And a couple of others.
SISKIYOU IN EARLY DAYS--HOW JUSTICE WAS DISPENSED.--Sometime during the year of '51, or '52, a young man appeared before the Yreka Alcalde and complained that an old chap hailing from Oregon owed him a considerable sum of money but would not pay him. It seems that the young man had been hired by the Oregonian to drive an ox team to the mines, and had agreed to give him a hundred dollars a month, and during the time the complainant had loaned his employer about fifteen hundred in money. After hearing the plaintiff's statement, the Alcalde without requiring any bond of the plaintiff for security of costs, or damages to the defendant, issued a writ of attachment against any property that might be discovered, and summoned the old chap to appear before him forthwith. The officer usually in attendance on the primitive court started out and in a short time returned, having the defendant with him, but had not been able to find any property. The court informed the defendant of the nature of the complaint, and immediately commenced asking him questions. The honest Oregonian made a clean breast of the whole affair, acknowledged that he was justly indebted to the plaintiff for $2,500 borrowed money, and for several months' service at $100 per month, but said that he had no money or property except a yoke of oxen and a cart, which the plaintiff could have at any time. The Alcalde soon figured up the interest on the whole amount at ten percent per month, the ruling rate at that time, and entered up judgment accordingly. The case seemed a desperate one for obtaining any money. Nothing was "in sight" but the yoke of cattle and the cart. But desperate cases sometimes require desperate remedies. Through want of a more convenient place the Alcalde usually held his court in a public saloon, adjoining which was a small private room. To this the court and the executive officer adjourned to consult. After a few minutes' absence they returned, when the Alcalde said to the officer: "Take the defendant into that room and stand him on his head and see what he's got." The Constable seized his man by the collar and dragged him into the room. Presently he returned bringing a well-loaded buckskin waistcoat and called for a "blower" [probably a "putty blower"--a pea shooter]. Having procured one he commenced cutting the pockets and emptying out their contents. After finishing the job he "weighed" and found that he had developed just twenty-three hundred dollars, just enough to satisfy the plaintiff's demand and pay the Alcalde's fee, two ounces, and the Constable's fee, which was an ounce. The Oregonian departed from the presence of a primitive California court a poorer if not an honester man.
The Semi-Weekly Union, Yreka, California, August 31, 1864, page 2
In early days, the miners of Jacksonville, Oregon, elected an Alcalde. A party to a contested claim case, thinking himself wronged, posted this notice: "Whereas, the Alcalde has given an unjust and corrupt decision against me, on Sunday next I shall take an appeal to the Supreme court." Sunday saw a hundred miners, attracted by curiosity, to learn what the Supreme Court was. They themselves were that august tribunal! The aggrieved party organized them [several words obscured by a fold] tried the case and rendered a verdict reversing the Alcalde's decision. All acquiesced, recognizing them as the supreme Court of original and final jurisdiction.
Albert D. Richardson, "From the Missouri to the Pacific," Sacramento Daily Union, September 14, 1865, page 3
An Episode in the Early History of Jackson County.Democratic Times, Jacksonville, April 8, 1871, page 1
It may not be generally known that Oregon while a Territory rejoiced at one time in the possession of two chief justices and two high courts of appeal, each independent of the other. Nevertheless, this anomalous state of affairs once existed.
Prior to January, 1852, there was no county organization south of the Calapooia Mountain and, of course, no courts and no law, except the code established by the miners, who constituted the bulk of the population. The judicial officer who administered the miners' law was called an alcalde, and the mandates of his courts were respected and obeyed as if he had been clothed with power by a patent from the President. There was one occasion, however, upon which the decision of the Alcalde was reversed in a somewhat novel way, attended with no little peril to the neck and with serious effect upon the pockets of the officers.
One Rogers was an alcalde on Jackson Creek in those days, and upon one occasion a case was brought before him involving the right to a mining claim and the settlement of a partnership. One, whom we shall call Smith, was a partner of--say Jones--and taking a portion of the partnership funds, had gone north to purchase a stock of goods. In his absence his partner became a cripple by accident, and was supported by his fellow miners with that generosity so characteristic of the class. On the return of Smith, finding his partner a burden, he unceremoniously drove him out of the claim and returned the whole of the partnership property. Jones appealed for justice to the Alcalde. The present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon [P. P. Prim] was then a miner on Jackson Creek, and to escape the annoyances of legal consultation and a practice where there was no courts, had kept his profession a profound secret, as he thought. By some means, Jones discovered that he was a lawyer, and visited the Judge in a coyote hole, where the latter was industriously engaged in wielding pick and shovel. After long entreaties he finally captured the Judge, and carried him off in triumph to try his case before the Alcalde. In the meantime, Smith had procured the services of Hon. Orange Jacobs, the present Chief Justice of Washington Territory, who at that time was also a knight of the pan and shovel. The cause came on for trial, and to the surprise of everyone judgment was rendered for Deft. From this decision Judge Prim determined to appeal, but in order to do this it was necessary to have a court of appeal, and there was no such court in existence. Nothing daunted, however, Judge Prim determined to create one by the same power which created the Alcalde's court--i.e., the miners. Accordingly, notices were posted on both forks of Jackson Creek, calling a meeting to take this case under advisement.
On the day appointed nearly every miner on the creek appeared, and there were scores then where there is one now. The object of the meeting was duly stated, and it was determined then and there to organize an appellate court, which should proceed to rehear and determine the case. U. S. Hayden, Esq., the present veteran Recorder of Jacksonville, was elected Chief Justice of the new Court of Appeals by acclamation, and took his seat with a gravity suited to the momentous occasion. Judge Jacobs immediately prepared and presented a lengthy and ably written protest against the jurisdiction of the court which the Chief Justice, after gravely listening to the argument, of course refused to entertain. But just here a new difficulty presented itself. Rogers, the Alcalde, declined to recognize the appellate powers of the new court, and refused to deliver the original papers in the case. After learned argument pro and con, the new Chief Justice severed the Gordian knot by ordering the trial to proceed without the papers, upon such statements of the case as should be presented by counsel on either side, in the manner in which oral pleadings were made up in the primitive English courts. A jury was empaneled and after a solemn trial the decision of the Alcalde was reversed. But it seems the evidence developed such manifest injustice and fraud on the part of the Alcalde and Smith that the miners, whose sense of right was terribly outraged, became intensely incensed against Rogers, and the ominous murmur "hang him" was fast rising into a roar of maddening excitement which boded ill for the Alcalde, when Judge Prim and Chief Justice Hayden and others, whose cooler judgments counseled moderation, hastened to quell the rising tumult, and only after long and earnest exertions succeeded, but only on condition that Rogers should resign, which he instantly did, greatly relieved to escape so easily. But these rude men, separated by mountain and stream from the laws, customs and social amenities of civilized life, were not content with the half-hearted and half-handed justice so often exhibited in the tribunals of civilized countries. When a wrong was done, the redress in their opinion should be simple as well as prompt. Hence the Alcalde did not escape scot-free altogether. It appeared that he had by some means become possessed of some money and other property belonging to Jones, which he refused to relinquish. [Chief Justice] Hayden ordered out an execution against the late Alcalde, and followed this up with a mandamus, and eventually made the delinquent disgorge to the last farthing. So that this case differs from the celebrated case of the Dutch justice in New Jersey, who declared both parties right and ordered the constable to pay the costs, only in this--the court compelled the late judge of another [court] to disgorge.
This little episode serves to illustrate the stern sense of justice which the miners, as a class, possess, and which they invariably carried out practically in their own courts and by their own means, in the absence of courts, judges and lawyers, and it also serves to show what strange vicissitudes of fortune men encounter on this coast. Both the legal gentlemen who figured prominently in the trial are now upon the bench. One, Hon. P. P. Prim, is now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this state, and has been upon the supreme bench since 1859 continuously. The other, Hon. Orange Jacobs, is the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Washington Territory. Both are gentlemen of high legal attainment, and adorn the tribunals over which they preside. It may not be amiss to add that the presiding judge at the trial we have attempted to describe [U. S. Hayden], and whose strong common sense and clear convictions of right were abundantly manifest on that occasion, is now, and has been since the incorporation of the town in 1860, the Town Recorder.
PIONEER JUSTICE IN OREGON.Oregon, twenty years ago, was yet in territorial swaddling clothes. Only a short time had elapsed since the fame of her beautiful valleys and noble streams, already blended in our national poetry, had reached the overcrowded settlements at the East. Astor had established a small trading colony, which yet bears his name, at the mouth of the great river whose solitary grandeur had awakened poetic inspiration. Douglass, the naturalist, had pushed alone far among the majestic mountains that crown the western slope. Fremont had touched it among the southern lakes, and Lewis and Clark had stood and gazed in silent wonder over its almost endless plains to the eastward. When the question of boundary between Oregon and British North America assumed a public prominence, it attracted attention to our extreme western possessions; but there was another influence greatly instrumental in the settlement of the new territory and in molding the character of its population.
Round the campfires of the trappers and mountain men, from the Yellowstone to the Arkansas, the enchantments of the reputed fairyland beyond the Rocky Mountains were a constant theme, and the few who had courageously penetrated to it, drank from its crystal streams, and beheld its wondrous beauty, were regarded with a sort of envious admiration. Passing from mouth to mouth, and losing nothing, the wonderful stories of Oregon and its beauty and fertility were occasionally related in the settlements along the Mississippi and its tributaries, creating a feverish and unsettled longing. In 1850, the government, wisely perceiving the importance of inducing emigration to our northwestern territory, offered a princely share of the public domain to all bona fide settlers in Oregon. The offer was tempting. Along the frontier line of the Mississippi States was echoed "land for the landless," and soon the plains, heretofore dreaded as an almost impassable Sahara, were dotted with moving caravans pressing to the promised land. Therefore--drawn mainly from the border states and territories, and composed largely of men whom civilization, with irksome restraints and apparent encroachments on the liberty of the citizen, had pushed to the verge of the wilderness--it is not surprising that the population of the young territory should be not only of a marked American character, but of a peculiar type of Americanism. These pioneers were brave people, who accepted the liberal offer of the government and its consequent trial and hardship with all the pluck which characterized the frontiersmen. They had been in the advanced guard of progress, they had cleared the way for the settlement and development of the Mississippi Valley, and were still willing to cleave new homes at the very outposts of our domain. While they brought with them their marked Western prejudices and their half-nomadic habits, they brought also their sturdy independence, and that keen sense of right and wrong inseparable from strong courageous natures, that left its sterling impress upon every public act and record in Oregon's early history. Society in the young territory was by no means rude or unsettled. Inferior, perhaps, in some of the refinements of the older communities, it was superior in the absence of many things with which older communities were cursed and hampered. Life and property were comparatively safe. Wherever the territorial law extended, it was simple and effective in its operation. Where it did not, through lack of judicial organization, justice was reached by shortcuts, unobstructed by the complex machinery of modern law, unclouded by the perplexing and uncertain verbiage of legal lexicons. In such localities justice was administered by alcaldes elected by the people. Their jurisdiction was ample, their decisions were final, and the mandates of their courts were generally respected; but their acts were vigilantly scrutinized by those who invested them with official dignity. Consequently, the administration of this backwoods magistracy, always subject to the powerful test of public opinion, was usually honest and just. Occasionally, however, bad men stole into office, and under their extensive powers perpetrated wrongs that in the absence of any court of appeal were hardly redressible. Under such circumstances an episode occurred during the early history of the territory that illustrates this simple judicial system, and recalls vividly the stories of the just Caliph of Baghdad, over which childhood has lingered with so much delight and admiration.
Prior to January, 1852, there were no county organizations south of the Calapooia Mountains, a range stretching from the Cascades to the Pacific, and dividing western Oregon nearly midway between the Columbia and the California boundary; and for nearly a year later no courts were held in that region, other than those of the local alcaldes. In [January] of 1852, a rich and extensive discovery of gold on Jackson Creek, within half a mile of the present site of Jacksonville, had brought a large number of miners to that locality, both from other portions of the territory and from California. At this time, justice was dispensed within the new district by an individual named Rogers, who had been elected prior to the gold discovery. [There is no record of Rogers' election, but it was unlikely to have occurred before the gold discovery, since the Rogue Valley's white population would have been fewer than twenty.] Rogers was known as a man of stubborn, willful nature, and not credited either with discernment or honesty; but, hitherto his decisions, involving no considerable amounts of property and not outrageously unjust, had passed unquestioned by the people. When, in the fall of 1852, the mining camp was at the full tide of prosperity, a complication arose between two mining partners, involving the right to a mining claim and the settlement of a partnership, the adjudication of which was finally taken in hand by the people, and resulted in stripping a dishonest judge of his undeserved honors.
Two miners, named respectively Sprenger and Sims, owned and worked in partnership a valuable mining-claim on Jackson Creek, and, late in the fall, Sims, taking the partnership funds, started for Portland to purchase a supply of provisions, leaving Sprenger at work in the claim. During his partner's absence, Sprenger met with a serious accident, which confined him to his cabin, crippled and helpless. There was "lack of woman's nursing" in the wild mining regions, but there was no lack of kindly, generous sympathy for the unfortunate among the rough miners, and Sprenger was nursed and cared for with all the proverbial humanity of this class of people. When Sims returned, finding his partner likely to be a burden on him for the coming winter, he at once ejected him from the cabin and took possession of the claim. Sprenger appealed to Alcalde Rogers for restitution, but appealed in vain. His suit was conducted with considerable skill by a fellow miner named Kinney. Every point of law, both territorial and local, were on his side; every principle of equity in his favor; but the pleadings of his advocate fell on the ears of a corrupt and unfeeling judge, whose decree stripped him of every dollar of his worldly possessions. His counsel, suspecting the credibility of some of Sims' witnesses, and satisfied that the trial was as unfair as the decision was unjust, demanded a new one, which was refused by the alcalde.
