Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the
Castaic Range War.

Los Angeles Times.
Sunday, March 2, 1890.
[INDEX][PREVIOUS][NEXT]

THE CASTAC TRAGEDY.
IT IS INVESTIGATED BY THE CORONER.
All Of The Details Of The Shooting Recounted By Joseph Olme, Who Escaped The Bullets Of The Assassins.

Coroner Meredith went up to Castac Canon yesterday and held an inquest upon the bodies of George Walton and D. Cook, who were murdered Friday morning by W.C. Chormicle and W.A. Gardner. The Coroner returned last evening, and his investigation resulted in a substantiation of the story as told by the TIMES yesterday morning. The inquest was held at the house of Justice Jenkins, which is located about a mile from the scene of the tragedy. There was quite an attendance of neighbors, who had gathered in from the surrounding country, and only a few witnesses were examined. As it happened, There can be very little doubt as to the facts of the shooting and the events which led up to it, because they were witnessed by several persons. The examination did not, of course, take in the previous feuds existing between the parties, but was confined to the fight before the killing and the subsequent fusillade from a house upon the men driving by with a load of lumber. The first witness was Joseph Olme, who was fortunate enough, although under fire, to escape with his life and without being hit.

Joseph Olme testified that Dolores Cook, one of the deceased, was his brother-in-law, and was about 35 years of age and was married. About 9 o'clock in the morning Walton went to Cook's house and asked Cook and himself if they would help put up his house. He wanted them to help put up the sides of the house. They went with Walton, and when they got to the gate saw the lumber piled up on one side of the fence. Walton and the witness went back to Justice Jenkin's house to get a big wagon. After securing the wagon they loaded it with lumber and were passing a house where Juan Lavas lives, when Mr. Chormicle came out of the house and said to Walton that he had told him two or three times not to haul the lumber on the land. Walton replied that he would haul it every time Chormicle pulled it out. The latter began to swear at Walton, who jumped off the wagon and hit him on the face with his fist. Chormicle had a pistol in his coat-sleeve when Walton hit him, and dropped it on the ground. Will Gardner then came out of the house with a rifle in his hands and pointed it at Walton.

The witness told Gardner not to fight or shoot. Chormicle picked up his pistol and pointed two or three time at Walton; pointed it in his face. The witness and Walton climbed on the wagon, when Chormicle got hold of the lines. Walton told him to let the horse go. As Chormicle paid no attention to the request, he jumped off the wagon, when Chormicle let go. Walton told the witness to drive on, and he walked. They went on and unloaded the lumber about on hundred and fifty yards from Juan Lavas's house.

"We went and loaded another load of lumber," continued the witness, "and as we were going by the house I noticed that both of the windows were open about two inches and a half. Mr. Walton and I were on top of the load of lumber on the wagon. Mr. Walton was next to the house and Mr. Chormicle and Will Gardner started to shoot at Mr. Walton. They Shot from the inside of the house through the windows. They both shot at once. When they shot, Mr. Walton shrugged his shoulders and groaned and jumped off the wagon on the far side from the house. Mr. Cook was coming in his little buggy about ten yards behind us. When I jumped off the wagon I went to the hind end of it, and when I went there Will Gardner pointed the rifle through the window at me. I ran behind the wagon again, and he shot Mr. Cook. Mr. Cook dropped the lines and the mare started to run, and I ran after her and caught her with my left hand by the bridle, and Mr. Cook fell out of the buggy. When I caught the mare Will Gardner shot at me, and hit the mare at the point of the shoulders. He shot five or six times at me. I kept running with the mare and on one side of her. I went on down to Mr. Jenkin's. (Revolver shown) That is Mr. Walton's revolver. When we unloaded the first load of lumber Mr. Walton gave it to me. I put it in my pants and kept it there, afterward giving it to Mr. Jenkins. About five or ten minutes after the shooting Chormicle and Gardner came out of the house and went up the canon. They both jumped on a buckskin mare. I did not see Juan Lavas about at the time of the shooting."

The remainder of the testimony taken was corroborative of the story told by the first witness. Juan Burola, an old Mexican, testified that he saw the fight between Chormicle and Gardner substantially as related, and also that he saw Chormicle and Gardner shooting at Walton and Cook from the Lavas house.

Thomas Riley of Compton, who was up in the canon that day, testified that he was about three hundred yards away when the shooting took place, and he saw Chormicle and Gardner shooting at Walton and Cook, and that they had not attempted to shoot at them. After the affray he went up to where they were lying and found Cook still living. He begged the witness not to leave him, because he was afraid they would come back and kill him. The witness started to go several times, but was always stopped by the wounded man, who asked him to cover him up, as his feet were freezing. This he did, and finally got a buggy and took him down to Jenkin's house, where he died. He testified that Chormicle had said to him that the lumber must not be taken on the land, and the witness told him he had his redress in the courts. But Chormicle said all he could do was to notify them not to put the lumber on the land.

After hearing the evidence, the jury returned a verdict that the deceased came to their death from the wounds inflicted by a gun in the hands of either W.C. Chormicle or W.A. Gardner, with intent to commit murder.

Both men were still at large yesterday, and had not been traced to their hiding places. There were rumors that they were coming in to deliver themselves to the authorities, but they did not do so up to a late hour last night.

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ]
SCVHistory.com is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV • Additional copyrights apply