Today's lynching will point out just how easy it is for contemporary newspapers to mix up their information. Just a warning folks, this post is a bit long and slightly repetitive. Feel free to skim a little through the accounts. Now that you've had your warning I'd like to introduce you to the case of George Sharkovich (Austrian George, Australian George, Portuguese Joe.) George Sharkovich (Austrian or Slavic?) murdered a young woman known as Miss McDaniel's. After a day or two of running, he was found, shot by a group of men, and then burned by a mob in the remains of his cabin, which the mob tore down. I was only able to find two papers which mentioned his actual name, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Feather River Bulletin. Both papers are from California, where the murder occurred and most likely are the most accurate. Unfortunately I was not able to get a hold of the Butte Record, the paper of the county where the lynching took place. You may notice if you read through these accounts that the papers manage to mix up the lynched man's name, the murdered girl's name, the method of murder, the place it occurred, and the ethnicity of Mr. Sharkovich. Just a note, at the time that this lynching occurred, a gang was captured in which a member known as Portuguese Joe escaped. I have not included this article because it does not directly relate to the lynching, but the Portuguese Joe alias most likely comes from a misunderstanding along the wire. Our first paper is the Feather River Bulletin (Quincy, California) dated June 10, 1871. Although the Feather River Bulletin is not the earliest paper, I am putting it first because it claims that it got it's account from the Butte Record.
A Fiendish Murder.
It is but seldom indeed that the feeling of an entire community have been so shocked and their indignation aroused as they have been by the recent awful tragedy at Cherokee, in Butte county—a most beautiful, accomplished and amiable young lady, just on the verge of womanhood, all life, joy and innocence,—murdered—stabbed to the very heart by a fiend in human form, while in the company of her friends! The following account of the murder we take from the Butte Record or Saturday last:
"At about 2 o'clock on the morning of the 1st instant, Miss Susan McDanel, step-daughter of the late Thomas McDanel Esq, of Cherokee, was passing from the hall, where there had just been a dance, to the residence of Justice Glass, in company with Miss Maria Glass and Doctor Sawyer. Immediately in front of them were Mrs. Davis and family, and others standing around the hall and in sight. The three had reached within about ten feet of the gate that led to the residence of Justice Glass, when, hearing some one approach, Miss McDanel turned and remarked to Miss Glass, that her father was coming. Miss Glass turned and looked, and told her that it was not. A moment after, a miscreant by the name of George Sharkovich, an Austrian, rapidly approached the three, and seizing Miss McDanel by the hair, drew her head suddenly back, and thrusting the knife down into her neck until it reached her heart, withdrew the relentless weapon and fled. The blow caused Miss McDanel to swerve from her course, and running some ten or twelve feet in the direction the fiend had taken, she fell to the ground a corpse, without a word or sigh. The cry of "murder" from Miss Glass was heard, and that was all. Dr. Sawyer rushed after the villain, but finding he could not overtake, discharged his derringer after him, apparently without effect, and then returned to where Miss McDanel had fallen. Alas! she was beyond medical aid. Her pure spirit had fled! and she, who but a moment before was all innocence, joy and life, was stricken down forever! Was ever murder so foul?
"A few steps carried the flying murderer to the chaparral, and immediate pursuit in the darkness was vain. The excitement spread over town. A meeting was held at the Cherokee Hotel, for organized action, in searching for the fugitive murderer, and a reward of five thousand dollars was offered for his apprehension. The hut for the red-handed murderer began on the early morning. Indians were placed on his trail while others were dispatched to the hills in every direction. men organized into bands, and started out on a systematic search. A courier was dispatched to Oroville early in the morning for Sheriff Miller, and the authorities were soon on the alert."
Every road, trail, stream, bridge and ferry within twenty or thirty miles was vigilantly guarded by faithful sentinels, and the search continued until Sunday nigh last, when the fiend was captured. About 10 o'clock on that night, the murderer, while passing the bridge at Bidwell Bar, was confronted by Justice McBride, who escorted him to the toll-house, where, with the assistance of Mr. Ketchum, he was disarmed of his Henry rifle, the two gentlemen then took him to the house of Mr. J. S. Bendle. Here he was ordered to deliver up his knife, which he did. His revolver was next demanded. While pretending to comply, he suddenly placed the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger, but catching in his shirt, it missed fire. Bendle caught the weapon from him, when he broke away and ran for his life. Bendle fired, hitting him three times—twice in the back, and the last shot through the head, killing him instantly. His body was conveyed to Oroville, and from thence to his cabin at Cherokee Flat, the scene of the murder. A large crowd assembled to receive the body. Upon its arrival they became greatly excited. Sheriff Miller addressed them, advising moderation. A proposition was made to burn the body. All agreeing, the cabin was torn down, a large pile made of it in the open field, the body placed upon it, a can of oil thrown over the whole and the pyre set on fire; and, amid the shouting and rejoicing of the people, the body of George Sharkovich, the murderer, was reduced to ashes!
