to herd his cattle. The Apaches appearing on the ranch, he left for the Potrero ranch, occupied by Montgomery & Smith, and built a house half-a-mile from them, where he settled, with four peons, to herd his cattle. (I forgot to mention that he was on his way to the Rio Mimbres, but on his arrival here, he learned that the mines were a failure, and so he stopped at this point.) On Thursday last, Grundy Ake called to see Jack, and asked him if he was not afraid to stop with along with the Mexicans. He answered that his life was safer with Mexicans than Americans.
On Friday night, Montgomery and Smith called at his (Jack's) place, to ask if their (Montgomery & Smith's) hogs had been around. Jack said yes, and wished them to remain over night, as they would be sure to find them in the morning, when they came out of the tules. But Montgomery and Smith said they would come about daylight. On returning in the morning, they found several hogs at the house, and Jack Powers lying on the floor with his throat cut, and skull cracked by a blow on the head. The hogs had badly mangled his body. He was buried on the Sunday, by the farmers living around Calabasas (the U.S. Custom House). Later on the day of the burial, an American, who came up from a small town called Imcorza, met the four peons with a half-breed American (supposed to be Cherokee) on their road down to Sonora. The half-breed was riding Jack's horse. None of the party was leading any animals. It appears that Jack had row with his peons and they killed him, taking all his animals, and everything that was valuable, together with five horses. Mr. Boza of Calabasas, has for the present taken charge of Jack's stock.
See Gold Dust and Gunsmoke: Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes (1999) by John Boessenecker.
- CITY ITEMS, THE GREAT RACE OVER THE UNION COURSE - ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILES IN SIX HOURS AND FORTY-THREE MINUTES., Daily Alta California, Volume 10, Number 121, 3 May 1858, P.2, COL.2
- Mason, Jesse D; History of Santa Barbara County, California, with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, Thompson & West, Oakland, Cal., 1883, Chap. XVI,XIX
- James Lynch, Francis Clark, The New York Volunteers in California, The Rio Grande Press,Inc., Glorietta, NM, 1970.
- Santa Barbara History Makers, Tompkins, 1983, p. 103–104
- Baker, p. 42
- William A. Streeter and William Henry Ellison, Recollections of Historical Events in California, 1843-1878 (Concluded), California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Sep., 1939), pp. 254-278, University of California Press in association with the California Historical Society
- Weekly Alta California, Number 33, 16 August 1849, (Reported for the Alta California.) The Chilenos and other Foreigners in the city of San Francisco attacked by an Armed Party of Americans — Great Excitement — Meeting of the Citizens — Formation of a citizen armed Police — Arrest of the Rioters — Their Trial and Sentence.
- William Redmond Ryan, Personal adventures in Upper and Lower California, in 1848-9; with the author's experience at the mines. Illustrated by twenty-three drawings taken on the spot. W. Shoberl, London, 1850; .p.288-290
- William Redmond Ryan, Personal adventures in Upper and Lower California, in 1848-9; with the author's experience at the mines. Illustrated by twenty-three drawings taken on the spot. W. Shoberl, London, 1850
- Barry, Theodore Augustus,; Patten, Benjamin Adam, Men and memories of San Francisco in the "spring of '50", A.L. Bancroft & Co., San Francisco, Calif., 1873
- Los Angeles Star, Number 52, 7 May 1853, p.2,col.2 Bloody Affray in Santa Barbara — Deplorable State of Affairs.
- Bloody Affray in Santa Barbara—Deplorable State of Affairs.
- Our intelligence from Santa Barbara, by the Sea Bird, is of a most exciting and melancholy nature, and such as to cause the keenest regret among all classes of our citizens. A fight occurred in the streets of that city on Saturday last, between a party of Californians on one side and some Americans on the other, which resulted in the death of one man and the wounding of three more, one, of whom, it is supposed will not recover.
- We have received no correspondence from the scene of difficulty, and have been obliged to gather our information relating to it from various sources. This we have taken some pains to do, and we believe the following is a tolerably fair statement of the case, though we do not vouch for its authenticity in every particular.
