The Murder of Lewis McDaniel
And the trial and hanging of his murderer.
A FOUL MURDER.A most shocking murder was committed in Ashland last evening. Lewis McDaniel, an old citizen of the county, and a resident of Ashland for nearly a year past, was shot by someone while walking up Church Street to his home. The deed was done about half-past seven o'clock, and the report of the fatal shot was heard by many people in the central part of town. The discovery of the terrible affair, however, was not made till some fifteen or twenty minutes afterward.
A CITIZEN OF ASHLAND SHOT DOWN ON THE STREET.
Anson W. Jacobs, who lives in that part of town, was coming downtown about 8 o'clock, carrying a lantern. Just at the corner of the Baptist church lot where the new cross street comes into Church Street, he heard a loud confused breathing which he at first thought was that of some intoxicated man but on examination he found Lewis McDaniel lying face downward, his head in a pool of blood. He hurried down to Main Street and told the terrible news, and a crowd of men were soon at the spot. They found that he had received a wound in the face, evidently a charge of buckshot from a gun fired directly in front of him and but a short distance away. Several physicians were there soon, but found that nothing could be done for him, and life was found to be extinct in a little less than half an hour from the time the fatal shot was heard. The Coroner, Dr. Inlow, was on hand, but had not summoned a jury up to time of our going to press.
Mr. McDaniel had been in the shooting gallery at the corner of Church and Main streets, and from there was evidently walking leisurely, with his hands in his pockets, till he reached the fatal spot, which is perhaps only about 50 yards from his house. The murderer evidently lay in wait crouched in the corner of the fence. The victim never knew anything after the shot was fired.
The murder was undoubtedly the result of malice, and not an attempt at robbery. A sum of money was found untouched in the victim's pocket. Suspicion is already active, based upon trouble which deceased was known to have had with some parties some time since.
Ashland Tidings, November 21, 1884, page 3
ANOTHER MURDER.--Lewis McDaniel, an old settler of this county, was found in a dying condition in the road leading to his residence in Ashland last Thursday night about eight o'clock. The appearances indicated that he had been shot by some party unknown while on his way home, the top of his head being blown off by what appeared to be a shot from a gun. When discovered he was just breathing his last and could not tell who shot him or for what cause. Justice Eubanks subpoenaed a coroner's jury for 10 o'clock Friday and immediately telegraphed District Attorney Kent to attend to take evidence, but the examination had not concluded last night. A man named O'Neil has been arrested on suspicion and is being held to await developments. Mr. McDaniel was something like 48 years of age, married, and was generally supposed to be well fixed in worldly goods. All kinds of rumors are afloat as to what might have been the cause of the murder, and as the coroner's jury had not yet completed its labors last evening we forbear further comment for the present. District Attorney Kent telegraphed last evening that "it was a very rough case."
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 22, 1884, page 3
The Murder Case.Before ten o'clock on the night of the shocking murder last week general suspicion had centered upon Louis O'Neil to such an extent that officers Taylor and Walrad arrested him and housed him in the town jail. The arrest was made in High & Taylor's saloon. O'Neil was ordered to throw up his hands, and complied without giving any evidence of surprise. In fact, he never uttered a word until he was in the jail, when he asked upon what charge he was arrested. The grounds of suspicion in his case were that he was known to have had trouble with McDaniel, who had forbidden him to visit his house, not liking his intimacy with his family; that he was seen on a number of nights prior to the murder walking or lounging about on Church Street near the fatal spot; that his supposed crooked relations with the family of the murdered man indicated that he, more likely than anyone else, would have a motive for the crime.
On Friday Coroner Inlow deputized Justice Eubanks to attend to the case, and a jury was empaneled, composed of Messrs. H. C. Hill, Chas. Wolters, T. Noonan, H. Fox, B. F. Myer and J. S. Eubanks, Jr. The post mortem examination was made by Doctors Parson and Songer. Their evidence showed that there were seven buckshot wounds in the head and face, and omitting the detailed description given, we give the facts of general interest: The position and general course of the wounds (which were all on the left side of the face and head and ranged in general course backward and upward) showed that the shot had been fired at short range from a point somewhat below the face, to the left and a little in front of the victim, and the accepted theory is that the murderer crouched down behind the fence on the south side of the narrow street and fired at his victim who was walking slowly along the opposite side of the street, a little before he had come opposite him, the distance between them being some twenty feet. The bullets had torn the bones of the face, shattered the front part of the skull and penetrated the cerebrum or front part of the brain, which oozed out from the wounds in the forehead. The body had evidently not been touched by the murderer.
Evidence was produced to show that the track of a man's boots had been followed on Friday morning from the fence corner, where it is supposed the shot was fired across Gillette's and Kentnor's lots to Granite Street, across Granite Street, up the meadow and across to the Hargadine hill above the grove. The boots of the prisoner were found to fit these tracks. (Of course, the exact degree of value of this evidence, or of any of the evidence we report, for that matter, can only be determined upon careful examination in court, but we give the chief points upon which the verdict of the coroner's jury rests.) O'Neil was seen about on the streets early in the evening at different places, but the first time he was seen by any witness after the murder was committed he was met coming down the sidewalk on Main Street just above Reeser's building, indicating that he had been in the part of town through which a man would pass in coming from the Hargadine hill whither the tracks were followed. He himself made a statement, detailing where he was through the evening, walking about the streets and meeting various persons, but that he can prove an alibi is very doubtful.
Mrs. McDaniel and her son, a boy about 10 years of age, stepson of the deceased, testified that they were in the house, about fifty yards away, when they heard the report of the gun; they thought someone was firing an anvil to celebrate the election result. The crowd with lanterns which gathered about half an hour later did not attract their notice and they had gone to bed and were with great difficulty aroused when the men went to tell them of the affair about 9 o'clock. Mrs. McDaniel expressed very little emotion or grief over the terrible affair, showing either a great lack of sensibility or a wonderful control over her feelings.
