December 2016 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
More gangs . . . . . 
The Hounds (1849)- from Wikipedia
The Hounds, west coast counterparts of New York's Bowery Boys, were a nativist or anti-foreigner gang of San Francisco which specifically targeted recently arrived immigrants, particularly Hispanic Americans, during the California Gold Rush of 1849.

Officially called the San Francisco Society of Regulators, the gang, mostly made up of thugs and criminals as well as former Mexican-American War veterans, would later become known as The Hounds. Controlled by the "Know Nothing" political party, the gang used patriotism in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War to drive foreigners from the recently discovered gold fields. The Hounds had early popular support despite their brutal tactics, as many of the gang attacked unarmed Mexican and Chilean immigrants in Clarke's Point and extorted money from those few who were successful. The Hounds soon began demanding protection money from the city residents, indiscriminately looting and burning stores and killing anyone who resisted.

On July 15, 1849 the Hounds attacked a Spanish "shantie town," robbing and killing several immigrants. While city officials were previously hesitant to take action against the Hounds, this attack finally turned the public against the Hounds, with money collected for the Spanish, Alcade, Dr. T.M. Leavenworth along with Sam Brannan, Captain Beezer Simmons, and other citizens demanded the city take action and later 230 men were deputized to arrest the Hounds. However, most of the gang had fled the city by this time, although around 20 members, including a leader of the Hounds, Sam Roberts, were captured by troops led by merchant Isaac Bluxome, Jr.. Roberts and another member called Saunders were sentenced to ten years imprisonment while the other members were given shorter sentences; however, the influence of "Know Nothing" politicians was able to overturn these convictions. The public resentment and hostility toward the gang, however, would prevent the Hounds from reorganizing. Most left the city shortly after their release.

The Innocents (1863 - 1864) - from Wikipedia
The Innocents were an alleged gang of outlaw road agents in Montana Territory who operated during the gold rush of the 1860s, preying on shipments and travelers carrying gold from Virginia City, Montana. According to the early chronicler Thomas Dimsdale, the gang attempted to steal gold while it was being transported; they killed many travelers who resisted. Sheriff Henry Plummer of Bannack, Montana was accused of leading the group, and was executed by a group of vigilantes from Virginia City in January 1864, along with several other alleged gang members.
Criminal activities

Early historians, originating with Dimsdale, stated that the gang consisted of over one hundred members at its height. Their headquarters was supposedly based at the Rattlesnake Ranch, twelve miles outside of Virginia City, Montana. The gang allegedly killed over one hundred people (only eight deaths have been confirmed by documented sources) and stole a significant amount of gold while it was being transported the seventy-mile distance between Virginia City and Bannack.

Researchers believed the gang operated in small units in order to prey upon travelers from different towns. The gang was said to place watchmen in mine offices and gambling offices to determine when gold would be shipped. The members of the gang were believed to use secret code words for identification, as well as a secret knot in their ties. Many residents soon became frustrated by the rate of robberies and murders. In late 1863 they formed a committee of vigilantes (the Montana Vigilantes) to combat the rash of murders and robberies.

Vigilante justice

Plummer was initially suspected of criminal activity after two residents who had been robbed claimed that they had recognized him during the robberies. Another local robbing victim said that, after he confronted Sheriff Plummer about the danger of the roads, Plummer offered to return some of his money to him. The vigilante committee arrested three men in Nevada City in December 1863, charging them with murder. One man was executed, and the group banished the other two.

After learning o this event, boot-maker George Lane rode to Bannack to tell Plummer about the incident. For the next month, the vigilante committee arrested many local men suspected of being part of Plummer's gang. They passed sentences ranging from execution to flogging to banishment. Shortly before one man was hanged, he told the assembled crowd that Plummer was the ringleader behind the recent crime spree.

This confirmed the suspicions held by the vigilantes, and they soon arrested Plummer. After being arrested, he tried to bribe his captors but was unsuccessful. Between December 1863 and February 1864 the vigilante committee executed Plummer and twenty-two alleged members of his gang, including George Lane. At one point the vigilantes assembled a force of over 500 men and sealed off Virginia City in order to catch gang members. The gallows on which Plummer was hanged had been built at his request as sheriff in relation to an earlier case. Over 5,000 people assembled to watch the hangings of the gang members. 

Modern scholarship

Scholars have noted a lack of documentation and other historical evidence pertaining to the Innocents. The earliest accounts of the gang have been shown to be unreliable. The descriptions of activities and secret codes conform to a common pattern of frontier mythography. (The number of members was "over a hundred," the number of victims also "over a hundred," their secret password was "I am innocent"). Frederick Allen and other modern scholars have questioned whether the gang was as influential as told. Mather and Boswell are among scholars who deny that any gang conducted the relatively few documented robberies in the area, saying they were more likely the work of a small number of independent (or at most loosely organized) outlaws.

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 came across.

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 and conviction;

    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 several months.

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 was unsuccessful.

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 the pursuit:

    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 at large.

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 first.

Mason's death was announced in the Stockton Daily Independent, SATURDAY, 21 APR 1866:

        MASON, the 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 McCauley.
    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.
         He was 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 his sons.
    Bill Kelsy 
    A man named Pierce, alias Hall.
    2 Mexicans, names unknown.
    A man named "Overton", a later member.[19] W. B. Overton was tried with Ben Mayfeild for the murder of John Mason near Fort Tejon.
    Jack Gordon, (formerly Peter Worthington), of Tailholt.
    Charles G. Rudd 
    John Tungate

Sydney Ducks (1849 - 1851) from Wikipedia
The Sydney Ducks was the name given to a gang of criminal immigrants from Australia in San Francisco, during the mid-19th century. Because many of these criminals came from the well-known British penal colonies in Australia, and were known to commit arson, they were blamed for an 1849 fire that devastated the heart of San Francisco, as well as the rampant crime in the city at the time.

The Sydney Ducks were criminals who operated as a gang, in a community that also included sailors, longshoremen, teamsters, wheelwrights, shipwrights, bartenders, saloon keepers, washerwomen, domestic servants, and dressmakers. The largest proportion (44%) were born in Ireland and migrated during the Great Irish Famine, first to Australia as laborers and then to California as part of the Gold Rush.

The criminality of the Sydney Ducks was the catalyst for the formation of the first Committee of Vigilance of 1851. The vigilantes usurped political power from the corrupt or incompetent officials in the city, conducted secret trials, lynchings, and deportations, which effectively decimated the Sydney Ducks. The area where the Sydney Ducks clustered at the base of Telegraph Hill was originally known as "Sydney-Town," but by the 1860s was called exclusively by its better-known name, the Barbary Coast.

On December 19, 1854 five members of the gang were involved in the Jonathan R. Davis fight.

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.

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