Johnson To Hang
Murderer of John Fox Pays Penalty on Gallows – He Is Told to
Prepare for Death and is on the Verge of Breaking Down
Trinidad, Sept. 13 – Word was received this morning from
Sheriff Davis of Las Animas county, who is now at Canon City, that Joseph
Johnson, the former deputy sheriff and body guard of Statesman Barela, will be
hanged in the execution house of the state penitentiary at 8 o’clock tonight.
Johnson was told this morning to prepare for the end and at
7:45 o’clock tonight Warden Cleghorn will read the death warrant to him.
Johnson is reported to be on the verge of nervous breakdown from fear. (Aspen
Daily Times, September 14, 1905)
Wednesday night at 8:30 Joseph Johnson was quietly hanged in
the penitentiary at Canon City, for the murder of John H. Fox of Trinidad on
the 8th of August. The murder was a most atrocious and cowardly one.
(Daily Journal (Telluride), September 15, 1905)
Galbraith Pays Penalty – Executed Monday Night for Murdering
Wife and Son February 22, 1904 – Walked Bravely to Trap and was Perfectly
Resigned to Death – Laid Downfall to Whisky – Canon City, Colo., March 6 – Azel
Galbraith was executed at 8 o’clock tonight for the murder of his wife and son
at Russell Gulch last year. He walked to the trap with a firm step and showed
no fear of the fate he met. His neck was broken and death was practically
instantaneous. Every provision of the law governing executions was observed and
there was only the witnesses allowed by law.
Galbraith exhibited remarkable courage during the terrible
ordeal he was called upon to face. His walk to the place of execution was firm
and elastic, and he manifested but little concern, apparently having made up
his mind to meet his fate bravely. He was given an opportunity to speak and he
said that he had committed the crime for which he was about to pay the penalty
and that strong drink caused his downfall. He warned others of its fearful
When he finished his hands were tied behind him, the black
camp was adjusted, the rope placed about his neck and he stepped upon the trap,
which, in a few seconds, launched him into eternity. The weight dropped about
eight feet and the neck of the prisoner was broken, resulting practically in
instant death. After a few minutes Dr. T. D. Palmer, he penitentiary physician,
examined the body and pronounced that life was extinct. It was cut down and
taken away to be prepared for burial.
The execution was witnessed by warden John Cleghorn; Thomas
Cody, sheriff of Gilpin county; James L. Beaman, former sheriff of Pueblo
county; A. Sandberg, sheriff of Clear Creek County; T. D. Palmer, penitentiary
physician; Rev. Mr. Lucas, chaplain of the penitentiary; William Granger,
deputy warden; Thos. Scott, yard master; Clarence Cleghorn, overseer; W. H.
Peabody; W. H. Arnet, Capt., T. W. Connor and c. A. Lindquist of Denver and Dr.
F. M. Cochems of Salida.
Condemned Man Welcomed Consolation of Religion
The fortitude shown by Galbraith was not inspired so much by
bravado as by resignation to the punishment which he confessed he deserved.
Rev.J. T. Thomas, pastor of the first Presbyterian church, spent the greater
part of the afternoon in the cell offering him such spiritual consolation as
was possible. Galbraith expressed repentance and said he was resigned to death,
although he feared that his courage would fail him when the test came. He
stated that he preferred death to life imprisonment and said he hoped the
governor would not commute his sentence at the last moment.
Galbraith attributed his crime to whisky, and asked Dr.
Thomas to point to him as an example of what strong drink would do. He
repeatedly knelt upon the floor of his cell and in prayer asked forgiveness for
Chaplain Lucas was with Galbraith also, and did everything
he could to console the condemned man.
Galbraith was born at Mount Morrls, N. Y., and 34 years old.
He leaves a brother in Salt Lake and two sisters, one in Fort Collins and one
in Walden, Colorado. His parents are dead. Galbraith was received at the
penitentiary July 3, 1904. He was reprieved three times.
