1879 History of Menard & Mason Counties
Published by: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Mason County

Capital Punishment In Mason County
Page 487

It is said that when some pious adventurers from Spain landed on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the first object that attracted their attention was a gallows on which some mutinous explorer of another party had been hung; the sight of this gallows inspired their pious souls with joy, and they immediately knelt in prayer, thanking God "that their lot had been cast in a Christian land."

If the gallows and the gibbet are evidences of Christianity, Mason County is a God-forsaken country, for within her borders no gallows has yet been erected and no person hanged by order of any Court. Many murders and other high crimes have been committed in the county, for which the highest award of punishment has been a few years of labor in the Penitentiary.

There was a dead man found hanging on a black-jack tree, near Forest City, some years ago, but no jury or court had anything to do with it. It was a clear case of a tree bearing the fruit that comes of a life of crime! The economic ideas of the community seemed to justify the act, because the dead man had threatened the life of a good man living in the neighborhood, and was deserving the death which came to him without expense to the county!

In this respect the county has been managed too much in the interest of economy-for there ought to have been at least a dozen pair of gallows paid for and used by the county since its organization.

The people seem to have ignored capital punishment and have so far acted upon the theory that it is more merciful and less shocking to the sensibilities, to give life to human beings than to take it from them!

Of all the murders and homicides in the county, we cannot call to mind a single one that may not be traced to the intoxicating bowl that destroys the better nature of man and changes him into a maddened brute!

This being the cause of crime may also furnish the reason for a failure of punishment. The average juryman cannot for the life of him determine whether it is the man who made the liquor, the man who sold it, or the victim who drank it and committed the crime, that should be punished. In the perplexity of the case the man who commits the crime goes free, because the eye of the law is not sharp enough to see who is the right one to punish.

Mason History Index
Every Name Index