- An American named John, but more familiarly known as Jack Powers, had been occupying a piece of land which Mr Nicholas Den had leased from the government for a term of years, situated about, two miles from the city. Den had instituted proceedings against Powers for the recovery of his property, and the case, after being decided in favor of the plaintiff in the District Court, was carried up to the Supreme Court of the State, where a decision was also rendered for the plaintiff. Powers, however refused to give up the land, claiming that it was government property, and as such, free to all American citizens. Thus the case continued for some time. At last the Sheriff of Santa Barbara, county, Mr. Twist, resolved to eject the occupant by force, and for that purpose assembled a posse of men to assist him.- Powers hearing of the intention of the Sheriff, collected a party of friends to the number of fifteen, and proceeded with them to fortify himself on the rancho, felling trees, piling up logs and arranging wagons, so as to form a sort of barricade for that purpose. On Saturday morning the sheriff assembled his force. Powers and his men were in town at the time, and immediately procured wagons and horses, and proceeded on in advance, taking with then, eatables and drinkables sufficient to last several days, and all well armed with six shooters, rifles and shot guns. They had also several pieces of music with them, and apparently started off pretty jolly. Three of the number named John Videll, John Dunn and Jack Stout remained behind for a short time, and were riding past the place where the Sheriff was engaged with some of his men in cleaning a cannon which had been spiked the night before, when something which was said induced them to stop. The Sheriff was asked what he intended to do with the cannon? to which he replied that he was merely unspiking it, that he had no disposition to use it in any way, and that he was desirous of executing his duty without a difficulty. Some other words followed, and Videll finally rode up and threw a rope over the cannon, but immediately loosed it again. An Irishman named Micky, then approached and made a rope fast to the cannon, and started off, dragging it after him. Upon this, the Sheriff is reported by some to have told his men to "protect the gun." and by others to have given orders to kill all the Americans present, and the order was obeyed instantly — Videll was shot seven times — four shots in the back, two in the wrist, and one through the head. Report says that he was then lassoed and dragged a short distance on the ground, but we cannot conceive of the perpetration of such an unheard of brutality, and therefore I judge the statement to be incorrect. Dunn was wounded but not very seriously, and he and Stout made their escape. During the melee, one of the Sheriffs party stabbed him just above the hip by mistake, inflicting a very severe wound, and the Sheriff in his turn, drew shot the man through the breast. He was a Californian named Lugo. Micky got off unhurt. In the afternoon, Powers, having heard of what had taken place, drove into town with his party and paraded the streets for a short time, but no further bloodshed followed. All classes were very much excited, the Californians and Americans generally taking sides against each other. At the time the Sea Bird left, tranquility had been in a measure restored, but bitter feelings still exist, which may develop themselves in further difficulties. Powers, we understand, refuses to give up his land.
- On one evening during the last week, a Californian, while riding through the street was shot at twice, the balls passing through his serape, but doing no further injury. As it was supposed to have been the work of Americans, a party of about fifty Californians collected with the design of tearing down Mr Hearn's billiard saloon, a place much frequented by Americans in Santa Barbara but were restrained by the Sheriff. We shall await with some interest, further details of the affair, which we hope will be furnished by some of our friends in Santa Barbara.
- Daily Alta California, Volume 4, Number 126, 7 May 1853, p.2, col.1, FROM SAN DIEGO AND LOS ANGELES.
- Excitement and Deadly Affray in Santa Barbara.
- By the arrival of the steamer Ohio, Capt. Briggs, from the southern ports, we have dates from Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara, several days later. From San Diego to the 23d ult., Los Angeles, 20th. The following painful intelligence comes to us from Santa Barbara: For some time past the ranch known at the Arroyo Burro has been in possession of one John Powers who held it under a squatter claim. On Saturday last the sheriff, W. W. Twist was about to proceed to serve a writ of ejectment on Powers. It being intimated to him that to get possession, he must do so by force of arms, he called upon the citizens to meet in the Plaza to render him assistance in the execution of his duty. The party procured a large cannon to take with them and while on the Plaza a man threw his riata over it to draw it away. The sheriff ordered him to desist. During the dispute a Californian stepped behind Twist and stabbed him, the latter turned round and shot him dead. A general firing then commenced, during which J. A. Videl was killed.
- Monday Morning. — The excitement has somewhat subsided on account of the arrival of the cutter Ewing whose commander offers to render all assistance in his power in the execution of the law. At last account. Twist was very low, but hopes were entertained of his recovery. We are indebted to Purser Deane for the above account, our correspondence having from some unaccountable cauase failed to reach us. There is not much other news from the South.
- Daily Alta California, Volume 4, Number 158, 8 June 1853, p2 col2 The Riot In Santa Barbara
- THE RIOT IN SANTA BARBARA
- Full Particulars of the Affray — Statement of the Sheriff.
- We lay before our readers the following official statement of Sheriff Wilson, of Santa Barbara Co., giving the fall particulars of the late difficulty in that place and the affray between a squatter party and the authorities.
- Sheriff's Offce, - }
- Santa Barbara, 27th May, 1853.- }
- Most Excellent Sir - Having somewhat recovered from the effects of the wound received by me on the 30 of April last, while trying to exacute my duty as sheriff of this county, I deem it proper to dispatch to you an official statement of the whole affair, from first to last, insomuch as to this date I have seen no true account of the matter, nor anything approaching to the truth in any public print of the day. On the 20th day of April last a writ was placed in my hands, commanding me to dispossess a John Powers of a certain tract of land, house, corral, fences, ditches, &c., and immediately to place Messrs. Hill and Den in peaceful possession of the same. I had thirty day allowed me to return the writ to court previous to my receiving it. I was told several times by some of Powers' gang or partners, that I had better not attempt to serve it, that it would not be given up, and that I would lose my life. and that I bad better resign. "Squatters had their rights." I replied that I had nothing to do with "squatters rights," if I received a writ or execution from any court, I should try and serve it.
