April 2, 1880
Two men are hanged: one for murder, the other rape
Robert Anderson was convicted of killing his wife in April 1878. Margaret Anderson made an earning by washing laundry and, when she returned home after her day’s work, Robert demanded a portion of her wages. She refused. Robert became enraged and pushed Margaret to the bed and punched her face and head, splattering the walls with blood. Robert then drew a pocket knife and stabbed Margaret several times in the neck. She ran from the home and collapsed in the arms of a neighbor in the streets, bleeding profusely and saying “he had done it at last” before losing consciousness. While Margaret was nursed, she died 9 days later. The couple’s 14-year-old son testified against his father, ensuring his conviction.
Charlie Webster was convicted of the rape of an 11-year-old girl in October 1878. The girl had stated two men had assaulted her, and quickly identified a man named George Washington, who was executed for the assault in February 1879. Washington told authorities his accomplice was Webster, though the victim could not identify him as her attacker. Nevertheless, other circumstantial evidence was compiled against Webster, including being seen in the vicinity of the rape shortly before and after the time of the crime, and he was sentenced to death.
Both men professed their innocence leading up to their deaths; Anderson asserted he did not intend to kill his wife while Webster claimed Washington had “borne false witness against him.”
Prison officials wanted a smaller crowd for the execution and purposefully told the public it would occur at noon, though the hanging took place at 9 a.m., leading to 40 spectators. (Similar executions are the time could garner crowds in the thousands.) Neither man made a final statement on the scaffold.
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“Two Men Hanged at Louisville.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 3, 1880
“A Day of Executions.” The Times [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. April 3, 1880
“The Latest.” The Cincinnati Daily Star. April 2, 1880 (image source, via newspapers.com)
“To Be Hanged For Rape.” The Chicago Tribune. March 8, 1878