Wednesday, August 29, 2018

John Larn -- Texas Lawman, Vigilante, & Outlaw


John M. Larn was born in Mobile, Alabama, on March 1st, 1849. As a teenager, he drifted into Colorado, then later New Mexico, and finally Texas.

There's a story about how he found work as a ranch hand in Colorado but ended up murdering his employer during an argument over a horse. Supposedly, after the killing, he fled to New Mexico where he supposedly killed a lawman who he thought was on his trail.

The problem of course is that while stories like that make great backstory to give a tale more substance, I hate that I can't prove it's true or not. Also, the killing of a lawman in the Old West was big news. And also ask yourself this, if he did kill a lawmen and someone know enough about it to write that he did, why wasn't he ever pursued over that killing? And frankly, I can't substantiate it.  

What we do know is that when he arrived in Fort Griffin, Texas, he was listed on the 1870 census as residing in the household of Susan Newcomb. Of course there is the story that he arrrived in Fort Griffin and was employed by a local rancher. Some say he was hired on as a Trail Boss. But frankly, that seems odd that Larin would have been offered the job of Trail Boss. That job usually went to someone who had a lot of experience on trail drives, and who were very well known for their honesty. Larin had no experience at all from what I can see. So him coming on as a hand, or a flank rider maybe that was the case if he had proven that he was good with cattle and was a good rider. Coming on riding drag was certainly a possibility. But to arrive and be immediately be put on as a Trail Boss when no one knows you, I don't believe it. 

His character and honesty was not known to the folks there. He is said to have drifted into Texas, but no one knew from where? And since Fort Griffin attracted all sorts of seedy types, no one knew if he were on the run or not.

There's a story about John Larn supposedly leaving Fort Griffin for California. The tale goes that he murdered two Mexicans on the way there. He is to have killed them and dumped their bodies in the Pecos River, and that's what made him decided to stay in Texas. Of course, like the tale about his murdering his employer in Colorado, or killing a lawman, it sounds too unbelievable to be true. Besides, who knows if that's true or not since again there isn't a mention of it anywhere. And if there isn't a record or mention of it, where did that story come from in the first place? 

We know that at some point between 1870 and 1872, John Larn did go to work for rancher Joseph Beck Matthews. The Matthews were originally from Alabama, and were of the earliest settler families in Shackelford County, Texas. It's said that they were one of the first white settlers living on the Clear Fork River area. As for J.B., he devoted his life to his family and the cattle business.

Mary Jane Matthews was the third of six children born to J.B. and his wife Caroline Spears Matthews. Mary was born on June 6th, 1857. She married John Larn on November 28th, 1872. The Larin's began their married life in a rock home on the site of where Camp Cooper once stood. 

In 1874, John Larn joined the local militia known as the Tin Hat Brigade. They were also known as the Fort Griffin Vigilance Committee, the local vigilance group in Shackelford County. Just a little of a year later, the Larn family moved into a six room house on the South side of the Clear Fork River. They later established a ranch there and called it the Camp Cooper Ranch. 

As for Fort Griffin, by then it was a town theming with low life gamblers, con-artists, thieves, rustlers, outlaws on the run, the shady and the seedy, a lot of desperate characters.

Many sources say John Larn was a personable man who never cursed, gambled, drank, or smoked. Because of his good reputation within the vigilance committee, he agreed to run for the position of Shackelford County Sheriff when he was asked. He won that election becoming the second sheriff of Shackelford County in February of 1876. He was actually sworn into the position that April when the old sheriff's time was up.

When John Larn was elected sheriff in 1876, he appointed then county clerk William R. Cruger as his deputy. Cruger was almost 10 years older than Larn. When Cruger moved to Shackelford County, Texas, in 1873, he was in on organizing Shackelford County. He was the first county clerk and Albany was named by Cruger after his birthplace and former home of Albany, Georgia.

Right after being sworn in as the new sheriff, he was pressured by his friends in the vigilantes to do something to stem the tide of lawlessness especially the cattle rustling. So, armed with a warrant for his arrest for cattle rustling, Sheriff Larn and Deputy Cruge trailed outlaw Bill Hays and his gang all the way to Dodge City, Kansas.

Sheriff Larn brought Bill Hays and one of his men to stand trial. The vigilantes in Shackelford County were happy with what they saw in their new county sheriff. The vigilantes and Larn teamed up and cleaned out the rustler element from Shackelford County. Of course, a rope was the tool of vigilantes and that didn't seem to matter to Sheriff Larn.

Some sources say he had help from his father-in-law J.B. Matthews when he  established his own cattle business just after becoming sheriff. Larn didn't seem to have a problem keeping his cattle operation going while sheriff, but soon his cattle business started people talking. The talk started going around that their new sheriff and fellow vigilante may have been more than he appeared.

Some folks there speculated Larn was using his badge and his ties to the vigilantes to help him rid the county of outlaws who were in reality his competition. While he was supposedly effective in ridding the county of outlaws, many started wondering if maybe he was an outlaw. It wouldn't be the first time a lawman in the Old West hid behind and badge to do whatever he wanted. And frankly, he wouldn't be the last to kill and steal and cheat. 

Suspicion among decent hard working cowboys and ranchers started when some in the area smelled something fishy going on with Larn's Army contract. He was contracted to sell two to three steers a day to the Army during the winter of 1876 to feed the soldiers and the Tonkawa Indians at the garrison. While there was nothing strange about that, other ranchers started noticing something strange going on with Larn's herd. Though Larn had a contract to provide cattle to the Army, it appeared to many that Larn was doing so with other people cattle and not parting with any of his own cattle. The county sheriff was suspected of rustling cattle.

By the fall of 1876, Sheriff Larn had also deputized longtime friend John Selman. If the name John Selman sounds familiar to you, it should. This is the same back-shooting John Selman who on August 19th, 1895, walked into the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas, shortly after midnight to commit a premeditated homicide.

Selman walked up to the door of the Acme, drew his pistol, then walked up behind John Wesley Hardin who was playing dice at the bar and shot Hardin in the back of the head. While it killed Hardin instantly, John Selman fired three more rounds Hardin as he lay on the floor. Selman claimed self-defense. And believe it or not, he got off even though it was a clear cut case of murder in the first degree.

This was the man who Sheriff John Larn had deputized. Selman was also the man who Larn partnered with in his cattle rustling operation. A rustling operation that was unraveling because suspicions were being raised by other ranchers. The other ranchers took notice that while Larn was selling a lot of cattle, and their own herds were slowly shrinking due to sales, Larn's herd remained the same or was in fact growing in number. Folks wanted to know how that was the case?

