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William George
Muskingum County Murderer

Columbus Dispatch
Thursday, May 17, 1888 and Friday May 18, 1888
Transcribed by

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ADDED NOTE: Fornshell, Marvin E, The Historical and Illustrated Ohio Penitentiary, (1907-1908, rpt. 1997 by Arthur W. McGraw) page 150

William George (Prisoner 19289), was convicted of murdering James Scott, "farmer of advanced years" on 18 July 1887 due to Mr. Scott's "objection to his 15-year-old daughter's attention to George."

Thursday, May 17, 1888

Te be Hung Before Daylight To-morrow--Story of His Crime--Demeanor of the Condemned--Arrangements for the Execution.

To-morrow morning, between the hours of twelve and three o'clock, William George will pay the penalty of a brutal murder by losing his life, unless Governor Foraker should extend to the condemned man executive clemency, which event, however, is not probable. The crime for which George is to suffer death was the murder of James Scott in Noble county, on July 18, 1887. George is an illiterate man and was a farm hand. He at one time attempted to outrage a young lady, and only escaped punishment through the ignorance of a justice of the peace. About nine o'clock of the evening of the day on which the murder was committed, George went to the house of Scott, who lived near where the murderer worked, and told the old man that a horse was down in some underbrush near by, and asked Scott to get him an ax to help get the animal out. The old man did so and left the house with George. that was the last time he was seen alive. It is supposed that George got the old min in front of him and then, taking the as, split the old farmer's skull open. The murder committed, George returned to Scott's house and told the old lady that her husband had gone to a neighbor's house to sit up with a sick child and wanted her to come over. The lady refused to leave the house, and George then asked to see the fourteen-year-old daughter, but was told that she had gone away to spend the night. That fact undoubtedly saved the life of the mother and the honor of the daughter.

George then returned home and told the family with whom he lived that Scott had attacked him and that in self-defense he had killed the old man. Mrs. Scott became suspicious and investigating found her husband dead, just over the county line in Muskingum county. The body was lying in a ravine, the head having been crushed into a shapeless mass. The defense set up by George was that Scott had pursued him with the axe, but it was shown that the blow had been struck from the rear.

George has kept up well under the strain, and seems to give no thought to the execution. He lost his appetite several days ago, but since then has been given out door exercise and is feeling better. He showed the greatest indifference to his fate when a DISPATCH reporter visited the annex this afternoon.

Warden Coffin stated that the number permitted to see the execution would be small, and as far as is now known this list will be as follows: Sheriff Russell Bethel, of Muskingum county; Thomas Marshall, James McGwine of Columbus; James Ritty, of Dayton; W. H. Snyder, of Dayton; Sheriff of Montgomery county; ex-Deputy Warden Ben. H. Merriott, Mr. Harry Taylor Littick, of the Zanesville Times-Recorder; Warden Coffin, Deputy Cher[r]ington, Assistant Deputy Patton, and representatives of the local press.

The condemned man has as yet had no spiritual adviser and does not desire one. Chaplain DeBruin has called on him repeatedly but cannot get him to talk on the hereafter. In all probability George will die without spiritual advice.

It is not yet known what disposition will be made of the remains. The mother of the condemned man was notified, but nothing has been heard from her.

Friday, May 18, 1888


The Last Hours of a Brutal Life--The Horrible Scenes on the Scaffold--Letter to the Sister of the Executed.

At just fifteen minutes after one o'clock this morning the last horrible scene in the depraved and worthless life of William George, the Muskingum county murderer, began, for at that hour the process of strangulation commenced.

While there is little excuse for speaking in harsh terms of a poor wretch who has expiated a fearful crime on the gallows, it can be said of William George that he was distinctively a man of brutal instincts--a creature as far below the plane of a civilized human being as it would seem possible for a man to be. He wa naturally of low tastes, was illiterate and had few, if any, virtues or even good points. His crime was a cold-blooded and brutal one; it was premeditated and cowardly, and deserved the punishment the law has meted out. The fact that George confessed his guilt, makes everything clear, and leaves his memory a thing to be forgotten as soon as possible. His name will go down in the annals of crime as that of a young man who wasted his life, and by becoming familiar with his own evil inspirations, lowered even the remnant of human nature left him.

There could be a great deal said of the execution this morning if it were deemed necessary and fitting. However, the horrors of the scene should be allowed to sink into oblivion at the earliest moment, and so this account will be brief. Of the execution it can be said that it was a model one, as far as results are concerned. The work of the officials was accomplished with dispatch, promptitude and care. This bore the good result, and the condemned man was put [out] of the world with little or no trouble. If such affairs have to be, and it seems they must be, it can be seen how much better it is to delegate the disagreeable duty in the hands of the experienced men, and have the execution at such a time and place as will rob it almost entirely of its sensational features.

