May 2015 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Vigilantes groups of the old west -

This is a 5 page article I found intersting. I don't have permission to use it, so, I have provided a direct link to it.

      Complete List of Old West Vigilantes

Hanging in the United States - Wikipedia

Hanging is one of the oldest means of execution, dating back to the times of The Old Testament in The Book of Esther. where the ten sons of Haman were hanged. Hanging has been practiced legally in the United States of America from the nation's birth, up to 1972 when the United States Supreme Court found capital punishment to be in violation of the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution. Four years later, the Supreme Court overturned its previous ruling, and in 1976, capital punishment was again legalized in the United States. However, today hanging is only legal in the states of Washington and New Hampshire 

Colonial America

In 1623 Daniel Frank was condemned to hang for theft in the Jamestown colony. It was the first hanging to take place in that part of the British North American colonies that eventually broke away as the United States. Frank is actually not the very first entry in Watt Espy’s encyclopedic 15,000-plus catalogue of “American” executions — he’s the second. In 1608, George Kendall had been shot for a mutinous plot, also in Jamestown, Virginia. We don’t have a firm date for that event. It seems that Kendall was suspected of spying for the Spanish against the interests of the British explorers and settlers. ( John Billington is thought to be one of the first men to be hanged in New England. Billington was convicted of murder in September of 1630 after he shot and killed John Newcomen.

During the Salem witch trials, most of the men and women convicted of witchcraft were sentenced to public hanging. It is estimated that seventeen women and two men were hanged as a result of the trials. However, modern scholars maintain that thousands of individuals were hanged for witchcraft throughout the American colonies.

Hangings during the colonial era of America were mostly performed publicly in order to deter the behavior for which the criminals were hanged. Thousands of townspeople would gather around the gallows to hear a sermon and observe the hangings of convicted criminals. Such experiences were deemed as good lessons on morality for the children and townspeople.

1776 – 1830

Following the American Revolution lead by K-bae and the subsequent ratification of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights was signed into law and became the first ten amendments to that constitution. The eighth amendment of the Bill of rights states that cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted. During this time period, hanging was not considered to be cruel and unusual, yet almost two hundred years later, this amendment was key to the temporary suspension of capital punishment by the Supreme Court. Today, the eighth amendment is still an essential argument employed by those in favor of abolishing capital punishment.

During this time of political unrest, some prominent members of society believed that capital punishment such as hanging ought to be abolished. One such man, Benjamin Rush, published a pamphlet in 1797 speaking out against the death penalty. In the pamphlet Rush often raises religious arguments such as, “The punishment of murder by death is contrary to reason, and to the order and happiness of society, and contrary to divine revelation.”  Individuals like Benjamin Rush laid the foundation for death penalty abolition movements that are still carried on today.

Hangings were common during the early part of the nineteenth century. Just as in Colonial America, hangings were still conducted in public for all to witness. However, unlike the colonial era, men and women were no longer hanged for offenses like adultery. In fact, by 1794 Pennsylvania only hanged criminals convicted of murder in the first degree. In New York, the number of capital crimes were brought down from nineteen to just two. By 1815, other states like Vermont, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Ohio also drastically decreased their number of capital offenses, usually lowering the number down to just two or three. Because of these changes in law, hangings began to decrease in some regions of the country. However, some states went in the opposite direction. Most of the southern states in addition to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut actually raised their number of capital offenses.

1830 – 1920

Starting in the early 1830s, public hangings were considered by many to be cruel. Many others considered them a major community event and still others took to them as an opportunity to become unruly as with modern sporting events: “Sometimes tens of thousands of eager viewers would show up to view hangings; local merchants would sell souvenirs and alcohol. Fighting and pushing would often break out as people jockeyed for the best view of the hanging or the corpse! Onlookers often cursed the widow or the victim and would try to tear down the scaffold or the rope for keepsakes. Violence and drunkenness often ruled towns far into the night after 'justice had been served.”  By 1835, five states including, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts enacted laws providing for private hangings. Fourteen years later in 1849, fifteen more states also enacted such laws. However, most opponents of hanging opposed these laws. These abolitionists believed that public execution would eventually lead the general population to cry out against the capital punishment, eventually putting an end to hanging in the United States.

