Jack Curry

The Lewiston Teller
Saturday, April 29, 1899

Jack Curry Dead

Jack Curry one of Lewiston's oldest pioneers died Thursday at the county hospital. Jack Curry was a very popular and highly respected citizen.

Jack Curry came to Lewiston in 1862. He located with Bill LeBaron the boom ranch which is now the site of the Porter homestead on the Clearwater. That place was improved by the expenditure of $10,000 in the construction of a boom and other improvements. At that time the boom was the most valuable real estate in the Lewiston valley. The sales of wood from that place amounted to many thousands of dollars.

Jack Curry was a deputy sheriff under Berry in the early 60's when the office was a very important one. The work he did earned him great commendation. His diligence, integrity and courage was notorious all over the north west. He became so popular that his friends offered to make him sheriff if he would agree not to drink to excess. The condition was resented and he informed his friends that he would accept no position in the gift of the people.

His honor never tarnished in the minds of those who knew him best till he was practically lost to the public eye. His taste for drink and his jovial nature robbed the world of his usefulness and perhaps brought sorrow to his closing years. The man who declined high honors in the days of his power died a public charge; and the fate came to a man who never wronged a human being with evil intent.

The death of Jack Curry brings to the public mind some thrilling events in the history of our county. As a deputy sheriff he was called upon to arrest Pete Walters who had just killed Joe Yates. Yates and Curry were close friends. The murder was a particularly aggravating one. The parties to the tragedy were in the saw mill business near Mount Idaho, and Walters killed Yates over a settlement. The neighbors were incensed by the crime. Mount Idaho was then in Nez Perce county and Sheriff Kerry sent Curry to arrest the murderer of his personal friend.

When it was learned that Yates could not live the leaders of the vigilantes approached Curry, who was holding his prisoner at L. P. Brown's, and told him they had decided to hang Walters as soon as Yates died. Curry dissented, to the surprise of the mob. He not only refused to accede to the demand for the prisoner, but swore he would protect him in justification of his oath of office. This assertion was held to be a contempt of the vigilante court. But Curry's firmness was respected, and after the death of Yates he started for Lewiston. The mob decided it would not be safe to enforce the decree while Curry was on his guard, so they decided to take the prisoner from him on the mountain near Cottonwood house.

But Curry suspected the ruse and he dodged and outran the mob in a sixty-five mile race, and delivered Walters in the Lewiston jail.

Walters was duly tried before Judge Naugle. E. A. Isham defended the prisoner. Dr. Kelly, who was summoned to attend after he received the fatal shots was a witness for the prosecution. The doctor's evidence was very positive and very damaging against Walters who was trying to establish self-defense. Judge Isham went on the stand and contradicted the doctor. Dr. Kelly wailed in front of the judge's bench and as Isham stepped down from the witness stand the doctor slapped him on each side of the face. Cold steel flashed in a second, but Curry and his principal were at hand and the belligerents were overpowered and disarmed just in time to stop another tragedy. The court imposed a fine of $50 upon each of these disturbers. It is usleess (sic) to add that the fine was paid more readily than the differences were settled between these prominent citizens.

Pete Walters however was doomed to die without waiting the processes of law. The mob that Curry had foiled never revoked this sentence. They sent members of their committee to Lewiston to gain information about the jail and the officers in charge of Walters during his imprisonment. These spies were instructed to make plans that Curry could not detect for they knew his official honor and his personal courage would defeat a whole mob if he was to be encountered. At an opportune time the mob came down from the Prairie and took Walters out of jail and hanged him to a high bar over a gate way near the old Williams house on Snake River Avenue.

Jack Curry earned a better fate than a pauper's grave. The people of Lewiston should blush with shame in the contemplation of the scene that was enacted yesterday. This man was hauled to the cemetery in a cheap casket with no attendant but a hired express man. Some old friends desired to pay him the last respect of following his bier to the grave but they failed after inquiry to learn the hour. They drove to the cemetery but the grave digger had not heard of the approaching burial. Those who felt that they owed him this respect were disappointed. In the evening however the box was hauled to the potter's field and dumped upon the ground. The grave digger was told to bury the good man. This indifference to the fate of Jack Curry, a worthy pioneer is a disgrace upon the citizens of Lewiston.

Contributed by Bailey

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