Harry Tracy participates in two gun battles that leave three men dead on July 3, 1902.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 3/06/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5385
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On July 3, 1902, escaped criminal Harry Tracy (1877-1902) participates in a gun battle near Bothell, killing Snohomish County Deputy Sheriff Charles Raymond, and wounding King County Deputy Sheriff Jack Williams. Making his way back to Seattle, he comandeers a home near Woodland Park, and has dinner. Leaving the house, he is involved in another gun battle, in which Patrolman E. E. Breece and posseman Cornelius Rowley are mortally wounded. Tracy had escaped from the Oregon State Penitentiary one month earlier and had eluded lawmen throughout Oregon and Washington.

The Hunt Begins

Harry Tracy most likely slept in a barn or clump of bushes overnight, and wasn't seen until shortly after 3:00 p.m. on July 3. The day before, he had appropriated a launch and her crew, who took him from Olympia to a spot north of Ballard. He told the men he was heading for Seattle, but instead made his way out to Bothell.

During the night, posses had formed, and dozens of men scoured the woods north of the city. Washington Governor Henry McBride, who happened to be in Seattle in the midst of all the newspaper coverage, authorized a militia and also offered up a $2500 reward for Tracy, dead or alive. Rewards had already been placed in Oregon totaling $3000.

Early that morning, a university watchman spotted Tracy walking north along the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad tracks, his rifle slung over his shoulder. Word was sent to the authorities, and a posse made up of Deputy Sheriffs Jack Williams and L. J. Nelson, newspapermen Karl Anderson and Louie B. Sefrit, and Snohomish County Deputy Sheriff Charles Raymond boarded the Madison Park ferry to Kirkland. From Kirkland they walked north to Wayne, a small community a few miles past Juanita.

Gun Battle

The men then headed east to Bothell, where they heard from Deputy Sheriff Frank Brewer that Tracy was last seen near Wayne. Doubling back, they found a gulch that they felt might be a good hiding-place. Searching around in the pouring rain, Louie Sefrit noticed a fresh footprint on a path leading down towards a cabin.

The posse started down the path, their rifles and handguns at the ready. Suddenly, Tracy's head popped up behind a stump thirty feet away, and he began firing. A bullet grazed Karl Anderson's face, knocking him down. As he arose, Sheriff Raymond slammed into him, his chest and left arm torn apart with lead. Raymond died instantly.

Sefrit started shooting at Tracy, and Tracy returned fire, wounding Sefrit, but not seriously. Meanwhile, Anderson attempted to flank the desperado, but instead met up with Deputy Sheriffs Nelson and Brewer. Just as the three men were planning their next move, Deputy Sheriff Williams crawled out of the bushes, a bloody mess. Tracy's bullet had shattered the barrel of Williams' gun, sending shrapnel deep into his chest and left wrist.

As the men tended their fallen comrade, Tracy stole off into the woods. The whole battle had lasted less than three minutes. Williams was brought to the hotel in Bothell for medical assistance. Raymond's body was taken to Seattle by train.

Back in Seattle Again

Tracy made his way out of the forest, and reached the road that ran parallel to the railroad tracks. Making his way back to Seattle, he met Perry Vincent, a farmer on horseback. Convincing the man that he was a deputy sheriff hot on Tracy's trail, he commandeered Vincent's horse and rode away.

Soon after, he reached the farm of Louis Johnson near Green Lake. "Hi, I'm Tracy," he said, and ordered the farmer to hitch up his horse to a wagon. The two men continued on into the city. Shortly after 6:00, they passed two deputies eating dinner. Tracy coolly watched them as he rode by.

Johnson and Tracy chatted, and the farmer later noted how gentlemanly Tracy was. They passed through Ravenna and Green Lake, and at the top of Phinney Ridge, Tracy noticed a quaint home on the southwest corner of Woodland Park. They stopped the wagon and entered the home, Tracy with his gun drawn. "If you don't make a noise you are safe," he told the people inside. "I need clothing."

Round Up

Earlier, King County Sheriff Edward Cudihee got word of the Bothell battle while in Issaquah. Hastening to the battle site, he sent word to Ravenna, via the train carrying the body of Deputy Sheriff Raymond -- Tracy might be heading your way. After that he secured a buggy and swiftly made his way to Fremont, to gather a posse.