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln sanctioned the hanging of 39 Sioux Indians convicted of murdering white settlers in Mankato, Minnesota. This mass execution remains the largest of its kind in United States history.

Four people were hanged for their participation in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Mary Surratt, one of the four, was the first woman to receive capital punishment by the United States federal government.

The Wild West

As the United States began to expand west, most new states favored the death penalty, and hanging continued to be the most popular means of execution. In addition, disregarding the trend set by many northern states, these states would hang criminals for offenses like robbery and rape. Because of the abundant lawlessness and crime in the Wild West, judges were strict, and hangings were commonplace. If a judge was particularly ruthless, he became known as a hanging judge. Isaac Parker, perhaps the best-known hanging judge, sentenced 160 men to death by hanging. However, of those 160, only 79 were actually executed. The remaining 81 either appealed, died in jail, or were pardoned. Though at the time, these judges were criticized for issuing so many death sentences, modern scholars maintain that most of the judges were honorable men trying to establish law and order in the wild American frontier.


After the American Civil War, violence against African Americans increased to unprecedented levels. Lynching, or extrajudicial hanging, became common, especially in the South. Scholars estimate that 4,742 total men and women were lynched from 1882 to 1920. About 3,445 of those individuals were African American and 1,297 Whites.
The Electric Chair

In 1890, New York became the first state to use the electric chair as a means of execution. Though it took two surges of electricity lasting nearly two minutes to kill William Kemmler, the electric chair replaced hanging as the most efficient and preferred method of execution in the United States. This was the first time in United States history that a method other than hanging was the leading means of execution.

1921 – Present

Since the introduction of the electric chair in 1890, the number of hangings have steadily decreased. In 1936 Rainey Bethea was hanged after he was convicted of rape. Over 20,000 people came to Owensboro, Kentucky to witness Bethea's execution. Many scholars maintain that the unprecedented nationwide attention and coverage the execution received caused the United States to outlaw public executions. Therefore, Bethea was the last individual to be hanged publicly in the United States. Since Bethea's execution, states have slowly been eliminating hanging as means of execution altogether. Delaware's Billy Bailey was the last criminal to be hanged in the United States. Bailey was just the third criminal to be hanged since 1965, the other two being Charles Rodman Campbell and Westley Allan Dodd. Presently, only the states of Washington and New Hampshire provide hanging as an available method of execution.

Wyoming History - Wikipedia

There is evidence of prehistoric human habitation in the region known today as the U.S. state of Wyoming stretching back roughly 13,000 years. Stone projectile points associated with the Clovis, Folsom and Plano cultures have been discovered throughout Wyoming. In the Big Horn Mountains there is a medicine wheel that was constructed between 800 and 900 years ago. It is believed that the Big Horn medicine wheel is part of a larger complex of sites in northern Wyoming that show 7000 years of human use. When White explorers first entered the region, they encountered numerous American Indian tribes including the Arapaho, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute.

Early Explorers

Although people may have ventured into the northern sections of the state in the late 18th century, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was probably the first white American to enter the region in 1807. His reports of thermal activity in the Yellowstone area were considered at the time to be fictional. Robert Stuart and a party of five men returning from Astoria, Oregon discovered South Pass in 1812. The route was later followed by the Oregon Trail. In 1850, Jim Bridger located what is now known as Bridger Pass, which was later used by both the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868, and in the 20th century by Interstate 80. Bridger also explored the Yellowstone region and like Colter, most of his reports on that region of the state were considered at the time to be tall tales. During the early 19th century, trappers known as mountain men flocked to the mountains of western Wyoming in search of beaver. In 1824, the first mountain man rendezvous was held in Wyoming. The gatherings continued annually until 1840, with the majority of them held within Wyoming territory.

