Monday, July 22, 2019

There's A Reason We Don't Admire Evil

I received a letter telling me that while the Old West had gunfights, it didn't have evil as we see in the news these days. Specifically, my reader asked if mass murderers, serial killers, and such were present in the Old West. She didn't think those criminal types were around back then, especially since folks only hear about gunslingers. 

Well, the notion that mass murderers are something unique to our modern world is not accurate. In fact, there were such evil in the Old West. And frankly, they killed a lot more people than gunfighters did. Take for example the three people that I've picked to prove that such people existed in the Old West. Each was as evil as they come.

Stephen D. Richards 

Richards was a murderer known as "The Nebraska Fiend." He's known to have killed at least nine men, women, and children in Kansas and Nebraska in 1878. It's said his motive was robbery, but some question if that's true since he also killed children. His method of murdering his victims was always the same in that he beat his victims with an axe or a flatiron, or stabbed them with a Bowie knife.

The newspapers at the time filled their papers with stories about his crimes. Most were true, but some like the Chicago newspapers were not. 

The Omaha Herald was one newspaper that got it right most of the time. Their headlines included "Richards, the Kearney County Murderer, Gives for the First Time Full Details of His Crimes And a statement of the Motives Which Prompted Him in His Bloody Deeds." 

Another headline was how Richards, "Selects the Omaha Herald as the Vehicle Through Which the Confession Shall Appear."

They are also wrote, "A Fiend Who Plans, Days in Advance, the Murder of a Helpless Woman and Her Babes Because It Would Make Matters More Pleasant for Himself and the Companion of His Lot."

And of course there's their story, "He Cooks a Hot Breakfast and Eats a Hearty Meal as Soon as the Bodies Are Out of the Way."

In June of 1878, Richards was jailed in Kearney. While in the jail, he met the wife of Jasper Harlson who he knew. Because Jasper Harlson and another prisoner named Underwood escaped from that jail a few days before Richards's confinement, the Sheriff arrested Mrs. Harlson believing that she helped her husband escape. Richards convinced Mrs. Harlson to sell him her property for $600. 

After Richards' release from jail, he left town for about 6 months. He returned to Kearney and the Harlson homestead on October 18, 1878. After Mrs. Harlson transferred her property to Richards, he decided to kill her and her three children which were Daisy, age 10, Mabel, 4, and Jasper who was only 2. 

Richards was a real talker and actually gave a number of confessions and reasons why he murdered Mrs Harlson and her children. None of the reasons made any sense to anyone. Richards who thought he would outsmart the authorities fled after the murders, but was later caught after killing an old man by the name of Anderson.

After his trail and conviction to hang, Richards embraced the press and actually became a sort of celebrity. On the train to Kearney, it's said that everyone wanted a glimpse of him when he was being escorted him to the Kearney jail by Kearney and Buffalo County Sheriffs. Richards was friendly to reporters and everyone else on that train.  

As with many criminals today, Richards talked at length. He gave them all sorts of questionable details about his early life and details about his murders. Most details were lies. And of course, he blamed others for his murderous ways.  

While talking with reporters on the train, a traveler aboard the train asked if he could ask Richards a question. The man is described as being "tall, well dressed, with iron gray hair and whiskers." It's said that the man had stood in the aisle at the reporter's side, listening to what Richards was saying. The man was Col. John S. Mosby, who was once a leader of Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. 

Mosby asked the reporter, "Will you allow me to ask him a word or two?"
The reporter said, "Certainly."
Mosby then asked Richards, "Did you have no remorse after killing that woman and those little children?"

Richards replied, "No, sir. They were nothing more to me than so many jack rabbits."

It's said Col. Mosby simply shook his head in disdain. On that particular day, Col. Mosby is believed to have been headed for Washington D.C. where he was nominated by Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes to be United States consul to Hong Kong. It was a position that Mosby was confirmed to assume, and he held from 1878 to 1885.

After they arrived at the station, the Sheriffs escorted him to jail. At one point, Kearney County Sheriff Martin asked the very talkative Richards to give him the details of his killing Mrs. Harleson and her children. It's said his reply was cold and lacked any remorse. 

He said, "I went into the house. Found them all sleeping soundly. Got the axe and went at the job. I killed them all as they were sleeping. Mrs. Harelson and the two oldest girls were in the bed together and the baby in the crib. I killed Mrs. Harelson first, then the second child, then the oldest one, and the baby last. There wasn't one woke and there was not a sound made. I only got blood on one blanket and on the pillow shams. This bedding I took out with the bodies and threw into the hole. I carried Mrs. Harelson's body out first, then the two girls at one trip and took the baby last. If the baby's leg was broken by me it when I threw it into the hole. I picked it up, carried it out and threw it in as I would a log. I hauled in the dirt without being particular to put the yellow under dirt at the bottom, where it had come from. I presume that led to the discovery of the bodies when the neighbors were searching. I examined the house carefully, found I had left no spots of blood anywhere and that the ax was clean. If any hair was found on a flat iron it was not human hair. I then straightened things up and cooked and ate my breakfast."

On December 28, 1878, The Omaha Herald, ran the following story:

The Life Taker
Richards Still Smiling and Talking as if Killing People was No Worse than Killing Mice

Kearney, Neb., December 28.--Stephen D. Richards, the murderer of nine persons, was safely jailed here at 9:45 p.m.

Sheriff Anderson and Martin received a dispatch east of Columbus, stating all quiet in Kearney. A later dispatch sent from a trusted Ireland, received east of Grand Island, stated a crowd was gathering.

Sheriff Anderson instructed his friend here to be in readiness for later advices, and afterward ordered a boy to meet him with a wagon two miles east of Kearney Junction.

The Deputy Sheriff, Lew Johnson, met the party at Buds station four miles east of here, and reported a crowd of upwards of two hundred assembled, with what object not known.

Conductor Kelley stopped the train at a point two miles east and Richards was taken off, still securely shackled and handcuffed and placed in a wagon waiting there. Sheriff Martin and Deputy Johnson accompanying.

Sheriff Anderson proceeded to Kearney and responded to rash and eager questions of the assembled crowd by stating that Martin stopped off with Richards at Grand Island, and would be along tomorrow. Much disappointment was shown by the crowd.

While Anderson was parlaying with the crowd and holding them, Martin landed Richards safely in jail. Various parties discussing the matter about town express chagrin at missing sight of Richards, but commending the action of the sheriffs. Richards manifested supreme indifference to his lot, was perfectly willing to be brought direct to Kearney Junction, and said he had as soon died one way as another.

Col. Mosby, of Confederate guerilla fame, was on the train and interviewed Richards at some length on his indifference.

Richards said for two years he had held his life of no account, and placed others at about the same importance as hogs. He talked almost continuously from Omaha to Central City, answering questions, was affable and courteous to all, and had a smile on his features constantly.

He talks of murders as openly and with as little concealment as of the most trifling matter. He insists that none of the last five were committed in passion, but with a motive which he will not reveal, and were planned deliberately. He promises revelations in a day or two on matters here which he has kept silent about, which he says will astonish the whole western country as nothing has for years.

The sheriffs believe him perfectly sane, and in possession of facts of vast importance. He slept soundly from Silver Creek until awakened to leave the train. All quiet here, and the crowd has dispersed."

-- end of The Omaha Herald article. 

Stephen Richards was the worst killer to have ever plagued Nebraska. He was in fact a serial killer who openly admitted to the murders of his traveling companion, the Harelson family, and others. I read where some are reporting that he was hanged in Minden, Nebraska, on January 15, 1879. But, other sources report that he was hanged there on April 26, 1879. 

As with the date of his hanging, there is some controversy over his burial. Some sources say that he was buried in an unmarked grave which was later dug up. That tale says his bones were scattered in the streets of Kearney. Another story says that he was hanged and afterwards tossed in a dry well. And then there's the story about how the Kearney County Gazette obtained Richards' skull and had placed it on display a few years after his hanging. 

So really, it sounds though no one knows if he ended up scattered in the streets somewhere, if his skull ended up on a shelf, or if he was simply tossed in a dry well. Fact is, we can all agree that whatever happened to Stephen D. Richards, he certainly deserved what he got in the end.  

James C. Dunham

Another axe murderer is part of the horrible event that took place on the night of May 26, 1896, in the city of Campbell, California. That was the night that James C. Dunham became a mas murderer. That was the night he claimed the lives of six innocent people. Among them were his wife Hattie, age 25, her mother Ada Wells McGlincy, age 53, her stepfather Colonel Richard Parran McGlincy, who was 56, her brother James K. Wells, 22, and their hired help, Robert Briscoe, 50, and Minnie Shesler who was only 28.

