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The Arnold-Simpson Affair

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     Jim Arnold was dead. But so was Joe Simpson. The same issue of the Inyo Independent that brought the news of Arnold’s murder, it also carried a seemingly minor little blurb, a telegraph, easily overlooked, buried among the remainder of the newsprint of the page:

Last evening about 8 o'clock the following dispatch was received by Mr. J.W. Seller, a prominent mining man of Skidoo, who is at Independence on business.
Skidoo, Cal. April 23rd, 1908.
J.W. Seller
Independence, Cal.
Simpson died last night.
J.J. Sheahy. - 1908, April 24 Inyo Independent

     The following week, details of the lynching are given as follows:

LYNCHING AT SKIDOO. Joe Simpson, who deliberately murdered James Arnold at Skidoo Sunday of last week, was taken from the guard on Wednesday night and hanged to a pole. There was a strong sentiment in favor of lynching Simpson the night of the murder, but the plotters were dissuaded from the plan. Arnold was a prominent and respected citizen of the camp, and his killing was an unprovoked and cold-blooded affair. Simpson wsa [sic] a gambler, hailing from Reno, but a resident of the desert camp for some time. He seems to have been a bad character, a number of offenses being charged against him. Once, some time ago, while he was in Independence as a witness on a case in the Superior Court, he fired a pistol through Gunn's saloon door, for which he paid a fine of $150. The opinion of the Skidoo people appears to be that the lynchers did a justifiable piece of business. — April 30, 1908 Inyo Register

     In the case of murder or death, there are the legalities to take care of.

In the matter of the inquisition upon the body of Joseph L. Simpson, deceased.
Before Frank G. Thisse, Coroner.

We, the undersigned, Jurors summoned to appear before Frank G. Thisse, Coroner of the County of Inyo, at Skidoo, on the 23rd day of April, A.D. 1908, to inquire into the cause of death of Joseph L. Simpson, having been sworn according to law, and having made such inquisition, after inspecting the body, and hearing the testimony addressed, upon our oaths, each and all do say, that we find the deceased was named Joseph L. Simpson, was a citizen of Skidoo, aged 34 years, that he came to his death on the 23rd day of April, A.D. 1908, in this county, by strangulation at the hands of unknown parties.

All of which we certify by this inquisition, in writing, by us signed, this 23rd day of April, A.D. 1908.

Foreman: A.T. HALL,
— May 1, 1908 Inyo Independent

     It may be possible that some of the towns’ leading citizens were involved in the lynching. Witness the Coroner’s Jury report, in which seems almost to be comical and tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps if we were able to witness this jury impaneled, we might see smug denial in each of the testimonies or possibly see smiles or knowing winks of those queried those in the audience in this reading:

VERDICT OF CORONER'S JURY — ON THE REMAINS OF JOE SIMPSON. The following is the complete testimony of the witnesses called before the Coroner's Jury, on holding an inquest on the body of Joe Simpson, found suspended to a telephone pole, a few nights after he had murdered James Arnold.

Testimony in the matter of the inquisition upon the body of Joseph Simpson.
The Jury duly sworn visited the spot where the body lay and it was recognized by all as being that of Josaph [sic] L. Simpson of Skidoo.

Arthur Swenerton, duly sworn says:
As I was going to my work at the store this morning I saw something hanging to a telephone post, which looked to me like the body of a man. Going to the spot I fell in with Mason and Ben Eppstein. Found it to be the body of Joe Simpson. It had a rope around its neck by which it was suspended from the arm of the post. I do not know who put the body there.

John D. Mason, duly sworn says:
I was coming down the street this morning, met Ben Eppstein, he attracted my attention to something hanging to the telephone post. I asked Swennerton, who came at that time what it was. He said it looked like crow's meat. On arriving at the spot found it to be Joe Simpson. I knew him at once. Had a rope around his neck, the other end went over the arm of the pole and was made fast to the pole.

Dr. McDonald, duly sworn says:
I made an examination and find that death was caused by strangulation. Yes, I am fully satisfied that strangulation was the cause of death.

Henry Sellers, duly sworn says:
I am a deputy sheriff of Inyo County, California. Joe Simpson was a prisoner in my hands. Last night I was overpowered by a crowd by force and with guns. They took Simpson from me by force.
H. J. SELLERS — May 1, 1908 Inyo Independent

     The newspapers had little to say about the aftermath of Joe Simpson’s death.

Sheriff Naylor returned from Skidoo last Saturday evening. Mr. Naylor will report to the Grand Jury all the facts he was able to obtain of the lynching of Joe Simpson at that place. — May 8, 1908 Inyo Independent

REPORT OF GRAND JURY. To the Honorable Walter A. Lamar, Judge of the Superior Court of the County of Inyo, State of California.
We, the Grand Jury, impaneled in the Superior Court of said County of Inyo on the 2nd day of June, A. D. 1908, respectfully report as follows: ... We find the evidence in the matter of the death of J.L. Simpson, and in other criminal matters brought to our attention insufficient to warrant us in taking further action in said matters at this time.

All of which is respectfully submitted.
Foreman of said Grand Jury.
— June 5, 1908 Inyo Independent

SUPERVISORS' PROCEEDINGS. Monday, July 13th, 1908, 9 o'clock a.m. The Board of Supervisors of the County of Inyo, State of California, met at the above stated time pursuant to adjournment, with all members present. The following General Expense bills were allowed: ... R.E. Macdonald, autopsy, Simpson and Arnold, $75 allowed - 50.00 ... T.G. Thisse, inquest on Simpson and Arnold - 31.50 — July 24, 1908 Inyo Independent