It is past time to make good my promise to the history buff followers of this column to share findings from my research.
Of my ongoing projects, the latest development of interest concerns my research into the life of California bandit Salomon Pico, considered by some the Zorro model.
The Pico family (or should I say families) of California are vast and widespread. Some Picos arrived in California decades after Salomon’s antecedents came and may or may not be related. My work has centered upon the descendants of two sons of Santiago de la Cruz Pico, who came to Alta California with the Anza Expedition. The two sons are Jose Dolores and Jose Miguel.
Jose Miguel Pico sired Jose de Jesus Pico who lived in Santa Barbara County and built the adobe that President Ronald Reagan would own over a century later. He also sired Buenaventura Pico, parent of Lucretia de Jesus Pico who married Juan Calderon and from whom my friend Chuck Calderon of Santa Ynez descends.
Jose Dolores Pico sired Salomon Pico, the bandit. He also sired Salomon’s older sister Maria Filomena Carmen Rodecinda Pico six years earlier. She married a French Trapper, Louis y Arseneau Pombert. They began a line that arrived at Frances Tompkins, of San Juan Bautista. Salomon is her third great, great-uncle.
Frances graciously agreed to meet me in Los Alamos recently. We sat on a bench in front of the old Union Hotel on a beautiful afternoon and exchanged stories.
Frances undertook the project of transcribing the contents of a large red loose-leaf notebook, a Xeroxed copy of an original written by Ralph and Mrs. Milliken. She found it the San Juan Bautista City Library.
Ralph Milliken was the first curator of the museum that now bears his name in Los Banos, California. It opened as the Henry Miller Museum in 1958, and displays local history. Items that belonged to Miller, the town’s founder, can be seen alongside Yokut Indian artifacts, work and recreational items donated by families who’ve lived in the area for generations and a plethora of pictures and written interviews of people and places in Los Banos dating back to the 1800s.
The Milliken archives that Frances transcribed are recorded interviews with various early residents of the Los Banos/San Juan Bautista area. Frances was kind enough to share the work with me.
Of particular interest is a recorded recollection detailing the circumstances of Salomon Pico’s death. It is unfortunate that the preceding pages are missing. The recollections are possibly from a man named Luis Raggio who ran a saloon in San Juan Bautista and later a butcher shop there. Or they may have originated with Jesus Duran, who arrived from Mexico prior to 1850 (Note: Salomon Pico died in 1860).
Space does not allow me to share in detail this recollection, so I will summarize.
In this account, Pico arrived in Mexico and “got up a crew” and began killing and robbing there. On the 16th of September, Mexico’s Independence Day, there was a big celebration in Sausal de Comancho. Pico (apparently a great guitar player and dancer) played the guitar. Pico was asked to dance the Jarabe. While he was engaged in the dance, soldiers surrounded the ramada and captured him and his six partners. They took them out and shot them all. That effectively ended the celebration.
This may or may not differ from the accounts my research has revealed, which suggest Pico joined the Mexican military under the command of his old friend General Jose Castro, who thus protected him. According to those sources, Castro was murdered over a card game. Pico thus lost his protection and was executed.
I hope to learn more about this account and the author. Stay tuned.