Not everyone rejoiced at the prospect of creating a new county in 1893. Certainly the sentiment south of the San Joaquin River was decidedly anti-divisionist. Numerous public meetings were held in Fresno to map a strategy for thwarting the move to carve Madera County out of Fresno County's First Supervisorial District.
Strong feelings were expressed on both sides of the issue, and occasionally violence was the result. It was for that reason that Senator George Goucher carried a pistol.
Goucher was Fresno County's representative in the State Senate during the time that the creation of Madera County was being debated and he had decided to support the proposal. His counterpart in the Assembly, George Washington Mordecai, had introduced a bill in that House, authorizing a vote by the people on the matter, so Goucher did the same in the Senate. This action made Charles A. Lee seethe with resentment.
Lee lived in the foothill area of the proposed new county, and he was against its formation, as were a number of his neighbors. During the hearing in Sacramento on the proposed creation of Madera County, Lee was omnipresent -- he lobbied everyone he could reach, urging them in the strongest terms not to allow the required plebiscite.
When Goucher turned a deaf ear to him, Lee responded by "applying vile epithets" to the Senator and "impugning his honesty." Goucher was understandably upset.
On Feb. 19, 1893, Senator Goucher arose from his seat on the floor of the Senate to complain of Lee's attacks and of his presence in the visitor's gallery. The Sergeant-at-arms was directed to remove Lee from the chamber, whereupon the disgruntled and anti-divisionist continued his verbal attacks on Goucher out in the hall, within the hearing of Goucher's good friend, Fred Hamstead.
While Lee was holding forth against Goucher in the capitol building, Hamstead walked up to him and "decorated his countenance with several scientific blows." Lee, for a moment didn't know what had hit him, for Hamstead had drawn upon all of his skill as a professional boxer to teach the obstreperous lobbyist a lesson.
When he had regained his senses, Lee recognized Hamstead as the well-known pugilist, "Young Duchy." Not wishing to engage in a match of fisticuffs with an expert in the field, Lee pulled a revolver from his coat.
The Fresno County lobbyist never had a chance to fire his weapon. He was disarmed by one J.M. Sullivan and taken to jail. Hamstead, for his part, was charged with battery. In the meantime, when Senator Goucher learned of what had taken place out in the corridor, he quickly obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon and bought a pistol of his own.
Both Lee and Hamstead were scheduled for a police court appearance the next day and just before the hearing was to begin, a horse drawn hack pulled up in front of the station, carrying Senator Goucher. He was not one to desert his friends. Goucher walked into the building, informed the officer in charge that he was there to defend Hamstead, and asked to see his client.
At that point, the sheriff of Sacramento County stormed into the station and exclaimed, "See here, Senator, you will have to disarm right now. I don't propose to have any shooting here and won't stand for any nonsense of that kind. Give me your weapon."
Goucher replied, "I will keep my revolver. This man (Lee) has been making threats against my life, and I have a right to protect myself."
With that, the chief of police entered the fray and demanded that Goucher comply with the sheriff's order to turn over his gun. Once again there was a demurrer from Goucher.
"I am a State Senator, and as an officer of the state, I decline to give up my weapon. The law entitles me to carry one," stated the Senator
The Sacramento lawmen recognized that they had more than they could handle by attempting to intimidate Goucher, so they turned to persuasion, and still, Goucher remained firm.
"I am not going to shoot anybody," said the Senator. "This man, Lee, said that he was going to kill me on sight. I was told of these threats by Lieutenant Governor Reddick, who came to me and told me that I had better carry a pistol and be prepared."
With that, Goucher strode into the court fully armed to represent his friend.
Upon Goucher's request, the charges against Hamstead were dropped, and the Senator returned to the capitol building to continue his argument on behalf of Madera County. In this he was successful. The legislature authorized an election to be held in May 1893, in that part of Fresno County north of the San Joaquin river, to determine if the County of Madera would become a reality.
That election was held on May 16, 1893, and the voters approved the proposal 1,179 to 368. On that day Charles Lee who had returned to his foothill home, was seen going from precinct to precinct "wearing an anxious look."
Senator Goucher, on the other hand, was pleased with the results and later was elected District Attorney of the new county. It had been a long struggle, one that had erupted in violence in the state capital and had almost cost the lawmaker his life.