“I was down in San Berdo the other day, and a man got me into one of them women’s afternoon fandangos; you know, one of them afternoon affairs where they all talk and don’t say nothing. And a “fly-up-the-creek” woman came up, all “a side-winding,” and said: ‘Now Mr. Scott, I’m sure in your desert travels you must have lots of opportunities to do kind deeds. What you tell the ladies the kindest deeds you ever did?”
“Well, lady,” I says, ” let me think a minute. One time several years ago I been traveling all day on a horse, and I came in on a dry camp way up in one of the canyons. There was an old road leading up to it; hadn’t been used for years; but I noticed fresh tracks on it. When I got to the camp, there sat an old man and an old woman. They must have been 70 years old apiece. When they saw me they both began to cry, and I said: ‘ my goodness, how in the hell did you two ever get up here?’ Well, they said, they were driving through the valley, and it was so hot they thought they were going to die, and they come up to this road and they thought it led to a higher place where it would be so hot, so they took it and got up there, and it was night, so they camped there all night in the morning they found their horse had wandered off. They had looked for him but he was gone, and they’d been there most a week and had no food. Well, I open my packet built a fire and made them a cup of coffee and fried some bacon and stirred up some saddle blankets (hot cakes) for them, and say, you ought to see them two old folks eat! It cheered them up considerable.
We sat around the fire all the evening and powwowed, and they was a nice old couple. We all slept that night on the ground. They was pretty cold, so I gave them a blanket I had. The next morning I made them some more coffee and gave them some breakfast. I had to be going, so I packed up and got astride my horse. I sort of hated to leave the old couple; they seemed kind enough sort of people; but there was nothing else to do; so I said goodbye, and they both was crying; said they’d sure die; no way for them to get out. They couldn’t walk. It was 100 miles from help, and there was no automobiles in those days. But I got on my horse and started off, and then I looked around and saw them two old people a-standing there crying, and, you know, I just couldn’t stand it to leave them old people there alone to die, so I’d just took out my rifle and shot them both. Lady, that was the kindest deed I ever did.”
“Oh, Scotty,” I said, “Why did you tell those women such a tale as that?”
“Well, you know all them bandits you meet when you go out; you got to tell them something, ain’t you?”
“I suppose so, but it seems to me you might think up something better than that to tell at a ladies club meeting.”
“Well, that’s what I told that bunch, anyway. You’ve got to send up some kind of a howl if you’re going to be heard. There are so many free schools and so much ignorance.”
And Scotty lighted another fifteen cent cigar (he always smoked the best), …
from Death Valley Scotty by Mabel – Bessie M. Johnson – Death Valley Natural History Association
Don Pablo further stated that he knew Cristobal Slover very well; was a neighbor of his where they lived with the New Mexican colonists just south of Slover Mountain in Agua Mansa; this mountain took its name from him; he was buried at its southern base, but no mark is there to show his grave. He killed the bear and the bear killed him was the brief summary of the last bear hunt this Rocky Mountain hunter and trapper was in; he wounded the grizzly, then followed him into a dense brush thicket where the bear got him.
Cristobal Slover (Isaac Slover), the noted hunter and trapper of the Rocky Mountains, settled with his wife Dona Barbarita, at the south end of what is now known as Slover Mountain, near Colton, San Bernardino County, about the year 1842. He belonged to that class of adventurous pioneers who piloted the way blazing the trails, meeting the Indian, the grizzly, the swollen rivers, the vast deserts, and precipitous mountains, all kinds of trials, privations, and dangers in opening the way for others to follow and establish on these Western shores a civilization the nation can be proud of.
In the book entitled “Medium of the Rockies,” written by his old Rocky Mountain companion, John Brown, Sr., may be found a brief and interesting historical reference to Mr. Slover in the simple and exact words of the author which are here given: “A party of fur trappers, of whom I was one, erected a fort on the Arkansas River in Colorado, for protection, and as headquarters during the winter season. We called it ‘Pueblo.’ The City of Pueblo now stands upon that ground. Into this fort, Cristobal Slover came one day with two mules loaded with beaver skins. He was engaged to help me supply the camp with game, and during the winter we hunted together, killing buffalo, elk, antelope, and deer, and found him a reliable and experienced hunter. He was a quiet, peaceable man, very reserved. He would heed no warning and accept no advice as to his methods of hunting. His great ambition was to kill grizzlies—he called them ‘Cabibs.’ He would leave our camp and be gone for weeks at a time without anyone knowing his whereabouts, and at last he did not return at all, and I lost sight of him for several years.
