Pekin’s last public hanging

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

With this column, we conclude our series on the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of the legal hanging of Albert Wallace, the last legal, public hanging in Pekin’s history. Wallace was given the death sentence for his murder of his younger sister Belle Wallace Bowlby in Feb. 1895. The Daily Times report of that day’s execution has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society.

The Daily Times news report tells the story of Wallace’s hanging with a high degree of detail such as would be considered morbid if not gruesome if found in a newspaper article today. Newspaper accounts of catastrophes and unnatural or accidental deaths from that period of time characteristically exhibit the same kind of “gory detail,” perhaps in part to help bring the event to life for the reader – though some editors and journalists are known to have opted for lurid sensationalism to increase newspaper sales. In this case, even with the detail, the writing style is not sensationalistic.

Here follows the Pekin Daily Times account of Wallace’s execution:

*****

Albert Wallace was hung this morning for the murder of his sister, Belle Bowlby.

The trap was sprung at 11:09 o’clock. There was a drop of full five feet and his neck was broken. Not once did the poor man betray any signs of fear.

More cool than his executioners he stood on the treacherous trap and quietly looked into the faces of the crowd.

He went to the gallows with his crime unconfessed and his lips sealed against any disclosures.

The sad spectacle had its spectators. There were about two hundred and fifty within the enclosure. And a black line of human figures on the tops of tall buildings along Court street could be seen. These were the morbidly curious people who seemed to make it an imperative duty to witness the execution, even though they were forced to climb to the top of buildings and stand in the cold, bleak air to do it.

From beginning to end, those who officiated at the grewsome (sic) ceremony, went about their task in a mechanical and business-like manner, when once the death procession moved from the jail into the enclosure.

First, came Sheriff Stout, then Sheriff Nicholson, and third, Rev. O. W. Stewart.

Fourth in the procession was Wallace, walking with a firm, free step, his hands at his side. Deputy Sheriff Clark walked with him.

When he reached the bottom of the steps his first glance was directed toward the blue sky to the west. He disdained the scaffold and looked straight ahead as he walked toward the south.

Reaching the foot of the scaffold he ascended it, with slight support on either side. Stepping onto the trap he stood cool and collected and glancing over the crowd to see who he could recognize.

He was too weak and frail after his sickness to escape from the law, but his wrists must be handcuffed and his limbs bound. This was done quickly.

As one of the straps was tightened he remarked:

“You have thrown me off my feet.”

These were the only words he spoke.

Then the dun colored shroud was slipped over his neck. He watched the sheriff adjust it about his lower limbs and seemed anxious to have it just right.

The sheriff then slipped the noose over his head.

It was quickly followed by the cap and Wallace took one last lingering look at the world, as the cap was pulled down.

The rope was quickly drawn taut about his neck, and the sheriff springing back threw the lever. Down went the body like a rocket. It stopped with a sickening thud.

The silence was deathly and the only visible movement were the contortions of the suspended murder[er].

The cord made several turns on itself and Albert Wallace was soon a corpse that swayed to and fro. Drs. Beatty, of Fairview, McCoy, of Pekin, and Hufty, of Delavan, stepped up to examine the body.

It was first given out that the victim had died of strangulation, as the horrible convulsions agitating the frame were taken for breathing.

Later a more thorough examination was made and it was found that the fall had broken his neck.

He was pronounced dead at 11:20, just eleven minutes after the trap was sprung.

Three minutes later he was cut down and placed in the coffin.

The mob made an attempt to tear down the stockade, but failed. Several arrests were made.

The arrival of the coffin created a stir on the outside. It is a plain wooden affair, furnished by the county. It was taken through the jail residence at 9 o’clock and laid at the west of the scaffold.

The jury of physicians was composed of Drs. S. D. Low, A. McCoy, W. O. Cattron, J. I. Skelly, Pekin; Beatty, Fulton county; N. L. Hufty, Delavan; R. D. Bradley, Peoria; A. I. MacLay, Delavan; Schaefer, Morton; Powell, Mackinaw; J. M. Cody, Tremont.

This drawing of Albert Wallace's walk to the gallows and his execution by hanging illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on Wallace's execution, which was the last legal, public hanging in Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This drawing of Albert Wallace’s walk to the gallows and his execution by hanging illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on Wallace’s execution, which was the last legal, public hanging in Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

ADDENDUM: The account of Albert Wallace’s public execution was also reported in the The Tribune of Tazewell County on Thursday, March 19, 1896. The Tribune account, which agrees in almost every particular with the Pekin Daily Times account, was reprinted in the February-March 2017 issues of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly.

#albert-wallace, #john-c-bowlby, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby, #rev-stewart, #sheriff-j-e-stout

Albert Wallace’s last night

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This week we continue the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of the legal hanging of Albert Wallace, who had murdered his younger sister Belle Wallace Bowlby in 1895. The Daily Times report of that day’s execution has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society.

