Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Abdon Leiva's Version of the Vasquez gang Tres Pinos Massacre.
The Sunday Chronicle (newspaper),
San Francisco, Cal.

Tuesday, May 24, 1874.
Chronicle Banner

Story Story Story Story

Abdon Leiva's Story of the
Tres Pinos Massacre.
Two of the Victims Shot by
Vasquez Alone.
The Plot to Waylay and Rob Henry
Miller of $30,000.
An Effort to Capture the Rail-
road Pay-Car.

    On the 7th of December last, by order of Judge Belden, of the Twentieth District Court, Abdon Leiva, the member of the Vasquez gang who gave himself up to the officers in Los Angeles county after the fight at Rock creek, two months after the Tres Pinos tragedy, was transferred from Salinas City to the Santa Clara County Jail for safer keeping. On account of the statements made by Vasquez since his capture, regarding the raid on Snyder's store on the 26th of August last, in which he shifts the murderous work upon Leiva, a CHRONICLE reporter was detailed to, interview the latter and obtain his version of the affair, which has never yet been published in full.


Were elicited during the interview, which at this time will prove of particular interest to the people. Through the kindness of Sheriff Adams and Jailer Curtis every facility for obtaining information was placed at our disposal. The prisoner is a good-looking young man, about five feet eight inches in hight, with regularly formed features and a frank expression of counte - nance. He speaks English with considerable fluency, so that the services of an interpreter were not required. His name, as he writes and pronounces it, is Abdon, not Anden, Leiva. He expressed himself as not only willing, but anxious to have the Tres Pinos tragedy correctly put in print, and -


    Reporter—You have read what Vasquez has said about his share of the work at Tres Pinos, I presume?
    Leiva—Yes; and it's a lie. He hopes to save his neck by clearing himself from the crime of murder.
    Reporter—I wish to obtain a full and true account of all your relations with Vasquez, particularly with reference to the Tres Pinos affair.
    Leiva-Well, shall I begin at the beginning?
    Reporter—Yes; let's have the whole of it.
    Leiva—Teodoro Moreno first introduced me to Vasquez in the Vallecitos Valley in January, 1873. I was then living in that vicinity with my wife, Rosaria.
    Reporter—Excuse me for interrupting; but when were you married to Rosaria?
    Leiva—I was married to her in Santa Clara on the 2d of November, 1865, by a Justice of the Peace. I was afterwards remarried by a Catholic priest at New Idria. Her maiden name was Felis.
    Reporter—Now go on with your statement.


    Leiva—Vasquez told me that he was glad to find a place where he could stop and rest occasionally; that he had no place—the world was his home. A few days afterwards August de Bert, the hump-backed Frenchman, came to my house, and then Vasquez proposed to make the raid on Firebaugh's Ferry. He said that on the last day of February Henry Miller would have $30,000 there to pay off his men—sheep-herders, cattle-drovers, etc.--and it was his intention to steal it. We, Moreno, De Bert, myself and Vasquez, left the Cantua Cañon on the 28th and arrived at Firebaugh's about dusk. We found that Miller was not there with the money, and our efforts were poorly rewarded. Came back that night to Cantua. Vasquez and De Bert immediately left for Elizabeth lake and I went about my work as usual, so as not to arouse suspicion. Moreno went to Lorenzo Vasquez' house in Hernandez valley and got a place to shear sheep. De Bert and Vasquez, on their way south, passed through Peach Tree valley and stole several horses and five head of cattle. At Elizabeth lake they separated, De Bert going to Mexico, where, I believe, he has since remained. In May, Vasquez came back to my house. He made several trips to the San Joaquin, looking out for a good opening, always returning to my house. My wife seemed to like him very much, but I suspected nothing wrong.


    In June, Vasquez met for the first time with Cleovaro Chavez. Shortly after this Vasquez proposed to rob the pay-car of the Southern Pacific Railroad on the lst of August. The place selected for the work was the curve just beyond the Twenty-one-mile House, between San Jose and Gilroy. The track was to be torn up and the train thrown off, after which the plundering was to take place. I objected, and at last flatly refused to go along. My wife urged me to take a hand. She extolled Vasquez' bravery and said I ought not to be afraid to go where he would lead. I wouldn't budge, and the band for this work was made up of Vasquez, Moreno, Chavez and Bicuna. The latter was a young Mexican whom Vasquez had picked up near the New Idria a few days before. The party started out; but At Gilroy Vasquez learned that Dolores Larrios of San Juan had given the railway officials information of the plot, and an attempt to carry it out would be attended with great danger. Vasquez resolved not to return from this trip empty-handed, and so the


Was determined upon. The hotel was reached that night, but the proprietor, the man who had all the money, was absent. Vasquez and Bicuna entered the bar-room, Chavez stood guard on the outside, and Moreno stood in the door with a comforter round his neck which concealed the lower portion of his face, and a Henry rifle pointed at the four inmates of the room. One hundred and sixty dollars in coin was obtained, besides three silver watches, a gold breastpin, a gold ring and a gold watch chain. I forgot to mention that about a half a mile from the hotel, on their way up, the gang came across a man on horseback. He was compelled to get down and disgorge, after which he was tied and taken over the fence into a field and left. Vasquez and Bicuna returned to the Cantua; Moreno and Chavez stayed about Gilroy and Hollister for about a week, and while the Sheriff's officers were looking for them. Then Moreno went to Lorenzo Vasquez' and Chavez left for the San Joaquin.