How did he do such a thing? He shot them using a .38 and a .45 caliber pistol. When he was unable to accomplish his horrendous deed using guns, he resorted to using an axe to finish off his victim. He used an axe to hack them to death. And frankly, since using an axe as a weapon is nothing new in the annals of crime, I doubt he got the idea to hack everyone to death by reading about Lizzie Borden who was accused and acquitted of the August 4, 1892, axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.

As for Dunham, still to this day, no one knows his motives. No one knows what made him do it, what triggered such rage, why on earth would he decide to do such an act. As for anyone being found alive after the massacre. That was not the case in the house. That is, other than James' and Hattie's 3-week-old son. A farmhand heard what was going on inside the house and hid in the barn. When the noise quieted down in the house, he discovered what took place and ran for help.

After the killings, James C. Dunham simply disappeared. It's true. Even though there was a huge manhunt out searching for the killer, a manhunt that spread throughout Santa Clara County, he was not found. In fact, James C. Dunham was never apprehended and tried. That's right, he was never apprehended and tried.

Think about this, with the population as low as it was at the time, you'd think he would have been found almost immediately. But that wasn't the case, even though his name and picture were circulated and everyone knew who he was and what he did it. He escaped and was never found.

On  May 28th, 1996, to observe the 100th anniversary of the massacre, the San Jose Mercury News ran the following:

INCREDULOUS residents of the peaceful Santa Clara Valley woke to the horror of their first mass murder 100 years ago, May 26, 1896.

The ax and gun slaughter of six came more than 90 years before the next mass murder here: the 1988 killings of seven men and women at ESL in Sunnyvale. In that one, the accused, Richard Wade Farley, was convicted.

In the 1896 massacre, the suspect got away.

Although James C. Dunham was never apprehended and tried, local residents convicted him of first-degree murder in the court of public opinion. And the coroner's jury investigating the deaths declared just two days after the killings that they were committed by ''one James C. Dunham, with malice aforethought.''

Dunham killed his wife, Hattie, 25, her mother, Ada McGlincy, 53, her stepfather, Richard P. McGlincy, 56, her brother, James K. Wells, 22, and two of the hired help, Robert Briscoe, 50, and Minnie Shesler, 28. The slayings occurred at the McGlincy home in what is now Campbell. There were witnesses to at least part of the carnage.

Dunham spared his infant son, then just 3 weeks old. The baby was adopted by relatives in San Francisco and given the name Percy Osborne Brewer. Dunham never tried to contact his son. The child did inherit his grandmother's estate.

There was intense speculation over why Dunham wielded the ax and the guns, a .38-caliber revolver and a .45-caliber pistol. One man, George Whipple, who was a neighbor of the McGlincys, was interviewed in 1947 at the age of 87. He had a theory about why it happened based on his knowledge of the household and the accumulation of neighborhood gossip that never reached the authorities.

The killings, according to Whipple, were due to mother-in-law trouble. Ada McGlincy, aided by her son and her husband, was bent on breaking up the couple. ''The way they treated Dunham was something terrible,'' Whipple said in the interview.

Keeping notes

It was known that Ada McGlincy was keeping notes, apparently as evidence for a divorce suit. Whipple, who saw them, said the complaints against Dunham were ''trifling.''

Another note was found after the killings. It was signed Hattie and read, ''Please say goodbye for me to my dear mother, brother and stepfather.''

She might have been going off with Dunham. Possibly, Dunham killed her accidentally, perhaps seizing her during a quarrel. That is part of Whipple's theory.

After that, the young man, a student at Santa Clara University, apparently went berserk and killed the others. The idea that Dunham was crazed when he was killing was popular. Even his brother, who had once been engaged to marry Hattie, thought him insane.

Posse found horse

When he'd killed the six, Dunham took his brother-in-law's horse and rode off. He was next seen asking for food at Smiths Creek Hotel on Mount Hamilton. A huge posse was mounted and it found the horse Dunham used, but no Dunham.

Many believed he'd either committed suicide or starved to death on the mountain. Others thought he might have taken off on his bike. He was considered an excellent cyclist and had recently bought a used bike and outfitted it with wide tires and other equipment to make it suitable for traveling in the mountains.

Over the years, there were many reported sightings of Dunham or possibly his bones. He could have been the ''wild man'' roaming the hills near Dulzura, a tiny town near the Mexican border, southeast of San Diego. He might have been part of a Yankee guerrilla gang in Mexico; at least such a gang reportedly had a member named James Dunham who had murdered his family.

Bones checked

There were many investigations of bones, mostly on Mount Hamilton. Authorities had a detailed description of Dunham and his teeth, figuring they could identify the man if the right skeleton ever turned up. The last reported possibility were some bones discovered on Mount Hamilton in 1953. Investigators thought they looked more like cattle bones than human ones.

While Dunham never was found, the McGlincy house survived well into this century at the end of a long driveway that is now McGlincey Lane. Kids who went there reported it was haunted.

-- end of the San Jose Mercury News. 

For me, I hate unsubstantiated talk such as saying that James Dunham had it in for his mother-in-law and that's what drove him to do such a thing. To me, that's just conjecture. The man who said that was just giving his opinion that was nothing less than gossip. It's just his opinion based on zero facts.

To my knowledge reading about this, there was no evidence or witnesses to support such a claim. But as with most conjecture, people will believe it. And frankly, unfounded statements such as saying that James Dunham was treated badly by his in-laws seems to be an effort to excuse his evil deed.

I don't care how badly one is treated at him, nothing justifies such an act. Besides, if Whipple's theory is right in that Dunham was being treated badly, all that means is that Dunham could have stopped it by packing a bag and leaving. If anyone doesn't like the way that are treated, even today, if that's the case, people don't have to become violent. All that person has to do, man or woman, is simply leave.

Dora Wright

As for people making excuses for their horrible behavior, people trying to avoid punishment for what they do, people have been doing that in some way, shape, or form, since the beginning of time. It's not something new to our society. Dora Wright tried to say she should have been spared being hanged on the grounds that she was a woman. Not that she was sorry or repentant, but merely because she was a woman. President Theodore Roosevelt didn't buy it!

As for an evil act being in the news, below is the story of Dora Wright. Some would think her story is right out of today's news media. At the time, it was shocking that anyone was capable of doing such a thing. The Oklahoma newspapers described Dora Wright as a "Demon" and duped her a "Fiend". One paper called the crime she committed "the most horrible and outrageous ever committed."

Who was Dora Wright? She was a murderer of Native Indian origin who tortured her victim to death. Newspapers said seven-year-old Annie Williams lived a very short agonizing life. For months, young Annie was cruelly beaten by her guardian, Dora Wright, age 38. While some papers said she was Wright's niece, from everything that I can find, the small half-starved seven-year-old girl was an orphan that was placed in Wright's charge. Wright was paid to take care of her.

Besides whippings, beatings, and starvation, other tortures were revealed at Wright's trial. One such torture was Annie having had to endure being branded with a red-hot poker. Her horrible ordeal finally ended on February 2nd, 1903, when Annie was whipped so severely that she died.

On May 30th, 1903, an Oklahoma jury took a mere 20 minutes to find Dora Wright guilty of the child's murder. The jury declined to recommend life imprisonment so that Wright would be eligible for the death sentence.

The newspapers all agreed:
No One Deserved Hanging More Than Dora Wright!

Since Oklahoma was not yet a state, Oklahoma Indian Territory jurisdiction fell under the federal government. As for the case of seeking executive clemency for Dora Wright, that task actually fell to President Theodore Roosevelt.

Below is U.S. Attorney General Philander Knox's brief on the case to President Roosevelt. This statement was released to the press:

"The real facts in this case are that this woman tortured to death a little child seven years old, her niece, whom she was pretending to care for and support. She whipped the child most unmercifully with large switches, struck it about the hand and face so as to cause wounds sufficient to produce death, burned holes in its legs and thighs with a heated poker, and committed other nameless atrocities upon the person of the child. The testimony shows that the woman pursued a course of cruelty which was fiendish and barbarous … The only ground upon which her pardon is sought is that she is a woman, and that the infliction of the death penalty upon a woman would be a shock to the moral sense of the people in the community."

President Theodore Roosevelt's response to the plea based on the grounds that Dora Wright was a woman was short and to the point. He wrote, "If that woman was mean enough to do a thing like that, she ought to have the nerve to meet her punishment."

