Posts filed under 'Washington'

1858: Qualchan

1 comment September 24th, 2010 Headsman

“Qualchan came to see me at 9 o’clock, and at 9:15 he was hung.”

George Wright

It was this morning in 1858 that the gaily dressed Yakama Indian guerrilla Qualchan turned himself in to his Anglo hunter, and was promptly put to death.

Wright was prosecuting the Yakima War in the Pacific Northwest — another characteristic Indian conflict featuring a formerly remote tribe suddenly cursed with valuable land by the discovery of gold.

Qualchan (sometimes “Qualchen”, “Qual-Chen”, or “Qualchien”) was among the Yakima chieftains resisting “encouragement” to give up that part of their territory most desirable to white settlers, and eventually, Qualchan killed encroaching white miners and made himself an outlaw.

For more than two years, the army hunted Qualchan in vain as he harried white settlers around Washington — or, as Wright put it,

Qual-Chen … has been actively engaged in all the murders, robberies, and attacks upon the white people since 1855, both east and west of the Cascade Mountains … committing assaults on our people whenever the opportunity offered.

Late in the game, the American military had been reduced to a Bushian with-us-or-against-us posture:

Kamiakin and Qualchan, cannot longer be permitted to remain at large or in the country, they must be surrendered or driven away, and no accommodation should be made with any who will harbor them; let all know that asylum given to either of these troublesome Indians, will be considered in future as evidence of a hostile intention on the part of the tribe.

The expedient that induced this potent commando to throw his own life away was the capture of Qualchan’s father, Owhi, rather dishonorably effected on an invitation to parley, then parlayed into a threat to execute the hostage lest the wanted Yakima produce himself.

“I thought then the worst that could happen would be a few months’ imprisonment,” remembered Qualchan’s wife (who was also present). “You may imagine my terror and consternation when I saw that they were making preparations to hang my husband. I first thought it was a huge joke, but when I saw the deliberateness of their preparations, the fullness of their treachery and cowardice became apparent.”

And since the U.S. was maintaining that draconian view of Qualchan’s collaborators, Wright followed up his triumph with summary hangings over the next several days of several more Palouse. By the month’s end, he was prepared to declare the Indians “entirely subdued.”

Wright’s rough peace caused the nearby creek in eastern Washington to be christened “Hangman’s Creek”, though there’s been a tendency to steer away from that frightful name in recent times. But what better way to honor an indigenous foe of colonial land conquest than by naming a golf course for him?

The unfolding fate of the Yakimas is further explored in the public-domain book Ka-mi-akin, the last hero of the Yakimas, whose title character was Qualchan’s uncle.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Murder,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Outlaws,Pelf,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Terrorists,USA,Wartime Executions,Washington

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1904: Zenon Champoux, French degenerate

Add comment May 6th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1904, the state of Washington carried out its first execution under the auspices of a new law requiring that hangings be held in that state’s penitentiary in Walla Walla.*

Its subject was French-Canadian laborer Zenon Champoux, and his crime was as flamboyant as his moniker: publicly planting a knife in the forehead of a dance hall girl who did not return his affections.

The first man executed under the auspices of the Evergreen State, we admit, is a milestone that’s a bit on the smaller side.

But we think his name stands out admirably in the annals, especially paired with a characterization like the Seattle Star gave him: French degenerate.

“Zenon Champoux, French Degenerate” — it’s the scoundrel who’s rogering your girl, or else the branding on his designer condoms. On this date in 1904, it was just the guy at the end of his rope.

* Previously, hangings had been conducted by counties, in public. Laws removing them to the auspices of the state and behind the walls of a prison were in vogue at the time.

Washington went on to abolish the death penalty in 1913, only to reinstate it again in 1919.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,Sex,USA,Washington

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1993: Westley Allan Dodd, child molester

19 comments January 5th, 2010 Headsman

Just after midnight this date in 1993, Washington state carried out the first legal hanging in the U.S. since 1965.

Pornstached child molester Westley Allan Dodd is the textbook “incorrigible sex offender” case study. That’s certainly how Dodd himself asked us to interpret him.

“I have said all along the system does not work,” he wrote of his long career in pedophilia, notoriously unrehabilitated by the criminal justice system. “I knew what I was doing, I knew it was wrong. I knew I could get the death penalty if caught.”

From the usual humble beginnings in teenage child-groping, and despite several arrests over the years, Dodd devolved into abducting young boys to actualize horrific fantasies he did not scruple to jot in his journal.