When he was exposed as being the only rancher unaffected by rustlers, when he was exposed for having rustled cattle from neighboring ranchers to replace the cattle that he was selling to the Army, Sheriff John Larn was forced to resign as sheriff on March 7th, 1877.

Some say Sheriff John Larn refused to resign his position as county sheriff at first. Some say what pushed him into resigning was when his Deputy Willian Cruger shot and killed a couple of cowboys. Cruger's confrontation with those cowboys started when he was trying to restore order in a Fort Griffin saloon. The story goes that things got out of hand and soon a gunfight resulted in a number of cowboys being killed. All while Deputy Cruger and the county attorney who was also present were wounded in the exchange.

Some thought the dead cowboys were actually Larn's cohorts in his rustling operation. After all, there had to be more men involved in that since everyone knows it take more than just one or two men on horseback to rustle a large number of cattle. So it was very obvious to most at the time that more men were involved with Larn.    

After John Larn resigned, Deputy William Cruger was appointed his successor on April 20, 1877.

About now, one would think that Larn would heed the writing on the wall and lay low for a while. But no, that wasn't the case. Though he resigned as sheriff and was replaced by Deputy Cruger just a month later, he continued to rustle cattle.

Fact is, after resigning, many think he bribed someone in the county because he was soon appointed a County Hide Inspector. And believe it or not, Larn made John Selman a Deputy Hide Inspector. In those positions, the two were actually responsible for inspecting butchers, slaughter houses, and inspecting all of the cattle herds entering and leaving that county. So they would have complete access to cattle.

Also, even though he was exposed as being suspected of rustling which was enough to get other hanged in other places, Larn was still under contract to supply beef to Fort Griffin. Of course, during that time, cattle still went missing from neighboring ranches. So all in all, his being out of office as sheriff didn't change a thing.

We should note that while this was going on, the men who were in cahoots with him started to reveal themselves as his gang openly terrorized anyone who he suspected of wanting to testify against him. His band increased their harassment of ranchers who thought about standing up to John Larn. They were shot at, bushwhacked, had their herds driven off, and they even had their horses shot and killed for no reason other then to intimidate and terrify.

In February of 1878, a few brave citizens petitioned for a warrant to search the Clear Fork River which ran behind Larn's ranch house. Looking for hides that didn’t belong to him, Texas Rangers arrived and are said to have fished out over 200 hides with different brands from the Clear Fork. Since the brands were other than Larn’s own, he was arrested. But because he pleaded that the evidence against him had been planted there, he was later released. 

Right after his release, Larn's men increased their attacks and intimidation. This time targeting those citizens behind that search warrant.  

His brazen attacks came to an abrupt halt in June of 1878, when a local rancher who was known to have uncovered Larn's cattle rustling operation was shot and wounded by Larn himself. If he had killed him, things would have been different for John Larn. But instead, the man lived and soon identified the former sheriff as his would be assassin. 

With that, Shackelford County issued an arrest warrant for John M. Larn. It was the job of Sheriff Cruger to do so and he did in fact arrest Larn on June 22nd, 1878, at the Larn ranch while his former boss was milking a cow. Cruger took him in without incident. At the county jail in Albany, he was placed in a cell without a whole lot of fanfare.   

The next day, while still dark out in the early morning hours of June 23th, 1878, twelve hooded men rushed the Shackelford County jail and tried to take Larn out to be hanged. The men held the jailer at gunpoint while they attempted to pull Larn's out of his cell. Very quickly they realized that they couldn't. 

The hooded men didn't know that after placing former sheriff Larn in his jail cell on the previous day, Sheriff Cruger had a local blacksmith come in and shackle the former sheriff to the floor of his cell. Cruger did so because he figured his prisoner being shackled would prevent his cohorts from breaking him out of jail.

I've sort of wondered if Sheriff Cruger thought about what happened next. That is, what would happen if it weren't Larn's friends to come and get him?  

That morning when those men broke into the jail and found they couldn't remove former sheriff John Larn from his cell because of his being shackle, some say in frustration they just opened fire and shot John Larn full of holes right there while he was still in his cell. One report later said that Larn pleaded with them before being killed, telling them that he was one of them and they should let him go.   

John Larn's body was returned to his Camp Cooper Ranch where he was buried beside his infant son, Joseph B. Larn. The outlaw sheriff was survived by his wife and 5 year old son, William A. Larn. His wife Mary would go on to remarry. It said her next husband was a preacher.  

As for those wearing hoods who shot him in his cell. Well, some say it was the Tin Hat Brigade, the Fort Griffin Vigilance Committee, that stormed the jail intending to hang him. Some say when they found they couldn’t lynch him, that they shot him in his cell to make sure that he wouldn't get off. Some say they shot him dead so that he wouldn't implicate any of them in any of the crimes that they had committed. Some say they killed him because they felt duped and used by him. For whatever reason, former sheriff, fellow vigilante, cattle rustler, outlaw John Larn had more than 9 bullet holes in him when they found him dead.

It's said that their killing of John Larn, who was in fact a fellow vigilante, someone who they knew and trusted, was the last vigilante act of the Fort Griffin Vigilance Committee. Many believe it was their last act because they felt they couldn't trust those within their own ranks. Others say Sheriff Cruger did such a good job that the vigilantes saw themselves as no longer needed.

As for Sheriff Cruger, some say he was offered a lot of money to look the other way and let Larn go. Some say he didn't bend to temptation and was truly a man of honor and integrity. He was seen as a man who may have had a chance to join Larn and make a lot of money, but didn't. Instead he chose to do his duty and was reelected. He served until he resigned on July 20th, 1880.

A year later, William R. Cruger was hired on as Town Marshal in Princeton, Kentucky. He served the town greatly by most accounts. Then on May 29th, 1882, while Marshal Cruger was escorting a man charged with being drunk and disorderly, he was shot dead. He and the drunk were attempting to walk up a set of stairs from the street that led to Marshal Cruger's office. That's when the prisoner produced a gun, spun around, and shot Marshal Cruger the head. He died instantly. He was murdered by a prisoner that he didn't search. 

William Cruger was buried in the place of his birth, Albany, Georgia. He was survived by his mother and a sibling, wife Mary R. Boynton and their one child. It was a sad end of a very good man.

Tom Correa

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Death of Floyd Allen -- Part Two


In Part One, I talked about Allen Family patriarch Floyd Allen. I talked about who he was and how he went on trial charged with helping prisoners escape while being transported and for assault and battery of one of the deputies who was transporting those prisoners.

