It was 1883 in the still young state of California. Thomas K. Page was on trial for the murder of an unknown man in El Dorado County. He had previously been in San Quentin for manslaughter until pardoned by then governor of California, George Clement Perkins.
Several short articles were published in regional newspapers on this subject, but with the assistance of local historian Marilyn Ferguson, the original story, which was in four issues Placerville’s Mountain Democrat, was located.
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. Although lengthy, it interestingly starts with an editorial comment on the jury system as a whole.
It should be noted while reading that the writer of this story often shortens sentences when reporting testimony.
Mountain Democrat, June 23, 1883
“THE MONSTER HUMBUG OF THE AGE. – The circumstances incident to the pending trial in our Superior Court are not materially different from those attending similar trials all over the country. But who can contemplate those circumstances in a thoughtful way without becoming impressed that our jury system is an expensive and cumbersome evil, with hardly a single distinguishable redeeming feature?
“Here are the Sheriff and his deputies scouring the country from Dan to Beersheeba, at unavoidably great expense to the county, hunting up men competent for jury duty. Venire after venire is exhausted and day after day is spent in an ineffectual attempt to empannel [sic] twelve men to serve in this capacity. Besides an unlimited number who may be challenged for cause, thirty-five of those whose compelled attendance has been laboriously and expensively procured may be peremptorily challenged according to the whims of counsel on the one side and the other. In the meantime, a great crowd of people – respectable, industrious and law-abiding – are compelled at their peril and at great inconvenience (some of them at the risk of losing their crops and the fruits of a full year’s labor), to dance attendance and stand ready to respond to the law’s summons as witnesses. All of this could be tolerated if it was essential to the attainment of the ends of justice, or unmistakably promotive of such result. But who is there in this community, or in this county, who for a moment doubts that the defendant in this or any other case could obtain a fair and impartial, and a far more intelligent trial before Judge Williams alone than before any jury that under the existing system could possibly be impanneled [sic]? Is there a man or a women in the county who would not have more confidence in his judgment and decision, after such hearing as he would give to the case, than in the verdict of any average or possible jury?
“The ‘right of trial by a jury of his peers’ was an emanation, and a beneficent emanation, from social conditions totally different from those by which we are surrounded. Absolute monarchs possessed and exercised the power of robbing their subjects of life, liberty and property through the decisions and edicts of corrupt Judges appointed by the crown, whereas our Judges are chosen by the people themselves. We don’t intend any disparagement of the jury that is to try the pending case, for we don’t know who are to be the members of that jury, but as a general rule the man deserves hanging who will recognize as his ‘peers’ the men who compose an average jury after an average ‘sharp’ attorney has exhausted his skill and right of peremptory challenge in excluding intelligent men therefrom.”
Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.
“THE PAGE TRIAL.
In addition to those named in our last issue [not found], a twelfth juror was secured last Saturday to try James K. Page for the murder of an unknown man found dead at New York ravine on the 10th of May last. The jury thus completed was composed of John Bradshaw, W. A. Ballard, Antone Wangler, Wm. Voss, Samuel Tingley, D. Macomber, Wm. Hendrix, Thos. Ralph, M. S. Gilbert, Elisha Charles, Timothy Wilcey [Wiley] and W. H. Brewer. The court then adjourned until Monday morning, June 25th, at which time the testimony was commenced, and was continued from day to day until Thursday noon, after which it was argued by District Attorney [George H.] Ingham and Prentiss Carpenter for the prosecution, by Geo. G. Blanchard and Clarke Howard for the defense, and a recess was taken until 8 o’clock, when Judge Williams delivered his charge, the jury retired, and at half past nine, through their foreman, Wm. Hendrix, returned a verdict of ‘guilty of murder in the first degree.’”
“Owing to the peculiar atrocity and and brutality of the crime, and the general interest manifested in the trial we were at special pains to obtain a full report of the testimony, intending to have it set up as the trial progressed, so as to present it to our readers in this issue of our paper.
