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The following articles were published in "ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE HISTORY OF ST. LOUIS, A COMPENDIUM OF HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY FOR READY REFERENCE" (1899), which was edited by William Hyde and Howard L. Conard.
"The list of executions that have taken place in St. Louis is a long one, the most notable of which have been the following:
September 16, 1809, witnessed the first official hanging in the Territory of Louisiana. On Monday, June 26, 1809, John Long, Jr., shot and killed his stepfather, George Gordon, at Longs Mill, in the township of Bonhomme, in the County of St. Louis. He was indicted by the grand jury at a special term of the oyer and terminer court held at St. Louis, August 14, 1809, for murder in the first degree. He was tried August 21, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. He was duly executed on the date above given. This was done after the primitive methods then in vogue, and which, it may be of interest to note, were closely fashioned after those prevailing at Tyburn, where so many famous highwaymen of romance paid the last penalty of the law. John Long, Jr., duly escorted, was driven up to the place of execution in a cart. The scaffold was a simple contrivance, consisting of two upright posts across which a horizontal beam was attached. From the beam hung a rope. The condemned man was driven under the scaffold, and the rope was adjusted with a running noose around his throat. When everything was ready the cart was driven forward, leaving the culprit dangling by the neck. Death came to murderers in those days not mercifully by sudden dislocation of the neck, but slowly and painfully by strangulation. It is worth noticing that execution followed judgment in less than a month, which many will regard as an improvement upon the existing dilatory methods in murder cases. It may be stated that the old custom, still observed in England, was to allow three Sundays to intervene between sentence and execution. This custom seems, whether knowingly or otherwise, to have been observed in the case of John Long, Jr., the first murderer hanged by due process of law at St. Louis.
For the next forty years or so the records are not accessible beyond the following mere enumeration for St. Louis. Hugh Kink was hanged for the murder of Martin Green, May 20, 1827. Madison, alias Charles Brown, James Seward, alias Sewell, and Alfred, alias Alpheus Warrick, all colored, were hanged July 9, 1841, for the murder of Jesse Baker and Jacob Weaver. A man named Johnson was hanged for killing one Floyd, the date of execution being March 3, 1843. John McDaniel and Joseph Brown were hanged August 16, 1848, for the murder of one Chavez, a Mexican.
Hugh Gallagher was hanged, December 13, 1850, for the murder of Mary Ann Crosby.
February 14, 1851, John Thomas was hanged at Duncan Island, in the presence of a crowd stated as fully ten thousand, of whom two thousand were women and children. He was attended upon the scaffold by Rev. Fathers Paris and Hennessy. He met his fate with fortitude; his last -words were: "Gentlemen and fellow-citizens: I bid you all adieu; I give myself up to the will of the law and to the Lords mercy." Owing to some improper arrangement of the noose, the fall failed to break the mans neck. He hung for seven and a half minutes before giving the last death convulsion. His death was produced by suffocation.
The crime for which he suffered the final punishment of the law, was the killing of Michael Stephen, a retired soldier, residing near Jefferson Barracks. The men were slightly acquainted. The murder was apparently perpetrated on the highway, the body being discovered in an adjacent wood. Thomas was suspected and was arrested on a Carondelet Avenue omnibus. His shirt and boots were covered with blood. Some eighty seven dollars in gold and silver, and also a leaf or two, torn from a book which had been previously found in Stephens pocket, were found in his possession.
Dodge, alias Vanzandt, and Schoen, alias Shawnee, were hanged July 22, 1853; the gallows used for the purpose being erected in the space between the criminal court room and the jail, so that none could see the final struggles save those within the jail walls. None the less a large crowd were assembled from early in the morning until the executions, in the vicinity of the jail, availing themselves of sheds in the neighborhood to catch a glimpse at the unfortunate culprits. Both men made short speeches. Dodge, or Vanzandt, asked all present to take warning, by his fate, and ended by thanking the jailer and his family-for their kindness. Schoen expressed himself as willing to suffer for his conduct, and expressed his gratitude for the efforts made on his behalf by his American and German friends. The bodies were buried in Rock Springs Cemetery.
