Have You Read the Paper Lately?

So many little counties and Bergs have historical societies. And the “tails” they can tattle are often rather TITILLATING and odd…OK, these two are frankly disgusting and weird!

Yeah, well, I'm not really sure what this was about...
Yeah, well, I’m not really sure what this was about… Actually several friends have posted seasonal memes on their Facebook pages about protecting cats this time of year–especially the black ones. So imagine my surprise when this little diddy popped up on my Facebook feed!

Rather attention getting to say the least...

I’ve done the lightest bit of poking around trying to figure this one out. It was an advertisement and promotion that ran some time in the 1940s in a newspaper near my hometown.

Somebody must have had a rodent problem, a really big rodent problem!

Or, were the kitties doomed for wartime experimental lab work?

Were they returned after Saturday?

Was Cruella DeVil’s feline-favoring sister married to one of the Hortons?

Too many questions whipping around in the autumnal air!

The Boone County Historical Society  recently reprinted the following story from 1894 (which I believe was an archivists’ selection and retelling that the newspaper ran in the early 1960s). The man with the byline–Ralph Stark– had a regular feature something akin to our “Throw back Thursdays.” Ralph’s reprint appears below in its entirety. I was amazed when this came up on my Facebook feed about 120 years after the occurrence.

All stuff like this might be lost forever if it weren’t for the digging that Ralph did to find it for us in the 70’s and the lovely volunteers at the local Historical Society who make the effort to re-find and share these unbelievable stories today.

 Some day I would love to run down all the “rest of the story” on both the cat herding and the rather bizarre tale that follows. You don’t have to read the newspaper story I’ve copied and pasted here,

…but if you enjoy a good accounting of what it was like to be in the middle of a 19th century lynch mob, it would be well worth your time.

I would have loved to known what these reporters were thinking as they watched this story unfold and then typed it up this for the highly divided readers around town. And how the heck did all these people find out about this so quickly? This happened long before the county had telephone service in homes, let alone CNN or Twitter.

Right now there isn’t the time for me to go chasing it though.

Who knows, Maybe someone else has already written it down…


photo of the Lebanon Indiana courthouse accompanies the story retold and published in the Lebanon Reporter
Common Sense of a Few Lebanon Citizens Saves Suspect From Lynching 
By Ralph W. Stark
There were more than the usual number of early risers up and stirring about in Lebanon’s chill morning air on Monday, February 5th, 1894, but the customary hustle and bustle, and the sounds and noises ordinarily associated with the dawning of a new day were strangely missing. Men on the streets downtown seemed to no longer walk briskly and upright, but rather to slink furtively along, to slither with snake like grace as they moved about. Gathering in little knots of threes and fours and fives, they conversed in low tones, almost in whispers, accompanied with much nodding of heads charging, by their actions, the very atmosphere with the sinister and ominous portent that the next few hours were to be marked with such excitement, violence, madness and shameful, conduct as never before nor since seen, or experienced, in the theretofore peaceful and sedate little community.

Indeed, had it not been for the good common sense and the unflagging 
courage of some eighteen or twenty of the town’s sturdiest pillars who stood like hard granite columns throughout the long day against the lawlessness and disorder engendered by a bloodthirsty, vengeful gang of howling hoodlums, the evening sun might have set on the blackest period in all of Lebanon’s history.
As it turned out, by nightfall law and order had been restored. The one small group of level-headed, forthright thinking citizens, which included law enforcement officers, judges, lawyers, clergymen, and businessmen, had successfully thwarted the evil intentions of a large mob of would be lynchers to wrest a prisoner charged with a foul crime from the custody of the authorities and to hang him from the limb of a tree in the courthouse yard. By late afternoon, the accused had been found guilty on his own plea and sentenced, all in due process and the fullest majesty of the law and was safely on his way to the state prison.

Late in the night of the Saturday preceding Lebanon’s day of tumult and rioting, Frank Hall, a negro, forced his way into the home of the widowed Mrs. Mary Akers, living four miles east of town, and, after driving the children from the room, raped the white woman, so it was alleged. On leaving, the rapist trudged through the snow to the house of his stepfather, Levi Hall with whom he lived, about a mile distant from the Akers place. Early Sunday morning, Boone County Sheriff John M. Troutman and other officers, having been sent for, followed the footprints from the Akers home to that of Levi Hall’s, placed Frank Hall under arrest, and soon had him locked up in the county hostile.

News of the crime spread like wildfire, reaching far out into the county, and by noon the swelling crowd and the muttered threats against the prisoner so alarmed Sheriff Troutman that he took the man by train to Indianapolis, lodging him in the Marion County jail for safekeeping overnight, pending his being returned here on Monday morning for an appearance before Judge Stephen Neal in the Boone Circuit Court at 9 o’clock.