Poor Sprenger was almost in despair. He was a cripple, dependent on public charity, his means entirely exhausted--cheated and robbed by the man who should have stood by him in his misfortunes. In his distress, he sought the services of a neighboring miner named [Paine Page] Prim, who, report said, was a lawyer, but who, for the sake of avoiding annoyance in petty trials where the fees were not commensurate with the lawyer's services, had kept his true calling a secret . Sprenger found the disciple of Blackstone in a tunnel, vigorously swinging his pick among the muddy and dripping boulders, looking more like a Cornish miner than an expounder of legal perplexities. Prim was disposed to disavow any knowledge of law for the sake of saving himself the trouble of a case, where, under the circumstances, defeat was certain; but his humanity overcame his selfishness, and, moved by the recital of Sprenger's grievances, he threw down his pick and espoused the injured man's cause as zealously as if expecting a generous fee. Kinney, the former counsel of Sprenger, was sought, and a consultation entered upon. Every known point of the law bearing upon the case was discussed. Every familiar maneuver or pretext, likely to assist in obtaining a new trial, was proposed, and the advocates waxed more earnest upon each examination of the subject. All, however, to no purpose. The known obduracy of the alcalde and his suspected collusion with Sims rose everlastingly before them, presenting an impassable barrier between them and justice. A protracted and exhaustive view of the case only left the attorneys less hopeful than ever--when Prim, in a half-soliloquy, remarked: "If we only had a Court of Appeal."
"Great God, sir!" exclaimed Kinney, springing to his feet in a state of intense excitement. "Why did we not think of that before? We will have a Court of Appeal, sir!"
Prim did not understand him, thinking he referred to a probable election and the organization of the regular judiciary, and suggested, gravely, that their client would probably starve, and reach the Court of Death, before they would get it before any earthly tribunal.
"No, sir!" continued Kinney, with increasing warmth; "I say we will have a Court of Appeal within twenty-four hours. Who made the d--d scoundrel alcalde? We, the people, sir! and if we have the power to create one court, we can make another high enough to try and hang the one below it, if necessary."
A new light dawned upon Prim. Kinney was right. His strong good sense, by going back to first principles and invoking the power of the people to correct an abuse which was the result of their own shortsightedness, had solved a problem that to the lawyer was full of stubborn impossibilities. A Court of Appeal was resolved on. Sprenger was immediately dispatched to summon the "boys" to a miners' meeting. He was not armed with any wordy legal process, with its angular and imperious verbiage, but with a writ that found a soft spot in every rough breast among the mining population; a writ that the miners never resisted--an appeal to their sympathy and sense of justice. Never was imperial ukase more potent. Never did the fiery cross on highland height rouse the clans more effectually than this simple appeal did the mining population in the early days; and the crippled envoy was as successful as his advocates could wish. The "boys" threw down their tools, and, deserting their claims, flocked to the town nearly a thousand strong, and in a perfect ferment of indignation. A committee waited on the alcalde to demand a rehearing for Sprenger; but he declined to open his court for the purpose of reversing his own judgment. Kinney at once sprung upon a stump, called the meeting to order, and suggested the organization of a Court of Appeal, and its investment with full power to review the proceedings of the court below. The proposition struck the popular chord, and the affirmative response that swelled up from the crowd, which was now in ill mood for trifling, almost drowned the speaker's voice. A gentleman named [U. S.] Hayden, a native of Connecticut, known for his uprightness and probity, was unanimously pointed to for the position of Chief Justice. In vain did Mr. Hayden protest and decline the proffered honor; in vain did he modestly insist that he was ignorant of law and unwilling to bear so grave a responsibility. The popular current was too strong; a wild yell of acclamation proclaimed him Judge of Appeal, investing him, in a limited sphere, with a power as supreme as ever clothed czar or sultan. The new justice did not wait for a formal certificate of election, but proceeded with the organization of his court in a manner that showed him to be a man of no ordinary business capacity. A clerk and sheriff were at once appointed, a record opened on which was spread the extraordinary proceedings of the hour, and when the court was in working order, a mandamus issued commanding Alcalde Rogers to appear with the records of his court. The writ was disobeyed, the alcalde refusing to recognize the appellate powers of the new court. An unexpected complication having thus arisen, the process was about to be enforced by the excited people, when Justice Hayden, maintaining the dignity of his court amid the greatest uproar, solved the difficulty by ordering the parties in equity to appear before him for a new trial. Sims dared not disobey, seeing that the dissolution of the high court would be the signal for popular violence, and securing the services of Orange Jacobs, a young attorney from Michigan, promptly responded, and the trial at once went on. A venire was issued for a jury--twelve good and lawful men--subpoenas issued for witnesses, and the case formally opened. Jacobs, of whom little was known except that he was recognized as a quiet, unassuming miner, appeared with an able and apparently exhaustive argument, protesting against and denying the extraordinary jurisdiction assumed by the court as contrary to the organic law of the territory, and therefore against public policy and revolutionary; and moved that the case be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. He pleaded as one wedded to his profession as an abstract science, jealous of the law's infringement for its own sake; but he appealed to a judge who sat for the dispensation of justice more than for the vindication of law, and, as might have been expected, his motion was overruled. Prim and Kinney managed the case with the skill of veteran attorneys, and in knowledge of the peculiar circumstances surrounding it overmatched their opponent, who deftly and courageously met every argument and sifted every witness with all the adroitness of a thorough legal expert. During a stubborn argument on a law point presented by Jacobs, he became so earnest as to venture to bet a small sum that it was good law and supported by ample authority. Kinney sprung to his feet triumphantly; he knew the point was law, but he knew his man, and understood the composition of the jury. Drawing his buckskin with an air of the most supreme confidence, he flung three of the old-fashioned fifty-dollar slugs upon the table, and demanded the amount of his opponent's bet. It was bluff against knowledge, and bluff won. Jacobs was a recent immigrant, without "color" in his wallet, and responded not; there was an audible smile on the faces of the jury, and the court, with becoming gravity, pronounced the point "not well taken." Jacobs fought over every inch of ground and opposed every effort of Sprenger's joint counsel with a moral heroism, that, in the face of an angry and excited crowd of spectators, was almost sublime; but he was at a sad disadvantage, and talking to a court and jury who did not care a fig for law when conflicting with their ideas of right and wrong.
The witnesses examined and the issue made, Kinney presented the case to the jury. He dwelt on the right of every citizen to the peaceful possession of his property, and on the duty every man owed to society in the protection of his neighbors' rights; but it was when he referred to the relations existing between the two men that crude human nature triumphed over legal science and skill. Drawing a distinction between partnerships in civilized communities and those in the wild mining region, where the social amenities of life were uncommon, he showed the former to be mere commercial and financial connections among men, while the latter were ties of brotherhood, sanctioned and prescribed by custom, and imposing obligations than which there were none stronger. He told the jury that a man's partner was required to be his friend, to sustain him in evil and in good repute, to share with him in health, to nurse him in sickness, to divide his last ounce of dust with him, and to stand by him when all others had deserted him. He summed up the evidence clearly and forcibly, showing the jury, who were becoming each moment more impatient to render their verdict, that Sims had disregarded his neighbor's rights, violated the common law of the region, and robbed and abandoned--not Sprenger--but Sims' partner. It was then that decorum ceased, and the honest manhood of the rough crowd found vent in applauding cheers. The jury rose and swung their hats, forgetting the dignity of their position, while Justice Hayden with difficulty restored order, and informed them that the case was only half tried. It was now Jacobs' turn. He rose, quiet and self-possessed, conscious of a strong prejudice against himself and client, and presented an array of legal objections that under other circumstances or before another tribunal would have been most formidable; but he forgot that he was talking law to a court sitting only for the purpose of doing equity, and he talked to listless ears. The court charged the jury--an unnecessary proceeding, perhaps, so far as their understanding of the case was concerned, but necessary to sustain the proper dignity of the court, which would have been infringed had this important formula been dispensed with. The charge was one that might be a model for higher courts. His Honor instructed the jury that they must strip the case of all the legal mystifications with which Sims' counsel had surrounded it, regarding no law but that of right and wrong, and decide upon their belief of an existing state of facts established by the testimony, and in such a manner that justice would be done, though all the law in Christendom fell to the ground. And they did so decide it. At first, they experienced great difficulty in their finding. Some of them were in favor of recommending the hanging of Sims; others stoutly demanded the punishment of Rogers as particeps criminis. One or two suggested the mercy of the court; but the difficulty was solved by the permission of special instructions. Jacobs again objected, but he looked askance at Kinney's plethoric buckskin, and his now feeble protest was again overruled. Of course, the verdict was for the complainant, and the court at once ordered his reinstatement in possession of his claim, his share of all partnership property, and an allowance of all charges during his sickness. The decision was received with a deafening yell of applause, amid which the court adjourned. It was then that the half-smothered feeling of indignation against Rogers found vent. The evidence had disclosed unmistakable rascality and malfeasance on the part of that official, and his contemptuous noncompliance with the order of the superior court could not be passed in silence. A low sullen murmur, like the sweep of an approaching storm over a treeless prairie, was heard. Knots of angry men gathered together; louder and louder grew the tumult, till a fierce, determined voice rang out, "Hang him!" and five hundred voices hoarse with rage echoed the dreadful words that nearly paralyzed the poor wretch with terror. It was a fearful moment for Alcalde Rogers. The excited throng swayed to and fro like angry human waves. The cry swelled into maddened fury, and his life was not worth a minute's purchase, when Jacobs, Hayden, Prim, and others, sprung among them, and begged them not to stain the record of a noble day's work by the commission of a terrible and unnecessary crime. Fortunately, their counsel prevailed, and after the most strenuous exertions, Rogers was allowed his life on condition of his resigning the alcaldeship, which he immediately did without a single demurrer, glad to escape so easily. The case, however, was not over. The functions and existence of the Court of Appeal had by no means ceased, and it appearing that Rogers was in possession of part of the property of which Sprenger had been robbed, he was forced to disgorge the last dollar, which was only done by means of an execution, and justice was satisfied.
The principal parties to this case have disappeared from sight, but the remembrance of it is yet fresh among the old settlers of southern Oregon, and the proceedings therein are still of record in the archives of Jackson County. Some of the actors in this little drama are still among us. Jacobs, who stood before that exasperated mob and pleaded in behalf of the sacred principles of law, now occupies the position of Chief Justice of Washington Territory. Prim has been Chief Justice of Oregon, and is now associate Justice on the Supreme Bench of that State. "Chief Justice" Hayden has held the honorable place of Recorder for the principal town of southern Oregon for nearly twenty consecutive years, having repeatedly refused higher honors; while Kinney has long since gone to plead, in obedience to a resistless mandate, before a higher tribunal than all.
The day of the pioneer is over. The star that he followed has reached its zenith, and he can go no farther. We may now regard him as a soldier in the cause of human advancement, whose battles have been fought and won, and he may well look back in surprise at the wonderful social and material results that have followed in his wake. The shifting sands of the desert have covered up his footsteps, but the solid and substantial foundation laid by the pioneer for the social structure of the Far West will be as lasting as it is surprising. Separated by thousands of miles of lofty mountains and barren plains from the ties and influences of civilization, these wild rough men in the early days established a code of ethics for the regulation of the social duties, that was founded on the soundest principles of morality. Without written law, they enforced justice, and decided all questions relating to individual rights with that unerring judgment which springs from a keen discrimination between right and wrong, and is worthy of the jurisprudence of the highest civilization.
William M. Turner, Overland Monthly, March 1874, pages 224-230 This article was reprinted on page 4 of the March 7, 1874 Oregonian. The Sprenger-Sims case was dramatized, with considerable artistic license, in 1962 on "Death Valley Days" as "Justice at Jackson Creek."
The first courts held were by justices of the peace, called alcaldes as in California, chosen by the miners informally. The first on Jackson was named Rogers, and afterward Hiram Abbott officiated in the town of Jacksonville. Before the election of alcaldes the miners met and selected officers and judges to act for special occasions only, in short to administer arbitrary justice.
One Springer had a mining claim on the left fork of Jackson Creek who was wounded by an accidental shot so that he was not able to work his claim for several months. So one Simms jumped his claim. A contest following the case was brought before alcalde Rogers, who decided it in favor of Simms, the jumper. The miners, thinking the decision unjust, held a meeting of all the miners on both branches of Jackson Creek to see what should be done about it. At this time Mr. Prim, who had kept secret the fact that he was a lawyer, not wishing to be troubled with the petty quarrels of the miners, was at work mining on the left fork of Jackson Creek. Springer in some way came to think Prim knew something about law or practice in courts, [and] went to him in great trouble, for it was a rich claim and the miners had been supporting him while recovering from his illness in order that he might go on with it afterward--went to him and begged him to help him. Prim asked him what he could do, but Springer begged so hard that Prim finally wrote a notice calling a meeting and told Springer to go to all the miners on both forks of the river and call them together.
Prim would not undertake the case himself, but told Springer to employ Daniel Kenney, a brazen-faced pettifogging lawyer, to conduct the case, with Prim behind him to direct things. The people convened, Kenney, following directions, mounted a stump and proposed U. S. Hayden should be elected supreme judge to organize a court of appeals, which was done, Kenney appearing for Springer and O. Jacobs for Simms. Jacobs was afterward chief justice of Washington Territory. Springer won the case and [was] reinstated in his claim.
History of Judicial Affairs in Oregon, interview by Hubert Howe Bancroft with Paine Page Prim, 1878 Spelling of "Simms" and "Springer" is Bancroft's.
In 1853 his probity and inflexible sense of justice were recognized and he was elected second "alcalde" of this mining district, and even among a wild and turbulent population his decisions, so equitable, so true to the principles of justice, were never questioned.
"Death of Hon. U.S. Hayden," Sentinel, Jacksonville, February 5, 1879, page 2
HOW AN ALCALDE WAS ONCE DEPOSED.
It is not our purpose to describe the beginnings of local government in Oregon, the famous "Wolf Meeting" of the settlers of the beautiful Willamette Valley in 1843, and those earlier local organizations in that region in 1838 and 1839, which preceded and made possible that notable assembly. The Spanish-American and gold-seeker elements were entirely foreign to the struggle that organized Oregon under a legislative committee and supreme judge, while the ownership of her territory was as yet undetermined. That interesting struggle of Americans to gain control in the Northwest must be studied elsewhere.
But in southwestern Oregon there were placer mines; and to these narrow gulches, clad with spruce and fir, California miners went, bearing with them the organization perfected through fierce struggles and dire necessity in the camps of 1848 and 1849. They governed their Oregonian camps on the plans adopted in Siskiyou and Shasta, in Amador and Fresno, in Tuolumne and Nevada. North of the Calapooia Mountains, the pioneer Oregonians were, and always remained, totally unacquainted with that famous Spanish office, the alcaldeship; south of those mountains, there were several alcaldes chosen by the settlers, and given the extensive powers of the office as known in California camps. Before January, 1852, there were no county organizations in the southwestern fourth of Oregon, and for a year later the alcaldes continued to rule supreme in that region. Returned Oregonians, who had determined to prospect nearer home after one or two seasons in California, were influential forces in all the earlier Oregon camps.
