The Coburn Mystery: Chapter 51

Why am I posting chapters from the Coburn Mystery?

While researching this never-ending, generous tale, I realized that there was a tremendous amount of extraneous historical information– that “the Coburn Mystery”¬† paints a much larger picture¬† of life on the Coastside.


When I first moved to El Granada, there was a house in the “Highlands,” that the owners affectionately called Adairs Lair. The name plate is gone now but I have always wondered if these Adairs were related to Supervisor Henry Adair. Supervisor Adair knew all about the gate and fence at Pebble Beach.

He later offered this description to a jury in the 1890s:” These planks had been pried open and nailed, pried open and nailed, pried open and nailed, until, in fact, there was nothing of the gate left. In place of nailing it with ordinary nails, it was nailed with 8-inch iron spikes through a 2-inch gate…You can imagine that in breaking the gate open a few times how much would be left of the board.”

But the trial hadn’t taken place yet, and first thing Monday morning, an angry Loren Coburn rode to the county seat at Redwood City where he met attorney Crittenden Thornton who got a warrant issued for the arrest of the Pescadero businessman Joe Levy. Levy was charged with gate-bashing, a misdemeanor.

The Western Union office was located in the Levy Brother’s general store so Joe quickly learned about the warrant. He went to Redwood City, met with Justice Welch, and was released on his own recognizance. Everybody knew what he would say in court. Joe Levy had traveled the road to Pebble Beach, a road used by the general public for more than two decades. Loren Coburn tried to stop him from using the road so he reacted by removing all obstructions.

The jury for the People v Levy, also known as That Pescadero Case, was selected on October 17, 1891, and the case was heard in court.

Said the county newspaper: “…that curious something called ‘the people’ have put the boot on the other leg and tried the case ‘The People versus Coburn’ and won “their” case.” Then followed a harsh assessment of the media. It is not the business of the press to try cases. Let the press attend to business as collector of the news. What is right will arrive and it becomes good citizens to exercise a little patience at least; let the law takes its course. The less said is soonest mended. Cool heads make good jurors.”

The case was settled. On October 24, 1891 Pebble Beach was open to all and mammoth picnics were scheduled. “A party from Santa Cruz visited Pebble Beach, refusing to pay Coburn his six bit royalty,” reported the paper.

Pebble Beach visitors came and went. Even Loren Coburn’s gatekeepers refused to back the boss.

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