The Santa Clarita Valley had all the color of the early west – the cowboys, Indians, range wars, gunfights, oil wildcatters, gold panners, as well as the saloons, temperance leagues, stagecoaches, cattle, railroads, earthquakes, and floods. It also had its share of bad guys, including the legendary Californio outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez.
Today we showcase the second and final part of the story of Vasquez, as told by Dr. Alan Pollack, the President of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.
By April, 1874, Vasquez emerged from his hideouts to take up residence at the Rancho La Brea home of Georgias Caralambo, better known as Greek George, a former driver for Edward Beale’s camel corps in the 1850’s. Modern historians think that the ranch was located in present-day West Hollywood, near the intersection of Fountain Avenue and Kings Road.
It was here that Vasquez’s penchant for women ended his outlawing days.
After one final robbery at the Repetto Ranch in May, 1874 in modern-day Monterey Park, Vasquez was chased by a sheriff’s posse up the Arroyo Seco into the San Gabriel Mountains. He crossed over the mountains and possibly camped out again at Vasquez Rocks before returning through Lyon’s Station to the ranch of Greek George.
Vasquez made the fatal error of remaining at Greek George’s ranch to continue a liaison with a señorita after his friends had urged him to flee to Mexico. Alameda County Sheriff Harry Morse had gotten word of his whereabouts and relayed the information to Los Angeles County Sheriff William Rowland. On May 13, Rowland sent a posse led by Under-Sheriff Albert Johnson to capture Vasquez at Greek George’s ranch.
The posse hid out and observed the ranch from Nichol’s Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. The next day, they apprehended a wagon driven by two Mexicans and forced them to drive to the house occupied by Vasquez. They surrounded the house just as a woman opened the door and shouted a warning to him. The ever wily Vasquez leaped out a kitchen window but was shot several times by posse members and was finally captured. He was brought to a Los Angeles jail where he spent the next nine days. He was an instant celebrity, with throngs of reporters and women clamoring to see him.
Vasquez was charged with the murder of Leander Davidson at Tres Pinos and was brought to San Jose to stand trial. Vasquez denied ever killing anyone, but his testimony was contrary to that of eyewitnesses from Tres Pinos and his own gang member Abdon Leiva (possibly in retaliation for the affair Vasquez had with his wife).
His celebrity status continued in San Jose, especially among the Spanish population who treated him as a hero. The trial took place in January, 1875, and Vasquez was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.
As would be the fates of Jesse James and Billy the Kid after him, Tiburcio Vasquez met his untimely end on March 19, 1875, when he was hanged in San Jose.
His final word was reported to be “pronto.”
(You won’t find any bandits at Vasquez Rocks these days, but you may run across the occasional bug-eyed monster.)