The Infamous “Chili Gulch” Incident

In the years after the great California gold rush, some of the old timers got together to tell their stories. Old Tennessee was asked if he was acquainted with the particulars of the incident that occurred in Chili Gulch referred to by Tex? He replied that he was, as he got the whole account of it from Kentuck, who was present and took a part in the affair: 

"This Chili Gulch is a few miles from Mokelumne Hill and empties into the Calaveras River. It was given this name because 'twas discovered by a company of Chileans numbering about thirty men, and they had worked there for several months, and were taking out gold by the bushel. In the winter of '49-'50 a company of men composed of Texans and Kentuckians, with a few from Arkansas and Missouri, numbering about sixteen in all, camped near Chili Gulch, and finding that these foreigners were getting more than their share of gold, concluded to drive them out and take possession of these rich claims. They therefore posted notices in the gulch ordering the foreigners to vacate within twenty-four hours or suffer the consequences. But no attention was paid to the order for the reason that no law had been passed by the Government to prevent them from mining in California. And from this fact they inferred that they had as good a right to mine as any one.



The miners, finding that they did not intend to leave, drove them out by main force and took possession, not only of their mining ground, but also of their tools, tents and even of some of their clothing. The Chileans went up to Mokelumne Hill for assistance, but the officers of the law refused to assist them. The sheriff did, however, in order to get rid of them, give them a blank warrant with the privilege of filling it out and serving said warrant in any manner they pleased. Armed with this authority they went early in the morning and took the whole company of miners prisoners, but unfortunately one Missourian was killed and another one badly wounded during the affray. They tied the hands of their prisoners, and driving them along in the road ahead of them, started for the town of Stockton, distant about eighty miles. Kentuck said “that they was just the maddest set of men you ever did see, for the idea of bein' driven along the road like a flock of geese by them d—d greasers, with their hands tied behind their backs, was terrible.”

"And said he, if we could only have got loose, we'd have killed the whole lot of 'em."

They told the greasers that they were playing the trump card with a full hand and to make the most of it, for said they it'll be our turn next; and it came sooner than either party expected. They all stopped at O'Neil's station, about twelve miles from Stockton, for breakfast. Now it happened that there were quite a number of travelers and teamsters who had stopped there the night before and when they saw them greasers drive in the boys for breakfast, they were not long in getting acquainted with the particulars, and whether right or wrong made no difference, for they were Americans at any rate. So they charged upon them while they were eating their breakfast and bound every one of 'em. Now the scene had changed, and the boys around Chili Gulch were astonished, a few days after, to see the American boys driving the Chileans before them into camp, all tied in a similar manner as the Americans had been. Kentuck said they gave them a fair trial, and sentenced four of them to be shot. Of course they didn't know which ones killed their pardner, but it made no difference, to shoot about four of 'em would fill the bill anyhow. And said he, the rest of 'em left that part of the country in a hurry.



“ Well,” said I to old Kentuck, “I suppose that you and your company staid there and worked out Chili Gulch didn't you ?”
"Oh well, no actually we didn't,” he replied.

And I asked him why not, as there was a good show after they had driven out the Chileans. “Oh yes,' said he,  that was all right, and you see we did start in to work, but found the climate so kind ‘er sultry round thar, that we all concluded to find a more salubrious clime further north.”
" I asked him to explain what he meant; and said he.“
A few days after we started in to work, some of the miners around thar had a sort of a miners' meetin' one day, and so they come over into Chili Gulch and stuck a paper up on a tree with some writing on it for us to read, and so we did.”

I asked Kentuck if he remembered what it said.

“Oh yas,” says he, “I do, first rate, for I've got an awful good memory. It said that if any of them fellers what drove out, and shot them Chileans, was found mining over there in Chili Gulch, that the miners round in them diggings would hang every darned one of em. Now wer'nt that too sultry for comfort old pard, and wer'nt it a proper time to hunt for a more salubrous atmosphere?"

Another page on this website has a much more fact filled recount of this famous event.

Return To The Main Page: California Gold Rush: True Tales of the 49ers



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