Murder at Slate Creek

Sierra Buttes, Sierra County

A man named McDonald, the owner of the Slate Creek House near Pine Grove in Sierra County, was playing cards one night with his cook and three other men from the area when one of them struck him over the head with an iron pipe. The others then finished McDonald off, probably with an axe, and buried his body in a shallow hole not far away. They ransacked the house and stole all the money they could find, which came to only about four hundred dollars. Then the three other men went back to Canyon Creek, where they lived, while the cook stayed at the Slate Creek House as usual, and told anyone who asked that McDonald had gone to San Francisco.

Hydraulic Mining at Slate Ceeek

Soon after the murder the cook paid a man three dollars to chop down a tree so that it would fall in a certain way. But the tree cutter found the axe that belonged to the house too dull to use and on closer inspection realized that it was also covered in blood. The cook claimed to have recently cut some fresh meat with it but suspicion was now aroused and some of McDonald’s friends sent word to San Francisco to inquire about him and to publish a notice in the newspapers there. When a businessman in the city, who had just received a sum of money from the cook to invest in a certain way, saw the notice he apparently suspected the truth and proceeded to Sierra County.

Alturas Mine Slate Creek

After the miners in Pine Grove heard the businessman’s story they went straight to the Slate Creek House and arrested the cook, then headed for Canyon Creek. There they apprehended two of the killers easily but one put up a fight and was shot dead. A miner’s court was held and two of the men confessed to the murder. McDonald’s body was found in a place where the tree that was to be cut would have hidden his final resting place, and the wounds on the corpse confirmed the confession. Since there was no doubt as to their guilt McDonald’s murderers were duly convicted and within a half hour were strung up in a ravine only a hundred yards from the scene of their crime.

 

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