(Executed for murder at Seneca, September 13, 1868.)
This has been a day of unusual interest in the history and events of our County, in as much as we have witnessed the execution of the law on the person of Melvin Baughn, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to suffer death according to the law, at a special term of the District Court of this County held in August last.
I take the oportunity of giving you a few items concerning his execution and previous life, as I have been able to gather them up to the present writing. The prisoner steadfastly refused to make any general confession, although urged to do so by his ministerial advisors, as a Christian duty he owed to his fellow men. He said he did not know anything that he thought would do any good to anybody, redeem anyone from crime, or stop the schemes of wicked men. What he might say might implicate respectable men, who stood high in society, and were surrounded by interesting families, and with some with whom he was not acquainted, and of whose guilt he was not assured of, except by hearsay; and if it was necessary to do that in order to save his soul, he would have to run the risk.
He was born in Virginia and at the time of his death was thirty two years old. He stated that at the age of fourteen he was left an orphan, and soon after obtained a situation as bartender in Franklin, Tennesee, where he became a favorite among his companions. Being a bright, dashing youth, the attention of sporting men was directed toward him by noticing the skill with which he managed end the agility with which he rode a spirited mare which he borrowed from a neighbor for the npurpose of riding to and from the races, which were frequent in that vicinity. He afterwards became a professional horse trainer, which was more or less his business through life. He finally joined a company of horse racers who were travelling, making that their business. On reaching Independence, Missouri, he left his company, and obtained a job of a neighboring large farmer, in the capacity of hostler, for the purpose of superintending and training his horses. He remained there a year, spoke very favorably of his employer, and regretted, with much feeling, that he did not remain there. After leaving his situation near Independence, he came to Kansas, where he received employment with the Overland Transportation Company as pony express rider. While thus engaged he admitted to have killed a man by the name of Flood, near Big Sandy, in an altercation. At the conclusion of his term of service with this company, they were indebted to him about $500, but the company failed about this time, and he only received a small amount due him. Thus being in embarrassed circumstances, he was induced to become a jayhawker, to relieve his pecuniary necessities. As respectable men were engaged in that movement, which was a general one at the time of the border war, he thought it legitimate business, under the circumstances. While in prosecution of this he was arrested for the same in Missouri, tried, convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years. While thus incarcerated, he was thrown into the society of old and hardened criminals, from whose lips he learned many of the ways of wickedness, and whose influence upon him, he says, very much furthered him in the course of crime.
After serving two years and three months he was pardoned by the Governor. Upon his release he returned to St. Joseph and vicinity, where he became the companion of dissolute men, and became connected with a band of robbers and murderers. After prosecuting this business for a time, he was suspicioned by parties near St. Joseph of having stolen some horses. They, hearing of him, with three other persons going west with horses supposed to be theirs, obtained a warrant and pursued them. On reaching this place they ascertained that Baughn and his companions had preceded them but a short distance. They then sought and obtained another warrant, and the aid of the sheriff of this county with his posse, and pursued them. After pursuing them about 15 miles, they found that Baughn and his party had passed this place going east, about daylight, and about an hour in advance of the sheriff and his posse. They stopped a short time at a friend's of theirs in town, who informed them that a mob was in pursuit of them. Baughn and Mooney, and one of their partners then left the wagon which they were with and proceeded on foot.
Jackson and Strange, the other two, were arrested, taken to Doniphan County and tried, but were released, as the horses which they had did not prove to be those which they were in pursuit of. The posse and the sheriff then proceeded in pursuit of Baughn and Mooney. After pursuing them some fifteen miles, they were discovered by the advance guard, four in number, who immediately rode up to them and told them that they came to arrest them. Baughn and Mooney immediately commenced firing upon the party, winch resulted in the killing of Dennis, and severely wounding Hillis, two of the advance guards. The fire was returned by the guard resulting in the fracturing of Baughn's right arm and one of Mooney's legs. They both escaped. This was in November, 1866. About the first of January following, Baughn was arrested in Leavenworth city, by Officer Scott and the Leavenworth police force, and delivered to the authorities of this county. He remained in jail at this place about two months when he affected his escape. Soon after, he, with others of his companions, concocted and carried into execution the plan to rob the store of Mr. Craig of Wathena. His share of the proceeds, he stated was $800.
