Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the
Castaic Range War.

Los Angeles Times.
May 30, 1890.

Jose Olme, Who Was Present At The Shooting, Tells A Straight Story.

The trial of W.C. Chormicle and W.A. Gardner, charged with the murder of Dolores Cook in the Castac Canon, February 28th last, was resumed before Judge Cheney yesterday morning at 10 o'clock. The morning and a part of the afternoon were occupied in the completion of the jury. During the morning nine jurors were obtained, and the others by 2:30 o'clock, the jury as completed being as follows: J.W. White, Abel Sutton, G. Griswold, William Smith, Millard Fillmore, J.A. Cline, J.A. Burns, B.B. Nesbit, T.A. McCracken, G.H. Buckingham, J.W. Robinson and J. Baldwin.

Quite a little controversy arose about the exclusion of witnesses in the case. There being over one hundred witnesses, it was thought by the defense that as many of them are character witnesses those might be allowed to remain. Judge Cheney listened patiently to the remarks, but announced his ruling to be to exclude all witnesses until Saturday morning, except the one on the stand. Mr. Murphy tried to get some witnesses from Sonoma county admitted so that they could here the trial. In accordance with the ruling all the witnesses on both sides were excluded from the courtroom, and when the confusion had subsided contingent upon the departure of such a large number of people, F.A. Themson was sworn as interpreter, and Jose Olme, a young Mexican, was called as the first witness in the case. He testified substantially as at the Coroner's inquest, as follows:

"I reside in Castac Canon, and have for seven or eight years. I was acquainted with Dolores Cook and knew him since I was a small boy. I saw him first in Los Angeles. He is dead now. He died February 28th last at Mr. Jenkin's house in Castac. Castac is to the north of Los Angeles, from ten to twelve miles north of Newhall. I know the defendants and have known Mr. Chormicle about five years. He lived at Santa Paula when I first knew him. That is in Ventura county. I used to see Mr. Gardner go to the Yslai Canon1 but did not know him very well. He lived at the time of Dolores Cook's death I don't know where, unless where his father lived. That is about three-quarters of a mile from Mr. Jenkin's house. I cannot tell whether Mr. Chormicle was living at his residence or not, but know he was on section 23, February 28th. I suppose his wife lived in Castac. I saw the defendants February 28th. I saw them first at the house of Juan Leiva2. It was a small house, slanting in the roof, made of boards. I saw Cook about that time. I was with him, near the house. There was no difficulty between them at that time.

Q.: I want you to tell what happened?


A: Cook and myself were in a buggy going to Walton's house to help him put up the sides of a house when we passed the gate, and had gone twenty-five yards or so when we saw lumber piled up, lying on the other side of the fence. We looked at the lumber, and Mr. Walton and I went for a large wagon, and Mr. Riley remained at the lumber pile. We returned with the wagon and loaded the lumber. We went by Juan Leiva's house. Opposite the house Mr. Chormicle came out. He spoke to Walton, and they had some words. Mr. Chormicle told Walton two or three times not to bring the lumber there. They had some hard words. Mr. Chormicle told Walton he lied. Walton jumped off the wagon and hit Mr. Chormicle with his fist. Just then a pistol dropped from Mr. Chormicle's sleeve. I was standing to one side. Mr. Gardner came out with a cocked rifle. He aimed it at Mr. Walton. I told Mr. Walton not to shoot and not to quarrel. I lifted Mr. Chormicle's hat and gave it to him. He picked up his pistol and aimed it at Walton's face two or three times. We got on the wagon to go away, and Chormicle took hold of one of the horses. Mr. Walton told him to let go, and jumped from the wagon, when Chormicle let go. Mr. Walton told me to go ahead with the horses. He kept on afoot for quite a distance, then got on the wagon, and we went up to the place where we unloaded the lumber. This was the first load.

We were unloading when we saw Mr. Chormicle and Gardner. Mr. Chormicle was on a buckskin mare and Mr. Gardner on foot. They came a little distance toward the gate, and stood there quite a while. They were talking and looking toward us. They had arms-guns of some kind.


They went inside the house — Juan Leiva's house. When we came back for the second load we passed by the house, but did not see anyone. But they were in there. The doors and windows were closed.

