Shot By A Desperado

The Following article was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 1 July 1891 and concerns the murder of Elijah Henry Wishart, a veteran of the Civil War, by Frank Pierce, a man with a ‘reputation’ who gunned down Wishart after he tried to stop him dumping rubbish in a local graveyard. Elijah was born in Red River Settlement, Manitoba about 1837 and was the son of Thomas Wishart, a Scotsman born about 1797, and a Metis lady named Barbara Spence. He was married with four children and is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Polk County, Iowa.

The Citizens Around and Threats of Lynch Law Are Indulged In.

Special Dispatch to the CHRONICLE.

DES MOINES (Ia.), June 30. – The notorious Frank Pierce shot and fatally wounded an old man named Wishard this afternoon in a controversy about the right to dump garbage at the City crematory. Pierce was the aggressor and public sentiment is strongly against him. Threats of a lynching were freely indulged in and a crowd surrounded the jail at midnight.

For three years Pierce was leader of the Des Moines “Searchers.” He has shot several persons in the city, and on three occasions mobs have been organised to lynch him. Pierce is a desperado of the fiercest description, and has shot and maimed several men. The cases of Harry Lloyd and Terry Champers attracted great attention at the time. Another of his victims is in the insane asylum from injuries received at Pierce’s hands. Heretofore Pierce has received the support and sympathy of the extreme temperance fanatics, but the crime of today is the last straw which any kind of public opinion can stand. About 2:15 o’clock Pierce, who is a scavenger, drove one of his wagons toward the customary dumping grounds on lower West Ninth street. The officers had notified him that he had no right to use ground used by another or that which was owned by the city, yet he proposed to do so anyway at a point near the city crematory.

Mr. Wishart, who is legal guardian of the property, in behalf of the city as foreman of the crematory ordered him not to dump there. On Wishart’s coat was the star of his authority as an officer. The two men fell into a short dispute. Pierce ordered his men to dump. They hesitated and Mr. Wishart said: “I am an officer of the law. I have orders to allow no man to dump in the street. They are going to pave and will not allow dumping.” Pierce said he had a right to dump somewhere and said he would tear down the fence which blocked the street, it being still unopened.

Wishart said: “I have no authority over the fence. You can tear that down at your own risk, but the street I am here to defend.”
Pierce seized a shovel and made an attempt to dig, when his rage overcoming him, he whipped from the holsters at his belt two revolvers and jumped toward Wishart.

“Consider yourself under arrest” he screamed, “I’ll shoot you or any other man that tries to stop me,” and fired. Wishart raised his revolver to shoot back. In doing so his revolver came into contact with Pierce’s and was broken. The first bullet of Pierce struck Wishart on the arm, but Pierce, seeing his victim unarmed, did not desist his murderous work. He fired three more shots, one, according to the statement of an eye-witness, after Wishart had dropped to the ground.

Pierce the walked over to the fence and commenced tearing it down. To the crowd which had gathered and was gathering he said: “Stand back or there will be some more dead men.” With his revolver in his hand, his wagon was driven down toward the river, where he had concluded to dump it. It required a posse of officers to arrest him, and at the City Hall, when threatened with lynch law, he begged for his life. Pierce was shot in the arm, breast and abdomen.