Gene Paleno grew up in the 30’s on his family’s farm near Detroit, Michigan. As a boy, he learned to drive an old Model T Ford, hauling hay and feeding the cows at dawn. Gene was the eldest of six children to Eugene and Alice Paleno, with a work ethic that was incumbent upon his role as the eldest boy. After high school he served in the US Navy during WWII, and as a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve until 1966. Gene taught school after graduating from Michigan State University in 1946. In the early 1950’s during the aerospace industry boom, the entire Paleno Family (parents, sisters, brothers, spouses, and children) packed up and moved to California. Gene was employed by Douglas Aircraft Corporation as a Commercial Artist. While with Douglas, he traveled to a Paris airport hangar to participate in a marketing demonstration. The company had him wearing a helium balloon to simulate walking on the moon. He would recall how the wind almost carried him into the busy landing path at Le Bourget Airport.
Tag: Lake County History
The finish is as exciting as the first part. Cox didn’t stop shooting at the officers that had apprehended him. He continued to fire every round he could while his girlfriend and partner in the crime, Ms. Annika Deasy, must have watched in horrified silence. Mr. Cox had no intention of going to prison.
In May 1981, drifter William Cox and Swedish native Annika Deasy, lifelong criminals and drug addicts, murdered two men. The first was a Stockton man. The second was a Lake County Law Enforcement Officer.
The author of the tale was a local fisherman of unqualified veracity. He told this reporter, “I saw an unusual commotion in the lake. It was a couple of hundred yards from shore. I first attributed the sight to a large school of fish… Then a monstrous head, followed by a long, snaky neck attached to an enormous log-like body tapering to a pointed tail, came into view. It raced through and over the water for a distance of approximately 100 feet. This creature had large bulbous eyes, extended nostrils, a mouth similar in shape to a crocodile, and well-filled with teeth. The body seemed devoid of scales and fins. It was, apparently, propelled forward by an undulating motion of the muscular caudal appendage. I estimated this monster was between sixty and seventy feet in length…at least somewhat longer than the Scotch specimen. It would probably weigh about ten tons on the hoof.”
The Blacksmith’s place of business was a single-story frame building with a big wide door in front and a few dusty windows on each side that only the spiders called home. The floor was heavy planking. A strong magnet could, in the space of five minutes of attention, draw up a bushel of broken nails from the floor and around the forge where pieces of coal or coke were scattered. There was no gas or electricity. The forge was fired with coal or coke and his light came from a coal-oil lamp.
The cemetery is overgrown and in disrepair. The headstones are smashed and fallen. Some are missing to become some rascal’s paperweight or souvenir. During the period of 1856 to 1920, twenty-six persons (or sets of bones) were buried there and, possibly, includes the dusty remains of Chief George Patch, a native Chief.
“A burly trapper came into my office. He demanded that I pull one of his teeth. I sat him on a low stool, I grasped the tooth with a pair of pliers, and twisted. Immediately, my patient closed his teeth on my thumb. I was in excruciating pain and I grabbed for the first thing at hand. It was a wooden mallet. I banged the patient on the head, rendering him unconscious. After wrapping my injured hand in a towel, I finished removing the tooth. The patient was extremely pleased when he awoke. Though he also complained, ‘I do not understand why I have such a headache.’ “
This story is about a confidence scheme that nearly succeeded. Hide-binders are not unique to Lake County. They were here before, and they will come again. What makes this tale so intriguing was that this con-man, had he succeeded in his nefarious plans, Clear Lake and the land around the lake would have been in the hands of one person, Mr. I.N. Chapman.
The week after the meteor fell, the people of Lakeport voted. April 11, 1912, a municipal election was held in Lakeport for town Trustees, a Clerk, and a Treasurer. Also, on the ballot was the question; ‘Shall the sale of Alcoholic Licenses be issued in Lakeport?’ That question was all-important for most of the men in Lake County. Some of the more pious made the point that the meteor that fell into Clear Lake only the week before was a sign of displeasure from on-high against the many stills and bars in the County, so they pled from the pulpits that the county should vote for prohibition or more damaging catastrophes might befall them.
