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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




AN extract or two from the newspapers of the day will
furnish a photograph that can need no embellishment:

Fatal Shooting Affray.—An affray occurred, last evening, in a billiard
saloon on C street, between Deputy Marshal Jack Williams and Wm. Brown,
which resulted in the immediate death of the latter. There had been some
difficulty between the parties for several months.

An inquest was immediately held, and the following testimony adduced:

Officer Geo. Birdsall, sworn, says:—I was told Wm. Brown was drunk
and was looking for Jack Williams; so soon as I heard that I started for the
parties to prevent a collision; went into the billiard saloon; saw Billy Brown
running around, saying if anybody had anything against him to show cause;
he was talking in a boisterous manner, and officer Perry took him to the
other end of the room to talk to him; Brown came back to me; remarked
to me that he thought he was as good as anybody, and knew how to take
care of himself; he passed by me and went to the bar; don't know whether
he drank or not; Williams was at the end of the billiard-table, next to the
stairway; Brown, after going to the bar, came back and said he was as good
as any man in the world; he had then walked out to the end of the first
billiard-table from the bar; I moved closer to them, supposing there would
be a fight; as Brown drew his pistol I caught hold of it; he had fired one
shot at Williams; don't know the effect of it; caught hold of him with one
hand, and took hold of the pistol and turned it up; think he fired once after
I caught hold of the pistol; I wrenched the pistol from him; walked to the
end of the billiard-table and told a party that I had Brown's pistol, and to
stop shooting; I think four shots were fired in all; after walking out, Mr.
Foster remarked that Brown was shot dead.

Oh, there was no excitement about it—he merely “remarked”
the small circumstance!

Four months later the following item appeared in the same
paper (the Enterprise). In this item the name of one of the


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city officers above referred to (Deputy Marshal Jack Williams)
occurs again:

Robbery and Desperate Affray.—On Tuesday night, a German named
Charles Hurtzal, engineer in a mill at Silver City, came to this place, and
visited the hurdy-gurdy house on B street. The music, dancing and Teutonic
maidens awakened memories of Faderland until our German friend
was carried away with rapture. He evidently had money, and was spending
it freely. Late in the evening Jack Williams and Andy Blessington
invited him down stairs to take a cup of coffee. Williams proposed a game
of cards and went up stairs to procure a deck, but not finding any returned.
On the stairway he met the German, and drawing his pistol knocked him
down and rifled his pockets of some seventy dollars. Hurtzal dared give
no alarm, as he was told, with a pistol at his head, if he made any noise or
exposed them, they would blow his brains out. So effectually was he
frightened that he made no complaint, until his friends forced him. Yesterday
a warrant was issued, but the culprits had disappeared.

This efficient city officer, Jack Williams, had the common
reputation of being a burglar, a highwayman and a desperado.
It was said that he had several times drawn his revolver and
levied money contributions on citizens at dead of night in the
public streets of Virginia.

Five months after the above item appeared, Williams was
assassinated while sitting at a card table one night; a gun was
thrust through the crack of the door and Williams dropped
from his chair riddled with balls. It was said, at the time,
that Williams had been for some time aware that a party
of his own sort (desperadoes) had sworn away his life; and
it was generally believed among the people that Williams's
friends and enemies would make the assassination memorable—
and useful, too—by a wholesale destruction of each other.[1]


Page 349

It did not so happen, but still, times were not dull during the
next twenty-four hours, for within that time a woman was killed
by a pistol shot, a man was brained with a slung shot, and a
man named Reeder was also disposed of permanently. Some
matters in the Enterprise account of the killing of Reeder are
worth noting—especially the accommodating complaisance of a
Virginia justice of the peace. The italics in the following narrative
are mine:

More Cutting and Shooting.—The devil seems to have again broken
loose in our town. Pistols and guns explode and knives gleam in our streets
as in early times. When there has been a long season of quiet, people are
slow to wet their hands in blood; but once blood is spilled, cutting and
shooting come easy. Night before last Jack Williams was assassinated,
and yesterday forenoon we had more bloody work, growing out of the killing
of Williams, and on the same street in which he met his death. It
appears that Tom Reeder, a friend of Williams, and George Gumbert were
talking, at the meat market of the latter, about the killing of Williams the
previous night, when Reeder said it was a most cowardly act to shoot a man
in such a way, giving him “no show.” Gumbert said that Williams had
“as good a show as he gave Billy Brown,” meaning the man killed by Williams
last March. Reeder said it was a d—d lie, that Williams had no show
at all. At this, Gumbert drew a knife and stabbed Reeder, cutting him in
two places in the back. One stroke of the knife cut into the sleeve of
Reeder's coat and passed downward in a slanting direction through his
clothing, and entered his body at the small of the back; another blow
struck more squarely, and made a much more dangerous wound. Gumbert
gave himself up to the officers of justice, and was shortly after discharged
by Justice Atwill, on his own recognizance, to appear for trial at six o'clock
in the evening. In the meantime Reeder had been taken into the office of
Dr. Owens, where his wounds were properly dressed. One of his wounds was
considered quite dangerous, and it was thought by many that it would prove


Page 350
fatal. But being considerably under the influence of liquor, Reeder did not
feel his wounds as he otherwise would, and he got up and went into the street.

