The Master Timeline

LAST UPDATED May 24, 2022: This is the timeline where I have been compiling most of the information collected during my research from 2012 to 2022. I’ve referred to it constantly while writing and revising the play. There was little primary information available. No diaries, no letters, no court records of the trial (except for the sentencing in the Kalama Bulletin, and the state supreme court decision on the appeal). My first big break came from newspaper coverage of the hanging (thank you, Washington State Library), and years later I learned the Cathlamet Gazette published Robert Day’s story in his own words (thank you, Wahkiakum County Historical Museum). Every scrap of information was a treasure. I even looked into their genealogy forward and backward to gain insight (and in Robert’s case, I created a family tree for him on Ancestry because I found so many errors in what was available).

Please note: This timeline is the ONLY place where all the facts are collected in one spot. There are no books about Ben Holmes or Robert Day, no encyclopedia entries, no sections of history books devoted to their story. There are some articles in The Daily News (Longview) that I wrote, and one edition of the Cowlitz Historical Quarterly that I also wrote. There is one play, The Harder Courage, for which I hold the copyright. If you use my findings for your own project, that’s fine — I can’t copyright facts — but please give me credit for doing all the legwork.

Miramachi River, which flows through the village of Doaktown, New Brunswick, Canada. Doaktown is famous for its fishing, particularly the incomparable Atlantic salmon.

1817

— Lewis Holmes of Sharon., Mass., arrives in Doaktown, the first Holmes to settle in this part of New Brunswick, to engage in the lumber business. He becomes so successful that he tries to persuade Holmes relatives in Massachusetts to join him in Doaktown, but they say Massachusetts is good enough for them.

1832

— Jan. 12 — John F. Caples, who will later co-prosecute Robert Day, is born in Ohio. 

1835

— Henry Goddard becomes the first to connect a bullet to a murder weapon using physical analysis. This technique will be used in Ben Holmes‘ murder investigation of Robert Day in 1891.

1837

Benjamin Lechmore Holmes

— March 9 —  Benjamin Lechmore Holmes, the primary character in The Harder Courage, is born in Doaktown, New Brunswick, Canada, the third of eight children born to Lewis Holmes (1797-1878) and Rachel Betts (1809-1890). He is named Benjamin for his paternal grandfather. He will grow to 5-foot-10, with fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair. His father was a trustee in the Presbyterian Church, so it stands to reason that Ben was raised in the same church. [Notes on religion, employment, war service, place of birth, etc. are in this timeline as elements that inform their characters.]

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

His family tree, published in Descendants of George Holmes of Roxbury, includes Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935), a contemporary of Ben’s. The Holmes men grow magnificent mustaches!

Ben’s character, as described by the mayor at his funeral, was that he was a good officer, a faithful husband, a kind father, a quiet neighbor. Also speaking at his funeral, Myron Billings described him as “one of nature’s noblemen. An unobtrusive gentleman, reticent almost to bashfulness, kind, considerate, gentle, loving, obliging; yet firm, true, honorable. … His was a character so balanced, that even the vilest attacks of any who might be inimical affected him not.”

— July 8 — Myron Elmore Billings, who will later defend Robert Day, is born in Booneville, Oneida County, N.Y., the sixth child of Jarvis and Almira (Partridge) Billings. He will grow to be 6-foot-1, with blue eyes and light curly hair. 

1843

— May 3 — Charles Beebe is born in Athens, Ohio. His siblings include Guy Beebe, who will eventually live in Castle Rock, and Timothy Faustus Beebe (known as “Foss” or “Frank”) who will live in Woodland. Foss and Charley will later run Woodland’s first sawmill. Charley’s son Clint will become Robert Day‘s victim.

1845

— Adolphus Lewes and his brother, Fred, take a donation land claim on the banks of the river east of the present city of Woodland. The river will be named Lewis, after Lewes. (This was not made official until 1929. Tthe native tribes told Lewis and Clark the river was Chah-wa-na-hee-ooks. Capt. George Vancouver named it Rushleigh’s River in 1792, but most people called it the Cathlapootle, the name used on this 1853 map. (Note “Spilyeh,” the Native word for Coyote the Trickster. That will become the name given to a creek that runs into the Lewis, on the East side of Robert Day‘s property.)

— The Irish Potato Famine, known in Ireland as the Great Hunger, begins and will last until 1852. At least a million Irish will perish from starvation and disease, and another million — including the family of Ben’s future wife, Susan — will emigrate to another country.

1847 

— Sometime in the first half of the year, Robert Thompson Day, the co-protagonist in The Harder Courage, is born in Tazewell County, Va., the second of eight children and the eldest son born to Joshua and Adeline Harry Day. His mother was a Catholic, but Robert professed no interest in religion until converting to Catholicism two days before his death.

Robert Day, sketch from a photograph. Cathlamet Gazette, June 3, 1892.

He will grow to be 5-foot-10, thin, with black hair crowning a high “intellectual forehead” (in the words of a reporter at the hanging), brown eyes, and a “dark complexion” (possibly inherited from his Welsh grandmother). He’s given to strong emotion, and is fiercely protective of his family. He enjoys spinning yarns. In writing parlance, he is an unreliable narrator, and Ben must try to figure out what is truth and what is not.

Burke’s Garden, Tazewell County, Virginia. Joshua Day was from a large family of pioneer settlers from England who settled around Wolf Creek in the Burke’s Garden area.

— Nov. 27 — Susan Smith, who will become the wife of Ben Holmes, is born in County Monaghan, Ulster, Ireland, the third of eleven children born to Patrick Smith (1812-1885) and Catherine (Farley) Smith (1816-1885). Monaghan is evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants (mostly Presbyterian), but her younger sister, Katie, was a lifelong Catholic. Therefore, Susan was probably raised Catholic. She writes poetry, has a tender heart, and holds a high regard for honesty. (There are no known photographs of Susan, her siblings, or her children, but blond hair is common amongst the descendants of Susan and Ben, so she probably shared her husband’s fair complexion.)

— Dec. 25 — Scotsman Peter Crawford takes a donation land claim on the east side of the Cowlitz River. He is the first white settler in the area that will become Cowlitz County, and his land will eventually become the city of Kelso.

1849

— First recorded “legal hanging” in what will eventually become Washington state: Two Snoqualmie men, Quallahwurst and Cussas, convicted of murder.

1850 

Mary “Fannie” (left) and Sarah “Sally” Petty, Elizabeth’s sisters, to give an idea what Elizabeth might have looked like.

Elizabeth Augusta Petty, who will become the wife of Robert Day,  is born in Rappahannock, Va., the third of ten children born to Coleman and Eliza (Dowden) Petty. Her birthday falls sometime after July 20, because in the census taken 7/20/1870, her age is 19. [note: in the 1880 census, she lists her age as 28, and in her June 1902 marriage to Lonzo Gallup, she lists her age as 49, both which would put her birth year as ca. 1852. It’s definitely her, because she lists her parents as Coleman and Eliza Petty. In the 1910 census, Elizabeth gives her age at last birthday as 52, which would put her birth year ca 1857. The census is definitely the same Elizabeth, as it includes her son Frisco and his wife Bertha in the same household. And in the 1920 census (recorded in January), she lists her age as 58, which would mean her birth year was 1862. Female vanity or clerical errors?] There is no known photograph of Elizabeth, but her sisters Mary and Sarah had dark hair and share a strong family resemblance, so perhaps Elizabeth looked like them.

— The town of Monticello is established by Harry Darby Huntington on his Donation Land Claim on the lower Cowlitz River. It will be the site of the historic Monticello Convention in 1852. It later serves as the first Cowlitz County seat. In 1867 the Cowlitz River will flood and destroy the town (dikes were not built until the 1920s). By the 1880s almost nothing will remain. Applied Industries now occupies part of the site.

— Nov. 27 — Nathaniel Bloomfield, who will judge Day’s case, is born in Bowling Green, Ky.

1851 

— The 1851 Canada census shows Benjamin Holmes, 13, living in New Brunswick with his parents, six siblings, and a live-in housemaid. His father’s occupation is listed as farmer.

— Aug. 20 — Inspired by a rousing Fourth of July speech in Olympia, settlers north of the Columbia River meet at Cowlitz Landing (Toledo area) to discuss petitioning Congress to form a new territory separate from Oregon Territory. They begin work on a petition to be completed at a later meeting.

1852

— Squire and Millie Bozarth take a donation land claim near the mouth of the Lewis River. Their farm, which they name “the Woodland Farm,” is where the city of Woodland will eventually be located.

— July 5 — Myron Billings, 15 but tall for his age, enlists in Company D, First U.S. Dragoons at Fort Snelling, Minn., giving his age as 21. He and his brother Henry will be discharged less than a year later for being underage. He will later attend the University of Notre Dame for 2 1/2 years and may have been admitted to the bar before the war (source: Antietam on the Web)

— Nov. 25 — Territorial advocates meet again, this time at the home of Harry Darby Huntington at Monticello (“the Monticello Convention”), and finish drafting a petition for a new territory to be named Columbia. This results in H.R. 348 creating Washington Territory. (Today an ancient oak tree and a plaque, viewable from SR 432, mark the location of the Monticello Convention.)

1853 

— Jan. 23 — Ezra Meeker is the first white settler in the area that will eventually become Kalama, staking a claim and building a small log cabin. He sells his property in 1854 and moves to Puget Sound.

— April 15 — Catherine Smith and five children — John, 12, Mary, 9, Susan, 5, Catherine, 4, and Theresa, 1 — arrive at the port of New York, where they are met by Patrick. The family will live in New York for three years before moving to Clearfield, Juneau County, Wis., in July 1855. The county was founded in 1850 by Irish immigrants, but in fact the entire state of Wisconsin was a magnet for the Irish. In 1860, Wisconsin’s Irish population numbered 49,961, but soon the Irish began to move westward and were replaced by German immigrants.

1854

— April 21 — The Washington Territorial Legislature forms Cowlitz County and designates Monticello as the county seat.

— Washington Territory enacts its first death-penalty law. Hanging is the automatic punishment for first-degree murder, and will remain so until 1981, when the option of lethal injection is added. County sheriffs will be responsible for hangings until 1904, when the state will take over the duty.

— Castle Rock is born in a settlement of William Huntington’s. He names it after a large rock.

1859

— Ambrose Patton is elected sheriff, serving two two-year terms. He will later be murdered (see entry under 1882). Ben tells the story in the play.

