Harry Love (lawman)
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Artist's depiction of Harry Love
|Died||June 29, 1868
Santa Clara, California
Harry Love (1810 – June 29, 1868) was the head of California's first law enforcement agency, the California State Rangers, and became famous for allegedly killing the notorious bandit Joaquin Murrieta.
Love was born in Vermont and left home at an early age to become a sailor, reputedly captaining a ship by the age of 15. He worked in a number of jobs around the country, then joined the army as a volunteer to fight in the Mexican American War, where he gained fame as a courier along the Rio Grande and the Texas border.
With the California Gold Rush in 1850 Love came to California to seek his fortune but was unsuccessful. Instead, he worked as a bounty hunter, capturing Pedro Gonzalez, a member of Murrieta's gang who had been accused of murder, in June 1852. With his reputation from the war and this success under his belt, Love was named as the commander of the California State Rangers. The unit was created on May 11, 1853 by Governor John Bigler specifically to capture or kill the "Five Joaquins" gang, who had been identified as being responsible for over 20 murders in California's Gold Country.
On July 25, 1853, a unit of these Rangers encountered a group of men near Panoche Pass in San Benito County, about 100 miles (160 km) away from the Mother Lode and 50 miles (80 km) away from Monterey. A confrontation occurred and two of the men were killed. It was claimed that one of the dead men was Murrieta and the other Manuel Garcia (known as "Three-Fingered Jack"), Murrieta's right-hand man. The Rangers cut off the heads of both men as well as Garcia's hand as proof. Murrieta's head and the hand were preserved in brandy, but Garcia's head was not and it decayed, forcing them to bury it at Fort Miller, near Millerton.
The jars were displayed in Mariposa, Stockton and San Francisco and traveled throughout California, where spectators could, for $1, see the remains. Seventeen people, including a priest, signed affidavits identifying the remains as Murrieta's and Love and his Rangers received the reward money. However, a young woman claiming to be Murrieta's sister said she did not recognize the head and argued that it could not be his since it did not have a characteristic scar on it. Additionally, numerous sightings of Murrieta were reported after his reported death. Many people criticized Love for showing the remains in large cities far from the mining camps, where Joaquin might have been recognized. It has even been claimed that Love and his Rangers killed some innocent men and made up the story of the capture of Murrieta to claim the reward money. Doubts about Murrieta's capture followed Love for the rest of his life. The head was eventually lost in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Having accomplished its mission, the California Rangers was disbanded and Love purchased a large tract of land near Boulder Creek, California, in Santa Cruz County, along the creek that bears his name today. In 1854 he married his neighbor, the widow Mary Bennett. Mary had also lost a son, killed in a gunfight by a son of Isaac Graham, a pioneer of that area. Love's marriage to Mary Bennett was rough and she soon moved away to Santa Clara. They reconciled and separated several times until 1866, when she sued for divorce, but lost.
However, by the following year, fires, floods, and squatters had destroyed Love's property, leaving him homeless and in debt. He moved to his wife's ranch and lived in a house that she had built for him. She never let him live with her, however, and he plotted to kill her bodyguard, who had been preventing Love from seeing his wife.
On June 29, 1868 Love sat on the porch of his wife's house, where he was not allowed. When Mary and the bodyguard arrived, a gunfight broke out and Love was shot in the arm. Doctors attempted to save his life by amputating his arm, but he still died. Love was buried in an unmarked grave in what is now Mission City Memorial Park. In 2003 members of E Clampus Vitus laid a headstone for him.
HERE LIES CAPTAIN HARRY LOVE, WHO WITH A TROOP OF TWENTY OTHERS,
ON JULY 25, 1853 ALLEGEDLY KILLED BANDITS JOAQUIN MURRIETTA AND
THREE FINGERED JACK NEAR ARROYO DE CANTUA, FRESNO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA.
BORN IN VERMONT, LOVE FIRST VISITED ALTA CALIFORNIA AS A SEAMAN IN 1839.
HE SERVED IN THE MEXICAN WAR OF 1846 AND LATER AS AN ARMY EXPRESS RIDER
AND EXPLORER OF THE RIO GRANDE. LOVE ARRIVED IN SAN FRANCISCO IN
DECEMBER OF 1850 AND TOOK RESIDENCE IN MARIPOSA COUNTY. HE WAS
COMMISSIONED AS CAPTAIN OF THE CALIFORNIA RANGERS ON MAY 28, 1853
AND IN THE FOLLOWING YEAR MARRIED MARY McSWAIN BENNETT OF SANTA CLARA.
CAPTAIN HARRY LOVE DIED IN THE MISSION CITY ON JUNE 29, 1868
FROM A WOUND RECEIVED IN A GUNFIGHT WITH AN EMPLOYEE
OF HIS THEN ESTRANGED WIFE.
ERECTED JUNE 29, 2003
BY MOUNTAIN CHARLIE CHAPTER #1850 & JOAQUIN MURRIETA CHAPTER #13,
E CLAMPUS VITUS.
In popular culture
In 1998's The Mask of Zorro depicts a fictionalized account of Love's capture of the Joaquin gang. Here a character named Harrison Love (Matt Letscher) leads a party of California State Rangers who shoot down two notorious bandits Joaquin Murrieta (who is killed) and "Three-Fingered Jack" (who survives). In the film, after Joaquin's death, his (fictional) brother, Alejandro (Antonio Banderas), becomes the new Zorro and later kills Captain Love in revenge. As he did in the movie, the actual Harry Love preserved Murrieta's head in a large, alcohol-filled glass jar.
- Mountain Charlie Chapter No. 1850. ECV1850 Plaque: Captain Harry Love. Obtained Nov. 18, 2006
- Rasmussen, Cecilia (November 12, 2006). "A lawman overshadowed by his quarry". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.