    On the 17th of August, Moreno, Chavez, Vasquez and Romulo Gonzalez met at my house in the Vallecitos valley. The raid on Tres Pinos was planned at this time. We intended also to rob the New Idria stage, but after starting out we discovered that Thomas Williams, the boss of the mines at New Idria, with his family were, passengers, and as Vasquez did not want to rob him, the stage was allowed to go on unmolested. I did not want to go on this raid; I did not like the business, but my wife insisted and I finally I consented. I can understand now why she was so importunate. We set out on the afternoon of August 24th. On the same day my wife, with Joaquin Castro, left for Elizabeth lake, with the understanding that we were to meet at San Emilio, this side of Tejon Pass.


    Our band consisted of Tiburcio Vasquez, myself, Teodoro Moreno, Clovaro Chavez and Romulo Gonzales. We came down to Tres Pinos from the New Idria road. About one mile from Snyder's a halt was made, and Vasquez directed me and Gonzales to go on ahead and prepare matters. We two rode up to Snyder's and entered the store. We called for drinks, and were taking them when Moreno came up. He had the comforter over his face, as at the Twenty-one-mile House, and drawing his pistol as soon as he entered, he ordered the inmates, seven or eight in number, to lie down. Gonzales and myself drew our weapons at the same time. After all the men had stretched themselves on the floor Moreno handed me his pistol and proceeded to bind them. While this was going on, Vasquez and Chavez rode up. Vasquez said: "Now, if you are through in there, let one of you come out here." Gonzalez went out.


    I stood in the door to see what was going on. I saw Vasquez and Moreno chasing George Redford, the teamster, who had refused to lie down when ordered to do so. Redford had got near the stable when Vanques shot him with his Henry rifle.


    Moreno was then standing in the passageway between the stable and the hotel, with his rifle in his hand, and soon after I saw Gonzales come around from the other side of the store, inside of the fence, after the Portuguese sheep-herder. Gonzalez had a revolver in his hand. The sheep-herder was about to jump over the fence when Gonzales shot him. The man was not killed, and made another effort to get over the fence,when Moreno plugged him with a Henry rifle ball. He then fell back dead.
    Vasquez came up then and ordered me to get on my horse and follow after a little Spanish boy who had just run down on the Hollister read, towards the creek. I got the boy about half a mile from the store and brought him back. When I arrived Vazquez was getting Snyder out of his house. He ordered me to receive the money. The lady of the house said she would give up everything if we wouldn't harm her husband. I took the money—about $600—and brought it into the store. I kept part of it, and gave Moreno the rest. Vasquez brought Snyder into the store and made him lie down and submit to be bound.


    Vasquez then went out and started for Davidson's, and I saw him (Vasquez) raise his Henry rifle and fire the shot that killed Mr. Davidson. He lies, and Moreno and Chavez, as well as myself, know that he lies when he says anything to the contrary. We then got what provisions we wanted out of the store. When we were ready to start, Vasquez ordered me to go to the stable and turn out all the horses. I did so, and 1et out seven head. While we were there Moreno changed his voice so as not to be recognized. Vasquez did not seem to care whether he was known or not.


We went up the San Benito by the Pichacho, through Hernandez valley, to the Tulare plains. At Posa Chaneo, on the San Joaquin, Gonzales gave out, and we left him behind. We met with Joaquin Castro and my wife at San Emilio, and we all went on to Elizabeth lake. We left Moreno at Lorenzo Vasquez', in Hernandez valley. He left there, I understand, a few days afterwards, and went to shear sheep for Judge Tully on the Bitter Water.
    [Leiva also gave the details of his separation from Vasquez on Rock Creek Cañon, on account of his discovering the bandit chief and his wife in flagrante delictu. These facts have been published before.]
    Reporter—After you delivered yourself up, what did you do?
    Leiva—I was told that I would be all right if I gave information that would lead to the arrest of any of the Vasquez gang. I was


The man who dishonored me; but as my life was in danger and I had two children to look after, I consented to aid the officers to the best of my ability. First, I had my children placed under the care of Deputy Sheriff Salis of Los Angeles, where they now are. Then I told Sheriff Adams where I thought he would find Moreno and Bicuna. The latter I know was at the New Idria mines. When the officers got there they found that he had decamped—having heard through the papers of my arrest. Moreno was captured without any difficulty at Judge Tully's ranch. He had not heard of my change of base, or he would have given the officers some trouble and very likely got away. As it was, he allowed himself to be taken, thinking that he was in no danger as he was disguised at Tres Pinos and could not be identified by any of those who were robbed. He was very mad with himself when he found out that I had turned against him, but he was perfectly satisfied when he got a life sentence instead of hanging. When I got to Los Angeles I informed Sheriff Rowland where he could get a watch taken at the Twenty-one-mile house. He went to Vasquez' brother's house near Soledad and found the watch.


    Reporter—How many brothers has Vasquez?
    Leiva—Three. One, Francisco, lives near Soledad; a second, Claudio, lives near Montery; and the third, Jose Maria, lives around Hollister. He has two sisters; one is married to Manuel Larrios of Vallecitos valley. I don't know where the other is. Concepcion Espenosa, the witness who tried to prove an alibi for Moreno at his trial, is Tibureio Vasquez' neice, and she is also a half-sister of Chavez on his mother's side. This ended the interview.

Newspaper images: 9600 dpi jpeg of 300 dpi jpg of original newspaper from the collection of Alan Pollack

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ] is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV
The site owner makes no assertions as to ownership of any original copyrights to digitized images. However, these images are intended for Personal or Research use only. Any other kind of use, including but not limited to commercial or scholarly publication in any medium or format, public exhibition, or use online or in a web site, may be subject to additional restrictions including but not limited to the copyrights held by parties other than the site owner. USERS ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for determining the existence of such rights and for obtaining any permissions and/or paying associated fees necessary for the proposed use.