1860 

— Cowlitz County population is 406 (federal census)

— The census shows Robert Day, 12, living in the Five Oaks/Clearfork area of Tazewell County. His father is a farmer, with real estate valued at $1,500 and personal estate at $685.

— The census shows Elizabeth Petty, 10, living in Montgomery, Maryland, with her parents and seven siblings. Her father is a farmer, with real estate valued at $600 and personal estate at $400.

— The census shows Susan Smith, 13, living in Clearfield, Juneau County, Wis., with her family, including sisters Mary, Margaret, Catharine and Theresa, and brothers Charles, Francis and Andrew. Patrick is a farmer, with real estate valued at $400 and personal property at $200. Numerous other farmers and laborers on the same census page are Irish immigrants.

— In Washington territory and state, there were 18 lynchings between the 1860s and 1919 (Michael Pfeifer, Evergreen State College). None of these were in Cowlitz County. Extrajudicial execution, which is usually done by hanging but can also be by other means, was a fixture in the Old West when pioneers didn’t like waiting to let someone else settle their disputes. The first recorded lynching in Washington was in the early 1860s near Steilacoom. The victim was an Indian man accused of killing a Chinese immigrant. Despite the race of this lynching victim, most people lynched in Washington were white. I’m pointing this out because many people have assumed that because Robert Day was the target of a lynch mob, he must have been Black. Yes, racial prejudice existed in the Pacific Northwest (it was even written into the Oregon Constitution), but it does not appear to have been the reason Robert was targeted. I have considered the possibility that he was assumed to have some Native American ancestry, which was common in old Virginia families, but I have been unable to confirm this. In all censuses he is listed as white, and no news story mentions race until his son’s disappearance in 1910 (see Epilogue). So if not for his race, why do I think Robert was targeted by a lynch mob? There are several reasons, in no particular order: (1) He was a squatter in an old-growth forest, instead of legally buying land; (2) his cattle interfered with logging operations by wandering freely and eating hay put out for the loggers’ ox teams; (3) he walked boldly into the Beebe logging camp carrying a rifle, when he knew that no one else carried guns in the logging camp; (4) he shot and killed the son of a popular mill owner on what was widely believed to a flimsy motive; (5) rumors spread that Day was a desperado who had killed many other men, a terrifying thought in what had been a peaceful county up until then; and (5) there had been a trend in the courts of capital cases being successfully appealed on account of errors, and lynchings were a reaction by people who felt that justice was being thwarted.

1861 

— April 12 — Civil War begins

— Charles Beebe serves as a private, 39th Ohio Infantry, Company “K” (all Charley’s brothers will also serve in the Union Army)

Myron Billings

— Dec. 16 — Myron Billings, age twenty-five, enlists in the 2nd Minnesota Sharpshooters (attached to the 1st Minnesota Infantry regiment). He is later wounded in the foot by shrapnel at Antietam in the first ten minutes of battle and is honorably discharged for disability on July 12, 1863. He will later re-enlist. In all, he will serve in six or seven different regiments during his storied Civil War career, and will be discharged at war’s end with the rank of lieutenant colonel (by brevet).

1863 

— January — Robert Day, age fifteen, joins the Confederate Army, serving in the newly formed Sixteenth Virginia Cavalry, Company “I.” All the soldiers in his regiment, including his father, Lt. Joshua Day, are from Tazewell County. He will serve until the war ends in April 1865. In 1863 or early 1864, he is part of a firing squad executing two deserters from his unit on orders from Col. Milton J. Ferguson. Robert said of his Confederate service: “I always stood by my post like a man. I never flinched and I never was afraid to do my duty. No man ever stood up like I did. I never turned my back to the enemy.” Given his known war experiences, it’s possible that Robert suffered from melancholia (depression) and “soldier’s heart,” the Civil War term for PTSD. [Notes: Robert’s name does not appear in the entry for the 16th Virginia Cavalry in the National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database. However, Robert’s name does appear on the original roster of Company I published in the Clinch Valley News on Jan. 19, 1906. A relative of Day’s, Karen Eagle Moman, annotated this list in 2002 and verified it is the same Robert Day. His father, Joshua, is listed as a 3rd Lt. in the original roster, but as a 1st Lt. at end of service on the NPS site. James Dillion, who was one of the two men involved in a deadly fight with Day after the war, is listed in Co. F of the 16th Virginia Cavalry on the NPS site. Was Dillion a relative or close friend of a deserter that Day executed? A lingering question: Did Robert leave the regiment and join the guerrillas, as rumored?] [P.S. Robert’s tree includes Whitten Day, who may be the Confederate soldier who mistakenly shot and killed Gen. Stonewall Jackson, according to the family history in Some Days from Virginia.]

— Jan. 24: J.M. Bates, white, accused of murder, is lynched in Steilacoom.

1864

— Feb. 1 — Charles Beebe marries Olive Richardson, his cousin, in Athens, Ohio. 

— February — Col. Milton J. Ferguson and the 16th Virginia Cavalry capture an armed steamer, B.C. Lera, on the Kanawha River at Winfreela, Putnam Co., Virginia. 

— Feb. 15 — Col. J. Ferguson of the 16th Virginia Cavalry is captured, along with “most of his command,” hiding in the hills of Wayne and Logan counties, Virginia, and stealing horses and guarding 40 prisoners of war. This became known as Murder Hollow. Ferguson’s order to Robert to kill deserters must have occurred before his capture. (According to a Confederacy site, Ferguson was released near the end of 1864.)

— Myron Billings, age 27, re-enlists as a private in the Fifth Iowa Cavalry, Company “L.” 

— May 2 — Ben Holmes, age 26, joins the Union Army in Bangor, Maine. 17th Maine Infantry, Co. E. (U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914). The unit is sent to join Gen. Grant’s Wilderness Campaign.

The enlistment book shows his name, place of enlistment, home, age, occupation, eye and hair color, skin tone, and height, to-wit: Holmes, Benjamin; Bangor [indecipherable]; Miramichi, New Brunswick; 26; Lumberman; blue [a ditto mark], light, light, 5-foot-10. On the next page it lists his regiment and how/when his service ended.

— June 9 — Siege of Petersburg. Virginia, begins. It will continue until March 25, 1865. Both Ben Holmes’ and Robert Day’s regiments will serve there at different times.

— Aug. 17 — A cease-fire is called to give armies a chance to collect the dead from the battlefield after three days of fighting during the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, in which the 17th Maine Infantry fought. That same day, Ben deserts the Union Army, as noted in the same record book that recorded his enlistment. (Robert’s unit is in the Shenandoah Valley at this time.)

Desertion was endemic in both the Union and Confederate armies by this point in the war. This shows part of the page where Ben’s desertion was recorded (his entry — 17 Inf E. Dest’d Aug 17 64 — is the one at top). Although desertion from the Union Army was punishable by death, most of these soldiers escaped both the war and the penalty.

— Oct. 5 — Myron Billings is discharged from his regiment so he can accept a commission as second lieutenant in Company “A” of the 115th U.S. Colored Infantry. (It was standard for the commanders of these regiments to be white. His official bio substitutes the word “volunteers” in place of “colored infantry.”)

1865

— The town of Freeport along the Cowlitz River is established on Nathaniel Stone’s donation land claim. (This is now part of Longview, where Hudson Street meets the Cowlitz.)

— Feb. 28 —  Myron Billings is promoted to the rank of captain of Company “C” of the 120th U.S. Colored Infantry. The regiment was assigned to garrison and guard duty in the Dept. of Kentucky. The 120th was discontinued in June 1865. 

— April 7 — Robert is captured by Yankee troops near Farmville, escapes, and is captured again by Sheridan’s cavalary near Appomattox.

— April 9 — General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the Civil War. Myron Billings is in Petersburg and Richmond during the surrender. He would recall seeing President Lincoln walking up the streets of Richmond, leading his son Tad by the hand. Robert Day is in Yankee custody at this moment.

Robert Day’s entire family moves to Missouri. He remains in Tazewell and farms. [Why did they leave? Why didn’t he go with them?]

— July 12 — Myron Billings resigns from the 120th U.S. Colored Infantry and moves to Minnesota to open a law practice.

— November — Voters move Cowlitz County’s county seat from Monticello to Freeport.

1867

— January — Robert Day is in a deadly fight with James Dillion and William Wilson near Mudfork in the Tazewell area. He and Dillion had argued a few days earlier (no details available, but my theory is that it was related to Day shooting the deserters). Both Dillion and Wilson had served in the 16th Virginia Cavalry; Dillion in E Company, Wilson in B Company. Day allegedly shoots them both, killing Wilson and wounding Dillion. He flees to Missouri and joins his family. During his trial and later on the gallows, he will deny killing anyone other than the deserters. [Note: in 1901, a James Dillion was held in the Richmond jail as a suspect in the robbery of the Orange Courthouse Post Office. Unknown if it’s the same person.]

 — Myron Billings is appointed assistant U.S. District Attorney in Russellville, Ky., and is also appointed assistant agent in the Freedman’s Bureau during Reconstruction.

Thomas Clinton Beebe, called Clint, is born in Kansas, the third of seven children born to Charles and Olive Beebe. He will later become Robert Day’s victim. Very few details are available about him, but he must have been personable, because he had many friends — including Robert Day, who said, “Clint and I were good friends before [the shooting] and would have been yet had it not been for Dave Beebe.”

1869 

— Myron Billings moves to Waverly, Iowa, where he practices as an attorney for twenty-two years.

1870 

— Cowlitz County population is 730.

— Northern Pacific Railroad buys 700 acres for the terminus of the new railroad as well as its new headquarters in the area that will become Kalama. Essentially, the railroad creates the town, which is named for the nearby river (which in turn was named either for settler John Kalama or for a Native American word). The railroad will build a dock, a sawmill, a car shop, a roundhouse, turntable, and other railroad facilities. Within a few months the town has four hotels, two general stores, three saloons, one brewery, one printing shop, two shoe shops, one barber shop, two churches, one machine shop, one school and a Masonic hall. Most of the structures and sidewalks are built 15 to 20 feet above ground level due to frequent flooding of the river.

— Jan. 22: Two white men, B. Gibson and Charles McDonald, are lynched in Pierce County for claim-jumping and threats of violence.