“Judge Williams, however, reminded us that in case we should do so, and the jury should not agree upon a verdict, the difficulty in obtaining another jury would be greatly enhanced. We therefore awaited the determination of the case, and between the time the verdict was rendered and our time for going to press it was impossible with the limited force of a country office to get all that voluminous testimony into type. Therefore, rather than defer publication another week, we are compelled to epitomize [archaic for summarize] our report.
On the morning of May 11th, 1883, at New York ravine, Salmon Falls township, near the Sacramento county line, the body of a strange man was found, pierced with a bullet, the skull crushed in, his pockets rifled, and near him a horse packed with a prospector’s outfit, the horse shot in four places, his throat cut, his windpipe severed in two places, indications that the man had been dragged from the road down into the ravine, the surrounding foliage to a height of several feet drenched and splattered with the horse’s blood. The body of the man was removed to the residence of Jeptha Wilson, where an inquest was held by Coroner Spencer, who had been sent for. The body was then brought to this city, and autopsy was made by Dr. H. W. Smith, and the remains were buried in the City Cemetery. A number of circumstances pointed to James K. Page, a resident of the vicinity, formerly convicted and sentenced to the State Prison for manslaughter, as the perpetrator of the crime, he was arrested at Mormon Island by Constable Macomber of Folsom, lodged in the calaboose at the latter place, and the next day delivered to Deputy Simmons of this county. Then District Attorney Ingham, with indeniable [sic], tireless energy and rare skill addressed himself to the task of ferreting out the perpetrator of this fiendish crime, and when this case was presented in court submitted a chain of evidence which was simply invulnerable to successful assault, tracing both the murderer and his victim step by step down to the scene of the horrible butchery.”
Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.
“THE PAGE TRIAL.[CONTINUED]
“George W. Kimball of Gold Hill, Deputy County Surveyor, was the first witness called. He submitted and explained a diagram from a survey made by himself, giving the Middletown road, with locations and distances from this city to the scene of the homicide, also the road leading from Zentgraf’s on Sweetwater [creek], into the Middletown road.
[Note: Zentgraf’s place was on the western end of Deer Valley Road, a short distance from what was formerly called the Folsom-Coloma road, or just Folsom or Coloma road, depending upon which direction you were travelling, and is now Green Valley Road. Middletown was a former settlement and mining camp two to three miles from Placerville on the road to Cold Springs.]
“James Angove, of the Placer Hotel, this city, was the next witness. He testified that an unknown stranger, with a pack animal, had stopped at the hotel May 9th, whom he directed to the Middletown road as shortest one to Folsom. He identified a shot gun as the one left with him by deceased. He recognized saddle and trappings as those that were on the horse of the stranger.
“John Fox, a blacksmith of this city, shod the horse of the stranger on the 9th of May, was present at autopsy and recognized the dead body as that of the man whose horse he shod. Recognized clothing of man and trappings of the horse.
“Thos. Fraser saw the stranger on Middletown road, below [west of] town, on afternoon of May 9th, and recognized deceased as the same man.
“George Kenocke, keeper of toll-gate on Middletown road, described same stranger and horse as passing his toll-gate, and the man had a brief talk with him.
[Note: The public roads of that era were poorly maintained. Often there were privately owned and maintained toll roads that bypassed them. Most were later acquired by the state or county.]
“Frank Miller, who lives 4 miles below here on Middletown road, saw and described the same person and horse as reaching and camping near his place on evening of May 9th.
“Edward Morton, who lives half mile below Miller, gave same testimony. Gave stranger permission to turn his horse into their field.
“Rudolph Bing was at Joseph Gillespie’s, about 7 miles from here, on morning of May 10th, and saw the man and horse pass there about 7 in the morning. Had a talk with him. Man said he had intended to go into the mountains, but found it too cold. Would like to find a place to prospect. This witness recognized some of the trappings in court as those which had had noticed on the stranger’s horse.
“Hans Olsen saw same stranger below Rose Springs [now Rescue] and talked with him, after which he started down the Folsom road, toward Skinner’s [corner of Cameron Park Drive and Green Valley Road], which is about 3 miles distant.
