Iowa Old Press

Iowa Recorder
Greene, Butler co. Iowa
March 7, 1923

Hanging Friday Tenth in Iowa
Dubuque was Scene of First Legal Execution.

Earl Throst will be hanged Friday at Ft. Madison for the Murder of Inga Magnussen.

Des Moines, March 6 -- When Sheriff Ben A. Davis springs the gallows trap which sends Earl Throst to his death in the Fort Madison prison year, Friday, March 9, it will be the tenth time in its history that the state of Iowa has exacted the death penalty for violation of its laws. Throst is scheduled to hang at 7:30 a.m., Friday, for the death of Inga Magnussen, pretty Alamakee county country school teacher, whom he murdered in the basement of her school house, near Dorchester, Dec. 12, 1921. Anger at her refusal to accept his attentions was given as the motive for the crime. Throst's execution will be the fourth that has taken place at Fort Madison in the last seven months, the other condemned men who paid the supreme penalty on the rough prison gallows in that time being Ira Pavey, Eugene Weeks and Orrie Cross.

Despite a number of recent hangings, the record of capital punishment in Iowa is tempered with leniency, history shows. At one period, from 1872 to 1878, the state had no capital punishment law, choosing rather to sentence its murderers to life imprisonment in the state penitentiary. It was on May 20, 1834, that the first recorded trial for murder in what is now known as the state of Iowa was held in the open air, beneath the wide spreading branches of a large elm tree in Dubuque, according to the account in The Annals of Iowa.

When Patrick O'Connor was charge with the murder of George o'Keaf he answered, "I'll tend to my own business; you have no laws in this country." O'Conner had been run out of Galena, Ill., for setting fire to some buildings and attempting to kill one of the leading merchants by firing the contents of a loaded gun through the door of his store. For these acts he narrowly escaped lynching. O'Conner migrated to dubuque, then a flourishing mining town supported by the lead mines nearby.

O'Keaf, an intelligent, industrious young miner, was shot by O'Conner, five slugs entering his breast. O'Coner had forced the door of O'Keaf's cabin, killing the latter as he entered.

A prosecuting attorney was appointed. O'Conner selected ne of his former employers from Galena as his cousel, and on May 20, 1834, the day following the murder, the trial was held. O'Conner chose his jurors from 24 of the bystanders -- six Americans, three Irishmen, one Englishman, one Scotchman and one Frenchman. When asked if he was satisfied with the jury the prisoner replied that he had no objection to any of them. The witnesses were then examined, the prosecuting attorney and the counsel for the defense addressed the jury, the jury retired and after deliberating brought in a verdict of guilty and sentenced the accused to be hanged. The date was set for the 20th of June, 1834, at 1 o'clock p.m. It will be noted the date for the execution was set for just one month following conviction instead of one year as the law now requires.

The gallows was erected in the vicinity of the present court house in Dubuque, and O'Conner was executed here on the date set, the first man to be hanged after trial by jury in what is now Iowa. An eye-witness who wrote down the event is quoted in the Annals account: "Immediately after this many of the reckless and abandoned outlaws who had congregated at the Dubuque mines began to leave for the sunier climes. The gleam of the bowie knife was no longer seen in the nightly street brawls. the people began to feel more secure in the enjoyment of life and property." Since the hanging of O'Conner in the dim days of Iowa's history, which is not counted as an official execution, since Iowa was then but a territory, the state has exacted the death penalty from nine men.

Following are the legal executions which have occcurred at Fort Madison Penitentiary since its establishment in 1838:
October 1, 1894, James Dooley, of Adams county, for the murder of his sweetheart. 16 years old when hanged.
February 8, 1895, J.K. Cumberland, Shelby county, for the murder of two men.
April 20, 1906, Joseph Smith, negro, for the murder of a woman.
July 29, 1910, John Junkin, negro, for the killing of Clara Rosen at Ottumwa.
September 18, 1922, Ira Pavey, Sioux county, for the murder of Claude Letner, alleged booze runner.
September 25, 1922, Eugene Weeks, Polk county, for the murder of George Fosdick, Des Moines grocer.
December 7, 1922, Orrie Cross, Polk county, for the murder of George Fosdick, Des Moines grocer.

Those legally hanged at other places in the state were: Chester Bellows, hanged at Charles City, Dec. 16, 1887, for the murder of his niece; and Henry Scmidt, hanged at West Union for the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Peek, Jan. 13, 1888.

Earl Throst will be the tenth man to be legally executed by the state.

During the war three negroes, Robert Johnson, Fred Allen and Stanley Grammell were tried by a military court martial, found guilty, sentenced and hanged at Camp Dodge, July 5, 1918, for a statutory offence against a white woman. the number of times the death penalty has been exacted is in no wise however, an indication of the number of the crimes committeed in the state for which the death sentence could have been invoked. Prison records at Fort Madison show that last year there were 82 men serving life sentences for conviction of murder in the first degree. For many years the tendency of juries in murder cases in Iowa was to inflict the life penalty in lieu of hanging. In recent years the abnormal increase in crime of every descripton has resulted in a return to capital punishment, as evidenced by the recent pending executions.

After Throst is taken to the gallows Friday, in case intervention does not save him, There will still be four men in the death cell at Fort Madison. These are William Olander, Fort Dodge, sentenced to death for the murder of Berthold Halfpap, grocer; Joe Williams, negro, Des Moines, convicted of the murder of Barbara Thorsdale, school teacher; Roy Maupin, negro, waiting death for the murder of Joe Hayes, Carney coal miner; and Archie Burris, negro, Ottumwa, convicted of the murder of Hattie Bates, a negress.

[submitted by S.F., Jan. 2004]

Iowa Recorder
Greene, Butler co. Iowa
March 14, 1923

Des Moines -- There will be no change in capital punishment laws in the state of Iowa. Four members of the Iowa house of representatives: Lake and Forsling of Woodbury county, Blake of Fayette county and Potts of Lee county, returned Saturday after viewing the hanging of Earl Throst at the state prison, on Friday. They were unanimous in their opinion that capital punishment should not be abolished and that hanging was as human a method as could be devised.

[submitted by S.F., Jan. 2004]

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