Friday, February 26, 2016

1879: Chris Spayd

Today we learn about a lynching in Arizona through the pages of the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) dated July 19, 1879:



Chris. Spayd Ends a Life of Crime on an Arizona Tree—Lynched for Murder—His Career.

The escape of the notorious Chris. Spayd from the Dauphin county jail in company with the equally notorious Milt. Brown is still fresh in the minds of the Harrisburg public. Spayd was arrested last July for attempted highway robbery on a man named Bradley, from Liverpool, Perry county. While in jail he was confined in cell No. 1, with which he was familiar. He and Brown succeeded in digging out on the morning of August 16, 1878, and making a rope of bed clothes scaled the wall and gained their freedom. Brown is now in the State Prison of Ohio, serving a term of six years for burglary, this fact becoming known to our detectives about a month ago. Nothing was ever heard of Spayd until quite recently when rumors of his having been lynched by an angry Arizona mob for committing murder began to be circulated. As no particulars were given, the rumors were not credited. An article appeared in the Philadelphia Record of yesterday, however which gave some color to the rumors, and a TELEGRAPH reporter ran across a detective this morning who knew all about it. He said that recently a western detective had visited the city for a requisition, and brought the news of Spayd's lynching. Spayd had been living at one of the military posts in Arizona, having sought the far west after he dug out of the Harrisburg jail. He induced several soldiers to steal a lot of horses and desert, and their plans for the consummation of the mischief were all laid, when one of them betrayed the plot, and Spayd and four companions were punished. Burning for revenge the punished men, when opportunity offered, caught the soldier who had betrayed them, bound him hand and foot and threw him into the river, where he was drowned. The five men were arrested and placed in prison, where the detective saw Spayd chained to the floor. On learning that the detective was coming east Spayd sent his kind regards to the Harrisburg detectives, and said he was to be hung and wouldn't bother them any more. Several nights afterwards a mob broke open the jail, took Spayd and a soldier, the two worst villains, and hung them to a cottonwood tree. Spayd was grit to the last, and took things as cool as if to him hanging was an everyday occurrence. So ended the career of one of the most notorious criminals who was ever convicted by a Dauphin county jury.

Spayd began his prison career when quite a lad by being sent to the House of Refuge for bad conduct. In the summer of 1863 he robbed a soldier and almost murdered him before he secured his plunder. While awaiting trial for this offense he and a man named Brown (not Milt), attempted to escape. They called Underkeeper Downey into their cell under pretense that the pipes were leaking, and when Downey stooped down to hunt the leak Spayd dealt him a blow on the head with an iron bar that they had torn from the window. Downey defended himself as best he could, but he was cut and beaten terribly. His cries were heard by Mr. O. B. Simmons, son of prison keeper G. W. Simmons at that time, who rushed into the cell and in a few minutes settled Spayd and Brown with his fists. One blow wedged Spayd between the pipe and wall so tight that he had to be pulled out by main strength. Another blow ruptured a blood vessel in Brown's eye. The injured underkeeper Downey was almost dead when assistance reached him. It was the intention of the two prisoners, as they afterward said, to murder Downey, take the keys and then release everybody in the prison. They were tried at the August court and both sent to the penitentiary for a term of years.

After Spayd was released he soon fell into his old habits. One evening in 1869 he arrived in this city at 9:30 on a freight train, by 11 o'clock the same night he had robbed the jewelry store of Herman Plack, on Third street above Herr, and by ten o'clock next morning he was i Philadelphia and had disposed of nearly all his plunder. He was arrested, brought to this city and tried, again convicted and again sent to the penitentiary. At the latter institutuion he was incorrigible and impudent, and gave his keepers considerable trouble. He could not be handcuffed, because his wrists were as thick as his hands and it was an easy matter for him to slip off the iron bracelets. A gentleman who once visited the penitentiary asked to see Spayd. The keepers took him to the cell known as the "sweat-box," a cell about 4 x 4 feet with a very small door, into which incorrigible prisoners are placed and then the steam turned on. It generally makes them docile in short order. Here Spayd was confined, and the keeper remarked it was a dose he repeatedly received for his bad behavior.

After serving his term for the Plack robbery Chris. was released, but he was not happy unless in mischief, and accordingly with a companion named Warren Sheaffer, he robbed the residence of Mrs. E. E. Haldeman, at Front and Walnut streets, of jewelry and silverware. His capture followed swiftly, both of the thieves being caught in a pawn-shop, on the morning after the robbery, and placed in jail for trial. On September 1, 1874, he was tried and sentenced to two years and six months in the penitentiary for this offense. After serving his term he was in and out of Harrisburg occasionally, but was not arrested until he had attempted highway robbery on Bradley at Canal and Walnut streets. His escape from jail followed, his crime in the West, and his hanging. Society is well rid of a man like this.

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

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