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Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the
Castaic Range War.

Los Angeles Times.
June 11, 1890.

How Cook And Walton Died.
Chormicle Exonerates Gardner And Tells How He Himself Did The Fatal Shooting.

    The most dramatic proceeding of the Chormicle and Gardner murder trial occurred yesterday, the eleventh day of this now celebrated case. The courtroom was crowded with spectators all day to here the story of the killing of George Walton and Dolores Cook by the defendant, William C. Chormicle. Court adjourned the day before just as the defendant reached the tragedy, and he began at that point when court convened in the morning. He absolutely exonerated the defendant, Will A. Gardner, from any participation in the shooting, taking the brunt of the matter upon himself. He was a very good witness, and in the cross-examination was as cool and straightforward as in his direct examination. The testimony was as follows, being started at the time When Walton, Olme and Cook were driving back after the second and fatal load of lumber:


They drove down to the lumber while I was sitting in the house, a little farther north than where they first went. When they loaded lumber on the big wagon they started up again. Cook remained a short time at the lumber-pile. When Olme and Walton were about half-way up to the house Cook followed them. I took my Marlin rifle and put a pistol in my pocket.

I went out the house and I said to Walton, 'Stop. You must not take that lumber on.'

They threw their hands to their pistols. As they did so I raised my rifle and fired at Walton. He started to jump from the wagon and I fired a second and third shots. As I fired I was four or five steps in front of the house. I changed rifles, having only three cartridges in the Marlin rifle. I picked up the Winchester and fired one more shot at Walton.

I turned to see where Cook was, and saw him coming toward me. He had his pistol in his hand. I threw another cartridge in the Winchester an fired twice at Cook. He fell out of the buggy. Olme had a pistol in his right hand as he jumped from the wagon and ran away.

Gardner went right out behind me. he had nothing in his hand.

As I went out of the house I had my rifle in my right hand. I threw up my left hand and said: 'Stop putting this lumber on here.' They made no reply, but threw their hands for their pistols.

When I went out, the teams were not facing directly toward the cabin. They were going west.

Cook was about seventy or eighty yards behind. When I turned on him he was between twenty-five and thirty yards from me. He was heading directly toward me. The pistol Cook had in his hand was a very bright one and a large one.

After Cook was shot and fell out, the horse ran away. As near as I can tell, his pistol dropped in the buggy. I shot twice at Cook and four times at Walton.

When I shot at Walton the last two times he was on the other side of the wagon and I shot under the wagon.

I did no shooting from the inside of the cabin. No one did.

I did not shoot any more after firing the second shot at Cook. Mr. Gardner did not shoot. No one did any shooting but myself.

There were no shots fired from the other side.

When the shooting was over I picked up my rifles and started off up the canon. Gardner went to his buckskin mare, and caught up with me. He said: 'Let me have one of the rifles.' I told him I wanted him to go to the switch with me. I asked him if he had any more cartridges for the Marlin. He said he had at home. He went on home, taking my Winchester with him. He then caught up with me again, with the cartridges. he had left my Winchester at home, and I have never seen since until in the courtroom. The Winchester shown in court is not the one I used that day.

I know Mr. Riley, but I did not see him anywhere during the shooting.

I took my rifle with me from the house for two reasons, to prevent them from taking the lumber on my land, and for self protection.

I felt I needed it from what Walton had said a few minutes before, and what Cook had said at Newhall.

They knew I had a pistol at the gate during that difficulty, and they did not rush on me. I thought by taking my rifle with me they would not rush on me as they had a while before."

Q.: Do you know who introduced you to the District Attorney when you called on him in this city before the shooting?

A.: I think you did. I wanted to get relief from Jenkins and his band. I explained my circumstances to the District Attorney as well as I could. Mr. Marple went with me once. I went twice, I know, and I think three times. There is no other Justice of the Peace than Jenkins in that part of the county.

    A Winchester was shown to the witness, and he identified it as his own. Continuing:

"I can shoot from twelve to sixteen shots a minute. I understand the use of firearms pretty well. Old Juan and a little boy were at the cabin. The old man was sitting on a coop at the south end of the house. It was a turkey coop. As I was going away he was still sitting there. From where he was sitting, neither he nor the boy could see Gardner or myself."

Q.: How long had feeling existed against you by Dolores Cook?

