Friday, March 02, 2007

Chapter IV: Sheriff Charley Brown

Exciting news, dear readers!

Chuck Walker recently informed me that Publish America has accepted his manuscript for Sheriff Charley Brown for publication and made him an offer; he has decided to accept. This is the first book about St. Vincent to have been published other than a straight historical book.

It has been my privilege to be able to offer Chuck's book here in serialized form, and I will be continuing to do so for the entire story. With that in mind, here is chapter four...Enjoy!

Deputy U.S. Marshal William Anderson1 was becoming impatient. While reclining on his bed at Fisk's hotel he pondered the action of Deputy LaMoure and Sheriff Brown. Apparently they had gone out to speak with, rather than seize Bill Collins. Imagine Billy posing as Bill Gale! Anderson snorted in contempt at the idea. Why, the fool didn't even change his first name!

To further his disappointment, the local officers seemed to think their matters of more importance than his. Brown had gone off on an Indian hunt to the west and LaMoure had gone to a court action in Fargo. Little did they know of real desperados! Perhaps nothing of criminal importance ever happens in this cracker-barrel town!

Anderson realized his reputation hung in the balance. He had to bring in Collins or his credibility with the U.S. Marshals Service would suffer. There would be no promotion. He would always remain just a deputy. He realized it made sense to await the return of the two local officers, but the idea tormented him. He wanted the entire credit for the capture. “I won't share with them!”

Deeply perturbed, he considered his options. Evidently Collins and his wife had been corresponding, and no doubt were still in contact. Yet, the marshals' service had intercepted only the one letter written by Collin's lawyer. She must be sending her return letters in a round about way, by having someone mail them from an outlying post office. Not one of her letters has been intercepted. That meant Collins must be getting her letters at a nearby post office, either in Pembina, St. Vincent, or perhaps even West Lynne, in Canada.

Early on Wednesday morning he walked to the Pembina post office and introduced himself to the postmaster, Charles Cavalier2. The mailman was popularly known as 'Doc', as he was always called -- the oldest settler and pre-emptor of the principal portion of Pembina. He was considered one of nature's gentlemen, in fact one of the great men of the town.

"Does the man who calls himself Bill Gale, come to your post office often?"

Cavalier studied the stranger. "A man called J. W. Gale gets an occasional letter here. Just who are you?"

Anderson was forced to display his credentials and briefly explain his purpose. "According to Sheriff Brown, Gale works at a hotel along the border. I hold a federal warrant for Bill Collins, alias Bill Gale. I've got to find him somewhere away from that hotel. If I go out there to make the arrest he can step across that so-called line into Canada and I can't touch him. Does he come often to your post office to pick up his mail?"

"Once in a great while and usually on a Saturday, likely it’s his day off. Just what are you planning?"

"I'll sit in here next Saturday and if he shows up, I'll arrest him. Sheriff Brown and Marshal LaMoure were supposed to assist in the arrest but they've both ducked out on me."

"Now hold on! I don't know a thing about you! Don't go chastising Charley and Jud; they are good men and I won't have you denigrate them!"

It was obvious to Anderson that he was rubbing Cavalier the wrong way; he attempted to smooth things over. "Like I said, I'll sit in here next Saturday and pick up Collins, alias Bill Gale. There shouldn't be any problem."

"Except for some shooting," Cavalier suggested warily.

"Oh, none of that, I'm sure. I'll have him covered."

"Well, it's your neck. Best you're out of sight though. You can wait around the corner in the kitchen. Thank the Lord my wife is visiting her folks in Winnipeg. She wouldn't allow anything of the sort!"

Returning to his hotel Anderson pondered how he would pass the time until Saturday, since this was Wednesday. Perhaps either Brown or LaMoure, or both, would be back in time to support him. He was beginning to have second thoughts about the wisdom of making the arrest unaided.

On Friday afternoon Anderson contacted lawyer Ewing who introduced him to one of the sheriff's deputies, Ned Cavalier. Ned advised, "Charley and Jud are still out of town as far as I know, but they should both be back by Sunday. If I were you I'd await their return. You may find Gale tough to handle."

"I knew him back in Texas. He won't be any problem." Sensing Anderson's arrogance, Ned shrugged, turning away.

Early on Saturday morning Anderson approached the post office. He hesitated briefly to study the new outside stairway built to give access to the upper floor. Apparently it would serve no useful advantage. Walking to the rear door of Cavalier's home, he knocked, knowing the post office door would be locked until 9:00 a.m. A barefoot Cavalier clad only in droopy, long underwear admitted him. He complained, "Pretty early for you to be here. I just lit the fire to make coffee. The drayman won't be here with the mail from the morning train for at least another hour."

