JACKSONVILLE, Ore. -- A recent donation by a Rogue Valley family to the Southern Oregon Historical Society is shedding new light on a murder case that captured the attention of Southern Oregon residents exactly a hundred years ago.
A small stone marker between the Jackson County Jail and Justice Center contains the names of seven local lawmen who lost their lives in the line of duty. Number two is Arthur Hubbard. In December of 1914, as a game warden, Hubbard was killed in a confrontation with a well-known Jackson County hunter, guide, and alleged poacher, Loris Martin.
"All his life he hunted,” said Bob Hight, Loris Martin's Great Nephew. “He fished. He was, a well-known trapper […] very free style, he always had a plug of tobacco that he would chew on. Reddish hair. Wore a flannel shirt. Boots."
Martin had been hunting without regard to recently adopted rules for years and when the new county game warden, Arthur Hubbard, challenged him, a legacy of bad feelings began to fester.
“My great uncle grew up at a time when there weren't game laws. And so a lot of those people that lived in the backwoods of Trail and Prospect and Elk Creek, they hunted and fished as much as they wanted. And then when the game laws came in they were pretty upset about it,” said Bob.
So, when Art Hubbard and a constable named Irwin came looking for Martin, tensions were already running high. Bob Hight says a lot of it was based on rumor and innuendo.
"My uncle was one of those who ignored the game laws. And Arthur Hubbard the game warden swore he was going to bring these people to justice. But the bad blood between the two started several years before this incident,” said Bob.
"This incident" was the attempt to arrest Martin.
Bob describes it like this:
"First report was that Arthur Hubbard immediately when he saw my uncle coming, go off his horse. Rushed towards him. And he testified--Irwin testified that Hubbard was in the process of pulling hi gun and that it stuck in the holster. And then my great uncle testified that he told him to stop! Irwin told Hubbard to stop. And when he uh, my great uncle said when he saw that the gun finally cleared the holster, he just had his 30-30 and he shot-- just brought the gun up. And at that point, Arthur Hubbard was probably only six feet away."
Hubbard died instantly. Loris Martin surrendered to Sheriff Singler later and pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.
Bob says, "He [speaking of Irwin] did tell Singler and the deputy, and about 4 other people that uh, that uh, Hubbard was in the process of pulling his gun when he rushed Loris Martin. Well, when the trial came he denied saying that. But unfortunately he already said that. So, I think the whole trial pretty much turned on that evidence.”
The trial lasted all the first week of March, 1915, in the upper floor courtroom of the old Jacksonville county courthouse.
When the verdict came down a lot of people were shocked and surprised. But it was really the testimony of a deputy who was on the scene that led to that verdict.
The verdict was "not guilty". The Mail Tribune went on an editorial tirade. Hight reads from that editorial:
"The verdict is a travesty of justice! It is a reward of honor for a pre-meditated and often threatened murder of a faithful, fearless officer in the discharge of his duty by a notorious law breaker!"
The stunned courtroom broke into applause and was promptly cleared by the judge. But Hight says there really were no winners.
Bob says, "It was a tragedy for everybody. Pit neighbor against neighbor. Community against community."
Even for his family, who kept copies of the court record and martins 30-30 Winchester rifle.
"My grandmother was alive when I was a child. I don't remember her ever talking about it. My uncle who was a lawyer in town,” says Bob. “He was a teenager on the scene at the time. I don't remember him ever talking about it. So it just wasn't something that you know, we didn’t like to bring it out. It cause so much pain and problems for everybody."