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[Copyright © 1989 SAGE Publications, Inc. Originally published as VIOLENCE IN AMERICA, Volume 1: The History of Crime, Robert Gurr, Editor. Permission for WWW use at this site generously granted by SAGE Publications, Inc. For educational use only. The printed edition remains canonical.

Chapter 5

Violence and Lawlessness on the Western Frontier


Dave Bannon was a good boy who had gone bad. He had once been described as a quiet, industrious young man, but periods of unemployment left him spending ever more time in saloons where he passed the hours gambling, drinking, and fighting. On the Friday afternoon of January 21, 1881, he reeled drunkenly into the Dividend Saloon, one of nearly fifty that the mining town of Bodie boasted, and found several of his friends at the bar. One of them was Ed Ryan, a Civil War veteran who had made his living as a professional gambler since the war's end. In what was termed a playful gesture, Ryan grabbed Bannon by the lapel of his coat. The lapel tore. Bannon, already in a black mood, exploded with anger and punched Ryan in the face. Ryan stumbled backwards but regained his balance and told Bannon that there was no reason to take offense.

"You damn son of a bitch," Bannon replied. "You've fooled with me long enough. You tore my coat once before." Without waiting for a response Bannon punched Ryan again and pulled out a British Bulldog revolver. Holding the gun in his right hand, Bannon threw several more blows at Ryan with this left.

Officer James Monahan spotted the commotion from the sidewalk in front of the Dividend and rushed inside. He grabbed hold of bannon and tried to pull him away from Ryan. Monahan's sudden involvement gave Ryan the opportunity to pull a sawed-off Colt revolver out of his back pocket. A split-second alter Bannon broke loose from Monahan's grip and lunged at Ryan. The two men fell together, grappling, punching, and shooting.

The vicious struggle continued for nearly a minute before Bannon and Ryan separated and staggered off in opposite directions. Ryan fell against the swinging doors of the Dividend's entrance and tumbled onto the sidewalk. Blood dripped from a wound in his left hand and oozed from a hole in his side. Bannon stumbled through the swinging doors that led to the saloon's cardroom and dropped unconscious to the floor. A bullet hole in (p.123) his lung and a round lodged in his neck caused blood to gush from his mouth and nose. His breath came in labored gasps. Fifteen minutes later he was dead. Ryan, meanwhile, drifted in and out of consciousness and hovered near death. He continued in such a state for days before he slowly began to recover.

It is popularly assumed that the frontier was full of Bannons and Ryans—brave, strong, reckless, and violent men—and that they helped make the frontier a violent and lawless place. The first assumption is correct; the second is mostly wrong.

Aurora and Bodie

A look at two frontier mining towns—Aurora, Nevada, and Bodie, California—illustrates these points.[2] The towns were home to Bannons and Ryans aplenty and saw a considerable number of homicides but they were remarkably free from most crime: robbery, theft, and burglary occurred infrequently and bank robbery, rape, racial violence, and serious juvenile crime seem not to have occurred at all. While the homicide rate was high, the killings were almost always the result of fights between willing combatants. Thus, in Aurora and Bodie, the old, the young, the unwilling, the weak, and the female were, for the most part, safe from harm. If, as many popularly assume, much of America's crime problem is a consequence of a heritage of frontier violence and lawlessness, then it is ironic that the crimes most common today—robbery, burglar, theft, and rape—were of no great significance and, in the case of rape, seemingly nonexistent in Aurora and Bodie.

Located high in the mountains of the trans-Sierra country—a region of rugged mountains and high deserts immediately east of the Sierra Nevada—Aurora and Bodie were two of the most spectacular mining towns of the Old West. They had widespread reputations for violence, boasted populations of more than five thousand, and produced gold and silver bullion worth a billion dollars in today's money. Aurora boomed during the early 1860's and reflected the divisions created by the Civil War. Bodie had its heyday in the late 1870s and early 1880s and was, as one prospector later called it, the last of the old-time mining camps. The trans-Sierra itself was one of America's last frontiers, not thoroughly explored, mapped, settled, and politically organized until the 1880s.

Aurora and Bodie were typical frontier mining towns. They each experienced a spectacular boom period of a few years, followed by a year or so of decline, then bust. The towns were alive twenty-four hours a day, contained dozens of saloons and brothels, and had disproportionately high numbers of young, single males. Women were outnumbered ten to one by (p.124) men. Much of the population was transient, with men arriving or departing daily.

The population was anything but homogeneous, and half of it was foreign born. In Bodie in 1880 there were some 5,400 people: approximately 850 of them had been born in Ireland, 750 in Canada, 550 in England and Wales, 350 in China, 250 in Germany, 120 in Scotland, 100 in Mexico, 80 in France, 60 in Sweden or Norway, and so on.[3] The towns were distinctly cosmopolitan. Different languages, nationalities, races and religions all met in Aurora and Bodie. The men were adventurous, enterprising, brave, young, single, intemperate, and armed. A few had struck it rich; most had not. Gold and silver worth millions was gouged out of the hillsides. It all should have added up to a reign of terror, but it didn't. A look at robbery, burglary, theft, rape, and homicide in Aurora and Bodie is revealing.

Robbery occurred only infrequently.[4] When it did occur the stagecoach was as likely to be robbed as was the individual citizen. There were eleven robberies and three attempted robberies of stages during Bodie's boom years and a nearly equal number during Aurora's heyday. During the same periods there were ten robberies and three attempted robberies of individual citizens in Bodie and a somewhat smaller number in Aurora. When highwaymen stopped a stagecoach, they normally took only the express box and left the passengers with their possessions intact. Passengers frequently remarked that they had been treated courteously by the highwaymen. Only twice were passengers robbed. In the first instance the highwaymen later apologized for their conduct, and in the second the road agents were drunk. Highwaymen seemed to understand that they could take the express box without arousing the general populace, but if they began robbing passengers they would possibly precipitate a vigilante reaction.

Occasionally the stagecoaches carried bullion shipments to the outside world. These shipments were often of great value: some of them would be worth $5 or $10 million in today's dollars. Yet, not one of the bullion stages was ever attacked by highwaymen. The reason is obvious. The bullion stages, unlike the regular stages, were always guarded by two or three or more rifle and shotgun toting guards. Highwaymen preferred to prey on unguarded coaches, take whatever was in the express box, and escape with their health intact. Only once did highwaymen and guards exchange gunfire—a highwayman was killed and a guard wounded—and in that case the highwaymen had not expected to encounter any guards.

Fear of arrest could not have served as much of a deterrent to stage robbery. Only three road agents were ever apprehended, and just two of them were convicted of robbery.

Although bank holdups are probably the form of robbery, after stagecoach holdups, most popularly associated with the frontier West, none of the several banks that operated in Aurora and Bodie ever experienced a robbery attempt. Bankers went about armed, as did their employees, and (p.123) robbers, like the highwaymen who avoided the guarded bullion stages, evidently were not willing to tangle with armed men.

