Robert McKune Seriously, if not Fatally Injured


Article originally published in the November 1994 YCHS newsletter. Transcribed from the September 28, 1888 issue of the OREGON REGISTER newspaper of Lafayette, by historian John White.



“About 8 o’clock Tuesday evening a messenger arrived In Lafayette to notify the sheriff of a shooting affray at Sheridan. Sheriff Harris and Deputy Bryan immediately left for the scene. Upon their arrival at Sheridan they found the streets thronged with excited people, and the Sheridan cavalry were patrolling the streets to keep the people quiet. Sheriff Harris thought best not to arrest McKune at once, but when Bewley died at 2 a.m. he was placed under arrest.


“The shooting occurred in front of T.R. Bewley’s lively stable, on Main Street about 5 o’clock p.m.


“Wednesday morning a REGISTER representative was sent to Sheridan, and the following is what he learned: Since the smallpox scare in McMinnville, Sheridan has been enforcing a quarantine against the latter place, as other towns of the county have done. James F. Bewley had gone to his farm above Sheridan, by going around the town over the hills. In the afternoon between 4 and 5 o’clock he drove into Sheridan from his farm west of town. He stopped in front of the livery stable and was conversing with the bystanders when accosted by Robert McKune, a deputy marshal who said something about the smallpox and ordered Bewley to leave town or he would be arrested. Robert McKune then went away, and in a short time Willard McKune, another deputy marshal, came up to Bewley and asked him if he had come from McMinnville. Bewley replied he had not. Then Willard McKune told Bewley he would be given five minutes in which to leave town. Bewley made no move to comply with the order of the deputy marshal, but asked, “What then?” McKune said “You are under arrest,” and almost immediately stepped back a few feet and fired at Bewley, the shot taking effect in the right cheek. Several other shots were fired but none took effect except the first. There is a conflict of opinion as to whether Bewley made any move to resist the arrest or not, and as this point will be contested in court, it is not our place to venture an opinion at this time.


“After the first two or three shots were fired Willard McKune started up the street followed by Roswell Bewley; they met Robert McKune, who picked up a stone and threw it at Roswell Bewley but did not hit him. Young Bewley then struck Robert McKune a temble blow with a stone or revolver, felling him to the ground. And at noon Thursday doubts were entertained as to his recovery, as he had not regained complete consciousness up to that time.


“Coroner Fellows had been summoned, and at 2 p.m. Wednesday, empaneled the following jury, who proceeded to investigate the case: H.W. Lamson, Jas. Brown, Jas. McKinley, P.M. Scroggin, Isaac Dougherty, R.S. Connor. The jury being sworn at once proceeded to witness the post mortem examination conducted by Dr. W. Tyler Smith. The ball was found to have entered the right cheek bone and penetrated backward and upward to a depth of about five inches. The brain was removed and the ball was found in the cerebellum or lesser brain very much battered; the ball was fired from a 38 calibre revolver. The examination of witnesses then proceeded with, and at 12 p.m. yesterday the jury returned the following verdict.


“‘We, the undersigned coroner’s jury having been duly sworn by E.B. Fellows, coroner of Yamhill County, on the 26th day of September, 1888, assembled at Sheridan, Oregon, and viewed the body of James F. Bewley on said day and attended to the examination of the attending physician, Dr. W. Tyler Smith, in the search of the cause of the death of said decedent, James F. Bewley, and after hearing of all the testimony of the witnesses called in said cause, and after duly examining said witnesses and being duly advised in the premises, find that the name of the deceased is James F. Bewley, that he came to his death by the 26th day of September, A.D. 1888, at Sheridan. Yamhill county, state of Oregon, and that his death was the direct result of a pistol shot fired from the hands of Willard McKune, of said county and state, and that we believe said Willard McKune is guilty of the crime of murder.'”


“The preliminary examination of Willard McKune was commenced at Willamina yesterday afternoon, and as there are a large number of witnesses to examine it may be two or three days before it will be concluded.”


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