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The Madera Tribune

From the gallows to the White House

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webmaster | 04/10/12

In 1871, the people of Erie County, New York elected a brand new sheriff and right away he was asked to execute a man who had murdered his own mother. The sheriff didn’t know if he could pull the lever that would send a man twirling into eternity, so he sought his mother’s advice.

Finally he decided to do his duty. He would carry out the death sentence, but it haunted him for the rest of his life. Not even when he moved into the White House could he escape the burden of being known as the Buffalo Hangman.

The problem had its origins one night on the waterfront where a certain Mrs. Morrissey was cutting herself a slice of bread in her tenement room. Her son, Patrick, suddenly stumbled in and killed his own mother with her bread knife. Before summer, the killer had been arrested, tried, and sentenced to hang.

Since each county sheriff was an official executioner, the duty fell to the newly elected lawman. Armed with a sense of resolve, the sheriff had a gallows built in the jail yard and a piece of canvas stretched overhead to prevent the curious from viewing the death plunge from their housetops...


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