A.: Something over three years for several reasons. One was that I had been a witness against him, and that he and Jenkins could not do with the lands as they had done before I came into the Castac Valley.


    This concluded the direct examination of the defendant, counsel not having asked him about his movements after the shooting. The cross-examination was conducted by Mr. McComas, and was as substantially as follows:

Q.: Who built that south line of fence on section 23?

A.: I cannot tell exactly. I think it was put up in the winter, after harvest. The fence is about half a mile long. It runs up on top of the ridge. Standing on the ridge at the top of the fence I can see the house. I am satisfied that I can.     I fired three shot out of the Winchester, one at Walton and two at Cook. I fired three shot from the Marlin. I can shoot about as fast with the Marlin as with the Winchester.     I took the Marlin to the cabin early in the morning. I took it then to protect myself and family. I did not have sufficient ammunition. I had three cartridges, all in the magazine. I knew I had three cartridges when I left home. I carried the Marlin with me all the time. The Winchester was at Juan Leiva's- the cabin. My wife told me he had borrowed it. I asked her where my Winchester was, and she told me. I don't know when the Winchester was taken there. I found it there. I don't remember how many cartridges there were in the Winchester.

Q.: When you went out of the cabin when they came up with the last load, did you take both guns?

A.: I did not. I went out with the Marlin in my hand. When I exhausted the Marlin, I picked up the Winchester. I had put the Winchester outside the door sometime before. I put it down when I got tired of carrying both guns. I know that Gardner did not have a rifle. After the first difficulty, I stood at the north end of the house and I watched them unload the lumber. Then I went in the house and sat down on the bed. It was in the south end of the house. My back was toward the wall, and Gardner was sitting near the stove. The door was wide open. I could see them going down to get the second load of lumber. I looked at them through the doors and not the windows. As they came up with the second load of lumber, the door was open.

Q.: Didn't they reach the road before they got in front of the house?

A.: No, sir, who says that says what is false. They were coming so as to go by the north side of the house. They were in the barley. Walton was about reaching the road to cross it. I don't know whether the windows were closed or not. I paid no attention to them: I was watching the men. I don't think you could see very plainly through those window-panes. In cabins of that sort they don't keep the windows very clean. I think Walton was about thirty yards from me, as I stepped out with the Marlin rifle. I said: "Stop hauling that lumber." He didn't say a word, but went for his pistol. Olme had a pistol in his hand as he got down from the wagon. I know why he did not shoot-because he was too big a coward.


    There was quite a sensational little scene at the commencement of the afternoon session. Counsel for the defense stated that they wished to bring to the attention of the Court facts which they could prove; that Justice W.W. Jenkins had been approaching their witnesses, asking them what they were going to say about him, and threatening to have them arrested on other charges if they said anything against him.     Mr. Murphy said he hoped counsel on the other side would keep Jenkins muzzled during the trial. They did not wish to go into an investigation of his conduct, but would do so if necessary.     Horace Appel, Esq., who is assisting the District Attorney, scouted the idea that Mr. Jenkins had been doing anything improper.     The Court stopped the further discussion of the matter, saying that it was improper to do so in the presence of the jury, but that if anything of the kind intimated was going on he would see that it was stopped.


    The cross-examination of the defendant was then resumed. He was questioned by Mr. McComas about his visits to the District Attorney's office. He repeated, as he stated on his direct examination, that Mr. Kelly said if it was as he represented he would have the misdemeanor case pending against him, before Justice Austin, dismissed. The second visit he made to the District Attorney's office was with a view to seeing if he could not get Jenkins out of his office as Justice of the Peace.

"I do not know who it was that I saw. I think it was a sandy-complexioned man. He was reading a paper and did not pay much attention to me." continued the witness. "I remember thinking at the time that he regarded me as a criminal. I told him my story, but he seemed to pay more attention to the paper than me.

Q.: Why did the defendant, Gardner, go away from the house with you after the shooting?

    An objection to this question was sustained, on the ground that the direct examination had not gone into the subject.

Q.: How far did he go with you?

A.: He went a short distance and then went in the direction of his father's house. I went within about one hundred yards of the house. I asked him if he had some Marlin cartridges, and he went on. He brought the cartridges and met me a short distance from the house. No one was present when he gave me the cartridges.

Q.: Did you go to the switch?

A.: No, sir.

Q.: Where was the Winchester when he brought you the cartridges?

