THE FIRST EXECUTION IN PIKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS
BARTHOLOMEW BARNES EXECUTED AT PITTSFIELD FOR MURDER OF JOHN GRESHAM
DEATH PENALTY! A MURDERER EXPIATES A TERRIBLE CRIME ON THE GALLOWS - Bartholowew Barnes Executed at Pittsfield for the Murder of John Gresham.
Three-Thousand Persons Anxious to see the Doomed Man Die - He Remains Stolid and Unmoved, Confesses and Prays, but Faces Death Boldly, The Murdered Hung by the Neck Until Dead. Incidents and Events Connected with the Murder and Execution. His Remains Delivered to His Mother for Burial. (Special Dispatch to the Quincy Herald.)
Pittsfield, in this state, has long been famous both for the wealth of territory of which it is the centre, and also on account of the large share it has had in moulding the destiny of Illinois. Years ago before railroads commenced to radiate in every direction and penetrate almost every county, this thriving town, that was today the scene of an event that will long live in the minds of its people, was a hot house of politicians who at each succeeding session of the Legislature shied themselves to the state capital to lobby for Pittsfield and Pike. Many of the men who received their first inspiration here have since passed to larger spheres of action and a few sleep the sleep that knows no waking. Among THOSE WHO SURVIVE and who have a state if not a national reputation may be mentioned Honorable Jackson Grimshaw, now of Quincy, ex-State Treasurer, Alexander Starne, of Springfield, ex-Secretary of State, O.M. Hatch, Honorable John Nicolay, Private Secretary to President Lincoln and afterwards Secretary of Legislation at Paris, John Hay, the poet and author, and a host of others, not forgetting Judge Higbee, who is known throughout the state and west. Pittsfield has not only had its politicians, but its politicians have had THEIR FORTE, which was at all times and under all circumstances to lobby and legislate for Pike County. Old politicans who years ago made their pilgrimage to the State capital know in what force Pittsfield, or Pike County, which meant one and the same, was represented in the lobby; and Pike County, through her representative men, has also at all times, as we have said, had a large voice in shaping legislation of a general character. That she has had an eye to spoils, and has enjoyed a full share of the loaves, is evidenced by the number of prominent and lucrative offices which her citizens have filled. We have thus alluded to the scene of the occurrence which it is our mission to write up because it is due to Pittsfield and Pike county to say, that while a want of commercial facilities for a long time kept both in the back-ground in trade and enterprise, still their citizens have been prominent in law and legisilation, and have thus given their county and county-seat an enviable position in the great state of Illinois.
THE TERRIBLE MURDER
which was expiated today on the scaffold, was not commited in Pike County, or by a resident thereof. The bloody tragedy distinguished from ordinary cold-blooded affairs only by the shocking brutality in which it is almost without a parallel, was enacted in Calhoun County, and the trial came to Pike County on a change of venue. BARTHOLOMEW BARNES, the murderer, was as his past reputation and the evidence in the case go to show, a man of low habits and brutal instincts, and was every way capable of the fiendish, yet deliberate act for which he today yielded up his life on the gallows. WHAT WAS PROVEN - On the trial it was clearly proven that early in February, Barnes and John Gresham, who subsequently became his victim, met in a saloon at Pleasant Hill where a quarrel ensued, but no blows were given. When they separated it was claimed by defence that Gresham made threats against Barnes' life, but this was not established, only one witness for the defensse so testifying. Afterwards about the 27th of February, Gresham and his son were in Clarksville, Missouri, where Barnes also happened. When they started home Barnes asked permission to ride in their wagon, to which Gresham's son objected, saying that his father had been drinking. He was, however, finally allowed to ride with the father and son, he promising to raise no quarrel, and the three started for home, in Calhoun County. They had not proceeded far when some words passed between Barnes and the old man, and the former raised from his seat uttering a terrible oath, at the same time the seat tipping up, Gresham fell from the wagon to the ground, and instantly Barnes jumped upon his prostrate body, kicking his breast, face and head, and mashing his skull in a horrible manner. The shocking details of the murder form a sickening tale. The body of Barnes' victim was frightfully bruised and mangled, several of his ribs broken, his face mashed and beaten into a shape utterly unrecognizable, and his hair forced into the clotted brain, which was laid bare by fractures made in the skull of the victim by the heel of the murderer's boot. So completely did Barnes perform his hellish work that the doctor who had attended Gresham for twenty years could not identify his remains. A Mr. Oyler witnessed the bloody tragedy, and his testimony alone was sufficient to convict him of one of the foulest murders ever committed anywhere, relieved by not a single mitigating circumstance. His trial was as we have said, brief, and he was found guilty, the verdict of the jury declaring that he should suffer death by hanging.
