This week marks centennial of lawman’s death
Editor’s Note: The following article about Sheriff Wildes originally ran in 1983 from the Nevada Historical Society. Wednesday is the 100th year since his death.
In 1916, the party’s position in the state was further strengthened by the establishment of a socialist colony in Churchill County which was to be a refuge from the militarism which seemed to be overtaking the country, wrote Phillip Earl, a retired curator of history at the Nevada Historical Society. His account of a Churchill County lawman’s death first appeared in 1983 as part of the “This Was Nevada” series.
Among those who settled at Nevada City, the colony headquarters was J.H. Walters, his wife and three children, socialist farmers from Idabel, Oklahoma.
When the Selective Service Act of 1917 came into effect in June of that year, Paul Walter’s name was the tenth drawn in Churchill County’s lottery. He was ordered to report to the courthouse in Fallon for induction on August 12, but ignored the call.
His case did not come to the attention of county and state authorities for another nine months, however, by which time he had moved to the Humboldt Ranch some thirty-two miles north of Fallon on the edge of the Humboldt Sink. In May of 1918, Sheriff Mark Wildes set about making plans to go out and arrest the young draft evader. Walters was told of the sheriff’s coming a few days later and went south to the camp of Jessup.
Wildes called upon another young socialist, Fred Venth, to go out with him since Venth had been boasting around town that he knew where Walters could be found. On May 18, Saturday, Wildes and Venth left for Jessup by auto to seek out J.G. Temple, a prospector who had given shelter to the young man. Temple’s cabin was deserted when they arrived, however, and they drove on to Lovelock to spend the night.
Wildes and Venth returned by way of the south side of Humboldt Lake the next morning and stopped at the Bessey Ranch. They were told that Temple was expected down for his mail that day, so the two men started for Jessup, expecting to meet the prospector on the way.
A few miles further on, they spotted a man walking down a canyon. Driving a short distance, they parked the car and took off on foot to intercept him.
From a distance, they saw two men rather than one and Venth identified the tallest of the two as Walters. Venth hailed the pair and introduced the sheriff as a mining man who was interested in some of Temple’s claims.
Wildes then turned to the other man and asked him if he was Paul Walters. Receiving an affirmative answer, he said “I want you” and identified himself. At this, Walters pulled a revolver and began firing, hitting the sheriff several times. Wildes had gone for his own gun at the same instant, but had caught the barrel in the lining of an inside pocket and was unable to fire back.
Venth and Temple dove for cover as Walters took off up the canyon on the run. Sheriff Wildes remained on his feet and fired several shots in the direction of his fleeing attacker, but missed him. Wildes was loaded in Temple’s vehicle and taken down the canyon to Venth’s automobile. They had decided to take him to Lovelock, but got no further that Fanning since Wildes was losing too much blood.
W.H. Shewan and his wife took the party in and telegrams were sent to Lovelock and Fallon.
Dr. Carl Lehners, Herbert and Will Hoover immediately set out across the desert from Fallon, but a Lovelock nurse reached the small railroad siding first and was tending to the sheriff’s wounds when they arrived.
Another Fallon physician, Dr. Cecil Smith, also came out, and he and Dr. Lehners patched up the wounded man as best they could for the trip to Lovelock.
Grave Wildes, the sheriff’s wife, was brought from her own hospital bed in San Francisco, but Wildes had lapsed into unconsciousness by the time she arrived.
Dr. Lehners was again summoned to Lovelock on May 22, but death for the lawman came at 5:40 a.m. the next morning.