The Orin Tragedy


Ernest Tubbs, Irvine Farmer, Is Cause of Battle That Ends In Death

Tubbs And Wife Riddled With Bullets and Seth S. Magnussen Innocent Victim of Insane Attack—McPherson and Graham Wounded


S.S. MAGNUSSEN, agent for the Northwestern at Orin.

ERNEST E. TUBBS, farmer at Irvine

MRS. E.E. TUBBS, his wife


Under Sheriff John McPherson, flesh wound in leg

J.A. Graham, shot in cheek, injury slight

That is the toll of a gun battle staged at Orin Tuesday afternoon when E.E. Tubbs and his wife, insane from brooding over fancied wrongs, attacked Under Sheriff McPherson, who had gone to Orin in answer to their call for protection from an imaginary mob. The attack came without warning to the official, who had entered the Hern store, where the Tubbs were, unarmed, having left his gun in his car. S.S. Magnussen, Northwestern agent, was fatally wounded, McPherson had a flesh wound in the cheek and the Tubbs were lying dead on the floor by the time the carnage ended.

The story of the day’s happenings include the weird hallucinations of a couple who believed that a mob of masked men were persecuting them, had held them prisoners in their home and were bent on destroying them. The woman, a pathetic figure, was known to be weak-minded, dominated by the husband. Tubbs, of low mentality, had through his abuse of wife and stepson and his method of dealing forfeited the friendship of his neighbors and was ostracized by the entire community. The family lived alone without friends or neighbors.

Tuesday Mrs. Tubbs went to Irvine, two miles west of the homestead, and flagged the westbound passenger train on the Northwestern. To the conductor she told a story of persecution on the part of a mob that had held them prisoners and asked him to notify the sheriff when he reached Douglas so that protection could be given them. The conductor offered to take her with him on the train, but she refused to go. When the train reached here the conductor sent word to the Sheriff’s office and Under Sheriff McPherson consulted with Acting County Attorney Showalter regarding it. In the meantime Mrs. Tubbs went back to the homestead and Tubbs, his wife and three children started for Orin Junction by team. While McPherson was in Showalter’s office a telephone message came from Mrs. Tubbs, reiterating the statement of persecution and asking for protection. Mr. McPherson then left alone for the homestead near Irvine. He found the place deserted and went on to Orin, interviewing neighbors and finding there was no basis for the woman’s statements.

Shoots Without Warning

Arriving at Orin the officer entered the store of the Hern Mercantile Company, anticipating no trouble and leaving his gun in the car. He greeted Henry Hern and asked what the trouble was. Mr. Hern turned to Tubbs and said:

“The man you sent for is here. Tell him what you want.”

Tubbs was sitting on a box, holding his infant child. When addressed by Hern he arose and exclaimed: “You can’t fool me. This is a put up job,” and pulling a 45 colt he snapped it at McPherson, who was standing about 15 feet away. The gun failed to fire, but a second attempt was successful and the bullet struck McPherson in the right thigh, going clear through the fleshy part of his leg. McPherson made his escape through the door and Hern, who had been standing behind the counter, tackled Tubbs wresting the gun away from him and smashing him over the head with it, felling him to his knees. Mrs. Tubbs, who had taken the baby from her husband, here got in the game and Hern turned in time to see her with a 22 rifle aimed at him. He knocked the gun aside and grabbed it, seeking to wrest it from her but she clung desperately to it. Tubbs meanwhile had gotten to his feet and was apparently reaching for another gun when Hern took advantage of the chance to get out of the building.

This left the store in possession of the Tubbs. An alarm was sounded and McPherson telegraphed the situation to Douglas. The story here was to the effect that Tubbs after running amok had escaped and a posse was desired for a manhunt. Officials and volunteers, armed with revolvers and rifles from the armory, immediately started for Orin.

Wounding of Magnussen

Orin residents were soon on the scene, armed to engage in battle with the insane pair, who were in the store firing at whomsoever appeared. S.S. Magnussen, agent of the Northwestern at Orin, was in his office at the depot when he heard the shots. He remarked to a friend who was transacting business that evidently there was shooting going on at the store and he was going over to see what the trouble was. He had reached the end of the walk which leads from the Northwestern to the Burlington station, about a hundred feet from the store, when he was struck by a bullet in the left side, another shot striking him in the shoulder, and he fell.

J.A. Graham, a clerk in the Hern store, rushed out to get a young child of the Burlington engineer at Orin out of danger and was hit in the cheek by a bullet. It struck a glancing blow and passed without striking the bone. The wound is not dangerous.

Howe Gets into Action

George Howe, pioneer resident of Orin, heard what was going on and, securing his 30-30 rifle, hurried to the scene. He took up position in front of the store, protecting himself as much as possible by the meager shelter offered by the store building corner, and fired until his ammunition was exhausted. He then got a shotgun loaded with buckshot and completed the job.

Hern was in the rear of the store pumping lead into the building from that quarter, protecting himself as best he could from that corner of the building. Tubbs, losing his big gun, had taken the 22 from his wife and kept up a fire until shot down. Fifteen shells were found in the store, indicating the number of shots he fired.