On the morning of June 17, 1859, George H. Lamb was executed for wife murder. The crime was deliberately planned and as deliberately executed. Lamb had been religiously brought up, his father being a farmer in comfortable circumstances. In 1856 Lamb met and secretly married Sarah Stafford, a handsome girl of eighteen, described as of excellent disposition and rather more than ordinary education. Lamb soon separated from his young wife, though upon excellent terms - alleging business, etc. Afterward he got infatuated with another woman, and from that time his young wife became a source of embarrassment to him. The outcome was, according to the culprits own confession, that Lamb "on the 17th of December, 1857, in the afternoon, took his wife from the Astor House to the upper ferry landing, where he obtained a skiff in which, with two other persons, whose names he did not reveal, he proceeded down the river to within half a mile of the island below the city, where he seized his wife and held her head under water until she suffocated; then, tying a rope around her neck, one end of which was attached to a stone, he threw her over the side of the boat, and she sank, never to rise again." Twice before he administered strychnine to his wife in order to destroy her. A fortnight after his dastardly and cold-blooded crime, Lamb married again. Three months later he was in the hands of the police, charged with murder, at the instance of the father of his victim. After the usual delays of the law, justice was finally vindicated, and Lamb swung.
November 11, 1859, J. W. Thornton was hanged for the killing of Joseph Charless. The crime for which he was executed created intense excitement at the time, owing to the circumstances and the prominence of the parties concerned. Thornton enlisted in 1844 as a private of the marine corps, on board the United States battleship Columbus, Commodore Biddle commanding. He saw considerable service abroad, having visited China and Japan, and doubled the Cape of Good Hope and the Horn. Obtaining his discharge, he came to St. Louis in 1848. In 1849 he was deputy city registrar under Lemon; and later received the nomination for the registrarship from the Benton party, but failed to be elected. In 1850 he was appointed secretary of the Boatmens Saving Association, having charge of the books and receiving a salary, subsequently increased to $200 per month. This position he retained for some time, but when the robbery from the bank of several thousands of dollars took place, he was suspected and discharged. Some time following he was arrested and arraigned for the robbery, but was finally acquitted. One of the witnesses against him was Mr. Charless, against whom Thornton conceived a violent hostility. Meeting Charless one morning on Market street, Thornton drew his revolver, and, after some angry words, fired two balls into that gentleman's body, from the effects of which he expired early the next morning. Public indignation rose to the fever point. The unfortunate victim received an imposing funeral, while a small mob marched upon the jail, threatening to take Thornton out and lynch him. The murderer was tried before the criminal court, found guilty and ordered hanged. An unavailing appeal was made to the Supreme Court. The mercy of the Governor was prayed for, but without avail. At a quarter past three in the afternoon, Thornton stood over the drop, a minute later his body was dangling in the air. He died bravely. The remains were taken to the Calvary cemetery. A crowd of several thousand persons assembled around the jail, drawn by that love of horror that seems to affect so strongly some temperaments, though they could see nothing to satisfy their morbid curiosity.
Samuel S. Brust was hanged October 31, 1860, for the murder of Frederick W. Schmidt in a room of the Green Street Exchange. Both men were Germans, and friends. Brust had not made a success in America, and was about returning to Europe when he chanced across Schmidt, who befriended him. Schmidt carried about in a belt something like one thousand dollars. This excited the cupidity of Brust, who succeeded, finally, though not without a desperate struggle, in cutting his victims throat. The crime took place March 9, 1860. Brust succeeded for a time in evading the detectives, but was ultimately arrested at Cincinnati; returned to St. Louis, tried and convicted. During his incarceration, Brust, who was a man of great physical strength, made repeated attempts to escape by picking away the stones of his cell and breaking the fetters around his legs and wrists. Brust mounted the scaffold with firmness, and delivered a speech in German, in which he admitted his crime. Death was instantaneous.
Valentine Hansen was executed April 15, 1862, for fatally shooting Ellig, a fellow German, and his landlord. Valentine belonged to the Second Missouri Artillery, and was stationed at Fort No. 4. He rented a house of Ellig, adjoining the one occupied by Ellig himself. Their wives disagreed, and Ellig, wishing to get rid of the family, raised the rent upon them. This Hansen and his wife regarded as a grievance. In order to be revenged, Hansen reported to the sergeant at the fort that he thought Ellig was a secessionist, and asked two men to be detailed to assist him in affecting his arrest. This request was granted. Hansen, thus reinforced, presented himself at the Ellig home. Here Mrs. Ellig denied her husband being in the house. Upon Hansen insisting, Ellig advanced from one of the sleeping rooms, remarking: "Here I am; what do you want with me ?" Hansen and one of his companions at once began firing; but Hansens shot alone seems to have reached the mark. A large crowd assembled to witness the execution, but the curiosity of the morbid was not gratified. The fall was badly managed, and there was a long and painful struggle before the end was reached.
