W.H. Rhodes.

The Case of Summerfield online

. (page 3 of 3)
Online LibraryW.H. RhodesThe Case of Summerfield → online text (page 3 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

wound, and that I must go for father and the boys immediately. I ran
as fast as my legs would carry me to where they were "cleaning up," for
they never cleaned up week-days on the Flat, and told the news; we all
came back together and proceeded to the spot where the wounded man lay
weltering in his blood; he was cautiously removed to the cabin, where he
lingered until yesterday sundown, when he died.

Question. Did he speak after he reached the cabin? - A. He did
frequently; at first with great pain, but afterward more audibly and

Q. What did he say? - A. First, to send for Squire Jacobs, the Assistant
District-Attorney, as he had a statement to make; and some time
afterward, to send for his wife; but we first of all sent for the

Q. Who was present when he died? - A. Only myself; he had appeared a
great deal easier, and his wife had lain down to take a short nap, and
my mother had gone to the spring and left me alone to watch. Suddenly he
lifted himself spasmodically in bed, glared around wildly and muttered
something inaudible; seeing me, he cried out, "Run! run! run! He has it!
Black Bart has got the vial! Quick! or he'll set the world afire! See,
he opens it! O my God! Look! look! look! Hold his hands! tie him! chain
him down! Too late! too late! oh, the flames! Fire! fire! fire!" His
tone of voice gradually strengthened until the end of his raving; when
he cried "fire!" his eyeballs glared, his mouth quivered, his body
convulsed, and before Mrs. Gillson could reach his bedside he fell back
stone dead. (Signed) X. V. Adams.

The testimony of Adams corroborated in every particular that of his wife
and daughter, but set forth more fully the particulars of his demoniac
ravings. He would taste nothing from a glass or bottle, but shuddered
whenever any article of that sort met his eyes. In fact, they had to
remove from the room the cups, tumblers, and even the castors. At times
he spoke rationally, but after the second day only in momentary flashes
of sanity.

The deposition of the attending physician, after giving the general
facts with regard to the sickness of the patient and his subsequent
demise, proceeded thus:

I found the patient weak, and suffering from loss of blood and rest, and
want of nourishment; occasionally sane, but for the most part flighty
and in a comatose condition. The wound was an ordinary gunshot wound,
produced most probably by the ball of a navy revolver, fired at the
distance of ten paces. It entered the back near the left clavicle,
beneath the scapula, close to the vertebrae between the intercostal
spaces of the fifth and sixth ribs; grazing the pericardium it traversed
the mediastinum, barely touching the oesophagus, and vena azygos,
but completely severing the thoracic duct, and lodging in the xiphoid
portion of the sternum. Necessarily fatal, there was no reason, however,
why the patient could not linger for a week or more; but it is no
less certain that from the effect of the wound he ultimately died. I
witnessed the execution of the paper shown to me - as the statement of
deceased - at his request; and at the time of signing the same he was
in his perfect senses. It was taken down in my presence by Jacobs,
the Assistant District-Attorney of Placer County, and read over to the
deceased before he affixed his signature. I was not present when he
breathed his last, having been called away by my patients in the town of
Auburn, but I reached his bedside shortly afterward. In my judgment, no
amount of care or medical attention could have prolonged his life more
than a few days.

(Signed) Karl Liebner, M. D.

The statement of the deceased was then introduced to the jury as

People of the State of California, } vs. } Bartholomew Graham. }

Statement and Dying Confession of Charles P. Gillson, taken in articulo
mortis by George Simpson, Notary Public.

