Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Broome Killing Reopens Questions About Hattie Farmer's Murder.

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Mrs. Farmer's Death.

The Broome murder at Acton has caused a revival of the rumors which grew out of the killing of Mrs. C.W. Farmer in Mint canyon, southeast of Acton, on November 14, 1890. Mrs. Farmer, who was a sister to N.M. Melrose, now in jail for the Broome murder, was killed, according to the testimony by her 7-year-old son, by an Indian, who shot her with a Winchester rifle.

The history of the Farmer murder mystery, as gathered by Coroner Weldon and Deputy Sheriff John C. Wray, who were the first officers on the ground, in brief, is as follows:

The only witness to the shooting was the 7-year-old son, a manly little chap, who told the story without a sign of tremor or hesitation. The boy stated that an Indian called his mother to the door of the cabin at 9:30 o'clock on the morning of November 14, and she gave him a drink of water out of a tin dipper or cup. The Indian, who was on horseback, then shot his mother as she turned to go into the house, and she fell across the door step. The boy said that he was across the canyon from the house watching and that as soon as the man had shot his mother, he rode off down the canyon. The boy claimed that he was afraid to come out of the brush for quite a while, but that finally he went behind the house, which had only one door, and climbed in through a broken board. He said that he wanted to find out if the baby was killed. He then walked down the canyon and met a man named G.W. Clark, who went with him to the house, and from there to Acton. R.E. Nickel, at that time postmaster at Acton, immediately notified United States Marshal George E. Card [sic] and Sheriff M.A. Aguirre at Los Angeles. This notice was not acted upon until 12:45 p.m. Saturday, when the following named posse, under Gard and Aguirre, started for the scene of the murder: Deputy United States Marshal Jenkins and Deputy Sheriffs Hammel, Brady, Abila and Constable Mayes of Lancaster.

The citizens of Acton, under the leadership of R.E. Nickel, now a wharfinger at San Francisco, and N.M. Melrose, the brother of the murdered woman had meanwhile scoured the whole country between Newhall and the desert, but found no trace of the Indian or Indians.

Sunday morning a man named John Clark claimed that at 2 to 3 o'clock the day of the murder, at a point about four miles east of the Farmer house, he had been shot at twice by a man or men said to be Indians concealed in the brush in Mint canyon, one shot missing him and the other grazing his wrist, on which he displayed a very slight scar.

This man's story was investigated by Deputy Sheriff Wray and subsequently Sheriff Aguirre and no belief was placed in it, as at the spot indicated there remained no signs that a man or men had been in ambush.

None of the regular posses found evidence beyond the boy's statement connecting Indians with the crime, and the only evidence of value was that given at the inquest by the boy, the only witness to the murder. He claimed that it was an Indian because he was a dark man, and that he was dressed in white men's clothes.

United States Marshal Gard and Sheriff Aguirre worked for weeks on the case and only gave up the hunt after every clue had been run down and hundreds of miles of territory had been gone over in the hope of finding a warm trail.

During the weeks following the murder Melrose worked as hard, if not harder, than any member of the posse in an endeavor to secure the murderer, and at the time he had the sympathy of the whole community in his quest. Mrs. Farmer was popular, and her husband, who, as a carpenter, was working in San Diego county, had no known enemies. In time the murder was in a measure forgotten or only alluded to as the Indian murder in Mint canyon.

Just when the rumors which now connect Melrose with the crime started cannot be stated positively, but such rumors have been circulated, and the killing of Broome has caused a revival of them. At the time of the Farmer murder no such rumor was ever hinted at, and as the Farmer family was extremely poor no known motive for the crime was ever suggested. The murder, if he was an Indian, as testified to by the child witness, made no attempt to enter the house before or after the killing. The autopsy developed the fact that death resulted from a rifle ball, which passed through the victim's arm and into her breast, fired from a gun in the hands of a man evidently mounted on horseback.

Courtesy of Dr. Alan Pollack.


William & Harriet Farmer Family Pre-1890


Wanted Poster for Hattie Farmer's Killer 1890


Farmer Murder Questioned 1903


Pollack: Harriet Farmer Murder


The Hunt for Harriet Farmer's Killer


Reynolds: Fights & Feuds


Pollack: Revisiting the 1903 Acton Feud


Graves of Hattie Farmer, Nancy Melrose

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