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Violence on the Nevada Frontier

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From the Reno Evening Gazette, 1891


Panamint City, California about 1875

Panamint City, California about 1875.  


The City of the Dead

The Death Of Kit Carson, Jr.

Death Wounds

Mormon Fanaticism and Prospectors' Perils

Murder Most Foul

Peasley's Revenge

A Victim Of Violence


    The City of the Dead - In the first settlement of Panamint, which is situated in Inyo County, California, on the western side of the summit overlooking Death Valley, its population contained some of the worst desperadoes on the coast, outside of the penitentiaries. There were many lawless scenes enacted, and several deaths by violence, which were dismissed from the mind as soon as the victims were buried. The burial plot was in a little gulch above the town, which was called Sour Dough Canyon, and when a man was laid to rest, the fact was referred to by the sports in flippant manner and the words, "Oh, he's planted in Sour Dough." In the early settlement, no wagons were used in the camp, because the canyons and hillsides were so steep that wheels were useless, and all transportation was done on the backs of mules and burros. There was one exception, and that was a little wagon used by the butcher in moving meats from the slaughter house to the market. It was hauled by two sure-footed little brown mules. This outfit was pressed into service whenever needed for a hearse, and the little mules would lop their ears in solemn gravity as they plodded along with the silent mourners on their way up Sour Dough. At the first Fourth of July celebration the same outfit was used for the Car of State, and the little mules held their ears high in patriotic defiance of the blare of a bass tuba and a drum that composed the band on the occasion. The canyon was narrow, and to turn the Car of State it had to be lifted up and carried around by the procession that followed on foot. The Car of State carried, beside the driver, the Goddess of Liberty and three children, which was all the little folks there were in camp, and as an illustration of the creative imagination of the editor of the Panamint News, his description of the car was: "The Car of State was gotten up by Grand Marshal Paris and Mr. Stebbins, and reflected much credit on these gentlemen for its gorgeous beauty. It was brought into the procession at an early hour, filled with young ladies and children of Panamint." And, he added further, that he "was sorry he could not obtain for publication the names of all the children." The celebration was strictly non-partisan, and it was probably as patriotic as any celebration that ever kept perfectly sober. The day closed with a fine exhibition of fireworks under the management of Dave Nagle. Not long after this event, Senator Stewart and Trenor W. Park, the Vermont capitalist, visited the camp to inspect their mining properties, and on the morning of their departure, just as they were preparing to step into the stage, one of their employees named McKinney had a few words with a man named Jim Bruce, and in less time then it takes to tell it. They commenced firing, And emptied their revolvers into each other. The Senator and his companions took hasty refuge behind a stone wall, as they were "not in it." Both combatants were carried off on stretchers. McKinney was mortally wounded and died in a short time. Bruce recovered with a crippled arm, had an examination before the Justice and was discharged. And, to illustrate the manner in which the press was muzzled, is here given the introductory sentence used by the Panamint News in giving the account of what it termed "An Unfortunate Affair." It said: "We are pained to record that during a slight misunderstanding that occurred at the express office previous to the departure of the stage yesterday, one of our esteemed fellow citizens was compelled to resort to violent measures to protect his person. His opponent will be buried tomorrow in the little cemetery in Sour Dough." 



Article in the Reno Evening Gazette, February 21 , 1891.



Kit Carson, JuniorThe Death Of Kit Carson, Jr. - In the fall of 1870 news was received from Pioche announcing the death of Kit Carson, Jr., whose body was found weltering in his blood near a house on Lacour Street, that was then only sparsely built upon. A bullet wound showed the cause of death, and it was at first supposed to be a case of suicide, as he held his revolver grasped in his hand. But, an examination of it showed that all the chambers were loaded and none had been recently discharged. An inquest was held and a verdict rendered that death resulted from a pistol shot, fired by someone unknown to the jurors. It was looked upon as a cold-blooded murder, but, in those days people said nothing and were satisfied "to keep their eye on the gun," for the "Peep 'O Day Boys" were numerous, as was evidenced by the silent witnesses in the cemetery below the town.

  People held theories as to the ones suspected of taking the life of Kit Carson, and there was one man living in Hamilton, 150 miles distant, who felt decidedly uncomfortable about it, for on the handle of the revolver held in Kit's hand was engraved the name of the man in Hamilton. He was never called upon to explain, for he was a well known agent of the leading stage line, and was known to have been on duty in the Hamilton office at the time when the deed was committed.  