“James Skinner, who has a vineyard, wine house and distillery about 14 miles below town, gave similar description of a stranger with packed horse that stopped at his place between 12 and half past 12 May 10th, and brought [sic] bottle of wine from him, offering him a $20 [gold] piece in payment, which he could not change. Then the stranger told him tht he only had 15 cents in change, and suggested tht he pour back part of the wine, which, however, he did not do. The stranger took two light drinks and put the bottle into the pack on his horse. (The bottle, in the same condition as described, was found on the pack on the dead horse.) The stranger then went down the road toward New York ravine. Saw him next in a coffin at New York ravine, and recognized deceased as certainly the same person who bought the wine from me. The witness recognized the purse in court as the one from which the stranger took the $20 piece.
“Mrs. Fred Engesser, who lives at the next house below Skinner’s [south side of Green Valley Road, about half way between Cameron Park Drive and Bass Lake Road], was at home May 10th and went thence to Zentgraf’s by way of the site of Rohlfing’s old store [south side of Green Valley Road near the western end of Deer Valley Road], at which point, at about 1 or half past 1, she saw the stranger sitting under a tree eating his lunch and his horse grazing near by. She got to Zentgraf’s about 2 o’clock and saw Page there. He left there between 3 and 4 o’clock. He had his rifle with him and wore a white or light calico shirt.
“Jacob Zentgraf, who has a wine cellar and distillery at Sweetwater, remember that Page was at his place May 10th; came there about 2 o’clock; had a Winchester rifle with him; wore a light calico shirt, almost white; two other men – Wise and Alexander – were there before he came; when Page came he called for a bottle of brandy; I asked him how big a bottle; he said he had not more than two or three bits; I put up some brandy and he paid two bits for it; he drank with Alexander, who afterwards asked him if he could not treat, and Page answered, ‘no, I haven’t a d – d cent,’ and Alexander treated again; afterwards they talked about shooting at a mark; I told them I didn’t allow any shooting on my place, and Page drew the cartridges from his gun. He left my house between three and 4 o’clock. He drank three times while at my house, taking half a wineglass full (of 46 proof grape brandy) at a drink. He was not quarlesome [sic] while there, nor drunk when he left. He went toward Folsom. My house is not quite a mile from junction of Folsom road.
“Lambert Zentgraf, a bright young son of the latter witness, saw Page, after he left the wine cellar, and after he had passed out the gate, reload his rifle, holding it on his arm and pushing the cartridges in. He had rifle and three dogs.”
Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.
“THE PAGE TRIAL.[CONTINUED]
“Mrs. Caroline McDonald lives on Folsom road about 1 1/4 miles from Zentgrafs. Between 4 and 5 o’clock May 10th saw two men, one with a rifle and 3 dogs, the other driving a pack horse, pass along the road, apparently engaged in conversation. They stood near the junction of the two roads about ten minutes, did not appear to be under influence of liquor, went down road toward Folsom. Both were strangers to her.
“Pat Hughes, proprietor of the Waukeeshaw house, at the junction of the Coloma and Folsom roads, knows Page. I was hauling wood on the 10th of May; had come in with a load, was near my house, when Page and a man with a horse packed came up, and page expressed a desire to introduce the stranger, whom he called his ‘partner.’ Page went over to the house to talk to Mrs. Hughes, and when he was gone the stranger started off down toward Folsom. Soon afterwards Page hailed him, saying, ‘Hold on, partner, I am going with you.,’ started after and overtook him, and the two disappeared over the hill. (It was not admitted in evidence, but is related as a fact, that while Page was at the house Mr. Hughes warned the stranger that he was keeping company with a bad and dangerous man, which prompted him to start off alone.) Mr. Hughes then drove out into the woods, accompanied by Andrew Troy, and about half an hour after Page and his companion left Hughes and Troy distinctly heard and counted five shots fired in the direction they had taken. Next morning he saw the same stranger and his horse lying dead at New York ravine. (This witness was subjected to a long and searching cross-examination, but without in the least affecting his original statement.)
