Murder At A Premium

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Disputes in the Early Days Were Quickly Resolved

A man named David Elliott died in 1900 on Tahoe Ridge in the North Fork of the Clearwater River Mountains near the mining settlement of a place known as Pierce City, the site of the initial gold discovery in the heart of central Idaho.  Mr. Elliott was reputed to have been the first probate judge to have served the citizens of Pierce City during the boom mining days of the early 1860s.  To his friends he was known as “Boss” Elliott.  He had mined in California, and when he learned of the gold discoveries in Idaho, he had been one of the first miners to rush to the scene.  Initially he moved from one mining camp to another, and is said to have made and lost several fortunes.  When the last of his gold dust disappeared, he took up a homestead on Tahoe Ridge east of the City and lived there until his death.

“Boss” Elliott was a well known and well liked citizen of Pierce City.  When he passed away there was sincere mourning among all of his friends.  Even those closest to him gathered at the undertaker’s office to watch them hew out rough boards from pine wood stock that were to be used for the construction of a coffin.  Mourning and tears flowed as the process of preparing for the funeral continued.  Of course, as was customary for every event, all participants and spectators were well supplied with liquid refreshments, and the libations continued to flow well into the night until the coffin was completed, strapped to the back of a pack animal, and was made ready for transportation for five miles to the spot where the departed was awaiting consignment to the grave.

As it is with all the old timer funerals of the old West, lots of tales and yarns flowed freely from the mouths of those pioneers who were still living at the time.  These stories were always about the exploits of the dearly deceased and usually had an aire of bravado or humor attached to them.  The funeral of “Boss” Elliott was no exception.  The yarn that stuck in the minds of those in attendance the most went something like this:

“In the early days of Pierce City there was a town character who was of a vicious type, and was always stirring up some kind of trouble.  One day there came into camp a young man from the East, who was a tenderfoot of the first order.  This trouble-maker character picked on the newcomer at once, and proceeded to have a lot of alleged fun at the Easterner’s expense.  Among the tortures inflicted on the young man from the East was to shoot at or near his feet, and force him to dance for the edification of the crowd.  The young man stood this humiliation for some time, and after a few days, bought himself a brace of six-shooters.  

The young man quietly went his own way, and each day hid himself in the outskirts of the camp and spent considerable time in practicing with his weapons.  So quietly had he conducted himself that not even his closest friends knew for what he was preparing.  When, at last, the young man deemed himself proficient with his guns, he strode through town and entered a gathering where his tormentor was entertaining his cronies with tall tales about his own prowess.  When the town character spied the tenderfoot, out came a gun and the newcomer was commanded to execute a dance.  A shot was fired in the direction of the Easterner to quicken his motions.

The tenderfoot danced for a few minutes and then without a word of warning whipped out his two six-guns and began to shoot at his tormentor.  When the bully was picked up by his friends he was a splendid subject for the coroner.  

So impressed were the onlookers with the accuracy of the tenderfoot’s shooting, that none of them had a word to say about the tragedy.  A coroner’s jury found the victim had come to his death by gunshot wounds

at the hands of the tenderfoot, and he was arrested and taken before Judge Elliott.  The judge found the man guilty, fined him $5, and confiscated his two guns.  The judge kept one of the two guns for himself and the other he gave to a deputy Sheriff.

The miners, believing the newcomer had done a real service for the entire camp in ridding it of the bully, took up a collection of gold dust and promptly bought the Eastern slayer two much better guns than he had previously owned.”

Justice was most usually fair in its application, and resolution of the violations were very quick to be prosecuted.  There is really no need to drag things out over long periods of time.  It wastes manpower and greatly increases costs.

A simple question for you to answer for yourself……

Have the legal prosecution cases resolving issues between men and women gotten easier and simpler since the early days of the West, or have they become more complex and expensive and many times ineffective?


Whenever simplicity and the quick justice of determining right from wrong are the primary ways and means of correcting or litigating personal behavior, justice is always best served.

On any quiet day in present day Pierce City, Idaho, one can take a walk down any of the side streets in the older sections of the entire town and if he is really quiet and takes time to listen carefully, he can still hear the shots ringing out, the roar of the gathered crowd, the bullets slapping the dirt streets, and the cheers of those who realized that even a tenderfoot can only take so much bullying before taking matters into his own hands for a quick resolution.

Peace And Love to All of You………………Poppa Bear

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