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October 1, 2017

 

In 189o, Clark County Washington saw it's only legal hanging. A man by the name of Edward Gallagher had been arrested for the murder of a nice old farmer in Skamania County. He has also, supposedly, stolen $2ooo that the farmer had in his farm.

He was convicted, obviously, since the hanging was legal, but maintained that someone called "Snowball" had actually done it.

Snowball? This makes my head spin. What kind of name was Snowball? A crime name? Was this the kind of man who was soft and white and made you think he was sweet, but was actually a cold blooded killer? Were Gallagher and Snowball in it together, but Snowball pulled the trigger? Or was it an ironic name for someone dark and hard and brooding? Or maybe Gallagher really did do it, and the same insanity that made him a murderer, made him believe in this character. Maybe Snowball was one of the names that Gallagher had segmented his own personality into. Or maybe it was a figment of his broken mind, a bunny, perhaps, like Harvey.

We'll never know, that much is for sure. But it sure caught my eye while I was digging around on my favorite website Newspapers.com. [This is not spon con. I honestly just love the site.]

For a writer, there is nothing like the cold hard truth, told by people who were there at the time, to fuel you stories.

The headline I included was from the Los Angeles Herald. This hanging was a big deal. Gallagher did not go down easy, but I'll let you read it in the words of the folks who were there:

During Vancouver’s hanging holiday of 1890, witnesses said Edward Gallagher “fought like a demon” to avoid his doom. The convicted murderer was calm when Clark County Sheriff M.J. Fleming led him from his cell that summer afternoon to the makeshift gallows erected just for him at the courthouse square. Two hundred ticket-holders were invited by the sheriff, but on Friday, July 11, as many as 500 people — nearly 9 percent of Vancouver’s population — cheerfully filled the dirt roads near 11th and Harney in morbid curiosity.

A 45-by-80-foot stockade was built to shield the gallows, but that didn’t stop the throngs from pouring in to witness the 27-year-old’s miserable end. It was a celebration of death. Parents held their children in the air so they could get a clear view. Others peered through cracks in the barrier. A women sold peanuts 25 feet from the noose. Father Schramm offered to pray, but Gallagher refused. He said he didn’t believe he would die that day — despite the bloodthirsty crowd before him, the $225 spent on his execution, the lawmen flanking his left and right. Instead, with a “slickly idiotic smile,” he apologized to the audience for his appearance and promised he would do better next time. He said “the soldiers” would save him.

Reality struck when his hands were bound. For three maniacal minutes, Gallagher swung his arms and kicked violently, knocking over the sheriff and his helpers. Seven men finally subdued him. The death warrant was read, a black hood pulled over Gallagher’s head and the noose tightened. Sheriff Fleming, who was paid $50 for the deed, gave the condemned man one more chance to confess to killing and robbing Lewis Marr, an old farmer found dead on his land in the Lower Cascades area of Skamania County. “

Did you kill that man, or did you not? Now, answer,” the sheriff said, according to newspaper accounts. From beneath the black hood, Gallagher sneered his last words: “None of your damned business.” Fleming pulled a lever and Gallagher dropped seven feet through a trap door. At that moment, a young girl pushed her way through the now-hushed crowd and sat on a bench, her eyes fixated on the dangling man as life left his body. For 11 minutes, according to one newspaper account, she and the townspeople watched as Gallagher swung into infamy as the only man ever to be legally hanged in Clark County.

 

I copied the above selection from a fascinating Columbian article found here: http://www.columbian.com/news/2013/sep/15/edward-gallagher-legal-hanging-holiday-1890/

I can't possibly use all of the fascinating stories I come across in my research, and even what I do use, I use as inspiration only, or for fact checking my own crazy ideas. But, you know what I can do with it? I can share it with you guys. After all, if your here, it means you also enjoy a good murder! [That may be going a bit too far, but I think you know what I mean! :D]

 

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