Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and theCastaic Range War.
Los Angeles Times.
June 5, 1890.

George W. Brockwell Tells About A War Of Words Between The Defendant, Chormicle, And Jenkins.

The defense began the introduction of testimony yesterday in Judge Cheney's court in the Chormicle and Gardner murder trial, and, from the line pursued, they evidently intend to thoroughly sift the causes of the troubles in Castac Canon which resulted in the killing of Dolores Cook and George Walton, February 28th last.

When court convened at 10 o'clock for the sixth day of the trial the defense was allowed to put on Judge B.T. Williams of Ventura county, a character witness, out of the regular order, as he was obliged to return home. He testified that he had known the defendants intimately for fourteen years; had visited their families, and their reputation for peace and quiet in the communities where they lived has been good.

Sheriff Riley of Ventura county was recalled by the defense, and testified that the morning the defendants delivered themselves into his custody he noticed that Mr. Chormicle's face was much swollen, and some of his beard had been pulled out. The defendant told him how it occurred. The witness had often seen him, and was familiar with his appearance. He did not think the beard could have been pulled out in the manner it was by falling through the brush or falling upon a stone.

The prosecution resumed its case and speedily concluded it. John Goldsworthy was called, and testified that, by direction of the Board of Supervisors, and at the request of the District Attorney, he visited the scene of the shooting and made a complete survey of the distances. He produced a chart, pointing out the various points upon it.

Upon cross-examination he stated that he stopped at the house of W.W. Jenkins while in the canon, and Jose Olme and George pointed out the different points to him.

This closed the testimony for the prosecution, Mr. McComas stating that they still had not been able to find their remaining witness, the old Mexican, Burola, who sat at the corner of the cabin during the shooting.

The defense first put on character witnesses. They were allowed only a few of the cloud of such witnesses in attendance, and made out a very fine reputation for both defendants, by some of the most reputable citizens in Ventura, Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. They were nearly all old residents of the State, who had known the defendants and their families for years.

W. Torrence of Sonoma county was the first witness. He is a farmer, and known Mr. Chormicle since 1860. While in Sonoma county the defendant was engaged in cattle-raising. His reputation was very good, and the witness had never heard of his having any trouble with any person in his life.

Henry C. Wall, a farmer of Sonoma county, became acquainted with Mr. Chormicle in 1859. His reputation was of the very best.

A. Snodgrass, ex-Sheriff of Ventura county, stated that he had known Mr. Chormicle for eighteen years, and his reputation was of the best. He had known Gardner since a boy, and his reputation was good.

W.E.B. Income of Ventura county had known the defendants for years, and their reputations were good.

At the afternoon session A.H. Turner of Santa Paula was the first witness called. He has resided in the State since 1862(?). He said he had known the defendants for seventeen years, and their reputation for peace and quiet was good.

S.A. Guierbuson, living east of Santa Paula, and a rancher, who has resided in Ventura county since 1869, testified to the good reputation of the defendants for peace and quiet. He also testified that Mr. Chormicle has been quite extensively engaged in farming, cultivating as much as two thousand acres of land, and rearing hogs, cattle, and horses quite largely.

A. Hopper of Puente, formerly of Ventura county, an old resident, testified that the defendant Gardner has a good reputation for peace and quiet. As a boy, if any one would put a chip on his shoulder he would not let him knock it off, but he never knew of his being in any trouble.

John Mahan, one of the wealthiest residents of Ventura county, and a '49er' also a resident of Sonoma county for fourteen years, was well acquainted with the defendants, and testified that their reputations for peace and quiet is and has been good.

The court announced that the limit had been reached on character witnesses. Mr. Murphy asked to be allowed to put on additional witnesses, as he had seventy or eighty witnesses of that nature. He had called character witnesses who had testified to the reputation of the defendants in Sonoma and Ventura counties, and he wished to follow it up with some from Castac. The Court allowed the request.

More character testimony, Mr. Rowell, formerly manager of the Natick House, testified that Gardener worked for him as a hotel runner, and known him for five years. His reputation was good.

William B. Rose of Castac, in California since 1852, testified that he had resided there for three years, and to the best of his knowledge the reputation of the defendants has been good.

Thomas Marco, living in the Castac district, and who came to California in 1870, also gave the defendants a good reputations.

Mr. Appel asked the witness if he is interested in seeing the defendants acquitted.

"I am, sir," he replied emphatically.

"are you putting up money for the defense in this case?"

