Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the
Castaic Range War.

Los Angeles Times.
June 10, 1890.

The Defendant, Chormicle, Tells The Story Of His Feud And Fight With The Jenkins Gang.

Yesterday was a pregnant day UN the Chormicle and Gardner murder trial before Judge Cheney. The defense introduced several important witnesses, among them being W.C. Chormicle, one of the defendants. The impression is steadily gaining ground that the defense is making out a strong case, and that the chances for an acquittal are improving.


The first witness yesterday morning was James P. Wade, who was working for W.W. Jenkins at the time of the shooting. He testified that he went to the scene of the tragedy with Mrs. Jenkins to get Walton's body. He saw Mrs. Jenkins take a pistol out of Walton's pocket as the body lay on the ground. He had a conversation with Walton a day or two before the shooting, in which Walton said he had taken a load of lumber up to section 23 and unloaded it. He said that Mrs. Chormicle and her son came out and one of them tried to reload the lumber on the wagon, and he struck the boy. The witness said that Walton told him that he had called them every name he could think of. Wade said to Walton that it was hardly proper to talk that way in the presence of a lady, but Walton said he was very angry and didn't care what he said. The witness also testified that he saw Cook while he still lay on the ground, and afterward at Jenkin's house, and that he (Cook) was in a dying condition, unable to talk. He asked him how he felt, and Cook could do nothing but mutter. There was no cross-examination of the witness by the prosecution.


George M. Gardner, brother of the defendant Gardner, testified: I was at my father's house in Castac Canon February 28th last. Our section adjoins Mr. Chormicle's. At the time of the shooting I was up the side of the mountain catching a horse. I was on the ridge when I heard the first shot. I went up a little higher and saw Olme running toward the fence. Then I saw Mr. Chormicle come from around the cabin. My brother (the defendant) also came, and both went up the canon. Mr. Chormicle was standing in front of the cabin when I first saw him, and my brother was standing near the door. Several shots were fired.

That morning Walton and Jose Olme brought a load of lumber. I do not know of my own knowledge what was said. My brother went over, at the request of Mr. Chormicle, as a witness. He carried no guns with him, neither was he armed. I was at some distance and did not here what was said. Olme and Walton drove up towards the house with the lumber. Mr. Chormicle came out, and Walton jumped from the wagon and ran toward him. I saw him swinging his arm, but could not tell what they were doing.

When the shooting was done I was standing in a little cove, and ran to the top of the hill as I heard the first shot. I saw Olme when he started to run, and the last I saw of him was when he was 300 yards from the fence and running toward Jenkin's house.

At the afternoon session George Gardner was examined still further, and designated the points on photographs where he stood at the time of the shooting.


William C. Chormicle, the defendant, was the next witness. He made an excellent witness, and told his story in a plain, matter-of-fact way that made a very favorable impression. His testimony was as follows:

"I am 50 years old, and was born in Missouri. I left there when I was sixteen years old. I grew up on a farm there. I came from there to Eldorado county, California, in 1856. I worked in the mines for wages for a year in that and Placer county. Then I went to Nevada county and mined and teamed. In 1859 I went to Sonoma county, on the Russian River. I worked in the redwoods for a while, then I farmed. I remained on one ranch from 1859 to 1872. When I left I had 1013.60 acres of land. I am a married man. I have been married twice, my first wife being dead. I have six children living. I left Sonoma in 1872, and was back once. I went to Siskiyou county and had stock there. I was there about two years, and came to Los Angeles county, to Rock Creek Meadows. I lived there about three years. I owned a ranch there. I was raising stock. Then I went to Ventura county and have resided there ever since. I bought a ranch near Santa Paula, which I now own. I have been acquainted with the Castac since 1876. I bought some land there several years after that. Not the land in controversy. I first bought eighty acres from Martinez. I have known W.W. Jenkins for about five years. I claim Ventura county as my home. My wife and some of my family have been in the Castac for three years. My wife had a contest with Jenkins for section 23 about two years ago. The contest was before Cabot, Southern Pacific agent. My wife, Mr. Boffham and Mr. Rose went in together to get the land. The result of the contest was that the land was awarded to my wife and I paid for it."

The defense offered the contracts from the railroad company to Mrs. Chormicle in evidence, and the offer was objected to by the prosecution. The Court overruled the objection, and four contracts covering section 23 were introduced, together with the receipts showing payment of interest and taxes on the land by Mr. Chormicle.

