A Real Old West Story...


                        Notorious Outlaw Captured in Lincoln County


A very exciting event in the history of Lincoln County and in particular, Creston, was the capture and death of the notorious outlaw, HARRY TRACY.  In his daring attempt to escape the law in 1902 he terrorized the area from Salem, Oregon to the Big Bend Country near the town of Creston.

In June 1902 Tracy escaped from prison at Salem, Oregon with DAVE MERRILL, killing three guards as they slipped through a heavy guard of militia and headed north to Washington State.  The two fugitives forced a group of men to row them across the Columbia River into Washington .  Armed posses were quickly formed on the Washington side of the river, but the bandits slipped through making a clean getaway.  They made their way through the woods near Chehalis, where later Merrill was found dead.  He had been murdered by Tracy.

Robbing farmers for his needs and supplies, Tracy headed north along Puget Sound.  Near Seattle, as a posse closed in on him, he killed a deputy.  Later he killed a policeman and a game warden.

After two months of moving inland and eluding the authorities and pursuers, on Sunday, August 3rd, Tracy neared the area of Creston.  He met GEORGE GOLDFINCH, 19, five miles from the ranch belonging to LOU and GENE EDDY.  Arriving at the ranch, he told them who he was and  made himself at home.  He tried to arrange for a horse to continue his flight.

Goldfinch decided to leave and go back to the BLENZ ranch where he worked.  Tracy warned him before he left that he would find the Eddys dead if he told officers of his where-abouts.  Goldfinch returned to the Eddy ranch on Monday morning to see if anything had happened, believing that Tracy had left on Sunday night as he said he was going to.  Tracy had not left.  He was helping the Eddys build a barn.

With Tracy's suspicion put to rest that Goldfinch would not inform on him, he allowed Goldfinch to leave again.

Early Tuesday morning, August 5, Goldfinch rode into Creston and telephoned the sheriff at Davenport,  cautioning the operator not to say anything.  Twenty two year old JOE MORRISON, a section foreman for the railroad, was in the office at the time.  He spread the news to some friends and they immediately formed a posse consisting of Morrison, FRANK LILLIGREN,  DR. LANTER, constable CHARLES STRAUB and MAURICE SMITH..

As the posse arrived on a bluff , a short distance from the Eddy barn, Tracy spotted three men of the posse.  He ran into the barn for his rifle, emerging behind the shelter of the haystacks.  Fleeing into a grain field, he hid behind a rock and fired at the posse. The posse ran after him, firing as they went.  Tracy pitched forward onto his face and dragged himself along the ground, disappearing into the standing grain.  A few moments later a single shot rang out.  In the morning, after keeping watch all night, they found Tracy with a shattered leg from the posse's fire.  He was dead from a shot by his own hand gun. In the meantime, the sheriff had arrived and the body was taken to Davenport.

 Eventually a bitter dispute arose as to who would get the  $2,500 reward offered by Washington State.  In June of 1903 a jury verdict awarded the Creston men the reward money and it was paid out to them in December of that year.


Harry Tracy Dies By His Own Hand......   Alan Stein, History Link,  Staff Historian

Harry Tracy  : Wikipedia                                                                 



Submitted  to the Lincoln County Washington GenWeb 

by Rella Gleaton, March 31, 2004. Updated 2017

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