Criminal Annals, Part 61 – The Page Trial Continues

Again we continue with the 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.

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 and Jacob and Lambert Zentgraf. Most of these people were residents of the area just north of today’s Cameron Park.
It should be noted again that the writer of this story often shortens sentences when reporting testimony.

Mountain Democrat, June 30, 1883.


“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.

Continuing with the trial: “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.



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