Chapter TwoCharlie Jones - The Boy From Ohio

      One such plan was developed by Charlie Jones and Leandor Morton. It was taken more seriously by their peers than those put forth by others.
      Morton was a vicious, hardened criminal. He was currently doing time for his part in robbing a train in the latter part of 1870. At the time of his arrest, he was wearing the gloves of a U.S. Calvary soldier named Carr. Carr and another man had deserted.
      The two men were never found. It was widely rumored that Morton knew exactly where the men were. Many of the other prisoners were afraid of him.
      Jones was a native of Ohio. Charlie was a good boy from a fine upstanding family. He was athletic. He could ride well and shoot straight. Like many young naïve fellas of the era, when the War Between the States broke out, he lied about his age and joined the army. He served several years as a Union soldier. His experiences in the war left a lasting impression on him. Jones was no longer the innocent young man that left Ohio in the early 1860s.
      After his stint in the military, Jones longed for a change of scenery. Like a lot of former soldiers, southern and northern, he heard about the riches to be had in California. By this time he was in great physical shape. He was strong and extremely well built.He stood 5’10”, a rather tall man for the times. He was wiry and timid. When cornered, he could be a most dangerous man.
      Charlie was always good with horses. He got along with people and was likeable. This trait helped him to find regular work no matter where he was. He spent several months as a teamster in Esmeralda, Nevada as well as in Mono and Inyo Counties in California.
      He managed to save some of his precious earnings. His most prized possession was his rifle. This was not just any rifle. It was a famous Henry,, a .44 caliber, lever action, repeater. It was designed by Benjamin Tyler Henry in the late 1850s. It held 15 cartridges. You could put one in the breech, thus having 16 shots ready to go.
      Therefore, once it was loaded, it had great firepower. The Henry was said to be certain death at 800 yards. Charles found that an exaggeration. But he could hit targets at 200 yards with great accuracy.
      Jones paid $51 for his Henry. He felt it was money well spent. With it, Charlie was much more comfortable on the trail. Historians consider the Henry, along with the Winchesters, as one of the three inventions allowing for the settling of the American West. The other two were Daniel Halliday's windmill, in 1854 and Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire fence, in 1873.
      Early in 1869, Jones and Lucas Mathews were working as teamsters for Ben Clark. They had traveled from Bishop Creek to Hamilton in White Pine County with a load of mining implements. Mathews and Jones unloaded the freight wagons as the boss spoke with Arthur Pease, the freight agent.
      “Howdy Art,” Clark said to the man. “How’s Laura and Thaddeus. He must be nearly as big as you?”
      “Thanks for asking Ben, everyone’s doing just fine.”
      Clark planned to rest for a day or two before taking a load that Pease had consigned to him over to Carson City. He would find a load to carry back toward Bishop Creek from Carson City. They had three freight wagons with teams and saddle horses as well. They had camped near the eastern portion of Hamilton.
      “Hamilton”, laughed Charlie.
      He knew how the town got its start and its name. It was kind of interesting. Back in July 1867, prospector Bill Leathers was sleeping in his cabin high upon White Pine Mountain. He awoke to strange noises. Arising from his bunk he spotted an Indian eating leftover beans that remained from supper.
      “Get the Hell outta here,” Leathers yelled at the savage.
      The half clad man scampered out the cabin door and disappeared into the dark. Leathers didn’t think much more about the incident. But a few days later, much to his surprise, the Indian returned. He extended his hand to show Leathers a piece of silver ore. The Indian was offering the ore as payment for the beans.
      “Well I’ll be damned,” thought Leathers as he motioned to the Indian to enter the cabin.
      Leathers fed his new ‘best’ friend a hearty meal while persuading his guest to show him where he had found the ore. The Indian’s knowledge helped start the White Pine Mining District.
      The place was first called Cave City. The miners had to carve out dwellings in the surrounding hillside. In May, a man named Hamilton came along, took an interest in Cave City and plotted out a town site nearby. The town was aptly named Hamilton. It became the First County Seat of White Pine County. 
      Hamilton Nevada
      Hamilton now boosted nearly 30,000 people. It had everything that Charlie liked to avoid, except on special occasions. Things like saloons, general stores, churches, banks, a soda factory, breweries, stage station and a morning newspaper. A water works was built by a man named Von Schmidt who predicted Hamilton would be twice the size of San Francisco.
      Charlie Jones looked over at Ben Clark. He knew the boss was pleased with their successful trip. Clark had taken his men to town for some relaxation. The three ate a hearty meal at the best restaurant in Hamilton. Then they moved on to a local saloon for a couple drinks. Whiskey flowed freely. Every mining camp and town sported a poker table and Hamilton was no exception. Mathews saw such a set up in the back of the room. He sat down to a card game with two trail hands and a dude.