On July 17th, 1903, Dora Wright was hanged in a public executed at McAlester, Oklahoma, for the murder and mutilation of seven-year old Annie Williams. Yes, she was tried, convicted, and executed in a little over six months after committing the murder. It's called swift justice, and that's a part of the old days that should make a comeback.

Below is what The Blackwell Sun newspapers reported:
First Woman ever Hanged in the Territories

Blackwell, Oklahoma, July 23, 1903
South McAlester, I. T., July 18

Dora Wright was hanged here yesterday for the murder of Annie Williams, a 7 year-old girl. She mounted the scaffold without a tremor.

Dora Wright, the first woman ever hung in this section, was convicted of whipping a 7 year-old white girl, Annie Williams until she died of her injuries. The evidence showed that the little girl had been beaten severely for many months, as there were old scars on her. Some of these indicated that the child had been tortured with a red-hot poker.

Charles Barrett was hanged at the same time for the murder of John Hennessy, an aged man whom he shot from ambush. Robbery was the motive.

--end of The Blackwell Sun article.

As for the scene of the hanging, it was reported that there was a carnival atmosphere all around. In fact, many on hand are said to have applauded when the lever was pulled and the two were hanged.

Of course, that shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, most people celebrate when they see evil stopped in its tracks. I believe there is nothing more gratifying for good people than knowing that they are winning the battle against evil. It is a constant battle, but knowing that goodness prevails and evil hasn't won is not a bad feeling.

Richards, Dunham, and Wright, prove that evil existed in the Old West -- no differently than it does today in our modern day world. Thankfully, there's a reason that we don't admire evil. It's because evil should be loathed.

Tom Correa 


Friday, July 19, 2019

San Francisco's Vigilantes


Fifty years ago today, when the first issue of the News Letter made its appearance, San Francisco was in control of the famous Vigilance Committee. This determined band of citizens held the city under as firm a rule as did the military a few weeks ago, when totally different causes demanded a stronger arm for the maintenance of right and order than the established civil Government afforded. The Vigilance Committee owed its birth not to any extraordinary sudden event, but to the intolerable conditions which were the outgrowth of municipal corruption. It was the manifestation of the revolt of the decent element of the community against an organized gang of political plunderers, who held control of the city Government for their own aggrandizement and the oppression of the honest, respectable citizens.

There are few, if any, chapters in the history of the United States as interesting as that which records the doings of the Vigilance Committee during the rule of which, in 1856, the San Francisco News Letter was born.

For several years, the worst element in the city’s population had held control of the political machine, running the elections to suit itself, stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating those who could not be bribed, placing its own representatives in office, electing its own judges and generally enjoying a carnival of graft, loot and defiance of all the laws of civic decency. So strong and well organized was the machine that the respectable element of the town was seemingly helpless, at least at the ballot boxes.

The crisis came on May 14, 1856. On that day, James King, of William, editor of the Bulletin, who had unflinchingly, persistently and relentlessly assailed and exposed the misdeeds of the ring, was murdered in cold blood, at 5 p.m., by James Casey, a low politician, ballot-box stuffer and all-around bad character.

Trusting to immunity from punishment, on account of having the sympathy of police, district attorney, courts and other civil authorities, Casey surrendered himself, and was placed in jail, partly as a matter of form and partly to protect him from vengeance at the hands of King’s friends.

The news of the murder spread abroad quickly. The respectable citizens, in desperation, determined to end the reign of outrage at any cost. About 7 p.m. a delegation of citizens went to William T. Coleman, and asked him to form a Vigilance Committee. Coleman, who had belonged to a Vigilance Committee, formed to correct abuses in 1851, was at first reluctant to take violent measures, but he was soon convinced that there was no alternative, if the existing conditions were not to be meekly endured.

Accordingly a call was issued, signed “Committee of Thirteen,” the title under which the Vigilance Committee of 1851 was disbanded. The response was prompt and gratifying. Organization proceeded rapidly, military methods being followed, Doane, an experienced soldier, being placed in charge of the purely military details. Fort Gunnybags was erected on Sacramento Street, near Sansome, and cannon mounted behind its walls.

Dismayed b the suddenness and the completeness of the Vigilantes’ preparation, the corrupt city officials bestirred themselves to resist further operations. They gathered together the police and as many of their hoodlum constituents as they could muster, and began arming and drilling.

But their efforts to assert themselves were faint-hearted in the face of the determined attitude of the Vigilantes. The Governor, J. Neely Johnson, was appealed to, but he took no decided action one way or the other. General Wool and Captain (afterwards Admiral) Farragut, commanding the Federal forces, were asked to intervene, but they did not feel called upon to do so.

The Sunday following the murder, the Vigilance Committee, well armed and thoroughly organized, proceeded to the jail, where its members overpowered the frightened guards, entered and took out Casey and another notorious character named Cora. The two captives were taken to the headquarters of the Vigilantes, where they were given a full, fair trial and found guilty.

They were then carried forth and publicly executed, at the very hour when the body of James King, of William, was being escorted to the grave.

The corrupt Government, its hoodlum supporters, and the bad element of the city, were now thoroughly cowed, but the Vigilance Committee did not stop with the execution of Casey and Cora. It set itself diligently to work to purify the city Government and the city itself. Bad characters were exiled wholesale, the reins of Government were assumed by the Vigilantes, and a general cleaning out took place. 

After three months of control, having taught a never-to-be-forgotten lesson to the corrupt and the criminal, and having seen a good municipal Government in charge, the Vigilance Committee disbanded, and thus ended one of the most remarkable instances on record of a revolt of decent citizens against a corrupt city Government.

The grafters exiled from the city by the Vigilantes subsequently sued Coleman for sums amounting to a total of $1,500,000, but the suits were all defeated, Coleman and the Vigilance Committee being upheld by every court East and West which considered the cases.

San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
July 21, 1906

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Bodie California's 601 Vigilantes

Sitting at an elevation of 8379 feet in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Mono County, the ghost town of Bodie, California, about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, is today a California State Park. The name of the mining town gives credit to William S. Bodey who is said to have discovered gold there in 1859.

Mr. Bodey himself died during the winter of 1860 in a blizzard while making a trip to Monoville for needed supplies. Because he died relatively soon after his discovery, he sadly didn't live long enough to see that the town was named after him.

Why "Bodie" instead of "Bodey" since his name was Bodey? Well, it's said that Bodie got its name because a sign painter made a mistake in its spelling. One source says local ranchers Ben and John Hasslet had a ranch named Bodey. The brothers decided to start a livery stable and needed a sign made. Their sign was to read "Bodey Stables." But as fate had it, when their sign came in, it read "Bodie Stables" and the name "Bodie" stuck.

As surprising as it may sound, because of two other gold strikes in nearby Aurora and Virginia City, Nevada, interest in Bodie's gold discovery was not very robust. At least that was the case until 1876. In fact, to show how little interest there was in Bodie's gold strike, two companies built stamp mills at Bodie. Both went under because they weren't profitable. That was in 1868.

The actual boom came in 1876 when a large deposit of gold-bearing ore was discovered. That event changed the relatively small sparsely populated mining camp of Bodie, that tiny camp isolated in the Sierras, into a true boom-town. Within a few years, some say Bodie had a population of about 10,000 people. Some say that number is inflated and the actual number was closer to half of that. Bodie is said to have boomed from 1876 to late 1880s when the mines petered out and folks moved on.

During the time when it was a bustling town, Bodie is known to have had all of the amenities of comparable size town. It had its own Wells Fargo Bank, a volunteer fire department made up of four fire companies, its own town band, a jail, offices for the local miners' and mechanics' unions, dance halls, saloons galore, its own red light district on the north end of town, as well as a number of newspapers. The first newspaper there was The Standard Pioneer Journal. It published its first edition on October 10, 1877.

The story goes that at its peak, Bodie was the home of 65 saloons which lined its Main Street. The mile long Main Street and its saloons provided a lot of material for the town's newspapers. As with most towns, cattle towns or mining towns, barroom brawls were usually just brawls with men fighting it out with fists. That was the norm across the West.

One of the saloon-toughs who was well known in Bodie was an hombre by the name of Mike McGowan. He's said to have been a "Bad Man from Virginia City." In fact, he had reputation of biting off an opponent's ears, their nose, and even a thumb, during a fight. For those of us who have been in a bar fight or two in our lifetimes, that sounds like a crazed individual that wouldn't be very much fun to run into.