THE SENTENCE - In sentencing the condemned, Judge Higbee, of the Pike County Circuit, addressed him as follows: In discharging the unpleasant duty required of me by the law, it seems proper that I should place on the files of this court, a brief statement of the facts and proofs which rendered it the duty of the Court to pronounce a judgment which is to deprive a human being of his life. By the record in this case, it appears that you was indicted at the May term of the Calhoun Circuit Court, 1871, for the murder of John Gresham, and the case came here on change of venue for trial. That there is no prejudice in this county, which would injuriously effect your rights, is sufficiently manifest by the fact that the crime for which you have been tried, was committed in another county, and of the twelve jurors selected for your trial, every one has stated under oath, that he never heard of the case until called into the jury box. From the evidence, it appears that some time about the first of February last, for some cause (which is not apparent), you became very much enraged against the deceased, in the town of Pleasant Hill, and threatened to whip him. When told by the Town Constable that that would not be permitted, and that he would arrest you if you did not keep quiet, you stated that you would see the deceased at some other time and tear his heart out. On the 27th day of February, the deceased, his son, some fifteen years of age, and yourself, were in Clarksville, Missouri, and crossed the river on your return, in the afternoon, in the same boat; the deceased and his son were in a wagon, and after the boat landed, as they were leaving the river for home, you asked the priviledge of riding with them, to which the boy objected, his father being quite drunk at the time. You then said to them that if they would let you ride, you would be quiet and peaceable; whereupon the deceased consented, and you got into the wagon and seated yourself on a board by the side of the deceased, the boy standing up in front driving. You had gone but a short distance, when some words passed, but no blows or attempt to strike ensued, and then you jumped out, saying, "you damned old son of a bitch." At the time you jumped out, the board on which the deceased was setting tipped up and he fell out on the other side, on his back, near the wagon and near to a fence. You ran back of the wagon to where the deceased lay, and turned your back to the fence, you seized the rails with your hands to steady yourself and with the deceased still lying on his back immediately in front of you, with the heel of your boot, you stamped the face, head and breast, of the deceased, until you killed him. The evidence shows that in this brutal manner, and when the deceased was lying on his back perfectly helpless, in the presence of his son and another witness, who was near by, you stamped him from eight to twelve times, breaking his nose, cheekbone and jaw, and crushing out one eye, and forced the heel of your boot through the skull and into the brain more than one inch in depth, and so crushed and disfigured the face that it could not be recognized by Dr. Thomas, who had lived a near neighbor to the deceased for twenty years. While engaged in this work of death, Mr. Oyler who was a short distance off, and saw it all, hallowed and started to run to you. On seeing him, you jumped over the fence and started to run. You were pursued and captured in a few minutes, and blood was found on the heel of your boot, with hair and whiskers still adhering to it. Soon after you declared that you had not seen deceased on that day. In answer to all this proof, you produced a single witness, your brother, who testifies that in the fall of 1869 deceased made some threats against you, which, so far as the evidence shows, he never attempted to execute. Beyond this; you offer no explaination or justification of this dreadful crime. Upon this proof the jury have found you guilty of murder, and their verdict declares you shall suffer death by hanging. You have been well defended, by able attorneys - fairly tried - and, as it seems to me, properly convicted, and it only remains now for the court to pronounce the judgment of the law which is to deprive you of your life. Unpleasant as this duty is, I am not at liberty to shrink from it. You have deprived John Gresham of his life by a foul and brutal murder, and the law demands your life as the penalty. AS the time which can be extended to you to prepare to meet this dreadful punishment is limited by law, let me admonish you not to spend it in vain efforts to arrest your doom, but rather devote every moment of the time allotted you to prepare for the final trial, where all must answer for every act of this life. It is the order of this Court, Bartholomew Barnes, that you be taken from hence to the county jail of this county, and there confined until Friday, the 29th day of December, A.D. 1871, and that betweent the hours of 10 o'clock a.m. and 8 p.m. of said