Friday, September 28, 2018

Presumption of Innocence and Due Process

Dear Friends,

As most of my regular readers know, my first degree was in the Administration of Justice, Criminal Justice. The one thing that I will always take away from those classes is the idea that we are innocent until proven guilty and that we are guaranteed due process. That is a big deal that many people in other nations only wish they had. 

It is defined as this, "Due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person. Due process balances the power of law of the land and protects the individual person from it. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due process violation, which offends the rule of law."

Americans being accused of crimes have certain guarantees. These guarantees are found in the Constitution of the United States.  In fact, the 6th Amendment states: 

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

These guarantees give rights to Americans being accused of crimes, including the right to have witnesses in your favor, to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.

We have the right to demand evidence. We have to demand that our accusers present real factual evidence and not just hearsay, imaginings, suppositions, conjecture, speculations, and mere allegations. Merely saying something happened doesn't cut it. Our accusers have to prove it. 

An allegation is a "claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong, typically one made without proof."

Being falsely accused is having an allegation that is completely false leveled against you. It has to do with an event that may be alleged to have taken place but in fact did not occur. False allegations, like that of false accusations "allegation that is completely false, in that the events that were alleged did not occur. An allegation that describes events that did occur, but were perpetrated by an individual who is not accused, and in which the accused person is innocent."

In America, the presumption of innocence is at the root of American Justice. The principle is that a person is considered innocent unlit proven guilty. The responsibility to prove that a crime has been committed is on the person making the accusations, not on the person being accused.

Under our system, because we believe in the presumption of innocence, the legal burden of proof is on the prosecution to demonstrate. The prosecution is wholly responsible for collecting evidence and presenting a compelling case to a jury or a judge who is "the trier of fact."

Our system is setup to stop Americans from being charged with a crime, or crimes, based on allegations and not factual evidence that has been determined to be true. It is setup so that an innocent man or women does not suffer prosecution based on innuendo and conjecture, rumors, lies, and fake claims. 

In America, the accused is presumed innocent. And in court, the prosecution is responsible for proving that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But if any reasonable doubt exists, then the accused must be found innocent of the charges.

For us, in the administration of justice, Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895) set the standard be enforcing what is found in the Constitution of the United States, 5th, 6th, and the 14th Amendments. This appellate case went before the United States Supreme Court in 1895. The result was that this case established the presumption of innocence of persons accused of crimes for Americans.

It stated, "The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.

Concluding, then, that the presumption of innocence is evidence in favor of the accused, introduced by the law in his behalf, let us consider what is 'reasonable doubt.' It is, of necessity, the condition of mind produced by the proof resulting from the evidence in the cause. 

It is the result of the proof, not the proof itself, whereas the presumption of innocence is one of the instruments of proof, going to bring about the proof from which reasonable doubt arises; thus one is a cause, the other an effect."

According to the Constitution of the United States, the 5th Amendment states:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

According to the Constitution of the United States, Section 1 of the 14th Amendment states:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

So has the function of "presumed innocence" always worked? No. Has everyone been given the due process of the law as they are entitled by our Justice System? No. 

For more than 40 years, I've read about and researched hangings and lynchings in American history, but primarily what took place between 1865 to 1941. Why these dates? It's because I've always been interested with American History of the Old West and the era we know as the Great Depression. 

The distinction between a hanging and a lynching is that a hanging is a court ordered execution and the other is conducted outside the law. Hangings during that time period were executions being carried out by the law after the person was convicted after being afforded all due process. In the vast majority of lynchings, the person being lynched usually received no due process at all. 

After the Civil War, militant arms of the Democratic Party in the South were created. They created the Ku Klux Klan and other militant organizations meant to terrorize freed slaves, Republicans, and Catholics there at the time. Their terrorist tactics employed at the time included lynchings. 

White Democrats attacked both black and white Republicans and Catholics to suppress voting, and to regain political power. It was all about political power. During the elections there in 1868, Democrats are said to have been responsible for murdering about 1,300 voters across the South. In most cases, the people they murdered were lynched as a warning to others. The intimidation worked. People stayed away from the polls and didn't vote for fear of being killed. Democrats regained political power.

Democrats used lynchings as a way to intimidate and coerce freed slaves and Republicans. While voting was not seen as a option, the National Rifle Association stepped forward to arm those blacks and whites being attacked. Though formed to encourage shooting among all Americans, in 1871 the National Rifle Association helped to stem the tide of lynchings and other violence by arming freed blacks and other Americans being terrorized in the South. The previous year, President Ulysses S. Grant worked with Congress to pass the Enforcement Acts of 1870. That was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1871 which was also called the "Ku Klux Klan Act."

With Democrats in political power, it is believed that there were 50 to 100 lynchings annually from 1868 to 1876. While the numbers were never again that great, lynchings of blacks in the South would not cease until the 1960s. 

While those lynchings of blacks, Republicans, and Catholics, were motivated by race, political party, and religion, lynchings regarding criminals were taking place as well.

But please, don't think the South was the only place where illegal hangings, lynchings were taking place. From lynching crooked politicians in San Francisco in 1851, to hanging a crooked Sheriff in Montana in 1864, to lynching of a freed black man in Ohio in 1877, to North Dakota's last lynching in 1931, the West is filled with stories of such acts. According to one source, the Tuskegee Institute, they estimate that 4,743 people were lynched in the United States as a whole between 1882 and 1968. Of that number, there were Blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, Indians, and Catholics that were lynched. Also, of that, 1,297 were listed as "Whites." So a quarter of them were "Whites."

While the South is believed to have had many lynching, it may be a surprise to most that California had more lynchings than the entire South from 1848 to 1933. The California Gold Rush saw a great number of lynchings. As for the last lynching in California, it took place in 1933 when 22 year old Brooke Hart was kidnapped and murdered by Thomas Thurmond and John M. Holmes. A mob stormed the Sheriff's Office in San Jose, California, and lynched Thurmond and Holmes. 

This was not as usual as in many cases, citizens have taken men who were convicted and afforded due process away from their confinement in jails and lynched them. In those cases, citizens didn't feel as though their penalties matched their crimes and they felt the need to remedy the wrong was to take the convicted person and lynch them. 

In the case of Killer Jim Miller in Ada, Oklahoma, a lynch mob had enough of him breaking the law and being acquitted on technicalities like witnesses too afraid to testify. The Daily Ardmoreite numbered the mob at 200 while an Eastern reporter for the Associated Press numbered the mob at 30 to 40. 

They broke into the jail at around three o'clock in the morning on April 19th, 1909, and dragged Miller and three others out. The mob took them to an abandoned barn, actually a livery stable behind the jail. Miller and the others were lynched and left hanging for hours until a photographer was found to record what took place.

Of course, other cases of lynchings of what were believed to be outlaws were not as noble as lynching a bonafide assassin of Miller's status. Most lynchings were examples of a mob taking over and disregarding our justice system altogether. In that case, all of the pleading for witnesses on his behalf, all of the cries for an impartial jury, all of the begging to see the evidence goes for naught as the person is taken out and lynched. 

George Johnson's gave marker in Tombstone Arizona's Boothill says, "Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882. He was right we were wrong. But we strung him up and now he's gone." 

The story goes that George Johnson was hanged for being in possession of a stolen horse. It was found out later that he bought the horse while not knowing that the horse was in fact stolen. When the authorities found Johnson, there was a rush to judgment and they hanged him.

Those who lynched George Johnson found out later that they lynched an innocent man. No one was ever prosecuted for hanging an innocent man. If the people there knew who did it, they didn't turn them in. No one wanted to try, or even accuse those that murderers an innocent man, because they were complicit in the deed.

It was as if it simply did not matter to the people in Tombstone that an innocent man was lynched. And there sits the problem with lynch mobs; everyone in a lynch mob is part of the killing. By association, even if they themselves didn't put the rope around the victim's neck, they are part of the injustice.

Though people knew who did it, no one was ever made to account for what they did. It's as if it was OK in the sense that George Johnson's life didn't matter.
Frankly, we see that when they accused and killed him for something that he didn't do -- yet they wouldn't come forward to admit guilt in accusing a good man of a crime.

As for Johnson, he was not afforded any of his rights under the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. For the people of Tombstone, the presumption of innocence and due process meant nothing to them.

While I really understand lynching a known assassin such as Killer Jim Miller, I can't help but wonder why the people of Tombstone didn't take it upon themselves to find out if George Johnson really stole that horse or not before hanging him? Did life mean so little to the people there? Was that why they saw Johnson's life as cheap and meaningless?

It makes me wonder whenever I see bullies and thugs beating up on others, hurting others, accusing others of things they have not done -- or accusing others of things that there is zero proof of them doing. Yes, like these days with allegations assailed at Judge Brett Kavanaugh who is being confirmed as a Supreme Court Judge.