Although neither Miss McDanel nor her friends had ever permitted or tolerated the advances of the murderer, he seems to have entertained a most absurd and violent passion for her, and had frequently declared that she should marry him or no one. This appears to have been the sole reason from the commission of one of the most atrocious and diabolical murders, under the circumstances, which the annals of crime can show. And if, in the disposition of the miscreant's body, something akin to barbarism was evinced, it is not to be wondered at when one takes into consideration the tremendous excitement caused by the butchery of one who was endeared to the entire community by her purity, beauty, and worth.
There is a painful rumor afloat that Miss Glass, the bosom friend of poor murdered Susie, and one of the most respectable and worthy young ladies of Butte, was so perfectly horrified by the tragical even—sprinkled as she was by the life-blood of her dearest firend—that she has become bereft of reason, or at least that her reason is tottering on its throne. Should this prove to be the fact, it will be an event no less to be deplored than the fate of her who sleeps in her bloody shroud.
Our next paper is The San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) dated June 7, 1871. The Chronicle discusses the background of George Sharkovich before going into detail into the murder and lynching. I have left off the part about the murder and lynching because it is what most papers published.
The Slavonian Assassin.
"Austrian George" the Brutal Murderer of Miss McDaniels
His True Name, Place of Birth and Breeding—In the Murder He Carries OUt the Slavonian Law of Chivalry.
We have taken special pains to discover the true name, birth and breeding of the assassin known as "Austrian George," who so cruelly murdered Miss Susan McDaniels at Cherokee Flat on the 2d inst., and learn the following interesting particulars: The true name of the assassin was George Sharksovich (the literal translation of which means "son of a shark.") He was not an Austrian by birth, as was supposed, but a genuine Slavonian, having been born near Buka de Katarrah, Province of Dalmatia, one of the so called States of the now defunct Servian or Slavonian nation, a nation at present divided into three conquered provinces, governed respectively by Russia, Turkey and Austria. The assassin was a native of the portion under the rule of the latter county, and hence the nickname "Austrian George." He was 35 years of age, unmarried and of a coarse, brutal nature.
IN THE MURDER HE CARRIES OUT THE SLAVONIAN LAW OF CHIVALRY.
Is is a social law among the Slavonians that when a young man falls in love with a girl he may resort to any lawful or unlawful means to obtain her in marriage, whether she is willing or not, now matter what may be the difference between them in social position, education or surroundings. The lover may be a ruffian, robber or bandit, but, having once determined that a certain woman must marry him, he will have her, or, according to a proverb amongst them,
"SHE MUST BE A WIFE OR A CARCASS."
In love affairs of this kind the lover, when refused and jilted, watches a favorable opportunity to steal the unwilling maiden and carry her off to some local fortress, where he defends her with his life. The friends or relatives of the abducted woman follow in the chase, and bloody encounters ensue. If the abductor slays those pursuing him, the woman is his, and his bloody deeds are proclaimed throughout the land as being the very essence of chivalry. He is in fact, lionized, and becomes at once a prominent and petted member of society. If he is slain, it is believed that
HE DIES IN A HOLY CAUSE,
And that his death is worthy of emulation. The capture, abduction and brutal treatment of young Slavonian women, who seek to have a mind of their own in affairs of the heart, has been carried on to such an extent that the Russian, Turkish and Austrian governments have enacted severe penalties for the purpose of putting down the barbarity. In Turkey the abductors are hanged to lamp-posts and suffer other odious treatment.
THE CLASS OF WHOM THE ASSASSIN WAS ONE.
