This image provides us a window into a mostly forgotten but important moment in Hood River history. Here is the gallows upon which Norman Williams was executed in 1905 for the murder of Louisa and Alma Nesbitt on their homestead near Parkdale. As Hood River was then part of Wasco County, the trial was in the Wasco County courthouse, but it wasn't until a precedent setting case in the Oregon Supreme Court that Williams was put to death. The case of Oregon v. Williams stands for the proposition that a murder conviction does not necessarily require production of the body in order to satisfy the burden of proof that a murder has been committed.
This sensational murder trial garnered much attention in 1904 and 1905, and resulted in the last execution by hanging in Oregon. Here's an account of the case from the Oregon Encyclopedia.
Tags: 1900s gallows the_Dalles Williams
Now, that was a shock to open up to this morning. What happened to my serene, enjoyable Historic Hood River?
Actually, it makes one realize how much punishment of crimes were felt within the community in days past.
Just as dealing with the death of loved ones, preparing the body and burial, were a way of life back then.
l.e. on 30th April 2013 @ 7:20am
Appears to be of stout construction and adequate to provide for the ecomomical and swift dispensation of justice. How much time elapsed between the date of the crime and when justice was served.
Buzz on 30th April 2013 @ 7:35am
And was the execution public?
db on 30th April 2013 @ 7:51am
To partially answer my own question, I just read the link to the Oregon Encyclopedia, and it looks like formal invitations to view the hanging were issued. Ugh.
db on 30th April 2013 @ 7:57am
Might have been a good deterrent to crime.
I'm curious if there is a hole dug underneath the scaffolding. It doesn't seem high enough. Unless the victim was short.
What kind of tree? An elm?
l.e. on 30th April 2013 @ 8:06am
Boy, Norman was a prince.....amazing what one learns from the efforts of Arthur.
Arlen Sheldrake on 30th April 2013 @ 8:07am
l.e., I don't know about deterrent to others, but this guy certainly was deterred from killing yet another wife!
db on 30th April 2013 @ 9:34am
Wonder where the location of this actually was and who pulled the rope?
charlott on 30th April 2013 @ 9:57am
i.e.'s comment about the height goes along with my first thought when I looked at this. But then I thought that, even if the executed was six feet tall, and their head was even with the top cross-beam as they stood on the platform, they'd still have six feet of space below their neck as the rope tightened.
Also, I like the square of light from the trap door just above Wilder's name.
Chase on 30th April 2013 @ 10:28am
Mrs. Nesbitt was quite a woman. She bought a piece of land, built a house And then she goes to Portland to work as a housekeeper for the winter. Mr. Nesbitt accidentally built his buildings on her property! In a small community community every person is valuable, and even more so if they are working the land..
nels on 30th April 2013 @ 12:31pm
Where is the lever to spring the trap door?
l.e. on 30th April 2013 @ 12:47pm
l.e,, I think that's it sticking out of the box in the back right of the platform. and as far as the height, that was my first thought also, but look at the steps, if they're six or so inches high, the platform is probably close to seven or eight feet off the ground!
spinsur on 30th April 2013 @ 4:16pm
There is a 2009 article written by a descendant of Williams.
It says that the hanging took place in The Dalles inside the walls surrounding the scaffold next to the jail. Wasco County Sheriff Felix Sexton pulled the pin.......Williams was buried in the Catholic Cemetery in a plain pine box.
l.e. on 30th April 2013 @ 11:17pm