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The Belcher-Roach Vendetta

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:21 pm    Post subject: The Belcher-Roach Vendetta Reply with quote

About ten o'clock at night, on the 18th of June, 1856, at the city of Monterey, in the Washington Hotel, Mr. Lewis Belcher was shot while talking to a friend at the bar. The shot was fired by an assassin from behind a pillar in the corridor. At the time the bar-room was full of people. The shot was no doubt fired from a revolver, and took effect in the abdomen, making a large hole and tearing the intestines fearfully. Mr. Belcher lingered until two o'clock the next day when he died from the effects of his wound. At the time of his death he was the receiver of the estate of the orphan heirs of Jose Maria Sanchez. The killing of Belcher made the seventh violent death up to that period, growing out of this affair, for a beggarly sum of $70,000, which seemed to do no one else any good except the "ancient fraternity of constables, scribes and lawyers."

Jose Maria Sanchez of Monterey was accidentally drowned near his house in 1852. A short time after his death his widow married a man named Gordon Williams. Lewis Belcher became one of the bondsmen of William Roach, who administered on the estate of Sanchez, and Roach got possession of all the money and property belonging to the estate. Gordon Williams, the husband of the widow Sanchez, was killed by the blowing up of the Jenny Lind steamboat on the 12th of April, 1853, and his widow a short time after married Doctor Sanford, who took sides with Belcher, who thought he should have the handling of some of the estate with his friend Roach. Dr. Sanford, the husband, took a leading part in favor of Belcher, who had commenced legal proceedings against Roach, and he and a brother-in-law of Roach met in a barroom at Monterey. A dispute arose between them, when Sanford drew a pistol, and would have shot McMahon, Roach's brother-in-law, but was prevented by a bystander in the room. McMahon then went out and obtained a pistol, came back and confronting Sanford, gave him notice to defend himself. Both fired at the same time, and both fell dead! This left the former Mrs. Sanchez a widow for the third time.

A brother-in-law of Dr. Sanford's named Atwood, and a warm friend of the doctor's during the excitement and trouble, put an end to his life by blowing out his brains with a pistol. After the death of Sanford and McMahon things became still hotter for the interested parties. There were two gentlemen in Monterey, Isaac Wall (Speaker of the House of Representatives of California in 1853) and the other named Williamsóboth strong friends of Roach's.

They started on a Monterey tour with arms and ammunition and a pack mule to carry their blankets and camp utensils. The Belcher men supposed they were going to meet Roach, and that they had a large sum of money packed on the mule. Wall and Williams were waylaid on the Salinas plains and both were shot and killed, and Wall was also slit down the back in several places with a knife. Anastacio Garcia was thought to have been paid by the Belcher party to do the deed. The Sheriff summoned a posse of six men to go to the Mission of Carmel, where Garcia resided, and arrest him. It was dark before they arrived at the dwelling, and the house being closed and the doors fastened, the Sheriff demanded admittance; and Garcia replied by firing a volley out of his house at the Sheriff and his deputies, and succeeded in killing three of them, and finally making good his escape.

Belcher now began to maneuver to find the oft-made widow a new husband, and made a match between her and one of his friends, George Crane, who, after his marriage, was called George IV, being the lady's fourth husband within four years. Before the ceremony was performed the widow deeded to him all of her immense property, which he managed to squander by spending it among his friends, and in being elected to the Legislature from his county. The last heard of Crane was that at the close of the rebellion, he died in New York.

The Vigilance Committee of 1856 was fully organized in San Francisco, and Belcher at once came to the city and became a member of that body, pledging them his influence in the counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey. He repaired with five or six men to the city of Monterey, where he was killed. After his death, Roach considered himself free from personal danger, and he traveled around the country as usual in all his accustomed haunts and places. His greatest foe was dead, and the bloody scenes and angry feuds appeared to be buried in the past, and finally Anastacio Garcia was known to be at the Mission of Carmel unmolested.

After awhile Garcia became emboldened and ventured into Monterey, where he was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in several of those terrible assassinations and cast into prison in that city, where he was hanged to the rafters by several of his old friends who adopted the desperate motto, that "dead men tell no tales."

William Roach was in Watsonville transacting some business that kept him rather late in the night. He mounted his horse, perfectly sober, and journeyed toward home. During the night the horse, without its rider, returned home. About three miles from Watsonville there was a stopping place, and nearby the house a well. One of the people on the ranch went to the well in the morning to draw water and discovered the body of a man in it. He gave the alarm, and when the body was drawn out it was identified as that of William Roach, the last victim of the Belcher-Roach vendetta murders, which cost ten or more citizens their livesómany useful, and some of them good men.

After the death of George Crane his widow had but a small portion of her first husband's (Sanchez) immense estate left, and she bought a piece of land near San Juan. She married again for the fifth time and was living there in 1910.
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