We talked about how he and his family were both wealthy and politically connected, as well as the fact of how before attending court to hear his verdict that he was running around free. No, not in custody.
On March 14th, 1912, at 8:30 a.m., the jury returned to the Carroll County courtroom in Hillsville, Virginia. The jury had been sequestered in a hotel room for their safety. It's said the jury looked nervous when they entered the court.

The day was said to a cold wet foggy March day. But despite the lousy weather, more than a hundred people crowded into the courtroom to hear the verdict. This was a huge event for the county as the patriarch of the wealthiest family in those parts was on trial. Many there wanted to see if Floyd Allen would get a slap on the wrist or actually jail time for beating up a County deputy and assisting prisoners to escape.

In the court was 20 or more members of the Allen family. There as spectators was Floyd's sons Victor and Claude. The two stood on benches in the back of the courtroom with their uncle Sidna Allen. Jasper Allen’s son Friel was there. He sat in the back of the room. Some say he joined his cousins Victor and Claude as well as Sidna and Wesley Edwards who also stood on benches. And yes indeed, all of the Allens were armed.

The room was quiet, some say eerily still, when jury foreman Augustus C. Fowler stood to announce the jury's verdict. He looked at the judge and gave the verdict of guilty as charged with a recommended sentence of a year in the penitentiary and a $1,000 fine.

One of Floyd's attorneys is said to have made a motion to set aside the verdict, but it and a request for bail were immediately denied. While the legal formalities were going on, upon hearing the verdict, Floyd Allen stood us and pointed at Judge Massie, then said, "If you sentence me on that verdict, I will kill you." 

Judge Massie then instructed Sheriff Webb and Deputy Elihue Clark Gillespie to take charge of the prisoner. As both officers began to move toward Floyd, Judge Massie proceeded to sentence Floyd to one year in prison. 

Floyd Allen's defense attorney David Winton Bolen later stated, "Floyd hesitated a moment, and then he arose. He looked to me like a man who was about to say something, and had hardly made up his mind what he was going to say, but as he got straight, he moved off to my left, I would say five or six feet, and he seemed to gain his speech, and he said something like this, 'I just tell you, I ain't a'going!'"

Most agree that Floyd's son Claud fired the first shot at Judge Massie. Then followed all sorts of shooting in the courtroom. Yes, the courtroom erupted in gunfire as most of the Allens were armed with pistols and even a shotgun or two brought in under their coats.

Floyd Allen draw a revolver and shot the Judge. While some say he shot the prosecuting attorney Foster first, and then the judge. Others say he shot the judge first, then Foster, before shooting at jury foreman Fowler. But frankly, no one really knows for sure. All folks really know is that almost immediately Judge Thornton Massie and Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney William Foster were both shot dead. Jury foreman Augustus C. Fowler and Carroll County Sheriff Lewis F. Webb were also shot dead.

Deputy county clerk Dexter Goad drew his pistol and fired and hit Floyd Allen which caused him to fall to the floor. Right after Goad fired, a bullet slammed into Goad's face. Miraculously, it didn't kill him.

Nineteen-year-old witness Nancy Elizabeth Ayers who had been subpoenaed and testified against Floyd Allen was not so lucky. She was shot in the back while trying to run away in the chaos. As she was trying to get away from the insanity in the courtroom, she was actually hit while running out of the courtroom. Sadly, she died at home the next day.

In that minute and a half or more, in those long 90 plus seconds, a number of people were either dead or wounded. In fact, besides those killed on the spot, there were seven others who were shot and wounded.

After that the Allens, Floyd was wounded in the hip, thigh, and knee, and his brother Sidna took a round in the shoulder. Their wounds didn't stop them from  shooting their way out of the courthouse. Yes, shooting anyone they could as they made their way out of the building.

Floyd and sons Victor and Claude made their way to the Elliott Hotel, and spend the night there because Floyd was in too bad a shape to make his out of town. So instead, he and his sons spent the night in the hotel.

When folks there were hauling Judge Massie's corpse out of the building, they found the letters that Foster received and another similar to it in the judge's coat pocket  Frankly, the whole thing could have been prevented is Massie hadn't denied prosecutor Foster's request that spectators be checked for guns on the way into court.

It was an extremely foolish move on the part of Judge Thornton Lemmon Massie. It was a foolish move that needlessly jeopardized the lives of all there. Lives that would have been otherwise saved if security measures had been taken.

At this point, it should be noted that the gunbattle in the Carroll County Courthouse made big news across the nation. While some newspapers tried to depict the Allen family as a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, most did not the truth. The shootout that took place after the conviction of Floyd Allen, wealthy landowner and patriarch of the politically powerful Allen family, made national headlines. In fact, it's said that it only fell off the front page a month later with the sinking of the Titanic on April 15th, 1912.

So now, with the Carroll County Virginia courthouse in the county seat of Hillsville shot up all to Hell, a number of people dead and many others wounded, one would think the law would immediately jump into action. Well, at least in most places that's what would take place. Of course, most places aren't the state of Virginia. Or to be more precise, the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As shocking as it is, Virginia law in 1912 stated that all county deputies lost all law enforcement authority when a county sheriff died in office. No kidding, that's the way it was at the time.

Since Sheriff Webb was shot dead in the courtroom, his murder left Carroll County without any legal law enforcement. It's true. While citizens were organizing posses to pursue the killers, there was no organized county law enforcement there at the time.

Knowing the insanity of the situation that was taking place, Carroll County's assistant county clerk S. Floyd Landreth didn't hesitate a second and instantly sent off an urgent telegram to Virginia Governor William Hodges Mann.

Landreth's telegram read:

"Send troops to the County of Carroll at once. Mob violence, the court. Commonwealth's Attorney, Sheriff, some jurors and others shot on the conviction of Floyd Allen for a felony. Sheriff and Commonwealth's Attorney dead, court serious. Look after this now!"

Besides the lack of law enforcement, there was a reason for his insistence for help. No one had ever seen such a Hellish scene. Attorney W.A. Daugherty of Pikeville was one of the people there who witnessed the melee. He later stated that several men standing on benches at the back of the courtroom started firing "like Custer's cavalrymen at the Little Big Horn".

All in all, it's believed that more than 20 Allen family members shot up the courtroom that day. And as stated earlier, it all took place over the span of a minute and a half. Yes, just over 90 seconds. Three times as long as the shootout near the OK Corral and many other shootouts in the West.

Those murdered including Judge Thornton Lemmon Massie, Virginia Commonwealth Attorney William McDonald Foster, Carroll County Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb, Jury Foreman Augustus Cezar Fowler, and 19-year-old witness Nancy Elizabeth Ayres. The wounded included County Clerk of the Court Dexter Goad, Carroll County Deputy Elihue Clark Gillespie, juror Christopher Columbus Cain, and court spectators Andrew T. Howlett and Stuart Worrell. Brothers Floyd Allen and Sidna Allen were also wounded during the long gunfight.

