Much more has been added below, at the bottom of this post:
As I’ve said many times, the thing that I like most about this blog is that it has provided many of us with historical fact, and sometimes fiction, that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know without it. I was raised listening to the stories of the Old-Timers. Listening their stories was better than reading an adventure novel. It would be hard for many people to understand, but the Old-Timers that I knew were thankful for their ancestors that tamed the land for us. I have heard many stories of Indian treachery, cattle butchering, and theft. Some thought at the time that the Indian people Had to be eliminated. But, on the other hand I have heard stories about the people that tried, and indeed succeeded in saving the Indians from complete annihilation.
There were many stories of conflict in the settling of the west. The stories that were most prevalent were the stories of treachery of white on white. Many land, cattle, and lumber barons of the west were successful due to their treachery alone. The white on white treachery is the dead give-away that the butchery was not just racial, but greed. Or, possibly need, or desire to suceede. Maybe the grit in their gut was because of what some of the settlers had already been through on their trip to California. Remember, almost all Californians in the 1850’s and ‘60’s had migrated to California from another state or country. Many were hunted and killed on the plains of the west by Indians or thieves in their own wagon trains. One of my very own 3G Grandfathers and uncles disappeared on the trip to California. Death may have come from Indians, thieves, or something as simple as drowning while crossing a creek. Those that made it to California were as tough as nails and they were not about to back down from anything.
The following is about THE most important person in the Eel River drainage history story, Frank Asbill. Say what you will, any many did. He recorded the history of our Valley, without the historical leads that he gave us, we wouldn’t have known where to look. Many dispute his history as hyperbole, but his was the nature of most folks in the early days of the Eel Valley. The Old-timers put on a tough front. They had to be tough enough to scare you away, or fight you, if the case may be. A person didn’t dare appear weak, because the law wouldn’t protect you. Usually “the law” was in the pocket of one of the thug barons. The Eel valley is greatly indebted to Frank Asbill.
Recently Asbill’s niece contacted me to start a dialog about his history. She gave me permission to start a post. Our correspondence is the following:
I happened upon your website after doing a search on the name of my great-uncle, Frank Asbill. I saw all the posts on your site talking about the murder of Hattie Maud Maher by Frank Asbill and knew I had to email you.. I couldnt figure out how to post on the site or would have done so.
Anyway, Frank Asbill was my dad's uncle. My dad's mother was Irma Asbill, daughter of Pierce Asbill and Kate Robertson.
I remember as a child hearing my dad talk about Uncle Frank going to prison for murder. It was something he didnt talk about much, and when he did, he always said it like it was a secret. My dad described Frank as a cowboy, who always wore a cowboy hat and carried a gun. My mother said Frank was a real womanizer, who often lived off women he met. My dad also said Maud Maher was married to a wealthy guy and they had a house in Oakland, but she left him for Frank.
I know alot about the Asbill history, even though I was born too late to have ever met Frank or my grandmother, Irma. I was born in 1962 in Oakland. My dad was 50 years when I was born, so most of the people from his childhood had already passed away by that time, including both Frank and Irma. I did meet Sybil, Frank and Irma's younger sister, on several occassions.
My dad grew up in Oakland, in the apartment building that Katie Robertson Asbill Cox Young (she was a busy lady:) bought after she called it quits in the mountains and moved to the city with her daughters. The whole family lived in the apartment building in Oakland..Kate, her daughters Irma and Sybil, their husbands, Alex Kane (my grandfather) and Carl Spiken (Sybils husband).
I spent alot of years researching the family history. I have a copy of Franks manuscript, Last of the West. I have a copy of a large map that Frank drew showing the spots where signicficant historic events took place, the trail Pierce took over the mountains to Red Bluff in 1856, etc... I also have copies of Franks prison records from San Quentin prison, with his mug shot, the transcript of the court hearing, letters from people in favor of his parole , letters from people against his parole and alot of other interesting stuff.
Anyway, I dont want to go on too long here. I recognized the name Branscomb from my research.
Write back if you have any interest!!
I’m very glad to hear from you. Frank Asbill was like a will-0-the-wisp around here. His presence was widely known, but nobody really wanted to say much about him. Most of what I’ve heard has been hyperbolic exaggeration, perpetrated mostly by himself. If you’ve studied him you most likely know that he made up a lot of spoofery. I think that Nona James summed him up the most bluntly: “…Mrs. Cook. She thought Frank Asbill told the truth and I knew he was a damned old liar because he killed a friend of mine down in the north end of this town - Mrs. Mayer. He knocked her down the stairs and he went to jail for a couple of years. His uncle settled Covelo. Frank was sure a rowdy young fella. He had it in for my step-dad, Noble because he was half Indian. His father was a white man. Him and another fellow went to Washington and they was in on that Mexican fight…”
My fondest wish would be to post anything that you would like to place on this blog. Frank Asbill is one of those historical characters that I’ve heard many stories about, mostly conflicting accounts. I have many readers that really like to soak up these kinds of historical/legend stories. I might add, like any large historical event, I've heard many accounts of the killing of Hattie Maud Maher, also many spellings of her name. I can now accept you as the expert on the spelling... Thank-you.
