Genoa’s Hanging Tree

You may have heard the tale about Adam Uber’s famous curse — uttered just before an angry Genoa mob hung him. But did you know the hanging tree is still there?

It sits on the south side of Genoa Lane, just east of Genoa (and a convenient distance from the old-time jail!)

The hanging tree is still there, on Genoa Lane. Some say the actual limb where Uber met his end was later cut off by remorseful townsfolk. (Photo courtesy Judy Wickwire)

The year was 1897, and the crime began with Uber swilling Red Eye — and ended with a gunshot. Hans Anderson was dead. And Uber didn’t even remember what happened when he finally sobered up in the Genoa Jail.

Anderson had been well-liked; Uber was not. And a group of locals decided swift justice was the finest flavor. They rushed the jail, demanded the jailer’s key, and whisked Uber off for a hasty meeting with the hangman’s rope.

But Uber got off a few choice last words before dropping into the Great Hereafter: he cursed those who did the foul deed “unto seven generations.”

And, according to local legend, Uber’s curse ultimately came true. Some of mob died sudden, violent deaths; some committed suicide; but all of them met an unhappy end. Family members, too, reportedly suffered.

Adam Uber met his end here — some say his restless ghost is still around.

They’re all gone now, of course; 1897 was a long time ago. But locals say Uber’s ghost can still be seen “hanging around” from time to time — either here at the tree, or at the old brick Courthouse which once held his cell.

If you decide to pay a visit to the scene of this long-ago murder, consider making a stop at the old Genoa Cemetery as well. Uber is buried there somewhere, in an unmarked grave.

Just west of the Hanging Tree stands a cottonwood with an amazing burl. (Photo courtesy of Judy Wickwire)

Murder & Suicide 1888

“Murder and Suicide,” the 1888 headline blared! The Reno Gazette-Journal made no bones about its feelings toward a “long and rather unfavorably known” Carson Valley ranch hand named Zack Field.

Community distaste had begun several years earlier with Zack’s poorly-received romance with 17-year-old Mary Gray, pretty daughter of Genoa blacksmith W.D. Gray. Courting a teenager wasn’t all that unusual at the time, but Zack’s age certainly was: he was sixty years old when he induced Mary to run off with him to Carson to be married in 1882.

Note the skull-and-crossbones — strychnine was serious stuff!

Then came the awful rumors about strychnine. In February, 1888, Zack’s father-in-law had noticed an odd taste in his water cup. Suspicious crystals found in the bottom of his glass were tested by two local doctors, who both “pronounced it strychnine.”

Zack’s name, of course, immediately sprang to mind; he had “been acting strangely for some time,”  the newspaper hinted. (The fact that Mary’s parents recently had tried to induce her to leave her “wretched” husband also raised suspicions.)

It wasn’t the first time Zack had been suspected of foul play involving strychnine. Zack and Mary had moved in with the Hawkins family shortly after their marriage — and shortly after that, the entire household came down with strychnine poisoning. Fingers also had been pointed in Zack’s direction when rancher John Cronkite was found dead in with a “big wound in his head” — and “cattle money” missing from his pocket.

After the tainted water-glass episode, Zack and Mary high-tailed it out of Carson Valley, taking up a residence (aka hiding out) in Scott’s Valley, California. But only a few months later, things came to an unhappy head yet again.

Zack’s rifle might have looked something like one of these.

On August 13, 1888, in what the newspaper poetically called a “case of marital infelicity and pistol practice,” Zack shot poor Mary square in the chest with a Winchester rifle.

Thoughtfully saving the justice system the bother of a trial, Zack then used the remaining charge to “blow the top of his [own] head off.”

No words of sympathy were wasted by the newspaper on Zack. But despite the awful headline deeming it “murder,” readers making it to the last sentence of the column would discover that Mary actually had not actually died yet.

Although her life was “despaired of” initially, she did eventually recover. And in one of those weird twists of fate, Mary went on to marry another man named Field — thankfully no relation to the “long and unfavorably known” Zack.

Carson Valley Civil War Vet

Chambers Lane, a rural road at the southern end of Carson Valley, is just a place name these days. But it once was an early Alpine County homestead, owned by Civil War veteran Thomas Armstrong Chambers.

Thomas Chambers

Born in St. Lawrence, New York in 1837, Chambers (like so many young men) became swept up in the turmoil of the Civil War. He joined the 6th New York Heavy Artillery as a private, probably in response to President Lincoln’s urgent call in August, 1862 for “300 more” patriots to help defend the Union. According to a fellow member of that unit, “there were no bounties offered as an inducement to enlist, and it is safe to say that patriotism is the only motive that brought this body together in defense of our country’s cornerstone, the Constitution.”