Individual private citizens in Bodie and Aurora very rarely suffered from robbery. There were only ten robberies and three attempted robberies of individuals—other than those robbed as part of a stage holdup—in Bodie during its boom years, and there seem to have been even fewer in Aurora during its heyday. In nearly every one of these robberies the circumstances were so similar as to be interchangeable: The robbery victim had spent the evening in a gambling den, saloon, or brothel; he had revealed in some way that he had on his person a tidy sum of money; and he was drunk, staggering toward home late at night when the attack occurred.

More robberies might have occurred if Aurorans and Bodieites had not gone about armed and ready to fight. They were, unless staggering drunk, simply too dangerous to rob. Robbers occasionally made mistakes though. Late one night when a robber told miner C.F. Reid to throw up his hands, Reid said "all right" and began raising them.[5] As he did so he suddenly drew a foot-long bowie knife from an inside coat pocket and drove the steel blade into the robber's shoulder. The robber screamed with pain and took off running "like a deer." Reid gave chase but soon lost sight of the man. Nonetheless, Reid was satisfied, feeling certain he had "cut the man to the bone." Sober armed men were not to be trifled with.

The few robberies and attempted robberies of individuals, unlike the stage holdups, outraged the citizens and provoked talk of vigilantism.[6] "This business of garroting," as the Bodie Standard termed mugging and robbery, "is getting a little too common. The parties engaged in it may wake up one of these fine mornings and find themselves hanging to the top of a liberty pole." Another Bodie newspaper, the Daily Free Press, later called for the formation of a vigilance committee, arguing that one or two examples of vigilante justice was usually "sufficient to purify" a mining camp.

Rates of Larcenous Crime

Yet Bodie actually suffered little from robbery. Altogether Bodie experienced only 21 robberies—11 of stages and 10 of individuals—during its boom years. Conversion of this data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation crime index gives Bodie a rate of 84 robberies per 100,000 inhabitants per year.[7] By contrast Detroit led major U.S. cities in 1986 with a robbery rate of 1,497, closely followed by Miami's 1,456.[8] Highland Park, Michigan, easily surpassed all of the major cities with a startling 2,212.[9] On the other hand, Appleton, Wisconsin, a town with crime rates consistently at or near the bottom of the scale, had a robbery rate of 6.4.[10] The rate for the United States as a whole, including small towns and rural areas, was 225.[1] Thus (p.126)

Figure 5.1: (Annual Robbery Rates per 100,000 in Selected Cities, c. 1880 and 1986)

Bodie, even with its stagecoach robberies included, had a robbery rate just slightly more than one-third of the national rate in 1986 and only a tiny fraction of the rates of the major cities.[12]

Comparison of robbery (or most other crimes) in Bodie directly with robbery in Eastern towns during the nineteenth century demands some extrapolation. All crime studies of eastern towns during that period are based on numbers of arrests and not on number of offenses. Since numbers of offenses, except in categories of murder and manslaughter, are many times greater than numbers of arrests, conversion factors must be used. For example, according to FBI data in 1986 nearly four robberies (3.72 to be precise) were committed for every one arrest.[13] This ratio (and those for other crimes) has varied only slightly over the last couple of decades and probably was not greatly different during the late nineteenth century.

Theodore N. Ferdinand has found that during the years 1880 through 1882 Boston had a robbery arrest rate of 23, and Salem a 13.[14] Using the conversion factor for robbery of 3.72 gives Boston a robbery rate of 86 and Salem 48.

It would appear then that Boston and Salem had robbery rates—considering the extrapolation involved—roughly comparable to Bodie's.(p.127) However, since stagecoach robberies accounted for about half of Bodie's robberies, it would seem that the individual citizen was more likely to be robbed in long-settled Boston or Salem than in frontier Bodie.

Burglary, like robbery, was an infrequent event in Bodie.[15] Between 1877 and 1883 there were only 32 burglaries 17 of homes and 15 of businesses. Aurora seems to have had fewer still. Bodie's boom years total of 32 burglaries gives the town an average of 6.4 burglaries a year and a burglary rate of 128. In 1986, the neighboring Texas towns of Fort Worth and Dallas led major U.S. cities with burglary rates of 4,458 and 3,711, but Benton Harbor, Michigan, surpassed them with a rate of 5,285.[16] Even Appleton's rate of 754, while only slightly more than half of the national rate of 1,345, is nearly six times greater than Bodie's 128.[17]

From 1880 through 1882 Boston had a burglary arrest rate of 87 and Salem 54.[18] Using a conversion factor of 7.2—a figure consistent with the ratio of offenses to arrests for burglary—gives Boston a burglary rate of 626 and Salem a 389, rates three to five times greater than that for Bodie.

An obvious factor in discouraging burglary in Bodie was the armed homeowner or armed merchant. No fewer that a half-dozen burglaries in Bodie were thwarted by the presence of armed citizens. When two burglars attempted to enter J.H. Vincent's house, for example, Vincent grabbed a gun and sent them running. Applauding Vincent's response to the would-be burglars the Bodie Morning News said: "Our people must be on their guard for this class of gentry, and if possible, when they call, treat them to a good dose of lead." TheBodie Morning News was not alone: All of Bodie's newspapers regularly advocated shooting burglars on sight.[19] Moreover, even when not armed, citizens were ready and willing to fight intruders. Harry Bryan, for instance, grappled with a burglar who had broken into his cabin, wrested a knife and a hatchet away from the man, and put him to flight.[20]

Theft was more common than robbery or burglary in Aurora and Bodie but still of infrequent occurrence.[21] Bodie recorded some 45 instances of theft, and Aurora somewhat fewer. Since both towns were nestled in mountain valleys at elevations of 8,400 and 7,500 respectively, it is not surprising to find that firewood and blankets were the items most commonly stolen. Of Bodie's 45 instances of theft only six involved horses. Just two horse thieves were caught, and they were punished far less severely than has been traditionally supposed: one was sentenced to serve six months in the county jail, and the other a year in the state penitentiary. Although thousands of head of cattle grazed to the west of Bodie and Aurora in the Bridgeport Valley and to the south in the Owens Valley, cattle rustling, except for Indian thefts during the Owens Valley warfare of the 1860s , seems not to have occurred.

Forty-five instances of theft during its boom years gives Bodie a theft rate of 180. In 1986 Seattle had a theft rate of 8,308, followed closely by (p.128)

Figure 5.2: (Annual burglary Rates per 100,000 in Selected Cities, c. 1880 and 1986)

Fort Worth 8,179, and Dallas 7,946.[22] Appleton's theft rate was 2,915, slightly below the national rate of 3,010, and sixteen times greater than Bodie's 180.[23]

Boston's theft arrest rate for 1880 through 1882 was 575; Salem's 525.[24] A conversion factor of 5.2—a factor consistent with the ratio of offenses to arrests for theft—gives Boston a theft rate of 2,990 and Salem 2,730.

