Thursday, November 13, 2014

November 13, 1897: Alexander Coudot, Paul Holytrack, and Phillip Ireland

Today we go to a lynching in North Dakota through the pages of The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) printed on the 15th of November, 1897:


Three Indian Murderers Are Taken from the Jail at Williamsport, N. D., and Hanged by a Party of Thirty Masked Men—Solitary Deputy on Guard Is Unable to Prevent the Lynching.

WILLIAMSPORT, N. D., Nov. 14.—Special Telegram.—The murder of the Spicer family, near the village of Winona, in this county, on Feb. 21 last, has been summarily avenged. Alexander Coudot, the Indian halfbreed; Paul Holytrack, and Phillip Ireland, full-blooded Indians, were taken from the jail here last night and lynched by a mob of white men.

The lynching had been coolly and carefully planned and was carried out without a hitch in the programme. The lynchers worked quietly and with determination. They were in sufficient force to have overcome any resistance that might have been offered, and as there is no such thing as a militia company or other like body in the vicinity, and as there are only a few residents in the town, there was no one to offer any opposition.

There were two other men alleged to have been implicated in the murders for which the three were lynched, and they were saved from the same fate only by the fact that they are confined in the Burleigh county jail at Bismarck, forty miles away.

Peter Shier, the sheriff of the county, was in Bismarck on a business trip, and the jail and prisoners were in charge of Deputy Sheriff Kelly. There were about thirty men in the lynching party. They rode into town at a late hour, and hitching their horses at the edge of the village, approached the jail. As such a visit has been expected by the officials a close watch has been kept of late, and Kelly was on guard. So quietly did the mob approach the jail, however, that when a rap came at the door he supposed that it was made by some friends whom he was expecting to call, and immediately turned the key to admit them.

At once the thirty masked men filed into the corridor, covered him with revolvers, and demanded that he open the cells of the men that they would batter down the doors he did as he was bid. Two of the prisoners were confined in one cell and the other was in a separate cell. The noise had awakened them, and they were trembling with terror.

Holytrack and Ireland were taken from their beds, ropes were placed about their necks, and they were dragged out in the dark, after being told to prepare for death.

As Coudot had not confessed the crime, while the others had, and as the men wished to question him, he was allowed to walk.. The men were hurried to a well nearby and an attempt made to hang them from the curbing, but the plan proved futile. They were then dragged to a log shack and another attempt was made to hang them, but this also failed. They were then taken to a windlass used for the slaughtering of beeves, and there a suitable gibbet was found.

Coudot was questioned as to whether Black Hawk and Defender, the other two suspects, were concerned in the crime, and it is reported that he answered in the affirmative. He was then strung up, and after him Holytrack and Ireland, already unconscious from the rough treatment they had received.

The bodies were left swinging in the air and the lynchers went to their horses and rode away as quietly as they had come. The night was a bright moonlight one, and a few of the inhabitants of the village were on hand at the windlass to witness the execution. No effort was made at interference, and the bodies were left hanging until noon, when the coroner reached the village.

The immediate circumstance which led to the lynching was a decision rendered by the State Supreme court last week which granted a new trial for Alexander Coudot, who had been tried and convicted. Further than this, the Supreme court so riddled the case of the prosecution that it was acknowledged by the prosecuting attorneys that it would be impossible to secure a conviction of any of the suspects.

On Feb. 17. last a passer-by, entering the house of Rev. Thomas Spicer, a Methodist circuit rider, discovered the dead body of Spicer's mother-in-law, Mrs. Waldron, lying upon the floor of the parlor horribly mutilated. Passing to another room, he found the body of Mrs. William Rouse, a daughter of Spicer, also dead, with her twin baby boys brutally murdered, their brains having been dashed out, a Mrs. Rouse having been killed with a club. At a barn was found the body of Mrs. Spicer, likewise horribly mutilated, she having been shot and afterward stabbed with a pitchfork, her breast being filled with wounds, and her head crushed with an ax. Inside the barn was the body of Thomas Spicer, who had been shot through the back with a shotgun, and his throat cut from ear to ear. The crime created most intense excitement and indignation.

For some time there was no clew to the murderers, but the officers finally arrested an Indian half-breed, named Coudot, and a negro half-breed named Black Hawk, upon suspicion of having been concerned in the crime. Not long afterward rings and some jewelry that had disappeared from the Spicer house at the time of the murder were found in the possession of a young full-blooded Indian, Paul Holytrack, and he, with a companion, Phillip Ireland, was arrested. After having been confined in jail for several days the boys made a complete confession of the crime, implicating Black Hawk and an Indian named George Defender. All of the men were arrested.

Prior to the trial Coudot made an attempt at suicide by stabbing himself with a knife. Coudot also made a statement in which he accused Black Hawk of the crime. The trials of the men were begun at Williamsport last July. The young Indians went on the stand and recited the story of the murders, a narrative so horrible as to sicken every hearer. The trial lasted three weeks, and at its conclusion Coudot was found guilty and punishment was fixed at hanging. The appeal to the Supreme court followed, and the other cases were postponed until the first case was decided. The principal ground for the appeal was that there was not sufficient corroborating testimony in the story of the accomplices, Holytrack and Ireland, under the law, in that no conviction for murder could be had on the uncorroborated testimony of accomplices. The state maintained that it had presented enough corroborating testimony to warrant a conviction, but in the opinion of the Supreme court not a single feature of the corroborating testimony of the state came within the requirement of the statutes.

There had been great indignation in Emmons county over the frightful murder from the first, and threats of lynching had been made at various times. In fact, the authorities saved the lives of the Indians at the time the crime was committed, only by guarding them with strenuous care and persuading the enraged friends of the murdered family that a speedy trial, conviction, and execution would be secured. The decision of the Supreme court again led to a determination that the murderers should expiate their crime, with result as given.

Thank you for joining me, and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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