Galbraith killed his wife and son, the latter nine years
old, February 22, 1904. The crime was committed in the family home at Russell
gulch, and he used a revolver, shooting them while they were in bed. He claimed
that he intded to commit suicide at that time but his courage failed him.
(Weekly Courier, March 8, 1905)
Abe Taylor Hanged
Emerson’s Murderer Pays the Penalty of His Crime on the
Gallows – His Perfect Composure – Canon City, Dec. 13 – Abe Taylor, the
murderer of City Marshal Emerson of Alamosa, was hanged at 7:40 this evening in
the penitentiary. He went to his death with perfect composure. His neck was
Taylor was a ranchman near Alamosa, and, with an with an
accomplice, stole a load of oats from a neighbor and took them to town to sell.
The marshal had been notified and arrested them. While the officer was working
with the team, which balked, Taylor got a pistol and a duel began which
resulted in the marshal’s death. Taylor was captured, tried and convicted of
murder in the first degree. The supreme court reviewed the case twice, both
times affirming the judgment of the lower court. Efforts to have the governor
and the state board of pardons interfere were unavailing. Taylor seemed perfectly
unconcerned about his fate. (Herald Democrat, December 14, 1895)
One Thing Lacking
Abe Taylor, probably told the truth when, before being hung
at Canon City, he said he had no malice against Marshal Emerson and had no real
intention of committing murder.
There are a great many men like Abe Taylor running loose.
They are not murderers in heart, and have not killed anybody yet, but they have
grown up with a mortal aversion to such a thing as discipline of the mind and
soul. They are hardly to be seriously blamed, for much of the trend of our
social life is in the same line of shunning or shirking discipline. And so,
many a man of naturally excellent qualities, many a woman of good, disposition,
goes to ruin when the sudden temptation overwhelms the undisciplined mind.
With numbers of men all about us who have for years trained
themselves to practical hatred of those who oppose them, whose lifelong habit
has been to “get even” and assert self, the wonder is that so many of them
finally go down to a peaceful death without having been Abe Taylors. (Colorado
Weekly Chieftain, December 19, 1895)
Near Midnight’s Hour
Thomas Lawton is Hanged According to The Laws of Colorado
Canon City, Col., May 6 – Thomas Lawton was legally hanged
inside the penitentiary walls at 10:20 o’clock tonight, them being present only
those persons allowed by the law. The time set of the execution was not
generally known, as in compliance with the Colorado laws, the hanging was
private. An hour or more delay was caused by Lawton breaking down completely
and being unable to mount the scaffold. Time was granted him to gain his
composure and then the hanging was proceeded with without any other
The crime for which Lawton was executed was the killing of
John Hemming, and the story of the crime is as follows: On the night of August
17, 1891, two men held up a car of the rapid transit railroad in Colorado
Springs at the extreme north ? of the town. They first attacked Conductor Ward
and Motorman Joh Hemming hurried to his assistance. When Hemming came up one of
the robbers shot him and he died the next day. The robbers escaped and would
probably still be at liberty had not one of them, a young ranchman named Alfred
Russell confessed that he and Thomas Lawton had committed the holdup but that
Lawton was the man that killed Hemming. For Russell’s part in the affair he was
sentenced to life imprisonment and is now in the penitentiary where his partner
in crime (Lawton) was hanged tonight. Lawton, which, by the way was an assumed
name, was about 24 years of age and came from Missouri. The name of the town,
however, he would not divulge. (Kansas City Times, Saturday, May 7, 1892)
The Execution of Lawton
Thomas Lawton was hanged at Canon City on the 6th
for the murder of John Hemming, the Colorado Springs motorman, last summer.