      Charlie was busy exchanging glances with several of the “sporting women” crowded in the saloon. He was no fool. These ladies were around to make men stay longer and spend more money. Well today he had money and didn’t mind spending some. A sweet looking, green eyed, Irish lass sauntered over.
      “Hey there good lookin,” she cooed, nestling up to Charlie’s shoulder. “What’s your name.”
      “Jones, Charlie Jones,” he replied.”
      “What’s yours?”
      “Well Charles Jones, I’m Jessica to most of these ruffians, but friends call me Jesse, You look real friendly, so you can call me Jesse.”
      “Pleasure meetin ya Jesse.”
      “You have no idea. I’ve got a lovely room just up those stairs. It’s got a big old bathtub right in the corner. How bout I take you up there and wash all that dusty old dirt right off.”
      “What’s gonna happen when all that nasty old dust comes off me,” questioned Charlie.
      “Well, you look a might tired, so after your bath, we might just as soon take a nap!”
      Charlie didn’t need any more encouragement, he just stood up and followed Jesse as she lead him up the stairs.
      Meanwhile Clark watched Mathews loose most of his money to the dude at the card table. When he suggested to Mathews that they return to camp, the idea was met with no enthusiasm by Mathews. Instead the man pushed back his chair, stood up with his hand on his pistol.
      “You’ve been dealing from the bottom of the deck all afternoon,” he bellowed, glaring at the dude. “I worked hard for that money and nobody’s going to cheat me like this!”
      With fear in his eyes, the dude slowly placed both hands on the table, palms up.
      “Please, I don’t want any trouble,” pleaded the dude. “Take what you want from my stack. I don’t want any hard feelings.”
      “You’re nothing but a cheat,” yelled Mathews. “ Step outside and we’ll settle this!”
      “Hey Lucas,” Clark said calmly. “Relax. The man said to take what you want.”
      “By all means please take the money,” the frightened dude said. “I’m not going outside.”
      Having heard the commotion, Jones was now standing at the top of the stairs, watching the action unfold down below.
      “Lucas, take the money and lets go back to camp. We have work to do,” commanded Clark, walking towards his drover.
      In a dialect only known to fellow whiskey drinkers, Lucas slurred an explanation of Clark’s parentage. Knowing he was not a “bastard,” Clark took exception.
      “Mathews, calm down and leave with me right now or you’re fired,” he yelled.
      “Damn it Mathews, pick up your money and get outta here,” Charlie barked from the balcony, pistol in hand. “I’ll watch your back as you and the boss man leave.”
      Mathews reluctantly agreed. He and Clark walked out. Jones caught up with them shortly.
      When the three got back to their camp, Clark and Mathews exchanged some heated words. This quickly escalated into an ugly brawl. Jones could see it was not going well for Clark. Mathews was a big man and Jones was concerned for Ben’s welfare. His job might well depend on the outcome.
      “Quit this,” yelled Charlie moving in to intervene. “Move back,” he said as he pushed Mathews away from Clark.
      To his surprise he received a jolting fist to the face from Mathews for his efforts. Momentarily, it stunned him. Mathews went after Clark again. Jones shook off the blow. He stepped in front of Mathews to protect his boss. Charlie pushed Clark to the ground and stood guard over him.
      “Come on Mathews, quit this. This is senseless.”
      “Get out of my way,” Mathews scoffed at Jones. “Keep out of things that don’t concern you. If you don’t, I’ll just stomp you first, Charlie, and then I’ll get back to him.”
      Clark was still on the floor slowing recovering his senses. Mathews punctuated his threat by advancing on Charlie. Jones took a step back, reached into his boot and grabbed a knife. Seeing the blade in Jones’ hand, Mathews stopped and moved back.
      Jones should have known the show was over. But instead, he rushed Mathews and stabbed him in the chest. The big man clutched at the wound. He staggered and fell. Charlie first thought the man was going to recover. But soon Mathews quit groaning and lay still. He eyes glassed over as his life’s blood pooled on the ground. Realizing what he had done, Charlie instinctively knew he had to flee as quickly as possible.
      “Boss are you all right,” gasped Jones?
      “Yeah, I’m coming around.”
      “I gotta get outta here, I think I killed him.”
      “Charlie, you had no choice. You were only trying to save my life. I don’t know what got into him. What you did was in self defense. You saved my life. How can I ever thank you?”
      He reached into his pants and pulled out a handful of gold coins. Ben handed them to him. “Here, take these. Where will you go?"
      “Thanks. I don’t know where I’ll go.”
      With a terrible, sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach, Charlie ran around the wagon to his horse. He quickly saddled up. He shoved his precious Henry rifle into the scabbard. He tied on his bedroll. Stepping into his stirrup, he easily swung onto his mount. He looked back at Clark.