— June 23 — Ben Holmes and Susan Smith are married in Juneau, Wisconsin. (source: Wisconsin Marriage Index). The 1870 census shows Benjamin Holmes, 28, and Susan Holmes, 20, living in Neceah, Wisconsin. However, the math shows their ages to be 33 and 23 when they were married. Ben’s occupation is recorded as common laborer.

Susan Holmes’ sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Jim Carter, settle on the Kalama Prairie and raise sheep. They write home about the beauty of the place, and ultimately Ben, Susan, and three of Susan’s brothers will move there.

1871

— The Northern Pacific Railroad Co. contracts with “the leading Chinese firms of San Francisco” to provide 2,000 Chinese laborers to build the railroad. The men will be brought up by steamship in squads of 250. Their primary settlement in Kalama will become known as China Gardens. After the railroad is built, the Chinese will be forced out of Kalama.

— February — W.S. Blackwell builds the Kazano House, a three-story hotel and restaurant in Kalama. Blackwell says, “It was a rather pretentious hotel for a new town. The owners of the townsite were strong prohibitionists and a clause forbidding the sale of liquor was inserted in each deed. The ‘wet’ element got around this by anchoring saloon boats out in the river. They were very popular and the Kazano was not a financial success.” The railroad will rent office space there.

Excavating the railroad south of Kalama.
Laying track in Kalama.

— April — Track laying begins in Kalama. By April 8, Kalama has 65 buildings, with 30 more to be built when the weather clears. There are 10 hotels and restaurants, four general stores, one sawmill, two butcher shops, three shoe shops, two churches under construction, and the railroad office. The Chicago Hotel is almost finished along a street with new wooden sidewalks. On this day, a small paragraph in the Oregonian reads: “Kalama is a riddle. Everyone seems to have doubts about its stability. It is certain that it will be a place of some importance while the road is being built. In all probability the company will then take off its shoes and turn it out to grass.”

— April 9 — Annie Teresa Holmes is born in Lisbon, Wis., to Ben and Susan Holmes

— May — Kalama’s population numbers 700, including four doctors and three lawyers.

— Aug. 10 — Robert Day marries Elizabeth Augusta Petty in Lafayette, Mo., and they begin farming. They will live in Missouri, Kansas and briefly in Idaho before heading west.

— Nov. 29 — Kalama is unofficially incorporated. Dr. Louis H. Whitehouse is the first mayor.

1872 

Robert’s son, William, thin like his father.

— April 27 — William Parker Day is born in Kansas City, Kan., to Robert and Elizabeth Day.

— Sept. 7 — Lewis Charles Holmes is born in Necedah, Wis., to Ben and Susan Holmes. He is called “Charlie.”

— November — Kalama is voted the county seat of Cowlitz County, replacing Freeport. It will serve as county seat until 1922.

Freeport as it looked in 1873, after Kalama took over as the county seat.

1873 

Nathaniel Bloomfield is admitted to the Washington bar.  

— W.S. Blackwell sells the Kazano House hotel to Cowlitz County and moves the furniture to Tacoma. The courthouse will contain the courtroom, county offices, jail (which was outside before Ben moved it indoors), and sheriff’s living quarters. The building will stand until 1923, when Kelso becomes the county seat. The Kalama Community Building occupies its footprint today.

Cowlitz County Courthouse in Kalama, formerly the Kazano House, as viewed from Elm Street, which runs west-east, with west at left. The sheriff’s office is on the ground floor, SW corner. The courtroom is in the SE corner, partially obscured.

— April 27: Jim Shell, part Indian, accused of murder, is lynched in Tacoma.

1874

—Jan. 5 — Rail service from Kalama to Tacoma begins. The Northern Pacific prepares to move its headquarters to Tacoma. Kalama’s population, which peaked at 5,000, begins to drop.

James B. Stone

— James B. Stone is elected sheriff, serving until 1882. He and his family will live on the second floor of the courthouse until the end of his term, and three of his children will be born there. They later had a house in town not far from the courthouse. When his son, future judge James Earl Stone, was a teenager, he walked past the lynch mob that intended to kill Day. He later almost saw Day’s execution, had it not been for quick action from a teacher. The younger Stone’s walk past the lynch mob is mentioned in the play.

1875

— July — Dexter L. Day is born in Jewell County, Kan., to Robert and Elizabeth Day. His conflict with Clint Beebe in 1891 will set off events that result in Beebe’s death and Dex’s father’s execution.

1876 

The T.J. Potter, which carried the Holmes family to Kalama

Ben and Susan Holmes move to Cowlitz County, coming by railroad to San Francisco and by steamship to Portland, and then by the T.J. Potter side-wheeler to Kalama. The journey takes a month, with the steamship taking much longer than the train. They homestead along the Kalama River, “where the stream rushes out from the hills and deepens into many pools,” according to the Holmes family history. “He could see salmon resting in them until they ascended into the rapids to spawn. He contemplated the swirling might of water emptying into the Columbia three miles to the west.” Ben also files a timber claim on the Coweeman River. He builds and operates a sawmill, and has a yoke of oxen to handle the operation. He will work as a logger until he runs for sheriff in 1884.

— Francis S. Holmes is born to Ben and Susan sometime this year, possibly before they leave Wisconsin, but dies. The name Francis will be given to the next child.

— There are floods every year in Kalama, Woodland, Monticello, Freeport and Kelso. Of the major flood in 1876, wags were heard to say, “The high water was so bad it drowned all the fish in the Columbia River.” Fortunately, the courthouse had been constructed on a hill.

1877 

— Kalama’s population is 700.

— May 10 — Walter Tom Day is born in Lafayette Co., Mo., to Robert and Elizabeth Day.

— Dec. 19 — Francis Lechmore Holmes, a son, is born in Kalama, Washington Territory, to Ben and Susan Holmes. He is called “Little Francis” and “Frank.”

1878 

— John F. Caples is elected district attorney, his territory comprising Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia and Clatsop counties.

1879

— A fire in Kalama destroys all but two of the buildings between the river and the courthouse, and the town is soon disincorporated. Citizens have already nicknamed the town “Calamity.”

— March 19 — John Warren Holmes is born in Kalama, W.T., to Ben and Susan Holmes.

— May 7 — A story in the Astorian newspaper describes Kalama as “a very dull place, without hope of revival.”

— Thomas Edison patents the first commercial light bulb. However, electricity would not come to Kalama until Sept. 6, 1903, and not to the Lewis River Valley (where the Days lived) until 1929, when Merwin Dam is built.

1880 

— Kalama’s population is down to 129, according to the census.

— Cowlitz County population is 2,062

— Missouri census (recorded in June) shows Robert Day, 31, Elizabeth, 28, William, 8, Dexter, 5, and Walter, 3, living in Lafayette County. Robert is a farmer. They have one live-in hired hand, Joseph Palmer, 14, who is black.

— Missouri census also shows the Beebe family living in Schell City, Vernon, Missouri. Clint, age 12, has four siblings: Mary, 16, Etta, 11, Harry, 6, and Dick 4.

Ben and Susan Holmes’s residence is listed as in Owl Creek postal district, which is on the Coweeman River, so they may have been living on his timber claim while their house was being built on the Kalama. It’s also possible they were living with or near her sister and brother-in-law, Mary and James Carter, who are also living in Owl Creek according to the 1880 census.

— Three Holmes family stories, undated: The Holmes children attended a one-room schoolhouse that served the families of the early settlers. The pupils played games at recess and were accustomed to lend and borrow chewing gum from each other. In time, all walked the railroad tracks to Kalama to school.

A piano was a joyful addition to a home on the Kalama River prairie. When one came to her home, Annie learned to play. A glorious day came to Annie and Charlie when they, many, many, years later, entered the Dearborn Henry Ford Fiddlers Contest and competed at the Rivoli Theatre in Portland.

Little Francis and John were a bit more mischievous. The Holmes family had befriended an old Native American named Doc. Doc had lived his whole life in the developing territory of the Kalama River and would come daily for biscuits and baked beans. When he arrived, Doc would hold out his hat and Susan would fill it to the brim with beans and biscuits. One day, Doc came by not for food, but to retrieve his indispensable ax that Little Francis and John had stolen and hidden. When confronted, the thieving rascals lied and claimed to know nothing of the ax. Charlie protested and said to old Doc, “Truff, truff” (truth, truth), and led old Doc to where his ax was hidden. Susan was very proud of Charlie’s forthrightness in befriending and helping Doc.

1881

— The city of Woodland is established on the Bozarth land claim.

1882

— April 23 — Hattie Bell Day is born in Lafayette, Missouri, to Robert and Elizabeth Day.

— Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 people are lynched in the United States, including 3,446 African Americans and 1,297 whites. More than 73 percent of lynchings in the post-Civil War period occurred in the Southern states. (source: Tuskegee Institute). Lynching, which had ceased in Washington as it became more settled, would make a brief comeback this year.

— Jan. 18: Three men, James Sullivan, William Howard and Benjamin Payne, all white, are lynched in King County for murder. There had not been a lynching in Washington since 1873.

— June — Aldy Neal of Spokane County, white, is lynched for horse theft. He is the last person to be lynched in Washington Territory. There will not be another lynching until 1891, two years after statehood.

— Nov. 12 — Former sheriff Ambrose Patton is found floating in the Cowlitz River with 11 buckshot wounds in his left side. The body had been dragged from the road to the bluff, and his wallet (with $150) and silver watch are missing. His brother-in-law, Andrew Leonard, is convicted the following May of first-degree murder and is sentenced to hang on July 20. This would have been Cowlitz County’s first judicial hanging had Leonard not won his appeal. The territorial supreme court reverses the decision on the grounds that the indictment charged only manslaughter (although according to one newspaper article, the conviction was appealed because “one of the jurors that convicted him was heard to declare before the trial that Leonard ought to be hanged.”) He is retried in Vancouver in 1886 and is convicted of manslaughter. He is sentenced to serve in the infamous Seatco Prison (now the town of Bucoda in Pierce County). Seatco, the first penitentiary in Washington Territory, is known to prisoners as “hell on earth.” (Robert asks Ben about this case in the play.)

1883 

— Kalama is the northern terminus of a railroad ferry (the Tacoma, which could hold an entire train) across the Columbia River to Goble, Ore. This is a critical link in rail service until 1909, when major rail bridges to Portland will be completed.