Of course as we all know, every once in a while there is going to be someone who will inevitably pull a gun and drop a hammer on someone in a saloon whether over a personal angst, a bad business deal, a gambling disagreement, simply because someone had too much to drink, or a number of other reasons. So yes, there were murders, shootouts, and even stagecoach holdups there in Bodie. One such killing was Alex Nixon. He had just recently been elected as the first president of the Miners' Union in Bodie. He was shot and killed in a saloon gunfight on January 15, 1878.

One of the more famous stories of Bodie has to do with the vigilante group known as the 601 Vigilantes. That story has to do with when Thomas Treloar was shot and killed by a man who wanted Treloar's wife.

During a dance at the Miners' Union Hall on January 15, 1881, Joseph DeRoche is believed to have exchanged words with Thomas Treloar when DeRoche wanted to dance with Treloar's wife. DeRoche is said to have grabbed Treloar's wife and forced her onto dance floor even though Treloar told DeRoche to leave his wife alone. According to what I've been told, while some say that it's unknown if an argument took place between Treloar and DeRoche, DeRoche was made to leave the dance by those there.

After first posting this story, I was made aware of a possible behind the scene affair between Treloar's wife and DeRoche. One reader wrote to say she married the older Thomas Treloar for his money and an life insurance policy. Yes, there is the possibility that she may have been an accomplice in her husband's murder. While I'm trying to verify this, if that really was the case, things probably didn't turn out the way Mrs. Treloar and DeRoche planned.

After Thomas Treloar and his wife left the Miners' Union Hall on that Saturday night, they proceeded to walk down Main Street when they were met at the corner of Main and Lowe Streets by DeRoche. He is said to have jumped out of the darkness and simply shot Thomas Treloar. The bullet fired by DeRoche smashed into Mr. Treloar's head, killing him instantly.

Citizens quickly arrested DeRoche and turned him over to the law. But, because he wasn't secured as well as should have been because the town deputy was said to have been drunk at the time, DeRoche escaped and made a dash down Goat Ranch Road. He was caught again aways from town and brought back to Bodie.

It was then that Bodie's 601 vigilante group took over. To my knowledge, the "601" was not simply a single group and in fact there were other vigilante groups that called themselves the "601". For example, we know that there was a secret 601 vigilante group in Bodie, and also up north in Truckee, California. We also know that there was a group of vigilantes calling themselves the "601" in Reno, Nevada. There is speculation that there was a 601 vigilante group in Redding, California, when the Ruggles Brothers were lynched. But, to my knowledge, they were not affiliated in the way that the vigilante groups that made up the Anti Horse Thief Association were all connected.

The Anti Horse Thief Association was started in Missouri and achieved so much success at apprehending horse thieves that they actually branched out into apprehending those wanted for other criminal activities as well. By 1863, the Anti Horse Thief Association actually had formal bylaws and even adopted their own constitution. By the end of the Civil War, law enforcement and the courts saw the benefit of what the Anti Horse Thief Association was doing. Yes, so much so that that vigilante group actually expanded and created branches of their organization in a couple of other states and the Oklahoma Indian Territory with the sanction of the law.

As for the 601 vigilante groups, it appears the use of 601 was common among some vigilante groups because of it's significance. The numbers 601 is believed to stand for "6 feet under, 0 trial, 1 rope." As for the case of murderer Joseph DeRoche, Bodie's 601 Vigilantes hanged DeRoche on Monday, January 24, 1881.

What took place was chronicled in the below article from The Bodie Free Press newspaper:

Judge Lynch held his first court session in Bodie early on Monday morning and passed judgment on a criminal whose crime is already recorded and impressed on every mind in this community. The tragic end of DeRoche, the murderer, was at once awful and impressive.

The lesson to be learned from it is easily read and the simplest mind can fully comprehend it. That a cruel murder had been committed no one can deny; that the swift retribution was expected every observing citizen could predict with safety. The excitement of the Sabbath did not die away and the wrath of the people did not go out with the setting of the sun. As the shades of darkness enveloped the town, the spirit of revenge increased in intensity and developed into a blazing column of fire. It was burning in its intensity and fearful in its results.

After the adjournment of the court and DeRoche was token back to his narrow cell, a mysterious committee was organized, the like of which has existed in many towns on this Coast since ’46, and whose work has been quick and thorough. The Committee, it is reported, held a long session and discussed the matter in hand. The session was long and deliberate, and its conclusions resulted in the lynching of DeRoche.

Between 1:30 and 2 o’clock Monday morning, a long line of masked and unmasked men were seen to file out of a side street into Bonanza Avenue. There must have been two hundred of them and as the march progressed to the jail the column increased. In front were the shotguns carried by determined men. They were backed up by a company which evidently meant business, and no ordinary force could foil them in their progress.

When the jail was reached it was surrounded and the leader made a loud knock at the door. All was dark and quiet within. The call had the effect of producing a dim light in the office, and amid loud cries of “DeRoche,” “Bring him out,” “Open the door,” “Hurry up,” etc. Jailer Kirgan appeared, and responded by saying: “All right boys; wait a minute; give me a little time.” In a moment the outside door was opened slowly and four or five men entered.

Under instructions the door of the cell in which the condemned prisoner lay was swung open. The poor wretch knew what this untimely visit meant, and prepared for the trying and humiliating death. It was some moments before he was brought out, and the crowd began to grow impatient. Some imagined the prisoner had been taken away by the officers – If this had been the case what would have followed can only be imagined. All these doubts were put at rest by the presence of the man.

He wore light-colored pants, a colored calico shirt, and over his shoulders was hung a canvas coat buttoned around the neck. His head was bare, and as the bright rays of the moon glanced upon his face, there was a picture of horror visible. It was a look of dogged and defiant submission.

With a firm step he descended the steps and came out upon the street in a hurried manner, closely guarded by shotguns and revolvers. The order to fall in was given, and all persons not members of the mysterious committee to stand back. The march up Bonanza Street was rapid. Not a word was said by the condemned man, and his gaze was fixed upon the ground.

He was hurried up a back street to Fuller. The corner of Green was turned, and when Webber’s blacksmith shop was reached, a halt was made. In front of this place was a huge gallows frame, used for raising wagons, etc., while being repaired. Now it was to be used for quite a different purpose. “Move it over to the spot where the murder was committed,” was the order, and immediately it was picked up by a dozen men and was carried to the corner of Main and Lowe streets.

The condemned man glanced at it for a moment and an apparent shudder came over him, but he uttered not a word. From an eye witness we learn that the scene which followed was awful in its impressiveness. The snow had just begun to fall, and the moon, which had shone so brightly during the early part of the night, shed but a pale light on the assembled company. When the corner was reached, the heavy gallows frame was placed upon the ground, and the prisoner led under it. The prisoner’s demeanor still remained passive, and his hands, encased in irons, were clasped.

His eyes occasionally were turned upward and his lips were seen to move once or twice. On each end of the frame were windlasses and large ropes attached. The rope placed around the prisoner’s neck was a small one; when the knot was made it was tested against the left ear.

This did not suit DeRoche particularly, and he changed it so that it was in the rear. Someone suggested that his legs and hands should be tied. This was immediately done. The large iron hooks of the frame dangled near the prisoner and the grating sound produced a peculiar feeling. It was at least three minutes before everything was ready DeRoche was asked by the leader if he had anything to say. He replied, “No nothing.”

In a moment he was again asked the same question and a French-speaking bystander was requested to receive his answer. The reply this time was: “I have nothing to say only O God.” “Pull him,” was the order, and in a twinkling the body rose three feet from the ground. Previous to putting on the rope, the overcoat was removed. A second after the body was elevated a sudden twitch of the legs was observed, but with that exception, not a muscle moved while the body hung on the crossbeam. His death took place without a particle of pain. The face was placid, and the eyes closed and never were reopened. Strangulation must have been immediate.

While the body swung to and fro, like a pendulum of a clock, the crowd remained perfectly quiet. After a lapse of two or three minutes a voice, sharp and clear, was heard in the background: “I will give $100 if twenty men connected with this affair will publish their names in the paper tomorrow morning.”

The voice was immediately recognized as that of a leading attorney. (Only Pat Reddy would have had the courage to face the mob, and a yell went up from the crowd.) “Give him the rope,” “Put him out,” and similar sentences drowned out the man and his voice. His retreat was as dignified as the exigencies of the case would admit of.

While the body was still hanging a paper was pinned onto his breast bearing the following inscription: “All others take warning. Let no one cut him down. Bodie 601."

-- end of article from The Bodie Free Press.

There are more than 200 known graves that have been found in Bodie. In the Bodie Cemetery, there are over 150 grave markers. It's said that many of those markers can be easily read. That's surprising since other markers have become so weathered that they are virtually unreadable. And of course, being what human nature is, there are those pathetic individuals in the world who find it necessary to destroy and damage markers.