On the morning of Sunday, the 14th day of May, 1871, I left Auburn alone
in search of the body of the late Gregory Summerfield, who was reported
to have been pushed from the cars at Cape Horn, in this county, by one
Leonidas Parker, since deceased. It was not fully light when I reached
the track of the Central Pacific Railroad. Having mined at an early day
on Thompson's Flat, at the foot of the rocky promontory now called
Cape Horn, I was familiar with the zigzag paths leading down that steep
precipice. One was generally used as a descent, the other as an ascent
from the cañon below. I chose the latter, as being the freest from the
chance of observation. It required the greatest caution to thread the
narrow gorge; but I finally reached the rocky bench, about one thousand
feet below the grade of the railroad. It was now broad daylight, and I
commenced cautiously the search for Summerfield's body. There is quite
a dense undergrowth of shrubs thereabouts, lining the interstices of
the granite rocks so as to obscure the vision even at a short distance.
Brushing aside a thick manzanita bush, I beheld the dead man at the same
instant of time that another person arrived like an apparition upon
the spot. It was Bartholomew Graham, known as "Black Bart." We suddenly
confronted each other, the skeleton of Summerfield lying exactly between
us. Our recognition was mutual. Graham advanced, and I did the same; he
stretched out his hand and we greeted one another across the prostrate

Before releasing my hand, Black Bart exclaimed in a hoarse whisper,
"Swear, Gillson, in the presence of the dead, that you will forever be
faithful, never betray me, and do exactly as I bid you, as long as you

I looked him full in the eye. Fate sat there, cold and remorseless as
stone. I hesitated; with his left hand he slightly raised the lapels of
his coat, and grasped the handle of a navy revolver.

"Swear!" again he cried.

As I gazed, his eyeballs assumed a greenish tint, and his brow darkened
into a scowl. "As your confederate," I answered, "never as your slave."

"Be it so!" was his only reply.

The body was lying upon its back, with the face upwards. The vultures
had despoiled the countenance of every vestige of flesh, and left the
sockets of the eyes empty. Snow and ice and rain had done their work
effectually upon the exposed surfaces of his clothing, and the eagles
had feasted upon the entrails. But underneath, the thick beaver cloth
had served to protect the flesh, and there were some decaying shreds
left of what had once been the terrible but accomplished Gregory
Summerfield. A glance told us all these things. But they did not
interest me so much as another spectacle, that almost froze my blood.
In the skeleton gripe of the right hand, interlaced within the clenched
bones, gleamed the wide-mouthed vial which was the object of our mutual
visit. Graham fell upon his knees, and attempted to withdraw the prize
from the grasp of its dead possessor. But the bones were firm, and when
he finally succeeded in securing the bottle, by a sudden wrench, I heard
the skeleton fingers snap like pipe-stems.

"Hold this a moment, whilst I search the pockets," he commanded.

I did as directed.

He then turned over the corpse, and thrusting his hand into the inner
breast-pocket, dragged out a roll of MSS., matted closely together and
stained by the winter's rains. A further search eventuated in finding
a roll of small gold coin, a set of derringer pistols, a rusted
double-edged dirk, and a pair of silver-mounted spectacles. Hastily
covering over the body with leaves and branches cut from the embowering
shrubs, we shudderingly left the spot.

We slowly descended the gorge toward the banks of the American River,
until we arrived in a small but sequestered thicket, where we threw
ourselves upon the ground. Neither had spoken a word since we left the
scene above described. Graham was the first to break the silence which
to me had become oppressive.

"Let us examine the vial and see if the contents are safe."

I drew it from my pocket and handed it to him.

"Sealed hermetically, and perfectly secure," he added. Saying this, he
deliberately wrapped it up in a handkerchief and placed it in his bosom.

"What shall we do with our prize?" I inquired.

"Our prize?" As he said this he laughed derisively, and cast a most
scornful and threatening glance toward me.

"Yes," I rejoined firmly; "our prize!"

"Gillson," retorted Graham, "you must regard me as a consummate
simpleton, or yourself a Goliath. This bottle is mine, and mine only. It
is a great fortune for one, but of less value than a toadstool for two.
I am willing to divide fairly. This secret would be of no service to a
coward. He would not dare to use it. Your share of the robbery of the
body shall be these MSS.; you can sell them to some poor devil of a
printer, and pay yourself for your day's work."

