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A PUBLIC HANGING

Narrator: Elwood Rogers, 67, of Hamilton, Missouri

In these days when hangings are conducted with as much privacy as possible within walls, the description of a public hanging in 1886 at Gallatin as given by Mr. Rogers, is of interest.

The criminal to be hanged was Jump. He and another fellow Smith had killed in a drunken quarrel the foreman of the construction work on the railroad. They had used a Pitman rod of a threshing machine and had disposed of the dead man in a well out by the old Grand River College. The body was found and the crime laid on Jump and Smith, who denied the charge. One of the two wore a hat which when removed by Mr. Davis father of the druggist Davis of Gallatin showed the railroad bills in the sweat band. They were both condemned to hang, and at the last minute Smith was reprieved (but later hanged).

A double scaffold was built on a flat ground by the railroad tracks. Two hills rose on two sides.

Mr. Rogers rose early to start to Gallatin for the event. As he got to Honey Creek, he came on campers who had slept there all night on their way to Gallatin. Hamilton sent a big delegation; in fact it was a dead town that day. People went from Lexington and even Carrollton. When he got to Gallatin, Mr. Rogers saw the hills about the scaffold crowded with people.

Box cars at the tracks held people on their tops. The scaffold itself was built very high, so one could not miss the sight. Every where were refreshment stands set up and drinking water sold at five cent a glass.

Presently the train pulled in from Maysville where they had kept Jump in jail (The Gallatin jail was burnt, if Mr. Rogers recalls correctly). Jump, handcuffed, was removed from the train, hustled into a buggy and taken to the scaffold. He sang "IS MY NAME WRITTEN THERE?" and "WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB," then the black cap was adjusted and he swang into eternity. After it was over, people bought bits of the hangman's rope. Some men took their sons there as a lesson never to drink and commit murder. It is also interesting to note that the Pitman rod with which the murder was committed was used as a lever to spring the trap for the execution of the murderers. Likewise, it is of interest that the old well in which the murdered man was thrown was covered with logs and was never used from that time till now.

Interviewed August 16, 1934.

 

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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998