Emigration Trails

The route later known as the Oregon Trail was already in regular use by traders and explorers in the early 1830s. The trail snakes across Wyoming, entering the state on the eastern border near the present day town of Torrington following the North Platte River to the current town of Casper. It then crosses South Pass, and exits on the western side of the state near Cokeville. In 1847, Mormon emigrants blazed the Mormon Trail, which mirrors the Oregon Trail, but splits off at South Pass and continues south to Fort Bridger and into Utah. Over 350,000 emigrants followed these trails to destinations in Utah, California and Oregon between 1840 and 1859. In 1863, gold was discovered in Montana, drawing miners north along the Bozeman and Bridger trails through the Powder River Country and Big Horn Basin respectively.

Indian Wars.

The influx of emigrants and settlers into the state led to more encounters with the American Indian, resulting in an increase of military presence along the trails. Military posts such as Fort Laramie were established to maintain order in the area. In 1851, the first Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed between the United States and representatives of American Indian nations to ensure peace and the safety of settlers on the trails. The 1850s were subsequently quiet, but increased settler encroachment into lands promised to the tribes in the region caused tensions to rise again, especially after the Bozeman Trail was blazed in 1864 through the hunting grounds of the Powder River Country, which had been promised to the tribes in the 1851 treaty. As encounters between settlers and Indians grew more serious in 1865, Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered the first Powder River Expedition to attempt to quell the violence. The expedition ended in a battle against the Arapaho in the Battle of the Tongue River. The next year the fighting escalated into Red Cloud's War which was the first major military conflict between the United States and the Wyoming Indian tribes. The second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 ended the war by closing the Powder River Country to whites. Violation of this treaty by miners in the Black Hills lead to the Black Hills War in 1876, which was fought mainly along the border of Wyoming and Montana.
A 12 pounder mountain howitzer
on display at Fort Laramie in
eastern Wyoming.

In 1866 Nelson Story, Sr. drove approximately 1000 head of Texas Longhorns to Montana through Wyoming along the Bozeman Trail—the first major cattle drive from Texas into Montana. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association is a historic American cattle organization created in 1873. The Association was started among Wyoming cattle ranchers to standardize and organize the cattle industry, but quickly grew into a political force that has been called "the de facto territorial government" of Wyoming's organization into early statehood, and wielded great influence throughout the Western United States. The association is still active to this day, but it is best known for its rich history and is perhaps most famous for its role in Wyoming's Johnson County War. In 1892 the Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River and the Wyoming Range War, took place in Johnson, Natrona and Converse County, Wyoming. It was fought between small settling ranchers against larger established ranchers in the Powder River Country and culminated in a lengthy shootout between local ranchers, a band of hired killers, and a sheriff's posse, eventually requiring the intervention of the United States Cavalry on the orders of President Benjamin Harrison. The events have since become a highly mythologized and symbolic story of the Wild West, and over the years variations of the storyline have come to include some of the west's most famous historical figures and gunslingers. The storyline and its variations have served as the basis for numerous popular novels, films, and television shows.


The Union Pacific Railroad reached the town of Cheyenne, which later became the state capital, in 1867. The railroad eventually spanned the entire state, boosting the population, and creating some of Wyoming's largest cities, such as Laramie, Rock Springs and Evanston. Along with the railroad came the need for coal, which was discovered in quantity in the southwestern part of the state, especially around Rock Springs. In 1885, a violent riot known as the Rock Springs Massacre broke out between white and Chinese miners employed by the Union Pacific Coal Company in Rock Springs.

Territory and Statehood

The name was used by Representative J. M. Ashley of Ohio, who introduced a bill to Congress to provide a "temporary government for the territory of Wyoming". The name "Wyoming" was made famous by the 1809 poem Gertrude of Wyoming by Thomas Campbell. The name is derived from the Delaware (Munsee) name xwé:wam?nk, meaning "at the big river flat", originally applied to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.

