Who murdered Sam Shaw?

A portion of Looper's testimony in Shaw's coroner's inquest hearing.
A portion of Looper’s testimony in Shaw’s coroner’s inquest hearing.

Several weeks ago I wrote about the murder of Sam Shaw on the Madeline Plains. At that time, the sheriff was directed to launch an investigation as to who might have been the culprit. All fingers pointed to Shaw’s neighbor, Jim Looper, who was an employee of George Bayley. After all, Looper was supposed to claim the land where Shaw settled due a valuable spring. During the coroner’s inquest, Looper pleaded ignorance of even knowing Shaw, but when he questioned by authorities, he reversed his testimony. There was one problem with the whole puzzle, where was Shaw’s decapitated head? There were some who thought Looper was hired to murder Shaw, and when Looper died of a drug overdose in Susanville in 1888.

In a strange turn of events on February 12, 1885, Modoc County Sheriff C.C. Rachford received some tips about Shaws murder through the Indian community. At that time, Holden Dick, a Pit River was arrested and questioned. Some speculate that A.B. Perry of South Fork (Likely) and Holden Dick were hired to murder shaw, and they decapitated him as proof. Whatever the case, may be, Dick to the sheriff to West Valley, east of Likely, and in a rock pile in a sack produced Shaw’s skull.  Holden Dick was then transferred to Lassen County to be prosecuted for the murder of Shaw. In March 1885, a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. The case was appealed.

In the meantime, Holden Dick was not the only accused murdered in the Lassen County Jail. In November 1885, Griffin Logan,  foreman for Cone’s sheep outfit, was murdered by Vincente Olivas, aka Mexican Ben. In January 1886, Ben was tried and convicted of the murder of Griffin Logan. A motion for a new trial was made and his sentencing was postponed until January 26, 1886. Sometime in the middle of the night of January 23,1886, a vigilante mob broke into the jail and removed Dick and Ben to a nearby woodshed and they were lynched. There had been speculation, that Dick needed to be lynched so he would not reveal the name of the person who hired him to murder Shaw.

The story does not end, as there is the saga of lost Holden Dick Mine.

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2 thoughts on “Who murdered Sam Shaw?”

  1. I’m looking for information on where my mother was raised in Madeline Plains. Her parents were John Lester Williams and Frankie Williams. I believe they had a place somewhere around where the Williams family that live there now.
    Their children was Velma, Rex, Burr, & my mother Opal.
    I know that m mother had to board out to go to school and she stayed with a Basque family.
    Please share with me anything you know.
    my email is tommy-butler@sbcglobal.net

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