Old West Catacombs

Western Lynching of Three Men

Western Lynching

August 27, 1895, Herald, Salt Lake City, Utah – Three murderers were taken out of the county jail by a mob of 230 men at 1 o’clock this morning and given a western lynching.

A band of citizens fearing that the law would not be carried out, and angered over the atrocity of recent crimes determined to take matters in to their own hands.

The lynching was a ghostly climax to the reign of lawlessness which has prevailed in Siskiyou County for some month’s past.

Western LynchingTHE VICTIMS

One of the victims was Lawrence Johnson who on the evening of July 25,
stabbed his wife to death in the town of Etna.

Another was William Hull who shot Henry Hayler in the back with a rifle near Calisbans on April 21.

Louis Moreno who are supposed to have killed George Sears and Casper Meirerhans at Bailey Hill on August 2, was also hanged.

At 1 o’clock last night farmers from all of the surrounding country began to drive into town, and by midnight the mob was ready to march to the county jail.  Before taking a step, however every precaution was taken to prevent the plans of the lynchers’ from
being frustrated by the officers of law.  The sheriff and one of his deputies
were decoyed into another part of town by two members of the mob
who were engaged in a sham fight, and the fire bell was muffled to prevent an alarm from being given in that way.


When the jail was reached a number of the men, all of whom were masked,
awakened Under-Sheriff Redford and demanded the keys from him.  He positively refused to open the door or give the keys up telling them that if they broke in the doors, he would blow their brains out. Finding that Radford was determined not to give them the keys they went across to the jail and got on top of the stone wall which surrounds the jail.

Deputy Sheriff Henry Brautlacht, who had been sleeping in the jail since the commitment of so many murderers thinking someone was escaping from the jail fired two shots out of the window to alarm City Marshal Parks and Deputy Sheriff Radford.  He then opened the doors and was immediately held up by the mob who took the keys from him and entered the jail. Having no keys to the different cells they were compelled to burst the locks with a sledge hammer which they proceeded to do at once.

Lawrence H. Johnson who brutally stabbed his wife to death at Etna on
Sunday evening, July 28, was the first to receive the attention of the mob.  They broke the lock from the door of his cell, and placing a rope around his neck, led him out of the jail and across the street to where the iron rail was laid between the forks of two locust trees.  Johnson pleaded for mercy but the silent gathering gave no heed to his appeals and he was quickly strung up, dying from strangulation in a few minutes.


The mob returned to the jail and broke into the cell of William Null
who shot Henry Hayton at Callahan’s on April 21, in a dispute Null over some mining property.  Null desired to make a statement but time was too valuable to permit and such preliminaries, and he was soon hanging alongside of Johnson.

Louis Moreno who was charged with having killed George Sears on the 5th of this month was then taken from his cell and was soon swinging with Johnson and Null.  A rope was placed around Semler’s neck and he was led from the jail in his bare feet.  Semler begged for mercy, and his last words were: “Tell my dear old mother I am innocent of the crime.”


About this time Sheriff Hobbs, haying been notified, arrived on the scene and, starting for the jail door, was commanded to halt, the command being emphasized by the display of several revolvers.  He was told that “the job had been done.”  By this time the greater part of the mob had dispersed, leaving only about thirty or forty men on, guard who soon left after the sheriff arrived.

The bodies were taken down by Coroner Shenfield and Marshal Parks, who removed them in a wagon to an engine house, where they were laid side by side.

The Coroner has summoned a jury to hold an inquest.  Yreka is a little mining town and years ago was frequently the scene of mob violence.  The summary manner in which Justice was meted out to the four murderers this morning reminded the pioneers of similar scenes during the gold excitement forty years ago, when it was not an uncommon spectacle to awaken in the morning and see the body of a notorious criminal dangling from a tree.

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