He went to the meat market and renewed his quarrel with Gumbert, threatening
his life. Friends tried to interfere to put a stop to the quarrel and
get the parties away from each other. In the Fashion Saloon Reeder made
threats against the life of Gumbert, saying he would kill him, and it is
said that he requested the officers not to arrest Gumbert, as he intended to kill
After these threats Gumbert went off and procured a double-barreled
shot gun, loaded with buck-shot or revolver balls, and went after Reeder.
Two or three persons were assisting him along the street, trying to get him
home, and had him just in front of the store of Klopstock & Harris, when
Gumbert came across toward him from the opposite side of the street with
his gun. He came up within about ten or fifteen feet of Reeder, and called out
to those with him to “look out! get out of the way!” and they had only time to
heed the warning, when he fired. Reeder was at the time attempting to screen
himself behind a large cask, which stood against the awning post of Klopstock
& Harris's store, but some of the balls took effect in the lower part of
his breast, and he reeled around forward and fell in front of the cask. Gumbert
then raised his gun and fired the second barrel, which missed Reeder
and entered the ground. At the time that this occurred, there were a great
many persons on the street in the vicinity, and a number of them called out
to Gumbert, when they saw him raise his gun, to “hold on,” and “don't
shoot!” The cutting took place about ten o'clock and the shooting about
twelve. After the shooting the street was instantly crowded with the inhabitants
of that part of the town, some appearing much excited and laughing—declaring
that it looked like the “good old times of '60.” Marshal
Perry and officer Birdsall were near when the shooting occurred, and Gumbert
was immediately arrested and his gun taken from him, when he was
marched off to jail. Many persons who were attracted to the spot where this
bloody work had just taken place, looked bewildered and seemed to be asking
themselves what was to happen next, appearing in doubt as to whether the
killing mania had reached its climax, or whether we were to turn in and
have a grand killing spell, shooting whoever might have given us offence.
It was whispered around that it was not all over yet—five or six more were
to be killed before night. Reeder was taken to the Virginia City Hotel,
and doctors called in to examine his wounds. They found that two or three
balls had entered his right side; one of them appeared to have passed
through the substance of the lungs, while another passed into the liver.
Two balls were also found to have struck one of his legs. As some of the
balls struck the cask, the wounds in Reeder's leg were probably from these,
glancing downwards, though they might have been caused by the second
shot fired. After being shot, Reeder said when he got on his feet—smiling
as he spoke—“It will take better shooting than that to kill me.” The doctors
consider it almost impossible for him to recover, but as he has an
excellent constitution he may survive, notwithstanding the number and
dangerous character of the wounds he has received. The town appears to


Page 351
be perfectly quiet at present, as though the late stormy times had cleared
our moral atmosphere; but who can tell in what quarter clouds are lowering
or plots ripening?

Reeder—or at least what was left of him—survived his
wounds two days! Nothing was ever done with Gumbert.

Trial by jury is the palladium of our liberties. I do not
know what a palladium is, having never seen a palladium, but
it is a good thing no doubt at any rate. Not less than a hundred
men have been murdered in Nevada—perhaps I would
be within bounds if I said three hundred—and as far as I can
learn, only two persons have suffered the death penalty there.
However, four or five who had no money and no political influence
have been punished by imprisonment—one languished in
prison as much as eight months, I think. However, I do not
desire to be extravagant—it may have been less.


However, one prophecy was verified, at any rate. It was asserted by
the desperadoes that one of their brethren (Joe McGee, a special policeman)
was known to be the conspirator chosen by lot to assassinate Williams; and
they also asserted that doom had been pronounced against McGee, and that
he would be assassinated in exactly the same manner that had been adopted
for the destruction of Williams—a prophecy which came true a year later.
After twelve months of distress (for McGee saw a fancied assassin in every
man that approached him), he made the last of many efforts to get out of
the country unwatched. He went to Carson and sat down in a saloon to
wait for the stage—it would leave at four in the morning. But as the night
waned and the crowd thinned, he grew uneasy, and told the bar-keeper that
assassins were on his track. The bar-keeper told him to stay in the middle
of the room, then, and not go near the door, or the window by the stove.
But a fatal fascination seduced him to the neighborhood of the stove every
now and then, and repeatedly the bar-keeper brought him back to the middle
of the room and warned him to remain there. But he could not. At three in
the morning he again returned to the stove and sat down by a stranger. Before
the bar-keeper could get to him with another warning whisper, some
one outside fired through the window and riddled McGee's breast with
slugs, killing him almost instantly. By the same discharge the stranger at
McGee's side also received attentions which proved fatal in the course of
two or three days.