Search for the weapon used was fruitless until Sunday forenoon, when the barrel of a shotgun, detached from the stock, was found in Coolidge's nursery, northwest of the scene of the murder some 100 or 150 yards; the stock of the gun was soon found lying in another place and the ramrod in still another place. In one barrel of the gun was a load of sixteen buckshot; the other barrel was empty. There is no doubt that this is the gun used in the murder, but as yet no one has been found who can give any clue to its ownership--a very important point. Mr. Nininger, of the second-hand store, testified that a gun almost exactly like it was offered for sale to him some months ago by parties who, he thinks, have since left the valley. There are peculiarities about it which a person once examining it would be likely to forget. Its description is as follows: An old-fashioned, light, double-barreled, muzzle-loading shotgun, barrels 32 inches long, whole weight six pounds. On the under side of the stock is a carved representation of the upper part of an alligator's head and jaw. The eye to catch the pin which holds the barrel and stock together has been broken for a long time, and the two parts had evidently been held together by a string around the barrel and through the hole in the stock.
After a session of six days, hearing evidence of which the above is a brief outline, and other of more or less consequence, the coroner's jury on Wednesday returned the following verdict:
CORONER'S VERDICT.We the undersigned, summoned to inquire into the causes which led to the death of Lewis McDaniel, do find as follows: That the person who was killed was a man by the name of Lewis McDaniel, a resident of Ashland, Jackson County, State of Oregon; that the said Lewis McDaniel was killed on the night of the 20th day of November, A.D. 1884, at about 7:30 o'clock P.M., on Church Street in the Town of Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon, by means of a shotgun which had been loaded with buckshot and fired at the deceased from a short distance. And we believe that said gun was held in the hands of a man by the name of Lewis O'Neil when said Lewis McDaniel was killed; and we hereby charge the said Lewis O'Neil with the murder of the said Lewis McDaniel.
Signed by us this 26th day of November A.D. 1884.
H. C. HILLYesterday morning O'Neil was arraigned in Justice Eubanks' court on the charge made by the coroner's jury and through his counsel, J. T. Bowditch, waived examination. Thereupon the justice committed him to await the action of the next grand jury, and he was at once taken to the county jail at Jacksonville in charge of officers Taylor and Walrad.
B. F. MYER
J. S. EUBANKS, Jr.
Ashland Tidings, November 28, 1884, page 3
The funeral of the late Lewis McDaniel occurred on Saturday afternoon, and was attended by very few persons besides the family, as no public notice of the time had been given.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, November 28, 1884, page 3
John McDaniel, of Little Butte, brother of the late Lewis McDaniel, was in town last Saturday and expressed a determination to have the mystery of the murder solved, if possible.
District Attorney Kent came up from Jacksonville Friday to be present at the coroner's inquest over the body of Lewis McDaniel, but was compelled to retire to look after cases in Circuit Court Monday, and Judge DePeatt has been representing the state in the investigation since.
"Personal," Ashland Tidings, November 28, 1884, page 3
In the matter of the estate of Lewis McDaniel, deceased. Amanda McDaniel appointed administratrix of said estate.
"Probate Court," Oregon Sentinel, January 10, 1885, page 2
ON TRIAL.--The trial of Lewis O'Neil for the murder of Lewis McDaniel is now in progress in the Circuit Court. The following are the names of the jurors empaneled to try the case, the twelfth man being secured yesterday forenoon: Levi Gartman, Jacob Bowman, Thos. Martin, Ben Carter, W. H. Bailey, J. D. Neathammer, J. S. Morgan, E. S. Trimble, J. H. Griffis, James McDonough, George Mergle and John E. Pelton. There are a large number of witnesses to examine, and the case will doubtless occupy several days. Messrs. Kahler and Neil are the attorneys for the defendant.
Ashland Tidings, March 6, 1885, page 3
The large number of witnesses summoned to appear before the grand jury in the O'Neil case, and the length of time most of them were kept waiting in Jacksonville occasioned much comment, and Judge Webster intimated to the District Attorney that an indictment should have been found with but a small part of the time and expense which Mr. Kent seemed to think necessary.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, March 6, 1885, page 3
THE MURDER TRIAL.--The O'Neil case probably reached the jury last evening. The evidence was all in Wednesday evening; and the attorneys began their arguments yesterday morning. On Tuesday, at the request of both the prosecution and the defense, Judge Webster brought the jury up to Ashland, and the court and jury visited the scene of murder and the place where the gun was found, and followed what is supposed to have been the course pursued by the murderer after committing the crime. After the prosecution had closed its case, new evidence was procured positively identifying the gun as one that was in possession of the defendant before the murder, and the case was reopened to admit the evidence. O'Neil is said to have exhibited much nervousness during the trial whenever strong evidence was elicited against him.
Ashland Tidings, March 13, 1885, page 3
GUILTY.--By private telegram this morning we learn that O'Neil has been found guilty of murder in the first degree, the jury being out only about an hour.
Ashland Tidings, March 13, 1885, page 3
THE O'NEIL CASE.--The trial of Lewis O'Neil for the murder of Lewis McDaniel at Ashland in November last came to an end last Thursday night by the jury finding defendant guilty as charged in the indictment--murder in the first degree. The trial occupied the attention of the court over two weeks, several special venires being required to get the jury. The verdict returned by the jury seems to give general satisfaction as public opinion considers him guilty and the findings are considered just and deserving. A large crowd was present every day of the trial, showing that an unusual interest was taken in the case, and on Thursday last when counsel on each side argued their case, the number increased, and in the evening when Judge Hanna made the closing argument the large court room was so crowded that standing room was in demand. After resolving the charge of Judge Webster the jury retired and in about one hour's time thereafter the jury came into court and pronounced a verdict of "guilty as charged in the indictment." The prisoner was remanded to jail awaiting the action of his attorneys in securing a new trial and he will not be sentenced until all these matters have been settled. This has been one of the most expensive trials ever had in this county and a little judicious hanging would probably put a stop to the causes that lead to such cases as this.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 14, 1885, page 3
NOT SENTENCED YET.--The counsel for defendant in the O'Neil case made the usual motion for a new trial, and after hearing their arguments last week, Judge Webster took the matter under advisement till next Monday. It is not expected that a new trial will be had.
