Friday, September 25, 2015

May 1, 1884: John Wesley, Henry Brown, Ben Wheeler, and William Smith

Today we learn about a lynching in Kansas through the pages of The Atchison Daily Globe (Atchison, Kansas) dated May 2, 1884:


The Four Men Who Rob the Medicine Bank Captured and Lynched.

Two of Them Turn Out to be an Ex-Marshal and Ex-Deputy Marshal.

The Robbers Make a Stand, But are Surrounded and After a Short Fight Surrender.

KANSAS CITY, May 2.—A special to the Times from Harper, Kas., says:  The terrible tragedy at Medicine Lodge yesterday, caused by the attempted robbery of the Barber County bank, had a terrible sequel last night, when the four robbers and murderers were lynched by the excited populace, who followed them from the bank immediately after the killing of Mr. Geppert, the Cashier, and mortal wounding of Mr. Payne, the President. There has been great excitement at this point  since the news of the tragedy arrived by courier, and this morning a number of citizens went to Medicine Lodge to view for themselves the scene of the unfortunate and cowardly killing and to take part in the pursuit and punishment of the robbers if their assistance was needed. Long before they reached the seat of action, however, the four men who had planned the attack upon the bank, which resulted in the death of Mr. Geppert, had been tried, found guilty and  executed by Judge Lynch, and the verdict of the entire southern section of Kansas is that they only received


The latest particulars of the attempted robbery go to show that the affair was planned several days since at Harper, or some point east or south, and it was the work of the four men who so quickly paid the penalty of their crime. Their names are Henry Brown, at one time Marshal of Caldwell, Kas.; Ben Wheeler, ex-Assistant Marshal of the same place; John Westley [sic], a noted cowboy, desperado and dead shot, and William Smith, by occupation a cowboy. They reached Medicine Lodge some time on Tuesday, but did not show themselves together until just before the attack. The streets during Wednesday were almost deserted in consequence of the heavy rain which had been falling since the early morning. Watching their opportunity the four men approached the bank a few minutes past ten o'clock, and while two of them entered the remaining two staid [sic] outside.At the time the Cashier and President were alone. A third party who had been transacting some business, passing out as the robbers entered. Mr. Geppert looked up as the men came into the bank, and when ordered to throw up his hands, turned and tried to reach his revolver, but was instantly killed by one of the men, supposed to have been Wesley. Mr. Payne was also shot through the body and fell to the floor, and promiscuous firing ensued. The first intimation anyone had of the trouble was the report of pistol shots and cowboy yells in the bank, which was taken up by the two outside, who yelled and fired promiscuously. They quickly drew a crowd, who


with spirit, making it so hot that the robbers mounted their horses and quickly started for the Indian Territory. Instantly the citizens began arming for pursuit, first ten, then fifty and finally a hundred taking the saddle. The chase was short, however, as the pursued became convinced that flight was useless and so made a stand on the hill three miles west of the town. Here they were surrounded and a lively skirmish ensued until nearly two o'clock, when finding themselves completely surrounded and their ammunition gone the robbers held up their hands and surrendered. Upon being brought to town they were heavily ironed and placed in jail under a strong guard, but the sight of the murdered Cashier and dying President so exasperated the citizens that it was seen that nothing short of a genuine necktie party would satisfy them. After waiting a few hours the crowd began to gather at the jail, and a demand was made for the men. This was refused by the officers, but the crowd would not be put off, and suddenly a move was made upon the jail, the guard overpowered, the doors broken open, and a wild rush made for the cells holding the trembling prisoners, who fully realized that their hour had come. Wesley had in some way concealed a revolver about his person, and as the mob approached the cell he opened fire, but was almost instantly


and fell dead with a dozen bullets in his body. It was an easy matter to force the cell doors, and ropes being produced, the remaining three men were led out and nooses placed about their necks. They were then half dragged to a small grove a short distance from town and hanged to separate trees. Two of them died game, but the third begged for mercy, however, and he was hung with the the [sic] others. Before the lynching all the men were recognized, and Wesley was identified as a well-known desperado and one of the best shots in the State. By his resistance at the jail he met death more speedily and evaded the halter. Before death the men admitted nothing and offered no excuse. Geppert, the cashier, was shot in the head and breast, dying instantly. Mr. Payne was shot in the left breast, just above the heart, and is reported dying. He was proprietor of the Index, and one of the wealthiest men in this section. The robbers had with them wire cutters and powder with which to blow up the safe had they obtained the chance. Not a dollar was taken from the bank, however.

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

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