The Saga of the Perasich Murder – Darwin, California 1875

While researching historical newspapers for information on Panamint City, California, I stumbled upon a series of articles that detail the murder of a man named Perasich. Perasich, a business owner in Panamint Springs, California, was allegedly gunned down by Ashim in the nearby mining town of Darwin.

The articles lay out a dramatic series of events following the crime; doubt as to Ashim’s guilt, attempted revenge by Perasich’s brothers, and a trial corrupted by both money and influence of the local outlaw gangs.

These accounts provide a glimpse of the violent reality that many lived with in remote and lawless mining districts. The Panamint and Darwin Districts were known to be particularly violent. One article reveals that the area had over 75 unsolved murders in just the few years leading up to the trial.

The The Black Metal Saloon in Darwin, California 1905
The The Black Metal Saloon in Darwin, California 1905

Each dated paragraph below is a newspaper article that was printed in a California newspaper in 1875.

The Murder of Perasich

March 16th, 1875 – The Panamint News has the following: “Another horrible murder has occurred. The murdered man was a member of the firm of Perasich & Setrovich, lately engaged in the restaurant business at Panamint. The following statement of the affair is just received from Dave Neagle and James Bruce, who arrived yesterday from Darwin, where the murder was committed. Which one of the two members of the firm our informants are not positive, but it is believed that Perasich was the unfortunate man. He was sitting quietly eating his dinner in Sullivan’s restaurant, when a man entered, and, approaching close to where he sat said ‘Pay me the $47.50 you owe me, you s– of a b—-!’ and immediately began shooting with a self-cocking pistol.

The man who did the shooing is named Ashim, of the firm of Ashim & Brother, engraved in general merchandising business here. Three shots took effect; one in the head of Perasich, another in the body under his arm, and the third, in his hand. He was instantly killed – falling from his chair on the floor speaking not a word, nor was opportunity given to reply before the shooting. Ashim was accompanied into the restaurant by two men, one of whom is named Montgomery, a clerk in Ashim & Brother’s store. The name of the other, is Carroll, of Darwin. Whether these men were aware of Ashim’s intentions is not known. After committing the deed Ashim walked up to E. A. Reddy’s saloon and gave himself up. He was taken to Independence by Reddy, W.T. Grant and Charles Goodwin.”

Panamint City, California in 1875
Panamint City, California in 1875

Newspaper Reports Question the Initial Account of the Crime

March 28, 1875 – In regard to the murder of Perasich by Ashim, at Darwin City, the evidence thus far shows that the murder was not so cold-blooded as at first reported. Bad blood had previously existed between Ashim and Perasich and at the time of the murder Perasich had attempted to draw a pistol before the shooting began.

March 29, 1875 – The Killing at Darwin, From the Panamint News – there are further particulars of the killing of Perasich by Ashim at Darwin City. Sheriff Moore says the evidence introduced so far shows the affair on Ashim’s part was not so cold-blooded as at first reported, there being many extenuating circumstances connected therewith.

The evidence shows hard words bad passed between Perasich and Ashim previous to the shooting the former calling the latter a —–; that at the time Ashim made a demand on Perasich for money the latter got up from the table and attempted to draw his revolver when Ashim fired, hitting Perasich in the back of the right hand. Perasich turned partially around and threw up his left arm when Ashim fired again, hitting him in the left side. This must have been the case, as Ashim approached Perasich on the latter’s right, and the first shot could not have taken effect in Perasich’s left side while be was in a sitting position, as testified to by one witness. Perasich was next shot in the right side of the head whether by Ashim or Carroll is not known.

The Perasich Brothers Seek Revenge

Note: the events of the following article were stated to have taken place in Carson, Nevada. Carson is quite a distance from Darwin, California so I don’t know why Ashim was there. We can only guess at some of the details given the sporadic reports from over 140 years ago.

Carson, Nevada October 14th –  This morning a determined attempt was made by the Perasich brothers to obtain vengeance on young Ashim, the man who killed their brother Nick In Panamint some months ago. Ashim arrived here last night on his way to Panamint to stand his trial for the homicide in question. It is understood the young man had received threats from the Perasichs. Early this morning the Perasich brothers were stirring. It having been intimated to officers and the clerk at the Ormsby House, where the stage starts from, that something unusual was transpiring, Ashim was got off in a private conveyance a short time before the stage started.

