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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Barney's Bloody Bowie Brawl in Barroom

On July 19, 1870, the San Francisco Chronicle reported a brutal barroom brawl in the city's Barbary Coast district:
Bloody Affray: The Bowie Knife and the Revolver.
At midnight on Sunday three men entered the concert saloon of Nicholas Hochguitel, on the corner of Kearny and Pine streets. Their names are William B. Pennie, Barney Kennedy, and William Wilson. They entered one of the rooms adjoining the “green-room” of the place, and sat down at a table where they engaged in a game of cards. 
While playing they ordered several drinks for which they did not pay. The proprietor, Mr. Hochguitel, went into the room and told them that unless they paid for the drinks they had already ordered they would get no more. The parties denied having ordered any drinks, and some few words passed between them and the proprietor, when he left the room. The men soon followed, and went to the counter, where they ordered another drink, Kennedy agreeing to pay for them. Kennedy and the proprietor had some more words, which ended in Kennedy striking Hochguitel in the face with his clenched fist.

Both men then clinched, when, it is alleged, Kennedy drew a pistol and beat his opponent over the head with it, until a third party interfered and took it from him. Kennedy, however, was well prepared for an encounter, and drew a bowie knife with which he cut Hochguitel through the under lip to the jaw, in the cheek, on the head and in several other parts of the body. John Reitz, a bar-keeper, came to the rescue of his employer, and was cut on the right side of the neck, below the ear, and it is supposed that the wound will prove fatal, being about two inches long and one deep. Officer Spiller attempted to put an end to the fight by arresting Kennedy, when the latter assaulted him and attempted to stab him in the abdomen. In warding off the blow Spiller was cut in the hand. Several officers made their appearance at this juncture, and the three parties above-named were arrested. Yesterday morning Judge Sawyer held them to answer before the Grand Jury.
Another news report of this fight ended with this gruesome image: “All the contestants were literally covered with blood and looked more like aboriginal tattooed Indians than civilized beings. The floor of the cellar was covered with blood, which, taken in connection with the appearance of those in it, gave it more the look of a slaughter-house than of a drinking saloon.”

While the prior article reports that John Reitz's wound was expected to prove fatal, the likelihood is that he made a recovery, as there is no subsequent report of his death. After a bowie knife scrape, newspapers often minimized the odds of survival of wounded parties, but suprisingly often they pulled through.

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