Lawton refused to tell what his true name is or where his parents are, and
showed but little interest in the manner of his coming death until an hour or
two before the time set. Then he weakened and begged for mercy. He declared,
however, that he was not guilty. The only person that he seemed to think of was
a young lady of Manitou to whom he seemed very much attached. (White Pine Cone,
Friday, May 13, 1892)
Hanged at Canon
Noverto Griego Expiates His Crime Upon the Gallows in the
Noverto Griego Hanged
Canon City, Nov. 8 – Just as the huge bell in the belfry of
the state penitentiary tapped the hour of six tonight, the soul of one of the
inmates of that institution, Noverto Griego, took its flight by the gallows
route, and in a few minutes afterwards the legal record was completed that the
first execution under the new law had taken place within the massive walls of
the state bastille.
Griego’s crime was the murder of old man Underwood at
Trinidad on June 4th for the purpose of robbery.
A few minutes before the hour set, Warden Lamping approached
the dungeon door and directed Griego to prepare to meet his doom. The Mexican
replied with a smile that he was ready. The heavy iron door swung back and he
stepped out as calmly as nothing unusual was going to happen. His spiritual
adviser, Father Depalma, followed close by his side encouraging him with words
and assurance of a better future.
The condemned man stepped upon the scaffold and took his
place under the noose. He was asked if he had anything to say and replied that
he had no more than he had already said, only that he would die happy and
believed he would go to heaven. He then spoke a few words to the priest and the
warden after which they bade him goodbye.
Without further ceremony the black cap and noose were
adjusted. The signal was given; the trigger was thrown; the 275 pound weight
shot down and the manacled form of Greigo shot heavenward like a rocket. A few
convulsions and all was over. In nine minutes the physicians pronounced him
dead, and in 15 the body was cut down. It will be taken to Trinidad for burial
by his wife, who is here. (Aspen Daily Times, November 9, 1890)
The Fate of James Joyce
Denver, Jan. 17 – A special from the penitentiary at Canon
City describes a new and novel plan whereby James Joyce will tonight
unconsciously commit suicide on the gallows, thereby relieving the warden from
disagreeable necessity of participating in the execution. The problem has been
effectually solved by means of a water gauge. This gauge consists of two
buckets, one set above the other. When the cork is pulled out of the upper
bucket it pours its contents into the lower bucket and raises a float which
regulates a dial in the execution chamber. At the same time the water foaming
out of the upper bucket, at the end of a specified time, releases a ball
weighing 20 pounds which falls and pulls the trigger that lets the weight fall
and jerks the victim in the air.
The machine is set in operation by a rod which connects with
a platform standing in the center of the death chamber. When the prisoner comes
in his hands are strapped behind him, he is asked to step upon the platform. As
he does so the platform sinks a little and sets the terrible machine in the
closet behind him at work. Suddenly, snaplora-hl the weight has fallen and the
victim is dangling in the air with three feet and a half of vacancy beneath his
feet. (Aspen Daily Times, January 18, 1891)
Pays the Penalty of His Crimes
Canon City, Sept. 22 – Davis will die tonight. The last hope
of the condemned man is banished. All day long the stealthy bustle of
preparation for the execution of the law’s decree has been going on. Among the
prisoners the prison silence is more oppressive than usual. They knew that one
of their number is to die. Outside the prison there is little excitement, and
glances of morbid curiosity are cast at the grim walls by the passers by. But
there will be few witnesses, and few know the exact hour of the execution.
Hence but little active interest is manifested.
Davis will be hung by the same machine that was used so
successfully in the case of Joyce last winter, and which has been fully
described. By it a man virtually hangs himself. The ignominy of the hangman’s
touch soils not the hands of the officials.
The death watch has been set on Davis. The man bears up
well. He says little, and shows no signs of weakness. The condemned man slept
well last night and those who know him do not believe that he will weaken on
Denver, Sept. 22 – On the night of the 7th of
last January, at Pueblo, Colorado, William H. Davis, shot and instantly killed
his mother, Mrs. Carrie Armsby and James Arnold, a lodger in the house. Arnold
was a white man, about 45 years of age and Mrs. Armsby, a light mulatto about
50. Arnold had made his home in the family for nearly 10 years and it is
alleged by Davis had been unduly intimate with his mother during the most of
that time, a condition of affairs which had often caused trouble between he and
Another cause for bad blood between the two men was worth
probably $30,000 acting under the advice of Arnold, who had obtained great
influence over her, refused to furnish her son with any more money to spend in
On the day previous to the murder, Davis, who had been
drinking, went to his mother’s house and demanded that she give him some money.
