Death Scenes of Desperadoes

Johnny Cooper wanted a “good smoke” before he died, and was given it. Bob Zachary died without fear, and praying forgiveness on his executioners. Steve Marshland asked to be pardoned because of his youth. “You should have thought of that before,” was the grim reply. He was adjudged old enough to die, as he had been old enough to kill.

George Shears was one of the gamest of the lot. He seemed indifferent about it all after his capture, and, when he was told that he was to be hanged, he remarked that he ought to be glad it was no worse. He was executed in the barn at a ranch ‘where he was caught, and, conveniences being few, a ladder was used instead of a box or other drop. He was told to ascend the latter, and did 80 without the least hesitation or evidence of concern. “Gentlemen,” said he, “I am not used to this business, never having been hung before. Shall I jump off or slide off?” They told him to “jump, of course,” and he took this advice. “All right. Goodbye!” he said, and sprang off with unconcern.

Whiskey Bill was not given much chance for last words. He was hung from horseback, the noose being dropped down from a tree to hi, neck as he sat on a horse behind one of the Vigilantes. “Goodbye, Bill,” was the remark of the latter, as he spurred his horse and left Bill hanging.

One of the most singular phenomena of these executions was that of Bill Hunter, who, while hanging by the neck, went through all the motions of drawing and firing his six-shooter six times. Whether the action was conscious or unconscious it is impossible to tell.

Bill Bunton resisted arrest and was pugnacious, of course declaring his innocence. At the last he showed great gameness. He was particular about the manner in which the knot of the rope was adjusted to his neck, seeming, as did many of these men, to dread any suffering while hanging. He asked if he might jump off the platform himself, and was told he might if he liked. “I care no more for  hanging,” he explained, “than I do for taking a drink of water, but I’d like to have my neck broken. I’d like to have a mountain three hundred feet high to jump off from. Now, I’ll give you the time: One – two—three. Here goes!”

Go To Next Chapter – Joseph A. Slade

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October, 2017.

Excerpted from the book The Story of the Outlaw; A Study of the Western Desperado, by Emerson Hough; Outing Publishing Company, New York, 1907. This story is not verbatim as it has been edited for clerical errors and updated for the modern reader. Emerson Hough (1857–1923).was an author and journalist who wrote factional accounts and historical novels of life in the American West. His works helped establish the Western as a popular genre in literature and motion pictures.  For years, Hough wrote the feature “Out-of-Doors” for the Saturday Evening Post and contributed to other major magazines.

Other Works by Emerson Hough:

The Story of the Outlaw – A Study of the Western Desperado – Entire Text

The Cattle Kings

The Cattle Trails

Cowboys on the American Frontier

The Frontier In History

The Indian Wars

Mines of Idaho & Montana

Pathways To the West

The Range of the American West


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