Fred Hutchinson James Delmage Ross Dixy Lee Ray George W. Bush Hazel Wolf Henry M Jackson Warren G. Magnuson Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6825 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

One murder suspect is lynched at Whitman County Jail, but another fakes death and avoids the noose on January 7, 1898.

HistoryLink.org Essay 7893 : Printer-Friendly Format

On January 7, 1898, a mob of 20 to 30 men storms the Whitman County Jail in Colfax with the intent of lynching two murder suspects. One suspect is lynched but the other successfully fakes his own death and escapes with little injury.

In the autumn of 1897, two men robbed two passersby near the town of Farmington, located in northeastern Whitman County. After robbing their victims and forcing them to lie in a fence corner, the robbers waited for additional targets of opportunity. Soon two more men came along. One of them was Orville Hayden.

The robbers drew their weapons and ordered the two men to raise their hands. Hayden either did not move fast enough or made a move that alarmed his attackers, and one of the robbers shot him. Hayden died soon afterward.

In November 1897, F. F. Morse was charged with the crime. Though there was some talk and threat of a lynching, it didn't happen -- and Morse was later fully exonerated.

Later in 1897, two more suspects were arrested and placed in the county jail in the courthouse in Colfax. Charles Marshall, known as "Blackey," was charged with stealing a roll of blankets, though the authorities suspected he was responsible for Hayden's murder. It is less clear whether authorities initially suspected the second suspect, Robert McDonald, known as "Dakota Slim," of being Marshall's accomplice in the Hayden murder.

In a classic ruse, Whitman County authorities hired a Spokane detective and put him in jail with Marshall to try to trick Marshall into admitting guilt. The detective was "charged" as an accomplice to an unrelated murder. The ruse worked -- the detective later reported that "Blackey" (Marshall) told him that he had murdered Hayden. Marshall also told the detective that "Dakota Slim" (McDonald) was his partner in crime.

The Whitman County Courthouse had once before seen a double lynching. In June 1894 a mob gained access to the jail, removed two prisoners, tied nooses around their necks and unceremoniously tossed them out of a second floor window. When the detective's story about Marshall's admission became known in Colfax, it looked like history was about to repeat itself.

Between 1 and 2 a.m. on January 7, 1898, a mob of 20 to 30 men, masked and well-armed, stormed the courthouse. The mob picked a good night for their raid: Only one deputy sheriff and a night watchman were at the jail. Through either trick or by force, the mob gained access to the jail. But once they reached Marshall's cell, they were surprised to find him asleep. "Even these masked and determined men, bent on bloodshed, stood aghast for a moment at the thought of the terrible awakening awaiting the unconscious sleeper" (Lever).

Marshall was awakened and immediately realized his fate. He begged for mercy, but one of the men struck him on the head with a revolver butt and knocked him unconscious. "In a moment [Marshall] was dangling at the end of the rope from one of the courthouse windows" (Lever).

McDonald, however, had anticipated the mob and had prepared for them with considerable savvy. He had improvised a spear from a sharp knife which he tied to a mop handle with his leather shoestring. He had also plugged the keyhole to his jail cell with rags. As a result, the mob could not get close to McDonald without getting speared and could not unlock the door to get into his cell. But there was nothing to stop someone in the mob from shooting at McDonald, and someone did.

The bullet glanced off one of the cell bars and splintered the bar. One of the iron splinters struck McDonald, but did not seriously injure him. But he once again rose to the occasion. "He sank to the floor, exclaiming "Oh God, I'm killed!" So skillfully was death simulated that the mob, thinking the ghoulish undertaking successfully accomplished, retired from the building, and 'Dakota Slim' was safe" (Lever).

Imagine the shock authorities felt when they later went into McDonald's cell expecting to find a dead man but instead found one alive and well. And McDonald's good fortune continued -- he was tried for Hayden's murder, and acquitted.

Sources:
W. H. Lever, An Illustrated History of Whitman County, State of Washington (San Francisco: W. H. Lever, 1901), 123-124, 127-128.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Crime |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You


This essay made possible by:
The State of Washington
Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation


Whitman County Courthouse, Colfax, 1910s
Postcard


Colfax, 1900s
Postcard


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org