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The Madera Tribune

The cows never came home for Lewis Wofford

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webmaster | 08/16/13

Lewis Wofford sat down on the front steps of his little cabin in eastern Madera County. His wife, Mattie, had just handed him a piece of watermelon that she had saved before their brood of six children devoured the entire thing. Lewis buried his face into the crisp, red heart of the melon and methodically spit the black seeds out on the ground. He relished this treat and justifiably so, for this was to be his last meal!

The date was Aug. 5, 1897, and the Woffords were living with their seven offspring on a trail between North Fork and Crane Valley (present day Bass Lake). They had a few cows and what today would be called a truck farm. He made his living by selling vegetables to his neighbors.

Lewis continued contentedly to eat his slice of melon. Things had gone pretty well that day. After breakfast, he had loaded up his spring wagon with vegetables and took them to Cascadel near present day North Fork. Sometime after five in the evening, Lewis returned home, and now here he was enjoying the fruits of his labor. He never dreamed that his killer was at that very moment headed in his direction.

Wofford had just about finished his melon when he saw a rider approach his front gate. It was 22-year-old Patrick Reardon, who lived just a couple of miles away with his brother, Dennis. Lewis shouted out a greeting and Reardon returned it, but in a constrained manner. Something was on his mind...


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