“When I came to San Bernardino in 1852 I heard of a man named Slover about six miles southwest from San Bernardino, at the south base of the mountain that now bears his name, so I went down to satisfy my mind who this Slover was and to my great surprise here I again met my old Rocky Mountain hunter, Cristobal Slover, and his faithful wife. Dona Barbarita. We visited one another often and talked about our experiences at Fort Pueblo and of our other companions there James W. Waters, V. J. Herring, Alex Godey, Kit Carson. Bill Williams, Fitzpatrick, Bridger, Bill Bent, the Sublette and others, and where they had gone, and what had become of them.
“Mr. Slover’s head was now white, but his heart was full of affection. He took my family to his home and made us all welcome to what he had. His wife and mine became as intimate as two sisters, and frequently came to visit us.
“He never forgot his chief enjoyment in pursuing the grizzly; when no one else would go hunting with him he would go alone into the mountains, although his friends warned him of the danger.
“One day he went with his companion. Bill McMines, up the left fork of the Cajon Pass almost to the summit where he came across a large grizzly and Slover fired at close range. The bear fell but soon rose and crawled away and laid down in some oak brush. Slover after re-loading his rifle began approaching the monster in spite of the objection of McMines. As the experienced bear hunter reached the brush the bear gave a sudden spring and fell on Mr. Slover, tearing him almost to pieces. That ended his bear hunting. Frequently the most expert hunters take too many chances, as was the case this time. McMines came down the mountain and told the tale, and a party went back and cautiously approached the spot; found the bear dead, but Slover still breathing but insensible. He was brought down to Sycamore Grove on a rude litter and there died. The scalp was torn from his head, his legs and one arm broken, the whole body bruised and torn. He was taken to his home and buried between his adobe house and the mountain the spot was not marked, or if so has rotted away so that I have been unable to locate the grave after searching for it, so to place a stone to mark the resting place of my old Rocky Mountain associate, Cristobal Slover, as I have brought from Cajon Pass a granite rock and placed it at the grave of my other companion, V. J. Herring, more familiarly known as “Uncle Rube.” My other Rocky Mountain companion, James W. Waters, more familiarly known as “Uncle Jim,” has also passed on ahead of me and has a fine monument to mark his resting place adjoining my family lot, where I hope to be placed near him when I am called from earth, both of us near our kindred for whom we labored many years on earth.”
Brown, John Jr., and James Boyd. History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois: 1922.
Editor; Dan De Quille – Virginia City Territorial Enterprise – 1874
A gentleman who has just arrived from the borax fields of the desert regions surrounding the town of Columbus, in the eastern part of the state, gives us the following account of the sad fate of Mr. Jonathan Newhouse, a man of considerable inventive genius. Mr. Newhouse had constructed what he called a “solar armor,” and apparatus intended to protect the wearer from the fierce heat of the sun in crossing deserts and burning alkali plains. The armor consisted of a long, close-fitting material; both jacket no good being about an inch in thickness. Before starting across a desert this armor was to be saturated with water. Under the right arm was suspended in India rubber sack filled with water and having a small gutta percha tube leading to the top of the hood. In order to keep the armor moist, all that was necessary to be done by the traveler, as he progressed over the burning sands, was to press the sack occasionally, when a small quantity of water would be forced up and thoroughly saturate the hood and the jacket below it. Thus, by the evaporation of the moisture in the armor, it was calculated might be produced almost any degree of cold. Mr. Newhouse went down to Death Valley, determined to try the experiment of crossing that terrible place in this armor. He started out into the valley one morning from the camp nearest its borders, telling the man at the camp, as he laced his armor on his back, that he would return in two days. The next day in Indian who could speak but a few words of English came up to the camp in a great state of excitement. He made the men understand that he wanted them to follow him. At the distance of about 20 miles out into the desert the Indian pointed to a human figure seated against a rock. Approaching they found it to be Newhouse still in his armor. He was dead and frozen stiff. His beard was covered with frost and– though the noon day sun poured down its fiercest rays– and icicle over a foot in length home from his nose. There he had perished miserably, because his armor had worked but too well, and because it was laced up behind where he could not reach the fastenings.”