He has been attacked with all sorts of false accusations all meant to ruin his life. And yes, it is extremely obvious that the mob of Democrats accusing him of such false claims see Kavanaugh's life as meaningless and cheap.

His attackers are proving they don't care that our justice system is based on someone being innocent until proven guilt and not the other way around.

As for George Johnson back in 1882, someone in Tombstone must have cared enough to at least admit to their lynching of George Johnson as a "mistake" since someone said as much on his headstone. So will Judge Kavanaugh's attackers admit to the same thing later when they too find out that they have ruined a man's life, lynched him on television in the court of public opinion, when he was not guilty of anything other than being a Republican?

To me, I believe that like most of those in Tombstone who knew that they did wrong by lynching an innocent man in 1882, the Democrats on the confirmation hearing this week will never say a word of apology or regret as to what they have done to a good man. Instead, they will remain silent as those who lynched Johnson for no reason back in the day.

Tom Correa


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thomas Bell Poole & The Bullion Bend Robbery



Thomas Bell Poole was believed to have been born in 1818. He was an outlaw, a killer, a self-declared Confederate soldier, the second in command of a gang of Southern sympathizers who were nothing but terrorists in California during the Civil War.

Poole was a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, an organization whose members voluntarily took an oath to uphold the Confederacy and the institution of slavery at any cost. He also served as an officer aboard the Confederate privateer ship the J. M. Chapman. He did all of this while being a California lawman. Actually, while he was under-sheriff of Monterey County, California, 

He was indeed the second in command of a terrorist group which the Sacramento Union newspaper labeled "Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers." Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers called themselves Confederate soldiers, but in reality they were a gang of about fifty Confederate bushwackers who were organized by Rufus Henry Ingram in Santa Clara County, California.

Rufus Henry Ingram was typical of a hate monger, a crook, an opportunist who used the needs of the Confederacy for his own ends. He played on the loyalties of Southerner newcomers to California. He used hate of blacks and others such as Catholics, and subsequently was able to recruit local Southern sympathizers here to join his ranks. Many of his recruits were also members of the Knights of the Golden Circle.

Copperheads were Democrats who sided with the South during the Civil War, but they lived in Union states and territories. Remember, Democrats forged the split away from the Union to form the Confederacy because they saw the Federal government as waging war against Southern states. They believed it was an assault on "States Rights" through high tariffs, unfair government regulations, and ending slavery.

Copperheads living in the Union worked to get the Federal government to return to a pre-1861 status quo in the United States. They wanted crippling tariffs imposed by the Federal government rescinded, and the regulations aimed at curtailing Southern crop production rolled back. Of course the tariffs and regulations where put in place to force Democrats to end slavery. Democrats saw the institution of slavery as a way of life. The Democratic Party created the Confederate States of America. Copperhead Democrats claimed to be anti-war while wanting unification, but only with keeping the institution of slavery intact.

Republicans believed the Democrats' goal of restoring the Union with slavery intact was naive and impractical. Republicans started calling anti-war Democrats "Copperheads." Copperhead Democrats were likened to the venomous snake because they resided in the North and attacked Union war efforts against the South. Among the worse were the newspapers controlled by the Copperheads in the North.

People say that the news media has never attacked a sitting President as the news media does today, and while that's true, the ruthlessness of the newspapers in the 1860s was horrible. Copperhead Democrats attacked Republican President Abe Lincoln at ever turn. They accused him of treason, working with the enemy, being stupid, being uneducated, criticized his appearance, called for his impeachment, and even called for his assassination until one of their ilk shot President Lincoln in the head. Yes, the actor who shot President Lincoln was indeed a Democrat who swallowed the hate and the propaganda.

If that sounds familiar? Imagine this, the Copperhead Democrats worked to stop everything President Lincoln was doing including incited riots, and working as insurgents against the United States during the Civil War. They actually waged a war against the United States from within.

And no, it wasn't just Copperhead newspaper propagandists. Democrats established segregate terrorist groups like the Knights of the Golden Circle and  Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers to attack civilians who do not think as they did. But also, they were tasked with looting farms, burning barns, creating hate, spreading lies and propaganda, all to demoralize and intimidate the public. This took place in all of the Union, including in California where Confederates attempted to rob the California Gold Country of gold and silver belonging to the United States.

The Bullion Bend Robbery

Pioneer Stage Line ran stages between Virginia City, Nevada, and Sacramento, California. On June 30, 1864, Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers held up two Pioneer Stage Line stages who were traveling together about 14 miles east of Placerville, California. The stagedrivers were Ned Blair and Charles Watson.
Today, that spot is still called Bullion Bend.

It was there that two Pioneer Stage Line stagecoaches carrying silver bullion coming in from Virginia City were held up by 14 men in Confederate uniforms. And believe it or not, as if to somehow make their robbery appear OK for grandiose reasons, the robbers gave one stagedriver a receipt for the stolen silver. The receipt was made out for "funds raised" for the Confederate States of America.

Imagine that they left a receipt for the Comstock Lode silver bullion which they just stole at the point of a gun. Imagine that they did that while acting as though it was OK because they were robbing for a good cause. The cause of financing the South during the Civil War.

The bandits got away with eight sacks of silver and a treasure box. They got away with $40,000 in silver. Of course, that was a lot of money when we consider $40,000 in 1864 is equivalent in purchasing power to $642,410.19 in 2018.

The stagecoaches reached Placerville just before midnight and immediately reported the robbery. There in the dark of the night, men armed themselves and posses were formed. It's said that men woke in the commotion and immediately joined the posses. As soon as men were in the saddle, posses split up to cover a number of directions. Confederate soldiers or not, to the men of those posses -- those who robbed the stages were merely lowlife bandits.

Some have this notion that posses can't operate at night. Hollywood usually depicts a posse either turning around and heading home or making camp as soon as it gets dark. Well, Hollywood should take note of the fact that the robbers were tracked down and found just before dawn. They were found asleep at a hotel in nearby Somerset, right there in a wayside inn known as the Somerset House.

El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Staples and Placerville Constable George Ranney were the leaders of the posse that found the highwaymen asleep. It's said Constable Ranney wanted to wait them out and not take them on until others arrived. It's also said Deputy Staples had other things in mind when he burst into their room and shouted "You are my prisoners! Surrender!"

Deputy Staples was hit by gunfire and killed instantly. It was then that Deputy Joseph Staples became the only El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy killed in the line of duty. As for Constable Ranney, he backed up Deputy Staples. But while heading for cover after the initial barrage of bullets, he was shot three times and left for dead as the bandits were able to escape.

The shootout at the Somerset House went horribly wrong, but the killers were hounded for the next seven weeks until six of the killers were arrested about 150 miles away in Santa Clara County. No one knows what happened to the others involved. After a trial, one of the killers was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor. Four of them were tried and acquitted. 

Of course, one of the six was convicted of first degree murder. That was Thomas Poole. The man who was a lawman and under-sheriff of Monterey County; the man who was the second in command of Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers; he took part in the robbery and was one of the men who shot Deputy Staples to death. He was hanged in Placerville on September 29, 1865. 

As for Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers, while they committed the Bullion Bend Robbery, they also planned other robberies to supposedly finance the South. But all in all, after the Bullion Bend Robbery, they were broken up by Union authorities who sought to hang them for treason. 

As for Rufus Ingram, no one really knows where he came from other than arriving in California via Mexico. Some say that he arrived in the California Gold Country with the mission of establishing a Confederate guerrilla force to terrorize, intimidate, and demoralize the public. Some say he was tasked with robbing gold and silver shipments meant to fund the Union's war effort, and ship it South. 

Of course, from what I can tell, no gold or silver from California ever made it to the South during the Civil War. And frankly, I can't help but wonder why Ingram wasn't part of those in on the Bullion Bend Robbery? Why did Ingram send his men to do that job while he stayed behind? Was Ingram a charlatan and opportunist who fled when things got tough? 

From all of the evidence at hand, it appears Rufus Ingram didn't have the conviction of his beliefs that Thomas Poole had. No mater how screwed up his beliefs were, outlaw and killer Thomas Poole was a Confederate who demonstrated his loyalty to the South in a number of ways. Yes, including serving the Confederacy in all sorts of capacities.

In contrast, Rufus Ingram is said to have robbed and stole and terrorized the innocent for the South and himself. When the going got tough, he fled California. Some say he returned to the South and he was part of the newly formed arm of the Democratic Party, a group called the Ku Klux Klan. Others say he took some of the loot meant for the Confederacy and vanished in Mexico -- one step ahead of a rope. Too bad really, as he surely should have hanged.

That's the way I see it.

Tom Correa

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hanged For Tearing Down Old Glory

William Bruce Mumford
Dear Friends,

I was asked an interesting question lately. It had to do with people showing disrespect for the flag of the United States of America. A flag that many have died preserving. A flag many of respect and fondly refer to as "Old Glory."

