In a foray for converts around Bolinas Bay, a number of children, males, were found and taken from their families to the Mission Dolores. Most were around 5 years old, but one named Lupugeym was a couple of years older. He was a bright child, clear-minded, determined and quick to perceive instruction given to him. He was baptized along with the rest at the mission and given the Christian names of Jose and Pomponio: thus he was named Jose Pomponio Lupugeym. Most had been given names of saints, but the names had been so overused since baptisms at the mission, that the fathers, groping for names, called on their classical teachings and came up with” Pomponio.” He was a quick learner, as the fathers found out, but a little headstrong at times. Pomponio was a born leader and the other Indians went to him for advice concerning their lives.
Things went well at the mission and, because of his leadership abilities, he was given responsible duties that which other Indians were not entrusted. One day, a father in charge of the mission accused him of stealing a piece of gold from the altar after a mass. Pomponio was only 9 at this time and everyone knew he did not take it. But he had been accused and so the father whipped him with a stick to drive out the devil in him. The father relished this duty and the whipping was very severe. Pomponio pleaded his innocence, but to no avail. Days later, the gold was found behind the altar by Indians cleaning the church. No matter, Pomponio had been beaten and had been given extra duty to punish him.
Pomponio was transferred to Mission San Rafael in 1916 in Marin County and given charge of numerous Indians. These Indians were not supervised strictly and life was pleasant. Padre Father Amoros was put in charge at San Rafael. He was a firm administrator and this must have been an abrupt change from the relative independence that the young men had enjoyed. Word began leaking out, however, that Pomponio was abusing the women, taking some for himself for his pleasure and bullying the men who objected. Even so, he had a magical quality about him and, in spite of this activity, many Indians looked up to him. Later, however, he had demanded tribute for certain jobs and beat up one of the Indians. This was too much for the fathers and one attempted to punish him with a whip. Pomponio was almost 20 years old now and a full-grown man. Pomponio ran away and headed for the hills.
After this event, he began raiding the Indian villages. At first he took only food, but in time he began taking some of the women as well. A number of other unruly Indians joined him and he drifted down onto the Peninsula. His path was marked by killing, raping and stealing from the Indians. At one time, the soldiers captured him by Mission San Miguel and, after tying him up, beat him. Rumor was that Pomponio escaped that night by cutting off his heels to free his legs from the shackles. He got away but was captured later and taken to Mission Soledad. There, he killed a Spanish soldier and then escaped. Later, he was seen near Santa Cruz.
Alpine Creek became his hideout for a time. When soldiers came looking for him, he escaped again and headed north. When General Vallejo heard he was plundering Indian villages along the Petaluma River on General Vallejo’s property, he sent his soldiers after him. After chasing him, the soldiers captured Pomponio near Novato. He was taken to Monterey at once for punishment.
Pomponio was convicted by the Mexican court in Monterey of killing the Spanish soldier. He was executed by a firing squad in 1824.
Much of the information in this article was taken from the book San Francisco Peninsula — Giants on the Land by Darold Fredricks. (Available at Amazon.com ISBN # 1-59330-086-7)
Rediscovering the Peninsula by Darold Fredricks appears in the Monday edition of the Daily Journal.