EXECUTION of JOHN McCAFFRY
Early in the morning, carriages and teams from the county came flocking into the city, to witness the execution of the sentence of the law upon John McCaffry, for the murder of Bridgett McCaffry, his wife. At half past 10 A.M., religious exercises were performed at the Court House, over the Jail of the prisoner, conducted by the resident clergymen of the place, at which the officers of the law were in attendance. At 12 o'clock a close carriage, with the prisoner, started for the place of execution, which was one-half mile south of the city, and arrived on the ground at quarter before 1 o'clock.. The prisoner was supported by Sheriff White and Deputy Sheriff Crocker, and attended by the City Police and the Kenosha City Guards.
The Prisoner walked upon the platform with a firm step and took a seat by the side of the Catholic Clergyman; they immediately kneeled in prayer for the space of ten minutes; the warrant of execution was then read by Sheriff Allen, after which the audience were requested to listen to what the prisoner had to say.
The [unreadable] to the south and said in a very [unreadable] voice: "I was the cause of the death of my wife and I hope my fate will be a warning to you all. I forgive all of my enemies. I forgive all of the witnesses against me, even Mrs. Reed.". He then shook hands with Sheriff Allen, and the rope was adjusted about his neck, and was told that it lacked five minutes of the time, during which time the prisoner stood firm with clasped hands but the movement of his lips showed he was in silent prayer-the sap was drawn over his face, and at precisely one o'clock Sheriff Allen walked across the platform and with a firm tread stepped upon the secret spring, and the prisoner was hoisted in the air. After a moment or two there was a slight shrug of the shoulders. He continued to struggle for the space of five minutes. After he had been suspended eight minutes, the physicians were called upon the stand to examine his pulse, at which time his pulse was slightly reduced, and continued to beat for ten minutes longer, at which time life was extinct and the prisoner was let down into the coffin. There were 2000-3000 people to witness the execution.
The last agony is over. The crowd have been indulged in its insane passion for the sight of a judicially murdered man. McCaffry murdered his wife without the sanction of the Law, and McCaffry has been murdered according to the law. We do not complain that the law has been enforced. We complain that the law exists. The prisoner we know received from the law all the mercy and lenity that the law and its faithful execution could give. From the hands of the kind hearted Sheriff and his family we know he received every attention and kindness which was in their power to grant.
They pitied his fate while they deplored the iniquity of heart that hurried him to his end. They have done what they could to smooth his passage to the grave, while they have encouraged him to prepare for the shuffling off his mortal coil. It is now all over. We hope this will be the last execution that shall ever disgrace the mercy expecting citizens of the State of Wisconsin. It has been demonstrated that a man can be hung in Wisconsin, though often denied.
This dreadful consummation ought to satisfy the advocates of the death penalty to the full. Let another system of punishment be adopted and other means used to reform the criminal---since the taking of the life of the murderer is not sufficient to deter from the crime.
Let society begin the work of reform on the individuals comprising it, before such dreadful lessons will be thought needed.
Let the proper means of education be afforded to all. Let all who wish to labor, have labor offered at living prices, and let the social compact be a tie of Love, and a bond of attraction--instead of compelling people to live together, because a priest has said over them a form of words.
We repeat the sentiment---society at large is responsible to a great degree for the crimes and the miseries which grow out of its iron customs and its unreasonable laws.
[Published: The Telegraph, August 22, 1851, Kenosha, Wisconsin]
Copyright © 2001, Robert W Fay LLC. All rights reserved
Monday, October 01, 2001