With this he went to St. Louis and fell in with a number of the "fast boys," and before he was aware his means was expended. He then planned and raised another "sight," with the proceeds of which he returned to his Tennesse[sic] home.
He gave no further account of himself until he was arrested on suspicion, at Sedalia. Missouri. He went to the express office there and inquired for a carpet bag belonging to Jo King (he went by that name at the time.) He was informed that there was one there for that person, but did not take it away. This created some suspicion on the part of the express agent, who, thinking be might return after dark, left the window a little raised and remained to watch for him. Sometime during the night he returned, put his head within the window and lit a match, when he was ordered to stand. Failing to do so he was fired upon, the shot taking effect in the upper part of his head, and carrying away one finger from the hand in which he held the match.
He made his escape but was arrested two days after, and lodged in jail at Warrensburg. On the 25th of June last, Mr. Kyger of this county, visited him for the purpose of identifying him as Baughn, he having a requisition from the governor of this state for his delivery to the authorities of the county. He firmly declared to Kyger that his name was Bigger, and that he had never been in Nemaha county, or even in Kansas. Sheriff Kyger, however, having sufficient evidence with him, that he was Baughn, brought him to this county, where he was duly tried and found guilty of murder, as before stated.
During his imprisonment in the county jail, he had been visited frequently by Rev. W. C. Stewart, pastor of the Congregational church and Rev. Gray of the M. E. church, whose counsels and prayers he ever received respectfully and affectionately, he was very accessible to religious conversation, although it seemed to be influenced by the character and conversation of those who were with him, and would frequently indulge in jocular conversation with spirit. On the evening before his execution he was visited by Revs. Stewart and Gray, with whom be conversed freely, and seemed calm and self-possessed, he retired about 12 o'clock, and slept as composedly as usual. He ate his breakfast with somewhat less relish than usual; still his general being was self-contained. He was supplied with suitable apparel of black alpaca, pleated bosom shirt, white stockings and slippers, and he made his toilet calmly. He passed the morning hours in pleasant conversation with Mr. McLain of Savannah, Mo., and his ministerial advisers. Singular to state, none of the old companions or friends have been near him, except one, who at the request of Baughn, came to take charge of the body, to remove it to Doniphan county. During the hour preceding that in which he was executed, he was visited in the cell by Hon. Geo. Graham and Judge Lanham, of Seneca, both of whom prayed with him. At the request of Rev. Gray, Baughn led in audible prayer. His prayer was authorized by simplicity, earnestness and appreciation of his condition. Among other petitions he prayed that if he was not prepared to die he might be made fully so. His manner and language seemed to indicate a cheerful confidence in Christ. The gallows were erected near the jail door, an enclosure of canvas surrounding it. Outside of the canvas was a rope inclosure guarded by fifteen armed men. None but those invited by the sheriff were admitted within either enclosure. Among those invited were Mr. McLain of Missouri, several prominent citizens of the county officers of court, two physicians, two ministers and representatives of the press. The outside enclosure was surrounded by over one hundred people, who were enabled to gratify their curiosity by the occasional glimpse of Baughn, as he stood on the trap door, awaiting the final preparations of the sheriff.
At ten minutes past three the prisoner was led out by the sheriff, and ascended the scaffold with a firm step, the only sign of fear or affectation being when he stepped from the jail door in sight of the gallows. He said almost audibly, "It's rather rough." As he came out of the jail door he handed to the Reverend Stewart and Sheriff Kyger, a document in his own handwriting of which the following is a copy:
A FEW WORDS FROM THE JAIL.---As the hour of my approaching doom draws near, I feel it my duty to say a few words ere I depart from this world of wickedness and sin. I have but a few hours to live, and yet I cannot say that I feel any desire to prolong the time. I have endeavored to make peace with God. I have prayed to him night and day, and I feel and believe that my prayers have been heard and answered. It seems hard it is true, to die an ignominious death on the gallows. But I believe I will be better off, for I have had but little comfort the last few years of my life. Therefore I feel resigned to my fate, and feel that I am fully prepared to meet it. I feel in a great measure that I am indebted to Revs. Stewart and Gray for my reconciliation to God, and I am very thankful for the kindness shown me by the reverend gentlemen; and I hope they may never be called upon to minister unto a human being placed in my unfortunate condition. I can never repay their kindness, but if the prayers of a penitent sinner ever avails anything, they have mine for their future welfare. Mr. Stewart, I would be thankful to have you write to my wife after my death; let her know how I died, and try to console her in her hour of affliction.