William Wilson suffered the extreme penalty of the law June 27, 1862, for the murder of Policeman John C. Gilmore. Wilson, with another man of the name of Burns, being wanted for a burglary attended with violence, Sergeant Gilmore, with two other policemen, went to a well known resort of the parties, on Thirteenth and Chamber Streets, to arrest them, but found there only their women "friends," who signaled to the criminals to keep away, by means of displaying lights in the window. This the officers finally stopped. As the men still avoided the place, Gilmore instructed his fellow-officers to leave by the front door, and so allow him to effect the capture alone. Thinking the way now clear, Wilson and Burns slunk in by the back dolor, but only to be confronted by Gilmore. A conflict followed, in which Wilson shot Gilmore in the throat. For this Wilson was hanged, the jury disagreeing as to Burns. Wilson was a notoriously bad man, who had previously been arrested for murder, burglary, larceny and for nearly every other crime in the calendar.
Michael Kearns, a native of Ireland, was hanged January 23, 1863, at St. Louis, in the presence of some three hundred persons and a guard of twenty men of the Thirty-seventh Iowa Regiment, assigned for the purpose of maintaining order. The crime for which he forfeited his life was the murder of Robert Baker. Kearns was connected with the river traffic, and was a man of drunken and dissolute habits. In company with Thomas Smith, he had a quarrel with Baker, whom both proceeded to attack. Baker defended himself as well as he could, when Kearns, drawing a knife, struck him a fatal blow. For the killing Kearns and Smith were put upon trial, November 26, 5862. Both men were found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Hamilton R. Gamble, Governor of the State, granted a respite, but in the case of Kearns the law was finally allowed to take its own course. Thomas Smith, was, however, at the last moment, granted a further respite, and was never hanged.
July 23, 1869, William Edwards, alias Roach, was hanged for the murder of Louis Wilson. The execution aroused some angry comments. This is what the "Missouri Democrat" had to say about it: "If he had been a wealthy white man, no jury in the land would have convicted him. Look at the circumstances. The wife of Edwards was grossly insulted at a ball. When she resented the insult by calling the man a liar, he struck her; knocked her down. Her husband, being present, as a matter of course went to her assistance. In the fight which ensued he slew the man who had insulted and struck his wife and he was hanged for it." When Edwards was hanged the jail yard was crowded with spectators, and some of the windows of the Laclede Hotel were utilized by sightseers. The drop being too long, the unfortunate mans feet touched the ground. The marshal, aided by some of his assistants, took hold of the rope so that the dangling victim was clear of the ground. Governor McClurg was severely criticised for denying all executive mercy.
October 22, 1875, Henry Brown, colored, was hanged at the city jail for the murder of a farmer of the name of Pfarr. The crime was one of unusual enormity. The brute died protesting his innocence, although his guilt had been proven beyond the possibility of doubt. So eager were some to witness the execution that the roof of a house opposite the west wing of the Four Courts was crowded by people who had paid $1.50 each for the privilege of standing room.
Wife murder is one of those crimes for which juries and Governors have, no mercy. It was for such an offense that Patrick O'Shea was hanged at the county jail on the morning of April 9, 1875. The ghastly deed was done with a pocket knife, and presented many features of atrocity. Patrick O'Shea met his end with bravado. Speaking to Deputy Jailer Fortin, on the eve of execution, he remarked jocosely: "Mike, I feel just as happy as a king, and I wish you'd tell Watson that if he can't tie the knot, to bring the rope to me and I'll tie it for him." At the same time he denied his guilt, declaring that no one had seen him commit the crime.
Three Sicilians, Dorninico Damina, Bastiano Lombardo and Antonio Catalano, were hanged February 18, 1876, for the murder of Francisco Palermo, an Italian lemon seller, twenty-five years old. The crime was committed on the morning of March 13, 1875, on Broadway, between Bremen Avenue and Angelica Street. There, as Palermo was walking with his basket of lemons, he was fired upon by one of two men, who were hid behind an old board fence on the same side of the street. Palermo turned and ran across the street, but, upon gaining the sidewalk, two shots were fired upon him from a lumber pile only a few feet away. He fell mortally wounded. The man had been regularly ambushed, and there was no doubt that his destruction was deliberately planned. Suspicions fell upon five Sicilians. By following the footsteps of the wife of one of these men, the detectives succeeded in effecting their capture. The case coming to trial, the jury found no difficulty in finding the three men named guilty, and they were ordered to be hanged. The case was carried to the Supreme Court, upon appeal, but without changing the result; and executive mercy being refused, the sentence was duly carried out. That Palermo was himself a desperate character was probable. Indeed, the defense charged that he had killed his own uncle, and that his putting away was but an act of self-defense. As Damina ascended the scaffold he is said to have kissed the scaffold quite affectionately two or three times. An incident quaintly reminiscent of the fierceness of the old Calabrian vendetta, which regards satisfied vengeance as the supreme happiness.