The miners of Jackson Creek Camp, Rogue River Valley, had an alcalde named Rogers. He was not at all popular, but was thought to be honest and capable until events showed him in an unexpected light. His election had occurred before the camp had "boomed"; the few early miners on the creek had chosen him, and the crowds that came later had accepted his authority.
It happened that there were two mining partners, named Sim and Sprenger, who worked a claim together, and were unnoticed and unknown in the mass of busy workers till a sudden difficulty brought them into prominence.
Sim took money from the funds of the concern, and went to Portland to lay in their winter's stock of provisions. During his absence his partner, Sprenger, met with an accident, and was crippled, helpless, and sick in the cabin, nursed by a few sympathizing friends, when Sim returned. The real nature of Sim revealed itself: Without any compunctions he at once ejected Sprenger from their cabin and their claim. Of what use was a sick and crippled partner?
The wronged and unfortunate miner secured the services of a young man named Kinney as his lawyer, and took his complaint to Alcalde Rogers. But Sim, as events proved, had forestalled him by arguments of another sort: Putting little trust in his claim of a verbal sale, and his extremely doubtful witnesses, he bribed the unworthy alcalde, who, disregarding local custom, mining law, and the plain dictates of reason and justice, rendered his verdict against Sprenger. The plaintiff, in sad destitution and misery, and urged as a forlorn hope by some of his friends, begged the alcalde for a rehearing of the case, which was promptly refused: a judge could not be expected to overrule his own decisions. Nor would he grant a jury trial. Restitution, and reinstatement in his possession of one undivided half of cabin, tools, provisions, and claim, appeared unattainable for poor Sprenger.
The story was told throughout the camp, and it was openly said that there had been bribery of the witnesses, perhaps of the alcalde; but the camp, though populous, was a scattered settlement, and concerted action was difficult. There was indignant talk, but the men and the hour had not yet arrived. Sprenger found shelter in a friendly cabin, and Sim began to look about for an able-bodied partner who wanted to "buy in." But no one desired the situation of partner to such a man.
Matters were in this condition when Sprenger, still brooding over his wrongs, still urged by sympathizing friends, heard that a miner in the camp, named Prim, was a first-rate lawyer, a graduate of some law school, and an attorney of considerable experience. Hoping against hope that some new mode of procedure might yet be devised, Sprenger hobbled to Prim's claim, and begged for his assistance. At first this was denied; and Prim even said he was no lawyer, and could not leave his work. But Sprenger's penniless and piteous condition became an appeal that could not be disregarded: the miner threw down his tools, hunted up Sprenger's former attorney Kinney, and they held a conference.
Further appeal to the alcalde was clearly useless. But Prim proposed to reach the territorial courts north of the Calapooia Mountains--to go, in fact, to Portland itself--and there obtain powers to organize a district court with appellate powers over the entire region. There was constant need, he argued, for a more complete, scientific system. They could not continue the unbalanced, uncontrolled, irresponsible alcalde system without a higher court to check its abuses. The practical difficulty in the way was, that all this would take months, and their unfortunate client would probably starve long before the close of the approaching winter. Then, too, the value of the interest he owned in the claim from which he had been ousted was steadily diminishing, as Sim worked there from daylight to dark. And if Sim should succeed in finding a partner, a new element of difficulty would be added.
At last Kinney is reported to have exclaimed, "Who but the people made the damned scoundrel alcalde, anyhow? We can organize our own court of appeals."
Prim caught eagerly at the idea. They sent a man up and down the gulches, and over the ridges, to the extreme limits of the district within Alcalde Rogers' jurisdiction. It took a day of hard travel to summon them all, but nearly everyone heeded the appeal to his sense of justice. There was no attempt to prejudge the case, or to bias men's opinions. Each miner was told that numbers of persons thought a great wrong had been done, and that it was desired to examine the entire subject with all fairness and deliberation, sustaining or reversing the former judgment as the evidence should warrant.
So the eventful morning dawned; and over a thousand miners threw down their picks and shovels, left their rockers, long toms, and sluices, and came hastening to the main camp. Every man of them all suffered a loss, by his day's idleness, of whatever his work that day would have earned--perhaps five dollars, perhaps fifty dollars; but the miners of Jackson Creek were willing to suffer loss if justice, as between man and man, could thereby be established.
The court met in the open air, and chose a presiding officer. They then elected a committee of three well-known miners to wait on Alcalde Rogers, and respectfully request him, "in the name and by the authority of the citizens of Jackson Creek Camp," to reopen his court, and give the case of Sim vs. Sprenger a new trial: they asked also that a jury be allowed. Rogers refused point-blank, and retired grimly defiant to the entrenchments of his log cabin. The committee returned, and made a report in open meeting. It was then discharged, and the first act of the drama had closed.
Only one course was left for the miners' meeting--to organize their higher court, and invest it with full authority to review any and all proceedings of the court below. This seems to have been done by these bold reformers on the supposition that it might have to be a permanent thing: it was not merely an expedient by which to reinstate Sprenger in his rights, if such rights a fair trial proved him to possess. It had dawned upon the minds of those earnest men assembled in that winding Oregonian ravine, that the time had come for a higher judicial organization. With strong good sense and sturdy independence, they grappled with the problem.
First, a miner named Hayden, one of the most respected and intelligent men in the entire community, was nominated and elected to serve as chief judge of the district. He declined the responsible position, begging them to choose someone else; but the duties of the office were urged upon him until he was forced to accept.
Judge Hayden displayed the greatest promptitude, dignity, and good sense in his proceedings. He at once asked for a sheriff and a clerk, who were immediately elected, and reported themselves ready for duty. Within an hour after Hayden's acceptance, a writ of certiorari commanding Alcalde Rogers to appear in the new and duly established court, before Judge Hayden, and submit the records of his proceedings, was served upon that officer by the newly installed sheriff of Jackson Creek. To the surprise of all concerned, the stubborn alcalde refused to yield, and proceeded to impugn the motives of certain leaders, and deny the legal existence of the court. History has failed to keep an exact record of his language; but, beyond a doubt, it was profanely belligerent.
The crowd of miners were by this time tired and angry. It was suggested to batter down Rogers' cabin, take possession of his records, and lay them before the newly chosen superior judge. But to this Judge Hayden objected, as defeating the ends of justice. He called the sheriff, and issued new writs, ordering both parties in the original controversy to appear before him at once for a trial; in other words, he ignored all former proceedings, and asserted original as well as appellate jurisdiction over the camp. The impressiveness of the scene had now become indescribable. Those hundreds of brawny, bare-armed, red-shirted men, grouped in the open air, under giant oaks, were moving without noise or excitement to the full accomplishment of their appointed task.
Plaintiff and defendant came before the new court, and were assured of a full and fair trial. Witnesses were summoned; a jury impaneled, sworn to do their duty; and lawyers appointed for each side. Tradition reports that Sim's lawyer was able and courageous, but that his witnesses weakened under the severe cross-questioning of his opponent. Both lawyers made appeals to the jury, and the case was submitted. No one can doubt, from the dignity and earnestness which had hitherto prevailed, that a verdict for the defendant, though contrary to the general expectation, would have been accepted by the assemblage. By the verdict of that jury, those freemen who had left their claims lying idle for miles were tacitly pledged to abide; and Prim, Kinney, and Hayden would have been the first to acquiesce, the last to propose any "new deal."
The court, in his charge to the jury, said that they must strip the case of technicalities, regarding no law but right and wrong, no test but common sense. They listened with approval, and at once proceeded to disagree on a vital point: some wanted to hang Sim, who had been proved guilty of bribery; several wanted to hang Alcalde Rogers. This dangerous phase soon passed away; the jury found a verdict for the plaintiff, and left the sentence with the court, where it evidently belonged. Judge Hayden then, amid breathless silence, announced his decision: Sprenger was to be reinstated in all his former rights, as half owner of cabin, tools, provisions, and claim; Sim was also ordered to pay the costs of his partner's sickness. The court then adjourned.
But some of the evidence offered had revealed so much rascality and malfeasance on the part of Alcalde Rogers, that none of the miners were satisfied to let him longer hold the office he had so disgraced. Who could any more put confidence in so untrustworthy an official? How could a thousand men, some of them living five miles from the central camp, be expected to leave their claims, and administer justice by newly organized courts each time there was need thereof? The crowd proceeded to Rogers' cabin, growing angrier and more tumultuous each moment. A cry that he should be hung swelled like a mountain torrent in time of flood, but Hayden, Prim, Kinney, and Jacobs (who had been Sim's lawyer), made speeches, and reason again prevailed. One thing, however, was certain--Alcalde Rogers must resign; and this he did without demur. Judge Hayden's court was then reassembled, and it levied an instant execution upon some mining property which ex-Alcalde Rogers had illegally and unjustly obtained; it being part of the Sim-Sprenger claim, given to him by Sim as a retainer at the time of the first trial.
The Hayden court lasted until county organization, a few months later, but no other case of any importance was brought before it. The lesson taught by the sight of those assembled pioneers had proved sufficient.
The typical nature of this remarkable case is best shown by the facts that Sim's lawyer, Mr. Jacobs, has since become chief justice of Washington Territory; that Mr. Prim has been chief justice of Oregon; that Judge Hayden for many years has been one of the leading citizens of southern Oregon; that the full records of the case are on file in the archives of Jackson County, Oregon [now lost]; and that variants of the story can be heard in mining camps hundreds of miles from Jackson Creek. Years ago, in Douglas City Camp, Trinity County, Cal., the writer first heard of "Judge Hayden's appellate court"; today, perhaps, the story is told in the Kootenay passes, and under the Uintah pines.
Charles Howard Shinn, Mining Camps: A Study in American Frontier Government, 1884, page 190 Shinn cites as his sources the above Overland Monthly article, as well as "letters of correspondents." The remark that the records are on file in Jackson County suggests that Orange Jacobs was one of those correspondents. I could find no such records in the Jackson County archives. Shinn's article was reprinted in the Oregonian on May 17, 1885, page 3.
Judge Jacobs' Rigid Rejoinder to "An Alcalde Deposed"--Early Oregon History.
Differing Both in Fact and Detail from the Webfoot Writer.
MR. EDITOR:--My attention has been called by you and others to an article published in the Oregonian [May 17, 1885, above] and republished in your valuable paper, headed "An Alcalde Deposed," and I have been asked for my remembrance of the facts in the case. I regret that my time is so occupied with other matters that I cannot give that attention to the article demanded by its historic importance. I had no connection with the case prior to the election of the Judge of Appeals. My remembrances, however, of the preceding facts are radically different from those stated in the above article.
First, Sims and Springer went to Jacksonville, Oregon, in the summer or early fall of 1852. They were partners. They located a claim on the left-hand fork of Jackson Creek and commenced to prospect it. It was from twenty to forty feet to the bedrock. They continued to prospect until late in the fall--finding nothing. their provisions gave out and it was mutually agreed that Sims should take their horses, of which they had quite a number, and proceed to the Willamette Valley and bring out a supply of provisions. While Sims was gone Springer was to continue prospecting on their claim. Shortly after Sims left, Springer reached bedrock and "struck it rich"--one hundred dollars per day to the hands employed. Springer was joyous--I may say, hilarious. In the exuberance of his joy, he went out on the sidehill, in the chaparral brush, one night and attempted to imitate the howling of the wolf. His attempt was eminently successful. The miners located in that vicinity immediately opened fire with their pistols upon that portion of the chaparral-covered sidehill where the wolf was supposed to be located. One shot took effect in the thigh of the supposed wolf and there was a change in the intonations of that midnight music. [A news account of the same year names the wolf-imitator shot as Hiram Abbott.] Springer was badly wounded and made a cripple for life. But, where was Sims? I blush to tell it, but history must be vindicated. On his trip for provisions he met an emigrant widow, fat, fair and under forty. He was enchanted. He lingered, courted, proposed and was accepted. The whilom bachelor, Sims, was happy. He took no note of fleeting time. The honeymoon did not wane. Late in winter was Sims' return to Jacksonville and his partner. On his return, Springer accepted the provisions but denied the partnership. Springer took Sims' delay as an act of dissolution and so declared it. During his absence a large amount of gold had been taken out of the claim. Springer refused to divide. Sims brought suit before the Alcalde to establish his interest in the claim and for his share of the money taken out during his absence. The decree of the Alcalde was right, but many of the miners, influenced, no doubt, by Springer's misfortunes, thought otherwise. Springer asked for a new trial. It was refused by the Alcalde. Failing to obtain a new trial, the friends of the unfortunate Springer called a miner's convention and elected a Judge of Appeals--a man of sterling integrity and unblemished character by the name of Hayden. The Alcalde refused to recognize this appellate tribunal. The Judge of Appeals, however, cited the parties to appear before him, reversed the judgment of the lower court on his own motion and ordered a new trial before him.
It was at this point that I appeared in the case. How Sims ever found out that I was a lawyer, I do not know. I was a modest and honest miner. When I arrived at the temple of appellate justice the jury was in the box. I carried with me to read to that Appellate Judge an elaborate protest and argument against his jurisdiction. When I saw who constituted the jury I was satisfied that my client could win in the appellate court and urged him to waive his objections to the jurisdiction of the court and to stand a trial, but influenced by the advice of Shoudy and other old and experienced miners he refused to do it. Hence I read my protest, made my argument and withdrew. I will not break the thread of this narrative by a statement of the substance of that protest. It was respectfully listened to by the judge and by at least a thousand excited men. Mr. Kenny, the opposing counsel, frequently interrupted me during the progress of my argument. The retorts on both sides were a little discourteous at times, but good feelings prevailed. After listening to the answer of my opponent, at the request of the Judge I handed him my written protest and he not only filed it in his court, but subsequently filed it in the clerk's office of Jackson County, where it remains to this day. [No one has been able to locate the document.]
After the withdrawal of myself and client, the case proceeded by the taking of testimony, and after an argument by Mr. Kenny and a charge by the court, the jury gave the entire claim, with all its proceeds, to Springer, and my client went back to his farm in the Willamette and to the enjoyment of his waiting spouse.
