by Richard Senate
Over the years the great robbery at the Olivas Adobe was believed to be the handiwork of notorious California Bandit Joaquin Murietta. Legends say he got away with an estimated $75,000 in gold and that he buried the loot somewhere on Red Mountain, near Casitas Springs.
Local Historian Charles Outland discovered this account in the Los Angeles Star newspaper from the 1850s that seems to clear up the confusion. The similarity of names may have caused the misidentified culprit. Clearly, Sr. Berryessa was a bad apple. The amount he received seems to imply the amount taken was more in the $3,000 to $4,000 range, still a great deal of wealth in the 1850s.
“It is about a year since Encarnacion Berryessa came to live among us, and his conduct has been such as to keep the citizens constantly alarmed from his provoking and quarrelsome disposition, both in word and deed. Various residents of this town (San Buenaventura) have been stabbed by him, while the lives of others have been threatened, as soon as a favorable opportunity should offer for their assassination. The house in which he has lived during his residence here has been the retreat of every evil doer, and he has never been seen in company with a man who could be called respectable. We cannot say that Berryessa was concerned with the band who murdered the Sheriff of Los Angeles, but we do say that when said band passed though this place, and in coming to the knowledge of Berryessa, that certain citizens were taking steps to arrest them, he went to their aid and assisted in their escape through unfrequented by-ways, and did not leave them until they were considered out of danger. We have no hesitation in asserting that Berryessa was one of the gang that attacked and plundered the house of Raymundo Olivas. It was he who beat the wife of Olivas, and tore the rings from her ears, receiving for his share of said robbery the sum of $275, together with $100 in the cartridge box which he took, unknown to his companions, believing it to be gold coin.”