Thursday, August 13, 2015

Citizen Justice, Ellis County, Kansas, 1872

From the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, August 30, 1872:

A Tragedy of Hays City, Kansas -- A Man Murdered in a Saloon -- His Murderer and a Horse-thief Chained to a Post in Jail and Shot by a Mob

Hays City, Kansas, is not a pleasant place to live in, or to die in. People die there more readily than they can live there; and the graves with which the Cemetery is abundantly studded are of what may be called abnormal origin.

The revolver is a more prolific source of obituaries than any other disease, and bowel complaint is far less fatal than the Bowie-knife. 

For years past Hays City has been the abode of the most desperate characters in the Union, and consequently the scene of the most terrible tragedies which ever made even the inhabitants of that dark and bloody border country ashamed of the reputation and of their class and locality.

On Thursday night last, in Hays City, there was done

And this was the deed and the manner of its doing:

A few days before one Jack Wright went to Hays City from Dodge City, the prospective terminum of the Atlantic, Texas, and Santa Fe Railroad, to buy some lumber for building purposes. 

In one of the low doggeries with which Hays City abounds, he met one McClelland, a resident of Ellsworth, and familiary known as the Wickedest Man in the State. 

Both parties had been drinking, and both were stimulated to jealousy by the presence of a trail if not fair one, in the person of Nettie O'Baldwin. 

Words ensued, and then McClelland loudly asserted that the only object which he had in going to Hays City was to kill Jack Wright, and that now was the appointed time. 

In a moment, amid a frightful din of profanity and remonstrance, pistols were drawn, and their short, sharp crak announced that murder was being done. 

McClelland's first shot pierced Wright's stomach, and he fell to the ground.


His death-wound, however, did not prevent him from thrice firing on and wounding McClelland. 

One ball took effectin the deperado's head, another in his left hand and a third in his abdomen--all three wounds being severe, but not necessarily fatal. 

In a moment the fight was over, and in less than half an hour after its occurance Wright was a corpse, McClelland a prisoner, and the woman, O'Baldwin, an exile, having departed no one knew whither. 

McClelland's wounds were dressed and he was placed in jail, the basement of a one-story frame building used as a Courthouse. 

A chain was fastened to his ankle, and the other end of it was fastened to one of the posts supporting the building. 

To the same post was fastened in a similar manner a well-known horse-thief, "Pony" Donovan, who had received frequent warnings to leave that section of the country under penalty of death, warnings which he had treated with contempt. 

The community had been terribly excited by the shooting affray and the arrest of Donovan, and suspicious knots of men met at all the street corners, muttering ominously that two such ruflians would not be allowed to leave the city alive, or, indeed, to see


The nigh, however, passed away undisturbed, and the pale beams of another morning sun shone in on the fettered wretches. 

This delay in the execution of the popular vengeance was only a respite and not a pardon; it was only accorded to await the return of a messenger, who had been sent to Dodge City to bring to Hays City a brother of a murdered man. 

The next night came. At the dead midnight hour a band of men met in the square; all were armed, all silent. They approached the jail and surrounded it. 

By the light of their torches could be seen crouching against the post to which they were chained the two desperadoes, the graver criminal, McClelland, swatched in bandage. 

The mob had no pity for them, who were fastened there like cattle awaiting the ax of the butcher. 

A curse of hatred broke from Donovan's lips. McClelland was asleep, but started up as the light flashed upon him. 

Its lurid glare was to him as the blaze of opening hell. In a moment the glistening barrels of a dozen guns were thrust throught the windows, a detonation followed, and when the thin blue smoke cleared away out on its curling wreaths floated


McClelland, a man of iron frame, was shuddering and moaning in an agony from which death soon relieved him. Thus perished, without a word of warning or a moment for reflection and repentance, these two miserable men.

The event has caused much excitement and much regret in Hays City. The public are divided in opinion, nearly all regretting that an act of popular violence should have occurred in the city when the regular authorities were abundantly able to vindicate the majesty of outraged law, while they all acknowledge that the murdered men deserved death, and that crime has attained to such proportions in the vicinity as to require vigorous repressing. 

Indeed, the whole country in the vicinity is ravaged by organized bands of desperadoes, whom to oppose or resist is to court violence and death.

Only a few days since one of these bands, under the leadership of Jack Donovan, a reputed brother to the one killed in jail, and Black


Fron the vicinity of Dodge City, and seriously wounded a man who was on herd at the time. \

They attire themselves Indian fashion, thus screening themselves from recognition, and shifting their crimes to innocent parties, thus when any member of these parties are caught they are most summarily dealt with, and evidence is point blank that these two who were thus suddenly hurled into eternity by an outraged and exasperated populace met a fate they only too richly deserved.

-- end of article.

Editor's  Note:

You just have to love the way they reported the News back then. There was no such thing as Political Correctness or glossing over the facts.

Although reading about some of these things does make me wonder at time of Micah 6:8 which happens to be my favorite Bible verse.

Too bad some folks just can't do the simplest things required.

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. I guess back in those days they really DID wanna leave ya hanging. Haha.


Thank you for your comment.