Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scorned suitor shoots up dance party

True to the "dime store novel" idea of the Wild West, the combination of a woman's rejection and the effects of John Barleycorn resulted in a fracas at a dance that left no injuries except, of course, to the pride of the men involved.

Ernest Ghormley hosted a dance party on February 10, 1914, at his home in Juniper, about 20 miles north of Pendleton. One of the guests was Lou Caper, a farm laborer, who requested a dance from the pretty school teacher. She had danced with him earlier in the evening but, because he had been drinking heavily, she politely declined a second turn on the dance floor.

Infuriated, Caper pulled out a revolver and fired four shots — two hit the wall at about the level of a man's head, a third went through the floor and the fourth went wild. Ghormley immediately took charge of the situation, managed to persuade Caper to give up the gun without further shots fired and encouraged him to leave the house.

Caper left Ghormley's property but was still fuming. Bolstering his courage with more whiskey, Caper joined forces with fellow farm hand Jack Murdock and they procured a rifle and a shotgun from the home of William Doring, for whom Murdock was working. Returning to the Ghormley residence, where the party was still recovering from the earlier excitement, Caper and Murdock brandished their weapons, terrifying the women and intimidating the men, and threatened to "shoot the whole bunch." They then left the house, appropriated horses that were not theirs and rode off at full gallop, periodically turning around to send a shot back at the house to discourage pursuit.

The entire community was thrown into an uproar over the incident, and a warrant for their arrest was sworn out immediately. Caper gave himself up to police Feb. 26 and was fined $50 and costs in justice court after pleading guilty. Murdock did not return to Pendleton and rumor was he had fled to Seattle, where he joined the Marine Corps.

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