The Unfortunate Turn-of-the-Century Murder of Lemoore’s Lemuel Metts

The ringing in of a new century on January 1, 1900 was an exciting time for the community of Lemoore. Just 23 years earlier, Lemoore was officially named when the railroad plotted a new community along its western spur from Goshen. In 1877, the few businesses grouped along what was to become Lemoore Avenue and Bush Street quickly purchased lots near the railroad tracks and reestablished their enterprises to the north.  In no time the business district and the population doubled in size.

As the small town of Lemoore local residents began to plan for the future, a future that included a new elementary school north of Bush Street between Follett and Lemoore avenues as well as new graded roads and wooden sidewalks. Plans were also on the books to form the community’s first high school on land donated by the Southern Pacific. And of course rumors were ripe that the city was considering incorporation.

On Tuesday, July 10, 1900, barely into the new century, unfortunate events scarred the growing community and changed a prominent businessman’s family forever. Lemuel Metts was only 43 when he was murdered at his place of business on Fox Street.

Born October, 1856 in Ohio he married Emily Dillard in Ray County, Missouri. Together they had 2 girls, Virginia in 1885 in Missouri, and then Myrtle in June of 1887 following the family’s arrival in California. We don’t know exactly when the Metts chose to move to Lemoore and set up shop, but Metts was a skilled gun and locksmith who also traded in the transportation of the time: Bicycles. The shop was next door to the fire station, between D and Front Street streets on the east side of Fox.

On July 10, 1900, Metts made a 25-cent wheel repair to a bicycle belonging to Isaac Daily. It’s not known exactly what transpired, but we do know that Isaac was unhappy about the charge after he had trouble with the wheel and grew extremely angry as time passed.  Witnesses explained that he went to the home of his brother, who lived next door to Metts, and asked to borrow a shotgun. His brother and sister-in-law asked him what he was going to do with the gun and he replied, “I am going to have it cleaned.”

Sherman Brown, a witness to the events shared the following: “Lemuel and I were in front of his store on Fox Street trying to find a puncture in a bicycle tire when Daily appeared from the north. Metts had the tire in a large water tank in front of his place and the firehouse. When I saw Daily coming with a gun I stepped out and walked toward him with the intention of preventing any trouble. Lemuel had stated that he was not afraid of Daily and something about Daily being afraid to shoot anything. As Daily approached he turned the gun on me and said, ‘If you don’t get out of the way I’ll shoot you.’ Daily kept the gun on me while I backed around the corner of the building. After I got around the building Daily fired on Metts. Metts’ back was partly turned to Daily when he fired. After Lemuel was shot he walked around to the back of his store and someone helped him in the back door. Daily followed him around and tried to get in the back door – probably to take another shot at Metts. He then went around to the front of the store and tried to get in the front door. At this time Daily’s brother appeared and took the gun away from him. Daily then proceeded to the saloon, where Constable Furnish arrested him a short time later.

After hearing of the shooting on July 10, District Attorney Irwin and shorthand reporter Goodrich went to Lemoore to take a statement from Metts about the shooting. Lemuel Metts was unable to give a statement and died at his home about 5 p.m. that afternoon.

In 1900, Justice in Kings County was swift as Sheriff Buckner took Isaac Daily to the Kings County Jail in Hanford that evening. The next day on 11th of July Sheriff Buckner took Daily back to Lemoore for an arraignment hearing before Justice Carrasco on a charge of murder. After hearing testimony, Daily’s preliminary hearing was set for the following Saturday at 10 a.m.

Also on the morning of July 11, 1900 Coroner Thomas went to Lemoore to secure a jury and hold an inquest into the death of Lemuel Metts for that afternoon. The jury consisted of some well-known Lemoore residents; Frank Bullard, Forman, George McIntyre, Marion A. Heinlen, Louis Brownstone, H. Berry, W. R. Beal, W. P. Hayes, and C. Dahnken. The jury took testimony from several witnesses to the crime.

The Hanford Daily Journal reported the jury’s findings as follows:

“We the jury, find that the deceased’s name was Lemuel Metts, a native of Ohio, aged about 43 years; that he came to his death on the 10th day of July, 1900, from the effects of a gunshot wound inflicted by one Isaac Daily, with intent to kill”

The funeral for Lemuel Metts took place July 12 at the family residence. He was a member of the Independent Order of Foresters, and he was buried in older section of the Lemoore Cemetery.

Daily was quickly tried for the murder of Lemuel and found guilty. On, October 2, 1900, the day Isaac Daily was to be sentenced there was a little courtroom drama. Before sentence could be passed, Daily’s attorneys E. T. Cosper and Harry Brown moved for a new trial claiming that Isaac Daily was on the day of the murder – and ever since the crime – was insane. Judge Short promptly denied the motion. Then attorney Cosper moved for the “arrest of judgment” which was also denied.

The Hanford Daily Journal reported the sentencing of Isaac Daily:

“The sentence of the Court is that you, Isaac Daily, be taken hence by the Sheriff of the County of Kings, and by him detained in close confinement in the County Jail from this date the Sheriff is ordered and directed to deliver you to the Warden of the State Prison of the State of California at San Quentin, and after such delivery to said Warden, that you be kept and detained in said State Prison at San Quentin by the Warden thereof in close confinement until such day as shall hereafter be designated and fixed in the Warrant of Execution, be issued herein, and on the day so designated and fixed in said Warrant of Execution and between the hours therein named, you, Isaac Daily, for the willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of Lemuel Metts, of which you have been duly convicted, be, by the warden of the state prison aforesaid, and within the wall of said state prison, hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may god have mercy on your soul.”

The time for the execution was set for Friday December 14, 1900, but there would be one last unsuccessful appeal to the California Supreme Court that extended the execution date to Feb. 21, 1902. Judge Short’s order was carried out at San Quentin on that fateful day, Isaac Daily was hanged “by the neck until dead”.

Isaac Daily’s death sentence was the first to be pronounced in Kings County since the County was formed in 1893.