"The taxes" (continued the witness) "have all been paid on the land. After the contracts had been delivered I built a small cabin on section 23 and fenced the land. I put up some of it myself and hired men to put up the rest. The fence is sufficient to keep in stock and keep it out. I have had stock in there, and never had any trouble about its getting out. The gate stands on section 23. I put it up. I set the fence back on section 23 twelve feet, to give me room to get about without going on Jenkins land. Last winter a year ago I put in a crop of barley, 85 acres. I cleared up about fifteen acres, chopping the brush off and grubbing the land. I sunk a well in the canon and piped the water out. I raised about thirteen hundred centals of barley and two or three tons of hay. The land is very good for small grain. I left the land to volunteer this year. There was plenty of seed. It came up very well. The cabin was very near the center of the plowed land. There is grain all around the cabin. There was grain right where Walton was hauling the lumber to put up a cabin. The lumber was put on the grain. When they hauled the lumber they traveled through the grain. No one but my wife and myself had anything to do with the land up to the time of the trouble. I saw George Walton first about January 12th of this year. I had sent my son and the hired man to drive out Jenkin's cattle from section 23. They had the cattle at the gate when I got there. Walton and Olme were inside the gate. I was about three hundred yards away. I saw my son and the man who was helping him turn and go toward home. I went there also. Then I started for Newhall with harry Gardner. On the road I met George Walton. He told me that was his name. I asked him to let me ride with him, and I got in his wagon. He said he was working for Jenkins. I asked him why he was holding the stock on the grain in section 23. He said he was going to take it up. I told him he couldn't do so, as I had bought it. He said he didn't give a d----d for the railroad. He said he had already filed on the land. I told him that he could not do that, and asked him not to drive the stock on the land any more; that he was a stranger to me and I didn't want to have trouble with any one, and asked him not to drive the stock on any more, but to let Jenkins do it. I went on to Newhall and to Los Angeles, where I went to the United States Land Office, and they told me the land was not subject to preemption. When I returned I met a man named Brockwell at the switch. He was going up the canon and asked me the way. I showed him and he remained all night with me. The next day I asked him to go up with me. My two sons, George and Henry, went with me, and I stopped at Mr. Rose's, asking him to go also. I told him I intended to drive the cattle out and wanted witnesses to it. We drove the stock out, some thirty-odd head. They were almost all cattle. There was no plow there. There was a trace of where one went out in a straight line toward Jenkin's house. I was in the act of coming away when I saw three men come from Jenkin's house. I was inside the gate. They rode up abreast. Jenkins, as he rode up, asked what I was doing driving his cattle about. I told him I had a right to do it, and that I didn't want him to put them in any more. Jenkins asked what right I had to the land. I told him he knew very well the land was mine. Jenkins said the land was his.

"Walton spoke up and said the land was his. I told him that could not be so, because I had just been to the land office; but he insisted that he had filed on it.


"Walton said he would have the land if he had to fight for it. Jenkins said 'yes, you fight Chormicle, and I'll fight you' [to Walton.] I said, 'Yes, it looks like you would fight him. He is living at your house, driving your wagons and working for you.'

"Jenkins then said he would fight me, and said I was a d---d coward and-------. He said he would fight me in any manner. I told him I did not want to fight anybody; that all I wanted was what was mine. Jenkins asked me if I had a pistol, and I told him I had, but I added, 'I can't use it,' holding up my finger, which had a felon on it. There were a great many things said there. The latter part of the conversation was not so abrupt as it was at first. Walton had a pistol. I saw it as he leaned forward from his horse. I do not know whether Olme had a revolver or not. An Indian rode up as we were there. I pointed to him and said to Jenkins, 'There's a man you hired to kill me.' Jenkins said, 'You know ------ you ought to be killed.' The Indian wanted to get through the gate, and as he passed he said, 'I did not want to kill you, Mr. Chormicle.'

"Walton said to Jenkins that if he was not going to do anything more they might as well go. Mr. Rose said to me that they were going to drive the cattle in again. I replied that we might as well go, because I couldn't keep an army there all the time. They drove them in as I went away. I wanted the witnesses there to be witnesses in a suit I proposed to commence against Jenkins for damages to my crop. I did not ask anyone to go there armed.


"I got Juan Leiva on the land to protect the crop. He said he thought Jenkins would try driving the cattle on only for a short time, and then quit. I told him I would give him one-half of the crop to take care of it; that I could not be there, as I had to be on my ranch, near Santa Paula. Then I made a contract with him to the effect of my proposition. Before I made the contract-some days before-my son came after me to the lower ranch. When I got up in the canon I found Olme plowing up a field of mine on section 25--a 120 acre field. W.H. George came out of Jenkin's house and came where we were. They had also torn down some of my fence. I told them they must stop plowing up my field. George said he would hurt me if I got down off my horse. I went away, came to the city, and got a restraining order from the court to stop the plowing.