Meanwhile in Ravenna, men and boys responded to the call for posse members in droves. Many of them had never fired a weapon before, and the deputies had to deal with an almost festive group of vigilantes. When the prone body of Sheriff Deputy Raymond was removed from the train, and the wife of wounded Deputy Sheriff Williams boarded the return trip to Bothell, the mood quickly turned somber. Only experienced marksmen were accepted..

Sheriff Cudihee reached Fremont before twilight. Just as he was gathering up men, a boy rode down the hill on a horse with important news. Harry Tracy was having dinner in the home of Mrs. R. H. Van Horn near Woodland Park.

Uninvited Guest

Tracy had taken over the Van Horn house by force, but remained the gentleman. Hours earlier he had killed one man, and severely injured another, but once inside the Van Horn residence up near Woodland Park, he was a man possessed of wit, intelligence, and courtesy. And a gun.

A few days earlier, a man was thrown from a horse near the Van Horn residence, and was so battered that he was taken inside for bed rest. Upon seeing the prone man, Tracy told him, "You're all right. You can't move." A friend of the injured man by the name of Butterfield was in for a visit. Finding no men's clothing in the house, Tracy availed himself of Butterfield's shirt, coat, and trousers. Butterfield wrapped himself in a shawl.

Tracy was ravenously hungry and asked for a meal. He led Mrs. Van Horn, Farmer Johnson, and Mr. Butterfield to the kitchen. As they prepared his dinner, he rummaged through the house and found a revolver. He tucked it into his new pair of pants, and returned.

While eating his supper, Tracy struck up a pleasant conversation with Mrs. Van Horn. "I have never held up a woman before. And I don't like to bind you, but if you will promise me not to give it out, I will not leave you bound." Mrs. Van Horn, who had read the papers, asked him if he had really killed his partner, David Merrill. Tracy waxed eloquent on his ex-friend's treachery, and his need to shoot him in the back before Merrill had the chance to do the same to him. "I do not kill for the pleasure of killing, but only when I am attacked."

At 8:30 a knock came at the door. It was the grocery boy. Mrs. Van Horn went to talk to the young lad, and Tracy warned her not to say a word. Briefly out of his sight, Mrs. Van Horn quickly spilled the beans. Tell the authorities that Tracy was in their home. The boy raced down the hill to Fremont.


Upon reaching the main thoroughfare in Fremont, the boy spread the news that Tracy had been found. Most of Sheriff Cudihee's men were still in Ravenna, but Patrolman E. E. Breece joined the Sheriff, as did quartz miner Cornelius Rowley and local insurance man J. I. Knight. They sped up the hill posthaste, reaching the home around 9:00 p.m.

They secreted themselves in various spots surrounding the house. Cudihee hoped to ambush Tracy. He didn't have the chance. Tracy walked out of the Van Horn home along with Johnson and Butterworth, and to Cudihee's shock, Policeman Breece brazenly strode up to the men and said, "Throw down that gun, Tracy."

Tracy fired a rifle blast right into Breece's chest, killing him instantly. Rowley came out of the darkness, as did Knight. Sheriff Cudihee watched helplessly as bullets flew wildly in every direction. Rowley fell to the ground. It was later surmised that he was killed by an errant shot from Mr. Knight.

Sheriff Cudihee took two shots at Tracy, but the badman disappeared deep into the forests of Woodland Park. Rather than pursue, Cudihee opted to stay with the dead and injured. Rowley was bleeding profusely and died by morning

Tracy had escaped yet again, leaving death and blood in his wake.


"Trail is in Blood," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 1902, p. 1, 2; "Tracy Met at Bothell," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 1902, p. 1, 2; "Entire City is Aroused," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 1902, p. 8; "Crowds at the Depot," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 1902, p. 8;" Williams Will Live," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 4, 1902, p. 8; "His Death a Mystery -- One of Posse May Have Shot Rawley," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 5, 1902, p. 2; "Story of the Search for Tracy,"  The Seattle Times, July 4, 1902, p. 2, 3; "Tracy Definitely Once More Located Near Bothell," The Seattle Times, July 6, 1902, p. 1, 2; Rae Anna Victor, Historian, Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial to Alan J. Stein, Historylink.org Historin, September 10, 2003.

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