Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bodie's Heroes: The Jail

This is the final phase of my most recent, and hopefully, last series on Bodie. This is the jail:

John Wayne was here in the early 1970's for a tv special. You can see him standing outside the jail.
This is the barred window he was looking in.
This would be the perspective John Wayne had above looking into the jail.
This is from the other side of the jail. You can see how I got here in the video.
This picture was taken in the museum and shows the key to the jail.

In the video I mentioned the only hanging that took place in Bodie by a vigilante group. There were only three vigilante uprisings in Bodie. If you want all the details then you need read the book listed below by Roger McGrath. I will just give a quick summary based on his book which is my favorite Bodie book.

The problem in this one was the jealosy of Thomas Treloar regarding his wife Joanna and Joseph DeRoche. Thomas and Joanna had been married for two years, but DeRoche had known Joanna for many years prior to her marriage. DeRoche also had a family that was living in Chicago while he was working in Bodie.

There had been some jealosy prior to the night of January 13, 1881. Thomas and Joanna had many verbal fights and on one occassion Thomas hit Joanna which caused him to be convicted of assault during the first year of their marriage. On this January night at the special event in the Miner's Hall he told her to stay away from DeRoche. Later that night Thomas saw them dancing together, but was warned not to stir up any trouble there. Thomas and DeRoche had some words and Thomas left.

At the end of the dance Thomas came back for his wife, but he and DeRoche left together. It was at this time that DeRoche shot him in the back of the head while walking down the street. Two witnesses saw what had happened. This is where things got a little strange because DeRoche claimed that he was being attacked at the time. Since the two eyewitnesses saw him kill Thomas no one was going to buy that story.

DeRoche was arrested and put in the Bodie jail. Like a lot old west violence, if you killed a bad man no one would really care, but the problem is DeRoche had killed a person that many in town had some sympathy for. Thomas had fallen down in a mine and was thought to have some brain damage. So, he was not really considered a threat.

The law enforcement in Bodie realized that vilgilante activity might happen so they took DeRoche out of the jail cell and transferred him to the deputy's own room in town. During the night DeRoche found a way to free himself of the shackles and escaped. When people of Bodie heard the story of this and the murder they were infuriated. Vigilance groups were formed and sent to find DeRoche.

It would take a few days for this to all play out, but DeRoche was found eight miles away hiding with a family. He was brought back to the jail. They started the legal proceedings, but later in the day the hundreds of citizens were ready to take justice into their own hands. They did not like the idea of the possibility of DeRoche getting off on this one. That night the vigilante group, Bodie 601, came to the jail and got DeRoche. The law enforcement did not even try to prevent it. They set up the hanging spot right where Thomas Treloar was murdered. DeRoche accepted his fate bravely, and he was hanged.

Bodie's Heroes (Youtube Version)

Bodie's Heroes (Vimeo Version)

McGrath Roger. Gunfighters, Highwaymen, & Vigilantes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984)