James K. Page has been tried and found guilty of murdering the unknown traveler and his horse, both of whom were found dead on Green Valley Road near New York Ravine. Sentencing now has to take place and then the sentence carried out.
As mentioned before, this story provides a unique, interesting look at the judicial system in place in California in 1883.
Mountain Democrat, July 14, 1883.
“Superior Court. Williams, Judge.
“The People vs. James K. Page. Judgement on the verdict pronounced: punishment of death by hanging until dead. Friday, August 10th, 1883, fixed as time for executing the judgement.”
Mountain Democrat, August 11, 1883.
“James K. Page Executed.
“There was considerable stir on our streets yesterday, it having been noised about that James K. Page would be executed at 8 a. m.. At about half past seven his mother and relatives visited him in the jail, accompanied by Revs. G. P. Tindall and J. H. Wythe. During the interview that followed, Page remained unmoved. The ministers, who were present at the urgent request of his relatives, tried to impress upon him that his time was short, that he had better make his peace with God. All was to no purpose. He refused to talk, or to even recognize his mother and other relatives, and a few minutes before eight o’clock Mrs. Page was conducted from the jail. As she ascended the stairs leading out of the prison she noticed the crowd present, and completely broke down. As was perfectly natural, she complained of Sheriff Galt for allowing so many to witness the execution of her boy. On passing out she implored all good Christians to pray for him and pity her. The scene was heart rending. Page passed a very quiet night for his last one on earth, sleeping almost all the time.
“At thirteen minutes before eight Page was conduced from the jail to the gallows by Under Sheriff Loveless and Jailor Simmons, accompanied by Deputies Epps of Georgetown and Cline of Shingles Springs and A. A. Howard [former county supervisor]. He showed no signs of weakening until he reached the trap, when he trembled like a leaf. Here he was supported by Messrs. Loveless and Simmons while Sheriff Galt read the death warrant. After this he was asked by the Sheriff if he desired to make a statement. He hesitated then said in a trembling voice, ‘I would like a drink.’ Mr. Galt asked if he should get him some water, to which he answered, ‘I want whisky.’ This was not given him. Still refusing to say anything, the rope was adjusted by J. H. Naper, the cap was drawn over his head, and a prayer was offered by Rev. Tindall. As the rope was being placed about his neck, he apparently fainted, having to be held up by the officers. The drop occurred at precisely eight o’clock, without a hitch anywhere, and Sheriffs Huntley of Placer and McCoy of Yuba, as well as Constable Macomber of Folsom, who were present by special invitation, all joined in commending our Sheriff for the perfection of his arrangements. At the time of the drop many who stood near the scaffold heard, or thought they heard, the neck break. Death was instantaneous. And thus ended the life of James. K. Page.
“When the body was taken down it was delivered over to his relatives, who immediately took it to his old home for burial.
“In 1874 Page was convicted of manslaughter at the November term of the District Court, Judge Adams presiding, and was sentenced to ten years at San Quentin – the fullest extent of the law in such cases made and provided. It was generally believed that he should have been hanged at that time. The circumstances of the crime were about as follows: On Wednesday, February 4, 1874, Page and a man by the name of John Webster, who lived near the Page ranch in Salmon Falls township, went to Clarksville with a load of wood, returning quite drunk. Soon after their return one of the Page brothers got home, and on going to the barn to leave his horse discovered the body of Webster lying on his face, just outside the corral, and on going to him found that he was dead, but still warm. Shortly after this, the neighbors being informed, sent for the Coroner. At the time Webster’s body was found James Page was in the house, drunk, not having changed his clothes or tried to get away. There was blood on his clothing and on his neck. He had with him nothing but a pocket knife, and when asked about the killing of Webster said he knew nothing. He was arrested by Constable Macomber of Folsom on a telegram from Sheriff Brown. An inquest was held, the jury deciding that Wester came to his death from wounds made with a knife in the hands of James Page. Page was examined, tried and convicted as above stated. After serving six years and three months of his term, his mother having gotten up a numerously signed petition, Governor Perkins pardoned him, and he returned to this county, where he has been frightening women and children and otherwise terrorizing the neighborhood ever since.
“On the 10th of May last he was out hunting, and after taking several drinks at Jacob Zentgraf’s, was returning home when he met a stranger at the forks of the road just this side of Pat Hogue’s place, with whom he traveled for some distance. When near New York ravine, where it crosses the road, Page killed the stranger in cold blood, shooting him through the body with a Winchester rifle. After this he gratified his fiendish desire for blood by first shooting and then cutting the throat of the horse on which the stranger had packed his camping outfit. Nothing has ever been learned as to who the stranger was. Page has stubbornly refused to state who the man was or from whence he came, if he knew. He has, however, admitted the killing to the writer, who in his capacity as Deputy Sheriff was placed in the jail on Wednesday night to remain all night and see that the prisoner was safe. While there we tried to impress upon him the importance of making a clean breast of all his misdeeds, while it was yet time. He talked freely, but his statement were too absurd to be of interest to anyone.
“His poor old mother, who has never deserted him when in need, came over from her place in Placer county last Friday, and in company with her daughter, Mrs. Coffman, and her son-in-law, Mr. Bullard, got permission to go into the jail and try to get Jim to consent to have a minister visit him and implore him to prepare himself for the great hereafter. This interview was very unsatisfactory to his relatives, and they departed from the jail mortified and depressed. Before leaving town Mrs. Page ordered a coffin and made all necessary arrangements for removing the body to Clarksville for interment, when she sadly departed to await the dreadful event.
“For some days Page has affected to believe that the Governor would yet reprieve him or else he would make his escape. He also got the foolish notion that Sheriff Galt would in some way manage to make for him an exit from his cage. This the Sheriff did by putting him in an iron cage, and putting a special watch down in jail with him, besides having another watchman on the outside, to render any assistance that might in any event become necessary. No criminal ever had closer care than did James K. Page during the last days of his confinement in the El Dorado county jail.”
TO BE CONTINUED