The Perasichs did not know this and went out ahead of the stage, which contained both male and female passengers. Elias, one of the brothers, bid himself among the corn stalks by the roadside, near McGardner’s residence. On the approach of the stage be rushed into the road and demanded the stoppage of the stage, at the same time firing his pistol at the stage. The driver having enough to do in caring for his six horses drove on at his best speed. Fortunately no one was hurt. Two of the brothers were arrested and Elias held to answer in the sum of $3,000.

Ashim is Vindicated at Trial

November 21, 1875 – The case of the people vs. B. Ashim, charged with the murder of Nicholas Peraslch, which lias been on trial at Independence, Inyo county, closed a few days ago with a verdict of not guilty. Perasich was formerly a resident of this city. The killing took place at Panamint.

The Perasich Brothers Make Further Threats Against Ashim

Note that the following article was published in Eureka, Nevada, but it was not made clear if that was the location of Ashim after the trial. We can assume Ashim had some connection to Eureka and was staying there after he was released.

November 25, 1875 – A letter was received here yesterday from Independence, Inyo county, California, which states that the Perasich brothers, with their gang, are watching every outlet from the town with the view to murder young Ashim when he leaves. It strikes us that this vendetta has been carried about far enough to suit the average American taste, and it the people of Inyo county will vary the monotony of the proceedings with the judicious use of a little native hemp, they will evince their patriotism in a manner which will merit the approbation of all who do not approve of the introduction into our country of a practice as totally at variance with our institutions as it is repugnant to every principle of humanity and justice.

Young Ashim braved the dangers of assassination by his relentless foes to return to Inyo county to stand his trial. He was tried and honorably acquitted, and it reflects no credit upon those who administer and execute the laws in that section that he cannot leave Independence except at the cost of his life. The authorities owe it to him and to themselves to see that be has safe-conduct to a place of security. If a band of murderous ruffians are to take it upon themselves to overrule the decisions of the Courts, and the civil authorities are unable to suppress them, they had better throw up the sponge and allow the government of their county to pass into the hands of the military.

A Report on The Trial Reveals Corruption and Casts Doubt on the Verdict

December 3, 1875 – The Carson Appeal of November 30th gives a synopsis of the testimony in the late trial in the District Court of Inyo county, California, of B. Ashim, for the murder of Nicholas Perasich, at Darwin, Inyo county, March 11, 1875.

According to the testimony as condensed by the Appeal, the killing of Perasich was on atrocious, unprovoked murder. As our readers know, Ashim was acquitted, and the concluding portion of the Appeal’s article explains the reason why:

The brief statement of a few facts regarding the circumstances surrounding this farcical trial will remove all astonishment over the verdict. Judge Reed, the Judge of the District Court before which this trial was held, says with shame and sorrow that there have been in that district (which includes Panamint) not less than seventy-five or eighty homicides, and never one conviction in the Courts.

Pat Reddy, the attorney for the defense, is a king among the desperadoes in that country – his own brother being one of the number. This man Pat Reddy manipulated this case. The jury was selected on a special venire by a Deputy Sheriff who is an intimate friend of Ashim. During the trial this jury, instead of being kept together and apart from outside influences, were, as soon as the Court took a recess or adjourned for the day (the trial lasted five or six days), set at liberty to go where they pleased. That they were dined and wined and openly flattered and tampered with as no jury, not even in a civil case ever should be, are notorious matters of fact.

It is also a fact that all the ruffians whom Ashim’s money and influence and the money and influence of his friends could bring together to intimidate witnesses, to bully the Court and bar, and corrupt the jury, were congregated at independence during the trial. And yet, in the face of these shameless acts and adding a monstrous lie to the still more monstrous mockery of justice, Ashim and his helpers had the effrontery to declare his life to be in danger from the surviving members of the Perasich family!

We present the facts of record as they are given to the world by the newspaper Inyo Independent, whose opinions are in suspicious harmony with Pat Reddy’s and his client’s, and we leave them to speak for themselves, and if the conclusion be not reached that poor Nick Perasich paid the penalty of his irascible temper by being assassinated in cold blood by a deliberate murderer, backed by two hired accomplices, then we are greatly mistaken.

Western Mining History is the work of Aaron Walton. About Western Mining History

Western Mining History needs you! Please consider becoming a member.

Western Mining History Memberships