SAN FRANCISCO LETTER [dated January 11, 1866)
Gorgeous New Romance, By Fitz Smythe!
The usual quiet of our city was rudely broken in upon this morning by the appearance in the Alta of one of those terrible solid column romances about the hair-breadth escapes and prodigies of detective sagacity of the San Francisco police-- written by the felicitous novelist, Fitz Smythe. It is put up in regular chapters, with sub-headings, as is Fitz Smythe's custom, when he fulminates a stunning sensation.
Chapter I. is headed "The Koinickers"-- dark and mysterious.
Chapter II. is headed "A New Koinicker in the Field!"-- the plot thickens.
Then comes Chapter IV.-- "The Police after him!"-- exciting times.
Chapter V.-- "The Decoy Duck?-- more mystery.
Chapter VI.-- "The New Decoy!"-- the red hand of crime begins to show-- somewhere.
Chapter VII.-- "The Arrest! "-- startling situation-- thunder and lightning-- blue lights burning.
Chapter VIII.-- "The 'Queer' Obtained!"-- thrilling revelations.
Chapter IX.-- "The Conviction!"-- closing in, closing in; the wicked are about to be punished, and the good rewarded.
Chapter X.-- "Conclusion." The scattered threads are drawn together into one woof; the bad characters are sent to prison, to go from thence to [hell]; detective Lees marries detective Ellis; Chief Burke elevates his eyes and hands over the two kneeling figures and says unctuously, "God bless you my children-- God bless you!" All the good characters are happy, even down to Fitz Smythe and his horse-- the former in a chance to go through a Chinese funeral dinner, and the latter in the opportunity of eating up a tank of warm asphaltum while the workmen are gone to dinner.
Oh, but this is a lovely romance! And only think of the subject-- the police! Think of a man going among the police for the hero of a novel!-- unless he wanted a highwayman, or something of that kind.
The romance is gotten up with several objects in view. One is to show how mean a thing it is to call for investigations of police affairs as Dr. Rowell is doing; another is to try and bolster up the Grand Jury's recent "vindication" of the Police Department-- the other day-- a "vindication" which the public did not accept with as much confidence as they would if it had come from Heaven; another is to show that the stool-pigeon Ned Wellington-- "Indian Ned"-- who was appointed a special officer by Burke, is no more of a thief or a rascal than many another man on the force, and I think that is unjust to Wellington; and another object-- an eternal one with Fitz Smythe-- is to glorify his god, the police. This latter is a disease with him; it breaks out all over the Alta every day; and it phazes Smythe worse than the small-pox. Even his horse has become infected by the distemper, and will not bite a police man.
The unfiligreed facts in Smythe's column romance-- or at least the facts in the case from which the romance was drawn-- may be summed up in a few words, by leaving out the customary adulation of the inspired detectives: A counterfeiter named Farrell came here from the East; the police got after him in their bungling style and seared him away; he went to Virginia, and took $10,000 counterfeit money with him, and buried it under a house, where your police discovered and captured it; he returned here and a "decoy duck" was put on his track and appointed a special policeman-- Ned Wellington-- or "Smith" as Fitz Smythe with characteristic delicacy calls him in the romance, though why he should is not very plain, since Wellington is more notorious than Fitz Smythe himself. "Smith" was cunning, and trapped Farrell-- though of course Smythe gives all the credit to Lees and Ellis. But now comes more trouble-- "Smith" can show a commission-- show that, "reposing especial confidence in the honesty, integrity," etc., etc., the Police Commissioners-- one of whom was the Police Judge-- had appointed him to a responsible position in the service of the city, and yet his character is so bad that it will not do to bring him on the stand to testify! More evidence must be had. Another stool-pigeon is put to work with "Smith"-- one "Robert G. Crawford, the assumed name of a private clerk of Chief Burke," as Smythe says. [This man's real name was T. B. Fargo, alias Fogo, alias Howard, alias Crawford, and he was a grand rascal of considerable note, notwithstanding he was Chief Burke's confidential clerk.] The two pigeons worked the case through to a successful conclusion. Farrell's counterfeit money was captured, and Farrell himself sent to the Penitentiary. As is entirely proper, Fitz Smythe gives the credit to detective Lees, and glorifies him to the skies. There is the romance-- all there is of it worth knowing or printing-- yet it is turned into a novel of ten distinct chapters, and occupies more room and flames out with a grander sublimity in the Alta than did the capture of Richmond and the Southern armies, as published in the same paper. How marvelous are thy ways, O Lord!