William Wiener was hanged February 1, 1878, for the murder of James M. Lawrence. Wiener was a young man of but twenty-one years of age, and his case aroused much sympathy, as the fatal shooting for which he was executed resulted from the misconduct of his worthless wife, who, by her vagaries was known as "Crazy Jane" among her set, which was of the most vicious. The pair were separated, but the woman seemed to take a delight in pestering her husband. Wiener was engaged as an assistant watchman and "bouncer" at the Opera Comique; and there "Crazy Jane" would go in one of her drunken spells. On the night of January 29, 1877, Lawrence, who was assistant barkeeper at the saloon adjoining the Opera Comique, called Wiener down to see his wife. It is said he did not know of the unhappy relations existing between the pair. Be that as it may, upon the departure of the woman, Wiener accused Lawrence of having done him "a dirty trick." High words followed. Lawrence seized a soda bottle, to throw at him, and Wiener drawing his revolver, shot him with fatal results. Appeals were made for executive mercy, but without avail.
The crime for which Henry J. Redemeier was hanged April 23, 1880, was of particularly deliberate and callous character. A stone mason named Vosz was engaged with some six others, in setting a heavy stone in a foundation, when Redemeier (who had no apparent business on the premises) was seen to approach. Pushing the muzzle of his weapon within three inches of Voszs head, he fired. One of the workmen attempting to interfere, Redemeier pointed his pistol at him, and ordered him back. He then again advanced, and with the words, "I guess he ain't dead yet; I'll give him another," once more fired into Vosz. When in the lock-up, Redemeier remarked coolly, "I'm glad I did it, I done my work well." Upon his arrest he admitted that he "had it in for Vosz for two years."
Edward Nugent was hanged the same day for the murder of his wife, which crime was committed August 20, 1876. The woman, it appears, had refused to serve him with a meal, which he had demanded; but a long series of family jars seems to have preceded. The woman appears to have used her tongue freely, working her husband up to an "intense pitch of excitement." The son and daughter of the condemned man united in petitioning the Governor for mercy, but the law was allowed to take its own course, the chief executive regarding the case as one of "willful, deliberate and premeditated wife murder." The double execution of Nugent and Redemeier took place before an assemblage of some seven hundred persons, who had crushed into the jail enclosure, while a crowd of some two hundred were gathered together on a house on Twelfth and Clark Avenue, to catch a distant view of the gruesome spectacle. For Nugent considerable sympathy was expressed, but his brutal companion died unlamented.
Matt Lewis was hanged in the jail yard, March 14, 1884, for the murder of his wife by stabbing her, October 13, 1876. The man was not arrested until the following September. The case went to trial no less than four times. He was finally convicted November 26, 1879, and sentenced to be hanged. Lewis was a tough character and had been more than once under the shadow of the scaffold. During his several years in the jail, he succeeded to the title of the "Father of the Jail," a distinction which in a murder case says much for the laws delays. Lewis left behind him a confession of his guilt, but sought to palliate his crime by accusing his wife of infidelity.
Charles Wilson, colored, was hanged January 15, , 1886, for the murder of William David, on December 31, 1882. Wilson worked on the boat "Fanny Tatum," of which David was mate. Owing to some disagreement Wilson ran away from the boat, but subsequently returned to demand payment of some money that he alleged was due to him. He claimed that the mate put him ashore and brutally drove him away. Be that as it may, Wilson threw two missiles at David, one of which struck him on the head. The man died within half an hour. Wilson was promptly arrested while trying to escape, and was tried and convicted, December 13, 1883. The case was taken to the Court of Appeals, and afterwards carried up to the Supreme Court, but without avail. Wilson met his fate bravely, dying as a Christian. He claimed that if he had been a white man he would never have been hanged. His case aroused much sympathy in several quarters.
