The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878

By Mark Wahlgren Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Capital Offenses of Donn Piatt

Those who met William McGarrahan liked him, and no one who spent much time around the capitol could help meeting him. For more than thirty years, the dogged little Irishman stalked the lobbies and waited in his hotel room for a decision in favor of his claim. The decision would be worth waiting for; McGarrahan wanted title to a vast tract of land in California, the so-called Panoche Grande, which Mexican authorities had settled on one Gomez, who deeded it to him. What made the land all the more valuable was the vein of quicksilver that ran through its hills, a vein that interlopers, calling themselves the New Idria Mining Company, had been tapping since the 1850s without government title. 1

Year on year, McGarrahan had fought for possession. Courts ruled in his favor and then turned against him on the basis of forged documents and perjured testimony. House committees had sustained his cause, only to report so late in the session that no final action could be taken. Indeed, when McGarrahan died in 1894, it was generally agreed that the govern

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