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A stern visage, the picture of 19th century rectitude, looks down on passersby from a banner at the corner of McAllister and Larkin, fin de siècle San Francisco. The banner celebrates the adjacent law school, which is named after Serranus Clinton Hastings, born in New York, law degree in Indiana, on west to Iowa where he was Iowa’s first congressman and first chief justice, then out to California during the Gold Rush where he became Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court.
Hastings, through his term as a congressman and founding legal father of the state of Iowa, was already a nationally-connected Democrat when he arrived in California in 1849, looking to add to the small fortune he’d made in Iowa real estate. He knew the Gold Rush also meant a land rush as thousands of Americans made their way into the under-populated state to make their fortunes. But Hastings preferred to look around for likely real estate and legal sinecures rather than pan for gold; and as he prospected for free land he also got himself a seat on California’s early supreme court as its chief justice. The Mendocino Indians soon had the judge sitting on them in Eden Valley, near Covelo, which the judge had appropriated for himself as a horse and cattle ranch, remarking that he’d found the place “uninhabited except for some Uka Indians.”
The foreman of Judge Hastings’ Eden Valley ranch was a giant Texan named Hall, “Texas Boy Hall” as he was known, and a giant at 6’9″ and 280 pounds, a doubly intimidating presence to the Indians who were still trying to adjust to the lethal unpredictability of ordinary-size white men when they first encountered Texas Boy, a recreational Indian killer who showed up with the first wave of white settlers in the Round Valley area in the middle 1850s, and may have killed more Indians than any other single American, including Kit Carson, the generally recognized champ.
While Hall ran Judge Hastings’ ranch in Eden Valley, Hastings built himself a big house in Solano County, a remove which would later lend the judge what he seemed to think was plausible deniability when his foreman became a little too notorious for his free lance retaliatory rampages against the Indians on the judge’s behalf, and the judge reluctantly let him go; a psychotic baby killer, after all, was an unseemly sort of employee for a state supreme court judge. Texas Boy, though, soon got a paid job killing Indians with Jarboe’s Eel River Rangers.
The Indians had been casually murdered in every part of Mendocino County since the Gold Rush. And every year saw new and larger expeditions of both settlers and Army units sent out to kill them. But Judge Hastings, Texas Boy Hall and Walter Jarboe, in California’s first public-private partnership, managed to convert dead Indians to cold cash in expeditions against the Indians of the Eel River drainage, from Covelo to Hayfork, public funding arranged by Judge Hastings.
“A little more than a year ago, Hall of Eden Valley employed 13 Indians in place of pack mules to go and pack loads from Ukiah City to Eden Valley, and promised to give each one a shirt in payment; the distance, I think, is about 40 miles. The Indians commenced complaining at not receiving the shirts, and he, Hall, whipped two of them, to keep them quiet; he said he never gave them the shirts after he whipped them.” (Indians War Files)
In retaliation for not getting their shirts from the judge and Texas Boy, the Indians, knowing exactly on whose behalf Texas Boy was acting, killed Judge Hasting’s $2,000 stallion.
At the time, no one in Mendocino County was in danger of drowning in the milk of human kindness, but Judge Hastings and Texas Boy Hall were extreme even by the frontier standards of 1856.
In retaliation for the death of Judge Hasting’s stallion, neighboring rancher William T. Scott would testify, Texas Boy got up a gang of his friends and “commenced killing all the Indians they could find in the mountains; when Hall met Indians he would kill them. He did not want any man to go with him to hunt Indians who would not kill all he could find, because a knit (sic) would make a louse. Mr. Hall said he had run Indians out of their rancherias and put strychnine in their baskets of soup, or what they had to eat.”
Scott related another incident when Hall, having killed all the adult males among a group of Yuki Indians he’d encountered near Covelo, took some women and children into his custody with the apparent aim of taking them in to the reservation at Covelo. “I think all the squaws were killed because they refused to go further. We took one boy into the valley, and the infants were put out of their misery, and a girl ten years of age was killed for stubbornness.”
But Judge Hastings was still unhappy about the Indians killing his stallion, and he seemed to consider Texas Boy’s random revenges inadequate pay back for the loss of the horse. The judge wanted all the Indians of inland Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties permanently gone. On July 11, 1859, the judge called 16 Covelo-area settlers together who all signed a declaration selecting “Walter S. Jarboe as Captain of our Company of Volunteers against the Euka Indians.”
Of course Texas Boy Hall was first among Jarboe’s Rangers. Texas Boy would be paid to kill Indians, for him the best of all possible worlds, and Hastings, the state’s number one judge, had no trouble persuading the state legislature to pay Jarboe and his Rangers to empty inland Mendocino County of all the Indians Jarboe’s Eel River Rangers could find to kill.
The Indians didn’t have horses and they didn’t have guns. Jarboe and Hall and their Rangers would typically ride down on Indian rancherias at dawn, slaughtering men, women and children right down to infants. The only casualties the white warriors suffered was an occasional non-combat injury unrelated to their one-way war. Bows and arrows were no match for dragoons, and certainly no match for the Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court.
The newspapers of Northern California regularly urged extermination of the Indians, so when news of large scale murder drifted out of the seemingly infinite recesses of an area larger than some states, an area which is today bordered by I-5 to the east and 101 on the west, Clearlake to the south, and the Trinity mountains to the north, they were blithely reported like this:
“Massacre of Indians in Mendocino — Captain Jarboe’s Rangers attacked an Indian ranch eight miles from Indian Valley, Mendocino County, lately, killing quite a number. Hall, the ‘Texan Boy,’ 6 feet 9 inches high, and weighing 278 pounds, who is the dread of all red skins, a week or two ago killed two Indians in a fair fight…” (The Napa Reporter, August 22, 1859)
By the end of the Civil War, and certainly by 1870, the Indians were finished. They’d fought back as best they could without the horses and guns their enemies possessed, but they’d been hit so hard and so fast all they could do was fight on the run, retreating right on into extinction.
Judge Hastings, attorney, jurist, rancher, real estate developer, and mass murderer is memorialized as the Hastings School of Law, San Francisco. Pioneer Ukiah made Walter Jarboe the town’s first law enforcement officer. A man named James Jarboe is contemporary America’s domestic terrorism section chief for the FBI, which may or may not be of histor-genetic significance, as may or may not be a very large Covelo horseman named Hall, as in Texas Boy Hall, who is presently confined to the state hospital at Napa. A New Age impresario calling himself TimoThy is trying to buy Eden Valley to convert it to an “Earth Village sustainable community” featuring “a straw bale roundhouse” and cabins for TimoThy’s followers that would be called “earth arks.” For $33,000 you can buy in.
Funny thing is, Eden Valley fully sustained people for 12,000 years before Judge Hastings and Texas Boy moved their horses and cows in on them and started killing them. Eden Valley was already an earth ark.
BRUCE ANDERSON is a contributor to (and former editor of) the Anderson Valley Advertiser who lives in San Francisco.