Who was Ed Morrell?
Edward Brennan was born in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary Brennan was widowed when Edward was very young. By age nine, he was working in coal mines. As a teenager he stowed away on a cattle boat bound for Europe and, by working his way on various ships, began to travel the world. In Australia a wealthy man named Morrell started adoption proceedings, promising to send him to school in England. When the man didn't live up to his word, Edward left, crossing the country on horseback and boarding a steamer for San Francisco.
In California, using the name Ed Martin, he was soon convicted of grand larceny and was sentenced to two years in San Quentin. Upon his release in 1893, he went to Fresno and assumed the name of Ed Morrell. He was jailed again in Fresno for a misdemeanor and it was here that he first met Chris Evans.
After the shoot-out at Stone Corral, the captured Evans was being held at the Fresno jail. Morrell was working as waiter in Stock's Restaurant, and it was his job to take meals to the prisoners in the jail. During this time Morrell met Evans' pretty daughter, Eva, and together they formed a plan to help her father escape from jail.
The plan was simple. Morrell convinced Sheriff Jay Scott that the Southern Pacific Train was to be held up near Porterville. With the sheriff and his deputies off on a wild goose chase many miles to the south, Morrell delivered two revolvers along with the evening meal. Evans and Morrell, both armed, marched the jailer out the front door and down Mariposa Street. They encountered the former Mayor of Fresno and forced him to accompany them as another hostage, seeking to reach a team and buggy that was tied a block away.
Morrell ran ahead to untie the team, only to find John Morgan, constable of Fresno, and W. M. Wyatt, a former Texas Ranger, visiting near the wagon team. Morrell ordered the two men to raise their hands. Morgan grabbed him but was quickly shot in the shoulder by Evans, who by now had reached the scene. The shots spooked the horses, which fled down the street. The escapees were soon able to steel a buggy and made their way to the mountains.
In the weeks that followed, the mountains were filled with manhunters. When three deputies accidentally came across Evans and Morrell near Camp Manzanita, the deputies wished they hadn't. Morrell described how he chased L. Parker Timmins, who dropped his gun and ran: "I played with him, teased and tired him, drove him over rocks and rough ground and through dense thicket of scratchy manzanita and chaparral. Behind, and all the time just a little above him, I could see his every move. Hour by hour he worked his way down the brushy mountainside heading toward the stage station at Dunlap and dodging in and out to avoid the spattering lead which hit all around him." When Morrell was almost out of ammunition, he let the man go.
Often the outlaws were so close to the hunters that they could remain hidden and listen to the hunters conversations and plans. At Slick Rock, two deputies came upon a mountain home where the outlaws were sharing a dinner the the Robinson family. As they approached the house, Morrell stepped out the door, firing his Winchester. One man ran into the trees and the other, after losing control of his horse and buggy, eventually managed to also get away.
These reports, plus the fact that newspaper reporters were always able to find and interview the outlaws, created great pressure upon the law enforcement agencies and intensified the hatred of railroad officials, who saw the outlaws as symbols of resistance against the railroad.
A reporter from The Fresno Expositor wrote about his visit with Evans and Morrell at Sampson's Flats. He explained how the stump of Evans' arm was painful and how Morrell "waits on Evans as if he were a baby." He described Morrell as a slight man with exquisite blue eyes, who was "quiet as a ghost". "I think he [Morrell] will make even a worse fight against the officers than Sontag," explained the reporter. "Both men look desperate. The long chase of the sheriff's posse impressed them with the feeling that they are hunted animals. Both are as reckless as possible. They are prepared for the worst and, relying on their knowledge of the hills and the hill people, they have not of late concealed their movements."
Their primary retreat was a cabin totally hidden within a stand of manzanita above Eshom Valley. The only entrance was strung with warning devices. Dynamite, wired to a battery near the cabin, was buried beneath the path.
The story, as related by
peace officer Bill Henry, is as follows:
Henry and two other deputies were following a trail when they noticed two men near the timberline. There was a light snow on the ground and the officers followed the outlaws' footprints through the underbrush. About 40 yards from the cabin, Henry spotted Evans just as Evans saw him. Shots were exchanged and a piece of Evans scalp and hair flew off. Henry was not hit. Moments later, Morrell came running out he door and followed Evans into a crevice between the rocks, where both disappeared. The lawmen waited near the cabin, thinking that Evans and Morrell would return. At sunup, they riddled the cabin with bullets from four directions. They then rushed the cabin, only to find it deserted. The outlaws hadn't returned that night. They even left their overcoats, and Evans had left his artificial arm. There was a big lot of provisions, including ammunition. "If it hadn't been for the tracks in the snow we never would have found the cabin", said Henry.
Salvaging only Evans' artificial arm and a few other items, they lawmen then burned the cabin.
Soon after the two outlaws hastily left Camp Manzanita, a blizzard developed which raged for 24 hours. Instead of returning to the cabin the outlaws staggered into Eshom Valley, where the Yokut Indians provided them with food and shelter. Evans was severely wounded in the head and both men were dressed lightly. From here, they went to the home of Ed and Lucy Mainwaring, who provided Evans with care.
Evans' wife and daughter were on a tour of the play and the Evans children were being cared for by Mr. and Mrs. Brighton. It turns out that Mr. Brighton was actually a detective sent to Visalia by the railroad. Bill Downing went to Visalia to check on the children for Evans and was told by the Brightons that Carl, the baby was deathly ill. Downing took this word to Evans, who immediately proceeded to Visalia to check on Carl. Upon arriving at the Evans home they found that Carl was much better. This was all a trick, as sunrise found the Evans home surrounded by lawmen. After a time, the two men surrendered.
Both men went back to Folsom Prison. Evans served out his time here. Morrell became a symbol of the railroad and a target for torment and torture. He soon was framed for planning an escape and was transferred to San Quentin.
Morrell was the subject of frequent torture and he soon learned self-hypnosis to endure the pain. After being released from prison, he began to give speeches about his experiences. He was illiterate, but his new wife wrote a book in his name called The 25th Man. This book became a platform for prison reform and the state of Arizona completely changed their prison policy based on this book. Jack London also wrote The Star Rover, a story of the out-of -body experiences of Ed Morrell.