This was Death Valley’s most widely publicized death. It was one that was reported almost halfway around the world, and this terrible death, well, it never happened–it was simply a yarn as used as filler on a dull day in that summer of 1874.
The most desperate prison break in the history of the West occurred at the Nevada penitentiary at Carson on the evening of Sunday, September 17, 1871. Twenty-nine convicts, murderers, train robbers, horse thieves and others of like ilk, gained temporary liberty after killing one man and wounding half a dozen more. The bravery of the handful of prison guards, the action of a life prisoner in opposing the escape and fighting the convicts, and other details make an interesting story, but one outside the field of this history. Inyo’s interest in the affair became direct when one of the gangs of desperadoes started with intent to recuperate in Owens and Fish Lake valleys, as a preliminary to raiding a store at Silver Peak and escaping with their loot to seek refuge among the renegades, Indians and whites, who had established themselves in the far deserts.
Billy Poor, a mail rider, was met by the convicts, who murdered him in cold blood, took his horse and clothing and dressed the corpse in discarded prison garb. When news of the occurrence reached Aurora, the boy’s home, a posse set out ill pursuit of the escapees. The trail was found at Adobe Meadows, in southern Mono, and word was sent to Deputy Sheriff George Hightower, at Benton. Hightower and ten others from Benton trailed the fugitives into Long Valley. Robert Morrison, who came to Owensville in 1863 and was at this time a Benton merchant, first sighted the men, in the evening of Friday, the 23d. The pursuers went to the McGee place, in southern Long Valley, and spent the night, and the following morning went up the stream then known as Monte Diablo Creek, but now called Convict.
As the posse neared the narrow at the eastern end of the deep cup in which Convict Lake is situated, a man was seen running down a hill a hundred yards ahead. The pursuers spurred up their horses and soon found themselves within forty feet of the convicts’ camp. Three convicts took shelter behind a large pine tree on the south side of the stream, and began firing. Two of the horses of the posse were killed and two others wounded, and one of the posse was shot through the hand. Morrison dismounted, began crawling down the hillside to get nearer, and was shot in the side. The rest of the posse fled. Black, convict, went after Morrison, passing him until Morrison snapped his gun without its being discharged; Black then shot him through the head.
The convicts went up the canyon to where an Indian known as Mono Jim was keeping some of the citizens’ horses. Thinking that the approaching men belonged to the posse, Jim announced that he had seen three men down the canyon. As he saw his mistake Black shot him. Jim returned the fire, wounding two of the horses the convicts had, and was then killed. Morrison’s body remained where it fell until Alney McGee went from the house in the valley that evening and recovered it. The convicts had left. Morrison’s body was taken to Benton and buried by the Masonic fraternity.
“Convict” was thenceforward adopted as the name of the beautiful lake and stream near the scene. A mighty peak that towers over the lake bears the name of Mount Morrison.
Word had been sent from Benton to Bishop, and a posse headed by John Crough and John Clarke left the latter place, after some delay due to failure of the messenger to deliver his letter.
The trail was picked up in Round Valley, which the convicts had crossed. The latter had made their way into Pine Creek Canyon, and were so hard pressed that they abandoned one of their horses and lost another over a precipice. News that the men w^ere located, and the fact that they were armed with Henry rifles, superior to the weapons of the citizens, was taken to Independence by I. P. Yaney. The military post was at that time commanded by Major Harry C. Egbert, who afterward became General Egbert and lost his life as a brave soldier in the Philippines. Major Egbert selected five men to accompany him in the hunt, and also provided a supply of arms for any citizens who might wish to use them for the main purpose. They made the trip to Bishop in seven hours, which was rapid traveling in those days.
Convicts Morton and Black were captured in the sand hills five miles southeast of Round Valley, on Wednesday night, ten days after their escape. They were taken by J. L. C. Sherwin, Hubbard, Armstead, McLeod and two Indians. A few shots were exchanged before the fugitives threw up their hands in token of surrender. An Indian mistook the motion and fired, the shot striking Black in the temple and passing through his head, but strangely not killing him. The two were taken to Birchim’s place in Round Valley. Black was able to talk, and laid the killing of Morrison on Roberts, a nineteen-year old boy. After hearing his story a posse resumed the hunt for Roberts in Pine Creek Canyon.