Virginia law required the county sheriff be in charge of the criminal investigation and pursue those suspected of committing the killings. With Sheriff Webb dead, and no provision for succession in the law, after his death his deputies lost all their legal powers until the next election.

So faced with that dilemma, to his credit, Virginia Governor William Hodges Mann sent a telegram to the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency with instructions to apprehend the fugitives. He instructed the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, known as being on the same level as the Pinkertons at the time, with the mission of finding and apprehending those responsible for the shootings.

Right after that Governor Mann posted a number of rewards for the arrest of a number of Allen family members. A $1000 reward was set for Sidna Allen, as was a $1000 reward for Sidna Edwards. An $800 reward was set for Claude Allen, and a $500 reward was set for Friel Allen. A $500 reward was also posted for Wesley Edwards. All rewards payable, dead or alive.

Baldwin-Felts detectives were there within days. Immediately they took up the hunt for Floyd Allen and those in his family known to have participated in the courthouse shooting. Several posses made up of Baldwin-Felts detectives as well as armed citizens and local lawmen searched the countryside.

Friel Allen almost immediately gave himself up to detectives. His father Jasper Allen talked him into giving himself up because he was worried that his son would be killed either trying to flee or while being arrested. Floyd's son Claude Allen and nephew Sidna Edwards were arrested right after Friel turned himself in. Sidna Allen and nephew Wesley Edwards fled Virginia and went to Iowa.

It took several months, but the Baldwin-Felts detectives found Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards in Des Moines after being tipped off as to their whereabouts. Both were returned to Carroll County, Virginia, to stand trial.

As for the search for Floyd? Believe it or not, even the U.S. Revenue Service  got into the act by sending Enforcement Agent Faddis to look the bootlegging by the Allen clan. This let a posse made up of Agent Faddis and four deputized citizens to raid Floyd's property. During that raid, the Feds seized a couple of illegal stills and more than 50 gallons of moonshine. After the raid on Floyd's place, they turned their attention on the home of Sidna Edwards. Two illegal stills were confiscated when found there.

Floyd was found and arrested at the Elliott Hotel by a posse made up of Baldwin-Felts detectives, citizens, and county deputies. Believe it or not, for all of his blustering and big talk, it's said Floyd tried to slash his own throat with a pocketknife during his arrest. He was stopped and hauled off to jail.

On Trial for the Courthouse Shooting 

Floyd Allen was the first to be brought to trial on a charge of murdering Judge Massie, Sheriff Webb, and Commonwealth's Attorney Foster. Judge W.R. Staples presided over all of the trials in connection to the courthouse shooting. All of the trials were prosecuted by Virginia's Assistant Attorney General Samuel W. Williams.

During the trials, the prosecutor brought forth a number of witnesses. From those who had information of Allen's plot to kill Judge Massie, prosecutor Foster, amd Sheriff Webb, to a traveling salesman from Roanoke who testified that he sold Sidna Allen a lot of ammunition before the courtroom shootout, and others.

Another prosecution witnesses was Floyd Allen's other attorney, Walter S. Tipton who testified that he saw Floyd's son Claude raise a pistol and using both hands fire it at the judge. Tipton also testified that he saw Floyd raise a pistol and that he held it in both hands as he fired it.

Deputy Sheriff George W. Edwards became the Carroll County Sheriff soon after lSheriff Webb's murder. He testified against Floyd also said that he had spoken with Floyd and heard him make threats against prosecutor Foster. Another witness corroborated the testimony of Sheriff Edwards.

A number of witness testified that Claude Allen fired the first shots. Walter Petty testified that he witnessed a pistol duel take place between Sidna Allen and Deputy County Clerk Dexter Goad. Goad acknowledged that and that he shot Floyd in the pelvis. Goad said that he thought Floyd undoing his sweater buttons was when he thought that Floyd was going for a gun. Though struck by four rounds including one to the face, Goad did in fact recover from those wounds.

S. E. Gardner, who was the Hillsville undertaker who prepared Sheriff Webb for burial, testified that Sheriff Webb was struck five times. County Treasurer J. B. Marshall testified that he had been standing near Sheriff Webb when the shooting brook out, but that he didn't see a gun in the Sheriff's hand when he lay dead.

On May 18th, 1912, a jury found Floyd Allen guilty of first-degree murder of Virginia Commonwealth Attorney William McDonald Foster. It's said Floyd Allen wept aloud when he heard the verdict. Then in July of that same year, Claude Allen was found guilty of first-degree murder for the premeditated killing of Foster and guilty of second-degree murder for the killing of Judge Massie.

Floyd and Claude Allen were sentenced to death by in the electric chair.

Floyd Allen's refusal to serve a year in prison led to the murder of five people and the wounding of seven others. To stay out of the electric chair, Floyd used his political contacts to persuade Lieutenant Governor James Taylor Ellyson to commute the Allens' sentences while Governor Mann was out of the state.

Governor Mann had received a number of death threats by the same people who wrote threats to Massie and Foster before the shooting. When Governor Mann found out what his Lieutenant Governor was about to do in so far as commuting the Allens sentences, the Governor is said to have cut short his time in Pennsylvania to get back to stop that from happening.

According to sources, the Lieutenant Governor's actions is said to have instigated a power struggle between the two men. Governor Mann refused the Allens request to commute their death sentences to life in imprison. And while he is said to have asked to be hanged instead of being put to death in the electric chair, Floyd Allen was electrocuted on March 28, 1913. Just a few minutes later, his son Claude followed him as he too was put to death in the electric chair.

Their bodies were taken to Biyle’s Funeral Parlor where thousands of gawkers gathered. It's said Richmond newspapers reported how schoolchildren, mothers carrying babies, and all sorts of young men and women took a look at the bodies of Floyd and Claude Allen. Floyd's son Victor was not permitted to take custody of their bodies late that night just before they were shipped by rail to Mount Airy for burial.

As for Sidna Allen, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter of prosecuting attorney Foster and to second-degree murder of Judge Massie. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the two. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of Sheriff Webb. For that, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Wesley Edwards was given 9 years for each murder count in connection to the deaths of Judge Massie, prosecuting attorney Foster, and Sheriff Webb. So all toll, he got 27 years in prison.

Sidna Edwards pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of Sheriff Webb and received 15 years. Friel Allen confessed to shooting prosecutor Foster and received 18 years in prison. When Victor Allen and Barnett Allen finally went to trial, they were both acquitted.

