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As It Was: Alturas Saloon Shooting Backfires Twice

An Alturas doctor who shot up a saloon in the northeastern California town ended up shooting the man who spared his life.

Around 10 o’clock on a Sunday in 1900, people lingering in the Wickliffe Saloon were startled by the sound of gunfire and the shattering of the front window.  The barkeeper, William Linville, grabbed a pistol, ran out the front door, and opened fire at the gunman running away, who fell to the ground. 

Linville ran up to the man and discovered he was Dr. Alex Gibson, who was being sued by the saloon owner for “the alienation of his wife’s affections.”  Enraged at Gibson for seeking revenge on his boss, Linville tried to shoot the doctor in the head, but the pistol misfired.  Instead of shooting again, Linville took Gibson home. 

The next day, Gibson nearly killed Linville, who had saved his life the previous night, by firing a shotgun into his chest.

Gibson’s trial was canceled by the Alturas district attorney after more than 90 witnesses said it was self-defense.  Linville’s case was dismissed on the same grounds.

A month later, the doctor reportedly moved to Reno.


Sources: "Shot at Dr. Gibson But Aim Was Bad. Gibson Then Shoots Wm. Linville in the Breast." Lake County Examiner, 20 Sept. 1900 [Lakeview OR], p. 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Accessed 18 Sept. 2019; “Notes Taken Along The Line." Lake County Examiner, 4 Oct. 1900 [Lakeview OR], p. 5. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Accessed 18 Sept. 2019.

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.