Unlocking History

1913 Del Norte case affected generations

Orville Taggart, 27264, superimposed over a 1910 photo of San Quentin State Prison.
Even today, a 1913 Del Norte County case involving Orville Taggart affected his descendents. (1910 photo of San Quentin: Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin Public Library)

A Del Norte case dating to 1913 had an impact on generations to follow, including the Taggart family who still seek answers.

In 2021, Inside CDCR wrote about the Ruby Bartol case, a mom and her friends accused of assaulting her daughter.

After very public hearings at the state Legislature, as well as other evidence, those serving sentences for the crime were released on parole.

Decades later, Bartol was issued a Governor’s pardon, thanks to the efforts of Parole Officer Ed Whyte.

The 2021 story left another family asking about their ancestor, Orville Taggart, sentenced to San Quentin for five years in exchange for a guilty plea and his cooperation.

Taggart maintained his innocence but after being threatened by a judge, and offered a short sentence, he agreed to plead guilty.

Taggart, Otto Creitzer, Josephine Horn, Bartol, and Fred Hoosier were all sentenced for anywhere from four to 40 years in San Quentin and Folsom prisons in 1914.

Orville Taggart’s descendents ask questions a century later

“One of the accused in this case was Orville Taggart, my ancestor, my father’s grandfather. As a family, we’d would be interested to know what Orville’s status was when he left the prison,” writes a Taggart family member. “Was he acquitted, exonerated, pardoned, paroled, other? Mostly it has never been talked about, but we have heard family stories over the years. Your article was most helpful in putting forth facts and not gossip. Thank you so very much. Orville died in 1960, but the tarnished association to the family name (continues).”

Aged prison record for Orville Taggart. Information includes number 27264, Del Norte County, crime of rape, sentenced to five years, received February 28, 1914, and discharged September 28, 1917.
Taggart’s 1914 card.

It’s difficult to find out exactly what his legal status might have been, but immediately after release in 1916, he and the others were placed on parole.

While in San Quentin, he appears to have been a “model prisoner,” as it was known at the time.

He demonstrated such good behavior and work ethic, he was sent to a road camp in 1915. These were often called honor camps at the time.

While on duty at the camp, he was removed to be taken to Sacramento to testify at the Legislature.

“The judge told me he had enough evidence to hang me and he urged me to do as he advised. He said that unless I did as he directed, he would give me a heavy jolt (at the end of a rope),” Taggart said during the 1915 hearing at the Legislature. “We rehearsed the story I was to tell on the stand against Horn. I told Judge Childs many times that I was innocent.”

Order of release, restoration 1917

California Gov. William D. Stephens, during his first year in office, issued Taggart an order of release and restoration of citizenship. The order became effective Aug. 6, 1917. The Del Norte Triplicate newspaper wrote, “there was no merit in the charges brought against those unfortunate people.”

The order removed Taggart from parole supervision.

Showing the restoration document to reporters at the Triplicate office, Taggart asked them to help share the news.

“I want you to tell the people that I have my restoration to citizenship,” Taggart told the newspaper in August 1917.

After his release, Taggart married and had children. In 1924, he was managing a dairy ranch near Crescent City.

“The quintet, the board held, had been sentenced through a miscarriage of justice on misconduct charges involving Ruby Bartol’s daughter.”

Read original Ruby Bartol story.

Dirt road lined with small cabins. Inset over the top is a woman in a hat with numbers at the bottom.

Learn more about California prison history.

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