Henry Jones, Obituary/Death NoticePorter County obituaries and death notices . . . .

Henry Jones

Henry Jones Executed at The Northern Penitentiary.
Colored Murderer Hanged According to Law.
He Confessed to Killing Four Men In his Day.
The First Execution in the History of the Penitentiary.

Henry Jones, the negro murderer, was executed in the solitary department at the penitentiary immediately after midnight Friday morning, May 7. Not a hitch or accident of any sort occurred to mar or delay the proceedings, and by 12:30 o'clock the inhuman brute and confessed slayer of four men had paid the awful penalty and his soul had been usered before his Maker. Stern justice got him at last, and seldom has the rope claimed a riper victim.

The execution was carried out in strict accordance with the law by Warden Harley and his assistants. Everything was done according to the interpretation of the law of Attorney General Ketcham. This was the first execution at the prison, or in Michigan City for that matter.

Jones died like the brute he was, friendless and alone. No one expressed any pity or sympathy for him except the devoted chaplain, Rev. P.J. Albright, who labored long and earnestly to direct his mind to spiritual affairs, but without success.

All the arrangement for the execution were completed after the reading of the death warrant at 4:30 o'clock. Jones had been freshly bathed, shaved and attired in his new suit of black clothing, and passed the early hours of the evening contentedly smoking his pipe, with an occasional cigar.

Just before supper the death watch asked Jones if he would like to see the chaplain and he said yes. Mr. Albright hastened to his cell and kneeled with the condemned man in prayer. Jones listened attentively, but his demeanor did not change, and the preacher sadly concluded that it was useless to try to reach his heart. After the chaplain retired Jones was served with a first-class supper from the deputy warden's kitchen, which he ate with his customary relish, and then began smoking again.

Attorney Frank E. Osborn, who defended Jones, came over from Laporte on the Lake Erie train at 8:20 o'clock and hurried to the prison to see Jones. The condemned man really seemed glad to see Mr. Osborn, and talked more to him in a few short moments than he had to all the prison officials since his sentence. Mr. Osborn was considered by Jones to be his only friend, and he actually grinned while talking of his impending doom. Jones said that he fully realized that he would be hanged before morning, and when Mr. Osborn asked if there was anything he could do for Mr. Jones, the latter replied:

"I don't know what you can do; it's a pretty hard case."

"Shall I write to your sister or to your friends?"

"I have no friends,a nd I do not know where my sister, Jennie, is. The last I heard from her she was in Pensacola, Fla." and Jones manifested such a stolid indifference that Mr. Osborn did not persist further in offering his good graces. When he took leave of Jones the prisoner seemed utterly unaffected.

Jones held his supreme nerve until the last, but the deathwatch noticed that he gradually grew more restless as the time for his execution drew near. He would pace his cell like a cat for a few minutes, eyeing the deathwatch closely all the time, and then he would sit down on his iron bed for a brief spell. Soon he was up and stirring around again, and he jept up these actions until nearly midnight, when he diliberately disrobed and stretched out on his cot. At 10 minutes to 12 o'clock the chaplain approached the cell for the last short supplication to Jones to make his peace with his Maker. He called to him several times, but Jones would not answer, and simulated sleep.

Just at midnight there was a stir in the office of Deputy Warden Kinney, Warden Harley and those selected to assist in the execution prepared for their grewsome work. Just then word came that Jones was naked and every one present had visions of all kinds of trouble with him, for his action seemed to presage a struggle on his part. One of the guards went to his cell and told Jones to get up and dress. He was wide awake, and, to the surprise of all, proceeded to obey the command. He clothed himself very dilberately, consuming at least five minutes' time in doing so. By this time those who were to take part on the execution and the witnesses had been gathered in the north corridor of the south cellhouse, where Joes was confined. They made absolutely no noise, and of the 500 convicts in the cells in this house probably not fifty were awake at the time. Not a sound issued from any of the cells, and the grewsome effect of the dimly lighted room had a depressing effect on every one. The cell door was unlocked and Jones promptly came forth when called by Deputy Kinney. He was instantly taken in charge by two trusty guards, who seized each arm. Jones stood in the center of the corridor as docile as a lamb while the procession was forming. He was perfectly self-possessed, and glanced around in all directions, probably imagining the scaffold was in the cellhouse. While waiting for the procession to move Jones turned to Guard Barnard and said: "You need not hold me; I will go." He had his cap back over his head, and his big white eyes rolled around until they seemed to comprise the major portion of his features.

