Is it true that the posse that gunned down Joaquin Murrieta and Three Finger Jack put Murrieta’s head and Jack’s hand in pickled jars to collect the reward, and that these “proofs” were later put on display?

atm-logoIs it true that the posse that gunned down Joaquin Murrieta and Three Finger Jack put Murrieta’s head and Jack’s hand in pickled jars to collect the reward, and that these “proofs” were later put on display?
Michael J. Graves
Belén, New Mexico

Award-winning author John Boessenecker is an authority on outlawry and justice in old California. He says, “That is mostly true. Joaquin Murrieta and Bernardino ‘Three Finger Jack’ Garcia were slain while resisting arrest by the California Rangers in 1853. Because there were only a handful of photographers in California at that time, and none on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley where they were killed, Joaquin’s head was cut off and preserved in alcohol. Because Garcia was shot in the head and disfigured, his hand was cut off.”

Both grisly trophies were displayed by the Rangers throughout the California mining region and identified by numerous witnesses so that the Rangers could claim the rewards. Subsequently, these trophies were put on display in San Francisco and were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@sccmail.maricopa.edu

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