"Thought I'd look over the place, so as to not make any mistakes. Collins is a crack shot, and if he pulls a gun, I'll have to nail him quick."

"Judas! I hope it doesn't come to that! You should have waited for Charley and Jud. They may be cautious, but they're thorough. Best you use the bench behind the counter instead of the chair at the rear. I'll see him in plenty of time to warn you."

Although Cavalier shared coffee with the marshal, he pointedly failed to offer him breakfast. Anderson regretted the impulse that had prompted his early arrival without first eating. Still, he would take no chance of missing his man.

When the drayman arrived and dropped two bags of mail at the door, Cavalier opened them and began sorting letters into various pigeonholes built into the wall. Anderson noted the second mailbag contained only newspapers and packages. "Mostly morning delivery," Cavalier grumbled. "Not much mail comes on the stage anymore, nearly all arrives by rail."

The morning went by slowly, the marshal alert to each customer that entered. By noon he realized he was getting nervous and jumpy. Dryness seemed to settle in his mouth and throat and he again began to question the wisdom of confronting Collins alone. He felt a tension building that he couldn't cast off.

Cavalier was no help. A garrulous man by nature, he questioned Anderson's experience as a marshal. This left Anderson on the defensive, since none of his previous arrests had been life threatening. Pointedly Cavalier brought up Charley's war record and his experiences during the arrest of the Fenian leaders: O'Neil, Donally and O'Donoghue.

"O'Neil was the leader of that Fenian raid against Fort Erie, Ontario, back in '70. The British ran his ass out of there. But in l871 a few grouped together west of here near St. Joe, in another attempt to take Canada. Captain Wheaton, at Fort Pembina got wind of their plan and sent Lt. Bradley west to find their camp. It was Charley who found them, but he got no credit. The very next day, I remember it was in October; the Fenian's crossed the border and captured the Hudson Bay Post just west of Emerson. When a breed brought the word to Captain Wheaton, he sent two companies across the border to capture the Fenians. When O'Neil and his men saw the troops from Fort Pembina approaching, they panicked and ran. Charley was instrumental in their capture." He smiled. "O'Donaghue escaped initially but a breed ran him down and hauled him back to Fort Pembina."

Anderson questioned, "What did they do with the Fenian leaders?"

Cavalier looked disgusted, "Heck, they turned all three loose after a trial at Fort Pembina and a second court appearance in St. Paul. It seems their seizure was considered out of the U.S. jurisdiction." Shaking his head, he added, "Those in power decided that although Wheaton had done an admirable thing, he had no business crossing into Canada."

When the noon hour came Cavalier made sandwiches. Local boys gathered in the mid-afternoon, playing on the outside stairs, shouting and running up and down the steps. Twice Cavalier went outside to yell at them, but they were soon back, seemingly unafraid of the jocular Doc.

As the afternoon wore on, Anderson began to further regret his decision to take Collins alone. He made up his mind to call off his vigil at 4 o'clock.

It was then Cavalier suddenly said, "Here comes your man now. He's just crossing the street."

Anderson nervously arose from the bench, nearly upsetting it. His heart raced as he took his stance behind the corner leading to the kitchen; it’s pounding seemed almost in his throat. He could hear the boys playing on the outside stairs to the north. Suddenly, he realized, my God! That's the direction in which I must shoot if Bill draws his gun. Long, tense seconds elapsed before the door on the northeast corner of the post office audibly squealed and heavy footsteps were heard.

When Anderson deemed Collins clear of the door, he nervously stepped from behind cover, his revolver in hand. "Get your hands up, Bill! You're under arrest!"

A surprised, but friendly smile appeared on Collins face as he raised his hands chest high. "Why, Bill Anderson, my old friend -- you wouldn't arrest me, would you? I've gone straight for four years and if you leave me alone I'll go straight the rest of my life."

Anderson was obdurate, "I was sent up here to serve a Warrant on you Bill, and it's my duty to do so."

Collins had allowed his hands to drop a little and with a sudden jerk wrenched a revolver free from under his open shirt.

Anderson fired at that instant, the bullet entering high in Collin's chest, staggering him.

Collins felt the hammer-like blow but fought the feeling of dizziness that came almost instantly. Leveling his gun at Anderson he fired and missed. Anderson felt an instant of panic and ran around the corner and out the kitchen door. Somehow, by sheer willpower, Gale staggered around the corner facing the open back door. At that moment, Anderson, suddenly regained a feeling of bravado, and thinking Collins perhaps dead, peered around the door casing. Collins fired at that instant, the bullet striking Anderson who collapsed on the stoop.

"Judas Priest!" Cavalier stood aghast, transfixed for seconds, then he pushed past the now sagging Collins, toppling him to the kitchen floor. Ripping open Anderson's shirt he realized the marshal had been hit in the center of his chest and was dead. Turning, he rolled Collin's body over, to find that he too, was dead.

