Monday, January 12, 2015

January 12, 1886: Wenzel Lapour

Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) dated January 14, 1886:


A Nebraska Murderer of a Sheriff Lynched by a Masked Mob—A Brutal Deed in Indiana.

SCHUYLER, Neb., Jan. 13.—[Special.]—Two black crimes were placed to the credit of Schuyler yesterday. The first was the murder of the Sheriff of Colfax County and the second was the lynching of the murderer last night. The murderer who received such swift justice was named Wenzel Lapour, and the murdered man was John S. Degman. Sheriff Degman went into Lapour's cell at 7 o'clock yesterday morning with Lapour's breakfast. He carried with the breakfast a billet of wood about four feet long to be used as kindling in making a fire in the cell. Lapour was asleep or pretending to sleep when the Sheriff entered. Degman roused him and ordered him to carry his slop-bucket from the cell and also to build a fire. Lapour replied with a curse, but crawled out of his cot as though to obey. Degman placed the wood on the floor and turned to leave the cell, expecting Lapour to follow him with the bucket. Quicker than a cat and without uttering a word Lapour leaped from his crouching position. He seized the club of firewood and dealt Degman two terrific blows on the head. The Sheriff fell like a slaughtered ox across the threshold of the cell.Lapour leaped across the body, dashed through the jail corridors and out the front door. As he reached the gate of the jail-yard he was seen and recognized by ex-Sheriff McCurdy. McCurdy seized the fugitive and, after a desperate tussle, brought him to the ground. At this instant one of the assistants in the jail rushed out, crying:  "Hold him, hold him, he has killed Degman." Lapour was taken back to the jail and again locked up. Investigation showed that Degman's skull had been crushed in two places. He was dead when picked up.

Degman was a universally popular man, and the news fairly turned the town upside down with excitement. This increased as the day wore on, and business was practically suspended. A Coroner's jury, hastily called, returned a verdict declaring Lapour guilty of murder in the first degree almost without deliberation. The excitement was increased two-fold by this. Merchants began to gather at prominent places in groups. The news spread into the country, and by dark several delegations had arrived from the neighboring towns. At 10:45 the purport of these signs was manifested. A crowd of 200 men, wearing masks, suddenly gathered at the jail. Ten minutes later the door of the jail was forced and the two Deputy Sheriffs in charge easily overpowered. Six of the masked men walked quickly to Lapour's cell, battered in the door with bludgeons and axes, and dragged out the prisoner. He was in his night clothes, and howled for mercy. Without heeding his cries the crowd dragged him outdoors into the snow and half-way across the yard. A rope was placed around his neck and the other end thrown across a high limb. Some one in the crowd said:  "Pull." Lapour was jerked fifteen feet into the air. He uttered a horrible shriek, which was cut short into a ghastly gurgle by the sudden jerk of the rope. The end of the rope in the hands of the vigilantes was fastened to the ground and the murdered murderer was left hanging. This morning at daylight he was cut down by the authorities. His body was nearly frozen through. Hardly a word was spoken by the mob during their work of vengeance, and so quiet was the whole operation that nothing was known of it two blocks from the jail. The identity of none of the lynchers is known. There are said, however, to have been men from Benton and North Bend in the party. Lapour was a low and vicious Bohemian, aged 50. He had been confined in the asylum for the insane, but was believed to be brutally malicious rather than of unsound mind. He was in jail on a charge of a unnatural crime, and his wife had applied for divorce.

Sheriff John S. Degman, the murdered man, was 35 and a native of Kentucky. He was elected Sheriff last fall after serving as deputy two years. He was sworn in only Thursday last. The Masonic society, of which he was a member, will bury him. His brother has been appointed to fill the vacancy.

The McCook Tribune (McCook, Nebraska) dated February 4, 1886:

The body of Wenzel Lapour, lynched at Schuler [sic], according to Coroner Miles and Mr. Cannon, was interred in the Schuyler cemetery, and not shipped to the Omaha medical institute as reported. The Herald of that place says it was strange that some medical man did not claim the body for dissecting purposes, as no trouble would have been experienced in getting it.

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

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