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History of Klickitat, Yakima, and Kittitas County, Washington

published in 1904

A Humorous Trial in Klickitat

John J. Golden, a member of the first party to arrive in Klickitat county and the founder of Goldendale, tells an amusing story of the manner of holding court in the early days of the county's history. Mr. Golden has allowed his hogs to run in the woods, where they throve and fattened on the acorns, but as they seldom saw any person, they soon became as wild as any undomesticated beast of the forest. Mr. Golden intended to let them run in the woods until the snow fell deep enough so that he could track them. The fall season, however, proved to be a mild one, and at no time was the snow deep enough to cover the ground. Mr. Golden succeeded in killing all he needed for his own use, but the rest he determined to abandon, as he did not care to take the trouble to hunt them. Three young men requested and obtained his permission to hunt them and after considerable tramping shot several.

J. H. Alexander, also an early pioneer, claimed that they had killed his hogs, and determined to demand satisfaction for his loss at the hands ot the law. He was the justice of the peace for that section and unblushingly appealed to himself for justice in the case. It is not doubtful that Klickitat's present learned bar would find some irregularities in this manner of dispensing justice, but then the county was not troubled with legal advisors.

Mr. Alexander immediately took steps to apprehend and bring to justice the malefactors. Armed with a pistol which was in reality more dangerous to the user than to the one attacked, he succeeded in arresting two of the acused men, the third, preferring rather to risk the effectiveness of the gun than to trust himself in the hands of the law, took his heels and ran for dear life, never once heeding the challenge of the justice to halt or die.

Now the prisoners were in most respects fearless men, but, having been brought up on the edge of the wilderness always without the reach of the law, and never having seen any of its operations, they had formed a very exaggerated idea of its powers.

The justice appointed the time of trial for the same evening, and summoned witnesses accordingly. John J. Golden was called as a witness for the defense, and, after being duly sworn, told his story. No sooner had he finished his testimony than the justice, who believed in the argumentum ad hominum method of conducting a prosecution, proceeded to revile him for his false and perjured testimony.

The trial continued through the entire night and in the morning the justice, being moved by compassion, dismissed the case and pardoned the offenders, making it evident, however, that he had left himself liable by his leniency and neglect of duty. "I ougt to have hanged you both," said the justice. "I could do it and it is at my own risk that I fail to do my duty."

The poor fellows were in great terror lest they be found guilty and the clemency of the court filled them with gratitude. The justice was somewhat disconcerted, however, and felt sure that this thing of conducting a court had its drawbacks when the witnesses, who had thoroughly enjoyed the fun, came to demand their fees.

© by Cayuse Press

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