A Comstock Miner Murdered in Bodie

BODIE, CA pre 1932

BODIE, CA pre 1932

Image from Bodie.com, where there are lots of nice photos, although most are more current, they still give you a good idea of what the town looked like.

A Comstock Miner Murdered in Bodie

The Murderer Escapes.

BODIE, Jan. 14.

About 2 o’clock this morning Thos. Treloar, a mine, was assassinated by a Frenchman named James DeRoche. Treloar’s wife was attending a ball, and he had ordered her not to dance with DeRoche.She did so, however, to his great annoyance. At the hour mentioned the two men met, and DeRoche shot Treloar through the head, the ball entering just below the left ear.

A crowd gathered and the murderer was arrested. At this moment Treloar’s wife came along in company with a gentleman and his wife, when DeRoche shouted: “Mrs. Treloar, I have killed your husband!” He was taken to jail, but, upon pretext that the vigilantes intended to hang him before morning, Deputy Sheriff Joseph Farnsworth took the prisoner to his boarding house handcuffed. Durning the night DeRoche mysteriously disappeared while Farnsworth was asleep.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Jan 15, 1881



The Hanging of De la Roche by Vigilantes — The Victim Receives the Benefit of an Informal Trial.

Says the Carson Tribune of yesterday: “Word was received here to-day that the Bodie Vigilantes had captured and hung De la Roche, the murderer of Treloar. The particulars, so far as we can learn, are that a pursuing party of the vigilance committee followed a scent to a place called Smith’s Dump, distant about ten miles from Bodie. The vigilantes interviewed two French Canadians residing at the Dump and demanded to know the whereabouts of De la Roche, who denied all knowledge thereof. They were then strung up, and under torture revealed the hiding place of the murderer.

The vigilantes captured their man and the mob clamored for his immediate execution. Pat Reddy, the lawyer, appealed to the mob to let the law take its course and to allow the man to be tried by the courts, assuring his hearers on his honor that he would prosecute him to the bitter end. The mob listened respectfully, but refused the request. The leaders, however, agreed that De la Roche should have an informal trial, and the crowd adjourned to a house, where a court was organized. Twelve of the leading men of Bodie were chosen as a jury. Mr. Reddy conducted the prosecution and Hon. J.R. Kittrell appeared for the defense. We have not learned who acted as Judge. The result of the trial was that the jury found the defendant guilty and he was sentenced to be hung immediately, and the sentence was put into execution at once.

The particulars of the crime for which De la Roche suffered, briefly stated are these: He knew Treloar’s wife in the East, and was criminally intimate with her. Treloar was jealous and forbade his wife to go to a ball with De la Roche. She disobeyed, and at 2 o’clock in the morning, while the ball was still in progress, the two men met and Treloar was killed. De la Roche was arrested and given into the custody of a deputy Sheriff, who handcuffed him and took him to a lodging house, and during the night the prisoner escaped.

Farnsworth, the deputy Sheriff, was threatened with lynching, but escaped to Carson. He was arrested yesterday on a telegram from Bodie, and is now held on parole. He refuses to swear out a writ of habeas corpus, saying he is innocent of criminal intent; that the man escaped while he was asleep, and he is willing to go back to Bodie as soon as the excitement dies out and meet any charges that may be brought against him.”

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Jan 18, 1881


Mrs. Treloar narrowly escaped being lynched in Bodie with her paramour Da Roche. A noose had been provided for each, but Mrs. Treloar’s life was saved by one dissenting vote in the Vigilance Committee meeting. The woman made all the trouble, and her execution would have excited little pity.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Jan 20, 1881



Particulars of the Hanging of DaRoche by a Vigilante Committee.

The Bodie Free Press of Jan. 18 contains a long account of the lynching of DaRoche, from which the following particulars are taken. (DaRoche murdered the husband of a woman he had seduced):

“After the adjournment of the Court and DaRoche was taken back to his narrow cell, a mysterious committee was organized, the like of which has existed in many towns on this coast since ’49, and whose work has been quick and thorough. This committee held a long session, and its conclusion resulted in the lynching of DaRoche. Between 1:30 and 2 o’clock Monday morning a long file of masked and unmasked men were seen to file out of a side street into Bonanza avenue. There must have been two hundred of them and as the march progressed to the jail the column increased. In front were the shotguns carried by determined men. They were backed by a company which evidently meant business, and no ordinary force could foil them in their progress. When the jail was reached it was surrounded and the leader made a loud knock at the door. All was dark and quiet within.

