The Rocklin Historical Society


Showdown in Blackwell Stable
By Ruben Ruhkala


A gunfight occurred in Rocklin, California on February 18, 1914, between town Marshall Sam Renauldi and a saloonkeeper by the name of U.S. Holmes, his place of business being on Railroad Avenue.Ernest Willard related details of this to me while he was the cities only employee, which included being Chief of Police. This was about fifty years ago.

Ernest's father George Willard had been the town Marshall but resigned on June 30, 1913. He continued to assist Renauldi as a deputy. During this period of time, there were many Saloons doing business in town but Renauldi's business was getting most of the complaints. Holmes was not complying with midnight curfew law, and citizens were complaining about the noise at that late hour. This condition had been going on for some time. On February 9th Renauldi found Holmes open after the 12:00 p.m. curfew, but U.S.Holmes told Renauldi he was complying with the curfew, it was only the lunch counter that was open till 12:25 and he was not going to close for anybody even the city trustees, as he had every right to stay open. Marshall Renauldi had been authorized to enforce the ordinance and could close Holmes down. This irked Holmes as this was his livelihood. He was unable to cope with this threat.

Renauldi and Holmes were known to have a very unfriendly relationship and could not get along together. Holmes started drinking heavily and had been around town brandishing a pistol saying there were certain people he was going to get. On the afternoon of the 18th of February Ella Hovey, who worked for Holmes in the restaurant he ran in conjunction with his saloon quit her job and said she would not ever return. This enraged Holmes. He went to her home and threatened to kill her and her father if she did not return to work. Later that evening, Holmes went back to her house. Marshall Renauldi, Deputy Willard and Willard�s son Alfred followed. They heard the threats and pleading of Ella Hovey. Alfred pushed open the door. Holmes told Ella to see who was there. When she went came to the door Alfred grabbed her and pulled her outside and got her away in the dark. Holmes quieted down. Marshall Renauldi, Deputy Willard and an unidentified man went to Blackwell�s Stable on the South West corner of Pacific Street and Rocklin Road to discuss the problem, hoping Holmes would cool down and be peaceful. This discussion was taking place several hours after Ella had been freed from Holmes. Holmes sent word to Renauldi to meet him at Blackwell�s Stable for a showdown. This presented an even more serious problem because he carried a gun, was seething with anger and blamed Marshall Renauldi for all his troubles. The discussion was still going on, about what to do about Holmes threats against Ella Hovey and Marshall Renauldi. About 11:00 p.m. Holmes entered into the stable in a surly mood and told Willard and the unidentified man to be quiet. Holmes did not see Renauldi because renauldi had just left momentarily. Deputy Willard was talking to Holmes trying to soothe and calm him down and maybe get close enough to over power him before he got his gun and could use it. About this time, Marshall Renauldi returned and was told that Holmes was inside. Renauldi called for Holmes to come out and be arrested. Holmes replied, �If you want me, come and get me.� Deputy Willard was continuing to talk to Holmes, but then Renauldi appeared in the doorway in back of Willard. When he emerged a little to the side of Willard, and could see Holmes he again ordered Holmes to surrender for arrest, but instead Holmes went for his gun.

Renauldi, seeing this, drew his gun and fired at about the same time as Holmes. As many as five shots were fired, one hitting Renauldi, three hitting Holmes, and one shot going wild. Both Renauldi and Holmes were seen by Dr. Fletcher of Rocklin, and then taken to Sacramento Hospital where they died. Holmes died the next day, and Renauldi the day after.

The details of this shoot-out were derived from several newspaper articles and an account by Ernest Willard, whose father was the deputy talking to Holmes when the shoot-out took place.

It was known by a few people that a shoot out might occur between Marshall Renauldi and U.S. Holmes and were gathered about the stable when it did happen including two teenage boys who were hiding behind bales of hay and a blacksmith anvil. They were there during the shoot out or a few moments after and said they were scared to death bullets might hit them. Their sister Helen Halonen Plamondon a native of Rocklin related this to me.

Rocklin Historical Society Historian, Ruben Ruhkala