Hall was brought back at an early morning hour, but because of the incensed and unruly rabble milling around the jail, growing larger and more voluble and obstreperous with each passing minute, the hearing was postponed until 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

By midday, the excited throng numbered nearly a thousand persons, most of whom were merely spectators gathered about the hard-core mob composed of some fifty men and a few women. At the noon hour, ministers of several of the Lebanon churches, including the Rev. H. L. Kindig, Methodist, the Rev. J. A. Pollock, Presbyterian, the Rev. J. A. Knowlton, Baptist, and the Rev. Father H. A. Hellhake, Catholic, made impassioned speeches urging the aroused citizens to return to their homes. Earlier, Prosecutor Patrick H. Dutch had implored the people to desist from their lawless purpose.

These pleas, however, fell upon deaf ears. Promptly at 2 o’clock, in the custody of Sheriff Troutman, Marshal Charles N. Oden, Policeman James Caldwell, Deputy Sheriff Frank Daily, and others, Hall was brought out of the jail to be taken to the courtroom.

The little band and its prisoner was immediately surrounded by the mob, in the midst of which was a Mrs. Taylor, better known as Mrs. Van Benthuysen, who was aptly nicknamed, “The Vengence,” by newspaper reporters, because she carried a length of rope and kept up a continuous screaming of “Let’s hang him! Let’s hang him!”

Taking the prisoner from the jail to the north entrance of the courthouse turned into a battle royal. Sheriff Troutman’s drawn revolver was snatched from his hand and several attempts were made to knife the terrified Hall. Despite the fact that the small coterie of officers had been reinforced by George W. Norwood, C. F. S. Neal, W. H. Moler, and a dozen other men, the journey was a physical struggle every inch of the way.
Three times the ugly noose was slipped over the head of the prisoner, once over both his and Marshal Oden’s heads, but always some ready hand deftly flipped it off. On three other occasions the rope was drawn taut about the man’s neck, once on tightly that his eyes bulged and his tongue protruded, but each time a guard cut the hemp before serious injury resulted.

At last the interior of the courthouse was gained and with every entrance guarded by men with ready guns, the culprit was hustled into the courtroom. There, before Judge Neal, he dropped his protestations of innocence, and pleading guilty to the charge, was sentenced to a term of twenty one years in the Indiana state prison.

While the prisoner was held under guard in Judge Neal’s chambers, the Judge, Prosecutor Dutch, Judge Joshua J. Adams, and Mike Keefe addressed the rowdy mobsters, pleading with them to disperse. Some of the more weary followed the advice given, but enough remained to cause Sheriff Troutman continuing concern.

He quickly deputized a hundred of the calmer citizens, and late in the afternoon these men formed a compact hollow square at the west door of the courthouse and with Hall in the center, marched out into Lebanon Street and south to the Big Four Railroad depot.

Without further incidence, Sheriff Troutman and his prisoner, accompanied by a detail of twelve deputies, boarded the evening train bound for Indianapolis where Hall was to be kept in jail until he could be taken to Michigan City. The deputies were thought necessary because it was rumored that a delegation was waiting at Whitestown for the purpose of taking Hall off the train and hanging him there.

Unfounded though the rumor proved to be, it is needless to say that the engineer yanked the throttle wide open to roar through the Worth Township metropolis at top speed while the lawmen nervously fingered the triggers of their shotguns and revolvers. The trip terminated without further trouble and within a few days Hall was occupying a cell in the Northern Prison, as it was then called.

And so ended what was surely Lebanon’s most exciting, and at the sametime, most shameful day. Although law and order had triumphed and peace again reigned in the town and the adjacent countryside, the stirring several hours were not quickly forgotten, furnishing the basis for the recital of countless true accounts and innumerable tall stories for many following years. While the odious affair was in progress, Indianapolis papers and press associations rushed representatives to the scene, and Lebanon was bathed throughout state and the mid-west in the limelight of unwelcome embarrassing notoriety that papers later carried editorials congratulating the community its narrow escape from the adjudication of mob law and commending those citizens bravery and clear thinking kept the town’s good name and reputation from being and blackened by a lynch mob.

There may be one or two venerable Lebanonites reading this story who will recall as youngsters on that eventful day sixty eight years ago there were among the motley small boys and older youths coping ringside seats in branches of the maple trees on the courthouse lawn, witness to the stupid and hideous behavior of their elders. In his Lebanon Patriot February 8th, 1894, Strange Cragun editorially commented: “mob law is no law, and where it is indulged there is no safety for the property or lives of the people of Boone County, by the good sense of the best citizens, has decided that it shall not get a footing on our soil.”

Lebanon Reporter February 13, 1962