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SLO County Outlaws: Desperados, Vigilantes, and Bootleggers

July 1, 2017, 1pm
At the Freighthouse
Talk by Jim Gregory, author

In 1858, San Luis Obispo County had the highest murder rate in the United States, a trend that had begun with a horrific mass murder at Mission San Miguel in 1848 and continued through the Gold Rush years, when cattle-buyers and their gold dust were easy prey along El Camino Real. A vigilance committee and its extrajudicial executions in front of Mission San Luis Obispo put an end to the most notorious outlaw gang, but not to lawbreaking.

Stagecoach, bank, and train robbers appeared periodically; ironically, among the most peaceful local residents in the 19th century were the James Brothers, who lived near Paso Robles in 1868-69, and the Daltons, who visited their brother Bill near San Miguel in 1891-92. A lynching in Arroyo Grande, a murder in San Luis Obispo's Chinatown, and, with Prohibition, a steady traffic in bootleg whiskey, one that included Al Capone, were all hallmarks of a region that may have been rural and isolated, but was never "sleepy."