Intelligence of the capture of Ives preceded the arrival of the scouts at Nevada. That town was full of people when they entered with their prisoners. A discussion between the citizens of Virginia City and Nevada, growing out of the claims asserted by each to the custody and trial of the prisoners, after much protesting by the friends of Ives, resulted in their detention at Nevada. They were separated and chained, and a strong inside and outside guard placed over them. The excitement was intense; and the roughs, alarmed for the fate of their comrades, despatched Clubfoot George to Bannack with a message to Plummer, requesting him to come at once to Nevada, and demand the prisoners for trial by the civil authorities. By means of frequent relays provided at the several places of rendezvous of the robbers on the route, he performed the journey before morning. Johnny Gibbons, a rancher in sympathy with Ives, proceeded immediately to Virginia City, and secured the legal assistance of Ritchie and Smith, the latter being the same individual who had figured in the defense of the Dillingham murderers. But the time for strategy was over,-the people were determined there should be no delay.
Early the next morning, the road leading through the gulch was filled with people hastening from all the towns and mining settlements to Nevada. Before ten o'clock, fifteen hundred or two thousand had assembled and were standing in the partially congealed mud of the only public thoroughfare of the town. The weather was pleasant for the season, with no snow, but a little frostwork of ice bordered the streams, and the sun shone with an October warmth and serenity. The urchins of the neighborhood were dodging in and out among the crowd, in merry pastime; and the great gathering, with all its appointments, wore more of a commemorative than retributory aspect. And as this was the day preceding "Forefathers' Day," one unacquainted with the sterner matters in hand, might readily have mistaken it for an old-time New England festival. The illusion, however, would have been instantly dispelled on listening to the various opinions advanced by the miners, while arranging the mode of trial. It was finally determined that the investigation should be made in the presence of the entire assemblage,-the miners reserving the final decision of all questions. To avoid all injustice to people or prisoners, an advisory commission of twelve men from each of the districts was appointed; and W.H. Patton of Nevada, and W.Y. Pemberton of Virginia City, were selected to take notes of the testimony.
Col. Wilbur F. Sanders and Hon. Charles S. Bagg, attorneys, appeared on behalf of the prosecution, and Messrs. Alexander Davis and J.M. Thurmond for the prisoners. Ives was the first prisoner put upon trial. It was late in the afternoon of the 19th before the examination of witnesses commenced. The prisoner secured by chains, was seated beside his counsel. The remainder of that day, and all that day following, had been spent; and when the crowd assembled on the morning of the 21st, the prospect for another day of unprofitable wrangling, long speeches, captious objections, and personal altercations, was as promising as the day before; but the patience of the miners being exhausted, they informed the court and people that the trial must close at three o'clock that afternoon. This announcement was received with great satisfaction.
I am unable from any facts in my possession to recapitulate the testimony. Long John was admitted to testify under the rule of law regulating the reception of State's evidence. Among other things it was established that Ives had said in a boastful manner to his associates in crime,-
"When I told the Dutchman I was going to kill him, he asked me for time to pray. I told him to kneel down then. He did so, and I shot him through the head just as he commenced his prayer."
Two alibis set up in defence failed of proof, because of the infamous character of the witnesses. Many developments of crimes committed jointly by the prisoner and some of his sympathizing friends, were made, which had the effect to drive the latter from the Territory before the close of the trial, but for which his conviction might possibly have been avoided. The prisoner was unmoved throughout the trial. Not a shade of fear disturbed the immobility of his features. Calm and self-possessed, he saw the threads of evidence woven into strands, and those strands twisted into coils as inextricable as they were condemnatory, and he looked out upon the stern and frigid faces of the men who were to determine his fate with a gaze more defiant than any he encountered. There were those near him who were melted to tears at the revelation of his cruelty and bloodthirstiness; there were even those among his friends who betrayed in their blanched lineaments their own horror at his crimes; but he, the central figure, equally indifferent to both, sat in their midst, as inflexible as an image of stone.
The scene, by its associations and objects, could not be otherwise than terribly impressive to all who were actors in it; it wanted none of the elements, either of epic force or tragic fury, which form the basis of our noblest poems. A whole community, burning under repeated outrages, sitting in trial on one of an unknown number of desperate men, whose strength, purposes, even whose persons, were wrapped in mystery! How many of that surging crowd now gathered around the crime-covered miscreant, might rush to his rescue the moment his doom should be pronounced, no one could even conjecture. No man felt certain that he knew the sentiments of his neighbor. None certainly knew that the adherents of the criminal were weaker, either in numbers or power, than the men of law and order. It was night, too, before the testimony closed; and in the pale moonlight, and glare of the trial fire, suspicion transformed honest men into ruffians, and filled the ranks of the guilty with hundreds of recruits.
The jury retired to deliberate upon their verdict. An oppressive feeling, almost amounting to dread, fell upon the now silent and anxious assemblage. Every eye was turned upon the prisoner, seemingly the only person unaffected by surrounding circumstances. Moments grew into hours.