Shouting was heard from the boys outside and in less than a minute the kitchen was crowded with men, accompanied by the boys who had been playing outside. In the commotion that ensued, it was discovered that a young boy playing just outside, had been narrowly missed by Anderson's bullet. The missile had passed through Collins chest and through the northeast door.

It took several minutes for Cavalier, assisted by deputy Bill Morehead to clear away the crowd and lock the door. A wagon was summoned and the bodies were removed to the local undertaker.

It was less than an hour later when Charley and Ian drove into town with a tired team, and were informed of the shooting. Charley immediately took charge and had the telegrapher contact Washington to report the affair:
Deputy Marshal W. H. Anderson, in attempting to arrest Wm. O. Collins, the Texas train robber in Pembina, Dakota Territory, was killed by Collins STOP Anderson also killed Collins STOP s/N. E. Nelson, Pembina, Dakota Territory STOP
When Charley and Doc Cavalier walked to the mortuary and further examined the body of Collins, they discovered his right thumb nearly severed at the joint by Anderson's bullet that had passed through his chest.

Charley marveled at the man's stamina. "Just think, shot fatally, yet he walked to the kitchen and fired at Anderson as he peered in the door. How he could even hold the gun with that useless thumb beats all." He puzzled, "Why didn't Anderson fire more than the one shot? I checked his gun and it's in working order. He had four more cartridges available. Why did he panic?"

Cavalier said resignedly, "Who knows? I believe he was flat-out scared! If the darned fool had hesitated a few more seconds before coming back through the doorway, he'd still be alive."

"Probably was ashamed of himself. I saw plenty of it during the war. Matter of fact some of the men that seemed to be cowards at first, turned out to be the bravest in the end." Charley shook his head. "Gale told Jud and me that he'd have it out with Anderson. He sure did!"

"He should have waited for you to return, but he must have been in a hurry to get back to Texas. Well, he'll get there now, but in a box.

"Are you going back to the hills again?" Cavalier queried as they left the funeral parlor.

"Yup! Soon as I can arrange some help from the fort."

"I heard they finished the qualifying on the rifle range yesterday. That should free some men. 'Course they'll start cutting next winter's firewood soon. Geez! They went through over 800 cords of wood at the fort last winter. They've got every tree on the fort property cut down and are working on trees nearly a mile up the river. Pretty soon they'll have to buy firewood. Say, best you come back to the office with me. You have some mail piled up."

"Doc, I imagine they'll send federal men down to pick up Anderson's body and snoop around. There'll be an inquest too; you'll probably be called to testify."

"That's no problem. I have no plans to leave town." Reflectively he added, "I suppose my wife will probably rush home when she hears news of the shooting. She'll probably give me hell for letting it happen in our house."

1 Anderson was eventually killed in the line of duty.

According to historical records in Dallas County (Texas), "...William O. (Billy) COLLINS m. 24 Feb. 1875, Dallas Co., Tx. to Sallie J. CATON, he d. 8 Nov. 1878, shot to death by Deputy US Marshall William (Billie) Anderson at Pembina, Dakota Territory--Anderson was also shot to death at the same time, Mr. George Waller and Mr. Lida Huffman went from Dallas to identify the body..."

2 CAVALIER, CHARLES - Born in 1818 in Springfield, OH, the son of Charles Cavalier and Rachel Trease. In the summer of 1841, a Methodist mission was established at Red Rock. Along with the Rev. B. F. Kavenaugh and his family came William R. Brown, Cavalier, and two schoolteachers. Brown erected the mission buildings, and he and Cavalier established a store and a farm in 1842. In 1845, Cavalier moved to St. Paul where he took up his original trade as a saddler, occupying a small building on the levee, then moving in 1847 to what was once called Charles Street. In 1848, he went into the drug business with Dr. John Dewey. He also served for a few months as Territorial Librarian. His real estate holdings were valued at $500 in 1850. In 1851, went to Pembina where he served over 25 years as Postmaster. He was married in 1856 to Isabella Murray, and had children: William, Albert, Edward, Sarah, and LuLu Bell. Sarah died at birth, and none of the remaining 4 children married. Charles, Isabella, and their 5 children are buried in the Pembina City Cemetary. Charles also had a son, Alexander, whose mother was Marguerite Descoteaux dit Baton; a daughter, Rachel, whose mother was a Sauteuse indian; and a daughter, Julia Isabelle, whose mother is unknown. [Source: Williams, J. Fletcher. A History of the City of Saint Paul to 1875. St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society, ©1983. (Out of Print) and Minnesota Territorial Census 1850. Minnesota Genealogical Journal, Minnesota Historical Society, ©1972. (Out of Print)]