Chapter 1


Page 2

The Boca and Loyalton was about fourteen miles long and tapped a rich timber belt, and it was necessary that much of the timber should be secured for the purpose of giving the railroad and lumber mills under the same ownership employment. Albert S. Parsons, John H. Engle, Richard H. Lewis and William S. Lewis were employees of W. H. Roberts, and it was claimed that they induced citizens to take up timber tracts and turn them over to the railroad company for a small consideration.

June 2 found the accused James M. Engles, William S. Lewis, Richard H. Lewis, Albert. S. Parsons, Arthur W. Keddie and Julien E. Pardee put on trial in the United States district court for timber stealing. Another action for subordination of perjury had also been filed against the respondents. They stood accused of having wrongfully, willfully and unlawfully persuaded certain persons to prove up and to acquire title to certain tracts of lands in the Susanville Land district.

The United States grand jury on March 1, 1902 had found that the defendants had furnished certain citizens of Lassen county with funds in order that they might obtain possession of certain lands and then, at a later date, turn the same over to the company of which the defendants were stockholders and charter members. By securing the lands, the men it was alleged, intended to promote certain railroad and real estate plans that they had in view at a nominal cost to themselves.

The prosecution of the cases came to an inglorious end though when it was discovered that H. C. Cullom, special agent for the United States land office, had the indictments drawn so that one act was alleged while another was proved. As soon as this discovery was made First Assistant United States Attorney Banning announced that the prosecution had no case. Judge De Haven instructed the jury to render a verdict of acquittal, which was done before they left the jury box.

The defendants were alleged to have secured about ten thousand acres of valuable timber. The prosecution had obtained testimony to the effect that the persons who were induced to make the illegal application were paid their expenses and one hundred dollars each.

Agent Cullom was detailed by the Land Department to prepare the evidence in the case. The original applications, which were to be produced by the prosecution during the trial, were sent to Washington but were not returned to the United States Attorney's office in San Francisco until the morning of June 2 while the trial was in progress. Mr. Cullom supplied the facts on which the case was presented before the Grand Jury and on which the indictments were drawn. When the applications were opened in court it was found that the alleged false oaths had been taken before persons other than those named in the indictment.

Early in the day Bert Schlesinger of counsel for the defense demurred to the indictment on the grounds that it did not allege certain knowledge on the part of the defendants and the persons whom it was charged were associated with them, but Judge de Haven ruled that there was no merit in the point raised and the case went on. William E. Langdon, a country butcher, testified that he had taken up 100 acres and afterward sold the tract to Captain Roberts of Sacramento. He made $100 and expenses on the deal and did not consider that he had done anything unlawful. Having purchased the land from Government, he thought that he had a right to sell it to whomsoever he pleased

Mrs. Elizabeth Little, a chambermaid of Loyalton, Sierra County, was the next witness, and it was while she was on the stand that the denouement came. She testified that on May 11 of 1901 she filed an application for a tract and took the oath before H. M. Mallech, Receiver of the Land Department at Marysville. The indictment charged that she had taken the oath before Frank W. Johnson, the Register. There were similar fatal variances all through the indictments.

Mr. Banning said that he would go before the Grand Jury the next day and procure the reindictment of the defendants on charges of having procured false oaths from other persons than those named in the defective indictment.

The United States Grand Jury presented its final report and several indictments to United States District Judge de Haven on the afternoon of July 3, 1902. The indictments were placed on the secret file. A new indictment was presented against James M. Engle, real estate agent; William S. Lewis and Richard H. Lewis, lumber men, and Arthur W. Keddie, surveyor, charging them with subornation of perjury, in that they induced several persons to make false affidavits for applications for timber lands in Lassen, Plumas and Sierra counties. On the former indictment Albert S. Parson and Julien E. Pardee were also charged, but the indictment was found to be defective and was quashed. In the opinion of the prosecution this time the cases against Parsons and Pardee were not considered sufficiently strong to warrant reindictment.

Arthur W. Keddie and James M. Engle were again arrested, this time in Plumas County on August 25, 1902 by Deputy United States Marshal de Lancie on the new indictment charging them with subornation of perjury in connection with alleged timber land frauds.

Although months had passed since the new indictments had been presented and this new trial began on October 5, 1903 one of the first items First Assistant United States District Attorney Banning asked for was a postponement of the trial of the case of the United States against James M. Engle, William S. Lewis, Richard H. Lewis and Arthur W. Keddie for conspiracy and subornation of perjury. It was then that words of censure burst sternly from the lips of United States District Judge de Haven. The judicial censure was directed against the office of the United States District Attorney, because several very important witnesses for the Government had not been served with process compelling their attendance.

Mr. Banning said afterward that the court's censure was unjust and uncalled for, because the District Attorney's office had filed the summons with the United States Marshal on September 7 and the District Attorney's office should not have been held responsible for the failure of the Marshal's deputy to find the witnesses. Since the beginning of the prosecution, he said, the missing witnesses, all of whom were employees of the defendant at Loyalton, Sierra County, had gone to other parts of the State and could not be found.

On behalf of the United States Marshal's office, it was said that the office force was too small to do the work required of it, Deputy De Lancie being confined to his home by sickness and the office being in the throes of the Chinese substitution scandal at the time the precipe was issued.

The defendants were the wealthy owners of the Boca and Loyalton Railway Company and of the Loyalton Lumber Company in Sierra County. In conjunction with Captain J. H. Roberts, a well known steamboat man, they erected a large sawmill at Loyalton and built the Boca and Loyalton Railroad to connect their mill with the heart of the big pine timber. Captain Roberts advanced them $40,000 for the purpose of buying timber lands to supply the mill with work, and in consequence of the establishment of this new industry the population of Loyalton leaped from 50 souls to 2000 within a few years.

Denson & Schlesinger, who appeared for the defendants, strenuously objected to any postponement of the trial, Mr. Schlesinger calling the attention of the court to the fact that the case had been holding for more than a year. Judge de Haven remarked that up to the present day the defendants had not seemed very anxious for a speedy trial, whereupon Mr. Schlesinger retorted that he had waited for three months for a decision on a demurrer. November 6, 1903 was then fixed peremptorily by the judge for the trial.

On November 6 the case of the United States against James M. Engle, William S. Lewis, Richard H. Lewis and Arthur W. Keddie, charged with subornation of perjury in land frauds, was called, and the work of securing a jury began. First Assistant United States Attorney Edward J. Banning appeared for the prosecution and Denson & Schlesinger and Wehe for the defense.

On that day the issue on trial in the United States District Court was whether the United States Government intended that the timber lands open for sale should be acquired only by agriculturists owning adjacent ground and for their own exclusive use only, or whether it was intended that the timber resources of the country were to be developed irrespective of the personality or numbers of the developers.

There were eighteen counts and nine charges brought against the defendants in the indictment. It was alleged in the complaint that Engle, Keddie and Lewis secured persons to go to the land offices at Sacramento, Susanville and Marysville in the capacity of "dummies" and there secured 160 acres of timber land in accordance with the stone and timber act of 1878, by paying the sum of $2.50 per acre. This land, it was alleged, was by contract to be turned over to the defendants. Of nine of the alleged "dummies" only one has been found by the prosecution. There were four separate indictments against the defendants, but only the one charging them with subornation of perjury was being tried.

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