      “I’m sorry boss, to leave you this way. But I’m afraid of what might happen if I stay. I’m so sorry.”
      With that he rode off into the afternoon wind. When Jones left Hamilton his mind swirled with confusion. He knew he lost control of his emotions and it cost Mathews his life. At first he guided his horse hell bent through Dry Canyon, crossed over Stoneberger Creek and entered Monitor Valley. He dismounted so he and the animal could rest for a few hours. The horse nibbled at the late Fall grass as Charlie planned his escape.
      In the early morning he’d mount up again and continue on. Jones knew he could reach Belmont late in the afternoon. From there Charlie figured to work his way towards Indian Springs in the Ralston Valley, continue toward the Summit Mine and finally end up in Benton in a couple days. Not too long ago a sheep herder that he, Mathews and Clark met on the road told them of a trail that lead from the Long Valley region to the Sierra and finally meandered along the San Joaquin River to Madera. Jones decided to try and find that trail.
     He was successful in following the route depicted by the sheep man and ended up in the little town of Millerton along the river in just over two weeks. The town grew up in the 1860s around the Army camp of Fort Miller. The fort had been established to Francis heard Jones was working in a blacksmith shop in Millerton. He obtained a warrant. Charlie was caught off guard by the lawman and was arrested. He still thought he had simply defended himself.
      He figured he would have a good chance to plead his case in court. Unfortunately, he was tried before White Pine County Judge Beatty. The judge had actually witnessed the altercation and stabbing of Mathews from his courthouse window during a afternoon break. Jones was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years at the Nevada State Prison. Fearing he would be hung, he felt he had made a fortunate and narrow escape from death.
      At the prison, Jones was considered the best worker and most cheerful man in the place. Almost everyone liked him. He spoke affectionately of his parents back home in Ohio. Thinking back on his short life, he decided that running away to fight in the Civil War was pretty stupid. He believed Army life had demoralized him. His continued association with the crude civilization of the frontier worked to complete his moral downfall. Now together with Morton, Jones devised a seemingly fool proof escape plan. But to be successful they would need some inside help. Outside assistance wouldn’t hurt either. Prison guard Alexander Fleming was approached. He was considered by everyone to be a trustworthy person and loyal guard. Using the promise of gold for his part in the escape, Fleming agreed to their terms. He would find a time to be on duty that was favorable to them. He would wander into their cell where they would get the jump on him. After tying Fleming up and gagging him, Morton and Jones would “accidentally” find his pistol within easy reach.
      Armed with this weapon, they would scramble about a mile from the prison, where friends would be waiting with horses and provisions. Morton wasn’t sure who the friends might be. Maybe Charlie’s former boss Ben Clark would help.
      Morton knew Jones was visited on more than one occasion by a Mrs. Luna Hutchinson and spoke of a Captain Smith, both from Bishop Creek. She was involved in the National Prison Reform Association, formed in 1870, and seemed to take a special interest in Charlie. Once free they would rob a train at nearby Toano, to outfit themselves, get a good stake and pay Fleming. They knew that thousands of dollars in coin, gold and silver bars and the U.S. Mail came through this railroad junction on a regular basis.
      What could be easier? They would find another man or two so they could be assured of success in stopping the train. Six thousand dollars from this robbery would be left for Fleming at a predetermined location. The three participants went over their plot several times. Each felt the plan would work well. They had nearly settled on an actual date. Unfortunately for Morton and Jones, the bottom fell out of their scheme. Fleming was summarily discharged. The entire plan had to be discarded. Fortunately, he never uttered a word to the prison authorities about the plot.
      After a few weeks with a bout of severe depression, Jones knew he needed out more than ever. His spirits were elevated when Hutchinson visited. They had corresponded regularly. The glimpse she give him of the outside also played upon his absolute desire to get out of the Nevada State Prison as soon as possible.
      Jones wrote letters to Nevada Senator Cleveland requesting a parole. He felt when the man knew the circumstances of his crime he would consider the whole thing as self defense. Hopefully, the Senator would be helpful in gaining him an early release. Cleve, as most called him, had a fine reputation for being fair and his ability to find truth in all cases he handled. Unfortunately for Jones, the man was away on extended business, helping to drive cattle from California over to the Carson Valley. Not knowing this, Jones felt Cleveland was simply ignoring him. Since the man evidently was not going to help him, why should he wait around any longer?
      Jones approached Morton again. He suggested they seriously discuss escaping with a few others they felt they could trust. He knew they had been very lucky that word of their previous attempt had never been discovered by either prison officials or even worse, some snitch. Naturally, they didn’t need to look very far to find others wanting out as desperately as they did.