Photo Right: Old Marion County Courthouse in Salem.
Benjamin J. Colbath was appointed to take Wrightman's place and remained Sheriff until 1904, when W. J. Culver was elected to two consecutive two-year terms. Culver was County Surveyor in Marion County in 1888.
Henry Percy "Harry" Minto, who is believed to be the brother of John Minto, was elected Sheriff in 1908 and served until 1913. After leaving the Sheriffs Office he became Warden of the Oregon State Penitentiary and was killed there in the line of duty.
Not much is known about William Esch, who was Sheriff of the county from 1913 to 1917. He was followed by W. I. Needham, Sheriff of Madon County from 1917 to 1921. Needham was a native of Salem and was a Deputy Sheriff at one time before being elected Sheriff. He also at one time was a trust officer for Capital National Bank and owned a book store.
Omar D. Bowers was elected in 1921 and was Sheriff for 12 years -- the longest term yet in Madon County. He was followed by Andrew Chase Burk, who also spent a dozen years as Marion County Sheriff from 1933 to 1945. Burk, a farmer from Huntington, Indiana, also later worked for the Secretary of State's Office in Salem.
Denver Young topped the terms of all his predecessors when he spent 20 years as Sheriff of Marion County from 1945 to 1965. Before running for Sheriff, Young was a Deputy with the department for two years. He has served in a number of elected offices. He was president of the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association and the National Jail Association and at one time was on the National Sheriffs' Association Board of Directors.
After Young was gone, Thomas E. Bachelder took office and served one, four-year term followed by Jack C. Utterback, who did not complete a term. He was elected in late 1969 and resigned in April 1970.
Lyle H. Hartell, an Oregon State Police Captain on leave, was appointed to take Utterback's place. He headed up the Sheriff's Office until 1971, when James F. Heenan was elected to the ftrst of the three terms he spent as Sheriff. Heenan also had some law enforcement experience with the Salem Police Department.
Charles Foster followed Heenan, lasting only four years. He was followed by Robert J. Prinslow, who brought plenty of law enforcement experience with him to the job.
THE CHARITY LAMB AFFAIR
Long before Lizzie Borden "took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks," as the legend goes, Charity Lamb stirred the young Oregon territory into outrage
with the brutal ax slaying of her husband.
Even her name seemed like a cruel, hideous joke to residents repulsed by this seemingly senseless, cold-blooded act of violence.
The year was 1854 -- five years before Oregon attained statehood. On a warm May evening, while the Lamb family was having dinner at their home, five miles outside of Salem, Charity Lamb allegedly walked up behind her husband, Nathaniel, with an ax in her hands. She raised the lethal weapon above her head and brought it down on her husband's skull. Then she struck him again in the head before running out of the house with her oldest daughter, Mary Ann.
Lamb's trial in September, still considered one of the most celebrated criminal trials in Oregon history, produced the true story of what was then considered a scandalous love triangle involving Lamb, her daughter Mary Ann and a drifter known only as Collins.
A Portland newspaper, the Portland Weekly Times, chronicled the affairs of Charity Lamb and her mysterious lover in its May 23, 1854, edition. A neighbor of the Lambs named Philip Foster had told the paper that Collins surfaced in the Willamette Valley the previous summer and had worked the neighborhood where the Lamb's homestead was located.
The Lamb women had become so captivated by the stranger that each had vowed to elope with Collins, according to the newspaper story, as told by Foster. Not only had he seduced Charity Lamb and her oldest daughter, but Collins also broke up the marriage of another couple.
But when Collins packed up and left for California, Charity Lamb Promised him in a letter that she would leave her husband and join him. She purportedly wrote she would bring Mary Ann with her. But the paper said Nathaniel Lamb had found out about his wife's affair and threatened to stop her. In desperation, Charity Lamb's passion for Collins and her frustration over a bad marriage forced her to kill her husband.
At least, that's what the Portland Weekly Times had concluded. By the time her case went to trial, Charity Lamb was all but tried and convicted by a repulsed public. The trial itself seemed anti-climactic.
The state's first witness was Dr. Forbes Barclay, the Clackamas County coroner and personal physician to Dr. John McLoughlin. He described, in professional but highly graphic detail, the two fatal wounds to Nathaniel Lamb. The first blow, a gash on the top of the head, five inches long from front to back, penetrated the brain. The second blow, a deep gash, lower down and on the back of the skull. Either blow would have been fatal, Barclay testified.
Next up was a Dr. Welsh who was summoned to the Lamb house the night of the incident. His testimony alone undoubtedly was enough to convict Charity Lamb. Welsh told a stunned jury that Charity Lamb admitted striking her husband twice with the ax, but said she told him she "only meant to stun the critter" so that she and Mary Ann could get away. Mary Ann was supposed to hit Nathaniel Lamb with the ax, Charity told Welsh, but at the last minute, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Abraham Lamb, the couple's oldest son, added even more incriminating testimony. He told how his mother came up behind his father, struck him in the head with the ax twice without saying a word and how she and Mary Ann ran out of the house, leaving his father writhing painfully in his own pool of blood.
Nothing Charity Lamb's attorneys could say at that point would sway the jury to their client's side. But they tried anyway.
Attorney James Kelly tried to portray his client as an abused wife, who frequently endured terrible beatings and emotional trauma at the hands of an alcoholic husband. The act she committed on May 13, 1854, was an act of self- defense, Kelly told the jury. Charity Lamb was in fear for her life and the life of her daughter Mary Ann when she struck those fatal blows.
Jurors didn't accept the self-defense argument. The 12-man jury took less than a half day before reaching its verdict: Guilty of murder in the second degree. But the jury recommended her to the mercy of the court.
