Newspaper Coverage of the Evans & Sontag Story

The Examiner, San Francisco, Monday Morning, June 12, 1893, Vol. LVI, No. 163, p1:

Chris Evans confused with John Sontag in first report.



Sontag Enters Into the Conflict With All
His Old-Time Determination -- Main-
tains the Battle with Vigor Until
at Least Forty Shots Are Exchanged,
but Is Finally Compelled to Take to
Flight, Leaving His Companion
Stretched on the Ground -- The Man
Who Shot Evans Wounded in the
Leg -- He Is Brought to Visalia
and There Tells the Story
of the Conflict -- The Outlaws' Ad-
versaries Consisted of Fred Jackson,
the Injured Man, Deputy Sheriff Ra-
pelje, Thomas Burns and Marshal Gard.



[Special to the EXAMINER.]

VISALIA, June 11. -- The beginning of the end has approached, and the record of crime that has darkened the pages of Tulare county will soon be ended.

Another fight between Evans and Sontag and officers took place this evening about twenty miles from this city, just on the edge of a foothill.

During the conflict that took place an officer was shot in the leg and he was brought to this city to-night, badly but not seriously wounded. He is now at the Palace Hotel receiving medical attendance.

Evans is probably mortally wounded, if not dead. At the time he wounded officer left the scene, Evans was lying on the ground.

Sontag had escaped and taken to the hills, followed by heavy fire which, it is believed, however, did not injure him, as it was dark and his retreating form could not be seen.

Hi Rapelje, Deputy Sheriff of Fresno county, and Fred Jackson, and officer from Nevada, have been in the mountains a week hunting for Evans and Sontag. They were accompanied by Thomas Burns, the man who was the Deputy United States Marshal Black when he was shot while in Camp Badger three weeks ago.




These officers have been traveling over the hills looking for the bandits. Sunday morning they encamped at a vacant house about on half mile from Stone Corral, about eighteen miles northeast of this city and about six miles west from Wilcox canyon.

The officers were completely tired out with their week's hunt, and they entered the deserted house to take a good day's rest. They spent a day in sleeping and making preparations to continue the hunt for the outlaws.

About twenty minutes before sunset Rapelje went to the rear door of the house and saw two men coming down the hill and toward the place. On closer observation it was discovered that the men were no other than Evans and Sontag, the fugitive desperadoes. Evan was in the lead and carried a rifle and shotgun and Sontag was armed with simply a rifle.

Rapelje turned around to his comrades in the house and said: " Hello, here comes two men down the hill." He did not know positively who they were, but judged from their appearance and the arms they carried that they were the outlaws.

Jackson, the officer who was shot went to the door where Rapelje was standing and said: "They are the men we have been looking for." The two men woke up Burns and United States Marshal Gard, who were asleep. They jumped up quickly and grabbed their guns and prepared to make a fight.

The officers went out of the front door of the house and as they went around the back corner Evans saw Rapelje and, throwing his Winchester to his shoulder, took deliberate aim and fired.




Just then Jackson stepped around behind Rapelje and opened fire on the bandits. Evans was seen to throw up both hands and fall backward.

Then the firing became general and Sontag got behind an old rubbish pile, out of sight, but kept up a terrible raking fusillade.

Jackson went around the far end of the house to see if he could get a better place from which to shoot, and as he went around he was shot in the left leg between the knee and ankle. He limped back to where his comrades were and lay down on the ground. He told Rapelje he was shot but told him to keep up the fight and not to give up.

About forty shots were exchanged between the officers and the bandits, but the sun went down and darkness ended the battle.




Sontag was seen to crawl on his stomach from behind the rubbish pile, and Rapelje again opened fire upon him.

Sontag then rose to his feet and ran toward the hills, followed by Rapelje, who continued firing. Sontag did not return the fire, and in a few minutes was out of sight.

Rapelje returned to the house and procuring a wagon he brought Jackson to this city. He left the scene of the fight before any investigation was made of Evans' condition, but he is confident that the bandit is mortally wounded, if not dead, as he gave up shooting early in the fight. There it is not thought Sontag would desert Evans while the latter had life.