When Victor Barnes, a man that lived in Kelseyville forty or fifty years ago, wrote about the early days of freighting, I was curious. Either Victor had been a freight teamster, or he was on a firsthand basis with a man who had been a teamster in the 1850s and ’60s. Without knowing for sure, I had to assume one or the other was true because Victor Barnes wrote like he knew his beans and what the job was all about.
“Several of the cinnabar miners, each of which worked in different mines and did not know one another, reported seeing a Sasquatch. Each of the men gave a similar description of what they had seen and where they had spotted the creature. ‘They’re on Cobb Mountain and on Konocti. It looks like a big bear that walks upright. He smells terrible… like rotten meat or garbage. And they make terrible noises at night.'”
This tale is about a hunting accident. The accident was gory and grotesque. Despite the odds, the victim not only survived, but he also got better, went back to work, and lived for another thirty-five years. It was told by Art Fifield of Lakeport, and it happened in 1906. Men had to be tough in those days.
In 1910, when our house was built, it was made of single-walled construction. I think it was called ‘Board and Bat’. The original section had two small rooms we used as bedrooms and a living room and a kitchen. My sisters and I slept in one bed between feather comforters. There were no closets in the house, no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom. My sisters and I bathed in a tub behind the kitchen stove. The water was brought in from the outside, and we heated it on the stove and took our bath, one at a time, in the same water. The toilet was a privy in the back yard, quite a distance from the house.
We both shot at the bear again with our musket-loading rifles. At this, the bear reared up on its hind legs and made for us. We dropped our guns and ran for dear life. The bear was gaining, and we had good reason to run even faster. Before long, seeing the bear was winning, we climbed the nearest tree. The wounded bear came to our tree and stalked us with blood in its eye and jaws open for business. Lucky for us, the bear was badly wounded. Otherwise, he would have climbed the tree easy. That would have been the end of Dan and me.
The first three tales are told by a child, Polly Hargraves. Let me offer a word of warning. The third story of a Grizzly Bear will leave you hanging until next week.
Like all the others, these three offer the reader a three-dimensional picture of what life was like a century and a half ago during the early years of Lake County’s history. They tell of events with a truer insight and understanding of our ancestor’s trials, perils, and their happier moments. Related by a young woman in her more personal way, they reveal more than cold facts of history.
Crimes, civil or criminal, in Lake County’s middle years, were as varied and interesting as they were in the great centers of the world. They ran the gamut from murder and robbery to fraud and con games. Nevertheless, this story of Lake County’s bankruptcy is nowhere as grand or important. It is a tale of simple thievery, followed by over-zealousness and carelessness, that caused the town to believe the County Treasury had been robbed… not once but twice. It is the story of how Lake County nearly went bankrupt and nearly repeated the catastrophe a second time.
“Staley and I were living together in one of the Bullion Mine’s cabins. The following night we all took an oath. If anyone spoke of the raid, he must ‘pay with his life.’ During a third meeting, we put burnt cork blacking on our faces and put on the flour sack coats and masks. McGuyre, the leader, told us there must be no bloodshed. On the way over to Riche’s place, McGuyre called Staley and me. He said if ‘Bennett or the Riche’s abuse us, of course we must defend ourselves.”
“When we were all on the porch, McGuyre gave us a signal with a whistle from an empty .44 shell casing, and we entered the tavern in a body. After the shooting was over, we all went out, and we all walked down the road. We repeated our oath to keep silent and returned to Bickard’s house… by different routes.”
The prosecution asked, “Did you not say that Blackburn said to you, ‘Charley, I have just found the thing to make masks. It is flour sacks.’
The defendant objected to the question.
Osgood was next asked where he was on the night of the crime. He answered, “I had been resting.”