- But to proceed. The moment I received the writ I set out alone to to serve it, and on the road I was overtaken by some cf the gang and requested to stop; that they wished to have a little time or notice and that it would no doubt be settled immedately and in a leagal manner, and that it was unfair in me to take the advantage of them, when the principal, John Powers, was absent in Los Angeles. I replied I would consent to give them ten days notice to quit the premises. They said that it was all they could ask of me, and expressed themselves well satisfied with me when I consented to give them that time.
- Meantime; Powers arrived. I went immediately and notified him that I held the writ, and that I had on urgent request of his agents, given him ten days notice to quit, and that the notice would expire on Saturday 30th April, at 10 o'clock, A. M. He said, "I will not give up the place: if the boys and by me as they promised, not if the house is burnt over my head; and I give you notice, Sheriff: that you can get all the force you can, for alone you know you can do nothing." I replied "Very well, on next Saturday, at 10 o'clock in the morning, expect a call from me," and I left him. He stated a day or two after the above conversation, that he would have about forty armed men to help him to resist; and in a subsequent conversation he told me so. I then, under the circumstances, concluded that it behooved me to make all necessary preparation to carry into effect the law. I began to summon a posse comitatus to appear at my office at the hour of 10 o'clock on Saturday, 30th April. Meantime he was making preparation to resist by collecting arms, as arms were seen in the hands of men who carried and left them at his house; it had now fully become a question of the force of the law against disorder. On Saturday morning the people began to assemble in front cf my office; which assembly Powers passed by, in the road to the "Arroya del Burro," accompanied by some ten or fifteen armed men in a wagon, preceded by a band cf music.
- As he passed by I called him, and beseached him not to proceed to extremes in resistance, and not to be the cause of bloodshed. He went on, and the people said to me, "these men have rifles and are fortified in a house; we have few, if any arms and no guns: we had better take out a cannon." I said, "go and get it." They went off and got a small swivel, which will carry a ball of two pound's weight. When they arrived in front of the house with it, John Videl, John Dunn, Robinson, alias Stout, and some others of the Powers party, rode up on horseback to within a few feet of where I was standing, and Vidal asked me If I thought cf carrying out that gun? I told him that I would take such steps to enforce the law as were proper under the circumstances. He thereupon became very much enraged, and said "what kind Of a d__d Sheriff are you?" took out his pistol and said. "you had better make out your will — you will get a bullet through your head." I replied, "the bullet is not made that is to kill me today." He said " boys do you hear that?" and thereupon began to turn over the cannonand to ride their horses over it, and make insulting remarks. The people began to get enraged. I exclaimed to them, "do not mind what they say, for it amounts to nothing: keep your temper." I then asked Vidal, I would not take it. He then put a rope on it to draw it away. I said, "I command you to let it remain where it is." Some person cut his rope, but one of his friends put another rope around it, and they persisted in taking it away. I then commanded all to assist me in detaining the gun; at that moment Vidall raised (as was proven in court afterwards) his pistol, and fired at me, the ball passing close by my head, and burying itself in the walls cf the house behind. This was the first shot fired, (also proven In court). I then drew my pistol and fired, Robinson, alias Stout, one of the same gang, turned to run away, and as he run away, fired at me. I followed after him and fired upon him as he turned the corner of the houie. The moment I fired upon him I was stabbed, by one Alejo Servia, a man who knew me well, and for a longtime lived here in town. He was sent here a prisoner by the Mexican Government, for assassinating a man, and during the California revolution was set at liberty. As I fell, I turned my pistol upon him with all my remaining strength, as be turned to flee, and shot him". He died a few days afterwards from the effects cf the wound. I was then carried into my house and the wound I received came near being mortal; for several days my life hung on a thread. Powers and a portion of his party hearing what had happened, came marching into town in the afternoon, his troops under arms, and formed in battle array. Powers was assisted throughout the day at the Arreye del Burro, and in getting his men in order, by a certain man named Lynch, that made a statement in the San Joaquin Republican, that the man that attempted to assassinate me came two hundred miles to answer my summons, and that he stabbed me by accident. Alejo Servia has lived in this city for several years, and has conversed with me, face to face, for fifty times at the least.