A very large element of the Slavonians are a rough, unlettered, vagrant rabble, given to drunkenness, gambling, licentiousness, robbery and murder. Bands of them, outlaws in every respect, roam through the gorges and fastnesses of montenegro (Black Mountain). in European Turkey, where they live by plunder, robbery, and assassination. Whenever they attempt to live civilized, they usually engage in keeping gambling resorts, whisky shops and houses of ill-repute. The savage murderer of Miss McDaniel would have been a ferocious bandit in his native mountains, but hereafter he will be ignominiously known as the "brutal assassin of Cherokee Flat."
It is in the papers outside of California that we start seeing a definite distortion of information. Our next paper is The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) dated June 16, 1871:
The Cherokee Horror.
The Murderer Killed and His Body Burned in the Ruins of His Cabin.
The annexed account of a horrible sequel to a more horrible crime, is a from a dispatch, appearing in the Marysville (California) Appeal of June 6th. While a sympathizing people could feel that no punishment would be too severe for the inhuman monster, they were scarce prepared to counsel the treatment accorded the dead murderer; and yet it must be attributed to the rage and anger of a community that had lost, in so tragic a manner, one of its most loved members:.
OROVILLE, June 5th.
Yesterday afternoon at six o'clock the party engaged in hunting Austrian George arrived in town reporting that he had escaped from Bloomer Hill. All were at fault, and greater vigilance became necessary lest he should cross the river and find a hiding place in town. All the ferries, bridges and small boats were watched and every precaution taken to arrest him, should he attempt crossing. About ten P. M. two men watching heard a man crossing the Bidwell Bar Bridge which spans Feather River, nine miles above here. He was commanded to halt and proved to be the murderer. Surrendering his rifle, he was marched to the house of A. J. Bendle, to be bound. Arriving at the house he gave up his knife, but as they were about binding him he drew a revolver, placed it to his head and pulled the trigger, but the pistol catching in his shirt it missed fire. Mr. Bendle wrenched the weapon from him, when he broke away and ran for his life. Mr. Bendle fired at him with the revolver, hitting him three times; twice in the back, and the last went through his head, killing him instantly. His body was carried to Oroville, and from there to his cabin at Cherokee Flat. At the scene of the murder a large crowd had assembled to receive his body. Upon its arrival they became greatly excited. Sheriff Miller addressed them, advising moderation. The statements of Bendle and McBride, who had arrested him, were then given. A proposition was made to burn the body. All agreeing, the cabin was torn down, a large pile made of it in an open field, upon which his body was placed, standing, upon it. A can of oil was thrown over the whole and the pyre set on fire, and amid the shouting and rejoicing of the excited people it was consumed by flames. Eye-witnesses describe the scene of the burning as frightful in the extreme. Had he been captured alive his punishment would have been death by fire.
The Horrible Murder of a Young Lady in California.
The Marysville (Cal.) Appeal gives the following brief account of the cold-blooded and atrocious murder of Miss Lizzie McDaniels, a young lady, by a rejected lover, who, as the telegrams have reported, was afterward hunted down and shot by the enraged people:
"The deceased, Miss Lizzie McDaniels, was accompanied by a Mr. Wells and a lady. It appears that the murderer, called by some an Italian, by others 'Portuguese Joe,' had been paying his attentions to the young lady for two years past, though she tried to discourage his suit. He had told her he would kill her if she did not consent to marry him, but it seems that she regarded his threats rather lightly.
"From all we can learn regarding this unfortunate affair, this man, 'Portuguese Joe,' as we will call him, came up behind the ladies and their escort, seized Miss MecDaniels by her head, and bending it backward, plunged a knife in her throat and drew it downward, inflicting a horrible wound, laying the throat open the whole length, and even cutting her bosom.
"The attack was so sudden, so unexpected, that her escort, Mr. Wells, was taken completely by surprise, and knew no what was transpiring until the life blood of the victim showed him the horrid nature of the assault. As the murderer released his hold on the victim, Wells shot at, but missed him, and before he could fire again the villain turned a corner and escaped. Such, in brief, is a condensed account of the affair, taken from the many rumors flying about.
"Miss McDaniels was about eighteen years of age, an estimable lady and a general favorite. In one dispatch her name is given as Susie, in another as Lizzie. Her mother is on a visit to New York, and the melancholy news will fall doubly severe on her, who left her daughter in the full vigor of youth. The community has been thrown into a terrible state of excitement by this act, and have united in hunting down the wretch. Parties are scouring the surrounding county, and it seems impossible for him to escape. If taken it is probably that the courts will not be troubled with a trial. Judge Lynch will preside, and a stout rope and a short shrift will be given to the murderer of Miss McDaniels, a young and lovely woman, with all the glories of her life opening before her, stricken down by the hand of one who professed unbounded love for her and would have made her his wife."
