Titus Hale Encounters a Desperado

Maybe a fellow like this, with his Winchester ’73 rifle

In his autobiography written for the Society of California Pioneers, Titus Hale has one more good story to tell:

I passed through the so-called trying times without any great amount of trouble or anxiety, and it was not till 1899 that I ever looked into a gun that was held by a man who contemplated murder.

I was building a levee at Marcuse, Sutter County and had about fifty men at work. At noon one day the Foreman and I were talking and all the men lounging around, when a man whom the Foreman had just discharged, demanded his pay in coin. Now I had never paid any one coin, but always gave the men whom we discharged, checks on the Bank. These checks were good anywhere and all the merchants were glad to get them and it was no hardship on the men as all discharged men went in to town (Marysville) where the Bank was located, and men were informed of this rule before they went to work, but that fellow wanted coin.

He had a Winchester rifle drawn on us, we knew it was loaded. There were fourteen charges in the Magazine. Now we had no money in the camp and we tried to explain the matter to the scamp, but all the answer we got was – “give me my money, or I will kill you.”

The Foreman attracted his attention more than I and I walked away. The fellow fired at the foreman, but missed him. The bullet went close to a dozen of the men but hit no one. It was not long till the camp was deserted, the shooter had it to himself and he left. The Sheriff caught and landed him in jail before night.

We prosecuted him and sent him to States Prison for life; he was an ex-convict and had been sentenced for life for murder and pardoned out, later he was sent for ten years for rape and had only been at liberty three months when he was sent back again where I hope he will stay, for he was the most disagreeable man I ever met.

“The most disagreeable man I ever met” is certainly an understatement.

Nothing remains of the town of Marcuse in Sutter County today. If you are curious, you can read about it in the January 2013 newsletter of the Sutter County Historical Society.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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