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Santa Cruz County History - People
Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson
LABISCH, OTTO (MIKE) (1842-1913)
Santa Cruz Sentinel (January 24, 1891)
IOOF Cemetery in Santa Cruz
Otto Labisch has been granted a pension.
Santa Cruz Sentinel (September 12, 1894)
Three Men have Narrow Escapes from Drowning
On Sunday Mike Labisch and Mr. Arnold, the express man, had a close call for their lives up the coast while gathering mussels for the Grand Army clam bake. Arnold was on a flat rock with Labisch close to him but nearer the shore. Arnold told Labisch to keep a lookout for the high breakers, which are treacherous and roll in without warning. Suddenly a huge breaker rolled in and covered Arnold who was dashed against a rock. As the breaker was receding, carrying Arnold with it, Labisch rushed to the rescue, the water reaching his armpits, and dragged Arnold to a place of safety. For a time there was a desperate struggle, it looking as if both men would be carried out to sea. Arnold was badly bruised that it will be a week or so before he will be able to attend to his business.
Santa Cruz Sentinel (July 22, 1899)
Mike Labisch’s Arm and Shoulder Shattered by a Shotgun
Mike Labisch, an old resident of the valley is the victim of an accident, which resulted in the loss of his left arm, and may probably cost him his life. The old man went out dove hunting, but met with indifferent success. While tramping over the Royce ranch Labisch had occasion to climb over a fence. In doing so the fence broke down and his gun, an old fashioned muzzle loader, was accidentally discharged. The load of shot entered the armpit, shattering the bones of the arm and the shoulder blade and lacerating the flesh in a horrible manner.
The injured man was brought to town, and his left arm and a portion of the shoulder blade were amputated. Labisch is over 70 years of age, but he has a strong constitution and rallied bravely after the operation. His injuries are of a very serious nature, and he will have a hard fight for his life, as his age is against him- Watsonville Register
The injured man resided in Santa Cruz for many years, where his brother and sister still reside. His father came here from the mines some forty years ago, and for a long time conducted a blacksmith shop in East Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz Sentinel (June 3, 1900)
Fired Four Shots
M. Labisch Makes a Target of C.W. Whitfield
Almost a Murder on Watsonville’s Main Street Saturday Afternoon
Between two and three o’clock Saturday afternoon Mike Labisch attempted to murder C.W. Whitfield on Main St. Watsonville. Labisch fired four shots, neither of which will prove fatal.
It appears that Labisch accused Whitfield of abducting his daughter, which Whitfield denied. Labisch sought the law in trying to recover his daughter while Whitfield, fearing that his life was in danger, wanted to have the irate parent bound over to keep the peace. When Labisch met Whitfield there was an excited talk, ending in Labisch, who is a one armed man, pulling out his pistol and firing at Whitfield, who was unarmed. One bullet struck Whitfield’s finger, another struck him in the neck, causing a flesh wound, and a third entered the groin. When three shots had been fired, Whitfield, who objected to being made a target of, started to run away. Labisch fired the fourth shot at him and the bullet struck a horse. Whitfield continued on the run until he reached Judge Gaffey’s office where his wounds were attended to by physicians.
Labisch was arrested. Sheriff Besse and District Attorney Knight were notified by telephone and immediately started for Watsonville.
Whitfield had been active in Watsonville in promoting athletic sports. Labisch, who is an old soldier, has been a resident of this county for many years. Before moving to Watsonville he was in the saloon business in this city.
District Attorney Knight and sheriff Besse returned from Watsonville at a late hour Saturday evening.
Whitfield made the following statement:
I reside next door to Labisch. Yesterday morning I saw Mrs. Labisch beating her daughter. This morning I was awakened by Labisch coming to my house and demanding admission. I arose and asked him what he wanted and he said that he wanted his daughter and accused me of abducting her. I told him I did not know anything about his daughter; that I had not seen her nor knew where she was. Labisch then applied a vile epithet to me and said that if I did not bring his daughter back in six hours he would kill me.
Afterwards I met him on Main St. and he kept following me around and making threats, saying that I only had six hours to live. I was afraid of my life and applied to Judge Gaffey for a warrant for his arrest for making threats. Labisch then had me arrested on a charge of abducting his daughter. I was on my way from Judge Gaffey’s Court on Main St. to secure bondsmen when I saw Labisch coming up the street. In order to avoid him I stepped into Rudebeck’s saloon and remained there until I thought Labisch had gone by. Just as soon as I went out of the front door I saw Labisch pull out his pistol saying that he might as well start the ball rolling then and there. He fired the first shot, which struck me in the groin. The I grappled with him trying to secure the pistol. The second shot took off two fingers on my right hand. Then I turned to run, when he fired again, the bullet striking the back of my head, inflicting a severe scalp wound. I then ran away.
