Saturday, March 12, 2016

February 22, 1884: John Heith (Heath)

Today we learn about a lynching in Arizona through the pages of The Record-Union (Sacramento, California) dated February 23, 1884:


One of the Bisbee Murderers Lynched.

TOMBSTONE, February 22d.—Yesterday morning John Heith was sentenced to imprisonment for life for complicity in the Bisbee murder. About ten minutes since his body was cut down from a telegraph pole at the edge of town, and is now at the Morgue awaiting the Coroner's inquest. Shortly before 8 o'clock this morning about 100 men, principally miners from the Contention and Grand Central mines, which had been shut down, went to the Court-house, and, selecting seven of their number from Bisbee, they went to the door leading to the jail and rapped for admittance. The remainder of the crowd stayed outside. It was about an hour before breakfast is brought to the prisoners, and jailer Billy Ward, thinking it was the man with the food, opened the door without looking  to see who his visitors were. Instantly he was covered by weapons and a demand made on him for the keys of the jail. Seeing that resistance was useless, he quickly gave them up, and the party proceeded to Heith's cell, and , unshackling him, brought him into the corridor of the jail. It was their first intention to hang him to the baluster of the stairs leading to the second story, but this plan was abandoned, and the crowd started for the telephone line at the lower edge of town. At the door of the Court-house they were met by Sheriff Ward, who, throwing up his hands, exclaimed with a show of authority, "Stop this! You have got to stop this right here." Before he could realize what had happened he was picked up and tossed down the steps, and the crowd proceeded with the prisoner down Toughnut street until reaching the place selected for the execution. The trip from the jail to the point mentioned was made on a run, Heith keeping in the lead. Arriving at the place, Heith pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and said, "Boys you are hanging an innocent man, and you will find it out before these other men [referring to Dowd and his pals, sentenced to be hanged on the 28th of March], are hung. Tie this handkerchief over my eyes. i am not afraid to die. I have one favor to ask—that you will not mutilate my body by shooting it after I am hung." His eyes were bandaged as desired, and in a moment his body was dangling at the end of the rope from the cross arm of a telegraph pole. Heith throughout showed great nerve, and had it not been for the absolute certainty of his guilt his life would probably been spared. No attempt was made to molest either prisoner under sentence of death, the community waiting to see them legally executed. If not disposed of in this way, they will follow the same road just traveled by Heith.

James Howard, O. W. Sample, Daniel Dowd, William Delaney and Daniel Kelly were executed on March 28, 1884 for the Bisbee murder. All men claimed that they were innocent and that Heith also was innocent. If you are interested in learning about the Bisbee murder, you can find information here. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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