|Mason Henry Gang (1864 -1865) from Wikipedia
The Mason Henry Gang were bandits operating in Central
and Southern California in 1864-65. As the Civil War was in progress, they
were able to pose as Confederate Partisan Rangers, and their original mission
was to rid the area of (anti-slavery) Republicans. But when it became clear
that the Confederate cause was lost, they turned to outlawry, plundering
and killing without mercy.
The two leaders were John Mason, an alleged murderer,
and Tom McCauley, a California Gold Rush criminal using the alias Jim Henry.
The gang may have numbered up to sixteen at its peak. McCauley was shot
dead in September 1865 by the local sheriff’s posse, and Mason killed in
April 1866 by a miner, Ben Mayfield, whom he had tried to kidnap.
Mason and Henry as Partisan Rangers
In early 1864, a dedicated southern sympathizer from Tennessee,
secessionist Judge George Gordon Belt, a rancher and former alcalde in
Stockton, used his ranch on the Merced River to organize a group of partisan
rangers. They would be led by two southerners John Mason and "Jim Henry"
and sent out to recruit more men and pillage the property of Union men
in the countryside.
Unfortunately Judge Belt had chosen his men poorly. Both
men had unsavory pasts. Mason was a southern-born former stage hostler
who had reportedly killed several men. Jim Henry was a criminal whose real
name was Tom McCauley. He and his brother had been robbers within the gold
camps and together had murdered a man in Tuolumne County in 1856. He had
been sent to prison for ten years and his brother was hanged. After his
release from prison McCauley had returned to robbery with a gang along
the Fresno River. When several of the gang were captured and lynched by
vigilantes, Tom McCauley then fled and reinvented himself as Jim Henry.
In the spring of 1864 the gang rode over to Santa Clara
County, a center of Copperhead sympathizers, to recruit more members. Unfortunately
it was a drought year that depressed the economy, and the increasingly
bad war news also discouraged most of their recruits. They returned without
success to the San Joaquin Valley.
By October, 1864, with the Presidential election approaching,
Mason and Henry's gang turned into brigands. However, they referred to
themselves as Confederate soldiers, and managed to garner support among
the local Copperheads. They threatened to kill any "black republican" they
Mason and Henry become Outlaws
On November 10, 1864, the Mason Henry Gang committed their
first crimes, three murders, soon after the second election of Abraham
Lincoln. These crimes were described in the Stockton Daily Independent,
for MONDAY, 14 NOV 1864:
On the evening after the election MASON and
McHENRY went over to Dutch Charley's, against whom they had a spite, and
killed him. From his place they went to Mr. HAWTHORNE's, knocked at the
stable, where 3 hired men were sleeping, and after cowing these men, obtained
their pistols, went to the house and murdered Mr. HAWTHORN [spelled 2 ways].
They then returned to the stable, telling the men what they had done, and
that they intended to kill all the Republicans they could. They took HAWTHORN's
watch, double-barreled shot-gun, and 2 horses from the stable. From HAWTHORN's
they proceeded to the house of Mr. ROBINSON. After obtaining a drink of
water they asked Mrs. ROBINSON where her husband was. She replied that
he had not yet come home from the election, but that a wagon was coming
up the road and she thought that was him. They set out for the wagon. MASON
first came up. He accosted ROBINSON with - "I am told that you said there
was not a decent woman in the South. Did you say so?" "No, I did not,"
replied ROBINSON. "You are a liar, and I am going to kill you," said MASON.
ROBINSON then jumped for him. MASON snapped his gun, which missed fire,
and then fired with the other barrel, breaking his victim's shoulder and
arm. ROBINSON then ran, but was pursued by McHENRY, who shot him twice,
1st in the hand and then in the back of the head, killing him. The murderers
then told the man who was in the wagon with ROBINSON that he might go on
to the house and tell who killed R., and moreover, what they did it for.