Incident 3 will die maybe this way: He’ll be tied down as Lee was in Incident 2. Instead of placing a bag over his head as had previously planned, I’ll tape his mouth shut with duct tape. Then, when ready, I’ll use a clothespin or something to plug his nose. That way I can sit back, take pictures and watch him die instead of concentrating on my hands or the rope tight around his neck — that would also eliminate the rope burns on the neck . . . I can clearly see his face and eyes now…

He suspects nothing now. Will probably wait until morning to kill him. That way his body will be fairly fresh for experiments after work. I’ll suffocate him in his sleep when I wake up for work (if I sleep).

In short: not the nicest guy, though also a monster as much pathetic as diabolic.

Dodd pleaded guilty to his three sex murders, and fought for his own execution. The state of Washington obliged him in a speedy three years.

Although the Evergreen State had lethal injection on the books, Dodd also availed his right to select its holdover alternative method, hanging.

Those kids didn’t get a nice, neat painless easy death. Why should I?

Which justification’s nobility (such as it is) is considerably more socially gratifying than, say, a hankering for the gallows’ post-mortem priapism.

(He didn’t get everything, though: they turned down his request to televise the hanging.)

Not content with his headline-grabbing mode of departing the world, Dodd had a hand in a statutory milestone, too. His stranger-danger nightmare case surfacing in the fall of 1989 was part of the background that drove Washington to pass the nation’s first sexually violent predator law, the Community Protection Act of 1990.*

Trutv.com’s Crime Library has a good deal more about the mind of this particular maniac.

* It was really Earl Shriner’s crimes more than Dodd’s that led most directly to the new law, which licensed indefinite “civil commitment” of sexually violent predators after the completion of their criminal sentences.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,Serial Killers,Sex,USA,Volunteers,Washington

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1858: Chief Leschi

2 comments February 19th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1858, Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe was controversially hanged at Fort Steilacoom (present-day Lakewood) in the Washington Territory.

Yankee officer Isaac Stevens only spent four years in the Washington Territory as Franklin Pierce’s appointed governor, but he left his stamp on the state.

And no project defined the tenure of this authoritarian executive like putting the screws to the native peoples. Growing white settlement in the Pacific Northwest was creating conflict with the Indians who already inhabited it. In time, that conflict would claim Leschi.

Late in 1854, Stevens summoned the chiefs of several tribes in the newly-minted Washington Territory for an offer they couldn’t refuse: pack up and move to reservations of a few square miles’ undesirable territory, ceding 2.5 million acres to white settlers.

Chief Leschi — and it was Stevens’ men who had designated him a “chief”, the operation upon an alien culture of a bureaucracy that required official spokesmen — allegedly refused to sign the Treaty of Medicine Creek, although the evidence is unclear. Whatever the truth of that matter, sufficient signatures were cajoled for the government to ratify an agreement for massive dispossession, and Leschi became a prominent voice in the growing Indian dissatisfaction once the extent of the hustle became clear.

An attempt to arrest Leschi, who increasingly feared white assassination, touched off the Puget Sound War in 1855, and with an analogous conflict brewing on the other side of the Cascade Mountains, all Washington was soon a conflict zone.

That story’s end is predictable enough, but Leschi’s fate was protested by both native and white contemporaries. Leschi was condemned for “murdering” a militiaman during hostilities, a charge whose logic flowed from the rights asserted by American authorities but whose fundamental injustice (even leaving aside the very doubtful factual evidence) seems manifest, as it did to the defendant.

I have supposed that the killing of armed men in wartime was not murder; if it was, the soldiers who killed Indians are guilty of murder too.

George W. Bush would’ve called him an illegal combatant. That was hardly common sentiment.

So much good will did Leschi enjoy among whites — with whom he had years of amicable relations prior to Gov. Stevens’ arrival — that a scheduled January 22 hanging was deviously put off by the sheriff charged with the task: he arranged to have himself arrested on a liquor charge while in possession of the death warrant shortly before Leschi was to have been hung, and the two-hour window allotted for the execution of the sentence elapsed before matters could be put right.

They carried the sentence out four weeks later — “I felt then I was hanging an innocent man,” executioner Charles Grainger would say, “and I believe it yet” — but that hardly put an end to Chief Leschi’s story. The Nisqually have pushed hard for Leschi’s official exoneration, and won a Washington Senate resolution to that effect and an “acquittal” (of no legal force) from a panel of state jurists. But even though it attached to a convicted murderer, Leschi’s was never a black name in the state; it adorns a Seattle neighborhood and a number of schools and other public places. (“Stevens” is similarly prominent.)

There’s an excellent summary of the Leschi case from Oregon Historical Quarterly, a Washington State Historical Society website, and a 1905 public domain book published to make the case for Leschi.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guerrillas,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Martyrs,Murder,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Soldiers,USA,Washington,Wrongful Executions

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1888: Jochin Henry Timmerman, “don’t let them take you alive”

Add comment April 6th, 2008 Headsman

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”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous Last Words,Gallows Humor,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Public Executions,The Supernatural,USA,Washington

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