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From the Files of the Lassen Historical Society: The Hanging of Lucky Bill – Part Two

Genoa, Utah territory, 1859. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/National Archives

By Susan Couso

Click here to read Part One of our story…

Edwards and Mullen returned from Genoa and were met with immediate distrust around Susanville. They decided to leave the area for their own health. As they sped away, John Mullen was riding his horse, ‘Bald Hornet’. The horse was a big bald-faced chestnut quarter-horse who had won many races and was well-known and easy to spot.

The Honey Lakers immediately moved to hold an inquest. A jury was formed, and the obvious conclusion was that Edwards and Mullen had killed Henry Gordier, along with Asa Snow’s help. It was suspected that the ‘wanted men’ had repaired to Genoa.

William (Rough) Elliott, Junius Gilpin, John Neal, Frank Johnson and Charles Adams comprised the committee to find out where the murderers were and apprehend them, and around the first part of May, Elliott headed down to Genoa to attempt to gain information without causing any suspicion that the outlaws were being pursued.

Asa Snow stayed at Henry Gordier’s cabin as if nothing was wrong. When he was questioned by a group of the Honey Lakers, he became belligerent, and tried to get away. He was stopped and held for further questioning in the Breed brother’s cabin about four miles south of Janesville.

One day, the men heard that Plumas authorities were coming to take Snow into custody, and they decided to move quickly before losing their captive. They wanted information as to who else was involved in the Gordier murder.

On Monday, June 7th, 1858, Snow was taken out and questioned. He would not cooperate, so after a short but efficient trial, they decided to hang him. He was taken to a large pine tree on the north shore of Honey Lake and they ‘strung him up’ and let him hang for a bit before lowering him and questioning him further. He still kept quiet. They strung him up again, and then let him down. He still kept quiet. They strung him up again, but when they let him down, he was completely quiet. They had let him hang too long, and Asa Snow was dead. He was buried under the tree.

With Snow no longer in any condition to give information, the Honey Lakers decided to travel to Genoa and capture Edwards and Mullen. They knew that Edwards and Mullen were in ‘cahoots’ with Lucky Bill and his gang and hoped to scoop up the whole bunch in one assault.

As Rough Elliott was already in Genoa, they planned to get near the town and then wait for Elliott’s intelligence to reach them.

Back in Genoa, things were heating up. Edwards arrived and went to Lucky Bill for help. Thorrington was assured by Edwards that he had nothing to do with the Gordier murder, and Lucky Bill, as always, was not too concerned.

When news reached the citizens of Carson Valley that Edwards, a wanted murderer, was in their area, everyone was ‘on the lookout’ for him. Edwards had come into possession of Mullen’s notable horse, Bald Hornet, who was easy to notice, so Lucky Bill hid Edwards away at a secret camp and brought provisions to keep him supplied.

Rough Elliott had made it to Genoa and quickly sought out Lucky Bill. He told Thorrington that he and Edwards were great friends, and he wanted to see him. Lucky Bill took him to Edwards, and Elliott acted very happy to see the wanted man and told him a story to explain his presence.

Edwards seemed especially glad to see someone who was a friend, and Elliott managed to become part of the group who surrounded Lucky Bill and Edwards. He gained a lot of useful information this way.

Junius Gilpin took a fine mare that belonged to Charles Adams and went to Genoa to help with the investigation. After a bit he met Lucky Bill and let it be known that he had stolen the mare. Lucky Bill took him in and made him one of the ‘gang’.

Gilpin and Elliott worked together and went to Major Ormsby to explain just what they were doing in Genoa. Ormsby promised the help of the Masons in the endeavor. Lucky Bill was said to have been part of a plot to kill Ormsby. The two Honey Lakers then sent word back north to raise a posse and come to Genoa.

Thirty-two men gathered at Captain Hill’s ranch, near Milford around the 11th of June. They headed out towards Carson Valley, staying out of sight as much as possible and traveling mainly at night.

Milford, on the shore of Honey Lake, in the late 1800’s

It was a three-day trip, and they saw no one until they reached Washoe Valley, where a group of Masons, hearing of the plans, joined the posse. Just at daylight on the 14th of June, they reached Genoa.

Elliott met them just before they got into town, and another group of Masons joined the posse. The group surrounded Lucky Bill’s house and ‘called him out’. Thorrington and his 17-year-old son, Jerome, gave themselves up.

Maria Thorrington plead for her son’s safety but didn’t seem to care much about her husband. The posse then went to the saloon and arrested two men, Orrin Gray and John McBride, who were part of Lucky Bill’s gang.

The town was secured, with members of the posse guarding every access point and not allowing anyone to leave. The second floor of the Singleton Hotel was used to house the prisoners while the members of the posse took a rest and had breakfast.

There were many disgruntled people in Genoa, but the bulk of the citizens were thankful that the group of marauders led by Lucky Bill was contained. They breathed a sigh of relief as a major stress in their daily lives had been removed and they had hopes that the lawlessness was abated.

After breakfast, Elliott took some men and went to arrest more of Lucky Bill’s gang. Luther Olds, and two others were cornered at Olds’ ranch and retained with the others.

The prisoners were then taken about ten miles out of town to the Clear Creek Ranch for safety. Lucky Bill’s men were still lurking around Genoa, and the posse needed no more interference. There was a hotel and a large barn at Clear Creek which would meet all of their needs.

With Lucky Bill and some of his gang secured, the Honey Lakers set about getting Edwards, who was still hidden away in a secret camp. The Honey Lakers went to the young Jerome Thorrington with a ‘deal’. They said that if he helped them get Edwards, they would ‘go easy’ on Lucky Bill. Jerome was reluctant, but in an attempt to help his father, he agreed.

Jerome went to Edwards’ camp and told him that Lucky Bill wanted to see him at his river ranch, which was about six or seven miles above Genoa. Edwards had no idea that Thorrington had been arrested. The posse was waiting, and when Edwards went into the front door, the Honey Lakers hit him with clubs and bound his legs and feet. Edwards was no longer on the lam.

Edwards gets the club in this illustration from the Reno Gazette’s 1949 retelling of Lucky Bill’s tale

Next Week: Part Three – The Hanging, and resurrection, of Lucky Bill

If you are a fan of our weekly history stories you should join the Lassen County Historical Society! It’s a fun way to be a part of our county’s rich history. When you sign up, you’ll receive regular Historical Society newsletters with interesting stories and information. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in area history.

Through your membership you help preserve local history. You can download a membership application by clicking here.

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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