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Ben. Johnson, Burker.

The Columbus Dispatch
Fiday, September 12, 1884
Transcribed by

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The Pal of Allen Ingalls Hanged at Cincinnati, After Protesting His Innocence—A Hisotry of the Murder, the Sale of the Bodies and Indignation of the Citizens of Hamilton County at this and Kindred Crimes.

Special to THE DISPATCH:

CINCINNATI, Sept. 12.—Benj. Johnson, the "burker," was hanged in the jail yard, at 10:06. He spent a quiet night, slept several hours, and ate a hearty breakfast. He was baptized by a Methodist parson last night. At 10 A. M., fully six hundred people were in the jail yard enclosure. At that time the death warrant was read in the cell, and the prisoner was handcuffed. He was led out at the head of a procession of twenty deputies and reporters. He walked up the scaffold quickly, when Rev. Joyce made the following short prayer:

"O, Almighty God, Creator of the universe, deign in Thy infinite goodness to stand by this man in the fearful ordeal through which he is about to pass. Amen."

Johnson was then asked by Sheriff Hawkins if he had anything to say. With a smile on his face, he stepped forward and said:

"My friends--although I don't think I have many friends in this world--I stand before you innocent of the crime laid to me. I am not quilty of the charge now before me. Good-bye, all--my friends and all. I than God for this."

The victim was then pinioned. The rope tightened about his neck and he commenced crying. His tears were concealed by a black cap and his courage commenced giving away. His voice shook and his whole frame trembled.

"All ready?" asked Sheriff Hawkins.

"All ready," said Deputy Kleenan.

The dark body shot down through the trap, a fall of eight feet. The body swung around twice and the head was thrown forward on the breast indicating a broken neck. In fifteen minutes the body was cut down and put in a pine box and given to the doctors for the post mortem. Johnson's fear wa that the doctors would cut him up and they have done it. There was no excitement and but few police were required to keep order it was a neat, quick job and satisfactory to every one but Johnson.


The crime for which Johnson was hanged was the most deliberate and fiendish ever committed in Hamilton county or the State of Ohio. The story of his fiendish work, as a partner of Allen Ingalls, made a great sensation throughout the world, and precipitated the great riot in Cincinnati.

On Friday night, February 15, 1884, a small cabin near Avondale was burned. It had been occupied by Beverly Taylor, an old negro, his wife and an adopted daughter, Eliza Jane Lambert, aged eleven. On Saturday morning the charred ruins of the old hut suggested to people in the vicinity the death by fire of the three inmates during the night. Mr. Mills, the owner of the hut, made a search among the ashes for the bodies or bones, yet found nothing. No trace could be found of the missing people. Marshal Brown, of Avondale, took the case in hand for serious investigation. A small notice of a mysterious fire at Avondale was all that appeared in public prints. A week later Marshal Brown, following an intuitive clue, found the bodies of the missing people in the dissecting room of the Ohio Medical College, on Sixth near Vine. The bodies were found as brought to the college. The skull of each was fractured. There was unmistakable evidence that each person had been murdered. Subsequent investigation showed that they had been brought to the college on the night of the fire by two negroes, who had been paid for the bodies by Dr. Cilley, the demonstrator in anatomy. Marshal Brown at once arrested Allen Ingalls and Ben. Johnson, in Avondale, charging them with murdering the Taylor family. Further investigation and confessions revealed the following terrible story:

On the night of the murder Ingalls and Johnson went together to the Taylor hut. They were well acquainted with the family. Both were armed with clubs and carried with them gunny sacks in which to put the bodies. Going into the hut they found the three people sitting about the fireplace. They all pumped up and the intrusion. Ingalls struck the old man a terrible blow with a locust club. Johns knocked in the skull of the young girl and both soon killed the old lady. Then the three dead bodies were put into the sacks and carried outside.

The hut was set on fire and the ghouls left with their bodies. R. B. Dixon, an expressman, was in waiting near by. The bodies were put into his wagon, and all went into the city. Ingalls sat upon one of the bodies and smoked his dirty pipe during the journey. At the College the bodies were taken out and carried in by Ingalls and Johnson. Ingalls received $25 from Dr. Cilley, and was promised $25 more at another time. Both negroes then went to their homes on Crescent avenue, in Avondale. The arrest of the two men made a great sensation. "The burkers" became the most noted criminals of the age. In three days Johnson confessed first, and Ingalls followed when he found that his crime was discovered and that nothing could save him from conviction.

A flame of indignation against the medical college passed over the country, and for nine days the prevailing topic of conversation everywhere was on the murder. Dr.Cilley was blamed for his utter indifference to the laws of Ohio, and his neglect to report the case at once to the proper authorities. Terrible suspicions of similar deeds were suggested when memory recalled the many mysterious disappearances in Cincinnati for years past. Both criminals were speedily indicted. A month later came the baptism of fire and riot upon the jail and Court House.

The mob thirsted for the blood of Allen Ingalls and Ben. Johnson. But the lives of seventy people were sacrificed that the brutes in jail might be protected from the fury of the mob. Both men quaked and feared for their lives during the turbulent days of strife, and Ingalls was driven to desperation. Later on, two days before McHugh was hanged in May, Ingalls was found dead in his cell. He had hanged himself with a shred from his bedclothes. His body was removed to Habig's and viewed by hundreds of curious people. His black soul was terrified by the late scenes, and he was forced to seek relief by cheating the gallows. Johnson was much affected by the death of his partner, but, with defiance worth a better cause, became very reticent about the crime. He was tried before Judge Maxwell in May.

Charles E. Brown (not General Brown) was his defender, but the usual quibbles of lawyers were dispensed with, and the result was speedy conviction. Johnson was sentenced to hang on Friday, September 12. Since he was sent back to jail with the sentence of death upon him he has been more quiet than ever, refusing to say anything. Six weeks ago the death watch was placed over him, and he has been under constant care day and night. An effort was made to secure a respite in order to carry the case to the Supreme Court, but Governor Hoadly very wisely refused it.


has been concealed by his cuteness or rather stubbornness since his life in jail. He stated when on trial that he was about thirty years old; that he had been born a slave in Trumbull county, Kentucky, and had served a year in the army. For some years he had been living in Cincinnati and vicinity. When the murder occurred he was living in the same house with Allen Ingalls, in Avondale. From confessions, which both men made during their stay in jail, it is certain that for years Johnson, Ingalls and others were professional resurrectionists and many graves in the country are empty because of these ghouls. Nor is it al all likely that both men had been guilty of burking before.

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