Old West Catacombs

Potts Family to Hang – Old West Execution

old west execution

Following are two story takes place  following the Old West execution of the Potts family.

June 20, 1890, Elko, Nevada – This has been a sad and a tragic day for Elko. Yet there was much excitement withal over the hanging of Josiah Pitts and wife, Elizabeth, for the murder of Mill Fawcett in January 1888. Over twenty women applied for permits to see the execution all of which were denied. Both the Potts retired early last night in a nervous condition.

At 10:30 o’clock, the sheriff read the death warrants to Josiah and Elizabeth Potts. The reading took place in the doorway of the latticed cell, which Josiah occupied for so long a period. He stood in a despondent attitude, with head bowed down against the iron bars, and never once, during the whole reading of the warrants, did he lift his head or eyes.
His wife stood erect, clad in a neat, soft muslin suit draped in black, with a red rose in her bodice; pale, but with a most determined aspect in every feature. During the reading of her own warrant, only once did she show any emotion whatever, and then she convulsively clutched her throat. When her husband’s warrant was being read, and the words “hanged by the neck till you are dead” were reached, she gave a hysterical gasp and seemed to exhibit much feeling.
The reading of the warrants was finished at 10:40, and both the condemned came from the jail where they had been confined for the past eighteen months and preceded outside the door to the yard between the Court House and jail, in which a scaffold had been erected. The sunshine relieved in a measure the gruesome surroundings.
During the reading of the warrants, and evidently owing to the intense nervous strain on every one, the Deputy Sheriff was so overcome that he had to call for a glass of water.

At the conclusion of the reading, Mrs. Potts earnestly ejaculated, “I am innocent and God knows it.” Josiah Potts reiterated, “God knows we are innocent.”
The gloomy procession led the way through a side door and, with a bravery unexpected by the sixty odd spectators, the condemned man and woman seated themselves on the stools prepared on the scaffold, where the deputies speedily proceeded to bind them with leather straps. Mrs. Potts helped to adjust the necessary ropes to herself and her husband. The latter sat in utter stolidity. When everything had been properly adjusted, they wee directed to rise.

All the attendants shook hands with the condemned and unfortunate victims of the law’s inexorable and just demands. As they stood, after shaking hands, the last attendant held a strap attached to Mrs. Potts manacled wrist, while Potts made several most earnest endeavors to clasp the hand of his wife, without accomplishing it. Finally, a touch of her wrist caused her to turn her eyes toward his and the mute appeal of love caused their lips to meet as the rope was stretched around Mrs. Potts’ neck. She clasped her hands together and lifting her wrist toward the sky, again exclaimed: “God help me, I am innocent!”
old west executionHer husband reiterated in a hollow tone: “God knows we are innocent.”
As the black caps were thrown over their heads the words of the clergyman, who had remained with them to the last, broke the silence: “Put your trust in God and he will see you righted.” Then the drop fell instantaneously. Mrs. Potts became a corpse at once.
Owing to her heavy weight, the sudden jerk caused a rupture of the carotid artery, and a stream of blood burst forth from under the chin of the dead woman, staining her white raiment.
To the great surprise of all who had seen Potts’ emaciated condition, his vitality was very great. It was a fraction over fourteen minutes, as counted by the Associated Press reporter, before life was pronounced extinct by Drs. Meiggs and Petty.
At 11:08 the body of Mrs. Potts was cut down, when it was seen that her excessive weight on a five-foot and a half-drop had almost severed the head from the trunk, the muscles in the back of the neck alone maintaining the connections. About nine minutes later Josiah Potts’ body was cut down and the bodies of himself and wife, in the absence of any claiming friends, were deposited in the Potters’ field in Elko graveyard half an hour later.

The conduct of Mrs. Potts during the past five days has been an alternation of hysterical crying, screaming and swearing at her husband, who moped his time away at solitaire. Yesterday morning at 5 o’clock, she attempted to commit suicide by gashing her wrists and trying to smother herself. A vigilant deathwatch prevented further injury, but she fainted from loss of blood, and her brave conduct at the execution, was a surprise to every one.

After the interment of the bodies of Mr. And Mrs. Potts District Attorney Love, accompanied by the Associated Press reporter, placed in the same Potter’s field all the mortal remains of the murdered Fawcett known to exist above earth. The box of bones had lain in the District Attorney’s office at the courthouse from the time when he first started in search of the criminals.