Ashland Tidings, March 20, 1885, page 3
State vs. Lewis O'Neil, motion for a new trial. Taken under advisement by the court.
"Circuit Court Proceedings," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 21, 1885, page 3
O'NEIL SENTENCED.--On Monday last Judge Webster reopened court and rendered his decision upon the motion for a new trial made by the counsel for the defendant in the O'Neil case. The arguments of the counsel were exhaustively reviewed by the Court and the decision showed a conscientious study of all the points and a thorough mastery of the case. The Judge expressed himself as anxious to correct fully any error he might have committed, but after full investigation and careful consideration of the objections raised by the defense, he found himself sustained by the highest authority in every particular; and therefore overruled the motion for a new trial and called in the prisoner for sentence. Before passing sentence, the Judge had the prisoner brought before him and reviewed the case vividly and succinctly, reminding him, among other things, that the gun with which the crime was committed was proven beyond a doubt to have belonged to him up to within a very short time of the murder, and that if he had disposed of it to someone else he could easily have established that fact before the jury, as the law now permits a prisoner on trial for his life to take the witness stand and explain fully if able any circumstances that may have been misrepresented or misinterpreted during the trial--an advantage denied to the defendants in criminal cases less than fifty years ago. When called up for sentence and asked if he had anything to say as to why sentence should not be pronounced upon him, O'Neil said he was innocent; that he had nothing to do with the murder and knew nothing about it; that it was hard to be convicted of a crime that he was in no way connected with, etc. When he was through the Judge, with the shadow of the heavy responsibility visible in his white face, discharged the most painful and solemn duty developing upon a court of justice, sentencing the prisoner to the extreme penalty of the law, the sentence being that on the 21st day of May, 1885, he be taken from the jail and in the court yard adjacent be "hanged by the neck until dead." O'Neil betrayed much nervousness and mental distress during the utterance of the final words of the sentence, but the sheriff reports that he now disposes of his regular rations with evident relish, sleeps soundly and while awake declares his innocence. While the principle is fully recognized that a man on trial for his life should be given the benefit of any doubt that can be thrown around his guilt, this verdict in this case is regarded by everyone here as just. The evidence, although exclusively circumstantial, seems to be sufficient to convince everyone who studies the case of the guilt of the prisoner. It is understood that there will be no attempt to carry the case up to the Supreme Court, and unless the Governor should interfere, which there is no reason to expect, the sentence will be executed on the 21st of May next.
Ashland Tidings, March 27, 1885, page 2
No steps have been taken yet toward carrying the O'Neil case up to the supreme court. O'Neil is trying to raise money for the purpose. If he doesn't succeed, it is safe to predict that the case will not reach the supreme court.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, April 3, 1885, page 3
ANOTHER ONE ARRESTED.--Mrs. Amanda McDaniel, the widow of Lewis McDaniel, who was murdered in cold blood at Ashland not long since, was yesterday arrested for being a party to the crime and is now in jail. It seems that confessions were made in the jail some time since and from what we hear it is claimed that Mrs. McDaniel was the instigator of the plot while O'Neil carried it out. Another party is also said to be implicated for trying to buy off witnesses, and we look for interesting developments before long.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, April 11, 1885, page 3
Estate of Lewis McDaniel. Sale of real property confirmed. Petition by administratrix to pay claims against the estate in full granted.
"Probate Court," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, September 19, 1885, page 3
The Murder Trial.The trial of Mrs. Amanda McDaniel, charged with being an accessory in the murder of her husband in Ashland last winter, began at Jacksonville last Monday. From the regular jury panel seven jurors were obtained, and after the summons of a special venire of 24, the remaining five were secured Wednesday evening. The jury is composed of the following named citizens: Wm. Mayfield of the Meadows; Squire Walton and G. W. Howard, of Medford; J. W. Plymire, of Manzanita; Rufus Cox and Mr. Turpin, of Little Butte; Ralph Dean, of Willow Springs; Frank Parker and B. F. Miller of Rock Point; Wm. Miller and J. T. Layton, of Applegate; T. J. Keaton of Poorman's Creek. The trial is progressing as rapidly as possible, but will no doubt continue into next week.
Ashland Tidings, November 20, 1885, page 3
The trial of Mrs. Amanda McDaniel for murder began at Jacksonville Tuesday, an adjourned term of circuit court being held by Judge Webster for that purpose.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, November 20, 1885, page 3
A venire was ordered issued for 24 good and lawful men to complete the panel in the case of the State vs. Amanda McDaniel, returnable at 2 o'clock P.M. Nov. 18th.
"Circuit Court," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 21, 1885, page 2
THE MCDANIEL.--The trial of Mrs. Amanda McDaniel as an accomplice in the murder of her husband is now progressing in the Circuit Court, and it will probably continue till next week before a verdict is rendered. Out of the regular panel only seven jurymen were secured, and a special venire of twenty-four were then drawn, when the list was completed. District Attorney Kent and H. K. Hanna are prosecuting while J. R. Neil, C. W. Kahler and J. T. Bowditch appear for the defense. The following gentlemen compose the jury: F. Hubbard, G. S. Walton, R. F. Dean, J. W. Plymire, G. W. Howard, H. C. Turpin, Wm. Mayfield, F. M. Parker, B. F. Miller, J. T. Layton, T. J. Keaton, Wm. Miller.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 21, 1885, page 3
The McDaniel murder case caused the attendance of a large measure of witnesses from Ashland and the immediate vicinity.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 21, 1885, page 3
The trial of Mrs. Amanda McDaniel, charged with being an accessory in the murder of her husband in Ashland last winter, is just concluded. The jury was composed of the following-named citizens: Wm. Mayfield, of the Meadows; Squire Walton and G. W. Howard, of Medford; J. W. Plymire, of Manzanita; Rufus Cox and Mr. Turpin, of Little Butte; Ralph Dean, of Willow Springs; Frank Parker and B. F. Miller, of Rock Point; Wm. Miller and J. T. Layton, of Applegate; T. J. Keaton, of Poorman's Creek. [omission] as possible. The verdict of not guilty was returned yesterday.
