Northern California Statue of Meat-Packing Magnate Beheaded

December 29, 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The statue of a 19th-century Northern California rancher and meat-packing magnate was decapitated earlier this week, leaving investigators in the state’s capital city scratching their heads to find a motive behind the vandalism.

Tipsters could receive a $1,000 reward for information about what befell the nearly century-old granite statue of Charles Swanston in Sacramento’s William Land Park on Monday. The severed head was found on the ground nearby.

Swanston traveled west from Ohio as part of the California Gold Rush and quickly realized he’d make more money as a butcher, according to Sacramento City Historian Marcia Eymann.

Police are investigating whether the vandal — or vandals — had a beef with the Swanstons or if it was a random act.

The head of the Charles Swanston statue rests on the ground near a bush in William Land Park on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022, in Sacramento, Calif., the day after it was believed to have been vandalized. (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

“I have no idea why anyone, unless they’re vegetarians and didn’t like meat-packers” would do this to the statue, Eymann said Wednesday. “I find this very bizarre.”

The statue is the work of the late sculptor Ralph Stackpole, a famous San Francisco artist during the Great Depression era.

An early Sacramento pioneer and settler, Swanston then became a rancher and started a meat-packing business that made him rich. His son in the 1920s commissioned the statue, which is part of a fountain, and donated it to the city after Swanston’s death in 1911 at 101 years old, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The family’s ranch was located on what’s now William Land Park. Eymann said if not for his son’s donation, the city would likely have never put up a piece for Swanston.

“Not that anybody knows who he is, but that’s something very special that Sacramento had and now it’s destroyed,” she said.



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