I've tried to find out if the murderer DeRoche had a marker, or if vandals destroyed it, or if his was a marker that was worn away by the harsh Bodie winters. He's not listed as one of the known to be buried there. So frankly, there's a possibility that he had an unmarked grave. After all, it is very possible that someone simply cut him down and dumped him in a hole face down with no marker or prayer.

After all, Americans in the Old West did not coddle assassins, bushwhackers, those who acted as savage as any rabid dog. It's why citizens committee, both secret and not, sprang up all over America to right things when the law failed to do so.

Whether it was the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1851, the Missouri Bald Knobbers, the Montana Stranglers, the Committee of 101 in Skagway, Alaska, the Tin Hat Brigade of Texas, or the 70 or so citizens that made up the un-named vigilante group that broke into the jail in New Albany, Indiana, and lynched the three Reno Brothers in 1868, right or wrong, that's the way it was.

You say that couldn't happen in this day and age? Well, the last group of vigilantes to break into a jail and lynch a couple of murders in California took place in San Jose in 1933. Friends, that really wasn't that long ago.

And as for today, most courts will still make a defendant wear a bullet proof vest for their own safety in court. The same goes for a lot of law enforcement agencies who are transporting prisoners. They do so knowing full well that someone out there might think that they will do what the justice system fails to do in the case of a murderer, a pedophile, a rapist, a cop killer, or some other rabid individual who may get a lenient sentence when their crime is in fact an assault on humanity.

Tom Correa

The Hangings of James Casey And Charles Cora 1856

James Casey and Charles Cora were hung by the Vigilance Committee at precisely twenty minutes after one o'clock–the former for the murder of James King of Wm., and the latter for the murder of Gen. William H. Richardson. Both persons had been tried before the Committee, and found guilty. A promise had been made to Casey that he should have a fair trial, and be permitted to speak ten minutes. These conditions had doubtless been observed. Casey was informed on Wednesday afternoon, that he had been condemned to be hung.

While under charge of the Vigilance Committee his spirit appeared to be unbroken. When awaken, after a sleep, he would frequently strike the floor with his hand cuffs, and swear fiercely at his fate. During the evening previous to his execution, the Right Rev. Bishop Alemany attended Casey, who had been educated in the Roman Catholic religion. During the night he was restless, and passed a portion of the time in pacing his room.

Cora attracted less attention, and conducted himself more quietly.

At eight o'clock, on Thursday morning, the General Committee was notified that Casey and Cora would be executed at half-past one, and ordered to appear under arms. During the morning preparations were made for the execution. Beams were run out over two of the windows of the Committee Room, and platforms about three feet square extending out under each beam. These platforms were supported next the house by hinges, and outside by ropes, extending up to the beams.

Along the streets, for a considerable distance on each side of the place of execution, were ranged the Committee–more than three thousand in number–some on foot with muskets, and others on horseback with sabres. No outsiders were permitted to approach within a hundred yards.

Beneath the place of execution were several cannon and caissons ready for use if necessary. The houses in the vicinity were covered with spectators; and in the streets were collected, probably, not less than eight or ten thousand persons.

At a quarter past one o'clock Casey and Cora were brought out upon the platforms. The former was attended by the Rev. Father Gallagher. The arms of both were pinioned at the elbows. The noose was placed around Cora's neck, when he stepped upon the platform and stood firm as a statue, a white handkerchief being wrapped around his head.

The noose was placed around Casey's neck, but at his request removed, while he had some three or four minutes conversation with his priest. He then came forward and addressed the people as follows:

"Gentlemen, Fellow Citizens:–I am not guilty of any crime. When I am dead, when I am laid in my grave, let no one dare traduce my character or asperse my memory. Let no man exult over me, or point to my grave as that of an assassin. I am guilty of no crime. I only acted as I was taught–according to my early education–to avenge an insult. Let not the Alta, the Chronicle, and the Globe, persecute my memory; let them no more proclaim me a murderer to the world. Let them not insult me after death. I have an aged mother in the Atlantic States, and I hope that she will never hear how I died. I trust she will never know I am executed on a charge of murder. I am not guilty of any such crime."About this time Father Gallagher touched Casey, and said: "Pray to God to pardon you for your crime; pray God to save your soul."

Casey, after a moment's hesitation spoke again:

"Oh, God, pardon and forgive me. Oh, my mother! my mother! I hope she will never hear of this. On, God! have mercy on my mother; comfort her in her affliction. Oh, God, have mercy on my soul! Oh, my God! my God! I am not guilty of murder–I did not intend to commit murder."

After he had concluded, the noose was again adjusted, his eyes bandaged, and as he was about to step forward, he faltered, and was about to sink, when the arms of two men were extended and supported him to the fatal spot.

Both prisoners being prepared, the signal was given, and, at the same moment, the souls of James P. Casey and Charles Cora were launched into eternity; and their bodies became an inanimate mass of corruption. Neither of them struggled much, Casey showing the most physical suffering.

From the time the prisoners appeared at the window until the drop fell, the immense mob of people stood uncovered, and the utmost silence was maintained, not a shout being heard or a loud word spoken. The bodies continued to hang for nearly an hour as they were executed. Although a great many persons were in sight at the time, awaiting the climax of the tragedy, there were many others scattered about town, who had supposed the affair was postponed. 

The news spread rapidly through the city, and in ten minutes after the death of Cora and Casey, great numbers of men were to be seen rushing down Clay, and Washington, and Commercial streets, as though it were a matter of life and death to get a sight of the spectacle. The bodies were then taken down and handed over to the Coroner.

Town Talk, Print.
San Francisco, 1856

Friday, July 12, 2019

The San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1851 Resurfaced In 1856

Next to 1848, when gold was discovered in California, 1856 was perhaps the most exciting year of the era by reason of the flood of crime into the city and brought about the organization of the famous Committee of Vigilance of that year, a form of direct action which attracted the attention of the world to a new style of summary justice, the result of extraordinary conditions in San Francisco.

Behind it were reasons and principles that radiated in diverse directions, some of them being influenced by the causes which eventually led to the Civil War, four years later.

As for local conditions, it is enough to note that in the first ten months of 1855 there were 489 murders in the state and only six legal executions. Stuffed ballot boxes were used to qualify the election of supervisors who did not reside in the districts voted. Ballot boxes with false bottoms were common.

In 1853, with the politicans and "Hounds" running the city, the expenditures amounted to $2,646,000. Under a reform management following the work of the Committee of Vigilance of 1856, the city got along in good shape with the expenditure of $353,000. The population was then estimated at 55,000.

The years 1854 and 1855 were tumultuous at best. No one had time for city business because of the rush to the gold fields. Politics and the government of the city and State were neglected by the residents, and naturally the offices and emoluments fell to the criminal elements who came west. Some of the worst characters driven from New York's Bowery and from Botany Bay, Australia, held office and wallowed in corruption and graft.

Trials in the courts were a farce, and those in power made no pretense of shielding their friends when charged with crimes.

An honest man's vote was worthless at the polls, and ballot box stuffing was openly practiced.

James King of William (1822-1856), born of an old Virginia family, and who became a prominent banker in this city, only to lose his fortune later in the local panic of 1854-5, was the man who practically alone started the work of rousing honest residents to the struggle of cleaning out the criminal element in power. At that time the criminal element was closely affiliated with certain influential, wealthy people in sharing the profits of political corruption.

While in the banking business, King had discovered numbers of corrupt transactions of this character. His friends knew this, and realizing that he was a man competent in every way to meet the situation, they urged him to start a newspaper and voice his convictions on the corrupt conditions.

On October 8, 1855, he started the publication of the Evening Bulletin which contained 4 pages, 10x15 inches in size.

Many critics have said that no such paper, or anything like it, had appeared in any country. It was an ideal fighting journal, edited by a man who knew no fear, and dealt his iron clad blows impartially.

So, when Charles Cora, a notorious gambler, shot down U.S. Marshal Richardson, and was formally arrested by his friends in office, King, with his vigorous ardor, declared that if Cora was allowed to escape, the sheriff, David Scannell, must hang.

The fervor of King in his denunciations roused the feeling of the public to a high pitch. King widened his range of attack against the political element, and took on James P. Casey, one of the city supervisors, and showed that he had been an inmate of Sing Sing Prison in New York. On May 14th Casey shot King as the latter was coming from the editorial rooms of the Bulletin, on the west side of Montgomery Street, just north of Washington Street. He was carried to a room in the Montgomery Block [now the site of the Transamerica Pyramid], and treated by Dr. R. Beverly Cole. He died a few days later at his home.