The statement of the writer of the above article about the feeling against Alcalde Rogers are exaggerations partly and misapprehensions partly. He confounds two distinct occurrences. Subsequent to the trial before the Judge of Appeals, Shively and other prominent and successful miners called a miners' convention to reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal. I suppose this convention could be properly called the court of last resort. Over five thousand miners obeyed this call and attended this convention. It was at this convention that speeches denunciatory of Alcalde Rogers were made. My remembrance is that Kenny, Branan and myself and some others, whose names I do not remember, made speeches before that convention. I alone argued against the expediency, the policy, disorganization and danger of this court of appeals. The convention was tumultuous at times, but as I stood alone as a speaker, in opposition to the Court of Appeals, those in favor of it gave me a respectful hearing. When the votes were counted, the Court of Appeals was sustained by a very small majority, not over twenty.
In conclusion let me say that lawsuit, with its attendant circumstances, has become historic. A few years ago a full account of it was published in the Overland Monthly, under the head of "Pioneer Justice." That article was republished in the Intelligencer of this city.
O. JACOBS.Unattributed clipping, presumably from an 1885 Seattle newspaper, William Fidler Scrapbook MS208, Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library
In 1852 there were no civil courts established in Jackson County except what was called an [alcalde's] or miner's court, which adopted the common law of the United States as to property, and the Mexican law as to life and death. . . .
The first grave ever dug in Jacksonville was for a white man that was shot down by a gambler, and the next grave was for his murderer, who was convicted by a miner's jury, before W. W. Fowler, "alcalde," and hung on a warrant of the "alcalde." White men and Indians were all liable to the same punishment. It was by high miner's court from which no appeal would lie; it was quick and beneficial.
"Pioneer Times," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, August 21, 1886, page 2
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN EARLY DAYS OF OREGON.Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 18, 1891, page 1
A TOAST RESPONDED TO BY HON. P. P. PRIM
AT THE PIONEER REUNION AT ASHLAND SEPT. 10, 1891.
In responding to the toast just proposed it may be suggested that the pioneers of Oregon, and especially of Southern Oregon, met with many difficulties in the administration of justice, as well as in other affairs, owing to the peculiar status of the country at the time of its early settlement. Prior to 1852 this part of the state was uninhabited, except by savage Indians. In 1851 and 1852 rich gold mines were discovered in Jacksonville and vicinity, which caused a large number of people, consisting of miners, packers, traders and gamblers, to assemble at that point. At that time there was no county organization in this end of the state, consequently there were no courts in existence for the redress of public wrongs or civil injuries. Here was a section of country in which a thousand or fifteen hundred people had assembled, who were engaged in locating mining and land claims and in other exciting pursuits connected therewith, without law, or officers to enforce its infraction.
In this state of affairs a man by the name of Brown, without sufficient provocation, shot and killed a miner. Here was a serious emergency to be met--human life had been wrongfully taken, and no officer or court in existence with authority to arrest and try the murderer. A meeting of the people was called to determine how the emergency should be dealt with. A court was immediately organized and an officer appointed with authority to arrest and try the said Brown for the alleged murder. One attorney was appointed to prosecute the case and anther to defend. A jury of twelve men having been selected, the case was tried in accordance with the ordinary forms of law applicable to such cases. After hearing the evidence for and against the defendant and the argument of counsel, the defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and was sentenced and hung in pursuance of said verdict.
In this connection I will relate the history of a civil action in which justice was promptly administered, granting relief to an injured miner. During the summer of 1852 a miner by the name of Springer located a valuable mining claim on Jackson Creek, and after making the location accidentally shot himself, and in consequence of the wound inflicted was unable for several months to perform the necessary work required by the local regulations to enable him to hold the claim. The circumstances, being generally known to the miners, were regarded by them as sufficient to warrant this non-compliance with said local regulations. The honest, open-hearted miners, instead of taking advantage of Springer's misfortune, voluntarily contributed the necessary means for his support while in such disabled condition. In the fall of that year a man by the name of Sims came out from the webfoot country, as it was called in those days, with several cayuse horses loaded with supplies for the miners. In disposing of his large cargo among them he accidentally ascertained that Springer's mine was liable to be jumped on account of a non-performance of a certain amount of labor required by the local regulations, and jumped it. A suit was brought by Springer in the alcalde court against Sims to recover the claim. To the utter astonishment of everyone acquainted with the circumstances, the case was decided in favor of the jumper by the alcalde court. The claim was a very valuable one and was the only thing in the shape of property owned by Springer. Springer had remained by the claim all summer, nursing his wound and watching his claim, hoping soon to be able to work it. The decision was generally regarded not only as unjust, but an outrage upon common honesty. An application for a new trial having been made by Springer and peremptorily overruled by the court, Springer was without any remedy. At that time I was not engaged in the practice of law, but in mining upon a claim adjoining the one in dispute. The next day after the trial Springer came to me where I was at work and with tears in his eyes begged me to take hold of his case and endeavor to regain his claim for him. I tried to excuse myself by telling him that while the right and justice of the case were clearly with him, we were in a new country without law or legal courts, and that the only court clothed with authority to try his case had already decided against him and that there was no appeal from the judgment. The old man looked like despair itself, and with tears streaming down his cheeks exclaimed: "Is it possible there is no remedy for such a flagrant wrong?" Just then it flashed across my mind that it was a fundamental maxim of the law that there could be no wrong without a remedy. It also occurred to me at the same time that the same power that had created the alcalde court and clothed it with original jurisdiction to try the case could create a court of appeals and clothe it with sufficient appellate powers to correct errors committed by the trial court. I immediately prepared a notice of appeal with a long preamble containing substantially the facts of the case--the judgment of the court, the grounds of error complained of, finally winding up by calling a miners' meeting to be holden on the claim in dispute on a certain day named to consider what should be done in the case of Springer vs. Sims. Springer was instructed to post the notice in several conspicuous places and to ask every miner he saw to come to the meeting; also to employ Mr. D. M. Kenney to assist me in managing the case. These suggestions were strictly carried out, and when the day arrived the miners were there in force, with a visible determination on each countenance that justice should be administered regardless of circumstances. Mr. Kenney and myself were present on behalf of Springer and O. Jacobs on behalf of Sims. Mr. Jacobs was an emigrant who had just crossed the plains and was wholly unacquainted with the miners and their customs, while Mr. Kenney was an old Californian and well acquainted with the miner and their peculiarities. He was a man of fine personal appearance, a jolly fellow with everybody, quick-witted and a good talker. After a short conversation the following programme was agreed upon: First--To organize the meeting by election of a chairman and secretary. Second--To create an appellate court, with authority to hear appeals from judgments rendered by the alcalde court, and especially in the case of Springer vs. Sims. Third--The election of a judge to preside over the appellate court.
In bringing the matter before the meeting a sharp discussion arose between Messrs. Kenney and Jacobs, in which the latter ridiculed the idea of a lawyer appealing from a judgment of the court down to the people, remarking at the time that the proceedings reminded him of a cow's tail, the growth and tendency of which was always downward, instead of upward. Kenney immediately retorted by informing the miners that they were compared by counsel on the other side to a cow's tail and appealed to them to know if they were going to submit to such an indignity offered by a gentleman who had not been off the plains long enough to get the alkali out of him, the unanimous response to which was, "No, never!" The meeting resulted in the creation of a court of appeals with full authority to correct the errors committed by the trial court, and the election of U. S. Hayden as judge to preside over said court. The court was immediately organized and in less than an hour engaged in the hearing of the case. In presenting the case to the supreme court another discussion arose between counsel upon a legal question, Mr. Jacobs asserting the law to be one way and Kenney another. In the discussion of the proposition Mr. Jacobs, becoming a little animated, inadvertently remarked that he would bet that the law was as he had stated it to be, to which Mr. Kenney replied, as quick as thought, by asking him how much he would bet on the proposition, at the same time throwing upon the judge's table three fifty-dollar slugs, calling upon Mr. Jacobs to back his judgment with that amount. Jacobs, being an emigrant who had just crossed the plains, was broke and could not fortify his position in that manner. The authority to which he referred being against him, the point was decided adversely to him. The supreme court reversed the judgment of the alcalde court and resorted the mining claim to Springer.
I have presented you with a short history of these two cases to enable you to better understand how justice was administered in the early days of Oregon. One of them was a criminal case of the highest grade, in which the life of the offender was involved, and the other was a civil action involving a mining claim of the probable value of $4,000 or $5,000. The time consumed in the creation and organization of the courts and in the trial and disposition of these cases did not exceed eight or ten days.
It shows that justice was administered in those days promptly and with certainty, and that the early pioneers of this country were equal to any emergency.
Three weeks after his marriage Mr. A. J. Snyder started with his wife for California, but first stopped a year in Illinois, and a while in Burlington, Iowa, following his trade, in order to raise the means necessary for the trip. He left the latter place April 25, 1852, with a wagon made by himself and four horses. At Kanesville, now Council Bluffs, he refitted for the journey, and joined a train of about thirty wagons. While crossing the plains they had a little trouble with the Pawnee Indians, at the Loup Fork of the Platte River. Mr. Snyder came on by way of Fort Hall to the Dalles, Oregon. On the Columbia river he built and ran a steam paddle wheel boat, on which he carried passengers and made money between the Dalles and the Cascades. Then he followed mining at Rich Gulch near Jacksonville, in Southern Oregon. Provisions were scarce, and he suffered much privation. He took in a partner because he had a bellows, anvil and a few tools, costing him about $3,000, which in the East would be worth only about $65. While there he was Alcalde for the miners, under miners' law. He followed blacksmithing until the fall of 1853, when he left there with $1,600 for San Francisco, by way of the Crescent City.
The Bay of San Francisco: A History, Chicago, 1892, vol. ii, page 104
A RUNAWAY.--On Monday last Clark Rogers, Sr., living south of the city, had a serious accident. He went out to do some mowing with a mower, and when fairly at work his team struck a yellowjackets' nest, causing them to run away. Mr. Rogers was dragged some distance, and had a very narrow escape. He was some injured internally, and is under the care of Dr. Ransom, of Turner.
Capital Journal, Salem, July 19, 1895, page 4
FRACTURED HIS SKULL.About 6 o'clock Saturday evening Clark Rogers, an old and highly respected
Clark Rogers, of the Red Hills, Meets with a Fatal Accident.
resident of Marion County, while at work in his barn on his farm seven miles south of Salem, fell and fractured his skull. He did not regain consciousness and died at 7 o'clock Sunday morning.
When the accident occurred Mr. Rogers was engaged in storing away some choice ears of corn for seed. Having prepared a number of ears, he mounted a dry goods box about 3½ feet in height to hang the cars on a nail in the joist. He lost his balance and fell to the barn floor, striking his head at a point just behind the right ear on a plow.
He was discovered within a few moments afterwards by a daughter who promptly summoned assistance and removed the unfortunate man to the house, when medical aid was immediately obtained. He did not regain consciousness, dying as above stated. An examination disclosed the fact that his skull had been fractured by the fall.
The deceased leaves a wife and eight children, viz: Mrs. Mary McIntyre, of this city; Mrs. Sadie Emberson, of British Columbia; Clark Rogers, residing 4 miles south of Salem; Amelia Rogers, living at home; Clarence Rogers, of this city, Clayton Rogers, Cecil and Laura Rogers, all at home.
Deceased is an old pioneer, having come to Oregon as early as 1850, settling south of Salem, where he has since resided.
Funeral services will be held from the Methodist church at Turner at 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, Rev. Belknap officiating. The remains will be interred in Twin Oak cemetery. All friends of the family are invited to attend the services.
Daily Capital Journal, Salem, October 4, 1897, page 1
"In the spring of 1853 a miner named Rogers was appointed alcalde, to settle all disputes. Two miners had a dispute as to the ownership of a claim. Their names were Sims and Sprenger. Sims had wintered in the Willamette Valley, while Sprenger had held the claim. Sprenger broke his leg, and because he was unable to help work the claim, Sims arbitrarily claimed the entire property. They presented their case to Alcalde Rogers, who decided against Sprenger, awarding the claim to Sims. Sprenger appealed to the higher court of the justice of the miners. A meeting was called and more than 1000 miners attended. Rogers refused to change his decision, even when he was threatened with violence. Jerry, my father's partner, solved the difficulty by suggesting that if Rogers was judge the miners could appoint a supreme judge to overrule his decisions, so they elected U. S. Hayden of Connecticut superior alcalde, or chief justice. Jerry, my father's partner, wrote a book in which he gave the full particulars of this trial. I had this book for years, but I loaned it to a preacher and he claimed that he lost it, so I never got it back. In any event, after the miners had elected U. S. Hayden superior alcalde they appointed a bailiff, selected a jury and tried the case. P. P. Prim, later supreme [court] judge, and Daniel Kinney represented Sprenger, while Orange Jacobs, who later became a supreme [court] judge in Washington Territory, represented Sims. The jury restored Sprenger's right to one-half the claim."
Interview with Mamie Day Nelson. Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, August 19, 1927, page 10
In the year 1853, according to the radio story, a judicial tribunal took the place of the people's court. Disputes rose over water rights to mining ground and to property in general. A mass meeting was called on Jackson Creek and a man by the name of Rogers was appointed alcalde, or judge, with unlimited power.
A case in which two miners fell into dispute over a jointly owned mining claim, one denying the other his partner's rights proved his undoing. He decided in favor of the plaintiff. The miner who lost his interests went through the camps explaining the injustice done him. A meeting was called with 1000 people in attendance, most of them miners, and a "superior alcalde" adopted.
U. S. Hayden, a highly educated miner, was elected chief justice. He in turn appointed a bailiff, and a jury was drawn. P. P. Prim appeared for the appellant and Orange Jacobs for the respondent. The "pardner" was reinstated. Prim was later elected to the circuit court, which position he held for 8 years, and then became Chief Justice of Oregon. Jacobs went to Washington and was later a delegate to Congress. Joseph E. Wetterer, "KMED Broadcast Reviews Pioneer Times in J'Ville," Medford Mail Tribune, January 5, 1930, page 5
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[During the "starvation winter" of 1852-53] one muleload of salt arrived. It came from Scottsburg, most of the way through snow, a path being broken by the owner, Dr. Fisk, the mule following behind. Before reaching town Dan Kinney, partner of the Jacksonville house of Kenney & Appler, rode out of town and bought the load, at $8 per pound. There being 250 pounds of it, the packer was well paid for his hard trip of 150 or more miles. Hearing of this, the miners and citizens of Jacksonville held a meeting and passed a resolution, in other words a law, "regulating" the price of salt. It was decided that the merchant should be requested to sell this salt, in quantities of not more than one pound to each person, and at a price not exceeding one ounce of gold ($16) per pound. It is needless to say that no appeal from this action was taken.
