Tuesday, July 14, 2009

History Of Santa Clarita Valley, CA #23

Crown Valley Feud
About the time the great Castaic feud was settling down, another battle erupted in Acton. This one had far-reaching implications that nearly cost a district attorney his job and brought the most famous criminal lawyer of the age, Earl Rogers, to the area.
A great many of the early settlers of Acton were of German descent, from upstate New York. A leading citizen of this frugal, hard-working, well-behaved faction was William Broome — farmer, church deacon, school board member and honorary mayor.
During the 1890s newcomers began to arrive, mostly from the south. Their leader was W.H. Melrose, called "Rosy" by his friends.
Melrose was a big, fun-loving Kentuckian who was addicted to practical jokes, besides being quick on the draw and deadly accurate. He easily ingratiated himself with county officials, and on May 10, 1898, his wife, Flossie A. Melrose, became postmistress.
The trouble seems to have started when Broome's snorting, snarling pit bull attacked Melrose's good-natured dog Llewellyn, prompting Rosy to shoot Broome's offending animal.
Broome had Melrose arrested, but at the trial the local schoolteacher, Minnie Boucher, backed the Kentuckian. Naturally, the German element tried to get Boucher fired. Broome even branded her a "railroad whore." Acton became an armed camp and the schoolmarm was transferred.
On February 28, 1905, Melrose and Broome faced each other on Acton's dusty main street. The guns roared and William Broome dropped with five well-placed bullets in his chest.
The trial was a sensation, with the famous Rogers as counsel for the defense. Before it was over, district attorney Fredericks — a close friend of Melrose's — had been accused of corruption, and Broome's body had been exhumed with a news photographer on hand.
Each of three trials ended in a hung jury. Ultimately the charges were dismissed. But the bad blood remained, and gunshots rang out in the night around Crown Valley for years to come.

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