Background photo: A hand-tinted linen postcard view of Three Sisters from Scott Lake, circa 1920.
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THE VOYAGE NORRIS now shipped out on was a miserable one. Out of a crew that probably numbered nine or 10 sailors, four — including Norris — were freshly shanghaied landlubbers who really had no idea what they were doing. To make matters worse, the ship ran out of limes very early on, so that months later when it finally arrived in Liverpool, everyone had scurvy. When he got there, Norris found that after Larry Sullivan’s $140 “blood money” fee was deducted from his wages along with $40 in incidentals, he had only about $10 coming to him.
He also found two letters awaiting him:
The first was from the L.G. Carpenter — the lawyer. It urged him to depart forthwith to Australia and never even consider returning home, because Astoria was too dangerous for him and his life wasn’t safe there. The other was from the other lawyer, C.J. Curtis. Curtis wrote urging Norris to get back to Astoria as quickly as possible to settle the legal battle that had broken out over ownership of his Long Beach Peninsula land after he’d signed it over to Carpenter.
After he’d — what?
WHAT APPARENTLY HAD happened was that several months before Norris was shanghaied, Norris’s sister, Mary, had consulted Carpenter — who was, remember, a practicing attorney — about the family’s property. Mary didn’t like living in poverty on a million-dollar piece of land, and wanted to sell it; but her brother and elderly mother were both dead set against the idea. Could he help?
Well, yes, he certainly could … help himself, that is.
So Carpenter got his network of business associates into gear. Either with a fat bribe or the promise of a slice of the action, he got Chief Barry to “arrest” Norris; then Sullivan shanghaied him off overseas never to return; and finally Carpenter himself set about spreading the word that Norris had fled the country after word got out that he was a murderer. The plan was for everyone to be confused by the coincidence of Norris’s name with that of suspected murderer Peter Norris. It probably sounded like a great plan to the Astoria townies.
It didn’t work, though. People who actually lived in Pacific County knew both Norrises well, and knew they were very different men. Norris also had lots of friends on the Astoria waterfront, who knew a bum rap when they saw one — and also knew how corrupt the city was at that time. Also, although the news stories aren’t specific on this topic, it appears Carpenter forgot about Norris’s sister. She may have wanted advice about getting her brother to agree to sell, but having a complete stranger swindle them all out of the property was clearly not what she’d had in mind.
So when Norris’s reply to attorney Curtis’s letter arrived in Astoria, and Curtis released it to the press, things got rather hot for L.G. Carpenter. He soon found it expedient to transfer his practice to San Francisco.
Which is where he was when the state of Oregon issued a warrant for his arrest. He had hastily signed the title to the Long Beach property back over to the family before decamping; but it was pretty clear what he’d tried to do.
But he was probably never in real danger. The people he’d been working with were, essentially, the rulers of Astoria. Ex-Police Chief Barry came up for trial for kidnapping and embezzling, and was promptly acquitted; a few months later, he was back on the force, although no longer serving as chief. Larry Sullivan wasn’t even charged. When the San Francisco police heard about that, they declined to bother serving the warrant, and that was the end of that.
As for Darius Norris, he finally made it home by working for his passage on the American bark Recovery. Upon arrival in New York, he had to hide out from the Bowery shanghaiers, who were boarding every incoming ship and asking if anyone knew about him — obviously Larry Sullivan had sent word and called in a few markers. Luckily, one of Norris’s Astoria waterfront friends had journeyed to New York to meet him, and they were able to make it home safely.