Man-Hunters of the Old West

Man-Hunters of the Old West

by Robert K. DeArment


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806155852
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date: 04/06/2017
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 326,194
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Robert K. DeArment is a University of Toledo, Ohio, graduate whose field of interest is nineteenth-century American history with special emphasis on outlaws and law enforcement in the frontier West. He is the author of Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

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Man-Hunters of the Old West

By Robert K. DeArment


Copyright © 2017 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Publishing Division of the University
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8061-5585-2




This country has produced few men who have made such a remarkable record in the persistent and successful pursuit of that class of robber who prey specially on the express and transportation companies.

San Francisco Chronicle

If later western man-hunters needed an archetype to emulate, they could have chosen none better than James B. Hume, an early-day Californian who for forty-two exciting years was a successful chaser of outlaws.

The eighth of the ten children raised by Robert and Catherine Hume, James was born on January 23, 1827, in Delaware County, New York. When he was ten, the family moved to a farm in Lagrange County, Indiana. Until he was fourteen, he attended one-room schools and then added to his formal education with two twelve-week quarters at the Lagrange Collegiate Institute. But most of his time as he grew up was devoted to working on the farm of his strict, devoutly religious father. It is clear from what James later wrote that he resented this upbringing: "I never had a holiday. It was work, work, work, plowing and grubbing from six o'clock A.M. until dark. When the ground was too wet to plow, we had to build fences or haul wood, or hull corn, or clean the barn — never an idle moment."

Then in 1849 came the news of the great gold discovery in California, and twenty-two-year-old James, burning with gold fever, saw a way to extricate himself from a lifetime of drudgery on a farm, experience some excitement, and perhaps make a fortune in the process. His brother John, three years his elder, shared his ambition, and in March 1850 the Hume brothers, joined by four other adventurers, set out for the goldfields of the Far West. The trek took them all spring and most of the summer, but by August they were in the mining district of El Dorado County, California. Neither brother knew the first thing about prospecting or mining, but both were quick learners and soaked up the tricks of the trade by asking questions and watching others. Like countless fortune seekers arriving in California before and after them, the Hume brothers found some gold, but did not strike it rich. For the next ten years they prospected and mined intermittently, but quickly learned there were ways to make money in that country other than with a pick and shovel. They opened a store, and John, who had a law degree, hung out his shingle in Placerville.

In 1854 James returned to Indiana by way of ships on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the jungles of the Panama Isthmus. After a short visit home he came back to California via the same route. He always remembered the trip as an exciting experience: "My departure from San Francisco and first voyage on the perilous ocean; crossing the Isthmus, that terror for California voyagers; being on foreign soil for the first time; my first view of New York; Crystal Palace, Barnum's Museum, etc.; traveling by railroad for the first time; our meeting the morning I reached home, and my very pleasant visit while there, my departure from home again; my return voyage and finally, my safe arrival in Placerville and the mines."

On March 4, 1860, Jim Hume was appointed deputy tax collector at Placerville. He put aside his miner's pick and shovel forever and began his distinguished career in public service. In 1862, while maintaining his tax collection duties, he accepted another appointment, this time as city marshal and chief of police of Placerville. It was at this time that he adopted the middle name Bunyan, after a Scots ancestor on his mother's side of the family, as a device for keeping him from being confused with his well-known brother, the attorney.

At an election held on April 21, 1863, Jim Hume was reelected city marshal handily. His native aptitude as a peace officer became apparent to Sheriff William H. Rogers, who on March 4, 1864, appointed him undersheriff for El Dorado County. Two months later Hume had his first opportunity to pursue outlaws.