This posse was eating lunch in the canyon on Friday when they observed a movement in a clump of willows within twenty yards of them. The place was surrounded and Roberts was ordered to come out and surrender. He did so, saying that if they intended to kill him he was ready if he could have a cup of coffee. He had been five and one-half days without food. When he confronted Black at Birchim’s, the conduct of the older villain satisfied all that he and not Roberts had slain Morrison.
The three prisoners were placed in a spring wagon Sunday evening, October 1st, and with a guard of horsemen started from Round Valley for Carson. Near Pinchower’s store, where the northern road through West Bishop intersected the main drive of that vicinity, the escort and wagon were surrounded by a large body of armed citizens. ”Who is the captain of this guard?” was asked. “I am; turn to the left and go on.” But the mob did not turn to the left nor was there any resistance. Morton, who sat with the driver, said: “Give me the reins and I’ll drive after them ; I’m a pretty good driver myself.” Roberts, who had been shot in the shoulder and in the foot in the encounter in Long Valley, was lying in the bottom of the wagon. He offered objections to going with the citizens, but without effect, and with Black driving to his own hanging, the wagon and its escort moved across the unfenced meadow to a vacant cabin about a mile northeasterly. On arrival there. Black and Roberts were carried into the house, both being wounded. Morton got down from the wagon with little assistance and went in with them.
Lights were procured, and all present except the guards over the prisoners formed a jury. The convicts were questioned for two hours before votes were taken, separately on each prisoner. It was decreed that Black and Morton should be hanged at once. The vote on Roberts was equally divided for and against execution, and his life was saved by that fact.
A scaffold was hastily set up at the end of the house, one end of its beam resting on the top of its low chimney, the other supported by a tripod of timbers. Morton hoard the preparations going on, and asked: “Black, are you ready to die?” “No, this is not the crowd that will hang us,” replied Black. “Yes, it is,” said Morton; don’t you hear them building the scaffold”?” Morton was asked if he wished to stand nearer the fire which had been made to modify the chill of- the late autumn night. “No, it isn’t worth while warming now,” he answered; and turning to Roberts he said: “We are to swing, and I mean to have you swing with us if we can ; we want company. ” Black was carried out and lifted into a wagon which had been driven under the scaffold; after being raised to his feet he stood unsupported. Morton walked out and looked over the arrangements calmly, climbed into the wagon, and placed the noose over his own head. He asked that his hands be made fast so that he could not jump up and catch the rope. Black asked for water ; Morton asked him what he wanted with water then. When asked if they had anything to say, Black said no. Morton said that it wasn’t well for a man to be taken off without some religious ceremony, and if there was a minister present he would like to have a prayer. Whether it seems strange or otherwise, there was a minister present by request. He spoke a few words, after which Morton said: “I am prepared to meet my God—but I don’t know that there is any God.” He shook hands with the men on the wagon, and then the minister prayed. Only his voice and a sigh from Black broke the stillness. As “Amen” was pronounced the wagon moved away. Black was a large and heavy man and died without a struggle. Morton, a very small man, sprang into the air as the wagon started, and did not move a muscle after his weight rested on the rope.
Young Roberts was taken to the county jail at Independence, and after partial recovery from his wounds was returned to the Carson prison. Others among the escapes were believed to have come this way, and hard search was made for them through the mountains. That one named Charley Jones had come to Bishop Creek and had probably received some assistance was a general belief, but what became of him was never known unless to a select circle. Four of the escapes were captured on Walker River while they were feasting on baked coyote. Eighteen of the twentynine were captured or killed within two months of the prison break.
From: Shoshone Country; Resting Springs – Loafing Along Death Valley Trails by W. Caruthers
Early in 1843, John C. Fremont led a party of 39 men from Salt Lake City northward to Fort Vancouver and in November of that year, started on the return trip to the East. This trip was interrupted when he found his party threatened by cold and starvation and he faced about; crossed the Sierra Nevada and went to Sutter’s Fort. After resting and outfitting, he set out for the East by the southerly route over the old Spanish trail, which leads through the Shoshone region.
At a spring somewhere north of the Mojave River he made camp. The water nauseated some of his men and he moved to another. Identification of these springs has been a matter of dispute and though historians have honestly tried to identify them, the fact remains that none can say “I was there.”
In the vicinity were several springs any of which may have been the one referred to by Fremont in his account of the journey. Among these were two water holes indicated on early maps as Agua de Tio Mesa, and another as Agua de Tomaso.
