Back in the days when Owens Lake still had water
in it, and the Owens Valley was full of both white and red men, a desperado by
the name of John "Hog" Rogers lived near its shore. His dusty ranch was home to
the hogs he had probably stolen, some poultry, and a big old vicious, but
faithful dog named Jack.
Hog Rogers Ranch was a popular spot for the
teamsters coming and going along the trail in their big freight wagons full of
supplies for the various towns and camps that had sprouted up in the Owens
Valley and surrounding mountains. The teamsters were the ones who had dubbed
Rogers the name "Hog" and he was quite proud of that. In return he provided a
place where they could stop for refreshment before continuing on their journey.
Hog Rogers' home was
located by the shores of Owens Lake, shown in this image from the
International Space Station. The exact location of the ranch is lost to
the sands of history. (In this image, the Sierras are to the top of the
photo and the Inyos are to the bottom.)
One day, probably in the mid 1860's, the word was
out that Hog's Ranch had been attacked by Paiutes. Self-proclaimed mountain man,
Captain James Hobbs, had participated in rounding up quite a few of the Indians
following a massacre of a Mexican party on their way to Saline Valley for salt.
What Indians Hobbs and his men didn't kill, were quickly rid of their bows,
arrows, and guns, and marched to Fort Independence where they were held as
prisoner. It was said there were nearly two hundred of them, men women and
children, all under the leadership of a chief who called himself Big Foot. The
chief and the boys in blue at Fort Independence negotiated a peace treaty, but
before the word could get out, warriors under different leadership staged that
attack on Hog Rogers Ranch.
Captain Hobbs and his men arrived at the ranch to
find Hog had killed three Indians, and the rest had managed to escape. Chief
Bigfoot had accompanied Hobbs in hopes of stopping any more violence amongst the
warriors, but all Hog Rogers saw was another red man, and the old desperado side
of him kicked in. Hog raised his rifle and took aim at Chief Bigfoot, killing
him. Captain Hobbs was no Indian lover himself, and had a wealth of Indian
battles under his own belt, but in the name of the peace treaty that Bigfoot had
just signed, he was resigned to take Hog Rogers prisoner.
Back at Fort Independence, Hog Rogers was tried
and bound over to keep the peace for awhile. Meantime another Indian by the
name of Joe Bowers was put in charge and helped to unite the Paiutes on a
reservation where, according to the memoirs of Captain James Hobbs, they lived
on in harmony for time to come.
After some detainment, Hog Rogers was eventually
released back to his ranch. A man by the name of Delaney, professing to be a
Methodist preacher, hooked up with Hog Rogers. Delaney moved on the ranch and
formed a partnership with Hog that was devised for the purpose of fencing a farm
at the foot of Owens Lake. He had lived there for approximately three months
when the teamsters that frequented the ranch noticed that Hog himself was
missing. At each inquiry, Delaney replied that his partner had gone to the
mountains to do some prospecting.
As more time went on, the teamsters realized that
Hog Rogers Ranch was completely deserted. When word got to Lone Pine about the
unusual circumstances, Captain Hobbs and a party of five others were sent to
investigate. At the ranch they found the hogs, and the poultry, but no sign of
Hog Rogers, and no sign of Preacher Delaney.
The large and ferocious Jack stood guard over his
master's house, refusing to allow entry to anyone. After some discussion on
whether it was best to shoot the animal, or injure him, the men tried to coax
him to let them pass. At last, Captain Hobbs grabbed a lasso and secured him to
a nearby post. The fact that Jack had so faithfully guarded the house convinced
the men that Rogers' death was at the hands of someone well known to him.
A search of the house and stables brought forth no
clues to what had happened. A second search of the house, however, revealed a
blood stain under the edge of the bed. Two floor planks were taken up and there
was the dead body of John "Hog" Rogers, with a pistol ball shot through his
head. Following a decent burial, Captain Hobbs and his men returned to Lone Pine
to report to the authorities.
Captain James Hobbs was proclaimed a Deputy
Sheriff in pursuit of Preacher Delaney and two good friends of his volunteered
to form a posse. When they were about hundred miles or so from Lone Pine, they
heard word that a man fitting Delaney's description had passed through the small
mining town of Tail Hold.
The trail took them to Visalia, and then evidence
petered out. Unwilling to give up, the men continued on another two miles until
they ran across a religious camp meeting. Sure enough, before they could begin
inquiries, there was Preacher Delaney himself, standing at the pulpit
proclaiming hell, damnation, and ultimate salvation in the name of the one and
only Almighty God.
Captain Hobbs found his way to the stand, quietly
placed his hand on Preacher Delaney's shoulder, and informed him he was now a
prisoner. There before his brethren in Christ, the good Preacher slipped his
hand in his pocket and attempted to draw a pistol. Hobbs already had his hand on
his own revolver as he had touched Delaney on the shoulder, and quickly
proceeded to strike him on the head with it and knock him down.
