Another Man Falls at the Second Fusillade, While One of the Officers Is Seriously Wounded -- Frank Burke Fires at the Fleeing Freebooters and Believes That Evans Was Seriously Wounded by a Shot -- Fresno Horrified by the News--Pursuing Parties Being Organized Throughout the Section Where the Bandits Have Been Operating --Evans Makes a Boast of Having Another Crack at the Southern Pacific --Burke Tells of the Battle-- Review of the Career of the Desperadoes Since the Collis Train Robbery.
 
 
____
 
  (Special to the EXAMINER.)  
  Sanger, September 13. -- Chris Evans and John Sontag, the fugitive Collis train robbers, had an encounter to-day with the pursuing posse from Visalia, at the house of a man named Young at Sampson's Flat, about fifty mile due east from Fresno, and three of the pursuers were made to bit the dust and one of them seriously wounded, while Evans is reported to have been wounded. The names of the pursuing party who were killed are:  
  DEPUTY UNITED STATES MARSHAL M'GINNIS,
VICK. C. WILSON
RICHARD OLSEN.
 
 
FRED WITTY, a brother of the Deputy Sheriff who was wounded in the early pursuit of the bandits near Visalia, was shot through the neck, but not mortally wounded.
 
  For more than a week Evans and Sontag have been wandering in the neighborhood of Sampson's Flat, a thickly wooded, rough country in the mountains where they could easily secret themselves in case of a close pursuit.
They kept within a radius of a few miles and were repeatedly seen by parties knowing them. Some of the Kings River Lumber Company's flume hands saw them on the morning of the 10th apparently enjoying a somewhat meager breakfast of fish which they had caught in Kings river. They were not in the least disturbed at being observed.
Having heard of their where about Will Smith and a party of six white men and two Indian trailers who had been specially brought from Yuma, A. T., for the purpose of tracking the robbers, started for Sampson Flat.
They had got within about two miles of that locality when they stopped before the cabin of a man named Jim Young, their intention being to enter and cook some provisions.
They had no expectation of meeting the trainrobbers in that immediate neighborhood, as they had been to Young's house the day before and had not observed any trace of any stranger having been there for some time.
 
  IN MARCHING ORDER.  
  The posse had been going down a narrow trail, which turned in plain view of anyone who might happen to be in Young's cabin.
They were proceeding leisurely in Indian file, Vick C. Wilson, Deputy United States Marshal of Tucson, leading, with Frank Burke, Deputy Sheriff of Yuma, next. Deputy United States Marshal McGinnis was next, then Richard Olsen, a mountaineer, followed by Warren Hill, one of Sanger's constables who was leading a pack animal laden with food and articles they had taken from Evans and Sontag's camp, which they had come across in their march and near which it had been their intention to wait till night in order to surprise the robbers. After him came Will Smith and Fred Witty, a brother of the man wounded near Visalia by Evans early in the pursuit. Then came the two indian trailers from Yuma -- men selected for great expertness in tracking.
 
  KILLED WITHOUT WARNING.  
  When they arrived at Young's cabin Wilson and McGinnis went within the fence and were within ten feet of the front door, when the door was suddenly thrown open and Evans and Sontag appeared in the doorway and quick as a flash opened a regular fusillade on the party.
Willsons and McGinnis, before they could turn round or reach their arms, were killed in their tracks.
At the time that the shots were fired at Wilson and McGinnis, Warren Hill was tying his horse and the pack animal to the fence and Smith was standing alongside of Warren Hill.
As soon as Wilson and McGinnis fell the murderers turned their attention to the rest of the party and pound shot after shot into them in rapid succession.
One rifle shot passed through Witty's neck inflicting an ugly though not dangerous wound.
 
  SHOT IN HIS TRACKS.  
  Olson was shot and dropped dead. Its is not stated whether he was killed instantly or not.
A charge of buckshot was fired at Warren Hill but he happened to be standing behind his horse and was not hurt, the horse receiving the entire charge, but his hat was lifted from his head and the horse killed.
The party was taken completely by surprise. The two Indian trailers, however, always on the alert, discharged their weapons on the robbers, but it is not know whether any of the shots took effect.
The horses of the posse stampeded in the tumult.
The remainder of the posse then dispersed, taking to the cover of the woods.
 