To the Sheriff of Nemaha County:
When I arrived here in June last in charge of the sheriff of Nemaha County, I expected to go in the hands of a mob, notwithstanding that sheriff A. Kyger esq., had repeatedly assured me that I should not be taken out of his hands by either friend or foe, except over his dead body. But of that I doubted his ability to do all he had promised, as regarded protecting me by the violence of the mob knowing as I did the blood-thirsty disposition of a number of citizens of this county, and I feel confident that it is only owing to the determined resolution to guard and protect me from mobocracy that I have today to pen these lines. While the sheriff has used his every endeavor to protect me from mobocracy, he has not, to my knowledge, in any instance, violated the law, but has, I believe, obeyed it to the letter. He has never shown that venomous disposition to tyrannize over me, as a large number in this community have been disposed to do. But I freely and cheerfully forgive them all, and credit their ill-feeling to ignorance and bad whiskey. As I have before said, Mr. Kyger has never shown a disposition to tyrannize over me, but has, I believe, used his every endeavor to alleviate my sufferings, by gratifying my every want. His son, Samuel, who has been with me most of the time since my trial, while he has done his duty as an officer of the law, and guarded against an escape, and against the violence of a mob, who were ever howling for blood, has treated me with human kindness. And now as my earthly sphere (career?) is drawing to a close, I would express my thanks for the kindness received at the hands of these gentlemen.
Being seated on the scaffold with the sheriff, Rev. Stewart offered a prayer. He then bade farewell to the minister and others who came forward to give him the parting hand. The sheriff then proceeded to pinion his hands and feet, and to adjust the fatal noose around his neck. The cap commonly used on such occasions was then placed over his head but not covering his eyes, an opportunity was given him to make any remark he might desire. Without the slightest tremulousness in his voice but with tears in his eyes, he proceeded to say, "I believe it is customary for persons in my position to have something to say. With me it is different. I have nothing. I have been arraigned, tried and convicted, and I am here to suffer the penalty of the law. That is all." The death warrant was then read to him by the sheriff in clear, firm tones. The cap was then drawn over his eyes. The sheriff then ascended the scaffold and in clear tone said, "Melvin Baughn, you have just five minutes to live." Presestly[sic] he said, "You have just two and a half minutes to live." The seconds passed rapidly until the sheriff called the third time, "Melvin Baughn, you have just one minute to live." A moment more and the rope was cut and the trap door fell, and Melvin Baughn was suspended between heaven and earth, a spectacle of pity and shame. The neck was not broken by the fall, but death was the result of strangulation. His death struggles were not severe. The body, enfeebled by wounds and sickness yielded quickly to the power of death. The pulse ceased to beat in seven minutes, and the heart in nine. The body remained suspended about twenty-seven minutes. The physicians, having declared life extinct, the body was cut down, hands and feet unpinioned, and then deposited in the jail where many gathered around to view the last remains. The body remained in the jail until the following day, when it was removed by the friend before incidentally alluded to.
Thus died an ignominious death on the gallows, a young man possessing some remarkable qualities, which would have no doubt made him, under the proper system of education, and with right principles, a great, good and useful man. Among other peculiarities of his mind, he was possessed of a singular sagacity and knowledge of human nature. Never embarassed, he appreciated to the fullest extent, the character and position of those with whom he came in contact. But courage of the highest order was the greatest peculiarity of Baughn's character. He knew not what fear was. I learn from Rev. Stewart that he has no doubt from what he saw of him during his imprisonment and last hours, that he was a truly penitent and forgiven man.
I have thus given you the facts in relation to Baughn as I have been able to gather them. You will perceive that it is but a small portion of his life which he revealed; and no doubt that part kept back would have been much more interesting and also revealed a large amount of crime.
The following accounts of the killing and hanging of Jayhawkers are prepared on the authority of the Chief and letters of pioneers in our possession.
In 1862 or 1863, George Bennett, who recently had been county assessor, turned his attention to Jayhawking, but he was soon caught and hanged at Elwood.
