Criminal Annals, Part 62 – The Page Trial Continues

We continue with the story about the hanging of James K. Page (previously identified as Thomas K. Page in error), who was on trial for the murder of an unknown man and had previously been in San Quentin for manslaughter until pardoned by then governor of California, George Clement Perkins.

As mentioned before, this story provides a unique, interesting look at the judicial system in place in 1883 and some of the notable citizens of the county at that time.

A number of local citizens have already testified at the trial, including Deputy County Surveyor George Kimball, hotel owner James Angove, blacksmith John Fox, toll-gate keeper George Kenocke, Frank Miller, Edward Morton, Rudolph Bing, Hans Olsen, James Skinner, Mrs. Fred Engesser, Jacob and Lambert Zentgraf, Mrs. Caroline McDonald, proprietor of the Waukeeshaw House Pat Hughes, his employee Andrew Troy, Mrs. Winnifred Powell and Mrs. Wm. Carpenter. Most of these people were residents of the area north of and westerly of today’s Cameron Park.

Many of the witnesses recalled seeing both Thomas Page and the stranger along what is now Green Valley Road, but only one, Mrs. Winnifred Powell, actually saw Page shoot the stranger.
It should be noted again that the writer of this story often shortens sentences when reporting testimony.

Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.


“Grant Wilson, a son of Jeptha Wilson, lives near scene of homicide. May 11th, in morning, started up the road with two horses to draw wood. After going about 250 yards the horses shied and I saw a man lying near the road. Supposed he was drunk and halloed to him. Got no answer, went up to him, and discovered he was dead. Went home and told father. He went up to notify Mr. Claybourn, a neighbor. At noon I went up there and saw the horse. He had two bullet-holes in head, one through small of back, one through withers, and had his throat cut. On the road near the man’s body there was an appearance of scrambling, as though he had fallen and struggled around. There were prints of his fingers in the road, the grass was mashed down.

“Jeptha Wilson, father of the last witness, corroborates Grant, and states that the evening before he had heard a number of shots fired in the direction where the body was found.

“L. [Lemuel] Q. Claybourn corroborates the Wilsons and describes shells, unexploded cartridge and buckskin purse that were picked up at scene of homicide, all of which were identified. He found the man’s arm shattered by a ball that passed through his body.

“J. [James] J. Orr corroborates the Wilsons and Claybourn, and describes the dead man as lying near the ravine, where he had apparently been dragged from the road, lying with his back toward the road, his head down the ravine, right hand thrown over his head, left hand under his body, bullet hole through body, head mashed and bruised. Found the purse, several shells, and a piece of round bridle-rein, split at one end, that had been used for whip. Found a piece of paper, such as is used for wrapping up merchandise, bearing the stencil advertisement of Scott Brothers, Sunol. One of the man’s pockets was turned inside out, the other partly out.

“F. [Francis] N. Spencer, Coroner, relates incidents of inquest at Wilson’s house May 11th, and recognizes the shells and other articles that were turned over to him. After inquest brought body to Placerville and called upon Dr. Smith to hold autopsy.

“Samuel Page, brother of defendant, said he was at his mother’s [Mrs. Francis Page] place on morning of May 10th, defendant helped him milk. Went to Coffman’s after getting through with work. Left James at home. When I came back about 2 o’clock found James gone. He came home about sundown, when I was milking the last of he cows. Had his gun with him. He said to me ‘Your are milking old Widehorns, are you? You Won’t milk her long.” He called me aside and asked me to drink out of a small bottle he had. He had on a light shirt with blue dots. I noticed blood spots on the bosom of his shirt. He put his rifle down against the corral. Mother took it and locked it up. Next day Macomber came to the ranch and got the rifle. I took the charge out and gave it to him. This looks like the same rifle. On the 11th James asked mother for a settlement, and she told him to wait till she would go over to Coffman’s and get money to pay him off. She started, and he left before she got back. When he left, about 6 o’clock, he wore gray pants and a dark Cheviot shirt. He went northward, toward Coffman’s, only a little to the left. It is about 1 1/4 miles by road, 1 mile in straight line, from mother’s to place of homicide. James was drunk and abusive to me and mother when he got home May 10th.

Note: “The Early Inns of California 1844-1869”, by Ralph Herbert Cross shows James K. Page as a onetime owner of Kaufman’s Deadfall House, or saloon. The El Dorado County Recorder’s Office does not have any record of his ownership, but does show a Mrs. Francis Page, his mother, owning property. Kaufman’s was part of a group of places along the road, about a mile west of Mrs. Powell’s place, that included the Rolling Hill House, the New York House (owned at the time by Jeptha Wilson) and a log cabin. It could be the location referred to as Mrs. Page’s place.

“James Hart, who lives on Dry Creek, Sacramento county, called at Mrs. Page’s evening of May 10th. By invitation of Mrs. Page and Sam stayed there all night to entertain James, who was in liquor and disposed to abuse them. He asked me to get him some liquor, said he had plenty of money, offering me a $20 piece, saying I could get liquor but he couldn’t. I saw the piece and he said he had plenty more. Next morning, after breakfast, there was rough talk between Mrs. Page and James, and she stared to Coffman’s for money to pay him off. Soon afterwards James borrowed my pipe, promising to return it soon, ans started off in the same direction his mother had taken. Sam told me I had better go over and keep Jim from having trouble with his mother. I went and met Mrs. Page near Coffman’s and went back with her. She had not met James. When I first saw him the night before he was sitting on the door-step with nothing but his pants and undershirt on. When he first came out of his room in the morning he had a bundle under his arm, which he put under th heater, then brought out a yeast-powder box full of kerosene, poured it on it, struck a light and set fire to it. (A heater is a kettle kept at dairies for heating water to wash pans and other vessels).”



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