A.: I suppose at Mr. Gardner's house where I told him to leave it.

Q.: Did he bring a different gun?

A.: Yes, sir. I had not told him to bring another gun.

Q.: What did he do with the gun?

A.: He carried it with him.

Q.: Did you stay right by Gardner's house?

A.: No, sir. We went right ahead.

Q.: Where was Gardner during the time you were killing Walton and Cook?

A.: He went out when I did, and when I got through shooting he was standing by me.

By the Court: What length of time passed from the time you began to shoot until you took the Winchester?

A.: I cannot say. I shot as fast as I possibly could. I let the Marlin fall and grabbed the Winchester. When Cook fell I saw Gardner standing by me. I was not looking for him before that. I don't think Gardner said anything, and I don't think I spoke a word. I picked up the Marlin. I started off and he came afterward. What Riley said at the fence was: "If you knew what I do, you'd get away from here." He was in my field at the time. Riley had a pistol at the time. I saw the handle of it, it was at the flat part of his right hip. he had his coat off. Cook had a pistol also. He had it buckled on him, and it was in a scabbard. I kept my eyes on them. They acted very suspiciously, I thought.


On redirect examination the witness testified: I understood Riley to mean that if I did not leave there they would kill me. I am a fair marksman. When I want to do good shooting I don't want a rest. I have handled guns for thirty years, and have shot a great deal in the stock business.     The Marlin rifle belongs to Frank, my boy. I got it at the house that morning. The Winchester was in good working order that morning.

    On recross-examination the defendant stated that he could hit a coyote at nine hundred yards. He also stated that when he came from Santa Paula the day before he had no arms with him. This closed his examination.


Miguel Duran testified: I reside at Newhall. I know Mr. Chormicle and Mr. Gardner, also Dolores Cook. I have known Cook since 1876. I was there in January and February. I did not know Walton. I had a conversation with Cook shortly before he was killed about Mr. Chormicle. It was on the porch at my house. It was about the 14th or 15th of February. Charles Moore and another man, Dolores Lopez were there. I recollect that Cook came to the porch. I asked him how the lawsuits at San Fernando had gone. They were suits between Mr. Chormicle and others. He said he had got away with them. He said he had arms. I told him that was a bad business. I told him I had never seen him with so many arms on him. He said he knew his business. He looked up and said: "Look there, there goes the -------- that I am armed for." It was Mr. Chormicle. I told him that was a bad business and he had better not get mixed up with such things. I gave him some advice. I told him he had better get away from that place. He replied that in the tomb where they buried Mr. Jenkins they would have to bury him.


    J.R. Moore, who resides at Newhall, testified corroborating the statement by Mr. Duran in regard to the conversation about Chormicle, in which Cook said he was carrying a pistol for Chormicle. The witness was reluctant to use the language which Cook used, on account of ladies being in the courtroom, but gradually got it out. He also said that Cook said, when told by Duran that he ought not to try to do Chormicle any harm, that he would "try him anyway." He testified that Cook's reputation for peace and quiet was bad.     William Bailey, residing at the Alamo ranch, eight miles south of Gorman Station, a stock-raiser, and who has lived in the county twenty years, testified that he is not acquainted with Mr. Chormicle. He knew Dolores Cook. His reputation for peace and quiet was very bad.


    M. Kauffman of Santa Paula, a constable, testified that he is well acquainted with Mr. Chormicle. When Mr. Chormicle got in the cars at Piru after his arrest he looked odd to the witness, and he asked him what was the matter. He found his beard was torn out almost the size of a half dollar. The face was puffed up. He told me it was pulled out in the fracas. But I don't think he told me who pulled it out.


    Thomas Marple was recalled, and testified to the work done on section 23 by the Chormicles, and the improvements put on it by them. He also testified that no one has done anything with the land but the Chormicles except Walton, who tried to take it from them. He testified that he went with Mr. Chormicle to the District Attorney's office to see if he could get redress on account of Jenkins turning his cattle on section 23. They saw Mr. Hardesty, who said he had tried to make several trespass suits stick, and they could not make it. The witness said Mr. Hardesty threw cold water on the efforts of the defendants to obtain any relief. He testified to hearing Walton tell Chormicle he would have the land if he had to take it with a shotgun. The cross-examination of the witness was not finished when court adjourned until 10 o'clock this morning.

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