[Note: The Waukeeshaw or Wakasha House, was one of the main stops for travellers going to the Mother Lode. It, like many early hotels in the Mother Lode, was built and assembled on the east coast, disassembled and shipped around the Horn to California. The origin of the name is unknown, but there are indications it came from a Paiute Indian chief know as Walker-aw. For more information on this hotel and others in this area, see: “The Early Inns of California 1844-1869”, by Ralph Herbert Cross. Copies can be found in the rare book section of the El Dorado County main library.]
“Andrew Troy testified to the same facts as Mr. Hughes, strictly corroborating the latter’s statements, and enduring a long cross-examination without material effect. These two witnesses concurred in the positive statement that Page was not drunk when he left them. Hughes stated that Page offered to buy an acre of land from him, and Troy testified that Page repeatedly offered Hughes $20 for an acre of land. On one point the cross-examination somewhat shook Troy’s testimony. He recognized the saddle in court as that which was on the stranger’s horse, stated that there was a bullet hole through the skirt of the saddle on the stranger’s horse, but could find no such hole through the skirt of the saddle in court. The hole was through the pack.
“Mrs. Winnifred Powell lives near the scene of the homicide. Knows Page. Has known him 16 years or more. On afternoon of May 10th was repairing brush fence and saw two men coming down the road. Had on a shabby dress in which she did not care to be seen by strangers, and held up a brush to screen her person while she stepped backward across the brush fence, which at this point was but about two feet high, and hid behind a small oak that stands on the line of the fence. One of the men carried a gun, the other led a pack-horse. Soon she discovered by his peculiar laugh that the man with the gun was Page, and that he had been drinking. She knew him as a dangerous man when drinking, he had threatened her life on a former occasion, she was afraid of him and therefore hid from him. After they had passed her, considering herself safe, knowing that Page had also threatened the life of her next neighbor, Mr. Carpenter, whose wife she had seen at work in their orchard, she followed the men, keeping along the fence, and hiding behind the brush, to warn Mrs. Carpenter that Page was out with a gun and had been drinking. Arriving at a point which she minutely described, she heard Page demand his companion’s money. At the same instant he caught the stranger by the shoulder, jerked his whip out of his hand, leveled his gun about breast high and fired. Then the stranger begged for his life, a second shot was fired and there was no further pleading by the stranger. A minute or two afterwards three additional shots were fired. Then Mrs. Powell crept home. This witness was subjected to a cross-examination of 5 ½ hours, which was a sharp and exhaustive combat between her and the veteran attorney of our bar. The main effect of it was to elicit that on going home from the scene of the horror, and encountering four inmates of her house, and on going to the inquest next day, and on visiting neighbors and talking about the tragedy, she had not, except to her daughter in San Francisco, said anything to anybody as to what she had seen and heard, until she visited Justice Trengove on the 5th of June and made a sworn statement to him. The cross-examination also elicited the statement that when she saw the homicide she was within rifle range of Page, and he could have seen her if he had looked that way.
“Mrs. Wm. Carpenter lives near the scene of the homicide, next to Mrs. Powell’s. On the afternoon of May 10th was working in her orchard, her little boy with her. Between 5 and 6 o’clock heard a shot fired, and immediately afterwards a man pleading for his life, then a second shot; a few seconds afterwards other shots, could not tell how many; was excited running from one point to another in the orchard to see what was going on and distinguish the parties. After the shooting saw a man wearing a white or light shirt walking up and down the road as though searching for something. Told son and niece what she had seen and heard, also Mr. Carpenter when he got home, which was after dark.
Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.
“THE PAGE TRIAL.[CONTINUED]
“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 previously mentioned “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).”
Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.
“THE PAGE TRIAL.[CONTINUED]
“Charles Schonn keeps a saloon at Mormon Island. On the morning after the dead body was found at New York ravine, James Page came to his place about 8 or 9 o’clock. Took a drink and treated me and paid with a $20 piece. Afterwards bought my pocket knife, handkerchief, bottle of brandy, and two bits worth of cigars. Was taken from my place by Constable Macomber. Was sober when he came.
“Constable John Macomber related incidents connected with arrest of Page and his delivery to the Sheriff. Identifies Page’s gun and the cartridge taken from it the day of the homicide. He went to Mrs. Page’s and, she being with him, searched for the shirt worn by James on the 10th, but could not find it.
