Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Hangman On Western Wednesday...!

This had to be one of the most unpleasant jobs in the West, but it sure did pay well!

Regardless of the stigma attached to the job, it was a very needed profession. Like many jobs that are considered undesirable, it took a special kind of individual to do the job well! I guess that there was a bit of talent to tying a proper knot and making the whole event as clean as possible.

May 6, 1911:
Hangman George Maledon dies

George Maledon, the man who executed at least 60 men for "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker, dies from natural causes in Tennessee.

Few men actively seek out the job of hangman and Maledon was no exception. Raised by German immigrants in Detroit, Michigan, Maledon moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, in his late teens and joined the city police force. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War, and he then returned to Fort Smith where he was appointed a U.S. deputy marshal. The town also had occasional need of an executioner, and Maledon agreed to take on the grisly task in addition to his regular duties as a marshal.

Maledon wound up with more business than he expected. In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed a young prosecuting attorney named Isaac Parker to be the federal judge of the Western District of Arkansas. Headquartered at Fort Smith, the Western District was one of the most notoriously corrupt in the country, and it included the crime-ridden Indian Territory to the west (in present-day Oklahoma). Indian Territory had become a refuge for rustlers, murderers, thieves, and fugitives, and Parker's predecessor often accepted bribes to look the other way. Assigned an unprecedented force of 200 U.S. marshals to restore order, Parker began a massive dragnet that led to the arrest of many criminals. A friend of the Indians and more sympathetic to the victims of crimes than the criminals, Parker doled out swift justice in his court. In his first months in session he tried 91 defendants and sentenced eight of them to hang.

It was Maledon's job to carry out Judge Parker's death sentences. Paid $100 for each hanging, Maledon willingly accepted the work. He tried to be a conscientious hangman who minimized suffering with a quick death. Maledon said he considered the job "honorable and respectable work and I mean to do it well."

In all, Maledon is believed to have hanged about 60 men and to have shot five more who tried to escape. Subsequent sensational accounts of the Fort Smith "Hanging Judge" unfairly painted Parker as a cruel sadist with Maledon as his willing henchman. Yet, it is well to keep in mind that 65 marshals were also killed in the line of duty attempting to bring law and order to Indian Territory during Parker's term.

After Parker died from diabetes in 1896, Maledon met a publicity-seeking attorney named J. Warren Reed, who had written a lurid account of the Fort Smith court entitled Hell on the Border. Attracted by the promise of fame and money, Maledon joined Reed in a promotional tour for the book. He willingly played the role of the ghoulish hangman, displaying ropes he had preserved and telling which were used to execute various outlaws.

After a year of touring, Maledon tired of the limelight and used his earnings to purchase a farm. A small man with a weak constitution, he did not have the strength to work the farm profitably, and soon after entered a soldier's home at Johnson City, Tennessee, where he remained until his death in 1911.

Ya know, I think that George found a great way to "stretch" his income by "stretching" a few necks! Sorry, but I just couldn't resist!

Better take our coffee inside this morning. It may rain, but then it may not! Only the Shadow knows!

6 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

I rarely fail to learn something over here!

Phyllis (N/W Jersey) said...

Interesting. We should bring back swift justice again. Think how much money the taxpayers would save by not keeping criminals comfy for the rest of their lives. And I think Washington would be a good to start.
Cold here at 33. Let me borrow you stove - I'll make french toast for all!

linda m said...

Haha, very funny! I sure wouldn't want that kind of a job. But at least he tried to make their death swift. I remember listening to "The Shadow" on the radio. We are expecting more rain too.

JO said...

I have read about the Judge but don't recall his henchman. Grizzly job but someone had to do it. And a $100. back then was a lot of money.

The wind is back with us again nasty stuff.

Coffee indoors sounds good.

ladyhawthorne said...

I agree with Phyllis. And I think PUBLIC hangings might help deter some of that crime too.

Dizzy-Dick said...

I think they should bring back public hanging.