"News of the Northwest: Oregon," Oregonian, Portland, November 26, 1885, page 3
Verdict of Acquittal.In the case of Mrs. Amanda McDaniel, charged with complicity in the murder of her husband, the evidence was all in last Saturday evening, and on Tuesday morning at 11 o'clock the case was given to the jury. After being out until about 8:30 o'clock the next morning, the jury returned a verdict of acquittal. There is strong circumstantial evidence against the accused, but as there was undoubtedly a fair trial before an impartial jury it is to be concluded that there is not quite enough evidence to remove all doubt of guilt.
Ashland Tidings, November 27, 1885, page 4
ACQUITTED.--Mrs. Amanda McDaniel, charged with being an accomplice of O'Neil in the murder of Lewis McDaniel, her husband, was tried this week and the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty. The jury is said to have stood eight for conviction and four for acquittal on the first ballot, but after twenty-four hours' deliberation the four carried the day and the prisoner was declared not guilty. She was discharged in consequence after having been in jail over six months awaiting trial.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 28, 1885, page 3
Mrs. Amanda McDaniel has returned to Butte Creek, having been found not guilty by the jury that tried her case.
The O'Neil murder case will be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday next. J. R. Neil started below this week to appear for the defense.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 28, 1885, page 3
Argued and Submitted.The case of the State of Oregon vs. Lewis O'Neil, appealed from this judicial district, was argued before the Supreme Court last Monday and submitted to the decision of the court. Judge Hanna and Judge DePeatt represented the state and J. R. Neil, Esq., appeared for the defendant. It will probably be several weeks before the decision of the Supreme Court is announced.
Ashland Tidings, December 4, 1885, page 3
Circuit Court convenes again on the second Monday of next month. Judge Webster will be called on to again push the death sentence of Lewis O'Neil.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, December 19, 1885, page 3
MUST HANG.--A petition for a rehearing in the case of Lewis O'Neil, convicted of the murder of Lewis McDaniel, was denied by the Supreme Court on Tuesday last. He will probably receive his second sentence of death next week, and Governor Moody is the only one that can save him from the gallows. He made an attempt some time ago to starve himself to death but gave it up. It is reported now that he is making a second attempt.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, January 16, 1886, page 3
State vs. Lewis O'Neil, murder. Mandate of the Supreme Court entered.
"Circuit Court Proceedings," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, January 23, 1886, page 3
A constant watch is now kept on the murderer O'Neil.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, January 23, 1886, page 3
O'NEIL SENTENCED.The fiscal year of 1885 was an "off year," there being more criminal business than in any one year in the history of the county, and the items of courts alone cost the taxpayers $20,536.54. The homicide of Lewis McDaniel has cost to date $5,683.
Judge Webster having set Tuesday, Jan. 25th, at 3 o'clock p.m. as the time for passing sentence upon Lewis O'Neil, who had been convicted of the murder of Lewis McDaniel at Ashland in November, 1884, the court house was well filled at the appointed hour to hear the doomed man sentenced to death. The circumstances of the murder and conviction are already well known, and we will not rehearse them here.
When asked by Judge Webster whether he had anything to say, O'Neil proceeded to talk at considerable length. He blamed no one, excepting those whom he charged with entering into a conspiracy against him. He claimed to be innocent of the crime, knew nothing about the murder, nor who committed it. He said he did not fear to die, but very much disliked to be hanged, because of the stigma that would be placed on his six children and other near relatives. The [illegible] his remarks.
O'Neil appeared [illegible] and did not seem to be [illegible] the solemnity of the occasion. He spoke without any apparent emotion, and his tread was firm and resolute.
His honor then made a few remarks before passing sentence, concluding by saying that as O'Neil had been ably defended, had been accorded a fair and impartial trial and had been adjudged guilty by a jury of twelve good men, nothing was left for him to do but to pass the sentence in such cases made and provided. It was therefore ordered that the judgment and sentence of this court is that the defendant be now recommitted to the jail of this county, then and there to be left in confinement until Friday, the 12th day of March, 1886; that then and there, between the hours of ten o'clock in the forenoon and three o'clock in the afternoon of said day, in the enclosure of said jail or jail yard, and by the proper officer, the defendant, Lewis O'Neil, be hanged by the neck until he be dead, and that judgment be entered against him for the costs and disbursements of this cause to be taxed.
O'Neil said he feels hurt because the Judge did not give him the full sixty days limit. He says he is hopeful of something turning up in his favor yet.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, January 29, 1886, page 3
"Semi-Annual Statement," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, February 20, 1886, page 3
THE EXECUTION.--If nothing unlooked-for appears, O'Neil, the murderer, will have expiated his crime on the gallows before another issue of the Sentinel appears. The Sisters of Mercy pay him regular visits, but all other visitors are excluded. O'Neil will not yet acknowledge his case as hopeless and is said to be as defiant and saucy as ever. Mr. Moon, a relation of his from Colusa, Cal., was here this week making a last effort to have the sentence commuted and is now at Salem to get an interview with Governor Moody. Should this fail the condemned man will be executed in the courthouse yard at 12:30 p.m. on Friday next. A high board fence will enclose the scaffold, and only a few spectators will be allowed inside. The Jacksonville Fire Department will be called out on that day to act as guards and to assist the Sheriff in keeping peace and order.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 6, 1886, page 3
If Lewis O'Neil, the McDaniels murderer, is hung at Jacksonville, on March 12th, 1886, it will be the first hanging in southern Oregon since Casterlin was hung twenty-five years ago.
