The Spanish Courtesan Murdered in Pioche

The Boot Hill Cemetery in Pioche, Nevada.Photo by Osie Turner
The Boot Hill Cemetery in Pioche, Nevada.
Photo by Osie Turner

The mostly forgotten town of Pioche sits in mountains of eastern Nevada. In its heyday, Pioche was known as one of the wildest and most lawless mining towns, in fact, they say there were six deaths in Pioche before the first person passed from natural causes. This is true, however slightly misleading. The six all died of lead poisoning, a common hazard of mine workers. That is not to say that Pioche didn’t earn its reputation.

Pioche’s Boot Hill Cemetery has some interesting epitaphs— “Shot during dispute over a dog” or “Shot by officers 5 times.” There are quite a few interesting ones to be found here. One such grave marker may stand out to visitors, that of “Panama Jack” AKA Fannie Peterson, a Spanish courtesan that was murdered by her lover.

John Lynch, Shot During Dispute Over Dog.Photo by Osie Turner
John Lynch, Shot During Dispute Over Dog.
Photo by Osie Turner

It all began around 9 in the morning of July 12, 1872, according to the Daily Alta California newspaper. She and her boyfriend, Lyman Perry Fuller, had been known to have violent lover’s quarrels. Just the year before, Fuller had tried to burn all of her belongings, and was even suspected of having already made attempts on her life. At the time they were no longer living together, likely as a result of the aforementioned attempted arson.

That Friday morning, Fuller happened to see Fannie pass by on the street as he was leaving home. Out of nowhere, he began shooting at her. One of his rounds shattered her radius of her right arm. She tried to run but collapsed. Fuller stood over her and fired two more shots at the stunned woman. The first of the bullets only caught her dress, but the second went through her hip and into her stomach.

Fuller ran off leaving Fannie bleeding in the street. Onlookers reported that he put the gun in his mouth as if to take his life, but he must have changed his mind. He shot the ground in front of him instead, for no reason, before being arrested.

John Bass, shot by officers 5 times.Photo by Osie Turner
John Bass, shot by officers 5 times.
Photo by Osie Turner

Fannie did not die immediately. She was taken to the hospital where she was interviewed by the district attorney. She claimed that Fuller had set the Pearl Saloon on fire five weeks earlier — a crime he was already a suspect for — and poisoned the hogs of a local farmer. She died later that day. There was talk of a lynch mob, but nothing came of it.

Finding detailed information on the aftermath proved to be a difficult task. However, some information did turn up. The 1880 Census places Fuller in prison in Carson City, but by 1900 he seems to have been a free man again. He lived in Delamar, Nevada, a mere 50 miles from Pioche, for the next ten years and may have moved to Montana after that. If so, it appears he got off fairly lightly for the cold blooded murder of “Panama Jack,” the Spanish courtesan. As her epitaph reads today, a damn shame indeed.

For a little more about visiting the historic town of Pioche today, visit RoadTripAmerica.com.

Comments

4 responses on “The Spanish Courtesan Murdered in Pioche

  1. I saw her grave today, it’s cool to hear the history behind it. The weird thing is her headstone inscription was facing the opposite way from everyone else’s….anybody know why that would be?

  2. The reason she is facing the other direction is 1. because Fanny Peterson is the only woman burried in Boothill Cemetery. And 2. Because the town wanted to make it known that she was a prostitute so they burried her backwards in a cemetery full of men.

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