— Sunset Telephone-Telegraph Line (later Pacific Northwest Bell) opens in Seattle with 90 subscribers, including the King County sheriff. The rest of the state would lag far behind. The first Seattle-Tacoma-to-Portland toll line would not be built until 1893. Kalama will get its first telephone in 1904, inside Coffey’s Pool Hall. The first telephone line in the Yale Valley will be installed in 1907. 

1884

— Peter Crawford plats a city on his donation land claim and names it Kelso, after his home in Scotland. The southern line of his property borders the claim of fellow Scotsman Victor Wallace. Today the line is marked by Mill Street in South Kelso.

— May — A typical newspaper item of the times: “There were six hangings and three lynchings in the United States last Friday, and seven other persons were sentenced to execution.”

— November — Ben Holmes is elected to the first of his four two-year terms as sheriff of Cowlitz County, defeating Walter Lysens 422-395. He succeeds Joseph Smith.

Then and now, the sheriff is the primary law enforcement officer of a county. He serves legal papers, maintains court security, and oversees the jail. In the 19th century he was also the tax collector and the administrator of punishments, including executions. There was no formal law enforcement training in these times, but sheriffs were expected to know how to use a gun. Like Ben, most sheriffs had military experience. 

Ben, however, chose not to wear a gun when he was sheriff, and he is not unique. Despite what you see in the movies, most western sheriffs kept the peace through the virtue of their authority rather than their guns. Most people in Cowlitz County didn’t carry one, except when they were hunting. Loggers, farmers and fishermen didn’t wear six-shooters. This is why it would cause such a sensation in 1891 when Robert Day walked into a logging camp carrying a rifle.

Crime investigation was not as sophisticated as today. Detectives were rare, and forensics was in its infancy, but the ability to connect a bullet to a murder weapon was first done in 1835. Even though the science of ballistics was still developing in 1891, this technique would be used in the Day investigation.

How Kalama looked in the 1880s when Ben Holmes became the sheriff, looking west down Fir Street. Those are telegraph poles, as there would be no telephones or electric lights in Kalama until years later.

1885

— Fred Jack Day is born in Missouri to Robert and Elizabeth Day. He is nicknamed Frisco.

— Joshua and Adeline Day (Robert‘s parents) move to Midvale, Idaho. Most of their family will join them.

1886

— November — Ben Holmes is elected to his second two-year term.

1887 

Robert Day receives a letter informing him of his father’s death and summoning him to Idaho. Robert sells his farm in Lamar County, Mo., for $900 and moves his family to Midvale, but in the will he inherits only $1 (whereas his brother Byron inherited one-fifth of his father’s cattle). Elizabeth does not like the climate and wants to move. Some of his brothers had been to Washington & Oregon, and tell Robert it’s easy to find land there. 

— February — Andrew Leonard, who had been sentenced to 15 years in Seatco prison for manslaughter in the killing of his brother-in-law, former sheriff Ambrose Patton, is shot and killed while trying to escape after a year behind bars.

— Seatco Prison is shuttered after nine years of operation. All prisoners are transferred to Walla Walla.

— August — Ben Holmes is a delegate from Washington Territory to the Columbia Waterway Association’s convention in Astoria. 

Myron Billings, in a newspaper illustration for a story about the Kingsley case.

— December — Myron Billings is charged with first-degree murder of Willis Kingsley, a county attorney in Waverly, Iowa. Billings and Kingsley once shared office space, and Kingsley had at one time been a boarder in Billings’ home. A witness heard the two arguing in Kingsley’s office, with Kingsley saying Billings was trying to “work up a scheme on me.” [Documents showed that Billings tried to blackmail him.] The witness heard two pistol shots, and then Billings ran out into the street. He had a bullet hole in the back of his coat, but the bullet had been stopped by his suspender ring. Kingsley had a bullet wound near his right eye. Both bullets came from the same gun. The defense claims Kingsley committed suicide. 

Robert Day borrows money from his folks in Idaho and moves with his wife and children to Oregon. He spends about four months in Portland on a fruitless job search before he hears of unsurveyed land on the Lewis River.

Detail from 1888 map of Washington Territory showing the north fork of the Lewis.

1888 

The Lucea Mason, a steamboat that operated from 1883 to 1891 on the Lewis, Columbia and Willamette rivers.

— March — Robert Day and his family take the steamer Lucea Mason up the north fork of the Lewis. They move into an abandoned logging shanty fifteen miles upriver and begin rebuilding their lives. Robert would recall, “I had just $1 left when I moved into that old shanty.” His children range in age from sixteen to two. His son Walter recalled that “the first thing we did was plant a garden.” Robert begins raising cattle, as his father and brothers had done. (Claiming “squatters rights” was common, although frowned upon by some. Squatters moved onto unsurveyed land without a title under the belief that by clearing the land and building a home, they had earned the right to buy it at a minimum price after it was surveyed.)

A typical logging shanty, a simple log shelter/bunkhouse.

— Andrew Hoggatt, who would become a longtime volunteer deputy, moves to Kalama from Kansas in 1888. 

— April — Myron Billings is convicted of second-degree murder in the Kingsley case. His wife is charged with perjury in the same case (she had testified the deceased “made love” to her).

— November — Ben Holmes is elected to his third two-year term as sheriff, defeating William Studebaker.

1889

— The Kalama Fire Dept. is established.

— Adam Catlin plats the town of Catlin, which is incorporated into the city of Kelso in 1907 and eventually becomes West Kelso (on the west side of the Cowlitz River).

— The first school is opened in Kalama, a one-room, eight-grade school with one teacher and about thirty pupils. It’s located on the corner of Third and Elm streets, uphill from the courthouse. 

— March 4 — Benjamin Harrison is inaugurated as president of the United States.

— May 8 — The Astorian newspaper publishes details of a bizarre case that Ben Holmes was involved with. Edwin Hobbs of Oregon City had come to the Lewis River area and courted Mary Brazee of La Center. He bought a farm from his fiancee’s uncle, stocked it with cattle and furnished the house elegantly, but right before the wedding he told his fiancee that it was impossible for them to marry. He talked her into living together on the promise that they would marry “soon,” and keeping it a secret. After five months and still no marriage, she returned to her parents, sued Hobbs for breach of promise and attached Hobbs’s property. Finding that an attachment would not hold on these grounds, she sued for seduction and attached again. The state also filed a criminal charge of seduction. Meanwhile, Hobbs and his father concocted a clever scheme. They forged documents showing that a “Dr. William Hobbs” actually owned the property and had sold it to Edwin Hobbs’ father. This was found to be defective, and Mary Brazee won her case. Old man Hobbs then attempted to recover the farm by suing her and Ben Holmes. When the case went to trial in Kalama, the father had disguised his son by plastering hair on his bald head, padding his bow legs, and teaching him to stutter. They tried to get people who knew Edwin Hobbs to testify that he was the fictional Dr. William Hobbs, and the elder Hobbs swore to this on the stand. The game did not work. Mary Brazee got to keep her property. The fact that Ben stood up for a woman who had lived “in sin” with Hobbs, despite society’s traditional disapproval, is consistent with his reputation for kindness and ability to deal fairly with everyone. (In the play, Ben entertains Robert with this story, but the audience only hears the end.)

 — (unknown date) Washington Territory vs. Chill Can, found guilty of second-degree murder. He is an Indian. (This is the first murder case I can find under Ben as sheriff).

— May — Myron Billings’ murder conviction is reversed on appeal.

— Sept. 7 — Myron Billings is tried a second time for the Kingsley murder.

— Sept. 17 — The Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs this story: Ben Holmes assists Seattle Police Chief J.C. Mitchell with closing a forgery case from Pennsylvania. In 1888 William Tobias, a young man of good standing in Harrisburg, Pa., shocked the community by forging his uncle’s name on two checks and decamping with his ill-gotten gains, more than $10,000. His uncle owned a store of which Tobias was the proprietor, and it wasn’t doing good business, so Tobias resorted to forgery to hide his failure. Several months later a friend of his got drunk and let slip that he was in Washington. Attorney Joshua Weistling, who had moved from Harrisburg to Seattle, placed the matter in Chief Mitchell’s hands. He spent several months on the investigation and finally located Tobias in a logging camp on the Columbia River, twenty miles below Kalama. Mitchell wired Harrisburg for a photo of Tobias and the indictments, and swore out a warrant for Tobias’s arrest. He forwarded the warrant and photo to Sheriff Holmes, who “quietly arrested” Tobias on Sept. 17 and wired Chief Mitchell. Tobias is described as about twenty-two, “rather prepossessing in appearance” [in other words, handsome], under medium height, with a dark complexion and dark hair. He took his capture quietly but denied all knowledge of the forgeries. He was sent home to his family. (A “special report by telegram” about his arrest appeared in the Sept. 21, 1889, issue of the Pittsburg Dispatch.)

— Oct. 1 — A judge sentences Myron Billings to life in prison for second-degree murder, but says if he were on the jury, he would not have convicted him. Billings again files an appeal.

Nathaniel Bloomfield

— Oct. 14 — Woodland is platted by A.W. Zack.

— November — Nathaniel Bloomfield is elected superior court judge for the circuit comprising Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Clark and Skamania counties. In addition to Robert Day’s trial, he will judge the Clark County murder trial of Edward Gallagher, who will be hanged in Vancouver, and the Pacific County murder trial of John Rose and John Edwards, which will be overturned on a technicality, sparking a lynch mob into action.

— Nov. 11 — Washington becomes a state.

1890 

— Kalama’s population is 325, according to the census.

— Federal census shows Cowlitz County population to be 5,917. This varies from Barton’s Legislative Handbook, Cowlitz County’s population at 5,888 in 1890 (later corrected to 5,917), up from 2,062 in 1880 and 730 in 1870. Area, 1,141 square miles. Like the state, Cowlitz is heavily Republican, with a Republican state senator (C.E. Forsyth) and representative (Eugene Brock). Ben Holmes is a Democrat, but according to his eulogist Myron Billings, Ben got along with everyone.

Hite Imus

— Kalama is reincorporated and W. Hite Imus is elected mayor. After serving two terms, Imus will go on to hold a succession of public positions, including Kalama postmaster (1897-1913), Kalama School Board president (1902-1911) and county clerk (1917-1922), among other things. He is a tireless booster of Kalama.

— The Kalama Bulletin weekly newspaper is founded by the Imus brothers. Ben Holmes is one of the original subscribers. In the play, Robert regards the Imus brothers and their newspaper as his enemies, due to the newspaper’s sensational coverage of the Beebe murder.