Following the shooting, over ten thousand people crowded around the Montgomery Block to hear the latest on his condition.

The crowd later retired to the Plaza, and soon a buzz went through the crowd that a Committee of Vigilance was forming.

Meanwhile, Casey was being guarded in the jail on Broadway by hundreds of his friends and a company of militia. Friends of King were allowed to enter the jail to assure themselves that the prisoner had not been spirited away.

At nine o’clock the next morning, members of the 1851 Committee of Vigilance began to assemble in an old lodge room at Sacramento and Leidesdorff streets. Among them was William T. Coleman, a prominent member of the old committee. He was urged to start the new movement. Coleman wrote out the oath of fealty, urged that membership be impersonal and that each man should be known by a number. Life, liberty, property and honor were pledged. Coleman was member No. 1, and the secretary, Isaac Bluxome, No. 33.

By the time King died of his gunshot wound on May 20th, the Committee of Vigilance had swelled to 3,500 members under arms. With a cannon to batter down the doors, they then marched to the jail, but Casey was delivered to them after a short protest.

The committee later returned to the jail on Broadway and took Charles Cora to their headquarters. Both men were given advocates to defend them; both were tried before a jury composed of members of the Committee of Vigilance, were convicted and hanged from a platform extended from the second story windows of Fort Gunnybags.

An immense crowd filled Sacramento Street between Battery and Davis to watch the double hanging on May 22nd.

Entrance to the committee's headquarters was protected with coarse sacks filled with sand and piled up as seen in this picture, nearly six feet thick and ten feet high. Cannons were placed at each corner. Inside was a platform and openings, from which a scathing fire of musketry could be unleashed.

There was a strong impression later that the rival Law and Order Party had obtained control of certain surrounding buildings from which they might fire on the makeshift "fort." To meet such an attack the Committee of Vigilance placed cannon on the roof of Fort Gunnybags. These defenses could have been raided readily by a strong force, but the show of ample defense seemingly attained the object of the organization.

The old stone building on the south side of Sacramento Street, near Davis, was destroyed during the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

San Francisco News Letter
1925 Diamond Jubilee Edition

Thursday, July 11, 2019

San Francisco's Committee of Vigilance of 1851

This drawing represents the outcome of the first trial and sentence of a criminal by indignant citizens who took the law into their own hands to suppress the crimes that flooded the state.

The courts were apparently in the hands of the politicians and riffraff of the city, who used the processes of the law for their own profit. There were many murders between 1849 and 1851, but the perpetrators readily escaped punishment and hangings were rare. The ballot box and the city administration of justice was a farce. The indignation of the better class of citizens was at fever heat.

On June 9, 1851, at Sydney cove, John Jenkins walked deliberately into a merchants store, picked up the small safe, carried it to a boat at a nearby wharf and coolly rowed out into the bay. The alarm was given, and a number of merchants pursued an overtook the man. He threw the safe overboard. Jenkins was brought back and taken to a building that occupied a corner at Sansome and Pine streets, the site on which the Royal Insurance Building is now located. The prisoner duly tried by a jury and condemned to be hanged.

The impromptu Vigilance Committee wasted no time, and the execution took place in the Plaza the same night at 2 a.m. This prompt action had its effect on the criminal class, and for a while they remained under cover.

San Francisco News Letter
September 1925

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Earthquakes in the Old West

Hayward, Ca. 1868
In a letter to a science journal, Tombstone Dr. George E. Goodfellow wrote that he had just finished examining a child about 3:00 in the afternoon when he heard the noise and felt the shaking of an earthquake on May 3rd, 1887. Today that quake is estimated to have been a magnitude 7.4 with an epicenter near an isolated village in Mexico.

According to Dr. Goodfellow, he thought the noise was a mule team passing outside his second floor office above Tombstone's Crystal Palace Saloon. He described it saying, "The noise increased, and the building, a two-story adobe, began to shake gently, then more violently. By this time it seemed to me to be a severe whirlwind, such as frequently occurs here at this season of the year."

He also wrote about how he picked up his patient and ran outside, saying "When the open air was reached, the noise was like a continuous roll of heavy firing, with occasional short peals like a sharp clap of thunder."

As with a lot of the town that was damaged in that quake, Tombstone's Crystal Palace Saloon didn't fare well. It's said that its chandeliers crashed to the floor, its glasses fell from shelves, and windows shattered. While no one was killed in Tombstone as a result of that quake, the same can't be said for that village in Mexico which was its epicenter. It's said that over 40 people were killed and hundreds were without shelter as a result of buildings collapsing there.

A few years earlier, about 570 miles northwest of Tombstone, a quake struck on March 26th at about 2:30 in the morning. That quake hit with an estimated force of between 7.4 and 7.9 magnitude. Known as the 1872 Lone Pine Earthquake, its epicenter was near Lone Pine, California, in Owens Valley. 

The Lone Pine Earthquake took place on a Tuesday morning. It was an extremely violent quake as the ground there suddenly pitched up and down 15 to 20 feet while jerking the land to the right 35 to 40 feet. The town consisted of 80 buildings made of mostly of mud and adobe. Only 20 structures were left standing after the quake. Yes, the quick violent movement of the earth actually leveled 60 of the 80 buildings there. And of the more than 300 people living in Lone Pine in 1872, a total of 26 of them were killed when their homes were destroyed by the quake. 

As in most earthquakes, those buildings made of adobe, brick, and masonry, all fared worse than wooden building that sway with the rolling earth. The adobe, brick, and masonry buildings are too rigid and don't give. 

As for other casualties, nearby Camp Independence with its adobe structures were destroyed. Adobe building in the town of Indian Wells were damaged as well, even though it's over 80 miles from Lone Pine. Of course, that's sort of expected since the quake was felt over 330 miles away to the north in Red Bluff, California. A few hundred miles away in Sacramento, it's said people there were startled awake and actually ran out into the streets for safety.

The Lone Pine quake is said to have stopped clocks and woke people almost 300 miles to the south in San Diego, and was felt by people as far south as Ensenada, Mexico. As for it being felt in the east, the quake is said to have rattled dishes more than 300 miles east in Elko, Nevada.

A hundred miles to the northeast, that quake triggered rock-slides in what is today Yosemite National Park. Though a hundred miles away, it's said that the jolt actually woke up naturalist John Muir who was then living in Yosemite Valley. The eccentric Muir reportedly ran out of his cabin without his trousers shouting, "A noble earthquake!"

I'm sure there wasn't anything "noble" about it to those 27 people or the families of those who were killed by it in Lone Pine. A marker was placed on the mass grave that was dug. On it was the name of a few who were known by name. As it says, others who were killed and buried there are only known to God.  

As for aftershocks, they say they were in the thousands and felt all over most of California, Nevada, and Arizona at the time. The 1872 Lone Pine Earthquake is one of the largest earthquakes to ever hit California in recorded history. It's magnitude is reported to be similar in size to that of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

As for the "Great San Francisco Earthquake," the first quake to be labeled as such did not take place in 1906. It actually took place a few years before the Lone Pine, California, earthquake. 

Known as the 1868 Hayward Earthquake, that quake caused so much damage and resulted in so many deaths throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, that it was known as the "Great San Francisco earthquake" prior to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

With an estimated moment magnitude of between 6.3 and 6.7, that large earthquake on the Hayward Fault Zone took place at 7:53 in the morning on October 21, 1868. Its epicenter was the center of the town of Hayward, California. 

Hayward was at the time a town of about 500 residents. Of its town, almost every building was severely damaged. In fact, most all were knocked off their foundations and rendered uninhabitable. As for the town of Hayward, because nearly every building was destroyed or significantly damaged in the earthquake, the town was considered "leveled". 

The quake was so violent that the ground opened up. Its rupture was traced for more than 20 miles from Berkeley to the north, extending to what is today the Warm Springs District in the city of Fremont. Among the buildings that were destroyed was the Alameda County Courthouse located in San Leandro immediately north of Hayward. Because of the quake and the destruction of the Alameda County Courthouse, the County Seat was re-located from San Leandro to Oakland.  

Besides the death and destruction in Hayward and San Leandro, the adobe chapel of Mission San José in what is today the city of Fremont was also destroyed. Fact is, several buildings throughout San Francisco were decimated by the quake. Things were the same as far north as Santa Rosa and Napa. The same was the case as far south as San Jose and Gilroy, and west in Santa Cruz. All saw a great deal of destruction as a result of the 1868 Hayward Earthquake. 