Quite clearly, then, Bodie's rates of robbery, burglary, and theft were dramatically lower than those of major U.S. cities in 1986 and were as low as or significantly lower than those for Boston and Salem from 1880 through 1882. The small, midwestern town of Appleton, Wisconsin, could claim only a lower rate of robbery than Bodie. Even if four or five times as much robbery, burglary, and theft occurred in Bodie but went unreported in the newspapers and unrecorded in the jail registers and court records—an unlikely supposition—Bodie would still have rates dramatically lower than those for major U.S. cities in 1986. Using the same hypothetical factor of error when comparing Bodie with Boston and Salem would still leave Bodie with a theft rate several times lower and a burglary rate about equal. Only Bodie's robbery rate would be higher. However, of the three crimes, robbery would be the least likely to go unreported, especially stagecoach holdups which accounted for half of Bodie's robberies. Moreover, if it is (p.129) true that a portion of Bodie's larcenous crime went unreported, then the same undoubtedly holds true for nineteenth-century Boston and Salem, and for the U.S. cities today.

The available evidence suggests that Aurora had even lower rats of robbery, burglary, and theft than Bodie. Such conclusion, though, must remain speculative because of the intermittent gaps in the newspaper file and incomplete nature of other primary source material for Aurora. (The sources for the town are certainly complete enough to paint a nearly full picture of life there but not for a compilation of statistical data.)

Deterrents to Larcenous Crime

Such low rates of robbery, burglary, and theft cannot be attributed to swift and certain justice meted out by the criminal justice system in Aurora or Bodie. Rarely were any robbers, burglars, or thieves even arrested. Law officers often had a rather casual approach to their job, and some operated on both sides of the law: a gang leader and several of his men served as officers for a time in Aurora, and several Bodie officers may have cooperated with robbers. On the rare occasions when a suspect actually was arrested, chances were good that, if prosecuted, he would not be convicted. Since so few men were convicted, it hardly seems possible that the normal punishment that followed—imprisonment in jail or the penitentiary—could have served as much of a deterrent.

There seems to be little question that the principal deterrent to robbery, burglary, and theft in Bodie and Aurora was the armed citizenry. Not only were the citizens armed but often they had professional training and experience in the use of firearms. Many of the residents of Aurora had fought in the Mexican War and those of Bodie in the Civil War. This was especially true of the Irish-born residents who had arrived in the United States just in time, and in such a condition, to make them likely candidates for service in the wars. Thus the citizens had arms, knew how to use them, and were willing to fight with deadly force to protect their persons or property.

Three other factors may also have worked as deterrents: full or near-full employment, religion, and a collective sense of optimism.

Aurora and Bodie usually could count on full or near-full employment during their boom years, although there were periods, especially in Bodie, when the closing of a mine or the suspension of operations caused some unemployment. The slightly greater amount of larcenous crime reported in Bodie might be explained by the larger number of Bodieites who suffered periodic unemployment.

Religion's role as a deterrent is even more speculative than that of employment. Nonetheless, most Aurorans and Bodieites who suffered periodic unemployment. Nonetheless, most Aurorans and Bodieites had been reared with the religion of one Christian denomination or another and the values (p.130) and morality of the Christian tradition must have exerted at least some influence on them. Regular church services were held by a half-dozen denominations in Aurora and in Bodie. Two churches were actually built in Bodie: a Catholic church, St. John the Baptist, on Wood Street, and a Methodist church on Fuller Street. However, since it was not until the fifth year of Bodie's boom that the churches were erected and then it was the women of Bodie who sponsored the fund-raisers for construction, it would seem that the mostly young, single, and male Bodieites considered the building projects something less than a top priority.

Perhaps the most important deterrent to larcenous crime, but also the most intangible and therefore the most difficult to evaluate, was the optimistic attitude of Aurorans and Bodieites. They had hope. They had hope of a better future, of a big strike, of new adventures. While men have hope, no matter what their present circumstances, they are probably less likely to resort to crime.

It is difficult to find a contemporary example for the comparison of deterrent factors with Aurora and Bodie, although Kennesaw, Georgia, might be similar in one sense: the percentage of its citizens who are armed. In 1982 the town council of Kennesaw unanimously passed an ordinance requiring nearly every "head of household" in the town to maintain a firearm and a supply of ammunition. Since enactment of the ordinance, according to police statistics, robbery, burglary, and theft have declined. Home burglary, for example, has declined form 55 incidents in 1981, the year before the ordinance was adopted, to 26 in 1982, to only 11 in 1985. Kennesaw mayor J.O. Stephenson, who carries a snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver himself, points to those statistics as evidence that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens means less crime. "We took a stand for guns," said mayor Stephenson in April of 1987, "and we're proud of it."[25]

Actually, since most residents of Kennesaw were gun owners before the enactment of the ordinance (and this may partly explain Kennesaw's traditionally low rate of robbery and burglary), it would seem that the decline was more the result of publicity over the ordinance rather than an increase in gun ownership. Criminals must have become fully aware that Kennesaw was no soft target: that they ran the frightful risk of being shot and perhaps killed if they plied their trade there. The same conditions prevailed in Aurora and Bodie.

Women and Crime on the Frontier

The women residents of Aurora and Bodie, with the exception of those who were prostitutes, rarely suffered from any kind of crime or violence.[28] During Bodie's boom years there were only some 30 violent encounters between men and women, and prostitutes were involved in 25 of the incidents. When women assaulted or fought with other women, prostitutes accounted for 13 of the 17 recorded incidents. Very few of these violent encounters had serious consequences. Only one woman died as the result of an attack—in that case the woman was a former prostitute and her murderer was insane—and only one other was seriously injured.

Prostitutes unquestionably bore the brunt of the little violence against women that did occur. While "decent" women were treated with the greatest deference, prostitutes were socially ostracized and generally shown little respect. Newspapers often treated the punching or slapping of a prostitute humorously, and the attitude of the police and judges was only slightly better. Men who assaulted prostitutes were usually arrested for their attacks, but their punishments were far less severe than if they had assaulted "respectable" women. The double standard extended even to the graveyard. Prostitutes who died in Bodie were buried outside the fence of the graveyard. Prostitutes were both figuratively and literally outside the pale.

Nonetheless, even prostitutes do not seem to have been the victims of rape. There were no reported cases of rape in either Aurora or Bodie. Admittedly, rape might have occurred but was not reported. Rape is a crime that has often gone unreported in the past and even today rape victims are often reluctant to report an attack. However, in Bodie, there were two reports of attempted rape (in neither case was the allegation substantiated) and this possibly indicates that had rape occurred it would have been reported. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence of any sort that rape occurred but escaped the attention of the authorities.

