SHOOTOUT IN MIDDLETOWN: MAY, 1876

Middletown wasn’t always a quaint, quiet, small town. One hundred and fifty years ago it was a mining town, filled with rough and tumble characters, crooks, gamblers, and murderers. I found this piece in the book English, written by Middletown historian Bill Wink, and had to share it with The Bloom’s readers. English shares the history of the English family and its most famous outlaw, Buck. Buck was a cattle-rustler, stage robber, and all-around no good person.  Read a letter written to the Sonoma Democrat in May 1876:

“On Sunday evening, the 11th (of May), one of those disgraceful scenes occurred which, though common in earlier days are now entirely below par and discountenanced by all law-abiding and law-loving citizens. It was nothing more nor less than a shooting scrape in the main street. The particulars of the case are these; Last fall L. B. Buck, “ English” as he is generally called, took a strong dislike to the Good Templars of Middletown and vicinity. He was not as popular with the Good Templar ladies as he desired. One night at a social dance in Middletown he in company with some others broke the violin, fired off his six-shooter on the steps of the house, simply because he had received no invitation to the party. Soon after he had some trouble with one F. Prebble, because he was a Good Templar; abused Prebble on every chance and finally one night as Prebble was entering the Lake County House, Buck struck him from behind. Prebble fired a shot which missed Buck. Buck was arrested, fined a small sum. Sunday, be met John Good, a prominent Good Templar and against whom Buck bad made some threats months ago but as they had never had any words or trouble, Good held no grudge against him at all and when they met on the sidewalk in front of Cassidy’s saloon Good spoke friendly: “How are you Buck ?” Buck answered with some insulting vulgarity, following it up with some personal abuse and finally told Good that if he would walk back behind the saloon he would whip him. Although Good is not quarrelsome neither is he cowardly, and followed Buck back of the saloon, where Buck proceeded to dish out considerable abuse which Good took, intending only to act on the defensive. They soon separated, Good going down the street towards the residence of his brother-in-law. Buck took a seat on the porch of Cassidy’s saloon, informing the crowd that he was waiting for John Good to pass. About 7 o’clock p. m., only a short time after, Good started up the street. When Buck saw him coming he ran back of the saloon, entered Harris’ saloon and advanced to the center of the room and cocked his six-shooter. Then be walked to the door and leveled his pistol at Good and asked, “ Are you ready?” At the same time he pulled the trigger. Good stopped, drew his pistol, and coolly returned the fire. Buck was partly concealed by the door, and it is said he sprang behind the door when Good fired at him. At least he was not hit and fired a second shot which took effect in Good’s right wrist, weakening it so much that he had to hold his right hand up with the left at every shot be fired. Soon after he was hit just above the left knee making a serious flesh wound, but breaking no bones. As soon as Buck fired the second shot Joe Conway told him to go out of his house. He then stepped out on the sidewalk and behind an oak tree to which several horses were tied. During the shooting Buck’s pistol was shot out of his hand and he placed his hand on his left breast. It is generally supposed he was wounded, but his friends say not, however, when his pistol fell, Charley his brother, handed him another. Good fired six shots. He is an A No. 1 shot but owing to the shelter Buck took and it being pretty dark he couldn’t get his man. Eye-witnesses say his courage will stand the test. As soon as his pistol was empty he went across the street and got a room in the Lake County House, where a physician dressed his wounds. “English” returned with two pistols, one only partly emptied and the other loaded ; leaving one on the porch floor, and jumping on a horse he rode off. No warrant is out yet that we have heard of. Good is getting along as well as could be expected.”

Bill Wink is an interesting fellow, full of information about Middletown’s past.  I first heard of him while writing an article on Rabbit Hill and stumbled upon a murder that occurred in 1966 in Anderson Springs. Bill’s written a book about it, called Murder in the Mayacamas. It’s a real mystery, and the case is still unsolved. 

To read more about Middletown’s varied history, check out Bill’s other books: Cinnabar: The Saga of the White Cap Murders, and Guenoc.

David Wakefield

David and Trudy Wakefield started The Bloom in 2018 to showcase the best parts of Lake County and to provide a local outlet for community events, arts, music, and writing.

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