— A second story is added to the Kalama schoolhouse and a second teacher is hired. There are now about sixty pupils. It is from the second floor that the children will attempt to watch the hanging of Robert Day in 1892.

— Adolphus Lee Lewes moves the post office to his home one mile north of Woodland and renames it Kerns. It is a banking, express and telegraph point ten miles southeast of Kalama, where Schurman Machine is located today. (Eventually it will be absorbed into Woodland). Robert‘s name appears in some briefs in the Kalama Bulletin under the label “Kerns and vicinity.”

— Castle Rock is chartered. It will soon become the largest town in Cowlitz County. 

— Feb. 24 — The Clark County Courthouse burns to the ground, destroying all court and land ownership records and creating a headache for Judge Bloomfield. The last of the five prisoners to be rescued from the jail in the burning building is Edward Gallagher, who will later become the first man to be hanged in Washington state.

Charley Beebe

— Charley Beebe (pictured) moves to the Woodland area with his wife, Olive, and family, including son Thomas Clinton Beebe, age twenty-one. There is no known photo of Clint Beebe, so his father’s picture is the closest we can come to seeing what he looked like. Charley and his brother Foss started the first sawmill in Woodland, and after they closed the mill, Charley took the machinery to a location between Martin’s Bluff and Kalama.

— Logging comes to the Lewis River in a big way, with three logging operations on the north fork. Frank Murk puts in a ten-bull camp on the upriver side of Day at the mouth of Speelyai Creek, and Charley and Foss Beebe put in another on the downriver side. Day hires himself out to them from time to time. After the Beebes begin logging, an ongoing dispute begins between the Beebes and Day, possibly involving the property line. There is also annoyance with Day’s cows eating the hay put out for the Beebe oxen. According to historian Margaret Hepola, who grew up on the north fork, cows were belled and were allowed to wander freely, without fences.

Loggers eating lunch on the Lewis River

— July 11 — The Clark County sheriff hangs Edward Gallagher in Vancouver. This hanging, the first in the new state of Washington, is an ugly spectacle featuring fighting, cursing, and a failed attempt by the sheriff to force the prisoner to make a confession before he is hanged. Two hundred people bought tickets to the “hanging holiday,” and hundreds more filled the dirt roads. Some peered through the barrier. Parents held their children high. A woman sold peanuts. Gallagher’s last words are “None of your damned business.” (Although sheriffs from other counties witnessed hangings in Washington, Ben was not at this one. It’s unknown whether he was asked.)

— An editorial in the Vancouver Register newspaper says that Gallagher’s execution should “never have been made a public affair” and asserts that “public executions will not be tolerated in this city … it is a disgrace to our civilization.”

— October — Murder charges against Myron Billings are dismissed. From an Iowa newspaper Oct. 22, 1890: “M.E. Billings of Waverly has been found by the supreme court innocent of the murder of Willis Kingsley after having been twice convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for life. If Billings was actually responsible for the death of Kingsley it was one of the foulest murders in the history of crime. No one in Waverly believes in his innocence and if he shows himself in that locality the town will sustain its bloody reputation and settle the Billings case for good.”

— Myron Billings, who is no fool, hears “there is an excellent practice in Kalama” and moves there. He is elected city attorney and will practice law for thirteen years.

— Major Joseph Smith, who preceded Ben as sheriff, starts a Kalama chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union veterans. More than the fellowship of shared experience, the G.A.R. wields a lot of political influence. Myron Billings will become an active member. Foss and Charley Beebe are also members. Ben Holmes does not join.

— November — Ben Holmes is elected to his fourth term as sheriff, defeating Eiler Huntington. His salary is $1,550 a year.

Cowlitz County as it looked a few years after the events in the play. Ben’s job required him to travel all over the county. The Lewis River marks the border between Cowlitz and Clark counties. Robert Day’s home was about 15 miles upriver, with Ariel the nearest town. Kerns, northeast of Woodland, is where the loggers met to discuss lynching Day after he was in custody. Ben’s home was about 8 miles up the Kalama River, at the bend near the word “Kalama.”

1891

— During this year, there are 5,905 murders committed in the United States. There are 123 prisoners hanged by judicial decree and 195 people executed by lynch mobs. In Washington state, there are four lynchings and zero judicial hangings. The Chicago Tribune describes lynch mobs as “made up of representative citizens, farmers, merchants, men of influence.”

— Jan. 4 — A lynch mob hangs “Stephen,” a 15-year-old boy from the Okanogan tribe, in the Okanogan County Jail where he was being held as a material witness to a murder. This is the first of four lynchings in Washington state this year. Twenty armed men wearing masks lock the jailer in the cell, take Stephen out and execute him, convinced he committed the murder. Newspapers laud the act, and when the facts come out about his innocence, the general attitude is to shrug because Stephen was “only an Indian.” Tribes are understandably furious and there are rumors there might be an uprising, as this was only a month after Wounded Knee.

— Jan. 22 — Ben Holmes is elected treasurer of the newly formed Washington State Sheriffs Association at a convention in Yakima. The primary topic of discussion is the progressive idea of inter-agency cooperation, of which Ben had a firsthand experience when helping King County with its case in 1889. Pierce County Sheriff Price tells a reporter, “In a short time we shall have a system whereby a prisoner escaping from one county can be quickly captured in another of the counties in the state represented in the association. A full set of books will be prepared showing movements by criminals, length of imprisonment, scars and birthmarks upon their bodies, etc.”

Oysterville Jail, with newfangled woven slats instead of bars. A lynch mob poked the barrels of their guns through the slats and murdered two prisoners.

— April 11 — A masked lynch mob of 40 men shoots John Rose and John Edwards in the escape-proof Pacific County Jail in Oysterville, Wash. The prisoners had been awaiting transfer to another county for a new trial on charges of first-degree murder. The victims were a popular local couple, the Fredericksons, and no one liked that the initial verdict was overturned on a technicality. The mob didn’t want to take the chance of Rose and Edwards being acquitted at a second trial.

— April 25 — A lynch mob of 100 soldiers drags A.J. Hunt out of the Walla Walla state penitentiary and gun him down in the street. He had been convicted of murdering a soldier during a card game. Despite his conviction and imprisonment, the soldiers evidently felt that wasn’t enough punishment. The fact that lynch mobs could invade a prison was terrifying to people in the justice system.

— May — President Benjamin Harrison visits Seattle, and the entire state participates. Sheriff Ben Holmes represents Cowlitz County. 

— May 21 — Surveying begins on the North Fork of the Lewis. Surveys will be completed in 1894. The survey map will be accepted by county commissioners in 1904.

On this portion of Anderson’s 1897 map of Cowlitz County, I have marked the Day property and the probable location of the shooting. The Beebe logging outfit was working to the left of the Day ranch, and the Murk camp was to the right. Clint and David Beebe were walking on the trail beside the river when Day caught up with them. They walked until they came to where the path forks between Day’s house and the Murk camp, set up near the mouth of Speelyai Creek (it enters the river between the E and R). In 1890, a steamer bringing food to the Murk camp couldn’t make it over Speelyai riffle and had to back down and unload at the Day place. Today, a creek called “Day Creek” (not on this map) runs through Ariel and into the east end of Lake Merwin, and Speelyai Creek feeds into Speelyai Bay further west on the lake.

__ action in the play The Harder Courage begins at this point __

Oct. 9, Friday — (Sunrise 6:20 a.m., sunset 5:36 p.m.; weather is “cloudy and foggy, cooler, wind becoming westerly”). Sometime between 2 and 5 in the afternoon, Robert Day fatally shoots Thomas Clinton Beebe on the north fork of the Lewis River. He hides in the woods overnight. Dr. Stephens of Castle Rock, county coroner, holds a coroner’s inquest with a five-person jury, which finds that Beebe died of a gunshot wound in the left side, the bullet passing through both lungs. David Beebe, the victim’s cousin, is an eyewitness. The killing is ruled a homicide. Day is named the suspect, and the murder weapon is Day’s Winchester rifle. (In order to scientifically draw that conclusion, both the rifle and bullet had to have been collected. Therefore, Day must have dropped his rifle.) The next morning, Day is arrested a mile from his house by the Woodland constable and a sheriff’s posse, and at 11 p.m. that night, Justice L. Hopf holds a preliminary examination of Day. (In the play, Ben makes the arrest and does the preliminary interview.)

Here is the story of the crime, assembled from various news reports (the court file no longer exists): On the morning of Friday, Oct. 9, Clint Beebe and Day’s 16-year-old son [Dexter] got into a dispute about the Day cows destroying Beebe’s crops. The argument ended with Beebe slapping [Dexter] in the face. Around 2 p.m., Robert Day came home from deer hunting to eat his dinner and learned about the incident from one of his younger sons. He took his Winchester and went to the Beebes’ logging camp about three-fourths of a mile below his ranch. When he arrived he spoke with [Dexter], who told him that Clinton Beebe and his cousin David had gone up to Murk’s camp about two miles upriver to get a yoke of oxen. Day started in pursuit and overtook the pair. They walked together about a half-mile, talking over the issue, and Beebe admitted that his slapped Day’s son. Day then asked Beebe if he told the boy he would as soon slap him as not. Beebe answered that he would, and he told Day to lay his gun down and they would settle the matter. The walkers had reached a point in the road where a fork led to Day’s house. David Beebe said Day then drew up his gun and shot Clinton Beebe through the body. The bullet passed through the right side and through both lungs. Day then told David, “Damn you, do you want some of it?” He started to reload, but the lever jammed. The boy’s response was to beat a hasty and successful retreat. He ran all the way to the camp, arriving around 5 p.m., and spread the alarm. [If it’s true that Day had to reload, then he must have had the 1866 Winchester, as the 1873 is a repeater.]

The 1866 model Winchester rifle, nicknamed “Yellow Boy”

The story of the crime as later told by Robert Day: “Mr. Beebe was logging close to my farm. He threw some hay out. My cows were at Beebe’s. They had beaten my cows, and knocked the horns from one. My boy was working for them. He told them they must quit. They knocked him down. Beebe said if I said anything they would lick me. I was away from home at the time. I was going to work for them the next day. I went down to see how the pay would be. I first asked them if they were going after some cattle, and they answered, ‘Yes.’ I asked them some other questions, which they answered rather short. My little boy told me something about their fussing with my other son. They talked as if they were angry with me. I asked them if they had any trouble with my boy. They said yes, they would ‘knock the boy’s damned head off.’ I told them it was not right to threaten me, as I had not done anything to them. They said they would do it, and I told them I would punch them if they used such rough words. They then rushed on me to take away my gun and I shot one of them. I would not have done it unless I had thought they were going to beat me.” [Until his death, he will maintain that he acted in defense of himself and his family, and therefore is innocent of murder.]

