(Continued from July 18)
Embittered by his misfortunes that he blamed on the Americans, Salomon fell in with a group of similarly minded men. Together, they hatched a plan to kill an American, in this case, the majordomo of a ranch in the Monterey area. But not all in the group were discontented Californios. At least one was a member of the Sydney Ducks, a gang of bandits from Australia. The goldfields attracted all manner of men seeking riches, and the criminal classes were well represented.
But one man in the group was uncomfortable with the plan and snuck away to inform the authorities. And so it was this impromptu gang was raided and several captured, including Salomon. They were jailed in Monterey, and Salomon was sentenced to hang. His bandit career appeared over before it had begun.
Luck and family connections favored Salomon. He had a visit from Pablo de la Guerra, then a judge and close friend to the Pico family. After speaking to Salomon, Pablo had him placed on bond and later pardoned. Salomon promptly moved from the area to Santa Barbara County.
He set up shop in the Los Alamos Valley area as a cattle buyer. At a time when miners at the gold mines desperately needed beef and cattle proliferated in the local hills, it was a natural choice for him to become a middle man for cattle buyers. He knew the ranchers in the area well; he was related to several through his mother.
But a reputation gained from his associations in Monterey followed him, and when an American mail rider was murdered south of San Luis Obispo, Salomon was promptly credited. From that incident onward, every stagecoach robbery and murder in the region was laid at his doorstep. Yet, there was never direct evidence. Finally, in June of 1851, following the murder of another Anglo-American, a warrant was issued for his arrest, again with no actual evidence. Salomon posted bail, moved to Los Angeles, and the charge was later dropped.
Salomon was related, again through his mother, to the Lugo brothers, Menito and Chico, who were wanted for the murder of an Anglo-American at Cajon Pass. Just a few months after Salomon arrived in Los Angeles, a shot was fired by a lone horseman at Judge Hayes at the door of an office he shared with Judge Mallard, who was officiating the Lugo case. The attempted murder was perceived to be a case of mistaken identity, and a posse immediately set out for the Lugo ranch. They came upon a party of men along the way; shots were exchanged, Pico was wounded in the arm but escaped. The next day, Salomon had his wound dressed in Los Angeles under the very nose of Sheriff Barton. And Pico continued to live undisturbed in Los Angeles for several more years. Again, there was no proof that Salomon was the shooter.
(Next posting: The demise of Salomon Pico)