BEHIND THESE MOUNTAINS VOL. I
Law enforcement in Montana always produced scandals from time to time, and Sanders County wasn't immune. And like most newspapers of that time, a crime that resulted in charges against any elected official resulted in blaring headlines and lurid, detailed accounts. The editor of the weekly paper didn't neglect that tradition. Wm. Hartman was Sanders County Sheriff, and A. S. Ainsworth, County Attorney.
"Pale and Trembling Sheriff Hartman Thursday Afternoon Quailed Under the Lash of His Master -- Admitted Lying to Attorney General Rankin.
"After leading the prosecution to believe that he would give invaluable testimony in the McCully murder trial, Sheriff Hartman deliberately double crossed Attorney General Rankin Thursday afternoon and was, of necessity, dismissed as incompetent. Under direct examination in the witness chair he denied that any promises of immunity were made to the defendant. But when cross-examined by Ainsworth he stated that he had made promises to the defendant.
"He had left the chair for the back of the room and was about to resume his position with the spectators when Attorney General Rankin fairly shouted "Hartman! Come back to the stand!" White as a sheet, trembling as if palsied, he walked slowly back to the chair. There, upon redirect examination he admitted he had told Rankin that he had made no promises of any kind to the defendant.
"It developed from the testimony of both Fred McCully and his wife that Hartman had been paving the road to freedom for the murderers of Leon Richardson. He had permitted McCully to spend days at a time at the county jail where he was acknowledged as a guest. McCully was also allowed to sleep with his wife.
"From testimony of other witnesses it appeaas (sic) that Fred McCully could obtain Sunny Brook whiskey from Harman for $20 per quart. This evidence was brought out twice on direct examination without any question being raised.
"In view of these revelations, and the well grounded suspicions in numerous other cases, Hartman has served the interests of defendants instead of justice. Will he not now step out or must the people impeach him as their duty demands?
"Monday the state is again set for the little drama of misery that has been so often enacted in our little town. No one with a heart bigger than a mouse can deduct anything more than a sigh from the whole proceedings. A little Christianity, a little love, a little co-operation added to the lives of the unhappy McCully family would have crowned their thirty years of ceaseless struggle with a wreath of happy children, a smiling eternity.
"But coined out of their ceaseless sruggle (sic) for a home, out of the endless burdens and toils, grew a worship for the things that are chaff as a substitute for real happiness and contentment. Out of this struggle came a jealousy, selfishness and hatreds that go near to the point of insanity.
"Very little difficulty was experienced in obtaining a jury.
"In his opening statement to the jury Attorney General Rankin for the state said he expected to prove that the defendant had written a letter to France in which she expressed a hope that Leon Richardson would be killed in France and that if he returned he would be 'bumped off'. That Mr. and Mrs. Fred McCully made it their chief business to separate the young couple. That Mona McCully tried to get Mrs. Long to secure a woman afflicted with venereal disease, to become intimate with her son-in-law and infect him so that his wife would leave him. That Mrs. Sinclair would testify that Mrs. McCully said she would poison him.
"That the defendant went to Dr. Billmeyer to furnish them with poison to injepct (sic) into his arm and make him crazy. With other witnesses the Attorney General announced that he would seek to prove that the defendant actually did attempt to poison him. How she had asked Mrs. Long to take his body if she found him dead and put weights on it and dump it in the Clarks Fork River.
"With Frank Harris (whose gun was used for the shooting) that they had offered money to have him killed. He would show that a similar proposition was made to Granville.
"By Mrs. Monohan, he would show how the defendant tried to borrow $500.00 to give to Mrs. Long to procure a woman afflicted with a venereal disease to infect Richardson.
"From Pearl Argo of the hardware department of McGowan Commercial Company she purchased cartridges.
"He would show how the remaining cartridges and strychnine were found under the chips in the shed at the McCully barn. How Fred McCully made a proposition to Walter Baker to kill Richardson and blame it on an Indian.
