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Forty-one Thieves / A Tale of California By Angelo Hall Characters: 2762

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Dead Men Tell No Tales

In the cemetery on the hill near the quiet village of Reedsville, Pennsylvania, you may find this inscription:

WILLIAM F. CUMMINS

son of Col. William & Martha Cummins

who was killed by highwaymen near

Nevada City, California

September 1, 1879

aged 45 yrs. and 8 months

Be ye therefore also ready

For the Son of Man cometh

At an hour when ye think not.

It is a beautiful spot, on the road to Milroy. In former times a church stood in the middle of the grounds, and the stern old Presbyterian forefathers marched to meeting with muskets on their shoulders, for the country was infested with Indians. The swift stream at the foot of the hill, now supplying power for a grist-mill, was full of salmon that ran up through the Kishacoquillas from the blue Juniata. The savages begrudged the settlers these fish and the game that abounded in the rough mountains; but the settlers had come to cultivate the rich land extending for twelve miles between the mountain walls.

The form of many a Californian now rests in that cemetery on the hill. A few years after the burial of the murdered Cummins, the body of Henry Francis was gathered to his fathers, and, near by, lie the bodies of four of his brothers,-all Californians. The staid Amish farmers and their subdued women, in outlandish, Puritanical garb, pass along the road unst

irred by the romance and glamour buried in those graves. Dead men tell no tales! Else there were no need that pen of mine should snatch from oblivion this tale of California.

More than thirty-five years have passed since my father, returning from the scene of Cummins' murder, related the circumstances. With Mat Bailey, the stage-driver, with whom Cummins had traveled that fatal day, he had ridden over the same road, had passed the large stump which had concealed the robbers, and had become almost an eye-witness of the whole affair. My father's rehearsal of it fired my youthful imagination. So it was like a return to the scenes of boyhood when, thirty-six years after the event, I, too, traveled the same road that Cummins had traveled and heard from the lips of Pete Sherwood, stage-driver of a later generation, the same thrilling story. The stump by the roadside had so far decayed as to have fallen over; but it needed little imagination to picture the whole tragedy. In Sacramento I looked up the files of the Daily Record Union, which on Sept. 3, 1879, two days after the event, gave a brief account of it. There was newspaper enterprise for you! An atrocious crime reported in a neighboring city two days afterward! Were such things too common to excite interest? Or was it felt that the recital of them did not tend to boom the great State of California?

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