— Oct. 10 — (Sunrise 6:21 a.m.; half moon) A lynch mob hunts Robert Day in the morning, but a sheriff’s posse finds him first. On the way to the courthouse, Day and the Woodland constable avoid one mob north of Woodland and another south of Kalama. (In the play, Ben takes Robert to see his family at Ben’s house before taking him to jail, which is the playwright’s invention). Robert is booked into jail. The roster lists his particulars as 5-foot-10, thin, black hair, dark complexion, and a sword mark across his breast. Being locked up for the shooting, which Robert refers to as “this calamity,” is the first time that Robert and Elizabeth have been separated in 20 years of marriage.

— Sunday, Oct. 11 — The Beebe family holds a funeral for Thomas Clinton Beebe. He was 24 years old and never married. The Oregon Mist reports “He had made a great many friends, which was made manifest by the large number who attended the funeral on Sunday last.”

— Oct. 11 — Dan Boyd, a deckhand, drowns J.W. Kane, a stevedore, by throwing him into the Cowlitz River at Freeport to see if he could swim. Both had been drinking. Boyd is locked up in the jail with Day. (Boyd does not appear in the play).

— Oct. 13 — Either unacquainted with Day‘s version of events or dismissing them as lies, reporters present the story as a shocking murder in retaliation for a trivial offense, described by one reporter as “some boyish quarrel.” The Riverside (California) Enterprise’s headline is “COWARDLY MURDER!”. The Dalles (Oregon) Chronicle headline and subhead are: “A Deliberate Killing / A Rancher Kills a Well-Known Mill Man as a Result of a Quarrel Over Some Stock”. Many newspapers suggest that Day is a desperado who has killed “several other men in his time,” including “thirty men in the war just to see them fall.” The Chronicle quotes Day’s son as saying, “Oh, that’s nothing. It isn’t the first time that Pap has done the like.” [dialect note]

— Oct. 16 — The Kalama Bulletin publishes a story about the two murders, headlined, “The Devil and His Agents Have Evidently Opened Their Campaign.” In the same issue, Charles and Olive Beebe place a “heartfelt thanks” to “our many friends for their assistance in our late bereavement.”  This notice will be their only public comment on the matter.

— Friday, Oct. 16 — (sunset 5:24 p.m., moon almost full) That night, a mass meeting is held at Kerns “with the purpose of collecting a crowd to go to Kalama and take out of jail and lynch Robert Day.” A newspaper later reports that “cooler heads prevailed” and the crowd dispersed. (In the play, Ben is the one who manages to cool them down.) In later years, James Earl Stone recalled that when he was a boy he saw a crowd of fifty or more loggers — one with a rope — on the steps of the courthouse at 9 p.m. on what was probably this night. Afterward, he learned that “they had come from the Lewis River country to lynch a man accused of murder, but the sheriff got wind of it and hid the man in the attic of a downtown store.” [Note: Deputy James M. “Pony” Bush owned a grocery and a saloon in Kalama. It’s not known if the store where Ben hid Robert was Pony’s, but it’s within the realm of possibility, and it’s used in the play.]

James “Pony” Bush

— Oct. 17 — full moon. Susan calls it the “Ivy Moon.”

— Nov. 2-3 — Ben Holmes calls a special meeting of the County Commissioners (Sumner Collins of Silver Lake, J.A. Tooley of Woodland and Patrick Baxter of Freeport) so that a jail salesman can make a pitch. They vote to buy a secure one-cell jail from the Pauly Jail Co. for two thousand dollars — more than Ben’s annual salary.

— Nov. 4 — Prosecutor John S. Beall files charges of first-degree murder against Robert Day and Dan Boyd. Day’s case is on the docket in the Second Judicial District as No. 577: Beall and Pearcy, State of Washington v. Robert Day (murder). [The information (charging document) was filed, but the documents have disappeared and there is nothing on microfilm.]

— Nov. 6 — Day and Boyd appear at arraignment and enter pleas of not guilty. Bars are installed in the jail.

— Nov. 20 — At the Cowlitz County Commissioners regular meeting, Ben Holmes submits the following quarterly expenses: boarding prisoners 148 days, $148; guarding prisoners 50 days, $77; other expenses $3.25; sundries $25; John Schauble for chopping 10 cords of wood, $24; W.F. Morgan for moving the jail and barring the windows, $30; L. Hopf, justice, for State vs. Robert Day, $2.25; and Thomas Chatterson, constable, $15.60. (Before the jail was moved, the original jail may have been outside in the woodshed in the drawing below, an open location vulnerable to any lynch mob. After the attempt to lynch Day, prisoners were moved to the space marked “jail” between the sheriff’s office and the courtroom. Initially a wooden room with barred windows, the space would eventually contain the $2,000 iron cell.) 

Courthouse layout on the first floor, from an 1895 fire map of Kalama. Second Street is at left, Elm Street at the bottom, and Third Street — uphill, a prime vantage point for watching the hanging — is at right. Fir Street, pictured in the 1884 entry, parallels Elm.
John Caples

— Tuesday, Dec. 8 — Robert Day’s murder trial begins. Powerhouse District Attorney John F. Caples of Portland (pictured) assists City Attorney John Beall with the prosecution. Myron Billings is the defense attorney. Boyd, who is also Billings’s client, accepts a plea bargain and pleads guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

— Friday, Dec. 11 — Jury returns verdict of guilty against Robert Day. Day’s attorney, Myron Billings, moves for an arrest of judgment.

— Thursday, Dec. 16 — Judge Nathaniel Bloomfield denies Day’s motion for an arrest of judgment, unconvinced by Billings’ argument that the words “a human being” were omitted from the information. The Kalama Bulletin’s editorial calls Bloomfield’s decision “a sensible opinion.” Day pleads for mercy and asks that the judge not sentence him to death, but instead to life in prison. This is an option in some states, but not in Washington. Bloomfield says he doesn’t have that option, and sentences him to hang within ninety days. (In an attempt to deter lynching, the legislature had removed the option of life in prison for first-degree murder.) Boyd’s sentence for manslaughter is fifteen years’ hard labor at the Walla Walla state penitentiary. 

— later that night — After Robert Day is served dinner, and while court is still going on in the next room, he nearly succeeds in cutting around his left arm with a “common case knife,” i.e. a dull table knife. When he is questioned he pretends to be sick with the colic and says he wants to stay in bed, but the sheriff removes his blanket and discovers the act. A couple of doctors are summoned from the courtroom to save his life. 

1892

— From Barton’s Legislative Hand-book and Manual of the State of Washington: Cowlitz County population 5,888; area 1,141 square miles; assessable property $2,120,640; increase on one year, $1,023.632; rate of taxation (mills), 30.3.

— 1892 is the peak year for lynching in the United States, a record that still stands. This year, there are 107 prisoners hanged by judicial decree and 236 people known to be executed by lynch mobs. Robert Day is the second person to be hanged in Washington after statehood, the first being Edward Gallagher in 1890. Day is the first of two people to be legally hanged in Washington in 1892, and the first ever to be hanged in Cowlitz County. According to author Michael Pfeifer (Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947), the revitalized death penalty in Washington would replace lynching.

— Journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett begins a global anti-lynching campaign.

— Jan. 5 — Judge Bloomfield denies Billings’ motion for a new trial. Billings states that he will file an appeal to the Washington supreme court (capital cases went directly to the supreme court, not the court of appeals). However, Day has no money left, so Billings does nothing.

Elizabeth stops visiting her husband sometime after this court appearance, probably because of lack of money, but possibly also because of the winter weather. Their home was 18 miles up the Lewis River, and it can be snowed in up there even roads are navigable lower down. The steamer was a better option, but she might not have been able to afford the fare. Newspapers report that Robert was depressed due to missing his wife so much. (In the play, Lizzie tells Ben that she’s out of money and can’t visit, and asks Ben to take her place and listen to Robert when he needs to talk.)

— Feb. 6 — A new, extra-secure single-cell jail (pictured) arrives by train and is installed in the courthouse. It measures 8-by-5, has no windows, only a slot for food, and an iron mesh ceiling. The walls are cold cast iron. This is very likely a cell designed for solitary confinement. Initially, keeping prisoners isolated was thought to help with reform because it gave them time to reflect on their wrongs (and it also avoided public shaming like the stocks). However, German doctors in the 19th century noted a spike in psychosis among prisoners who were confined too long. (In the play, Ben realizes that keeping Robert safe from a lynch mob is taking its toll on his emotional health, so he takes Lizzie’s suggestion that he spend time with Robert and listen to his stories.)

The iron cell the county purchased to keep prisoners safe from lynch mobs.

— Feb. 12 — Judge Bloomfield schedules Robert Day’s execution for Feb. 26. Sometime this month, Elizabeth Day stays overnight in Kalama to visit her husband. The county pays two women for her board and lodging. (In the play, it’s implied that this is a conjugal visit.)

— Feb. 19 — Day is declared indigent and is allowed to file an appeal to the state supreme court. The hanging is canceled.

— Feb. 21 — An anonymous letter appears in the Olympian newspaper complaining that Day is fighting for appeal: “He had no idea of dying as he richly deserves.” The writer predicts that the “fattened assassin” will live another year at taxpayers’ expense.

— March 22 — Newspapers report speculation that Day’s conviction will be overturned on a technicality [the omission of “a human being” from the information], but note that his attorney feels he has “little hope of succeeding.” The papers report that Day has been writing letters to newspapers and members of the public, calling upon them for pity, and that he swears he will never die on the gallows. (These letters have not been located. The brief lines from “Day’s letters” quoted in the play are comprised of Day’s stated opinions, plus lines from contemporary letters and editorials written by others.)

— April 6 — The state supreme court denies Day’s appeal, stating that it could not address the argument that the evidence was insufficient because “none of the testimony at trial appears on the record.” (Why not? If only the record had been preserved!) On the second half of the argument, the justices were not persuaded that the omission of “a human being” from the charges was reason enough to set aside a verdict. Day writes to Governor Elisha Ferry shortly after this, requesting clemency.

