Henry Lee, an early Panaca pioneer, tells of a story when he was involved in rounding up some suspected burglars who had come up from the Moapa Valley area. His story is recounted in the 1966 book A Century in Meadow Valley.
Lee says in April, 1913 when he was digging a well about half a mile east of town near the Modena road, he was informed a man named Joe Keate was looking for him. Keate was the station agent in Moapa, and told Lee there were “two bad guys” who had committed a series of burglaries down there.
Keate later said he had tracked the two men to now be somewhere in the Condor Canyon area. He had even seen what he believed to be their camp on the hillside.
He walked back along the railroad tracks from the canyon into town to find some help. Coming to the Allen Nelson ranch, he was told, “You go and find Henry Lee, he will help you.”
Finding Lee, the men got two horses saddles and Lee brought along a 30-30 rifle and a .22 high-powered rifle. They stopped at the Panaca store for a few supplies and the search began. Lee relates Keate felt sure the Panaca store and Post Officer were the next targets for the robbers, possibly even that night.
On horseback, Keate and Lee kept to the fields west of Bullionville, eventually spotting one of the suspects on the west side of the Edwards fields walking up the railroad track.
Lee dashed across the field, right past some surprised field hands, cut through a barbed wire fence, and bore down on the man on the railroad track, telling him to stop and put his hands up.
Keate came up immediately thereafter, and together they ordered him to cross a small stream over to where they were, then searched him for a gun, but did not find one. After tying the man up with baling wire, he was asked where his partner was, but said he did not know.
Some of the men from the Edwards ranch arrived and took the prisoner into custody, while Lee and Keate went looking of the other suspect.
“We had just mounted our horses when we saw him a few hundred yards south of us,” Lee writes. “I jumped off the horse and called to him to throw up his hands. He responded by pulling his revolver and shooting at us; I pulled down on him and took dead aim and fired. Just as I fired the second shot he dove into a patch of brush and I felt sure I had hit him.”
The man was trying to escape in the brush, heading south and keeping the high brush between him and the lawmen who were following his tracks.
Lee said he was “standing on an old fence in the direction the tracks had gone, and saw him pop his head up and I again called for him to come out with his hands up.” But he didn’t, and started shooting back again.
Now knowing where the man was, Lee and Keate began to make a large circle and close in. “Finally we came right on him; he was lying on his back in just a little swale. We ordered him to come out with his hands up.” But the man did not have a gun and Keate punched him in the ribs with the butt of his rifle and demanded, “Where is that gun?”
The man then admitted he had tried to push it into the soft ground as far as he could to hide it. But Lee and Keate found it and the man was arrested.
Lee says, “We had what Joe came for and so I got my old Ford and took them to Caliente where they boarded the train for Las Vegas. They were later tried, convicted, and sentenced to the State Prison.”
A little of early 20th Century justice in Panaca.