Criminal Annals, Part 68 – Two California Stories (Continued)

Cadwalder Ringgold

Last time we left off at a point in the story regarding a murder in the mining camp of Ringgold with Jerry Crane having fired his pistol three times at Miss Susan Newnham. She was the lady with whom he was deeply infatuated and claimed she reciprocated. His first shot struck her in the shoulder, the second missed her, and the third struck her in the back of the head as she entered her family’s home, a wound from which she would later die.

An elderly gentleman that the author of the newspaper article, Beverly Washington, met while he was traveling is telling the story. The gentleman claimed he lived in Ringgold in 1855 when the murder occurred.

“The first person who reached the house afer the shooting stated that when he got there he found Crane by the bedside where he had helped her mother to lay her, he was bathing her face and talking to her saying, ‘are you not my wife, Susan?’ and her reply was ‘NO! go away and let me alone, you have hurt me badly enough now.’ This gives the lie to Crane’s story and to me at least has always appeared more like the act of a man full of intense jealousy, who finding he could not secure the woman he wanted himself, took that way of preventing any other man from getting her. The vitality of this poor young woman was wonderful, as she lived some five days with a bullet in her brain and remained conscious up to a few hours before her death. I must now take you back to the crowd on the hill and see what they were doing with Crane. They had a rope and part of the crowd were for hanging him then and there, while others were working to delay the execution until the Sheriff could get there, – he having already been sent for.

“In all the hub-bub, Crane himself seemed the coolest man in the lot. At length it was decided to take him to Red Hill a little mining camp half a mile away and give him a normal sort of a trial, a judge and a jury were selected and Samuel Smith was chosen as Sheriff. On reaching the camp, the Judge, Jury, Sheriff and prisoner went into a cabin and the trial began. The crowd of perhaps one thousand men, wait impatiently outside for their decision. Just at this time a party of horsemen were observed to be hastily approaching, and soon the known form of Sheriff Dave [David E.] Buell was seen, head and shoulders above the crowd around him, forcing his way through the yelling and struggling mob that barred his progress to the door. At length he reached it, and turning his back to it, drew his revolver and said he would shoot the first man who laid hands on him. This made them stand back a little, and he then succeeded in breaking open the door, and getting in.

“The next minute he rushed out with Crane under one arm, and throwing him on a horse that was held near by, he mounted another and rode off at full speed. Here my companion paused a moment, then added: ‘I wish to say a word now about that Sheriff Buell, for I think he was every inch an officer and a good one. Anyway he afterwards became a noted man, when holding the position of United States Marshall, in the State of Nevada. I think he died there some years ago. We must now get back to Mr. Crane who was immediately safely secured in jail, Well, the county seat at that time was at Coloma, and a grand jury being then in session, Crane was indicted at once and when court met on the following week, he was brought to trial, convicted and sentenced in short order.

Note: Sheriff David E. Buell was elected to the California State Assembly in 1857, before becoming a U.S. Marshall.

“It was, I think, towards the last of October when the hanging occurred. When placed upon the scaffold Crane appeared to be in good spirits and showed no signs of anxiety or fear. He made a long speech in which he denounced the Bible and all forms of Christian belief as utterly unfounded and senseless fables. This speech from the gallows (sometimes called a confession) he had written in jail. Although it was put in print just after the execution, it was not considered worthy of much attention, as the man was known to have made conflicting statements in regard to his crime. After his speech, which was delivered in a clear and forcible manner, he sang in a fine steady voice without a tremor or sign of fear a song which he also composed in jail, and I will try to repeat from memory:

“Come friends and all others I bid you adieu, the grave is now open to welcome me through, no valley of shadows I see on the road, but angels are waiting to take me to God.

“Ye worldlings and Christians may sneer and may frown, your unfounded systems are fast tumbling down, and sorrow and sadness will give place to mirth, and peace and good will shall extend o’er the earth.

“I’m going, I’m going to the land of the free, where all live each other and ever agree, I’m going, I’m going, I’m going, I’m gone, ah friends and relations, ‘tis done, it is done.

“At the conclusion of his song he folded his papers carefully, took off his glasses (he wore green glasses for weak eyes), put them in the case and put it in his hat, took off his cravat, folded it and put it also in his hat, which was on the seat near him. He then opened his collar, turned it back so it would be out of the way of the noose, and really seemed to be in a hurry to be off. When the noose was fixed to his apparent satisfaction, and the cap drawn over his face, his last words on earth were, ‘I come, Susan.’ The drop fell, his neck was broken and he died with scarcely a struggle.

“A somewhat notorious criminal known as Mickey Free was hanged at the same time and place, and now I wish to say in conclusion, that with perhaps some slight mistakes in the recital of facts, the foregoing story is in the main historically true as many persons yet living can attest.”



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