“Dear Charlie” — Jury Duty

Gold miners were no more eager to serve on a jury in 1854 than most citizens are today, although they rarely had to show up for more than one day. Horace Snow writes:

April 4th: Tomorrow I am obliged to go to Mariposa, having been summoned as a juror. I endeavored to avoid being called upon but the sheriff caught me and there is no doing otherwise. The miners are determined not to go if they can possibly help it, as they get nothing for pay. As soon as they see an officers coming, the shovels drop very quick and such running and skulking would beat the Indians.


“The man with a red shirt,” a colored photograph of a forty-niner

You see there were four of us in a store when the Sheriff rode up and we all made for the back door but he was right after us. I got within about four feet of a large hole when he saw me and screams, “Your name, Sir, the man with a red shirt,” and kept right on after the others, but he only caught two of us, two running around one side of the store and two the other.

He got caught again later that year.

December 4th:  Yesterday, while picking away in my claim, a gentleman appeared before me and says, “Your name, Sir?” “What?” says I. “Please give me your name?” By this time I knew what was up and says my name is Snow.

“Your first name, if you please,” says he, “and be quick, for the other boys are all running and I want to catch them.” “Horace C. Snow, sir” says I. Then says he, “Mr. Snow, I warn you to appear at Mariposa tomorrow morning at ten o’clock to serve as a Grand Jurorman, whereof fail not, or suffer the penalty of the law.” –and away he ran to catch some of the other boys who had, unintentionally, of course, gone in search of something. The boys were too sharp for him and he only got two of seven.

Miners, as a general thing, are much averse to sitting upon a jury. They get no pay, (not enough to bear expenses), besides losing their time and disarranging their work. You would laugh to see the miners take to the bushes when the Sheriff makes his appearance on the creek.


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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