William T. Lomax
|Death:||Died in El Dorado, CA, USA|
|Cause of death:||Hanged for the murder of Frederick Bohle|
|Managed by:||Justin Swanström|
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About William T. Lomax
A county history says, "In this township [Lee] occurred the mob execution of William Lomax, May 14, 1855. He was hanged for the murder of Frederick Bohle, who was killed on the 7th of that month. It seems that Bohle was a stock-raiser and occupied a cabin about a mile above the old Daylor Ranch. Some parties, who desired to buy cattle, sought Bohle and found him dead. He had been cut with a knife and chopped with an ax, and the indications were that he had made a desperate struggle for life. They gave the alarm at Grimshaw's house. W. R. Grimshaw and Oliver Sanders went out and secured the body. Lomax had been seen about the premises, and suspicion fastened on him. He was arrested in the city of Sacramento and taken to the scene of the murder. A popular court was organized in front of the old Daylor house, and Lomax put upon trial. He asked for time to produce a man named Van Trees, with whom he had passed the night before the murder, at a ranch on the American River. Time was granted, but the people of Michigan Bar and Cook's Bar took the accused, fearing that he might escape. They promised to bring him back when Van Trees would be produced. They fulfilled their promise. On the resumption of the trial Van Trees stated that Lomax had been with him at his place, but that when he left he had stolen a mule. Lomax was convicted and hanged on a tree in front of Grimshaw's place. This tree was cut down about three or four years ago. This was one of the earliest mob executions in the county outside of Sacramento City." (Win J. Davis, An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California (1890), 2:237).
"The Hanging of William Lomax" recounts the story of his death:
"One mob execution occurred in Slough House. A Dutchman, Frederick Bohle, lived about a mile up the river from Daylor's Ranch and operated a small cattle ranch. Two traveling cattle buyers, desirous of purchasing cattle from Bohle, found his cabin door torn from its hinges. The walls, furniture and bed were covered with blood. About fifty yards away his dog was guarding the corpse. Indications pointed to a brutal murder and a desperate struggle for life. The men gave the alarm at Daylor's Store. W. R. Grimshaw and Oliver Sanders secured the body.
"A stranger had been seen on the premises the day before. A few days previously the same stranger had fired a pistol at Mr. Lord, a settler who lived on the Cosumnes, in an attempted robbery. If robbery were the motive at Bohle's place, it was an unsuccessful attempt, for his five thousand dollars in gold dust was found some time later in a straw-filled wagon bed. Samuel Caldwell was deputized to look for the stranger. He found him - one William Lomax - in the Our House Saloon on J Street between 6th and 7th Streets, Sacramento. Lomax, protesting his innocence, was returned to Daylor's. There were bloodstains on his clothes and "other indications" he was the guilty party. Settlers from Michigan Bar, Cook's Bar, Live Oak and Well's Diggings assembled at Daylors, intent on lynching Lomax, but Grimshaw insisted he be given a fair trial. A popular court was organized in front of Daylor's Store and the trial began. There were three sessions. During the first two Lomax remained steadfast in claiming he spent the night with Van Trees at his house on the American River. He asked time be granted to bring Van Trees to verify his alibi. The court adjourned until the following day. The people of Cook's Bar and Michigan Bar took the accused, fearing he might escape. A night watch was set up and the prisoner was returned in time for the resumption of the trial.
"Van Trees arrived and stated Lomax had been at his place earlier, but had stolen a mule on leaving. After the third and final session, Lomax was found guilty. The settlers put Lomax in a wagon and drove underneath the hanging tree, located two hundred yards from the front porch of the Daylor Store. They threw the rope over a limb and made a noose around his neck. When asked if he had any last words, Lomax replied he would give five thousand dollars for a pair of Colt revolvers and a chance to face his enemies. No one took up his offer, and the wagon was driven out from under him.
"When the execution was over, a messenger was sent to Sacramento to inform Sheriff D. N. Hunt a murderer had been executed. There were repercussions and county authorities sent Coroner Smith to investigate. The result of an inquest held in Sacramento was that Lomax was hanged by a mob, with the recommendation that Lord, Grimshaw and other participants be arrested.
"Then came the fireworks. Mass indignation prompted a meeting in Live Oak on the night of May 20, 1855, "to express public feeling regarding W. R. Grimshaw, Samuel Caldwell and Mr. Lord." F. Bishop was the chairman of the meeting, from which was fashioned one of the most unusual documents in state history. Its authors were O. D. Freeman, J. B. Dayton, and Dr. Woodford. It was printed as a paid advertisement in Sacramento papers and its contents, in part, were as follows:
"Resolved, That the people create laws for the maintenance of justice and suppression of crime and that whenever any unforeseen or extraordinary circumstance shall turn the current of those laws into the channels of injustice, or the vortex of crime, the right to arrest such subverted action is inherent in the sovereign people.
"Resolved, That enlightened and just communities, when summoned by peculiar circumstances, and in times of great peril, might inflict summary punishment upon great criminals without abrogating the law; that on the contrary they act, if not in concert, as one of two friendly powers against a common enemy - crime.
"Resolved, That although the people who executed the murderer Lomax did not act in strict conformity with the statue of law, yet as in the case of the execution of the horse thieves and murderers, Driscoes, in Illinois in 1840, Judge Ford said on acquitting the prisoners, that all civil law is powerless against an organized band of desperadoes and that there was but one court that could reach them; so in the case of Lomax and his confederates, the people alone can break up their band and mete out even justice in spite of their perjury.
"Resolved, That Coroner Smith by his officious interference in the matter of the execution of the murderer Lomax, has shown himself an abject slave to the letter of the law, at the sacrifice of its spirit and the great end for which it was instituted.
"Resolved, That the theory of the supremacy and infallibility of the law is a doctrine of tyrants and is incompatible with the spirit and genius of an enlightened people, who are the source of all power. "Resolved, That the thanks of the community be tendered to William R. Grimshaw, Samuel Caldwell and Mr. Lord for the generous sacrifice of their private interests and welfare.
"Resolved, That the proceedings of the meeting be published in the State Tribune and the Sacramento Union.
"The resolutions were signed by four hundred residents of the area. The men were not arrested and the incident was closed, serving only to let the world know the settlers in the Cosumnes Valley meant business."