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77 On July 12 the summer term of District Court opened in Mason County. Although no one realized it at the time, the summer session was a pivotal moment in the feud. Three separate murder cases and the Baccus cattle theft case were all on the books to be heard. All of these cases were critical to ending mob law, and trouble was anticipated by legal authorities not involved with the mob. Dan Roberts recalled that he received a note from the judge instructing him not to turn Johnson over to any sheriff, undoubtedly to prevent another lynching. When the time came, Roberts brought Johnson into Mason under heavy guard.1 From the mob’s perspective the charges against Charley Johnson for his role in the Baccus case were clearly important. They anticipated a conviction based upon the very evidence they had used in deciding to lynch the Baccuses. In this they were doomed to disappointment . Both Johnson and John Martin, if the latter were ever brought to trial, were acquitted. It was a clear indication that the charges against Baccus and his men could not have been sustained and served to tarnish the mob’s reputation in the minds of some as having lynched innocent men. Johnson was also called before the grand jury in an attempt to identify mob members involved in the February lynching. In his memoirs Roberts recalled that Johnson was sent before the grand jury “to see if he would identify any of the mob.” Johnson either could not or would not identify anyone: “He was not prompted by any one to tell, or not tell anything. But we chapter 6 “Rance and Co.’s Band of Freebooters” 78 Chapter 6 were glad he did not tell any more than he did, as it might frustrate our plans of catching them.”2 Roberts was also called before the jury and underwent extensive questioning regarding the incident. He stated that he knew nothing at the time that he thought the jury should have and parried them with “semi-truth.”3 In later years Roberts rationalized his actions, stating that some of the mob may have sat on the grand jury, and he did not want to tip the Rangers’ hand. While this might well have been a valid plan, the truth remains that Roberts took no action of any kind against the mob as evidenced by the lack of subsequent investigation and arrests by Company D relative to mob activity in the area. Company D proved worse than useless in suppressing the feud. In the Williamson case, both John Wohrle and Karl Lehmberg would have been called to the stand to testify. Nothing of their testimony has survived. Quite probably Wohrle would have been called upon to explain why he had killed Williamson’s mount rather than resisting the killers or fleeing with the prisoner. Both men would have been questioned regarding the killers’ identities. Frightened by the near lynching of Tom Gamel, neither was willing to identify any of the killers and place their lives in jeopardy. No indictments resulted. The same was probably true concerning the murder of Allen Bolt. It was a sadly disappointing session, but on the surface things proceeded properly. One contemporary account of the term was reported by an unidentified resident present at the proceedings. Our grand jury, composed of a fine and intelligent body of men, seemed to make pretty thorough investigations of offenses against the public peace and good order, but found not more than eight or ten indictments after five days inquest. The new judge impresses every one with confidence in his official ability and integrity, and as it is rare to get such men now a-days, we hope to continue him in the position in case a new election is ordered under a new constitution .4 In short, the term accomplished nothing of significance. Attorney Henry Holmes provided a less charitable view. Writing in obvious dis- 79 “Rance and Co.’s Band of Freebooters” gust, Holmes later reported that “No effort whatever so far as is known was made by the authorities to endeavor to discover the perpetrators of this outrage further than to hold a coroner’s inquest over the remains .”5 This lack of effort by both local officials and the Rangers to identify the killers was not lost on a young man sitting quietly in the courtroom. The citizens would have done well to note the quiet...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781574413977
Related ISBN
9781574412048
MARC Record
OCLC
133095060
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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