The Daily Times report told of Wallace’s final night on earth in two sections, the first headlined “WALLACE’S LAST NIGHT,” with the subheadline “It Was Thought He Had Taken Poison – Did Not Want to Sleep,” and the second headlined, “LEARNED HIS FATE,” with the subheadline, “Said He Preferred Death But Would Like to Have Fooled His Enemies.” For the purposes of chronology, the order of those two sections has been reversed below:

*****

This drawing of Tazewell County Sheriff J. E. Stout illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of cold-blooded murderer Albert Wallace. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This drawing of Tazewell County Sheriff J. E. Stout illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of cold-blooded murderer Albert Wallace. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The news that the governor had declined to interfere was broken to Wallace as he sat in his cell about 6 o’clock last evening.

Father Kelly had gone to the jail to see if the condemned man wished his services. Sheriff Stout asked him if he wished to see the reverend gentleman and Wallace replied, “He can do me no good.” He then asked, “Have you heard anything from Springfield?”

“Yes,” said the sheriff.

“Well, what is the news?” asked Wallace.

The sheriff replied that the governor had declined to interfere and that he thought best to tell him.

Wallace replied that he “would rather know it than be kept in suspense.”

He asked that his sisters be sent to him as soon as they arrived.

Mrs. Quinn came up at 6:52 p. m. on the C. P. & St. L. She had been present at the hearing and she bore up with great fortitude. She had previously been informed by her brother’s attorneys that she should prepare for the worst, and had there been any good news, it would have been more of a surprise than was the governor’s decision. Mrs. Planck, the other sister, met Mrs. Quinn and together they went to the jail. There was a sad meeting as it was the last time the three were to be together. When the sisters expressed regret that the governor had not interfered, Wallace said:

“I would rather die than live in the penitentiary. The only thing was I wished to beat those people who wanted to see me hang. You have done all you could for me, so don’t worry and fret. I will be better off but it is hard for me to bear.” He was much affected by the consultation with the sisters and sobbed repeatedly.

At the end of fifteen minutes his sisters parted from him. The parting had been too much for Mrs. Quinn, weakened as she was by the work and worry of many weeks, and it was necessary to carry her down the stairs. Reaching the bottom she fainted and it was with difficulty that she was revived.

She left for Tremont on the evening train, taking the manuscript that Wallace had written during the last days of his life. What this is may never be made public, though it seemed to be the writer’s wish that some portions of it be given out.

*****

The Tazewell County Sheriff's Office constructed a wooden gallows and stockade next to the county jail in preparation for the hanging of Albert Wallace. This drawing of the jail and gallows stockade illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of Wallace's hanging. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office constructed a wooden gallows and stockade next to the county jail in preparation for the hanging of Albert Wallace. This drawing of the jail and gallows stockade illustrated the March 14, 1896 Pekin Daily Times account of Wallace’s hanging. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Wallace did not want to sleep last night.

He became very nervous early in the evening, and drank often, evidence of a feverish thirst.

He was given the freedom of the upper part of the jail, a privilege he seemed to want. There were three guards over him. These were Messrs. Chapman, Hatch, and Poebel.

He had slipped away from them once and gone down to the south end of the aisle between the top cells. When Death Watch Chapman started down to overtake him, he found Wallace at the bath tub, with a tin cup in his hand acting mysteriously. He hastily set the cup down, and Chapman emptied the contents out. Wallace appeared confused, and for several minutes sat on the tub, looking sullen and saying nothing.

He was taken ill soon afterward, and his pain was so intense that Dr. Harry V. Bailey was sent for. He administered an opiate hypodermically.

“If I had known you were going to do that, I would have stopped you,” said Wallace.

“It is good for you,” replied the doctor.

“If that is good for me,” retorted Wallace, “I don’t know myself.”

The pain continued, but he grew drowsy. This he attempted to fight off, saying that he wanted to keep awake. He succeeded, and his symptoms growing more uncomfortable, Dr. Bailey was again sent for, but Wallace refused to take any medicine. Much alarm resulted. It was feared that he had taken poison and was attempted to fulfill his boastful promises that he would not be hung, no matter what the courts or governor did. His illness was watched with much solicitude. At 1 o’clock this morning he asked for the TIMES, but it has not thought best to permit him to read. He was very weak, and had to be supported by the guards when he walked.

After an unusually bad spell, the stomach was relieved of its burden. Though weak and pale, he expressed himself as feeling better and by 2:30 o’clock he was asleep. Before he went to sleep Rev. Stewart offered up a long prayer, Wallace kneeling on the floor of his cell.

Rev. Stewart was constantly with him until 3:30 but the confusion that resulted from Wallace’s sickness, prevented any conversation on religious matters.

The guards were thrown out early in the evening and patrolled the square all through the long hours of the night, issuing their hoarse challenges to any who crossed the picket line.

Inside the jail, Winchester rifles were stacked in the corners and belts of cartridges were on tables ready for immediate use in the event of any trouble. It was not believed that any attempt would be made to tear down the enclosure but the sheriff did not wish to take any chance.

