On the Western Frontier, where jailhouses were few and gunslinging, cattle rustling, and stagecoach robberies were common, legal executions served as both a deterrent and as entertainment. In some cases, invitations summoned spectators - and they came in droves. From 1854 to 1910, in the lawless towns of the Old West, more than one thousand men (and two women) were executed. And while most of the punishments went off "without a hitch," a handful of necktie parties and firing squads stand out in the annals of history. Frontier Justice in the Wild West examines eighteen of the most interesting, controversial, and unusual executions.
From the Introduction Frontier justice in the Old West was comparatively swift, usually fair, and occasionally brutal. On the frontier, justice took many forms, and hanging was the most popular form of lethal justice. The practice of hanging heinous criminals came to America with the Europeans and continued into the western territories with the pioneers. However, not every crime on the frontier was a capital offense. Actually, with one exception, only premeditated first-degree murder resulted in a legal execution and, contrary to popular belief, vigilantes usually applied justice with the same constraint. To accommodate lesser crimes, lighter punishments were devised.As the West was being settled, building a jail wasn't a town's top priority. Petty criminals could be held under close guard for short periods in any secure structure, but in those early days it was more practical to chain a man to a rock, heavy log, or a tree. Where a jail was not available it could be effective, in some wilderness areas and for minor offenses, to banish a wrongdoer. As an example, soon after Cheyenne, Wyoming, was established in 1868, one of the local newspapers published a list of undesirable characters, with a warning to leave town or face the wrath of the Vigilantes. The "posted" men packed their belongings and moved westward to the Union Pacific Railroad's end of track at Laramie.
Introduction (1) John Millian, April, 24, 1868, Nevada (2) Asa Moore, October 18, 1868 Wyoming (3) Leander Morton, September 27, 1871, Nevada (4) John McCall, March 1, 1877, South Dakota (5) John Lee, March 23, 1877, Utah (6) George Parrott, March 22, 1881, Wyoming (7) Pond Brothers, May 1881 (8)Gilbert, Francis, July 29, 1881, Colorado (9) William E. Delaney, March 24, 1884, Arizona (10) Andrew Green, July 27, 1886, Colorado (11) Elizabeth Potts, June 20, 1890, Nevada (12) Enoch Davis, September 14, 1894, Utah (13) Charles H. Theide, August 7, 1896, Utah (14) Fleming Parker, June 10, 1898, Arizona (15) Herman St. Clair, June 24, 1898, Idaho (16) Thomas Ketchum, April 25, 1901, New Mexico (17) Hilario Hidalgo, July 31, 1903, Arizona (18) Thomas Horn, November 20, 1903, Wyoming, Bibliography, About the Author