On the other hand, there is a considerable body of evidence which indicates that women, other than prostitutes, were rarely the victims of any kind of offense and were treated with the utmost respect. Women enjoyed special status, partly because of the morality of the nineteenth century and partly because they were a rare commodity in western mining towns. Grant Smith, a one-time resident of Bodie, recalled: (p.132)

   One of the remarkable things about Bodie, in fact, one of the striking features of all mining camps in the West, was the respect shown even by the worst characters to decent women. . . . I do not recall ever hearing of a respectable woman or girl in an manner insulted or even accosted by the hundreds of dissolute characters that were everywhere. In part, this was due to the respect that depravity pays to decency; in part, to the knowledge that sudden death would follow any other course.[29]

Smith's warning of "sudden death" may seem like an exaggeration. Nevertheless, there is an example of a Bodieite who was sentenced to 30 days in jail merely for swearing while in the presence of women.[30]

Bodie women did not necessarily depend on men for defense against an attack. There were several instances of prostitutes or brothel madames grabbing guns and putting unruly, drunken customers to flight.[31] Prostitutes were not the only gun-totting women in Bodie. When a dispute arose between a man and a woman over the ownership of a portion of a city lot, the woman, believing herself to be the rightful owner, ordered the man off the property. However, as the Bodie Standard put it, since "he was a large man and she was a small lady, he concluded to tarry yet a while." The small lady quickly tired of the standoff, though. She pulled out a six-shooter, took dead aim at the man, and again ordered him to leave. This time he did, and in a hurry.[32]

Women in Bodie (and Aurora too), then, were generally well treated and quite capable, if armed, of defending themselves on the rare occasions when the need arose. Moreover, they do not seem to have suffered rape. Bodie's record of no rape leaves it with a rape rate of zero. In 1986 Atlanta led major U.S. cities with a rape rate of 152.8[33] Atlanta, though, was topped by Benton Harbor Michigan, which record an astounding rape rate of 295.9, Highland Park, Michigan, with a nearly equally astounding 237.7, and Compton, California 167.7.[34] Appleton had a rate of 8.0, well below the national rate of 37.5[35] From 1880 through 1882 Boston had a rape arrest rate of 3.0 and Salem 4.8.[36] A conversion factor of 2.4—a figure consistent with FBI data in 1986—gives the towns rape rates of 7.2 and 11.5.


Aurora and Bodie clearly were not dens of criminal activity, and women residents of the towns were far safer than their counterparts are today in any American city. Nonetheless, when it came to men fighting men, Aurora and Bodie were unquestionably violent. [27] Men fought men with fists, knives, and guns, and they often fought to the death. They occasionally fought over women or mining property, or even politics. But mostly they (p.133) fought over who was the better man, real or imagined insults, and challenges to pecking order in the saloon. The men involved in the fights were willing—often very willing—participants. Some of them were professionals, hired as gunmen for mining companies. Others were simply miners, teamsters, bartenders, carpenters, woodchoppers, and the like. The men were mostly young and single, and adventurous and brave. The combination, sometimes laced with alcohol, led often to displays of reckless bravado and not infrequently to death.

Thirty-one Bodieites and at least 17 Aurorans were victims of homicide during the towns' boom years. The count for Aurora could be considerably higher—in fact equal Bodie's—if the grand jury in Aurora can be believed. In March 1864 the jury asserted that "within the last three years some 27 of our citizens have come to their death by the hand of violence."[38] Since four men were homicide victims in Aurora after the jury made its claim, it is possible that Aurora had a total of 31. Nevertheless, only 17 homicides can be verified by the extant historical sources (other than the grand jury's report), and Aurora newspapers at the time thought the jury's figure high.

The large majority of the homicides in Bodie and Aurora would be recorded today in the FBI's crime category of murder and nonnegligent (willful as opposed to accidental) manslaughter.[39] Probably 29 of Bodie's 31 killings, and 16 of Aurora's 17, qualify for such categorization.[40] (It should be noted that most of these killings fall into the nonnegligent manslaughter portion of the category since they were killings in self defense.) Counting 29 homicides for Bodie gives the town a murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate of 116; counting 16 for Aurora gives it a rate of 64. In 1986 Detroit led major U.S. cities, though not Bodie or Aurora, with a rate of 59.1.[41] Following Detroit were Fort Worth, 46.3, and St. Louis 44.9. [42] A number of smaller towns scored rates that surpassed Aurora, if not Bodie. Opa Locka, Florida, had a rate of 88.5, Highland Park, Michigan, 84.4, East St. Louis, Illinois, 75.1, and Compton, California, 66.0.[43] Near the other end of the scale was Appleton with a rate of 4.8, slightly more than half the national rate of 8.6.[44]

Nineteenth-century Eastern cities had rates similar to Appleton's. From 1880 through 1882 Boston had a murder and manslaughter (Boston police did not consistently distinguish between negligent and negligent manslaughter) arrest rate of only 3.8, while Salem recorded a 0.0.[45] Since numbers of arrests usually almost equal numbers of offenses in cases of murder and manslaughter, there was probably no significant difference between Boston's and Salem's rates of arrests and rates of offenses.[46] Roger Lane has found that from 1874 through 1880 Philadelphia had a homicide rate of 3.7, and its overall rate for the second half of the nineteenth century was 3.0.[47] Since Lane bases his homicide rate on numbers of indictments for homicide and not on numbers of homicides, the actual rates (p.134)

Figure 5.3: (Annual Robbery Rates per 100,000 in Selected Cities, c. 1880 and 1986)

were probably higher—perhaps double or triple if Bodie is any guide. Still, at worst Philadelphia would only have had a rate of 10 or thereabouts during the 1870s. Eric Monkkonen's investigations of New York City during the 1850s and 180s reveal a homicide rate ranging from a low of about 4 to a high of approximately 10.[48]

If contemporary Eastern towns did not begin to approach Aurora's and Bodie's high rates of homicide, other Western towns and counties did. Virginia city had 8 homicides during the year and a half following its founding in 1859.[49] In 1876, the year of its birth, Deadwood had 4 homicides.[50] Ellsworth, one of the Kansas cattle towns, had 8 homicides during the twelve months following its establishment in 1867, and Dodge city, the queen of the cattle towns, had 9 in its first year, 1872-1873.[51] Since the populations of all these towns during their first year or two of life were small, not more than two or three thousand, their homicide rates were very high indeed.

Robert R. Dykstra in his study of the Kansas cattle towns, though, compiled data which revealed that an average of just 1.5 homicides occurred per town per cattle-trading season.[52] This would seem to suggest a low homicide rate. However, an average of 1.5 homicides a year is quite high when the sizes of the towns are considered. Dodge City, for example, (p.135) never had a population of much more than 3,000. Using Dykstra's 1.5 figure gives Dodge City a homicide rate of 50, a rate exceeded by only a handful of cities today. More important, though, is Dykstra's self-imposed limit of not counting homicides for the cattle towns until, as he put it, "the first full shipping season in which each town existed as a municipality."

Thus many of the towns' homicides do not figure in Dykstra's data because all of the towns had been established a year or two or more before they had a full cattle-shipping season. Dodge City's nine homicides (some report 12, and one resident claimed 15) in its first year are not counted by Dykstra nor are any other homicides which occurred in Dodge City before 1876. Factoring in these homicides would push Dodge City's homicide rate into Bodie's range.

