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The Murder Conviction and Pardon of AMOS GIPSON
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The following, along with a prison photo of Amos Gipson, was provided by Timothy Hogan. Tim’s grandmother is a granddaughter of Amos.


The trial of Amos P. Gipson, (Sandy), his brother, Tom Gipson and Jno. Q. A. Hildebrant, all charged with the murder of John Schroter, a man who lived alone on a ranch on Little Cow Creek, and was himself accused of cattle stealing, caused one of the greatest furores in the county, also an aftermath of bitter controversy between two lawyer factions for nearly a decade.

The case was tried before Judge Roseborough, judge in the county seat of Shasta, with James Matlock, Aaron Bell and Judge Chadbourne for the defense and Clay W. Taylor for the prosecution.

The three men were convicted on May 10, 1878 and sentenced to San Quentin on May 13, 1878.  Sandy Gipson for first degree murder, imprisonment for life; Tom Gipson, second degree murder, imprisonment for 20 years.  Hildebrandt’s sentence is not given in the record but he also was sent to San Quentin, but was pardoned shortly afterwards by Governor Stoneman on his asserting that his evidence against Gipson was false.

Thereupon an appeal was made for the pardons of Tom and Sandy Gipson.  This was granted Tom Gipson by Governor Perkins in 1882, but was denied Sandy.

This started a bitter fight between Francis Carr, who upheld Gipson’s right to a pardon, and Clay W. Taylor, who denied it.  This feature was hotly contested by the two lawyers for nearly a decade, the whole of Shasta County getting worked up over it.  Meanwhile Sandy Gipson remained at San Quentin and watched one-staircase for seven years, while applications for pardon were submitted to and denied by successive governors. Finally Francis Carr agreed to Taylor’s offer to recommend the pardon to the governor if Francis would withdrew the fight.

Carr did so and Governor Waterman issued a pardon in 1890.

Whether Gipson was guilty or innocent seems never to have been decided.  Recalling numerous cases that have gone through the Shasta County courts within the scope of my memory it sees that justice sometimes raised the corner of the blindfold she was wont to retire behind, and slowly closed one eye.

Summary of the Trial

The following is based on information extracted from over 400 pages of documents obtained from the California State Archives in Sacramento, CA.  A copy of these documents is housed at the Shasta Co. Historical Society in Redding, CA.


The murder took place a few miles north of Millville, Shasta Co., California.

Nearly all of the people involved in the testimony lived within 5 miles of each other.  People got around on horseback, wagon or walked on dirt roads or paths.  Millville was an area where people farmed and had livestock.  From the trial testimony, it was not unusual for people to spend the night away from their home when they traveled.  Houseguests seem to be common.

Millville is located about 10 miles east of Redding where the land is fairly flat.  A hotel was located in Millville where people collected and Woodman's Ranch was a place where people met and purchased liquor.  Woodman's ranch is north of Millville, the Amos Gipson farm, and the location where John Schroter was murdered.  Events in this murder took place mostly in the area between Millville to the south and Woodman's farm in the north.


About 1875  Amos and John Hildebrandt have a disagreement and Amos tells John to get off of his farm.

About 1877  John Schroter was suspected to have been shooting livestock on the neighboring farms.  Amos Gipson and Newton Stanford, a neighbor to John Schroter, both believed that Schroter had killed some of their animals.

September 16 and 17, 1877  John Hildebrandt and others spent their nights looking for Schroter in the act of shooting livestock.

September 17, 1877  John Hildebrandt testified that on this day Amos Gipson, Thomas Gipson and he made plans to murder John Schroter the following night.

September 18, 1877 John Schroter was murdered at his farm on this date according to John Hildebrandt.

September 21, 1877.  Fred Meyers found the body of John Schroter at his farm badly eaten by his hogs.

January 4, 1878  Mrs. Joseph Reynolds claimed while walking along a road she met Amos Gipson and he voluntarily confessed to murdering John Schroter.

April 30, 1878  The murder trial for Amos, John Hildebrandt and Thomas Gipson starts.

May 10, 1878  Amos Gipson, Thomas Gipson, and John Hildebrandt were convicted for the murder of John Schroter.

May 15, 1878  Amos starts his life prison term at San Quentin Prison, while Thomas Gipson starts a 20 year sentence.