Unfortunately for Charity Lamb, presiding Judge Cyrus Olney was not so merciful. On Sept. 17, 1854, he sentenced Lamb to a lifetime of hard labor at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Charity Lamb, Oregon's first convicted murderess, would spend the rest of her life in prison, washing the Warden's family clothes, scrubbing floors and knitting quietly in her cell.
DEAD END FOR A LEGEND
The legend of Harry Tracy seems to grow with every telling. He earned that legend -- and the undying hatred of every lawman from Salem to Seattle, and from eastern Washington to the Dakotas -- through ruthlessness and violence.
Some modern-day historians liken the deadly, daring escape of Tracy and his inmate pal David Merrill from the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem on June 9, 1902, to the equally deadly, but romanticized exploits of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, or Butch Cassidy and the infamous "Hole-in-the-Wall" gang -- of which Tracy once claimed membership.
Like all legends, the ones surrounding Tracy and Merrill seem to be filled with a smattering of truths, half-truths and outright myths. Historians have been trying to separate them for nearly a century.
Some claim Harry Tracy was really Harry Severns, born about 1875 in Pittsville, Wisc., although others insist he was born in 1871 in either Louisville, Ky., or New York State.
During the 1890s, Tracy drifted west to the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Every place along the way, it seems, Tracy was in and out of jail on a variety of petty thefts, robberies and other crimes. He either led or joined a number of outlaw gangs, including the "Hole in the Wall" and the "Powder Springs" gangs in Utah and Wyoming. He reportedly shot and killed Valentine Hoy, head of a Sheriff's posse tracking down gang members who reportedly murdered an innocent teen-age boy.
Tracy and two other gang members were arrested, but he and one of the outlaws escaped, only to be recaptured and jailed again in Aspen, Colo. But Tracy pulled another daring escape, nearly killing a guard with a club.
He made his way to Seattle in 1898 and quickly gained a reputation among local lawmen as a small-time crook. When he felt the heat of lawmen closing in on him, Tracy followed his old pattern of moving on -- to Tacoma, then Olympia and on to Vancouver, Wash., where he met David Merrill. The two men began their life of crime together stealing money and other valuables from the camps of hop-pickers in Washington and Oregon. Merrill reportedly had spent a lot of time plying his criminal trade in the hop-camps.
From Vancouver, Tracy and Merrill moved their "business ventures" across the Columbia River to Portland where they committed a series of daring daylight robberies of drug stores, livery stables, butcher shops -- even trolley cars. But it wasn't long before Portland Police officers learned the pair were living in the house of Merrill's mother in downtown Portland.
Police found Merrill hiding in a dresser inside the house, but Tracy tried to flee his captors and led them on a footrace through downtown Portland before police captured him. While awaiting sentencing in the Multnomah County jail, Tracy attempted another one of his daring jail escapes, using a handgun reportedly slipped to him from an acquaintance on the outside. He almost made it, but dropped his gun and was overtaken by a jailer.
A judge then sentenced Tracy to 20 years in the state penitentiary in Salem. Merrill was sentenced to 13 years.
From the minute they arrived at the Salem penitentiary in 1899, Tracy and Merrill began scheming ways to break out. They made good their plans on June 9, 1902, when they seized two rifles sneaked into the prison's stove foundry by a couple of friends from outside the prison.
In a hail of gunfire which lasted less than five minutes, Tracy and Merrill shot and killed three prison guards before using a ladder to scale the north wall of the prison and escaping.
Marion County Sheriff Frank W. Durbin and Sheriff-elect Benjamin B. Colbath formed a posse to chase down the escaped convicts and a reward of $1,000 was immediately issued for the capture -- dead or alive -- of Harry Tracy and David Merrill.
In hopes of capturing the escapees before they made it out of Marion County, J.D. Lee, superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary raised the reward to $1,500 and then to $3,000 on June 13.
But Tracy and Merrill managed to elude a posse of 50 men, plus a company of Oregon National Guardsmen and some bloodhounds sent down from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Wash. Hiding in wooded areas and tall grass, the pair worked their way north to Gervais, Oregon City and then Milwaukie. Clackamas County Sheriff John Cooke and several of his deputies, along with three companies of National Guard troops, joined the search. But Tracy and Merrill always seemed to keep a few steps ahead of their pursuers.
The two made their way to Portland using a team of horses and a wagon they had stolen from a farm at New Era, just south of Oregon City. They abandoned the horses and wagon near the Columbia Slough and talked two men into rowing them across the Columbia River to Vancouver.
From there, they zigzagged their way across country -- mostly by foot or on whatever horses or horse-drawn wagons they could steal -- to the Salmon Creek area north of Vancouver, to LaCenter and north to Castle Rock. Some members of the original posse from Oregon joined Clark County Sheriff H.L. Marsh, his Deputies and a detachment from the Washington National Guard. But again, Tracy and Merrill proved too elusive for their pursuers. They moved from one farmhouse to the next, seeking shelter and food while passing themselves off as Deputies in pursuit of "those outlaws" Tracy and Merrill.
By now, however, most residents of Washington as well as Oregon were familiar with the two fugitives' faces from handbills and wanted posters spread all over the Pacific Northwest. But no one seemed either willing or able to capture the two escapees, apparently figuring their own lives were worth more than a $3,000 reward.
The strain of always keeping a few paces ahead of the law was starting to tell on Tracy and Merrill even before they reached Castle Rock. Their bickering grew more intense until it finally reached the boiling point around June 28, 1902, when Tracy allegedly shot and killed his fellow inmate in a gun duel north of Castle Rock.
However, some historians dispute the gun duel death of David Merrill. Although a man's body was found, partially hidden under a tree stump with three bullet holes in the back, there was no real proof that it was Merrill. Some of Merrill's own family members later insisted he walked out on Tracy following a bitter argument and eventually made his way to Eastern Washington where he remained until his death years later.
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