In April four tough hombres — Scotch Tom, James Wilson, W. Clifton, and John Campbell — escaped from the Yuba County jail at Marysville and by mid-May were believed to be in El Dorado County. On Friday, May 13, Undersheriff Hume, with Constable John D. Van Eaton and Deputy Sheriff Joseph Staples, set out after them. The fugitives had split up, but Hume's little posse caught up with and captured Scotch Tom without difficulty. The trail of the others led out of El Dorado into Amador County, but Hume, ignoring county lines and jurisdictional niceties as was the custom of county lawmen in early California, continued on and overtook McCullum and his followers near Fiddletown on Monday, May 15. In the ensuing gunfight some forty rounds were fired. One of them hit Van Eaton in the side, and another struck Staples's horse in the leg, disabling the animal. Hume believed one of his shots hit McCullum, but as darkness fell, the fugitives escaped. With one of his posse badly wounded and the other afoot, Hume had to call off the chase. Although the Mountain Democrat applauded the lawmen for their work, saying, "For the faithful and fearless discharge of their duty, all three officers deserve the thanks of the community," Hume was thoroughly dissatisfied with his first man-hunting expedition, believing he had somehow let dangerous bad men get away.

It was not long, however, before an even bigger opportunity arose. On June 30, 1864, an audacious robbery was committed on the Placerville-to-Nevada road when seven men claiming to be a company of Confederate soldiers held up two stagecoaches, stealing gold bullion and specie valued in the thousands of dollars.

Although they received the news greatly delayed, Californians at this time followed with great interest the bloody war being waged between the Union and Confederate armies far to the east. Being so distant from that action, however, they felt they could play no part in the conflict except by participating in the frequent drunken brawls between Northern and Southern men in the saloons. The Bullion Bend Robbery, as it came to be known, made the Californians aware that within their state was an organized company of Confederates determined to aid the Southern cause by any means.

For three years California gold had played a significant part in the financial support of the Union war effort. Now, with the Confederacy in desperate fiscal straits, Rufus Henry Ingram — a veteran of William C. Quantrill's guerrilla company in Missouri, who now claimed official captaincy in the Confederate army — and his appointed lieutenant, Thomas Bell Poole — former undersheriff of Monterey County — led a band of Southern sympathizers who set out to rectify that situation by stealing gold destined for the North and diverting it to the Southern cause. This guerrilla gang, variously known as Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers and the San Jose Copperheads, began their campaign with that stage robbery of June 30, 1864.

The two coaches, conveying fourteen passengers and 250 pounds of bullion valued at $26,000, were stopped at gunpoint by six highwaymen later identified as Rufus Ingram, Tom Poole, John Clendenning, John C. Bouldware, Alban Glasby, and George H. Baker. Ingram identified himself as an officer in the Confederate army and said he and his cohorts had no interest in robbing the passengers. They were, he said, taking the gold to finance the recruitment of soldiers in California for the Confederate States Army. After the bullion sacks were thrown down, he handed Charlie Watson, driver of the first coach, a handwritten receipt for the gold and signed it, "R. Henry Ingram, Captain, Commanding Co., C. S. A."

To his great disappointment, Jim Hume was in Sacramento on county business when the holdup occurred, and he missed out on the first responsive action to the crime by El Dorado County officers. On receiving news of the robbery, Sheriff Rogers dispatched Deputy Staples, newly deputized Van Eaton, and Constable George Ranney southward, in the direction the gang was last seen headed, while he and eight citizens started for the scene of the holdup, hoping to take the trail from there.

When the three county officers cut the trail of the robbers, Van Eaton, still suffering from the effects of the gunshot wound received in May, turned back to report to Sheriff Rogers. Staples and Ranney continued on. The tracks led them to Somerset House, a two-story frame hostelry five miles beyond Pleasant Valley, owned and managed by Mrs. Maria Reynolds, where Ingram and his five cohorts had holed up. The two officers confronted the band, and a violent shootout erupted in which Joe Staples was killed, Ranney was seriously wounded, and Ingram's top subordinate, Thomas Poole, was shot in the face. Ingram escaped with henchmen Baker, Glasby, and Bouldware, leaving their comrade Poole, as the San Francisco Alta Californian put it, "to test the quality of hemp." Hume had arrived back in Placerville from Sacramento by the time Van Eaton arrived with his news. He and Sheriff Rogers rushed to the scene, taking with them Dr. H. W. A. Worthen. At the bullet-riddled and bloodspattered inn they found Maria Reynolds attending, as best she could, to the bullet wounds of Ranney — the lawman — and Poole — the outlaw. Sadly, Joe Staples was long past help. Dr. Worthen gave his attention to Ranney first, probably saving his life, before patching up Tom Poole's face.