Why shouldn't I print a romance? Why shouldn't I lionize "Smith" (Ned Wellington), and "Crawford" (T. B. Fargo)? Wouldn't they do for specimens of our police? I should think so-- especially since the Grand Jury so triumphantly "vindicated" Wellington a few days ago. The following romance is from the pen of ex-special policeman L. W. Noyes:
Ned Wellington, alias "Indian Ned," is a stool pigeon for Captain Lees, of the police, and has a commission from the Police Commissioners, as a secret detective, notwithstanding they all knew of his having been arrested frequently for various offenses. Ned, with one T. B. Fargo, [worked on the] case of Wm. Farrell, alias "Minnie Price," the counterfeiter, who was arrested last January. During Farrell's trial, in the County Court, Ned was a witness. While on the stand, on the 11th March, he testified that he had a commission, as above stated, and that Captain Lees recommended him; thus the commission was retained to give him authority to carry a pistol for his own defense. On the 24th December, 1864, Ned (being at the time convivious) shot at a man on Pike street; he ran down Commercial street, and officer Blitz arrested him in Con Mooney's, corner of Commercial and Kearny streets. He had thrown the pistol away behind some barrels-- went with Blitz and found it. He was taken to the station house, where he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon-- bail forfeited. The Call of December 27th says the bail was fixed at $500 (I wonder if it was found). Ned has said that he intended to kill the man, and if he had he could have got out of it. I think he could. On the 11th of March, the facts of Ned having a commission having come out in Court, naturally worries some of the police; the Grand Jury have been overhauling some of them. Next day, the 12th March, Ned was arrested for being implicated in a robbery-- was liberated that night. Next day, the 13th, he left for New York on the steamer, no doubt fearing that he might be put upon the stand in Grand Jury rooms. Ned is very shrewd, and he keeps his commission as a sort of fender to put in upon occasions. Ned's co-worker in the Farrell case (T. B. Fargo, alias T. B. Faga, alias I. B. Howard) is another of the same stripe; in the winter of 1864-5, he was an agent for Wells, Fargo & Co., in some of the Western States, where he was a defaulter. He has respectable connections East; his brother settled the matter for him, and started him for California, where he arrived in June; on the passage he gambled with one Winters and Baker, and lost [$7]00 in greenbacks; from June until October he peddled Grant pictures; on the 1st of October, with thirty-seven others, he donned the Police uniform, where he remained as the Chief's confidential clerk until December 15, at which time the Supervisors ordered the dismissal; but Fargo was kept around until Farrell was taken, and I think under pay. All this time he was living with one Hattie Shaw, a prostitute, at the corner of Washington and Pike street; he used to wait upon her to the New York Restaurant for meals, where she paid the bills. Sometimes he carried her meals to her room. He borrowed some $300 from Hattie, telling her that he had a draft on Wells, Fargo & Co. for $2,000 which he would get cashed and pay her. Ned Wellington here comes in and tells Hattie that he has seen the draft, and that Fargo is a gentleman, etc. But the draft never came, and Hattie had to go home with him in order to get coin.
After leaving the police force, he, through Captain Lees' influence, got a place with Donohue & Booth. Fargo represented to them that he was actually starving, and borrowed $20. Next day he was out riding with Hattie and got discharged, being there but a week or so. He then got into Wells, Fargo & Co.'s, during Mr. McLane's sickness, but was discharged as soon as he recovered.
During all this time the police were well aware of what kind of a man Fargo was, and there is no reason why the Chief and Commissioners should not know.
Mr. William McCaffry, who is well known in this city, took pains to tell them of his doings.
On the 13th of June Fargo went East on the opposition steamer; he bought tickets in the name of T.B. Howard, and Mrs. Howard, for himself and Hattie. On the steamer he went by the name of Fargo, and claimed to be a brother of Fargo, of Wells, Fargo & Co. So you see thieves have the inside track with Burke & Co.
I think that last remark of my historian, Noyes, is rather severe, but let it pass.
But I want Fitz Smythe to re-publish another flaming "chapter in the history of the San Francisco Police," and add the above chapter to it, and glorify the Chief's confidential clerk Mr. Fargo (not Crawford, Fitz Smythe,) and Indian Ned Wellington (not "Smith," Fitz Smythe,) and also Buckingham, whom you scarcely deigned to notice while he was on trial for gobbling up the widow's jewelry. I don't want all the glory fastened on the Captains and Chiefs and regulars, and the deeds of the specials-- the scallawags who really do all the work-- left unsung. Tune up another column of [praise of] them, and blast away, idolatrous Fitz Smythe!
Premature - text not available
A Handsome Testimonial - text not available
The California Art Union - text not available
Theatrical - text not available
[reprinted in Mark Twain: San Francisco Correspondent, (Book Club of California, 1957), p. 25-28.]
return to Enterprise index