"A few days after this a constable from Newhall came up and told me h--l's to pay! He told me they had had my wife and boys arrested for putting up the fence Olme and George had pulled down. I was arrested myself and was brought before Jenkins. The case was transferred to Justice Austin's court. I have never heard of the case since. I was charged with a misdemeanor in advising the boys to put up the fence again. They took me to Newhall. Jenkins holds court sometimes in a building where there is a saloon in Newhall, and then upstairs in the schoolhouse in the canon.

"Walton spoke to me at Newhall, and said he was going to have the land if he had to take it with a shotgun.

"I saw Dolores Cook in Newhall before that, about January 25th. He asked me if I was afraid of him. I said no. I was , but I didn't want to let him know I was. I asked him why he was helping them to drive the cattle on my land. He said Jenkins was a friend of his, and I was an enemy; that I had been a witness against him in the United States court once, and Jenkins had saved him from going to prison; that he would do anything for him. he said: 'I'll do you up sooner or later. I've got the tools to do it with.' That was the last time, I think, I spoke with him. He lived about a mile from my place. Cook had been a witness for Jenkins in nearly every case that he had in court. Cook or Walton usually accompanied Jenkins when he went anywhere. I went to the District Attorney's office and had a talk with Mr. Kelly. He said if it was as I said he would have the charges against me dismissed. I went again and saw another man, and asked if there was not some way to get relief from Jenkins. But he gave me no satisfaction. I went up to the canon February 27th to get some barley. When I got to Castac switch I met a man named Tom Marple. He asked me if I had got a letter from my son George. I told him I had not. He said Walton had hauled some lumber on section 23; that my wife and sons had hauled it off, and they had hauled it back, cursing my wife and knocking my son down. When I got home I found my wife badly frightened. She told me about the occurrence, saying that Walton had pulled his pistol on my son after knocking him down. I stayed all night, and got up at the usual time, about 4 o'clock. We had breakfast, and I told my son to haul the lumber off, and I would go along. I took my Marlin rifle with me and went over the hills. When I got to the cabin I asked Juan Leiva where my other rifle was. He said it was in the cabin. It was a Winchester. I think a forty-four. I had told my son to go down and tell Gardner to come up. I went down to the lumber. I loaded up a load of lumber and drove it down near to Mr. Jenkin's fence. We put it over the top of the wire fence. Gardner came, and we put all the lumber over. I told my wife to go up and have the wagon turned about so that they could not open the gate if they came up. It was quite cold and we went to the cabin. Mr. Gardner and Will Gardner brought no guns with them. They started to go home, and my wife went home also. I remained and talked to the boys. I set the Winchester down inside the door. I went up to the spring and looked at the water. Then I went down by the lumber, and said to the boys that I guessed there would be no trouble, and they might as well go. I was looking at the crop, when Will Gardner rode up. He said he was going up to Miss Martinez's; but he came in the house and sat a while. All at once he said, 'There they come, now!' I looked, and saw four men down by the lumber. Two of them went toward Jenkin's house, and two remained working at the fence. I went down to where they were putting the lumber over the fence. Riley and Cook were the men. I forbade them putting the lumber over. Cook had a revolver stuck in his belt. Riley said: ' If you knew what I do you'd get away from here.' As I started away, Riley said: 'You had better not touch this lumber any more.' I had taken no arms with me. Gardner remained in the house. When I had got back to the house I had been there but a few minutes when I saw two men coming with a large wagon. They turned in at the gate and drove down to where the lumber was. They put a small load on, and they started up with it. Cook was with them as they came up, driving some little distance behind. Walton and Olme were on the wagon. As they came up, I went out and said, 'Walton, what do you mean by bothering me this way?' He jumped off the wagon and cursed me and my wife. He made at me and seized me by the beard, striking me three times in the face, cursing all the time. He pulled some of my beard out. I clinched him to get away, and I felt his pistol. Gardner came out and I heard him say, 'Olme, you stop,' and 'Cook, you stop.' They were all armed.


"They got on the wagon to drive, and I went to the horses' heads and took hold of the bit of one of them. Walton said to Olme, 'Here, Jo, you take the lines and I'll make the old ------ get.' I let go and stepped back. He pointed to the road and said, 'Leave here ------- or I'll kill you.' I forbade them each and every one from moving the lumber on the land. The first I saw of Gardner was with his hand up, saying, 'Jo, you stop.' He had no gun in his hands. I had no pistol. The statement of Olme about a pistol dropping out of my pocket is false; it's untrue. They went up to the place and unloaded the lumber, starting back in a trot. I went in the house as they started back and sat down. Gardner and I looked at them, then we went in the house and sat down."

The Court at this point stopped the examination, it being late. Every one in the courtroom had been listening intently to the recital of the tragic events, and the story of the killing will come this morning. The trial will be resumed at 10 o' clock.

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