"Short Stops," The Daily Astorian, March 10, 1886, page 3
THE DEATH PENALTYToday, unless something unexpected should intervene, the sheriff of Jackson County will execute the sentence of death pronounced upon Lewis O'Neil by the district court. It is twenty-five years or more since anyone has been deprived of life by due process of law in this county, and the event is one calculated by its infrequency as well as its character to turn this public mind toward the high responsibilities, powers and duties of our system of law and justice. The question of justice and expediency of capital punishment is one which has exercised reformers, philanthropists and social economists for many years and has provoked a vast amount of discussion both in the press and upon the forum. So strong has the sentiment against the death penalty grown in many parts of our country that in some states capital punishment has been abolished by statute, life imprisonment being substituted for it as the penalty for murder. As to the effect of this change upon the frequency of murder, publicists differ, but we believe the weight of testimony leans to the view of those who believe in capital punishment as a necessity for the protection of the lives of the innocent. Michigan, after trying life imprisonment for murder, because alarmed at the increasing number of murders and again placed the death penalty upon her code. This has also been the history of experiment in other commonwealths. In the case of execution today, the officers of the law are sustained in the performance of their solemn duty by the knowledge that the convicted man has had every opportunity to disprove his guilt which a fair and impartial trial could afford, and that, so far as it be possible to prove a deed by evidence other than that of an actual witness, the condemned man has been proven guilty of a deliberately planned and intelligently executed murder--a murder that fills to the fullest extent the measure of the crime which under our laws demands the execution of the criminal.
A petition to the Governor for the commutation of the death sentence of O'Neil to life imprisonment was circulated in Jacksonville last week, but received few signatures. John Beeson, of Talent, who is opposed to capital punishment under any circumstances, made some effort in behalf of the condemned man, it is said.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, March 12, 1886, page 3
A petition to the Governor for the commutation of the death sentence of O'Neil to life imprisonment was circulated in Jacksonville last week, but received few signatures. John Beeson, of Talent, who is opposed to capital punishment under any circumstances, made some effort in behalf of the condemned man, it is said.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, March 12, 1886, page 3
On Friday, March 12, 1886, Lewis O'Neil suffered the extreme penalty of the law, by hanging until he was dead, for the murder of Lewis McDaniel, committed at Ashland November 20, 1884. The facts in the case have been told so often that they are well known, and it will always be remembered that it was a cold-blooded murder, the assassin giving his victim no warning whatever and shooting him in the side of the face. The execution took place in an enclosure specially built for that purpose in the courthouse yard in the presence of about 120 spectators, the fire co. acting as guards. At two o'clock the condemned man, in charge of Sheriff Jacobs and his deputies and accompanied by Rev. Father Blanchet, his spiritual advisor, ascended the scaffold, when the Sheriff read the death warrant and then asked O'Neil if he had anything to say. Contrary to general expectations he would not confess and would say nothing one way or the other, Father Blanchet speaking for him, stating that the prisoner had nothing to say. The noose was then adjusted by the Sheriff, and at 2:15 the trap fell and Lewis O'Neil was no more, his neck having been broken, and he died almost without a struggle. Drs. Aiken, Robinson, Lempert and DeBar were present, and after hanging about 15 minutes they pronounced him dead, when he was cut down and placed in a coffin that had been prepared for that purpose. A large crowd of people collected on the outside of the courthouse yard during the time, but the best of order prevailed, and all dispersed quietly after the work was done. O'Neil's body was kept until today at the request of relatives, when he was buried in the Jacksonville Cemetery, and so endeth the chapter.
----To show what O'Neil was writing to his friends after his sentence and before his execution we submit the following, dictated by the condemned man and written down by one of the guards acting as death watch:
Substance of letter written to Mrs. McDaniel, in Jan. '86: "Mandy, you know that I told you several times while you were in this place awaiting trial not to be uneasy but if possible to have your trial put back until I could hear what action the supreme court would take in my case. If I was denied a new trial, and you were found guilty, I would come to your relief and clear you by taking the whole responsibility on myself, although I am innocent, but if you could not have your trial put back and that you were found guilty you should never hang or go to the penitentiary for I would save you. Now you have been tried and come clear, and it is in your power to save my life. You can do it by coming into town and swear that you did the killing, and that I had neither hand, act nor part in it, or any knowledge of it. That would clear me, and the law could not hurt you, as it says plainly that no man's life shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. Then I could employ one of the best lawyers in California and come on the state of Oregon for heavy damages, and I would divide equally, or if that was not enough, I would give you all, so I hope you will not delay as I know you can save my life and the disgrace will be no worse on you than it is now."
To Mr. Egerton [sic], San Francisco, Cal., Feb. 1886--"Dear sir: Please see what the law is or what could be done to Mrs. McDaniel in case she would relieve me by taking the whole responsibility herself. Please let me know as soon as possible."
Letter to Mrs. Fouts, Jan. 1886--"Have Joe and Al do all they can to find the man I sold the gun to or anyone that would do that for me. The gun that was seen with me is not the gun displayed in court. The gun I had was not quite as long as the gun they had in court, and instead of a dragon's head being carved on the stock it was a lion's head. It looked very much like the gun that was in court, but was not the same."
Letter to Johns, Feb. 1886:--"Try and get someone to clear me by swearing that they done the killing and that will clear me. Then I will come back on the state for heavy damages and will make it all right with whoever will do it, then they can clear themselves by proving where they were on the 20th of Nov. 1884, the night McDaniel was killed. He was shot with buckshot on [the] left side of the head on Church Street, Ashland, within about 70 yards of his house."
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 13, 1886, page 2
The coffin for O'Neil was made by George Reives, our wagon maker.
