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About The Albany register. (Albany, Or.) 1868-18?? | View Entire Issue (April 18, 1873)
L P Fisher
ALBANY, OREGON. APRIL 18, 1S73.
A HORRIBLE MYSTERV.
THE PLACER TRAGEDY MURDER
OF "vina" COATES.
From the Dally Record of March Slut.
It lias remained tor California to
add to the chapter of horrors with
which this fair sprint; lias been
ushered in, the most appall ins; trig
edy of all, to give lo the public eye
the fringe and edge ol a mystery
which seems too close knit to be
unraveled, too deeply buried to be
dragged from its bloody biding
place. Holy writ declares "I here
is nothing covered that shall not
be ievealed; and hid that shall not
be known." Yet here is the recital
of a blood-curd ing horror so en
wrapped in gloom that, at this
hour s search, skill, theory and dis
covery have but deepened the black
ness of the murderous silence.
During several weeks past, dis
patches from various points in
Placer county have mentioned the
dissappearance of a Miss Coates,
the search for her by her lather,
and his singular death. Ou Friday
the body of the unfortunate girl
was found, and in a lew hours a
representative ot the Record was
on the ground gathering facts, and
to-day we lay lielbre our readers
every material obtainable detail of
"the most arch deed ot
That ever yet this land was guilty
The Coates family consisted of
('. M. Coates, the father, aged
at out 50 years; bis wife, now de
ceased ; George, a sou, aged about
12; Mary, a daughter, aged 21;
Klvina, a daughter, aged 10J years;
and an infant son of four or five.
Coates came from the southwest
to California, nearly ten years ago,
and settled at Virginia Town, in
About four years ago he moved
up to Radger Ravine, about one
and a half miles southeast from
Gold Hill, and about two and a
half miles west of Penryn Station,
upon the Central Pacific Railroad.
About five years ago Mrs. Coates
died. About two years ago Coates
received new of the death of a rela
tive, by which there fell to him a
Mnall property. He went East and
secured about halt of it; the re
mainder, cashed, he received on the
day he met his death, as described
Coates gained his livelihood by
tending stock and working in pot
hole claims, making but litt le money
thereby. He however managed to
buy, latterly, a very neat cottage,
where his older daughter kept house
for him. Here he dwelt, surround
ed by his children, and, so far as
the world knew, the past few years
at least in
Coates was a feeble man, and at
times subject to fits, in which he
would fall prone upon the earth.
He knew ho was not long for this
world, and often spoke of his fragile
health. We would gladly let the
curtain of the past remain undrawn;
willingly we will not speak ill of
the dead, but that full light may
lie thrown upon the dark tragedy
here unfolded, and every possible
avenue for truth be searched, t is
in ssary to go back a tew years,
when we find it admitted that while
( 'oates loved his children, he was a
harsh man. 1'ity did not often ii l
his breast to outbreaking, aiid wh'l 1
not absolutely cruel, he was deemed
somewhat callous to the appeals of
mercy. In 1 SIM Coates was brought
before Justice Moore, of Newcastle,
tor cruelty to an orphan child he
and his wife had taken to board.
Through testimouy whichthe Justice
tells us lie was compelled to receive,
but motally disbelieved, Coates
procured his acqirtttal. The child
was a mere infant, and this couple
had chained it in an outhouse, left
it to wallow in its own filth, and it
As is alleged, from sheer inatten
tion. An uncle of this little one
subsequently meeting Coates knock
ed him down, and crying, "Yon
murdered my little niece," jumped
upon him and kicked and stamped
him fearfully. Again Coates was
charged with incest, and one or two
of his own children, then very young,
were witnesses against him, but ad
mitted on cross-examination that
the charges were false, and that
they had been bought up to testify
by parlies who desired to ruin
Coates and run him off his litt.e
plat of land. No one believed
Coates guilty, and the universal
verdict is that in his family he was
a correct father and kind parent,
though strict, and that he loved
and respected his children. Their
behavior, testimony and breeding
gave evidence of this also. All
these details must be remembered
in connection with what follows.