Thus those who have pointed to Dykstra's study as proof that the numbers of shootings and shootouts in the frontier West have been greatly exaggerated might reconsider their evidence. This is not to criticize Dykstra, who was concerned with the effect of the cattle trade on the towns and therefore found pre-cattle trade homicides irrelevant for his purpose. Moreover, violence was only a very tangential theme, almost an aside, in a study whose principal focus was the entrepreneurial spirit and city-building impulse of the citizens of a small town.

In a study of violence in nineteenth-century Michigan lumber towns, Jeremy W. Kilar has found that there were some 112 homicides in the lumber counties of Bay, Saginaw, and Muskegon during the years 1868-1888.[53] This converts to a murder and nonnegligent homicide rate of about 5 for each of the towns, leading Kilar to conclude that the lumber towns never matched the high homicide rates of man other western frontier communities. However, more than half of the lumber town homicides occurred from 1881 through 1886. During those years their homicide rates would have been about 15 or 16. In 1881 East Saginaw, with a population of some 20,000, had 15 homicides, giving it a rate of 75. Thus the lumber towns certainly had brief periods when their homicide rates were moderately high or very high, although in the long run they do not appear to have had homicide rates to compare with Bodie or Aurora.

Like the Michigan lumber counties, the California counties of San diego and Nevada had periods when their homicide rates were very high. Clare V. McKanna, Jr., has calculated that San Diego county from 1871-1875 had a rate of 117, and from 1876-1880 a 52.[54] Ben Nickoll has found that during the six-year period 1851-1856 Nevada county had a rate of 83.[55] These figures, of course, closely approximate Bodie's 116 and Aurora's 64. Not all of California was so wild, though. According to Lawrence M. Friedman and Robert V. Percival, Oakland had only two homicides during the entire first half of the 1870s, and its population was more than 11,000 in 1870 and nearly 25,000 in 1875.[56] But then, although Oakland was certainly a Western town, by the 1870s it was no longer a frontier town.(p.136)

In Bodie and Aurora several factors would appear to have been responsible for their high rats of homicide. First, their populations were composed mostly of brave, young, adventurous, and single males who admired courage above all else. Manly conduct required that a man stand and fight, even if, or perhaps especially if, it could mean death. Ironically, these men had made the dangerous trek to the frontier for a materialistic end—to strike it rich—and yet the values they held most dear—honor, pride, and courage—were anything but materialistic.

Alcohol played a major role in encouraging fighting as well. Aurora boasted some twenty-five or thirty saloons, and Bodie nearly fifty. The boys were kept well watered. It was considered manly to imbibe prodigious quantities of whiskey. Anyone who did not was regarded with suspicion. Because Tom Chapin, the superintendent of an Aurora Sunday school, did not drink, the miners called him Miss Chapin. A visitor to Aurora in 1863 said: "Aurora of a Sunday night—how shall I describe it. It is so unlike anything East that I can compare it with nothing you have ever seen. One sees a hundred men to one woman and child. Saloons—saloons—saloons—liquor—everywhere. And here the men are—where else can they be?"[57] Aurorans consumed so much alcohol that they more than doubled the price of eggs when eggnog was in season.

Bodieites were no different. Main Street in Bodie, said the Bodie Standard on October 19, 1879, "has more saloons in a given length than any thoroughfare in the world." Drunk and disorderly conduct was the most common entry in Bodie's jail register.[58] A former Bodieite recalled that "nearly everybody drank." They drank the finest imported whiskies but they also drank, according to a report in the Daily Free Press, a locally distilled whiskey made "from old boots, scraps of iron, snowslides and climate, and it only takes a couple of 'snorts' to craze a man of ordinary brainpower."

The character of the men of Aurora and Bodie and their value system meant that they would fight. Their consumption of alcohol meant that they would fight often. And their carrying of guns meant that fighting could easily prove fatal.[59] Although the armed state of the citizenry reduced the incidence of robbery, burglary, and theft, it also increased the number of homicides. Men were beaten to death and stabbed to death, but the great majority of homicides resulted from shootings. Without the gun Aurorans and Bodieites would still have fought, but their fights would not have been so deadly.

The carrying of guns was never questions. Aurorans and bodieites believed they had a natural and inalienable right to self-defense. The gun was the most effective tool in exercising that right. Nearly every man went about armed. Sam Clemens, who visited Bodie and who spent some time in Aurora working as a miner and writing for the Esmeralda Star, said that he had never had occasion to kill anybody with the Colt Navy revolver he (p.137) carried, but he had "worn the thing in deference to popular sentiment, and in order that I might not, by its absence, be offensively conspicuous, and a subject of remark."[60]

Nor was the high homicide rate a subject of great concern. Aurorans and Bodieites accepted the killings because those killed, with only a few exceptions, had been willing combatants. They had chosen to fight. Commenting on killings in Bodie the Daily Free Press said on January 7, 1880: "There has never yet been an instance of the intentional killing of a man whose taking off was not a verification of the proverb that "He that liveth by the sword shall perish by the sword.' " The old, the weak, the female, and those unwilling to fight were almost never the object of an attack.

Moreover, many of those killed in Aurora and Bodie were "roughs" or "badmen," as they were called. If a badman died in a shootout, he was not to be pitied. Sudden and violent death was an occupational hazard he had assumed upon becoming a gunman.

Extralegal Frontier Justice

On a couple of occasions, however, the citizens of Aurora and Bodie thought it necessary to react to homicides in an extralegal fashion. The homicides in question both involved clearly innocent victims who were given no opportunity to defend themselves. The citizenry was outraged and responded by forming vigilance committees.[61] The committees conformed to Richard Maxwell Brown's model of "socially constructive" committees of vigilance: they were supported by a majority of the townspeople, including the leading citizens; they were well regulated; they dealt quickly and effectively with criminal problems; they left the towns in more stable and orderly conditions; and when opposition developed, they disbanded.[62]

The organization of the Bodie 601 in response to the killing of Thomas Treloar demonstrates these points.[63] Treloar, a Cornish immigrant who had suffered brain damage in a fall down a mine shaft, had suspected his wife Johanna of infidelity for some time when he finally confronted her alleged lover Joseph DeRoche, a French-Canadian who owned a brickyard on the south side of Bodie. DeRoche convince Treloar that they should talk the matter over. As they walked down Main Street DeRoche fell a step behind Treloar, pulled out a .38 caliber revolver, and shot the Cornishman in the back of the head. Treloar pitched forward into the snow-covered street. Blood gushed from a hole behind his left ear and turned the snow a deep crimson. Within minutes he was dead.