Tickets for admission to see the hanging of O'Neil were in demand yesterday, and as high as $5 was paid for a piece of pasteboard granting that privilege.
We claim to speak the truth when we say that every precinct in the county was represented in Jacksonville yesterday. None of them came into see the hanging, but other business of importance called them to town.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 13, 1886, page 3
JACKSONVILLE, March 12.--The McDaniel murder case, which has been in our circuit court since November 18, 1884, has finally terminated in the hanging of Lewis O'Neil, the murderer.
At 1:40 Sheriff Jacobs reported O'Neil as having an interview with friends, at which time he asked for stimulants, they being granted.
An assemblage of about 120 was admitted into the enclosure prepared for the occasion, including thirty members of the Jacksonville fire department, who acted as guards.
At 2:10 the condemned man, accompanied by F. X. Blanchet, priest, Sheriff Jacobs and his two deputies, appeared on the scaffold, O'Neil showing no nervousness whatever. Being placed on the trap door, the sheriff read his death warrant for him. After this he was asked if he had anything to say, but this was answered by Father Blanchet, saying that O'Neil had nothing to say.
The prisoner's feet and hands were then tied, and the black cap placed over his head. The rope was adjusted around his neck, and at 2:15 O'Neil was suspended in mid-air, at the end of six feet of rope. He was pronounced dead by three attending physicians, Aiken, Robinson and DeBar, eight minutes after the fall.
It is rumored that O'Neil made a secret confession to Father Blanchet while in his cell. A few days before the execution O'Neil wrote a letter to his brother at Grave Creek, requesting that he come and suffer the death penalty. Being quite old, he said, it would not be so hard on him, and therefore allow O'Neil the privilege of caring for his family of six children, now residing in California. Since the receipt of the letter O'Neil, of Grave Creek, has died, aged 72 years.
"O'Neil, the Murderer, Hanged at Jacksonville," Oregonian, March 13, 1886, page 1
Lewis O'Neil was hanged at Jacksonville last Friday, for the murder of Lewis McDaniel at Ashland in November '84. This is the first hanging in southern Oregon since 1861 [sic].
The Daily Astorian, March 14, 1886, page 3
EXECUTION OF O'NEIL.The sentence of death pronounced upon Lewis O'Neil for the murder of Lewis McDaniel was executed at Jacksonville on Friday last. Application having been made to the Governor for a commutation of sentence, O'Neil did not give up all hope of life until the evening before the fatal day, when he apparently became satisfied that the sentence would be executed. Two of the Sisters of Mercy from the convent in Jacksonville had visited him several times, and on Thursday evening he expressed to them a desire to have Father Blanchet call upon him. The priest at once called, and had a long interview with him, at which it is understood that the condemned man made "confession of his sins" and received the usual offices of the priest in such cases.
The preparations for the hanging included the making of an enclosure about 40x60 feet, of which the court house formed the west wall and the jail a portion of the east wall, a tight board fence about 16 feet high completing the enclosure. At the south end of this area the gallows was erected. A number of tickets were issued by the sheriff entitling the holders to admission within the gallows yard. At about half-past twelve the court house square was cleared of all persons except those holding tickets, and no others were allowed inside the court house fence until after the execution was over; so it is safe to say that only those persons admitted to the gallows yard witnessed the hanging. Of these (including the Jacksonville fire company, who were armed with rifles and acted as the guard of the day), there must have been nearly two hundred.
The murderer slept a little Thursday night, and on Friday morning ate about as much breakfast as usual. During the forenoon his nephew (by marriage), who came from Colusa, Cal., to intercede with the Governor, was with him most of the time. At half-past one o'clock Father Blanchet entered his cell, remaining until the prisoner came out with him to his fate. About 2 o'clock O'Neil asked for a stimulant, which was given him. By this time the guard had been drawn up in a double line across the enclosure in front of the gallows, and the persons having tickets were admitted and took up position behind the guard. The press reporters were given a station in one of the clerk's rooms where everything said upon the gallows could be heard. Among the spectators were several women and two or three young children.
At 2:10 Sheriff Jacobs emerged from the jail door followed by O'Neil, whose right arm was held by Father Blanchet. Following O'Neil were Deputy Sheriff Steadman and Mr. Moon. In this order they proceeded up the steps to the scaffold. O'Neil was not fettered, and walked firmly and without hesitation. He looked pale from the long confinement, but betrayed very little nervousness upon the scaffold. He kept his eyes cast down and did not take a single glance at the crowd in front. He was given his position in the center of the scaffold, the sheriff read the death warrant and then asked the prisoner if he had anything to say. O'Neil's lips moved slightly, as if he were about to speak, but he said nothing and Father Blanchet spoke up quickly: "Mr. O'Neil has nothing to say." He then presented the crucifix, which O'Neil pressed to his lips, after which he repeated in an inaudible tone a short prayer read by the priest. Then stepping upon the trap, he held his hands behind him, while they were tied by the sheriff, the deputy at the same time securing his ankles with a cord. The black cap and noose were then quickly adjusted by the sheriff. While this was being done, Father Blanchet began the recitation of one of the litanies, calling upon all the Heavenly powers and the saints to receive the soul of the condemned man. The sheriff stepped back out of sight and the trap was sprung. The four Jacksonville physicians were present, and Dr. Aiken at once placed his finger upon the pulse, Dr. Robinson holding the left arm to steady the body. The neck was dislocated by the fall of five feet, and the miserable victim of his own crime yielded up his life at the instant he reached the end of the rope. The trap fell at 2:15 o'clock, and at exactly eight minutes afterward the pulse ceased to beat, and the physicians pronounced life extinct. There was no motion of the body after the fall. After hanging nearly twenty minutes, the rope was cut and the body lowered into a pine coffin, which had been prepared. On Saturday the remains were buried in the "potter's field."