The last hours of William George were spent like much of the preceding time he had passed in the annex of the penitentiary. He talked, ate and slept as usual; he had no inclination for religious preparations, and seemed to care little for thoughts about the coming end. In the afternoon he took his last walk in daylight, and after his supper in the evening concluded to remain awake until the time of execution arrived. His companions, Morgan and Stanyeard, talked with him at intervals, and so the early hours of the night were passed. George had arrayed himself in a new black suit and fresh clean linen, thereby making a great change in his appearance. Since his arrival in the annex he had paid a great deal more attention to his dress than before, when he was only a coarse-looking farm hand. Through the evening George was not at his ease, in spite of his bravado, and it could be seen that the thoughts of the coming event were busily forcing themselves uppermost in his mind.Still it is certain that the last hours were more painful to Morgan than to any of the three. Stanyard has so little of the human and so much of the brute about him that he cannot feel very strongly about anything.If he felt at all last night, it was to congratulate himself that his time has yet two months to run.

While the annex was pervaded with comparative quiet, the persons invited to visit the execution were assembling on the warden's office. At midnight all were present, they being as follows:

Manager R. M. Rownd, Warden Coffin, Deputy Warden Cherington, Assistant Deputy Warden Patton, Chaplain I. H. DeBruin, Captain Frank Koehne, R. B. Brown, of the Zanesvill Courier; W. O. Littick, of the Zanesville Times-Recorder; W. E. Krebs, of the Zanesville Signal; ex-Deputy Warden B. H. Marriott; W. W. Pyle and J. B. O'Reilly, of the Irish-American Times; Charles T. Black of Lancaster; Charles Q. Davis, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer; John R. Molloy, of the Cincinnati Enquirer; J. J. Jennings, of THE DISPATCH; N. H. Caldwell, of the Journal; W. R. Parsons, of the Times; F. B. Gessner, of the Cincinnati Post; J. W. Clements, secretary board of managers; Dr. L. M. Early, A. C. Osborn, of the Capital; George H. Gordon, of the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette; the representative of the Associated Press; Captain Orrin Henry, of the Auditor of State's office; Penitentiary Clerk Rarey; Harry Blair, of the Sunday Herald;, Drs Clemmer and Taylor; Guard Iliff, of Greene county; Joseph Herman, H. H. Black, James McGwine and Harry Taylor.

Shortly after midnight this crowd was conducted back to the reception room of the annex, and there awaited the time when they were admitted to the execution room. This came shortly before one o'clock. Meanwhile reports came from the cell room that Morgan had pinned a bouquet of geraniums upon George's coat, and that all the preparations would soon be ended.

It was a few minutes after one o'clock when the door on the scaffold and George marched on to the platform, accompanied by Warden Coffin, Deputies Cherington, and Patton, Manager R. M. Rownd and Chaplain DeBruin. The prisoner had refused religious consolation in the cell-room below, and after walking up the stairs unassisted, took a lounging position near the scaffold trap, while Warden Coffin read the death warrant.

Then the nature of the man asserted itself. Just previous to the entrance of the officials he had eaten heartily and had smoked a cigar. He wanted to continue smoking, but Dr. Clemmer would not allow it, and consequently George got very mad. Accordingly, when he stood on the scaffold and Chaplain DeBruin asked, in a quavering, earnest voice, if he would not listen to prayer that his soul might be received by his Maker, he replied: "Well, if you hadn't cheated me out of my cigar down there, I might." This was said with a swaggering drawl. Chaplain DeBruin said a few words in prayer, to which George paid no attention, for as soon as he was faced about on the scaffold he made a remark about it being "a nice crowd down there," meaning the spectators. Warden Coffin after telling him to keep still, asked if he desired to make any statement. George replied that he did not, but called to Dr. Clemmer and said he would "remember him for that," meaning his refusal to allow him to smoke any more. Manager Rownd stepped forward and asked George to prepare himself for the end and say good-bye. He would do neither, but shook hands with Warden Coffin and Deputies Cherington and Patton. He said a few words more to Dr. Clemmer, and then, while the officials were pinioning his arms, he began to rail at Governor Foraker. His words in this connection were disgusting, and the spectators soon lost all sympathy for the man. His first remark about Governor Foraker contained indecent language, but later he said, "Foraker must have a gall like Barnum's bull; I don't see how he can sleep to-night." After this he said some words to the officials about their putting on the ropes right. He also told the warden that his crime was done in self-defense. After repeating his words about Governor Foraker and Dr. Clemmer, he said, as the rope was finally adjusted and the black cap affixed, "That's right, give me another necktie." These words were hardly spoken when Warden Coffin sprang the lever, and with the rattling noise of the trap falling was the sound of the body's fall. That was the beginning of the end. For sixteen minutes the life of the man ebbed slowly and death resulted from strangulation. The body was cut down and placed in the keeping of Superintendent Johnson, of the state shop. It will probably go to one of the medical colleges.