THE MYSTERY BEGINS.
On the 8th day ot March, 1873,
the family was thus situated.
James Coates was living with and
herding sheep for Robert Majors,
about half a mile from his father's
house, a ridge of hills intervening,
on top of which the Hock was tend
ed. Majors is a single man, and
has a cabin where he and the boy
lodged at the toot of a steep range
of hills, in a small ravine. The son
George worked at Mr. Gregory's,
some tour miles away. Mary,
Klvina and the infant boy were at
home. At 1 o'clock Coates started
for Newcastle, on the Central Pa
cific Railroad and four miles dis
tant, to receive $670, the remainder
of the lquest spoken ot. From
Coates' house a trail leads up the
hills, along the ridge eastward to
Newcastle. This was the road the
father took. Another trail leads
to the southward up the same ridge,
to the spot where James was tend
ing sheep and on to Majors' house.
Fifteen minutes after Klvina took
this path lo visit her brother. Kv
ery day or two she made this trip
of half a mile, always taking with
her the little boy of five years. Rut
HAD FORBIDDEN HER
To go up there, not deeming it best
for her to go alone. On this occa
sion Klvina did hot take the child
with her. It cried to go. She
bribed it to remain by giving it a
book, a siate and a pencil. Th
elder sister remarked this. She was
seen to go up the hill side, joyously
'A simple child.
That lightly drew its breath.
And felt its life in every limb.'
Klvina, familiarly called "'Vina,"
was, as before stated, not 11 vears
old. She was about tour feet high,
remarkably well developed, a
pretty girl and exceedingly well
formed. She was a pure, blonde,
though the free air had blown the
tan of health upon her cheek, and
her auburn hair bad browned be
neath the fervent sun. Her eyes
were blue, large, expressive. Rare
headed, bare:ioted, but always
cleanly, though oft in tattered
"Slie bad a rustic, wooland air"
A simple, free-hearted, good-tem
pered, well-hchfeved child.
THE 11.0T THICKENS.
A woodehopper saw Coates three
miles upon his road, just where the
time 2 P. M, should place him.
He arrived less than one hour later
at Newcastle, received his money
ami started home where be arrived
about 4.30 p. It. Finding the girl
absent he became angered and re
gretful at her disobedience, cut him
a switch to punish her, and went
up the trail she had taken. We
next hear of him ou the ridge over
looking Majors' house, about 5.30
p. m. Without coming down he
cal ed to the inmates. Majors and
James came out.
"Is your sister there?"
"She is not," was the answer of
."Have you seen her?"
"I have not seen her to-day."
We can imagine the fear which
was then awakened ipher father's
"She is lost," he erjed.
"Come down and have supper,"
said Mr. Majors, "then I'll help
you search "
"No," responded Coates, "She
may be at home by this time."
And he left for his house.
It was between 6 and 7 when he
came home. He sat down to the
meal .Mary had prepared, but he
barely tasted one dish, arose ab
ruptly and said, "I must find 'Vina."
Then the father and daughter
went out upon
They took different routes and
called aloud from all the surround
ing hills '"Vina," "'Vina," "Oh
'Vina," but echo alone gave answer,
as the name died in vocal waves
upon the darkening hill sides. The
young moon sank in deep night,
but no response.
At 10 o'clock, the daughter Mary
no longer hearing her father's voice,
and concluding he had found Klvi
na, groped her way to the house to
find no one there but her baby
brother. The night wofe away,
and the next morning Charles Vin
cent, a neighbor, going up the trail
from Coates' house toward Majors,
found Coates, about 300 yards from
his house, lying stark and dead.