I positively assert that I d not know anything about the whereabouts of Labisch’s daughter.
The physicians say that Whitfield will recover.
Labisch has been placed under $1,500 bail pending his examination next Saturday.
Santa Cruz Sentinel (August 3, 1900)
The Labisch Trial
Testimony Regarding the Cause that Led to the Shooting
At the trial of M. Labisch, who is accused, of an assault with intent to commit murder, Tina Labisch, over whom the trouble occurred in Watsonville, testified on Thursday. She said that C.W. Whitfield, the man who was shot resided next door to her parents’ home; that he told her he loved her, but she never became infatuated with him; that he gave her books to read and told her that she ought to go into society.
Miss Labisch further testified that Whitfield gave her liquor to drink.
When her father saw her coming from Whitfield’s house, she made a confession to him that implicated Whitfield. It made her father very angry. Witness testified that Whitfield suggested that she go to San Jose. This was two months before she did go. Witness mentioned the names of young men in Watsonville whom Whitfield introduced her to.
Labisch testified that the loss of his arm had afflicted his nervous system. When his daughter had confessed to him he lost control of himself. When he was unable to find her his condition of mind was such that made him irresponsible. He admitted shooting Whitfield, but regretted having done so.
Medical testimony was introduced to show the effects on Labisch’s mind the confession of his daughter would make. The case will go to the jury today.
[Editor's Note: Labisch was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. On the first ballot the jury stood 9-3 for conviction. No notice could be found as to his penalty.]
Santa Cruz Sentinel (February 25, 1905)
Otto Lavish, the one armed veteran and former resident of this city, but now of Watsonville, was in town Wednesday to get his transfer from Wallace-Reynolds Post G.A.R. to the Watsonville Post.
Watsonville Pajaronian (September 20, 1913)
"Mike" Lavish Has Passed to Beyond
Old Man Who Spent Nearly all Life Here Passes to His Rest
Death took an early day resident of this county this morning when Otto, more familiarly known as "Mike", Lavish passed away after a short illness at his home on Rodriguez street.
"Mike" Lavish was one of the most familiar characters on Main street and his person and the perambulator, in which he carted the horseradish he sold, will be missed by many as it was an unusual occurrence if he did not make several trips up and down that thoroughfare each day.
He was a native of Berlin, Germany, and was seventy one years of age. He came to this country when very young. In the 50's and until about 1860 he lived in Santa Cruz. He then came to reside in this city but after a short stay he returned to Santa Cruz and entered the saloon business, that and the gaming table being his mode of earning a livelihood. While residing here Lavish was at one time a member of a Sheriff's posse which was evicting people from disputed property on the Santa Cruz road. In this case one Valencia was the man who was being put out. During the altercation Lavish shot Valencia in the mouth with an old ball and powder pistol. Valencia was not much hurt and was able to spit the bullet out along with most of his teeth.
On November 12, 1864 Mr. Lavish enlisted in the 8th California infantry and was a private in Co. A. serving until the regiment was mustered out on October 24, 1865.
He was a determined man of much grit and will power. About fifteen years ago while hunting southwest of town he met with an accident. The charge from his shotgun tore through his left shoulder and left the arm hanging by the cords. He picked up his gun and game and holding up the remnants of his arm walked to town where an amputation of the injured member was found necessary. A few days later he was up and around town seemingly none the worse for his terrible experience.
A few years later he had an altercation with a person known as "Prof." Whitfield at whom he took five shots with a revolver, making three of the bullets take effect, although none of the wounds were fatal. In this affair he had the sympathy of the community and if it was the general feeling that he should have done a better job. However, for this offense he was made to serve a short time in the county jail.
Otto Lavish in his prime was a robust and handsome appearing man and one of the fastidious dressers of that time. He was a congenial fellow and always known as straight and honorable. Of late years he has been sliding down the ladder of life. He is survived by a wife Mrs. Annie Lavish.
In 1905 he joined R.L. McCook Post 26, G.A.R. in this city and they will conduct the funeral services at the Burland-Herbert parlors on East Lake Avenue tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.
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