Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Murder In Locke - Gambling Game Gone Wrong


7/27/1920 Sac Union Archive
On July 26, 1920, what seemed to be a regular game at the gambling tables ultimately led to murder, when Fred Chisholm was shot to death by Locke resident, George Shinn. Chisholm, who was a resident of Klamath Falls, Oregon, had come to California, originally visiting his friends A.W. Maher and James Brodie in Oakland.

With hopes to have a good time, the three traveled up to Locke (Lockeport) to play their hand at some card games. Expecting to win big, Chisholm literally had "a few cards up his sleeves."  According to Chin Wing Dong's statement to District Attorney Hugh B. Bradford, the three men had come to play 'blackjack'. After winning about $800, the dealer noticed that two "8 of Hearts"cards were laying on the table. Knowing he had just got caught cheating, Chisholm grabbed the bag of winnings and booked it out the door with his friends behind him.

Chin Wing Dong and George Shinn ran after the three men. The pair chased them about 200 yards. That is when the guns came out and shots were fired. According to statements, both men admitted to shooting at Maher, Brodie and Chisholm, but neither one wanted to admit which one actually shot Chisholm, with both blaming the other for his death. According to Dong, he started shooting at them but missed, when Shinn took the gun from him and pointed it straight at Chisholm, shooting him in the back.

George Shinn 
Chisholm was actually fatally hit with wounds to the neck and chest, falling in the middle of the highway (Old River Road). He was taken to Dr. Downing in Walnut Grove, but it was too late. He died shortly thereafter.  Deputy Coroner George Hall claimed that when Chisholm's body was searched "several steel contrivances, said to be used by professional gamblers in illegal pickups and hidings of cards, were found." Chisholms buddies, Maher and Brodie took off and were later located in a hotel in Stockton, but refused to speak about the matter.

Deputy Sheriffs Bryant, Wittenbrook and Cook made the arrest of George Shinn, Chin Wing Dong and Sam Jee, for their role in the crime. Although Dong and Shinn were involved in the shooting, Sam Jee, a stage driver, assisted in helping Chin Wing Dong escape Lockeport after the murder and was prosecuted for aiding and abetting.

The August 5, 1920, issue of the Sac Union newspaper stated that Judge Glenn refused to reduce the bail of "William Chin Wing Dong" from $10,000 to $7,500. Dong was indicted for  "assault to murder" of Fred Chisholm, while it states that George Shinn was actually the one charged with the homicide. Shinn was tried on October 25, 1920, in Sacramento.  As the article in the newspaper states, Shinn ignored the advice of his attorney, S. Luke Howe, to stick to their original plea, withdrawing it and instead "declared that he had killed Fred Chisholm."

Another newsclipping

Howe claimed that he "believed he had a fair chance of freeing the man or at least saving him from the extreme penalty of the law."- Shinn's criminal defense attorney, S. Luke Howe, had once been City Attorney in Sacramento, between 1902-1909, and was reported to be the only former city legal officer to have ever served jail time. He was also said to have been Lee Bing's personal attorney.

Because of ignoring his counsel's advice and admitting guilt, George Shinn was convicted of the 1st degree murder of Fred Chisholm, receiving a sentence of  life imprisonment.  His arrival records show he was received at San Quentin on October 29, 1920, and later transferred to Folsom State Prison on October 7, 1922.

As one of the Assistant District Attorney's noted, the State felt that under the circumstances, a life sentence was fair, rather than the alternative. He stated that if Chisholm had not been cheating he would not have died. Although I agree that Chisholm shouldn't have been cheating, I do not think it was okay for the two men to shoot him in cold blood.  The wild west days were over, and although it is true that there are always consequences for your actions, that didn't give them the right to end his life over a card game.

(Copyright: J'aime Rubio)
The papers noted that Fred Chisholm had a wife and children in Klamath Falls, and that the authorities were unable to immediately contact them about his death. Instead of being brought home to Oregon, he was buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery on Riverside Drive, next door to the Masonic and Sacramento City Cemeteries.  After speaking to staff at the cemetery and looking over his burial record, I found that there is a mystery as to just who paid for Chisholm's burial and marker. According to their records, whoever paid for the plot put it completely in Chisholm's name posthumously. Oddly enough, whoever it was, also gave the cemetery Chisholm's primary residence as Washington. Newspapers claim he was from Klamath Falls, Oregon. 

There is no way to know exactly who covered the costs of his burial and headstone, but one thing we do know for certain is that Chisholm's grave is within viewing distance of the Locke family plot in the adjoining cemetery just feet away. I don't know about you but it makes me wonder if the Locke family took care of the burial cost? We may never truly know. 

Fred Chisholm is buried in Section G; Lot 18; Grave 6 at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Sacramento.


(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)            
          
Sources:
Photo of George Shinn and criminal record c/o California Prison Records via Ancestry.com
Photo of Fred Chisholm's grave by J'aime Rubio (Copyright)
(Sacramento Union Archives: 7/27/1920, 7/28/1920, 8/5/1920, 8/31/1920 &10/26/1920
and The Morning Oregonian Archive: 7/27/1920)

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