Although it was late at night, two men who happened to be nearby had witnessed the act. DeRoche was arrested and charged with murder, but he later escaped, not rom jail but from a hotel room where he had been secretly taken when word spread that a lynch mob was on its way to the jail.(p.138)

While squads of men searched the town for DeRoche, the coroner's jury assembled. For two days the jury carefully investigated the case and heard the testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, including the two eyewitnesses. Not surprisingly, the jury found that DeRoche had killed Treloar and that the killing was "a willful and premeditated murder." The Daily Free Press expressed the mood of the town, saying that the murder was "so cold-blooded and cowardly, and was committed for a purpose seemingly so base and sordid, and under precedent circumstances so revolting to every impulse and sensibility of manhood, that it has stirred the blood of every human being in Bodie to the very springhead of the fountain." DeRoche had obviously stepped far over the line—this was not an act of self defense nor was it the shooting of an infamous badman who had threatened his life—and Bodieites were outraged.

By the time the coroner's jury rendered its verdict, a vigilance committee, the Bodie 601, had been thoroughly organized. The vigilantes operated like the military veterans many of them were. They were organized into companies and squads, had their own elected officers and a command structure, and went about their business in a quiet, orderly, and determined matter.

A patrol of vigilantes eventually discovered DeRoche hiding on a wood ranch outside of town and returned him to the Bodie jail. Within an hour hundreds of men were discussing his fate in a street meeting in front of the Bodie House hotel. Most argued that he should be hanged immediately, while a few urged that the law be allowed to take its course. The more the murder was discussed, though, the greater the indignation, until finally the crowd began to move toward the jail. Into the street jumped Patrick Reddy, Bodie's leading attorney. He brought the crowed to a halt and convinced the men to do nothing rash and allow DeRoche to be examined in justice court.

When the testimony in justice court did not differ materially from that given before the coroner's jury, the Bodie 601, after a "long and deliberate" discussion in a formal meeting, decided that DeRoche should hang. The vigilantes assembled in companies and squads, marched to the jail, and demanded the prisoner. Facing hundreds of organized, determined, and armed vigilantes, the sherif simply released DeRoche. The vigilantes then marched DeRoche to the very spot where he had killed Treloar and hanged him from a makeshift gallows. While DeRoche was still dangling form the rope a note was pinned to his chest: "All others take warning. Let no one cut him down. Bodie 601."

Two days later the coroner summoned a jury to investigate the death of Joseph DeRoche. The jurors, some of whom could have been members of the Bodie 601, quickly rendered a verdict: "The deceased came to his death at the hands of persons unknown to the jury."

Editorial comment in Bodie newspapers as well as those of nearby (p.139) towns, such as Virginia City, heartily endorsed the hanging and ignored the obvious failure of the coroner's jury to conduct a proper investigation. The newspapers also predicted that the actions of the vigilantes would have a salutary effect on the town.

The summary execution was not praised by everyone in Bodie, however. Some ninety men organized the Law and Order Association which was dedicated to aiding and protecting the officers of the law in the discharge of their official duties. At about the same time, though, the Bodie 601 disbanded and the Law and Order Association had only one more meeting before it too faded from the scene.

Importantly, the Bodie 601 (and the vigilance committee that operated in Aurora, the Citizens Safety Committee) was formed not because there was no established criminal justice system, but because the system had not been able to convict anyone other than a deranged loner who had beaten a woman to death. Although killers were invariably arrested and charged with murder, most were discharged after justice court had determined that they had acted in self-defense. In Bodie some forty men were arrested for murder (on three occasions more than one man was arrested for the same murder) but only seven of these eventually went to trial in superior court. Of the seven who were tried all but one were found not guilty.

Defense attorneys were highly competent and regularly outclassed prosecutors. Not only did the defense have all the advantages that it enjoys today, and properly so, but the defense had the added advantage in the mining towns of a very transient population. A postponement of a trial often meant the loss of prosecution witnesses. The prosecution of Chinese badman Sam Chung for murder was typical.[64] Chung was defended by the redoubtable Patrick Reddy. Chung seemed guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, yet Reddy managed to place doubt in the minds of at least some of the jurors. A mistrial was declared. The jury in a second trial was also unable to reach a verdict. By the time a third trial was held a key prosecution witness had left the state, and Chung was found not guilty.

Crime, Justice, and Minorities

The Sam Chung murder case also demonstrates another point: Chinese were not treated differently from other Aurorans or Bodieites by the legal (p.140) justice system.[65] Nor were Mexicans. In the only case where white witnesses and Chinese witnesses gave contradictory testimony, the all-white jury accepted the word of the Chinese over that of the whites; and in the one case in which a Mexican was implicated in the murder of a gringo, the Mexican was not even arrested, let alone prosecuted. The finest attorneys made themselves available to Chinese and Mexicans. When convicted of crimes, Chinese and Mexicans suffered penalties similar to those given to other lawbreakers. Moreover, crimes against them were treated just as seriously as if they had been perpetrated against any other Aurorans or Bodieites. Nonetheless, Mexicans and especially Chinese were reluctant to deal with the authorities and often preferred to personally avenge wrongs committed against them. The Chinese let the secret societies handle most of Chinatown's problems. Lawmen found it almost impossible to get Chinese to discuss a crime or testify if the perpetrator of the crime in question was Chinese.

Chinese and Mexican crime was not greatly different form that committed by other Aurorans and Bodieites. The differences were mostly a matter of degree. The Chinese were involved in a disproportionate number of burglaries and thefts, instances of selling liquor to Indians, and assaults on women, while the Mexicans committed a disproportionate number of horse thefts and, like the Chinese, sold more than their share of liquor to the Indians.

No organized violence was ever directed at either the Chinese or Mexicans. They certainly would not have been hapless victims. They too were armed with guns and knives and were not averse to using them. Almost all their fights, though, were with members of their own groups. With the Chinese this occasionally meant clashes between rival tongs. One such battle erupted with gunfire on a warm summer evening in Bodie's Chinatown and continued for more than an hour before police could separate the combatants. Hundreds of rounds were fired during the battle and at least one Chinese was killed and several others seriously wounded. Witnesses said that another three or four Chinese had been killed but their bodies had been carried away before police arrived. Some thirty Chinese were arrested and eight were charged with murder. However, one by one the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. It was simply impossible to get any Chinese to testify. Nor was anything ever learned about the bodies that were supposedly carried away.

Juvenile Crime

Aurora and Bodie, then, do not seem to have suffered from any racially inspired violence. Serious juvenile crime was also absent from the towns.[65] Dozens of teenage boys lived in Aurora and Bodie, and most of them (p.141) attempted to emulate their elders. This meant smoking (mostly tobacco but occasionally opium), drinking, gambling fighting, and carrying guns. Yet beyond perpetrating some youthful pranks and committing a few petty thefts and burglaries the boys stayed out of trouble. In Bodie there was a gang of teenage boys who loitered at the corner of Green and Wood streets, but they were known mostly for their use of foul language and for running their own faro games.

