by Jackie Boor
Nine years 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.
“Faris waited 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 the parlor.
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 me.”
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….
“[Deputy] 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.”