When Democrat Governor Elbert Lee Trinkle took office in 1922, he immediately pardoned Friel Allen and Sidna Edwards. When Democrat Governor Harry Flood Byrd took office in 1926, he immediately pardoned Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards.

As for the Allen wealth?

After their convictions, the Carroll County prosecutor placed liens on all property owned by Floyd and Sidna Allen. The moneys from the liens went to the heirs of the victims. Besides the liens, there were wrongful death lawsuits by the victims' families. Soon, the Allen properties were confiscated and sold at auction.

As for Jasper Allen, he lost his position as Constable after the courthouse shooting, Then, on March 17, 1916, he was killed when he was shot to death near Mt. Airy, North Carolina. He stopped at a roadhouse for the night but got into an argument with a moonshiner over what took place at the Carroll County courthouse. At one point, the moonshiner pulled a gun and shot Jasper Allen twice. Yes, killing him instantly.

From what I gather, the tragedy many call the Hillsville Courthouse Massacre has taken on a life of its own in that there are those who still believe that the Allens were being railroaded. Yes, just as there are many who believe that they were killers who got what they deserved in the end.

For me, I believe in Luke 6:8 which says "whatever measure you give out is the same measure that will be giving to you." Floyd Allen found that out the hard way. 

That's just the way I see it. 

Tom Correa


Monday, August 20, 2018

The Death of Floyd Allen -- Part One


Here's a story about something that took place in Virginia just before World War One. You may find this interesting. After all, it's not every day we read about this sort of thing.

Floyd Allen was born on July 5, 1856 to a financially and politically prosperous farming family in the town of Cana which is located in Carroll County, Virginia.

The Allens were a large family of seven brothers and three sisters. In this story, we're only concerns Floyd, his sons Victor and Claud, Floyd's bothers Jasper, Garland, and Sidna which some say was pronounced as "Sidney," their nephews Wesley and Sidna Edwards from Alvirtia Allen who was married to a man named Jasper Edwards.

Floyd was a wealthy farmer, storekeeper, and supposedly had a legal county license to produce whiskey. Besides managing his family's land holdings, farming, and running a store, he was the head of the Allen family.As for Garland, he was also a wealthy and respected farmer. But he was also a schoolteacher and a Baptist preacher who held church services. Sidna was also a very successful farmer, a storekeeper, and is known to have later built one of the finest homes in Carroll County. As for their brother Jasper, not to be confused with their brother-in-law Jasper Edwards, he was also known as Jack and was also a wealthy farmer, ran a sawmill, and was even the Cana town Constable at one point.

While some have tried depicting them as a band of ignorant hillbillies, or dumb outlaws, that's not who they were from what I can tell. They had wealth and a great deal of political influence. They had friends in very high places when it came to politics. The Allen family were staunch Southern Democrats who were very involved in local and state politics. Some even say they had influence in national politics.

As for the Allen family getting into trouble with the law, it sounds like those folks believed they were above the law for a few reasons. One reason is that they were wealthy, the second is that they were politically connected, and lastly because they didn't see the law as applying to them,

In May of 1889, brothers Garland and Sidna were arrested for carrying concealed weapons and for shooting at a group of men they had a angst against. Luckily for them, no one was hurt too seriously. Both brothers paid those who were hit, the brothers were fined $5 each for the assault charges, and the charges of carrying concealed weapons were dropped. Some say the light sentences were out of fear of retaliation from the Allens.

In July of 1889, Floyd was arrested for assault and battery. As with the case of his brothers Garland and Sidna, some say it was the Allen's political ties  that made the prosecutor drop his charges. Others say it was threats by the Allens. There is no doubt that they were feared in the county at the time.

In 1910, Sidna appeared in Federal court for making counterfeit twenty-dollar  coins. He was caught doing this at his place of business yet told the court that he had no idea about what was taking place at his facility by a man who supposedly worked for him. Sidna was found not guilty, but the man who who worked for him, the man some saw as Sidna's accomplice, was found guilty and sentenced to five years in federal prison.

In that case, while he couldn't be retried for counterfeiting, Sidna was retried on perjury charges pertaining to his trial testimony. After it was found out that he lied about some of the facts pertaining to his involvement in the crime, he was retried and found guilty. But though that was the case, he never served a day in jail for his crime. Fact is, during a new trial on the perjury charges, the Allen clan came together to complain that they couldn't get justice from a Republican judge. Instead of such a claim simply being laughed at, and thrown out of court, it wasn't. Believe it or not, with politics being the way it was at the time with a great deal of hate still lingering for Republicans at the time, his case was dismissed.

As for Floyd Allen's temperament? Well, it's said he was easily offended, had a very quick temper, and was known to have a long history of violence. To give you an idea of how bad his temper was? Imagine this, while he and his brother Jasper were arguing over barrels of brandy in their father's estate, Floyd actually pulled a pistol and shot his brother. No kidding!

Floyd's round glanced off Jasper's scalp. And as for Jasper, he actually returned fire and hit Floyd in the chest. Though shot, Floyd kept shooing at his brother until his pistol was empty. After that, Floyd's rage took over and he attacked his brother using his empty pistol to beat his brother Jasper in the head.

Floyd was arrested for shooting his brother. After threatening the judge and the jury, he was given a $100 fine and sentenced to spend a symbolic "one hour" in jail. Floyd paid the fine but told them that he "would never spend a minute in jail as long as the blood flowed through his veins."

Frankly, he had reasons to think that way. Floyd Allen was one bad hombre. I read where Floyd Allen had the scars of thirteen bullet wounds. Five of those scars were the result of being shot while in fights with his own family. Imagine that!

Former Carroll County Judge Robert C. Jackson once stated, "Floyd Allen was perhaps the worst man of the clan -- overbearing, vindictive, high tempered, brutal, with no respect for law and little or no regard for human life. During my term of office Floyd Allen was several times charged with violations of law. In several instances he escaped indictment, I am satisfied, because the witnesses were afraid to testify to the facts before the grand jury."

Judge Jackson presided over a 1904 trial where Floyd was actually convicted of assault. The person he assaulted was his neighbor Noah Combs. Combs made the mistake of buying a piece of property from Jasper Allen. Floyd wanted that land for himself. Floyd warned Combs not to "butt in" on the sale of that property. When Noah Combs brought the land from Jasper, Floyd shot Combs.

Fortunately for Floyd that he didn't kill Combs. But that didn't stop the county from arresting Floyd on attempted murder charges. His charged were reduced to assault with a deadly weapon and he received a light sentenced. Yes, a jury of his friends and those afraid of him sentenced Floyd to pay a $100 fine and spend "an hour" in jail. Again, he paid the fine but refused to spend a minute behind bars.

