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As It Was: Bank Robbers Randomly Kill 17 in Sailors’ Diggings, Ore.

Just a year after establishment of the mining camp of Sailors' Diggings in a remote forested area of Southwestern Oregon near the California border, the usual mayhem of such places exploded with a mass shooting.

In 1852, five outlaws running from a sheriff's posse in California stopped by the camp saloon for drinks, spending money from a robbing spree all afternoon.  The so-called Triskett Gang consisted of brothers Jack and Henry Triskett, Fred Cooper, Miles Hearn, and Chris Stover. 

At one point, Cooper got up, went outside and randomly shot someone walking by.  The other gang members heard the shot, ran out and started shooting at everyone within range.  They killed 17 people, including women and children, then raced to the assayer’s office where they murdered the assayer and stole $70,000 worth of gold. 

A posse of miners chased the gang, which was slowed down by the burden of the heavy loot.  Folklore says the gang members stashed the gold for a quicker get-a-way, but the miners surrounded and killed them all. 

Treasure hunters have unsuccessfully searched for years for the legendary stashed gold, worth around $5 million today.

Sources: Weiser-Alexander, Kathy.  “Sailors Diggings Oregon: The Triskett Gang.”Legends of America.” Edited by Dave Alexander. May 2018. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/sailors-diggings-oregon/ Accessed 17 Aug 2018; Rothschild, Mike. “The Grisliest Deaths on the Oregon Trail.” Ranker.com/ushistory. https://www.ranker.com/list/oregon-trail-deaths/mike-rothschild  Accessed 17 Aug 2018.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.