MASON also told him that he was the man who had killed 2 soldiers at Fort
Tejon and 1 at Camp Babbitt, and that MASON was not his real name; that
he was after Republicans and intended to kill all he could. The murderers
were well armed, having each a double-barreled shot-gun and 2 6-shooters.
They did not appear to be influenced by motives of plunder, but solely
by malice against Republicans. They have both for several months been around
Gilroy and on Wednesday last, were seen near South San Juan. It is to be
hoped they will not long escape their just deserts. They are of the worst
species of the guerrilla, as cruel as Apaches, and as fanatical as crusaders.
The same article announced the reward for their arrest
REWARD for MASON and McHENRY - Governor
Low has offered a reward for the arrest and conviction of the 2 secesh
murderers, MASON and McHENRY, who on the night of election and next day,
killed 3 men in cold blood. The circumstances connected with these murders
are such as call for the speedy extermination of these 2 wretches.
Afterward the gang crossed Pacheco Pass and went to Santa
Cruz County. They hid near Corralitos and frequented Watsonville, where
the local secessionists sheltered them.
Soon after the murders, they held up a stage on the road
from Watsonville to Visalia, killing three men and vowing to "slay every
Republican they would meet." Under the pretense of being Confederate guerrillas,
the gang terrorized Monterey County and the nearby counties for the next
In late January 1865, Company B, 1st Battalion of Native
Cavalry, California Volunteers, a unit of Californio lancers arrived from
San Francisco at Camp Low in San Juan Bautista. Camp commander Major Michael
O'Brien, 6th California Infantry, shortly afterward, received intelligence
about the location of the Mason Henry Gang hideout. A detachment of Native
cavalrymen under 1st Lieutenant John Lafferty searched for them, but he
On February 18, 1865, Captain Herman Noble sent a detachment
of Company E, 2nd California Cavalry, under Sergeant Rowley, from Camp
Babbitt near Visalia in a long pursuit of men believed to be the Mason
Henry Gang. It took them across the deserts of Southern California, south
to Sonora, Mexico. The March 15, 1865, issue of The Visalia Delta described
MASON AND HENRY - The squad of soldiers
sent out from Camp Babbitt by Captain Noble under the command of Sergeant
Rowley, in pursuit of the above Constitutional Democratic murders of Union
men, have returned to camp. They report a very hard skirmish, traveling
over 900 miles through a most desolate country; upon several occasions
going out two or three days without food for themselves, or forage for
their horses. They were several times on their trail, after they left Fort
Tejón, and finally tracked them down into Sonora, when they were
compelled to give up the chase on account of their horses giving out and
their inability to get fresh ones. The fugitives were well supplied with
gold, having $3,000 or more in their possession. It is believed by many
that they have gone to recruit a guerrilla band, and will return to prey
on Union men in the lower part of the State. They could have obtained plenty
of recruits nigher home. Doubtless, Visalia would have furnished several
birds of prey and a surgeon or two, to bind up their broken bones, and
very likely a Chaplain to minister to their bruised souls, and a number
of spies, sneaks, and informers. As to good fighting men, they would be
scarcer hereabouts. The party were out twenty-five days.
In April 1865, the Mason Henry Gang attacked Firebaugh's
Ferry. When word of the attack arrived at San Juan Bautista, Captain Jimeno,
of the Native Cavalry, in command of Camp Low, again sent out Lieutenant
Lafferty with a detachment of five men to intercept the gang hoping to
head them off at Panoche Pass on the western side of the Diablo Range.
They encountered Mason the next morning. Mason spurred his horse in an
attempt to escape, but Lafferty fired a single bullet that both wounded
Mason in the hip and wounded his horse. Although the soldiers captured
the outlaw's horse, somehow Mason managed to elude them. At six that evening,
Lafferty and his troopers returned to Camp Low with the horse.