Arnold interfered and the demand was refused, and Davis left the house, vowing
vengeance. Davis secured a shot gun and about midnight that night he went to
the house occupied by his mother and demanded admittance. Arnold got up and
opened the door, but on seeing the gun in Davis’ hands, refused to allow him to
come in. Quick as a flash, Davis raised the gun and discharged it squarely in
Arnold’s face. Arnold immediately slammed the door shut and bolted it, and
staggered into the next room where he fell into a corner, dead.
Finding the door locked against him, Davis placed the muzzle
of the gun against the lock and fired again. Mrs. Armsby, who had been aroused
by the first shot was sitting up in bed, directly in range of the second shot,
and was instantly killed, falling back in her original position in the bed.
Davis was arrested a few minutes afterwards at his sister’s house.
At his trial he played the insanity and self defense dodges
without success and was sentenced to be hanged between July 18th and
24th. A respite as granted in order that his case might be taken to
the supreme court. Here a supersedeas was refused and the governor seeing no
reasonable grounds for interfering Davis was executed at the hour mentioned
Denver, Sept. 22 – W. H. Davis, who murdered his mother and
her alleged paramour, James Arnold at Pueblo on January 7th, because
they refused to give him money with which to continue his spree was executed in
the prison yard at Canon City at 9 o’clock tonight. Everything worked to
perfection, the condemned man’s neck being broken instantly and death was
painless. Davis showed no fear and stood up bravely. A few tremors of his body
and all was over. The doctors found him to be a pure blooded white man, not
having a drop of negro blood as reported being only a foster child to the woman
he killed. (Aspen Weekly Times, September 26, 1891)
WILLIAM S. VAN HORN
The Execution of Van Horn
Forty miles from Denver, on yesterday, a man, who had for
some time previously been confined in the jail at this place, was sent into
eternity for the dreadful crime of murder. There had been no attempt to create
a morbid sensation upon the subject by the city press, only the bare facts of
the case had been given to the public, yet scarcely met a man, or fell into a
little gathering, but the topic of conversation was in regard to the solemn
event. And it was everywhere treated with solemnity. It is a dreadful thing for
a man to go before his Maker in such a manner – for such a cause.
There was one man more sensibly affected by the event than
others – Mr. Cavanaugh, the counsel of Van Horn, who has most thoroughly and
completely identified himself with the prisoner – and as the hours rolled by,
he would count them as days. It is no fault of his that Van Horn was convicted
– not his fault that he was hung. The evidence was too clear, and he could not
It is but just to Mr. Cavanaugh to say, that he still
insists, that that infamous woman (Mrs. Squires) killed Copeland; though he
does not pretend that Van Horn was ignorant of the deed. His reason for this
belief he has promised to communicate to us, that we may give them to the
public at a proper time. As well as the great public we are of course, quiet
incredulous upon this point.
There has been no mistake made. The verdict expressed by the
throng around the gallows yesterday was correct. There should have been two
persons hang instead of one, and the other person was Mrs. Squires. She only
escaped by turning State’s evidence. That Van Horn was her victim, however, no
less than Copeland, is apparent to every person who has posted himself in the
The Execution of William S. Van Horn for the Murder of
Josiah Copeland – Special Correspondence of the Commonwealth – Central City, 11
p.m. Dec. 17, 1863. The execution of Van Horn for the murder of Copeland in
October last, has occasioned greater excitement interest and curiosity in
Central City and I may say the whole Territory at large, than any other event
of the kind that has ever transpired in this country. Van Horn arrived here
this afternoon between 5 and 6 o’clock in custody of U. S. Marshal Hunt, who
was accompanied by a strong guard of the First Cavalry. Great anxiety was
manifested by the people to catch a glimpse of the man who had defied their
laws and was now about to perish for his rashness. Few however, were gratified,
he being taken directly to the jail. The prisoner seemed more calm on his way
here, than he had been for several days previous to leaving Denver, and has
evidently determined to die game. Perhaps, too, the objects around him have
occupied his mind, as he is looking at them with mortal eyes for the Last Time!