It was not easy through the windows to see clearly what was transpiring in the store, but it gradually became evident that the battle was over. When the door of the store was opened a gruesome sight met the eyes of the spectators. Mrs. Tubbs was lying in the front part of the store, her crying 4-months old babe underneath her, she having fallen upon the child when struck by the fire from outside. She had been hit five times. Tubbs was lying farther back in the room, gaping wounds in the head and back telling the story for him. Both the man and woman were dead, the child apparently uninjured except for slight contusions where it had fell.

Aid to the Injured

Acting County Attorney Showalter had called physicians when first notified of the shooting and doctors Hylton and Sutherland immediately left for Orin. Tender hands had cared for Magnussen, McPherson, and Graham, the physicians administering to their wants as soon as they arrived, and they made good time in getting there. The wounded men were at once taken to Douglas to the hospital. The bullet which struck Magnussen in the side had penetrated the liver and his chance for recovery was recognized as slight. An operation was performed by the physicians as soon as practicable and the wounded man passed a good night, his condition in the early morning being reported as very encouraging. About 7 o’clock yesterday morning he began to sink, his death coming a few hours later.

Under Sheriff McPherson is at the hospital and it is expected that his recovery will come soon. His is a flesh wound and no trouble is anticipated. Graham’s wound was slight and there seems no danger in his case.

Coroner Holds Inquest

Coroner Hoffman arrived on the scene shortly after the affair was over and brought the bodies to Douglas. An inquest was held yesterday afternoon, H.P. Allen, E.R. Romine, and C.E. Clark composing the coroner’s jury. A basis for the hallucination that a mob was after the Tubbs was brought out in the testimony. A crew of men of the Mountain States Telephone Company has been working in the vicinity of the Tubbs homestead, repairing the recent storm damage to the lines, and it is thought that these men to the suspicious minds of Tubbs and his wife meant a posse bent upon trouble for them and started them upon the course which has ended so disastrously.

The inquest was not completed yesterday, being adjourned until a later date.

Tubbs Always Trouble Maker

Tubbs first appeared in this section five years ago, when he was employed as a blacksmith by W.H. Anthens. He was married and after a time moved to Casper, where his wife died. He returned to this county in July four years ago, turning up in the Irvine neighborhood.

Mrs. Leffler was a widow living on her homestead with her two children, aged 5 and 2 years. Her husband had been killed at the Irvine crossing the previous November when the wagon in which he was riding was struck by a Northwestern passenger train. Tubbs met the widow and married her, the marriage taking place three days after the first meeting. He at once took charge of the farm and the widow’s affairs and from his first entrance to the community friction began with his neighbors. A neighboring farmer had, out of friendship for the widow, put in the spring crops on her farm, and Tubbs took over the crop and refused to compensate the neighbor for his seed or his labor. Other neighbors were inclined to be friendly with the newcomer, but their dealings with him were such that they were forced to keep aloof. His brutal treatment of his wife and stepson accentuated feelings against him.

Whipped By Neighbors

Affairs came to a climax last February, when Bennie, the 9-year-old stepson, left home because of the cruel treatment received from his stepfather. He was caught in one of the severe storms of the winter and when found was in a pitiable condition, his frozen so badly that the greater portion of them had to be amputated. He recovered and a few weeks ago was taken the the State Home for Children at Lander.

Court action against Tubbs was threatened at the time, but none was taken. The neighbors, feeling that some punishment was due the fellow, waylaid him one day as he was returning from Douglas and gave him a whipping that kept him to his bed for several days. He attempted to have the members of the posse prosecuted, but no action was taken. No jury would have found them guilty of a crime regardless of evidence.

Since that time the Tubbs have lived a life of isolation on their homestead, with no intercourse with the neighbors and having no friends. Stook, a brother-in-law, having married Tubbs’ wife’s sister, lived a short distance away, but the men were enemies and there was no intercourse there. Living alone on the homestead and brooding over his fancied wrongs, it no wonder that Tubbs’ weak intellect was wrecked and that he was suspicious of everybody and everything. The appearance of the telephone repair crew was sufficient in his mind to confirm his belief that a mob was intent on destroying him. His wife never had any intellect to speak of and was simply blindly following her husband. She has all along been a pathetic figure in the community, and there has been nothing but pity for her, for the miserable existence he gave her, and the sordid ending to which he brought her.

Their plan, if it can be said that they had a plan, seems to have been to make their escape from the country and the mob which threatened them. A suitcase and a box filled with clothes were on their wagon, which would not have been the case had they intended only to make an afternoon visit in Orin. The guns were carried for protection, not attack. His mental condition may be inferred when he attacked without cause the officer who came in answer to their pleas for protection.

Tubbs was about 40 years of age, Mrs. Tubbs about 35. Little is known of him or his family connections elsewhere. Mrs. Tubbs is a native of Iowa, where relatives still live. A sister, Mrs. Stook, lives near Irvine.

The Douglas Budget (Douglas, WY) 15 June 1922

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