In his article “Felonious Female Nevadans” [August 2017] R. Michael Wilson writes on P. 49, “In the roughly seven-decade history of the Wild West authorities in the Western states and territories executed just two women.” That number seems unrealistically low. I can’t speak for all the other states/territories that comprise the West, but Dallas County, Texas, executed Jane Elkins on May 27, 1853. Jane was black, and her victim, a Mrs. Wisdom, wife of her owner, was white. Jane’s status and the gender of her victim practically guaranteed her a quick trip to the gallows. How many women were actually executed in the West is a subject worthy of a lot more study.
Fort Worth, Texas
Author R. Michael Wilson responds: Two (Paula Angel, pictured at top, and Elizabeth Potts) might seem low, but I have documented every legal execution in the West through Dec. 31, 2010, in my various books on the subject. The issue of what constitutes the “Wild West” may be more the issue. In those times it was generally accepted that anything west of the 98th meridian was the West. Dallas County, Texas, is east of the 98th meridian and, therefore, technically in the East or Southeast. Regardless, I have left the documentation of executions in Texas to others. By the way, Master Wisdom, not Mrs. Wisdom, was murdered. Jane’s motive was never revealed.
Author R. Michael Wilson stated only two women were executed during the seven-decade history of the Wild West in the Western states or territories. On July 5, 1851, in Downieville, Calif., one Josefa “Juanita” Loazia, or Segovia, was hanged for the murder of Frederick Cannon. Wouldn’t Josefa be at least the third woman executed during this time period?
Spanish Springs, Nev.
Michael Wilson claims, “Paula Angel was the first woman to hang in the West.” Not so. That dubious achievement should go to Juanita (aka Josefa), who made her living mining the pockets of miners in Downieville, a town at the confluence of the Downie River and North Fork of the Yuba River in California’s gold country. On July 4, 1851, a drunken Frederick Cannon broke into the cabin where Juanita and her lover, José, lived. In an earlier altercation Cannon and some of his friends had knocked down the door. One version of the events states Cannon came back to apologize, but he and José started arguing. Cannon called Juanita a whore, and she stabbed him in the chest. He died within minutes. Cannon was a popular man in Downieville, and an angry mob demanded revenge. With no judge or sheriff in town, the miners quickly formed a court and held trial the next day, with an appointed judge hearing the claims of the appointed prosecution and defense. A doctor claimed Juanita was pregnant. Other doctors (amazing how many men calling themselves “doctor” wanted to examine Juanita’s condition) claimed she wasn’t. The jury pronounced Juanita guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging. Just an hour later Juanita, likely the victim of racial prejudice and a drunken mob, was taken to the bridge spanning the river, noose around her neck. Her last words before stepping off into eternity were, “I would do the same thing again, if I were treated as I have been.”
Canoga Park, Calif.
Author R. Michael Wilson responds: Excepting for the “opinion piece” on Wikipedia, the hanging of Juanita is classified as a lynching. There was a mock miner’s trial, and Juanita was hanged by an angry crowd an hour after being convicted. Sources suggest had she been white, the execution would have been delayed until she was afforded a real trial with due process.
I congratulate you folks on the great April 2018 issue. Keep up the good work. When I saw the super photo of the bison on the cover, I thought of my friend Veronika Ederer, who works in Switzerland teaching students about North American Indian peoples. She sent me this photo [right] of American buffalo grazing in, of all places, Switzerland. They also seem to roam quite contently in Denmark, Germany and other places overseas. Ederer is also working on a cookbook of Native American dishes. Buffalo, or bison, is indeed included in that menu.
Lynda A Sánchez
Fort Stanton, N.M.
Send letters to Wild West, 1919 Gallows Road, Suite 400, Vienna, VA 22182-4038 or by email. Please include your name and hometown.