Stories about LONG TOM MINE


    Isaac VanBibber and Sarah Davis
    Martha VanBebber and George Yoakum, Sr.
    Jesse Yoakum, Sr. and Anna Berry
    Isaac Yoakum and Emily Bruce
    Sons: William Jackson "Bill" Yoakum
    Jesse James "Jim" Yoakum

    I do not know at what date Long Tom was discovered, but in 1868, it was a well-established mine, and was worked extensively until the eighties. The Long Tom mail had to be brought by some neighbor volunteering to do the job from some community stage station. It was said about $300,000 was taken out, but some people thought $350,000 had been put in. That was the general history of so many of the mines of this western slope of the Sierras. In 1878, when the tragedy happened which the old timers think of when Long Tom is mentioned, the pockets had not been worked out, and the ledge of Long Tom itself, was still rich, and holding. In 1868, the owners of the Long Tom mine were the two Yoakums brothers. The older, I think, was named Bill, and the younger, Jim. Many miners were working their claims nearby. Prominent among these were the Tuckers and the Johnsons. Ambrose Tucker lived to be an old man, lived out his life at Long Tom. I knew him over a period of many years. I think he is buried near the mine.
    The Yoakum brothers, while many people lived there, had about thirty miners employed. They owned a store, a mill, and a blacksmith shop.
    The Tuckers and Johnsons had been successful in getting a miner sent to prison for stealing gold from one of their mines. He swore to return and even the score when he had served his sentence, which was not a very long one. He had only stolen gold - not a horse! If the latter, the aroused populace would have probably lynched him.
    This miner was known to have been seen across the mountains, in Kernville, just prior to the murders of Tug Tucker and one of the Johnson men. They were returning in two spring wagons, each with his wife seated beside him. They were hauling a load of provisions and mining necessities to Long Tom, which had been purchased in Bakersfield.
    They were driving along a comparatively level stretch of road, just a short distance southwest of the Long Tom settlement. There was a rock at this spot, with a convenient hole entirely through it, just right to shoot through, if one wanted to do so. The rock was over six feet high, four feet wide, and about fourteen inches thick.
    Both the women told that their husbands were shot from their sides by murderers whose voices they recognized. They said it was the Yoakum brothers' voices. Also, that they saw one of the men wore brass-toes boots. Did he wave a foot out from behind the rock at them? The Yoakums, the Rucker and the Johnson men were having a bitter dispute over some mining claims. Looking back from 86 years later, it is very easy to understand how the ex-convict could have kept his threat to get even with Tucker Johnson. Also that the remaining families of the dead men could have, in all innocence, seen their arch enemies, the Yoakums, as the people guilty of this cold blooded ambush. The thoughts of the citizenry was divided at the time, and still remains so, amongst the second and third generations, as to those guilty of this outrage.

    The Yoakums were arrested, bound over for trail in the Justice Court, and remanded to the sheriff's custody until a trail could be held. The Yoakums immediately commenced action to get a change of venue. This gave time for much lynch talk before they were tried by the enemies of the Yoakums.

    One lynch mob, which showed the people weren't sure that the Yoakums were even to be suspected too strongly, was stopped rather abruptly: -- Two of the Higgins brothers, great uncles of late Senator Clair Engle, were sinking a shaft quite a distance down the Long Tom Gulch from the camp. Other miners were working at intervals between the two places. I don't know which of the Higgins brothers was down in the shaft, but I do know that Bill Higgins, whom I knew all my live until his death, was running the windlass on this particular day. Fortunately, they had a friend working quite a distance north of there in the same gulch. This man was surprised one day to see quite a number of men approaching him down the gulch from the north, armed with Winchesters and six-shooters. He knew them, and of course made inquiry as to the cause of their war-like appearance.
    This was their conversation as the story has come down through the years:

    "Well, boys, what are you up to?"
    "The Tucker and Johnson women said one of the men who killed their husbands wore brass-toed boots. Bill Higgins wears brass-toed boots. They are sinking a shaft just down the gulch. We are going down to get him, and settle this thing right now."
    "Wait a minute, boys, until I can get my rifle, and I will go with you."
    They waited. He got his gun, and then saw to it that the lynch minded mob walked down the trail ahead of him. When they could see Bill Higgins, a sixteen-year old boy, standing by the windlass, the man who had joined the job, and had walked down behind them with his rifle in hand, suddenly called out, "Drop your guns, boys, your party is over. Just turn around and go home." That mob was stopped still but the next one was not.

    It began to appear that the Yoakums might get their change of venue. Many people began to express doubt that women whose husbands had just been shot from ambush and toppled down from their sides, could really hear any man's voice unless shouted, a hundred steps' distance. Or that they could distinguish a brass toe on a boot, and even if they could see this brass toe, the people began to notice that a large number of their neighbors wore replicas of the oft-mentioned brass-toed footwear.

    All this brought to a head the gathering of a mob that wasn't stopped until it completed its deed. No friend to stop it this time. The mob had no trouble in entering the jail and enforcing its will upon the sheriff. He kindly turned over the jail keys to a crazy bunch of enraged citizens. I knew many, of whom it was rumored were the mob.
    Bill Yoakum tried to save his younger brother, told them that this boy had nothing to do with his mining deals. Bill felt sure they were the cause of most of the animosity against them. Finally, he begged them, "I promised my mother I would not die with my boots on. Please let me take them off."
    The mob agreed. Bill sat down, took his boots off and came up fighting. He about had the lynch crowd whipped, when both brothers were shot, and then hanged.
    Ambrose Tucker carried a deep scar on his skull all his life. Was he one of that brave crew?

    Bill Yoakum left a widow, who after a few years, married a prominent man of our mountain community. The man is said to have very foolishly admitted to her that he had been a member of that gang who killed her former husband. She left him "right now." I knew people who claimed this was a fact. I also knew the children of this women by both husbands. My mother knew the man who supposedly made the ill-considered confession. They were all most excellent people.

    Another aftermath - three of this guilty mob committed suicide not too long after Bill Yoakum almost fought his way to freedom with that brass-toed boot, which caused his death.

    Lynn's Valley Tales and Others, Guy Hughes, Author, pg. # 58 - 61.

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