The Death of Sheriff Tom Logan
Sheriff Tom Logan with Nye County Deputies, circa
Photo from Logan Family Collection.
before Walter Amphiloque Barieau shot and killed an unarmed sheriff on
April 7, 1906, outside of the Jewel House in Manhattan, Nevada, his
fateful path to that blood-soaked morning was apparent.
Sacramento Union, March 13, 1895: "Constable Faris had quite a scrimmage
with the Barieau household at 1020 N street on Monday afternoon, when he
attempted to take possession of some furniture in the house, which was
attached by Ingram & Bird.
"The Constable put Thomas I. Acock in charge of the property as keeper,
but Barieau, and his wife refused to give up possession of the furniture
until 4 o’clock.
until that time, and in the meantime, Barieau went away. No action was
taken until 5 o’clock, when Faris again demanded that Mrs. Barieau admit
him, which she refused to do. He then broke in a window, crawled into
the house and unlocked the door. A truckman was at hand, and the
property was carried off.
"By this time
Barieau returned, and he was wrathy. He saw a pistol which belonged to
him in possession of Faris, and he told the officer that if he was
present when he broke into the house the latter would have paid dearly
for his raid."
The incident in Sacramento was one of many tangles Barieau, a
professional gambler, would have with law enforcement throughout his
life. Yet, one of the assertions advanced during his murder trial the
summer of 1906 was that he was a decent man who had never been in
trouble before. That unchallenged claim along with many other many
tactical advantages his defense team manufactured led to his being
acquitted of the shooting death of Tom Logan, a popular three-term
sheriff with a wife and eight children.
Shortly before his 45th birthday on April 7, native-Nevadan Tom Logan
traveled to the thriving new mining camp of Manhattan, about 40 miles
northeast of Tonopah. Besides official business he also sought the
company of May Biggs, the proprietress of the The Jewel, "a house of
ill-fame." Just before dawn, Biggs was clearing the last dawdlers from
the premises when she came upon Walter Barieau reclined on a lounge in
Biggs would later testify at the coroner’s hearing, "I said he should
not spoil the fun that they had by keeping me up any longer, or words to
that effect. So he got up and when I started out of the door, he went
back. His hat was on the table. I thought he would come out for sure. He
told me to mind my own business….Then when he took hold of my wrists I
went down on one knee and then I screamed. I thought he was going to hit
Upon arriving in the parlor where Biggs and Barieau were at odds, Logan,
dressed only in a nightshirt, asked, "What’s all this?" Shortly, Biggs
was leading the way down the hall to the front door, Barieau following,
Logan behind him. Once outside in the street, Barieau’s temper took hold
and he reached under his coat.
"Don’t pull that gun," Logan was reported to have said, but Barieau
ignored the warning and fired, shattering the glass in the open door.
Logan charged Barieau who shot the unarmed sheriff five times. The
Manhattan News summarized witness statements in its evening edition:
"Upon arising the people in that vicinity witnessed a struggle between
two men, both of whom were wet with human gore….An eye witness states
that the mortally wounded sheriff prevented a double tragedy in a manner
that showed the temperament of the man who crossed the great divide.
After Bering [sic] got Logan’s gun he returned and leveled it at the accused
and would have pulled the trigger but for the sheriff who waved Bering
away and told him not to shoot….
Scott Hickey testified to having arrived upon the scene of the shooting
while Logan and the man under arrest accused of the murder were on the
ground. Logan, he declared, was holding Barieau down on the ground,
having hold of his hands, in which the latter grasped a revolver. Hickey
told of having taken the gun from Barieau and arresting him."
While Barieau, well-known to law enforcement in California for his
hot-headed scheming, cooled his heels in the new jail just opened in
Tonopah, Nye County and the grieving Logan family struggled to cope with
their loss. The entire front page of the Sun’s April 7, 1906, evening
edition was dedicated to the torrent of information related to the
killing. Excerpted from an editorial tribute:
"A brave man has been laid low in the performance of his duty. All Nye
County mourns over the loss of one who was universally loved for his
loveable traits and the greatest of those being his bravery. Thomas W.
Logan was a naturally constituted man for the office he held. He was
without braggadocio. He never talked of his bravery or threatened. He
merely performed his duty as it came to him to do and did it with
conscientiousness and mere as a matter of course….
"When the most dangerous men were in the act of committing their crimes,
instead of girding himself with weapons for a street parade and doing
what some sheriffs do to attract attention, Tom Logan was a one of the
quietest men in the whole camp and always did his duty quietly and well.
He would look down the barrel of a loaded gun without a quiver and he
never thought anything of it. A model sheriff, a good citizen, Sheriff
Logan was a man who was a benefit to the world in which he lived."
Newspaper Headlines on April 7, 1906 bring the
news of Sheriff Thomas Logan's Murder.
