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Here’s why a California woman rancher was tarred and feathered in 1931

Most people today probably have never heard of the term “tar and feather.”

It is most often associated with colonial times leading to the American Revolution, when one way of expressing outrage over hard-line adherents to the king’s policies was to literally daub their bodies with tar and then roll them in feathers. This created a very sticky mess and shamed a person for quite some time.

Certainly, we don’t associate it with our area, but in one instance at least, it is exactly what happened.

In 1931, Mrs. Anna Wood was an almost 60-year-old woman living on a small homestead between Whitewater and Cabazon in Riverside County. She had lived there since about 1915-1916 and had a small farm, mainly for herself. She also had some goats and a few other animals. From all accounts, she mainly kept to herself.

However, her homestead was on land that was considered by many to be cattle range land. In later testimony,  Wood indicated that she had been threatened many times by cattlemen, but had refused to be bullied by them into giving up her homestead or nearby mining claims. More than once, she had to scare menacing ranchers away with a shotgun blast to show that she meant business.

“They told me to move out of the country or I’d wish I had,” she later told investigators.

The situation, though, turned ugly on the night of Jan. 1, 1931. Wood was returning to her home after dark after rounding up her goats and noticed that her goats would not go into the barn with her as they usually would.

She went to investigate and saw a masked man at the door. Before she could get away, he grabbed her and threw her inside, where another masked man knocked her to the ground, tore her clothing off, and proceeded to daub her body with tar. She was then rolled in feathers that had been put on the ground. Once done, the two men left, leaving her unconscious, covered in tar and feathers and alone in her barn.

Sometime later, she regained consciousness and was able to make it back to her house. Later that morning, friends of hers from Coachella were happening by for a visit and found her on the floor in a dazed condition. The friends got her cleaned up and immediately took her to law enforcement and she explained to them what had happened.

When officers with Undersheriff Rayburn arrived at her house to investigate, they found 25 to 30 head of cattle grazing on the land and in her small crop area. They checked with ranchers they knew in the area but to no avail.

No one seems to have been arrested for the tarring and feathering of Anna Wood.

The treatment she received at the hands of the masked men made national news. Even 30 years later, after Wood had died at nearly 80 years old, one article in a local paper mentioned the event, and seemed as shocked in 1961 as many people were in 1931 that something like that could occur here.

If you have an idea for a future Back in the Day column about a local historic person, place or event, contact Steve Lech and Kim Jarrell Johnson at backinthedaype@gmail.com.


Source: East Bay Here’s why a California woman rancher was tarred and feathered in 1931

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