August 6, 1878  John Hildebrandt, while in prison and before L. Bartelett, Notary Public of Marin Co., swore that the testimony given at the trial by him was false and without foundation.

October 14, 1878  John Hildebrandt swore in front of the County Clerk for Marin Co., California, George W. Davis, that he perjured himself on August 6, 1878 and that his testimony at the original trial was true.

Soon after October 14, 1878 John Hildebrandt was released from San Quentin prison as a result of a pardon by Governor Stoneman.

January 1883 Thomas P. Gipson was released from San Quentin prison as a result of a pardon by Governor George C. Perkins.

May 1, 1890  Amos Gipson was pardoned by Governor R. W. Waterman.


John Schroter was the murder victim and he was suspected of killing his neighbor's livestock.

Amos P. Gipson, a.k.a. Sandy, was convicted of the murder of John Schroter.  Amos had a farm near Millville where he lived within a few miles of relatives and other farmers.  Amos liked to drink whiskey with his friends and apparently got into fights on occasion.  He was 47 years old at the time of the murder.

John Hildebrandt testified against Amos but later under oath stated his testimony at the trial was false.  Subsequently he recanted again and said his original testimony was true. John was a hired hand that did odd jobs for farmers and businesses in the Millville area.

Mrs. Joseph Reynolds' testimony supported that of John Hildebrandt. Her husband got into a fight with Amos at a July 4th celebration.

Newton Stanford was the neighbor of John Schroter.  Hildebrandt claimed that he spent the night at Stanford's after he helped murder Schroter.

Francis Carr, Attorney for Amos Gipson worked for years to obtain a pardon for Amos Gipson from a Governor.  Later attorneys Chipman and Carter fought to have Amos Gipson pardoned.

Clay W. Taylor, Prosecuting Attorney and later State Senator, opposed Francis Carr over an extended period of time and appealed to the Governors to keep Amos in prison.


According to the testimony of Hildebrandt, the conspiracy to murder John Schroter took place at the ranch of L. C. Woodman.  Supposedly, Hildebrandt, Amos Gipson and Thomas Gipson developed a plan to kill Schroter because Amos was mad at Schroter for killing his livestock.  Hildebrandt stated that Amos threatened to kill him if he did not help in murdering John Schroter the next night.  Many other people were present at Woodman's ranch at the time of the supposed conspiracy meeting.  No one remembers seeing either of the Gipsons on that day.  In fact there was testimony that the Gipsons were at other locations, including at a hotel in Millville, with other people at the time of the conspiracy meeting.

Hildebrandt testified that Amos was riding his pinto horse to Woodman's ranch and Thomas was riding a bay horse.  Amos's pinto was still out to pasture at that time and he rode a different horse that day.  Two ladies at the hotel in Millville testified that Thomas was on a white horse that day.

John Hildebrandt's testimony concerning the conspiracy meeting on September 17, 1877 was not supported by any other witnesses and it conflicted with many.

The relationship between John Hildebrandt and Amos was poor before the murder.  John and Amos had a conflict about two years before the murder and were not friends.  While John was at Amos's house, John said something that resulted in Amos telling John to get off of his farm.  Amos had forbidden John to come to Amos's house and he forbid his boys from going with Hildebrandt because of his bad character. The defense attorney said that if Amos wanted to murder Schroder, it is very unlikely that he would have selected and forced an enemy to be his accomplice.

It is also of interest that John worked for Newton Stanford, a neighbor of John Schroter.  The night of the murder, Hildebrandt was staying at Stanford's house.  For two nights prior to the murder, several of Schroter's neighbors and Hildebrandt spent the nights trying to catch John Schroter in the act of killing cows.  They took guns with them on these watches in case John Schroter would see them.  They testified that Schroter would be less likely to come after them if he saw that they were armed.

Newton Stanford had an alibi for the night of the murder.  He was traveling from Shasta where he served on a grand jury.  Stanford also lost livestock that he believed Schroter shot.  A few years later, D. Elwood, brother-in-law of Newton Stanford, stole six hogs from Newton.  If Newton would have pursued a criminal case against Elwood, Elwood threatened to tell the Prosecuting Attorney, Clay Taylor, about Newton's involvement in the murder of John Schroter.  This concerned Newton so much that he had a talk with Clay Taylor.  Taylor told Newton not to worry about Elwood exposing him in the Schroter murder because the case was closed.  This was in February of 1882 while Amos was in prison.