But who can imagine the terrible struggle which is going on within his breast,
between the weaknesses of human nature and the strong desire to hide those
weaknesses from human gaze, or the thoughts upon a thousand subjects which must
crowd themselves upon the brain under such circumstances.
As the evening advances, whisky flows faster and faster, men
try to keep pace with it with their tongues – the streets are crowded with loud
talking people – and an occasional pistol shot, fired by some man whose brain
is overheated with firewater, indicates that it is about time for your
correspondent to retire.
There is no indication of any disturbance and a general
feeling of satisfaction with the officers having Van Horn in charge. I have not
heard of the least disposition to rescue him from the hands of the authorities,
and every precaution is taken to prevent any interference with the orderly
executions of the law. This is all the people want.
Yours C. M. F.
Friday – The Execution
Central City, Dec. 18, 1 p.m.
Friday morning opened cold – and dark overhanging clouds
threatened a storm. The streets were filled at an early hour by throngs of
people passing and repassing, who as they met a friend would stop to inquire
for news, or, to ascertain the exact hour if possible that the execution would
take place. Crowds surged like angry waves of the ocean – jostled one another
at the street corners in the passages of saloons and at hotels. Hundreds
gathered about the front of the jail where Van Horn was confined, vainly
endeavoring to get a look at him. The day had more the appearance of a grand
fair, jubilee, or carnival, than that of hanging a man for murder. By 10
o’clock all business was suspended, few paid any attention to dinner or even
cared for it. At eleven the clarion notes of the military bugle called the
guard to prepare for the great event. Not only did it call the guard, but other
hundreds of people rushed to the place from whence the wretched man was to
emerge. Eureka Gulch was perfectly blockaded by the throng. Tiplers hastily
tossed off their dram, boys shouted, women in the neighborhood rushed to their
doors or threw up their window sash – each and all eager to behold everything
that transpired. A three-seated vehicle drawn by two large mules ornamented
with musical bells, was driven before the door, and the prisoner having his
shackles removed was brought forth. The military were dismounted and formed in
two lines up and down the road under command of Lieut. Dickerson – The prisoner
then took a place in the back seat of the wagon, between Sheriffs Cozzens and
Wilson, the former of Gilpin, and the latter of Arapahoe County. The appearance
of Van Horn was calm, but there were unmistakable signs of grief about his
eyes. He was dressed in a suit of grey cloth, wore a black felt hat, cloth
gaiters, much worn, and wrapped around his shoulders he had a pair of heavy
blankets. He was almost mute, only requesting that he might be hung quickly.
Many who had anticipated a speech or confession were disappointed.
Both the Sheriffs asked him several questions, among which
had he any request to make, or any message for them to deliver. To but one of
these questions he made reply, seemingly from a fear that if he began to talk
he could not control himself. Once, and only once, he made a verbal answer and
that was “I have only one favor to ask. That you drive quickly – let the
business be well done – but don’t let me wait a minute. I want it done with.”
From the jail to the place of execution is about three
fourths of a mile, the route passing the Express office, and down that street
until some distance below the office of James E. Lyon & Co., then taking
the Casey road for about one-third of a mile. The crowd followed quickly, keeping
up with the sad procession of civil and military authorities, but with less
clamor than is usual on such occasions. Not a word was said above the ordinary
tone of conversations, neither was there any unusual or avoidable jostling.
The Scaffold was erected upon the hill, some two hundred and
fifty yards east of the powder magazine, on the Casey road, and almost directly
north of Mountain City. No less than two thousand persons were present, among
whom were at least one hundred women. The crowd, considering its numbers and
the occasion, was the most orderly and quiet I ever beheld. Few jocular
expressions were used by them as is usual upon scenes of this kind, a fact
quite creditable to the inhabitants of Gilpin county.