George E. Cole, "A Pioneer's Recollections," Oregonian, Portland, February 3, 1901, page 23 This account was reprinted in Cole's 1905 book Early Oregon.
Mass Meeting in Jackson County.Oregonian, Portland, February 5, 1853, page 2 Note the last resolution.
A pursuant to general notice, a mass meeting of the citizens of Jackson County met at Table Rock City, on the 11th of December, 1852.
On motion, SAMUEL COLVER was called to the chair, and D. C. LEWIS to act as secretary.
After some remarks from the chair, explaining the object of the meeting, Mr. W. G. T'Vault and Judge Skinner were severally called upon to address the meeting, which they did in an able and eloquent manner.
On motion of Judge Skinner, a committee of five persons were selected by the meeting to draft a series of resolutions expressive of the sense of this meeting. Said committee consisted of the following gentlemen, viz: Dr. V. W. Coffin, D. M. Kenney, Dr. C. E. Alexander, W. G. T'Vault, and W. W. Fowler.
On motion, the meeting adjourned until the 18th Dec.
DEC. 18.--The meeting met pursuant to adjournment. Mr. Colver being absent, Mr. U. S. Hayden was called to the chair, when the committee reported the following resolutions, which were adopted unanimously:
Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting, the present apportionment of representation in the territorial legislative assembly is unequal and unjust--that our representative and councilman be instructed to use their influence to procure the passage of a law causing the census to be taken, thereby making a new apportionment of representation previous to the next general election.
Resolved, That the peculiar situation of the business affairs of this county (it being almost exclusively a mining county, and as such the population very fluctuating) demands that there should be at least three terms of the district court in each year, and that a special local act should confer upon our justices of the peace a jurisdiction sufficient to take cognizance over all sums not exceeding five hundred dollars, and further, that a special fee bill be passed, in order that there will be sufficient inducement for a responsible sum to accept of office within the county, as the present fee bill would not pay an officer laborer's wages.
Resolved, That we view with indignation the conduct of our representative in the efforts he used, during the last called session of the legislative assembly, to prevent the holding of a term of the district court in this county.
Resolved, That our representative and councilman be further instructed to procure the passage of an act legalizing all the judgments rendered heretofore in the justice's court, said justices having been selected by the people.
On motion of D. M. Kenney, the proceedings of this meeting be forwarded to Mr. M. P. Deady of the council, and some member of the assembly; also, a copy to each newspaper of the territory, with request to publish the same.
On motion, the meeting adjourned sine die.
U. S. HAYDEN, President.D. C. LEWIS, Secretary.
Both forks of our stream have now bared their beds to the gold seekers, and they are reaping a rich harvest. On the left-hand fork "old man Rogers," as he is commonly called, took out with four hands, a week since, $1800, and his claim continues to pay.
"Jacksonville, O.T., Correspondence," Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, June 4, 1853, page 1
THE OREGON MINES.--A correspondent of the Shasta Courier, writing under date of May 22nd, from Jacksonville, in Oregon Territory, about 190 miles from Shasta, says several large lumps, worth from $100 to $300, have lately been taken out in the vicinity. Miners are about getting into the bed of the stream. The banks, where freed from water, are paying remarkably well. A copious rain during the previous week, says the same writer, has kept the miners at work in the gulches near town, and night and day behold the golden treasures bountifully spread forth in reward of labor. Both forks of the stream have now bared their beds to the gold seekers, and they are reaping a golden harvest. On the left-hand fork "Old Man Rogers," as he is commonly called, took out, with four hands, a week since, $800, and his claim continues to pay. Others near him are also profiting by steady work, and will be well rewarded for their patience and perseverance through winter and spring. It would be perhaps unpleasant to themselves to give names. On the whole, all are doing well, and making better than the ordinary average of miners' wages.
Nevada Journal, Nevada City, California, June 17, 1853, page 2
An ACT, to legalize the elections of certain persons as justices of the peace in the county of Jackson.
WHEREAS, John R. Hardin, Chauncey Nye, U. S. Hayden, Clark Rogers and W. W. Fowler, have been informally elected justices of the peace for said county, or precincts of said county of Jackson, under the title of alcaldes, and doubts have arisen respecting the legality of their proceedings,
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Oregon, That the said John R. Hardin, Chauncey Nye, U. S. Hayden, Clark Rogers and W. W. Fowler, and each of them, be declared and deemed to have been legally elected and qualified to discharge the office and duties of a justice of the peace for said county; and that all their acts and proceedings in that capacity be deemed and declared to be valid--provided, that the same would have been valid if done by a justice of the peace duly elected and qualified.
Passed, Dec. 21, 1853.
Oregon Territory Special Laws, 5th Session, 1853-54, page 12 Also printed in the Oregon Statesman, January 17, 1854, page 1.
Finally, however, a governor of the camp seemed necessary. He should be clothed with plenary authority, and, as adjudicator, his decisions were judicial. U. S. Hayden was elected to be the first alcalde. [Hayden replaced Alcalde Rogers.] That was in 1853; and he continued until a justice of the peace was chosen under the territorial laws.
James S. Howard, as reported in "Thrills of Early Days Experienced by 'Father of Medford' Revealed,"
Medford Mail Tribune, January 17, 1932, page 9
MARRIED.In Alfred, April 27, by Eld. N. V. Hull, Mr. Clark Rogers, of Jacksonville, Oregon, to Mrs. Emma S. Stillman, of Alfred.
"Summary," Sabbath Recorder, New York City, May 4, 1854, page 187
The Yamhill Nationals have nominated A. Shuck and A. V. Short for State Legislature, R. Loughlin and ------ Wright for Territorial Legislature, G. W. Lawson for State Senator, Judge Olds for County Judge, Courtney Walker for County Clerk, and Clark Rogers for Sheriff.
The Oregon Argus, Oregon City, April 18, 1858, page 2
The resignation of Judge Baldwin has opened another field for struggle. Many gentlemen are named as his successor, but none has been so favorably received as the name of Columbus Sims, of your city. The people think Los Angeles is entitled to a representative on the supreme bench, and know of none more worthy than Mr. S.
Los Angeles Star, October 20, 1860, page 2
John Sims, formerly of Jacksonville, is a lieutenant in one of the volunteer companies forming in California for the war. His brother, Columbus Sims, is lieutenant colonel. They are natives of South Carolina.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, November 11, 1861, page 2
Columbus Sims,Whose trial for incompetency some time since, at this post, it may be safely inferred, resulted unfavorably to him, has been allowed the privilege of resigning, which he has done, and is now out of the service. It seems to me that an officer who deserves dismissal for such cause should suffer the disgrace incurred by his own conduct, nor be allowed to leave honorably a service which he has not honored. A court martial is being held here now (not in session for the time being on account of the Indian expedition) on charges preferred by Colonel Sims against certain officers of the Second Cavalry. In the case still pending the testimony of Sims was disproved by direct evidence, and his oath impeached by witnesses of undoubted veracity. Evidence is also at hand to prove his disloyalty by voluntary declarations from his own lips. I submit, is it well to allow a man of this character to resign, after putting the government to thousands of dollars expense in discovering his incapacity to command, though the fact was sufficiently apparent to any observer who knew aught of military requirements? There is proof that he said he "did not care which way his trial went, as he was sure of a commission in the Confederate service, and he had rather fight for Jeff. Davis than Lincoln's d----d Black Republican administration," which constitutes him a first rate Peace Democrat. With such a fellow-feeling friend as Latham at Washington, what is to hinder his appointment to a more responsible position? And surely his patron, Jeff., could not have a portion of his satellites better employed than in commanding Union troops, and--demoralizing them.
"Letter from Salt Lake," Camp Douglas, Sacramento Daily Union, February 12, 1863, page 3
RESIGNED.--Col. Columbus Sims, of the Second California Cavalry, has resigned his office. He had been before a Court of Inquiry, but was not censured.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, February 21, 1863, page 3
ATTORNEY'S OATH.--Columbus Sims yesterday took the attorney's oath of allegiance, which gives him the privilege of practicing in the courts throughout the state.--S.F. Bulletin, July 30th.
Daily Union Vedette, Camp Douglas, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 8, 1864, page 2
In early days, the miners of Jacksonville, Oregon, elected an Alcalde. A party to a contested claim case, thinking himself wronged, posted this notice: "Whereas, the Alcalde has given an unjust and corrupt decision against me, on Sunday next I shall take an appeal to the Supreme Court." Sunday saw a hundred miners, attracted by curiosity, to learn what the Supreme Court was. They themselves were that august tribunal. The aggrieved party tried the case and rendered a verdict reversing the Alcalde's decision. All acquiesced, recognizing them as the Supreme Court of original and final jurisdiction.
Albert Deane Richardson, "Richardson's Letter About Oregon," Marysville Daily Appeal, California, October 29, 1865, page 1 When the Sacramento Daily Union reprinted the letter they signed it "A.D.R."
Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Columbus Sims was arrested this afternoon on four charges, viz: assault and battery, exhibiting a deadly weapon, using vulgar language, and carrying a deadly weapon--all growing out of the late attack on Supervisor Canavan last night. He was held to bail on all the charges. His attack is common talk everywhere today, and great indignation is expressed at the attempt to browbeat and overawe a Supervisor in the discharge of his duties. Canavan says that the attack was caused by his refusing to unite with the members of the ring and oust the assistant district attorney, Louderback, and appoint Sims in his place.
"By Telegraph to the Union," Sacramento Daily Union, December 9, 1868, page 3
The Alta of December 8th says:
A DASTARDLY OUTRAGE.--During the session of the Board last night, a person well known in this community by the name of Columbus Sims walked up to the center of the chamber from the lobby, and addressing his remarks to the presiding officer, demanded of him to be heard on a question of privilege. Ashbury, in the chair, politely informed him that only by unanimous consent of the Board could this privilege be granted him. "Then," responded Sims, "I wish to insult a member of his body." Instantaneously he advanced toward Supervisor Canavan, who sat near him, and without giving him the slightest warning, spat two or three times at him as spitefully as an enraged tiger cat. Canavan very composedly remarked, "The man is in liquor. Sergeant-at Arms, remove him; take him direct to the station house and lock him up for carrying a concealed weapon." On the instant, Supervisor Shattuck sprang for him, as did a dozen other highly indignant spectators. He traveled out of that chamber faster than he entered it, and was conveyed to the calaboose. No concealed weapon was found on his person, but he made a motion as if to draw one on Canavan, and the general impression amongst the crowd was that he had a knife in his possession. The audacity of this man in thus intruding on the deliberations of a municipal body and insulting them is only equaled by its meanness. The only pretext he can possibly give for this contemptible conduct is that the gentleman insulted declined to lend him his influence in procuring for Sims some office within the gift of the dominant party.
Sacramento Daily Union, December 9, 1868, page 3
BORN.SPRENGER.--In this city, on the 13th inst., to the wife of J. B. Sprenger, a daughter.
State Rights Democrat, Albany, Oregon, January 16, 1869, page 3
THE DEATH OF COLUMBUS SIMS.--Referring to this event, the White Pine Inland Empire has the following
Colonel Columbus Sims died suddenly at Hamilton on the 14th of August. He fell while crossing the street, and after endeavoring in vain to rise, was picked up and carried to the station house by Marshal O'Keefe, who left him for a short time to obtain a permit for his removal to the county hospital. On the return of the Marshal, Colonel Sims was found lying face downward on the floor of the station house, dead. He was well known in Idaho and San Francisco, where he leaves a family. The Colonel was about forty years of age and was a native of South Carolina, if we recollect right. During the past nine years he has figured conspicuously before the public at various times. In 1861, when the California regiments were raised, Columbus Sims was appointed by Governor Downey to the colonelcy of the Second, a cavalry regiment. The appointment was the subject of considerable comment by the press, on account of the politics and sectional antecedents of the appointee. The regiment, however, under his command, moved with Carleton's command to Los Angeles, the rendezvous for the Arizona and Texas expedition. We believe he resigned his commission shortly afterward, and returned to California. Since then he has followed his profession as a lawyer in Idaho, San Francisco, and finally here. He was a man of considerable native ability, but of a morose and desponding temperament, and at times peculiarly excitable and impulsive. He had not been very fortunate in business in White Pine, and, doubtless, ill success, nervous impatience and hurtful indulgence hurried him to a premature grave.
Sacramento Daily Union, August 20, 1869, page 3
RECENT DEATHS.--Within the last two weeks, two well-known California pioneers, have died, Col. Columbus Sims and Luis Prevost.
Col. Sims was for many years practicing law in Los Angeles, and for some time district attorney of that county. He served for some time as a colonel of California volunteers, in the late war. Still later he removed to San Francisco, where he practiced law. His death occurred in Hamilton, White Pine, on August 14th. He leaves a very interesting family in San Francisco, was about forty years of age, and a native of South Carolina.
San Luis Obispo Tribune, August 30, 1869, page 1
Judge P. P. Prim said: "I came to Jackson County in March 1852. I came here to practice law, but got caught in the gold excitement and became an honest miner. We had an alcalde court in those days, and I helped to try one case. A miner had his leg broken, and while he was unable to work his claim was jumped by a newcomer. The case was decided [by the alcalde] against the miner. This so enraged the miners that a mass meeting was called; an appellate court was instituted, the decision of the lower court reversed and the case remanded back for trial. Of course it was decided in favor of the miner."
"Table Rock Legend," Ashland Tidings, April 22, 1892, page 1
FRACTURED HIS SKULL.
Clark Rogers, of the Red Hills, Meets with a Fatal Accident.
About 6 o'clock Saturday evening Clark Rogers, an old and highly respected resident of Marion County, while at work in his barn on his farm seven miles south of Salem, fell and fractured his skull. He did not regain consciousness and died at 7 o'clock Sunday morning.
When the accident occurred Mr. Rogers was engaged in storing away some choice ears of corn for seed. Having prepared a number of ears, he mounted a dry goods box about 3½ feet in height to hang the ears on a nail in the joist. He lost his balance and fell to the barn floor, striking his head at a point just behind the right ear, on a plow.
He was discovered within a few moments afterwards by a daughter who promptly summoned assistance and removed the unfortunate man to the house when medical aid was immediately obtained. He did not regain consciousness, dying as above stated. An examination disclosed the fact that his skull had been fractured by the fall.
The deceased leaves a wife and eight children, viz: Mrs. Mary McIntyre, of this city; Mrs. Sadie Emberson, of British Columbia; Clark Rogers, residing 4 miles south of Salem; Amelia Rogers, living at home; Clarence Rogers, of this city, Clayton Rogers, Cecil and Laura Rogers, all at home.