"What detains the jury'? Why do they not return? Is not the case clear enough?." These questions fell upon the ear in subdued tones, as if their very utterance breathed of fear. In less than half an hour they came in with solemn faces, with their verdict,-Guilty! -but one juror dissenting.
"Thank God for that! A righteous verdict!" and other like expressions broke from the crowd, while on the outer edge of it, amidst mingled curses, execrations, and howls of indignation, and the quick click of guns and revolvers, one of the ruffians exclaimed,-
"The murderous, strangling villains dare not hang him, at any rate." Just at this moment a motion was made to the miners, "that the report be received, and the jury discharged," which, with some little opposition from the prisoner's lawyers, was carried.
Some of the crowd now became clamorous for an adjournment; but failing in this, the motion was then made, "that the assembly adopt as their verdict the report of the committee."
The prisoner's counsel sprung to their feet to oppose the motion, but it was carried by such a large majority, that the assemblage seemed at once to gather fresh life and encouragement for the discharge of the solemn duty which it imposed. There was a momentary lull in the proceedings, when the people found that they had reached the point when the execution of the criminal was all that remained to be done. They realized that the crisis of the trial had arrived. On the faces of all could be read their unexpressed anxiety concerning the result. What man among them possessed the courage and commanding power equal to the exigencies of the occasion!
At this critical moment, the necessity for prompt action, which had so disarranged and defeated the consummation of the trial of Stinson and Lyons, was met by Colonel Sanders, one of the counsel for the prosecution, who now moved,-
"That George Ives be forthwith hanged by the neck, until he be dead."
This motion so paralyzed the ruffians, that, before they could recover from their astonishment at its being offered, it was carried with even greater unanimity than either of the previous motions, the people having increased in courage as the work progressed. Some of the friends of Ives now came up, with tears in their eyes, to bid him farewell. One or two of them gave way to moderate grief. Meantime, Ives himself, beginning to realize the near approach of death, begged piteously for a delay until morning, making all those pathetic appeals which on such occasions are hard to resist. "I want to write to my mother and sister," said he; but when it was remembered that he had written, and caused to be sent to his mother soon after he came to the country, an account of his own murder by Indians, in order to deceive her, no one thought the reason for delay a good one.
"Ask him," said one of the crowd, as he held the hand of Colonel Sand ers, and was in the midst of a most touching appeal for delay, "ask him how long a time he gave the Dutchman."
He, however, made a will, giving everything to his counsel and companions in iniquity, to the entire exclusion of his mother and sisters. Several letters were written under his dictation by one of his counsel.
In the meantime, A.B. Davis and Robert Hereford prepared a scaffold.
The butt of a small pine, forty feet in length, was placed on the inside of a halfenclosed building standing near, under its rear wall, the top projecting over a cross-beam in front. Near the upper end was fastened the fatal cord, and a large dry-goods box about five feet high was placed beneath for the trap.
Every preparation being completed, Ives was informed that the time for his execution had come. He submitted to be led quietly to the drop, but hundreds of voices were raised in opposition. The roofs of all the adjacent buildings were crowded with spectators. While some cried, "Hang the ruffian," others said, "Let's banish him," and others shouted, "Don't hang him." Some said, "Hang Long John. He's the real murderer," and occasionally was heard a threat, "I'll shoot the murdering souls," accompanied by curses and epithets. The flash of revolvers was everywhere seen in the moonlight. The guards stood grim and firm at their posts. The miners cocked their guns, muttered threats against all who interfered, and formed a solid phalanx which it would have been madness to assault.
When the culprit appeared upon the platform, instant stillness pervaded the assembly. The rope was adjusted. The usual question, "Have you anything to say'?" was addressed to the prisoner, who replied in a distinct voice,-
"I am innocent of this crime. Alex Carter killed the Dutchman."
This was the only time he accused anyone except Long John.
He then expressed a wish to see Long John, and his sympathizers yelled in approbation; but as an attempted rescue was anticipated, the request was denied.
When all the formalities and last request were over, the order was given to the guard,-
"Men, do your duty."
The click of a hundred gun-locks was heard, as the guard levelled their weapons upon the crowd, and the box flew from under the murderer's feet, as he swung "in the night breeze, facing the pale moon, that lighted up the scene of retributive justice." The crowd of rescuers fled in terror at the click of the guns.
"He is dead," said the judge, who was standing near him. "His neck is broken."
Henry Spivey, the juror who voted against the conviction of Ives, was a thoroughly honest and conscientious man. He was not satisfied that the evidence showed Ives to be guilty of the murder of Tiebalt, and as this was the specific charge against him, he could not vote against his conscience.
He said that if Ives had been tried as a road agent, he would have voted for his conviction.
The highest praise is due to Colonel Sanders for the fearlessness and energy he displayed in the conduct of this trial; for it furnished an example which was not lost upon the law and order men in all their subsequent efforts to rid the Territory of the ruffians.