Chandler, a noted Jayhawk leader after many successful raids, was shot and killed at Geary City in the fall of 1862. Chandler had won the hatred of all the good citizens of the county, who rejoiced at his taking off. An account of some of his operations is given in another part of this book.
The Chief, in its account of the killing of the Jayhawkers Ridley and Whitehead says: "In the winter of 1862-3, two Jayhawkers who went by the nicknames of Bob Ridley and Whitehead, were killed at Troy. One was shot in the saloon that stood where the Chief office now is, by Isaac Taliman: The other was killed by William Warner, in the door of the old city hotel, as he was raising his pistol to shoot Warner. These Jayhawkers had gone to Tallman's house at Cottonwood Springs, southeast of Troy, during Tallman's absence, and in spite of the protestations of his wife, had taken and carried away property that had been left in his care. The two men were buried in the graveyard of the old Cumberland Presbyterian church, beyond Wolf river near Baynes's bridge."
There is an error in the above. Whitehead head did not die at Troy, where he was shot; neither was he buried in the Presbyterian graveyard near Bayne's bridge.
After the shooting in Troy, on January 29th 1862, he was put upon a sled and brougt to Cold Springs, in Wolf River township, where he was cared for until his death three weeks later, and, was buried in the old Wood's graveyard, which is located four and a half miles almost due west of Troy, where his grave is marked with a rude limestone slab.
One night in March, 1863, a small gang of Jayhawkers went to the home of Frank Brown, in Iowa Point, and began to terrorize the family by shooting through the windows of the house, the bullets passing over the bed occupied by his wife and children. Brown siezed a revolver and returned the fire, hitting and instantly killing Charley Pitcher, one of the gang. The others fled immediately. It is said that the object of the gang was to kill Brown who had been accused of helping in the return of escaped slaves to Missouri.
From the manuscript of a pioneer who kept close watch on the happenings in the early days, we give the following concerning the hanging of three men at Highland, in 1863:
Some horses had been stolen in the vicinity of Highland, and a posse of men was formed for the capture of the thieves. Three men were found in possession of the horses. An angry mob composed of men from nearly all parts of the county thirsted for vengeance. Having been found in possession of the stolen animals seemed in the judgment of many, ample proof of the guilt of the men; but the affair was conducted with undue haste, and the proceedings lacked the sanction of many cool headed men in the crowd who wanted to be reasonably certain of the men's guilt before hanging them. However, the hot blood had its rule and the men were unceremoniously hanged from the limb of a big tree near the town. After the hanging there was much dissatisfaction, especially on account of there being great doubt of the guilt of one of the men who was scarcely out of his teen. This young man had told a plausible story explaining how he came to be with the other men, but his words had fallen on deaf ears, and his pleadings for time and an opportunity to prove his innocence had been in vain. According to the young man's account, he had met the two men on horseback leading another horse. They had offered to let him ride, and he had accepted the offer, never suspecting that the men were thieves and the animals stolen ones. To a sympathizer he gave the name and address of his father, asking that he be informed of his fate. After the hanging the young man's father came from Illinois and produced a letter from his son (the dead man) in which the son had written that he should soon be home. Further inquiry disclosed the fact that the young man was of good character, and the last doubt of his innocence was dispelled. The brokenhearted father had the remains of his son removed from the dishonored grave and sent back to his home.
James Pickett, who, during the war, had operated as a "detective" in Missouri, headed a band of men in the pursuit of a thief who had stolen a horse from A. C. Nott, near White Cloud, in April, 1865. The thief was captured near Iowa Point, at the home of a man named Powell, and being promised a fair trial by the men, he revealed the place where the horse had been hidden. With the thief in charge, Pickett's men returned to Nott's, arriving late in the evening in time for supper. After supper when it was quite dark, the men started toward White Cloud with their man. A short distance from town the man was shot to death and his body left lying in the road. Pickett, who is said to have fired the first shot, was tried for murder, but was acquitted, the feeling against horsethieves being too strong to convict a man for killing one, even in so cowardly a manner.
Transcribed from Gray's Doniphan County history: A record of the happenings of half a hundred years. By P. L. (Patrick Leopoldo) Gray. Bendena, Kan.: The Roycroft Press, 1905. 3p. l. -84, 166,  p. front., plates, ports. 24 cm.
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