September 8 (1986, 1987, 2000, 1881)
Public Meeting. Bobcats Mating. Robbers Bungling.

P.G.& E. Slates Alta Neighborhood for ’87 Timber Harvest

By Russell Towle

On Monday, September 8th [1986], PG&E held a public meeting in Alta to explain timber harvest plans for a 150-acre parcel spanning Drum Powerhouse Road. Forty or fifty area residents attended. Nelsen Money, a P.G.&E. forester, outlined harvest plans in some detail. The audience listened, with evident skepticism, as Mr. Money explained that a so-called “seed tree” harvest is not actually a clear-cut, since 4 to 6 trees per acre will be left to (hopefully) re-seed the vanished forest.

Mr. Money alluded to the reduced fire hazard that would result from skinning the landscape bare of all vegetation. All logging slash would be either burned or chipped up and hauled away. When local residents suggested a milder, "selective" method of logging, Money warned that it would be impossible to clean up logging slash under those conditions.

The audience, becoming increasingly skeptical, inspired another P.G&E. representative to intervene. He remarked that P.G.&E. was holding the meeting as a favor to the local community, and that it seemed that local people did not "trust" P.G.&E.
[This was a submission prepared for the Auburn Journal. ]

9/8/87   Morning; the smoke persists. Earlier this morning—around 3:16—I awoke to the sounds of bobcats mating near the cabin. I clambered down from the loft, and, on a sudden notion, turned the tape recorder on and set it in the doorway. I recorded several minutes worth, culminating in a frenzied screaming, followed by growls. And hisses, which unfortunately, were too faint to be picked up by the recorder. I'll have to make Bill a copy.

Just now, returned from a ramble around the meadow, clipping deerbrush off below ground, climbing the large oak tree at the north end of the Knoll, listening to a wren buzzing in the Knoll's last patch of brush (on the west side), and wondering if so much clearing of brush is really—um—warranted.

Now, I'm eager to take my tape to town, and share it with people.

Evening; a day spent schlepping around at Alex's, helping him try to figure out his automatic transmission, and then giving him a ride to work in Colfax. Saw Gay briefly, but she whisked away, probably to the [photo] lab in Grass Valley. The smoke thickened horribly this morning, but later cleared to reveal skies bluer than any we've seen hereabouts for a week. When I came home the meadow was very sweetly bathed in afternoon light, with real colors and real shadows, for a change.

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 16:26:11 -0800
To: Bill_Newsom
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Big Valley Bluff
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:18:mottled.jpg: :Macintosh HD:18:falconperch.jpg:

Hi Bill,

I returned to Big Valley Bluff this morning, and followed along the canyon rim for about a mile west, descending 1200 feet in elevation as I approached Andrew Gray Creek. There are some serious boundary issues for the Proposed Wilderness (PW) which require direct examination of the area. I don't know who drew in the boundaries for the North Fork PW at the California Wilderness Coalition, but they did a terrible job. I seem to be having a bit of an uphill battle convincing the CWC people that their boundaries must be changed.

At any rate. It was a nice day, and I visited a series of rocky promontories along the canyon rim: curious blade-like eminences of slate and graywacke sandstone, some riddled with quartz veins. The lowest promontory, just shy of Andrew Gray Creek, was planed off flat on top by the North Fork glacier, which retreated last around ten or twelve thousand years ago. I apparently scared a falcon from its perch when I arrived, for it immediately began a series of sharp peeps, and I saw it soaring a moment later, perhaps 500 feet away. It seemed uniformly reddish brown, but I saw it from above.

Everything I saw today convinced me that as I'd supposed the PW boundary should be moved up to the canyon rim, rather than way down by the river itself, as the CWC would have it. In fact, the RARE II boundary will serve quite well along there. There may have been helicopter logging of some SPI sections near the river itself, but I could see no signs of any such logging.

Big Valley Bluff, I find from my topo map, is 6350 feet in elevation where we parked, while the river due south is at 2800 feet. Hence the cliff stands fully 3550 feet above the river.

Attached, a couple of today's pictures. One shows a curious mottled pattern on a shard of slate. The other picture peers almost straight down to the river, past a small tower of slate.

Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 17:22:53 -0800
To: ERPfromCA
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Big Valley Bluff

Hi Ed,

I was out at Big Valley Bluff, a cliff which rises 3500 feet above the North Fork, yesterday and today, checking boundaries. I noted the presence of Juniperus communis there, at 6300 foot elevation, and as I mentioned I've also seen it at Sugar Pine Point, at about 5600 foot elevation (on the windswept, sunswept "Little Slate Ridge").

I usually see Golden Eagles at BVB, today though I saw a Prairie Falcon, while visiting a slate promontory about a mile west of BVB. I may have scared it off its eyrie, it was peeping loudly as it flew away.

I have tentatively decided that the bedrock in Duncan Canyon (in the PW) is all the "Permian Carboniferous Chert" of Duncan Peak and Little Bald Mountain. This rock unit is much narrower north of the North Fork but swells to near a couple of miles in width at Duncan Canyon. It is not solely chert. Whether there is a body of granite near or even partly within Duncan Canyon I am still not sure. There may just be a series of dikes in the chert. A trip in past the trailhead to French Meadows would probaly resolve that.

The Bungling Train Wreckers
—and Their Misadventures in Dutch Flat—

by Russell Towle

In preface:  George Shure was one of the “Cape Horn train wreckers” (see below) who were caught and sentenced to prison terms. We learn that this was not his or his gang's only misadventure in the region.
From Dutch Flat’s Placer Times, W.A. Wheeler, editor & proprietor. 

September 8, 1881

The Train Robbers

Last week we could only give a slight and inaccurate account of the attempted train robbery of the Atlantic Express Wednesday night of last week, near Cape Horn Mills, in this county.  The following is an account given by the Express Messenger, Chadwick, who was on board the train at the time it was stopped:

When the train went off the track I naturally opened the door to see what was the matter.  I could not see plainly owing to the curve, but presently a man came running up to the door and said, "Fall out of there, you son of a —!"  I didn’t wait long after that, but shoved the door to with a bang, put out the lights, got down my battery and took a position.  I expected they meant business and would mash in the other door.  I don’t think they were ready for business.  The work they had to do on the track was more than they had thought.  They may have been frightened away by the firemen running back along the train.  Anyway, they took to the brush, and we could hear them signaling "Whoop!  Whoop!" in order to get together.  The mail agent and firemen were also stood up.  When the train stopped fireman Boyd jumped to the ground and was saluted with a shot-gun and the warning "Stand there you son of a —, or I’ll blow the top of your head off."  Boyd, however, was frightened and fled toward the passenger cars.  About the same time a voice behind another gun commanded the mail agent, "Throw up your hands."  The passengers were uninjured, and did not know of the matter until after it was all over with.  The man who tried to stand up the express car apparently had on a long tailed coat.  He came running toward the car, and Chadwick thinks he was the "sand" of the party.  It is believed that a part of the gang did not want to proceed, not being ready, but the long coated robber evidently meant business.  The masks and cartridges left behind showed that if the move had been successful there was no lack of facilities for opening boxes.  The articles left behind consisted of several lanterns, six masks, which were made of gunny sacks, with arm-holes and eye holes, twenty-four Hercules powder cartridges, a bunch of fuse, axes, sledges, a pick and crowbar.  One of the highwaymen left his hat, which was new and of the hoodlum description, with high crown and broad brim.  The six masks which were left indicates that there were six robbers and that they were not ready when the train arrived.

Handsome rewards are offered for the arrest and conviction of the robbers.  All the rewards—Wells, Fargo & Co., the State and the Central Pacific Railroad Company—amount to $12,000.  Going on the presumption that there were six men engaged in the stopping of the train, the reward will be $2,000 each.  The arrest and conviction of all of them is only a question of time, as a reward of so large an amount will cause a score of officers and detectives to scour the State thoroughly in search of them.  So far as we can learn no arrests have been made.
Following is part of the confession of George W. Shure, one of the Cape Horn train wreckers—taken at San Quentin prison, Saturday Dec. 20 1884. It comes from the collection of James L. Gould, and was transcribed by myself from a photocopy of the original, handwritten document.