A reader wanted to know if anyone has ever been punished over their showing disrespect Old Glory?

Since there is a lot of talk these days about Confederate monuments and people disrespecting our flag, my reader's question sort of started me thinking about a story that I'd heard when I was in New Orleans many years ago.

The story had to do with a man by the name of William Bruce Mumford. He was born in 1819 in North Carolina, but his family later moved to Louisiana. The repatriation of New Orleans to the United States came in late April of 1862. Forces under U.S. Navy Commodore David Farragut took control of the city in April but a formal surrender was not established until May 1st. By that time, U.S. Army General Benjamin Butler took charge of New Orleans.

Commodore David Farragut met with some "political resistance" by both citizens and local officials. New Orleans Mayor John Monroe was an ardent Confederate who believed in the cause of maintaining the status quo as was the case before the war. Yes, he wanted to maintain Southern aristocracy and keep the institution of slavery in place.

Just for the record, while many like the mayor did not see blacks as equal to them and wanted to see the continuation of slavery in the South, slavery was really on the way out by the 1860s. This was mainly due to Great Britain which ended slavery in 1833 and was putting a great deal of economic pressure on the South to follow suit. Great Britain wanted Southern cotton and was a huge trading partner with the South.

While Commodore Farragut's fleet approach New Orleans on the morning of April 25th, Mayor Monroe had his secretary Marion A. Baker go to the roof of the City Hall and hoist the flag of the State of Louisiana so that Farragut would see it. It's said that when all of New Orleans' defenses had failed them, Southern pride didn't and Monroe ordered the flag hoisted in defiance.

When Commodore Farragut saw the Louisiana state flag, which was seen as a Confederate flag during the war, he immediately sent two of his Marine officers ashore with a formal demand that the city surrender and lower their flag at once. He also noted that the other Confederate flags flying on the customshouse and the mint, which were both United States Federal buildings before being captured by Confederate troops, be taken down as well.

Monroe sent word back that he didn't have the authority to formally surrender the city. He also advised Commodore Farragut that Confederate General Mansfield Lovell was the proper military authority but he was not present. Monroe also refused to lower the flag over City Hall. It was General Lovell's troops who hoisted the Confederate flags over the customshouse and the mint. Monroe said that was Lovell's responsibility, his was City Hall.

Confederate General Mansfield Lovell refused to surrender the city and in fact refused to surrender his forces, then left New Orleans. On the way out with his troops, he left the whole "decision" of surrender to the mayor and the City Council. As insane a situation as it sounds, the mayor met with the City Council over the issue of surrendering at 6:30 that evening. After the meeting, the mayor issued a statement that read in part: "We yield to physical force alone, but maintain our allegiance to the Government of the Confederate States."

Bottom line is that after a great deal of talk, the mayor refused to lower the State flag, nor raise the flag of United States which the mayor and the city council saw as their enemy.

Commodore Farragut soon lost patience with the mayor and his blather, and sent two of his officers, Lieutenant Albert Kautz and Midshipman John H. Read, to City Hall with a written demand for the "unqualified surrender of the city, and the raising of the United States flag over the Mint, Custom-house and City Hall, by noon that day, Saturday, April 26th, and the removal of all other emblems but that of the United States, from all public buildings."

Believe it or not, the mayor acknowledged his demand and sent back a message that he would formally reply "by two o'clock if possible." In the meantime, a large armed crowd gathered outside the New Orleans City Hall.

With a mob now taking up the mayor's cause, the mayor realized that things were getting out of control and he needed authorities to preserve order. The mayor actually called a militia of what was known as European Brigade for assistance. The European Brigade was made up of foreign residents in the city. With their help, the mayor declared himself "commander-in-chief of army and civic forces."

He turned City Hall into his headquarters, and immediately requisitioned arms, horses, and provisions to stand off Commodore Farragut and Union General Butler's forces believing Confederate troops were en route from Lovell to bail out his bacon. The mayor even went so far as to declare martial law, and he immediately established a make-shit military court.

Then Commodore Farragut send the mayor a message. In it he stated "because of evidences of insubordination on the part of citizens and authorities, the fire of the fleet might be drawn on the city at any moment."

Commodore Farragut stated "The election is with you. And it is my duty to notify you to remove the women and children within forty-eight hours, if I have rightly understood your determination."

Reading the message, the mayor responded, "As I consider this a threat to bombard the city, and as it is a matter about which the notice should be clear and specific, I desire to know when the forty-eight hours began to run."

U.S. Marine Captain Bell who delivered the message replied, "It begins from the time you receive this notice."

The mayor is said to have then looked at his watch and said, "You see it is fifteen minutes past twelve." He then reiterated his defiance to lower the State flag of Louisiana. Captain Bell returned to his ship the USS

While some say Captain Bell returned to his ship and took matters into his own hands, most agree that it was Commodore Farragut who finally had enough and sent a detachment of U.S. Marines ashore to take down the flag over City Hall.

Supported by Union Sailors who manned two howitzers, the Marines went to the customhouse first and there raised the American flag. They then went to Lafayette Square and City Hall, where they formed a perimeter on the St. Charles street side of the Square. With a command the streets, the Marines kept guard on the armed crowd that was massing above and below the Square.

With U.S.Marines situated where they needed to be, Captain Bell and Lieutenant Kautz entered City Hall and went to the mayor's office. The Captian informed the mayor, "I have come in obedience to orders to haul down the State flag from this building."

The mayor replied, "Very well, Sir. You can do it, but I wish to say that there is not in my entire constituency, so wretched a renegade as would be willing to exchange places with you."

Captain Bell and Lieutenant Kautz found the roof. The mayor watched helplessly as Lt. Kautz used his sword to cut down the State flag and raise the United States flag.

So on April 26th, U.S. Marines from the USS Pocahontas raised the U.S. flag over the customhouse and City Hall in New Orleans. As the Marines raised the flag on the mint, a large crowd gathered. A man by the name of William Bruce Mumford was in that crowd.

The Marines told them that the guns from the USS Pocahontas would fire on that position if anyone tried to remove the flags. Mumford and seven others decided to remove the U.S. flag from the mint, and the USS Pocahontas fired on their position.

Mumford was injured but not killed. He attempted to take the U.S. flag and give it to the mayor as a gift but onlookers tried to tear it from him as he walked by. Nothing was left of it when he reached City Hall.

1862 Flag of the United States of America
Commodore Farragut turned New Orleans over to Union Army General Butler on May 1st. A few days afterwards, General Butler heard about what took place at the mint and he had Mumford arrested. Mumford was charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors against the laws of the United States, and the peace and dignity there of and the Law Martial."

On May 30th, he was tried by a Union Army Military Court. He was convicted of "treason and an overt act thereof by tearing down the United States flag from a public building of the United States." Fact is, while City Hall was a city building, the mint building was a United States Federal building.

On June 7th, before his execution, Mumford spoke about his loyalty to the Confederacy. Then just before noon, Mumford was hanged in the courtyard of the mint itself.

On June 18th, after hearing about what took place, the Louisiana's Confederate Governor Thomas Moore called Mumford "a hero and a model." When Confederate General Robert E. Lee heard about what happened in New Orleans,  he sounded more like a lawyer than anything else and wanted to know how Mumford could be executed for a crime committed before New Orleans was formally occupied.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis called General Butler a war criminal "worthy of hanging." Of course Davis didn't mention how General Butler later assisted Mumford's widow by finding her a job in Washington after the war.

Mumford was originally buried in Cypress Grove Cemetery in New Orleans. His remains were transferred almost 100 years later to Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans by the Ladies’ Confederate Memorial Association when they build a Confederate Monument there in 1950.

William Bruce Mumford was a North Carolinian native and resident of New Orleans. To my knowledge, he is the only person who was ever hanged for showing such disrespect for the flag of the United States of America. More accurately, the only man who I've ever heard of who was hanged of showing disrespect to our flag.

And while I'm sure all of us today feel the same way about Old Glory as I do, I'm fairly certain some will surely write to tell me that Mumford most likely didn't see Old Glory as his flag since he swore his allegiance to the Confederate States of America and their flag. And frankly, they would be right since Mumford probably died swearing his unwavering allegiance to the Confederacy and the "Stars and Bars."

Flag of the Confederate States of America
(1861–1863)
So now, if someone should ever ask if you've ever heard of anyone really being punished for showing disrespect for the flag of the United States of America, you too can say that you know of someone who was actually hanged for tearing down a United States flag. You can tell them that it took place in New Orleans in 1862 during the Civil War at a time when passions ran high, and some folks didn't take kindly to people showing such disdain for Old Glory.

Tom Correa

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cattle Fraud -- Targeting Unsuspecting Investors Today



In the Old West, cattle rustling was seen by badmen as a lucrative way of making a living. Rustlers didn't care if cattlemen took the time to raise a herd of good quality beef. They simply didn't care about the endless days sweating over keeping seed stock, calves, good grass, finding feed, bills, water, and market prices. Rustlers saw stealing cattle as an easy way of making fast money.