Kit had pawned the revolver to him when going to Pioche only three months before, upon a promise to redeem it within thirty days, which he did, and had the revolver sent to him by express. During the time when it was in pawn, a friend of the agent, who had the run of the stage office, in an idle hour, without asking permission, had the name engraved on it, supposing the agent to be the owner. It could not be erased from the silver-plated handle, and was returned to Kit in that condition. Thus the agent's name was connected with the murder and the temporary suspicion threw the scent off the trail of the real slayer and he escaped without ever being suspected, or if so, was at least never named. Kit Carson Jr. was a nephew of Kit Carson, the famous scout, and like his uncle, was wedded to frontier life and the freedom that surrounded it. He was uncultivated, but generous to a fault; as true as steel and as courageous as he was stoical and indifferent to death. He scorned to skulk or take advantage of an unarmed foe, and the supposition was that his death was due to his open defiance of the lawless ruffians that then held sway in the camp. He was shot from behind, but in the throes of almost instant death, he drew the gun as he fell. 


(Reno Evening Gazette, April 3, 1891)



Gunfight in the street.Death Wounds - Billy Killingly was in the early history of eastern Nevada, a somewhat noted character. Not for reputation, for all he possessed of that was not to be envied. But, he was one of that class that lived a life of leisure; "he toiled not, neither did he spin," but he never missed a meal, and if he ever paid a cent, his method of earning it was unknown to the general public. He was generally supposed to be retained by mining companies to maintain titles of possession, and under employ to meet force with force if necessary. Hence, he became well known throughout that part of the State, and it was the general impression that he would meet the fate usual for people of that class and at no distant day "die with his boots on." In due time, the report came from Cherry Creek early in 1873 that Billy had been killed in a difficulty there, and the report was generally believed, for it was to the effect that the death wound was a bullet hole that extended clear through his head, as it entered at one side just over and forward of the ear and passed out at the other side directly opposite.


All at a distance who had known him supposed that death was instant, and dismissed the subject with the remark that it was just as predicted and expected. But, the result was otherwise, and some months afterwards Billy was sporting around Eureka with a white patch on each temple covering the holes made by the bullet. He seemed in excellent health and in the best of spirits, when one day he was met by an old acquaintance who looked at him as one risen from the dead, and, accosting him, asked in surprise if it was a ghost or the original Billy Killingly. He answered with an assurance of identity, and when questioned, confessed that the ball made a hole clear through his head. When asked if it gave him no inconvenience he said no, only when he blew his nose he felt the air pass out through the corner of his eyes. He fully recovered from the gun shot wound, and as if to illustrate the truth of the old proverb, that if one is born to be drowned

He will not be hanged, his final fate was just the reverse, for a few years afterwards he was reported as being hanged for horse stealing in Arizona. The incident is merely related to illustrate the remarkable curative qualities of the rare atmosphere of this mountain region, where mortal wounds heal up; where dead animals mummify and where even consumption in advanced stages disappears and leaves the patient with lung cells healed.

Article in the Reno Evening Gazette, April 28 , 1891.


Mormon Fanaticism and Prospectors' Perils Twenty years have wrought a wonderful change in the condition of life in Salt Lake City. Then the leaders of the Mormon Church exerted such an influence over their followers that the poor fanatics were led or driven at will, and they were inspired with such intense hatred for the Gentiles as led to the frequent commission of crimes of violence, and resulted in making life for the latter a very interesting problem. About that time the city began filling up with a crowd of prospectors.

  From all the mining regions of the Pacific Coast and adjacent territories, and as the Mormon Church threw in their way every obstacle at their command, it proved slow work to obtain a foothold. The prospectors made their headquarters principally at a hotel kept by Gentiles, who, like all other newcomers, were regarded as intruders and trespassers, and were watched like thieves in every move they made, by the Mormon spies and church hirelings. Then it was that Porter Rockwell, with his long, wild locks flowing over his shoulders, and his running mate, Brig Hampton; bore the reputation of being the two leading destroying angels of the Mormon Church.   Frequently, during the day and evening the Mormons elbowed their way through the crowded office of this Gentile hotel in the character of city policemen, but which was only a disguise to enable them to keep a surveillance of Gentile movements. Night after night, patrons of the hotel would come running in and relate attacks made upon them by Mormons while passing along the shaded streets, perhaps not two blocks away, but so isolated, their only safety lay in flight. The proprietors and patrons of the hotel were kept in hot water, which finally reached a critical point, when one of the daughters of a Mormon apostle was driven from home for speaking to a Gentile, and sought the hotel as a refuge. This intensified the Mormon hatred, and the proprietors endeavored to dispel threatened trouble by conducting the girl to some relations living some distance south of the city.




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