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Mojave Desert History - Pioneer of the Mojave
Outlaws on the Mojave

Outlawry Increases

On September 11th, the grand jury issued indictments against five prisoners for horse theft, all of whom were found guilty. The court seemed to be losing patience with these fellows; those who were found guilty of grand larceny now received sentences of three years in state prison, as opposed to the earlier sentences of only two years for that offense.

The September newspapers carried several stories on the increasing problem of outlaws and horse thieves in the San Bernardino area. According to one article, "...the gang of thieves who lately inundated San Bernardino from Salt Lake, running off the stock of rancheros, still hold sway among and almost over the people of that community." Thugs were said to be roaming about with "knife or pistol in hand," boldly accosting citizens on the streets and businessmen in their stores. Ranchers were advised to keep a stricter watch on their stock.

Vigilant law officers had succeeded in capturing several of the troublemakers. Six persons were already in jail, and a grand jury investigation was pending for the "case of three gentlemen just brought in from the Mojave, having stolen horses and saddles in their possession." These three said they were stealing for the cause of the Confederacy, but the Star editor was of a different opinion: "The thieves called themselves secessionists, but in this they lie. They are just what they always were -- thieves."

The three "gentlemen" were W. L. Bevart, G. C. Snodgrass and Thomas Emerson, who was a defense witness in the People v Welch and Harris. All three were convicted of grand larceny and sentenced to three years in San Quentin.

The Los Angeles Star was convinced that Mormons were mostly behind the crime wave, with profit being the motive -- contrary to the military, who saw the outlawry as originating with secessionists and their treasonous activities. Though anti-Mormon and pro-Southern, the newspaper -- at least as far as horse theft was concerned -- seems to have accurately depicted the course of events. The paper listed the names of the miscreants in most cases, and followed up with the details of their trials and sentencing.

The Star continued its coverage of the crime wave throughout the month of October, and also kept an eye on the militarys progress in its pursuit of secessionists. Since their arrival in San Bernardino, Major Ketchum and Captain Davidson had been kept busy chasing down rumored secessionist plots in the area, primarily in San Bernardino, Holcomb Valley and in the Mojave Desert. After devoting several weeks to this endeavor, they had nothing to show for their efforts. The editor of the Star could not resist making a derisive comment about the Armys lack of success:
    The Horse Thieves. -- Had the military authorities been desirous of making themselves useful in aiding the officers to capture the horse thieves, they had a fine opportunity of doing so, by riding towards the Mojave. But no, they must go on scouts after Secessionists! And a pretty wild goose chase they have made of it! Wonder if Captain Davidson has overtaken that will-o'-the wisp!
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