Showing posts with label Nicanor Rodriquez: The Spanish Bandit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nicanor Rodriquez: The Spanish Bandit. Show all posts

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nicanor Rodriquez is one of the characters that created many of the exciting bandit stories that dot the West and filtered into the Pioche area. Nicanor, generally referred as Nicanora, was the son of a high government official in Spain who came to the United States and settled in Missouri. At the young age of 16, Nicanora left home and headed West for California, more than likely looking to get rich in the gold fi elds, but where he ended up joining a band of stage robbers. He was in the process of robbing a stagecoach when he was captured and sentenced to 10 years in prison. After serving a few months, he was released because of his tender young age but he continued his life of crime. For the next few years he wandered around California and, for a time, it is believed he rode with the famous outlaw Joaquin Murietta. Located off state Route 322, this canyon is about two miles northeast of Eagle Valley Resort near the entrance to Spring Valley State Park. As a now wealthy man he made his way into the Nevada gold fields settling in the Virginia City area. He lived a double life, robbing stages and also passing as an affluent mining man. He was handsome and attractive and would entertain important people with his charm and wit at lavish dinners. He came to be known as the Spanish King. With his fertile brain, he would set up daring robberies and he would rifle the quartz mines. One robbery placed him in the presence of the infamous Baldy Green as he was loading three large gold bricks onto a stage. Nicanora joined the driver up top as a passenger. When Baldy stopped to water the horses, Nicanora threw off the gold bricks. Remembering the spot, he later returned for the gold. He took it to an assay office to be melted down but never returned for the gold, probably fearing an arrest. This led Nicanora to flee to the Ely area in Eastern Nevada and eventually to Pioche where he resumed his smaller robberies of stage coaches and payroll coins. Pioche was booming and Mexicans had been imported to work in the mines. Feeding the growing town became a problem and the price of beef soared. This need led to the rustling of cattle ranches in the Spring Valley area and also from across the Utah border. Nicanora formed his first gang of Mexican bandits. He also ran with a gang of robbers, Al Wing, Nate Hanson and Idaho Bill, who terrorized the Stateline and Desert Springs, Utah area. However, his luck ran out when he robbed a stage of $2,000 worth of payroll and passenger jewelry. He was arrested but acquitted with the alibi his gang was able to provide for him. At this point Nicanora fled to the mountains, possibly living in a cave along with his group of bandits. History tells us that he negotiated a deal with the Wells Fargo Co. to pay him $2,000 a month and he wouldn’t bother them again. As new owners took over, the money ceased and holdups resumed. Nicanora was again arrested. His name appears on the jailer’s record of the Million Dollar Courthouse in June of 1874. Somehow with the help of two other prisoners he struck a guard as he made his rounds, fled the jail and vanished on a stolen horse, supposedly heading for Utah. The history books tell us that Nicanora did venture into Utah robbing one more stagecoach, killing the driver and stealing some horses. He then headed for Mexico to spend the remainder of his life on a sprawling ranch and lived out his life in elaborate luxury. I’ll bet you thought that was the end of the story. Well, not so, at least for those of us who know and believe the local legend that continues to exist about this notorious character. Into this saga enters an early pioneer of Spring Valley by the name of Althie Meeks. He homesteaded a 200-acre ranch in the Spring Valley area and raised cattle and milk cows and he also freighted. He would sell his cattle in California and Utah. He became a prime target for Nicanora and his gang of outlaws. As Meeks and his daughter made their way through the Spring Valley Canyon by buckboard, Nicanora and his pal Al Wing had hidden in a canyon behind some brush waiting for a potential holdup. When Meeks reached that spot, action started and shooting began. Meeks was wounded but played possum and when Nicanora and Wing approached the wagon, Meeks opened fire, killing Nicanora and wounding Wing, who was able to escape. Meeks’ daughter remained in the wagon and was unhurt. Thus ended the life of Nicanora Rodriquez. Of him they always said no jail could hold him, no wealth could satisfy him, and no life had value. Many Nevadans say that every mill in Nevada was looted at one time or another by Rodriquez. For a while he was the most famous bandit in the Silver State. As for Meeks, he feared retaliation from the remaining members of Nicanora’s gang of bandits and made up his mind he did not want anymore shooting scrapes. He sold his ranch and moved back to Utah where he hoped things would be more peaceful. According to history, the cattle rustling and bandit activity continued to plague the area for many more years. Horsethief Gulch is the main campground at Spring Valley State Park and got its name because it was a favorite corridor for the rustlers to drive their stolen cattle through. Nicanora Canyon is not marked on any map nor is there a sign pointing to its entrance. It lies midway between Ursine and Eagle Valley Reservoir and it has become a campground and picnic area maintained by the BLM. Many of us are aware of the tragedy that happened in that tiny little canyon but are glad that the days of cattle rustlers and bushwhackers are gone. The legend and name of the canyon lives only within the minds and hearts of those of us who are aware of the history. We can now enjoy the sweet and beautiful spot with peace and contentment knowing we live in a safer time and place.

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