Hanging Trees: The Untold Story of Lynching in California
What do Southern California’s hanging trees say about the region’s attitudes toward its bloody past? Some actual hanging trees survive, albeit in obscurity, like the oak in Orange County where Andres Pico’s posse hung two desperadoes from Juan Flores’ gang. But others of more dubious historicity, like the “Hangman’s Tree” in Knott’s Berry Farm, seem to romanticize a period marked by great violence and ethnic strife; Los Angeles’ homicide rate of 1,240 per 100,000 in the 1850s is the highest ever reported in U.S. history, and much of the violence had racial dimensions. How can we separate the history from the legend?