It was generally supposed that O'Neil would have something to say upon the scaffold. He was advised by his confessor, however, to say nothing, and followed the advice. This is almost as much of a confirmation of his guilt as would have been a direct confession, for no one who believed him innocent would have advised against making a simple declaration to that effect with his last breath.
The rope with which the hanging was done was an ordinary new manila rope, an inch in diameter. After it had done its work it was cut into small pieces which were distributed as mementos of the occasion.
O'Neil's mental organization was evidently of a stolid character, morally abnormal, and he was incapable of recognizing the value of life. He did not act the bravado and try to make a criminal hero of himself; neither was he overpowered by the dread of death--a murky mind--a dangerous man to society. He was one whom it would have been perilous to turn loose after the trial for murder, had he by any means escaped a conviction.
Were anything further than the evidence at the trial needed to remove all doubt of O'Neil's guilt it could be found in his subsequent actions. He dictated to one of his jailers a number of letters, which give an insight into the utter selfishness and repulsiveness of his nature. The letters are self-explanatory:
Substance of a letter written to Mrs. McDaniel, in Jan. '86: "Mandy, you know that I told you several times while you were in this place awaiting trial not to be queasy but if possible to have your trial put back until I could hear what action the Supreme Court would take in my case. If I was denied a new trial, and you were found guilty, I would come to your relief and clear you by taking the whole responsibility on myself, although I am innocent, but if you could not have your trial put back and that you were found guilty you should never hang or go to the penitentiary for I would save you. Now you have been tried and come clear, and it is in your power to save my life. You can do it by coming to town and swear that you did the killing, and that I had neither hand, act, or part in it, or any knowledge of it. That would clear me and the law could not hurt you, as it says plainly that so man's life shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. Then I could employ one of the best lawyers in California and come on the State of Oregon for heavy damages, and I would divide equally, or if that was not enough, I would give you all so I hope you will not delay as I know you can save my life and the disgrace will be no worse on you than it is now."
To Mr. Egerton, San Francisco, Cal. "Feb. 1886--Dear sir:--Please see what the law is or what could be done to Mrs. McDaniel in case she would relieve me by taking the whole responsibility herself. Please let me know as soon as possible."
Letter to Mrs. Fouts, Jan. 1886--"Dear Sister--Have Joe and Al do all they can to find the man I sold the gun to or anyone that would do that for me. The gun that was seen with me is not the gun displayed in court. The gun I had was not quite as long as the gun they had in court, and instead of a dragon's head being carved on the stock it was a lion's head. It looked very much like the gun that was in court, but was not the same."
Letters to Johns, Feb., 1886--"Try and get someone to clear me by swearing that they have done the killing and that will clear me. Then I will come back on the state for heavy damages and will make it all right with whoever will do it, then they can clear themselves by proving where they were on the 20 of Nov. 1884, the night McDaniel was killed. He was shot with buckshot on left side of the head on Church Street, Ashland, within about 70 yards of his house."
Letter to his brother, George O'Neil, Grave Creek:
JACKSONVILLE, March 3, 1886.DEAR BROTHER: I write you these few times hoping to find you in good health as I am at this time considering my situation, Dear Brother, the bearer of this letter is sister Elizabeth's son-in-law, Mr. Moon. He came here in order to do all he can to relieve me. I have not been fairly dealt with in any feature of the case. Every advantage has been taken of me and a new trial denied me by the supreme court. If I had one friend here to have looked after my case I never would have been convicted of what I am accused of--a crime that I am innocent of. The gun that was introduced in court was sworn to have been the gun that you brought from California with you--sworn to by the young man that came up with you. They tried to establish the fact that I got the same gun from you but failed to do so. At the time I was to see you the gun I was seen with on the return from your place I bought of a man near Woodville and sold it between Blackwell and Medford, 20 miles from Ashland. My health is very poor, owing to trouble and close confinement. I have not seen the sun for over 11 months. I have suffered a thousand deaths since I have been here shut up, if possible. If I get no assistance I will have to hang in 9 days from now. I do not dear death, but it grieves me to think what a terrible disgrace it lays on my friends and relatives. The most trying feature is in leaving my six children to the mercy of the world without protection and the disgrace of their father being hung. According to my age I might live long enough to raise my children up so they could take care of themselves. As for you, you have lived to be a very old man and in the natural course of events you can expect to live but a very few years more and are liable to drop off at any time. If you had but one hour to live it would be a hard request to ask you to come and state that you done the killing and that I had not any hand, act or part in it or any knowledge of it. That would clear me and spare me to my children, and only on their account I could never think of making such a request of you. This is the only thing that can save me, is by your coming and make this statement. You making this statement would not make you guilty of the crime. Your statement would have to be in writing and have at least three witnesses, and the proper place to make the statement would be before the county clerk of this county. As far as death is concerned, neither of us can live a great while, and hanging is soon over with. If I were of your age and you mine and having a large family of children as I have I would certainly relieve you, and without your assistance I will have to hang. It is hard for me to ask it, but it is my only show for the protection of my family. It is for you to do according to your will, but if you will do it come immediately, as it would have to go before the Governor for his signature, and the time being so short there is not a moment to fool away. Whether you comply with my request or not, never breathe a word of it to anyone. Let none but Mr. Moon see this letter and when you read it or he reads it destroy it. If you come do not tell anyone what you are coming for.
Hoping to hear from you, I remain your loving brother,
Lewis O'NeilIf any questions is asked why you done this say it was an old grudge of over 20 years standing. He was killed Nov. 20, 1884.
On the back of this letter was a note to Mr. Moon, as follows:
Mr. A. S. Moon:--I take this way of making known to you my wants. I want you to take this letter and go and see my brother immediately, as there is no time to lose, as I think it is the only show of my relief. You read this letter over so you will understand it. If he does anything let him come with you at once. Do not speak of this to anyone--to Kahler or anyone else. 'Tis a hard request for me to make of a brother, but it is my only chance.
