Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the
Castaic Range War.

Los Angeles Times.
June 14, 1890.

Chormicle Handy With A Gun.

There was a general winding up of evidence on the part of the defense yesterday in the Chormicle and Gardner murder case, and it is evident that the end is not far off.

The principal testimony during the day was that of W.A. Gardner, one of the defendants, who gave his recollection of the incidents of the shooting of George Walton and Dolores Cook,. The prosecution, in rebuttal, had several witnesses as to the character of the deceased, which had been attacked by the defense, and it cannot be said that they made a brilliant success in proving a good reputation for him.

The first witness in the morning was John Kelton, a young man who was working for Mr. Chormicle in January last in the Castac Canon. He was arrested, with the two Chormicle boys, for putting up the fence which Olme and W. H. George had pulled down. When brought before Justice W.W. Jenkins, stated the witness, Mrs. Chormicle was not allowed by the Justice to say that she ordered the work done; but they were hurried away to the County Jail, and were released as soon as the matter could be brought before the Superior Court.


William A. Gardner, one of the defendants, took the stand and testified as follows:

"I am 30 years of age, and have lived all my life either in Ventura or Los Angeles counties. For the past eight years I have lived in Los Angeles county. I have been in engaged in the keeping of bees and farming. I worked at one time for Schroder & Johnston in this city.

"I am acquainted with the Castac country and with the Chormicle family. I knew George Walton in his lifetime. Section 23 is enclosed by a barbed wire fence; stock enclosed cannot get out except by way of a canon running up some five miles in the mountains.

"On the morning of the shooting I went with my father, at Mr. Chormicle's request, to witness the removal of the lumber that Walton had hauled on section 23; when we got there, we met Mr. Chormicle by the fence. I was cold and proposed to go to the house. There was a fire in the house and I warmed my feet. We then went home to breakfast, my father and I.

"While we were at Mr. Chormicle's the lumber was removed and the wagon left in front of the gate to prevent Jenkins and Walton from again bringing it in. The lumber was old and appeared to have been part of an old building, the end pieces being still nailed together.

"After going home I got my mare to ride up to Miss Martinez's house. She had some letters in regard to a mineral contest, and wished me to interpret them.

"As I reached the Chormicle place I saw him coming home with two rifles. He asked me to go to his house. While there I saw Jenkins and his gang coming up and told Mr. Chormicle. Jenkins rode back, leaving two men to load up the lumber at the fence.

"The two-horse team was loaded up with lumber, and drove up past the house. Mr. Chormicle went out, and I could not here what was said. I sat by the stove. I saw Olme run around the wagon toward Chormicle.

As I saw the quarrel I ran out and saw Cook come up on the other side of the wagon. I told him to keep away; that it was not his fight.

"By that time Mr. Chormicle had freed himself from Walton, and took the horse by the rein. Walton had got on the wagon by that time. He said: 'You take the lines (to Olme) and I'll make the old ----- let loose.' drawing his pistol as he spoke.

"Mr. Chormicle fell back a step, and Walton said: 'Now, you leave here or I'll kill you!'

"He got on the wagon again and drove up toward the pile of lumber. After unloading the lumber, they came back and loaded the wagon a second time. As they started back with it, Mr. Chormicle picked up his rifle and stepped out of the door. I followed him out. He told Olme to stop hauling the lumber. Both Walton and Olme reached for their pistols, and then Mr. Chormicle raised his rifle and began to fire. At the second shot Walton fell, and Olme started to run.

"Cook was standing in his buggy, with the lines in his left hand and his pistol in his right hand, whipping up the horses with the reins. He was coming in a trot toward the cabin. When he was near us, Mr. Chormicle turned his rifle on him and fired at him. The horse veered around and Mr. Chormicle fired again, when Cook pitched out of the buggy.

"No shots were fired at Olme, after he ran away. He went toward the fence. Cook had a scabbard by his side, and the handle of his revolver I noticed that morning. As he rode up in the buggy I saw his pistol was a large , bright one.