Some writers have led people to believe that badmen rustling cattle from Mexico and bringing those scrawny cows over the border for sale here in the states was a priority for lawmen in the Old West. But frankly, that wasn't a priority for the law back in the day.

While it's true that Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp was dispatched from Prescott, Arizona to Tombstone after the Mexican government complained to Washington D.C. in the late 1870s about the problem of American rustlers stealing Mexican cattle, the Mexican government was not concerned about American rustlers taking American cattle into Mexico to sell dirt cheap. And yes, that was the real problem with rustlers on the border.

In reality, in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the vast number of cattle that were stolen from ranchers here in the United States were in fact moved as fast as possible South across the border to sell cheap in Mexico. American rustlers knew that they would be able to unload their stolen herds off at ranches in Mexico. Those ranchers would buy the cattle for a quarter or less of what the stock was worth in the States. The rustlers would make quick business of it, put money in their pockets, even if it was a lot less than what they could have gotten on American markets, and return North. Mexican ranchers would get prime American beef. Outlaws would make out. And of course, American ranchers would get screwed.

For the rustlers who wanted more than what the Mexican ranchers would pay for the stolen herds, the rustlers would re-brand the stock and attempt to sell their stolen herds to unsuspecting buyers here. Either way, either running the stolen cattle South across the border or altering cattle brands, this was a dirty business that one would find resulted in their dancing on the end of a rope if caught.

Of course, there are other sorts of crimes relating to cattle. In a post not too long ago, I talked about how "herd books" were altered to make business partners think a ranch had more cattle than one had when it fact it didn't. Of course that was only one type of cattle fraud.

As with any sort of fraud, it had to do with criminal deception intended to result in some sort of financial or personal gain. It had to do with someone being swindled by a double-dealing criminal type who had the intention of deceiving others out of money. The swindlers did what they did by typically making unjustifiably claims or spouting accomplishments that sound good. Such tricksters, those who are impostors, fakes, scam artists, use deceit to accomplish their crimes.

Cattle fraud takes place more than people know. Yes, even today. And the fraud that takes place today in the cattle industry along with the investment industry can result in the loss of millions of dollars to ranchers and investors, banks and loan companies.

The difference between a cattle rustler and cattle fraud is the scope of the theft. As with my article on how business partners could use altered "herd books" to embezzle money from their partners, modern forms of cattle fraud have now expanded to business and investment schemes all meant to defraud someone of their money.

In 1903, Frank C. Bosler of Wyoming's Iron Mountain Cattle Company had enough of his ranch manager John C. Coble known to us by his Tom Horn fame. Coble is said to have embezzled ranch operating funds and used that money to pay for Tom Horn's legal defense and later Horn's funeral after Horn was hanged for killing a child. To recoup his losses, Bosler sued Coble in court. A bitter lawsuit took place where Bosler accused Coble of cattle fraud by cooking the ranches records, it's herd books, all in an effort to steal from Bosler.

Coble cooking the books to obtain funds from Bosler to buy non-existent cattle is what criminals do when they commit cattle fraud. And while I know it has nothing to do with the point of this article regarding cattle fraud today, I know some of you may want to know what happened with the lawsuit between Bosler and Coble?

Some say it was because of Coble's political connections that Coble won the lawsuit and his counter suit against Bosler which net Coble about $20,000. As for Bosler, he did not recoup his loses but he was happy to be rid of Coble. And as for John Coble, he tried to manage other ranches but that didn't worked out. Some say it was because of his reputation of not being honest. In the long run Coble went broke and later shot himself in the head in the lobby of the Commercial Hotel in Elko, Nevada.

As for cattle fraud cases?

Cattle fraud cases usually involve large scale business investments and huge sums of money. Criminals who commit cattle fraud usually target investors in a swindle. Swindlers ask for funds from unsuspecting investors. The swindler will make promises to investors that cattle will be bought. Of course, that's a lie. The con artists, swindlers, who do this have no intention of buying cattle.

Instead, the swindler uses the "new investment" money to use for his or her own expenses, to cover some of their tracks buy giving small taken payments to earlier investors as "returns" to keep them pacified, and as seed money for another scam. Profits never exist because the scam artists never makes investments as promised.

Please don't think cattle fraud con artists only target gullible investors in the livestock community. It's a fact that they also target banks, and other financial institutions, by getting loans or by obtaining lines of credit for non-existent business projects.

This has been going on for many years. And while this is not just some recent criminal fad and really has been taking place since the 1800s, other than a very lengthy case that started in the 1980s that is still not settled, below are some of the larger cattle fraud cases that I thought you might find interesting.

The first that I've listed here took place in 2011. It was a huge case where many lost their life savings. Two cattle fraud cases in 2016. They are on a smaller scale but still criminal activity and demonstrate how the scam differs. The rest are cattle fraud cases which resulted in the millions of dollars being stolen. They took place this year, 2018.

On August 29, 2011, NPR reported the following:

The Man Who Roped Investors Into A Cattle Con

Kevin Ray Asbury, who this summer pled guilty to three counts of fraud for promising the same cows to multiple investors, built a million-dollar home and drove around in a Mercedes.

What do you get if you combine the Ponzi-scheme of Bernie Madoff with a wily Midwestern rancher? While Madoff's mastermind plan was becoming clear in New York, out in tiny Howard County, Mo., there was another crook who was swindling dozens of farmers across the country.

For two years, mustachioed and smooth-talking Kevin Ray Asbury ran a racket that went a little something like this: He lured customers with top-shelf Angus cattle. They would buy into the herd, or sell their own for breeding.

The only problem was Asbury kept using the same cows, telling multiple investors they were theirs. With their money, he moved on up — built a million-dollar home and drove around in a Mercedes. Everyone in town just thought he was doing really well — until the scheme cracked.

How The Scheme Unraveled

All at once 27 people across several states — some as far away as California — began raising the alarm. They all came to one person first: small town Sheriff Charlie Polson.

Sheriff Charlie Polson, who runs a bare-bones police force in Fayette, Mo., kept a handwritten list with the names of the people across several states who raised an alarm about Kevin Ray Asbury.Jessica Naudziunas for NPR

"Evidently [Asbury] had a good line that people believed in, so you see where it gets you, and several of the victims said, 'No, I just took him for his word and wrote him a check for $90,000,'" Polson says.

The sheriff went over to the ranch, and if you are near a place with that many cattle, you can tell with your eyes shut. But, there was nothing there.

Polson knew this case was bigger than any other in his county, and the victims were getting restless, some threatening to ride into town with guns blazing. Then came a complaint from a couple nearby who reported a bad check from Asbury for $32,000. Polson wanted to arrest Asbury right there on a felony charge, but Asbury's brother Randy, who is now a state legislator, paid less than a fourth of the bad check to keep his brother Kevin out of jail.

"I felt that possibly I could've maybe brought some justice to some of these individuals if I could've arrested him and put him in jail and started the first criminal proceedings that I had," Polson says.

He urged the couple to decline the payoff, but they were out tens of thousands of dollars and wanted to pay their bills. They ended up being some of the only victims to get any restitution.

I can say and I've said many times 'If it sounds too good to be true' until I'm blue in the face, but there are still going to be willing victims out there and people who just don't listen.

The others were like Jim Steinmetz, who was a successful farmer long before he got caught up with Asbury.

On a recent day, Steinmetz is parked at the end of a rocky driveway off a rural road about 40 minutes from his home. He gets out of his black flat-bed pick-up truck, leans against it and looks down. Out here standing on the parched grass, it's well over 100 degrees and flies are buzzing in the heavy air. Behind him is huge new house that seems out of place.

"And that's the house that they built, and I know he was just getting moved into it when everything started to happen," he says.

In 2008, Steinmetz invested over a half million dollars in what he thought was a good opportunity. He expected a strong return from owning the high-quality Angus cattle. Right now in Missouri, the going price for the type of cow Asbury offered could fetch over $1,000 each. It was fine for a few months, the ranch was full of cows; then just three months after the money changed hands, the pricey Angus cattle disappeared. Squinting into the midday sun, he can hardly bring himself to look at this house because he's one of the people who helped pay for it.

"This is the first time I've been back," he says. "I didn't want to torture myself. The only thing you can possibly do is get yourself in trouble if you come back over here. That's why you don't come by. Bad memories."

The money, trust and cattle were gone. To this day, no one who was scammed could tell you where their cows ended up, or if they ever really had any.

Jim Steinmetz, who was a successful farmer well before he met Asbury, invested more than a half million dollars on Asbury's Angus cattle. And Steinmetz lost it all.

In the summer of 2008, Kevin Asbury was getting nervous; he knew what everyone else now knows, too. So, he fled to Florida. His victims were out more than $5 million.