Deceased is an old pioneer having come to Oregon as early as 1850, settling south of Salem, where he has since resided.
Funeral services will be held from the Methodist Church at Turner at 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, Rev. Belknap officiating. The remains will be interred in Twin Oak cemetery. All friends of the family are invited to attend the services.
Daily Capital Journal, Salem, Oregon, October 4, 1897, page 1 This Clark Rogers was born in 1831, not fitting Orange Jacobs' description as a "grey-headed and venerable" man in 1852. But Narcissa Cornwall Moore recalls him being a "young man" in 1846.
"As in all mining towns of California, before county organizations were perfected, an alcalde was elected in each Southern Oregon town to administer justice in all cases. The same was done in Jacksonville. This officer's authority extended over everything, from a petty offense to a trial for life. The day I arrived in Jacksonville, a murder was committed. The murderer was immediately arrested, and the next day a jury was empaneled, a prosecuting attorney and counsel for the defense were appointed, the defendant was duly convicted, and he was sentenced to be executed in 10 days, which sentence was duly carried out. During about one year and a half this was the only court held in what now constitutes the counties of Jackson, Josephine, Lake and Klamath. For about one-half this time I was the alcalde, and had quite a number of interesting cases before me.
"While in the legislature I introduced a bill to legalize all the proceedings and acts of these alcaldes, but Grover objected, as the organic act of the Territory of Oregon did not give justices of the peace such large jurisdiction, and he wished the law to conform to the organic law. My bill was thus amended and so passed, but I did not consider it of much value in that shape. However, the acts of these alcaldes were never questioned as to their legality. These alcaldes had but about a dozen laws or articles for their guidance, and no technicalities were allowed. A trial consisted of the statements of the parties and the evidence of witnesses, if any, and the case was decided by the court, or the jury, if either party wished one. There was but little dissatisfaction with the decisions of the court. In fact the whole community was ready to help enforce the decision if it was necessary."
Chauncey Nye, "Early Legislature," Crook County Journal, January 2, 1902, page 1. An edited version was printed in the Medford Mail, January 24, 1902, page 3
Disputes arose among the miners concerning the water rights. A big meeting was held on the banks of Jackson Creek. At this meeting Rogers was appointed alcalde.
Jessie Beulah Wilson (Jacksonville High School student), "History of Jacksonville," Jacksonville Sentinel, June 5, 1903, page 4
Civil government had not been extended over that section of the country. The only system they had was the Alcalde system. This was borrowed from California, and by the Californians was borrowed from the mining jurisprudence of Spain. Every mining community of any considerable size had its Alcalde. He held his office by election, and his jurisdiction swept over the entire field of jurisprudence. There was no appeal from his judgments or decrees. Jacksonville and its mining community had such an officer; his name was Rogers. I think he was a lawyer, but had long since ceased to practice. He was a grey-headed and venerable-looking man. He administered the unwritten and the unclassified law of justice and equity as it appeared to him from the facts of each case heard by him. His judgments and decrees were promptly enforced; but there came a change. In the fall of '52 four men in the Willamette Valley formed themselves into a co-partnership for mining purposes, and with their horses and provisions went to Jackson Creek to try their fortune at mining. At first they were not successful. Provisions running low, they dispatched one of their number to the Willamette Valley with their horses to bring in an ample supply of provisions for the fast-approaching winter. This partner, sent on such a mission, became acquainted on his trip with a blooming damsel who had just crossed the plains. He made love to her; she reciprocated, and they were married. The season had far advanced when the honeymoon was over. He brought, however, on his delayed return an abundant supply of provisions. His partners during his absence, had located some claims, opened them and found them very rich. But on his return, while they accepted the provisions, they denied to him all accounting, and refused to acknowledge his interest in the newfound claims. He brought an action before the Alcalde for an accounting and for the affirmation of his interest in the claims. The Alcalde, after hearing and fully considering the facts of the case, granted both of the petitions. Up to this time I had had no employment in the case and had taken but a general interest in it. The defeated parties called a miners' convention, whose declared object was the election of a judge of appeals for that and other cases. My connection with the case commenced at this point. I was employed by the successful party before the Alcalde, and by others, to oppose this movement. At the appointed time nearly all of the miners of Jackson Creek
and its vicinity assembled in convention at the appointed place. The feeling for and against the proposition was quite intensified. After the convention was organized I arose and with some trepidation addressed the large crowd. I was listened to throughout with silent and respectful attention. I took the position, first, that inasmuch as the machinery of civil government had not as yet been extended over that district of the country, the Alcalde system prevailed, and thousands upon thousands of valuable properties had changed hands by virtue of the Alcalde judgments and decrees and their enforcement, and the property rights of many were dependent upon the validity and stability of such judgments and decrees, all would be endangered by the proposed change; that his ministerial officers might be subject to prosecution; that under such circumstances we had better stand upon the records of the past--records as old as the institution of mining in the United States. I further argued that if we attempted to complicate affairs by the election of a judge of appeals, and possibly by the institution of other tribunals for the correction of error, we turn a system simple in itself, and beneficent in its operations in the past, into a complicated farce. I argued in favor of the probability of the Legislature, when it extended its machinery of civil government over that section of country, passing an act validating the judgments and decrees or providing for a liberal mode and time for an appeal from them. My last point, omitting others, was that this movement had its origin in, and promotion by, the parties defeated in the Alcalde's court. If they had the power to secure a determination in favor of a court of appeals they certainly had power to elect the judge of appeals; that as this would be the first case to be heard by him, they certainly would not elect a judge who was not favorable to their interests; and that it had the appearance to me of a court organized to convict or to reverse. I pushed this point with every reason and every illustration and consideration that I could command, I appealed in conclusion to their native sense of justice and equity, and closed after speaking a little over an hour. I was roundly applauded. My opponent was what was known in the States as a pettifogger. I use this term not opprobriously. He was an old miner and possessed the power of rough-edged ridicule and philippics. He thought that the best way to answer my argument was to annihilate me. His description of a beardless tenderfoot coming all the way from Michigan to teach veteran miners what they ought to do, or ought not to do was certainly amusing, if not overdrawn by its exaggeration. He was frequently applauded by his side. When he was through the voting commenced. The contending forces arrayed themselves on each side of a line with a space of four or five feet between them. The pulling and hauling across the space was continuous. After several efforts to make an accurate count, it was reported to the President that there was a majority of from three to ten in favor of the proposition. The next move was to select a judge of the court of appeals. This was soon accomplished. The judge so elected notified the parties of the time and place where the appeal was to be heard. At the appointed time I appeared and filed a written protest and demurrer to his jurisdiction. When I had finished reading them he promptly, and without hearing the other party, overruled both protest and demurrer. He heard the case anew and promptly reversed the judgment of the Alcalde. I think this was the only case the judge of appeals ever heard. Nothing but the dignity of the office remained. In after years I became well acquainted with said judge, but I never mentioned the subject to him. A more extended account of this affair is given in one of Bancroft's histories of the coast. The record or papers filed by me in this case, I have been informed, are in the archives of Jackson County.
Memoirs of Orange Jacobs, 1908, page 72
A man named Sims and another named Springer had taken up a claim together as partners. Sims desired to spend the winter in the Willamette Valley. During his absence his partner held down the claim, and while doing so met with an unfortunate accident, breaking his leg. When Sims returned from the valley he decided that he did not want a partner who could not do his share of the work, so he told Springer that he had decided to take the whole claim himself, and that he had better look elsewhere for a claim and a partner. Springer appealed to the recently elected alcalde. Rogers decided that possession was nine points of the law, and that the other point didn't matter much, anyway, so he upheld Sims. Since there was no way of going back on his decision the miners had no recourse. Springer, however, refused to tamely submit to such an unjust decision. He visited the miners throughout the entire district explaining the matter to them and demanding a fair trial and an impartial decision. Finally a meeting was called, which was attended by more than 1000 miners. The matter was publicly discussed. Rogers was shown the injustice of his decision and asked to reverse his judgment. He refused to do so, and said the decision, once made, would have to stand, right or wrong. There was no recall of judicial decisions nor was there any recall of corrupt or incapable judges. Finally a man secured the attention of the chairman and suggested that since there was no way to remove their present official, the same body which had authority to appoint him certainly had authority to appoint someone over him, and therefore he suggested the election of an official to be termed superior judge or some similar title, to have supreme jurisdiction over all officers previously appointed.
This happy solution was adopted, and Mr. Rogers found himself minus authority. U. S. Hayden, a New Englander, was elected as supreme judge. A jury was immediately selected, P. P. Prim and Dan Kenny were chosen to represent Springer, and Orange Jacobs, a newcomer from Michigan, was selected to represent Sims. The jury found for Springer and the mining claim was divided equally between Sims and Springer. A year later Prim was admitted to the bar and later became chief justice of Oregon, while Orange Jacobs was chief justice of Washington Territory at a later period.
Fred Lockley, "A Town That Lives in the Past," Oregon Journal, Portland, November 24, 1912, page 63
Mr. [Irving E.] Vining then referred to the trial of Sims & Sprenger in the spring of 1853. By common consent a mass meeting was held on Jackson Cr., attended by citizens of the town & miners from Rich Gulch. At this meeting a man named Rogers was appointed "Alcalde" & given unlimited jurisdiction.
It was soon apparent that Rogers was unworthy of public confidence & the fountainhead of power again drawn upon when a miner proposed the election of a "Superior Alcalde" & U. S. Hayden was unanimously proclaimed "Chief Justice" & according to the unwritten code of the miners jury Sprenger was reinstated in his right, and the decision of the court & jury stood & today in all the courts of law this court proceedings held by the miners in Jacksonville in 1853 is held as a model.
Minutes of meeting of September 24, 1925, Records of the Southern Oregon Pioneer Society, volume 1, page 238, Southern Oregon Historical Society MS 517
In the year 1853, according to the radio story, a judicial tribunal took the place of the people's court. Disputes rose over water rights to mining ground and to property in general. A mass meeting was called on Jackson Creek and a man by the name of Rogers was appointed alcalde, or judge, with unlimited power.
A case in which two miners fell into dispute over a jointly owned mining claim, one denying the other his partner's rights, proved his undoing. He decided in favor of the plaintiff. The miner who lost his interests went through the camps explaining the injustice done him. A meeting was called with 1000 people in attendance, most of them miners, and a "superior alcalde" adopted.
U. S. Hayden, a highly educated miner, was elected chief justice. He in turn appointed a bailiff, and a jury was drawn. P. P. Prim appeared for the appellant and Orange Jacobs for the respondent. The "pardner" was reinstated. Prim was later elevated to the circuit court, which position he held for 18 years, and then became Chief Justice of Oregon. Jacobs went to Washington and was later a delegate to Congress.
"KMED Broadcast Reviews Pioneer Times in J'Ville," Medford Mail Tribune, January 5, 1930, page 5
Capt. C. Sims joined the command and handsomely performed the duties of assistant adjutant general until the 29th, when compelled by sickness to resign.
General Joseph Lane in his report of September 16, 1853 on the Battle of Evans Creek, Oregon Statesman, Salem, October 11, 1853, pages 1-2
. . . on September 5, 1853, a regular court was held in Jacksonville, by Hon. Matthew P. Deady, who had just been appointed United States district judge for the Territory of Oregon, by President Pierce, and it is almost needless to say that his honor presided with distinguished ability. The officers of the court were, L. F. Grover (subsequently governor of Oregon and senator in congress), United States district attorney pro tem; Columbus Sims, territorial prosecuting attorney; Joseph W. Drew, deputy marshal; Matthew G. Kennedy, sheriff. [page 363] Court was held in a building next to the "New State" saloon, and it was a most unpretentious temple of justice. The bench was a dry-goods box, covered with a blue blanket, and it is quite probable that the uncomfortable seat occupied by the judge was so irksome that it had something to do with his rapid dispensation of justice. [page 366]
A. G. Walling, History of Southern Oregon, 1884, page 363
Appointment.--We have pleasure in stating that our friend Columbus Sims, Esq., has been appointed Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of C. E. Carr, Esq., late incumbent.--[San Diego Herald]
"Later from the South," Sacramento Daily Union, November 27, 1856, page 1
Raising a Cavalry Company in the South--Col. Sims of Los Angeles.Columbus Sims of this city has been offered by Gov. Downey a commission as lieutenant colonel in the new cavalry regiment that is to be raised in California. Col. Sims, on receiving the tender, immediately commenced enlisting a company of cavalry for his regiment in this county. The company already has 50 members, who have set to drilling at once under competent drill masters from Captain Davidson's Dragoons. I understand that the company would be full within two days if they could go into camp. Although Col. Sims was born in South Carolina he is intensely "Union." He even goes so far as to declare, which he did long ago, that the government should make the rebels pay the expenses of a war of which they are the cause, and that if he had the authority, he would at once make forced contributions off the rabid secessionists here who are doing all they can to urge on the rebellion. He does not believe in any halfway measures.
"Letter from Los Angeles," San Francisco Bulletin, September 25, 1861, page 2
LIEUT.-COL. SIMS.--A Los Angeles correspondent of the San Francisco Bulletin, writing under date of September 20th, says:
"Columbus Sims, of this city, has been offered by Gov. Downey a commission as lieutenant colonel in the new cavalry regiment to be raised in California. Col. Sims, on receiving the tender, immediately commenced enlisting a company of cavalry for his regiment in this county. The company already has fifty members who set to drilling at once under competent drill-masters from Captain Davidson's dragoons. I understand that the company would be full within two days if they could go into camp. Although Col. Sims was born in South Carolina, he is intensely 'Union.' He even goes so far as to declare, which he did long ago, that the government should make the rebels pay the expense of a war of which they are the cause, and that if he had the authority he would at once make forced contributions of the rabid secessionists here who are doing all they can to urge on the rebellion. He does not believe in any halfway business."
We understand Col. Sims was formerly a resident of this county, and will be remembered as one of those heroic men who never had the least conception of fear.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 12, 1861, page 2
At the office of the Adjutant General we find a record of the following military commissions issued: Columbus Sims, Colonel Second Cavalry, vice A. J. Smith, resigned; Geo. S. Evans, Lieut. Colonel Second Cavalry, vice Columbus Sims, promoted. . . .