Upon his lips "the sprier had set
the seal ot silence." lie lay upon
his face, his right hand beneath his
forehead, his left outstretched upon
the ground. A few inches from his
head was a stone as largo as a man's
fist, but it is a country where such
stones abound, and no bruise or
mark on the body shows that Coates
tell upon it in any way. No sign
of violence was found upon the
body; a slight scratch upon the
neck, just below and back of the
left ear, was visible, but amounted
to nothing. The $670 was on his
person. Justice Clough held an
inquest, and a verdict ot death by
heart disease was rendered, but
XO POST MORTEM
Kxam ination was had, and here we
mark the first error ou the part of
the officers. Monday, the 10th,
the old man was buried at Gold
Hill. A young Italian, who sal up
and watched with the corjise on
Sunday night, took cold by reason,
became ill, and in a few days he
was dead. Now all the country
was up in search of the missing girl,
and for eighteen days it continued.
Regular bands of men formed with
leaders and scoured every ravine,
every bush and canyon. The chief
of these searchers were as f! lows,
for as they numbered hundreds we
can name but a few. From Au
burn t here was Sheriff Dunham and
a company, mounted and on foot,
and Under NhorifV Huntley and a
euittpany' Constable Walker and a
company from Rocklin; Constable
Hearts and a. company from Ophir;
Constable llotchkiss and a band
from Lincoln. Resides these, sin ires
of private citizens were out upon
the search. Amomr these were
citizens ot Newcastle, District At
ton ey Knlwester of Auburn, W.
R. Lyons of the Phcer Argmi 1. j
Perkins of Rocklw, and many nth- 1
ers. All the officers and citizens
were unremitting, and though the j
numbers dwindled as time wore on ;
and no trace was fbuudjjstill was
THE. SEARCH KEPT IT.
At this, time suspicion attaeed to i
many parties, and muttering wf a
storm were heard, portending simely
the wont form of mob law. Now
transpired an event, which added
new depths to the mystery, and
cleared suspicion from the then sus
Ou last Friday, March 28th, just
twenty-one days of Klvina's disap
pearance being gone, Jesse Parker
of Rocklin started out to find some
estray horses. At 4 o'clock in the
afternoon he found himself on ?.
blind trail about midway between
Gold Hill and Coates' Ranch. As
he rode along he saw a bundle
lying in a prospect hole, which
seemed tilled with water; the limb
of a tree protruded from the water.
Riding by about 100 yards
SOMETHING INSPIRED HIM
To turn back. Parker said to him
self, "This is foolish, it's bad luck
to turn back ;" but as he rode away
the story of the missing girl occurred
to him, and he forthwith turned
about and cantered to the prospect
hole. Dismounting, fie saw float
ing across the mouth of thediole,
just spanning it, a bundle of cloth
ing and at one end a burlap sack,
filled. He laid hold of the sack
and grasped a human head; the
action moved the body, and a girl's
foot washed out from the bundle.
Parker mounted in hot haste and
rode to the nearest settlement. A
picked body of men at once went
up to the, spot and watched all night
beside the body, not touching it or
moving it. Meanwhile the news
spread like wildfire over the entire
country, and morning found the
Acting Coroner, Justice ("lough, of
Newcastle, and a hundred citizens
on the spot. Among these we note
all the officers and gentlemen before
named, aud Dr. Dubois, of Auburn,
Dr. Flint, of Lincoln, Daniel Ho-
gan, of Newcastle, George Atdrich,
of Virginia, and many other promi
THE BODY REMOVED.
Under direction of the officials,
the body was removed from the
hole and an inquest bed. The
prosiject hole was in a secluded
spot, surrounded and shaded, by
foliage. It was twelve feet wide.
It was tilled within a foot of the
top with water, and the limb before
referred to rested on the bottom of
the upper rim of the pit.