6th Heavy Artillery camped at Maryland Heights, 1863.

Chambers’ heavy artillery unit was trained to fire large canon, and for much of the war was stationed as a defensive force near Washington D.C. But in the spring of 1864, the group was reorganized as an infantry force assigned to the Army of the Potomac. Thereafter the unit fought in such notable battles as Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, and won military acclaim for their “gallant conduct” at the Battle of Harris Farm in May, 1864. Chambers himself was promoted during the war from private to Second Sergeant.

When the war was over in 1865, Chambers returned home to New York, where he married Margaret Morgan about 1866. They eventually had a total of nine offspring, including a pair of identical twins, Myron and Byron.

The family came west about 1873, settling first in the early mining town of Monitor, where the Chambers children attended school. Chambers worked as a carpenter. In 1892, he homesteaded a 160-acre ranch along the country road that soon took his name, Chambers Lane. A devoted member of the local community, Chambers became one of the founders of the Fredericksburg Cemetery Society, helping the Society to acquire its cemetery land in 1891 from Frederick Bruns and serving as the organization’s first president.

Chambers suffered from “consumption” (tuberculosis) acquired during his military service. “They said you could hear the entire company coughing,” a descendant noted. For this combat-related infirmity, he was granted a Civil War pension of $12 per month in 1882.

Beautiful wrought iron gate and fencing surround the Chambers plot.

When he passed away in 1912, Chambers was buried inside a beautiful wrought iron fence at his family plot in the Fredericksburg Cemetery. His wife, Maggie, was later laid to rest beside him, along with three of their children: Myron, Byron, and Ella.

Thomas and Margaret Chambers are buried here. Someone has thoughtfully marked his grave with a flag for the Fourth of July!
Thomas Chambers’ headstone

Today when you hear the place name “Chambers Lane,” we hope you’ll remember this proud veteran and Alpine County pioneer. And if you happen to visit, his Civil War headstone is the earliest military marker in the Fredericksburg Cemetery.

Like to read more stories about the early settlers who are buried at the Fredericksburg Cemetery? Check out our Walking Tour book here! (it’s the fifth book on that page.)

#CivilWar

#Cemeteries

#AlpineCounty

#Markleeville

 

 

Lute Olds’ Nine Lives

Think you have problems? Carson Valley pioneer Luther Olds most likely has you beat.

Lute Olds, circa 1869.

Among the disasters in his disaster-prone life:

  • A “row” took place at his residence in 1858 in which women were said to be hanging out the windows in horror and several men were stabbed in the arm, back, and hand.
  • Olds was arrested in 1858 for “harboring horse thieves” and threatened with the same fate as not-so-lucky Lucky Bill. (Olds escaped hanging and was fined $875 and banished from the valley “on penalty of being shot.”)
  • He was indicted in Judge Cradlebaugh’s court in 1860 for larceny.
  • A fire in 1861 not only burned Olds’ hotel to the ground but also killed his first-born daughter, leading his wife to later divorce him.
  • Olds was aboard the ill-fated steamer “Active” in 1870 when it hit a rock in heavy fog on its trip from San Francisco to Victoria B.C., shipwrecking him off the coast of Mendocino.
  • A windstorm in 1873 carried his barn off “so clean that no one would suppose he ever had a barn.”
  • Lute’s oldest daughter died of diphtheria in 1879 and he lost a second child that same year, a son who died shortly after birth. As if that weren’t enough, Olds lost his ranch that same year to a Sheriff’s Sale to satisfy a money judgment in favor of his arch-enemy, Anthony McGwin.
  • Trying to get even with McGwin in 1880, Lute sued McGwin for making off with some property. Lute not only lost that lawsuit but was ordered to pay McGwin’s court costs.
  • Resorting to drink, Lute wrecked his buggy in an alcohol-fueled accident in 1881. Pieces of the buggy were reportedly strewn “from Genoa to Walley’s.”

His nine lives over, Lute’s luck finally ran out for good in 1882. He drowned in yet another drunken buggy crash after visiting his brother, David, near Bishop.

Lute’s younger brother, David Olds.

Lute Olds was born about 1828, and came west with his brother David about 1850 from Michigan, settling in Sacramento. Lute, David and friend Lucky Bill came to Carson Valley in the Fall of 1853. Lute filed one of the earliest land claims, taking up a ranch on the Emigrant Trail near Fay Canyon and building a hotel there. He was reputed to be a member of the Border Ruffian gang who stole horses from passing wagon trains in Woodfords Canyon and ferried them back through Horsethief Canyon to its outlet near Olds’ ranch, reselling them to oncoming wagon trains.

#CarsonValleyHistory #EmigrantTrail