Idaho County Free Press - July 4, 1890

JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE - THE MOOSE CREEK TRAGEDY

A Duel to the Death in a Lonely Miners' Cabin

    

     On Saturday morning, June 28, about one o'clock a.m. Mike L. Murray and P. McEntee arrived at Grangeville bringing the news that on the preceding day Murray had, in self defense, killed P.M. Russell, one of his mining partners.

     Coroner Bibby, in company with J.D. Holton started for the scene of the tragedy, while Murray went to Mt. Idaho and gave himself up to the sheriff to await the result of the official inquiry

     The coroner reached Moose creek at three o'clock Saturday afternoon, and immediately impaneling a jury proceeded to investigate the matter.  In the cabin was presented a dreadful sight.  Near the center lay the dead body of Russell in a pool of blood and brains, while the surroundings gave evidence of the deadly struggle between the two men.  The jury after viewing the body and examining the premises adjourned to meet at Mt. Idaho on Monday the 28th to take testimony, which consisted of the statement of Mr. Murray himself.  The jury found that the deceased was Patrick M. Russell, aged 27 years; that he came to his death on or about the 27th day of June 1890 from a gunshot would in the brain, such shot being fired by Michael P. Murray while defending himself from a deadly assault, and that such killing was justifiable.  

     On July 1st an examination was held before Judge Case.  Following we give a brief resume of the testimony.  Dr. Bibby testified as to the finding of the body and gave a description of the room where it lay.  Three gunshot wounds were found on the body, one passing through and breaking the bone of the right wrist, the second entering the chest below the right nipple and emerging below the point of the right shoulder.  The shot which caused death entering on the right side of the head, tearing away a large portion of the parietal bone.  About eight inches from the right hand lay the revolver of the deceased, a 45 caliber Colt, with one chamber discharged and one without a shell in it.

    For the defense Patrick Flynn, Wm. Tracy and J.D. Holton were called, who testified as to threats which Russell had made against the life of Murray.  Mr. Murray then took the stand and narrated the circumstances, in substance as follows:

     "On the evening of the 26th of June, 1890, Mr. McEntee and myself agreed that we would lift some hose to lay in the ground sluice and place it where it would dry, so as to stow them away to be used next season.  The next day Mr. McEntee concluded to go on to Mt. Idaho and have Mr. Tracy help me put away the hose.  Before Mr. McEntee left Mr. Tracy went to the cabin of Jas. Burns about a mile away.  Mr. McEntee and a young man named Givens started for Mt. Idaho, leaving me alone with Russell in the camp.  I came out of the cabin and sat down on the bench in front of the door.  Russell sat on the bench close to the door.  When we had been sitting there a few minutes I asked Russell how Johnny Crooks was doing on the next claim.  He said he was doing well, that they took out $1500 or $2,000 this season.  If it hadn't been for McEntee, the dumb son-of a bitch, that money would belong to us, as the ground belonged to us and he gave it to them.  I told him we had better ground than they had and that if the claim belonged to us we would never work it, that it wasn't right to call McEntee a son of a bitch behind his back, that he would not do so to his face.  He said he would call him that to his face or behind his back and that I could take up the fight if I wanted to.  I told him I didn't want to take up McEntee's fight or anybody else's; that if there had been less fighting on the ground last spring there would be more money in the crowd; that I didn't want any fight and would not have any that he had oilered me more  than fifty insults since last fall.  About that time he said "I can make any son of a bitch on the works jump over the fence."  I looked at him and saw him look toward his breast and saw the point of a large caliber pistol sticking from under his shirt.  During all this time I had been smoking a pipe.  I knocked the ashes out of the pipe and picking up some tobacco from the bench asked him for a knife to cut some tobacco.  He said he had no knife but I would find one inside on the table, so I stepped into the cabin, got the knife and cut some tobacco.  Russell followed me into the cabin and stood with his back to the fireplace.  I was standing near the middle of the room.  He asked me if I was going to stop or work on the Moose Creek diggings.  I said "no" I am not going to stop here, but am going to do some work yet,"  He asked me what I was going to do.  I told him I was going to raise that hose out of the ground sluice so they would dry and not rot.  He said "you or nobody else can raise that hose until I get ready; no damn man can touch the hose or do a bit of working the claim unless I am satisfied;" that he would kill the first man that laid a hand on them.  I told him Bill Tracy and I would raise the hose and if he wanted to kill me, to get to work as hard as he wanted to; that I did not intend to let what belonged to me rot where it would do nobody any good.  Just at this time he said, "Jesus Christ!  I don't have to take this from no g--- damn man living, nor I won't".  At that same time I saw him move toward me and draw his pistol out of his breast.  As he struck me I grabbed the pistol and the blow struck me on the left eye and temple.  I hollered and asked him if he wanted to murder me.  He said' yes, you son of a bitch".  As I caught him by the arm he struck me again, an upper cut on the mouth.  At that time I reached up over my head into the man hole and got hold of my revolver, which I had put there in the morning.  As I got my revolver he jumped away from me, grabbed hold of his gun with both hands and shot at me.  I struck the barrel of the pistol and the bullet went off to one side.  He raised the gun again and shoved it into my face and pulled on the trigger but the gun did not go off.  At that time I pushed him away with my left hand and shoved him into the fireplace.  Just at that instant I got hold of my gun by the handle got it cocked and fired at him.  At the time I fired he jumped right at me with both hands hold of his revolver and hollered. "Oh~ you son of a bith", I raised the hammer of my gun as quick as possible and shot again.  Before I got the gun cocked the third time he got up to me.  I pushed him and struck at him with the gun at the same time.  I tried to strike him over the head with the gun.  As I struck he dodged, and the point of the pistol struck him and at the same time went off and he fell.  I put my hands to my face and found it all over blood and thought I had been shot.  I ran and looked in the glass and found I was bleeding on the inside of my mouth.  I then came to give myself up."  

The judge after hearing the evidence, discharged the prisoner, deciding that the evidence did not show any crime had been committed, Murray having acted in self defense.  

     The body of Russell was brought to Grangeville and interred in the cemetery here on Sunday afternoon.  

     We understand that the deceased had a wife at present in Philadelphia, Pa. and some friends in the Coeur d'Alene country.

       

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