"By A. F. McCully (72 years of age) a brother of Fred MCully, he would show how the defendant left to meet Richardson, who had gone to the sheep camp for supplies for her son Ernest. How she had left the house and did not return until after the old man had gone to sleep.
"How the daughter, the wife of the dead man, took a saddle horse and went to search for her husband Sunday morning. He would prove the suspicious conduct of Fred McCully the night of the murder and how on the morning following, Fred McCully left for the ranch when it was expected that the folks would come to town for dinner.
"With Witness letterman, Rankin said he would show how the body of Richardson was found at 11 o'clock Sunday morning with his gloves and cap on, his foot on the clutch sitting in a natural position. "How at the coroner's inquest she was cold, cruel, malignant, and told Deputy Sheriff Buel how she had killed Richardson because he attempted to rape her.
"She told a similar story to Hartman and Mrs. Hartman. How at the jail she, crazy, played stallion. Later she told another person that Mr. Ainsworth told her to play it, so they would be easy on her. "The Attorney General said they would show that Mrs. McCully for several years prior to the finding of the body on the lonely road where it was found on November 7, spent as much time planning his murder as she did her household duties.
"Summing up, he said, they would prove with her daughter of the plots; with her son Ernest of plots, so as to satisfy every man on the jury she was not insane, but as sly and cunning as a fox and as degenerate a human nature as you can find. He said he would show that the threats she made against the officers, broke dishes and stormed at the jail in the hope of enlisting sympathy on herself."From the first to the last witness, each bore out the charges contained in the opening statement. Attorney General Rankin wanted to include Fred McCully in the charges, along with his wife, for the murder. Fred McCully's activities seemed suspicious.
"Judge Lentz decided that the evidence was not conclusive enough to show that the act was a joint act.
"Mrs. Long, who was on the witness stand at the close of the Wednesday session, completed her testimony in a very few minutes. The morning session of the court was taken with tracing the course of the car and fixing the time of the murder. C. J. Dougherty, who followed the tracks of the car, testified that the car had gone up the road one thousand feet beyond the point where it was found, and turned and was headed for Plains."It was turned out to the left side of the road, and the position of Richardson's body indicated that he was about to start the car. He was shot about 11 o'clock, but each heard a different number of shots.
After six hours of deliberation, the jury found Mona Mae McCully guilty of murder in the first degree. Fred McCully was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge immediately after the case of his wife was given to the jury.
At 9 o'clock on Thursday morning Judge Lentz sentenced Mona Mae McCully to life imprisonment. Because Fred McCully entered a plea of guilty, he avoided a death penalty, receiving instead life imprisonment.
Main Street, Noxon, Montana circa late 1930s.
The 'Red & White Store' owned by Larson and
Jefferson, and Marion's Tavern, owned by
Marienus Larson. Courtesy Blanche Gordon
"Tried, trusted, he has repeatedly failed in his duty as an officer. Instead of a fearless, straightforward policy, one that would reflect respect, honor and credit from the law-abiding citizens, he repeatedly has shown that his preference ran to those who were just above the underworld and in one instance below. Take the case of the State against Wm Smith. Smith was arrested in connection with the Hot Springs cattle stealing case. After sticking around the jail for a while, he was promoted to be jailer. While his case was still pending in court he drew from the county for March 1919, $100.00. For April a claim for $125.00 was submitted, from this the county commissioners trimmed $25, for May $23.50. The charge was finally dismissed against him in the District Court on May 20, 1920. "Mrs. Hartman received $165 of the taxpayers' money for caring for Mrs. McCully during November and December, 1920. She received this while the latter was playing "horse." She also received $48.25 for boarding the prisoner.
"Does Hartman realize that his friends have abandoned him? The only element that wants him to continue are [sic] a few professional lawbreakers. The spirit of Sanders calls for his resignation. Common decency asks for him to get out."
"Ainsworth had it in for me," Weare said. "I'd had a fella named George White working in my mill. I put him to work with a little nigger. He'd slap this little nigger.