“Joseph Simmons, Deputy Sheriff, testified to the delivery to him by Macomber &c. [archaic etc.]
“Dr. H. W. Smith gave an interesting statement of his post mortem examination of the remains of the murdered man, generally agreeing with the report of his autopsy published in these columns about the time of the homicide, supplemented by a statement of subsequent investigations to which all present listened with rapt attention. In making a microscopic examination of blood-clot from the head of the murdered man he demonstrated: first, that the blows on the head were inflicted after death; 2d, tht there was a fiber of pine bark imbedded in tissues of his scalp. This induced him to visit the scene of the homicide and make search for a club. His search was successful. He found a club with many blood stains on the butt end of it. He then inspected the stock of Page’s gun and found spots of blood upon it. He also took blood from the horse and found the bushes near where his throat was evidently cut. With the aid of glycerine several of the spots were removed from the gunstock. Then by a series of microscopic comparisons, conducted with conscientious care, a conclusion was reached which was unassailable, established exact similarity between the globules in certain of the spots on the gun, the spots on the club, and those taken from the corpse; exact correspondence between the globules of the spots from the horse, those from the bushes and certain of those from the gunstock. Certain other of the spots on the gun were distinguished as the blood of a fowl or bird. His relation of the methods adopted to reach his conclusions, and the test applied to insure their accuracy, carried absolute conviction. The prosecution here rested.
“Defense called Samuel Page, brother of defendant, and examined him as to effect of intoxication on him.
“James Hart testified to the effect of intoxicating liquor upon defendant, making him boisterous and abusive, and that he was quite and peaceable when sober.
“W. D. Coffman, brother-in-law of Defendant, corroborated Hart as to disposition of Page when drunk and sober.
“Jacob Zentgraf and Jeptha Wilson were examined and answered similarly on same points.
“Mrs. Page, mother of the prisoner, testified that when sober he is as good and peaceable boy as need be, but when drunk noisy and abusive. He was very drunk when he came home May 10th, so much that he frequently asked where he was.
“Defendant was then placed on the stand. He remembered all that happened at home on the morning of the 10th, remembered going to Kyburz’, Dormody’s and Zentgraf’s, reaching the latter place tired, thirsty and hungry. Drank 6 or 7 times while there. Took a bottle of brandy away with him. Drank after on road. ‘Seems like a dream that I met somebody, don’t know who.’ ‘Seems like a dream that I passed Pat Hughes’, but don’t recollect it.’ After that don’t remember anything till next morning, when I looked around and found myself at home.
“Hugh O’Neil, a half-witted person who lives with Mrs. Powell, was called but gave no intelligible testimony. The defense then rested.
“The prosecution called County Clerk Witmer to prove previous conviction of Deft. [Defendant] for manslaughter, and the record of that conviction was introduced.
“James G. Bailey identified defendant as the same person as the one mentioned in the record.
“The case was then argued by Prentiss Carpenter and the District Attorney for the prosecution; by Clarke Howard and Mr. Blanchard for the defense. After a short recess the Judge read his charge, the jury retired at 8:30 and returned into court at 9:15 with their verdict as above [guilty of murder]. On the first ballot there were two who favored a recommendation of imprisonment, but on the second ballot all were agreed. The Judge appointed next Monday at 10 o’clock for passing sentence. Throughout the trial, and even when the verdict was read the defendant showed no signs of concern. Mr. Blanchard chiefly relied for defense on the monstrous atrocity of the crime as an evidence of irresponsibility. The address of [District Attorney] Mr. Ingham surpassed any of his previous efforts, and a part of the time many in his audience were ‘Like Niobe, all tears.’
“Prentiss Carpenter and Clarke Howard made credible arguments.”
[Note: Niobe is one of its more tragic figures in Greek mythology. After the other gods killed her seven sons and seven daughters, she became the symbol of eternal mourning. She fled to Mt. Siplyon in Asia Minor. There she turned to stone and from the rock formed a stream (the Achelous) from her ceaseless tears.]
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.”