Nathan “Tex” Bagwell’s story has all the angles of a memorable story: a likeable and lucky gamer, a mysterious woman, murder, and lingering questions.
Bagwell was shot down early on June 18, 1894, in North Yakima. Theft was not a motive; he always wore two diamond rings and other jewelry and carried $ 38.50 in cash and a loaded gun. Philemene Brassard, the Canadian who claimed to be his wife (although she was not), hired someone to assassinate Bagwell but was never convicted.
So what was the real motive for his murder? And why was such a rich man buried in a poor man’s grave in Tahoma cemetery?
Ellen Allmendinger learned more about Bagwell while researching her new book, “Murder & Mayhem in Central Washington”. Several people, including Brassard, were jailed following the premeditated murder of Bagwell after leaving the Shardlow & McDaniels Saloon at the southeast corner of East Yakima Avenue and Front Street. Bagwell was shot in the back about 100 feet from his home on South First Street and died shortly after, according to Allmendinger’s book.
“They jailed her and everyone else for a trial. She was never tried,” Allmendinger said of Brassard, a mother of two young girls from a previous relationship. Testimonies and pleadings subsequently changed.
Many viewed Bagwell as an honest player and mourned his death, Allmendinger said of the Texas native who came from a town named after his prosperous farming family. “Everyone loved him. He was a nice guy.”
Bagwell’s story is one of several historical criminal cases from Yakima, Kittitas, and Benton counties highlighted in Allmendinger’s book. She chose older cases that fascinated audiences as they unfolded, but were forgotten by most. They include the murder of a popular doctor in Roslyn, the fatal and near-fatal shots of a husband and wife near the missing town of Alfalfa, and a shooting in Kennewick on Halloween 1906.
“Murder & Mayhem in Central Washington” is Allmendinger’s second book. Some of the information in her first book, “Yakima’s Hidden History,” came from the free history tours she conducted in downtown Yakima. Tours did not take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remain suspended this year.
Allmendinger has also led historical tours of Tahoma, which is useful when trying to find graves like Bagwell’s. The simple piece of concrete the size of a brick almost swallowed up by the grass is difficult to locate on the 55-acre cemetery grounds at 1802 Tahoma Avenue.
More than 47,000 people are buried or buried in Tahoma, which was founded in 1889. Among them is another man featured in Allmendinger’s book, George Franklin Dymond.
Dymond, who died in 1955, is buried under a simple gravestone with only his name and the year of his death. He was the oldest of the Dymond Brothers Gang, which also included Clifford, Darrel and little brother Floyd Dymond. Their criminal careers – which included horse theft, theft, prison breaks and murder from the early 1900s to the 1940s – began when each left their parents’ farm outside of Zillah.
George ended up in California; after being released from prison there, he returned to the Yakima Valley. “After all the heckling, George and a sister moved to the Selah / Yakima area. George died in Selah in 1955,” Allmendinger said.
Their parents, Robert and Minerva Dymond, are buried in Zillah Cemetery. It’s important to remember that only four of their 10 children were convicted of crimes, Allmendinger wrote in his book. “The remaining six children should not be considered guilty simply because of their family association, nor the generations of Dymonds that followed,” read a note on page 99.
Allmendinger loves to talk about local history, and while she doesn’t plan any downtown tours this year, she hopes to lead them to Tahoma Cemetery. Yakima County is in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan and will move to Phase 3 with the rest of Washington on Monday.
With that, Tahoma should be able to accommodate small groups outside with masks and social distancing, said Ken Wilkinson, Yakima City Parks and Recreation Manager.
“She has to be a lot more vocal, especially if it’s windy,” Wilkinson said. “We would really like to have them in person if that’s allowed in the next phase. If she’s okay, we’re okay with it.”
If tours take place, registration will be available later at https://yakimaparks.com. People can also watch Tahoma History Tours on the city’s YouTube channel. Sean Lee Davido of the city’s community relations office shot a series of videos with Allmendinger.
“I have another book that’s 80% done about Civil War veterans who came here after the war,” she said, noting that the town of Gleed was founded by a veteran. “I really want to get this one out.”