Wallace was astir at 5 o’clock. It was thought that he might weaken as gray dawn came. The light, however, which crept in through the east windows did not in the least affect him. He did not even become nervous as he awoke to a realization that the fatal day had dawned.

He was mindful of little matters and when his favorite guard dozed at one time he reached over and tapped him on the shoulder, that he might not be caught napping.

In conversation with one of the watch he said, “There are some in this town who think I am afraid to die, but when their time comes they will die harder than I. If they think I am afraid they are badly mistaken.”

It was expected that Wallace would order an elaborate breakfast this morning, the last meal before he crosses the dark river, but he surprised the cook at the jail by making the request for a simple meal of eggs, meat and potatoes, and a cup of coffee, identically the same breakfast allowed the other prisoners. In addition, however, the cook tucked in a big wedge of chocolate cake, as Wallace had a weakness for it. He ate the meal in silence but with an apparent good appetite.

In speaking about religion, one of the last things Wallace said was, “I have read my Bible, and I wish I could believe in a hereafter. There is one passage which urges us to forgive and forget, but I would rather go on the scaffold, die and go to hell, than forgive some of the people who testified against me at my trial.”

*****

Next week: Pekin’s last public hanging

#albert-wallace, #dr-harry-v-bailey, #father-kelly, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby, #rev-stewart, #sheriff-j-e-stout

Albert Wallace sentenced to death

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In our column last week, we presented the Pekin Daily Times account of how Albert Wallace murdered his sister Belle and attempted to murder Belle’s husband John Bowlby, also injuring others at the Bowlby’s farm and causing a fire in the Bowlby home. This account was published in the March 14, 1896 edition of the Daily Times, published the day Wallace was hanged for his crimes.

The Pekin Daily Times report from that day has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. That day’s newspaper also told of Wallace’s trial and conviction, sentence, and appeals, under the headings “INTERESTING CASE,” with the subheadline, “Murderer Lived Between Hope and Fear For Over a Year”; “LEARNED HIS FATE,” with the subheadline, “Said He Preferred Death But Would Like to Have Fooled His Enemies”; and “LAST HOPE DESTROYED,” with the subheadline, “Why the Governor Refused to Commute the Sentence to Life Imprisonment.”

Here follows the Daily Times 1896 account of the legal aspect of these tragic events:

*****

The first legal step after the shooting was the preliminary examination of Wallace before ’Squire Rhodes, Wednesday, February 20th [1895]. There were three charges against him, all for assault with intent to kill and murder. He waived examination and was bound over to the grand jury in the sum of $1,500. Early Thursday morning, February 21st, one of his victims, Belle Bowlby, died.

The coroner’s inquest was conducted Friday, February 22d, by Coroner Bailey. The principal witness was Lawrence Lyman, who said he was positive that it was Albert Wallace, who did the shooting. The verdict was to the effect that Belle Bowlby came to her death from the effects of gun shot wounded inflicted on her person by Albert Wallace. The jury recommended that he be held without bond to await the action of the grand jury.

The grand jury returned an indictment at the May term, 1895. The court appointed W. L. Prettyman and W. A. Potts, attorneys to defend. Then came the arraignment and plea of not guilty; next a motion for continuance on the part of the defendant was made and continuance was granted. The cause was continued until the September term of court at which time the case was heard. After a fair and impartial trial, in which a sensation was sprung by the defence (sic) resting their case without calling any witnesses to testify, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty and fixed the penalty at death. The jury was composed of A. M. Chapman, foreman; David S. Birkett, Sebastian Minch, J. M. Sharp, F. M. Gragg, B. B. McClellan, John Umdenstock, Chas. Bailey, George Kent, Louis H. Wehner, S. H. Robison, Frank Webb. The verdict was reached on the third ballot.

At this stage of the case Mrs. Quinn, of Tremont, a sister of the murderer, interested herself in behalf of her brother and engaged G. B. Foster, of Peoria, to assist Messrs. Prettyman and Potts to obtain a new trial.

The case was argued before Judge Green, and a new trial was refused, and Wallace was sentenced to be hung on the 25th day of October, 1895. His attorneys appealed to the supreme court, at Ottawa, and was granted a supersedeas and a stay of proceedings until the case could be heard by the court of last resort.

This sketch of Albert Wallace awaiting his fate in his cell at the Tazewell County Jail illustrated the Pekin Daily Times account of his trial and hanging on March 14, 1896. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch of Albert Wallace awaiting his fate in his cell at the Tazewell County Jail illustrated the Pekin Daily Times account of his trial and hanging on March 14, 1896. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

When the case was heard, the supreme court, at Springfield, found that Judge Green had erred in fixing the day of execution at more than twenty-five days from the day of sentence, and ordered the court to re-sentence Wallace. Judge Green re-sentenced him on the 19th of February, and March 14th, 1896, was set as the day for his execution.

