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Last Of The Mendocino Outlaws

Samuel Carr, who turned state’s evidence against his fellow Mendocino Outlaws, served two years in the state penitentiary then gained his release in May, 1882. Later that year, Doc Standley was elected Sheriff of Mendocino County. He earned re-election in 1884. 

Standley lost the race for county sheriff in the fall of 1886 by six votes. Scarcely a year later, his successor died in office. The county supervisors didn’t take long before appointing Doc to re-assume the role of sheriff during March of 1888. He won another election to the post in 1890. In March of 1892, Doc Standley stood his ground in front of a mob of white men, from in and around Fort Bragg, who had run a group of Chinese out of town. The Chinese laborers had been employed to dig the first tunnel on the lumber company’s railroad, connecting the Pudding Creek and Noyo River watersheds. Enough voters deemed Standley’s action as too much, a white man defending the Chinese rather than looking the other way for his Anglo-Saxon brethren. This led to the long time sheriff losing a close election in November 1892.

Doc returned to his Sherwood Valley sheep ranch, provided occasional deputy work, and worked from time to time as a special detective for Wells, Fargo. In mid-January, 1897, Doc trailed a stage robber north of Calpella. In a split-second confrontation, the bandit shot the lawman out of the saddle. The bullets broke the detective’s left arm and penetrated his right leg. The criminal fled and soon thereafter a couple lifted Standley into their wagon, driving him to the home of his mother in Ukiah. A doctor operated by the light of a lantern held by Doc’s twelve-year-old daughter.

Within days, the county sheriff and deputies captured the stage robber. Standley recovered from the bullet wounds (the first he suffered in the line of duty), which probably saved the criminal from a lynch mob.

The following year, like so many others, Doc headed to the Klondike in search of gold. He did some mining then settled in Nome, working in the freighting business and performing occasional deputy duties. His wife arrived not long after Doc established himself in Alaska. They stayed until 1902, returning to Mendocino County at that juncture. 

In 1903, Standley appeared to be the front runner for the job of warden at Folsom Prison. He had the recommendation of Wells, Fargo. The San Francisco Call ran a headline, “Standley Will Be New Warden.” 

In an odd twist of fate, Archibald Yell, the Mendocino attorney who had been part of the posse ambushed by the outlaws on October 15, 1879, won the warden-ship. He had served as a state senator, member of the assembly, and at the time held the position of assistant district attorney for Sacramento County. 

Doc and his wife returned to Alaska along with one of their four children, daughter Jessie. She soon earned a teaching position in a Nome school. On January 26, 1908, Standley stopped in at the Nome police headquarters. Receiving information on the building’s second floor, Doc made to leave. Perhaps with his mind occupied, he opened a door that led directly to a stairwell. The sixty-two-year-old lawman stepped into open space, fell and tumbled down the stairway, bashing his head and spinal cord. He remained bedridden for months in Alaska before the ice broke enough for shipping to commence. His wife and daughter secured passage for all three, heading for San Francisco. At Seattle, the family disembarked, with Doc taken to a medical facility. His wife and daughter traveled on to California. After some time, a friend boarded another ship with Doc, heading south. The lawman had lost his sight by this time and remained unconscious. When the vessel docked for a time in Portland, it was thought best to carry Standley ashore. There, in Oregon did the former deputy and sheriff pass from the living.

Perhaps the finest tribute to Jeremiah “Doc” Standley can be found in the pages of a newspaper, written sixteen years before his death. “Some men are born with certain qualities that fit them for certain duties; some achieve fitness, and some are never fit, no matter what opportunity may thrust itself upon them. Now it happens that Doc Standley was born with all the natural qualifications for a sheriff. When he gets on the track of a malefactor he follows it to cover. He is a wiry, slender built man with an eye that holds and into which an honest man likes to look – it shows activity, ingenuity, and courage. He has proven that he possesses all these good qualities... Mr. Standley... can catch onto a loose end an unravel a tangled skein of cunning finesse as quickly as any man in the State.”

In 1890, Governor Waterman commuted George Gaunce’s sentence. The Governor’s commutation included the following reasoning, “Whereas Gaunce has been confined for a period of ten years and during all this time has been an obedient and faithful prisoner, often rendering valuable service to the State...” and so on. Among the letters requesting Gaunce’s release was one signed by all twelve jurors who convicted him.

Reaction in Mendocino County proved less than benevolent. The Fort Bragg Advocate spoke in no uncertain terms. “Well may he [Gov. Waterman] be ashamed of the wrong he has done the people of Mendocino county. When a man deliberately prostitutes the trust of the people, as Waterman has, language strong enough cannot be found to condemn him. May the curse of an outraged and offended people follow him all his days, and may the brand of the murderer of a second Cain be stamped on his forehead to forever confront him with the enormity of the crime he committed when he gave George Gaunce his freedom. Mendocino county will never forget the name of Waterman and it will go down to posterity as a by-word of contempt and derision. Let Waterman’s name be added to the villains who sent Thomas Dollard and William Wright into eternity, without a moment’s warning.” 

Gaunce returned to the East Bay. He worked at a sash and door factory for twenty years. He died at Oakland, aged sixty-six in 1915.

Samuel Carr returned to his old stomping grounds, San Francisco. While driving a dead wagon in March, 1910, the team of horses bolted. Carr was thrown from the seat. The fall killed the seventy-two-year-old saloon keeper and outlaw. 

In September of that same year, 1910, across the bay, seventy-one-year-old H.E. (Harrison or Hal) Brown gained release from San Quentin. After twenty-eight years in that prison, Governor George Perkins pardoned the last of the Mendocino Outlaws. With the aid of crutches, the longest serving prisoner at San Quentin shuffled onto a ferry for the ride across the bay, where he gazed at the City’s brand new skyline. Once in the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the parolee gaped through a window at immense buildings then at the street. The whir and clatter of trolley cars, the sing-song shouts of newsboys, and all the other attendant noise of a bustling metropolis dazed his once cold gray eyes. A reporter asked how long he had been at San Quentin. “Twenty-eight years, three months, and seven days.”

The reporter inquired, “You have never seen a trolley car?”

With the bewildered yet curious tone of a child, Brown said, “No. Never saw them before.”

He noted that almost all the men on the street were clean shaven compared to the bearded fashions when he rode with the Mendocino Outlaws. The old bandit who had served seven years in the same institution during the 1870s for Sonoma County thievery appeared more like a broken down invalid than a fearsome lawbreaker. He rebuffed any questions about the killing of Dollard and Wright in October, 1879.

Warden Hoyle told the reporter Brown had been an exemplary prisoner. Parole Officer Mulford continued with his charge all the way to Chico, Texas, to the home of Brown’s nephew. Despite his weakened state at the time of his parole, H.E. Brown made it through several more years before his kidneys failed. The last of the Mendocino Outlaws died of Bright’s disease in 1919.


  1. lauracooskey September 27, 2021

    Thanks for writing this! Good entertainment on a rainy morning, and history little-known to me.

  2. George Dorner September 27, 2021

    Now that you have wrapped this thriller up, can we expect another series of these well-written, colorful, informative articles? Maybe the Little Lake Vendetta?

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