As I said before, he and his family were very wealthy farmers, huge landowners, with all sorts of political connections. So with that Floyd appealed the verdict to his friends in high office. How high? Well, at the start of his next hearing, he produced a pardon from his friend the Governor of Virginia who was also a Southern Democrat. That's friends in high places!

In 1908, a local judge appointed Floyd and another Allen relative to serve as County Deputies. Soon afterwards they were both charged with beating prisoners in their custody. Though they said all of their prisoners had resisted arrest, a jury didn't buy that story and the two were convicted on February 1st, 1908. Both were sentenced to 10 days in jail and $10 dollar fines.

A month later, Southern Democrat Governor Claude A. Swanson answered Floyd's petition for executive clemency by granting both of them pardons and restoring them to their county positions as deputies.

The problems started 

In the spring of 1911, brothers Wesley Edwards, age 20, and Sidna Edwards, age 22, got into trouble when Wesley was flirting with a young woman who was already promised to a young man by the name of Will Thomas. The two Edwards boys were the nephews of Floyd Allen.

The next day, when Wesley and Sidna (who was named after his uncle Sidna) attended church services at their uncle Garland Allen’s church, Wesley is said to have called out Will Thomas right then and there during the church service. One story says that Thomas had his clock cleaned after Sidna jumped in to help his brother. As a result, Wesley and Sidna were indicted for assault and battery, and disturbing a church service.

The Edwards brothers left the county and the state of Virginia immediately after hearing that they were being sought by the sheriff. Instead of letting themselves be arrested, they crossed the state line into North Carolina. The brothers went to the town of Mt. Airy which is in Surry County, North Carolina.

A few weeks went by when Carroll County Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb contacted the Surry County Sheriff about picking up the Edwards brothers. The Surry County Sheriff is said to have been very cooperative and asked how he could assist? Surry County Sheriff Haynes and his deputy Oscar Monday arrested the Edwards brothers without incident.

Sheriff Webb send deputies Thomas F. Samuel and Peter Easter, armed with extradition papers, to pickup the brothers. Since it was Easter's wagon, he was driving. Once at their county seat in Dobson, Surry County Sheriff Haynes turned over the Edwards brothers to Samuel and Easter. As with any prisoners who are known as flight risks, both Edwards brothers were said to be restrained because of fear that they'd try to escape.

Once in Carroll County, at a point which is said to have been near Sidna Allen's store, deputies Samuel and Easter were met by Floyd Allen. Floyd is said to have used his horse to block the road.

Floyd dismounted and approached the buggy demanding the boys be released. Samuel knew full well who Floyd Allen was, and what his temper was capable of. It's said Samuel was in the motion of pulling his pistol when Floyd grabbed it and beat Samuel with it. As for Easter, he's said to have tried to stop the Edwards brothers from escaping but soon found himself outnumbered by the young men and their uncle. The end result was Floyd beating Samuel, his taking Samuel's pistol and leaving Samuel unconscious in a ditch along the side of the road.

One story says that as Easter ran off, that he took a shot at Floyd. But really, what we do know is that while Floyd freed the brothers, Peter Easter ran to the nearest home and telephoned Sheriff Webb to let him know what took place.

For the record, Carroll County Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb was born on January 16th, 1848, right there in Carroll County, Virginia. He would die on duty on March 14th, 1912, at the age of 64 in Carroll County. He's buried in the Lewis F. Webb Cemetery in Hillsville. The point is that he wasn't a young man, especially by the standards of the day.

To his credit, Floyd later turned his nephews over to the court. But, he did not turn himself in for beating deputy Samuels and threatening deputy Easter who fled the scene for help. While his nephews were tried and sentenced to a 30 and a 60 day sentence in jail, the law wasn't finished with Floyd Allen. Soon, he would find out that his political connections in the Democratic Party in Virginia would be of no help to him.

Virginia's state attorney William Foster called up the Grand Jury to look into the escape of the Edwards brothers, and Floyd Allen's attack on Carroll County Sheriffs Deputy Samuel. Floyd was called before the Grand Jury to testify and admitted to "roughing up" deputy Samuel. According to Floyd, he was not there to facilitate the escape of prisoners but only to see if the boys were being abused and mistreated. He even came up with the lie that the brothers were being "tied with ropes and drug behind the buggy." No, there isn't any evidence of that taking place.

As for his lies, the Grand Jury didn't buy any of them and actually indicted Floyd Allen, Sidna Allen, and Barnett Allen, as all having played a part in the escape of the Edwards brothers. All three were also charged with interfering with deputy Samuel while in the commission of his duties. Floyd had additional charges leveled against him for assault and battery upon deputy Samuel.

It's said that Sidna Allen was never tried, but I can't find out why that was the case. Barnett Allen who played a small part in helping the boys escape was acquitted at his trial. As for Floyd, things were different.

When Floyd Allen was set to be tried, immediately death threats were made against deputy Samuel and his wife and children. If he testified against Floyd, he knew that he would be killed. But worse, if he testified, he knew his wife and children would be killed. With that, knowing that Floyd Allen saw himself above the law and would kill him and his family, Deputy Samuel took his family and left the state to seek safety.

As for the trial of Floyd Allen? 

A few weeks before Floyd Allen’s trial started, prosecutor William Foster received a letter promising that he and his family would be killed if Floyd Allen was found guilty. Foster took the threat serious and immediately took the letter to Judge Thornton Massie. Foster wanted protection. He requested extra deputies be assigned to the courtroom, and he also asked the judge to make sure everybody who entered the courtroom was searched for weapons during the trial.

As foolish as it sounds, Judge Massie denied Foster's request saying, "I think that would show cowardice on our part."

As for others who had received death threats from the Allens, Judge Massie and Sheriff Webb both told friends that they expected big trouble if the verdict did not come back favorable to Floyd Allen. They openly told many of the officials in the court house to arm themselves in case of trouble.

It was close to a year before Floyd was finally brought to trial on March 13, 1912. Judge Thornton L. Massie, the same local judge who had deputized Floyd six months earlier, presided over the trial. Floyd Allen had the best legal team that money could by at the time. Both of his attorneys, Walter Scott Tipton and W. D. Bolen were retired Carroll County judges.

Because deputy Samuel took his family and left the state to seek safety, the prosecution headed by Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney William M. Foster depended on Deputy Easter. After hearing the case, the jury is said to have been fearful of retribution from the Allens. Because of that, they couldn't agree on a verdict at first. To help reduce their fears, Judge Massie had them sequestered in Thorn-ton’s Hotel

Believe it or not, on the day before hearing his verdict, Floyd Allen was still running around free. He was not in custody and actually spent the night before hearing his verdict at his home.