Kit Carson was Fremont’s guide. Fremont records that two Mexicans rode into his camp on April 27, 1844, and asked him to recover some horses which they declared had been stolen from them by Indians at the Archilette Spring, 13 miles east of Shoshone.
One of the Mexicans was Andreas Fuentes, the other a boy of 11 years—Pablo Hernandez. While the Indians were making the raid, the boy and Fuentes had managed to get away with 30 of the horses and these they had left for safety at a water hole known to them as Agua de Tomaso. They reported that they had left Pablo’s father and mother and a man named Santiago Giacome and his wife at Archilette Spring.
With Fremont, besides Kit Carson, was another famed scout, Alexander Godey, a St. Louis Frenchman—a gay, good looking dare devil who later married Maria Antonia Coronel, daughter of a rich Spanish don and became prominent in California.
In answer to the Mexicans’ plea for help, Fremont turned to his men and asked if any of them wished to aid the victims of the Piute raid. He told them he would furnish horses for such a purpose if anyone cared to volunteer. Of the incident Kit Carson, who learned to write after he was grown, says in his dictated autobiography: “Godey and myself volunteered with the expectation that some men of our party would join us. They did not. We two and the Mexicans … commenced the pursuit.”
Fuentes’ horse gave out and he returned to Fremont’s camp that night, but Godey, Carson, and the boy went on. They had good moonlight at first but upon entering a deep and narrow canyon, utter blackness came, even shutting out starlight, and Carson says they had to “feel for the trail.”
One may with reason surmise that Godey and Carson proceeded through the gorge that leads to the China Ranch and now known as Rainbow Canyon. When they could go no farther they slept an hour, resumed the hunt and shortly after sunrise, saw the Indians feasting on the carcass of one of the stolen horses. They had slain five others and these were being boiled. Carson’s and Godey’s horses were too tired to go farther and were hitched out of sight among the rocks. The hunters took the trail afoot and made their way into the herd of stolen horses.
Says Carson: “A young one got frightened. That frightened the rest. The Indians noticed the commotion … sprang to their arms. We now considered it time to charge on the Indians. They were about 30 in number. We charged. I fired, killing one. Godey fired, missed but reloaded and fired, killing another. There were only three shots fired and two were killed. The remainder ran. I … ascended a hill to keep guard while Godey scalped the dead Indians. He scalped the one he shot and was proceeding toward the one I shot. He was not yet dead and was behind some rocks. As Godey approached he raised, let fly an arrow. It passed through Godey’s shirt collar. He again fell and Godey finished him.”
Subsequently it was discovered that Godey hadn’t missed, but that both men had fired at the same Indian as proven by two bullets found in one of the dead Indians. Godey called these Indians “Diggars.” The one with the two bullets was the one who sent the arrow through Godey’s collar and when Godey was scalping him, “he sprang to his feet, the blood streaming from his skinned head and uttered a hideous yowl.” Godey promptly put him out of his pain.
They returned to camp. Writes Fremont: “A war whoop was heard such as Indians make when returning from a victorious enterprise and soon Carson and Godey appeared, driving before them a band of horses recognized by Fuentes to be part of those they had lost. Two bloody scalps dangling from the end of Godey’s gun….”
Fremont wrote of it later: “The place, object and numbers considered, this expedition of Carson and Godey may be considered among the boldest and most disinterested which the annals of Western adventure so full of daring deeds can present.” It was indeed a gallant response to the plea of unfortunates whom they’d never seen before and would never see again.
When Fremont and his party reached the camp of the Mexicans they found the horribly butchered bodies of Hernandez, Pablo’s father, and Giacome. The naked bodies of the wives were found somewhat removed and shackled to stakes.
Fremont changed the name of the spring from Archilette to Agua de Hernandez and as such it was known for several years. He took the Mexican boy, Pablo Hernandez, with him to Missouri where he was placed with the family of Fremont’s father-in-law, U. S. Senator Thomas H. Benton. The young Mexican didn’t care for civilization and the American way of life and in the spring of 1847 begged to be returned to Mexico. Senator Benton secured transportation for him on the schooner Flirt, by order of the Navy, and he was landed at Vera Cruz—a record of which is preserved in the archives of the 30th Congress, 1848.
Three years later a rumor was circulated that the famed bandit, Joaquin Murietta was no other than Pablo Hernandez.
