The famous bandit Tiburcio Vasquez terrorized this area for months in the mid-1870s. In late 1873, Vasquez killed three men in Northern California. With a large reward out for his capture, Vasquez headed for a remote hide-out in the southern part of the state.
After another crime spree, in the Fresno area, the reward went up, and he again headed south, this time to Coyote Holes Station, where the Walker Pass road joined the Los Angeles bullion trail, according to Remi A. Nadeau, author of' “City-Makers.” At Coyote Hills Station, Vasquez and his gang preyed on freighters traveling between the silver mines near Lone Pine and the Southland, the author wrote.
Nadeau, great-great-grandson of freighter Remi Nadeau, who built a prosperous freighting company bringing silver bullion from the Cerro Gordo mine to San Pedro where it was shipped to San Francisco for processing, became interested in California history early in his life.
“When I was a boy, my parents would take me out to look for remnants of my great-great-grandfather’s wagon trail,” Nadeau said. With maps in hand, the family traveled from the Owens Valley area to Los Angeles, seeking out places the freighter had traveled between 1860 and 1880.
Nadeau’s book, written in 1948, included a vivid description of Vasquez’s 1874 escapades and eventual capture. When Vasquez and his gang held up a rancher in the El Monte area, L.A. County Sheriff William R. Rowland set out in pursuit. But the gang escaped, riding to the mouth of Verdugo Canyon where they left the flatlands and took an abandoned trail, followed by Rowland, Nadeau wrote.
Both parties halted for the night. The next morning, one of Vasquez’s men urged him to wait for the posse and ambush them, but Vasquez refused, saying it would turn everyone, even his own friends, against them.
He left his men camping in Big Tujunga Canyon, according to Nadeau’s 1965 edition of “City-Makers,” and took shelter at the San Fernando Mission.
By now, Los Angeles citizens, concerned that he would come into town, were agitating for his arrest.
In May 1874, with the reward up to $8,000 alive or $6,000 dead, someone came forward and said Vasquez was in a house in Nichols Canyon.
The posse, concealed within a slow-moving wagon, set out for Nichols Canyon.
Nearing the dwelling, members of the posse jumped out, surrounding the house and capturing Vasquez, who was eating at the kitchen table.
There’s a local angle to Vasquez’s capture. The Nichols Canyon house was owned by a friend of the Urquidez family, one of Glendale’s oldest families.
In the mid-1950s, Frank Urquidez, then 77, told Ledger writer Don Carpenter that his grandfather, Tomas Urquidez, had lived near the family that was hiding Vasquez and that his grandfather knew the bandit.
Frank Urquidez said that, when he was young, he met the woman in whose kitchen the bandit had been eating.
Urquidez said she had a rule that there would be no guns worn at her table; so when the sheriff’s men arrived, they surprised Vasquez unarmed.
Once in jail, Nadeau wrote, Vasquez became a celebrity. Angelenos gathered to peer through the cell bars at the man who had created such fear. Women took him flowers, and a play, “The Life of Vasquez,” was quickly written and performed at the Merced Theater.
KATHERINE YAMADA can be reached by leaving a message with features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale’s history, visit the Glendale Historical Society’s Web page www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or call (818) 548-2037 to make an appointment to visit the Special Collections Room at Central. It is open from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.