Sheriff Scott of Fresno has been wired to send out a posse and officers will go from this city to the scene of the conflict,






He Is an Unassuming Deputy Sheriff of

Fresno County.


Edward Rapelje is one of the Deputy Sheriffs of Fresno county, under appointment of Sheriff Jay Scott. He is an unassuming man of about thirty-five, and his character is above reproach. He was appointed to office on account of his well-known knowledge of the mountainous districts of the county, and he was one of the men selected by Mr. Scott to go on a still hunt for the Rolinda bandits. Rapelje is a sure shot, but he made no pretensions, though his prowness was well known. As a trailler in the Sierras he was frequently called upon to subpena witnesses, and his knowledge of woodcraft was second to none.





The Recent Career and the Characters of

Evans and Sontag.


Here is the score of Sontag and Evans since the train robbery at Colis, August 4, 1893. It puts up a total of three killed and five wounded:




Oscar Beaver, in front of Chris Evans'

barn at Visalia, August 6th.

Andrew McGinniss and Victor C. Wil-

son, at Young's cabin, near Sampson's

Flat, September 14th.




George Witty and Will Smith, at Visa-

lia, August 4th.

Fred Witty and Richard Olson, at

Young's cabin, September 14th.

S. J. Black, at Camp Badger, May 26th.

Fred Jackson, near Visalia, June 11th.




A story that contains enough of crime and violence to be notable had the event occurred in the days of the bandits of the border is the story of Evans and Sontag. No history of California can ever be complete without the tale of the bloody deeds of these men.

Chris Evans, John Sontag and George Sontag were accused of a crime for which the State had provided the penalty of death the crime of train robbery.

On the night of August 3, 1892, the night express train from San Francisco was boarded at Collis by masked men and was halted between Rollinda and Pratton stations just nine minutes before midnight. A volley from shotguns was fired to intimidate the passengers, and then, with the trainmen covered by their guns, the robbers proceeded to blow up the express car. Nine dynamite bombs were used, the last making an opening in the car and seriously injuring the messenger, George D. Roberts.

Three sacks of gold were taken, and with their plunder the robbers fled on horseback.

Chris Evans and John and George Sontag was quietly arrested at his house. Detective Will Smith and Deputy Sheriff George Witty returned to the house to arrest John Sontag and Evans. The officers were met with firearms. Witty was wounded by a shot fired by Evans. Sontag and Evans then jumped into the officers' buggy and drove rapidly from the town.

The robbers were chased by a posse of officers and citizens, but without result. At 10 o'clock on the morning of August 6th a party of officers went to search at Evans' house, and during their vigil they were fired upon by the bandits, who had returned during the evening. Oscar Beaver of Lemoore was fatally wounded and died before daybreak. Oscar Beaver was the first victim of the bloody trail of the outlaws.

From August 5th any man would have been honored, as well as rewarded financially, for shooting down the murderers of Beaver. Many men sought the honor and reward, but the pursuers alone suffered. The names of Evans and Sontag became a terror in all the region about Visalia.

On September 13th the bandits were surprised at Jim Young's cabin at Sampson's Flat, fifty miles east of Fresno, but they fired on the posse as it approached and then escaped. Behind them, dead, they left Deputy United States Marshal Victor C. Wilson of Tucson, A. T., and Richard Olson, a mountaineer of the locality. Fred Witty, a brother of the Deputy Sheriff who was wounded at Visalia, was wounded, but survived.

There were no new developments until October 7th, when the EXAMINER astounded the men engaged in the pursuit by printing a long interview with the bandits. Henry Bigalow of the EXAMINER staff had visited in their stronghold the men for whose capture thousand of dollars had been offered, for whose trail veteran detectives and Indian scouts had been searching. After a long conversation Bigelow returned to the nearest railroad station and took the train for San Francisco. He brought the story of the robbers, the only message that had been received from their mountain fastness except a message of lead. He related what the bandits said of their encounters with the several forces in search of them and their denial that they had robbed the train. The article showed that supplies were obtained from friends and that it was not an unusual things for the fugitives to make excursions into towns. Sontag had been wounded in the arm at Jim Young's a bullet from McGinnis' gun striking him, and that was the only injury that either of the men had at any time received. They said they had refrained many times from shooting into the posses when the pursuers were in their power, and though they expressed a willingness to kill the men who were hunting them for the reward they asserted that they had fired only when their freedom demanded it.

