Nimrod: Courts, Claims, and Killing on the Oregon Frontier

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Washington State University Press, 2005 - History - 305 pages
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At the remarkable age of 65, Nimrod O'Kelly--Ioner, former blacksmith--made the arduous trek from Missouri along the Oregon Trail in 1845 and became one of the first to stake a claim in the lush Willamette valley. Although he made few improvements to the land, he professed that he had a wife and family back home and thus had a right to 640 acres--one full square mile--of fertile ground. Over the next seven years, settlers continued to arrive, and many of these new neighbors grew suspicious of his entitlement. Slowly they began to encroach on his property. Eventually the dispute boiled over, leaving young Jeremiah Mahoney dead, a gaping gunshot wound in his chest. Curiously, the killer--72 year-old Nimrod O'Kelly--chose not to run, but to turn himself in, claiming self-defense. The events that followed provide an intricate look at law on the frontier--a place without jails, courtrooms, coroners, and crimelabs, where many settlers were as wild as the land, where judges traveled on horseback to conduct legal proceedings, and where convicted murderers often met their end on the gallows. Ultimately, Benton County vs. Nimrod O'Kelly was heard by the fledgling territory's Supreme Court. With marvelous depth and a lawyer's insight, author Ronald B. Lansing probes and analyzes the evidence, the law, the proceedings, and the politics surrounding one of Oregon's first extensively reported murder cases, and presents this incredible story from its simple beginning to its astonishing conclusion.

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The Inquest May 22 1852
The Migration 1845
The Arrival and the Search 184546

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About the author (2005)

Ronald B. Lansing, professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School, is the author of Juggernaut: The Whitman Massacre Trial 1850, and a novel on law school, Skylarks and Lecterns: A Law School Charter. He is known around campus for his caricatures of tenured and tenure-track law professors.

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