At a later date Newton Stanford spent time in San Quentin Prison for stealing livestock.  Apparently hog stealing was a popular past time.

Schroter was murdered at his farm in his barn.  He was shot multiple times and his horse was also killed.  Shot of various types were found in the horse and the wood in the stall.  Schroter's body was found in the pigpen on September 21, badly eaten.  Because of the condition of the body, time of death was based solely on Hildebrandt's testimony.  Schroter could have been dead prior to or after September 18.  Because of the damage by the pigs, there was no evidence about the time of death.  By chance, the Sheriff was in the neighborhood on the night of September 18.  He did not hear a shot.

According to Hildebrandt's testimony, he met Amos at about 10:00 PM on the night of September 18 and they waited until 1:00 AM for the moon to go down.  Amos had a gun and was on foot.  Hildebrandt pounded the barn with a rock to attract Schroter's attention.  When Schroter came to the barn, Amos shot him inside the barn door and then Amos and Hildebrandt ran.

The gun of Amos Gipson had one shot packed along with 9 buckshot into something called a needle gun according to testimony.  Hildebrandt said one shot was fired by Amos before Amos ran for his horse to get away.  At the murder scene over four bullets were found and over 90 buckshot holes were in Schroter's clothing.  The amount of damage by gunfire did not correlate with the gun or testimony by Hildebrandt.  It would appear as if there were multiple shots from more than one gun.

Thomas Gipson was not present at the murder according to Hildebrandt.

Other witnesses said that Amos was at the Simpson's Hotel in Millville when Hildebrandt claimed he met him at Schroter's.  Also later in the evening, a witness testified he was with Amos at his home.

Again the only witness putting Amos at the murder scene on the night of the murder was John Hildebrandt.  Others testified that Amos was miles away.

For two nights prior to the murder, Hildebrandt, and others, while armed, were trying to catch Schroter in the act of shooting cattle.  They had a revolver and a shotgun with them.  On the nights of September 16 and 17, 1877,  Hildebrandt, Liew Kizer, Willy Yank, and Lew Yank were watching to catch Schroter shoot cattle.  Maybe they found Schroter on one of these nights and committed the foul deed.

Damaging testimony for Amos came from Mrs. Joseph Reynolds.  Mrs. Reynolds claimed that Amos offered her a ride in his wagon on January 4, 1878 as she walked down the road.  This meeting took place about a mile south of Mrs. Reynolds's home.  She refused the ride but asked Amos what he knew about the murder of Schroter.  She said that Amos then told her the story of how he and Hildebrandt carried out the murder.

Later Mrs. Harding testified that in March 1878 that Mrs. Reynolds said she would swear to anything to convict Sandy Gipson.  Mrs. Reynolds and Amos were enemies because of a fight between Mr. Reynolds and Amos during the July 4 celebration.  Also thirteen of Mrs. Reynolds' neighbors testified that her reputation for truth and integrity was bad.

Mr. D. G. Hunt, who lived in a distant part of Shasta Co., testified that Amos was at his house wanting to borrow money at the time that Mrs. Reynolds claimed that Amos confessed to her.  Mr. Hunt lives about 14 miles from the location where Mrs. Reynolds claimed Amos confessed to her.  Mr. Hunt's books support the date of the visit because Amos bought hay and a meal.  If Mr. Hunt's testimony is correct, then Amos could not have met Mrs. Reynolds at the time and place that she claims.

Another witness, R. M. Botsford, said that Amos threatened to kill John Schroter because he believed Schroter had killed some of Amos's livestock.

Based primarily on the testimony of John Hildebrandt and Mrs. Reynolds, the jury found Amos Gipson, Thomas Gipson, and John Hildebrandt guilty of murder and all were sent to San Quentin State Prison.

While Amos was in the hospital in San Quentin Prison in August 1878, Hildebrandt came to Amos and asked for his forgiveness.  John was sorry that he testified falsely at the trial and recanted his testimony.