  ESCAPE OF THE BANDITS.  
  Evans and Sontag then turned and went through the house and out at the back door and escaped, going in a northeasterly direction and that was the last seen of them.
Will Smith and the Indian trailers remained to deal with wounded man and Warren Hill started after one of the frightened horses and succeeded in capturing it in about half an hour.
He then carried the news of the disaster to the Sequoia Mill of the King's River Lumber Company, and transmitted it to this city.
Hill said they were going down then to lie in wait for the robbers.
To night Sheriff E. W. Kay of Tulare county was in Sanger, and gave it as his opinion that the robbers had the idea of drawing all the active fighting force of the neighborhood into that part of the country, preparatory to making a swoop on the plains.
In talking with him this evening he informed your correspondent that he thought it likely that they would attempt to escape by coming down the lumber flume on rafts, and that they would probably stop all communication for a time by cutting the telephone wires.
Sheriff Kay had been out with the posse, and came away sick, and just arrived at Sanger when he learned of the disaster.
When the news was telephoned to Fresno this afternoon Sheriff Hensley immediately started to meet Hill and the others at Dunlap.
Parties are being formed in all the small towns of the foothills to-night and a large body of men will in the next few days give the murderers a hard chose.
It is now thought that the possibility of the robbers escaping is very small, their camping outfit having been captured and their supply of ammunition is reported to be very low.
 
  EVANS' BOAST  
  An intimate friend of Chris Evans told one of the herders on the flume that he had seen Evans a day or two ago and that Evans told him they were going to leave the country in a short while, but not before they had another crack at the Southern Pacific.
The same man stated that the friends of the robbers where very numerous in that part of the country, and that seemed devoted to them and that they would supply them with hiding, food and ammunition.
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of certain parties believed to have afforded protection to the robbers, and it is thought that this will have a favorable result.
 
  _____

FRESNO HORRIFIED.
_____
 
 
Prompt Preparations Made to Assist in the Bandits' Capture.
 
  [Special to the EXAMINER.]  
  FRESNO, September 13. -- News of the terrible encounter with the bandits Evans and Sontag was received here shortly after 2:30 o'clock, and when it became generally known caused the utmost excitement. Many could not at first credit the story, so horrible was it, but when it was confirmed by subsequent messages they stood aghast at the bloodthirstiness of the robbers.
In the Sheriff's office all was astir, and Sheriff Hensley was preparing to leave with a posse for the scene of the encounter shortly after the news arrived. He took with him Deputies Ed McCarde and W. J. Pickett and Constable J. G. Ashman.
They went to Dunlap, where Constable Hill told them he would meet them, and from there they will go on to Sampson Flat and into the mountains in pursuit of the desperadoes.
Under Sheriff Collyer was busy all day sending telegrams to the Sheriffs of adjoining counties.
Sheriff Kay of Tulare was notified, and will probably take care that the robbers do not get away by the southern train.
Posses in the countries north of here will take care to head them off in that direction.
Owing to a misunderstanding it was first believed that the Witty who had been wounded was the Sheriff's Depty at Visalia who had a very sad experience with the robbers near that place shortly after they committed the Collie train robbery. It proves, however to be Fred Witty, brother of George Witty, the deputy.
Sampson Flat, where the encounter occurred, has deservedly a bad reputation. It is the rendezvous for outlaws of all kinds, and particularly of cattle thieves. The notorious Pete and Bennett gang of horsethieves made this their headquarters.
Evans and Sontag have their mines at Sampson Flat and are thoroughly acquainted with every nook and corner in that locality. They are on excellent terms with the hard characters living there, and received every assistance from them in eluding their pursuers.
In view of this it is not surprising to hear that it is the intention of Detective Smith and Constable Hill to arrest four men there whom they suspect of being Evans and Sontag's accomplices.
Judging from the report of the encounter, it is evident the robbers where informed of the nearness of the posse by some friend or friends, and determined to take the aggressive as the best way of disposing of their troublesome pursuers.
The Apache scouts are excellent trailers, and knowing this the robbers probably believed there was no likelihood of their losing their trail. Their only salvation, therefore, was in surprising their pursuers, and this they did in a terribly effective way. To permit themselves to have been surrounded would have resulted either in their capture or death.
The officials of both Tulare and Fresno counties are thoroughly aroused, and it is hardly likely that they will leave off the pursuit until they have captured and killed the robbers.
The opinion is general that the officials should lay aside all idea of effecting their capture, but should enter upon the chase with the intention of killing the bloodthirsty desperadoes and thus end their career of butchery.
A telegram was received here shortly after the report of the encounter had been sent to Visalia from Deputy Sheriff Witty of that place asking if his wounded brother had been brought to this city. It is not know yet where the bodies of the dead men and Witty will be taken, but it is probable they will be sent to Sanger or Visalia.
Coroner L. O. Stephens and Dr. J. L. Maupin left this afternoon at 3:30 o'clock for Dunlap to meet those who are bringing the dead officers from the mountains.
The train-robbers were heard from here last Sunday, the Sheriff receiving information that they had camped near Dunlap. The message stated that the robbers were at the house of a man named Howells on Sunday evening. Howells is said to be a brother-in-law of Evans, or is at least a relation of some kind.
This place is in the foothills, not far from Dunlap.
The robbers had the horse and cars which they took from Supervisor Ellis some days ago. They left them with Howells and told him to return them to Mr. Ellis and thank him kindly, in the name of Evans and Sontag, for their use.
Evans also sent word that he intended to kill the man who shot through his house.
The camp of the robbers was discovered on the same day they were at Howells. It was near Dunlap and contained a large quantity of provisions and copies of the latest papers. This seems to carry out the assertion made by the men when they were at Ellis' place, that they see the newspapers and keep posted as to all the movements made to capture them.
Detective Smith says he has ascertained who the parties are who have been supplying Evans and Sontag with provisions, thus enabling them to keep out of sight.
Sheriff Hensley said his principal deputies are out of the city to-night, but the jail has been left carefully guarded for fear an attack would be made to release George Sontag.
Fears are entertained that Evans and Sontag with their friends will take advantage of the absence of the officers and make a desperate attempt to break open the jail.
All was quiet about the jail at an early hour this evening, no one being visible around the outside. But guards are on the inside and shotguns were taken in this evening by the deputy in charge.
 