The march to death began without unnecessary delay, and the path led out of the cellhouse to the westward, past the engine house and wash-house to the insane department. The lights were all out at the time and the path was only illuminated by laterns set along the walk, augmented by the glimmer from a latern carried by a guard at the head of the procession. Following him were Warden Harley and Deputy Kinney, then Chaplain Albright, and behind him the condemned man, with guards, physicians and the legal witnesses. The distance was covered quickly, and no one walked with a more elastic step than Jones, or with firmer tread, for that matter. When he entered the door of the insane building the scaffold loomed before him, black and terrible, but Jones never faltered. He mounted the ten steps leading to the platform better than some of the attendants did and took his place on the trap at the designated spot. It is even asserted that he was grinning. He was secured by guards Sutton and Lally who kept him stationary between them. Buards, Sewell, Barnard, and Rabb, together with Deputy Kinney, were also on the scaffold. Below and in front Warden Harley, Dr. Spinning, the prison physician, and Dr. Nussbaum, of Auburn. After the prisoner's legs arms had been pinioned with straps the chaplain asked Jones if he had anything to say. He only grunted, and Mr. Albright repeated his question in a faltering voice. This time Jones answered "No.," in a distinctively audible voice. The attendants at once completed the other arrangements and after a short prayer by the chaplain the noose was adjusted, the black cap pulled over the hideous features of the condemned man and at exactly 12:09 the trap was sprung which launched the brute to eternity. Jones shot downward a distance of six and one half feet and dangled at the end of the rope for fifteen minutes. His nekc was broken by the fall and there was only one slight movement of the body, that being a contraction of the muscles of one limb. The physicians immediately stepped forward to the body. The respiration almost instantly ceased, but the pulse fluctuated for some minutes before the all was still. It is probable that Jones suffered very little, if any, after the fall, and the execution was pronounced highly successful.

The body was cut down at 12:30 o'clock and turned over to the undertaker. The features were not marred any and there were no signs on the neck to indicate the awful fate of the man, except the looseness of the neck as a result of the break. The body was placed in a plain black casket, which had been carried to the prison earlier in the evening, and hauled away to A. F. Earl's undertaking establishment. Before one o'clock Jones was in the morgue, the penitentiary had resumed
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its old routine and justice had been avenged.

Jones' remains were kept at Earl's undertaking rooms til 11 o'clock Saturday morning, when they were taken to the cemetery and buried in the potter's field. Chaplain Albright was the only one present outside of the sexton and the undertaker's assistants. Mr. Albright went through a short service, and then all that remained of the quadruple murderer was consigned to the earth. How long it will remain there depends upon the desire of the medical students for his body. No one cares for it in all probability, for any reputable institution could have secured it by applyin to Mr. Earl.

In the interest of science, Jones' brain should have been examined. No one believed him insane, but their was much curiosity to know the size and caliber of his mental apparatus.

The crime for which Henry Jones paid the penalty with his life was committed in the prison chapel on the morning of July 5, 1896. His victim was Omer Thomas, also colored, whom he stabbed a number of times in the shoulder and abdomen. Jones had been sent to prison for twenty-one years for killing another negro in Indianapolis, and Thomas, his last victim, was instrumental in convicting him. For this reason he swore vengeance against him. Jones came up in December, '95, and not long afterwards Thomas was convicted on a charge of larceny and sent up for a term of three years. He was afraid to come to the northern prison for fear Jones would do him bodily harm, and he requested that he be sent to Jeffersonville instead, but his request was not granted. Jones knew that Thomas was an inmate of the prison with him and planned to kill him at the first opportunity. Fate never threw the men together until the morning of the crime and then Jones was quick to take advantage of the opportunity. The colored prisoners were seated in the rear of the chapel and Jones happened to be placed just one seat in the rear and one to the left of Thomas. When the services were well along Jones suddenly leaped from his seat and struck Thomas with his knife in the left shoulder. He struck so rapidly that he inflicted several cuts before Thomas could rise from his seat. Then he turned partially around and Jones cut him again, the last time in the abdomen, which proved a fatal wound, the victim dying eighteen hours later. Jones was locked up and in due time indicted in the Laporte circuit court for murder in the first degree. His case was called for trial in September, and Jones being without friends or money Judge Hubbard appointed Frank E. Osborn, of Laporte, to defend him. The first step taken by Mr. Osborn was to ask for a change in venue, which was granted, the case being taken to St. Joseph county. The trial occurred early in January at South Bend, and after continuing for three days resulted in the verdict of guilty, with the death penalty. Two weeks later Judge Hubbard denied the application for a new trial and sentenced Jones to be hanged May 7th. The prisoner was returned to the penitentiary, where he kept until executed.

Jones was 27 years old, a native of Florida, and was 5 feet 8 1/2 inches high; weight, 125 pounds; yellow complexion, and could neither read nor write; had not relatives.

It is generally believed that Jones committed four murders and that he served time in two penitentiaries. The first murder was at Jacksonville, Florida, when he escaped, the second murder was at Savannah, Georgia, for which he was never detected, the third was at Indianapolis, for which he received 21 years, and the fourth was the one for which he was hanged this morning. Jones confessed to this number of murders to Dr. Spinning, the prison physician, who told the circumstances last evening. Jones further said that he knew he had to die and that he would kill another man if he found the opportunity. He made three distinct efforts during his incarceration, but was not successful in inflicting any injury in either of the attempts. If ever a man deserved to die at the end of a rope Jones was that man.
-- Michigan City Dispatch.

Newspaper: The Westchester Tribune
Date of Publication: May 15, 1897
Volume Number: 14
Issue Number: 5
Page: 1
Column(s): 5 and 6

Key to Newspaper Publication Locations:
    Newspapers Published in Chesterton, Porter County, Indiana
                Chesterton Tribune
                The Tribune
                Westchester Tribune

    Newspapers Published in Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana
                Porter County Vidette
                Practical Observer
                Valparaiso Practical Observer
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The obituaries and death notices appearing on this website have been transcribed exactly as they were originally published in the newspaper. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of obituaries and death notices appearing on this website.

Obituary/death notice transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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