The Sonora Greys .was organized January 20, 1854, under the Military Law-of 1850, after H. W:.Sheal had carried on considerable correspondence with Adjutant General W.C. Kibbe in regard to forming a volunteer militia company,. The purpose of this guard was to render immediate service in their locality; either in protecting the.community from Indian depredations or in aiding the civil authorities to maintain law and order. H. B. McNeil acted as chairman, having been appointed to do so by A.A.H. Tuttle, Judge of Tuolumne County.
Captain Theall was the guiding spirit behind the company and served as Captain until July 29, 1854; when he, together with D. A. Enyort, First Lieutenant, tendered his resignation which was accepted. A notice was given for ten days, calling for a new election of officers which was held on August 9, 1854. James D. Darden was elected Captain; George S. Evans, First Lieutenant, and David S. McDowell, Second Lieutenant. The Sonora,Greys affected a reorganization in January of 1856, and voted James M. Stuart, Captain; David S. McDowell, First Lieutenant; and Alex M. Platt, Second Lieutenant.
In Tuolumne County there was another unit of volunteers known as the Columbia Fusileers with whom the Sonora Greys were very friendly and they were often called the "inseparables". The two companies were often hosts to each other at balls and banquets. Among the other duties performed by the volunteer militia during early days, aside from helping to maintain law and order, was one that left a deep impression upon the members of the citizen soldiery. When the law demanded a life in expiation of some crime, it was often the duty of the volunteer militia to act as escort to the doomed man. Huge crowds would assemble at the scene of the hanging to witness the last minutes of the condemned man's existence. It was, not unusual for one or more militia companies to be at the scene to maintain order and prevent rioting. One such occasion arose on August 6, 1855, when two Mexicans, Escobar and Sebodo, were hanged for murder. Two companies of militia were present, the Sonora Greys and the Columbia Fusileers, to protect the condemned men from mob violence. The crowd was orderly, however, and the sentence was duly carried out.(1)
Again on April 22, 1856, the Sonora Greys in company with the Columbia Fusileers were called upon to act as escort to M. D. Harlow who 'was executed for the particularly brutal slaying of a Chinese immigrant. Because of the nature of the crime a large throng numbering three thousand were said to witness the execution. (2) Again on December 16, 1857, together with the Columbia Fusileers and the Montgomery Guard, the "Greys" helped to maintain order at the execution of three men, Lyons, Poer and McCauley for murder. The gallows had been erected in a natural amphitheater in the hills and a crowd estimated at ten thousand men, women and children witnessed.the execution. The three men were noted for their desperate characters and due to the vicious nature of their crimes it was feared that the citizens would take the law into their own hands. However, the three companies seemed to have subdued any inclinations toward lynching the condemned trio, and. the execution was performed as scheduled.(3)
The town of Columbia had burned down in July of.1854; and the Fusileers had.lost all their arms and equipment. On April 12, 1856, the Sonora Greys fearing that their rifles and accouterments might meet a like fate, drew up plans for a new fireproof armory. Whether or not it was ever built is not known. (4)
Toward the latter part of 1858 the interest
in the Sonora Greys lagged. The members took very little part
in any activities in the vicinity, and the company failed to send
in any reports after 1858. The Adjutant General on August 15;
1861, made a demand upon Captain James M. Stuart, commander of
the company, for either a new Bond or the return of the arms.
Failing to hear from Captain Stuart, the Adjutant General communicated
with S. Washburn, a former member of the Sonora Greys, and instructed.him
to gather up the arms.. It was rather difficult to trace the arms,
but Washburn was successful in:doing so, and all the arms and
accouterments were turned over to the Sheriff of Tuolumne County
who requested that he be allowed to keep them for "more reasons
than one''. The Sheriff also promised that he would furnish an
"Al" Bond as security for the arms. Although the Sonora
Greys had been disbanded for more than two years,they were not
officially considered as such until April 25, 1861, when they
were drooped from the Reports of the Adjutant General.