The boy from Algerine

About nine o’clock one morning in 1851 a man rode hard into Sonora and headed directly for the sheriff’s office. There he told a deputy, named Captain Stuart, that there had been a robbery in Algerine Camp, a supposed culprit had been caught and a frenzied mob was ready to hang him. In Tuolumne County stealing was viewed as the most serious violation of all the Ten Commandments and men there had little patience with thieves. Stuart, a tall, brave veteran of the war with Mexico, saddled up and rode as fast as he could. In Algerine he found a young boy with bare feet and stripped to his white long johns standing on top of a hill, a rope around his neck and surrounded by the crowd.

Lynch mob

The boy’s face was as pale as a ghost and he pled passionately for his life, but many in the mob were blood thirsty and cried out to hang him. During the commotion Stuart made his way to the boy’s side and began to reason with those who would listen, telling them that to kill such a young fellow would be nothing more than murder and they would regret the act as long as they lived, but too many were unconvinced. As they closed in Stuart pulled his pistol and threatened to blow out the brains of the first man to move, and the crowd stopped. Stuart pled again for mercy but now several of the roughest men rushed him. They pushed Stuart back, grabbed the rope that was around the boy’s neck and lifted him off the ground with it.

Murphys pokey

In the middle of all this commotion Billy Worth, known as a tough fighter and a sure shot, burst into the crowd mounted on a powerful bay, pistol in hand, and sliced the rope that held the boy, pulled him onto the horse then rode like the wind for Sonora where he locked his prisoner into the jail. But the next morning Sonora residents were shocked to see the boy hanging from an oak tree on the hill above city hall. In the dead of night the mob from Algerine had overpowered the jailer and hung the boy. The body was cut down and buried. The town’s women wept loudly and placed flowers on his coffin. The tree the mob had used for their execution was young, healthy and in full leaf when the boy died, but within a few days every leaf on it withered as if the tree also mourned the poor boy’s death. Yet come the next spring the tree produced fresh new leaves again, as if nothing had happened.


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