The drama crested when officials at the oldest bank in Missouri, The Callaway Bank, realized they'd been hit. They had provided Asbury with a $4 million line of credit almost sight unseen, after he showed their agriculture specialist some cattle that, it turns out, were on someone else's land. The FBI was called in. Later, the bank ended up losing more than $2 million. Asbury and his lawyers declined to comment for this story.

'If It Sounds Too Good To Be True...'

So, thousands of nonexistent cows, and a local boy rolled around in luxury out of nowhere, but no one asked any questions. Were these victims or fools, taken in by rural America's Bernie Madoff of cows?

"You can be a victim and a fool," says Jeff Lanza, a retired FBI agent who spent 20 years investigating corruption and fraud in Kansas City. He's seen it all.

"You know, I can say and I've said many times 'If it sounds too good to be true' until I'm blue in the face, but there are still going to be willing victims out there and people who just don't listen," he says.

That's little consolation back in Howard County, where you might say Sheriff Polson is Kevin Asbury's last victim, though he didn't lose money or cattle. This was actually the second cattle-rustling Ponzi-type scheme in Howard County in the last five years.

Kevin Ray Asbury pled guilty this summer to three counts of fraud and now awaits his sentence from a federal judge. At the most, it's expected he'll serve nine years in prison — about as long as it took him to turn from cattle rancher to Ponzi-scheme rustler.

--end of article.

On July 7, 2016, Iowa's WQAD News reported:

Iowa man sentenced, ordered to pay nearly $400k in restitution for cattle fraud scheme

OTTUMWA, Iowa — An Ottumwa man was sentenced Thursday, July 7, to two years in federal prison for defrauding nearly $400,000 from 11 victims.

Jeffrey Lewis DeWitt, 28, will also serve three years of supervised release following his prison term and must pay a total of $395,968 in restitution to his 11 victims, says a press release from United States Attorney Kevin VanderSchel.

Last December, DeWitt pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conversion of mortgaged property.

DeWitt sent an email to the victim with information and details on the purchase of cattle, which DeWitt promised would be sold within three weeks for a guaranteed profit. The email included purchase prices, resale prices and information on who would repurchase the cattle.

DeWitt knew that information was needed for the victim to get a loan. He used the loan money to purchase the cattle, but only gave his victim a check that was returned for insufficient funds.

DeWitt also admitted to selling the livestock and hay he had mortgaged to the Farm Service Agency without authorization, depositing the funds into accounts held by his parents. He admitted to selling more than $200,000 of collateral.

Other victims had been told that DeWitt would purchase cattle, seed and hay on their behalf but didn’t. He also created fake invoices and checks.

-- end of article.

On October 11, 2016, The Caldwell County News reported:

Joe Nelson Sentenced To Prison Term For Cattle Fraud

A Braymer man was sentenced to two years in prison without parole for cattle fraud schemes that cost his victims $262,000.

Federal prosecutors announced Monday that Garland Joseph Nelson, 22, of Braymer, also was ordered to pay restitution.

Nelson admitted that he sold at least 114 mortgaged cattle that were pledged to the Farm Service Agency and spent funds for himself, rather than remitting sale proceeds to the FSA. He also received two loans to buy and raise cattle but then sold livestock under different names to keep the proceeds.

Nelson also removed identification from cattle that were owned by others. He co-mingled the cattle with his own and with those owned by his neighbor and landlord, in order to sell livestock undetected.

-- end of article.

On January 5, 2018, Agweek Wire Reports reported the following:

Arrest made in four-state cattle rustling, fraud, embezzlement case

EXETER, California — A California man has been arrested for a scheme involving stealing cattle, investment fraud and embezzlement that spanned four states, Tulare County, Calif., Sheriff Mike Boudreaux says. Seven victims from California, Colorado and Wyoming lost a total of $1.5 million.

"This is 21st Century cattle rustling and embezzlement at the highest level," Boudreaux says.

According to a statement from Boudreaux's office, agricultural crimes detectives from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department traveled to Texas to arrest Justin Tyler Greer, 36, in the case.

Greer was arrested on December 28, 2017, in Tarzan, Texas, with assistance from a Fugitive Task Force made up of officials from the Texas Rangers, Midland County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office, Martin County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service and the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Unit.

On June 13, 2017, Sheriff’s Agricultural Crimes Detectives were contacted by seven victims who provided statements and evidence that showed a combined loss of $1.5 million through cattle theft, investment fraud, embezzlement or a combination of all three. Each victim identified Greer as the suspect.

For many years, Greer had been a widely-known and respected cattleman in Tulare County. He bought and sold large numbers of cattle on a regular basis as a broker and managed several herds of cattle for various people across Tulare County. Many of the cattle managed by Greer were owned by ranchers in other parts of California, Wyoming and Colorado.

According to victims, in April and May, Greer failed to meet his financial obligations, causing them to look closer at their business dealings with him. Two of the victims issued audits into the numbers of cattle they owned that had been managed by Greer. Those audits showed hundreds of cattle had been stolen.

Other victims in this case had invested as partners with Greer. They later learned that the cattle they had invested in either weren’t Greer’s to sell in the first place or the cattle never existed at all, Boudreaux says.

During the investigation, detectives worked closely with the California Bureau of Livestock Identification Brand Unit, as well as criminal investigators with the State of Wyoming Livestock Board. Working together, detectives learned that more than 900 head of cattle had been shipped into Wyoming by Greer.

"We recovered 900 head of cattle back to our agricultural partners," Boudreaux says. "These cattle had been illegally placed on pasture in Wyoming."

They were later recovered by investigators with assistance from the State of Wyoming Livestock Board. The Sheriff’s investigation of Greer spawned a parallel criminal investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, which is handling the investigation of the cattle Greer sent to Wyoming.

Greer had been doing business through a multitude of financial institutions with various accounts within each institution. Detectives authored and served more than 25 search warrants for these accounts as well as various offices, residences and a variety of electronic devices. From these searches, detectives obtained and reviewed thousands of financial documents and associated evidence which strongly corroborated the victims’ statements and losses.

Greer, who faces charges of grand theft, investment fraud and embezzlement, was extradited to Tulare County on December 31, 2017. His bail is set at $1.9 million.

The investigation was overseen by the sheriff’s cattle liaison who was appointed to the special position last spring. He worked closely with detectives from the Sheriff’s Agricultural Crimes Unit. The investigation lasted more than six months.

"We, at the Sheriff's Office, placed no limits on the use of resources for this investigation and the protection of our agricultural partners. Given the complexity of this case, I am proud of the amount of progress they made to get this case to this point. And I very much appreciate the assistance of other law enforcement agencies throughout the Western United States.” said Sheriff Boudreaux.

-- end of news article.

On June 26th, 2018, Missouri television news KCTV5 reported:

Clinton, Missouri, man pleads guilty to cattle fraud scheme

A Clinton, MO man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to a $4.7 million investment fraud scheme in which he defrauded 89 investors who believed they were purchasing cattle for resale at a profit.

Cameron J. Hager, 42, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

He admitted to engaging in the fraud scheme from July 2015 to September 2017 in which he solicited victims to invest in a "cattle fund" used to purchase herds of cattle to be sold at a profit.

The United States attorney of Missouri says Hager never actually purchased or intended to purchase any cattle.

From the $4.7 million that he received from 89 investors, Hager deposited more than $394,000 into his business bank account, as well as to make payments on the mortgage of his residential property and to purchase multiple trucks and vehicles.

Hager convinced the victims that he would locate herds of cattle that farmers in distress needed to sell and use investor funds to buy the herds.

Hager is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole and a sentence hearing will be scheduled after the completion of an investigation by the United States Probation Office. The wire fraud charges related to e-mails sent to a victim investor.

-- end of news article.

On June 28, 2018, Drovers News reported the following:

Arrest In Texas Over 8,000 Cattle In Fraud Scheme

A Wichita Falls, Texas, man has been arrested on theft charges in a case that encompasses more than 10 counties in Texas and Oklahoma, 8,000 head of cattle and outstanding loans of more than $5.8 million.

Howard Lee Hinkle, 67, was arrested without incident on June 27, 2018, and booked into the Wichita County Jail. He was subsequently released on bond pending trial.

He allegedly defaulted on several loans at the First United Bank in Sanger, Texas, with past due balances totaling more than $5.8 million. Hinkle’s arrest is the result of an investigation led by Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Ranger John Bradshaw and Troy McKinney.

The investigation began in March of 2017, when bank officials contacted Bradshaw about the past due loans. When bank representatives acted on a court order to gather the approximately 8,000 yearling cattle put up as collateral they were unable to locate any of the animals.

Hinkle had purportedly told the bank the cattle were located on properties scattered across 10 counties in both Texas and Oklahoma.