So, anything that you can add on this blog would be widely read, and I would be more that glad to have them here. With your permission can I post this correspondence? The Frank Asbill story is something that I would really like to pursue.
Jill Kane replied:
Yes, you have my permission to post.
Frank may have been prone to boasting and exaggerating when it came to talking about himself and of his father and uncle, Pierce and Frank. However, in his manuscript, Last of the West, I believe he made every attempt to give factual information and did so. He knew the history was important and fascinating, and he didnt want to see it lost. As a result, he left behind invaluable historical information that would have otherwise been lost forever. As you probably know, all of Chapter 7 of Genocide and Vendetta was taken from Frank's manuscript, as well as most of the chapter on George E. White and the one on the killing of Jack Littlefield. The najority of the manuscript has been verified and documented as true.
I don't defend what Frank did in his personal life, but his knowledge of the history of Covelo and its surrounding areas, its people, and the geography of the area was really quite extensive. With as little formal education as he had, which was not much, he set out to write it all down for future generations.
Frank, I think, had a sort of love-hate relationship as far a the Indians of the area. If you read his manuscript, he shows alot of reverence and respect for their knowledge and care of the land. But on the other hand, his own father was involved in the early massacres of Indians in Round Valley. Not alot of people know that Pierce's own grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee, so Frank had Indian blood. Johnny Asbill, Frank's first cousin, was half Wailaki Indian and Frank looked up to Johnny. I know Frank grew up with and played with many kids who had white fathers and Indian mothers.
The Asbills were a strange breed. Even my own father, who grew up in the city, had many of their traits, I believe, He called Mexicans Greasors, and had a derogatory name for just about every race. But if he met someone he liked, it didnt matter what race they were...he liked them. I have a feeling Frank may have been that way.
Hi again Ernie,
I just want to clarify that I dont agree with the way Frank spoke about the Indians in his manuscript. He was very derogatory about them most of the time. I think that came from his father and uncle. I have always been ashamed of the fact that my great-grandfather and his brother took part the murders of hundreds of innocent Indians. It's something I have never quite come to grips with and probably never will.
I have always had a genuine interest in the Indian history and culture of the area. I know the story of what happened to Johnny Asbill after he got out of prison and it is quite interesting.
I'm just anxiuos to post this now I will add to it in the comments.
Addendum #1 From Spyrock
hi ernie, i would love to have a photo copy of last of the west. maybe you can email it to me or snail it to me. thanks, spy
yeh, i've written a few things about this that disappeared on me. just as well.
trying not to scare her off. would like to know if frank ever talked about black bart, butch cassiday or the sundance kid to his own family. that's about the only part of the stories my family doesn't believe. i think this frank asbil who wrote last of the west was pretty much family with the pattons and the simmerlys and that's where he met maude but she probably doesn't know about that. so i'm interested in that connection.
i found a picture of joe simmerly, john's oldest brother, seated. i don't know if that is john or not standing next to him it certainly could be. fred looks a bit different. then jim patton with lottie simmerly. charlotte [lottie] simmerly was born in 1876 at round valley.
jim patton may have been a brother or relative to milo patton who was married to my great aunt sarah kauble patton. milo and sarah ran a ranch for george white east of alderpoint. it was said that frank asbil stayed with them after his parents got divorced while he was going to school.
there was a richard [kink] patton who was another brother to milo who died being dragged to death by his horse. a picture of him is on the blocksburg history website about the pattons. i think both james and richard worked the patton ranch with their brother.
|Jim Patton and Lottie Simmerly|
|Joe Simmerly and possibly John?|
Addendum #2 from Jill Kane
Here's three photos of my dad. The hunting photo was taken in 1928 on Island Mountain. My dad would have been 16 years old. According to him that was the first and last deer he ever shot. The next one is my dad in his thirties, and then the last one is of me and my dad. He was probably 58 or so...I was eight or nine. Note the resemblance of my dad in this photo to Frank's mugshot and they would have been just about the same age. A definite family resemblence.
|Kieth Kane at 16y|
|Kieth Kane at 30y|
|Kieth and Jill|
These should keep folks busy for awhile. Hope you can post these on the blog. You will see, it wasnt much of a trial. I think everyone will find the affidavits in favor of Franks parole very interesting--I'm sure some of the names will be familiar to you. Sybil Spiken, who submitted an affidavit, was Frank's sister, my dad's aunt. She practically raised my dad. Anyway, I'll give you a chance to soak this stuff up, and hopefully post these. I'll post some comments on the blog a little later
Frank Asbill trial transcripts