"I am, sir. I am giving $100 for Mr. Chormicle, because I wanted to see justice done where it should be done."

Mr. Appel dropped the witness after these snappy replies without further questions.

Three more character witnesses for Mr. Gardener were introduced, giving him a good reputation.

George W. Brockwell, sworn: I live four miles south of Gorman Station in the northern part of the county. I am farming at present; but have been a minister of the gospel for fifteen years. I know the land where the shooting occurred. I was at Mr. Chormicle's house one night in January, and drove across the land which was in dispute, the next day, the 15th.

Mr. Murphy, turning around and calling to some witnesses in a peremptory manner, the Court requested him to call his witnesses through the Sheriff, as he did not wish the court run like a justice's court.

The witness continued: "I know W.W. Jenkins, George Walton and Jose Olme. I saw all three at the land in dispute the day I was up there. Mr. Chormicle Mr. Gardener, father of the defendant, Mr. Rosegate, which was on section 23. The gate was on the trail. Mr. Chormicle asked me to stay. I went about 7 o'clock, with him, to hired men and my son.

After vigorous objections by Mr. Apple the witness continued:

"Mr., Jenkins came with two men, Olme and Walton, Jenkins said 'Mr. Chormicle, I don't want you to be driving my stock about.' Mr. Chormicle said that was his wife's land and he had a right to drive the stock out of his barley.

'Mr. Jenkins said you land was in Ventura county, you have no right to it.

'Mr. Chormicle said he would protect his wife's interests.

"Mr. Jenkins began to call him names, and said 'You---, what are you hiding behind your wife's petticoats for?" The conversation lasted about four hours. Mr. Chormicle said he had paid his money and had his deeds for it. Mr. Jenkins said he had a deed for it. Mr. Walton said he had a homestead on it. There was a long talk back and forth. Mr. Jenkins asked Mr. Chormicle if he had a revolver. He said he had but couldn't use it on account of his finger. I saw Olme and Walton with revolvers, Jenkins had his hand in his pocket most of the time. I wrote down a great deal at the time of what was said."

Q.: Did you hear any threats, and if so what were they?

A.: Mr. Walton threatened Mr. Chormicle, similar to Mr. Jenkins that he would fight him in any way; that he was bound to have that land.

The witness was handed the notes he made at the time, and after refreshing his memory from them, went over the conversation with great particularity. It was to the effect that Mr. Chormicle said he owned the land, and Jenkins said he owned it, and was going to sink an oil well on it. They talked for some time about the railroad land question, when Mr. Chormicle charged Mr. Jenkins with being implicated in a murder, Mr. Jenkins denied it.

Then they talked about the school ma'am. Mr. Chormicle accused Mr. Jenkins of being opposed to the school and all progress in the canon. Then they talked about various other things.

Walton declared he was going to have the land if he had to fight Chormicle, and Jenkins said he would have it if he fought Chormicle. They were cursing and swearing at him. Mr. Chormicle did not use any such expressions. Olme was on horseback near by.

In regard to the cattle, the witness said he "minded" the gate while Mr. Chormicle and his son went over the hill and drove some of Jerkinessí cattle out. When Jenkins came up he told Chormicle not to drive out the cattle, and Walton did also.

An Indian came up, and Mr. Chormicle accused Jenkins of having hired the Indian to kill him. As the Indian went away he said, ěMr. Chormicle, I didn't want to kill you/" Mr. Chormicle said, "It looked like it when you drove me under the fence." Mr. Jenkins said, "Well, you know you deserved killing." The Indian was there about quarter of an hour.

The witness testified that Jenkins and Walton and Olme were angry during all the time, and Mr. Chormicle was cool and determined. Mr. Chormicle said he would let the railroad fight Mr. Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins said that was what he wanted; that the railroad had something and Chormicle nothing. Mr. Jenkins said that they were going to stay there until he drove the stock on the land again. Then Mr. Chormicle said they might all as well go, and invited the witness to take dinner with him. But he said he must go on with his journey, and did so, Chormicle going away. Then Jenkins and his men, with Walton and Olme, drove the cattle back again on the land, opening the gate to do so.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in the cross-examination of the witness, who stuck stubbornly to what he had said, and could not be swerved from the main details of the story he had told.

The trail will be resumed this morning. The defense evidently made a favorable impression with their first witness, and are leading up to an attempt to show a carefully-laid conspiracy against the defendants.

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