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91 chapter 7 “A Man of Large Connexions” In later years Tom Gamel recalled Cooley’s presence in Mason as the ex-Ranger observed the legal proceedings and began his investigation into Williamson’s murder. When the session closed, Cooley left Mason and was gone about a month although no reason for his absence has been determined. When he returned, his first call was on gunsmith Joseph Miller whom he informed that “he wanted his gun fixed” since he was about ready to use it. Cooley then informed John Gamel “that he thought he had found the man that was responsible for Williamson’s death.”1 John Gamel immediately informed his brother of Cooley’s remarks. The brothers immediately began searching for Wohrle to warn him that Cooley was hunting him. It was a logical conclusion that took little guesswork, particularly if the claim that Wohrle had killed Williamson’s horse had come out during court.2 Wohrle had resigned as deputy sheriff and was now earning his living as a handyman and carpenter. On August 10 he was working with Charles “Doc” Harcourt and a man identified by Gamel only as “Doc’s Little Yankee” either cleaning or digging a well. Possibly Harcourt and Wohrle were old friends, both men having served in Troop B, Third U. S. Cavalry.3 Unlike the Gamels, Cooley knew exactly where Wohrle was. For no apparent reason, Lucia Holmes’ diary falls silent on August 9, 1875. The killing of Wohrle on Tuesday, August 10, has no contemporary mention. When she resumed writing on August 14, she recorded nothing of her feelings concerning John Wohrle. That day she 92 Chapter 7 noted the arrival in Mason of George Paschall, who asked her to go to Menard to visit with his family. Understandably, Lucia Holmes accepted the invitation. In her diary she notes that “Vanty Scott and old Foley drunk tonight and shooting all over the town—horrid times.”4 Order in Mason was dissolving, and her first instinct was to run. John Wohrle’s killing is well documented. Gillett reports that once Cooley completed his investigation into Williamson’s murder, he returned to Mason where he found Wohrle “engaged in cleaning out a well.” Cooley asked for a drink of water, then engaged Wohrle in conversation . When the unsuspecting Wohrle began to draw his assistant out of the well, Cooley “declared his mission and shot Worley [sic] to death.”5 Gamel provides further detail. Harcourt was in the well bucket while Wohrle and the third man lowered him down. When Cooley killed Wohrle his companion fled and Harcourt plunged to the well bottom. Harcourt survived the fall, and provided first hand information on the killing. When Harkey [sic: Harcourt] came to his senses, he said that Cooley rode up where he and Worley [sic] and the little Yankee were at work on the well and talked with them for a long time. Harkey got up and got in the well bucket and made the remark that he had to go to work and Worley started to let him down. Just as his head got below the top of the well Cooley made the remark “Worley, why did you kill Williamson?” Worley answered, “Because I had too,” and Cooley replied “For the same reason I am killing you,” and Cooley shot Worley . . . . 6 A more sensationalized version reached the newspapers, providing what may have been the “official” version. Horrible murder at Mason.—From the Freie Presse of the 17th inst., we translate the following: “On the 10th of August, during the afternoon, Mr. John Wohrly [sic] , a quiet respectable citizen and former Deputy Sheriff, was assisting a man by the name 93 “A Man of Large Connexions” of Harcutt [sic] in digging a well, when a young man of about twenty-four years of age, rode up and began conversing with Wohrly in the most friendly manner, stating among other things that he was looking for two horses. He asked Wohrly for a piece of leather with which to fasten his gun to the saddle, which request was complied with. While the villain was apparently fixing the leather to his saddle, Wohrly and another man who was present, began hauling Harcutt up from the bottom of the well. While they were thus engaged the stranger took advantage of the opportunity to shoot Wohrly through in the back of the head, the ball coming out near his nose. Whorly fell dead, his companion, being...


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