  _____

EVANS WOUNDED
_____
 
 
Frank Burke Arrives at Visalia With the Bodies of Two Victims.
 
  [Special to the Examiner]  
  VISALIA, September 13. --Visalia was startled to-day by the report that Evans and Sontag, the Collis train robbers, had killed three of the pursuing party from here, near Sampson's Flat, their favorite rendezvous.
The posse that started out this afternoon returned to town to-night, having met Smith and Burke with the dead bodies of McGinnis and Wilson.
Witty was only slightly wounded.
Burke says he is satisfied he shot and wounded Evans and that the capture of the desperadoes by the parties now in the mountains is only a matter of a short time.
The man Olson, who was killed was a mountaineer, and his remains were left in the hills.
Burke says the posse in pursuit of Evans and Sontag ran out of provisions and went to the Dunlap postoffice to secure a new supply. Returning, the came to Young's house and he left the party a short distance behind to get into a water-melon patch. He saw the flash of the guns saw firing from the door and window of the house. Three did the shooting from the house.
Soon after Evans and Sontag came in to the yard and shot at Al Witty.
Burke was in a clump of brush and shot at Evans, and at the second shot Evans fell, dropping his gun. Then he ran in a stooping position till out of sight. Burke is confident he wounded Evans.
The two Indian trailers were on the top of the ridge about the house, and altogether fired three shots without effect.
The Indian trailers returned to town with Burke.
The bodies of the murdered officers are now at an undertaking establishment in this city.
 
  ____

THE BANDITS' CRIME.
____
 
 
How the Train was Robbed -- The Robbers' Career to Date.
 
