Horse thieves slain on Upper Deschutes River in 1851
Gold mining operations were still being conducted in northern California in the fall of 1851. A new discovery of gold on Scott's River led to a flurry of activity.
Mining was hard work and often not very profitable. Unsavory characters soon learned that they could make easier money by stealing horses and reselling them at various outlets far removed from the theft.
In September 1851, a group of men stole horses from the mining fields near Shasta City. Reason Haynes, Charley Smith and a man named Terwilliger left the country with two Native Amercans named Antoine and Joe. They were suspected of stealing the horses and heading them north.
A party of 26 men was assembled to start after the thieves. After three days of hard riding, 10 of the group returned to Shasta. The rest continued on the trail of the thieves and found their trail on the north side of Klamath Lake. They reached the headwaters of the Deschutes River two days later.
At the headwaters of the river, they discovered the camp of the thieves. It was determined that some excitement took place as there was scattered equipment and three saddles had been burned.
After further searching, they found the bodies of the three men, Haynes, Smith and Terwilliger. Haynes' body was discovered in a nearby creek. He had been shot in the back of the head. Terwilliger was found a little farther on in the creek; he had been shot in the head and attacked on the neck with an axe. Smith had been hacked several times with an axe to his neck.
The riders buried the three men at the site. The group then proceeded on the trail of the horses. One of their members was a sworn constable and had authority to arrest the horse thieves.
They pursued the trail to The Dalles. Antoine was apprehended at The Dalles, and Joe was later apprehended on the Yakama Indian Reservation. The horses were then recovered. It is reported that Joe took more than $4,000 in gold from Smith after the three thieves were murdered.
The fate of Antoine and Joe is not certain, but it is quite probable that they were returned to Shasta City and met a deadly verdict for murder and horse theft.
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