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As It Was: “Last Kangaroo Court” Teaches a Stranger a Lesson

There’s a Western legend about how the “Last Kangaroo Court” in Trinity County, Calif., was held in Hayfork in September 1906 to teach a stranger a lesson.

When the forlorn looking, disheveled stranger first came to town, some resident cowboys took pity, bought him new clothes, and gave him some money.  Later, the fellow showed up at the Carter House bar with wads of money, buying several rounds of drinks for those in the room.  Incensed, a cowboy known as Wild Bill told his companions and they set about staging a phony trial.

Pinning a star clipped from a Star Kerosene can to the chest of the blacksmith, the Hayfork cowboys dragged the stranger into court.  When the trial began, no one spoke in the stranger’s defense, but dozens testified for the prosecution and immediately called for a hanging.  When the judge agreed, the stranger cried out and the room grew hostile.  At the last minute, the constable blacksmith pulled out his gun, loaded with blanks, and demanded the prisoner be released.  The rowdy cowboys complied.

Legend says the stranger was escorted to the edge of town and never came back.

Source: Jackson, J. J. "The Last Kangaroo Court." Trinity, 1958, pp. 12-15.

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Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.