The plot thickened. It was common knowledge that Bennett had thrashed several of the raiders. They all hated him. Testimony was given to say that Blackburn wished to get ‘even’ with Bennett, and Blackburn was the man that originated the idea of the raid.
Habishaw added, “There was never any intention to injure the Riche’s. The raid was aimed solely at Bennett. Blackburn said, ‘We’ll flog him well, give him a coat of tar and feathers, escort him to the County border, and order him never to set foot in Lake County again.’”
Who were these ten men? They were not outlaws. They were ordinary citizens. The single thing they had in common was that they all worked for the mine. One man was part owner of the Bradford mine. Staley, one of those held for murder, had been an election officer at the Great Western Mine, one of the places selected for polling.
The men in the posse stared at the bleeding corpse with interest. The dead man was dressed in what was meant as some sort of disguise. He looked like he had dressed for Halloween. His arms were covered in red sleeves, burlap sacks were sewn around his body and his legs, and there was a white paper mask over his face. Later, as they searched around the tavern grounds, the officers found more white masks made of flour sacks with holes cut for the eyes. Near the barn, sixty feet from the tavern, they discovered a small tin lard bucket filled with tar and a cat-o’-nine-tails whip lay next to the bucket.
Helen Riche was a fighter. Somehow, during the melee, instead of remaining where she was on the floor, she crawled to the front door and managed to grab the Winchester from behind the door. Before she could throw the rifle to her husband, one of the men saw what she had done and took the Winchester out of her hand, throwing the weapon out of reach. Making no further move, Mrs. Riche lay on the floor bleeding. Fred Bennett, the bartender, had disappeared into the bedroom, leaving Mr. Riche alone to deal with the situation.
Riche stated, “I thought the best thing I could do was get right in the middle of them. That way, they could not shoot me without risking their own safety. I did, and they backed out of the room onto the porch. The last one in the room I kind of threw out. As I did, I heard more shots outside on the porch by the door.”
Riche’s young wife, Helen, angry at the sudden rude intrusion and manner, rushed to one of the men and tried to pull the mask from his face. At the same time, seeing her intent, her husband grabbed at her, moving to protect his wife. One of the masked men reached her first. He pushed her to the floor, and at that same instant, a volley of gunfire erupted in the room.
“There were eight or ten shots, or maybe more,” Riche said later.
”I tried to pull Helen away from the man that was holding her down. That was when I saw Helen was wounded. She had been shot, and her side was bleeding.”
Riche always kept two pistols in his bedroom under his pillow. He also had a rifle. Unfortunately, getting to that weapon at that moment was no longer possible. His Winchester 44 was behind the front door of the saloon, and the masked men were in the way.
“I pushed Helen’s body under a little raised part of the bar. I hoped to take her into the kitchen for safety while I went to the bedroom for my pistol.”
Where once stood a kitchen, only an old stove remains. It lays on the ground, flopped on its side, once-white enamel slowly rusting to grey-brown. Sheet metal and tin scatter across the grounds, holding back the scotch broom and blackberry bushes. Bedsprings jauntily poke out of the creekbed, sagged and twisted. Among the debris, a thick piece of handblown glass dating from the turn of the 20th century sits, only a small slice of what once was a gallon jug. The winter sun barely pokes through the hazy sky. It doesn’t look like the map Steve Prather had scribbled on the bottom of a 24 pack of 7-Up a week earlier. His map had squares on it, marking houses and the location of the spring. I look at the torn piece of cardboard in my hand one more time, then look up. There’s nothing here.
After the smoke and sounds of the bloody Civil War died away, there was peace. Yet, for some, the prejudice and hatred remained. Long after the Civil War ended, there was bitterness and prejudice between people of different political parties; Democrat and the Klan-like bands of marauders and vigilantes rode by night to enforce their ideas of right and wrong and punish those who held views about slavery, race, morality, and religion different from their own.
These avenging night riders were descendants of the Civil War Northern Knights of the Golden Circle, or as they were called by others, The Circle of Honor or The Knights of the mighty Host. One of the most violent was the White Caps.