By Anita Susan Brenner
It was a bright Tuesday at Conrad’s. The Memorial Day banners were still up. I had just ordered my favorite omelet (green chile, with jalapeño cheese, cooked “easy” with a side of salsa) when she arrived. The Anonymous Source. She looked me in the eye and said, “Errata.”
“I know, I know,” I replied. Last week’s column erroneously listed Sarah Elizabeth Patten’s law school graduation date at 1912. In fact, she graduated in 1911, along with her future husband Frank C. Doherty. They were number one and number two in their class.
The Anonymous Source tossed an envelope down on the counter, turned and left.
I heard the rumble of a 1969 Triumph in the distance.
I opened the envelope to find vintage news clippings. The contents were shocking.
A few months earlier, the Anonymous Source had alerted me to the case of the burning of the La Cañada Schoolhouse in 1893. A 14-year-old boy, Lemuel Veilex, was placed on trial in adult court. The prosecution thought they had a strong case. Lemuel had confessed the crime to an amateur detective named O.M. Clement.
But then, young Lemuel’s twin brother David provided an alibi and several witnesses testified to Lemuel’s good character. The coup de gras was the “race card” played by the defense attorney. The jury was unable to reach a verdict. A mistrial was declared and on July 25, 1893, the district attorney dismissed the case.
I turned to the news clippings supplied by the Anonymous Source. The date: September 19, 1895. Two years after the schoolhouse trial. The headline: Joachim Weary of Wandering Bullets
“A warrant is to be sworn out today by J.C. Joachim of North Pasadena for the arrest of C. Barnum, Lem Veilex and Oliver Steele of La Cañada for criminal carelessness in the use of firearms...”
According to the reporter, “Mr. Joachim was watering a few trees when he heard a shot fired and a bullet whizzed past him uncomfortably near, then another, and finally a third, which grazed his hat...On looking up he saw the three men ...standing by the barn 600 feet away, one of them with a rifle in his hand...They all appeared indifferent to the import of what they were doing...”
The reporter concluded with a description of the town’s mood: “The respectable citizens of La Cañada complain that lately wandering bullets have been altogether too common for comfort, and it is high time their wandering should cease.”
Wandering bullets notwithstanding, I began to wonder. Why were three men could be charged when only one had a rifle? Did they share the rifle? Several witnesses had testified to Lemuel Veilex’ good character two years earlier. Was it a fix? Maybe the stray bullet warrant was payback for the dismissal of the 1893 charges for the schoolhouse fire? And who were the “respectable citizens” of La Cañada? Did they have it in for young Lem Veilex?
To be continued...
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a local resident and a lawyer with Torres & Brenner in Pasadena. She invites you to visit www.andrewtorres.comLa Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California