On Saturday evening that December 1, 1849 a meeting was held in Sacramento where much indignation was expressed toward the actions of city officials in the destruction of squatter shanties. The opposition held a so called “law and order” meeting the following Tuesday. A speaker stand was made of dry goods boxes piled against the side of a saloon and bowling alley on K Street called “The Gem” and the crowd was large. Resolutions were presented saying the squatters acted lawlessly and in order to protect John Sutter’s title to the land a committee should be sent to Monterey and procure a copy of the land grant that had been attested to by the Governor. These resolutions met with loud protest of disapproval and expressions of indignation. It was evident that squatters constituted a majority at the meeting.
A lawyer named James C. Zabriskie spoke amid many early catcalls until he gained the respect of the crowd by asking, “who carried the stripes and stars, the institutions of our land into the far west and even to the shores of far off Pacific Ocean?” He then moved the preamble to the earlier resolutions be rejected and was now met with cheers from the squatters. He then went one by one through the resolutions backing some, opposing others and amending many until a whole new set of resolutions was passed than had been originally proposed. Though Zabriskie contended a man might squat where he pleased and leave only on proof of better title, he maintained that when a judiciary was appointed the courts would decide the validity of titles, true owners would get their due, but in the meantime all parties would benefit by the land being brought under cultivation or otherwise improved.
John Putnam is the author of HANGTOWN CREEK and the soon to be released INTO THE FACE OF THE DEVIL, both hard driving historical fiction from the early California gold rush. His collection of short stories is available on Kindle, For more information see his website at John Rose Putnam.com.