Go to Leland station on Grave Creek, kept by Harkness, 3 miles from the depot up on Grave Creek. Go from Harkness' to Pettingill's store. They will direct you to my brother. Inquire for him as you go up. His name is George.
----O'Neil was 49 years old, and was a native of Pennsylvania. He has a wife and six children, whom he had left some time before coming to Oregon. The crime for which he was hanged was the cold-blooded murder of Lewis McDaniel on the street in Ashland just after dark on the evening of Nov. 20th, 1884. The murderer waited behind a fence till McDaniel came along on his way home and shot a charge of buckshot into his face and head, killing him instantly. O'Neil had been intimate with the wife of McDaniel and circumstances before and after the murder threw suspicion on Mrs. McDaniel who was arrested and tried as an accessory, but was acquitted, the jury not being entirely satisfied of her guilt.
Ashland Tidings, March 19, 1886, page 2
The gallows, the temporary fence around it and all evidence of the recent hanging at Jacksonville were removed from the court house lot last Saturday.
Geo. W. O'Neil, the elder brother of Lewis O'Neil, to whom the condemned man addressed the singular request that he take upon himself the ignominy and penalty in order to allow the murderer to escape, died about two weeks ago at the residence of S. C. Stockton, on Grave Creek, of typhoid fever. He was 72 years of age.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, March 19, 1886, page 3
MUST HAVE BEEN AFRAID.--On Tuesday evening Mrs. Amanda McDaniel took the northbound train at Medford. Whether or not she has returned to this county we have not heard. Her departure on the evening before the execution of O'Neil has caused much comment.--[Jacksonville Sentinel. From which it might have been inferred that she was afraid O'Neil might "confess" all he knew.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, March 23, 1886, page 3
The Spirits Plead for the Reprieve of a Condemned Murderer.
Editor of Golden Gate:
Recently I heard the report that the jail in which O'Neil is imprisoned is haunted. The Sheriff changed the prisoner to another cell, then placed everything properly in the vacated cell, locked the door and kept the key in his pocket until the next morning, when, to his surprise, on opening the cell, he found everything in it out of place. Others besides the Sheriff and the prisoner heard and saw strange things which they could not account for except they were spooks.
On Wednesday, March 4th, I had a seance with Mrs. R., and heard three raps from a slate which we knew to be fresh cleaned, and at the time lay upon the shelf several feet from where we sat. I took it up and found the following written upon it, which was to the medium, and to myself, as much unexpected as this account is to any who may read it:
FATHER BEESON:--I cannot rest while that poor man is in bondage. You and I must do all that we can for him. I, and other spirits, have been with him a long time. The man who did the deed will confess sometime. He is very unhappy. O'Neil is innocent.
LEWIS MACDANIELS. [sic]On March 5th the following was written by the medium while in the unconscious trance:
DEAR FRIENDS OF JACKSON COUNTY:--I have come to tell you not to hang that man on suspicion. He is not guilty of murder. There are three persons concerned in it. Sheriff Jacobs is a man of truth. He must ask the spirits that come to the cell. They will tell him the circumstances of the murder.
LEWIS MACDANIELS.After a brief rest the medium wrote as follows:
FRIENDS:--Think if it were yourselves (who have dear children) to be led to the gallows while innocent. God help the poor man.
JUDGE EDMONDS.I asked and had the privilege to be locked up in the haunted cell for one night, but being disappointed in my anticipated interview with the spirited visitors, I again went to the medium and received the following answer:
We were with the Governor of Oregon last night trying to impress him to act right for the prisoner. The Governor is kind, but there were so many false oaths on the trial that it is hard for him to counteract them.
I then asked if I could do anything more in the case, and received the following answer from the spirit:
Write to the Governor.
So I wrote to Gov. Moody as follows:
Dear Sir:--The prisoner, O'Neil, is condemned by circumstantial evidence, and as there is a possibility that the witness, the jury and the judge may all have made a fatal mistake, which you alone can correct, I therefore respectfully ask that you will reprieve him, for one month, to test the truth of additional evidence, which can be given.
JOHN BEESON.After some delay at the Executive Office, and the exchange of several telegrams, it was decided "that the condemned man has had every opportunity to disprove his guilt which a fair and impartial trial by jury could afford; and that so far as it be possible to prove a deed by evidence, other than that by an actual witness, the condemned man has been proven guilty of a deliberately planned and intelligently executed murder--a murder which fills to the fullest extent the measure of crime, which under our laws demands the execution of the criminal."
TALENT, Oregon, March 15, '86.
Golden Gate, San Francisco, March 27, 1886, page 3 Lewis McDaniel was O'Neil's victim.
Preparing for a Hanging.
Sheriff Hiatt of Josephine County is beginning to prepare for an ugly job he has on hand, the hanging of the wife murderer, Chas. Fiester, sentenced to hang on Friday, Sept. 29th.
Deputy Sheriff Fallin was at Jacksonville last week examining the scaffold and apparatus used by Sheriff B. W. Dean in the hanging of Lewis O'Neil at Jacksonville about 10 years ago for the murder of Lewis McDaniel on Church Street, just opposite the present site of the Baptist church. Deputy Sheriff Fallin pronounces the Dean scaffold and trap door arrangement as being first-class and one that will fit the bill exact for the Fiester job. The trap is sprung from a secret spring, and no one needs to know when or by whom the job was done.
Deputy Sheriff Fallin says Sheriff Hiatt has received many applications for tickets to see the performance and strange to relate many young women of Grants Pass society have asked to see the hanging. The sheriff will not debar the "new woman" in gratifying her curiosity, though he expects to see a fainting spell when old man Fiester's body falls with a "dull sickening thud" on the noose and breaks his neck.
Valley Record, Ashland, November 21, 1895, page 3 The scaffold was reportedly dismantled shortly after O'Neil's execution. The trap door mechanism was apparently preserved for possible future duty.
February 27, 1955 Medford Mail Tribune. Never trust newspaper captions--
this gallows was built specially for the O'Neil hanging.