Saying this he threw the bundle of MSS. at my feet; but I disdained to
touch them. Observing this, he gathered them up safely and replaced them
in his pocket. "As you are unarmed," he said, "it would not be safe for
you to be seen in this neighborhood during daylight. We will both
spend the night here, and just before morning return to Auburn. I will
accompany you part of the distance."

With the sangfroid of a perfect desperado, he then stretched himself out
in the shadow of a small tree, drank deeply from a whiskey flagon which
he produced, and pulling his hat over his eyes, was soon asleep and
snoring. It was a long time before I could believe the evidence of my
own senses. Finally, I approached the ruffian, and placed my hand on his
shoulder. He did not stir a muscle. I listened; I heard only the deep,
slow breathing of profound slumber. Resolved not to be balked and
defrauded by such a scoundrel, I stealthily withdrew the vial from
his pocket and sprang to my feet, just in time to hear the click of
a revolver behind me. I was betrayed! I remember only a flash and an
explosion - a deathly sensation, a whirl of the rocks and trees about me,
a hideous imprecation from the lips of my murderer, and I fell senseless
to the earth. When I awoke to consciousness it was past midnight. I
looked up at the stars, and recognized Lyra shining full in my face.
That constellation, I knew, passed the meridian at this season of the
year after twelve o'clock, and its slow march told me that many weary
hours would intervene before daylight. My right arm was paralyzed, but I
put forth my left, and it rested in a pool of my own blood. "Oh, for one
drop of water!" I exclaimed, faintly; but only the low sighing of
the night blast responded. Again I fainted. Shortly after daylight I
revived, and crawled to the spot where I was discovered on the next
day by the kind mistress of this cabin. You know the rest. I accuse
Bartholomew Graham of my assassination. I do this in the perfect
possession of my senses, and with a full sense of my responsibility to
Almighty God. (Signed) C. P. Gillson.

George Simpson, Notary Public. Chris. Jacobs, Assistant
District-Attorney. Dollie Adams, } Witnesses. Karl Liebner, }

The following is a copy of the verdict of the coroner's jury:

County of Placer, } Cape Horn Township. }

In re C. P. Gillson, late of said county deceased.

We, the undersigned, coroner's jury, summoned in the foregoing case to
examine into the causes of the death of said Gillson, do find that he
came to his death at the hands of Bartholomew Graham, usually called
"Black Bart," on Wednesday, the 17th May, 1871. And we further find said
Graham guilty of murder in the first degree, and recommend his immediate

(Signed) John Quillan, Peter McIntyre,
Abel George,
Alex. Scriber,
(Correct:) Wm. A. Thompson.

Thos. J. Alwyn, Coroner.

The above documents constitute the papers introduced before the coroner.
Should anything of further interest occur, I will keep you fully
advised. Powhattan Jones.

Since the above was in type we have received from our esteemed San
Francisco correspondent the following letter:

San Francisco, June 8, 1871.

Mr. Editor: On entering my office this morning I found a bundle of MSS.
which had been thrown in at the transom over the door, labeled, "The
Summerfield MSS." Attached to them was an unsealed note from one
Bartholomew Graham, in these words:

Dear Sir: These are yours; you have earned them. I commend to your
especial notice the one styled, "De Mundo Comburendo." At a future time
you may hear again from

Bartholomew Graham.

A casual glance at the papers convinces me that they are of great
literary value. Summerfield's fame never burned so brightly as it does
over his grave. Will you publish the MSS.?

Here ends No. Two Western Classics Containing The Case of Summerfield
by W. H. Rhodes an Introduction by Geraldine Bonner and a Frontispiece
After a Painting by Galen J. Perrett the Typography Designed by J. H.
Nash of this First Edition One Thousand Copies Have Been Issued Printed
on Fabriano Handmade Paper Published by Paul Elder and Company and Done
into a Book for them at the Tomoye Press in the City of New York MCMVII.

1 3

Online LibraryW.H. RhodesThe Case of Summerfield → online text (page 3 of 3)