Thursday, February 11, 2016

June 9, 1882: John Tibbetts

Today we learn about a lynching in Minnesota starting with an article found in the Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, N. D.) dated June 16, 1882:

Young Tibbetts' Fate.

PERHAM, Minn., June 9.—John Tibbetts, the boy who murdered Washington and Feherbach a few days since, was brought here yesterday and was examined before Justice Rothplez. Towards night the propriety of lynching him was freely discussed, but nothing was done. About 1 o'clock this morning, however,twenty resolute men broke into the jail and with difficulty broke into his cell, and grasped him. He said, "Don't, boys; this is too rough." The lynchers then carried him to the railroad, a few rods away, rested a ladder against a telegraph pole, looped one end of a rope around his neck, ane [sic] throwing it over a round of the ladder, hoisted away. He was dead in a few moments. The lynchers kept the crowd back with drawn revolvers, and as soon as the work was done, scattered in all directions. Tibbetts, who was only 17 years old, made a full confession last night. He laughed at the crowd that met him yesterday morning, but became depressed at night. The lynchers will probably not suffer for their crime.

Another article placing partial blame on his mother and brothers is found in the June 16, 1882 edition of The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia):


Belief That His Mother and Brothers were His Accomplices.

ST. PAUL, Minn., June 15.—The lynching of young Tibbetts for the murder of two land surveyors near Perham did not end the criminal developments in that affair, and a brother of Washington, the murdered land-surveyor, is in Perham with a detective working up the case, and they have discovered facts implicating the whole Tibbetts family, consisting of a mother with several young cubs of sons. The boys seem to have been ambitious to rival the Missouri bandits, and the mother seems to have stimulated their bloody intentions. An interview with a gentleman from Perham says:  "New facts in the Perham murder case are continually coming to light. young Tibbetts seems to have been a fiend incarnate, and urged on in his acts of wickedness by his mother. Since the lynching it has become known that he and a comrade had made a plan to wreck a Northern Pacific passenger train by placing ties or some other obstruction on the track. The scheme only failed from lack of sand in Tibbetts companion. Public feeling against the boy's mother is very strong. She exhibited no signs of grief when told that her son was lynched, nor did she view the body or seem to care to see it. Young Tibbett's [sic] step-father has shown greater feeling than the boy's mother, and the public generally sympathize with him. Public feeling is strongly in sympathy with the lynching. The whole neighborhood is in great excitement, and should it be proved the boy's mother is really implicated in the crime, there is little doubt she will be in great danger of the same fate that befell her misguided son." A correspondent of the Pioneer Press, who visited the house of the Tibbetts family with the officer, send the following:  "On nearing the house the oldest boy, George, 13 years old, left the house and started for the woods. After some conversation with the father, who is the only one in the family for whom there is felt any pity, the boy was hunted up. Upon being approached he began to yell like a lunatic, begging for his mother to protect him. At this period another boy, still younger, was heard to remark:  '— —, they can't take me.' At this time matters became exciting, and Mr. Washington, brother of the murdered surveyor, began the examination of the boy, George. He was asked what he knew about the murder, and was requested to tell what time it was John said he would kill those men if he could get a chance. His reply was:  'John told me on Thursday, the same night the surveyor and his packer came to our house.' He was asked if his mother knew of it. He said 'Yes.' He also said:  'Sohn [sic] tried to steal their revolvers on Saturday night before they were killed.'  In all the conversation held with the boy it was plain he knew of the whole affair. The mother was then called outside, she having taken up the insanity dodge. She said she had been sick, and that her folks thought her crazy. Her conversation was rather flighty until she was given a good scare, when she began to divulge some of the facts related by the boys. At this time the reporter was sitting by her right and Mr. Washington on her left, each of them having a small knife in hand, whittling. She turned upon the reporter and demanded the knife. It being refused, she turned to Washington and asked for his knife, which was also denied. All of this time the woman seemed ready to do some eviscerating. Her eyes dilated, her lip quivered, and she looked like a tigress thirsting for blood. She soon cooled off, and was asked if she knew that her son was dead. She said 'Yes.' It looks like the mother planned the whole of this terrible deed, and the guilt upon her soul is killing her and destroying the integrity of her mind. She was told of the boy being hanged, to which she said she was glad of it. The daughter is a very pretty girl of 14 years and seemed to feel badly, but her grief was of short duration.

The Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas) edition published on June 15, 1882 refuted the claims of the mother's blame:

She is Only Insane.

CHICAGO, June 14.—A sensational story reached here late last night to the effect that Mrs. Tibbetts, of Perham, Minn., mother of the boy Tibbetts who was lynched for the murder of two engineers of the Northern Pacific road, aiding and abetted her offspring in planning the crime, and even planned with him and another lad to wreck a train for plunder, the plan failing because the other boy backed out. It was added that the feeling against the unnatural mother, who showed no grief for the fate of her boy, was so great that the citizens seriously threatened to lynch her also. The story turns out on investigation to be a hoax. No such feeling exists. The woman was declared insane six years ago by two physicians. The feeling for her is more of pity than anger on account of her strange actions. The money found in her possession was given her by her husband.

Our final article is a small entry found in The Saint Paul Globe (St. Paul, Minnesota) dated July 7, 1882:

The mother of young Tibbetts, the murderer who was lynched recently in Otter Tail county, has become insane from the shock of the tragedy, and been sent to the asylum at St. Peter.

Some sources report John Tibbetts age as 15 while others report it as 17. 

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

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