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The Arnold-Simpson Affair

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     But though the publications and writers that told the story of Joe Simpson paint him as a down and out, broke and drunken saloon owner, ponder this newspaper announcement:

A NEW ROAD AND TELEPHONE. A wagon road and telephone line from Keeler to Skidoo is positively assured. Nearly the entire amount necessary to carry out the project has been subscribed and the road and telephone should be completed, connecting the two points, inside of two months. ... Among those whose subscriptions manifested greatest interest in the project were A.V. Carpenter, $500; Mrs. A. M. Mates, $500; J.L. Simpson, $500; Silas Reynolds, $500; A.W. & J.E. Eibeshutz, $200; Boland estate, $200; H. Levy, $100; Harry Reynolds, $100; Ben Yandell, $100; Jack Gunn, $100; two county commissioners, $200, and several other subscriptions whose names are not available, bring the total up to over $4,000. — April 26, 1907 Inyo Independent

     Of the four named people pledging the highest amount of $500, Joe Simpson was named among them. A sum of $500 was quite a sum in those days, given the fact that the working class man in the mines made only $5.00 per day or less. The fact that Simpson was among those who gave the most is also an indication that seems to contradict accounts of him since his death.

     The author George Pipkin, in his book Pete Aguereberry, describes Simpson as on pain killers because he was suffering from syphilis. Simpson also no doubt imbibed in his wares at the Gold Seal. The Gold Seal sponsored a drinking club that encouraged card carrying members to over imbibe of the spirits that haunt such saloons. A membership card on display at Eastern California Museum reads:

"Hootch Fighters’ League No. 4 HEADQUARTERS AT The Gold Seal Saloon - WINES - LIQUORS - CIGARS. OAKES & SIMPSON, Prop’rs. SKIDOO, CALIF. The bearer, Mr. Lester Calloway having displayed all the necessary Hootch Fighting qualifications, is entitled to a free drink at any old time or place in any hootch dump on earth. (Provided, etc.). Signed: Joe Simpson President - Fred Oaks Treasurer."

     The back side of the card reads thusly:

Rules Governing Hootch Fighter’s League No. 4
    Rule 1 - Any brother refusing a drink shall be expelled from the League.
    Rule 2 - Two members constitute a quorum.
    Rule 3 - The main object of the League is to procure hootch, whether you beg, borrow or steal it. Get it!
    Rule 4 - All initiations shall take place at the Gold Seal Saloon, corner of First and Skidoo Sts. Skidoo, in front of the bar being the proper place.
    Rule 5 - No brother shall retire for the night while there is a drink in sight.
    Rule 6 - The password of the League shall be "You Bet I Will."
    Rule 7 - All hootch dumps shall look alike to members of the League.
    Rule 8 - Any brother finding another in distress shall procure, in any way, a sufficient number of drinks to alleviate the suffering of the unfortunate brother.

     Heavy drinking during those days was pretty much an acceptable way of life in those lonely camps perched on the edge of nowhere and overindulgence usually didn’t make any press. But as to Simpson’s medical history, newsmen are also generally mute. Simpson did, however, make mention in a couple of newspaper articles during the trial because of undescribed health problems and an undisclosed accident.

A.V. Carpenter arrived at Independence last Tuesday from Los Angeles. He is party to a suit involving the title to certain mining property at Skidoo which was to have been tried last Monday but was continued owing to the illness of Jos. Simpson, one of the principals. — June 7, 1907 Inyo Independent

Joe Simpson, of Skidoo, who was severely injured at Keeler about two weeks ago, is improving rapidly and is in hopes to be able to do without the aid of crutches in a few days. — July 26, 1907 Inyo Independent

     The trial of Byrne vs. Knight and Simpson continued through September, 1907 and occasionally made news in the local press.

Jack Byrne vs. Tom Knight and Joe Simpson — occupied the attention of the Superior Court for a couple of days during the week and was then postponed for further hearing until June 3rd, 1907 owing to the absence of a material witness. — April 5, 1907 Inyo Independent

Quite a number of Skidoovians were in town during the past week as witnesses and principals in the case of Jack Byrne vs. Tom Knight and Joe Simpson, which has been occupying the attention of the Superior Court for the greater portion of the week. — July 19, 1907 Inyo Independent