— May 6 — Dr. Darnell visits Robert Day in jail and leaves medicine. Specifics are not known.

— May 21 — Judge Bloomfield schedules Day’s hanging for June 3, on the east side of the courthouse. Ben requests that the public be barred, but the judge says the law provides no option for privacy. Bloomfield gives Day an opportunity to speak at the hearing “in case anything was bearing on his mind.” According to the Kalama Bulletin, Day makes “a rambling talk of half an hour in which there was displayed a mixture of resignation to his fate, and unforgotten enmity toward the witnesses who testified in the case.”

— May 27 — Governor Ferry refuses to commute Day’s sentence to life in prison. Ben and one of his deputies share the week-long Death Watch, ensuring that Day is watched twenty-four hours a day for the week between now and his execution. (The Death Watch is a custom of watching over a prisoner day and night before execution to ensure that the gallows is not cheated. So it’s a suicide watch, but contemporary newspaper accounts of other prisoners under Death Watch describe family visits, access to the library, and many kindnesses from the sheriffs.) 

— The Olympian newspaper reports that Day is “thin and nervous from long confinement, but bears up fairly well, and says he will walk to the gallows like a man and not make any trouble for the sheriff. This will be the first hanging to take place in this county, and gives a duty to Sheriff Holmes that is not a pleasant one. The sheriff has acted toward the prisoner in a kind and considerate way, denying him nothing in keeping with the circumstances.”

— June 2 — (sunset 7:56 p.m.) During a long session with Father Kearns of La Center, Robert Day is baptized and converts to Catholicism, his mother’s faith. Father Kearns administers the sacraments of penance (confession) and extreme unction, two of the three sacraments that constitute the last rites. Unction is believed to give comfort, peace, courage and, if the sick person is unable to make a confession, even forgiveness of sins. Day tells the priest, “The only thing I regret is that I have to leave my family. As for myself, I don’t care to live longer. I am ready to go. My only fear is in meeting my God.” Up until this point Day has resisted all attempts at religious consolation. He then eats “a hearty supper.”

— June 2-3 — Robert Day’s final night. Father Kearns prays with him. Day awakens once during the night, around 11:30 p.m., and eats a whole box of sardines. He then takes a small dose of chloral hydrate (a sedative) and sleeps well the rest of the night. A gallows is constructed outside the courthouse, with a six-foot drop and a primitive lever. (In comparing the photo below and the floor plan above, it appears that the gallows was erected in the courtyard, outside the wall of the courtroom, and spectators would have a good view from Third Street uphill.)

— June 3 — The Cathlamet Gazette (a weekly paper) publishes on its front page a comprehensive story about Robert Day, including his likeness (taken from an exclusive photo) and “his life story from the cradle to the gallows written by himself.” Although some newspapers will reprint this in a paraphrased, third-person form, the Gazette is the only newspaper I have found carrying Day’s first-person account, and the only one that included Day’s assertion that he and his victim had been good friends.

An excerpt: “There is no use to try and tell of my bad luck. I have had it since I was born. Fate was against me. Have tried to treat everyone right. Lots of people have treated me unfairly. Some of the neighbors blame my boy for the trouble. They need not throw the blame on him. The blame belongs to Dave Beebe. He was the one that caused Mr. Beebe to lose his son and cause trouble to me and my distressed family. Clint and I were good friends all the time before and would have been yet had it not been for Dave Beebe.

“I have worked hard, dear friends. You have no idea of the hard luck I have had. I have written all that is necessary and I am willing for anyone to trace my history back to the cradle. They will find the hardships I had to go through. If people think I came from a bad family, let them examine our family history. My father and mother were raised in the same county I was born in. I wish I could carry the name my father had. — Yours truly, Robert Day.”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (a morning paper) publishes an editorial against public executions, concluding with “A right-minded person does not from choice witness the butchering of a domestic animal, and certainly no humane man, much less humane woman, will witness today the execution of Robert Day.” 

A large crowd listens to Robert Day speak before his execution. Additional people watched from the hillside behind the photographer. Reporters estimated the crowd to be anywhere from 200 to 500 people, but from his higher vantage point, J.E. Stone thought it looked like 1,500 to 2,000.

— Friday, June 3 — Robert Day eats a “beauty breakfast” of oatmeal, eggs, biscuits, and strawberries. He spends the remainder of his time up to the last with the priest in prayer. When the hour for execution arrives, he asks the guard to notify the sheriff that he is “ready for the last scene.” He then smokes a cigar to give him the nerve to go to death unflinchingly. He accompanies Ben Holmes to the gallows unbound, “with a firm step.” On the gallows as witnesses: Pony Bush, Bailiff Samuel Crane and the sheriffs of King, Clark and Pierce counties. Robert greets them with, “How do you do, gentlemen? My business here is to be hung.” He speaks about 10 to 20 minutes (newspaper reports vary). Although there had been rumors that he would confess to other murders, Robert tells the crowd he had killed two men in the war on his commander’s orders, but no others. He asks people to donate money to help his family, “who are almost destitute,” in care of the sheriff or the priest. From the Oregonian: “His face bore a look of resoluteness that gave indication of the stoic manner in which he was about to meet his fate. He was cool and collected, and looking upon his calm countenance, intellectual forehead and modest demeanor, no one not acquainted with the circumstances of the crime could imagine that his hands had been stained with the blood of murder. He looked more like a clergyman about to deliver a sermon than a murderer on the brink of the gallows.”

A reporter describes the surrounding hills as “black with humanity.” Reporters bemoan that half the crowd is women and children “dressed in their best bib and tucker.” Published estimates of the crowd size vary widely, from as low as three hundred (Kalama Bulletin) to possibly as large as two thousand (Judge J.E. Stone, recalling a teenage memory). According to the Oregon Statesman weekly newspaper, “neither his wife nor any of his children were present at the execution.” (However, another newspaper mentioned that Day’s wife was at the funeral afterward, and that she took the coffin home in a wagon. Therefore, in the play Lizzie waits in Ben’s office because she doesn’t want to watch.) The only thing keeping the crowd away from the scaffold is a rope stretched around it. The watchers include a crowd of schoolchildren in the schoolhouse at Third and Elm, but their teacher draws the shade before the trap is sprung (according to J.E. Stone). Ben hangs Robert outside the Cowlitz County Courthouse. Father Kearns prays with Day on the gallows up until the moment of the drop. Robert is immediately rendered unconscious. A funeral service is held in the courtroom. Elizabeth asks to see her husband’s face. The hood is removed and his face “looked perfectly natural” (often considered a sign of innocence) and was “not the least discolored” (proof that he did not strangle). Robert’s coffin is loaded into “a rude wagon” and Elizabeth takes it to their home on the Lewis River.

— June 4 or 11 — Robert Day is buried at Frank Abel Cemetery in Woodland. The county pays Ben Holmes six dollars for digging the grave, which is recorded as “R.T. Day.” Its exact location in the cemetery is unrecorded. 

— June 17 — This brief notice runs in the Kalama Bulletin, under “Kerns and Vicinity”: “The remains of R.T. Day were laid to rest on Saturday in the graveyard of F. Ables, there to sleep until the Resurrection morn, when Gabriel will sound the trumpet that calls one and all alike to the front, there to face the music. Let him rest in peace.”

__ the play The Harder Courage ends here __

— June 21 — Commissioners meeting minutes show the following expenses: Sheriff Ben Holmes and D.C. Grave were paid $45 and $46.50 respectively for, “Death watch for R.L. Day. J. Ballard was paid $18.25 for, “Coffin and box for R.L. Day”. A.G. Hoggatt and Lewis Wicks were each paid $3 for, “1 day Bailiff” and Hoggatt got an additional $1 for, “hauling lumber” which may have been used to build the gallows. Ben Holmes got an additional $7.71 for, “lumber and freight”. He also got $3 for, “sundries for Day” and when it was all said and done, Sheriff Holmes was paid $6 for “Digging the grave of R.L. Day”. (Note that Robert’s middle initial is given as L, but Day himself said his middle name was Thompson, and the Abel Cemetery record shows R.T. Day. In the 1850 census, his middle initial is listed as “F.” I’ve also found news stories with the middle initial “S.” Family records aren’t much help, which leads me to believe they wanted to hide this particular skeleton in the closet.)

— July 1 — Ben Holmes comes to Tacoma to witness the hanging of Salvador Pecani and helps test the gallows mechanism. (It is customary to have a hanging officially witnessed by other sheriffs, but testing the gallows is an extra step, perhaps a sign of Ben’s expertise in his successful, pain- and drama-free hanging of Day). The supreme court grants Pecani a respite, canceling the hanging. Charges will be dismissed a few years later.

— July 2 — Ben and Susan Holmes visit Seattle and stay at the Arlington Hotel. They are in town for the Washington State Sheriffs Convention at the Grand Hotel in Seattle. Afterward, Ben attends an informal reception at the Seattle Police headquarters. The Seattle P-I states “After general conversation for some time, the party took a trip over the city.” Presumably, Susan was Ben’s date to all events. This may have been a combination job-related and 22nd anniversary vacation (Their anniversary was June 23).

— August — Ben is a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Convention in Olympia.

Becomes sheriff after Ben.

— November — Ben Holmes loses re-election to A.L. Watson, who receives 790 votes to 581 for Ben. (In 1896, Watson will become the second Cowlitz County sheriff to hang a man, and in 1901 he will be elected mayor of Kalama.) Also losing: Judge Bloomfield, running as an independent because he failed to get a majority of delegates to nominate him as a Republican. Beall, the county prosecutor, loses to E.W. Ross, 638 to 555. As for Billings, a Minnesota court tracks him down on a charge of embezzlement, but it will ultimately be dismissed. He will continue to practice law in Washington and later moves to California.

1893

Nathaniel Bloomfield resumes the practice of law.

Ben Holmes is appointed postmaster of Kalama.

— Chehalis installs an electric light plant at a cost of $6,000.

1895

— Friday, March 28 — While walking home from the post office around 7:30 p.m., Ben Holmes stops about a half-block from his home to speak with a neighbor’s little girl. He suddenly feels dizzy and falls, striking his head on a fence. He is paralyzed on the left side and partially paralyzed on the right, and is unable to speak. 

— April 1 — Ben Holmes dies at home, surrounded by his family. Billings delivers an eloquent eulogy at a standing-room-only funeral in the courthouse. Ben is buried in the Kalama IOOF Cemetery.