Pandemonium set in at the camp. Many in
the righteous flock began questioning how a brother could be treated in such a
manner. Much to their astonishment, Hobbs answered them by running his hand over
Delaney's breast pocket, securing his small revolver, and asking them, "Does
this look very ministerial?"
The crowd in turn asked the rather stunned Mr.
Delaney if he knew Captain Hobbs, to which he replied, "Yes, I had seen him at
Lone Pine in Inyo County." Hobbs two friends were placed in charge of the
wayward minister, and he was soon handcuffed away and handed over to authorities
The ex preacher, Delaney, was secured in the
Visalia jail overnight, then picked up once again by Captain Hobbs and his small
posse. At the outskirts of town, Delaney begged permission to go to the house of
a nearby Methodist preacher where he had money and clothes. As Delaney gathered
his clothes and five thousand dollars in gold, the preacher called down the
wrath of God. Delaney tried to convince him that he was falsely accused, and
that he would vindicate himself and set matters straight as soon as he could.
Captain Hobbs, with Delaney in tow, simply replied, "Bid good bye to your
friend, for in all human probability you will never see him again."
The second day of the journey back to Lone Pine
ended in Portersville (sic). There was no jail, there, but Delaney was put under
strong guard. During the course of the night, Delaney attempted several times to
remove his handcuffs and escape. This prompted Hobbs to visit a blacksmith the
next morning where he procured shackles for his prisoner's ankles. Delaney,
money and all, was then placed on the next stage headed for Lone Pine. Inside
the stage Hobbs sat across from him, one assistant beside him, and the other
traveled behind the stage with their animals. That morning as they left, a knife
was taken from Delaney which had somehow been overlooked in the original
Before arrival at Hog Rogers Ranch, Delaney
approached Captain Hobbs with a bribe of the five thousand dollars in gold, and
more that he swore he buried on the premises. In return, all Delaney wanted was
to be allowed to escape unharmed. Hobbs quickly informed him that he would see
about this offer once the other half of the money was dug up.
At the Hog Ranch, Captain Hobbs' old friend, Honn
from the mining camp of Cerro Gordo greeted him, along with two other
authorities. Delaney was then ordered to show them where the money was buried,
upon which he immediately did. Mr. Honn found a spade and dug up the treasure at
the corner of the spring house, which consisted of more money as promised, and
three watches, one of gold and two of silver. The case of one of the silver
watches was engraved with the name "Nadeau" on it, apparently stolen from the
freighter while on an overnight stay at the ranch. Mr. Delaney then approached
Captain Hobbs and secretly asked if he was going to be allowed to escape. "I am
a sworn officer and bound to do my duty," was the reply to Delaney's impudent
At eight o'clock that evening, the party arrived
at their final destination of Lone Pine, twenty miles away from the ranch.
Delaney was handed over the authorities amidst much hoopla and shouts of, "Hang
him! Hang Him!" A rope was procured by the crowd and Delaney was dragged a short
distance. Hobbs appealed to the crowd to preserve order, as he cut the rope that
was attached to his prisoner, and handed him over to a squad of soldiers.
Meanwhile, Delaney shouted that he deserved death, but he wished to make a full
confession first. The excitement continued through the night, the miners
demanding Delaney's execution without delay, shouting over and over that
Delaney's time had come.
During the trial the following day, Delaney did,
indeed, confess that he had killed Rogers for the purpose of securing his money,
which he had ascertained was concealed under the hearth-stone in his house.
Delaney confessed that his name was really Smith, and he was known by at least
three other aliases. He then began a long auto-biographical sketch of his sorry
life. Even as he was taken out to be hanged, he continued speaking to the
assembly waiting to witness his death. "My career was a sad one from my youth
up. I commenced with deception and stealing, and now I am about to suffer justly
for murder. I deserve death for my many crimes. I urge all present to witness my
death, to be forewarned by my fate."
Then, as he bade them all
goodbye, in another quick moment, the rope was adjusted around his neck, strong
hands turned the crude windlass that was usually used to hang slaughtered
beeves, and after a little struggling was over Hog Rogers' murderer was
Lone Pine authorities
advertised throughout the United States and Mexico for heirs to Hog Rogers
Ranch. The money found through the confession of John "Hog" Rogers' murderer,
and the proceeds of his real estate which was sold at auction, went to build
school houses in the vicinity. The ever faithful dog Jack died from grief a few
days after Delaney's hanging, and was buried by his master's side.
Captain James Hobbs went on to
have other adventures, all of which you can read about in:
Wild Life In The Far West
Personal Adventures Of A Border Mountain Man
originally published in 1872 by Hartford: Wiley Waterman & Eaton
Re-printed, 1983 by Time-Life books Inc.