By contrast teenage boys today commit a large percentage of the violent crime that occurs in the United States. In 1986 teenage boys accounted for 14 percent of those arrested for murder, 18 percent of those for rape, and 27 percent of those for robbery.[67] In Los Angeles members of youth gangs commit more than 20 percent of the murders that occur each year. The Los Angeles police department has created a special unit called CRASH (community resources against street hoodlums) solely to combat the gangs. Kevin Rogers, a CRASH detective and fifteen-year veteran of the LAPD says that the gangs engage in "sport killing" and almost any target, as long as it is in another gang's territory, will suffice. Rogers also notes that nearly all murder victims of the gangs were in a defenseless state when shot. In his entire career he could recall only one instance where an armed combatant died in a shootout.[68]

In recent years the gangs have been ranging farther afield—to the western suburbs of Los Angeles and beyond—searching for easy marks for rape or robbery. Patrick Connolly, the chief of the campus police at UCLA in the suburb of Westwood, says that his force has had to exercise ever greater vigilance to guard against youth gang attacks on or near campus. According to chief Connolly the gangs cruise the area searching for "targets of opportunity" for rape and robbery. He credits good police work with keeping the campus, a small city itself with more than 30,000 students, relatively safe.[69]

There clearly is no comparison between the amount and kind of crime committed by teenage boys in Aurora and Bodie and that perpetrated by youth today. "Sport killing" and searching for rape and robbery prospects were unknown.


Popular wisdom says that generations of living on and conquering frontiers have made Americans a violent and lawless people. Popular wisdom is wrong. So is much scholarly literature that has drawn conclusions about violence and lawlessness from anecdotal evidence and specious assumptions.[70] The kind of crime that pervades American society today has little or no relation to the kind of lawlessness that occurred on the frontier if Aurora and Bodie are at all representative of western communities. Rob-(p.142)bery of individuals, burglary, and theft occurred only infrequently and rape seems not to have occurred at all. Racial violence and serious juvenile crime were absent also. The homicides that occurred almost invariably resulted from gunfights between willing combatants. The old, the weak, the innocent, the young, and the female were not the targets of violent men. In fact, all people in those categories would have been far safer in Aurora or Bodie than they are today in any major U.S. city. Even most smaller cities and towns are far more crime ridden and dangerous than were Aurora and Bodie.

There simply is no justification for blaming contemporary American violence and lawlessness on a frontier heritage. The time is long past for Americans to stop excusing the violence in society by trotting out that old whipping boy, the frontier. On the contrary, it would seem that the frontier, instead of representing America at its worst may have, in many respects, represented the nation at its best.

[1]. Roger D. McGrath, Gunfighters, Highwaymen, & Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 115, 141, 203-5.

[2]. For the history of Aurora and Bodie during their boom years see McGrath, Gunfighters. Statistical data for Aurora are compiled from the years 1861 through 1865, for Bodie, 1878 through 1882.

[3]. Dept. of Interior, Census Office, Statistics of the Population of the United States at the Tenth census(Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1883), 108, 382, 429, and 498;Bodie Standard July 27, 1881. Bodie's newspapers during 1879 regularly claimed a population for the town of more than 6,000. See, for example, the Bodie Morning News, May 21, 1879, and the Bodie Standard, Dec. 22, 1879. Since the U.S. Census traditionally undercounts, Bodie's population might have been close to 6,000 in 1880 also. by 1881, though, the decline had begun. Year by year estimates for Bodie's population are: 1887, 1,200; 1878, 4,000; 1879, 6000; 1880, 5,500; 1881, 5,000; 1882, 4,000; 1883, 2,000. Thus during the five years that are the focus of this study, 1878 through 1882, the average population was approximately 5,000.

[4]. McGrath, Gunfighters, 70-2, 83, 141, 162, 165-78.

[5]. Bodie Daily Free Press 12 Aug. 1880.

[6]. For talk of vigilantism and the following quotes see the Bodie Standard Feb. 15, 1879, and the Bodie Daily Free Press, Jan. 25 and Feb. 19, 1880.

[7]. Bodie's robbery rate was calculated by dividing the total number of robberies by the span of years over which they occurred (5) and multiplying by the factor (20) necessary to convert Bodie's average population during those years (5,000) to the 100,000 population norm used by the FBI Crime Index.

[8]. U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States: Uniform Crime Reports, 1986 (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987), 72, 83. All fractions have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Hereafter cited UCR, 1986

[9]. UCR, 1986,84.(p.143)

[10]. Ibid., 109.

[11]. Ibid., 16.

[12]. See, for example, Roger Lane, Violent Death in the City: Suicide, Accident, and Murder in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979). Lane briefly discusses the problems of using numbers of arrests rather than numbers of offenses, on 56-7. See also Roger Lane, Policing the city: Boston 1822-1885 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967); Eric Monkkonen, The Dangerous Class (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975) and Police in Urban America, 1860-1920 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Theodore N. Ferdinand, "The Criminal Patterns of Boston Since 1849," American Journal of Sociology 73 (July 1967): 84-99; and "Politics, the Police, and Arresting Policies in Salem, Massachusetts, Since the Civil War," Social Problems 19 (Spring 1972): 572-88.

[13]. For the disparity between offenses and arrests in 1986, compare pages 42 and 164 of the UCR, 1986. From year to year the ratio between offenses and arrests varies slightly. For 1986 the ratios were robbery 3.7 to 1; burglary 7.2 to 1; theft 5.2 to 1; rape 2.4 to 1; murder and nonnegligent manslaughter 1.07 to 1.

[14]. Ferdinand, "Criminal patterns of Boston," 93, and "Politics, the Police, and Arresting Policies in Salem," 579.

[15]. McGrath, Gunfighters, 74, 83, 86, 135, 143, 163, 181-2.

[16]. UCR, 1986, 83, 104.

[17]. Ibid. 28, 109.

[18]. Ferdinand, "Criminal Patterns of Boston," 94 and "Politics, the Police, and Arresting Policies in Salem," 579.

[19]. Bodie Morning News July 29, 1879 See, for example, Bodie Daily Free Press, March 25 and May 12, 1880.

[20]. Bodie Standard, Nov. 9, 1881.

[21]. McGrath, Gunfighters 74, 83, 86, 135, 143, 163, 178-81.

[22]. UCR, 1986, 104, 109.

[23]. Ibid., 28, 109.

[24]. Ferdinand, "Criminal Patterns of Boston," and "Politics, the Police, and Arresting Policies in Salem," 580.

[25]. New York Times, Apr. 11, 1987.

[26]. Gary Kleck, "Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force," Social Problems 35 (Feb. 1988): 1-21.

[27]. Los Angeles Times, Aug. 17 , 1986.

[28]. McGrath, Gunfighters, esp. 149-164.

[29]. Grant H. Smith, "Bodie Last of the Old Time Mining Camps," California Historical Society Quarterly 4 (March 1925); 64-80.

[30]. Bodie Daily Free Press, April 14, 1880.

[31]. Ibid., Jan. 15, 1881 and July 7, 1882 Bodie Standard; Bodie Standard, July 12, 1882.

[32]. Bodie Standard Sept. 4, 1878.

[33]. UCR, 1986, 73.

