Folks in town already took up a collection to erect a marker at the site of the shootout. The Riparian Irrigation Club wanted to proclaim the incident “The Capay Valley Stand-Off.” Locals who traded at Black’s Station called it a downright massacre. Big cattle declared war against the homesteaders living on parcels where the sweet-grasses grew. Clashes over land and water rights took place throughout the winter of 1870. The struggle yielded no victors, only heartache.
Marshal Frank Kegan and seven men rode to the Kettner place situated in Hungry Hollow. The Kettner family came overland from Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley to claim their 160-acre parcel in California, where they raised vegetable garden and a few head of cattle with the “K Dot” brand. The Marshal was out delivering eviction notices petitioned by the Ramage Land, Water & Stock Company. Kegan did not realize he would encounter a funeral that grey February morning.
Mourners gathered from Capay Valley and the nearby town of Esparto to pay their respects to Liliana Kettner, daughter of Carl and Rebecca. The ten-year-old was killed in a stampede set off by a dynamite blast at the Ames Ditch headgate. The ditch belonged to Jarred “Jake” Ames, who diverted water from nearby Cache Creek, to irrigate his Chilean clover fields east of the Kettner’s property. Ames suspected the explosions were part of an intimidation campaign waged by the Ramage Land, Water & Stock Company.
“Vengeance Was She” is based on events depicted in “The Emergence: When Survival and Resistance Become a Family Affair,” a novel by David A. Carrillo. The short story was recently selected to appear in the June 2021 issue of Frontier Tales. Watch for a link to read more about the day when Capay Valley ranchers gathered for a funeral and found themselves in a fierce battle with Big Cattle.
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