day, in said jail, and in the presence of the witnesses required by law, you be hanged by the neck until you are dead! THE DAY ARRIVED - The day having been fixed to carry out this sentence, the sheriff had his preparations complete to execute it. Nobody in this vicinity imagined there was a possibility of a reprieve or respite, and therefore it was anticipated there would be an influx to town to witness the execution. THE CROWD - Singularly enough, humanity inherits a morbid curiosity for scenes such as that we are about to record. If there is any infliction, misfortune, or call it what you may, that approaches the terrible or excrutiating, human kind delight to witness it if a fellow-mortal is to be the subject. It is not strange, therefore, that long before the execution, Pittsfield was thronged with people from the surrounding towns and adjacent counties. All were eager to see Barnes hurled into eternity by the awful drop, not because of his great crime, but from that insatiate curiosity of mankind to see man pass through the most fearful of earthly ordeals. Students of human nature will therefore not be surprised to hear that the Sheriff of Pike County had over one thousand applications for permits to be present at the execution. PREPARARTIONS - for the execution were complete long before the appointed hour and the sheriff and assistants deserve especial credit for the manner in which they conducted an affair from which they conducted an affair from which even the most faithful officer might shrink with horror. The awful gallows in readiness for its first victim, all thoughts turned to THE CONDEMNED MAN - from the reputaton of Bartholomew Barnes and his demeanor since conviction, it was believed, to use a vulgar but customary phraze, he would die "game." It had been reported that he had exhibited a hardened disregard of his situation and maintained a stolid indifference to his awful fate. Before today he had forwarded and invitation to his former associates in Calhoun County to be present and see him "die like a soldier," and also told his mother that he would sell his body to the physicians and "raise a stake" for her. It was evident from his conduct that up to this morning he had little thought of the terrors of his impending doom. Today, however, a change was noticeable and he seemed to fully realize his situation. No doubt he fondly clung to hope that a reprieve would be granted him, but when such hope was dissipated by the near approach of the dreadful hour when he was to yied up his life for the life he had so remorselessly taken, his whole bearing underwent a change. Until noon he held out in the belief that he would obtain a reprieve, but after that he seriously turned his toughts to the life he had led and the eternity into which he was about to be plunged. BECOMES PENITENT - resolving to die bravely he still desired to employ the time on earth that still remained, to prepare for that future where he seemed to realize a terrible reckoning awaited him. Ministers were in attendance, and he confessed his sin and prayed earnestly to God, betraying, however, no emotion. THE AWFUL HOUR -arrived. He was led from the jail, marched steadily to the scaffold, mounted the platform bravely, and without and apparent tremor boldly faced the spectators. AT a little after two o'clock the DEATH WARRANT was read, but the condemned man listened to it stolid and unmoved. He then prayed earnestly with the ministers present for the last time and bidding them and the officers a touching good-bye, the scaffold was cleared and at 2 o'clock and 25 minutes the drop fell and Bartholomew Barnes was LAUNCHED INTO ETERNITY - death ensued almost immediately and the body was cut down at 2 o'clock and forty-five minutes and delivered to his mother for burial. THE CROWD, amounting to at least 3,000, hung round the jail during the execution, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the scene being enacted within, and even after it was known that Barnes had met his merited doom, they continued to keep watch of every move of those in charge of the execution; not dispersing until the coffin containing Barnes' remains was borne out and carried away. THE END - the execution over, the people gathered in little knots through the town and in the stores and canvassed again for the hundredth time the crime, the victim and the criminal. For the latter there was no expression of sympathy and all believed that society was better off that he was removed by the vengeance of the law. This is the first execution occuring in Pike County and it will, of course, be memorable as a dark day in her history, but it is to be hoped that it will have its effect in deterring others from lightly shedding human blood. With this view of the event, there are many in Pittsfield tonight who believe the execution of Bartholomew Barnes to be a work well done for humanity's sake. (Article found The Quincy Daily Herald, Saturday, December 30, 1871, Page 4.)
Pike County, Illinois Newspapers