The call had the effect of producing a dim light in the office, and amid loud calls of “DaRoche,” “Bring him out,” “Open the door,” etc., Jailer Kingen appeared, and responded by saying: “All right, boys; wait a moment; give me a little time.” In a moment the outside door was opened slowly and four or five men entered. Under instructions the door of the cell in which the condemned prisoner lay was swung open. The poor wretch knew what this untimely visit meant, and prepared for the trying ordeal and his humiliating death.

It was some moments before he was brought out, and the crowd began to grow impatient. With a firm step he descended the steps and came out on the street in a hurried manner, closely guarded by shotguns and revolvers. The order to fall in was given, and all persons not members of the committee were requested to stand back. The march was rapid. Not a word was said by the condemned man, and his gaze was fixed on the ground. When Websr’s blacksmith shop was reached a halt was made. In front of this place was a huge gallows frame, used for raising up wagons, etc., while being repaired. “Move it to the spot where the murder was committed,” was the order, and immediately it was picked up by a dozen men and carried to the corner of Main and Lowe streets.


When the corner was reached the heavy gallows was placed upon the ground, and the prisoner led under it. On each end of the frame were windlasses and large ropes attached. The rope placed around the prisoner’s neck was a small one, and when the knot was made it rested against the left ear. It was at least three minutes before everything was ready. DaRoche was asked by the leader if he had anything to say. He replied: “No; nothing.” IN a moment he was again asked the same question, a French-speaking citizen being requested to receive his answer. The reply this time was: “I have nothing to say, only O God.”

“Pull him,” was the order, and in a twinkling his body rose three feet from the ground. Previous to putting on the rope the overcoat was removed. A second after the body was elevated a sudden twitch of the legs was observed, but, with that exception, not a muscle moved while the body hung to the cross-beam. His death took place without a particle of pain. The face was placid, and the eyes closed and never were re-opened.

Strangulation must have been immediate. While the body swung to and fro, like the pendulum of a clock, the crowd remained perfectly quiet. No one spoke a word, excepting one of the leaders, who constantly requested the crowd “to keep back and give the man all the air possible.” While the body was still hanging a paper was pinned on his breast bearing the inscription:

“All others take warning. Let no one cut him down. Bodie 601.”

At the expiration of twenty minutes the pulse beat rapidly, but at the end of thirty it ceased to move and the man was pronounced dead. However, to be sure of the fact, Dr. Deal was summoned and asked to inspect the body. He felt of his pulse and pronounced life extinct. In another moment H. Ward had the body cut down, placed in a plain box and removed to his undertaking rooms. The mysterious committee had completed its work, and the captain gave out the order “All members of the Bodie 601 will meet at their rendezvous.” In a moment the scene of death was deserted. To use a familiar expression DaRoche died game. He as firm as a rock to the last and passed out into the unknown without a shudder.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Jan 20, 1881


Old Timer Says:

“The Vigilantes over in Bodie were busy. Thomas H. Treloar was shot down by Joseph De Roach on January 11 and buried on the 13th by the fire department and miners’ union. That night the vigilante committee hunted all over Bodie for De Roach. Not finding him they called on Sheriff Farnsworth to produce De Roach or take the consequences. De Roach was captured on the 17th and after a short trial before Judge Lynch was sentenced to be hanged. He was that day.

Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) Jan 9, 1931


You can read more about the Treloar murder in:

Bodie’S Gold: Tall Tales And True History From A California Mining Town
By Marguerite Sprague (pages 110-114)

Also on Google Books:

Violence in America: The history of crime
By Ted Robert Gurr (pages 137-139)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “A Comstock Miner Murdered in Bodie”

  1. Day 6: Mammoth Lakes to Napa via Bodie and Lake Tahoe – California2018 Says:

    […] and Chloe read us the story of the murder of Thomas Treloar […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: