North Western Gazette & Galena Advertiser.
GALENA, ILLINOIS, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1842.
Correspondence of the Gazette & Advertiser
EXECUTION OF CAFFEE
MINERAL POINT, W. T.
TUESDAY EVENING, NOV. 1, 1842
The execution of Caffee, for the murder of Southwick, took place to-day, in the presence of an immense throng of spectators. The crowd commenced gathering yesterday, and continued to pour in from all directions in solid phalanx until the fatal hour. It would be difficult to estimate the number of spectators present; it could not be much less than four or five thousand. It was painful to contemplate such a crowd, assembled for such a purpose. Five thousand people assembled in the peaceful and quiet village of Mineral Point to witness what! The agony and dying throes of a fellow man. Good God! What a curiosity.
The crowd was not made up of any particular class, but was composed indiscriminately of both high and low, rich and poor, men white with the frosts of age, and tottering upon the verge of eternity were here,â€“â€“young men in throngs were here. The pious and the good were here. The aged and discreet matron was here. The virgin, "chaste as the icicle that hangs on Dian's temple," were here. Infants, muling and puking in their nurse's arms, were here by the acre. In a word, every age, sex, color and condition was fully represented here to-day.
The Execution took place upon the low ground below the town, surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills, which were literally covered by the eager multitude. The scaffold was constructed upon the old plan, and consisted of a square frame work, placed upon the ground, into which was inserted two upright posts about twelve feet high and four feet apart; across the top of these posts went a beam, with a large iron hook inserted, to which was attached the rope. Between the upright posts, and about six feet from the ground was fixed a platform or trap door, about four feet square, hung with hinges upon one side and kept in a horizontal position by a pin passing through one of the upright posts and under the edge of the platform. To this pin was attached a lever for the purpose of drawing it out and letting fall the trap. The ascent to the scaffold was by means of a flight of stairs.
Agreeable to the requisition of George Messersmith, Esq. Sheriff, Capt. Shaw attended from the South part of the county, with a company of thirty men, in uniform, armed with muskets, a company of Dragoons armed with pistols and sabres, was organized at Mineral Point, under Major Gray, a strong guard of citizens was also organized and stationed round the Jail during the fore part of the day, and were afterwards incorporated into Capt. Shaw's company.
At 2 o'clock, P.M. the procession formed in front of the Jail in the following order:
Dragoons under Maj. Gray;
Waggon containing coffin;
Dragoons under Col. Sublett;
Prisoner was then led forth from the jail in a long white robe, with a white cap upon his head, and a rope round his neck, leaning upon the arm of the Sheriff; he walked to the wagon and stepped into it with little or no assistance, and seated himself upon the coffin; the Sheriff and his deputies took seats in the wagon; a dead march was struck up, and the procession moved forward to the place of execution. Here the military were stationed round the gallows at the distance of some thirty feet, to keep off the crowd. Prisoner was then assisted from the wagon, and with a firm step ascended with the Sheriff to the scaffold. The Rev. Mr. Wilcox, who was in frequent attendance upon the prisoner during his last hours, now ascended the scaffold and prayed with him for the last time;â€“â€“Prisoner, in the meantime, leaning upon one of the posts of the gallows, and manifesting no emotion.â€“â€“Upon being asked by the Sheriff if he had any thing to say, he answered no, and requested that the rope might be adjusted "with a good long slack," and his doom forthwith sealed. The Sheriff then adjusted the rope, drew the cap down over the prisoner's face, and descended from the scaffold, putting his hand to lever, the fatal pin was drawn out, and prisoner launched into eternity.
From the time of prisoner's arrest, down to the last moment of his existence, he maintained the utmost coolness; and manifested such a contempt of death, as to invest him with a sort of terrible grandeur; making good upon the scaffold his previous boast, that he could stare the grim messenger out of countenance.
Saturday last he was visited by his brothers and some other of his relatives, who were much afflicted at the meeting; he alone remaining unmoved, and conversing in the most trivial manner. To day his brothers visited him for the last time; prisoner asked forgiveness for his levity when they last saw him; said he was now disposed to forgive and ask forgiveness of all mankind, and was not without hope of happiness hereafter.
Much credit is due the Sheriff for the manner in which he performed his duty to day, as well as for his untiring vigilance since the prisoner was first placed in his custody.