Sheriff Rogers and Undersheriff Hume led a posse south through rugged mountain country on the trail of Ingram and his followers, but after seven days of exhausting pursuit had to abandon the chase. They left the trail to others who were drawn by a reward that Wells Fargo offered of $500 for each robber convicted or killed while resisting arrest, plus 20 percent of any treasure recovered. Although unsuccessful in their quest, Rogers, Hume, and their posse were commended in the press for their efforts. Their pursuit was as untiring, said the California Police Gazette, "as [any that] has ever been made in this state. Over the mountains and through the gulches, these officers pursued their way, night and day, across the roughest portions of the State of California, including Amador, Calaveras, and San Joaquin counties, often without food or rest, until the robbers, being forced to travel on foot ..., could not be followed. The chase reflects the greatest credit on Sheriff Rogers and all concerned."

Back in Placerville, Tom Poole, interrogated at length by Jim Hume and Van Eaton, finally broke down and confessed to participating in the stagecoach robbery. He told them where the stolen gold had been buried and named the members of Ingram's guerrilla band, providing full histories and descriptions. In addition to the six who had held up the stagecoaches and shot it out with the lawmen at Somerset House, he identified John Ingram (brother of Rufus), Wallace Clendenning (brother of John), James Wilson, Henry Jarboe, Joseph Gamble, Washington Jordan, John Gately, George Cross, Jim Grant, John A. Robinson, Preston Hodges, and Thomas J. Watkins as members of Ingram's Partisan Rangers. Hume dispensed this information to all law enforcement agencies in the region, but incensed by the murder of Staples, his close friend and fellow officer, he became personally committed to chasing down all known members of the guerrilla band.

Alerted by information that Poole's confession provided, that some of the gang might be planning a robbery in his bailiwick, Santa Clara County sheriff John H. Adams and a posse cornered the suspects at the house of rancher Edward Hill in July. Ordered by Adams to come out of the house, Rufus Ingram, John Clendenning, Baker, Bouldware, and Glasby emerged, six-shooters blazing. In the gunfight Deputy Sheriff J. M. Brownlee dropped with two bullets in his leg. A slug struck Sheriff Adams's midsection, smashed a watch in his vest pocket, and glanced off to cut flesh and bruise a rib. Although staggered by the impact, he maintained his feet and unloaded his shotgun at Clendenning, killing him. Meanwhile, Deputy Sheriff G. W. Reynolds and posse member A. Bowman exchanged fire with Bouldware, who went down and died within an hour. Glasby, his clothing ripped by bullets but unhurt, dropped his weapon and surrendered. Baker and Ingram, the slippery leader, managed to escape.

A thoroughly frightened Glasby was taken to Placerville, where he talked freely, confirming Poole's confession and enumeration of gang members. His testimony before a grand jury resulted in indictments against all those named as accessories to the murder of Joseph Staples. Based on information he had drawn from Poole and Glasby as well as tips and rumors gleaned from other sources, Hume headed for San Jose, where he believed the rest of the gang was located. He and Van Eaton, armed with arrest warrants, arrived there on July 29 and, enlisting the aid of Sheriff Adams, his deputies, and four infantry companies, raided a meeting of the Partisan Rangers. They took into custody John Ingram, Henry Jarboe, Wallace Clendenning, Joseph Gamble, John Gately, George Cross, John Robinson, Preston Hodges, and Thomas and James Frear. Although Glasby had warned Hume that the Ingram guerrillas had all sworn a solemn oath to fight to the death and never surrender, the ten were arrested without incident.

