Bandits had a place in early history of Los Gatos

Before Los Gatos was incorporated in 1887, this area had its share of crime, much of it at the hands of Tiburico “Little Tib” Vasquez, considered by some to be our state’s most notorious bandit.

According to Clyde Arbuckle’s Historic Names, Persons and Places, Vasquez was “the worst bandit in California history, the legendary Joaquin Murietta notwithstanding.”

Another authority estimated some 50 murders in the Los Gatos area up to the late 1880s. Other crimes of the day included stagecoach holdups, stage station robberies, horse stealing, cattle rustling, general thievery and robbery of gamblers.

A general mode of operation was for a bandit, in his casual moments, to drop in on a farmer for a meal, take what items he wanted and steal a few horses to haul it away. This was the modus operandi that Vasquez used when he dropped in on Grandma Schulties up around Mountain Charlie Road.

The Schulties visit was shortly before Little Tib and fellow bandits shot it out with a three-county posse in the same area, seven miles south of Los Gatos. Several of the bandits were killed; Vasquez escaped with wounds.

Early bandits had a network of friends and sweethearts who would feed, shelter and nurse them as they worked their criminal careers from Northern California to the Mexican border.

A jealous husband figured in Tib’s ending. Other individuals ran afoul of the law while galloping the length of the state.

A Santa Clara Valley schoolteacher turned to crime and reportedly held up 11 stagecoaches in a three-week period in 1881. He was caught in the Guadalupe Mines area and served 20 years.

In 1876, Nicholas Boscovich was shot east of Los Gatos. The following year, Charles M. Parr was “butchered” at the Colman House, later the El Monte Hotel on E. Main Street.

Jan Wasielewski, a cattle rustler, got out of prison in 1882, learned that his wife had remarried against his wishes and stabbed her to death. He was hanged. Another ex-con, Louis Flores, came back to Los Gatos and stabbed his wife to death on Main Street.

Getting back to the career bandits – Little Tib, grandson of a respected founder of San Jose, started his trail of crime at age 16 with the killing of a lawman in Monterey.

Joaquin Murietta launched a criminal career of revenge after he killed men who jumped his gold claim in the Sierra. He also killed his sweetheart.

Vasquez was executed in San Jose for a murder south of the area. His grave in Santa Clara Catholic Cemetery was in the perpetual care section. Murietta lived beyond the grave. A human head, purported to be his, was displayed in San Francisco’s “Museum of Horrors” but was destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906.

Vasquez was found guilty of murder by judge David Belden, master-at-law, and was hanged in the San Jose prison yard on March 19, 1875, on a gallows borrowed from the State of California. Four hundred passes were issued to the hanging, and the crowd outside the jail was said to number in the thousands.

This column is from the Los Gatos Weekly-Times archives. © Metro Publishing, Inc

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