South Lake County, CA

Local History



From My Book


They Left Their Mark On South Lake County





Copyright © 2019 Bill Wink


Bill Wink

P.O. Box 814

Middletown, CA 95461


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, modified, rewritten, stored in a retrieval system, or transferred in any form, by any means, including mechanical, electric, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express prior written permission of the publisher.



First printing, 2019

Library of Congress Control Number: 00000000000



THE INDIVIDUALIST – Lifting the fog of confusion

TREASON – The companion book


GUENOC RANCH & The Days of the Flying-Muleshoe – A Historical Regard

CINNABAR & The Saga of the White Cap Murders






Tom Dye was born August 25th, 1846 in Morrow, Ohio. He registered to vote in Coyote Valley, California on March 30th, 1870. He was then, 23 years old.


Ten miles north of Calistoga, but still in Napa county, situated alongside the Lawley Toll Road sat a popular place, the Mountain Mill house. During the month of October in the year 1871, barely a year after Dye’s arrival, a fracas arose at said location between Dye and a man named Finley. This fracas was the result of a not so long standing feud. Gunfire erupted. Thomas Kearney Dye shot James M. Finley in the thigh. The wound was serious enough that it lead to amputation and at the time, it was felt, it was probably a death sentence for Finley. There is no record of Dye being held legally responsible. However, Dye’s willingness to use a gun to settle a disagreement was exposed.


Dye, still in Middletown, married an older woman, Nancy G. (McGreer) Davey, on August 29th, 1873. Over the next five years they had a son and two daughters who were all born in Middletown. The youngest was born in the spring of 1878.


Dye was much involved in the local mining industry.


On October 1st, 1878, a young blacksmith who hailed from New York, Charles Bates, and who was employed at the Oat Hill mine east of town, was in Middletown. He was there to attended the wedding of his sister-in-law Eliza Jean “Lyda” Dennis. Eliza was the sister of Charles’s wife, Francis and she was marrying a local boy, Louis John Barnett.


At some point, probably in a saloon, Charles Bates got into an altercation with William A. Barnes, who was a 49er. Dye, who was a friend of Barnes, interfered. The parties separated, and the quarrel was supposed to be over. Two hours afterward though, as Bates was on his way to the stable, Dye stepped from behind a building and shot his victim who died some hours later.  This reportedly happened in front of the Lake County House, the stable being just across Main street from the hotel.


May Pearl Dye, the youngest daughter, was just 4 months old and her father was a murderer. What a way to start life.


Sheriff Crigler happened along soon after and took Dye into custody, reportedly just in time to save him from the vengeance of a mob who threatened his life.


Both Dye and Barnes were indicted by the Lake county Grand Jury for murder and held for trial. Barnes was tried and acquitted of the charge. Dye’s trial was delayed on legal grounds and on March 7th, 1879, Dye escaped the Lake county jail.


The Weekly Butte Record reported on April 12th, 1879:


“Governor Irwin offers $400 and the Sheriff of Lake county $150 reward for the arrest and conviction of Thomas Dye, who escaped recently from the Lake county jail. The following is a description of the prisoner: Thomas Dye is five feet seven inches high, dark complexion , black curly hair, full beard, hesitates when he speaks, weight about I80 pounds, and has two crippled fingers on his right hand.”


For an undetermined amount of time, Tom Dye hid out in a naturally occurring cave in the face of a large rock outcropping near the peak of St. Helena Mountain. Local folklore implies folks around Middletown, who were sympathetic toward Dye, provided him with supplies. That rock outcropping is, in modern times, known as Tom Dye Rock.


Eventually Dye fled the area.


A year later in March, 1880, Lake county elected a new Sheriff named P. Burtnett. Burtnett had previously been a Sheriff in Illinois for 13 years. The new Sheriff said he would have Dye back in custody in six months. For this purpose he sent out several thousand printed circulars and many photographs. Through these efforts a Deputy Sheriff spotted, arrested and jailed Tom Dye in Reno, Nevada.


During August of 1880 the Sheriff of Lake county, California, obtained the necessary requisition from Nevada Governor J. H. Kinkead, traveled to Reno and took custody of the captured suspected murderer, Thomas Dye. He then took him to Lakeport, California. It was six months and seven days since the Lake county Sheriff had proclaimed he would capture Dye in six months.


Dye was tried, convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to San Quentin for fifteen years. He was admitted to the prison on the 16th of December, 1880.


In May of 1885 Lake county Sheriff Boggs presented a petition for clemency for Thomas Dye to the State Prison Directors. In September, Director Wilkins reported he had examined the case of Thomas Dye. He determined Dye had served five years of a fifteen year sentence with good conduct and that the man was dying, so in view of these facts, Mr. Wilkins advised that he be recommended to the Governor for a commutation to eight years. Recommendation adopted.


Instead, Dye was released from prison about a year later on August 19th, 1886.



Thomas K Dye registered to vote in Jackson, Amador county October 5th, 1888.


If we had been living on August 10th, 1892, we could have found Thomas K Dye alive and registered to vote in Copperopolis, Calaveras, California.


When he died remains a question.




Dye’s victim, Charles, had married Francis Dennis, December 27th, 1877 in Yolo county, California. Then, less than a year later, Charles was dead and Francis was pregnant with Charles’s child. A son, Charlie, was born in April 1879.


Sarah Francis (Dennis) Bates remarried. She married a man named Theodore Franklin Rose October 8th, 1881 in Yolo county, California.


Tom Dye’s wife, Nancy, was the daughter of John McGreer and the former Susan Roberts. Nancy had a brother Charles.


In 1888, Nancy’s father, John McGreer, was the owner of the hotel, Lake County House, in Middletown. That year, Charles McGreer had a dispute with his father regarding leasing of the hotel. The dispute was taking place in the parlor. The quarrel ended with Charles committing suicide. Seems he wanted to make a point as he stood in front of his father in the hotel parlor, pulled out a pistol and shot himself.


At some point during the hoopla following the murder of Bates and the subsequent trial, it was learned that Thomas K. Dye, murderer, was a nephew of the late Troy Dye. Uncle Troy it seems was hanged in Sacramento for the murder of A. M. Tullis during August 1878. Tullis was a wealthy farmer who had lived in Sacramento county. Uncle Troy Dye, while  Sacramento County Public Administrator, had concocted a scheme to murder wealthy citizens, who had no heirs, and then he could take control of their estates helping himself to their wealth. Turns out Tullis was his first and only victim.





Guenoc Ranch and the Days Of The flying Muleshoe 2nd Edition

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The Story Of George Coburn





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