It was Saturday night in Madera, and the whole town was buzzing. A rumor was flying around town like a choice piece of gossip at a sewing circle. It spread from street corner to street corner like wildfire. Folks talked about nothing else. Could it be true? What was one to believe? Was the treasurer of Madera County really a thief?
William M. Amer had been elected treasurer of Madera County when it was created in 1893. For 13 years he had served faithfully in that office, or so everyone thought. He and his wife, Catherine, were pillars of Madera society and highly respected by all.
No one knows how the rumor started, but by one Sunday morning in 1906, it had traveled to Fresno. A reporter for the Republican had telephoned Amer to inquire about the report that anywhere from $10,000 to $16,000 was missing from the county coffer. The treasurer refused to discuss the matter with the newsman, and on the next day the story made page one in his paper.
By Monday morning, the Madera Mercury was hot on the trail of the story and paid a visit to Amer in his office in the courthouse. Instead of the treasurer, however, the reporter found County Supervisor Sledge, Auditor Honeycutt and District Attorney Fowler in command of the vault and counting money like there was no tomorrow. Amer stood by quietly, and when questioned, he assured the reporter, “When the books are straightened out, everything will be found to be all right.” ...