Robert Grayor was hanged December 10, 1886, in the jail yard, St. Louis, for killing Berry Evans, May 6, 1883, with a club. Evans and he had worked at Reilly & Wolferts stables, and the night before they quarreled about their work, when Evans, Grayor said, struck him with a whip. Next morning they met at the stable; Evans taunted him and Grayor struck him twice with a stick. Evans died that afternoon, and Grayor was arrested, while hiding behind a bale of hay in the loft of the stable. He was tried and convicted April it, 1884. The case went to the Supreme Court, and was twice there affirmed.
Daniel Jewell, a steamboat cook, was hanged April 15, 1887, for the murder of his wife by shooting, at her mothers residence, 1118 Morgan Street. At the time of the crime Jewell was but twenty-one years of age. It was a case of jealousy, the young couple having more than once quarreled and separated. He wanted his wife to return to him, and she refused. She accused him of carrying a pistol, which he denied. She insisted, and placing her hand on his pocket, felt the weapon. He then drew the pistol, and inflicted a wound from which the woman died. After the usual delays Jewell was hanged.
Alfred Blunt, a little hunchbacked negro, was hanged in the city jail yard June 24, 1887, for the murder of his wife, in Carondelet, May 21, 1886. The pair quarreled frequently, the man charging the woman with not caring for him, because he was a cripple, and with going with other men. The woman left her husband, who, meeting her, demanded that she should return. She then proceeded to the police station and asked that an officer should accompany her home, as she was afraid she . would be killed if she went alone. The request was denied. Arrived at home, the pair soon commenced quarreling. Finally the man cut the woman's throat with a razor, subsequently crushing in her head with a hatchet, "to end her sufferings," as he explained. Friendless, and clad in rags, and with a pair of carpet slippers too large to stay upon his feet, Alfred Blunt dropped from the gallows unwept of all, save an aged mother. He is described as altogether the most neglected murderer who ever met death at the Four Courts.
Henry Landgraf was hanged August 10, 1888, for fatally shooting Annie Fisch, his sweetheart, March 5, 1885. Landgraf accused his mistress with being familiar with other men, a fact she finally admitted. Thereupon he determined to kill her, freely expressing himself to that effect. His original intention was to kill the woman at his brothers house, and he took her there apparently for that purpose. Being refused admittance, Landgraf opened upon the woman in the street with a revolver. After lingering fifteen days she died; and for the crime the man was hanged. Landgraf was thought by many to be half-witted at the time.
Hugh M. Brooks, alias Maxwell, was hanged August 10, 1888, for the murder of Charles Arthur Preller in room 144 of the Southern Hotel. The crime was, perhaps, the most sensational that ever occurred in this city, and the fact that Brooks was, like his victim, an Englishman, added in no small measure to the excitement. Brooks and Preller had made acquaintance on board the steamship "Cephalonia," on their way to this country; and the result was a friendship, apparently as false on one side as it was sincere on the other. Brooks was without means, but Preller was well provided and generous; and the pair arranged to proceed to Australia in company, after having done the United States. Preller rejoined Brooks at St. Louis, where they were last seen together on Easter Sunday of 1885. The next day Brooks left the hotel alone, leaving two trunks and a handbag behind him. Disguising himself, he hastened to San Francisco, and in a few days sailed for New Zealand. Suspicions meanwhile being aroused at the Southern Hotel, the trunks left behind were opened. In one of these the body of Preller was found with a placard attached reading: "So perish all traitors to the great cause." This was but a piece of cheap melodrama, indulged in possibly with the view of making the crime appear an act of vengeance on the part of the Fenian Brotherhood, which was just then very active, and with many sympathizers among the Irish-Americans in this country. The sleuths of the law were not, however, to be thus easily hoodwinked. Brooks, alias Maxwell, was in course of time captured in Australia, and returned to this country to pay the penalty of his crafty and cold blooded crime. Brooks met his end with composure, and declined to indulge in any speech-making as "theatrical and hackneyed." His defense was that Preller died under the influence of chloroform, and that murder was never intended. Some sensation-mongers affected to fear that international complications might arise out of the affair. But Great Britain is too prompt in dealing with her own murderers at home, without much concerning herself as to their nationality, to cherish aught but sentiments of gratitude for a nation which, by due process of the law, ridded her of a particularly choice specimen of a ruffian.