Since that time his attorney have worked faithfully to have his sentence commuted to inprisonment (sic) in the penitentiary for life. Affidavits, in regard to the insanity of his parents, were procured, and petitions of citizens of the county were presented to the governor, asking him to commute his sentence to imprisonment for life. Counter petitions were procured by States Attorney Saltonstall and T. N. Green, and the case was argued before the governor on the 13th day of March, 1896.

The governor, after hearing the case, decided that he could not interfere, and the law must take its course.

He said, “I am satisfied that if this evidence of insanity were presented to a jury it would fail. As to the grandmother of the condemned man having been insane, it is conclusive; and Mrs. Quinn’s evidence that his mother was insane was strong, but it is shown that the father of Wallace was a rough, drunken man, who abused his family, and a woman treated in the way she was might act in such a way as to cause doubts regarding her sanity. Even if it were reasonably proved that the mother was tainted with insanity, the evidence in the case of this man does not show him insane. The affidavits of people living in the neighborhood, while they indicate that his mind might have been slightly affected, do not show that he could not discriminate between right and wrong. While I think this evidence should have been presented to the jury, I do not believe it would have affected their verdict.”

****

Governor Altgeld was positive in his decision not to interfere in Wallace’s case. He had been sick at Chicago but when he finally got back at his desk in Springfield, and called the attorneys together, he gave it an exhaustive hearing, commencing at 11:30 o’clock yesterday morning and concluding at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

He inquired closely into the details and seemed desirous of getting the case thoroughly in hand before he took up the critical matter of a commutation. When he had the history of the entire case as he wished it he gave attention to the affidavits, petitions and declarations.

He said it was a peculiarly distressing case, owing to the many tragedies that had brought the Wallace family into public notice, fate seeming to pursue it with a relentless fury and remarkably fatality. First a son was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, while he was hunting, then Andy Wallace, the father, was shot and killed by Connelly (sic), then came the tragic death of Mrs. Belle Bowlby, and last Albert Wallace, expiating a crime on the gallows. Nevertheless the governor said that he could do nothing.

He held that the matter of insanity should have been tried in the courts. Both the circuit and supreme court, he said, had handled the case and he did not think it right to interfere.

The attorneys for the defense were seen by a TIMES representative on their return from Springfield and said they were not surprised.

When Attorney Foster was asked if anything further would be done, he said, “We have reached the limit; every effort within reason has now been made and it would be foolish to attempt anything further.”

Next week: Wallace’s last night

#albert-wallace, #andrew-wallace, #conn, #gov-john-peter-altgeld, #lawrence-lyman, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby

Wallace’s crime: a ‘shocking domestic tragedy’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In last week’s column, we reviewed what the March 14, 1896 edition of the Pekin Daily Times reported about the background and motive of Albert Wallace’s murder of his sister Belle Wallace Bowlby the year before. The Daily Times that day published a lengthy and detailed report on Albert Wallace’s hanging for his crime, and the Times report recently was reprinted in the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly.

The Times’ account of the crime appears in the Dec. 2016 Monthly, on pages 1787-88. The story was published under the headline, “WALLACE’S CRIME,” with the subheadline, “Murder For Which He Was Hung Was Cold Blooded and Premeditated.” Ben C. Allensworth later retold the story of Belle Bowlby’s murder and her brother Albert’s hanging in the 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” but the 1896 account is much more complete and detailed. Following is the Daily Times’ 1896 account:

*****

The murder of Mrs. Belle Bowlby was one of the most shocking domestic tragedies in the history of the county, for domestic it was, as the murderer was a brother of his victim, lived with her family and was treated with the utmost kindness and that has made the crime seem all the more atrocious. The tragedy was the culmination of several years of drunkenness and immorality on the part of Albert Wallace, who did the deed, and during which time his mind became depraved and he grew to hate the whole world, for it is a sad fact that no one ever cared to call him friend from the time he gave himself up until his body shot through the scaffold and he was no more.

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times' March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace's hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times’ March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace’s hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The murder was committed between 8 and 9 o’clock on the evening of February 19th, 1895, at the Bowlby home, a pretty homestead, nestling among the picturesque hills that flank the Mackinaw river in the central portion of Dillon township.

On the fatal day Wallace and Lawrence Lyman, a hired man, were hauling corn to Delavan. Wallace was in a bad humor and said to Lyman, for whom he had a nick name, “Duff, there is Ed. Judkins getting $1 a day and you and I getting nothing. We will see about this after awhile (sic) .” Lyman did hear something and it forever deprived him of the sight of one of his eyes. Wallace, early in the evening offered to bet $10 that the teams would not leave the stable the following day, this proving that he had fully made up his mind to do the deed that night.

The Bowlby family had gathered in the sitting room after the evening meal, and though the house had witnessed some dramatic scenes, as a result of the feeling that Wallace had for John Bowlby, his brother-in-law, peace seemed to have blessed the home for once. Bowlby was lying on the lounge, as he had been sick. Lyman and Jesse Strawbridge, another hired man, were sitting near. Annie Krile, a domestic, was playing the piano and the little Bowlby girl was singing fragments of gospel hymns that her loving mother had taught her.