We went to the lumber and put on the second load. Just as we approached the house coming back with the second load I noticed the windows were opened about two or three inches. Walton and myself were on the wagon, and Cook in his buggy behind.

As we reached opposite the house two shot were fired almost at the same time.

When we heard the firing we jumped from the wagon. I heard a sort of groan from Mr. Walton. He jumped forward and I jumped behind.

I set out to run to where Mr. Cook was in the buggy, and just as I got a step and a half from the wagon I saw Mr. Gardner pointed his gun at me and I ran back to the wagon. Then he fired at Mr. Cook. The moment Mr. Cook was shot he let go the reins; the mare undertook to run and I ran toward her.

I took hold of the mare with my left hand, and Mr. Gardner fired another shot at me. It hit the mare on the shoulder-blade. Mr. Gardner shot Mr. Cook. I saw him. The wagon was loaded with small stuff at the bottom and the bigger on top, and I could see between it.


At the moment the shots were fired I did not see them, but as I jumped I turned around and saw them at the windows inside — Mr. Chormicle and Mr. Gardner.

Mr. Chormicle was at the window at the north part of the house and Mr. Gardner at the window at the south. The door was shut at that moment. There were two windows and one door, on the side toward the road along which we were passing.

Mr. Walton and I were standing up on the lumber. He was on the side toward the house. I was on the opposite side. Mr. Cook was between nine, ten or eleven yards behind the wagon. I can't say exactly.

A diagram of the scene of the tragedy was displayed, and the witness was about to locate the different points on it when the defense objected, the points being set forth on the diagram. After some argument, the Court sustained the objection, and all the words written on the map were rubbed out by Mr. McComas. Even then the map was ruled out, and the direct examination proceeded without a diagram.

Q.: What occurred after the shooting of Dolores Cook by Gardner?

A.: I took hold of the mare, and turned her around. I went along side of the fence to about half the distance from the gate to where we were loading the lumber. There I left the mare and went to Mr. Jenkinsí house.

The defendants were firing shots as I went-firing at me, because they went near me. One ball went near my head on the right-hand side. The last shot was where I left the mare.

The defendants went into a canon which was back of the house and followed it up. The buckskin mare was tied to the wagon. Mr. Gardner went and got it. They both got on it, and went up the canon in a gallop. They did not go very far. The last time I saw them they were going behind a hill, yet mounted. I did not see them any more in that country.

Q.: What was the distance between the wagon and the house, at the time of the shooting?

A.: I think between twenty-five and thirty yards, more or less. The wagon was in front, about opposite the northern window. I saw the ends of the rifles sticking out a little piece. The windows are sliding windows; the slide on one side.


There was an old man named Juan Burola, Juanita Martinez and Thomas Riley present at the time. The old man was sitting down at the corner of the house, and the boy, Martinez, was standing by his side. The distance from where the old man was sitting to the window where Gardner was, was about three feet diagonally down, but about two and a half feet or three feet along the wall. The window is about four or four and a half feet from the ground. The gate is about two hundred feet from the house. There is no other road but the one where the gate was. The pile of lumber from which we hauled was about three hundred yards from the house. When we passed the house we went to the left of the road to reach the place where we unloaded it.

Q.: Were Walton and Cook saying anything immediately preceding the shooting?

A.: No, sir; they were not saying anything. They were just driving along the road; nothing else. I did not here the defendants say anything. Mr. Walton was driving the lumber wagon. When he jumped from the wagon he jumped with the reins in his hands. He said nothing. He was walking the last time I saw him. He died. I saw him after he died.

Cook was shot in the arm and the left side, and the bullet came out the back of the neck. The wagon and buggy had got opposite the house when the firing began, the horses walking. Walton was shot in the left side, which bullet came out of the back; also another wound higher up on the same side, the ball remaining in the body.

Before the cross-examination of the witness began an adjournment was taken until Saturday morning at 10 o'clock, when the trial will be resumed. The jury was allowed to separate. Various estimates are given as to the length of time the trial will occupy, but there is no probability that it will be less than one week, while some think it will take two or three weeks.

1. Yslai Canon = Hasley Canyon.
2. Leiva rode with outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez.
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