The Hanging of Louis Laferdette
Like a Dog
The Mob’s Victim Buried
Laferdette’s Distorted Body Hurried Beneath the Ground
Not Likely That His Lynching Will Be Legally Redressed
The Coroner Returns an Indefinite Verdict and Holds
Witnesses to the Grand Jury
A few people stood in potter’s field, near Burlington, Boone County, yesterday morning and saw the body of Louis Laferdette buried. The victim of a mob’s vengeance rested in a plain pine coffin that cost the county $7.
The ungrateful wretch whose murderous had had sought the life of his benefactor hung to the projecting limb of the great oak tree on the farm of John Gaines for nearly seven hours. With the first grey streak of day people passing by could see the dangling form, but no one dared to go near the loathsome thing until far in the morning.
The little village of Burlington slept in sweetest peace while the horrid deal was going on. When at 12:30 o’clock the avengers appeared in the center of town, it was like an apparition. A group of Enquirer men [?!?] and a few villagers who were standing around were startled by the sudden and unheralded presence of a score of masked men. Not a word was spoken. Each man knew his place. So painful, so oppressive was the silence that one could almost hear his own heart beat.
With the same silent yet military tread half a dozen of the band walked to the house of Jailer Chrisler, which is less than 200 feet from the little jail. Three of the party went to the back door and forced it in, but no sound of their work could be heard. They were like a lot of phantoms that seemed to flit about in the dim, uncertain light of the moonlit but cloudy sky. Presently they moved toward the jail.
It was evident that the men who were talking the law into their own hands were not novices at the business. They had done such work before, for Laferdette was the fourth man who had met his doom at the end of a rope without the formality of a judicial trial. The lynchers moved so quietly that Laferdette, who was sound asleep, was not awakened until one of the men shook him rudely and called him to get up, as they wanted him. For a moment the poor wretch was dazed. He could not realize what an awful fate was in store for him, but rubbed his eyes, and, shrinking back, he cried in anguish: “For God’s sake, won’t you have any mercy on me?” In a solemn voice the leader of the mob replied, “You had no mercy on your best friend, who fed you when
You Were Starving.
In the cell with Laferdette was Robert Green, the boy forger of Walton, who is only 17 years old, and he was a witness, the only one, to the scene in the jail. Laferdette was ordered to get up and dress himself, which he did mechanically. Even then he was unable to believe that he was to be taken out and hung like a dog. Perhaps had he had time to reflect he might have regretted his intemperate boasts that he would serve only a year or two in the penitentiary and when released he would return and kill two or three of those who had been active in securing his arrest.
But his time had come. As he was dressing himself, Laferdette turned to young Green and told him with a voice choking with sobs that in the pocketbook which had been taken from him when arrested was a diamond ring and he would give that to him. Then he threw his arms around the neck of the boy and kissed him passionately twice. It was an act of despair, for there was no pity among those who had come to kill him and before leaving this world his fellow prisoner was the only person toward whom he could turn to bid a last farewell. There was no further demonstration, for he was seized by brawny hands, a gag forced into his mouth, and a white handkerchief placed over his face. He was then taken out.
It was just 1 o’clock when the wagon with Laferdette started from the jail, and in 15 minutes he was dangling from the tree which had been selected for the occasion. So perfectly had the affair been planned, so sure were the avengers that they would accomplish their work that the rope had been tied around the limb of the tree in advance. Several of the vigilantes had stayed behind to watch it. The place of the execution was on the farm of John Gaines, a mile and a half south of Burlington.
It was just the spot for such a deed of wrath and blood. When the gag was removed from his mouth, and a big man with a solemn voice and Winchester rifle asked Laferdette if he wanted to pray or say anything, in a frightened confused sort of way he began to tell how he had not intended to kill Farmer Whitlock. One of the lynchers interrupted his half-apologetic, half-pleading words: “For God’s sake, don’t die with a lie in your mouth.” This was the only sympathy the miserable creature received. Then he began to mumble something that sounded like a prayer or supplication to someone somewhere for mercy. He had ceased to hope for anything from his cruel captors.
The lynchers did not prolong the agony of suspense, but the driver whipped up his horses and they drove out from under the from of Laferdette, and he was left
Dangling in Space.
The mob did not tarry an instant, not even to see if the rope might break, nor to gloat in their blood-thirsty vengeance by viewing his death struggles. No man turned back, and within two minutes the vehicles were rattling over the hill, leaving the dying man utterly alone.
No one ventured to go near the body of Laferdette yesterday morning until the arrival of Squire Boermann, who acted as coroner. About 8:30, accompanied by a jury of six men and a few curious townspeople, he went to the scene of the lynching and cut down the corpse, which was just as the Enquirer reporter had seen it, except that the features had assumed a yellow hue of death and the face was even more brutal-looking and distorted. Saliva still exuded from the mouth, and his shirt was besotted by it. A deep circle was around the neck, made by the rope, which was nearly an inch in diameter, and big enough to hang a horse. The hands were clutched together as they had been in the death struggle, and the staring eyes seemed to turn upon every one as if searching for the one who had prompted the shedding of his blood.
While the corpse lay upon the ground the jury was impaneled and the inquest held. It was a mere formality. There was no testimony. No one had seen the man hanged. It was evident that he had not committed suicide, and the natural and only verdict was: “Louis Laferdette came to his death by mob violence by the hands of persons whose names to the jury are unknown.” This was all that could be done for the dead wretch except to give him a burial. No friends claimed the body, and there was no minister who volunteered to say a prayer for the soul of the mob’s victim. He was taken to potter’s field, and without a service of any kind was covered from sight.
Most of the people of Burlington did not know that the prisoner had been taken out until the next morning, although some of them did. With the coming of the day the community that was so timid at night grew bolder. Public opinion was divided. Some said that it served the murderous foreigner right; that he had turned upon and tried to kill his benefactor, and that any punishment the Courts might give him would not be adequate to the crime he had committed.
There were others who railed against lynch law, who declared that the unlawful hanging was a disgrace to the county, and should be investigated to the very bottom and the guilty parties punished. Still, there is no one who has the slightest idea that any steps will be taken to discover who hanged Laferdette, and it is almost certain that this will be added to the somewhat formidable list of lynchings in Boone County that have never received attention from the authorities. Jailer Chrisler is very much provoked over his treatment. He asserts that he knew two of the men who entered his house and made him give up the keys, and that they will hear from him when the grand jury meets.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer, July 18, 1894