2009 - The Year of Valley History
Constable Fred Weddington Captures Two No Ho Bandits
by Gerald Fecht
reprinted from the NoHo Arts Newsletter March 31, 2009
Once a narrow wooden bridge spanned the Los Angeles River at the base of the ruins of Campo de Cahuenga, where today Lankershim meets Ventura Boulevard. Travelers made their way by horse or buckboard down an unsure dirt road to the banks of the river and climbed precariously up the other side. In the late 1800s, it was a dangerous place in the daylight, let alone on that lingering twilight of a summer evening when Constable Fred Weddington waited to make his arrests.
Like most of the citizens of the sleepy farm town called alternatively Lankershim or Toluca, Fred Weddington followed a commercial occupation and held a civic job as well. Normally he was the proprietor of a general store, but tonight he was wearing the badge of town-constable. Like most lawmen in the last days of the Old West, Fred's duties were mostly dealing with an occasional fistfight or the antics of the town drunk. But, this night was different. Tonight he would confront two dangerous men, and hopefully make arrests for criminal assault and highway robbery.
In mid-World War II, a San Fernando Valley pioneer, Lincoln Hart related this story of Constable Weddington's frightening encounter. Folks in the Valley were still talking about the volunteer policeman's adventure over 50 years later.
A gentle breeze was just promising relief from the heat of the afternoon, when a badly beaten man struggled into the Weddington store. As his neighbors scurried to clean his bruises, the victim related how he was attacked by two surely thugs north of town at the crossing of Lankershim and San Fernando Roads. Aside from pocket change and a small pin knife, the thieves got away with five dollar gold piece (... a lot of money in those days!)
By the time Constable Weddington got to the site of the robbery, the criminals were gone, but a witness indicated that two scruffy characters had skirted the town of Lankershim and we likely heading to the treacherous Cahuenga Pass and an escape into Los Angeles. There was no time to gather a posse, so the part-time lawman headed alone toward the summer trickle of the Los Angeles River.
Unexpectedly, Weddington passed two men fitting the description of his suspects, lingering at the base of an ancient oak tree. Moving quickly beyond them, the constable caught a glimpse of what he decided was a pistol. He would continue to the Campo de Cahuenga bridge where he would execute his confrontation. Hopefully others from town would soon arrive to make his job safer. He hid his wagon near the ruins of old Campo de Cahuenga, and returned to the top of the bridge.
Crows called out their final defiance of nightfall, when the first sounds of boots on the wooden bridge drummed a warning to the young officer. His pistol already cocked, Weddington moved quickly before the men. "Hands up! Don't make me shoot!" Miraculously a horseman arrived, shouting, "Fred, I have them covered!"
In a dizzying whirl, Fred Weddington secured the largest of the men in heavy handcuffs. But, when his helper's horse reared, the other villain escaped down in the river's thick reeds. Other riders soon arrived from Lankershim and the search was on. At length, with the help of startled ducks, the villain was captured. By ten o'clock the heroes of Lankershim brought their captives into town, and secured them in a sturdy storage shed.
Dave Fuller would stand watch throughout the night. Grateful for an uneventful night, he, Constable Fred Weddington and other Lankershim residents, took their prisoners to the big city of Los Angeles. There a second search revealed the stolen gold piece hidden in larger of the two highwaymen's coat. The victim identified his pocket knife as a family gift, the bad guys were off to prison, and the adventure at the bridge of Campo de Cahuenga made its way into history.
The San Fernando Valley in the heart of the Creative Capital of the World, deserves a great Museum of history and culture.
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