On Trial for Murder

“Little Ike” Gandy and Luther “Lute” Olds

In the 1850’s, Isaac “Little Ike” Gandy’s life and fate was closely linked to that of Luther “Lute” Olds, his employer and later brother-in-law. In particular they were both put on trial for murder in 1858.

The Humboldt River

Luther “Lute” Olds kept a trading station on the Humboldt River in the 1850’s and Isaac “Little Ike” Gandy worked for him as station-keeper, at least between 1854 and 1858 according to the Sacramento Union newspaper. Isaac was then 19-23 years old. One witness at the trial (see below) said that he had met Little Ike on the Humboldt with Lute Olds in 1854. “He had bought and sold many horses; bought horses in Sacramento and sold them here” in Carson Valley, Nevada. Luther Olds also had a ranch in Carson Valley.

The Humboldt River runs about 300 miles (483 km) through northern Nevada, traversing the state roughly from east to west. It is an inland river, the only natural artery across the Great Basin, and has provided a historical route for westward migration. By the early 1840’s the trail along the river was being used by settlers going west to California, later called the California Trail.

 The Humboldt River, Nevada

Who was Luther Olds?

Luther “Lute” Olds was principally occupied in ranching at Carson Valley and in packing goods between Placerville and the diggings at Gold Cañon. He came to Carson Valley from California, and took up his ranch in September, 1853. Isaac had been goldmining in California and it was possibly there he met Luther Olds.  According to reports in the Sacramento Union of August 14th. 1855, Luther was suspected of dealing in stolen horses and harbouring the robbers and supplying  them with provisions.

 The Murder Trial

William B.“Lucky Bill” Thorington planned the murder of a Frenchman, Henry Gordier, who had bought six hundred head of cattle from the LDS Church Members who left Carson City for Salt Lake City in September 1857. Thorington conspired with a fugitive called William C. Edwards and his associates John Mullen and Asa Snow to kill Gordier, while pretending to buy him out, and then sell the cattle to Thorington at a fraction of their true value. It was Mullen who actually shot Gordier.

Thorington rode to meet Edwards in Luther Olds’ yard. Edwards had gotten there at night, and when he identified himself to Olds, “Lute” put him up and gave the fugitive some provisions. Luther Olds supplied Edwards with provisions and comforts sufficient for several days’ camping, although Edwards came to Carson Valley well-supplied.

After the murder was discovered, a group of citizens — actually a vigilance committee — sent “Rough” Elliot and others to bring the guilty parties to justice. “Rough” Elliott led a group of men south to Luther Olds’ ranch, where they arrested “Lute” and his two hired hands, Cal Austin and Ike Gandy. Gandy showed some fight and seemed prepared to resist until Elliott got the drop on him. The vigilantes brought Olds, Gandy and Austin into Genoa and collected the other four prisoners, transporting them all to the Clear Creek ranch.

A crowd of about one hundred and fifty citizens gathered at Clear Creek ranch where a “people’s court” convened to try “Lucky Bill” Thorington, William Edward, Luther Olds, Cal Austin, Ike Gandy, John McBride and Orrin Gray. This court was constituted to hear the charges against the six (seven) defendants “in the absence of a higher law, as the crimes were committed in Utah.” The trial began June fifteenth, 1858, in the barn at Clear Creek ranch.

Thorington and Edwards were eventually hung. McBride and Gray were acquitted. There is no record of any verdict in the case of Ike Gandy, though he too appears to have been acquitted. The court convicted Luther Olds of having harbored horse thieves. He was fined $875 and banished forever from Carson Valley. The judgment of the court was that if Olds attempted to return to Carson Valley, he would be shot. Seventeen members of the jury voted for Olds’ death, but he was spared on the basis of only one vote. Austin, a known horse thief, was also fined.

A correspondent of the Placerville Mountain Democrat filed the following report on Olds, July 3rd. 1858:

“I understand — I have not seen it — that Mr. Olds has a petition in circulation in the Valley to get signers thereto, to the effect that he be entirely released from all blame, and that he be permitted to remain in the Valley. Now, I would merely say to Mr. Olds that this move of his is doing him more injury than good; that this Valley he must quit forever, and that, too, in a few hours after the time allotted to him expires, I also would say to him that he should remember that there was only one man of the eighteen jurors, who prevented him from receiving that punishment which was meted to Lucky Bill. Olds should be very careful of how he acts and of what he says.”

 The Link to Harriet via Luther

Hired hand Isaac eventually became Luther Old’s brother-in-law, when he married Harriet Parsons, younger sister of Luther’s wife Melvina. Read more about this on pages Marriage to Harriet Parsons  and Trading in Carson City.


Excerpts from Nevada History: EARLY GOVERNMENTS IN NEVADA
Chapter IV The Carson Valley People’s Court.
[This work is taken from a manuscript written by the publisher of The Nevada Observer in 1979-1980 and converted to digital form; Copyright © 2006 David Thompson]

Part Three: The Trial Of “Lucky Bill”

Further reading: The Olds Brothers