On this date in 1888, Jochin Henry Timmerman was hanged across from the cemetery in Goldendale, Washington for the murder of a freight driver.
The account of this bit of local color in a territory still a year away from statehood comes from Washington’s HistoryLink website.
The page includes a lengthy account of the crime and capture of the only man ever hanged in Klickitat County. We excerpt here the affair’s climax.
Because Timmerman steadfastly maintained his innocence, the execution was scheduled to take place after the arrival of the April 6 daily overland mail stage. This was in case Territorial Governor Eugene Semple (1840-1908) sent a stay of execution. Early Klickitat Valley Days states “Friends of Timmerman had a skilled long distance rider with a swift saddled horse waiting at a railroad telegraph station (in) Grant, Oregon, 15 miles from Goldendale, across the Columbia River. A steam ferry tug waited on the Oregon shore, so the rider would not be delayed, if a coveted life saving yellow envelope was placed in his hands” (p. 78). Governor Semple sent no telegram, and the mail stage arrived without a letter of reprieve.
Timmerman, meanwhile, was given a quart of whiskey upon awakening and allowed to consume it all in preparation for his ordeal. The execution took place in Goldendale under Sheriff VanVector’s [sic] direction on a gibbet erected directly across from the town cemetery. The event drew a large crowd. Cora E. Van Hoy Ballou, who watched the execution as a young child, later remembered her mother calling to her and her sister on the morning of April 6, “Wake up children, pappy has gone to the barn to get the team. We’re going to town to see the hanging” (Early Klickitat Valley Days, p. 78). The Van Hoy family was not alone: The Washington Standard reported that more than 3,000 people witnessed Timmerman’s execution.
Timmerman rode to his execution in a wagon sitting up in his own coffin, reportedly smoking the cigar. He mounted the scaffold unassisted and tossed the cigar butt into the crowd, who fell upon it and fought for bits as souvenirs. Local tradition later told that just before his hanging Timmerman prophesied that Goldendale would soon be destroyed by fire, and indeed, on May 13, 1888, a little more than a month after Timmerman’s execution, seven blocks of Goldendale’s business district did burn down.
Timmerman went to his death maintaining his innocence. His last words are reported to have been this advice: “All I can say is that if you ever get caught in a scrape like this, don’t let them take you alive”