PLAT OF THE GROUNDS.
xs well as it can be done now,
we give a rough plat of the posi
tions, to e able the reader the better
to comprehend the situation, rela
tive positions and not geographical
accuracy being aimed at :
1. Newcastle, and four miles
2. Gold Hill, which is two miles
3. Virginia town,
tti Where the girl was found,
nearly cqui-disttut beiween Gold
Hill and her father's house, and
about a mile from each.
T. Direction of the trail from
Coates' to Newcastle.
is. Direction of the trail the girl
7 and 8. The direction of the
ridge between Coates' and 5lnjo.
0. Whew Coales was 'bund.
From this it will lie seen the g;.l
was found in an opposite direction
from that she usually took, and
about one mile from home. Re
twecn Gold Hill and I Elites' lived
the young Italian win died, and
scattered along are the vabius ot a
tew Mexjeans, but U qaite distant
from the place where the girl was
found. Returning to the inquest.
The body was. removed from the
hole and found to have been lying
on its face. A wheat sack, which
would hold 120 pounds of wheat,
being about 30 inches long, was
drawn over the head and bound
tightly about the waist with a cord.
The sack fitted closely to the body
and shoulders. It wasmarked"H.
H. S.," the initials of a merchant
at Newcastle, Mr. H, B. Smith,
whose clerks swore they sold many
such sacks but never sold any to
Coates. The latest sale was to a
reputable family named Gregory,
but many people had like sacks, and
this circumstance, at present, has de
Removing the sack from the
body, little Klvina lay upon the
sward before the silent spectators.
From being long in the water the
flesh of the feet was beginning to
peel off in wrinkles. The eyes and
forehead were swollen and discol
ored, but not from bruises simply
natural causes. The mouth slightly
open, the blue eyes partly closed,
the little face quite natural. Cheek
and lip death had touched with hie
icy finger, and chilled the young
blood in her veins to stillness
'With ruthleaa baste he bound
The silken fringes of those
Curtaining lids forever."
And she was as mute and dumb as
the green turf she lay upon, or the
wiP flowers which rocked in the
breeze and nodded against the cold
cheek of the murdered child, and
kissed her parted lips as if welcom
ing her to their earthly home.
Drs. DuRois and Flint in due
time, the body being removed to
Gold Hill, made an examination,
and testified that there was not the
s ightest trace of violence or strug
gle. The girl had not been violated .
Her clothing was in good order.
True, her dress was torn, but it
was in that condition when she left
home. She wore knit, close-fitting
under clothing from her knees to
iier waist, buttoned closely, which
On Sunday, the 23d, some chil
dren had been at this identical pros
lt, hole, and had moved the pole
or limb spoken of. Was the mur
dered girl then at the bottom of the
pit, held there beneath the angle of
that limb? Was she drowned
No post mortem was held to de
termine the condition ot the lungs.
Krrorthe second. Was slie suffo
cated ? The same error has pre
vented that being known, for, on
Saturday afternoon, a rough liox
was hastily constructed, the coffin
ordered from Conboie not arriving
in time, ami the rapidly swelling
body was buried, and so Klvina
i 'oates, and the secret of her mur
der ton, we fear, were put six feet
lieueath the sod beside her dead
lather, at Gold Hill. The verdict
of the Coroner's jury poiuts toward
no one as guilty. Will it ever lie
A score ot theories are afloat in
Placer county as to the truth of this
case. These are a few;
1. Her i'atlier killed her.
2. She was kidnapped by lieing
seized and sacked as dcsorilted, ai d
was suffocated in the bagging.
3. She was kiduapied and at
tempts to outrage her fading, she
was suffocated aud thrown into the
4. She was beguiled by some
human serpent, and bribed by pees,
cuts to come away from, home ttlom ,
a she did, and to leave her- usual
route and go westward toward
GoU Hill; then she was followed,
the kidnapping resulted.
5. She was killed by thos w ho
desired lo nevuuge themselves upon
6. She was drowned m the sack.
7. She was dtead whet., placed in
tl e sack, for no evideiwesuf a strug
gle we? found;.