Because of the loss of 30 people killed in that quake, and the extensive damage spread over the entire San Francisco Bay Area, there is no wonder that it was referred to as the "Great San Francisco Earthquake."

As for Dr. George E. Goodfellow, in late 1899, he moved to San Francisco and set up practice there. On January 19th, 1900, he was appointed as the surgeon for the Sante Fe Railroad headquartered in San Francisco. 

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake struck at 5:12 in the morning on April 18th with an estimated 7.9 magnitude. In reality, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake came about 30 years before the Richter Magnitude Scale was even developed. So frankly, it's estimated that the 1906 quake would be on the modern moment magnitude scale from 7.9 to as high as 8.3 magnitude. 

The shaking was felt from Oregon in the north to Mexico in the south, and most of Nevada to the east. While the violent movement was horrible in itself, the devastating fires swept the city and lasted for days. At one point, to save the city, the Army set off charges to set a firebreak . Today, that line can still be seen from the air where the Army saved the city by using explosives to stop the fire. Of those lost, over 3,000 people died in the 1906 quake. Over 80 percent of the city of San Francisco was destroyed. 

At the time of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Dr. Goodfellow had remarried and was living at the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco. He lost all of his records and personal manuscripts in fire that engulfed the city as a result of the earthquake. As with many there at the time, as a result of that quake, his finances were ruined.

In recent days, there have been a few earthquakes that have rattled nerves in Southern California. This makes some folks question why they live in places where the ground will suddenly, completely without notice, shift and roll, pitch, rise and fall, even open up. History tells us that we deal with such things. We build stronger buildings, bridges, and roads. Just as they did back in the day, we rebuild our lives and we survive. 

As for the people in that remote village in Mexico, they buried their dead and went on with life as well as could be expected. I can only hope they learned from what happened in 1887. As for the town of Hayward, it's said that a great deal was learned regarding building construction from that disaster. The town itself rebuilt and is today the home of about 150,000 people. It's the sixth largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area today.

As for Lone Pine, California, during the rest of the 1870s, it was an important supply town for several mining communities in the area. By the 1880s, railroads played a major role in the development of Lone Pine and the Owens Valley. But if Lone Pine sounds familiar to you, well it should if you like Westerns. 

In the early 1920s, Lone Pine became the place that Hollywood went to when they wanted to make movies -- especially Westerns. Hundreds of films, hundreds of television episodes, and countless commercials have been filmed there. Tom Mix, Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard, William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Gary Cooper, Tim Holt, Roy Rogers, John Russell, Clint Walker, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, William Holden, Glen Ford, Randolph Scott, and John Wayne, are among the many stars who have made films there. 

While it's sad to say that Westerns aren't being made as they once were, Lone Pine is still a place where Hollywood goes to when it wants to make films.  

Tom Correa

Thursday, July 4, 2019

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-evident

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Those words are the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. To my way of thinking, no greater words have been written. But how did such an amazing document come about? Well, this is the story of the birth of the Declaration of Independence! Its birth is the birth of a nation.

Someone once wrote, "Nations come into being in many ways. Military rebellion, civil strife, acts of heroism, acts of treachery, a thousand greater and lesser clashes between defenders of the old order and supporters of the new - all these occurrences and more have marked the emergence of new nations, large and small."

The birth of our own nation included them all.  The birth of the United States of America was unique, not only in the immensity of our later impact on the course of world history and the growth of democracy, but also because so many of the threads in our national history run back through time to come together in one place, in one time, and in one document: the Declaration of Independence.

It all started with 13 British Colonies and their slow but fateful move toward independence. Something that, up to that point in the history of mankind, had never taken place before.

The American Revolution (1775-83) is also known as the American Revolutionary War and the U.S. War of Independence. The conflict arose out of a desire for individual liberty. It was the direct result of tyranny being imposed upon British subjects in Great Britain's 13 North American colonies by their own British government and King George III.

For more than a decade before the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, tensions had been building between colonists and the British authorities. Attempts by the British government to raise more and more revenue by taxing the colonies through the the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Revenue Act of 1767, and the Tea Act of 1773, all met with angry protest among many colonists - who in fact resented their lack of representation in the English Parliament in London. They demanded the same individual rights as other British subjects.

The first major American opposition to British policy came in 1765 after Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure designed to raise revenues for a standing British Army in America. Under the banner of "no taxation without representation," colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress in October 1765 to vocalize their opposition to the tax and the economic burden put upon them by their government. With its enactment in November, most colonists called for a boycott of British goods, and some organized attacks on customhouses and homes of tax collectors.

After months of protest in the colonies, the Parliament in London finally voted to repeal the Stamp Act in March 1766. The Townshend Revenue Act of 1767 established taxes on glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea, all to raise £40,000 a year for the administration of the colonies. The result was the resurrection of colonial hostilities created by the Stamp Act.

Reaction assumed revolutionary proportions in Boston, in the summer of 1768, when customs officials impounded a sloop owned by John Hancock, for violations of the trade regulations. Crowds mobbed the customs office, forcing the officials to seek shelter on a British warship in the Harbor. British troops marched in to occupy Boston on October 1, 1768. Bostonians offered no resistance. Instead, they changed their tactics and they established "non-importation" agreements that quickly spread throughout the colonies.

British trade soon dried up and the powerful merchants in Britain once again interceded on behalf of the colonies. To add fuel to the fire, the Boston Massacre took place on March 5th, 1770.

British troops had been stationed in Boston, capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, since 1768 in order to protect and support crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation. Amid ongoing tense relations between the population and the soldiers, a mob formed around a British sentry, who was subjected to verbal abuse and harassment.

He was eventually supported by eight additional soldiers, who were subjected to a verbal assault and "snowballs". Yes, the Boston Massacre took place when a squad of British soldiers, came to support a sentry who was being heckled and hit with "snowballs." Their idea of support was not to scatter the crowd, but instead to let loose with a volley of musket shots at point blank range into the crowd.

Three people were killed immediately and two died later of their wounds; among the victims was Crispus Attucks, a man of black or Indian parentage. The British officer in charge, Capt. Thomas Preston, along with eight of his men was later arrested for manslaughter. The killings of March 5th, was promptly termed a "massacre" by Patriot leaders and commemorated in a widely circulated engraving by Paul Revere, which aroused intense public protests and threats of violent retaliation.

Depictions, reports, and propaganda about the event, notably the colored engraving produced by Paul Revere, further heightened tensions throughout the Thirteen Colonies. The event is widely viewed as foreshadowing the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War five years later. This pressure caused Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson to withdraw the British troops billeted in Boston to to Castle Island in the harbor.

In an effort to demonstrate the impartiality of colonial courts, two Patriot leaders, John Adams and Josiah Quincy, volunteered to defend Captain Preston and his men. The prosecution produced little to no evidence, and Preston and six of the soldiers were acquitted. Two others were found guilty of manslaughter, branded on the hand with a hot iron, and released.

Although many Patriots criticized the verdicts and the anniversary of the Boston Massacre became a patriotic holiday, the removal of troops from Boston and the repeal of all but one of the contested import duties resulted in a lowering of tension in the years following the incident.

Though individual liberty was being trampled, most colonists continued to accept British rule. At least they did until Parliament's enactment of the Tea Act of 1773. The Tea Act of 1773 was a bill passed by the English Parliament designed to save the faltering British East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation and tyranny. It was the straw that broke that broke the backs of British subjects. It turned angry subjects into freedom fighters.

In response, militant colonists in Massachusetts organized a band of Bostonians known as the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty, all dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships. Once there they dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

What become instantly known as the "Boston Tea Party" saw British tea valued at some £18,000 dumped into Boston Harbor. Parliament was absolutely outraged at what took place in Boston. The Boston Tea Party led the English Parliament to enact the Coercive Acts, called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists, in 1774.

The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and required colonists to quarter British troops - something that British subjects had long resisted. The Coercive Acts was blatantly designed to re-assert Imperial authority in Massachusetts.

In response, the colonists called the first Continental Congress to consider united American resistance to the British. In response, a group of colonial delegates which included George Washington of Virginia, John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Patrick Henry of Virginia and John Jay of New York met in Philadelphia in September of 1774 to give voice to their grievances against the British crown. Massachusetts led the resistance to the British by forming a revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony.

The First Continental Congress did not go so far as to demand independence from Britain, but it denounced taxation without representation, as well as the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent. The First Continental Congress issued a declaration of the rights due every citizen, including life, liberty, property, right of ssembly, and trial by jury.

The rights of good and honest men and women were under assault. Their individual liberty was being dismantled.

