Window to the Past

Area Hangings in the late 1800ís


Allen County April 1872

There has been a near-lynching, and there has been a hangman's day in the Allen County Jail. There is a bit of rope hanging in the office of Sheriff Baxter which was used in the execution of A.B., April 1872. B. was a resident of historic Shawnee, although a disgrace to the community. He killed his second wife in October 1871, stabbing her to death. He was a man of 50, while she was a woman of 27. He made her grave a short distance from the house. He plowed and harrowed the ground in order to conceal it. While he had swallowed poison, medical assistance saved his life. He was on trial for 10 days before Judge Mackenzie. The verdict was guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged in January 1872, but Governor Hayes granted a reprieve of 100 days.

Prisoner B. was confined to a cell in the basement of the second courthouse in Allen County. There. were so many curious visitors that it was very annoying to the sheriff. The commissioners had ordered the high board enclosure in readiness for the outdoor execution. The prisoner was removed to the new jail in advance of the execution. On Wednesday, before Black Friday, hangman's day, the B. children and grandchildren called at the jail, and the condemned father was the least affected of all. His aged father and brothers did not visit him. The prisoner heard the sound of the saws and the hammers when the scaffold was being built for him. He heard the talk of a threatened mob, and 50 men assembled to guard the jail. The light of the lanterns and the glitter of the muskets held the mob spirit under subjection, and members of the local press witnessed the condemned man prepare himself for the night with little concern as if nothing waited for him the next day. A.B. arose the morning of the execution, had a hearty breakfast and was visited by the Lutheran minister, Rev. Bartholomew, who offered a prayer and read to him from the Bible. He was unmoved through it all. D.H. Tolan, who related the incident may have been the last living witness of the B. execution. He was a publisher of the Delphos Herald newspaper. The sheriff had invited all Allen County publishers to witness the execution. After Mr. Tolan reached Lima, his courage almost failed him. The newspapers were to herald the story to the world. The memory of the occasion never left Mr. Tolan.

Editor Walkup of the Delphos Courant assisted Sheriff Colbath in conducting the prisoner to the scaffold. It was built in the corridor of the jail, and the prisoner stepped from the landing of the stairway onto the death trap. All other spectators remained on the main floor.

Sheriff Colbath trembled while reading the death warrant, knowing it was his duty to launch the man into eternity. When asked for a final statement, B. said nothing. Rev. Bartholomew sang the hymn, "Eternity is Waiting," and the scaffold disappeared from under the man. A traveling show was staged in Lima that day, and the living skeleton, the fat woman, and the wonderful dwarfs attracted the crowd. Lima was full of visitors. The condemned man's body was prepared for burial, and his bier stood on the street where all might see him. He was not sensitive in life, and why should he be shielded in death?

Hanging in Delphos ????

The Delphos Canal Commission - Historical Museum has a picture of a scaffold (gallows) that was erected in front of their building on Main Street in the 1870's. It was said that a man was hanged for stealing a horse. I could find no reference to this in the local newspaper of that time. Every one of the hangings in this area that I read about occurred at the county courthouse.

Putnam County August 1892

In the town of Harrisburg, one night after Newt Marcy's General Store was closed for the night and the family had retired to the upstairs, a rap was heard at the front door. A man called out that he wanted some groceries and cigars. Marcy's son-in-law said he would take care of it, since he knew the father was tired. The man robbed the store and then shot Mr. H., the son-in-law, leaving him to bleed to death on the floor. Mr. H. was the first person to be buried in Prairie Chapel Cemetery, one mile east of Oakwood.

E.B., the murderer, was caught at Parkersburg in March 1880. His accomplices, J.S. and L.S., had been caught shortly before and had turned state's evidence against Mr. B. B. was found guilty by a jury at Ottawa and sentenced to be hanged on the gallows. The State Supreme Court granted a reprieve until June. After the reprieve expired, the execution was carried out at the back of the Putnam County Courthouse in August 1892.

Van Wert County October 1845

In May 1845, the Court of Common Pleas of Van Wert County brought an indictment for willful murder against D.M. who was accused of murdering M.C. with a knife worth about 12 cents, and that 15 mortal wounds were found on the body.

The facts in the case were that it was a drunken fight in which both men were wounded. The only witnesses were a family named G. that kept a shanty boarding house.

At the August term of the court, D.M. was found by the jury to be guilty of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to be hanged in October 1845.

On the day appointed by the court, D.M. was hanged on a scaffold, erected on the west side of the jail, the execution being in public. A high board fence was built around the scaffold, but this was torn down the night before the execution. The day of the execution, people came 30 to 40 miles on horseback to witness it. Strong men wept like children when the trap was sprung. There was a division of opinion, many believing that the verdict was too severe. The body was taken south of Van Wert, buried, and a tree chopped on the grave, but the body was exhumed that night by doctors.

Darke County September 1880

Mr. R. was hanged at Greenville on Friday last for the murder. of his wife's brother, W.C. in October 1879. He confessed to killing six people previous to that time. He was connected with a band of guerrillas in Missouri during the Civil War, and how many murders he committed there is not known. But -he boasted that he had killed seven men in one day and many others at-subsequent periods.

Related Information

E.B. was hanged in August 1891 at the Ohio State Penitentiary. He was convicted of the March 1890 shooting death of A.H. in Putnam County.

F.V.L. was hanged in August of 1893 at the Ohio State Penitentiary, convicted of the August 1891 murder of W.V. who was shot to death during a bank robbery at Columbus Grove.

In the United States, the last PUBLIC execution was by hanging and occurred in Kentucky in August 1936.

By 1950, the laws of six states: New Hampshire, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Idaho and Washington, still prescribed hanging as the method of execution.


The legal definition of lynching varies from state to state. But it includes the execution, usually by hanging, without due process of law, by three or more persons, of an individual suspected or convicted of a crime.

The above information was taken from the "Delphos Herald," "Putnam County Data," "History of Van Wert County" by Gilliland, and the "Encyclopedia Britannica."

Compiled by Robert Holdgreve
Delphos Historical Society

March 30, 2002 Delphos Herald Newspaper

Back to Window to the Past Home - Delphos History