California · Executions · Famous Last Words

First legal execution(s) in El Dorado County

Famous Last Words
William H. Lipsey
Coloma, California
November 3, 1854

“Make the time as short as you can, for I am fainting.”

Lipsey had killed a man named Powelson by stabbing him in the chest during a brawl, bragging as the cleaned his knife that he had “stuck it into him that far and made (the other man) quake.” His bravado did not hold true, however, and he ascended the scaffold steps, twice, with assistance.

Lipsey and another man, James Logan, we’re executed together. When the trap door fell from beneath them, both knots to their nooses loosened. Neither were injured during the first fall, though Logan quipped “Ah, you have 20 minutes yet — if it was two o’clock, I should demand my liberty under the law” before laughing. The second trip through the trap door was effective and the men became the first to be legally executed in El Dorado County.

Sources:

  • Elder, Robert K. Last Words of the Executed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010
  • “Double Execution in California.” Liverpool Mercury, etc. [Liverpool, Merseyside, England]. December 19, 1854
  • “Execution of Logan and Lipsey at Coloma — 6,000 People present — Speech of Logan — Full Particulars.” Sacramento Daily Union [Sacramento, California]. November 8, 1854

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