The gallows had been duly prepared, and everything was in
readiness. No pains were spared to make the quick work which the law’s victim
had desired. As soon as the wagon stopped, Van Horn got out, at a signal from
one of the officers, went straight up the steps of the scaffold, placed his
feet firmly together upon the drop – put his hands behind him in very
anticipation of the orders from the executioners. Marshall Hunt tied his feet,
Lt. Soule, fastened his hands, and Sheriff Cozens pulled the black cap over his
face. All these things were don ein perfect concert, but cooly and without any
flurry or bungling. – Marshal Hunt, then drew his hankerchief through his left
hand, giving it flirt, and the person whose duty it was pulled a cord which let
the drop fall, and Van Horn was swinging in mid air! The time occupied in the
preliminaries was inerpdibly short. It was not sixty seconds from the time that
he put his foot upon the first steps to ascend the scaffold, until he was
hanging by the neck.
There was no confession of the horrid crime, of which not a
soul present believed him innocent – not a word of warning to his fellow men –
not a prayer offered by a priest – but an awful dispatch in the dreadful work,
which seemed to impress the crowd more than any or all of these could have
done. I have seen some five or six men hanged, but never witnessed such
Upon the fall of the drop, Van Horn fell from three to four
feet; the knot of the rope did not come as it out, just back of the ear, but
caught under his left jaw. It must have been three minutes before the first
convulsion occurred, when he drew up his feet and jerked violently, and these
contortions occurred at intervals for over twelve minutes. At the end of
eighteen minutes, there being no signs of life, he was taken down, and placed
in a plain pine coffin stained black. Dr. Goryell, who had been called by
Marshal Hunt, then examined the body, and declared life extinct, although the
neck was not broken. Another physician in attendance also attested the fact. As.
Lieut. Soule took the rope off the neck of the corpse, a noise proceeded from
the mouth like a terrible groan, which started many of those present, not a
little. The features had not the distorted look which is usually attendant upon
violent deaths, and the discoloration was confined mostly to the lips and
finger tips. His eyes were closed as naturally as if he only slept.
Before closing the coffin, four or five females, claiming to
be friends of the dead man came to take a last look at him, but turned silently
away without any evident intensity of grief. I did not learn who they were.
The coffin was then placed in a common lumber wagon, and
taken to the point of the hill near the Powder Magazine, and was buried in a
grave previously dug, about 100 yards from the spot where the murder was
Business is business. Of course an enterprising disciple of
Daguerre was present, and while the body was yet hanging, the Messrs. Collier
of the Register, Sheriff Cozzens, and your correspondent were standing upon the
scaffold, trying to make an estimate of the number of the crowd, he took a
faithful picture of the scene.
I understand, that Rev. Mr. Vincent visited Van Horn in the
jail but with what result, I am not at this writing informed. I expected of
course that the wretched man would desire a prayer to be made as he was
launched into eternity, but it seems that he was determined not to yield even a
semblance of a confession.
There was but one expression o opinion sa to the guilt of
the man; but the opinion appeared to be just as universal, that although he
committed the act, that the principal witness Mrs. Squires, was as deeply
guilty in a moral point of view as Van Horn and I am fully persuaded, that had
she been within reach of the crowd, that, calm and orderly as it was it would
have made her pay the same penalty without further ceremony.
Slowly the crowd dispersed by tomorrow morning this city
will wag its usual way but it will be a long time before the impressive event
of today will be effaced from the memories of those who witnessed it. I desire
here to return thanks to Marshal Hunt for his kindness in affording me means
and place to witness every ting; also to Capt. Dan Doyle, John P. Waddell of
the express office, Mr. John Kinna, Lt. Soule and J. M. Johnson of Golden City
of the almost indispensable favors I received at their hands. C. M. F. (The
Daily Commonwealth, Saturday, December 19, 1863)