"After the shooting, Mr. Chormicle took both guns and started off. I went where my mare was hitched to a wagon-wheel, and followed him. He was some distance away when I overtook him. I asked him if I should not take one of the rifles, and he gave me the Winchester.

"During the shooting an old Indian, Burola, sat at one end of the cabin, back about half way, out of sight from where we stood. The corner of the cabin was between.

"I saw no one on the ridge during the shooting. Afterward we went on toward home to get some cartridges for the Marlin. I left the Winchester and took my own gun with a handful of cartridges for the Marlin.

"During the shooting I had a small pistol in my pocket. I did no shooting. I noticed the Winchester standing to the left of the door as I passed out.

"I don't know how fast Mr. Chormicle shot, but it was pretty lively that morning. I can empty a Winchester in about a minute. Some of the rifles take twelve and some sixteen cartridges in the magazine.

"I do not think Thomas Riley could have gone over the mountain in the route described by him and got back to the place he said he stood in time to see the shooting."


The cross-examination of the witness elicited a new circumstance in the case. He said:

"I did not go to Castac switch after the shooting; neither did Mr. Chormicle. We did not go, because we were cut off. I saw four men, and recognized a dog that was with them as belonging at Jenkin's house. The dog was nearer than the men, and I recognized it. They were between us and the switch. We were going across the hill. We did not go down, because I suppose Mr. Chormicle was afraid of Jenkin's gang.

We watched the four men about half an hour. They were all on horseback. We might possibly have got around them. Some of them had guns laying across their saddles."

Aside from this there was nothing especially new in the examination, and the witness was soon dismissed by the prosecution.


At the afternoon session Thomas Winters of the Newhall ranch testified that Cook's reputation was good.

H. Griffith, a young man living at Elizabeth Lake Canon, testified that he knew Dolores Cook, and that his reputation for peace and quiet was good. The witness had resided in that country for about one year.

J.P. Woodward of Elizabeth Lake Canon, who has lived there about a year and a half, testified that he knew Cook for four years before his death, and his reputation was good.

Frank True, a clerk, residing at Newhall for about a year, testified that he knew Cook, and his reputation was good.

W.J. Biscailuz of San Fernando met Dolores Cook seven or eight times. He was not acquainted with the people very well in the neighborhood where he resided. He was not allowed to testify as to Cook's reputation.

Pedro Lopez of San Fernando testified that he knew Cook. He did not know the people in the Castac country very well. Cook's reputation in San Fernando was good.

Geronimo Lopez of San Fernando testified that Cook's reputation was good.

Thomas J. Bedford of Los Angeles testified that he was not very well acquainted with Cook. He was not allowed to testify as to his reputation.

Juan Sanchez of Los Angeles was acquainted with Cook, and considered his reputation very good.

Mr. Freeman of Castac testified that he knew Cook, and his reputation was good.


Lorenzo Navajo testified that Mrs. Martinez told him she knew nothing about the shooting. On cross-examination he said he had been Jenkin's cook for about three years, and had lived at his house the greater part of that time. He came as a witness at the request of Mr. Appel of the prosecution. He said if Miss Martinez had been at the fence where he saw her she could have seen the shooting.

Mr. Wade, recalled, testified that he lived at Jenkin's house at the time Walton hauled the lumber on section 23. The lumber was brought up one night and hauled to the section the next day.

Jose Olme was recalled, and said that he remembered Walton brought the lumber from Los Angeles about ten or fifteen days before the shooting, and that he never went to the city again before the shooting.

Mrs. A. Verdugo testified that she saw Joaquin and Francisco Martinez and Mrs. Chormicle at Verdugo canon two weeks ago, but the prosecution was not allowed to go into the question of whether or not old Burola had been taken there by them.

Myrtle Neal, a young girl, testified that she was at school on the day of the shooting. She looked out of the window and saw a man running up the side of the hill. He crawled under a fence.

Melvin Neal, a boy 12 years of age, testified that he was at school also, the day of the shooting, and saw a man he thought was George Gardner running along the ridge, away from the fence up the hill.

After some further unimportant testimony the case was concluded for the day, and will be resumed this morning.

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