Lieutenant, afterwards Colonel, Brewerton was at Resting Springs in 1848 with Kit Carson who then was carrying important messages for the government to New Mexico. He found the ground white with the bleached bones of other victims of the desert Indians. Brewerton calls them Pau Eutaws.
(editor’s note: the dates do not match up placing Pablo as either Joaquin Murrieta or his nephew Propacio so this was just a rumor,)
I went alone into the desert with only a fox terrier and a buckskin pony, for company. There was no one on the edge who knew about the interior and those that talked as though they knew did not care to go with me. I was promised plenty of trouble. Predecessors had been “caught up with” again and again. Their bodies, dried like Egyptian mummies, had been found in the sands long after by Indians. The heat and the drought were unbearable, there were sand storms, sulphurcous whirlwinds, poisonous springs, white gypsum wastes, bewildering mirages, desert wolves, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, hydrophobia skunks. I would never come out alive. But I went in, tempted Providence, off and on, for two and a half years, and still live to tell the tale. After all, the dangers were not great. I had had, as a boy, considerable experience in Indian life and was not afraid of the open. And I had no fear of being alone or getting lost. My sense of direction was as keen as that of a homing pigeon, and when I was equipped with food and had located a water hole it really made no difference to me whether I was lost or found. I always knew my general direction, and with the ever-constant sun and stars I could not lose the points of the compass There are two ways of outfitting for a trip into the unknown. The one usually followed is to pack every article of plunder that might be thought desirable. ‘chat generally results in wearing out the most enduring pack train. I preferred the other way, the Indian way, of carrying very little, going light-shod, and retaining ease of movement. So, for myself, I wore nothing but a cotton shirt and trousers, a flat straw hat, and, on my feet, moccasins. I made my own moccasins, Sioux style, with a pointed toe, of strong mule-deer hide. A pair of blankets, a small hatchet, a short-handled shovel, some rawhide picket ropes, several tin cups, a small frying pan, a rifle for large game, and a .22-caliber single-barrel pistol for birds—
Freeman Station was established by the ex-stage driver Freeman S. Raymond in 1872. On the last day of February, 1874, the Station was attacked by Tiburcio Vasquez. Although the station occupants had surrendered, “Old Tex” (who was sleeping in the barn) awoke and fired at Vasquez, wounding him in the leg.
Vasquez returned fire and delivered a leg wound to Tex (Pracchia, 1994). In 1894, Freeman’s parcel became the first homestead in Indian Wells Valley. ~ R. Reynolds
Skidoo came to life because of a fog. When Harry Ramsey and a man called One-eye Thompson lost their way on a road leading to the new boom camp of Harrisburg, they stopped to rest near a log lying against an outcropping of rock. When the fog lifted, the rock turned out to be gold. This was back in 1905. In deciding upon a name for the town that sprung up, a numerologist associated a popular expression of the day, 23-Skidoo, with the fact that a Rhyolite man named Bob Montgomery had successfully piped water from Telescope Peak 23 miles away and suggested the name Skidoo. So it became.
Old timers say the camp produced over a million dollars worth of gold ore between its discovery and its demise some 20 years later. Skidoo’s chief claim to fame, however, was not its riches. Rather, it was an infamous lynching of a scoundrel named Joe Simpson in 1908.
On a tour to the ghost town of Skidoo in 1962, we were privileged to be accompanied by an 87-year-old gentleman named George Cook. The interesting thing about Mr. Cook was that it was he who pulled on the rope at the lynching. His participation had only recently been divulged to a few intimate friends—after all others involved had passed on to their rewards, or whatever.
“Joe Simpson,” Mr. Cook told us, ‘was a would-be villain who had killed a man at Keeler after shooting-up Jack Gun’s Saloon in Independence the preceding year. He’d somehow gotten off and drifted to Skidoo where he became a partner with Fred Oakes in the Gold Seal Saloon. Across the street was Jim Arnold’s Skidoo Trading Company.
“Arnold was a friendly, well-liked man and had always been on good terms with Simpson, but Simpson became drunk and abusive one April morning and decided to hold up a bank situated in part of Arnold’s Skidoo Trading Company. Apprehended, his gun was taken away and hidden by the deputy sheriff, but a little later Simpson found his weapon and returned to the store to shoot Jim Arnold. He then turned on two other men who had come to the rescue, but his aim was poor and both escaped. Eventually Simpson was overpowered and placed under guard in the deputy sheriff’s cabin. Unfortunately,” Mr. Cook lamented, “the popular Jim Arnold died that night.”