Bradshaw enlisted the assistance of fellow Special Rangers to help identify and interview numerous witnesses and collect vital evidence across the two states. As the investigation continued the Rangers identified the various properties and cattle listed in the loans, but found that none were legitimately owned by Hinkle.

It is suspected that Hinkle deceived the bank by showing them fraudulent documentation and cattle that belonged to other individuals.

Bradshaw presented the evidence to a Denton County grand jury on June 14, 2018, and an indictment was handed down the following week for first-degree felony charges of theft of more than $200,000. If convicted Hinkle could face up to life in prison along with possible fines and restitution.

-- end of article.

Two days ago, on September 8, 2018, FOX News reported:

$3M cattle fraud puts 2 Arizona families on financial brink

About $3 million worth of cattle was stolen from an Arizona family by a man they once considered a friend, prosecutors said in court documents. The fraud has pushed both families to the brink of financial ruin, the Arizona Daily Star reported .

Longtime cattleman and rodeo cowboy Clay Parsons discovered last August that $1.3 million was missing from the accounts of the Marana Stockyards and Livestock Market, which his family has run since the early 1990s. It is one of the busiest stockyards in all of Arizona.

The stockyard's line of credit also was drawn down by nearly $2 million, according to court records.

A trail of fraudulent documents led to Seth Nichols, the stockyard's 29-year-old office manager, who pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud in February and faces up to five years in prison. Nichols is the son of Donald Hugh Nichols, a cattle broker who had been friends with Parsons for decades, court records show. Donald was indicted last month as a co-conspirator in $1.6 million of fraudulent cattle sales at the stockyard's auctions.

A federal prosecutor said the stockyard is operating "week to week" as it recovers from the fraud and Parsons has already spent $100,000 on audits and rebuilding the stockyard's accounting system.

Donald Hugh Nichols, who goes by Hugh, and his wife, Jane Nichols, filed for bankruptcy in federal court on August 10, 2018.

The scheme began after Parsons hired Seth Nichols in June 2013 to run the stockyard's day-to-day business. At auctions, cows are brought to the stockyards each week to be sold to the highest bidder. Some recent auctions have seen more than 2,000 head of cattle sold, according to the stockyard's market reports.

The stockyard uses a line of credit to allow sellers to be paid quickly while the buyers' payments are processed, according to court records.

Seth Nichols admitted to manipulating the line of credit to buy cattle at the auctions on behalf of the Nichols Cattle Co., which then sold the cattle elsewhere without reimbursing the stockyard. He also admitted to sending the stockyard's money directly to the cattle company.

Seth Nichols agreed to pay restitution to the Parsons, which was capped at $3 million in his plea agreement. But those funds won't be available until after he is sentenced September 24, 2018. Donald Hugh Nichols' arraignment is scheduled for September 14, 2018.

--end of news article.

Once upon a time, the Old West had rustlers on horseback. Rustlers in the 20th century were known to back up a cattle truck up to a loading chute and steal a number of head of cattle. Today, the same things are going on. We still have cattle rustling taking place. None of this is new to the cattle industry. Fact is, as long as there have been cattle -- there have been people stealing them.

As I said before, the difference between rustling and cattle fraud is that size and scope of the crime. While these are a few examples of what's taken place across the country fairly recently, they show that the bigger thieves are the con artists, the fakes, those criminals who swindle ranchers, investors, banks and others. These criminals have been able to steal more money than any rustler on horseback would have ever imagined.

Some folks have written me to ask why I have so much disdain for con artists and crooks of this sort? Well, though not related to cattle, I've been the victim of some slick talking con artists who made a venture sound better than it was. I believed it was a great investment for the future, but I was scammed out of thousands of dollars. Little did I know that it was a swindle. And the no-goods who took me, well they vanished without a trace of where they headed when I tried to recoup my money. As an investor, it was a tough lesson that cost me a great deal of my life's savings. A lesson that I hope you never have to learn the hard way.   

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa









Thursday, September 6, 2018

Preacher Henry Weston Smith


Henry Weston Smith was born on January 10th, 1827, in the town of Ellington, Connecticut. He was mysteriously murdered on August 20th, 1876, between Deadwood and Crook City, South Dakota. He was 49 years old when he was killed. He's buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Who was he? Well, I can't find a lot of what he did for work before he married Ruth Yeomans at the age of 20 in 1847. Sadly, his wife and infant son died a year later.

I can't find what he did for a living, but he did became a Methodist preacher when he was 23 years old while still in Connecticut. 

While still in Connecticut, he married his second wife Lydia Ann Joselyn on February 23rd, 1858. They had four children together. About three years later, he moved his family to Massachusetts. Then, a year after the Civil War broke out, in 1862, he joined the Massachusetts 52nd Infantry. He spend the rest of the Civil War, a soldier. Some say that's where he learned whatever he knew about medicine. A skill that he used later.

After his enlistment was over with, he became a doctor. He returned home to Massachusetts for almost 10 year before leaving his wife and children and heading to the gold fields of South Dakota. He is known to have walked beside a wagon train from Cheyenne, Wyoming into the Black Hills to become the first preacher on any denomination to enter the Black Hills.

On May 7th, 1876, Smith is known to have held the first church services ever had in Custer City, South Dakota. His small congregation was made up of 29 men and 5 women. He was there only a week when he again walked beside a wagon train. This time he headed for Deadwood. 

While prospecting for gold, he is said to have helped take care of those with illnesses all while ministering the Bible to miners. When not prospecting to make ends meet, and trying to send money home to support his wife and children, he could be found on the streets of Deadwood preaching in front of one of the stores and the saloons.

There are tales of him going into saloon and gambling halls, but in reality it was in front of the saloons that he was known to preach against the evils of alcohol, sinful women, and gambling. It's said the prostitutes used to jeer at him from upstairs windows, and saloon and casino owners would have their bouncers run him off to preach somewhere else. And yes, he would move on and do just that.
    
After preaching a sermon on August 20, 1876, he placed a note on his cabin door and left. The note read, "Gone to Crook City to preach, and if God is willing, will be back at three o'clock." 

"Preacher Smith" had many friends in that area. His friends were concerned about Smith walking alone and unarmed to Crook City. They tried to warn him, even trying to persuade him to arm himself for his own safety. The area was known to be ripe with bandits hostile to folks traveling alone. And of course, Indians were not happy with all of those flooding into the Black Hill. 

He is remembered for telling them, "The Bible is my protection. It has never failed me yet." 

His murdered body was discovered alongside the road to Crook City. While some sources say he was robbed, others say he wasn't robbed. And of course, there are those who immediately blamed his murder on Indians. Even his 1914 monument attributes his death to Indians when no one knew for certain that it was Indians. Besides, the Indians were always an easy target when looking for someone to blame for crimes being committed in the Black Hills.

As we all know, Indians were used as scapegoats for a lot of things that took place back in the day. And while there may have been those who believed that the Indians did kill him, there were more folks there who simply found that story to hard to swallow for a number of reasons. One being the way he was killed.

Smith was shot at very close range with a single bullet to the heart. It was as if whoever killed him simply walked up to him and shot him. It was too clean, and not the way Indian warriors killed back in the day. They were known to mutilate their victims as a warning. Smith's body was not mutilated at all.

There was talk at the time that his killer was some thief who didn't care if he were a preacher of not. Since there were a lot of scum in Deadwood who preyed on others, it wouldn't be that hard for folks to believe that someone killed him for whatever they could find on him -- no matter how little.  

A great deal of talk started to go around saying that Deadwood's saloon owners didn't like his preaching right outside their establishments and had him killed to get rid of him. Some say those saloon owners, and those running the gambling in town, may have hired someone to kill him so that Smith would stop hurting their business. It wouldn't have been to outlandish to think that a saloon owner, the owner of a gambling hall, or even some madam of a whorehouse, would have wanted to kill an effective preacher like Smith. A preacher who they saw as cutting into their income. 

Sheriff Seth Bullock described Preacher Smith’s death in an August 21st, 1876, letter to Reverend J. S. Chadwick:

"It becomes my painful duty to inform you that Rev. H. Weston Smith was killed by the Indians yesterday (Sunday) a short distance from this place. He had an appointment to preach here in the afternoon, and was on his way from Crook City when a band of Indians overtook him and shot him. His body was not mutilated in any way, and was found in the road a short time after the hellish deed had been done. His death was instantaneous as he was shot through the heart. His funeral occurred today from his home in this town. Everything was done by kind hands, that was possible under the circumstances, and a Christian burial given him. I was not personally acquainted with Mr. Smith, but knew him by reputation, as an earnest worker in his Master’s Vineyard. He has preached here on several occasions, and was the only minister in the Hills. He died in the harness and his memory will be always with those who knew him. A letter from you which I found in his home causes me to convey this sad intelligence to you."