Wallace was the last to eat his supper that night and he then went into the living room and after remaining a few minutes walked out. In about a minute a gun cracked and a charge of shot tore through the window in the northwest corner of the room. Its effect was to cut off two of John Bowlby’s fingers on his right hand and inflict a wound on his head.

Lyman ran to the front door, and as he opened it a second shot was fired. The charge shattered the door casing and the powder put out Lyman’s eye.

By this time all was confusion. Annie Krile grabbed little Stella Bowlby and rushed into an adjoining room. Mrs. Belle Bowlby did not see the child removed and missing the little one, she rushed to the door, shouting, “My God, where is my child?” Her answer was a load of shot from the murderer’s gun and she staggered back, bleeding from her terrible wounds.

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times' March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace's hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times’ March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace’s hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Lyman got a revolver and started out to get help. As he reached the door he was shot twice, nearly one hundred shot entered his body.

Strawbridge escaped from the house and made a remarkable run of three miles bareheaded without stopping. He spread the alarm among the neighbors.

Messrs. Paul and Mitchell were the first to arrive at the Bowlby home. They entered and found a shocking state of affairs. Blood was scattered everywhere. The sitting room was on fire from the wadding of the gun. Mr. Bowlby had used rugs and pieces of carpets in an unsuccessful effort to extinguish the blaze and was afraid to go for water, as he was fearful that he might be again shot. Mrs. Bowlby was in bed, as was Lyman, and both were in great pain.

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times' March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace's hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John Bowlby on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch illustrated the Pekin Daily Times’ March 14, 1896 report of Albert Wallace’s hanging in downtown Pekin. Using a shot gun, Wallace murdered his sister Belle and seriously wounded her husband John Bowlby on Feb. 19, 1895. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Mrs. Bowlby was given the best of medical attention, but died after lingering in great agony for thirty-six hours. Bowlby was ill for six weeks and Lyman would have died but for his iron constitution.

After the shooting Wallace walked around in the neighborhood in an aimless manner for a time and then finally threw away his gun. It was found the next morning sticking upright in the snow. He then went to the barn of John Connell and taking a horse, started for this city. He reached here about midnight and tieing (sic) his horse in the stable at the Tremont House, he requested Officer McClellen to accompany him to the jail. Sheriff Stout refused to lock him up at first as Wallace would not tell what the trouble was, but he finally said, “John Bowlby has been shot and they say I did it.” He was then put in a cell in the county jail where he has been confined since that fatal night.

*****

Next week: Wallace’s conviction, sentence, and appeal

#albert-wallace, #john-c-bowlby, #lawrence-lyman, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby

The hanging of Albert Wallace

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Three years ago in this column space, in a column entitled “Two generations of tragedy and loss” (Pekin Daily Times, May 18, 2013), we recalled the cold-blooded murder of Mrs. Belle Wallace Bowlby by her brother Albert Wallace, a horrifying crime for which Albert was sentenced to death by hanging.

Wallace’s crime and his execution are notable events in the history of Pekin because his was the last legal hanging in Pekin. As told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” on Feb. 19, 1895, Belle Wallace Bowlby was shot to death by her brother Albert, who was living with his sister Belle and brother-in-law John Bowlby on the old Wallace homestead in Dillon Township. John and the Bowlbys’ hired man Lawrence Lyman also suffered very serious gunshot wounds in the incident.

What led up to the crime was the death of Belle’s and Albert’s father, Andrew Wallace, who was killed in 1890 by James Connell in self-defense. Andrew left his estate to Belle, which “led to bickering between Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby and Albert Wallace, who made frequent demands for money, and when refused, is said to have made threats against Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby,” Allensworth writes.

Finally, one night Albert took a shotgun and, aiming through a window, fired at John’s head. “Bowlby, whose hand was on his forehead, had several fingers blown off and a number of shot entered his head. Mrs. Bowlby sprang and opened the door, when she was shot in the stomach. Lyman was shot twice in the leg, and was badly burned in the face by the powder,” according to Allensworth. Belle died two days later, while Lyman lost an eye. John eventually recovered and remarried.

After the shooting, Albert borrowed a neighbor’s horse and rode to Pekin, where he surrendered to the sheriff. According to Allensworth, when asked why he was turning himself in, Albert said, “You will find out later.” Allensworth reports that Wallace was convicted of murder on Oct. 28, 1895, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on March 14, 1896 – the last legal hanging in Pekin. Afterwards, the laws on capital punishment were modified: public executions were outlawed, and executions would take place in state penitentiaries only.

The detail of the 1891 plat map of Dillon Township shows the farmstead of Mrs. Belle Wallace Bowlby in Section 15, bordering on the south bank of the Mackinaw River and identified as the farm of "Mrs. J. G. Bowlby." The 2015 Tazewell County plat book shows that her land is now owned by Malcolm Winkler. The old Wallace residence is marked on this 1891 map in the southwest corner of Section 15 as "Res," just above the Town Hall. Unhappy with his son Albert, Andrew Wallace deliberately cut Albert out of his will and left his farm and most of his property to Albert's youngest sister Belle.