The Cincinnati Enquirer is not the only paper to call Miss McDaniel Lizzie instead of Susan or Susie. Much more than names were confused in this lynching. If you believe the information in the New Orleans Republican (New Orleans, Louisiana) dated June 6, 1871 then the associated press had all of their facts wrong:
An American press association dispatch reads thus:
SAN FRANCISCO, JUNE 2.—A terrible tragedy was enacted here at an early hour yesterday morning in Kent county. It appears that a number of ladies and gentlemen were returning from a party to which they had been the night previous, and while walking along the road an Italian knowu[SIC] as "Austrian George" suddenly sprung into the road, and seizing a young girl named Lizzie McDaniel, drew a knife and cut her throat from ear to ear. Her death was instantaneous. She was eighteen years of age. The murderer had been her lover for the last four years and was incited to the commission of the deed by jealousy.
Our next paper is from the Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia) dated June 17, 1871:
CALIFORNIA VENGEANCE ON A MURDERER
If the murder of Miss Susan McDaniel, at Cherokee Flat, Cal., by "Austrian George," alias "Portuguese Joe," because she would not marry him, was horrible—it will be remembered he came up behind her as she was going away from a ball with friends at 3 o'clock in the morning, seized her by the head, pulled it back, and plunged a knife in her bosom, ripping it open down to her heart—the vengeance of the excited neighbors was still more shocking. After a day or two's pursuit, he was come up with, and attempting to flee, his pursuers shot him dead. His body was then taken to his cabin, and the crown assembled declared it should be burned; whereupon, they tore the cabin down, made a funeral pyre of it, fastened the body standing in he[sic] center, poured petroleum over the whole, and then set fire to it. And so, with a shouting, rejoicing throng around, the murderer and his home were together reduced to ashes. Eye witnesses describe the scene of the burning as frightful in the extreme. Had he been captured alive his punishment would have been death by fire.
In our next article from The Valley Virginian (Staunton, Virginia) published June 15, 1871 you will see that the details of Miss McDaniel's death have changed and that George's name has changed as well:
A few days ago, a Miss McDaniels, in Cal. while passing along a road, was sprung upon by a concealed fiend, and her throat cut from ear to ear. She had refused the suit of a man known as Australian George, or Portuguese[sic] Joe, and it being satisfactorily established that he committed the deed, he was hauled out of his hiding place in the mountains, near Cherokee, by the infuriated citizens, and shot on Monday last, and his body burned to ashes.
In our final article from The Selinsgrove Times-Tribune (Selingsgrove, Pennsylvania) published June 30, 1871 you will see that the murder and lynching are now supposedly in Colorado:
At Cherokee Flat, Colorado, as a party was returning on foot from a ball, a man known as "Australian George," sprang out of a place of concealment, seized Miss Susie McDaniel, cut her throat, stabbed her to the heart, and then made his escape. The citizens are in pursuit, and will hang the murderer as soon as he is caught.
I wanted to include every single article with errors but thought that might be a bit excessive. A few more errors appeared in The Perry County Democrat (June 7, 1871) which reported that the murder occurred in Hunt County and called the murder victim Lizzie M'Daniels and The Weekly Oregon Statesman (June 7, 1871) thought that Miss Susie McDonald was murdered and reported that she died in the arms of her friend Miss Glass. It was very easy for papers to misunderstand information that came to them over the telegraph wires. If you've ever played a game of telephone as a kid, getting news over telegraph wires typically ended up in the same way. Although this case is perhaps the worst I have ever seen for misinformation. This is why it's important to always check your sources' sources (when possible.) When I originally found information on this lynching I had the name Australian George, which led me to Portuguese Joe, then to Austrian George and finally to George Sharkovich. It's hard to know if this is even a lynching, some accounts claim he was shot by the mob, some by a single person. Either way a mob burned his body and the fact that they chose to stand it up, something almost all papers report, is odd. We leave that for you to decide yourselves. If anyone happens to have the original article from the Butte Record, please share it with us in the comments and we'll gladly edit the post to fit it in.
Thank you for joining us, and as always, we hope we leave you with something to ponder.