Henry Weston Smith's body was returned to Deadwood to be buried there. A member of Smith’s congregation, C. E. Hawley, conducted the service in the absence of other clergy. While Smith was initially buried in Deadwood's old graveyard, like Wild Bill Hickok, he was later relocated to the Mount Mariah Cemetery.

In 1914, a group of citizens raised money for a monument to be erected in his honor. The monument was dedicated and placed on the very site where he was found murdered. Yes, right there along side that road on the way to Crook City from Deadwood.

In either 1994 or '95, a South Dakota state highway improvement project needed to have Smith's monument moved. When it was moved, the workers found a copper time capsule that had been buried under it in 1914. When opened, researchers found period artifacts along with a newspaper. After examining the items, they were taken to a museum for safekeeping. Researchers then made another time capsule with a few contemporary items from the 1990's and reburied it under the new monument. That monument is located three miles south of Deadwood on Highway 85.

The new monument was set into place to honor Smith on August 20th, 1995, which was exactly 119 years from the day he was found dead. During the dedication Smith's new monument, someone found and read the actual sermon that Smith had planned to preach in Crook City on the day that he was murdered. Some folks there said it was a sermon that was simply postponed until later.

Henry Weston Smith was a Civil War Union soldier and a miner in the Black Hill of South Dakota. But most of all, Smith was a preacher pretty much all his adult life. And though his death was attributed to Indians, who really killed him and why is truly a mystery that remains unsolved. We may never know who really killed him. What we do know is that even though he was in the Black Hills only a short while during it's toughest days, he did make his presence known. All for the good.

Tom Correa

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Benjamin Ratcliff -- More Than Just A Colorado Killer


Every once in a while, I'll get a note from a reader telling me how the mass shootings that we see on the news these days would have never taken place back in the Old West. Fact is, while one might think school shootings are strictly something unique to our times, though rhyme or reason can't truly be explained in any such situation, sadly they're not.

One such shooting that can't really be explained has to do with a man by the name of Benjamin Ratcliff. What took place in Park County, Colorado, on May 6th, 1895, has been called "the most brutal and unprovoked murder ever known in Park County."

As you can see by his 1895 Colorado State Penitentiary mug shot, he looked harmless enough. But don't let his grandfatherly looks deceive you, he was in reality a very dangerous man.

Benjamin Ratcliff was born on October 21st, 1841, to an Ohio family where he was the sixth of 10 children. By 1844, his parents Elias and Elizabeth Ratcliff moved their family to central Missouri. By 1851, his father died leaving he and his other siblings to work to support their family.

In 1861, just before he turned 20 years of age, he enlisted in the Missouri Home Guard at the outbreak of Civil War. He  As a private in the Infantry, he was part of the 43rd Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia. Benjamin Ratcliff was actually part of Company "A" when his unit fought in the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862.

The Battle of Shiloh was a Union victory. It was truly horrific when looking at what that victory cost in lives. Union General Ulysses S. Grant and General Don Carlos Buell took a combined force of approximately 62,000 Union troops into that battle. Of that, their victory cost them more than 13,000 casualties. On the other side, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston and General P. G. T. Beauregard brought 45,000 Confederates troops to the fight. Of those, more than 10,000 casualties were suffered.

What some folks might not grasp is that the entire Battle of Shiloh took place on April 6th and 7th, 1862. For the Union Army, 1,754 of their troops were killed, 8,408 were wounded, and 2,885 troops were either captured or went missing. For the Confederate Army, besides the 1,728 who were killed, they suffered 8,012 troops who were wounded, and had 959 troops who were either captured or went missing in action. That's in just 2 days of fighting, almost 24,000 men were were killed, wounded, captured or missing on both sides.

Three weeks later, Ratcliff was riding a supply horse during another engagement when it was shot out from under him. When the horse fell, the horse rolled on top of him. As a result of that happening to him, he had hip and leg injuries that were said to have plagued him for the rest of his life. Of course, one would think having a hip and leg screwed up from having a horse roll on you would mean being discharged from the Army, but that wasn't the case at all. In fact, by July of 1862, he left the 43rd Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia and actually enlisted in the Union Army. The "Regular Army."

In 1864, Benjamin Ratcliff fought at the Second Battle of Lexington in Missouri and was taken prisoner after the Confederates defeated the Union Army there. Not wanting to die in a Confederate prisoner of war camp, he somehow escaped just two days later. While making his way back to Union lines, he hid in ruts, bogs, in muddy marshes and along a stream. He was wet and hungry and soon a fever overtook him while trying to avoid Confederate troops as he made it back to Union lines. When he did, it's said no one knew how he did it considering he was seen as partially crippled from his horse fall and since he was sick with a fever.

Ratcliff recovered and an Army Quartermaster assigned him to a "light-duty" job of federal hay inspector because he was ill. Some at the time thought that he may have contracted tuberculosis, what was called "consumption" at the time.

Some folks might not realize that tuberculosis killed about 14,000 soldiers during the Civil War. Another 30,000 soldiers wearing blue and gray died from gangrene. Typhoid is believed to have killed at least 35,000 Union troops and at least 30,000 Confederates. Pneumonia is said to have killed over 30,000 Union and Confederate troops combined. And while malaria was the most prevalent disease going around during the Civil War with millions infected, it's said only 30,000 soldiers actually died from malaria.

Of course when it comes to diseases, the biggest killer of troops on both sides during the Civil War was dysentery. Dysentery, or diarrhea, killed over 57,000 Union soldiers. Confederates records show that roughly 50,000 of their troops died from dysentery.

In 1865, it's said a Union surgeon had treated Ratcliff for his hip and leg problems. Army doctors actually sent him to the Rush Medical College in Chicago for surgeries to correct his hip and leg since neither are said to not have mended correctly. He was there for a year and half and endured multiple surgeries. Many of his surgeries were believed to be experimental at best.

Because he was suspected of having tuberculosis, and was seen as getting worse after his last surgery, doctors urged him to relocate to Colorado where the elevation and clean air were believed to have healing properties for those suffering from TB. Believe it or not, the Army is said to had found him employment with the newly created Internal Revenue Service office in Denver. Ratcliff took the job and as urged. He relocated to Colorado and actually worked for the IRS as an Assessor while in rehabilitation. He did that from 1869 to late 1871.

On June 10th, 1871, while on a trip home in Missouri, he married Elizabeth McNair. They talked about starting a ranch, and later that year, he and his new bride left for Colorado. Their getting there was not unusual for the times. They had to take a train to Denver, where they transferred to a stagecoach headed for Colorado Springs. From there they were on their own as they took buckboard to the Tarryall Creek area of Park County. That's where they established a homestead which they would work together in an attempt to establish a cattle ranch.

Ten years later in 1881, to add to his on-going health problems, he was stomped by a horse and suffered a dislocated shoulder during a cattle roundup. A few years later, by way of an 1885 Colorado State Census, we get a glimpse into what assets the Ratcliff's accrued over their first years of their homestead. They are seen as owning 4 horses, 44 beef cattle, 32 dairy cows, 68 calves, and stated that his homestead had produced almost 600 pounds of butter which was sold.

Over the years, they had three children together. Of course, today the descendants of Colorado's pre-statehood pioneers Benjamin and Elizabeth McNair Ratcliff can be found living in 13 states and a Canadian Province. But sadly in October of 1882, Elizabeth Ratcliff died during childbirth with her fourth child. The child also died.

With her death after 11 years of marriage, Benjamin Ratcliff was a widower responsible for bringing up their son, Howell, and their two daughters, Lizzie and Lavina.  Just two years later by 1884, because raising three children on his own became to tough, he sent his daughters back to Missouri to live with his relatives. He and his 10 year old son Howell worked the ranch as well as they could. Ten years later, by 1894, both of his daughters had returned home to their homestead in Park County, Colorado.

In 1895, Benjamin Ratcliff wrote to the Superintendent of the Michigan Creek School Board. Because his daughter Lizzie had suffered a crippling injury while growing up in Missouri, the result of no medical attention after she supposedly endured a fall as a child, she was left with one of her legs being anywhere from 4 to 6 inches shorter than the other. Her father was asked for help since Lizzie wasn't able to walk the 7 miles to school in Bordenville.

The town of Bordenville is about 11 and half miles from the town of Jefferson and about 27 miles from Fairplay. It was named Bordenville in 1865 when Timothy and Olney Borden established a 2,000 acre ranch, general store, and post office there. All toll, Bordenville is said to have had a population of about 50 people if folks counted blacksmith shop, a stage stop, the school house, and a mining surveyor. It was considered a thoroughfare for folks headed somewhere else. Bordenville is now just a ghost town with a few log stuctures and the old graveyard. Of course one of the old log structures there is a small building used by as a school house and held the meeting of the school board in that area.


There is a lot of speculation as to what Radcliff wanted from the school board. But frankly, it sounds as though no one really knows what was in his letter. Some say Ratcliff's letter requested some sort of accommodations for his crippled daughter. It's speculated that he suggested a traveling teacher could assist him in educating his children by going to his homestead instead of making her walk the 7 miles from his place to the school house.

