Dutch wasn’t the first. Mining towns were magnets for flimflammers. When Oliver Ridley came to Julian claiming to be a teacher, everyone gave him a hearty welcome, education being another bonanza in the budding community. Two problems: Ridley kept stealing chickens, and someone spotted him reading a newspaper upside down.
Dutch Bill envisioned a different vein. For every incoming miner with good sense and experience, there must have been five — maybe ten — times that number armed only with hope and gullibility.
Somehow Bill found samples of high-grade ore. He took them to San Diego. Like handicappers at a racetrack promising sure bets, Bill waved the lucre high and touted himself as a guide to hidden treasures. Two young men, eager for a fast buck, saw in him a faster one. They bought all the essentials, and the trio headed east, but to the Lagunas — where no one had found an ounce of gold — not the Cuyamacas. During a rainstorm, Bill snuck off with the grub, burros, and supplies. He ate the food, rode back to town, sold the equipment — and began hoodwinking anew.
They say he grew a foot-long beard so previous “clients” wouldn’t recognize him. That he never washed it aided the disguise.
Bill refined his technique. He’d draw vague squiggles and pyramids on an old piece of paper, with X marking a spot only he knew. For added authenticity, Bill folded, crumpled, and stomped the map in the dirt. A dying old prospector gave him the precious parchment, he told prospective marks. But he lacked finances for the trip, which would be costly. They say he left many a sucker on foot and hungry in the Lagunas, with murder in their hearts for the shaggy prevaricator.
If anything, Dutch Bill became too successful. He developed an unquenchable taste for 40 Rod and made the solemn change.
Leandro Woods, a native American, worked as a vaquero for the Lopez family in remote Rodriguez Canyon. Their homestead lay so far outside the Julian and Banner mining districts that no one thought to prospect there. In the summer of 1895, while punching cattle, someone made the last find in the region: the Ranchita mine. Everyone gave Woods the credit, but he said privately it was his mother (possible reason: in those days, a woman could not submit a claim).
For a about year, Woods toiled alone. Whenever he made $2000, he’d rent a suite at the Hotel del Coronado, invite all his friends, and throw a Rabelaisian bash. When the money ran out, Leandro’d go back and dig until he made enough to host his friends anew.
Half a Hanging
The first week of April 1870, several horses went missing. People immediately suspected a loner named Robert Crawford, who allegedly fled from Montana to escape charges of horse thievery. When they found Crawford with a stolen saddle, the townsfolk decided to teach him a lesson. A crowd of howling men looped a rope around his neck and flung it over a strong tree limb. A man being hung didn’t sit on a horse in those days; between 15 and 25 men tugged on the thick rope and hoisted the criminal.
But was Crawford guilty? As the men began to pull the rope taut, someone shouted, “Confess!”
The second time the crowd arched their backs and tightened their grips as if for a tug of war, Crawford opened up. Yes, he stole the horses, and the saddle. But he was part of a gang of thieves who were probably in Mexico by now.
After he swore never to return to Julian City, the posse let Crawford go. On the spot, the group passed a resolution: the first person who commits a murder in the region? They’ll hang him high. ■
Next time: They did.
— Jeff Smith
Botts, Myrtle, History of Julian, Julian, 1969.
Ellsberg, Helen, Mines of Julian, Glendale, 1972.
Fetzer, Leland, A Good Camp: Gold Mines of Julian and the Cuyamacas, San Diego, 2002.
Fowler, Susan, “Julian Timeline,” Julian Historical Museum.
Jaspar, James A., “Trail-Breakers and History-Makers,” ms. San Diego History Center, 1934.
Lewis, David, Historian of the Julian Cemetery, “Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery,” interview, San Diego, 2008.
McDonald, Dorothy, “Julian and the Gold Boom,” The Southern California Rancher, August 1948.
Sheldon, Gale W. “Julian Gold Mining Days,” Masters thesis, SDSU, 1958.
Taylor, Dan Forrest, “Julian Gold,” ms. at San Diego History Center.
Wilcox, Horace Fenton, “Memories of the Gold Stampede,” Touring Topics, February 1932.