Saturday, April 9, 2016

January 1, 1881: Excerpt from the Harrisburg Telegraph

Occasionally I like to post articles about lynching to show public sentiment at the time and what was being said by the people at the time of these lynchings. Today I have chosen an article from the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) dated January 1, 1881:


The lynching lately done near Bethlehem is being discussed in every light in which it can be placed to bring out its motives and get a proper estimate of the strength of the impulse which led to its perpetration. There is a singular unanimity in the conclusion arrived at, without any possible chance of comparing judgements, that the lynching was impelled by disgust as much for the too free use of the pardoning power in cases of fairly convicted murderers, and the delays in the administration of justice by the courts, as of horror and resentment for the atrocious murder committed by the wretch hung. Admitting that there is a too free use of the pardoning power, and that the courts sometimes fail to administer exact and speedy justice, there is still no excuse left for the act as committed near Bethlehem. There is a more humane way of correcting an excess of civil clemency for criminals than by murdering the wretch because he has murdered another.


The lynching of Joseph Snyder was the lynching alluded to in the article. Joseph Snyder was lynched on December 27, 1880. He was lynched within hours of murdering the husband and wife he boarded with in Santee's Mills just 4 miles from Bethlehem. He murdered Jacob Geogle and his wife Annie with an axe while they slept in their bed. Snyder had made advances towards their daughter Alice, some articles list her as fourteen and others as sixteen. Apparently on the night of the murders, Snyder had attempted to rape Alice, but did not succeed. When Alice went to tell her parents of his attempt she found them murdered. Snyder was found and a jury was impaneled by the coroner. The jury's verdict was:

 "That the said Jacob Geogle and Annie Geogle came to their death by blows and cuts inflicted upon their heads and bodies with an axe in the hands of Joesph Snyder, on the night of Dec. 26, 1880>" 

While the jury was deliberating a mob dragged Snyder out of the house where he was being guarded and took him to an "immense chestnut tree, which has stood on the banks of the creek for probably over a century." Three times the detective guarding Snyder, Detective Yohe, dragged Snyder out from under the tree and placed his body between the mob and Snyder. Snyder, however, seeming to wish to die, placed himself under the tree. Quickly, a boy climbed the tree and placed the rope over one of the limbs. It was so quick that Detective Yohe, who had wrapped the rope around his arm, was hoisted three or four feet into the air. Snyder confessed to the attempted rape and murder before being lynched. 

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

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