Coming up in Part Two, the end of Floyd Allen.

Tom Correa

Monday, August 13, 2018

How a STETSON Hat is Made

Several of you have asked me to follow up on my post John B. Stetson -- "Father Of The Cowboy Hat" with a post about how a Stetson is made.

Well, I worked on that for a while. Yes, I really did. Frankly, it felt a lot like writing a tech manual. Since writing such manuals is something that I did in fact do to supplement my income for years, something that I figured I had paid my dues doing, something I promised myself that I would never start writing again, I stopped trying to write about how to make a Stetson.

Instead, I found this video for you from YouTube. I think it's very well done. And of course, I hope you enjoy it.



Tom Correa

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Knowing How To Use A Gun Brings Peace Of Mind


More than once in my life have I found out that a friend or his wife, or their children, has felt a sense of confidence after learning how to shoot. Whether it's  someone learning to used his or her grandfather's shotgun, or someone getting acquainted with the use of their dad's pistol, I'm always happy to hear people say how they now feel confident and competent with using a gun safely. 

For some, shooting any sort of gun can feel a little scary at first. But with the proper training, fear is reduced and a sense of confidence takes over. Soon, a shooter realizes that they control the gun. They learn that a gun is just a mechanical object, a tool, a machine. They learn fairly quickly that a gun does not control you, you control it. After all, it is just an it.

What I mean by that is that it cannot get up off a shooting bench, walk itself out from a desk drawer, or jump out of a gunsafe. If it's loaded, empty, pointed away from others, used safely as it should, then that's up to its handler, the shooter, the person using it.

There are all sorts of uses for firearms of all sorts these days. From competitions shooting semi-auto rifles and semi-automatic pistols, to matches using only lever-action rifles and Single Action pistols, to shooting events that only require shotguns, there are all sorts of recreational match shooting out there.

While it's absolutely wonderful to see firearms shooting matches today, people shouldn't think this is something new to America. One type of match shooting is called "Schuetzen" shooting. And while some may not have ever heard of it, it's been a part of American sport shooting since the early 1800s.

The word "Schuetzen" comes from the word "Schützenverein" which is German for "marksmen's club". In Germany, "Schuetzen" shooting clubs originated as  town militias which were primarily created to defend a town. Today there are no military aspects to them, but they do have a following because of the social and sporting aspects of "Schuetzen" shooting.

In Germany, it's said there's over 15,000 Schützenvereine in towns and cities all over the country. Yes, that's 15,000 marksmen's shooting clubs. Most are affiliated with the "Deutscher Schützenbund" which is the German Marksmen's Federation, also known as the DSB. The DSB was founded in 1861, disbanded in the 1930s when German citizens were disarmed by the Nazis and revived in 1951 following World War II. Nazi's didn't want an armed public because it's hard to make slaves of a people that are, and the Nazi knew that.

With over 1.5 million members in the DSB, it's the third largest sports organization in Germany. The amazing part of all of this is that the DSB is not the only sport shooting organization in that country. Believe it or not, Germans have trap and skeet shooting, as well as all sorts of other rifle and pistol competition shooting.   

As for Schuetzen shooting, its Germany's oldest shooting sport. In fact, each Schützenverein, marksmen's club, organizes shooting events called Schuetzenfests. These events are a combination of shooting matches combined with a festive atmosphere. Besides the "Schuetzen" shooting, annual Schützenfests usually include food, family and fun. They also include matches with air rifles, air pistols, small bore shooting, and even crossbows. 

Here in America, things were not much different in the beginning. Schuetzen shooting clubs were founded by German-Americans, those new arrivals who were still learning English in most cases, and their clubs acted as social clubs in their communities. As for shooting, they only shot Schuetzen rifles. 

Schuetzen shooting clubs today are really no different than back when. They have a range for target shooting up to 200 yards. Back in the 1800s, besides shooting, those clubs would have beer on hand. As most know, beer and German immigrants went hand in hand. And since Schuetzen shooting clubs were seen as social clubs, it's said that larger clubs had extensive facilities such as an Inn, where dances, music, picnic grounds, and other entertainment were available to the entire family. It was very common back in the mid-1800s for thousands of people to attend a major event at a local Schuetzen club.

1902 postcard of a Shuetzen shooter
So what so different about Schuetzen shooting? Well, after seeing the "Schuetzen Rifle," I can tell you that it is not your ordinary shooting rifle or sport for a few reasons. They're just in a class of their own.

As I said, the tradition and history of Schuetzen shooting goes back over 200 years in our nation. Schuetzen itself is both a specialized rifle and a unique style of shooting. To me, Schuetzen shooting is the definition of a challenging shooting long-range competition. Matches are usually shot in the standing position at 200 yards. A special Schuetzen target with a "Bullseye" scored at the 25 ring is used. While the original Schuetzen rifles were muzzle loaders, breech loading Schuetzens have been around since the 1880s.

Charles H. Ballard's self-cocking tilting-block action was produced by Marlin Firearms in 1875. This type of shooting is only shot from the standing position and the rifle itself is design in a way that it's almost impossible to shot it from the sitting, kneeling, or prone positions. Among Schuetzen shooter, it's considered a pure shooting sport and has earned an outstanding reputation among long-range "Creedmoor" target shooters. 

While I admire that sort of shooting for its skill level, in general the act of learning to shoot is a great way to build self-confidence. Besides it helping folks by spilling over into other areas of one's life, someone learning to shot also gains a sense of peace of mind when it comes to defending one's self. 

Most families heading West during the 1800s knew how to use a firearm to provide for their family and protect themselves whether it was their land or their person. Households would have a gun there, and while not always crack shots, they were proficient with the guns available.

Though there were only 45 deaths on record in the Kansas cowtowns of Wichita, Abilene and Dodge City, from 1870 to 1885, and the worst year in Tombstone being 1881 with five deaths total, violence was not tolerated in the Old West and people remained armed to care for themselves.  

As writer Louis L’amour put it, "Gunplay did not enter the life of every citizen, although a time might come when a man might be called upon to defend himself, The law, if present, was often beyond call, even as now. Nor was the western man inclined to call for help. He who settled his own difficulties was most respected."

It wasn't a matter of strutting around with low slung holsters, shooting at a silver dollar thrown into the air, or shooting the flames off a candle. It was a matter of hitting a deer, or taking down an attacker. It some cases, it was just knowing that you were able to protect yourself during an attack from desperadoes or a band of Indians.