Walter Barieau in his cell. Tonopah Daily Sun,
April 10, 1906
Three months later, the man who narrowly escaped a public lynching in
the days following the killing, went on trial. Barieau had two defense
attorneys. Stephen Flynn was a seasoned litigator from Michigan and his
co-counsel was a young, enterprising attorney from Reno named Patrick
McCarran. Together they would launch an ambitious case based on
self-defense. That effort focused on eroding Logan’s reputation and
discrediting the "red light district" witnesses with McCarran
characterizing Biggs, according to one newspaper account, as an
"enchantress who had wound herself into the life of a man inclined to do
right and making him a slave to her every will and wish."
Counter to that viewpoint, was an affecting letter Logan had written a
month earlier to three daughters away at Business College in Oakland,
"My Dear Daughters: No doubt you think your Father has forgotten you,
but I have not. I have been away far from home for a long time, after
jurors and witnesses. This County is getting so lively now that it keeps
me going day and night….I am trying to shape up for the rest of the
family to come down by the middle of next month, although they don’t
know it, as I expect $500 by the 10th of April and if it comes and will,
I will give it to your mother to go and spend, and give her a chance to
see something. Do not say anything to her about it because sometimes
these things fall through but I don’t think that this will….We will come
out all right—before this summer is over your Father has some chances to
make money that he never had before. I enclose $50 and will send more
before long with all kinds of love to you all, I am your affectionate
After 17 hours
of deliberation, on the morning of July 13, 1906, the jury announced a
"Not Guilty" verdict. Walter Barieau walked from the courtroom a free
man, and the dark cloud of shame gathering over the Logan family
billowed in proportion, destined to follow them for decades to come.
Stephen Flynn was Barieau’s lead counsel, it was Patrick McCarran’s
popularity that soared and he became one of Nevada’s most prominent and
controversial U.S. Senators. In his own unpublished biography he cites
the Barieau acquittal or "The McCarran Miracle" as being instrumental in
his rise to political power. He makes no mention of Flynn who, three
years after the Barieau trial, hung himself in the closet of a San Jose,
California, rooming house. An excerpt from a letter written to his wife
and daughters offered some haunting insight:
"My frame of mind may be described as that of complete resignation to
what I at this moment believe to be my fate, inevitable fate. Were I
upon the scaffold with the black hood drawn over my head I could not be
better convinced of the fact, and I believe that I am immeasurably more
resigned than I would be if I occupied the latter position…. and I am
prompted to make my exit with a feeling of charity, if, not indeed, love
in my heart for every human being."
Following his acquittal, Walter Barieau, his wife and daughter boarded a
steamship to Panama and left the country. In later years, he is reported
to have once managed a casino in Mexico for Jack Dempsey, worked as a
bodyguard for the infamous Nevada political boss George Wingfield, and
won and lost several fortunes in the gaming industry.
Barieau, whose own father had been acquitted of killing his pregnant
wife, died penniless and alone in San Diego at the age of 84 on July 4,
1953. To this day, rumors persist as to whether or not the hot-headed
gambler was actually hired to kill Logan—a possibility for certain, but
most likely to remain an eternal mystery.
NOTE: On May 28, 2011, 105 years after Sheriff Tom Logan was killed in
the line of duty, then Nye County Sheriff Anthony DeMeo posthumously
awarded him a Purple Heart and Medal of Valor—noting it mattered not if
Logan had been shot on the steps of a brothel or a church, he had acted
in the interest of public safety and in so doing had made the ultimate
sacrifice as an officer of the law.
Legends of America, March 2015
Award Winner! Available Now!
Honorable Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman", by Jackie
LOGAN is Nevada history at its best! - Guy Rocha,
acclaimed Nevada Historian.
Gritty, truthful and edged with poignant sadness. - Bob
Boze Bell, True West Magazine.
A helluva story! Emil Franzi, Voices Of The West
Happy to keep this book on my shelf. - Mark Hall-Patton,
Pawn Stars, History Channel.
began her freelance writing career in 1968 as a teen correspondent for
two Northern California newspapers. Her first major work, the
award-winning memoir of LTC Gene Boyer, was published in 2010, and is
titled "Inside the President’s Helicopter: Reflections of a White
House Senior Pilot". A resident of Sacramento, CA, Jackie began
researching Nevada Sheriff Tom Logan, her great-grandfather, in 1985 and
spent nearly 30 years gathering content for "LOGAN: The Honorable
Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman", published
In 2015, Midwest Independent Publishing Association awarded
LOGAN first place in their history book category.
LOGAN also received honors in two categories of the annual Eric
Hoffer Book Awards, one of the largest international book awards for
small, academic, and independent presses.
An accomplished public speaker and workshop presenter, Jackie also
enjoys gardening, golf and spending time with her family—both those in
the present and from the past.
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