"News of the Morning," Sacramento Daily Union, November 15, 1861, page 2
Columbus Sims, formerly of this place, is Col. of 2nd Regiment of Cavalry, California Volunteers.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 23, 1861, page 2
John Sims assaulted the editor of the Morning Call for having called in question the loyalty of his brother, Columbus Sims, who is a Colonel of Volunteers, and was arrested.
"News of the Morning," Sacramento Daily Union, December 9, 1861, page 4
JOHN L. SIMS, formerly of Jacksonville, was arrested in San Francisco on the 8th instant for an assault on Rockwell, editor of the Morning Call. It is said the affair grew out of remarks published by Rockwell questioning the loyalty of Sims. We are well acquainted with Sims, and know that he has very violently expressed his sympathy for his native state, South Carolina, and opposition to the government; but we believe that his views in relation to the war have changed, or he would not have taken the obligation required of a Lieutenant in the U.S. service.
Col. Columbus Sims, brother of John, has been held to answer before the Court of Sessions of San Francisco, in the sum of $500, for assault on D. D. Colton.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, December 21, 1861, page 3
Col. Columbus Sims, Second Cavalry California Volunteers, will move from his camp near this city at an early day, with his headquarters and two companies of his regiment, by water to Sacramento, and thence by land along the mail route.
Special Orders No. 115, Headquarters, Department of the Pacific, San Francisco July 5, 1862
A COLONEL SUPERSEDED.--Col. Columbus Sims, commanding the 2nd California Cavalry, has been superseded by Maj. McGarry, by order of Gen. Wright, and is on his way hither from Carson City. So says a Carson paper--but for what it does not state.
San Francisco Bulletin, August 28, 1862, page 3
Colonel Sims, of the Second Cavalry.
The Military Board of Commission, appointed by General Wright to examine the charges preferred against Colonel Sims, terminated its labors in taking testimony last evening. What will be the result of this examination is still a matter of conjecture, and on that point there is great diversity of opinion; on what should be the decision, I think there is much less variety. The board was composed of Colonel P. Ed. Connor, and Captains Black and Emery, of the Third Infantry, C.V., with Captain Stewart, of the Regular Army, Recorder. Section tenth of a certain act of Congress says that a commander of a department may appoint a military board of commission to inquire into the propriety of conduct, efficiency and capacity of any officer within his department. Of course, it is expected that department generals will not, for trifling matters, amuse themselves with appointing such boards of commission, and doing such and such things to worry Dick, Tom and Harry. What are the specific charges against Columbus Sims, I am not supposed to know, but I expect "propriety of conduct, efficiency and capacity" cover the ground. Nine witnesses were examined for the prosecution and eleven for the defense. The particular period of the Colonel's history examined was his twenty days' march from Sacramento to Fort Churchill, and with great kindness the Colonel had all the scores of days he desired to rebut the charges of the prosecution. Eight witnesses came from Fort Churchill; the others were with Colonel Connor's command. The Fort Churchill men return this week; Colonel Sims will probably remain till he is ordered to resume command--or otherwise.
"Letter from Salt Lake," Sacramento Daily Union, November 28, 1862, page 2
Whose trial for incompetency some time since, at this post, it may be safely inferred, resulted unfavorably to him, has been allowed the privilege of resigning, which he has done, and is now out of the service. It seems to me that an officer who deserves dismissal for such cause should suffer the disgrace incurred by his own conduct, not be allowed to leave honorably a service which he has not honored. A court martial is being held here now (not in session for the time being on account of the Indian expedition) on charges preferred by Colonel Sims against certain officers of the Second Cavalry. In the case, still pending, the testimony of Sims was disproved by direct evidence and his oath impeached by witnesses of undoubted veracity. Evidence is also at hand to prove his disloyalty by voluntary declarations from his own lips. I submit, is it well to allow a man of this character to resign, after putting the government to thousands of dollars expense in discovering his incapacity to command, though the fact was sufficiently apparent to any observer who knew aught of military requirements? There is proof that he said he "did not care which way his trial went, as he was sure of a commission in the Confederate service, and he had rather fight for Jeff. Davis than Lincoln's d----d Black Republican administration," which constitutes him a first-rate Peace Democrat. With such a fellow-feeling friend as Latham at Washington, what is to hinder his appointment to a more responsible position? And surely his patron, Jeff., could not have a portion of his satellites better employed than in commanding Union troops, and--demoralizing them.
"Letter from Salt Lake," Sacramento Daily Union, February 12, 1863, page 3
RESIGNED.--Col. Columbus Sims, of the Second California Cavalry, has resigned his office. He had been before a court of inquiry, but was not censured.
Oregonian, Portland, February 21, 1863, page 3
. . . Columbus Sims, Captain Eureka Guard, Second Brigade, C.M.--mustered into state service. . . .
"Military Commissions," Sacramento Daily Union, March 15, 1865, page 2
In San Francisco, June 21st, the wife of Columbus Sims, of a son.
"Births," Sacramento Daily Union, June 24, 1868, page 2
AN EXCITING SCENE--SUPERVISOR CANAVAN ASSAULTED.
While the report of the Outside Land Committee was being read Colonel Columbus Sims, who had been sitting among the spectators, came forward to the table fronting the desk and said: "I rise to a question of privilege as a citizen of San Francisco."
Mr. Ashbury (Chairman)--It is not in order unless the Board allow it.
Sims--Then I shall be under the necessity of insulting a member of this Board by spitting in his face.
Mr. Canavan was sitting near him, when he turned around and spit at him.
Mr. Canavan--The man is in liquor. Arrest him, Mr. Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Nunan grabbed Sims by one arm, when he thrust his other hand under his coat and exhibited the handle of a knife. The Sergeant-at-Arms held him and several men rushed to assist in preventing him from doing injury.
Mr. Canavan ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest him for carrying a concealed weapon, and the Sergeant-at-Arms, and Mr. Greenwood, of the Fire Telegraph Office, took him in custody and carried him from the room despite his struggles.
The occasion of the difficulty was in consequence of a conversation in the early part of the evening, when Colonel Sims, who was a stranger to Mr. Canavan, asked him to do something "as a personal favor." Mr. Canavan replied: "You are a stranger to me, and have no right to ask it of me as a personal favor." Sims replied in violent language, and retired to a seat in the rear of the room.
"Board of Supervisors," San Francisco Chronicle, December 8, 1868, page 3
The Alta of December 8th says:
"A DASTARDLY OUTRAGE.--During the session of the Board last night, a person well known in this community by the name of Columbus Sims walked up to the center of the chamber from the lobby, and addressing his remarks to the presiding officer, demanded of him to be heard on a question of privilege. Ashbury, in the chair, politely informed him that only by unanimous consent of the Board could this privilege be granted him. 'Then,' responded Sims, 'I wish to insult a member of this body.' Instantaneously he advanced toward Supervisor Canavan, who sat near him, and without giving him the slightest warning, spat two or three times at him as spitefully as an enraged tiger cat. Canavan very composedly remarked, 'The man is in liquor. Sergeant-at-Arms, remove him; take him direct to the station house and lock him up for carrying a concealed weapon.' On the instant, Supervisor Shattuck sprang for him, as did a dozen other highly indignant spectators. He traveled out of that chamber faster than he entered it, and was conveyed to the calaboose. No concealed weapon was found on his person, but he made a motion as if to draw one on Canavan, and the general impression amongst the crowd was that he had a knife in his possession. The audacity of this man in thus intruding on the deliberations of a municipal body and insulting them is only equaled by its meanness. The only pretext he can possibly give for his contemptible conduct is that the gentleman insulted declined to lend him his influence in procuring for Sims some office within the gift of the dominant party."
Sacramento Daily Union, December 9, 1868, page 3
Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Columbus Sims was arrested this afternoon on four charges, viz: assault and battery, exhibiting a deadly weapon, using vulgar language, and carrying a deadly weapon--all growing out of the late attack on Supervisor Canavan last night. He was held to bail on all the charges. His attack is common talk everywhere today, and great indignation is expressed at the attempt to browbeat and overawe a Supervisor in the discharge of his duties. Canavan says the attack was caused by his refusing to unite with the members of the ring and oust the Assistant District Attorney, Louderback, and appoint Sims in his place.
"By Telegraph to the Union," Sacramento Daily Union, December 9, 1868, page 3
THE SIMS-CANAVAN CASE.
Columbus Sims was arraigned in the police court yesterday morning on four charges in connection with his assault on Supervisor Canavan last Monday night. Alexander Campbell appeared on behalf of the prosecution and W. Zabriskie for the defense. A plea of guilty was entered as to the charge of assault and battery, and the charges of carrying a concealed weapon, drawing a deadly weapon and using vulgar language were, by consent, all tried together by the court. Mr. Canavan, Mr. Ashbury, Robert Cushing, Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Stanyan were sworn for the prosecution, and Colonel Sims in his own behalf. The facts proven differ but little from the statements already published. Sims was sober at the time, and had come to the conclusion that Mr. Canavan had not treated him respectfully, because he refused to vote for him as Louderback's successor and declined to talk with him on the subject. He had threatened Canavan several times before the assault was made. The testimony was positive that Sims had a weapon in his possession when the assault was made. Judge Provines, after hearing the testimony, held that all the charges were proven and directed the defendant to appear for sentence this morning.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 11, 1868, page 3
The Outrage on a Supervisor--Col. Sims Held for Sentence.
On the case of Col. Sims, charged by Supervisor Canavan with assault, etc., being called in the police court yesterday morning before Judge Provines, Col. Zabriskie appeared for Col. Sims, and Judge Alex. Campbell for Mr. Canavan. Mr. Zabriskie said they would plead guilty to assault and battery, but not guilty to the drawing of a weapon in a threatening manner, the carrying of a concealed weapon and using vulgar language. By consent the three charges were tried together without a jury.
Supervisor Canavan sworn said that while engaged in writing at his place in the Board of Supervisors last Monday night someone (Col. Sims) smelling strongly of liquor leaned over his shoulder and said, "Mr. Canavan, I demand as a personal favor that you vote for me." He did not hear the remainder. I said, "Personal favor, sir; I don't know you." He replied, "I am a gentleman, Col. Sims, of the Twelfth Ward, and you'll hear from me tomorrow, sir." I said, "Get out." He came to me a minute or two after and said, "Remember, you'll hear from me tomorrow morning." I said again, "Go back, sir; I am busy." Afterwards I was asked by R. C. Page to leave the Board, as he wished to see me on some important business outside. We went to the Bank Exchange, where I drank a glass of cider. As I was returning, Sims crossed obliquely to us and spoke to me. I spoke first. He said I had insulted him. I said I had no intention of doing so. He said I had done it twice and he would make me pay for it. "I will punish you for this, sir." I said I would have him arrested. He said, "Do if you dare, you G-- d----- son of a b----." He said that several times; I said he was not worth arresting and went upstairs to the Board; Mr. Page told me he was armed; I was sitting in the Board when he entered and asked leave to address the Board; he was told he could not without the unanimous leave of the board; he then said, "I want to insult a member and spit in his face"; he approached me; I called upon the Chair to have him removed; he spat at me twice; the saliva fell on my sleeve; I put myself in an attitude to attack him when I saw him draw a knife from the inside breast pocket of his coat; I stepped back; Messrs. Shattuck, Nunan and the Sergeant-at-Arms laid hold of him to put him out.
To Mr. Zabriskie--I never was introduced to Col. Sims at Sacramento; I only knew his name by his addressing me in the street lately; he dared me in the street to have him arrested, in a threatening and menacing manner, and said you G-- d----- son of a b---h I'll spit in your face if you do; he said this several times, and in the presence of several people.
R. C. Page sworn--Said he had business at the Board of Supervisors on Monday evening, and during some formal business asked Mr. Canavan to come out and converse with him; when returning to the Board by the entrance near the Metropolitan Theater, Mr. Sims joined them; there was some conversation between Messrs. Canavan and Sims, during which the witness retired. He then said: The first I heard was Canavan saying: "You must not talk to me that way, sir"; Sims replied, "You did it twice"; Canavan said, "I did not, sir; I had no such intention." Sims said, "D--- you, I'll punish you." Mr. Canavan said: "I'll have you arrested"; Sims replied, "G-- d--n you, you son of a b----, I'll spit in your face"; he said this several times; Canavan stopped and said: "You are not worth arresting," and turned toward the door of the Supervisors' building; I then told Mr. Canavan Col. Sims was armed; I insisted on Mr. Canavan going upstairs to the Board; he wanted to go to the police office and have Sims arrested; I was so near the defendant that I distinctly saw a knife or dirk in his hand.
To Mr. Zabriskie--I saw both the body and blade of a knife; it was a dark-handled weapon; it looked like a small dirk; I saw the blade distinctly; the street lamps were lighted. The witness showed the Court the way in which the knife was held, and the relative positions of all three men. It was not the movement that made me think it was a knife; I saw it distinctly; I have no prejudice against Sims; am rather friendly to him than otherwise.
Supervisor Ashbury sworn--Said he was in the chair of the Board of Supervisors when Col. Sims entered and said he rose to a question of privilege, as a citizen of San Francisco. I explained that the only way that could be done was by asking a member to move for leave, and getting the unanimous consent of the Board. He then said he intended to insult a member, and spit in his face. He immediately spat at Mr. Canavan. I called upon the Sergeant-at-Arms to put him out, and there was a scuffle, and he was put out.
To Mr. Zabriskie--He spat twice; the spittle did not fall on Mr. Canavan's face; I should think it fell on his clothes; I did not see the knife, and would not, from my position, be likely to do so. Mr. Canavan moved sharply towards Sims when he spat the second time, but immediately fell back. (Mr. Canavan--"That's when I saw the knife.") I cannot say what was the cause of Mr. Canavan's falling back; I was too distant. Col. Sims, I thought, said he would go, but he resisted the attempt to put him out.
Robert Cushing sworn--Said he was present when Sims attacked Mr. Canavan in the Board room. Several rushed toward Sims. Witness distinctly saw Sims placing a weapon up his sleeve afterwards; it might have been a knife; he thought it was a pistol. He distinctly saw the glitter of metal.
The prosecution rested their case here.
For the defense, Supervisor Shrader was called and sworn. He corroborated Supervisor Ashbury's evidence about Sims wishing to speak to the Board, and saying that he wanted to insult Mr. Canavan and spit in his face. He had a black lead pencil in his hand. Witness saw him make no effort to draw a weapon and thought he should have seen it had he done so.
To Judge Campbell--It was possible that Sims might have drawn a weapon, but did not think he did.