The detail of the 1891 plat map of Dillon Township shows the farmstead of Mrs. Belle Wallace Bowlby in Section 15, bordering on the south bank of the Mackinaw River and identified as the farm of “Mrs. J. G. Bowlby.” The 2015 Tazewell County plat book shows that her land is now owned by Malcolm Winkler. The old Wallace residence is marked on this 1891 map in the southwest corner of Section 15 as “Res,” just above the Town Hall. Unhappy with his son Albert, Andrew Wallace deliberately cut Albert out of his will and left his farm and most of his property to Albert’s youngest sister Belle.

The story of Wallace’s crime and hanging recently has been featured in the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s Monthly, in the Nov. 2016 issue, on pages 1760-64, and the Dec. 2016 issue, on pages 1786-89. These issues are devoted to a reprint of most of the news coverage of Wallace’s hanging in the March 14, 1896 edition of the Pekin Daily Times – an edition that is not available in microfilm form at the Pekin Public Library, for the library’s microfilms of the Daily Times only commence in Oct. 1914.

Unfortunately, the Society’s copy of that newspaper is missing page five, so the conclusion of the Daily Times’ news report is lost. Nevertheless, the extant portion of the newspaper’s report is still extensive, and the reporting is quite detailed not only in its account of Wallace’s hanging but also in its recapitulation of the events leading up to his execution.

This story took up a very large part, if not most, of that day’s paper. In keeping with the usual newspaper style of those days, the editors gave the report not only a large, bold headline – “WALLACE HUNG” – but also a series of six subheadlines:

“His Neck Was Broken With a Sickening Thud,” “THE TRAP SPRUNG AT 11:08 A. M.,” “Paid the Penalty on the Gallows For His Sister’s Murder,” “EXECUTION PASSED OFF VERY QUIETLY,” “Grewsome (sic) Spectacle Witnessed by over Two Hundred People,” and “Much Excitement Caused Last Night by His Sudden Illness.”

This drawing of the old Wallace homestead, located about 3 miles south of unincorporated Dillon in Dillon Township, was one of the illustrations of the Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of murderer Albert Wallace on March 14, 1896. The homestead's former location today has the address of 7860 Delavan Road. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This drawing of the old Wallace homestead, located about 3 miles south of unincorporated Dillon in Dillon Township, was one of the illustrations of the Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of murderer Albert Wallace on March 14, 1896. The homestead’s former location today has the address of 7860 Delavan Road. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Below are excerpts from the Pekin Daily Times’ account that expound upon the background of and motive for Wallace’s cruel and hateful acts. Further excerpts telling of the murder, the trial, Wallace’s appeals of his verdict and sentence, and his hanging will be featured in subsequent columns.

“Governor Altgeld was positive in his decision not to interfere in Wallace’s case. . . He said it was a peculiarly distressing case, owing to the many tragedies that had brought the Wallace family into public notice, fate seeming to pursue it with a relentless fury and remarkably fatality. First a son was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, while he was hunting, then Andy Wallace, the father, was shot and killed by Connelly, then came the tragic death of Mrs. Belle Bowlby, and last Albert Wallace, expiating a crime on the gallows. Nevertheless the governor said that he could do nothing. . . .”

“[Wallace] had never been satisfied with the action of his father, Andrew Wallace, in willing his fine farm and other property to his sister [Belle]. This was a decision that the old man arrived at a long time before his death, and about the time he quarreled with Albert and bade him leave home forever.

“The chasm separating father and son became wider as Wallace became more and more dissolute in his habits. The other children could not put up with old Wallace’s awful temper, and all but Belle, the murdered woman, left the family roof. She was a very amiable little girl, and when a woman, patiently and without ever a word of complaint, . . . .”

At this point the Daily Times report jumps to page five, but page five is lost.

Next week: Wallace’s crime

#albert-wallace, #andrew-wallace, #gov-john-peter-altgeld, #james-connell, #john-c-bowlby, #lawrence-lyman, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby

Two generations of tragedy and loss

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another chance to read this old Local History Room column, first published on 18 May 2013 before the launch of this blog and then posted here on 16 Nov. 2016. We’re re-posting it here to help draw attention to our upcoming program on the riverboat Columbia disaster. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, local author Ken Zurski, who published a book in 2012 entitled, “The Wreck of the Columbia,” will come to the Pekin Public Library to talk about the disaster which claimed the lives of 87 of the boat’s 500 passengers. Most of the victims were from Pekin. For Mr. Zurski’s program, the library will display articles and photographs of the disaster, along with the 48-star U.S. flag from the Columbia which was salvaged the day after the wreck by Columbia survivor Roscoe Maxey of Pekin. The flag was donated to the Pekin Public Library in 1986 by Roscoe’s son Justin Maxey.

Articles and photographs pertaining to the 1918 wreck of the riverboat Columbia are currently on display in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room. Local author Ken Zurski will give a lecture on the Columbia disaster at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 30 March 2017, in the library’s upstairs Community Room.

