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Judge Lynch once ruled Madera County

For The Madera Tribune

This photograph of Spring Valley School in O’Neals was taken in 1894, one year after Victor Adams was hanged from a tree just up the road from the school. His body was left hanging for two days, and youngsters walking to school no doubt contemplated the consequences of breaking the law.


Madera County has generally been a law-abiding place. Most of the time, law and order has prevailed. Every once in a while, however, the people have taken things in their own hands by using a rope and the nearest tree to administer justice in old, pioneer fashion. Our local history is filled with such lynchings. 

The first hanging to occur within the boundaries of what is now Madera County took place in 1863, when one A. L. Dixon was strung up somewhere between Coarsegold and the Fresno River. He was part of a gang of thieves who had infested the area for sometime, plundering the mining camps and the stores. The outlaws primarily confined themselves to robbing the Chinese, since they were the least likely to retaliate. Finally, however, the citizens had had enough, so they organized and went after the gang. All of whom got away, except Dixon. They hanged him to the nearest tree and then buried him close by. His grave was still marked as late as 1900. 

The next year another lynching took place in the mountains, also for stealing. James Rains was caught pilfering in his neighborhood. So exasperated were the people over the thefts and depredations, they decided to make an example of Rains, so he was hanged to a tree at Finegold, half way between present day O’Neals and North Fork.


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