Thursday, November 17, 2016

Horses Thieves Trailed, Captured, and Jailed – Escaped, Caught Again [otd 11/17]

On Saturday, November 17, 1883, three different newspapers across Idaho published stories about a trio of captured horse thieves. That timing arose from the more-leisurely newspaper publication schedules back then. The Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) and the Blackfoot Register were both weeklies, issued only on Saturdays. The Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise) had issues on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Watching the horses. Library of Congress.

The raiders began their depredations the previous month when they stole a considerable band of horses near Fort McDermitt, Nevada. That’s along the Nevada-Oregon border about seventy miles north of Winnemucca. They reportedly left Nevada with about 75 animals. Many of them belonged to a stockman named Jeremiah “Jerry” Hearn. He was originally from Massachusetts and brought his bride, Margaret, to the area in 1881.

Edward F. Mullaney, whose brother had lost horses to the thieves, trailed the bandits as they made their way across the southeast corner of Oregon into Idaho. (We know only a few of the pursuers’ names, probably because the composition of the posse changed along the way.)

In Idaho, the thieves added about 40 horses belonging to stockman Con Shea [blog, Sept 24] to their herd. They then pushed through the mountains to the east, emerging, it is supposed, somewhere south of today’s Murphy. Based on the eventual size of the stolen herd, it’s likely they gathered more horses on the high plains there. The raiders finally crossed the Snake River near the mouth of the Bruneau River.

The crooks next dodged there way east. They would have needed to avoid the new Oregon Short Line tracks, since by this time the railroad was running regular mixed trains over the line. They finally pushed their herd into the Lost River area, some sixty to seventy miles west of Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls). Apparently not concerned about any possible pursuit, the thieves now “laid over four or five days” (Blackfoot Register). While there, they stole 45-50 horses belonging to rancher Edward Hawley.
Robbers’ approximate path (Green line). Overlay on historical map.
Rested up, and still unaware of any posse, the thieves moseyed through East Idaho before turning north into Montana. Along the way, they “picked up” another 15-20 horses. The pursuit closed in near the town of Bannack, about eighteen miles west of Dillon.

Events then turn a bit murky. The three apparently sent someone into Bannack for supplies, but were tipped off that a posse was after them. The crooks quickly abandoned their loot and “lit out.” They were soon caught, however, and jailed in Dillon.

Amusingly, the three “simultaneous” news articles had different snapshots of these events. The Statesman and the Register noted that the crooks were in jail pending extradition paperwork from Idaho and Nevada. The Avalanche, on the other hand, knew that the prisoners had already broken out of jail.

The three were recaptured in December and returned to Nevada for trial. The Reno Evening Gazette reported (March 21, 1884) their convictions, under the names of Lee, Stimson, and Dan Bowden. The latter was a gunman well known in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. Lee, apparently, had been “recently released” from the Idaho Penitentiary. The court sentenced Stimson to four months in the county jail, while the other two received long prison terms.
References: [B&W]
Blackfoot Register; Idaho Statesman, Boise; Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (November 17, 1883).
“Horse Thieves … ,” Owyhee Avalanche (November 10, and December 22, 1883).
“Horse Thieves,” Idaho Statesman (November 24, 1883).
“Cattle Stealing Gangs,” Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada (March 21, 1884).

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