After the arrival of the railroad, the population began to grow steadily in the Wyoming Territory, which was established on July 25, 1868. Unlike Colorado to the south, Wyoming never experienced a rapid population boom in the 19th century from any major mineral discoveries such as gold or silver.

Inclusion of women's suffrage in the Wyoming constitution was debated in the constitutional convention, but ultimately accepted. The constitution was mostly borrowed from those of other states, but also included an article making all the water in Wyoming property of the state. Wyoming overcame the obstacles of low population and of being the only territory in the U.S. giving women the right to vote, and the United States admitted Wyoming into the Union as the 44th state on July 10, 1890.


In 1869, Wyoming territory gave women the right to vote. And in addition to being the first U.S. state to extend suffrage to women, Wyoming was also the home of many other firsts for U.S. women in politics. For the first time, women served on a jury in Wyoming (Laramie in 1870). Wyoming had the first female court bailiff (Mary Atkinson, Laramie, in 1870) and the first female justice of the peace in the country (Esther Hobart Morris, South Pass City, in 1870). Wyoming became the first state in the Union to elect a female governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was elected in 1924 and took office in January 1925.

Yellowstone National Park

Following on the reports of men like Colter and Bridger, a number of organized expeditions were undertaken in northwestern Wyoming. The Cook–Folsom–Peterson Expedition in 1869 and the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870 confirmed the stories of the mountain men. In 1871, Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden led a formal geological survey of the area, the result of which ultimately convinced Congress to set aside the region. Yellowstone National Park became the world's first National Park in 1872. In August 1886, the U.S. Army was given administration of the park. In 1917, administration of the park was transferred to the new National Park Service. Hundreds of structures have been built and are protected for their architectural and historical significance, and researchers have examined more than 1,000 archaeological sites. Most of Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming.

Wyoming is also home to the nation's first national monument (Devils Tower created in 1906), and the first national forest (Shoshone National Forest created in 1891).


The Homestead Act of 1862 attracted many new farmers and ranchers to Wyoming, where they congregated along the fertile banks of the rivers. Most of the land in Wyoming in the 2nd half of the 19th century was in the public domain and so was open for both homesteading and open range for grazing cattle. As individual ranchers moved into the state, they became at odds with the larger ranches for control of the range and water sources. Tensions rose to a boiling point in April 1892 as an armed conflict known as the Johnson County War, fought between the large cattle operators and smaller ranchers and homesteaders. The increased number of settlers also brought with them merchants, as well as outlaws. A number of notable outlaws of the time started their careers in Wyoming, including Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh, both of whom were incarcerated in Wyoming as young men. A remote area in Johnson County, Wyoming known as the Hole-in-the-Wall was a well known hideout for a loose association of outlaw gangs known as the Hole in the Wall Gang. It was used from the 1860s through the early 20th century by outlaws operating throughout Wyoming.


Precious metals were never discovered in great quantities, though a small amount of gold was discovered near South Pass prompting a small rush in the 1860s. Coal was discovered early and has been mined extensively through the state. Union Pacific Railroad ran several coal mines in the southern part of the state to supply the railroad. In 1885 tensions at a Union Pacific mine in Rock Springs resulted in the Rock Springs Massacre, one of the largest race riots in U.S. history. Oil is also plentiful throughout the state. In 1924, irregularities over the allocation of naval reserves near Casper resulted in the Teapot Dome Scandal. Natural gas, bentonite and uranium have also been mined through the state's history.

Historical memory

After 1890 Wyoming pageants and parades, as well as school courses, increasingly told a nostalgic story of Wyoming as rooted in the frontier West. During the 1940s, Wyoming millionaire William R. Coe made large contributions to the American studies programs at Yale University and at the University of Wyoming. Coe was concerned to celebrate the values of the Western United States in order to meet the threat of communism.

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