|Sheep wagon. Library of Congress.|
The cattlemen did not recognize either of the herders, leading them to suspect that they were “tramps” out of Utah. So-called “tramp” stockmen – who could be running sheep or cattle – grazed their herds on range normally used by settled stockmen, but hurried the animals away before a tax assessor showed up.
Bower stated that they were invited into the sheep wagon, where he queried the sheepmen about their status in the area. One herder asserted positively that they did pay taxes in the county. The cattleman, who felt sure the animals were not on the county rolls, said, “I think you are mistaken about that.”
The sheepman angrily leaped at Bower and grabbed his coat collar near the throat. The older man tried to pull a revolver to protect himself. His opponent wrestled it away from him, although Bower still had his arm. Meanwhile, the sheepman’s rush had dumped Gray out of the wagon. Gray yelled at the attacker to stop. When he persisted and the other man lifted a rifle, Gray fired two shots … frightening the sheepmen and ending the attack on Bower.
Bower claimed that when they left the camp the two strangers seemed all right, except for a superficial scrape on the man who seized Bower’s gun. Both sheepmen had, of course, been fatally wounded.
|Diamondfield Jack Davis.|
Denver Public Library, Western Collection.
That verdict was under appeal – but several appeals had already failed and Jack was scheduled to hang on June 4. Incredibly, the confession, supported under oath by Gray, only bought time, it did not win Jack’s freedom. After more legal fireworks, the Idaho Board of Pardons set a new hanging date of December 16, 1898.
In fact, Jack Davis twice came within hours of being hanged for a crime he had nothing to do with. In July 1901, the Board revisited the physical evidence. Then, totally ignoring the Bower-Gray confessions, they decided Davis could not have done the shooting … so they rescinded the death decree and imposed a sentence of life imprisonment!
Davis was not pardoned and released until late in 1902 [blog, Dec 17].
|References: David H. Grover, Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice, University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada (1968).|
|Mike Hanley, with Ellis Lucia, Owyhee Trails: The West's Forgotten Corner, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1973).|
|Byron DeLos Lusk, Golden Cattle Kingdoms of Idaho, Master's thesis, Utah State University, Logan (1978).|
|William Pat Rowe, “Diamond-Field Jack” Davis On Trial, thesis: Master of Arts in Education, Idaho State University (1966).|