[34]. Ibid., 65, 83, 84.

[35]. Ibid., 13, 109.

[36]. Ferdinand, "Criminal Patterns of Boston," 91, and "Politics, the Police, and Arresting Policies in Salem," 579.

[37]. McGrath, Gunfighters, esp. 75-85, 185-224.

[38]. Esmeralda Union, March 31, 1864 .

[39]. Inclusion of homicides by the FBI in the category of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter is based solely on police investigation and not on the findings of a coroner, coroner's jury, or the determination of a court. The FBI does not include deaths caused by negligence, suicide, or accident; or justifiable homicides which the FBI defines as "the killings of felons by (p.144) law enforcement officers in the line of duty or by private citizens." The FBI, for purposes of its Uniform crime Reporting Program, includes self-defense homicides in its nonnegligent manslaughter category whereas the state of California, for example, in its penal code, defines a self-defense killing as a justifiable homicide. See UCR, 1980 7, and State of California, Department of Justice, Homicide in California, 1981 (Sacramento: State Printing Office, 1982), 34.

[40]. The two homicides in Bodie that I have excepted are a stagecoach guard's killing of a highwayman and the killing of a bystander struck by a stray round during a gunfight, in; in Aurora it is the killing of a man that may have been an accident, the result of an accidental discharge of a handgun.

[41]. UCR, 1986, 83.

[42]. Ibid., 87, 104.

[43]. Ibid., 65, 72, 75, 84.

[44]. Ibid., 7, 109.

[45]. Ferdinand, "Criminal Patters of Boston," 89 and 90, and "Politics and Police, and Arresting Policies in Salem," 579.

[46]. The ratio of offenses to arrests for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter was 1.07 to 1 in 1986 and 1.04 to 1 in 1985. See UCR, 1986 42 and 164, and UCR, 1985 42 and 164. Oftentimes several members of a gang are arrested for one killing, causing numbers of arrests to exceed numbers of offenses in some jurisdictions. This is often the case in Los Angeles where gang-related killings account for nearly one quarter of all homicides.

[47]. Lane, Violent Death in the City, 60 and 79. Lane discusses the problem of determining homicide rates on 56-9.

[48]. See Eric Monkkonen's chapter "Homicide, America's Darkest Page," in this volume.

[49]. Myron Angel, ed., History of Nevada (Oakland: Thompson and West, 1881), 343-4.

[50]. Harry H. Anderson, "Deadwood, South Dakota: An Effort at Stability," Montana: The Magazine of Western History 20 (Jan. 1970), 40-7.

[51]. Robert R. Dykstra, The Cattle Towns (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), 113.

[52]. For Dykstra's discussion of homicide see The Cattle Towns, 142-6.

[53]. Jeremy W. Kilar, "Great Lakes Lumber Towns and Frontier Violence: A Comparative Study," Journal of Forest History 31 (Apr. 1987): 71-85.

[54]. Clare V. McKanna, Jr., of San Diego State University, has recently finished cataloging homicides that occurred in San Diego county during the second half of the nineteenth century. The material, part of a larger project, has not yet been published. Some mention of homicide rates in San Diego county, though, can be found in an article by McKanna and Richard W. Crawford, the archivist of the San Diego Historical Society: "Crime in California: Using State and Local Archives for Crime Research," Pacific Historical Review 55 (May 1986): 284-95. Kathleen Jones Bulmash, another researcher working with McKanna, delivered a paper on the subject, Changing Patterns of Criminal Homicide in the Wet: San Diego, 1870-1900," before the Western Association of Women Historians at the Huntington Library, Apr. 15, 1984.

[55]. Ben Nickoll, "Violence on the American Frontier: Nevada County, California, 1851-1856," unpublished senior honors thesis, Dept. of History, UCLA, June 1986.

[56]. Lawrence M. Friedman and Robert V. Percival,The Roots of Justice: Crime and Punishment in Alameda County, California, 1870-1910 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), 27 and 29.

[57]. Francis P. Farquhar, ed., Up and Down California in 1860-1864: The Journal of William H. Brewer Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 420.

[58]. See, for example, Jail Register: Bodie Branch Jail, 10-30.

[59]. The handgun of choice in Aurora was the Colt Navy, a .36 caliber, octagon-barrel, six-shot revolver, noted for its perfect balance and accuracy. The Colt Dragoon also saw considerable use. In Bodie gunfighters favored the Colt Double Action Model of 1877 known (p.145) popularly as the "Lightning," a nickname given the gun by B. Kittredge and Company of Cincinnati, a major Colt Dealer. The gun first appeared in .38 caliber but within months was also produced in.41 caliber, which Bodieites used. Although Benjamin Kittredge gave the bigger .41 caliber a new nickname, "Thunderer," Bodieites (and others on the frontier) referred to it as the Lightning. Since the gun was double action it was also commonly called a "self-cocker." For a thorough discussion of the widely-used revolver see Richard C. Marohn, "1877—Colt's First Year of Double Action," The Gun Report 28 (October 1982), 14-9. For Colts in general use see Charles T. Haven and Frank A. Belden, The History of the Colt Revolver (New York: W. Morrow and Co., 1940), James E. Serven, Colt Firearms from 1836 (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1979), and R.Q. Sutherland and R.L. Wilson, The Book of Colt Firearms (Kansas City: R.Q. Sutherland, 1971). For a comprehensive overview of guns used on the frontier see Louis A. Garavaglia and Charles G. Worman's two volume study Firearms of the American West Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984 and 1985).

[60]. Samuel L. Clemens, Roughing It (New York: Harper and Row, 1913), 197.

[61]. See McGrath, Gunfighters, 86-101, 225-46, 255-6.

[62]. Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Violence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism (New York, Oxford University Press, 1975), 118.

[63]. McGrath, Gunfighters, 234-44.

[64]. Ibid., 135-7.

[65]. Ibid., 124-48.

[66]. Ibid., 162-4.

[67]. UCR, 1986 164, 176.

[68]. Personal interviews with LAPD detective Kevin Rogers during 1986 and 1987. The LAPD keeps careful records of youth gang activities and compiles a large number of statistical tables and charts on gang-related crime for intradepartmental use and analysis. All of these were made available for my use in preparing this study.

[69]. Personal interviews with Patrick Connolly, Chief of the UCLA campus police, during 1986 and 1987. Before he came to UCLA Chief Connolly spent nearly twenty years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

[70]. See, for example, James Truslow Adams, "Our Lawless Heritage," The Atlantic Monthly 142 (Dec. 1928): 732-40; R. W. Mondy, "Analysis of Frontier Social Instability," Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 24 (Sept. 1943): 167-77; Mabel A. Elliot, "Crime and the Frontier Mores," American Sociological Review 9 (Apr. 1944): 185-92; Gilbert Geis, "Violence in American Society," Current History 52 (June 1967): 354-8, 366; and Joe B. Frantz, "The Frontier Tradition: An Invitation to Violence," in Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, eds., Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969).