Breakup of the Gang, Death of Henry
Although the Civil War was over, the gang was still under
pressure in Central California, so they moved into Southern California
and split up. In July 1865 Mason and another gang member, Hawkins, pulled
guns on Kern River rancher Philo Jewet, who had fed them dinner. The rancher
ran, but his cook John Johnson was stabbed and shot to death. Hawkins was
later captured and hanged on the testimony of Jewet, but Mason was still
Henry with his gang first moved to the area of upper Lytle
Creek and San Sevaine Flats in the eastern San Gabriel Mountains, rustling
and committing robbery and murder. In September of that year, he and his
associates were camped out south of San Bernardino and sent John Rogers
to town to obtain provisions. While there, Rogers started drinking. Once
drunk, he started boasting about his outlaw connections. Locals of Union
sympathies took note, and Rogers soon found himself in the company of San
Bernardino County Sheriff Benjamin Franklin Mathews and his posse, leading
them to the outlaw camp. After traveling about twenty-five miles, they
located Henry camped at San Jacinto Canyon. At sunrise on September 14,
the posse approached cautiously when Henry was awakened. He roused himself
to fire three shots, striking one posse member in the foot. Henry died
in a hail of gunfire, sustaining 57 wounds. His corpse was taken back to
town, photographed and displayed in the fashion later typical of the Wild
West. Rogers was sent to prison for five years.
Death of Mason
John Mason continued his criminal career in Los Angeles
County in the vicinity of Fort Tejon and in what is now Kern County with
a $500 reward on his head. While Ben Mayfield was riding to Fort Tejon
from his mine in Lytle Creek in April 1866, Mason joined him on the ride
and later tried to recruit him into his gang. When Mayfield refused, Mason
threatened to kill him, and also threatened to take the horse of another
man, W. H. Overton, and kill him. That night while the three were in the
same house, none went to sleep, but in the early morning Mason lay down
on his bed under a blanket, but was awake. Overton stepped out to look
after his horse, then Mason tried to shoot Mayfeild from his bed. Mason's
pistol tangled in his blanket, giving Mayfeild the chance to shoot him
Mason's death was announced in the Stockton Daily Independent,
SATURDAY, 21 APR 1866:
DESPARADO, KILLED -- Visalia, April 20 -- MASON, of the distinguished firm
of MASON & HENRY, was killed a few days since in Tejon cannon[canyon],
by some citizens. There appears to be but little doubt that this is the
veritable MASON. It seems there were several of his clan together and they
all got off except the chief.
Trials of Benjamin Mayfeild
Mayfeild for his pains was not rewarded but was accused
of murder by friends of Mason and tried for murder in Los Angeles County.
The Sacramento Daily Union, 23 June 1866, quotes the The
Wilmington Journal on the verdict:
On the evening
of June 8th, the jury in the case of Benjamin Ben Mayfeild, who murdered
the highwayman John Mason, returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the
first degree. The next day he was sentenced to be hung on August 1st. The
counsel of the murderer Intend to carry the case to a higher Court if possible.
Mayfeild's appeal resulted in a second trial on September
15, 1866. The jury again found the defendant guilty of murder in the first
degree, and the counsel for the defense asked for a new trial, which was
refused by Judge de la Guerra. The prisoner was sentenced to be hanged
in August 1867. On application to the Supreme Court a stay of proceedings
was granted. Eventually Ben Mayfeild was exonerated.
Estimates of the number of gang members ranged from sixteen
to as few as four or five. Members would come and go. Some disappeared
with the continual bad news for the cause in the war. Others probably left
when they became disillusioned with the criminal behavior of Mason and
Henry that had nothing to do with the war.
Members and others accused of being members
Jim Henry, whose real name was Tom
John Mason, a Southern-born former
stage hostler who had reportedly killed several men in altercations.
Tom Hawkins, hanged in Visalia in
1866 for the murder of the Jewet Ranch cook, John Johnson.
John Rogers, caught bragging in a
saloon in San Bernardino, guided the posse that shot Jim Henry to his camp
in September 1865.
found guilty of grand larceny and given a five-year sentence at San Quentin
in October, 1866.
Joe Dye, short-time member, a pal
of John Rogers
Ben "Old Man" Kelsey and several of
A man named Pierce, alias Hall.
