Criminal Annals, Part 60 – The Page Trial

Last time we started the complete story about the hanging of Thomas K. Page, 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.

This is a continuation of that story that provides a unique, interesting look at the judicial system in place in 1883.

It should be noted that the writer of this story often shortens sentences when reporting testimony.

Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.


“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.”





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.