- But to proceed. On the same day I fell, not knowing what would be the result, I deemed it proper to make a requisition on you, as Governor of the State, for troops; the requisition was eonfirmed by the signitures of the District Judge, County Judge, Mayer, and District Attcrnry, and in it I think was a concise statement of the whole affair. As you have never answered it I am inclined to think that you never received it; it must have miscarried. As soon as I regained my health, somewhat I learned that Powers and his party supposed themselves victorious and that the authorities would not trouble them again. I was well aware that the force of the law and order party of this county was not by any means exhausted, and having procured a few good arms, I secretly collected forty man together, to be in readiness to act in case any resistance was made, and sent a deputy to arrest Powers, John and Pat Dunn, and the man Robinson alias Stout. They finding that resistance was useless, gave themselves up at last, were examined before the County Judge, and Robinson was put under bail of three thousand dollars; the others were acquitted. They had retained all the lawyers that would act, and the people owing to the District Attorney being at the time unwell had no lawyers to file a complaint against them after they were acquitted. I took possession of the "Arroy-del Burro," placed Messrs. Hill and Den in peaceable possession of the same, where they still remain. This is all of that affair.
- And in conclusion. I beg leave to state to you that I have not made a statement but has been, or can be, if necessary, proven; and that, also, it was in no wise a question of Americans against Californians, but simply one of the force of the law against whomsoever chose to resist its executi0n. As far as the county is concerned, that question is now settled most definitely; there are ten to one in favor of order and law and the authorities, in doing their duty. The people of this county want no troops now, and the American and Oalifornian population have proved it to the world that they will sustain the law, acting ever together in unity and good faith.
- I am, sir, your most obedient servant,
- W W Twist,
- Sheriff of the County of Santa Barbara.
- To his Excellency John Bigler, Governor of the State of California
- Edward McGowan,Narrative of Edward McGowan, including a full account of the author's adventures and perils while persecuted by the San Francisco vigilance committee of 1856, together with a report of his trial, which resulted in his acquittal, self-published, 1857, reprinted 1917. McGowan's account of his persecution by the Committee of Vigilance.
- Los Angeles Star, Number 43, 7 March 1857, p.3,col.1, Arrest and Escape of Jack Powers — Santa Barbara Gazette.
- Daily Alta California, Volume , Number 45, 15 February 1857 p.2, col.4, INTERESTING LETTER FROM LOS ANGELES. NEWS OF THE PAST FORTNIGHT--FULL ACCOUNT OF THE ARREST AND EXECUTION OF THE ROBBERS
- Daily Alta California, Volume 9, Number 95, 6 April 1857, p. ,col. , Summary of the Fortnight News
- Los Angeles Star, Number 48, 11 April 1857, p. col. Arrest of Jack Powers
- Los Angeles Star, Number 50, 25 April 1857, p.2,col.2, Jack Powers
- Daily Alta California, Volume 10, Number 120, 2 May 1858, Page 1,Column 5 Advertisements, PIONEER COURSE; FOR $5,OOO!; ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILES IN EIGHT CONSECUTIVE H0URS!
- Angel, Myron; History of San Luis Obispo County, California; with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, Thompson & West, Oakland, 1883
- Los Angeles Star, Number 5, 12 June 1858, $2,500 Reward, p.2,col.5
- Daily Alta California, Volume 10, Number 235, 27 August 1858, p.1, col.6 Later from Guaymas
- Los Angeles Star, Number 22, 9 October 1858, p.2, col.3, Later from Sonora.
- Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 17, Number 2561, 11 June 1859, p.3, col.3, Sonora.
- Daily Alta California, Volume 12, Number 3883, 30 September 1860, p.1,col.6 OUR GUAYMAS CORRESPONDESCE.
- Daily Alta California, Volume 12, Number 3917, 3 November 1860, p.1 col.2 BY TELEGRAPH.
- Ross, Dudly T., Devil On Horseback, Valley Publishers, Fresno, 1975. p.168
- Angel, Myron; History of San Luis Obispo County, California; with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, Thompson & West, Oakland, 1883
- Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1927. ISBN 1-56025-275-8
- Baker, Gayle. Santa Barbara. Harbor Town Histories, Santa Barbara. 2003. ISBN 0-9710984-1-7
- Mason, Jesse D; History of Santa Barbara county, California, with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, Thompson & West, Oakland, Cal., 1883
- Walter Murray's letter to sister Anne of 28 May, 16 June 1858 from famtrees.info accessed March 20, 2018.
- Ross, Dudly T., Devil On Horseback, Valley Publishers, Fresno, 1975.
- Storke, Yda Addis, A Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura, California Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, 1891.
- Tompkins, Walker A. Santa Barbara, Past and Present. Tecolote Books, Santa Barbara, CA, 1975.
- Tompkins, Walker A. It Happened in Old Santa Barbara. Sandollar Press, Santa Barbara, CA, 1976.
- Tompkins, Walker A. Santa Barbara History Makers. McNally & Loftin, Santa Barbara. 1983. ISBN 0-87461-059-1