The Rule of Law Through Lawlessness:
Vigilante Activity in 1860s Walla Walla County
“HUNG BY THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE”
Transcribed by Rob Spencer
Source: Walla Walla Statesman, April 21, 1865, page 3
Subject: Reported results of vigilante violence in the area.
Synopsis: Four men were found hanging near the Walla Walla area. Their names and their alleged crimes are outlined.
HUNG BY THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE—The present week has been one of excitement in this community, on the account of the hanging of several men by the Vigilance Committee. Although reports have been current every day of men being found hung up in every direction, only four positively known to have been hung, and the reports in regard to others are no doubt without foundation. On Sunday morning a man named McKenzie was found hanging to a limb near the race track, a short distance below town. He was brought into town during the day by Coroner Horton, and taken to the cemetery and buried. It appears, from reliable testimony, that McKenzie was a cattle their, and had charge of the cattle stolen from Mr. Jeffries, spoken of in last week’s paper; that he was found with the cattle last Tuesday, captured and hanged the same night. He has been about the city for some months, often disappearing and being absent for days at a time, and returning to and departing from his hotel at all hours of the night, leggined and spurred as if he had been riding. He appeared to be morose in disposition, seldom engaging in conversation with others, and although his conduct did not at the time excited particular suspicion, the occasion of his frequent and unseasonable rides seems not to be fully explained. It is said the he was known also by the name of Reynolds, and crossed the plains two years ago. He was of sandy complexion and about twenty-four years of age.
Two men named Isaac Reed and Wm. Wills were caught by the Committee last week near Wallula, tried and convicted of horse stealing and brought up on to the Walla Walla river and hung. These men confessed their guilt and acknowledged belonging to a band of horse and cattle thieves who had secreted a lot of stolen horses on the Columbia river above Wallula. They also stated that the band got into a fight at their rendezvous some time ago among themselves and killed one of their number. Fifteen stolen horses were captured with these men. Reed and Wills were, respectively, about twenty-four years of age. They were formerly from Mollula, Oregon; but Reed has lived for the past five or six years near the Dalles.
The tall, thick-lipped negro, known as “Slim Jim” completes the list. He was found on Tuesday, hanging to a tree about three-fourths of a mile east of town. He has been known in the community as a thief, and several petty larcenies have been traced to him. He is the darkie that furnished “Pete” and Waddingham the instruments with which they effected their escape from the jail a short time ago. He was at one time a convict in the Oregon penitentiary, and last summer killed a colored man in the Boise Basin. On the day that he was found hanging, a horse that he had stolen a month or two ago and cached on Cottonwood Creek, was recovered and brought into town by the owner.
Transcribed by Rob Spencer