Pacific Northwest Bill Gulick Manhunt

ISBN 13: 9780870043925

Manhunt

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9780870043925: Manhunt

When Harry Tracy and his fellow convict David Merrill shot their way out of the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem on June 9, 1902, they initiated a manhunt unique in history that presaged the coming media age. A gripping, exciting, and frightening story of a desperate killer and men determined to bring him down. Salem Statesman Journal

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About the Author:

Bill Gulick's writing career, spanning more than six decades, twenty-seven novels, eight non-fiction books and several plays, is truly remarkable.  He lives in Washington state and has continued writing into his 90's.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter Two
The Pursuit Begins

"There was a standstill in the search for the time being, pending the arrival of reinforcements," wrote the Oregonian reporter, without explaining why reinforcements were needed when the problem was a lost trail. "These came on the first train from Salem, when 18 young men, the majority members of the Oregon National Guard, came, armed. On the second morning train from the capitol were 12 men, all known to be expert shots. These reinforcements were transported to the scene of action at once, and were assigned to guard duty along the roads by Sheriff Durbin."

With the two bloodhounds now properly backed up, their handler, Guard Carson, turned them loose in the thick woods to re-discover the trail. Though it took the dogs several exhausting hours to do so, they at last picked it up, following it through dense brush and over a recent burn into a marsh deep in the timber.

"Here the scent was again lost," the reporter wrote, "and the game stood at a standstill until the afternoon."

By now, the hard-working bloodhounds were footsore, worn out, and badly in need of a rest, with no replacements available. But the supply of human trackers was inexhaustible.

Oregon Governor T.T. Greer notified Sheriff Durbin that he would call out the militia, if it was deemed necessary to increase the number of pursuers. When his offer was promptly accepted by the sheriff, Company "M," at Woodburn, and Company "D," at Salem, were sent to the front as quickly as possible. During the afternoon, the militiamen arrived and were assigned to posts along the roads, thereby doubling the number of guards. Every point of vantage now was occupied by an armed man, Sheriff Durbin told reporters, whose up-to-the-hour news flashes brought noncombatants flocking to the area to gawk, get in the way, and await developments.

"It's evident that the men are in the timber," Sheriff Durbin said. "Starving them out is the most plausible plan."

At 2:45 p.m. a ripple of excitement ran over the watchers when Eugene Fisher, a Salem militiaman, reported seeing Tracy and Merrill in a wheat field adjacent to the stand of timber in which they were thought to be hiding.

"The news spread like wildfire," a reporter wrote, "and the Woodburn militia was taken to the field in a conveyance."

Presumably rested now and also taken by conveyance to the scene, the bloodhounds went back to work. A search "of strenuous interest" resumed. Immediately, the dogs picked up a hot trail, keeping their noses close to the ground and baying eagerly as they dragged Guard Carson, who was holding their leashes, in the direction they wanted to go.

The trail led the pursuers into a shady lane, which suddenly dipped into a gully. Before descending, Carson glanced at the other side through the tree branches, and saw a natural barricade of stones across the path. Fearing an ambuscade, he talked with Sheriff Durbin, who entertained similar views.

A halt was called. Dave Sullivan, one of the posse members, was pursuing the chase so enthusiastically that he had become reckless; now he was infecting other men in the group with a heedless desire to press on. Sheriff Durbin was more cautious, commanding that all posse members return, stating that it was useless to proceed and sacrifice good lives for those of the men in hiding.

After protesting strongly, the posse agreed to hold back. The pursuers had only begun to retreat when shots were fired at them from behind the barricade. The plan of the fugitives was now apparent. They wished to tempt their pursuers to attack, the latter having the disadvantage of charging over open ground while the convicts lay unseen behind the pile of rocks.

Prudently, Sheriff Durbin declined to attack the stronghold, letting his forces, which now numbered 250 men, bang away as they saw fit, with Tracy and Merrill now and then returning a shot to show they had not been hit. Noting that the men surrounding the two convicts were equipped with 45-70 caliber Springfield rifles, a reporter calculated that if a broadside were fired it "would mow down the forest like a cyclone, and leave not a tree standing beneath which the fugitives could hide their shaven heads."

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