Thursday, February 25, 2016

August 26, 1895: Lawrence Johnson, William Null, Louis Moreno, and Garland Semler (Seemler)

Today we learn about a quadruple lynching in California through the pages of The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) dated August 27, 1895:


Californians Have an Old-Time Necktie Party and Four Criminals Wear the Neckties.

The '49ers Did the Work Deliberately and With Precision on a 19-Year-Old Boy.


Murderers Taken from Cells and Hanged High by a Tax Paying Mob.

Yreka, Cal., Aug. 26.—Four murderers were taken from the county jail by a mob of 250 men at 1 o'clock this morning and lynched.

A band of citizens, fearing that the law would not be carried out, and angered by the atrocity of recent crimes, determined to take the matter into their own hands. The lynching was the ghastly climax to the reign of lawlessness which has prevailed in Siskiyou county for some months past.

One of the victims was Lawrence Johnson, who, on the evening of July 28, stabbed his wife to death in the town of Etna. Another was William Null, who shot Henry Hayter in the back with a rifle near Callahan's on April 21. Louis Moreno and Garland Seemler, who are supposed to have killed George Sears and Casper Meierhans at Bailey Hill on August 5, were also hanged.

At 11 o'clock farmers from all surrounding country began to drive into town, and by midnight the mob was ready to march to the county jail. Before taking a step, however, every precaution was taken to prevent the plans of the lynchers from being frustrated by the officers of the law. The sheriff and one of his deputies were decoyed to another part of town by two members of the mob, who were engaged in a sham fight, and the fire bell was muffled to prevent an alarm being given in that way.

When the jail was reached a number of the men, all of whom were masked, awakened Under Sheriff Radford and demanded the keys from him. He positively refused to open the door or give the keys up, telling them that if the[y] broke open the doors he would blow their brains out. Finding that Radford was determined not to give them the keys, they went across to the jail and got on top of a stone wall which surrounded the jail.

Deputy Sheriff Henry Brahtlacht, who had been sleeping in the jail, fired two shots out of the window to alarm City Marshal Parks and Deputy Sheriff Radford. He then opened the doors and was immediately held up by the mob, who took the keys from him and entered the jail. Having no keys to the different cells, they were compelled to burst the locks with a sledge hammer, which they proceeded to do at once.

Lawrence Johnson, who brutally stabbed his wife to death at Etna on Sunday of July 28, was the first to receive the attention of the mob. They broke the lock from the door of his cell and placing a rope around his neck, led him out of the jail and across the street to where an iron rail was laid between the forks of two locust trees. Johnson pleaded for mercy, but the silent gathering gave no heed to his appeals, and he was quickly strung up, dying from strangulation in a few minutes.

The mob returned to the jail and then broke into the cell of William Null, who shot Henry Hayter at Callahan's on April 21, in a dispute over a mining property. Null desired to make a statement, but time was too valuable to allow of such preliminaries, and he was soon hanging alongside of Johnson.

Louis Moreno, who is charged with having killed George Sears on the 5th of this month, was taken from his cell and soon swinging  with Johnson and Null.

The last and youngest of the four murderers to pay the penalty of his crime was Garland Seemler, aged about 19, who, in company with Moreno, was charged with having killed Casper M[e]ierhans at Bailey Hill, on the 5th of this month. A rope was placed around Seemler's neck and he was led from the jail in his bare feet. He begged for mercy and his last words were:  "Tell my dear old mother I am innocent of the crime."

About this time Sheriff Hobbs, having been notified, arrived on the scene, and commanded the mob to halt and the command being emphacized [sic] by a display of revolvers. He was told that the "job had been done." By this time the greater part of the mob had dispersed, leaving only about thirty or forty men on guard, who soon left after the sheriff arrived.

The bodies were taken down by Coroner Shofield and Marshal Parks, who removed them in a wagon to an engine house where they were laid side by side. The coroner has summoned a jury to hold an inquest.

Yreka is a little mining town, and years ago was frequently the scene of mob violence. The summary manner in which justice was meeted [sic] out to the four murderers this morning reminded the pioneers of similar scenes during the gold excitement forty years ago, when it was not an uncommon spectacle to awaken i8n the morning and see the body of a notorious criminal dangling from a tree.

Our next article comes to us through the pages of The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, California) dated December 1, 1895:


Facts Tend to Prove That Innocent Men Were Lynched.


A Cellmate of Moreno Bears Out the Confession of "John Doe."


The Mexican Had a Companion Who Probably Committed the Murders.

PORTLAND, Or., Nov. 30.—The recent publication of a letter from Arizona, signed John Doe, in which the writer confesses to the murders for which Moreno and Semlar were lynched in Yreka last August, has created a ripple of excitement here because of a corroborative statement made by a young burglar, Andrew A. Crawford, in a newspaper interview on the 27th of last September.

"When I went to jail last January," said young Crawford, in introducing at that time the history of Moreno, which inclines him to the belief in Semlar's innocence, "I was placed in a cell with Moreno. I found him an easy man to get along with and we struck up a sort of friendship. At that time he could hardly speak good English, and I taught him so that we could converse. He had a habit of sitting up late and staring into space, and one night I asked him what troubled him. He answered:

" 'I am thinking of my wife and children in—(naming a place in Mexico opposite Eagle Pass)—whom I won't be able to see till 1896.' 

" 'How's that?' I asked him.

" ' I'll tell you,' replied Moreno. 'Up to 1889 I was a non-commissioned officer in the Mexican army. Some time before that two officers had me suspended by the wrists in the guardhouse, and I swore vengeance upon them. In 1889, I one day called at the home of one of the officers, in the outskirts of the town. He answered my rap at the door, when I, with the aid of some fellow soldiers, kidnaped and carried him a short distance into the woods, where I plunged my knife into his heart. The other officer shared a similar fate at my hands that afternoon. The killing of the two officers created a great sensation the day following when their bodies were discovered, but I was very popular with my men, they did not inform upon me and the Mexican authorities are yet in the dark as to the identity of the slayer."

" ' It was a month or two later when I killed an officer at a game of cards, and then I knew I had to flee. I hurried to the City of Mexico, where my brother practices law. He counseled me to leave the country at once and remain absent seven years, after which my prosecution would be barred by the Mexican statutes of limitation. I sailed in a Spanish ship as carpenter from New Orleans, visiting nearly all parts of the earth, till I reached Seattle from Liverpool in the ship of J. B. Thomas last fall.'

"Moreno left the County Jail a little more than three months before I did," continued Crawford, "and he promised to write and keep me informed where he wads, so I could join him after my release. The last letter I got from Moreno (it was not in his handwriting) was two weeks before he was hanged. My theory is that the writer of the letters accompanied Moreno to Yreka, and that he alone was guilty of the double murder for which Moreno and Semler were hanged."

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

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