On November 18, 1868, the U.S. Army established a post as a "Camp of Supply" in what was back then the Cherokee Outlet. It was located just East of what is today Fort Supply, Oklahoma. It was known as Camp Supply at the time and was set up to support General Philip Sheridan's Winter campaign of 1868 against the Southern Plains Indians. It was also used to support George Custer's Seventh Cavalry when they went south to attack the Cheyenne Indians led by chief Black Kettle. That battle became known as the Battle of the Washita. Later on the camp was used to protect the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservations from incursions by Whites.

Camp Suppy

During an Indian attack on Camp Supply, Frances Marie Antoinette Mack Roe, who was an officer’s wife, described what took place in a letter she sent after the attack. In her letter which she wrote in October of 1872, she stated:

"Night before last the post was actually attacked by Indians! It was about one o'clock when the entire garrison was awakened by rifle shots and cries of 'Indians! Indians!' There was pandemonium at once. The 'long roll' was beaten on the infantry drums, and 'Boots and Saddles' sounded by the cavalry bugles, and these are calls that startle all who hear them, and strike terror to the heart of every army woman. I had firm hold of a revolver, and felt exceedingly grateful all the time that I had been taught so carefully how to use it ..."

As with today, the most important aspect of having a firearm on hand for protecting yourself is your feeling comfortable with the one you have. As in the case of Mrs. Roe in 1872, while the situation was scary, she appreciated the time she spend being taught how to use her revolver. 

It gave her a sense of peace of mind, a sense of confidence, in knowing that she knew how to shoot properly and could use her revolver. If the attackers passed the defenders and made their way to her and the others taking shelter at there at that moment, she could defend herself. While her ability to fend off an onslaught was limited with just a single revolver, at least she was confident that she could defend yourself with a gun if that became her last resort. 

Over the centuries, many have demonstrated the fact that guns save lives. Mrs. Roe is just the person who I'm using here as an example to make the point that with training and practice, knowing how to use a gun brings peace of mind. After all, it worked in the Old West were guns made for a more secure society. 

Tom Correa




Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Padre's Shoe & The Outhouse Pistol

Dear Friends,

My American Legion Post, Calaveras Post 376, here in tiny Glencoe bought my wife and I a night's stay with dinner and even a bottle of champagne sent to our room at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, Nevada. We left on Monday morning and returned Tuesday night. Since the Carson Valley is only about two hours from our home here in the Sierra foothills, it was great to get away and take a run over the Sierras and into Nevada.

While the smoke from all of the forest fires was horrible, it was great to get away. My wife is a great sport and she doesn't mind hitting the Old West museums and historical sites to help me find more stories for my blog. My Deanna is a wonderful gal. She's way too good for me. She treats me wonderful and I've been blessed to have her in my life.

Once out there, we decided to run over to Virginia City to check out that old town. I've been there many times over the years, and these days I find the town even more interesting to visit with my wife. While there, I went on a search for a very small museum that I absolutely loved many years ago. It had all sorts of interesting artifacts on display. And since I couldn't find it the last few times out there, I was really hoping that the owners may have reopened it. They didn't. It's no longer around and I found out that the owner auctioned off everything in there.

Among the fascinating things in that museum was a horseshoe with a story attached to it. It was called the Padre's shoe because it was a horseshoe with a Christian cross as its heartbar. The story behind it is that the horseshoe was specially made for Catholic priests and padres in the days of the Spanish Missions. The idea behind it was that bandits would see that they tracks it left had a cross in them. That would indicate that the rider was a priest or a padre. It's said that because of the cross, bandits would leave the padre alone and not rob him.   

The Outhouse Pistol

As with anything we read in a museum, we can believe this or not while hoping  that the information is factual. There are a lot of great stories out there sitting in tiny museums. It's sort of like the story of the "Outhouse Pistol" that I also saw in that same little museum in Virginia City. It was there in a glass case that I saw a small pocket pistol as pitted and rusted solid as can be. Frankly, it looked as if it has been unearthed yesterday from some swamp that had dried up.

The story goes that a young man shot and killed someone important in Virginia City. The young man ran for his life because close behind him was a mob with a rope. The mob at one point lost him, but then found him.

The young shooter hid out in an outhouse. He didn't know what to do with his pistol so he threw the pistol down the hole. After they got him out of the outhouse, they could find a weapon on him. Some figured that he threw it in the hole but no one wanted to go after it, even though it was the murder weapon.

No, no one would go after the pistol. And because they couldn't produce the gun, at least that's what the story said, the people decided that they couldn't prove that he was the shooter. They theorized that they too would start running if any of them saw a lynch mob with a rope coming after them. So no, just his running away didn't make him a killer.

Besides, the young man is said to have started confessing to all sorts of petty crimes that he thought they had found out. That was supposedly why he ran when he saw them coming after him. So instead of hanging him, as the story goes, they banished him from the town.

It's said there were those who questioned if he did it or not? There were those who wondered if they had banished someone who really should have been hanged? Of course, no one knew the answers to those questions because there were no witnesses and they didn't have the gun. Some didn't believe that there ever was a gun thrown down that hole in that outhouse. Those folks believed that they could have lynched the wrong man.

Years later, long after that old outhouse had been moved, the ground had dried up. Many who were there during the murder were still around, though old and gray. While digging in the area for some reason, workers found the pistol. Of course, immediately many of the old timers swore up and down that they knew it was there all along. 

I saw the outhouse pistol in that small museum that's no longer there. And while I can't remember if the small pocket pistol was an Inver Johnson or not, it did look like the one below which is. Except, it looked as though it had been recently dug up, rusted, corroded, completely useless after years in the "ground." 


As for the "Padre's shoe," after posting a picture of what I remember it looking like, a reader said she couldn't find it when she used Goggle to search for such a heartbar horseshoe. She wanted to know my source. As with many of the stories that I've written about, my interest has been sparked after seeing something in a museum, seeing something at some historical site, reading about something in an old newspaper. Some things get me thinking about the rest of the story, the story behind what I've found. Other things make me wonder if the person writing about this or that was in reality a fiction writer, and I start researching to find out what I can about what really took place.

My source for the Padre's shoe, a horseshoe with a Christian cross as a heartbar, came from that small museum in Virginia City. While it is no longer there, that's where I saw that heartbar horseshoe and read about it so many years ago.

Frankly, I can't remember if the shoe was for a horse or a donkey, or meant for already traveled roads. I went looking for it so that I could take a picture of it so that you could see it for yourself. It's a shame that the museum is no longer there. Like you, I've seen a lot of horseshoes with bars and heartbars, but I've never seen one like the one that I saw in that museum. 

And maybe that's the point, like the story of the outhouse pistol, maybe it's because I'd never heard of such a story that it sticks with me.  

Tom Correa