James L. Gould was Superintendent of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company (GRD&M), which employed about 50 men and, following the bankruptcy and collapse of the Cedar Creek Company, was the largest single hydraulic mining company in the Dutch Flat/Gold Run mining district.  The GRD&M owned the Miners’ Ditch, which drew from the South Yuba and Bear Rivers to bring water to the mines at Dutch Flat and Gold Run.  Gould had begun as a lowly ditch-tender on the Miners’ Ditch, and had been paid in shares of stock in the same, until he gradually owned a substantial fraction.  At this time (according to private correspondence by James Stewart, dated November 22, 1930), W.H. Kinder owned the GRD&M.  The crown jewel of the GRD&M was the Big Bonanza claim; Kinder hired J.L. Gould as his superintendent, and then by selling the Big Bonanza to a man named Judd in exchange for shares of the Miners’ Ditch, somehow lost control of the GRD&M to Gould.  The GRD&M subsequently was owned by a group of investors in Dutch Flat and Gold Run, including Gould himself and Allen Towle, with whom Gould had also been associated in the lumber business; and Gould and Towle had each married girls from the Halsey family.  The Towles, Goulds and Halseys all hailed from New England.  It was the GRD&M and the Big Bonanza claim itself which were enjoined in Judge Temple’s 1882 decision, which, although predating the more famous Sawyer decision of 1884, which shut down hydraulic mining generally, gave a clear indication of which way the wind was blowing, and delivered a crushing blow to the local economy.  When Shure, below, mentions “a big bonanza claim,” he is wrongly applying a generic term for the actual Big Bonanza claim.  Apparently Kinder was a party to the (unsuccessful) plot to rob Gould.

Mr. William B. Lardner was an attorney who had lived in Gold Run in 1870 and 1871; later he practiced in Auburn, served as District Attorney and Judge, and in 1925 published the fine History of Placer County.  The rest of the confession related to the (unsuccessful) train robbery attempt. 
Lardner:  For what other robbery was the shotgun got?

Shure:  Well!  it was got for another robbery:  it was not got for that one in the start; but there was never any other committed.

Lardner:  What one was it got for, have you any objections to state?

Shure:  Well.  I didn’t know that you wanted me to state anything, only in regard to this one case.

Lardner:  If you have no objections; if either of the parties that were not convicted had anything to do with any other transaction that any of the weapons were to be used for.

Shure:  Rogers had.

Lardner:  What transaction was that?

Shure:  That was, we were going to rob Jim Gould at Gold Run!  That was what it was got for in the start, and the project failed.

Lardner:  How was that to have been done?

Shure:  It was to have been done in this way:  myself and Stanigle was to lay in wait for him, and Rogers was to stay on the inside and give us information when to take it.

Lardner:  Take what?

Shure:  To take Jim Gould, he was expected to clean up a big bonanza claim, and it was supposed by everybody to be a pretty rich clean-up, and he was always in the habit of taking a big quantity from Gold Run in a one horse buggy, and drive from there to Dutch Flat, on the road.  We laid in wait for it for a week; and we used to confer with Rogers every night.  One night we went to see him, and see what was being done, and he told us that he thought they would clean up the next day, but if they cleaned up, Kinder would wear a black hat to Dutch Flat, and we would be where we could watch him.  If there wasn’t going to be a clean-up, he would wear a white hat.  He came along the next day and he wore his white hat.  Next night we went and conferred with Rogers, again, and he told us if they cleaned up next day, he would come himself on his brother-in-law’s horse, with his black hat—either his black hat, or a white handkerchief around his neck, I couldn’t say which.  So next day we laid in wait for it, and Rogers told us, he says, “If it don’t come, as I told you, don’t touch it.”  So it came along next night, and it was not as he expected: there was old man Moody, with Jim Gould, riding behind the buggy on a horse.  There was a two-horse carriage behind, with two persons in it.  I don’t know but there was more, it was a double carriage, and the back part of it was shut up, so we couldn’t see how many persons was in it—so we didn’t touch it.  Well, after that, we went that night there to the place where he met us, and we explained to him, it was no good—on account of what he said, we didn’t touch.  He said, that was all right.  And he said to us, “Let it go and we will try something else.”  Well, I said to him, that I didn’t see no use in trying things that way, that I was going, and coming, and that kind of thing, and laying around in the sun, famishing without water, and the mosquitos eating me up at night.  Well, he said, the next time it wasn’t going that way, or wouldn’t be so bad, or something like that.  So we went back to Iowa Hill, that night, myself and Stanigle, etc.

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