  With yesterday's terrible development in connection with the pursuit of Evans and Sontag, the Collis train robbery goes into the criminal records of the State as the most calamitous affair of its kind.
It has thus far led to the killing of four men, the serious wounding of two others and the slight wounding of still another.
It was perpetrated about midnight on the 3d of August last. Three men, now known to have been Chris Evans and John and George Sontag, boarded the southbound Southern Pacific express at Collis. Shortly after the train left that town two of them went forward, climbed over the tender, and by the persuasive use of revolvers brought the engineer and fireman under their complete control.
After the train had pulled out about five miles from Collis the engineer was ordered to stop the train. This he promptly did. One of the robbers then fired a shot, which proved to be a signal for the third man to come forward from the train to aid in the work of plundering the express car.
On his appearance the engineer and fireman were taken to the express car. No demand was made on the messenger, but the bandits got right down to business by placing a dynamite cartridge on the sill of the door of the express car and exploding it. This was followed by seven others, when the doors and floor of the express were pretty well demolished.
During all this time Messenger George D. Roberts maintained his place in the car, lying on the floor, in readiness to take a shot at the robbers should they show themselves at any of the openings, but his intentions were foiled by the forethought and strategy of the robbers, who did not propose to take any unnecessary chances.
They used the engineer as a defense, shoving him into the car ahead of them. This enabled them to enter and bring Roberts under the influence of the iron persuaders. He was made to open the local treasure box and the robbers secured silver and gold coin variously estimated at from $5,000 to $50,000. They then demanded that he open the through safe, which was known to be filled with treasure, but this he was unable to do, as it had a time lock, set to be opened at the other end of the run.
The freebooters finally decamped with their plunder, without molesting any of the passengers. The only person injured was the messenger, who was seriously wounded from the effects of the dynamite bomb explosions. From these injuries he has, however, now recovered.
No clew of the robbers of their identity was obtained until the morning of the 5th, when information reached Visalia which pointed to the three men named as being the probable robbers.
Acting on this knowledge, Detective Will Smith, accompanied by Deputy Sheriff Witty, proceeded to Evans' house in the suburbs of Visalia, where the three robbers were, and succeeded in inducing George Sontag to accompany them to Visalia, on the representation that they understood he was on the train that was robbed, and that his testimony in regard to the affair was wanted by the Sheriff. As soon as they reached town, George Sontag was placed in jail. The two officers then went back, expecting to effect the arrest of the others without any trouble.
On making their reappearance the two bandits objected to having any further communication with them, and drove them from the premises, seriously wounding Witty and slightly injuring Smith by shooting at them. Witty's escape from death was due only to Evans' haste to escape from the vicinity. The robbers then fled toward the mountains, taking the officers' team. As soon at the news of the encounter reached Visalia a posse of 100 men started in pursuit.
It was thought possible, however, that the fugitives might return during the night, and a guard, consisting of Oscar Beaver, a Special Deputy Sheriff, and Constable Charles Hall was sent to watch Evans' home. This surmise proved to have been well founded. The bandits did return to obtain food for themselves and the horses.
Their presence was detected, and in endeavoring to make their escape a desperate duel in the dark took place in which Beaver was mortally wounded by Evans. The robbers again made good their escape without suffering injury. But they had to go afoot, as their horse had been shot by Beaver.
Beaver died of his wounds during the afternoon of August 6th.
Pursuit of the bandits was now taken up with renewed vigor, but without any results.
From this time the robbers were reported to have been seen in various parts of the southern portion of the State, and it was only within the past week that reliable news of them was again obtained. They had turned on their path, and had appeared near Visalia. Since then they were reported at various towns north of Visalia, and the pursuing party had no trouble in following their trail, as they made no effort to disguise their identity nor to conceal their course of travel.
It is now believed that they have reached the haven which they originally started for. This is Sampson's Flat, with a reputation of being a genuine robbers' roost. If they are really in this refuge for criminals much blood will probably be shed before they are captured or killed.
Owing to the excitement created by the killing of Beaver, George Sontag was removed to the Fresno jail, where he is still confined.
About a week ago a reward of $10,000 was offered jointly by the Southern Pacific Company and Wells, Fargo & Co., for the capture of the bandits.
It is believed that one or more of these three men were also implicated in the train robberies which occurred in Pixley, February 22, 1889; Goshan, January 21, 1890; Alila, February 6, 1891, and Ceres, October 3, 1891.
Chris Evans is a Canadian, forty-three years of age and an old Indian fighter. He has lived in the upper San Joaquin valley for many years and was always looked upon as an inoffensive citizen. His means of gaining of living were a mystery, though he claimed to be working a silver mine in the mountains. He has a wife and seven children -- two boys and five girls.
John Sontag is an American and has been living in the vicinity of Visalia since 1897. He came from Minnesota.
George Sontag, who is a brother of John, came from Minnesota recently. He is said to have been implicated in a train robbery and other crimes in that State, and is supposed to have fled the State to escape punishment for his crimes.
 

Return to Oscar Anderson Beaver

 
 
Copyright © 2006-17 Claud "Sonny" Rouch, all rights reserved. Website by OACYS Technology. Cover photo by Roberts Engineering.