Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Browsing San Diego pioneer graves at Old Town’s Campo Santo cemetery

Are our ancestors all heroes?

Campo Santo, second-oldest cemetery in San Diego
Campo Santo, second-oldest cemetery in San Diego
Place

El Campo Santo Cemetery

2410 San Diego Avenue, San Diego

As much as we’d like to think so, sometimes you hear things you’d rather not. Got a bit of a shock at the Campo Santo the other day. I was walking through San Diego’s second cemetery, with my friend George. On his way from New York to New Zealand. Very conscious of the tough love of pioneering days. Has made documentaries about them. Wanted to see Old Town.

Juan Mendoza. The marker doesn’t mince words

So we arrive at the Campo Santo cemetery, on San Diego Avenue. Populated with early San Diegans between 1849 and 1907. George is taking photos in the slanting afternoon sunlight, when we come across this cluster of grave sites, in the southwestern corner, right over the low wall from San Diego Avenue.

First is James W. Robinson, known to everyone back in the day as Yankee Jim, the miner. Yankee Jim was a bit of a layabout, known for “borrowing” things and then returning them, or abandoning them. This time, in 1852, the city fathers must have reckoned he went too far. He “borrowed” the only rowboat in San Diego Bay, had his fun rowing about, and then abandoned it. “Your jurors in the within case of James W. Robinson have the honor to return a verdict of Guilty and do therefore sentence him, James Robinson, to be hanged by the neck until dead. Cave J. Couts, foreman of the jury.”

“For stealing a rowboat?” says George. “What kind of judge could allow that?”

Uh oh. That name Cave J. Couts turns my head. He was an ancestor of my in-laws, a soldier from Tennessee who settled, married well, had more than one rancho, and became a powerful member of the little community in Old Town.

Yankee Jim couldn’t believe they weren’t joking about the death penalty, and was talking to everybody right up to the moment they whipped the mules. The cart they were pulling jerked up the avenue, leaving Yankee Jim — he might have been 6 foot 5 — just able to still touch the ground with his toes, but slowly strangling.

“Don’t want to know,” says George.

Yankee Jim’s grave. He swung from a rope right here.

Turns out this is quite a corner. Right next to Yankee Jim’s grave, a plaque says “Sacred to the memory of Antonio Garra Sr. A leader among his people. Cupeño-Kavalim clan. Died January 10, 1852.” Garra led an uprising that was an echo of the Boston Tea Party. The US government was trying to tax the native Americans in the area. Garra’s cry was “No taxation without representation!” Sound familiar? But he was an Indian. He was caught and tried. And, oh boy. Cave J. Couts was the Judge Advocate who found him guilty of murder and theft. He was shot dead, right over this wall where the brick Whaley house stands.

Camino Real bell announces the Campo Santo
Antonio Garra’s gravesite. The Kumeyaay revolutionary was shot right across the wall

“Quite a guy,” says George. I think he’s talking about Cave Couts. “And here’s another.”

Lord. It’s another wood-framed glass-covered plaque. “In memory of Juan Mendoza. Died February 6, 1865, by the hands of Cave J. Couts, aged 46 years. Rest in Peace.”

“Juan Mendoza was the victim of a fatal shotgun blast to the back. The assailant was Cave Johnson Couts, a local landowner.” Mendoza was majordomo at Couts’s ranch. Did Couts break the “Code of the West,” by shooting an unarmed man in the back? Or was it self-defense? Because Couts claimed in the subsequent trial that Mendoza had threatened his life. He was just obeying the “Code of the West” which allows a man to “stand his ground” and kill any man threatening him with his life. Couts was acquitted. Man. If these walls could speak.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

La Jolla Tide Pools meets Craftsman-style renovation

In its early days, the Kline House operated as La Jolla Sanatorium
Campo Santo, second-oldest cemetery in San Diego
Campo Santo, second-oldest cemetery in San Diego
Place

El Campo Santo Cemetery

2410 San Diego Avenue, San Diego

As much as we’d like to think so, sometimes you hear things you’d rather not. Got a bit of a shock at the Campo Santo the other day. I was walking through San Diego’s second cemetery, with my friend George. On his way from New York to New Zealand. Very conscious of the tough love of pioneering days. Has made documentaries about them. Wanted to see Old Town.