Two generations of tragedy and loss

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This weekend, the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society will conduct a cemetery walk remembering victims of the July 5, 1918, Columbia riverboat disaster. The cemetery walk will be from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19 (with a rain date of Sunday, June 2), at Lakeside Cemetery in Pekin, where most of the 57 Pekin residents who died in the wreck of the Columbia are buried.

Local interest in the Columbia disaster was renewed last year [2012] with the publication of Ken Zurski’s “The Wreck of the Columbia,” the first book-length treatment of this tragic event that brought grief to a great number of families in Pekin and the surrounding areas. Eighty-seven people drowned when the Columbia struck a sandbar and collapsed and sank near Wesley City (Creve Coeur).

In his book, Zurski tells the stories of several of the victims and survivors, and of some who avoided falling victim to the disaster through unforeseen circumstances that prevented them from going on the fatal cruise. Among the stories not told in Zurski’s book is that of a Columbia victim named Hazel Marie Bowlby, who was 21 when she died.

The photograph of Hazel Marie Bowlby was taken the winter before she drowned in the wreck of the Columbia. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE'S GRANDDAUGHTER

The photograph of Hazel Marie Bowlby was taken the winter before she drowned in the wreck of the Columbia. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE’S GRANDDAUGHTER

In January, Hazel’s relatives supplied the Pekin Daily Times with copies of old photographs of Hazel, along with a copy of a letter that Hazel wrote to her sister about a year before the disaster. Copies of the photographs and letter have been forwarded to the Pekin Public Library to be added to the library’s Local History Room collection.

Hazel, born in 1897, was a daughter of John C. and Susie Wertz Bowlby. She had an older sister named Lucille and a younger brother named Elmer. “She was my grandmother’s only sister,” said Gayla Erlenbusch, Lucille’s granddaughter.

Shown are (back row) Lucille Bowlby and Hazel Marie Bowlby, and (front row) Susie Wertz Bowlby, Elmer Bowlby, and John C. Bowlby. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE'S GRANDDAUGHTER

Shown are (back row) Lucille Bowlby and Hazel Marie Bowlby, and (front row) Susie Wertz Bowlby, Elmer Bowlby, and John C. Bowlby. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE’S GRANDDAUGHTER

From the copy of the letter that Hazel’s relatives have supplied, we know that in the summer of 1917 Hazel worked for the Pekin Daily Times – writing to her sister Lucille, Hazel typed the letter on stationery bearing the newspaper’s letterhead, and mailed it in a Pekin Daily Times printed envelope. In her letter, Hazel says she may need to borrow $5 from Lucille, and indicates dissatisfaction that the Times’ general manager and managing editor Charles Utter had not given her any raises in pay.

Erlenbusch said that her grandmother Lucille could have ended up as one of the Columbia’s victims along with her sister, if it weren’t for a sisterly spat.

“Hazel and her sister were both supposed to go, but they got into an argument. Apparently they both wanted to wear the same blouse. So my grandmother got mad and decided to stay home,” Erlenbusch said. Hazel went alone, the last time any of her family saw her alive.

Hazel was one of the many victims who had been on the boat’s dance floor. Her body was one of the last to be recovered, according to Erlenbusch. “My great-grandparents sent my grandmother to identify her,” she said. Hazel was buried in Green Valley Cemetery.

Lucille Bowlby stands at the grave of her sister Hazel the day of her funeral, at Green Valley Cemetery. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE'S GRANDDAUGHTER

Lucille Bowlby stands at the grave of her sister Hazel the day of her funeral, at Green Valley Cemetery. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE’S GRANDDAUGHTER

We can well imagine how painful Hazel’s death was to her loved ones, but it must have been especially hard on her father, John C. Bowlby, as it was the second time death had shockingly struck someone close to him.

As told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” on Feb. 19, 1895, John’s first wife Belle Wallace Bowlby was shot to death by her own brother Albert Wallace, who was living with his sister and brother-in-law on the old Wallace homestead in Dillon Township. John and the Bowlbys’ hired man Lawrence Lyman also suffered very serious gunshot wounds in the incident.

What led up to the crime was the death of Belle’s and Albert’s father, Andrew Wallace, who was killed in 1890 by James Connell in self-defense. Andrew left his estate to Belle, which “led to bickering between Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby and Albert Wallace, who made frequent demands for money, and when refused, is said to have made threats against Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby,” Allensworth writes.

Finally, one night Albert took a shotgun and, aiming through a window, fired at John’s head. “Bowlby, whose hand was on his forehead, had several fingers blown off and a number of shot entered his head. Mrs. Bowlby sprang and opened the door, when she was shot in the stomach. Lyman was shot twice in the leg, and was badly burned in the face by the powder,” according to Allensworth. Belle died two days later, while Lyman lost an eye. John eventually recovered and remarried.

After the shooting, Albert borrowed a neighbor’s horse and rode to Pekin, where he surrendered to the sheriff. Asking why he was turning himself in, he said, “You will find out later.” He was convicted of murder on Oct. 28, 1895, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on March 14, 1896 – the last legal hanging in Pekin.