Skidoo went wild with indignation. After Arnold’s funeral, which the entire camp attended, a group went to the improvised jail, led the prisoner out at the end of a rope and hanged him to the nearest telephone pole. When Sheriff Nailor from Independence arrived, after a hazardous trip over rough roads via Tonopah and Rhyolite, he made the now famous statement, “It’s the best thing that ever happened to Inyo County; it saved us $25,000!”
But this wasn’t the end. Several spectators had forgotten their cameras and wanted pictures of the hanging. So, Joe Simpson’s body was obligingly strung up again, this time from the ridgepole of the tent where he was “laid out.” News of this gruesome encore spread and the lynching won everlasting fame. In his private narrative of the event, George Cook added a factor never before related: “Joe was dead before we got the rope around his neck; he died of a heart attack (from fright) and was already gone when dragged to the telephone pole scaffold.”
It was also he, George Cook confessed, who assisted Dr. MacDonald in removing the head from Simpson’s corpse. The doctor, it seems, had once performed an operation on Simpson s nose and wanted to make a further medical study of the case. Going at night, they performed the severence at the lonely prospect hole where Simpson’s body had been tossed. (No one in Skidoo would give him a decent burial, so great was the indignation at his senseless crime). The skull was exhibited for a period in a showcase at Wildrose, but later disappeared.
The remainder of the skeleton resisted oblivion, however. Years later when George Cook returned to Skidoo to work in the mill, an agitated prospector appeared one day to report a headless skeleton of a man who’d evidently been murdered. Because Cook was the only old timer around at the time, he was consulted. Indeed a crime had been committed sometime, he agreed, but of the details he had conveniently forgotten.
Last year George Cook passed away. Small in stature, religious, mild-tempered and giving to writing sentimental verse, he was the antithesis of our Western idea of a vigilante. The role forced upon him by his acute anger over the murder of a friend bothered this good man to the end of his days. His belief that Simpson did not expire at his hand appeared to be a real comfort. And, perhaps he was right. We cannot disagree, for George Cook was there.
Much interesting history is connected with the now defunct Skidoo. Following its early boom, the town was deserted for a period, then, under new management, the mine and mill reopened during the 1930s and a period of production occurred. The old wild days never returned, however, and its fame as a mining camp still rests upon the lynching incident —to which we add, “Joe Simpson did not die because of a rope and a telephone pole. He died of a heart attack!”
by Myrtle Nyles – November 1964 – Desert Magazine
Editor’s Note: This is but one version of this story, and it is worth saying that it has generated many other versions and stories through its telling.
In January 1906 two wandering prospectors, John Ramsey and John (One-Eye) Thompson were headed towards the new gold strike at Harrisburg. Along the way a blinding fog came in and the two camped near Emigrant Spring for fear of getting lost. …More …
“The point of view is born of the desert herself. When you are there, face to face with the earth and the stars and time day after day, you cannot help feeling that your role, however gallant and precious, is a very small one. This conviction, instead of driving you to despair as it usually does when you have it inside the walls of houses, releases you very unexpectedly from all manner of anxieties. You are frightfully glad to have a role at all in so vast and splendid a drama and want to defend it as well as you can, but you do not trouble much over the outcome because the desert mixes up your ideas about what you call living and dying. You see the dreadful, dead country living in beauty, and feel that the silence pressing around it is alive.”
Friends who met him as he finished said he appeared in good physical condition, except for swollen, blistered feet and a mighty thirst.
The 28th-year-old former paratrooper began his walk last Wednesday, announcing he still wanted “to show there is still adventure in the States.”
But he lost his cool during a week of air temperatures that shimmered between 115 and 135° and ground temperatures as high as 190–so hot his shoes burned off.
Uncounted dozens of men have died in the long, salt-bottomed Valley — the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the U.S. – since white men first found it in 1849.
Marquant carried an umbrella and wore a 10 gallon hat. He also wore three T-shirts and three pairs of socks to preserve body moisture as much as possible, and kept his mouth filled with damp gauze to prevent it from becoming parched.
His hiking ensemble also included blue-tinted glasses, gloves, short pants and tennis shoes, which were burned to shreds by the searing sand and rocks. He was forced to protect his feet with socks and gauze.
Marquant was met daily by a support truck that furnished him with water, watermelon, soft drinks and clothing.