Some folks say he simply wanted textbooks and educational materials so that he could home school his daughter. Back in the day, one of the reasons for folks having a lot of children is that children were needed to do chores to help make a homestead a success. Because of that, many families home schooled their children. So no, that was't an outlandish request for the times. Bottom line, it seems Ratcliff wanted help of some sort to help educate his children.

The school board turned down all of his requests without helping him in his dilemma. He resubmitted his requests and is said to have asked for their suggestions in regards to a remedy. He was again turned down and was not given any help. Sadly, Ratcliff's frustration would come to a head in a bad way.

Things went down hill when Ratcliff got a letter from a neighbor by the name of  Susan Crockett on August 22nd, 1894. The letter claimed that Lincoln Fremont McCurdy, the 32-year-old school board president, was spreading lies about Ratcliff's 18-year-old daughter.

The horrible lie was that Ratcliff had an incestuous relationship with 18-year old daughter Lizzie, and that she was pregnant by him. He flew into a rage and wouldn't accept that anyone was going to get away with slandering his good name. To spread such a lie that he was the father of a child carried by one of his daughters was totally unacceptable and it angered him in ways that most in that area had no idea was possible.

While that was an out and out lie, and that neither of his daughters were pregnant, that didn't matter at the time. Benjamin Ratcliff knew that all he had was his good name and now that was under attack by a young man, the president of the school board. Yes, a young man by the name of McCurdy who Radcliff saw as a worthless lying individual.

Armed with two Colt 1851 .36-caliber Navy Revolvers and his 1873 Winchester rifle in his scabbard, Benjamin Ratcliff arrived at the school board meeting which was being held on May 6th, 1895. It was the same day local elections were being held.

He immediately took things up with McCurdy regarding the lies that McCurdy had been spreading pertaining to some sort of sick relationship with his 18-year-old crippled daughter Lizzie. He demanded an immediate apology and a public retraction of the sick rumors spread by the school board president. 

Later, during his hearing, he said that he fired the first shot over their heads as a warning. No on knows what set him off after that. Some say one of the those he had confronted laughed or chuckled at his demands. It's said that Ratcliff may have thought they were adding insult to injury by laughing at him. He said later that he lost his life to the Civil War, his good name was all he had left.

Either way, something unknown to all triggered his outrage during their confrontation. He shot 32-year-old school board president Lincoln McCurdy in the chest twice. He shot 56-year-old board secretary Samuel Taylor in the face. He then shot 35-year-old board treasurer George Douglas Wyatt in the back as he tried to run away. McCurdy and Taylor were killed instantly. Wyatt died four hours later.

Benjamin Ratcliff walked over and mounted his horse. He didn't run into the hills and make some sort of stand. He didn't take on posses and killed lawmen in the process. Instead, he slowly rode his horse all the way to the town of Como where he knew he could find Deputy Sheriff James A. Link. Once there, he turned himself in, told the deputy what he had just done, and was arrested.

At his trial, his attorneys asked for a change of venue since tensions there in Fairplay were running high and many wanted to skip the trial and simply get a rope. Because of that, he was tried for the 1st degree murders of Lincoln McCurdy, Samuel Taylor, and George Wyatt, in Buena Vista in Chaffee County.

All in all, a dozen witnesses for the defense was called to testify on behalf of Benjamin Ratcliff. Among those testifying for him was his son Howell. I've been informed that he was asked "to measure the position of desks, bullet holes, blood spots and bodies in the schoolhouse and testified only to that." He was not asked about his father’s frustration and turmoil which his father may or may bot have been going through over the lies in their small community.

Most all of the witnesses testified how all he wanted was a little help regarding schooling for his handicapped daughter. Most agreed that he was ignored, refused help, and then to add insult to injury had lies spread about him impregnating one of his own daughter. All agreed that it was too much and he snapped, that he went insane.

Then there was the question about shooting Samuel Taylor, who Ratcliff knew personally, and board treasurer George Douglas Wyatt? Witnesses tried to say that Taylor was pulled a pistol on Ratcliff when he saw him shoot Lincoln McCurdy. In fact, a couple of witnesses said that McCurdy himself drew a pistol on Ratcliff seconds before being shot.

But frankly, none of what was said mattered as a jury quickly found Benjamin Ratcliff guilty of premeditated murder. They sentenced him to hang. And he was scheduled to hang in August of 1895, but his attorney Vinton Garrett Holliday sought a re-trial on the grounds that the judge gave the jury the wrong instructions before deliberating. A few months later in January of 1896, that became a mute point as a second trial also found him guilty and ordered him to hang.

Ratcliff's attorney Holliday appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, but they upheld the sentence. Holliday also petitioned Governor Albert McIntire on the grounds that his client was insane at the time of the act. That was also rejected.

On February 7th, 1896, Benjamin Ratcliff was hanged to death at the Colorado State Penitentiary at Canon City. It's reported that he was hanged by a weight-and-pulley system that jerked him upwards to instantly break his neck. It was used so that the convicted would not strangle slowly while hanging on a rope as was the case in most hangings.

As for where Benjamin Ratcliff is buried? It was believed that Benjamin Ratcliff was buried at the Bordenville Cemetery near his wife and infant child. It's said that his body sort of just laid in his prison coffin for a few days there in Canon City before it was claimed. It's believed that his son claimed his father's body. and then returned to their homestead.

As for the Ratcliff children, because none were 21 years of age yet, his son being short of 21 by a few months, all were evicted when the homestead was auctioned off. From there, the three moved north to the Steamboat Springs area. It's siad they were respected citizens and assets to the community there. As for Lizzie, I've learned that she never married or had children.

While it's really unknown who erected a two-foot granite obelisk on the former Ratcliff property, folks don't think that's where Benjamin Ratcliff is buried. Fact is while he is believed to be buried somewhere on that property, no one really knows where the actual location of Ratcliff's grave is located.

The old former Ratcliff homestead is now part of the Pike National Forest. What remains of the old Ratcliff place is just what's barely left of a two-room structure they called home. It's said to have pretty much returned to nature.

While the whole story is sad in that no one knows what prompted McCurdy to start such hateful rumors, or what motivated him to attack Ratcliff in the first place, it's a matter of fact that no one knows what finally triggered Ratcliff to make him kill 3 men that day. It will be a mystery that no one will ever solve because looking into this tragedy opens the door to more questions than finding answers.

Researching this story, I found where some say Bejamin Ratcliff was an unpredictable eccentric who turned out to be a "cold-blooded" killer. They say he was just a murderer who died at the age of 54 after taking the lives of three innocent men. But seriously, there appears to be a great deal more to this story. And frankly, Benjamin Ratcliff appears to have been more than just a Colorado killer who lost his mind one day.

I'm not trying to defend such a horrible act on the part of Benjamin Ratcliff, but what if McCurdy really did spread those horrific lies about Ratcliff impregnating his crippled daughter? Would that still make McCurdy an innocent man in this story?

What if McCurdy was in fact attacking Ratcliff's good name in a community of less than 60 people? Was that enough to be considered provocation in 1895? So was Ratcliff really "unprovoked" as some have said?

Also there's the question, did the school board really threaten Ratcliff with taking his daughters away from him. The taking of his children away from him would have been based on those false incest insinuations. Another local story that I've become aware of says most of the local school board were former Confederates or Confederate sympathizers. As with other states both before and after the Civil War, Colorado was settled by people from both sides of the war. Could that have been part of the problems that were taking place? 

Frankly, looking at all of this, there may have been much more to this story than we know. Maybe his rage was built up over time and the lies being spread about he and his daughter was just the last straw? Yes, just the straw that broke the camel's back?

And forget about some testifying that McCurdy did in fact try to pull a pistol just before Ratcliff shot him, and ask yourself if Ratcliff sounds like an emotionless killer? That's what a "cold-blooded" killer is. To me, knowing of his rage, it sounds to me that Ratcliff was anything but "cold-blooded" that day. For me, I don't know if calling him a "cold-blooded" killer is very accurate in this case.

He was "blowing fire" and "spitting mad!" That's how witnesses described Ratcliff when he showed up to confront McCurdy that day. Keep in mind, it was election day for local offices and there were people there who witnessed what took place. Does that sound like he was emotionless and cold? It sounds like his blood was boiling when he did what he did. No, not "cold blooded" at all.

And before someone writes me to say that I probably think that he shouldn't have been hanged, please understand that that's not true. He got what was coming to him for taking the law into his own hands. Besides, even if McCurdy and Taylor did pull guns on him and it was self-defense in those cases, Ratcliff did shoot board treasurer George Douglas Wyatt in the back as he tried to run away.

No matter how anyone wants to cut it, shooting a person in the back is never seen as self-defense. One will hang for that. 

Tom Correa