George's crime has often been described, so it is not necessary to speak of it again. All efforts possible to save his life were made by his attorneys, but without success.

It has been stated that the letter written to Mrs. Lucy Comb, Grant City, Worth county, Missouri, was indited by George. This is not so, because he could not have written the first sentence of the letter mailed. The letter was the work of John Francis, and was his own idea for, although George may have felt what was written, he he could not and would not have said it. The letter, with the note to Warden Coffin, is as follows:
E. G. Coffin, Warden:

Respected Sir.--After perusing this letter please forward same to my sister as addressed, and oblige.
Yours respectfully,

COLUMBUS, O., May 17, 1888, 7:30 P. M. }

MY OWN DEAR SISTER--When I look back now to the date when I received your last letter and reflect upon the length of time it has been, I fell the keenest sensation of shame and regret--shame for waiting until almost the last hour of my life to acknowledge your dear, affectionate message, and regret for neglecting past opportunity. I am sure, however, that you will freely forgive my carelessness because of the very unhappy circumstances which surround me at this time. I was glad to learn that yourself and family were well, and as to myself I am compelled to frankly acknowledge I am in excellent health and as cheerful as a human being can be, knowing himself to be standing on the brink of the grave, for this is my last evening on earth, as I am to be executed between the hours of 12 and 3 to-morrow morning, and long before this letter shall meet your gaze, my sweet sister, I shall be sleeping "that sleep which knows no waking."

I have a few requests to make--a favor or two to ask--a few suggestions to offer--and I must bid you a final farewell, though I do so reluctantly.

In the first place, dear sister, I leave with you a legacy of love for our devoted mother, and I fondly hope you shall be as kind to her as I have tried to be, for with all my waywardness I have never for a single instant relinquished that deep love which is inborn in the heart of every boy for his mother. I have made many mistakes in life, it is true, and caused he many unhappy hours; but believe me, dear sister, 'twas a weakness of the head and not of the heart. I know she will be kindly cared for when I am gone, and the knowledge of this fact helps me from considering too much on the dark side of the picture before my mind's eye. Enclosed you will find my photo--'til all I have to leave you, and you will treasure it, I know, as you would a precious gem.

The money you sent me I am very thankful for and only regret my inability to return the same. You need not send any more, as you intended, as I have no further need for it. Indeed the wealth of the Vanderbilts would avail me nothing in that mysterious beyond about which we read so much and know so little.

Charley Anderson wrongly informed you, I have not confessed religion. I shall die just as I lived (without professing that which I do not feel).

Please extend my kindest remembrances to all relatives and carry my farewell to them, as I shall write to none save you. Try to console mother, and tell her, for me, to believe it is for the best. There is nothing more I can say. I need not mention the crime which I am to expiate to-night. I am guilty. I never denied the act since my trail, but the public, which is ever prone to judge one harshly, ascribed a wrong motive for the deed--for truly, I had no evil intentions on his daughter. However, I freely forgive all who have in any manner injured me, and I trust they shall be as magnanimous. I entertain no ill-will toward anyone. I was ably defended by two faithful attorneys, whose noble efforts in my behalf elicit may sincerest gratitude. To Judge Ball and his colleague I send my kindest wishes and hope they may be more successful in future cases than they have been in mine. To Warden Coffin, Deputy Warden Cherington and their subordinates, I wish to extend my profoundest gratitude for the for the many acts of kindness I have received at their hands, for all of which I feel thankful.

In conclusion, dear Lucy, may I ask that you do not worry because of the sad fate of your unfortunate brother? Remember that our lives can not be all sunshine, and I am leaving this world without much regret, for I feel that we all shall sometime be reunited in that home beyond the grave.

So now with a parting caress for yourself and each member of the family I bid you a final good-by, and God bless you all. Your devoted and unhappy brother,


Does any one believe that George ever wrote or dictated such a letter?

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