#albert-wallace, #charles-utter, #elmer-bowlby, #hazel-bowlby, #john-c-bowlby, #ken-zurski, #last-execution-in-pekin, #lawrence-lyman, #lucille-bowlby, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby, #pekin-daily-times, #susie-wertz-bowlby, #wreck-of-the-columbia

Early Tazewell County crime and punishment

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in March 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

Early Tazewell County crime and punishment

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In his 1879 Tazewell County history, Charles C. Chapman observed – perhaps with his tongue implanted in his cheek – that, “as immaculate and good as the pioneer fathers undoubtedly were, even among them there were wicked and vicious characters.”

Crime called for punishment and incarceration of evildoers, so on June 28, 1828, the county contracted for the building of a jail at Mackinaw (then the county seat), at a cost of $325.75, which was three times what the county had paid for its Mackinaw courthouse. “It was,” Chapman says, “a two-story structure, 16 feet square, made of solid hewn timber, and was one of the strongest and most costly jail building erected by the pioneers throughout Central Illinois. Nevertheless, the very first prisoner incarcerated within its heavy walls took flight the same night. This individual, whose name was William Cowhart, is also noted for being the first horse-thief in Tazewell county.”

After the return of the county seat to Pekin in 1848-49, new county buildings were constructed. The new Tazewell County Jail, “calculated to hold from fifteen to twenty prisoners, was built by the Board of Supervisors of Tazewell County, in 1852, at a cost of $7,000,” says the 1870 Pekin City Directory.

Besides the county jail, the Pekin city police had their own lockup, quaintly known as “the calaboose.” The 1870 City Directory informs us, “The first calaboose was contracted for in November, 1849, John S. Boone being the contractor, and the cost of the building limited to forty-eight dollars. This building remained the city lockup until the summer of 1868, although it was long considered, especially by evil-doers, a noisesome, pestilential nuisance. In the latter years it was destroyed by fire, the incendiary work of some transgressors confined within its walls.”

Not every malefactor ended up in the city calaboose or county jail, of course. The usual penalty would be a fine. Chapman says it was in 1829 that the county received its first fine for a violation of the peace. That was a case in which Isaac Storms had assaulted James Brown. Chapman comments, “For many years the only cases before the justices of the peace were for assault and battery,” showing the “Wild West” character of Pekin and Tazewell County in those days.

Then as now, more serious crimes would lead to imprisonment, and murderers often would find their terms of imprisonment ended at the hangman’s gallows in Pekin’s courthouse square. The first murder indictment in Tazewell County, according to Ben C. Allensworth’s Tazewell County history, was handed down against John Wood, who was sent to prison for four years for killing his own child “by throwing it up against the ceiling.”

The first public execution in Pekin was March 1, 1861. On Oct. 12, 1860, John Ott decided to burglarize George W. Orendorff’s home about four miles southeast of Delavan. George was away on business that day, but finding the mother and her two daughters, Emma, 9, and Ada, 7, at home, Ott cold-heartedly murdered them with an axe. On the day of Ott’s hanging, a carnival atmosphere had formed as about 10,000 people crowded downtown to watch his execution, and three companies of soldiers were brought from Peoria to prevent a lynching.

The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial says, “Ott, reports indicate, remained calm throughout the entire affair, and just before falling through the trap of the scaffold declared that he alone was guilty of the crime for which he was about to die (a man named Green” – that is, Ott’s cousin Enoch Green – “had been arrested also), that his doom was just, and that he hoped to be forgiven in Heaven, where he hoped to meet those who were there to witness his death. He muttered a prayer as the trap fell; his neck was broken by the fall; but he hung for 19 minutes before being cut down and placed in a coffin.”

Not all hangings resulted from due process of law, however. Perhaps better known than Ott’s execution is the 1869 lynching of William Berry, leader of the Berry Gang, as related in local historian Jim Conover’s book, “Lynch Law.”

The last legal hanging in Pekin was March 14, 1896. Albert Wallace of Delavan was put to death for murdering his sister and severely wounding his sister’s husband. Showing no remorse, Wallace reportedly said just before his hanging that someday “these people will be sorry for what they are doing.” It is not recorded whether they ever regretted his execution, however.

William H. Bates reproduced this photograph of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in Tremont for the 1916 "Historical Souvenir" that he published for the dedication of the new courthouse. For a time criminal and civil cases in Tazewell County were heard in this building, which was built in 1839.

William H. Bates reproduced this photograph of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in Tremont for the 1916 “Historical Souvenir” that he published for the dedication of the new courthouse. For a time criminal and civil cases in Tazewell County were heard in this building, which was built in 1839.

#albert-wallace, #calaboose, #isaac-storms, #james-brown, #john-ott, #john-wood, #lynch-law, #mackinaw-courthouse, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #tazewell-county-history, #tazewell-county-jails, #tremont-courthouse, #william-berry, #william-cowhart