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Throughout January it rained -- a lot. This reminded us to check the creek running through Poets Corner, which flooded in 1997, 2005, and 2008. Murderers/Grayson Creek was running high but smoothly, and it did not over-flow its banks. City maintenance crews some years back began a program that required homeowners backing said creek to keep it clear of debris, and it has not flooded as readily since then.
But why is it called Murderers (aka Murderous) Creek? It was named when surveyors in 1849 (or 1852, depending on the history book) found a victim hanging from a 200-year-old oak tree near the stream running below the hillside near Pleasant Hill Road and Withers Avenue. Said stream continues, crosses Pleasant Hill Road, and goes under Oak Park Blvd, east of Stevenson, runs through Poets Corner, under Boyd Rd. west of the Sequoia Schools, and meanders to Pacheco. Grayson Creek (which first showed up on a map in 1864 and was named by Daniel Grayson because the creek crossed his land in the 1860s), aka Murderers Creek, flows northeasterly 7.4 miles from its origin in Briones Regional Park to Pacheco Slough, 4 miles east of Martinez. Pacheco Slough connects to Suisun Bay. (Sources: Wikipedia and History of Pleasant Hill, California by Vallie Jo Whitfield.)
There are really two stories here: the ability of the creek to carry heavy rain run-off and the back-story on its name, Murderers Creek (aka Murderous Creek in 1850s historical documents.)
The victim found hanging from that Oak tree was Native American. Back in the 1850s, the law was weak and vigilante justice was common in California. In 1849 - 1953 there were 200 cases of lynching. Over the next four years, the number decreased to 100 as courts and jails were established. The story goes the Indian was hung for horse stealing. (Sources: Hang ‘em High: Sudden Death in Old Contra Costa and Shadow on the Hills by William Mero.)
Back in 1984, the county made suggestions to build concrete lined channels along Grayson Creek to help with flooding but was fought off by a citizens group called Friends of Creeks in Urban Settings, now an affiliate of Urban Creeks Council. So many of us enjoy the natural beauty of creeks and are thankful for their efforts, but the flooding concerns have led to a project proposed by the Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to improve the sub-regional drainage improvements in the Grayson/Murderers Creek sub-watershed, primarily in downtown Pleasant Hill and Poets Corner near Patterson Blvd. and Oak Park Blvd. It is a study and work in progress.