Henry Henson was hanged August 13, 1891, for the murder of his wife Ida, a timid and lovable woman, to whom he had been married less than three months. Henson on his arrival at his home, on the evening of February 2, 1887, found one of his wife's lodgers, a crippled tailor, leaving. He thereupon accused her of receiving the attention of the tailor. This the woman indignantly denied. He thereupon shot her with a revolver, and a few minutes later fired upon the woman's son, as he was hurrying from the room in horror. The defense was accident, but the jury brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree. Henson met his fate with scoff and defiance. The clergyman who sought to bring him spiritual consolation he called "a soap peddler," and ordered him out of his cell. He resisted the summons to death furiously, struggling with the officers for a time like a maniac. Though Henson referred to himself as a Dutchman, in the words "I show you a game Dutchman," he was, in fact, neither a Dutchman nor a German, but a native of Denmark.
Charles Wilson, colored, was hanged July 26, 1894, for killing Moses Hodges by shooting him on November 8, 1892. The trouble between the pair arose over a woman. Wilson displayed great nerve throughout the whole affair, even to the extent of passing his last few days in writing sentimental verses to "Annie," the woman who had been the cause of all his trouble. He died without bravado. His last words, delivered after the fatal black cap had been drawn over his face were: "Good-by, boys," in reply to "Good-by, Charlie," addressed to him by several of the deputies, who stood around him on the scaffold.
Sam Welsor was hanged January 12, 1894, for the murder of Clementine Manning, his sweetheart or mistress, on August 4, 1890. In the fall of 1889 Miss Manning had won five thousand dollars in the lottery and was preparing to leave her surroundings, which were not of the best; when Welsor heard of her fortune, and called to see her at 514 Market Street. He then threatened to kill her if she attempted to abandon him. The woman persisted in her intention, and Welsor shot her no less than five times through the head. The murderer tried to feign insanity, but without success. Welsor was to be hanged shortly after 8 oclock in the morning. Shortly after 5 oclock a crowd began to assemble and pack the corridors of the Four Courts. The crowd at the execution was the greatest witnessed in years upon such an occasion at St. Louis. Welsor met his fate with fortitude, declaring himself as sorry for what he had done, and that he was no longer, as once he was, "in the same boat with Bob Ingersoll," but died believing he had a soul to save.
James Fitzgerald was hanged February 20, 1896, for the murder of his sweetheart, Annie Naessens. He left a letter, addressed to the public, protesting his innocence. The execution presented a painful spectacle. The rope first used breaking precipitated the doomed man some eight feet to the wooden platform below. After a delay of over an hour, during which Fitzgerald writhed with agony despite all the doctors could do to alleviate his sufferings, a fresh rope was obtained and the condemned man was strung up for a second time. During the delay angry murmurs arose among the crowd of onlookers, and so threatening did their attitude become at one time that a detail of policemen were sent into the jail yard, as a measure of precaution.
John Thomascheutz, a Bohemian, was hanged June 22, 1898, for killing Anna Rausch, by shooting. The girl was but eighteen years of age, pretty and well-mannered. She was a clerk in one of the downtown stores and was head of her department, receiving what was for one of her years a good salary. Thomascheutz was infatuated with the girl, and pressed her to marry him. This she, though apparently inclined to be most friendly, declined to do. Meeting her one evening as she was returning home after visiting a relative, the young man renewed his suit. "I can not, John," faltered the girl. "Then you will die, and I will die with you," returned the desperate and ill-balanced young man. Drawing his revolver Thomaschreutz shot the girl in the back, severing the spinal column. For this cowardly crime he was arraigned and sentenced to be hanged. During his incarceration the condemned man affected insanity, even to the extent of refusing to recognize his two brothers on the eve of death. Weak and nervous, he met his death as a poltroon.
George Thompson, colored, was hanged August 1, 1898, for killing Joseph Cunningham, white, by means of poison, administered September 29, 1894, Thompson bore a grudge against Cunningham for having replaced him as janitor. Meeting Cunningham on the afternoon of the day named at St. Peters Episcopal Church, he invited him to share his luncheon. As the invitation was cordially made, Cunningham readily consented and ate freely, Thompson affecting to have no appetite. The food was heavily charged with strychnine and the result was fatal. Thompson was tried and duly sentenced. His case has some historic interest, owing to the fact that he was the only condemned murderer in the criminal history of Missouri, up to his time, who ever appeared personally before the State Supreme Court. Three times was the death watch placed over Thompson prior to the execution, and three times was he respited through legal technicalities. Another notable circumstance in connection with the case was the use of poison, a piece of cunning foreign to the negro nature. Thompson was married, lived comfortably and was unusually thrifty for one of his race. Like most of his color he did not lack for physical courage when the last supreme test arrived."