Madera County Historical Society
The town of Raymond may have been a little rough around the edges, but occasionally it had a moment of culture like the time President Roosevelt visited the little village in 1903.
After the little mountain town of Raymond was founded in 1885, it had some growing pains. There were a few sublime moments like that visit from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, but there were also those ridiculous episodes like that war over hogs between David Helmuth and Michael Hamerich that almost got the latter killed and the former put in jail in 1916.
Helmuth was a 43-year-old who had immigrated from Russia to Raymond, and Hamerich was a 60-year-old who had come to the Madera County foothills from Germany. They lived near each other, about 10 miles outside of Raymond.
The two men didn’t cause any trouble for anyone, except Constable Tom Leonard. The lawman was constantly bombarded by complaints from Hamerich that Helmuth’s hogs spent all of their time on his property rooting up his sizable garden. It all came to a head on March 20, 1916.
Hamerich, was in his house, a little log cabin about ten feet square with a dirt floor. He was eating his breakfast when his nemesis, Helmuth, opened the door and walked in with a shovel handle in his hand. Walking over to Hamerich, he said something about wanting to make a horse trade. The old German replied that he did not wish to trade horses when Helmuth cracked him across the forehead with the shovel handle, knocking him back on his bunk. The Russian followed this up with a series of blows to the head, which left Hamerich unconscious.
When the German woke up, he staggered to the Strickland farm about two miles away. Mrs. Strickland was aghast when she saw Hamerich — eyes blackened, gashes on the face and head, and blood streaming down his shirt. She brought him inside and then sent for Dr. Byars. Before the day was out, Helmuth was arrested and in jail charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Hamerich, who lived alone, was taken to the county hospital.
Helmuth stood trial in Superior Court. District Attorney Stanley Murray prosecuted the case, and Joseph Barcroft defended Helmuth. Murray built his case around the shovel handle, which was still covered with dry blood, Hamerich’s bloody shirt, and the swollen and bruised face of the victim. Barcroft’s defense was a wild tale that Helmuth had tripped and hit his head on the stone fireplace.
The jurors didn’t buy Helmuth’s story, but neither were they too sympathetic toward Hamerich. Most everyone considered him to be a colossal pain in the neck with all of his complaining. They found Helmuth guilty but recommended leniency. Judge William Conley sentenced him to two years probation with the stipulation that he keep his hogs off of Hamerich’s property and that he stay away from Hamerich’s cabin. With that, everybody went home thinking that was the end of Raymond’s hog war. By the next summer, they found they were wrong.
On June 22, 1917, Helmuth and Hamerich were in Judge Conley’s court once more. His hogs were at it again. Helmuth’s porkers had made their way to Hamerich’s garden and vines and rooted them up.
This was more than the German could take. He loaded up his .22 rifle and shot several of Helmuth’s hogs. Then he went to the law again, claiming Helmuth had violated his probation by not keeping his hogs away from his property.
Judge Conley brought both men before the bench — no lawyers, just the two warring parties. For his part, Helmuth claimed that he had always been willing to build a fence between his property and Hamerich’s farm, but they could never agree on where the property line was located.
When it was Hamerich’s turn to talk, he began a tirade against Helmuth claiming he had called him names and made vulgar signs at him. He said his neighbor’s hogs had been destroying his crops for years, and he had been justified in putting a stop to it with his rifle.
At that point, Judge Conley threw up his hands. He told Helmuth that he would have to keep his hogs off of Hamerich’s property, and he told Hamerich he would have to stop shooting Helmuth’s hogs — it could be dangerous and lead to something worse. Then the Judge dropped his bombshell. He told the two perennial opponents that if their quarrel got out of hand again, he was going to build two jails in Raymond — one for each man.
So, once again, everybody left court, but this time a bit more somber. Neither man wanted to appear before Judge Conley again any time soon.
However, one would not have been surprised to see a slight grin on Hamerich’s face. He did appear to have come away with an edge. At least he would have some pork with his beans for a while.