Supervisor Stanyan sworn--Said Sims, on being told he could not address the Board, said he should be compelled to insult a member of the Board and spat twice; Mr. Canavan said something about Sims being intoxicated and called for his removal. Saw no movement like drawing a weapon; saw nothing to indicate that Sims was intoxicated.
Judge Campbell asked if Mr. Canavan had not made a remark before Sims was removed, that he had a concealed weapon? The question was objected to by the defense, but allowed by Judge Provines. The answer was: Witness did not hear it.
Supervisor Flaherty gave evidence similar to Messrs. Shrader and Stanyan. In answer to Judge Campbell, he said: Mr. Canavan, after being spat at twice, moved forward, and then fell back; witness thought Sim's hand was under his coat; did not see any pencil in his hand.
Columbus Sims (defendant) sworn, said--On Monday I went to the Board of Supervisors and asked Mr. Canavan to vote for Pennie. He said, "I don't know you, sir." I said, "I beg your pardon, sir"; and went away to the office to get my coat. Afterwards I met him in the street. I asked him to let me speak to him. He insisted that I had insulted him. I said, "I cannot afford to insult you." He said I intended to assault him. I said, "I don't intend to do you any injury, but I want to express my opinion of you." He said, "I'll have you arrested." I said, "You have insulted me now." I used no epithet; I may have said "d---"; I may have used an expression about "d---." I afterwards rose to a question of privilege, because I wanted to show my opinion of a man who has injured one who was his friend. I had no weapon of any description. I was not intoxicated.
To Judge Campbell--I had asked Mr. Canavan to vote for Judge Pennie. I did not demand it as a personal favor; I asked him to vote for Judge Pennie as a personal favor, and I would return the compliment. He replied, "I don't know you, sir; what right have you to ask me a personal favor?" I said, "I beg your pardon, sir; I was introduced to you at Sacramento."
Q.--What did the insult consist of?
A.--I have told the Judge. One man may deem one thing an insult, another another thing. He had said he didn't know me. He did not want to converse. I did not like his manner or language. When we met in the street it was light. I addressed him. I said, "Mr. Canavan, politeness costs nothing." I told him I would not assault him. When he talked of arresting me, I took him by the lapel of the coat, and may have said, "You g-- d--- son of a b----." I went to the meeting of the Board of Supervisors to justify my character and express my opinion of that man. I did not go to the Board to insult him, because he would not have me arrested; I went because as a man among his peers, I had been insulted. I had asked Mr. Canavan a few weeks ago if he would vote for me for prosecuting attorney in place of Louderback, if I could get one Republican vote. He said something about the "ring."
To the Judge--I had no intention of assaulting that man, only of resenting the indignity put upon me.
Mr. Canavan, recalled--Sims said in the street he would make me pay for it; he would chastise me; he never said anything about "pardon"; my impression on the street was he wished me to strike him, and then he would have stabbed me. His manner and language on the street I complain of.
Col. Sims--I neither want to kill you nor anyone else.
W. M. Zabriskie called upon the Court sitting as a jury to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt on the charges of carrying a concealed weapon and drawing a weapon in a threatening manner; counsel reviewed the evidence and claimed that the Supervisors sitting there coolly were more likely to see what actually took place, as Mr. Canavan naturally was excited.
Judge Campbell said he could see no reason for doubt. Mr. Page's evidence was clear and distinct; he was close to Sims; saw the weapon in his hand, and saw him shift its position. Mr. Canavan's testimony and his admitted movements in the Board room corroborate the charge that a knife was drawn; Mr. Ashbury supports that testimony. The testimony of the other Supervisors did not contradict it, because it was well known in these difficulties every spectator did not see every movement. Judge Campbell was describing the manner of the outrage and characterizing it as "beastly" when Col. Sims interrupted him and said counsel had no right, etc.
The magistrate told Col. Sims to keep his seat. The counsel went on to speak of the assault as an outrage upon the city for a man to drag his private grievances into the public deliberation on municipal affairs and grossly insult one of its members.
Col. Sims rose and took exception to the remarks of Judge Campbell. He spoke in an incoherent manner and said something about having been a lawyer 10 [possibly 19] years, and he had never found it necessary in all that time to do what this man had, meaning counsel, who was a vigilante, or who had been run off by the Vigilance Committee. If Mr. Canavan is the city, I am sorry.
The Judge--I think the city was insulted when a Supervisor, sitting in the Board, was spat upon. I hold all the charges proved. The defendant will come up for sentence Friday morning.
San Francisco Bulletin, December 11, 1868, page 3
A HEAVY SENTENCE.--Col. Columbus Sims, convicted of assaulting a Supervisor, was sentenced yesterday by Judge Provines, as follows: For vulgar language, $50 or 25 days' imprisonment in the county jail; for drawing a weapon, one month's imprisonment, without alternative; for carrying a concealed weapon, $100 fine or 50 days' imprisonment; for assault and battery, 45 days' imprisonment, without alternative. The sentence amounts to 150 days' imprisonment, but by paying a fine of $150, the term of confinement can be reduced to 75 days' imprisonment. The magistrate has evidently looked upon the offenses as a gross outrage upon the dignity of the city, and has done his best to prevent such unseemly events again occurring to the disgrace of San Francisco.
San Francisco Bulletin, December 12, 1868, page 3
JUDGE PROVINES has won for himself the cordial approbation of all good citizens by his course in the case of "Colonel" Columbus Sims. Although Sims is a representative type of the thoroughgoing backwoods secesh Democrat, the Judge has shown him no favor, but both on his trial and in pronouncing sentence has evinced a stern determination to administer the criminal law without fear, favor or partiality. The result will be that ruffians of the Sims type will be compelled to realize that California is not Texas, and that San Francisco is a civilized community.
Sacramento Daily Union, December 12, 1868, page 2
Judge Provines' sentence of Columbus Sims, for attacking Supervisor Canavan, heavy as it was, appears to meet with hearty commendation from all classes of this community.
"By Telegraph to the Union," Sacramento Daily Union, December 12, 1868, page 5
Columbus Sims has appealed his case to the County Court, and been released from custody on bail pending the decision in that tribunal.
"By Telegraph to the Union," Sacramento Daily Union, December 14, 1868, page 2
AFTER HIM.--Matthew Canavan, one of the Supervisors who is endeavoring to break up the ring of corruptionists who now control the municipal affairs of San Francisco, is having a rough time of it. One Columbus Sims, a high-toned Southern chiv., attempted to spit in Canavan's face while the Board was in session, because he refused to vote as Sims desired, and a day or two afterwards Cavalier, a member of the ring, challenged Canavan to fight a duel. Doubtless thinking that it was better to take up arms against this sea of troubles, and by opposing end them, Canavan accepted the challenge. Alarmed at the prospect of getting hurt, the chivalric Cavalier withdrew his challenge, and as Sims has been sentenced to 75 days' imprisonment, Canavan is at present master of the situation.
Shasta Courier, Shasta City, California, December 19, 1868, page 2
[December] 7th . . . Supervisor Canavan, of San Francisco, at a meeting of the Board, assaulted by Columbus Sims, formerly a lieutenant colonel of volunteers. Sims was subsequently arrested, tried and convicted on four charges--assault and battery, exhibiting a deadly weapon--and sentenced to pay a fine of $150 and suffer seventy-five days imprisonment in the county jail. Sims subsequently appealed to the county court.
"Noticeable Events During the Year ," Sacramento Daily Union, January 1, 1869, page 1
THE DEATH OF COLUMBUS SIMS.--Referring to this event, the White Pine Inland Empire has the following:
"Colonel Columbus Sims died suddenly at Hamilton on the 14th of August. He fell while crossing the street, and after endeavoring in vain to rise was picked up and carried to the station house by Marshal O' Keefe, who left him for a short time to obtain a permit for his removal to the county hospital. On the return of the Marshal, Colonel Sims was found lying face downward on the floor of the station house, dead. He was well known in Idaho and San Francisco, where he leaves a family. The Colonel was about forty years of age and was a native of South Carolina, if we recollect right. During the past nine years he has figured conspicuously before the public at various times. In 1861, when the California regiments were raised, Columbus Sims was appointed by Governor Downey to the colonelcy of the Second, a cavalry regiment. The appointment was the subject of considerable comment by the press, on account of the politics and sectional antecedents of the appointee. The regiment, however, under his command, moved with Carleton's command to Los Angeles, the rendezvous for the Arizona and Texas expedition. We believe he resigned his commission shortly afterwards and returned to California. Since then he has followed his profession as a lawyer in Idaho, San Francisco, and finally here. He was a man of considerable native ability, but of a morose and desponding temperament, and at times peculiarly excitable and impulsive. He had not been very fortunate in business in White Pine, and doubtless ill success, nervous impatience and hurtful indulgence hurried him to a premature grave."
Sacramento Daily Union, August 20, 1869, page 3
Col. Columbus Sims, well known in San Francisco, died suddenly at Hamilton, White Pine, recently.
"Pacific Coast News Summary," Sonoma Democrat, August 21, 1869, page 5
DEATH OF COL. SIMS.--By favor of J. A. Luckett we received a copy of the Inland Empire of Aug. 15th, which gives an account of the death of Col. Columbus Sims in Hamilton City, on the afternoon of the 14th. He was suffering an attack of delirium from excessive drinking, and fell from the front porch of the Pollard House upon the ground. He arose, rushed wildly across the street, stumbled and fell again. Two policemen picked him up, and conveyed him to a cell in the station house for safekeeping until they could obtain admission for him in the county hospital. On their return a short time after they found him lying on his face and lifeless. In his first fall he sustained a small wound upon the nose from which blood flowed, but it was not believed the wound was at all serious. His remains were decently cared for. It seems he had been unsuccessful in the White Pine country, and had shown a good deal of ill nature to all. Col. Sims was a resident of this city a few years ago. He was pretty widely known in California, Nevada and Oregon. His brother John was shot dead in a bar room in Albany, Oregon, a few months ago. His wife had just commenced proceedings in San Francisco for divorce. He was a colonel of the California Cavalry early in the war, and resigned to avoid a court martial. South Carolina was his native state, and he was about 42 years of age. His widow has, we believe, two children by him.
Idaho World, Idaho City, August 26, 1869, page 2
DEATH OF COLONEL SIMS.--Colonel Columbus Sims, formerly a resident of Idaho City, and well known on this coast, as a politician and as a lawyer, died recently at White Pine. He was a native of South Carolina, and had a family who reside in San Francisco. From the Inland Empire we extract the following concerning his death:
"About 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon, a man was observed endeavoring to step from the rear portion of Pollard's Hotel, through the aperture of the unfinished upper story, out upon the roof of the canvas kitchen. He was dressed and held a cane in his hand, and it was evident from his maneuvers and appearance that he was laboring under delirium. The spectators raised a cry, and called to him to go back, just as he was about to step through the frail roof. The warning of the crowd caused him to raise his head, when he exhibited a countenance of ghastly vacancy, and muttered, "Me go back?" He then withdrew into the building, and for a few minutes everybody who had witnessed the scene supposed he had retired to bed. But in about a quarter of an hour he descended to the front stoop of the hotel, flourished his cane aimlessly around his head, and tottering towards the street, fell over upon the ground. He instantly raised himself and, bareheaded, started for the opposite side of the street, all the while making saber motions with his cane. He staggered against some produce bags in front of Woodruff & Ennor's, rebounded, reeled and fell. He vainly endeavored to rise, and floundered on the ground, until a couple of officers arrived, when he was raised and carried to the station house for safekeeping. It was noticed that he was bleeding copiously at the nose after he fell from the Pollard steps, and it is possible he then received some serious injury. On arriving at the station house he was placed in a cell with another party and secured, whilst Marshal O'Keefe started out to procure a permit to place him in the county hospital. Some little time was consumed in hunting up the proper authority, and when the marshal returned to the station house he found the man lying flat on his face. On turning him over he was discovered to be dead."
Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho, August 28, 1869, page 2
Col. Sims was for many years practicing law in Los Angeles, and for some time district attorney of that county. He served for some time as a colonel of California volunteers, in the late war. Still later he removed to San Francisco, where he practiced law. His death occurred in Hamilton, White Pine, on August 14th. He leaves a very interesting family in San Francisco, was about forty years of age, and a native of South Carolina.
"Recent Deaths," San Luis Obispo Tribune, August 30, 1869, page 1
DEATH OF COL. SIMS.--The Idaho World contains an account of the death of Colonel Columbus Sims, in Hamilton City, on the 14th of August, of delirium tremens. Colonel Sims was a brother of John H. Sims, who was shot in this city last spring, and was also a colonel of California Cavalry during the early part of the war.
State Rights Democrat, Albany, Oregon, September 4, 1869, page 3
During his residence here [Uriah S. Hayden] held important public positions, the requirements of which he fulfilled with scrupulous honor and fidelity. He was chosen "Alcalde" for this mining district before Jacksonville had attained sufficient importance to entitle it to the distinction of a town.
"Gathered to His Fathers," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 7, 1879, page 2
SPRINGER CAME HERE IN 1853
Settled at Vancouver After Taking Part in California Gold Rush.
William H. Springer, father of C. H. and J. S. Springer of this city, who died suddenly in Seattle on Thursday, was a pioneer of Washington and was born in Hamburg, Germany, October 1, 1830. He emigrated to California in 1849 and worked in the Northern California and Southern Oregon gold fields for a number of years, later going to Vancouver, Wash., where he was married in 1853 to Elinor Turnbull, who after a life of trials and hardships such as fell to the lot of the early pioneers of Southern Oregon and later in the Willamette Valley, passed away in 1884.
Mr. Springer, after his marriage, removed to Southern Oregon, where he participated as a volunteer in the Rogue River Indian War. He journeyed from Portland to Jackson County, Oregon, in 1867, making the trip with his wife and four children in a prairie schooner.
After a short residence in Portland he moved to Idaho and engaged in mining for several years, after which he again returned to Portland, living there until 1895, when he came to Olympia, living here for the succeeding ten years, when he moved to Seattle, and for the last seven years, and until his death, November 18, resided there with his daughter, Mrs. J. H. VanAsselt.
Mr. Springer is survived by two sons and two daughters, C. H. and J. S. Springer of this city, Mrs. A. R. Wright of Portland Mrs. J. H. VanAsselt of Seattle.
The remains will be taken to Portland, where they will be laid beside those of his wife next Sunday.
Morning Olympian, Olympia, Washington, November 20, 1909, page 1
Last revised November 1, 2023