Juan Mendoza. The marker doesn’t mince words

So we arrive at the Campo Santo cemetery, on San Diego Avenue. Populated with early San Diegans between 1849 and 1907. George is taking photos in the slanting afternoon sunlight, when we come across this cluster of grave sites, in the southwestern corner, right over the low wall from San Diego Avenue.

First is James W. Robinson, known to everyone back in the day as Yankee Jim, the miner. Yankee Jim was a bit of a layabout, known for “borrowing” things and then returning them, or abandoning them. This time, in 1852, the city fathers must have reckoned he went too far. He “borrowed” the only rowboat in San Diego Bay, had his fun rowing about, and then abandoned it. “Your jurors in the within case of James W. Robinson have the honor to return a verdict of Guilty and do therefore sentence him, James Robinson, to be hanged by the neck until dead. Cave J. Couts, foreman of the jury.”

“For stealing a rowboat?” says George. “What kind of judge could allow that?”

Uh oh. That name Cave J. Couts turns my head. He was an ancestor of my in-laws, a soldier from Tennessee who settled, married well, had more than one rancho, and became a powerful member of the little community in Old Town.

Yankee Jim couldn’t believe they weren’t joking about the death penalty, and was talking to everybody right up to the moment they whipped the mules. The cart they were pulling jerked up the avenue, leaving Yankee Jim — he might have been 6 foot 5 — just able to still touch the ground with his toes, but slowly strangling.

“Don’t want to know,” says George.

Yankee Jim’s grave. He swung from a rope right here.

Turns out this is quite a corner. Right next to Yankee Jim’s grave, a plaque says “Sacred to the memory of Antonio Garra Sr. A leader among his people. Cupeño-Kavalim clan. Died January 10, 1852.” Garra led an uprising that was an echo of the Boston Tea Party. The US government was trying to tax the native Americans in the area. Garra’s cry was “No taxation without representation!” Sound familiar? But he was an Indian. He was caught and tried. And, oh boy. Cave J. Couts was the Judge Advocate who found him guilty of murder and theft. He was shot dead, right over this wall where the brick Whaley house stands.

Camino Real bell announces the Campo Santo
Antonio Garra’s gravesite. The Kumeyaay revolutionary was shot right across the wall

“Quite a guy,” says George. I think he’s talking about Cave Couts. “And here’s another.”

Lord. It’s another wood-framed glass-covered plaque. “In memory of Juan Mendoza. Died February 6, 1865, by the hands of Cave J. Couts, aged 46 years. Rest in Peace.”

“Juan Mendoza was the victim of a fatal shotgun blast to the back. The assailant was Cave Johnson Couts, a local landowner.” Mendoza was majordomo at Couts’s ranch. Did Couts break the “Code of the West,” by shooting an unarmed man in the back? Or was it self-defense? Because Couts claimed in the subsequent trial that Mendoza had threatened his life. He was just obeying the “Code of the West” which allows a man to “stand his ground” and kill any man threatening him with his life. Couts was acquitted. Man. If these walls could speak.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Nathan Fletcher, wife Lorena Gonzalez, and Ben Hueso roll in dough

Faulconer turns off police access to hidden cameras
Next Article

La Jolla Elementary alumni

Bruce Robinson, Fred Benedetti, Nickel Creek, Black Licorice, Rob Halford
Comments
1

Oddly enough, but these "good ol' days" gone bye seem to be the image of a certain desire for the same violent "solutions" in these-here days,
Some things just don't change. Take Trump's claim to be able to shoot a man on the street and "get away with it". The legacy of Cave Couts would make an interesting comparison to Donald J Trump and the lawless status-quo expectations of our day.

March 6, 2019

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close