"I told him, 'George, he's little and you're a big man, you don't slap that little fella.'
"'I don't like a damn nigger,' George said. Well, I said, 'it don't make a difference whether you like him or not. I'm trying to give him a little job and you, too.'
"I went out there one day and he'd slapped the nigger again. And I fired him. Then he was mad at me! He walked up behind me and hit me over the head with a bolt. I got the crease in my head there yet, where he hit me, he knocked me down all right.
"I grabbed a couple rocks as I got up. And I licked him good. Well, he didn't like that very well. In fact, we went to court over that fight.
"So now, Ainsworth told George White, 'Why don't you kill the son-of-a-bitch? I'll clear you if you do.' "They'd get it in court and he'd clear George if he killed me.
"So an old lady, Harriet Raynor who lived on Rock Creek, a great big, over grown woman, gave George a revolver to shoot me.
"She was in my old store one time. She didn't like me because she was going to lick me. She'd said, 'You drawed a knife on one of the boys.' She had two sons. I said, 'Mrs. Raynor, I never drew a knife on anybody.'
"'Did you call me a liar?'
"'No, you're just mistaken.'
"'That's just the same as calling me a liar! I'll show you.' She started around the store counter after me. And I met her at the corner.
"She said, 'I believe you would hit me!'
"'You're damned right I'll hit you!' She'd licked two or three men around there and all the women that sassed her!
"Well, a little while afterwards I was going to get the piling out for the Noxon bridge. And I was in town looking for George Jamison to help me. It was dark, and he was standing beside the street making water (taking a pee). I came up and said, 'Hello George.'
"'Well, hello,' he said.
"It was the wrong man! In the dark I was talking to George White instead of George Jamison. He said, 'I didn't think you'd ever speak to me again.'
"'No,' I said. 'I forgive you.'
"'Cliff,' he said, 'I'll tell you what. You was the best friend I ever had here. You fed me when I got off the train. I set down and eat with you and your family. And Raynor's never asked me to eat when I was in there at noon. They never asked me to eat. And I was up at Ainsworth, and he never asked me. You're the best friend I ever had. I'd be in the penitentiary if I'd done what I wanted me to do.'
"'What did they want you to do?' I asked him.
"'Shoot you. And I tried to get you alone to shoot you. But every time I did there was someone with you always.'
"'Well, I don't hold a grudge very long, George,' I told him.
"I do, though. Then he told me all about Ainsworth. What Ainsworth was going to do; the agreement and so on. 'Well, will you swear to that?' I asked him. 'Yes,' [George replied.]
"So he come over to the house to go to Thompson Falls with me. I took him up to Rillard, the county attorney. Rillard, he went and told Ainsworth about it! And then Ainsworth, I guess he didn't know what ever to do, because that would debar him, see.
"George and I was settin in the hotel, That Black Bear Tavern. And Dan Coan, an old feller who logged up there for me was there, too. He was a foreman. Two young fellas come along. Ainsworth's kid motioned to George to come outside. So George went out.
"He come back and asked how long we were going to be there. We'd drove up there in my car, not taking the train. "'Oh, a half an hour. What you gonna do?' 'I'm going down to the dam. Look at the dam,' [George replied.]
"So the three of them went down to the river. I think one of them shoved him in. I don't know which one. But George grabbed the Ainsworth kid, I think, and they both went in. They both drowned!
"So Ainsworth lost his boy. And George got drowned too. George was a good swimmer. But you know that's pretty rough water in there. They found the Ainsworth boy at the Noxon Rapids. George was found way down near Clark's Fork quite a bit later.
"A couple of kids found the bones there. He'd had my coat on. That's how I know it was George. I had kind of a checkered coat. And he had that on. And there was some papers in the pocket. He'd just had a jumper on the day we went to Thompson Falls. He'd said, 'I don't look very good to go up on this'
"I'd said, 'I'll give you my coat.' I had another coat there, an extry one. Yeah, poor George got drowned."*1.BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history June 28, 1973.