— June — Susan Holmes is appointed to serve the remainder of her husband’s term as Kalama postmaster. She will be succeeded in 1897 by Hite Imus.

— The Washington Fisheries Commission builds a fish hatchery consisting of one rearing pond and incorporates Ben’s house on his lower Kalama River homestead. (The site is now home to the Fallert Creek salmon hatchery).

EPILOGUE

After Ben’s death …

Susan never remarried. She served out the rest of Ben’s term as postmaster and lived with her daughter, Annie, who also never married. The 1900 and 1910 censuses show Susan living in Kalama. In the 1900 census, she is the homeowner and head of household, age 52, with Annie, 28, Charles, 27, and John, 21, all living there, too. Charles and John are day laborers. In 1910 she is again homeowner and head of household, age 62, with Anna, 38, living with her. Susan wrote poetry, and always wrote a poem on her birthday. Her surviving poetry shows her to be a woman of optimism and a deep, abiding faith even in the face of sadness and despair. “Life’s pathway is rugged at its best/ And I have had my share / Of joy and hope, of work and rest,/ and even dark despair. / I’ll not look back with vain regret, / Hope cheers me on my way / My blessings I must not forget / On this, my natal day. (1931, age 84). Susan died of a cerebral hemorrhage Dec. 25, 1936, and is buried in the Kalama IOOF Cemetery.

Annie worked a year in the galley of a riverboat and then became a milliner in Kalama. She and Susan moved to Portland in 1911. She died in 1952 and is buried beside her brother Francis in the Kalama IOOF Cemetery. (Find A Grave mistakenly listed them as a married couple, but this has been corrected.)

Charles Lewis Holmes was a bridge carpenter and switchman for the OWRR&N system, spending 16 years in the railroad business. He married Elizabeth Nadean Cook in 1905 and moved to Portland, where he opened a grocery store in 1907. They had a son, Benjamin Francis Holmes, born Sept. 14, 1906, in St. John, Ore. Charles died of pulmonary edema on July 30, 1944, in Vanport and is buried in Portland.

Francis Holmes was a purser on the OWRR&N transfer boat between Kalama and Goble, Oregon. He moved to Portland in 1905. On Jan. 8, 1912, he and Rose Myrelle Holmes, 25, were married in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Spokane, and they had a daughter, Catherine. He worked as a traveling salesman. In the 1930 census he is listed as widowed. On his WWII draft card, when he was 64, his occupation is listed as salesman for the Luxury Food Co., and he was living with his sister, Annie, in Portland. He died in 1960 and is buried next to Annie in the Kalama IOOF Cemetery.

John Holmes was an accountant for the Union Pacific Company in Portland. He died in 1942 in Portland and is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery.

Mark Holmes is the grandson of John Holmes and said that the only information passed on through the years about Ben Holmes and the hanging of Robert Day was that it left a really bad taste in Ben’s mouth. “He had a problem with killing Robert Day and never got over it.” 

Satellite view, with Day Creek marked.

After Robert’s death …

The Day family moved off their land, but the name survives in “Day Place” (a road) and “Day Creek.” Elizabeth married Alonzo “Lonzo” Gallup, a former Union soldier, on June 1, 1902, in Vancouver. He died July 15, 1905. Again a widow, she made her living by keeping a boarding house in Portland. She is listed as a survivor in her father’s obituary in 1920. By then, three of her five children had died. It’s unknown what year she died. 

William Parker Day married Agnes Smith in 1896 and they had seven children. They lived in Hammond, Ore., where he was engaged in fishing and shipping for many years. William and Agnes took in Frisco (around age 14) in 1900 and enrolled him in the Indian School in Salem (lying about him having Indian heritage to qualify him). He hated the school and ran away to live with his mother. (More about Frisco below.). William died Nov. 25, 1919, of prostatic obstruction.

Dexter joined the Army in 1892 (at age 17) and was discharged in 1897. In 1900 he was working as a teamster, and the census says he never attended school. He was married to Josia Maude Bennett in 1893. A daughter, Filoe Lee Day, was born in March 1894 but died a few days later. A son, Carl Melvin Day, was born in 1895. A daughter, Dorothy Lee Day, was born in 1899 and died in 1902 at age 3. He and Josia were divorced not long afterward, and he married Tina Cecile Gatchell in 1907. They had no children. In 1910, he was living in Portland and working as a carpenter. He committed suicide (carbolic acid poisoning) on Aug. 31, 1912, and is buried in Lone Fir Cemetery.

Elizabeth “Bessie” and Walter T. Day

Walter lived in Cathlamet in 1900. In 1906 he married Elizabeth Jolly in Ariel and they named their first child Robert, but he died. They had six more children, including a second Robert.  When Frisco disappeared (below), Walter walked all the way from Ariel to the Vancouver slough to help search for him, starting on Sunday and arriving on Tuesday. He was found dead in 1964 on his property at the end of Dubois Road, surrounded by his goats. He is buried at Lone Pine Cemetery in Ariel.

Hattie, 19, married Frederick H. Fordyce, 25, on Aug. 30, 1901, and they had two children. They later divorced. She worked as a practical nurse, and in 1928 she was involved in backing a convalescent hospital in Portland. She died in 1956 in Portland. 

Drawing of Frisco Day from a newspaper story after he and his passenger were reported missing in 1910
Frisco’s wife, Bertha

Frisco married Bertha Borges in October 1909, when he was 24 and she was 22. They lived in his mother’s boarding house. He worked as a chauffeur.

In June 1910, he was hired to drive a glamorous actress, Mabel Monto. to a party. She apparently urged him to drink with her when he came to pick her up. Being unused to drink, he was visibly affected, and at 11:15 p.m. a police officer stopped him on the Burnside Bridge for a dim headlamp and told him not to drive. It was also raining steadily. Despite that, the pair motored onward to catch the midnight ferry to the party. The last person to see the car was a Vancouver man who passed it on the Hayden Island bridge. He said the wind shields were up and the side curtains were drawn. The next morning, Frisco and Monto were reported as missing, and gossip assumed they ran away together, causing Frisco’s wife and mother great distress. Bertha said he never failed to telephone her when he was detained, and she suspected something terrible had happened. His mother was a staunch, spirited defender of her son’s reputation, and blamed the police officer who let him drive. (It’s easy to imagine Elizabeth defending Robert with equal passion.)

[The missing-person report also described Frisco as a “quarter-breed” (i.e. one-quarter Indian, an implication that one parent was half Indian). This was hotly denied by Lizzie, who explained about the admission papers for the Salem Indian School.]

According to breathless news reports, Monto had been unhappy with her marriage, and her estranged husband told reporters she threatened suicide and even told him on the day she disappeared that this would be the last time he’d see her. 

The empty car was found in the Columbia slough, having gone off a truss bridge on an elevated roadway between Portland and the Oregon landing of the Vancouver ferry.  The speedometer was locked at 60mph. Monto’s body washed up on Cottonwood Island, 36 miles downriver, a few months later. It was widely assumed that Frisco had driven drunk and crashed the car. 

However, in February 1913 his skeleton was found in the Columbia slough with his hands in a muff (a tube of fur), which would have made it impossible for him to be driving. It now seems clear that Monto took over driving after the policeman left, and Frisco sat in the passenger seat warming his cold hands inside her fur muff. 

Mabel Monto

6 thoughts on “The Master Timeline

  1. Thank you as a great grandson of Ben and Grandson of Charles it filled in some unknown information. Other lore that I had about Ben was that, as sheriff, he did not carry a gun. Also I believe that Susan was buried in the Lone Fir Cemetery in Portland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I am astonished that he, as a lawman, did not carry a gun. It says so much about his character. As for Susan’s burial site, I got that from FindAGrave. One more thing: Do you know what religion Ben and Susan followed after they were married?

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  2. Hi Leslie: I have no idea why you did all of this research, but greatly pleased that you have — and also published the timeline online. I had never heard this story before, which is kind of amazing. Foss Beebe was my great-great grandfather and I knew his daughter Susie, my great-grandmother, well. Susie Beebe married Henry Jackson (H.J.) Powell, whose grandfather (my g-g-g-grandather) Lewis Miller was the first murder victim in the Lewis River area, in 1875. Clint and Susie were first cousins and she would have been 8 when the hanging took place. Going to share your work with fellow Beebe and Murk descendants now. What drew your interest to this story? Note: I will also be buried at Frank Abel (Oddfellows?) Cemetery in the final plot belonging to my Powell and Beebe ancestors.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading this and reaching out! You are the first member of the Beebe family to contact me. I know virtually nothing about Clint, but I shared what little I did have with someone on Ancestry who had him in their family tree.
      What drew me to the research was my interest in Sheriff Benjamin Holmes, whose story I encountered in 2009 while covering criminal justice for The Daily News. Deputy Darren Ullmann, the CCSO historian, had collected information on Ben, who had been eulogized as kind, gentle, quiet, almost bashful. Yet he had hanged a man after guarding him for eight months. I felt compelled to write a play about it, but needed more information about Robert Day. It took a lot of digging, because the court records have been lost, but newspapers were a wonderful source. Sadly, they did not contain much information about Clint, which surprised me because other 19th-century crime victims were extensively detailed in print. I got the feeling that the Beebe family wanted their privacy. I found one line in the Kalama Bulletin from Charles and Olive thanking people for their sympathy in their recent bereavement, a line in a news story noting that Clint had made many friends as evidenced by the crowd at his funeral, and a record of his death. Reading between the lines, I felt that he must have been popular with his fellow loggers, because they took the bold step of forming a lynch mob to take revenge on Day, and that the Beebes were well-respected because the newspapers left them alone.
      I didn’t know the Beebes and Murks were related! The Murk logging camp was on the Embody place upriver from the Days, and the Beebe camp was downriver of them. I have a map. I get the feeling that Robert Day, who was squatting in an abandoned bunkhouse in hopes of buying the property, was in the way. The county began surveying the north fork in 1891, the year of the murder.
      Do you have any photographs of Clint? Or any information that I don’t have?

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      1. Hi Leslie: I have sent you an email on this and have contacted my Beebe relatives regarding your excellent research. Murks and Beebes are only distantly related through a single marriage, but enough where I call my friend, Quinn Murk — an amateur historian, “cuz.” Hope to have more info for you soon — assuming any members of the family are aware of this. My maternal grandparents were original settlers in Cougar, and my grandmother taught in a one-room school in Ariel for many years.

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