John said he would give the truth if Amos had a new trial. This was done before a County Clerk and sworn to.  An acquaintance of John Hildebrandt said that Hildebrandt was persuaded to falsely testify through fear of the District Attorney and the Sheriff.  John was to get off easy if he testified but he ended up in prison anyway.  After John recanted the first time, he was persuaded to recant a second time by the Prosecuting Attorney and was pardoned shortly afterwards.  The pardon was granted at the request of persons who had prosecuted Amos.

Thomas Gipson was also pardoned in 1882.  It was strange that three men were convicted at the same time for participating in the same crime.  Two of the three are pardoned because Hildebrandt first said that he lied about his testimony at the original trial and then changed his story a second time and said he told the truth at the trial.  Hildebrandt had to lie under oath at least one time.  The pardon for John Hildebrandt and Thomas Gipson suggests that the people in power believe that John lied at the trial.  The fact that Amos remained in prison does not make sense.

After Amos was in San Quentin, two attorneys opposed each other in presenting arguments to the Governor of California concerning the pardon for Amos.  State Senator Clay Taylor wanted the conviction to stand while Francis Carr fought to have Amos released.  There were political motives mentioned by Senator Clay in a letter to the Governor as the reason why Francis Carr wanted the pardon for Amos.  These political motives were not described.

For more than a decade there was a movement in Shasta Co. to obtain a pardon for Amos.  Many of the residents, community leaders, and at least four members of the jury that convicted Amos, signed petitions to have Amos released. The effort to get Amos out of prison was amazing as the fact that he was convicted in the first place.  Amos was a poor farmer and yet a number of attorneys and citizens in Shasta County didn't give up and forget about him.  A significant amount of new evidence and new affidavits were obtained supporting Amos's innocence, after Amos was imprisoned.  Eventually they succeeded and Amos was released in 1890 after 12 years of imprisonment.

Amos returned to Shasta Co. after being released and went back to his family.  He died on March 11, 1911 and he is buried in the Redding Cemetery along with his wife.

To date, I haven't found any records on Thomas Gipson.  He is believed to be related to Amos and he lived in Amos's house at the time of the murder.  He was not a brother to Amos as mention in one article.  Amos had lived near Millville for around 25 years before the killing while Thomas was there about two years.

In reviewing the documents it became apparent that Amos caroused around, drank a lot of whisky with his friends, and spent a lot of time away from his home.  He seemed to have a lot of friends and he also had enemies, including the two people who testified against him at the trial.  I suspect that he did make a threat to kill Schroter but others also probably wanted Schroter dead as well.  Once Amos was charged with murder, the prosecuting attorney screened out testimony that would help and apparently was effective in convincing the jury that Amos was guilty.  This conviction may have helped Clay Taylor advance from Prosecuting Attorney to State Senator.  Taylor fought against the release of Amos to the extent of reversing the testimony of Hildebrandt and rewarding him by getting him out of prison.  Possibly the reverse of the conviction would not look good politically for Taylor.  Eventually Taylor backed off and Amos was released.


How did Schroter's body get from the barn to the hog pen?

Why did Schroter kill livestock?

Why was Amos a suspect before being charged?

Did Hildebrandt go to the Sheriff and implicate himself in the murder?

Why did the law threaten to jail or hang Hildebrandt if he didn't testify against Amos?

Who killed Schroter?

Strange facts for the time and location:

Hildebrandt played croquet with men at Woodmans.

Amos delivered cans of oysters to people in the neighborhood.

Tom Gipson played the violin with Mrs. D. B. Matlock, who played the organ, in the hotel parlor after dinner.

Appeal by Mr. Allen

BY W. W. ALLEN, 1883

In the matter of the application of A. P. Gipson for pardon - I would most respectfully submit the following points.

The evidence of John Q. Hildebrandt upon which Gipson was convicted is clearly shown to be false,  and unworthy of any weight or credit.  See copy of affidavit - written by said Hildebrandt, - dated Aug. 6, 1878 and affidavit of Thomas Gipson dated May 12th 1882 - Also affidavit of Thomas J. Simpson dated April 29, 1882.  Also affidavit of  D. G. Hunt and Shelby H. Simmons dated Aug. 16, 1880.  Also affidavit of James McGarvin dated August 16th, 1883.

Also statement and letters of Francis Carr in relation to said case.