The Continental Congress voted to meet again in May of 1775 to consider further action, but by that time war had already broken out. In early April of 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, where a Patriot arsenal was known to be located.

On April 19, 1775, British soldiers encountered a group of local American militiamen at Lexington, and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. The local militiamen clash with British soldiers in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, marked the first shots fired in the Revolutionary War.

To King George III, it was a Colonial Rebellion. To Americans, a call for "independence" was sweeping the land.

In June of 1775, the Congress established the Continental Army, issued paper money for the support of the troops, and formed a committee to negotiate with foreign countries. By the end of July of that year, it created a post office for the "United Colonies."

In August of 1775, a royal proclamation declared that the King's American subjects were "engaged in open and avowed rebellion." Later that year, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the Crown. And in May of 1776, the Congress learned that the King had negotiated treaties with German states to hire mercenaries to fight in America.

Parliament remained unwilling to negotiate with "American rebels" and instead hired German mercenaries, called Hessians, to help the British Army crush the American rebellion. As British subjects in North American, many saw it as a struggle for their rights as British citizens. But more and more all of the actions of the crown combined - was too much to deny. It had become a fact that their mother country, Great Britain, was now treating her colonies as a foreign enemy.

On June 17th, 1775, in the Revolution's first major battle, Colonial forces inflicted heavy casualties on the British regiment of General William Howe at Breed's Hill in Boston. The engagement, known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, ended in British victory - but it gave encouragement to the revolutionary cause.

By the autumn of 1775, the British North American colonies from Maine to Georgia were in open rebellion. Throughout that fall and winter, Washington's forces struggled to keep the British contained in Boston, but artillery captured at Fort Ticonderoga in New York helped shift the balance of that struggle in late winter. The British evacuated the city in March 1776, with Howe and his men retreating. Government officials representing the crown had been ran out of many colonial capitals and revolutionary governments put in their places. The Continental Congress had assumed the responsibilities of a central government for the colonies.

One by one, the Continental Congress continued to cut the colonies' ties to Britain. The Privateering Resolution, passed in March 1776, allowed the colonists "to fit out armed vessels to cruise on the enemies of these United Colonies."

On April 6th, 1776, American ports were opened to commerce with other nations, an action that severed the economic ties fostered by the Navigation Acts. A "Resolution for the Formation of Local Governments" was passed on May 10, 1776. At the same time, more of the colonists themselves were becoming convinced of the inevitability of independence. Thomas Paine's Common Sense, published in January 1776, was sold by the thousands. By the middle of May 1776, eight colonies had decided that they would support independence.

On May 15, 1776, the Virginia Convention passed a resolution that "the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states."

By June 1776, with the Revolutionary War in full swing, a growing majority of the colonists had come to favor independence from Britain. Then, on June 7th, 1776, in a session in the Pennsylvania State House - later known as Independence Hall - the Continental Congress heard Richard Henry Lee of Virginia read his resolution. It began:

"Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." The Lee Resolution was an expression of what was already beginning to happen throughout the colonies.

When the Second Continental Congress, which was essentially the government of the United States from 1775 to 1788, first met in May 1775, King George III had not replied to the petition for redress of grievances that he had been sent by the First Continental Congress. And yes, even though fighting was taking place throughout the colonies, even though the iron glove of oppression had descended on the 13 Colonies, believe it or not, even with what was right in front of their face - still some delegates wanted to put aside Independence, and instead pursue the path of reconciliation with Britain.

In keeping with these instructions that Richard Henry Lee, on June 7th, 1776, presented in his resolution, on June 11th, consideration of the Lee Resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. Congress then recessed for 3 weeks. The tone of the debate indicated that at the end of that time the Lee Resolution would be adopted.

Before Congress recessed, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies' case for independence. The Committee of Five consisted of two New England men, John Adams of Massachusetts and Roger Sherman of Connecticut; two men from the Middle Colonies, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York; and one southerner, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia.

Later in 1823, Jefferson would write that the other members of the committee "unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draft. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. . . I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress."

If Thomas Jefferson did make a "fair copy," incorporating the changes made by Franklin and Adams, it has not been preserved. It may have been the copy that was amended by the Congress and used for printing, but in any case, it has not survived. Jefferson's rough draft, however, with changes made by Franklin and Adams, as well as Jefferson's own notes of changes by the Congress, is housed at the Library of Congress.

Jefferson's account really does reflect the three stages in the life of the Declaration of Independence: the document originally written by Jefferson; the changes to that document made by Franklin and Adams, resulting in the version that was submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress; and the version that was eventually adopted.

On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened. he following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Immediately afterward, the Congress began to consider the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams and Benjamin Franklin had made only a few changes before the committee submitted the document. The discussion in Congress resulted in some alterations and deletions, but the basic document remained Jefferson's. 

It should be understood that the political philosophy of the Declaration was not new. Fact is, its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and other Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country - the crown.

Though completed, the process of revision continued through all of July 3rd and into the late morning of July 4th. Then, at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; a Declaration of Independence had been officially adopted. That, my friends, is how the Declaration of Independence came to be. And yes, since today is July 4th, here's just a little about our amazing document itself.

The Declaration of Independence is made up of five distinct parts: The introduction; the preamble; the body, which can be divided into two sections; and a conclusion. The introduction states that this document will "declare" the "causes" that have made it necessary for the American colonies to leave the British Empire.

Having stated in the introduction that independence is unavoidable, even necessary, the preamble sets out principles that were already recognized to be "self-evident" by most 18th- century Englishmen, closing with the statement that "a long train of abuses and usurpations . . . evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

The first section of the body of the Declaration gives evidence of the "long train of abuses and usurpations" heaped upon the American people by King George III. The second section of the body states that the colonists had appealed in vain to their "British brethren" for a redress of their grievances.

Having stated the conditions that made independence necessary and having shown that those conditions existed in British North America, the Declaration of Independence concludes that "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved."

Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright, sunny, but cool Philadelphia day on July 4th, 1776. All 56 members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

The first, largest, and most famous signature is that of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge (age 26). Benjamin Franklin (age 70) was the oldest. Two future presidents signed as well, John Adams (second President) and Thomas Jefferson (third President).

It was exactly one month before the signing of the document, that Congress had accepted a resolution put forward by Richard Henry Lee that stated "Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

One of the things that I find so interesting is that the dramatic words of the Lee resolution were actually added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence. As a final thought, on August 2, the declaration was completely signed by everyone. The names of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were withheld from the public for more than six months to protect the signers. If independence had not been achieved, the treasonable act of the signers would have, by law, resulted in their deaths.

The American War for Independence would last for eight years. Still to come was the Patriot triumph at Saratoga, the bitter winter at Valley Forge, battle upon battle, the intervention of the French, and the final victory at Yorktown in 1781. In 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, the United States formally became a free and independent nation.

I find it an interesting bit of trivia that Independence Day, the Fourth of July, was not made a National Holiday until 1941. I guess it just proves that sometimes priorities elude those responsible with carrying the torch of freedom -- us!

I believe today, July 4th, is a day of celebration and renewal. Let's all take a moment to give thanks to those who gave all so some may live free. Let's marvel at the wonder that was won against all odds! Let's renew our sacred vow as Americans to do as our Founding Fathers said, and "Stay Free By Staying Vigilant."

Many have given so much to preserve our individual liberty, we should stand as sentries guarding what has been handed down to us. Besides acting as guardians, we are the stewards of our freedoms.

The freedoms that so many have fought and died for, our freedoms, those that has been tested by way of politics and the courts, that so many have labored so hard to preserve, our freedoms are not a gift by any means. Yes, there are those who would take our freedoms for granted.

Sadly, there are those who see no reason to stand in defense of our freedoms. Sadly, there are those who see no reason to fight for America and our first principles. They don't understand that our freedom is a sacred trust.

Our freedom, our liberty, is a jewel among those things handed down to us by God. Our individual liberty, our freedom, is prized as more precious and more valuable than life itself - especially by those who have lived under the yoke of tyranny. Let's celebrate the birth of our great nation. Let's ignore the Nay Sayers, ignore those pitiful individuals who have no respect for our accomplishments or strengths as a nation. After all, those who've never prized our independence have always been on the wrong side of history.

Let's wave the colors and have pride in the fact that our nation is still free. Let's praise our founders, their brilliance, and their understanding of the rights of man. Let us hold our flag and our country in high esteem. Let's rejoice knowing that we have helped more, fed more, and protected more people than any other nation in the history of the world. Let's feel good about being Americans!

Happy 4th of July!

Tom Correa