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As It Was: California Barroom Stabbing Results in Yreka Hanging


Thomas King was born in Ireland and left home at age 12, roamed the United Kingdom until he committed a felony, and was shipped to confinement in Australia.

During the Crimean War, he volunteered for a regiment of convicts promised freedom after the war.  After that, he made his way to Siskiyou County, Calif., where he mined at Humbug, Scott Bar, and Scott River.

On July 2, 1863, King entered a local saloon drunk and with a knife, which the bartender took from him and then handed it back.  King threw it down and threatened to kill anyone who touched it.  Another drunk, James Duffy, not taking King seriously, picked it up.  Almost instantly King grabbed the knife, thrust it into Duffy’s heart, and fled.

King was caught and tried, found guilty and thrown into jail.  He escaped along with two other felons, but was recaptured. 

Judge Garter sentenced King to be hanged on June 23, 1865, in gallows erected in the jail yard.

It was reported that King “was buried a little east of (the) town (of) Yreka],” near the remains of two other hanged convicts.

Source: Wells, Harry L. History of Siskiyou County, The. Oakland, D. J. Stewart, 1881, p. 102.

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.