Sunday, February 26, 2012

Murder in Carson City (1862)

Andrew Jackson Marsh
The period during which my Western Mysteries are set was a particularly rich one in Nevada history. Between Tuesday November 11th and Sunday December 21st 1862 over thirty legislators were hammering out new laws for Nevada Territory. There were at least three clever reporters in the provisional capital, Carson City. These included the 26-year-old Sam Clemens – soon-to-be-but-not-yet Mark Twain – who was on his first assignment from the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. Thanks to the abundance of journalists, not only were the lawmaking sessions well-covered, but we also have an unusually complete record of background events during those forty days. These include weather, dances, weddings, bar-room brawls, bonfires and even murders, of which there were no fewer than five. This is the account of just one of the murders. It is taken directly from the Sacramento Daily Union and was probably written by that newspaper's drily witty correspondent in Carson City, Andrew Jackson Marsh.  

Carson City,  N. T. , Monday, Nov. 24, 1862

my husband Richard, not Con Mason
The good people of Carson are enjoying the sensation of a first class murder, which came off here about one o'clock this morning. A full grown, cold-blooded murder, with thrilling accompaniments, had not happened right here in Carson for upward of a fortnight previously. Consequently this affair has all the charm of novelty! The victim was a young man known by the name of Con. Mason, and is reported to have borne one or two aliases, and to have come to this coast overland from the Pike's Peak region. The murderer is — nobody knows who for a certainty, and probably the law never will ascertain. Several parties have been arrested, and the wildest and most contradictory reports are circulated, as if to mislead.

These facts I do know, however: That about one o'clock this morning a pistol shot was fired in the street; that a few minutes later a man came into the Ormsby House and stated that he had just stumbled over a dead man; that in company with several men and a lantern I went to the spot, three or four squares west of the Ormsby House, and there found a well-dressed, youngish looking man lying stiff and stark on his back, his hat on his breast, his chestnut hair dabbling in a large pool of blood, and his glazed eyes staring upward at the stars of heaven. He was lying in front of a small wooden house with "to let" on the door, and a porch which may have afforded concealment to the lurking assassin. The man appeared to have been shot dead in his tracks, without a word of warning, and to have fallen just as he was found. There was a round hole under his left ear, and a corresponding hole nearly opposite under the right ear, which probably marked the passage of the leaden messenger of death into and out of his head.

You can read the full account HERE; it includes a French love interest, a couple of suspects and a possible motive for the murder.

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