Accompanying this application is a petition signed by over three hundred and sixty of the residence-citizens, "Voters" in the county where Gipson was convicted.  All allaying and expressing an unqualified conviction of his entire innocence.

Thomas Gipson whose liberties were also (for a time) sworn away by the same abandoned wretch, obtained his pardon upon the same circumstance developing after their trial,  the true inward, falsity of the conviction.  Testimony and the facts in relation to the location of the parties at the times testified to at the trial, showing beyond a possibility of a doubt that "Hildebrandt" must have testified falsely as he has since repeatedly sworn and stated he did.   And also that the corroborating witness "The Prostitute" to clearly shown to have committed perjury, for by the affidavits of D. G. Hunt and Shelby H. Simmons, two respectable witnesses it is clearly shown to be utterly impossible  for Gipson to have met this "Prostitute" where and at what time sworn to by her at the trial.  Hence the evidence upon which upon which A. P. Gipson was convicted has clearly developed into Falsehood and he is suffering a penalty of the law "not" for crime committed by him - but for crimes of a perjured villain,  and abandoned "Prostitute."  To continue the penalty will be a violation of the laws of justice in the face of the facts presented.

The fundamental law of our state has provided a remedy where Justice has been distorted and the dignity of the law, humiliated by the foul hand and blackened tongues of false swearers and the innocent made to suffer.

In the Board of Prison Directors a cure is created.  And in the Chief Executive the power vested to disrobe the victim of the veil of prosecution and restore him to his just liberty and the enjoyment of freedom.

To this power we most respectfully appeal in behalf of A. P. Gipson.  Sincerely believing from the facts as in this application stated that he is entirely innocent of this Crime charged.

Respectfully submitted.
W. W. Allen
Atty. for Petitioner

Note: "The Prostitute" refers to Mrs. Joseph Reynolds who testified that Amos Gipson met her on the road and voluntarily confessed to murdering John Schroter.  "Perjured Villain" refers to John Hildebrandt that testified against Amos at the trial, retracted his testimony while in prison, and then retracted the retraction.

There are many appeals, petitions and documents in the archive files, too many to include.  I selected this one because of he flowery language at the end of the appeal.

List of Witnesses

List of Witnesses in the Amos Gipson Murder Trial:

Anklin, H.
Atkins, O. A.
Barret, Wm.
Beck, Wm.
Benton, Lemuel
Bottsford, R. M. Dr.
Brown, Arthur 
Chatham, R. G.
Chowe, A.
Colyear, Lizzie Mrs.
Conkling, Timothy 
Dryden, L. T.
Dunham, Chas. 
Dunham, Jos.
Fitzwater, Joseph 
Fitzwater, Samuel 
Flansburg, Chas.
Gannon, A.
Gipson, A. P. (accused)
Gipson, A. P. Mrs.
Gipson, Ed. Mrs.
Gipson, Jeff
Gipson, Thomas 
Gordon, Patrick 
Grant, Wm.
Greer, H. J. Mrs.
Greer, Newton
Grey, Jos.
Grey, Jos. Mrs.
Grey, Kate
Grey, Mary Miss
Grey, Willie
Guptill, W. A. Dr.
Hardin, M. L. Mrs.
Hildebrandt, John Q.
Hildreth, Mrs.
Home, Jas.
Hufford, Charley
Hull, S.
Hunt, John 
Hunter, Abner
Hunter, J. C.
Jones, E. R.
Jones, R. V.
King, David 
Land, M. Mrs.
Leggett, Alex.
Leggett, Wm.
Martin, Ed.
Martin, Frank Mrs.
Martin, R. V.
Matlock, D. B. Mrs.
Maynard, N.
Moore, Jas.
Murray, Emory
Myers, Fred
Nichols, J. K.
Popejoy, Theodore
Randles, Ellen Mrs.
Reynolds, Joseph Mrs.
Reynolds, Joseph 
Roberts, B. F.
Ross, H. F.
Sales, Andrew J.
Scranton, N. K.
Silverthorn, George 
Simpson, T. J.
Simpson, T. J. Mrs.
Stanford, Newt.?
Stanford, Newt.? Mrs.
Waters, N.
Webb, John T.
West, Samuel 
Woodman, L. C.
Woodworth, Fran

Written by: David E. Price, Plain City, Ohio.
Email: March 8, 2003