Following the great roundup, all known members of the Partisan Rangers had been either killed or captured with the exception of George Baker, Jim Grant, Wash Jordan, and of course the organizer and leader, Rufus Henry Ingram. Grant and Jordan remained in the road-agent business, but found it quite unrewarding. From July 6 to August 5 they stopped three coaches, found no gold shipments, and garnered a grand total of less than $200 from passenger loot. Undersheriff R. B. Hall of Santa Clara County got on Grant's trail and on August 9 brought him down with a charge of buckshot. Grant survived and joined his former pals in the Placerville lockup. A month later Hall nabbed Jordan in a billiard saloon at Half Moon Bay.

With the information obtained from Poole and Glasby, officers were able to locate the burial sites of the gold bars stolen by the gang. Court action against the guerrillas began on August 24 at Placerville with the trial of Tom Poole, accused of the murder of Deputy Sheriff Staples. The trial lasted three days, but it took a jury took only fifteen minutes to bring in a guilty verdict. The judge sentenced Poole to death by hanging, but his lawyers appealed the case all the way to the supreme court. Despite petitions and letters recommending clemency, signed by many including Sheriff Rogers, Undersheriff Hume, Deputy Van Eaton, and seven members of the jury that had convicted him, the appeal was rejected, and on September 29, 1865, Poole was hanged at Placerville. At subsequent trials Hodges and Grant were convicted. Hodges got twenty years and Grant two. All the others were released for lack of evidence or on legal technicalities.

Following the execution of Tom Poole, the California Police Gazette praised the lawmen who had brought an end to the depredations of Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers, singling out in particular the El Dorado County officers: "Thus ends a tragedy which at one time threatened to drench the State in blood, for it is positively ascertained that had not the party been so vigorously followed and broken up, others in large number were prepared to take the field and make a second Missouri of California. To Sheriff Rogers and Deputies Hume and Van Eaton belongs the credit of its abrupt and final failure. Better officers were never entrusted with the execution of the laws."

Laudatory comments like that did little to temper Hume's outrage at the workings of the judicial system, nor did they improve his chances when he entered the political arena. In 1865 his friend and mentor William Rogers stepped down from the sheriff's office. Hume accepted the nomination for sheriff by the new People's Union Party and suffered what, for him, must have been a humiliating defeat when he received only 371 votes, badly trailing the winner, Democrat Maurice G. Griffith, with 2,114 votes, and the runner-up, a man named Barber, with 1,821.

Sheriff Griffith retained Hume as a deputy, however, and later promoted him to undersheriff. In this capacity he carried out a number of mundane duties until late July of 1867, when a telegram from stage driver Charley Watson informed him that a trio of bandits had committed a series of holdups on the road to Carson City, Nevada, and was in flight to the neighboring state. Sheriff Griffith was out of town, so Hume took charge. At the head of a small posse of three men, he rode hard to the area, hoping to head off the outlaws. He met Watson on the Nevada road near Lake Tahoe. Watson assured him that they were indeed ahead of the three highwaymen, who had tarried in order to hold up yet another coach. At the narrow Echo Creek bridge crossing, Hume set up a trap and waited.


Excerpted from Man-Hunters of the Old West by Robert K. DeArment. Copyright © 2017 University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Publishing Division of the University. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Preface ix

1 James Bunyan "Jim" Hume 3

2 David J. "Dave" Cook 42

3 Millard F. "M. F." Leech 89

4 John Riley "Jack" Duncan 109

5 Walter Scott "Quick Shot" Davis 151

6 William Henry Harrison "Lew" Llewellyn 169

7 Perry Mallon 198

8 Charles A. "Charlie" Siringo 215

Afterword 251

Notes 255

Bibliography 297

Index 307

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