Since that time the robbers have continually visited their families, with evident contempt of the officers, and the stories of one or two escapes amid fusillades of bullets seems incredible.

They stopped a stage on a mountain road, plainly declaring they were looking for the detectives. Finding no one on the stage in search of them they permitted the driver to continue the trip.

On the 27th of May M. J. Black, a Deputy United States Marshal from San Diego county, was waylaid while on the point of entering his cable at Camp Badger and shot down.

Black has been in the mountains ever since last October and has been hunting the bandits. He has put in his time cutting wood, hauling lumber, building houses, etc., and doing other work to divert suspicion from his real mission in the mountains. His presence in the mountains soon became known, and it was lately learned that he was an officer on the hunt for the desperate bandits.

A few days ago Tom East, who lives in the hills, was sent by Evans and Sontag to give Black warning that his purposes was known and that he would be killed if he did not leave the county. The threat was ignored and Black said he proposed to stay and see it out.




After passing the evening yesterday in the Camp Badger saloon Black, accompanied by a man named Thomas Burns, left for their cabin. While Black was at the corner of his but the bands opened a rapid fire on him and he fell to the ground after the first volley. Burns crawled into this cabin, and, picking up his rifle, opened fire on the robbers through the side of his house. His determined resistance caused the bandits to retreat into the brush and the fight was ended.

The officer was shot even or eight times about the thigh and legs, one buckshot entered the groin. Black`s condition is not considered serious by the attending surgeon. He was brought to the city in a wagon and is now resting easily in Dr. Matthewson's office.

The bandits did not use their rifles, as the bones in Black's legs would have been shattered had they done so. It is believed that after emptying their shotguns they continued their fusillade with their pistols. The cabin walls were splintered from the effects of the shots and were perforated like a sieve.

Black made a brave resistance and proved himself to be a man of great nerve and good judgment. The fight aroused the inhabitants of the little mountain settlement, but for fully half an hour they were so frightened that they could not muster up sufficient courage to render any aid to the wounded officer.

Black says there are about twelve parties in and around Camp Badger who have been furnishing aid to the bandits and keeping them informed regarding every move the officers make. He says he knows them and has positive knowledge of their doings.





A Letter Which Demonstrated His

Frame of Mind.


April 16, 1893

Fort Defiance, Sampson Flat.

Dear Wife and Babies -- I have got a chance to-day to send you word to let you know how we are doing.

We had a little fun the other day with a couple of those so-called quail hunters. We went out quail hunting too and while out a fog came up. We spied some quail, I fired and killed two. Those fellows were just below us, and the shot went towards them. They shouted -- but at that moment Mr. Sontag fired and killed another one. They shouted again and John said: "We'll get them fellows, if they are bloodmoney hunters" -- the fog lifted, and the way them fellows run, you could have eat dinner off their coattails.

One of those days those quail-hunters will make the acquaintance of the Bussards, as we are thoroughly posted in regard to every stranger.

We have warned those, who are our friends, on the quiet, to keep out of the woods, as we don't want to shoot innocent people. They have a new fad now, pretending to survey land. Their work is so coarse, that if they told it to a mute, he would kick their brains out.

We go where we please, and not one of the detectives will enter the House of any man that is known to be friendly to us. Young's cabin is photographed on their minds.

Well my darling, how have you and the babies been since I kissed you good bye. You must have felt very lonely at times, after our happy life together for eighteen years. Well Love we will have happy times yet in spit of Friends Thacker and Tom Cunningham. Kiss the Babies for their Papa and dozens to you.

Your loving husband.



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