The Death of Sheriff Tom Logan

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, California:

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 Papa.”

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.

Even though 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 In his own unpublished biography he cites the Barieau acquittal or “The McCarran Miracle” as being instrumental in his rise to political power.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.

© Jackie Boor, Legends of America, March 2015

Award Winner!  Available Now!
Logan: The Honorable Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman”, by Jackie Boor, 2014.
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.

About the Author:

Jackie Boor 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 2014.

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.

Also See:

Old West Lawmen

Old West Outlaws

Old West (main page)

Nevada (main page)

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