2 Mexicans, names unknown.
A man named "Overton", a later member.
W. B. Overton was tried with Ben Mayfeild for the murder of John Mason
near Fort Tejon.
Jack Gordon, (formerly Peter Worthington),
Charles G. Rudd
|Seven Rivers Warriors (1875 - 1879) from Wikipedia
The Seven Rivers Warriors were an outlaw gang of the
Old West known primarily due to their part in the Lincoln County War.
The gang was initially formed during the mid-1870s by
disgruntled small ranchers, feeling themselves victimized by the large
cattle holdings of ranchers such as John Chisum. In 1876 they allied themselves
with the Murphy-Dolan faction, mainly due to John Tunstall and Alexander
McSween being allied with Chisum.
The gang was led, for the most part, by Henry M. "Hugh"
Beckwith, whose brothers John and Bob were also members. The gang had certain
influential connections with local law enforcement, which assisted in their
being able to carry out cattle rustling without interference Bob Beckwith
and Wallace Olinger were Deputy Sheriffs for Sheriff William J. Brady,
and gang member Bob Olinger was a Deputy US Marshal. Tom Walker, an uncle
to later famed Texas Ranger Lon Oden, also became a member.
Lincoln County War
The gang began harassing the Tunstall-McSween faction
in 1876, often riding with the Jesse Evans Gang and the John Kinney Gang,
with both those gangs also being employed by the Murphy-Dolan faction.
On February 18, 1878, members of the Evans Gang led by Jesse Evans killed
John Tunstall, sparking the Lincoln County War. The Lincoln County Regulators
were formed shortly thereafter to counter the gunmen hired by Murphy-Dolan.
The Regulators included Billy the Kid, Richard "Dick" Brewer, Charlie Bowdre
and Doc Scurlock, but numbered some forty riders in all.
On April 1, 1878, Sheriff Brady and Deputy Sheriff George
Hindman were killed by Billy the Kid and other Regulators in Lincoln, New
Mexico. On April 29, 1878, members of the Seven Rivers Gang killed Regulator
Frank McNab and badly wounded Regulator Ab Saunders, in addition to capturing
Frank Coe. On April 30, 1878, Seven Rivers members Tom Green, Charles Marshall,
Jim Patterson and John Galvin were killed in Lincoln, and although the
Regulators were blamed, that was never proven, and there were feuds going
inside the Seven Rivers Warriors at that time.
What is known for certain is that Seven Rivers member
"Dutch Charlie" Kruling was shot and wounded by Regulator George Coe on
the morning of April 30. Some time after this, Seven Rivers gang member
Wallace Olinger allowed Frank Coe to escape, giving him a pistol in the
process. The Regulators tracked down and killed Seven Rivers rider Manuel
Segovia on May 15, 1878, who was believed to have killed McNab with a shotgun.
What would become known as the Battle of Lincoln began
on July 15, 1878, lasting five days, with Bob Beckwith being killed during
a gun battle with the Regulators on July 19. For all practical purposes,
the Lincoln County War ended after that siege, despite the fight itself
being a draw and with all but one of the Regulators escaping.
After the range war came to an end, the Seven Rivers members
began to turn on one another. Gang member Bill Johnson was killed by Hugh
Beckwith on August 17, 1878, in Seven Rivers, New Mexico. John Beckwith
was killed by fellow member John Jones on August 26, 1879, also in Seven
Rivers. On November 23, 1879, gang member Tom Walker was killed in a saloon
gunfight in Seven Rivers. Gang member and Deputy US Marshal Bob Olinger
was killed by Billy the Kid, along with Deputy Sheriff James Bell, on April
28, 1881, during a jail escape. By this time the gang had fallen apart,
with the members all going their own ways. Some went back to ranching or
working as cowboys, while some became lawmen. Hugh Beckwith, the gang's
leader, continued his outlaw life, but was shot and killed while committing
the armed robbery of a general store in Presidio, Texas in 1892.